Building the next generation of lithium-ion batteries

Recently the Anthropocene Institute asked Cypress River Advisors to discuss the future of battery technology and venture capital investment.  In 2016, lithium-ion received the bulk of the industry’s applied research dollars – focused on driving incremental improvements. Venture capital, on the other hand, invested over a half billion dollars into exploring solutions which addressed lithium-ion’s challenges through new chemistries or new technology paths to solve our global energy storage problem.  Through these conversations with various investors, we noted an inconsistent understanding of battery technologies and the challenges that the industry faces.  

To help get the public and investors on the same page, Cypress River Advisors sat down with William Chueh, a leading material science and engineering researcher at Stanford University and his team of Ph.D.  He and his team are at the forefront of materials research into battery technology, tackling the question: “How to build a better battery?”  

While there are many different kinds of energy storage systems, the rise of mobile devices has made lithium-ion the incumbent technology for consumer electronics, electric vehicles and even the grid.  It serves as one of the major benchmarks for which all other battery technologies are compared to today. We hope that this article and its related videos will give industry observers an overall sense of the challenges for the market ahead.  – Jason Wang, Partner, Cypress River Advisors.

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Reuters: Rich nations spend $100 bln a year on fossil fuel subsidies despite climate pledges

Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States have pledged to phase out subsidies – but many are still in place

By Lin Taylor

LONDON, June 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The world’s major industrial democracies spend at least $100 billion each year to prop up oil, gas and coal consumption, despite vows to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025, a report said on Monday ahead of the G7 summit in Canada.

Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – known as the Group of Seven (G7) – pledged in 2016 to phase out their support for fossil fuels by 2025.

But a study led by Britain’s Overseas Development Insitute (ODI) found they spent at least $100 billion a year to support fossil fuels at home and abroad in 2015 and 2016.

“Governments often say they have no public resources to support the clean energy transition,” the study’s lead author Shelagh Whitley told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“What we’re trying to do is highlight that those resources are there (but) it is being used inefficiently.

“The G7 have pledged to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, but they don’t have any systems in terms of accountability to meet the pledges – they don’t have road maps or plans,” added Whitley, head of the ODI’s climate division.

Researchers scrutinised and scored each country against indicators such as transparency, pledges and commitments, as well as their progress towards ending the use, support and production of fossil fuels.

France was ranked the highest overall, scoring 63 out of 100 points, followed by Germany (62), Canada (54) and the UK (47), the report said.

The United States scored lowest with 42 out of 100 points due to its support for fossil fuel production and its withdrawal from a 2015 global pact to fight climate change.

President Donald Trump announced a year ago he was ditching the deal agreed upon by nearly 200 countries over opposition from businesses and U.S. allies.

The 2015 Paris agreement committed nations to curbing greenhouse emissions and keeping the global hike in temperatures “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

Britain scored the lowest on transparency for denying that its government provided fossil fuel subsidies, even though it supported tax breaks for North Sea oil and gas exploration, the report said.

“We do not subsidise the production or consumption of fossil fuels,” a spokesman from Britain’s treasury said in emailed comments to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We are supporting other countries in phasing out their own fossil fuel subsidies, as part of our commitment to the G20 and G7 pledges,” he added.

The study, which was co-authored by Oil Change International, the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the Natural Resources Defense Council, urged G7 governments to set concrete plans to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 as pledged.

“What should be a low-hanging fruit in terms of moving public resources away from fossil fuels is not happening, or where it is happening, it’s not happening fast enough,” said the ODI’s Whitley.

Original article.

Department of Energy Announces 10 Projects to Support Advanced Nuclear Reactor Power Plants

ARPA-E provides up to $24 million for technologies to enable lower cost, safer advanced nuclear plant designs

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $24 million in funding for 10 projects as part of a new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program: Modeling-Enhanced Innovations Trailblazing Nuclear Energy Reinvigoration (MEITNER). MEITNER teams will identify and develop innovative technologies that enable designs for lower cost, safer, advanced nuclear reactors.

“Nuclear energy is an essential component of the U.S. energy mix, and by teaming up with the private sector to reduce costs and improve safety, we are keeping America ahead of the curve in advanced reactor design and technology,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “These next-generation ARPA‑E technologies help us maintain our competitive, technological edge globally, while improving the resilience of the grid and helping provide reliable, baseload electricity to each and every American.”

Nuclear power generates nearly 20 percent of U.S. electricity, offering a reliable source of power that complements the country’s diverse portfolio of energy generation sources. Existing nuclear power plants, however, face comparatively high operational and maintenance costs. MEITNER projects will leverage design, new manufacturing processes, and technologies to lower costs and increase the competitiveness of nuclear power. Funded projects will support advanced reactor designs that achieve lower construction cost and autonomous operations while also improving safety.

ARPA-E developed this funding opportunity in close coordination with DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, and MEITNER teams will have access to department modeling and simulation resources as they develop their concepts. Project teams will coordinate regularly with a DOE-supported resource team of experts from across the Department and DOE’s National Laboratories.

A selection of MEITNER projects are below. The full list of selected projects can be viewed HERE.

HolosGen, LLC – Manassas Park, VA
Transportable Modular Reactor by Balance of Plant Elimination – $2,278,200
The HolosGen team seeks to develop a transportable, gas-cooled nuclear reactor with load following ability. By using a closed Brayton cycle engine with components connected directly to the reactor core, the team expects to simplify plant construction, leading to lower costs and shorter commissioning times. The reactor can be packaged in a standard shipping container, making it highly portable and reducing cost. The team aims to demonstrate the viability of this concept using multi-physics modeling and simulation tools validated by testing a non-nuclear prototype.

Yellowstone Energy – Knoxville, TN
Reactivity Control Device for Advanced Reactors – $2,599,185
The Yellowstone Energy team seeks to develop a new reactor control technology to enhance passive safety and reduce costs for its molten salt reactor and other designs. Materials embedded in the control rods will vaporize at elevated temperatures, producing a vapor that captures neutrons and slows reaction rates, even in the absence of external controls. The team will use simulation tools to determine the effectiveness of the control device and conduct a techno-economic analysis at the plant level to determine cost effectiveness.

For more information on the MEITNER program click HERE.

CEM: Countries Launch a Nuclear Innovation Initiative under the Clean Energy Ministerial

PRESS RELEASE ON THE NICE FUTURE INITIATIVE

May 24, 2018 – At the 9th Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM9) meeting today, a new nuclear innovation partnership was announced under the leadership of the United States, Canada, and Japan. Called “Nuclear Innovation: Clean Energy Future (NICE Future),” the initiative will, for the first time, put the spotlight at CEM on nuclear energy in clean energy systems. U.S. Department of Energy Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette, Canadian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources Kim Rudd, and Japanese Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Masaki Ogushi launched the NICE Future initiative today at the Ninth CEM in Copenhagen, Denmark.

NICE Future initiative will address improved power system integration through innovative, integrated, and advanced energy systems and applications, such as nuclear-renewable systems, combined uses of heat and power, hydrogen production, and industrial decarbonization. It will highlight the opportunities for nuclear energy technologies to reduce emissions and air pollution from power generation, industry, and end-use sectors.

“I would like to acknowledge the countries and organizations that have joined the United States, Canada, and Japan in the creation and launch of the NICE Future initiative,” said Deputy Secretary Brouillette. “Secretary Rick Perry and I are quite proud of this initiative and the ambitious program it sets forth. Having nuclear included at the Clean Energy Ministerial will create greater global recognition of its many unique benefits.”

Nuclear energy is an important contributor to global clean energy supply, both as a primary source of clean energy and by enabling other clean energy sources. Globally, nuclear energy produces nearly one-third of the world’s emissions-free electricity. The International Energy Agency has also found that global nuclear energy generation would need to double from current levels by 2040 to meet global clean energy goals.

“Nuclear energy’s vitally important but under-recognized contributions to clean air are made even greater by constant innovation,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “The NICE Future initiative highlights these contributions by reimagining nuclear’s advanced uses and applications. Nuclear provides a cleaner, safer, more reliable, and more resilient energy supply for our world.”

“Canada is excited to be a part of this initiative. Nuclear energy is already an important part of Canada’s energy mix and innovative nuclear technologies, including Small Modular Reactors, have a key role to play in the transition to a low-carbon economy” said Kim Rudd, Parliamentary Secretary to Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources. “As a non-emitting source of energy, nuclear is, and will continue to be, an important part of our energy mix.”

Japanese Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Masaki Ogushi stated, “I expect this initiative would bring the wisdom of the world on nuclear innovation together, and contribute to policy making for realizing clean energy systems that solve challenges in each country. Our aim is to promote nuclear innovation utilizing out-of-the-box ideas from the private sector, pursuing the development of reactors with new concepts, including harmonization with renewable energy, combined with enhanced safety, efficiency, and flexibility.”

Several NICE Future initiative participants and stakeholders gathered on the sidelines of CEM9 for a launch event, moderated by Mr. Denis Janin, immediate past President of the International Youth Nuclear Congress. He highlighted the importance of innovative nuclear technologies and integrated energy systems: “This issue is vital for our planet—we need to get it right for the next generations. All available clean energy systems have a role to play. Nuclear energy is key in clean energy innovation especially as nuclear power plants do not emit air pollutants.”

Others noted nuclear energy’s strategic benefits. “Nuclear energy in the UAE plays a strategic role as a clean energy source that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector, diversify our energy portfolio, and is already creating highly-skilled employment opportunities which support long-term sustainability,” pointed out Dr. Matar Al Neyadi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Energy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“This initiative will help spur exchanges on technology development, expanding innovative, clean energy options that can grow our economy and advance our energy security,” emphasized Michał Kurtyka, Poland’s Secretary of State, Ministry of Energy. Secretary Kurtyka is also the Government Plenipotentiary for the Polish COP 24 Presidency.

“Today’s pivotal global initiative continues an essential dialogue on the role of nuclear in the clean energy systems of the future,” said Richard Harrington, Business and Industry Minister of the United Kingdom. “Advancing innovative technology in nuclear will enable us to continue this momentum, and it is crucial that nations are coming together in this way to share expertise around this dynamic clean energy technology.”

Countries participating in the NICE Future Initiative include the United States, Canada, Japan, Argentina, Poland, Romania, Russia, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. More countries have indicated strong interest. The International Energy Agency (IEA) and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) have noted their interest and support for the initiative. The U.S. DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory will serve as an initiative operating agent.

Original article.

Axios: A power primer for the Trump era

by Amy Harder

Electricity, the thing we all use but don’t really notice, has unexpectedly become a hot topic under President Trump.

Why it matters: His administration is mulling bailouts for coal and nuclear power plants in a questionable attempt to strengthen the electricity grid. Meanwhile, this winter’s cold snaps drove up New England’s power bills and Puerto Rico is still grappling with one of the world’s worst power outages. Here’s a primer + glossary to help light the way.

Energy vs. electricity

They’re not the same thing. Energy is the type of resource used to make electricity. Once they’re in the power lines, electrons are the same regardless of whether they came from wind turbines or coal plants.

America’s electricity resource mix is increasingly diverse: Natural gas and coal are each about 30%, nuclear power 20%, and renewable energy makes up most of the rest.

The electricity grid

This is a catch-all phrase describing America’s electricity infrastructure, most visibly through the power lines you see along the road.

The grid isn’t monolithic. Several, mostly separate, power grids exist across the country. Within each grid, there are different types of markets. Some are set up in an auction-based system where electricity sources compete, and others are not.

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Neutron Bytes: DOE Awards $60M for Advanced Nuclear Energy R&D; France Ink Nuclear Collaboration with US

  • The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected 13 projects to receive approximately $60 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development for advanced nuclear technologies.
  • These awards are the first under DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy’s U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Developmentfunding opportunity announcement (FOA)
  • Subsequent quarterly application review and selection processes will be conducted over the next five years.
  • DOE intends to apply up to $40 million of additional FY 2018 funding to the next two quarterly award cycles for innovative proposals under this FOA.

The selected awards underscore the importance of the private-public partnerships engaged in by U.S. companies in order to share expertise needed to successfully develop innovative nuclear technologies.

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Guardian: New satellite to spot planet-warming industrial methane leaks

Multimillion dollar project will scan and make public methane leaks from oil and gas plants that are a major contributor to global warming

Methane leaking from oil and gas facilities around the world – a major contributor to global warming – is set to be spotted from space.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has announced it aims to launch a satellite called MethaneSAT by 2021 to scan the globe and make major leaks public. That information will then enable governments to force action, EDF hopes. Building and launching the satellite will cost tens of millions of dollars, but EDF says it has already raised most of the money.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in the short term, and is responsible for about a fifth of human-caused climate change. The oil and gas industry is to blame for about a third of anthropogenic methane emissions, from fracking and other exploration sites, and from leaky pipelines. Read more

Popular Science: Air pollution might be the new lead

Scientists now think it might put young brains at risk.

Sometimes air pollution is easy to see. It billows off the top of smoke stacks, and out the tailpipes of cars zooming down the highway. Misty smog hangs in the air in cities like Delhi, Beijing, and Los Angeles, fracturing sunlight into a muted haze.

Most of the time, though, dirty air just looks like air. About 92 percent of the world’s population, and more than half the people in the United States, live in areas with unhealthy air quality. The World Health Organization calls air pollution the world’s “largest single environmental health risk,” and it leads to the premature deaths of millions annually. It’s a major public health problem for reasons you might expect: breathing in dirty air isn’t good for your lungs, and the the connection between the lungs and the cardiovascular system means it puts pressure on your heart, too.

But it’s increasingly clear that the effects of air pollution aren’t constrained to body parts below the shoulders—they can hurt the brain in a whole host of ways, many of which researchers are still trying to understand. One major area of interest? The way exposure to polluted air can affect the cognitive development of babies and children. Researchers aren’t shocked to find that an environmental toxin could harm young brains, because they’ve seen it happen before.

“To me, air pollution is kind of the next lead, in a way,” says Deborah Cory-Slechta, a professor of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester.
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HBS Op-Ed: Why Private Investors Must Fund ‘New Nuclear’ Power Right Now

by Joseph Lassiter

In June 2016, I gave a TED Talk called We Need Nuclear Power to Solve Climate Change. The talk discussed the world’s realistic options for reducing fossil CO2 emissions soon enough to contain climate change’s more severe effects. To my surprise, that talk has now been viewed more than 1.1 million times.

I have learned a lot from the many, many conversations that have emerged around the talk. Some of these conversations have made me hopeful, but most have made me realize how far we must go to meet society’s urgent need for both more energy and a cleaner environment. Solving either of these problems without solving the other may be a costly outcome, but it is not an informed choice. The world must have much better, low-cost, zero-carbon emission alternatives to meet the world’s urgent need for on-demand, around-the-clock power. And those alternatives need to be available now. Read more

NY Times: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rose Last Year. Here Are the Top 5 Reasons.

by Brad Plumer

WASHINGTON — If the world wants to avoid drastic global warming this century, we’ll need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions sharply in the years ahead.

For now, however, we’re still moving in the opposite direction: Carbon dioxide emissions from the use of coal, oil and natural gas increased 1.4 percent globally in 2017 after holding steady for the previous three years, the International Energy Agency reported on Thursday. That’s the equivalent of adding 170 million new cars to the road worldwide.

The energy agency, which called the findings “a strong warning for global efforts to combat climate change,” detailed several big reasons CO₂ emissions are increasing again. Here’s a look at the main ones:

Emissions are rising fastest in Asia

Roughly two-thirds of last year’s emissions increase came from Asia, where fast-growing countries like China, India and Indonesia continue to rely heavily on fossil fuels as they lift themselves out of poverty.

China, which is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s industrial greenhouse gases, saw its emissions rise 1.7 percent in 2017, fueled by rapid economic growth and an increase in oil and natural gas use. The rest of developing Asia, including India and Indonesia, saw their overall emissions increase 3 percent.

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Nikkei: Bill Gates and China spur development of next-generation reactors

BEIJING — The Chinese city of Cangzhou is known for its long tradition of martial arts mastery. If Bill Gates has his way, it will also be known as the birthplace of the nuclear power plant of the future.

TerraPower, a U.S. nuclear-reactor design company chaired by the Microsoft co-founder, is looking to build a new model called a traveling-wave reactor, or TWR, with state-owned China National Nuclear Corp.

The two entities set up a joint venture in November, answering Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s call for “breakthroughs through collective wisdom and international cooperation.”

Li said he hoped that a combination of advanced technology from the U.S. and “China’s rich talent resources” could make it happen.

Gates said the new nuclear technology is of great importance for the future development of energy and technology, ensuring a clean, safe and reliable energy supply.

“We are willing to turn common visions into reality with an open attitude,” he said at his November meeting with Li.

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