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BloombergNEF’s San Francisco Summit: Three Key Climate Takeaways – Bloomberg

California Energy Commissioner Patty Monahan, from left, Liane Randolph, chair of the California Air Resources Board, and Helen Kou, head of US Power at BloombergNEF, during the BNEF Summit in San Francisco. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
California Energy Commissioner Patty Monahan, from left, Liane Randolph, chair of the California Air Resources Board, and Helen Kou, head of US Power at BloombergNEF, during the BNEF Summit in San Francisco. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Brian Kahn, Bloomberg News

SAN FRANCISCO
EnergiesNet.com 02 08 2024

Today, transportation largely runs on dirty molecules, but the future is going to be a lot more diverse. Hydrogen, electricity, methanol and fuels made of everything from cooking oil to captured carbon dioxide are all going to play a role in bending the emissions curve for planes, trains and automobiles (and ships!) toward zero.

BloombergNEF’s summit in San Francisco this week revealed how companies and policymakers are thinking about the transition to a multi-fuel future, and what bottlenecks may emerge. Three key themes emerged over the course of the two-day meeting. Here’s what you need to know. 

Trump is on everyone’s brain

Donald Trump hasn’t officially locked up the Republican nomination for president, but the possibility of him retaking the White House was front and center at the summit. Having him in the White House as well as a unified Republican Congress could upend US climate policy, with ripple effects around the world.

Despite threats to the Inflation Reduction Act’s climate tax benefits, though, California Air Resources Board Commission Liane Randolph said the odds of the law “being repealed are pretty small.” In separate panels, she and California State Senator Scott Wiener said the state would stand as a bulwark against any attempts to roll back emission-cutting policies.

Industrial policy is an area where both Trump and President Joe Biden have poured their energy, particularly when it comes to countering China. 

“One wanted to do it via tariffs, one wants to do it via subsidies for industries,” said Alejandro Zamorano Cadavid, an executive director of ESG research firm Calvert Research and Management.

Charging challenges abound (solutions are coming, though)

EV sales have crossed a crucial tipping point in 23 countries and BNEF research indicates the world has passed “peak” gas-powered vehicle sales. But in some of those places — notably the US — the charging network is still lacking, which could prove a challenge to widespread electric vehicle adoption. 

Drivers’ ability to find chargers, ensuring they’re actually working and getting enough of them installed in the right place are among the biggest hurdles. But they’re far from the only ones. The US has added more than 1,000 chargers since summer. But California alone needs to install more than 1 million chargers by 2030, according to the California Energy Commission.

“The next 10%” of EV drivers will not tolerate bad charging,” said Dan Bowerson, vice president of energy and environment at the Alliance for Automotive Innovation.

That doesn’t mean the EV revolution is stuck in neutral, though. AI and other cutting-edge innovations “that are disrupting everything across technology are now coming to EVs and charging,” said Dawn Lippert, the founder and CEO of Elemental Excelerator and a founding partner at Earthshot Ventures. Those technologies could help solve some of the issues like charger siting and bi-directional charging. 

Everyone wants clean fuel (there’s just not enough)

While electricity is likely to be the primary source of power for cars and trucks, aviation and shipping are going to need lower-carbon power from other sources. The need for clean fuel is great, but the supply is small and the costs are high. That means progress is slow.

Airlines see sustainable jet fuel as key to their net-zero dreams. In a poll, summit attendees said the industry is unlikely to decarbonize before shipping and freight trucking, though. And airlines are feeling the same concerns. Cathay Pacific, like most other major airlines, has pledged for 10% of their fuel to be sustainable by 2030. But Kristof Van Passel, head of procurement operations and development, said the company will struggle to meet those goals because production is “coming online slower than anticipated.”

For ships, methanol and e-fuels made from CO2 offer the most straightforward path for cutting emissions. Yet they also remain in short supply. The Ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles and Shanghai are working on so-called green shipping corridors that would enable cargo liners to traverse the seas using no-carbon fuels. So far, though, few ships exist that run on those types of fuels and the ports are aiming to get the corridor to open for green shipping by 2030.

bloomberg.com 02 05 2024

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