October 2015. Major US utility declares batteries spell doom for gas-fired power stationsThe chief executive of major US utility NextEra Energy, with $17 billion in revenues and 44.9 gigawatts of generating capacity, has declared that low cost batteries will supercede gas-fired turbines to manage spikes in power demand. 
   Chief executive Jim Robo announced "We're going to deploy probably $100 million in [energy storage] projects in the next 12 months in places like PJM, California and Arizona."
    He said that his company expect energy storage prices to follow the same cost reduction path that solar PV has achieved over the last few years, which would then bring them to a level competitive with gas peaking turbines.  "Post-2020, there may never be another peaker built in the United States -- very likely you'll be just building energy storage instead," he told the conference.
October 2015. Double global warming whammy from domestic wood heating and diesel particles.
   A study in 2015 by a science team led by Los Alamos National Laboratory shows that the particulates found in urban smoke are especially prone to absorbing sunlight and having a heating effect on the planet. The new analysis demonstrates that wood burning emits organic species that coat soot particles produced by diesel combustion, creating a lens to focus sunlight and increase warming. The study also shows that the magnification is increased as the particles age and are coated with more airborne chemicals.
  “This is a double whammy,” said project leader Manvendra Dubey. “The transparent organics amplify soot’s warming by lensing, and then we have this very stable brown carbon that causes additional warming. We clearly elucidate the detailed processes that makes the carbon particle much more potent warming agents and provide a framework to capture them in climate models.”
   The researchers used state-of-the-art instruments in field studies near London tracking an urban plume as it moved across Europe. The observed lensing effect was successfully reproduced by theoretical calculations and laboratory measurements.
   The paper also underscored the need for multiple field studies in more diverse environments with mixed carbon sources. Dubey noted that a similar study published in the journal Science in 2012 saw no enhanced light absorption in soot particles in California in the summer. He said that the key difference is that the sampled region did not have the solid wood combustion that was pervasive in the United Kingdom during wintertime

October 2015.  Australian listed company Dyesol awarded a $449,000 grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to commercialise an innovative, very high efficiency solar cell.
   “Perovskite cells have been demonstrated at laboratory scale but have never before been mass produced. Dyesol will map out the techniques and requirements for working towards scalable manufacturing of high-quality, uniform perovskite cells that achieve efficiency, durability and stability targets,” Mr Kay said.
   “Perovskite is abundant and cheaper than silicon and there are signs it may be more adaptable than conventional silicon, providing enhanced performance in low light conditions and being better suited for integration into external building components, such as windows and facades.
   “Dyesol is initially aiming for a delivery cost benchmark of US 10 cents per kWh, putting perovskite solar PV cells on par with current benchmarks achieved by silicon solar PV. This would be a considerable achievement given silicon PV’s maturity as a technology, and provides further scope for reduction in the cost of energy as manufacturing volumes grow.”

September 2015. London ‘must become diesel free zone’.  Euro 6 diesel drivers should not be exempt from charges when the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) comes into force in London from 2020 as there is “no such thing as a clean diesel car”, according to London Assembly Member Stephen Knight.
... Mr Knight said: “The unfolding VW emissions fixing scandal is clearly demonstrating that, despite what motor manufacturers have been claiming, there is no such thing as a clean diesel car. Real-world tests show that so-called ‘clean’ (Euro 6) diesels actually emit many times more poisonous gases than they are legally entitled to.
   “Central London, like Paris, must become a diesel-free zone”, referring to the Mayor of Paris’s plan to ban diesel cars from the French capital altogether from 2020 in a bid to reduce air pollution (see story).

Where there’s smoke, there’s air quality scientists
September 2015. Australia’s weaker emissions standards allow car makers to ‘dump’ polluting cars. In the European Union (EU), the Euro 5 standard applied to the sale of all new vehicles from January 2011 until September 2015. From September 2015, all new vehicles sold in the EU must be Euro 6-compliant. In the European Union (EU), the Euro 5 standard applied to the sale of all new vehicles from January 2011 until September 2015. From September 2015, all new vehicles sold in the EU must be Euro 6-compliant.
   Australia’s current air pollutant standards are Euro 4, which were fully implemented by July 2010. The Euro 5 standards will not apply until November 1, 2016 and the Euro 6 standardswill take effect from April/July 2017 and April/July 2018 for all models.
   Failure to impose the current international standards means importers of new vehicles can dump high-polluting Euro 4 compliant vehicles into Australia, which cannot be sold in their own country. For instance the Swiss authorities have banned the sale of almost 180,000 Volkswagen diesel vehicles, because the company has fraudulently falsified the vehicles' diesel emission standards, which are no longer Euro 5 compliant. However, such VW vehicles may be Euro 4 compliant and can be sold in Australia.

September 2015.  VW was fined in 1973 for cheating on air pollution tests.  When the United States began regulating tailpipe pollutants in the 1970s, Volkswagen was one of the first companies caught cheating. It was fined $120,000 in 1973 for installing what became known as a “defeat device” - technology to shut down a vehicle’s pollution control systems.
The strategy of equipping vehicles with software programmed to fake test results was used in the US by truck-engine manufacturers in 1998. When found out, the offending companies reached a $1 billion settlement with the US EPA.

September 2015.  New Brunswick Power, Canada, launches heat pump rebate program.  NB Power is starting a new program that is expected to help people save on electricity costs. The utility is offering a $500 rebate on the purchase of a high-efficiency heat pump.
"The heat pumps [in this campaign] are going to stand the test of our crazy temperatures. Everyone has seen a day in the winter where it hits –20 C, especially the last two or three years we've had weird winters where temperatures have gone lower than normal," said Mudge.
"We wanted to make sure the heat pumps homeowners in New Brunswick are purchasing are going to make sense for them to use in our type of climate."