Two technological developments provide reasons to be excited by net-zero; three pieces of news show the challenge of fighting entrenched views.

Two reasons to get excited about net-zero, three to frustrate you

Canute thinking and stupidity; these two ideas provide the thrust of this article. And five pieces of news illustrate my point.

I have two claims here: Firstly, renewables are ‘gonna’ change the world. Not even a Canute can stop this. Secondly, stupidity could delay the inevitable, and cause enormous hard.

Canute thinking and stupidity

They say King Canute always understood he couldn’t command the tide to stop. But I think there are many latter-day Canutes — I mean latter-day Cantutes who characterise the famous legend, not the nuance in the legend.

Ands now I turn to stupidity.

I read recently that stupid people are people whose behaviour works to the disadvantage not only to others but themselves. And for me, denying climate change is an example of this definition of stupid.

Let’s drill down.

Here are two reasons to get extremely excited about renewables.

Clean steel

Volvo has announced the world’s first truck made from fossil-free steel.

“The steel is produced by the Swedish steel company SSAB, and heavy-duty electric Volvo trucks will be the first to include it,” states the press release.

The steel is produced “using a completely new technology, based on hydrogen.”

The technology involved replaces coking coal with fossil-free electricity and hydrogen. It falls under a project called Hybrit, which essentially uses green hydrogen — hydrogen generated from renewables.

The ultimate plan is to be able to provide clean steel for wind turbine blades.

This is incredibly exciting technology. Renewable critics, including a certain Bill Gates, love to cite steel and the necessity of coking coal as a fundamental problem with renewables. Gates himself is maybe not an out and out critic of renewables but has argued that to defeat climate change, we need technologies that haven’t been invented yet. By contrast, eminent climate change scientist Michael E Mann says the technology exists; it just needs scaling. The news from SSAB would appear to back the Mann’s argument.

The EV solar charging point

Here is the second piece of technology. A company called 3ti has launched a pop-up solar-powered station for charging electric vehicles (EVs). The product is called Papilio3 and uses recycled shipping containers.

The idea is that EVs can be charged using solar and independently from the grid at times of rising electricity prices.

Each Papilio3 unit can charge 12 EVs at any one time.

I can imagine these chargers being especially relevant in car parks, especially outdoor car parks for staff at an organisation so that they can leave their vehicle charging whilst at work.

What I like about this is the scalability of Papilio3. I see no reason why units can’t be rolled out at scale. Innovations like this illustrate why weak charging infrastructure for EVs doesn’t have to be a significant impediment to their growth.

The above two examples illustrate why renewables are unstoppable.

Now I turn to frustration and maybe downright stupidity.

The cost of ignoring renewables in India

India has a power problem. In April, parts of the country suffered blackouts, with the Indian grid experiencing power shortages on eight separate days.

I read that part of the problem is coal. Apparently, coal power plants can’t run when temperatures are above 50 degrees. So, burning coal is possibly causing higher temperatures, and these higher temperatures are making coal-burning less viable, causing power cuts.

I also read that there is a growing consensus that the solution to India’s problem is more renewables, and part of the problem is that renewable infrastructure in India hasn’t expanded as fast as the government planned.

But in India, coal is like a political football; it gets kicked from one political party to the other as a populist weapon — each party tries to outdo the other with ever more attractive coal subsidies.

But it is a home goal. India’s coal policy is stupid in precisely the way I defined stupidity above.

Pensions are invested in renewables

Yet the resistance to renewables persists; trawl social media, and it won’t take long to find a so-called expert trying to explain, with what this expert no doubt thinks is cold logic, why renewables aren’t viable or the solution to climate change.

They are wrong and often base their claims on outdated data. But then again, consider this point:

Research led by Dr Gregor Semieniuk at the University of Massachusetts has concluded that oil reserves which might never be used are worth around US$1 trillion. Or to cite the research: “Global stranded assets as present value of future lost profits in the upstream oil and gas sector exceed US$1 trillion under plausible changes in expectations about the effects of climate policy.”

–> SEE ALSO: Net-zero is winning

They also say: “Most of the market risk falls on private investors, overwhelmingly in OECD countries, including substantial exposure through pension funds and financial markets.”

Truth is, renewables and climate change together spell disruption. And disruption is scary for those who are disrupted.

They have a choice; they can be like the mythical Canute and try and command the renewables tide to stop, maybe by making false claims, using old data or carefully manipulating data. Or they can be more like the real Canute who knew full well he had no control over the tide.


And finally, I read that Caroline Dennett, a safety consultant for Shell, has resigned over the company’s approach to burning fossil fuels.

She told Sky News: “Contrary to Shell’s public expressions around Net Zero, and as most of you will know from the inside, Shell is not winding down oil and gas, but planning to explore and extract much more.”

But why? Investors should be staring at this news development in disbelief. When Read Hastings presented his idea to Blockbusters for not fining people for the late return of videos, he was laughed at. Blockbusters ignored the great gale of creative disruption blowing their way and paid the price.

Companies which continue to greenwash us, saying one thing about investing in renewables and doing something else, are stupid by my definition above


But while the rise of renewables is unstoppable, maybe it can be slowed in the same way a sandcastle can withstand the incoming tide for a few seconds.

But the delay in renewables could be fatal in our battle against climate change.

And that would be stupid.

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