US President Joe Biden’s reference this week to a climate “emergency” – even if he has so far stopped short of a formal declaration that would unlock special powers to act – reflected a growing sense of crisis around the world over the impacts of global warming and disrupted energy markets.
As millions of Americans sweltered in record heat, Biden was under mounting pressure to find a way to push his climate agenda forward in the face of a legislative impasse at the hands of one of his own party’s senators.
The President promised to reveal “executive actions” as he vowed he “won’t take no for an answer” over the climate fight, though without specifying what they would be, repeating a pledge earlier in the week to use “every power I have”.
What those powers are we will have to wait and see, but there were this week at least some visible signs of action in the US renewable energy sector that will have to do the heavy lifting of Biden’s ambitious decarbonisation agenda.
Offshore, Biden’s administration announced the first wind energy areas in the Gulf of Mexico, hastening the prospect of development of up to 15GW in an area that is currently a stalwart of the oil & gas industry.
On land, what’s billed as America’s largest renewable infrastructure project, the $8bn SunZia 3GW wind farm and power line, moved ahead after Pattern Energy acquired the transmission element.
The same sense of urgency over climate and energy was evident in Europe this week, which also felt the heat of record temperatures even as it wrestles with the energy supply and price crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The epicentre was Germany, where the government moved on Friday to rescue gas utility giant Uniper – also a growing force in the nation’s energy transition – after speculation mounted through the week that it would have to act as Russian gas supplies dwindled.
The growing realisation that Europe is in for a hard winter increased, meanwhile, when Vattenfall CEO Anna Borg warned that gas rationing is “increasingly likely” in Europe this winter – and stressed that the energy transition is the only long-term solution.
Sweden – site of some of the world’s largest new onshore wind developments – was the scene of two high-profile technology failures this week.
First a Nordex turbine collapsed at one of Europe’s largest and newest projects just weeks after its commissioning.
Then on Thursday a blade break hit one of the GE Cypress machines at a project selling power to Google, the second such incident within a year.