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Sharon Kimathi
Energy and ESG Editor, Reuters Digital


Soaring energy prices are highlighting more than ever the need to adapt to new and efficient energy sources around the world, and spurring some innovative responses.

This week the United States announced a sizable financial commitment in the fight against climate change. The U.S. government will spend more than $500 billion on climate technology and clean energy over the next decade. Belgium’s response to the energy crisis has renewed focus on community empowerment, as citizens are turning to local energy cooperatives investing in renewables. The local clean energy movement has also taken off in Mexico, where companies are turning to smaller-scale renewable options that allow businesses to cut carbon emissions. Elsewhere, the EU market watchdog is setting its sights on a ‘quality label’ for environmental, social and governance (ESG) benchmarks to target greenwashing.

The U.S. government commitment reaches an estimated $514 billion total. It includes $362 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act, $98 billion from the Infrastructure Act and $54 billion from the bipartisan-supported CHIPS law, although Congress will have to pass further legislation to guarantee the release of all funds. The intention is investment in climate-related research and pilot studies and support manufacturing. The analysis, by non-profit RMI, excludes additional agriculture and land-related climate spending.

Belgium’s cooperatives, which rely on their own production rather than buying from volatile markets, have seen a huge spike in demand as the energy crunch has hit consumers. A cooperative called Ecopower supplies households at production cost - fixed for the lifespan of the energy source - topped up by grid fees and taxes, as well as the cost of running itself. Ecopower says it has seen demand rise so sharply that it has had to stop accepting new members. With no spare production capacity, it would have to buy power on the spot market - where prices are at record highs - to supply more.

In Mexico, companies are increasingly turning to smaller-scale renewable options that allow businesses to cut carbon emissions while dodging fights with regulators. Solar companies and energy analysts said they are seeing an unprecedented surge in distributed generation (DG) solar projects, which are smaller and less regulated with a threshold in Mexico of 500 kilowatts - enough to power about 200 households.

Elsewhere, the European Union's markets watchdog said that a 'quality label' for market benchmarks would help prevent investors being misled by environmental, social and governance (ESG) claims. Benchmarks are used by asset managers to pick investments for clients, helping to channel millions of euros into sustainable funds and projects, but the criteria behind them vary widely, leading to claims of "greenwashing". The absence of clear labeling "raises questions on the inclusion of firms with a negative environmental or social impact in these benchmarks," the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) said in a statement on Friday.

Talking Points

A firefighter puts out wildfire that broke out in a forest amid hot temperatures, in Luzhou, Sichuan province, China August 22, 2022. cnsphoto via REUTERS
The southwestern Chinese regions of Chonqging and Sichuan were battling fires on Tuesday as they awaited a long-anticipated decline from extremely high temperatures and a period of rainfall set to begin over the next week.
TotalEnergies and partner SSE Renewables on Tuesday announced the first power generation from their Seagreen wind farm off the coast of Angus in Scotland.
A California administrative agency has declined to review Tesla’s claim that the state's civil rights watchdog suing the company for race bias at an assembly plant is rushing to sue businesses without conducting full investigations.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine is bringing Canada and Germany closer together, with Canada seeking to boost energy and critical mineral exports to Germany as both countries wean themselves off fossil fuels, Canadian and German leaders said.
Breakingviews: Get ready to hear rafts of executives blame “drought”, “flood” and “natural disaster” for poor earnings in the next few months. On some levels, that’s understandable: large swathes of the Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania have been suffering from either too little or too much water, and sometimes both in quick succession.

In Conversation

Dr Angela Wilkinson, Secretary General and CEO at the World Energy Council
“The World Energy Council today released results from its August World Energy Pulse, which polled nearly 600 leaders from across the global energy community.

“This World Energy Pulse reinforces the importance of placing people and communities at the heart of energy transitions. The urgent need to decarbonize economies without destabilizing societies has become crystal clear in the context of new cost-of-living crises and global supply chain risks.

“Successfully managing energy transitions is best achieved through a combination of energy trilemma solutions at all levels of societies, by redesigning markets and ESG investment frameworks to include energy and environmental justice considerations alongside energy-and climate-security.

“The World Energy Pulse also reinforces the importance of ‘clean and just' energy transition literacy. It’s vital that decision makers avoid triggering social resistance to energy transition and engage in more open and honest conversations about links between price, system costs, affordability and value-in-use.”
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ESG Lens

A recession is now almost certain, inflation is nearing double digits and a winter with looming energy shortages is fast approaching. Though already bleak, the outlook is likely to get worse before any significant improvement well into 2023.

ESG Movers and Shakers

Fast-food chain McDonald's has amended its board as the director being replaced had been targeted by activist investor Carl Icahn who sought to tighten the company's animal welfare policies. Sheila Penrose, who will retire effective Sept. 1, was one of two incumbent board members Icahn sought to replace with his own nominees. Penrose, who was a McDonald's director for 15 years, led the board's sustainability and corporate responsibility efforts. McDonald's has elected three new board members: Marriott International CEO Anthony Capuano, Johnson & Johnson executive vice president Jennifer Taubert and chief financial officer Amy Weaver.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has appointed Samantha Joseph as senior advisor for faith-based initiatives in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Joseph recently worked as the head of community outreach and vaccine equity at the Cambridge Innovation Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Prior, she worked on the campaigns of President Joe Biden, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey.

Luke Seraphin has been appointed to the newly created role of head of inclusion, content and Sky Studios. Seraphin will be responsible for the creation and delivery of all diversity, equality, inclusion and accessibility initiatives across Sky originals. They previously worked at Sky since 2020 as head of drama and factual PR and had previous stints at Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC, Channel 4 and ITV.
West Virginia Wesleyan College has appointed Laurie Goux as the new director of diversity, equity and inclusion. Goux brings over 16 years of experience in higher education, beginning at Columbia College Chicago. For the previous 10 years, Goux served as adjunct faculty in fine and performing arts at Davis and Elkins College, where she completed her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts.

Quote of the Day

“The world needs to solve the current shortages of lithium and other raw material in a clean and sustainable way, which is not easy and will take time. However, the benefits to batteries are greater resiliency, retail reliability, more room on the grid for additional renewable generation, and significantly lower system-wide emissions.”
Andrew Waranch, founder of Spearmint Energy, a U.S.-based green merchant trading company

Looking Ahead

Forecasts for specific state soy, corn production will be released by agriculture business news Pro Farmer Crop Tour on Aug. 24 at a time bumper U.S. crops are needed to offset low global grain supplies.
Environmental activists will protest and hold a press conference at the Fed's Jackson Hole monetary policy symposium on Aug. 25 attended by central bankers from around the world.
Britain's Ofgem power regulator is set to publish its next price cap level on Aug. 26.
China battery metals conference, a one-day conference in Dezhou starting with a visit to a local factory, will focus on the outlook for key battery metals lithium, cobalt and nickel on Aug. 26.
The Great Reboot
New Zealand will make temporary changes to immigration rules, a minister said, aiming to lure 12,000 workers over the next year with a working holiday scheme designed to fill labor gaps as businesses scramble to find staff.

The jostling for workers is part of a global trend that has helped push up wages in New Zealand, posing a challenge to the fight on inflation by the central bank, which raised interest rates last week to their highest since Sept. 2015.

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