Fossil fuels matter as much as renewables

It is the “transition” within the “energy transition” that really characterizes our most read articles this fall. As 2021 draws to a close and Energy monitor is just months away from its first birthday, we’ve compiled a list of our ten most-read articles since September 1, 2021. If you’ve read them all, great; if not, and want to get an idea of ​​what we’re up to, take a look.

They reflect what Energy monitor focuses on the real political and economic challenges of the transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions. The adoption of net zero goals by countries and companies does not ease the challenge of transition.

It is the future of fossil fuels as much as that of renewable energies that will decide the energy transition, and it is as much oil and gas as electric vehicles and heat pumps that interest our readers. That, and the often contentious options in between, including hydrogen, nuclear, and hydropower, and carbon markets as a tool to help fund it all.

A man dressed as a chimney sweep competes in the 43rd Berlin Marathon in Berlin, Germany, in 2016. Chimney sweeps are former tradesmen who now measure pollutant emissions. And they are said to bring good luck for the new year. (Photo by John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images)

Our most-read story this fall is a short, concise column from California editor Justin Gerdes about how LNG exports are backfiring on the U.S. oil and gas industry. Sending a growing share of US natural gas production overseas exposes the domestic market to higher prices and makes renewables more attractive.

“It would be no small feat if the eagerness of oil and gas companies to send natural gas overseas ended up accelerating the takeover of renewables on the US electric grid,” writes Gerdes.

Second on the list is an article on the urgency to act on flaring. Average flaring intensity per barrel is at its highest level in five years, reports data journalist Nick Ferris – even though the International Energy Agency’s sustainability scenario says it is set to fall by 90 % by 2025. The 150 billion cubic meters of gas flared each year is equivalent to the combined imports of natural gas from Japan and Korea – and emits as much CO2 as Italy. Most flaring is preventable. Methane has steadily climbed the political agenda and we expect it to stay there.

Lead writer Dave Keating’s article on the likely inclusion of gas and nuclear in a new EU taxonomy for green investments is the third. The EU’s decision on which investments are considered sustainable will reverberate far beyond the financial sector, which is why European governments are arguing so fiercely over it, he explains.

The fourth is an article on electric vehicles. Every week, Energy monitor produces a short Weekly Data that leads to a visual to explain an aspect of the energy transition in just 400 words. On September 20, 2021, this was a graph from Ferris showing that a fifth of cars produced by German automakers are now electric vehicles (compared to 6.8% in 2020). The statistic, which came from the German Automotive Industry Association (VDA), went viral on Twitter.

COP26 completes the top 5, with an article by editor Mark Nicholls on the challenges for carbon markets at the United Nations climate conference. The article is notable for not compromising on complexity while being accessible to non-experts. Essentially, Nicholls explains how decisions on carbon trading rules can enable deeper emissions reductions and help fund flows to the Global South, but must maintain environmental integrity and therefore also risk slowing the carbon market.

The two most read articles of the past few weeks are also part of this fall’s top 10: Seven pages will decide the future of green hydrogen in Europe, by myself and a new power generation map live of the EU by a trio of journalists and data developers. The first reports on a piece of European legislation that many potential green hydrogen producers and experts believe is the most important decision maker of final investment decisions in electrolyzers. Recent leaks of the bill, which is expected to be finalized in early 2022, have both horrified and encouraged.

The live power generation map is an example of the type of data journalism Energy monitor aspires to do more in the future. Along with a trio of energy transition trackers, these are interactive elements that use databases owned by our parent company, GlobalData, to map power plant assets and pipelines and compare them to net zero commitments. These are reality checks of promises against plans.

EU electricity production live map, updated with live data every hour. The default value shows the renewable share of EU generation in the last day, in gigawatt hours.

Affordability and security of supply are often cited as obstacles to the energy transition. It’s no wonder then that another Ferris article, Recent Events Complicate the Idea That Fossil Fuels Are More “Reliable” Than Renewables, was also a favorite with readers this fall. Fueled by the energy price crisis, he argues that fossil fuel markets are becoming increasingly unstable while new technologies mean that ‘variable’ power supply doesn’t have to be ‘unreliable’.

Finally, two older pieces entered the top 10: Heat pumps on the rise in Europe, by data journalist Nicu Calcea, and Can hydroelectricity be part of a clean energy future? by freelance journalist Jocelyn Timperley. Both are from a year ago. They show the enduring power of “eternals” who take a subject and explain it, or report on a longer-term trend or delve into a recurring question with no obvious answer.

In this case, heat pumps remain an essential part of the energy transition and a hot topic of debate – for their role in decarbonizing heating compared to gas and hydrogen – and hydroelectricity is a much more used than it is discussed.

That rounds out our top 10 most-read articles this fall. We enjoyed having you with us, wish you reflection and inspiration in the final days of this year, and look forward to continuing the journey to net zero in 2022 together.

  1. Opinion: LNG exports backfire on US oil and gas industry By Justin Gerdes, October 12, 2021

  2. Oil industry flaring requires immediate action to keep net-zero hopes alive By Nick Ferris, September 10, 2021

  3. Nuclear and gas to be included in EU taxonomy for green investments By Dave Keating, November 8, 2021

  4. Weekly data: 20% of new cars in Germany are electric vehicles By Nick Ferris, September 20, 2021

  5. COP26: Carbon markets see promise and peril of UN talks in Glasgow By Mark Nicholls, September 29, 2021

  6. Seven pages will decide the future of green hydrogen in Europe By Sonja van Renssen, December 8, 2021

  7. Heat pumps are on the rise in Europe By Nicu Calcea, September 16, 2020

  8. Can hydropower be part of a clean energy future? By Jocelyn Timperley, December 1, 2020

  9. EU live electricity generation map By Georges Corbineau, Nick Ferris and Josh Rayman, 10 December 2021

  10. Recent events complicate the idea that fossil fuels are more “reliable” than renewables By Nick Ferris, October 4, 2021

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