News Roundup: JP Morgan Dumps Coal Financing

JP Morgan Dumps Financing of New Coal Mines

JPMorgan Chase announced it will no longer finance new “greenfield” coal projects in high income countries due to climate change concerns.

The bank’s official Environmental and Social Policy Framework states that it will only finance new coal plants in lower-income countries that employ “ultra-supercritical steam generation technology.”

“We believe the financial services sector has an important role to play as governments implement policies to combat climate change,” the document said.

JPMorgan joins a growing list of financial institutions including Bank of America Corp., Goldman Sachs, Citigroup Inc., Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo & Co. that have pledged to accelerate investment in clean energy and scale back support for coal projects (CleanTechIQ profiled Goldman Sachs and Bank of America’s cleantech initiatives, click here.)

The announcements are part of a broader divestment campaign, including 500 investors representing $3.4 tillion in assets announcing divestment from fossil fuels in December during COP21 in Paris.

Favorable Economics Drive Large Companies’ Green Push

Large U.S. companies are acting on their own volition to be greener through wind, solar and other clean-energy sources by taking advantage of a decrease in renewable-energy prices.

Lower prices have made it easier for companies to voluntarily cut emissions and buy clean energy, including Whole Foods Market Inc. and General Motors Co., which have doubled their renewable energy usage, according to the Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile companies such as Salesforce.com embarked on a serious green push this past year.

Whole Foods has joined with solar providers, NRG and SolarCity, to boost the number of rooftop solar units on the company’s U.S. stores, according to a recent release on the firm’s website. The goal is to install up to 100 additional solar rooftop units on Whole Foods stores, the release notes.

Overall, U.S. companies in 2015 agreed to purchase 3,440 megawatts of solar and wind power under long-term contract, the Wall Street Journal notes. That’s about three times the amount companies bought in 2014, Herve Touati, research director at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a clean-energy think tank.

ARPA-E Gives Bill Gates, Elon Musk A Run

The Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), a U.S. federal government agency tasked with sourcing and funding potential game-changing clean technologies, doesn’t carry the popular appeal of a Bill Gates and Bill Musk, but the agency’s head says her group is giving the billionaires a run in the development of the next-generation of battery storage, according to The Guardian.

It took seven years for ARPA-E, part of the U.S. Dept. of Energy, to reach its technological milestone. ARPA-E’s director, Ellen Williams, says with her group’s support battery storage systems will transform the U.S. electrical grid over the next five-to-10 years.

“I think we have reached some holy grails in batteries – just in the sense of demonstrating that we can create a totally new approach to battery technology, make it work, make it commercially viable, and get it out there to let it do its thing,” Ellen Williams, ARPA-E’s director, told The Guardian.

Williams said her agency has helped kickstart a dozen high-risk projects based on newer technologies that could soon outperform Tesla batteries, says Reuters.

U.S. And Canada Vow To Tackle Climate Change

President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a unified stance to tackle climate change globally.

The leaders promised to achieve a low-carbon global economy, including new efforts by the U.S. to regulate methane emissions from existing oil and gas facilities, according to the New York Times.

The cuts the Obama administration wants to achieve would result in a 40% to 45% reduction of methane emissions from 2012 levels by 2025, the Times notes.

Both leaders also pledged cooperation in preserving the Arctic and to move rapidly to complete agreements from the climate talks in Paris last year.

South Korea’s LG Chem Sees Huge Cleantech Growth Opportunities 

South Korea’s LG Chem is aiming to grow in the energy, water and bio sectors as it expands its stronghold in the electric vehicle battery market, says The Korea Times. Seoul-based LG Chem is Korea’s largest chemical company.

Park Jin-soo, vice chairman and CEO of the firm, notes the “current business environment is tougher than ever amid prolonged low growth, low interest rates, increased consumer prices, unemployment and debt,” from a press conference at the company’s battery manufacturing factory, according to The Korea Times. 

But despite these obstacles, “we need to continue growth in our own way,” Jin-soo said. “I believe that energy, water and green bio solutions are what we must foster to become a company that will last over 100 years.”

For the energy sector Park said the firm would target eco-friendly auto materials, including engineering plastic, new battery technologies, thermoelectric materials and fuel cell material.

In the water sector, the firm said it would invest to construct a second reverse-osmosis water treatment filter manufacturing line, with plans to operate the plant next year. The firm also notes increased efforts with the seawater desalination sector.

The firm also is “focusing on the green bio sector because the value of chemical products that protect crops and seeds will increase when food demand increases,” Park told The Korea Times.

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