Mark Zuckerberg strikes again, collecting news headlines and global attention (and creating distractions), and ensuring that the word “metaverse” worms its way into our everyday vocabulary, whether we like it or not. While we’re grateful that this isn’t another story of a billionaire dreaming of space odysseys, it’s still all about conquering another kind of kingdom—a virtual one.

So, will Meta (formerly known as Facebook) be the master of the metaverse? Or will the practical utility of a 3D virtual world outweigh consumer entertainment for once? Asset-heavy industry is definitely a metaverse contender, having already shown its love for digital twins and computer vision to test, predict, inspect, and conduct a host of other tasks from the comfort of a leather-padded office chair.

No longer just powering your remote control, batteries have become a vital ingredient in the fight against climate change. Without batteries with the capability to store the energy produced from renewable sources, or to power cars that perform as well—if not better—than their gas counterparts, the electrification of society will fail and net zero will remain out of reach.

Current battery technology isn’t good enough to anchor this revolution, and while battery guru Elon Musk is busy asking Twitter whether he should be selling billions of dollars worth of Tesla shares, other companies are taking strides to make this technology a key part of the energy transition.

Where the Baltic Sea meets the North Sea lies Denmark, a small, flat nation of islands—more than 400 to be exact. It’s not part of the G7 and not exactly grabbing global headlines on a regular basis, but it’s a country that’s considerably further along than the rest of the world in one area in particular: wind power.

Danish leaders have long seen the potential in harnessing the winds that rage across the low-lying Danish topography. The country is one of the first to see the opportunity in developing onshore wind production, which has resulted in Denmark holding the title as a wind-first nation, with the world’s highest share of wind in its electricity mix (more than 50% as of 2020).

Denmark is now going for the offshore market, manufacturing islands to house mighty turbines that will not only bring power to the Danes, but perhaps their European neighbors too.

There’s much to be learned from this small but mighty country, which is why we sat down with Dr. Birte Holst Jørgensen, senior researcher at DTU Wind Energy of Denmark, the largest public research organization for wind energy in the world. Jørgensen is proud of all her home country has achieved with its wind-powered national strategy, and so we asked her a few questions on how Denmark got there and what others can do to copy and paste the country’s green energy success story.

CO2 made into rock? A newly opened plant in Iceland sucks carbon dioxide from the air and turns it into rock. The direct air capture technology aims to capture emissions already in the atmosphere.

Big bucks toward clean tech: The EU commission will invest €1.5 billion in innovative cleantech projects for renewable energy, energy-intensive industries, energy storage, and carbon capture, use, and storage.

US infrastructure bill becomes law: US President Joe Biden last week signed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill. The bill includes $65 billion for power and electric grid upgrades, assessments of minerals and supply chains for clean energy technology, and carbon capture and clean energy demonstration projects.

Chip shortage leads to decoupling: The global chip shortage is making US manufacturers reevaluate their dependence on overseas supply.

Historic milestone: The US has kicked off construction of its “first commercial-scale offshore wind farm,” located off the coast of Massachusetts.

Until May last year, health centers in Japan used fax machines to send handwritten reports of COVID-19 cases to the health ministry. Hanko seals (a carved stamp) and paper documents, in lieu of digital ones, are still part of the country’s work culture. Hard cash continues to circulate, due to widespread refusal to adopt digital payment systems.

Though highly diversified, Japan’s industrial sector has been slow to digitalize, driving production from stagnation into a steady decline. Despite Japan’s innovative image on the world stage, it ranks only 27th in a survey of how countries (and their industries) deploy digital technologies, according to the IMD Digital Competitiveness index. Other reports show that only 13% of Japanese organizations are actively working to digitalize.

What exactly is the holdup when it comes to digitalizing a country seemingly as advanced as Japan?

Answering this question has become a priority for Japanese leaders. It portends to be a long-term competitive catastrophe in the making, which is perhaps why former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga prioritized digital reform when came into power in September 2020. The country has long struggled to deliver on administrative reforms, which has served as a barrier to admittance in the digital era.

This week, Japan elected a new prime minister to replace Suga: Fumio Kishida. Kishida is expected to follow through with Suga’s digital reforms, specifically the “digital garden city state” concept that seeks to boost regional economies through the use of advanced  technology.

Ignite News spoke with Junji Yamamoto, an executive advisor for Yokogawa Electric Corporation’s industrial automation and life innovation business, about what’s behind Japan’s societal reluctance to digitalize.

COP26 started with a bang this week, as more than 100 countries united in a promise to significantly cut methane emissions. Coined the “Methane Pledge”, this commitment is an effective, short-term strategy to help limit global warming to 1.5-degrees, according to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

The industrial angle on cutting methane

Geologist Simone John has her roots in the oil and gas industry, where she spent more than a decade looking oil for Norway’s Aker BP. She has since transitioned into the world of digitalization, working with Cognite to help customers operate more sustainability. We asked for Simone’s take on the methane pledge through an industrial lens.

Why is methane taking center stage at COP26? We haven’t forgotten about carbon, right?

SJ: Methane is not a substitute for cutting carbon, but it is extremely important in reaching climate targets. It is a powerful greenhouse gas with 80-times more warming power than CO2. But it’s shorter-lived than carbon, remaining about two decades in our atmosphere, versus carbon dioxide which stays for centuries. We can get results quickly in terms of our aggressive climate targets if we manage to reduce methane emissions.

What does the methane pledge mean for industrial companies?

SJ: In my experience, methane reduction is already on the agenda for most in the oil and gas industry, as this industry alone was responsible for about 70 million tons of methane emissions last year. Oil and gas companies are focused on limiting flaring, for example, which is when CO2 and methane are emitted into the atmosphere, and many are also working to prevent leakage in wells and pipes, another methane source. Other industries that emit significant levels of methane include livestock farming and waste management.

Will this pledge make a difference when it comes to meeting climate targets?

SJ: Reducing methane is important, but it’s just one part of a bigger picture, like carbon. We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but we must also focus on biodiversity, circularity, and tell the bigger story of how people must change to get our planet on a 1.5-degree path rather than a 2.7-degree path or even warmer. We are changing industries, but we must also change behaviors. This means that across the board, we need to raise the bar, be stricter, and set expectations for both people and companies. 

 

Although 2020 marked the largest decline in global CO2 emissions since the recession of 2007-09, the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere still reached a record high. The social costs of emitting carbon are only set to increase. Carbon-intensive industries urgently need to invest to become carbon neutral and maintain their license to operate.

As the world’s leaders gather at the COP26 Climate Change Summit this week, carbon capture is expected to come up in conversations about practices to achieve “negative emissions.”

We sat down with Jim Stian Olsen, CTO of Aker Carbon Capture, to get his take on carbon capture and the road to net zero.

How will decarbonization happen? 

JSO: Decarbonization will come in three stages. We’ll begin with energy efficiency—the cheapest and lowest hanging fruit. Once we have exhausted that, we will move to renewable energy. Finally, since there are still emissions in the production of renewable energy, we will turn to carbon capture.

How are we progressing with carbon capture?

JSO: The International Energy Agency (IEA) said that to meet the climate goals, 9% of decarbonization needs to come from carbon capture. That is equivalent to 2,400 million metric tons of CO2. Let’s look at it in real terms: Aker Carbon Capture is part of a 1 billion Norwegian kroner project that will result in a reduction of about 400,000 tons of CO2. To meet the 9% IEA goal, you need 5,000 of these projects from now until 2030. That’s a couple of projects a day!

COP 26: 40 nations are backing “Glasgow Breakthrough”, a plan to boost the uptake of clean technology by 2030. 

Australia, the “black sheep”? According to the Climate Council’s latest assessment, Australia remains the worst performing of all developed countries when it comes to climate change. At COP 26, more than 90 nations signed a global pledge to cut methane emissions. However, Australia was not among them.

Industrial company bounceback: Hydro and Equinor both delivered record quarterly results. Where will they be placing their money? 

New hubs forming in the US: Mississippi can potentially be the largest hub in the US for green hydrogen, and New Jersey might be the new capital of offshore wind

Fumio Kishida, the new Japanese prime minister: Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party secured 261 seats in the 465-member lower house. This week he will attend COP26 and explain how Japan will reach its carbon emissions targets by 2030 and 2050

Europe is the fastest-growing region for climate tech: 2021 has been a record year for climate tech investment, with $32B raised so far. As part of the virtual SOSV Climate Tech Summit, Bill Gates predicted that “there will be eight Teslas, 10 Teslas” in the climate tech space.

Across coastlines and continental shelves, the policies and projects to scale offshore wind are falling into place. What follows is a global temperature check of the latest reporting, major issues, and developments related to the industry in Asia, North America, and Europe.

The United States

The Biden administration is planning to aggressively expand offshore wind energy capacity in the United States with as many as seven new offshore lease sales to be held by 2025 in a move that was announced last week by US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. She said that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is exploring leasing sales along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Meanwhile, domestic private sector investment in offshore wind will soar to $109 billion by 2030. The projection represents an increase of 40% from the previous industry-wide projects just two years ago. The White House projects that meeting this goal could reduce carbon dioxide emissions while creating 77,000 jobs in the United States alone.

“By the end of the decade, President Biden wants the country to install thousands of offshore wind turbines capable of generating 30 gigawatts of power. That’d be like moving all of New England’s power plants into the ocean,” said Miriam Wasser, an energy reporter at the NPR affiliate WBUR.

Jonah Margulis, senior vice president of US operations for offshore wind developer Aker Offshore Wind, said, “This level of commitment and transparency is unprecedented for the US and serves to increase confidence for the supply chain to make the required investments. The 30 GW by 2030 target is just the beginning of the offshore wind industry in the US, as it sets a path to 110 GW by 2050, with a significant portion of that in floating wind. We are very optimistic.”

With offshore wind one of the first “digitally native” asset-heavy industries, Margulis added, “Driving out inefficiencies in operations and maintenance is a significant part of the cost reduction we anticipate for floating wind, and we foresee using digital tools for real-time monitoring, allowing planned maintenance activities and environmental assessments.”

He said that this could result in a cost reduction of approximately 15% from today’s levels.