This week’s Blowout focuses on electric vehicles. The Netherlands and Germany are presently considering legislation that will ban sales of fossil-fuel-fired cars and light vehicles after 2025 or 2030, and a draft EU directive mandates an electric charging point in every new home in Europe starting in 2019. “This kind of market stimulus is not just positive, it is mandatory if we want to see a massive rollout of electric vehicles in the near future,” said a Renault executive:
Every new or refurbished house in Europe will need to be equipped with an electric vehicle recharging point, under a draft EU directive expected to come into effect by 2019. In a further boost to prospects for the electric car market in Europe, the regulations due to be published before the end of the year state that by 2023, 10% of parking spaces in new buildings in the EU zone will also need recharging facilities.
The EU initiative is intended to lay the infrastructure for the sort of electric car boom envisaged by Norway and the Netherlands, which both plan to completely phase out vehicles with diesel engines by 2025. As well as extending the driving range and convenience of electric cars, the mushrooming number of recharge stations would allow vehicles to feed their electricity back into the grid. That in turn would open the door to a futuristic world in which cars supply energy to Europe’s power network at all times of the day and night, balancing shortfalls from intermittent renewable energies when the sun is not shining and the wind not blowing. “This kind of market stimulus is not just positive, it is mandatory if we want to see a massive rollout of electric vehicles in the near future,” said Guillaume Berthier, sales and marketing director for electric vehicles at Renault, which recently unveiled an electric vehicle with a 250-mile range. “The question of how you recharge your car when you live in an apartment within a city is a very important one.”
Blowout this week begins with the EU embracing electric vehicles (EVs) and directing citizens to install charging points at home; EU and California target zero emissions; in Germany and China renewables outgrow the grid; Ontario’s broken grid; subsidies boost USA wind; global clean energy investment slumps; The Sun set to produce energy 24/7; home battery storage costs plummet 50% to $10,000; America sacrifices southern forests to save the planet; UK blackout risk averted by consumers paying £122 million; Tesla benefits from South Australia blackout; UK government plans to break the laws of thermodynamics; Baroness Worthington concedes that EU 2020 contributed to Brexit; are Putin and Erdogan the only sane leaders left?; Israeli gas heading for Europe over Turkey; hydrogen rots the minds of policy makers.
Christian Science Monitor: Can German auto regulators usher in the zero-emissions age?
The country’s federal council, or Bundesrat, has resolved to ban all gas and diesel-powered cars by 2030. According to the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel, “only zero-emission passenger vehicles will be approved” for use after that time. By enacting such a ban, Germany could herald a new automotive age. About 15 percent of global emissions come from fossil fuel-burning vehicles, so to eliminate those vehicles completely is to put a considerable dent in our carbon footprint. But legislators may encounter a myriad of legal, technological, and cultural challenges along the way. The Bundesrat, which includes representatives from all 16 German states, is just one half of the country’s bicameral parliament. All legislation approved through the Bundesrat must then be approved by the Bundestag, or Federal Diet, and vice-versa. But the council’s proposed ban isn’t really a legislative act, so much as it is a call to action. Germany is a member of the European Union, so any widespread vehicle ban would need to be passed by the supranational body before taking effect nationally. Here, the council is simply appealing to the EU Commission in Brussels, which does have the power to pass such a directive. That said, Germany is among the most influential members of the EU. In many cases, EU regulations are modeled after previously-enacted German regulations. So the country may be able to leverage its clout to pass a higher-level ban.
Christian Science Monitor: Can California change US cars forever? New zero-emissions rules take aim.
Confirming its role as a national trend-setter on auto emissions, California passed stringent new standards Friday intended to boost the production and sale of electric and hybrid vehicles here and nationwide. The new rules passed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) mandate that 15 percent of new cars sold in the state by 2025 run with zero emissions or near-zero emissions. The result would be some 1.4 million electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen cars on California roads within 13 years. Today, there are 10,000 such vehicles in the state. In addition to the goals for zero-emission automobiles, the new CARB rules rein in emissions from conventional cars. By 2025, smog-producing pollutants must be cut by 75 percent and greenhouse-gas emissions by 50 percent compared with today’s levels. Critics such as auto dealers note that California has attempted to spur sales of zero-emissions vehicles before and failed. The current effort, they add, could also fail if zero-emissions vehicles remain so expensive that average car buyers cannot afford them.
Technology Review: In China and Germany, Renewables Are Outgrowing Their Grids
The Guardian reports that leaked plans from the German federal network agency, which manages the country’s power grid, describe how it is planning to cut back its ambitions for wind power in the north of the country because the grid can’t handle it. Wind turbines have been going up rapidly in the north, with the intention of supplying energy to engineering hubs in the south. But recently the government has had to pay wind power providers to reduce their generation because its energy grid is at full capacity. The leaked papers suggest that Germany will halve its wind turbine expansion plans as a result. A similar story is playing out in China. According to a BBC report, the country has built so many coal-fired power plants, which are slow to turn on and off, that it has to turn its wind turbines off for as much as 15 percent of the time because its grid can’t always handle both being online concurrently. It’s not the first time that China’s renewables eyes have proven bigger than its grid belly, either: it’s been adding solar power installations so fast that it can’t make use of as much as 50 percent of the energy being generated in some provinces. This is a problem that’s likely to rear its head again and again. India and Australia are both under increasing pressure to build out their grid infrastructure to support renewables. The most impressive example of wind power adoption in the U.S. has played out in, of all places, Texas. It’s only been made possible by a gigantic transmission system that was built to take electricity from the desolate northwest portion of the state to the big cities in the southeast. But it cost $7 billion—a price that could be prohibitive in other regions.
Back in 2010, deep green environmentalist Rick Smith, then head of Environmental Defence Canada, hailed Ontario’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act regime as a cost-free operation that would catapult the province into the big leagues of renewable energy. Through fat subsidies and high prices offered to wind, solar and other renewable industry players, jobs and growth would boom and Ontario would be free of its dirty coal plants. Smith was absolutely sure that Ontario’s campaign to become the North American leader in renewable energy would not be a burden on consumers. “Ontarians won’t even notice any impact on their electricity rates.” The penny that nobody would notice on their bills has morphed into hundreds of dollars a year, in some cases a month, to the point where the premier of the province can’t mention the word “hydro” without getting booed. The government also shocked observers last month when it suspended plans to buy more wind and solar power. Instead of being a worthy model for other nations and states, the province’s green energy megaproject stands as a cautionary tale. For all the costs of going green — estimated by Ontario’s auditor general to total $170 billion over 30 years—none of the alleged economic and social benefits have materialized. Claims by former premier Dalton McGuinty and current leader Kathleen Wynne that closing coal plants dramatically reduced smog and saved $4.4 billion in health care and other costs are demonstrably untrue. The promise of maybe hundreds of thousands of renewable energy jobs was also a fantasy; today, nobody can say where the jobs are, mainly because few new permanent jobs exist. Instead of boosting Ontario’s economy and the health of its citizens, the province has created an incoherent electricity industry that many say threatens the viability of key industries.
Wall Street Journal: U.S. Tax Credit Powers Wind-Farm Upgrades
Wind-power producers are rushing to take advantage of a green energy tax credit extended by Congress—and, in a new twist, many are using it to renovate existing wind farms, not just build new ones. The Production Tax Credit, which was renewed by lawmakers last December, allows qualifying wind farms to reap tax benefits based on their output for a 10-year period. The credits, which can be shared with investment partners, reduce federal tax bills. Some wind producers, encouraged by turbine makers, are deciding to “repower” existing wind farms to tap the tax credits, including NextEra Energy Inc., which has 110 wind farms in 19 states and Canada. NextEra reaped $73 million in Production Tax Credit subsidies in the first six months of the year.Armando Pimentel, chief executive of NextEra Energy Resources, the company arm that develops renewable power, recently told investors that while retrofitting “certainly wasn’t something we were thinking about six months ago,” he believes it may now make sense for nearly a third of the company’s 13,000-megawatt wind portfolio. Upgrading wind farms makes sense for wind producers because modern turbines generate far more electricity than those built two or three decades ago. That means some existing wind farms will get overhauled to generate more renewable power, while others will produce the same amount of electricity but with fewer turbines.
Wind power is rapidly growing in America’s heartland, supplying enough electricity for 20 million homes, and that’s helping keep farms in the family and families on the farm. Wind farm operators pay landowners to lease portions of their property for the construction of wind turbines. Because the average wind farm leaves 98 percent of land undisturbed, farmers can continue harvesting crops uninterrupted, with the added benefit of dependable revenue from wind turbine lease payments, totaling $222 million every year at the end of 2015. Wind power is creating an opportunity of unheard scale for rural America. In fact, its contributions to farmers are growing to the point that Bloomberg Businessweek recently call wind power “the new corn” for struggling farmers. Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates rural landowners who lease their land to wind farms could reap as much as $900 million a year in total by 2030.
Global clean energy investment in the third quarter of 2016 slumped to its weakest quarter since 2013, according to new analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. A Northern Hemisphere summer lull impacting offshore wind financing in Europe, and a further stage in the slowdown seen this year in project funding in China and Japan are behind the lack-luster clean energy investment figures for the third quarter, published this week by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). Specifically, investment in renewable energy and energy smart technologies only totaled $42.4 billion globally in the third quarter of 2016, down 31% from the second quarter, and down a whopping 43% on the third quarter in 2015. This was the weakest quarter since the first quarter of 2013, which brought in only $41.8 billion. According to BNEF, weaknesses in clean energy investment in the third quarter were to be found in asset financing of utility-scale renewable energy projects, which was down 49% year-over-year to only $28.8 billion, with wind down 32% and solar down 67%. On top of that, investment in small-scale solar PV projects was 35% lower at only $9.3 billion.
Cleantechnica: Global Wind Energy Capacity Set To Hit 500 GW By Year-End
Global wind energy capacity reached 456 GW at the half-year mark of 2016, and is set to hit 500 GW by the end of the year, according to new figures from the World Wind Energy Association.Published this week, the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA) released its half-year report, revealing that 21 GW of new wind installations were completed during the first half of the year, bringing the global cumulative total up to 456 GW. Further, the WWEA predict that global wind capacity will reach 500 GW by the end of the year. “Wind power shows robust growth also in the year 2016, and the good news is especially that we can see strong markets now also in Latin America and in Africa,” said Stefan Gsänger, WWEA Secretary General. “With the expected 500 GW installed wind capacity by end of this year, wind power will contribute 5 % to the global power supply. A major reason of concern is, however, the global trend towards auctions which is endangering the driving role of small and medium sized players. It has already slowed down most of the European markets, so that Europe has already lost its long-term leadership to Asia.”
SolarReserve’s Sandstone project involves at least 100,000 mirrored heliostats that capture the sun’s rays and concentrates it onto 10 towers equipped with a molten salt energy storage system. The molten salt, heated to more than 1,000 degrees, then boils water and creates a steam turbine that can drive generators 24/7. Compared to photovoltaic arrays, the appeal of CSP systems is that solar power can be used after sunset. “It’s really the ability to provide renewable energy that’s available on demand 24 hours a day,” SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith told NPR. SolarReserve already operates a CSP plant near Tonopah, a revolutionary 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant that’s now powering Nevada homes. The company says on its website that this “completely emission free” CSP plant runs without the requirement for natural gas or oil back up. “Energy storage provides a firm, reliable electricity product on-demand, day and night,” SolarReserve says, adding that the plant “helps meet growing demand for clean, renewable energy sources.” Smith told the Review-Journal that Sandstone construction probably won’t begin for another two or three years. Once construction begins, Smith estimated the project should create about 3,000 jobs for about seven years. He said the company will also have to build a new transmission infrastructure to carry the energy to market, and the generated power will likely will be “exported to the California market.”
News Australia: Home energy system costs tumble
Producing your own power is getting much cheaper for households as the price of solar energy storage systems drops quickly. A battery storage system that cost $20,000 two years ago is now $10,000, while solar panels that cost more than $20,000 five years ago today sell for about $6000. The shrinking cost of home renewable energy systems has helped compensate people for the disappearance of generous government feed-in tariffs, and experts believe prices will continue to fall. ZEN Energy founder and director of innovation Richard Turner says energy storage systems — which first hit the market in 2012 — now cost less than $9000, or $11,000 when bundled with solar panels. “Many of the people we were speaking with about energy storage over recent years said ‘Call me back when it’s under $10,000’. Well, now it is and we’re calling back,” he says.“Energy storage is one of the most exciting technological developments of our lifetime but until now has been cost-prohibitive for the majority of householders. With solar panels and battery storage, an average home could save hundreds on quarterly electricity bills and protect themselves from future energy price rises. ZEN expects the market to take off over the next few months in much the same way solar did many years ago.”
In just a few years, the southern U.S. has become the world’s largest exporter of wood pellets, the preferred form of biomass for industrial use. Last year alone, over 5 million tons of wood pellets were exported from the South directly to markets in Europe. This arrangement has had serious impacts on the climate, communities and forests of the region. While biomass was sold to policymakers and the public as clean, green energy—using only waste wood and providing massive carbon savings—emerging science and on-the-ground evidence have shown quite the opposite. In recent years, industrial biomass companies have been exposed by organizations and leading media outlets to be sourcing whole hardwood trees from endangered wetland habitats for their pellets—evidence contrary to misleading industry promotions of their use of sawdust and “waste” wood. In addition, the notion that biomass is a “carbon neutral” energy source is scientifically unsound and based on a “serious carbon accounting error.” According to the U.K. government’s own science, the biomass that is sourced from whole trees can be up to four times worse than coal for the climate. It’s a major problem for industrial biomass, since there is no possible way to meet Europe’s current demand without logging whole trees.
The risk of blackouts this winter has receded but National Grid will likely have to pay old coal plants millions of pounds to stay on standby for days at a time to ensure the lights stay on. A new assessment published by the utility giant on Friday shows that the outlook for this winter is better than had been feared earlier in the year, when forecasts suggested there would be barely enough power plants operating in the main electricity market to meet demand. Since then part of the Eggborough coal plant has rejoined the market, increasing the available supply, while part of the subsea power cable used to export electricity to Ireland is out of action, reducing the likely demand. In addition, National Grid has a separate reserve of 10 old coal and gas power plants that are not operating in the market but will be paid £122m through an emergency scheme to stay open in case they are needed as a “last resort”. These backup plants will bolster the overall margin to 6.6pc, compared with 5.1pc last year when National Grid also had last resort schemes in place. The plants will be paid millions of pounds more to fire up if they are actually required. Two of the reserve plants are coal plants, which require more than 24 hours’ notice to warm up before they can start producing power. “As a result, we will need to issue start up instructions to these generators up to 48 hours ahead,” National Grid said.
Tesla Energy authorized distributors in Australia are now reporting a ’30 times’ increase in demand for the Tesla Powerwall and other home battery packs. Chris Williams, who runs a national firm with its head-quarters in Sydney, said the biggest jump had been in South Australia and Victoria, but demand had spiked across the country after the blackouts put the future of electricity grids and renewable energy sharply into the national spotlight. Williams says that the biggest spike happened within the first 5 days after the blackout during the last week of September and that now about 95% of the company’s customers who are getting a solar array for their home also want to add a Tesla Powerwall home storage battery to go with the system. While most people want a Powerwall in order to get more out of their solar panels by using the energy produced by the panels even after the sun goes down, now more people are looking at the Powerwall for “blackout proofing” their home. They want to keep the lights on in case of an outage. Natural Solar gave an example of the energy consumption graph of one of its clients during the blackout in South Australia:
News Trust: Britain lacks policies to meet emissions targets
“Current policy in the UK is not enough to deliver the existing carbon budgets that Parliament has set,” Britain’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said in one of three reports published on Thursday on Britain’s climate policy. Existing policies, including those agreed to by Britain and at the EU level will at best deliver around half the emission cuts required, the CCC said. The government should produce proposals on bridging the policy gap by February, Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC said at a press briefing ahead of the reports’ publication. Following Britain’s decision earlier this year to leave the European Union, the country should either retain EU policies or replace them with equivalent measures, the CCC said. A spokeswoman for Britain’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said it is making good progress towards meeting emission reduction goals. “We are now looking ahead to set out how we will continue to decarbonise through the 2020s. Our plan will send an important signal to the markets, businesses and investors so we want to take the time now to get it right,” she said. Under the Climate Change Act Britain has committed by 2050 to cut emissions by 80 percent compared with 1990 levels, and must produce proposals on how it intends to reach its climate targets, set in five-yearly carbon budgets.
The UK has a chance to become a world leader in smart energy technologies such as demand response and energy storage, but only if the government takes the necessary steps to reform the regulatory market. That is the conclusion of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee (ECC), which today issued its final report before it formally disbands on Monday, to be replaced by a Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee (BEISC). The report suggests that if current regulatory barriers to energy storage were removed, the technology could deliver £7bn of annual savings for consumers, while changes to regulations for demand response (DRS) services would help cut energy demand and reduce emissions by curbing the use of polluting plants for backup winter power. “The government must get a move on and encourage the energy market to embrace smart technological solutions like energy storage and demand side response,” Angus MacNeil, SNP MP and chairman of the ECC, said in a statement. “There is an incredible opportunity for the UK to become a world leader in these disruptive technologies. Yet our current energy security subsidies favour dirty diesel generation over smart new clean tech solutions.”
Power Engineering International: Top environmentalist claims EU 2020 push fed Brexit
Baroness Bryony Worthington told the Bloomberg New Energy Summit, “The European 2008 package, without realizing it, contributed to and fostered some of the conditions that led to Brexit.” Worthington, executive director of the Environmental Defense Fund, added, “It was far too top-down in its view and too inflexible in its approach to climate change. It led to rancour from being told what to do by Eurocrats.” In 2008, Brussels approved a set of laws to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 per cent in 2020 compared with 1990 levels, boost energy efficiency by a fifth and increase the share of renewables in energy consumption by 20 percent. To meet the goals, European member states had to translate the rules into domestic legislation and enact policies to promote the transition to low-carbon economy. Worthington went on to question the merits of the German energy transition and its suitability as a model for the rest of Europe. She maintained it is an unfair imposition on countries differing greatly in resources. Former energy secretary Ed Davey, also a panellist at the event, also criticised the 2008 package for not enabling countries to decarbonise according to their own strengths. “The 2008 package was too technology-focused instead of meeting the real objective, which is to cut greenhouse gases. That means giving countries such as Poland the freedom to tackle these problems the way they wanted to without Brussels interference, through allowing them to meet their obligations in a technology neutral way.”
A massive oil glut may weigh on world markets deep into next year unless the OPEC producer cartel makes good on its promise to cut output, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Tuesday. The oil price has recovered steadily since OPEC said last month that it would reduce production, with details to be hammered out at the cartel’s November meeting, and such a deal would “speed up the process” of working off global oil inventories, the IEA said in its monthly report. “Even with tentative signs that bulging inventories are starting to decline, our supply-demand outlook suggests that the market — if left to its own devices — may remain in oversupply through the first half of next year,” the IEA said. If OPEC sticks to its new target, the market’s rebalancing could come faster,” it said. Initially greeted with scepticism among analysts, OPEC’s agreement to cut output has gained traction in the oil market, with the IEA noting that the oil price has risen by 15 percent since the cartel’s announcement on September 28. Oil prices rose to their highest level in several months after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that his country, not a member of the cartel, was ready to align with OPEC’s push to limit oil output. At its September meeting, OPEC said it had agreed to cut its supply by up to 750,000 barrels per day to between 32.5 and 33 million barrels per day. While the IEA did not make any predictions on the chances of OPEC following through on its pledge, its report implied that all oil price bets are off should OPEC fail to deliver.
Wall Street Journal: North Dakota Crude-Oil Production Falls Below One Million Barrels a Day
North Dakota oil production dropped 4.7% in August on a commodity price slump, falling below the one-million-barrel-a-day mark for the first time in more than two years, according to the latest data from the state’s Department of Mineral Resources. Crude production dropped to 981,039 barrels a day in August, the most recent month for which data is available. That is the lowest level since March of 2014, when output came to 977,178 barrels a day. “This is the month we’ve all been anticipating, but not looking forward to,” Lynn Helms, director of the state’s Department of Mineral Resources, said at a press conference in Bismarck. “There is still more slowing to come over the next few months,” he said. Mr. Helms said North Dakota’s oil production would likely decline to a low of about 900,000 barrels a day by mid-2017 before recovering. Total production in North Dakota was 30.4 million barrels of oil in August, down from 31.9 million barrels in July. North Dakota’s active rig count—a barometer of future production—stands at 33 rigs, one less than in September but up from 32 in August. The all-time high for the state was 218 rigs in May 2012, when oil prices were around $100 a barrel. The number of wells completed, or brought into production, rose to 59 in August from 44 in July, according to provisional state figures. Officials in North Dakota have said completion numbers must rise above 70 wells a month to stabilize crude-oil production as older wells face declining production rates.
China has developed a nuclear power plant so small it can fit inside a shipping container. The reactor will be used to supply electricity to new settlements and desalinate sea water for drinking. The reactor is based on a design used in 1970s Soviet submarines, which one British expert described as “fundamentally unsafe”. The South China Morning Post reported the new reactor, believed to be the smallest ever created for civilian use, had been developed by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Nuclear Energy Safety Technology. They told the paper they hoped to send the first reactor to the South China Sea in the next five years and it could also be sold to countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and Middle East. “Part of our funding came from the military, but we hope – and it’s our ultimate goal – that the technology will eventually benefit civilian users,” Professor Huang Qunying said.The researchers said the technology used was similar to lead-cooled thermal reactors used by Soviet submarines. The UK Government has expressed an interest in using small modular nuclear reactors, which could provide heat to local communities as well as generating electricity. But John Large, a British independent nuclear consultant who advised the Russian government after the nuclear submarine Kursk sank in 2000, dismissed the suggestion the Chinese reactors might be an option. “The lead-bismuth reactor, in my opinion, wouldn’t be developable to an acceptably safe point because it is fundamentally unsafe,” he said.
A regional election north of Tokyo between candidates most Japanese have never heard of may decide the fate of the world’s biggest nuclear plant and mark a turning point for an industry all but shut down after the Fukushima disaster. The campaign for governor of Niigata Prefecture has boiled down to two men and one issue: whether to restart the seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station. Reviving the seven-reactor giant, with capacity of 8 gigawatts, is key to saving Tokyo Electric Power, which was brought low by the 2011 Fukushima explosions and meltdowns, and then the repeated admissions of cover-ups and safety lapses after the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. Tepco is in turn vital to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s energy policy, which relies on rebooting more of the reactors that once met about 30 percent of the nation’s needs. But Ryuichi Yoneyama, 49, an anti-nuclear doctor-lawyer who has never held office and is backed by mostly left-wing parties, has made a tight race for governor of Niigata against an initially favored veteran politician from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-nuclear party, Japanese media say. In a sign that Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party also sees a tough contest, party heavyweights were dispatched to campaign for Tamio Mori, 67. The former mayor and construction ministry bureaucrat is seen more likely to allow Kashiwazaki-Kariwa to restart.
Open Democracy: New life for Ukraine’s aging nuclear power plants
In the past few weeks, two of Ukraine’s Soviet-era nuclear reactors received a lease on life for an additional 10 years beyond their originally projected life-span. Units 1 and 2 at the Zaporizhska nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, are the fifth and sixth units to have their expiry dates extended by Ukraine’s nuclear regulator. This is a dangerous move, which violates international law and democratic principles. Nuclear proponents, Ukrainian governmental officials and the state nuclear power operator Energoatom argue these extensions are necessary. But is it really? And who benefits from the continued operation of Ukraine’s aging nuclear fleet? On the face of it, the “nuclear safety upgrade program”, supported by Euratom and the Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), is meant to help Ukraine improve safety standards in its nuclear units. But in reality, the EU is paying (60% of EBRD shares belong to EU member states and the European Investment Bank) and Ukraine is extending operation of its unsafe, aging reactors beyond their original lifespan without completing some of the top priority safety measures.
Three energy utility companies have admitted defeat in their bid to build more nuclear power plants in Switzerland by formally withdrawing a long-standing application on Wednesday. Axpo, Alpiq and BKW informed the government that their framework request from 2008 was no longer valid. The application was put on ice in 2011 following the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, which led to a Swiss decision to phase out all existing plants by 2050. “The energy world has changed fundamentally since the framework permit applications for replacement nuclear power plants were submitted in the year 2008,” a joint statement read. “Today the market is a very different one, and in the meantime, policy-makers have set the course for a future without nuclear power.” The application had envisaged three new power plants – Beznau III, Gösgen II and a replacement for the Mühleberg plant. Approximately 40% of Switzerland’s energy comes from its five nuclear power plants. Switzerland’s Energy Strategy 2050 plans to bridge the gap through increased use of hydropower and alternative energy sources and with energy efficiencies.
Germany utilities from RWE AG and EON SE moved closer to finally fixing their financial obligations in dismantling the nation’s nuclear reactors and making safe equipment and fuel that may be radioactive for 100,000 years. Owners of reactors, which also include Vattenfall AB and Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg AG, have to pay 23.6 billion euros ($26 billion) into a fund to free them from their atomic waste storage liabilities, according to a draft law that includes an option to make installments until 2026. Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to pull the plug on Germany’s 60-year-old nuclear industry in 2011 after the Fukushima disaster in Japan, spurring an unprecedented shift to renewable energy that sent wholesale market prices to decade lows and hurt profit at traditional utilities. The deal ends the lengthy talks on who funds the country’s exit from atomic power, particularly the cost of storing the radioactive fuel, which has weighed on the companies’ shares.
A coal company with mines in Montana and Wyoming said Thursday that it’s begun exporting fuel to Asia through a Canadian shipping terminal, after its years long effort to secure port access in the U.S. Pacific Northwest has come up short. The announcement from Lighthouse Resources, Inc. offered a rare bit of positive news for the coal mining industry, which has been in a prolonged tailspin amid falling demand due to climate concerns and competition from cheap natural gas. Lighthouse, which is headquartered in Utah, had been seeking approval since 2011 for a coal export terminal in Oregon and since 2010 for a terminal in Washington. It’s faced strong opposition from environmentalists, American Indian tribes and some state officials concerned over coal dust pollution and potential damage to fisheries on the Columbia River. With the company’s coal now going through British Columbia’s Westshore Terminals, Lighthouse Chief Executive Officer Everett King said it was pulling out of the proposed coal terminal at Port of Morrow in Boardman, Oregon after that project stalled. “Though we are disappointed for our Morrow Pacific Project supporters, we are very excited to commence delivery of products to our customers,” King said. The exported fuel is destined for coal-burning power plants in South Korea, the company said. It declined to give shipment volumes.
New York Times: Putin and Erdogan Revive Gas Pipeline Deal
Amid increasingly tense relations with the United States over Syria, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia took advantage of a routine meeting in Istanbul on Monday to advance the Kremlin’s reconciliation with Turkey, including an agreement to revive a suspended natural-gas pipeline project. The new pipeline, known as the Turkish Stream, would run under the Black Sea to Turkey and then the Greek border, allowing Russian gas to reach Western markets without using Russia’s existing export pipelines through Eastern Europe. The pipeline would make it much easier for Russia to cut off gas supplies to neighboring countries like Ukraine without disrupting sales to countries farther west like Italy or Austria. Russia has been trying for years to establish such an export route. The Turkish Stream gas pipeline is intended to replace a planned pipeline through Bulgaria that the European Union blocked at the outset of the Ukraine crisis. Some European governments and the United States also oppose the Turkish Stream project. The revived agreement to build the pipeline also includes a common geopolitical sweetener from Russia: a reduction in the price that Gazprom, the Russian natural gas giant, would charge for natural gas sold on Turkey’s domestic market.
Pennenergy: Turkey, Israel to consider building gas pipeline
Israel and Turkey will consider building a pipeline that would carry Israeli natural gas to Turkey and onward to European markets, Israel’s energy minister said Thursday, during a first visit by an Israeli minister since the countries ended a six-year rift this summer. Yuval Steinitz told reporters after talks with his Turkish counterpart, Berat Albayrak, that the two sides also discussed the issue of Turkey supplying electricity and other forms of energy to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank “Israel is welcoming any involvement of Turkey in improving the lives of ordinary people in Gaza,” Steinitz said. “We will do our best in order to enable this.”Turkey and Israel reached an agreement in June to normalize ties and end acrimony caused by an Israeli naval raid on a Turkish aid ship trying to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza in 2010. Ten Turkish activists were killed in the raid. Under the reconciliation deal, Israel agreed to compensate the families of the victims while Turkey agreed not to hold Israeli nationals criminally liable for the incident.
Steinitz said the two countries “agreed to establish immediately a dialogue to examine the possibility and the feasibility” of the natural gas pipeline project. He said Israel was considering other pipeline projects but said the “Turkish option” was an “important” one. The Israeli minister said his country would also welcome the participation of Turkish businesses in the exploration of future gas fields.
Government coffers are expected to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in additional royalties from surging coal prices, but analysts warn the rally may be short lived. Both coking and thermal coal prices are climbing as China cuts production to support its own struggling sector. December contracts for coking coal are now trading at US$200 ($264) a tonne, more than double what they were in September, while thermal coal is trading near a two-year high. Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said while there were still uncertainties, the uptick was a welcome respite for the sector. Mr Roche said the State Government would be cheering the rally, given that it would add up to hundreds of millions of dollars in extra royalties. “Treasurer Curtis Pitt should be happy,” said Mr Roche, who will be replaced as head of the lobby group next month by Ian Macfarlane. “Thermal coal prices are now a third higher than the highest assumption in the last Budget.” BIS Shrapnel senior economist Richard Robinson said while the rally was not sustainable, prices would not slump like they had previously. “Coking coal prices will probably settle between the $100 to $200 per tonne level,” Mr Robinson said.
Could “clean coal” meet the energy needs of the United States for the next 1,000 years, as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said on Sunday (Oct. 9) during the second presidential debate? Scientists contacted by Live Science are dubious both about whether current U.S. supplies of this fossil fuel could last more than a century and whether the country will start implementing industrywide practices to meet the clean coal definition. As of now, there aren’t any operational U.S. coal plants that use so-called clean coal technology, said Edward Rubin, a professor of engineering, public policy and mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Moreover, if the United States continues to use coal at its current rate of consumption, the known coal deposits will last only about 100 more years, according to a 2007 report from The National Academy of Sciences. Trump’s comment came about during a town-hall debate, held at Washington University in St. Louis. The newly minted internet star Ken Bone — the man with the bright-red sweater and black-rimmed glasses — asked both candidates, “What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs, while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers?” During his 2-minute response, Trump said, “There is a thing called clean coal. Coal will last for 1,000 years in this country.”
Wind Power Monthly: Industrial-scale hydrogen storage on trial
Hydrogen systems supplier Hydrogenics is taking part in pilots across Europe to demonstrate the potential for hydrogen electrolysers for grid balancing and renewables integration. These various projects are trialling industrial-scale versions of the company’s alkaline and polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolysers. In Puglia, in southern Italy, Hydrogenics’ 1MW alkaline electrolyser is being used in a project to increase the integration of renewable electricity from solar photovoltaic and wind plants on the grid, improve active-reactive power control for voltage regulation and enhance power quality. Hydrogenics is also supplying its technology for two projects in Denmark, which include the Hybalance project in Hobro, northern Denmark, announced earlier this year. The power-to-gas demonstration project, costing more than €15 million, is supported by the European Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking and the Danish ForskEL programme, which is ad-ministered by Danish grid operator Energinet.dk. At the other Danish project, also supported by ForskEL, Hydrogenics is supplying a 1MW alkaline electrolyser for a commercial-scale power-to-gas facility at a wastewater treatment plant in Denmark.
Human-caused warming in the West has nearly doubled the area burned by wildfires over the last three decades, researchers reported Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That’s an extra 16,000 square miles, or an area about the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined. The West has seen a dramatic increase in wildfires over the last 30 years. The researchers set out to determine why. Using large-scale climate models, annual wildfire data and eight established methods for measuring the aridity of the forests, the researchers concluded that from 1979 to 2015, climate change increased the aridity of wildfire fuel by 55%. Without that drying, a little more than half as much land would have burned over the last three decades, the researchers found. Natural variability in climate was also a major factor, on par with human-caused warming, the researchers said. In particular, a long-term cycle of weather in the Pacific Ocean has prevented storms from reaching the forested West. The researchers also blamed government fire-suppression practices for essentially storing up fire fuel instead of letting some fires burn naturally.
The frequency of floods of the magnitude of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated parts of New York City in 2012, is rising so sharply that they could become relatively normal, with a raft of new research laying bare the enormous upheavals already under way in the US due to climate change. An analysis of past storms and models of future events as the planet warms has shown that Sandy-like floods have become three times more common in the New York area since 1800. This frequency is set to climb further, from once every 400 years to once every 90 years by 2100, due to the effects of sea level rise alone. Worse still, when the impact of future storm conditions, supercharged by the warming oceans and increased atmospheric moisture, is considered, New York could be swamped by Sandy-level flooding as frequently as once every 23 years by the end of the century, according to research led by Princeton University. The frequency of flood events such as Sandy, which caused a storm surge nearly 3m above high tide resulting in 159 deaths and $68bn in damage in the US north-east, has “increased significantly over the past two centuries and is very likely to increase more sharply over the 21st century, due to the compound effects of sea level rise and storm climatology change”, the Princeton study states.
The China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), which was just recently accused of stealing information from Scottish firm Pelamis Wave Power to develop its own wave energy device, says those claims are totally groundless. CSIC’s No 710 Research Institute told the Global Times on Thursday that the company has spent many years of independent re-search to develop a wave power generating system specifically for China’s conditions. Contrary to what a former Pelamis business development director told the Guardian recently, there are huge differences between CSIC’s Hailong 1 device and Pelamis’ own system, the Chinese company has said. According to the Guardian report from Monday, a number of laptops were stolen from Pelamis’ office in March 2011, about two months after a 60-man delegation from China visited the Scottish company. The crime went unsolved and people involved in the Pelamis project became suspicious only after a similar design emerged in China a few years later. Max Carcas, who served as business development director at Pelamis until 2012, told the newspaper that even though some of the details are different, there are also striking similarities between the two concepts. Neither the UK nor Scotland plan to challenge China over the patent, according to the report, which cited a representative for Wave Energy Scotland as saying that the IP is not protected in China.