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Chile on green hydrogen investment hunt in Europe

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Chile is the world's top exporter of copper, a crucial metal for the energy transition as it conducts electricity
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Chile is embarking on a European hunt for investors in solar, wind and green hydrogen technologies as it looks to decarbonise copper mines and other industries reliant on fossil fuels.

Marcos Kulka, CEO of H2Chile, a hydrogen association of 102 public and private companies, travelled to Europe to outline his government’s energy strategy amid renegotiations of an EU-Chile trade and investment deal.

Kulka told AFP that, “given the resources it has”, Chile can become carbon neutral by 2040 — 10 years earlier than the global net-zero target set in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Hyvolution energy trade show in Paris this month, Kulka said 24 percent of the reduction in emissions in Chile will come from hydrogen and its derivatives.

Hydrogen, which emits only water vapour when consumed, is touted for potential use in high-polluting heavy industries such as steel, metals, cement, and chemicals, as well as in shipping and transport.

But producing it at mass scale is a major challenge, as costs remain high and the infrastructure is lacking so far.

It is considered a “green” fuel when it is produced by using electricity generated by renewable energy to split water molecules.

Hydrogen can also be made through a more controversial method using natural gas, so-called “blue hydrogen” which needs to be paired with carbon capture equipment to be considered climate-friendly.

The International Energy Agency said last month that only seven percent of projects announced worldwide to use renewables to produce hydrogen this decade are expected to come online by 2030.

But Kulka said Chile “could become one of the cheapest hydrogen producers in the world”.

The country plans to shut down its coal-fired plants by 2040 and replace them with renewable energy sources which will themselves be deployed to produce green hydrogen.

Chile is the world’s top exporter of copper, a crucial metal for the energy transition as it conducts electricity.

But the mines are also emitters of greenhouse gases as their operations rely on fossil fuels.

To reduce copper’s carbon footprint, the country can count on solar power near copper mining areas in the north and wind in the south, Kulka said.

He said Chile needs $60 billion in investment by 2050 for its green hydrogen plans.

– ‘Irresponsible’ –

The low cost of renewable energy has drawn interest from Austria Energy, French energy giants Engie, TotalEnergies and EDF, and a clutch of German, Dutch and Norwegian companies that want to import green hydrogen in Europe.

For now, however, Chile’s installed green hydrogen capacity remains low at barely two megawatts, with a goal to reach 25 gigawatts by 2030, Kulka said.

Current global installed capacity stands at 1.1 GW, according to the Hydrogen Council.

Christian Sagal, a Chilean diplomat and investment commissioner in France, echoed warnings from climate campaigners that hydrogen alone is not enough in the energy transition.

He said it would be “irresponsible to say that green hydrogen will avoid” climate-related disasters such as the fires that killed more than 130 people in Chile in recent weeks.

Chile’s green hydrogen plan is just “one of the possible answers” to “decarbonise (the country’) economy and contribute to the much-needed reduction of global emissions”.

– ‘Moving fast’ –

But Kulka argued that the country needs hydrogen to reduce emissions from its heavy mining trucks, the explosives used in mines, maritime transport and the chemical industry.

He said 64 industrial projects involving green hydrogen have been announced, with investments totalling close to $5 billion by 2025.

Chile plans to produce between one and three million tonnes of hydrogen within the next six years.

Chile is overhauling its its port infrastructure so that current oil and gas installations in use for imports can be rejigged to export ammonia, which can be converted into hydrogen.

“We are moving fast — that’s a lot of infrastructures to be built,” Gloria Maldonado, director of Chile’s national oil company ENAP, told AFP.

As Chile negotiates with the EU, 100 human rights and environmental associations have warned EU legislators in a joint statement against signing a new trade and investment deal.

The text “is strategic for the EU in order to have access to Chilean raw materials, but it must not be done at any price,” said Mathilde Dupre, co-president of the Veblen research group, which signed the letter.

She said “the project offers very advantageous standards of protection for foreign investors, without ever imposing anything on them” in terms of obligations to respect human and social rights in Chile or the country’s environment.

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In Brazil, hopes to use AI to save wildlife from roadkill fate

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Some 475 million vertebrate animals die on Brazilian roads every year
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In Brazil, where about 16 wild animals become roadkill every second, a computer scientist has come up with a futuristic solution to this everyday problem: using AI to alert drivers to their presence.

Direct strikes on the vast South American country’s extensive road network are the top threat to numerous species, forced to live in ever-closer proximity with humans.

According to the Brazilian Center for Road Ecology (CBEE), some 475 million vertebrate animals die on the road every year — mostly smaller species such as capybaras, armadillos and possums.

“It is the biggest direct impact on wildlife today in Brazil,” CBEE coordinator Alex Bager told AFP.

Shocked by the carnage in the world’s most biodiverse country, computer science student Gabriel Souto Ferrante sprung into action.

The 25-year-old started by identifying the five medium- and large-sized species most likely to fall victim to traffic accidents: the puma, the giant anteater, the tapir, the maned wolf and the jaguarundi, a type of wild cat.

Souto, who is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Sao Paulo (USP), then created a database with thousands of images of these animals, and trained an AI model to recognize them in real time.

Numerous tests followed, and were successful, according to the results of his efforts recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Souto collaborated with the USP Institute of Mathematical and Computer Sciences.

For the project to become a reality, Souto said scientists would need “support from the companies that manage the roads,” including access to traffic cameras and “edge computing” devices — hardware that can relay a real-time warning to drivers like some navigation apps do.

There would also need to be input from the road concession companies, “to remove the animal or capture it,” he told AFP.

It is hoped the technology, by reducing wildlife strikes, will also save human lives.

– ‘More roads, more vehicles’- 

Bager said a variety of other strategies to stop the bloodshed on Brazilian roads have failed.

Signage warning drivers to be on the lookout for crossing animals have little influence, he told AFP, leading to a mere three-percent reduction in speed on average.

There are also so-called fauna bridges and tunnels meant to get animals safely from one side of the road to the other, and fences to keep them in — all insufficient to deal with the scope of the problem, according to Bager.

In 2014, he created an app called Urubu with other ecologists, to which thousands of users contributed information, allowing for the identification of roadkill hotspots.

The project helped to create public awareness and even inspired a bill on safe animal crossing and circulation, which is awaiting a vote in Congress. 

A lack of money saw the app being shut down last year, but Bager is intent on having it reactivated.

“We have more and more roads, more vehicles and a number of roadkill animals that likely continues to grow,” he said.

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Honda to build major EV plant in Canada: govt source

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Honda hopes to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2040, with a goal of going carbon-neutral in its own operations by 2050
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Japanese auto giant Honda will open an electric vehicle plant in eastern Canada, a Canadian government source familiar with the multibillion-dollar project told AFP on Monday.

The federal government as well as the province of Ontario, where the plant will be built, will both provide some financial incentives for the deal, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official announcement is due Thursday, though Ontario premier Doug Ford hinted at the deal on Monday.

“This week, we’ve landed a new deal. It will be the largest deal in Canadian history. It’ll be double the size of Volkswagen,” he said, referring to a battery plant announced last year, for which the German automaker pledged Can$7 billion (US$5 billion) in investment.

Canada in recent years has been positioning itself as an attractive destination for electric vehicle investment, touting tax incentives, renewable energy access and its rare mineral deposits.

The Honda plant, to be built an hour outside Toronto, in Alliston, will also produce electric-vehicle batteries, joining existing Volkswagen and Stellantis battery plants.

In January, when news of the deal first bubbled up in the Japanese press, the Nikkei newspaper estimated it would be worth Can$14 billion — numbers backed up by Canadian officials recently.

In the federal budget announced last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government introduced a new business tax credit, granting companies a 10 percent rebate on construction costs for new buildings used in key segments of the electric vehicle supply chain.

Canada’s strategy follows that of the neighboring United States, whose Inflation Reduction Act has provided a host of incentives for green industry.

Honda hopes to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2040, with a goal of going carbon-neutral in its own operations by 2050.

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Denmark launches its biggest offshore wind farm tender

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Denmark's offshore wind parks currently generate 2.7 gigawatts of electricity
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The Danish Energy Agency on Monday launched its biggest tender for the construction of offshore wind farms, aimed at producing six gigawatts by 2030 — more than double Denmark’s current capacity.

Offshore wind is one of the major sources of green energy that Europe is counting on to decarbonise electricity production and reach its 2050 target of net zero carbon production, but it remains far off the pace needed to hit its targets.

Denmark’s offshore wind parks currently generate 2.7 gigawatts of electricity, with another one GW due in 2027.

The tender covers six sites in four zones in Danish waters: North Sea I, Kattegat, Kriegers Flak II and Hesselo.

“We are pleased that we can now offer the largest offshore wind tender in Denmark to date. This is a massive investment in the green transition,”  Kristoffer Bottzauw, head of the Danish Energy Agency, said in a statement.

Investment in offshore wind plummeted in Europe in 2022 due to supply chain problems, high interest rates and a jump in prices of raw materials, before bouncing back in 2023.

A record 4.2 gigawatts was installed in Europe last year, when a record 30 billion euros in new projects were approved, the trade association WindEurope said in January.

It said it was optimistic about the future of offshore wind in Europe, expecting new offshore wind capacity of around five gigawatts per year for the next three years.

However, it noted that that was still far short of what is needed if Europe wants to hit its 2030 target of 111 gigawatts of offshore wind installed capacity, with less than 20 gigawatts installed at the end of 2023.

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