2017 Electricity Map Time-lapse: A Carbon Intense Year

What better way to review 2017 than a two-minute time-lapse video of carbon intensity?

Energy for Humanity collaborated with ElectricityMap creators, Tomorrow, to track climate leadership in Europe and publish our European Climate Leadership Report at the COP23 Climate Conference in Bonn. We love their Electricitymap Pro Version as a tool to better understand the different carbon intensities of the electricity generation systems of European countries, and the impact of of cross border electricity flows.

Watch this custom-made timelapse video above showing the electricitymap for the period of October 2016 to September 2017. In high speed it reveals interesting details on European climate performance:

  • France, Norway and Sweden have constantly low emissions per kWh over the whole year
  • Norway is constantly green since its citizens consume practically only hydropower. This is thanks to the topography that allows large volumes of hydro power generation. No “tough decision” had to be made by the past governments or the people.
  • France and Sweden remain green all year round too. What do they have in common? They both decided some decades ago after the oil crisis in the 1970’s and also for environmental reasons not to burn fossil fuels for electricity generation, but rather use nuclear power.
  • For other countries, their carbon intensity fluctuates depending mostly on weather and the increasing use of variable renewables, leading to less use of lignite, coal or natural gas firing for electricity generation.
  • Switzerland changes colour from bright green (showing below 100 gCO2eq/kWh) to sometimes “brownish” color (up to 500 gCO2eq/kWh), depending on how much electricity is imported from its “dirty” neighbour in the north, Germany.
  • Notice the seasonal changes as northern European countries use more power, and have less sunshine.
  • See the wind dragons!

Will 2018 be the year that we get serious about tackling climate change?

From a climate perspective, 2017 has been a carbon intense year. In November we learned that global carbon emissions are on the rise again in 2017 after three years of little-to-no growth, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project.

Something needs to change. Our European Climate Leadership Report shows that away from the political hot air, those countries with the cheapest and cleanest electricity grids use a combination of nuclear, hydro and wind.

However, few European leaders have had the courage to take climate seriously enough to say that nuclear is needed as well as renewables.

At the end of 2017, President Macron broke the taboo about nuclear as a climate solution. Speaking at the One Planet Summit in December he said:

“I don’t idolize nuclear energy at all. But I think you have to pick your battle. My priority in France, Europe and internationally is CO2 emissions and (global) warming”

President Macron announced that he would not follow Germany’s example by phasing out nuclear energy in France because his priority was to cut carbon emissions and shut down polluting coal-fired production.

Bravo! Our open letter to him in July, signed by 45 eminent environmentalists and scientists, expressed alarm at his now-thankfully-reversed decision to move France away from clean nuclear power. Few nations have done more than France to demonstrate the humanitarian and environmental benefits of creating a high-energy, nuclear-powered, electrified society.

By choosing the new battle against climate change over the old battle against nuclear, President Macron has shown real climate leadership. It took courage to break the nuclear taboo. Why does it matter? Because to solve climate we need more climate realism.

Here’s hoping for more rational climate policy in 2018.

We wish all our followers and friends Happy Holidays and all the best for the new year.

Your Energy for Humanity Team