2020 Rewind: The Fuel Normal

The past year has been, uh, eventful to say the least. Lost in the national and world headlines are small steps toward a more sustainable future and better energy management trends. We highlight these below:

 

(Related: Happy Fuel Year: The Top Cenergistic Blogs of 2019)

(Related: 2019 Rewind: What Has the Past Year Looked Like for Sustainability?)

 

Higher Ed

  • A number of American campuses continued the trend of either completing, taking steps toward or committing to carbon-neutral energy consumption. Among the most notable: Arizona State, Duke University, Cal Poly, and Colorado College
  • Alabama A&M received a $2.2 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, which will be used to replace some of its diesel buses with zero-emission electric buses
  • On a similar note, the University of Georgia plans to have the largest fleet of electric buses of any higher education institute in the country, with an investment that will bring its total to 33 zero-emission buses by 2021

 

Municipalities

  • The city of Los Angeles launched its own version of the Green New Deal, targeting zero emissions across the utility grid, transportation and buildings by 2050
  • Travelers, rejoice! The Federal Railroad Administration approved a high-speed rail that promises to transport commuters between Dallas and Houston in just 90 minutes. Many see this as the first step in an interconnected nationwide high-speed rail system
  • COVID led to some cities becoming more accessible to pedestrians — a model other cities can use to add green space and cut carbon emissions from cars
  • Cities as far-reaching as Laramie, Wyoming made commitments toward carbon neutrality
  • Jersey City, New Jersey introduced a vertical farming facility which will add 19,000 pounds of sustainable produce to food-insecure communities

 

World

  • Supercharged wildfires in Australia and California portend a frightening trend for the next century
  • Maintaining Indigenous peoples’ presence in their native lands has shown to bolster conservation efforts against poachers
  • A French-based company introduced a tiny electric car it plans to rent to teenagers
  • Despite the well-known dangers of continuing fossil fuel emissions at current levels, many governments across the world continue to use and even increase consumption
  • The Australian island-state of Tasmania is now one of the few governmental entities worldwide to become 100-percent powered by renewable sources

 

Clean Energy

  • A phenomenon that would have been considered unthinkable just 20 years ago, Texas wind energy continues to gain ground on natural gas as the state’s leading producer of electricity. The solar sector, up until this year almost insignificant on the statewide stage, is poised to expand rapidly in the coming years
  • Developments in nuclear technology have resulted in smaller, more portable nuclear reactors, with the first design gaining federal approval
  • The California-based company Hyperion unveiled a new hydrogen-powered car that can travel up to 1,000 miles on a single tank
  • The geothermal power of Yellowstone National Park’s super volcano could theoretically provide a clean source of energy to meet the demand of the continental United States. So why hasn’t this happened? It’s complicated
  • Solar panels convert sunlight to electricity, so when there’s no sunlight, most panels have nothing to convert. A new innovation converts ultraviolet light (available 24/7) into electricity
  • District heating systems use a central source of thermal energy to heat multiple buildings, as opposed to heating buildings individually. Train stations in Paris and Sweden use the body heat from commuters and passing trains to provide this thermal source, cutting total carbon emissions by as much as 10 percent
  • A recently operational Danish offshore wind farm has the potential to power a number of homes equal to all the homes in Austin, Texas

 

Utilities

  • Utilities aren’t investing enough in grid updates, and these outdated systems led to more power shutoffs in the U.S. than in any other developed country
  • A growing number of major wildfires pose significant risk to utilities’ liability and access to resources
  • A report from UC Berkeley finds planned developments in energy management and storage technology and falling renewable costs could result in the U.S. energy grid receiving 90 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2035
  • A study from the University of Oxford claims just 10 percent of utility companies worldwide have prioritized renewable energy over the past two decades
  • A community in Basalt, Colorado is showcasing what a future utility grid may look like. Residents are outfitted with smart technology to limit consumption and are connected to a microgrid, both of which combine to consume energy at maximum efficiency
  • A proposal to connect power grids from Chicago to Los Angeles could offer a way to meet peak demand through California’s massive solar market while utilizing the Midwest’s vast wind industry to meet demand in the off-peak
  • A report from Rewiring America believes that while the upfront costs may be substantial, fully decarbonizing every household in America would ultimately save homeowners a combined $321 billion

 

Industrial

  • Plastic as building material can provide an ideal way to recycle one of the largest pollutants on the planet, and some have gone as far as to use discarded PPE in bricks
  • Lab-grown food provides a sustainable alternative to agriculture that could address world food insecurity
  • The coal industry’s demise reached a new low with General Electric’s announcement it will no longer build new coal-fueled power plants, further signaling the long-term unprofitability of the industry
  • Google has announced the first successful underwater data center. The lower temperatures work to prevent overheating and are energy efficient
  • Communities across coal country in Appalachia and the Mountain West are struggling to transition to other industries, and the future remains cloudy for many

 

Environment

 

Facility Management

  • Amid COVID-related changes, facility management professionals found sustainability practices can double as increased health measures
  • The United Nations predicts a shift to energy-efficient AC appliances could prevent as much as 460 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next 40 years
  • Upgrading from natural gas heat-pumps to electrified heat-pumps in commercial buildings and efficient energy management could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 44 percent, according to a report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

 

Weird

  • Cardboard thieves are making bank off recycling payouts. On a similar note, a COVID-related surge in bicycling across Paris attracted the attention of bike thieves
  • A new super-enzyme can break down plastic garbage six times faster than usual and could pave the way to recycled clothing
  • A boom in abundant, inexpensive wind energy across West Texas has created a Bitcoin mining rush

 

Not all news is bad news, as a recent profile in University Business on Northwest Florida State College’s successful Cenergistic program demonstrates. If your organization would like to significantly cut energy use and reap the rewards, contact Cenergistic today for further information at 1-855-798-7779 or visit Cenergistic.com.

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