Bloomberg: Total Plans $500 Million Annual Investment in Renewable Energy

Total SA plans to invest $500 million a year in renewable energy, a step by Europe’s second-largest oil and gas company to expand in biofuels and solar.

The French company said in a presentation to investors it wanted to take “advantage of [the] fast-growing renewable market” to build a profitable business.

Total bought a majority stake in SunPower Corp., one of the largest manufacturers of solar panels in the U.S., for about $1.4 billion in 2011. The company earlier this year said it would invest 200 million euros ($223 million) to transform its unprofitable La Mede oil refinery into a biofuel plant.

Washington Post: China to Adopt Cap-and-Trade System to Limit Emissions

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday will announce a nationwide cap-and-trade program to curtail carbon emissions, adopting a mechanism most widely used in Europe to limit greenhouse gases, Obama administration officials said.

Expanding on a pilot project in seven Chinese cities, the cap-and-trade program will impose a nationwide ceiling on emissions from the most carbon-intensive sectors of the Chinese economy and require companies exceeding their quotas to buy permits from those that have sharply reduced emissions.

Guardian: Hillary Clinton Unveils Her Plan to Make U.S. 'Clean Energy Superpower'

A day after announcing her opposition to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, Hillary Clinton unveiled a more comprehensive agenda for the U.S. energy infrastructure that seeks to transform the U.S. into “the clean energy superpower of the 21st century."

The Democratic presidential candidate detailed her proposals on Wednesday in both a blog post on the website Medium and a fact sheet distributed by Clinton’s campaign.

Clinton’s plan calls for the existing energy infrastructure in the U.S. to be modernized through a series of steps, such as repairing or replacing oil and gas pipelines that are outdated and risk both oil and methane leaks and other hazardous accidents.

Vox: What Germany Learned From Its War on Coal

German politicians speak enthusiastically about the ongoing green revolution, dubbed the Energiewende (or "energy transformation"), as a model for tackling climate change. The country is sometimes held up as a template for President Obama's own efforts to reduce coal-fired power and green the U.S. electricity supply.

What gets less attention, however, is how frustrating and difficult Germany's energy turnaround has been in practice. The country offers a cautionary tale on why going green isn't always as smooth a ride as thought, and its Energiewende can offer some valuable lessons for the United States.

MIT Technology Review: Materials Could Capture CO2 and Make It Useful

A team of scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley have devised a method that uses super-porous molecular structures known as covalent organic frameworks, with catalysts to convert the carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide, which can be used in making a range of materials including fuels, plastics, and even pharmaceuticals.

The new materials, says Chris Chang, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division and one of the co-leaders of the research team, are based on “a highly stable, porous structure that’s decorated with all of these catalysts.” Though it’s early-stage research and nowhere near ready to scale up to power-plant levels, it’s an important step toward finding practical ways to absorb and use carbon dioxide in both waste streams and the air.

IEEE Spectrum: Researchers Tweak Artificial Photosynthesis for More Efficient Hydrogen Production

A team of researchers from Germany and the U.S. have announced a new record value of 14% for the efficiency of water splitting by solar energy in a single cell. The previous record, 12.4%, was achieved 17 years ago by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the value in subsequent experiments with a technology called artificial photosynthesis has hovered around that figure. The researchers published this result last week in Nature Communications.

These figures should not be confused with the light conversion percentages of photovoltaic cells, explains Thomas Hannappel of the Technical University Ilmenau in Germany, who was the academic advisor for the researchers. “The percentages refer to the hydrogen efficiency; that is, you compare the light energy captured by the photovoltaic cell to the energy that can be supplied by burning the produced hydrogen,” says Hannappel.