The essex geos clean slate 6 – essex investment gastroparesis

A bi-weekly synopsis of articles and blogs on new technologies, recent developments and other items of interest in the clean tech and new energy arena. This newsletter is intended to provide food for thought and is not intended in any way as an investment recommendation in any of the companies or technologies mentioned herein. Please see further disclosures at the end of this newsletter. Please visit our website at www.essexinvest.com . By clicking on the links below, you will be redirected to websites maintained by third party provider.

The coal industry has been struggling for a few years as the phase-out of coal-fired power plants in Europe and the United States has gathered momentum. Declining volumes and prices have led to a number of bankruptcies among coal miners over the past decade. It looks like the tough times for the industry will persist as the risks and costs for utilities operating coal-fired power plants continue to rise. This past week, one of the largest underwriters of property and casualty insurance will cease offering insurance for coal power plants, effective immediately. While the operating costs of running a coal-fired power plant continue to rise, the relentlessly declining costs of renewable energy mean that the final day of operating a coal-fired power plant is not far away, especially in the developed world.

The road for biofuel companies, both public and private, has been a rocky one. After a round of significant funding (particularly from a number of silicon valley VC heavyweights) launched a plethora of biofuel startups a decade ago, the results have been dismal. In short, the challenge of producing fuel from renewable sources has been far more difficult than anticipated. The MIT Technology Review takes a brief look at where we have come from and what the future for biofuels looks like now:

Some of the big European oil companies such as BP, Shell and Total are starting to make investments in clean energy companies and projects. In recent months, these fossil fuel behemoths have made investments in solar companies, wind projects and electric car charging technologies among other efforts. Clearly, this is a step in the right direction, but the overall magnitude of the investments remain small compared to the legacy business and we question the long-term commitment to this diversification strategy. This isn’t the first time we have seen this: BP and Shell once had investments in solar panel manufacturers and Total and Shell have invested in biofuel companies (with similarly dismal results as the biofuel efforts discussed above). On this side of the pond, oil giant Exxon Mobil has kept a much lower profile when it comes to investing in clean energy technologies and projects but the company claims that it is spending $1bn annually for research into green energy.

One of the biggest challenges facing the electric vehicle industry is the need to build out a capable and reliable infrastructure. Tesla has been able to overcome this hurdle somewhat by building out its own dedicated charging network. Now a number of large European auto manufacturers are setting up a joint venture called Ionity to build a fast charging network for electric vehicles across Europe.

As fans of all-things electric, we follow the electric vehicle (EV) race scene, with an eye to technological development trends, from the first Formula E championship, based on the European Formula One series, to an EV winning the famed Pikes Peak hill climb back in 2015. Pikes Peak is a serious battle of automotive technology meets nature and altitude, with its 156 turns over 12.4 miles. Discredited and defamed VW has been forced into the EV revolution, but seems to be putting both feet in, from plans for an EV version of the microbus to entering EVs on the global race circuit. VW just announced an EV to challenge Pike’s this summer. In short, the specs are almost unbelievable: under 2,500 pounds, fitted with two electric motors capable of 680 hp and 479 pounds/feet of torque, equating to 0-60 in 2.5 seconds. A key for this race is braking technology. Internal combustion engines require large and heavy braking systems, yet with EVs, regenerative systems capture braking energy back to the battery. Yes, the Tesla Model S with ‘Ludicrous Speed’ can get to 60 mph from 0 in 2.6 seconds, but the car weighs over 3,800 pounds. Pike’s Peak is late next month, and it will be interesting to see how this new VW race machine performs:

Water and energy are completely linked, as traditional electricity sources such as nuclear power or thermal coal production require massive amounts of water for base-load power generation. Many rapidly developing economies require greater electricity, yet delivery can be spotty, as power stations frequently shut-down during drought conditions. For example, almost 90% of India’s thermal power generation is dependent on freshwater for cooling. As India’s economy grows, so will its appetite for energy and water, and freshwater resources are already scare across most of India. In contrast, distributed solar requires no water resources for power. If India can deliver on its aggressive solar power installation goals, they will achieve “more with less”, our very definition of clean tech:

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