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    World’s largest offshore windfarm project starts powering UK grid
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    World’s largest offshore windfarm project starts powering UK grid

    The first turbine to be completed in a project to build the world’s largest offshore windfarm, in the North Sea, has begun powering British homes and businesses.

    Developers confirmed on Monday that Dogger Bank, which sits 70 nautical miles off the coast of Yorkshire, started producing power over the weekend as the first of 277 turbines was connected to the electricity grid.

    The project, jointly developed by Britain’s SSE and Norway’s Equinor and Vårgrønn, will produce 3.6 gigawatts of power, enough for 6m homes a year, when it is completed in 2026.

    Rishi Sunak said the project was “critical to generating renewable, efficient energy that can power British homes from British seas”.

    The prime minister’s endorsement comes weeks after he drew heavy criticism from green campaigners for rowing back on net zero policies as he seeks to make the energy transition a key political battleground.

    The government was also condemned last month when a disastrous energy auction saw no new offshore windfarms secure contracts despite there being the potential for 5GW of projects – enough to power 8m homes a year.

    Keir Starmer, who will address the Labour party conference in Liverpool on Tuesday, has said Sunak’s lack of investment in wind power is a “gift to Putin, who has strangled the international gas market we are hooked to”.

    The cost of material, labour and finance have risen sharply for windfarm developers over the past year. Earlier this year, the Swedish energy company Vattenfall said it would cease working on the multibillion-pound Norfolk Boreas windfarm because rising costs meant it was no longer profitable.

    Sunak said the £9bn Dogger Bank development would “not only bolster our energy security but create jobs, lower electricity bills and keep us on track for net zero”.

    Alistair Phillips-Davies, the chief executive of SSE, said: “There’s been lots of talk about the need to build homegrown energy supplies, but we are taking action on a massive scale.”

    The developers said each rotation of the 107-metre-long blades on Dogger Bank’s first turbine could produce enough energy to power an average British home for two days.

    Last year, SSE switched on another huge wind project – Scotland’s largest offshore windfarm, Seagreen.

    The surge in gas and electricity bills over the past two years, in part linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has thrown the spotlight on Britain’s domestic energy system.

    The government has set a target to decarbonise the UK electricity system by 2035, while Labour has pledged to achieve the same feat by 2030. However, they face a considerable task to achieve those targets in a market currently reliant on fossil fuel power generation.

    Source: The Guardian

    Clean energy can fuel the future — and make the world healthier
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    Clean energy can fuel the future — and make the world healthier

    The 2030 targets laid out by the United Nations for the seventh Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 7) are clear enough: provide affordable access to energy; expand use of renewable sources; improve energy efficiency year on year; and enhance international cooperation in support of clean-energy research, development and infrastructure. Meeting those goals, however, will be anything but simple. As seen in many of the editorials in this series examining the SDGs at their halfway stage, the world is falling short.

    This is due, at least in part, to the influence of the fossil-fuel industry, which drives the economics and, often, the politics of countries large and small, rich and poor. Rising human prosperity, as measured by economic growth, has long been linked to an abundance of fossil fuels. Many politicians fear that the pursuit of clean-energy sources will compromise that economic development. The latest science clearly counters this view — but the voice of the research community is not being heard in the right places. To meet the targets embodied in SDG 7, that has to change.

    There is much to be done. In 2021, some 675 million people worldwide still did not have access to electricity. This is down from 1.1 billion a decade or so ago, but the pace of progress has slowed. On the basis of current trends, 660 million people, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa, will remain without electricity by 2030. And projections indicate that some 1.9 billion people will still be using polluting and inefficient cooking systems fuelled by coal and wood (see go.nature.com/3s8d887). This is bad news all round: for health, biodiversity and the climate.

    Achieving the energy-access targets was always going to be a stretch, but progress has been slow elsewhere, too. Take energy efficiency. More energy efficiency means less pollution, and energy efficiency has increased by around 2% annually in the past few years. But meeting the target for 2030 — to double the rate of the 1990–2010 average — would require gains of around 3.4% every year for the rest of this decade.

    The picture for renewable energy is similarly mixed. Despite considerable growth in wind and solar power to generate grid electricity, progress in the heat and transport sectors remains sluggish. Renewable energy’s share of total global energy consumption was just 19.1% in 2020, according to the latest UN tracking report, but one-third of that came from burning resources such as wood.

    One reason for the slow progress is the continued idea that aggressive clean-energy goals will get in the way of economic development. It’s easier and more profitable for major fossil-fuel producers to simply maintain the status quo. Just last month, ministers from the G20 group of the world’s biggest economies, including the European Union, India, Saudi Arabia and the United States, failed to agree on a plan to phase out fossil fuels and triple the capacity of renewable energy by 2030.

    But this is where science has a story to tell. In the past, researchers say, many models indicated that clean energy would be more expensive than that from fossil fuels, potentially pricing the poorest nations out of the market as well as driving up people’s food bills and exacerbating hunger. But the latest research suggests that the picture is more complex. Energy is a linchpin for most of the SDGs, and research that merges climate, energy and the SDGs underscores this1. For example, the agriculture and food-transport sectors still depend on fossil fuels, and that generates pollution that kills millions of people each year. Other links are indirect: lack of access to light at night and to online information — as a result of energy poverty — hampers educational attainment and contributes to both long- and short-term inequality.

    The lesson from research is that it might be easier, not harder, to address these challenges together. In 2021, researcher Gabriela Iacobuţă at the German Institute of Development and Sustainability in Bonn and her colleagues showed that technologies centred on renewable resources and efficiency tend to come with few trade-offs and many benefits, including improved public health and wealth, thanks to a cleaner environment and better jobs2. And climate scientist Bjoern Soergel at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and his colleagues found that a coordinated package of climate and development policies could achieve most of the SDGs while limiting global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels3.

    The study assessed 56 indicators across all 17 SDGs. One proposed intervention is an international climate finance mechanism that would levy fees on carbon emissions that would be redistributed through national programmes to reduce poverty. A second focuses on promoting healthy diets — including reducing the consumption of meat, the production of which requires a lot of water, energy and land. This would benefit people on low incomes by lowering both food and energy prices.

    The biggest challenge lies in translating these models to the real world. To do so, we need leaders who are not bound by outmoded thinking, are aware of the latest science and can draw on the research to build public support for the necessary energy transition. We require more national and international public institutions that are willing to address problems at the system level. And all of this needs a science community that is willing and able to champion knowledge and evidence.

    Source: Nature 620, 245 (2023)

    The scourge of remote work sends U.S. office distress up to $24.8 billion
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    The scourge of remote work sends U.S. office distress up to $24.8 billion

    About $24.8 billion of US office buildings were in distress at the end of the second quarter, surpassing previous leading commercial real estate laggards — hotels and retail properties.

    The total value of offices that were financially troubled or already repossessed by lenders shot up about 36% from the first quarter, MSCI Real Assets reported Wednesday.

    At the end of June, $22.7 billion of retail properties — including malls — and $13.5 billion of hotels were in distress. The total for all troubled commercial properties was almost $72 billion, up 13% from the first quarter.

    “The office sector was responsible for the largest share of marketwide distress,” according to the report, based on filings for bankruptcies, defaults and other publicly reported property issues. “It’s the first time since 2018 that neither the retail nor hotel sector was the biggest contributor.”

    MSCI identified an additional $162 billion of properties in potential distress, with problems such as delinquent loan payments, high vacancies or maturing debt.

    It’s likely to get worse for offices.

    “The things needed to slow the pace aren’t happening,” Jim Costello, an MSCI economist and a co-author of the report, said in an interview. “Investors are putting a low probability on debt becoming cheap and everybody being back in the office like they were before.”

    US offices face higher stress than other real estate sectors because of weak demand as remote work gains widespread acceptance. Office use in 10 major US cities is at about half of its pre-pandemic rate on average, according to badge-swipe data from Kastle Systems Inc. More than 20% of US office space was vacant as of June 30, brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. reported.

    Prices for office buildings fell 27% in the year through June, compared with a 12% decline for all commercial-property types, according to real estate analytics firm Green Street. Corporate landlords such as Blackstone Inc., Brookfield Asset Management Ltd. and Starwood Capital Group have stopped payments on office buildings they’ve deemed to be money losers.

    Office properties with maturing debt are among the most vulnerable to stress because the cost of borrowing has soared since the Federal Reserve started raising interest rates last year to try to cool inflation. About $189 billion of debt on office buildings is estimated to mature in 2023 with an additional $117 billion due in 2024, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

    Source: Fortune