In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • Green energy generates more electricity than fossil fuels for first time in the UK.
  • Ax air miles programs to reduce carbon emissions, says British government’s climate-change advisers.
  • As KLM Royal Dutch Airlines turns 100, it’s taking active steps to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Washington, DC’s historic preservation board rejects front-facing solar panels.

The Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB): A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

UK green energy surges

Green energy in the UK, which includes wind farms, solar, biomass, and hydro plants, generated more electricity than coal, oil, and gas in the third quarter of 2019, according to a new report by Carbon Brief:

During the three months of July, August, and September, renewables generated an estimated total of 29.5 terawatt hours (TWh), compared with just 29.1TWh from fossil fuels, the analysis shows.

This is the first-ever quarter where renewables outpaced fossil fuels since the UK’s first public electricity-generating station opened in 1882. It is another symbolic milestone in the stunning transformation of the UK’s electricity system over the past decade.

The opening of new offshore wind farms has been the main reason for this rise in UK green energy. The UK has a net zero carbon emissions target of 2050.

Air miles encourages emissions…

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in the UK has recommended that air miles schemes should be eliminated, as they encourage fliers to travel more frequently and increase carbon dioxide emissions. The CCC says 15% of the UK population is responsible for taking 70% of flights. In contrast, half of the country’s population does not fly at all in a given year. Aviation is responsible for 12% of a household’s carbon footprint in the UK.

Further, the CCC recommends that airlines be more transparent with carbon emissions information so consumers can make more informed choices. (It’s kind of like food companies being urged to prominently display the amount of sugar and calories on food labels.)

The CCC recommends alternative choices, according to the Guardian:

Dropping prices on intercity rail services to reduce demand for cars and planes, and reopening disused rail lines… reduce meat and diary consumption, trading cars for bikes, and swapping gas boilers at home for electric alternatives. The report also recommends VAT on the installation of insulation and low-carbon heating systems be removed.

… But KLM plans for the future of traveling green

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the world’s oldest airline operating under the same name, has turned 100. The company is celebrating its past but also planning for a more sustainable future. So they launched their Fly Responsibly program, detailed in their video here:

They also identified three other ways that they can reduce carbon emissions going forward, according to Conde Nast Traveler:

  • New fuels: KLM is the largest user of biofuel in the world. It’s also committed to purchasing 75,000 tons of sustainable aviation fuel per year for a decade.
  • New planes: The airline is designing a super-efficient fuel plane called the Flying V, which would use 20% less fuel than today’s top eco-friendly plane, the Airbus A350-900. It would relocate the passenger cabin, fuel tanks, and cargo space into the wings helping to reduce drag from traditional fuselage.
  • Less waste: KLM is increasing its recycling with things like plastic water bottles, leather headrest covers, and old crew uniforms.

The past vs. the future in Washington, DC

If you own a historic house in Washington, DC, and want to put solar panels on it, you have to get permission from the Historic Preservation Review Board. And sometimes the board will approve your application — and sometimes they won’t. One thing they’re not particularly keen on is front-facing solar panels, for aesthetic reasons.

Greater Greater Washington (GGW) examines the tension between the preservation of historic buildings in the Washington area, and the need for solar to — well, reduce carbon emissions in order to make sure those historic buildings are still going to be around in the future.

GGW profiles a homeowner named Steven Preister, who immaculately restored his 108-year-old home on 5th Street NW over a 35-year period. Preister has solar panels on the rear of the house, and the board approved more on the porch roof and front dormer. But the board rejected his application for more panels on his front main roof. All of Preister’s neighbors support his request, and so did his Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B (ANC), with a unanimous vote. But the historic board voted 5-1 against Preister’s application. They just didn’t think it looked very nice.

ANC commissioner Erin Palmer said:

I’m not sure what we are preserving if we don’t take serious efforts to stem climate change, in part through a more sensible approach to solar panel installations in historic districts.

DC’s new clean energy law requires the city to achieve 100% green energy by 2032.

Photo credit: Peter Cavanagh/Alamy Stock Photo

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