Blowout week 93

The spotlight in this week’s Bumper Blowout falls on coal. Vattenfall wants to sell its German lignite plants and lignite mines and Greenpeace wants to buy them – no prizes for guessing why:

Reuters: Greenpeace wants to buy Vattenfall’s German lignite plants – and shut them down

Vattenfall’s 1.6GW Schwartze Pumpe lignite plant (image credit Vattenfall)

Greenpeace is exploring funding options to buy Vattenfall AB’s lignite operations in Germany as it seeks to shut the power plants and prevent others from starting new coal mines. The environmental group wants to start discussions with Vattenfall after the Swedish state-owned utility put the assets up for sale, Annika Jacobson, head of Greenpeace in Sweden, said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday. Vattenfall’s plants and mines, with a capacity of more than 8,000 megawatts combined, are worth 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) to 3 billion euros, according to Rodger Rinke, an analyst at Landesbank Baden-Wuerttemberg. The company wrote down the value of the business by 15.2 billion kronor ($1.8 billion) on July 21, citing the slump in power prices to the lowest level in more than a decade. The Nordic region’s largest utility is trying to adjust its portfolio of power plants to focus on renewable energy. All its lignite generation and mining assets in Germany will be included in the sale, such as the Boxberg, Jaenschwalde and Schwarze Pumpe power plants and corresponding mines. The company, under pressure from the Swedish government to exit coal-fired power generation in Germany, is facing sliding electricity prices in the Nordic region as well as several billions of kronor of writedowns related to its operations in countries from the Netherlands to Germany. The process of finding a buyer will be “open,” Sabine Froning, a spokeswoman for Vattenfall, said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday. “All serious bids are welcome.”

Immediately below the fold we find the UK considering a coal plant shutdown too, followed by US shale oil and LNG terminals about to hit the skids, Qatari and Iranian gas face off in the Gulf, hydrocarbons from ocean bacteria, Gazprom in Turkey, nuclear in Australia, mammals at Chernobyl, renewables in Africa, California and Europe, the Energiewende gets more expensive, Denmark taxes Teslas, UK solar companies going bust, insure your wind farm against wind loss, goodbye DECC and hello NIC, the UN’s draft climate agreement, a new IPCC chairman, CO2 greens the world, global warming shrinks newborns and threatens rugby, the climate change choo-choo carries the message across France and, hot off the press, King Salman of Saudi Arabia “goes crazy”.

Bloomberg:  UK considers closing all coal-fired plants by 2023

The U.K. is considering whether to close all of its 12 coal-fired power plants by 2023 as part of its effort to reduce the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, an official with knowledge of the discussions said. Europe’s second-biggest polluter is also considering whether to make the announcement before Nov. 30, when United Nations climate talks start in Paris, according to the official, who asked not to be identified because the talks haven’t yet reached a conclusion. Plants fitted with equipment to capture and store carbon emissions would be exempt from closure, the official said. If the government goes ahead with the plan, generators including Drax Group Plc, EON SE and RWE AG will face a decision on whether to convert coal plants to burn biomass, or fit them with costly carbon-capture equipment. U.K. is assessing what alternatives would make up for the loss of coal in the energy mix, and whether 2023 would be the right year to aim for a phaseout, the official said. The Department of Energy and Climate Change declined to comment on the specific notion of phaseout by 2023. In a statement, it said that “while fossil fuels have a role to play in meeting our energy demands,” coal-fired generation is already falling. “A number of coal power stations have closed in recent years and we expect this trend to continue. Government is focusing on stimulating investment in lower carbon alternatives,” the department said.

Reuters:  U.S. oil output on brink of ‘dramatic’ decline, executive says

Delegates at the Oil and Money conference in London, an annual gathering of senior industry officials, said world oil prices were now too low to support U.S. shale oil output, the biggest addition to world production over the last decade. “We are about to see a pretty dramatic decline in U.S. production growth,” the former head of oil firm EOG Resources Mark Papa, told the conference. Papa, now a partner at U.S. energy investment firm Riverstone Holdings LLC, said U.S. oil production would stall this month and begin to decline from early next year. He said the main reason for the decline would be a lack of bank financing for new shale developments. Official data show that nationwide U.S. output has already begun to decline after reaching a peak of 9.6 million barrels per day (bpd) in April, although production in some big shale patches, including North Dakota, has held steady thus far. The Energy Information Administration forecast on Tuesday that output would reach a low of around 8.6 million bpd next year. The chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell Plc agreed, saying U.S. oil producers would struggle to refinance while prices remained so low, leading to lower output in future. “Producers are now looking for new cash to survive and they will probably struggle to get it,” Ben van Beurden said.

E&P Magazine:  Norway Expects Oil, Gas Investments To Fall 21% By 2017

Norway expects its oil and gas investments, a cornerstone of its economy, to drop by nearly 21 percent by 2017 from a record high last year, the government said in its 2016 budget on Oct. 7. Oil companies have slashed investments over the past year in response to a halving of crude oil prices since mid-2014 and soaring development costs. The Norwegian government now sees investment in the sector, excluding exploration, falling to 135 billion crowns (US $16.3 billion) in 2017 from 170 billion crowns in 2014. Including exploration, investment is expected to fall to 167 billion crowns next year from 184 billion crowns this year. The government said it would continue to survey its offshore Arctic area bordering Russia to map out oil and gas deposits, proposing to spend 173 million crowns from its budget on mapping. Mapping out the area was important “to mark (our) presence in the North and to safeguard national interests,” Norwegian oil and energy minister, Tord Lien, said in a statement.

Reuters:  Oil extends price gains, set for biggest weekly rise since 2009

Oil extended gains on Friday and was set for its biggest weekly rise in over six years after U.S. Federal Reserve minutes suggested it was in no hurry to raise interest rates and an influential forecaster predicted a price rally. Brent crude, the global benchmark, was up 75 cents at $53.80 a barrel at 1211 GMT, 1.3 percent above the previous close and on track to rise 12 percent this week alone. U.S. crude was up $1, or 2 percent, at $50.43 a barrel, the highest level in more than two months. The U.S. central bank’s meeting minutes showed more policymakers than expected agreed to keep the first interest rate hike in a decade on hold. The news also supported equity markets on Friday, with top European stocks climbing to a one-month high. Forecaster PIRA Energy Group issued a bullish oil price prediction on Thursday, saying oil would hit $70 a barrel by the end of next year and trade at $75 in 2017. “The Fed minutes and the PIRA price forecast are driving prices today,” said Tamas Varga, oil analyst at London brokerage PVM Oil Associates.

Politico:  US House endorses oil exports

The House moved Friday to legalize crude oil exports for the first time in four decades, siding with the petroleum industry in a power struggle that echoes its long feud with greens over the Keystone XL pipeline. Despite the 261-159 vote, the pro-oil forces face growing resistance from the same environmental groups that have spent seven years fighting Keystone to a standstill — along with opposition from the White House and Democrats like Hillary Clinton. But this time, oil supporters are optimistic they’ll prevail in the end. The arguments for and against crude exports broadly parallel the debate about building the Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline: In both cases, Republicans say the move would create jobs at home, enhance national security and lessen the influence of rivals like Russia. Greens say it would encourage carbon-spewing oil production, damaging the fight against climate change. And the White House wants Congress to stay out of the issue — a message lawmakers pointedly ignored Friday. Export supporters also call the ban an outdated relic of the scarcity-haunted 1970s, unsuited to an era when the fracking boom has turned the U.S. into one of the world’s top oil producers. So far, though, they’re short of the 60 votes they would need to get past a filibuster in the Senate.

Financial Times:  Oil and gas groups back cleaner energy

Up to 10 big oil and gas groups will next week attempt to deflect attacks from anti-fossil fuel campaigners with a pledge to combat climate change by developing “cleaner” energy and cut harmful gas flaring. Industry insiders said a meeting of energy chief executives in Paris, including the heads of BP, BG Group, Total, Eni, Statoil and Repsol, would commit the companies to “delivering secure energy with reduced greenhouse gas intensity”. The other groups involved in the initiative — which aims to influence plans for a UN climate deal at Paris in December — are Royal Dutch Shell, Saudi Aramco and Pemex. Reliance Industries is also thought likely to join. Stung by campaigners’ calls for investors to dump shares in fossil fuel companies, the chief executives of the 10 groups are expected to call for an “ambitious and effective agreement” at Paris. A range of activities to combat global warming will be announced by the companies, including co-operation on measures to curb the routine flaring of methane gas, a process that creates significant volumes of carbon dioxide. The groups also intend to collaborate on the development of carbon capture and storage systems, which in theory offer a way for fossil fuel companies to keep burning coal or gas in power stations without affecting the climate.

Science Daily:  Bacteria in the oceans produce 300-800 million tonnes of hydrocarbons each year.

An international team of researchers, led by the University of Cambridge, has estimated the amount of hydrocarbons — the primary ingredient in crude oil — that are produced by a massive population of photosynthetic marine microbes, called cyanobacteria. In the study, conducted in collaboration with researchers from the University of Warwick and MIT, and published today (5 October) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists measured the amount of hydrocarbons in a range of laboratory-grown cyanobacteria and used the data to estimate the amount produced in the oceans. Although each individual cell contains minuscule quantities of hydrocarbons, the researchers estimated that the amount produced by two of the most abundant cyanobacteria in the world — Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus — is more than two million tonnes in the ocean at any one time. This indicates that these two groups alone produce between 300 and 800 million tonnes of hydrocarbons per year, yet the concentration at any time in unpolluted areas of the oceans is tiny, thanks to other bacteria that break down the hydrocarbons as they are produced.

Financial Post:  World’s LNG projects dying off as natural gas demand promises fall short

Five years ago, energy companies hungry for the next big thing started planning as many as 90 terminals to send natural gas around the globe. Now, it seems the world only needs five more. Consulting firm IHS Inc. says only one in every 20 projects planned are actually necessary by 2025 as weakening Asia economies, cheap coal, the return of nuclear power in Japan and the ever-expanding glut of shale supply in North America temper demand for the power-plant fuel, putting tens of billions of dollars worth of export projects at risk. Barring an unusually cold winter in Asia, global LNG supply will outstrip demand by next year, said Trevor Sikorski, an analyst at Energy Aspects Ltd. in London. Seven new plants in Australia will flood the market over the next two years. Cheniere Energy Inc. is planning the startup of its Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana this quarter. “The global LNG industry now resembles a game of ‘musical chairs’ with far more projects than the market can absorb,” said James Taverner, an IHS analyst in Tokyo. “There is a very narrow window of opportunity for new projects that want to take final investment decision by 2020.”

Telegraph:  Iran to trigger natural gas race with Qatar in Persian Gulf

Much of the focus on the impending opening up of Iran has been on what this means for the oil industry. However, even bigger shockwaves could be felt in the natural gas sector, should economic sanctions restricting the Persian Gulf powerhouse be fully lifted. Tehran’s reintroduction to the international community would fire the starting pistol on a natural gas race that could have profound long-term implications for international oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, which have ploughed billions of dollars into developing higher-cost gas projects in areas such as Australia. Iran shares access to the world’s single largest natural gas field with Qatar but has so far been unable to fully develop its share of this vast resource. The South Pars field is thought to hold at least 325 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to supply all of Europe’s needs for the next 16 years. Qatar’s North Field, which is adjoined to South Pars, is estimated to hold in excess of 900 trillion cubic feet of gas. Combined, the field is the single largest deposit of the energy source to be found anywhere in the world. The Qataris have raced ahead of Iran in terms of developing their share of the deposit, in partnership with companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, Total and Exxon Mobil. Since 2005 the Qataris have had a moratorium in place on further developments of its North field but, should Iran begin to suck more natural gas from the adjacent South Pars, this policy may change as both sides race to drain the resource.

Video News:  Gazprom positive over Turkish Stream despite Syria row

Political factors will not affect agreement between Russia and Turkey over the proposed Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller said Wednesday. Miller spoke after Russian jets violated Turkish air space over the weekend and it was accused of bombing Syrian opposition groups supported by Turkey and the West in the fight against Daesh. “We have already started work on an intergovernmental agreement,” Miller told reporters in St Petersburg, according to the state-run Sputnik news agency. “It does not include talks on concrete details concerning the capacity of the pipeline or schedules for the project implementation but the work on the text of the agreement is underway and it is not influenced by any factors.” On Tuesday, Miller said Gazprom had decided to nearly halve the planned capacity of Turkish Stream pipeline project to 32 billion cubic meters a year, from an original capacity of 63 bcm. He explained the decision as being due to plans to expand the Nord Stream gas pipeline to Germany. Also Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned of worsening relations with Russia. “If Russia loses a friend like Turkey, with which it has conducted many businesses, it will lose a lot,” he said.

Sydney Morning Herald:  Westinghouse eyes Australian nuclear potential

Nuclear technology giant Westinghouse sees the retirement of old coal-fired power plants in Australia as an opportunity for nuclear power and is positioning itself early to inform the political and public debate. In Sydney to announce a tie-up with three local suppliers, Westinghouse chief executive Danny Roderick said the Japanese-owned company “wants to make sure that the facts are out there” on the safety of new-generation nuclear reactors. He said that convincing the 8 per cent of the Australian public that is undecided about nuclear power would create “an overwhelming majority of people in Australia that would support a nuclear new-build”. The option of nuclear power for Australia is being examined within a South Australian royal commission, with findings due next year. Meanwhile, the federal government’s greenhouse gas reduction targets, of 26 to 28 per cent cuts from 2005 levels by 2030, and the anticipated retirement of ageing coal-fired generators have also set the scene for discussion. “In the next decade you have several very large coal plants that are going to need to be retired, and you’re going to have to choose to build something to replace those,” Mr Roderick said. “If you’re going to talk about carbon reduction and greenhouse gas reductions you’re going to have to bring nuclear into the mix.”

Penn Energy:  Mammals thrive in Chernobyl nuclear power plant exclusion zone

Nearly 30 years after a nuclear reactor caught fire and spewed a lethal cloud of radiation, some species of mammals are thriving in the zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, a new study says. The study, published in the journal Current Biology, found that elk, deer, wild boar and wolves are abundant in the 2,160-square-kilometer (835-square-mile) Polesie reserve in Belarus, which was established after the 1986 disaster. More than 20,000 people once lived in what is now the reserve. “We’re not saying radiation is good for animals, but we are saying that human interference can be more harmful to certain animal populations than radiation,” said Jim Smith, an environmental scientist at Britain’s University of Portsmouth who led the study. Smith and his team found there was no difference in the number of large mammals living in the Polesie reserve and in other Belarusian nature reserves. The prevalence of wolves is seven times higher than in nearby non-contaminated nature reserves, which Smith attributed to the lack of hunting in contaminated areas. Biologist Timothy Mousseau at the University of South Carolina said Smith’s research presents an overly optimistic view of the situation around Chernobyl. “There is no evidence to suggest this area is teeming with wildlife,” said Mousseau, whose research has focused on how radiation has affected reptile, insect and small mammal populations. These animals have struggled to make a comeback in the wake of Chernobyl and have suffered from a range of nuclear-related diseases, according to Mousseau’s research.

Guardian:  Renewables could supply nearly a quarter of Africa’s energy by 2030

Almost a quarter of Africa’s energy needs could feasibly be supplied by renewables within the next 15 years, according to a new report released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) yesterday. The report, which provides a roadmap for renewable energy deployment on the continent, found that a variety of modern renewable technology options could more than quadruple the contribution of renewables to Africa’s energy mix compared to the five per cent used in 2013, taking renewables share to 22 per cent of the mix. The report identifies four modern renewable energy technologies that could play a major role in the continent’s energy mis: hydropower, wind, solar power, and modern biomass systems for cooking. The report also highlights how solar and wind projects across Africa are now producing record-low electricity prices. Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General of IRENA, said a steep drop in the price of renewables technology, combined with the fact that Africa holds some of the best renewable energy resources in the world, had resulted in a “massive opportunity” to expand energy systems while providing a pathway for low-carbon growth.“Tapping into renewable energy resources is the only way African nations can fuel economic growth, maximise socio-economic development and enhance energy security with limited environmental impact,” he said in a statement. “The technologies are available, reliable and increasingly cost-competitive.”

Reuters:  California’s ambitious renewable energy bill signed into law

Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed into law a bill requiring California to produce half its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, a goal he said was key to combating global climate change. “A decarbonized future is the reason we’re here,” Brown said at a signing ceremony in Los Angeles. “What we’re doing here is very important, especially for low-income families.” The bill also requires a doubling of energy efficiency in buildings by 2030. Environmentalists cheered the move even though language to cut petroleum use by 50 percent over 15 years was stripped from the bill after objections from the oil industry and some lawmakers. A separate bill, which would have mandated an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from 1990 levels, was also pulled near the end of the legislative session but is expected to be reintroduced next year.

City AM:  European renewable energy investment drops to 11-year-low

European investment into renewables has tumbled to an 11-year-low, as policy changes in the UK have pummeled green energy growth hard. European countries invested a total of £3.8bn into renewable energy over the past quarter – leaving investment down 48 per cent compared to the same period last year. Although this is partly explained by a natural lull in investments, following three large offshore wind deals totalling £2bn in the second quarter, Angus Crone, senior analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance said that the large drop also follows on recent changes in government policy that have struck against green energy. Support policies have become less friendly to wind and solar investors in several countries, including Italy, Germany, Denmark and, most recently, the UK. Chancellor George Osborne announced in his July Budget that the government would be scrapping a green tax exemption enjoyed by renewable energy companies since 2001. Green energy firms’ shares took an immediate dive on the move, which was loudly criticised by environmentalists.

Moodys:  RE regulatory risk highest in Spain and Italy

Investors in European renewable energy projects face the greatest regulatory risk in Spain, followed by Italy. In contrast, France, Germany and the UK have strong regulatory frameworks, and are unlikely to impose large-scale changes to subsidy regimes that might affect existing assets, says Moody’s Investors Service in a report published today. The research is an update to the markets and does not constitute a rating action. “In Spain, the government has on several occasions made adverse changes to the subsidy regime for existing renewable energy producers in order to eliminate a shortfall in the revenues of the electricity system relative to its costs. This allowed it to curb the so-called tariff deficit without significantly increasing end-user electricity prices, a politically unpalatable option at a time of high unemployment”, said Christopher Bredholt, Moody’s Vice President — Senior Analyst and lead author of the report.

Bloomberg:  Denmark ditches green goals, taxes Teslas

Denmark will almost triple the price of Teslas as it phases out tax breaks on electric cars. Phasing out tax breaks on electric cars means the price of a Tesla Model S is set to in-crease from about 650,000 kroner ($97,665) to around 1.8 million kroner. The levy on zero-emission vehicles was announced less than a week after Elon Musk paid a visit to Copenhagen and just hours before Tesla’s chief executive officer delivered the first models of the company’s long-awaited Model X SUVs to buyers in California. Denmark’s move marks its latest shift away from measures that had once put the Scandinavian country at the forefront of innovative policies designed to promote renewable energy. The three-month old government has already said it is abandoning ambitious CO2 emissions targets and dropping plans to become fossil-fuel free by 2050. That policy shift was revealed on Sept. 2, the same day U.S. President Barack Obama made a global appeal for urgent action to fight climate change. “Things have to be done with reason,” Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen told reporters after the draft was unveiled in Copenhagen on Tuesday. Frederiksen argues that tough decisions need to be made against the backdrop of a widening budget deficit.

Bloomberg:  Solar and wind reach turning point

Wind power is now the cheapest electricity to produce in both Germany and the U.K., even without government subsidies, according to a new analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). It’s the first time that threshold has been crossed by a G7 economy. But that’s less interesting than what just happened in the U.S.  For the first time, widespread adoption of renewables is effectively lowering the capacity factor for fossil fuels. That’s because once a solar or wind project is built, the marginal cost of the electricity it produces is pretty much zero—free electricity—while coal and gas plants require more fuel for every new watt produced. If you’re a power company with a choice, you choose the free stuff every time. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle. As more renewables are installed, coal and natural gas plants are used less. As coal and gas are used less, the cost of using them to generate electricity goes up. As the cost of coal and gas power rises, more renewables will be installed.

Reuters:  German households face rising green power surcharge

A green energy surcharge levied on German consumers to support renewable power generation is likely to rise next year, despite government efforts to rein in the costs of the planned transition to a low-carbon economy, green energy group BEE said on Wednesday. The surcharge is expected to rise to between 6.2 and 6.5 euro cents, or a median estimate of a record 6.39 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), from 6.17 cents this year, said BEE in a study, ahead of the official announcement of the number by transmission grid operators (TSOs) on October 15. The surcharge under the renewable energy act (EEG) had fallen this year, from 6.24 euro cents in 2014, the first decline since it was introduced in 2000. The fee, which is added to consumers’ bills, represents the biggest single item to finance Germany’s “Energiewende” policy, amounting to a total 22.3 billion euros ($25.05 billion) in 2014, according to the TSOs.

Reuters:  And another 3 to 8 billion euros for power lines

The German government said on Monday the increased usage of underground cabling to avoid local protests against new power lines would cost up to eight billion euros. The net operators say more power lines are needed to carry green energy from the breezy north to the country’s industrial south where several nuclear power plants will be switched off. But since the federal network agency presented a master plan to build three high-voltage direct-current transmission lines, protest groups have formed across the country. The conflict escalated when Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer, head of Merkel’s sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), bowed to public concern and publicly revoked his support for the grid expansion. In July, Merkel’s coalition settled the dispute by agreeing that net operators should modernise existing pylons and use underground cabling in as many areas as possible. This approach would lead to additional costs of three to eight billions euros, the economy ministry has now said, giving figures for the project for the first time. The costs for building and operating the electricity grid are normally passed on to consumers in Germany.

Independent:  Wind power now UK’s cheapest source of electricity

Onshore wind energy has become cheaper than electricity from any other source in the UK for the first time, in what could be a landmark moment for renewable energy in Britain. The cost of onshore wind power has fallen from $108 (£70.20) per megawatt hour (mWh) a year ago to $85 today, as they become more efficient and cheaper to build. Over the same period, coal-fired power stations have seen their costs rocket from nearly $98 mWh to $115 and gas from $100 to $114, after the EU agreed new rules that will greatly increase the amount they must pay for their carbon emissions. Offshore wind costs $175 mWh, according to the research, by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. A steep decline in borrowing costs, with bank lending rates hovering around all-time lows, is also much more beneficial for wind farms than for fossil-fuel plants. This is because far more of the cost of renewable energy projects relate to their construction, which is funded by loans. “There’s still a tendency for the general public to believe that renewables are really expensive, while coal and gas are really cheap,” said Seb Henbest, of Bloomberg, which conducted the research. “This is how it used to be not so long ago, but over the past five years technology costs have come down significantly, along with financing costs.”

Hydroworld:  Insurance for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine

GCube, the renewable energy sector insurance underwriter, has launched a new Weather Risk Transfer mechanism to provide renewable energy project owners with a means to mitigate the financial impact of resource volatility. In this case the product covers wind and rain – or perhaps more accurately, a lack thereof. According to GCube, the product has emerged from a number of high-profile anomalies in established hydroelectric and wind power markets that have raised industry awareness of the impact of extraordinary weather patterns on long and short-term project performance and profitability. Certainly, in the past year long-term drought and low rainfall conditions in Brazil, California and elsewhere have had a significant impact on hydroelectric generation. Meanwhile, GCube notes that utilities and operators in the US wind market have been feeling the impact of the lowest first quarter wind speeds since records began – with low wind speeds apparently set to continue throughout the remainder of 2015. As a consequence, generators reliant on these naturally variable resources are seeking to transfer weather risk to a third party by means of a financial hedge – a mechanism that offers compensation in the event of below par resource availability to guarantee a floor on financial performance. The new products emerging from the insurance industry coincide with the commercial launch of a new wind-hydropower system on the Spanish-administered island of El Hierro in the Canary Islands, off the coast of Morocco.

Guardian:  Second solar firm in two days goes bust, blaming UK government policy

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) has denied that subsidy cuts were responsible for the collapse of two solar panel installers in as many days, blaming the company failures on “commercial decisions”. Amid warnings of a crisis in the green energy sector following the failure of Mark Group and Climate Energy and a forecast that 20,000 solar jobs could eventually be threatened, the Decc defended aid cuts for solar and energy efficiency. “All job losses are regrettable and we sympathise with those affected, but commercial decisions are a matter for the company concerned,” said a DECC spokesman. “Our priority is to keep bills as low as possible for hardworking families and businesses, and to build a long-term energy-efficiency system that gives consumers value for money. We are protecting existing investment and billpayers, while reducing our emissions in the most cost-effective way,” he said. However, the dramatic demise of two leading companies following a series of cuts, and proposals for more, brought a furious reaction from environmental and trade groups. A Friends of the Earth energy campaigner, Alasdair Cameron, said: “Government policy threatens over 20,000 UK solar jobs – with many more at risk in other green sectors. It seems the Treasury is happier to give sky-high subsidies to Chinese nuclear power than support British solar.

Power Engineering International:  Goodbye DECC? Hello NIC?

There is some confusion as to the role of the department of energy and climate change following a reorganisation announced by the UK’s chancellor for the exchequer George Osborne this week. The entire energy policy brief has been ceded by DECC to the new National Infrastructure Commission (NIC). It is not entirely clear what DECC, headed by secretary of state Amber Rudd, will now hold responsibility for. Mr Osborne announced the NIC at the Conservative party conference on Monday describing it as “A Commission, set up in law, free from party arguments, which works out, calmly and dispassionately, what the country needs to build for its future, and holds any Government’s feet to the fire if it fails to deliver … Like how we are going to make sure Britain has the energy supplies it needs … I’ve asked the new National Infrastructure Commission to start its work today. And I am delighted that the former Labour Cabinet Minister and Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis has agreed to be the Commission’s first Chair.” As a result of the restructure it appears that DECC is largely a shell department with responsibility for climate change policy. The relationship between the NIC and DECC is not yet clear. Power Engineering International asked for more detail on the newly defined roles for both offices and a press spokesperson for the NIC said, “the Commission will be charged with offering unbiased analysis of the UK’s long-term infrastructure needs. The Treasury will consult shortly on the terms of reference for the NIC and how it will advise government and go about its work.”

Edie:  New energy label specifies carbon footprint of a company’s electricity supply

A new energy label that specifies the source and carbon footprint of a company’s electricity supply has been launched in the UK today (8 October), in a bid to boost business confidence in renewables. Launched by independent renewable energy supplier SmartestEnergy and certified by the Carbon Trust, the new product allows businesses to know the green credentials of the electricity that they have purchased.Businesses that use the product will also receive an annual energy label to show the source and carbon emissions of their supply. SmartestEnergy hopes this will help to support renewable energy generators and users in the wake of recent subsidy cuts. SmartestEnergy chief executive officer Robert Groves said: “A growing number of large businesses are looking to reduce their carbon footprint by buying 100% renewable electricity and we believe this energy label will support that ambition. “Following the removal of the exemption from Climate Change Levy (CCL) for renewable power, we hope this product will help to create a viable market for renewable energy and support the UK achieving our 2020 carbon reduction targets.”

BBC:  Korea’s Hoesung Lee named head of IPCC

Hoesung Lee of South Korea has been named the new head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body tasked with assessing climate science. Prof Lee, an expert on climate economics and sustainable development, was elected to chair the panel at its ongoing meeting in Dubrovnik, Croatia. He is the fourth person to lead the IPCC in its 27-year history. He succeeds Rajendra Pachauri, who resigned amid a scandal in February. Prof Lee told BBC News he was “very much honoured and very grateful” that the panel had elected him. In his term, set to last six to eight years, he will oversee a new chapter for the IPCC following a series of five major reports on climate change, which culminated in November 2014. He said this new phase would see the panel increase its focus on the regional impacts of climate change, especially for developing countries – as well as promoting more diverse voices. “I believe it’s very important that for the next round of assessment, we should be able to increase the intellectual contributions from developing countries,” he said. “And also improving gender balance in our author teams is very, very important.”

ThinkProgress:  UN releases preliminary draft of Paris climate agreement

1. Parties aim to reach by [X date] [a peaking of global greenhouse gas emissions] [zero net greenhouse gas emissions] [a[n] X per cent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions][global low-carbon transformation] [global low-emission transformation] [carbon neutrality] [climate neutrality].

2. Each Party [shall] [should] [other] regularly communicate a nationally determined mitigation [contribution] [commitment] [other] that it [shall] [should] [other] implement.

3. Each Party’s nationally determined mitigation [contribution] [commitment] [other] [shall] [should] [other] reflect a progression beyond its previous efforts, noting that those Parties that have previously communicated economy-wide efforts should continue to do so in a manner that is progressively more ambitious and that all Parties should aim to do so over time. Each mitigation [contribution] [commitment] [other] [shall] [should] [other] reflect the Party’s highest possible ambition, in light of its national circumstances, and:

(a) [Be quantified or quantifiable;]
(b) [Be unconditional, at least in part;]
(c) [Other].

New York Times:  Smoke from Indonesian forest fires blankets SE Asia

Fires set in Sumatra and the Indonesian side of Borneo blanket parts of Southeast Asia with smoke for weeks. While this has been going on for decades, an especially long dry season this year coupled with the effects of El Niño, threaten to make it the worst on record, scientists say. This year, there have been more vocal complaints from people affected in Singapore, Malaysia and even in Indonesia. There has also been high-profile sniping among government leaders, along with lawsuits, investigations and arrests of accused fire-starters — a familiar replay from 2013, when the region suffered its last major bout of haze. After the skies cleared in 2013, the issue was once again forgotten — until last month, when the crisis erupted anew. The consensus this year is the same as it was then: The slash-and-burn techniques used in Indonesia’s palm oil industry are continuing unabated, and there is no magic bullet for ending the practice — or the haze it causes — in the short term. Up until Wednesday, Indonesia had rebuffed offers by neighbors to help it battle the blazes and had even admonished Singaporean and Malaysian leaders for daring to complain about the haze. Late last month, the country’s outspoken vice president, Jusuf Kalla, repeated a statement he made earlier in the year in which he said that neighboring countries “should be grateful” to Indonesia for the clean air they have the other 11 months of the year.

CNN:  World experiencing coral bleaching event

For the third time since records have been kept, the world is experiencing a global coral bleaching event. It’s a major environmental incident, predicted by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and now confirmed as underway by teams of scientists and reef mappers across the globe. When coral bleaching spanning 100 kilometers (63 miles) or more is found in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian ocean basins, it’s designated a global coral bleaching event. NOAA says that in all three global events seen so far, the coral stress has been due mainly to rising ocean temperatures. All three events have occurred in El Niño years. This bleaching event could kill over 12,000 square kilometers (about 4,600 square miles) of reefs by the end of the year, and NOAA warns that with forecasts of El Niño remaining strong until early 2016, the worst may be yet to come.

Geophysical Research Letters:  Paper confirms CO2 greening

Satellite observations reveal a greening of the globe over recent decades. The role in this greening of the “CO2 fertilization” effect—the enhancement of photosynthesis due to rising CO2 levels—is yet to be established. The direct CO2 effect on vegetation should be most clearly expressed in warm, arid environments where water is the dominant limit to vegetation growth. Using gas exchange theory, we predict that the 14% increase in atmospheric CO2 (1982–2010) led to a 5 to 10% increase in green foliage cover in warm, arid environments. Satellite observations, analyzed to remove the effect of variations in precipitation, show that cover across these environments has increased by 11%. Our results confirm that the anticipated CO2 fertilization effect is occurring alongside ongoing anthropogenic perturbations to the carbon cycle and that the fertilization effect is now a significant land surface process.

DOE:  How Climate Change Threatens America’s Energy Infrastructure

The effects of climate change—such as heat waves, rising sea levels and more severe storms—are already being felt across the United States. Our energy infrastructure is especially vulnerable to climate-related impacts, which can pose a serious threat to America’s national security, energy security, economic wellbeing, and quality of life. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz spoke of the challenges ahead and the Energy Department’s role in maintaining our energy system’s resilience, reliability and safety. “In recent years, record temperatures, droughts, and floods have damaged energy infrastructure and disrupted energy systems, affecting American families and businesses across the country,” said Secretary Moniz. “To address the harsh impacts of climate change and extreme weather, we need innovative solutions that will make our energy sector more resilient, more flexible, and more efficient, as we build a cleaner, more climate-friendly energy system.”

News Medical:  Climate change has negative impacts on birth weight

A new study led by the University of Utah adds to the ever-growing list of negative impacts climate change can have on humans—low birth weight. The first of its kind, the two-year project led by U geography professor Kathryn Grace examined the relationship among precipitation, temperature and birth weight in 19 African countries. Grace and her team utilized high quality, detailed climate data in conjunction with extensive health data to focus on climate change and its effects on birth weight in the developing world. The new findings show that a pregnant woman’s exposure to reduced precipitation and an increased number of very hot days indeed results in lower birth weight. “Our findings demonstrate that in the very early stages of intra-uterine development, climate change has the potential to significantly impact birth outcomes. While the severity of that impact depends on where the pregnant woman lives, in this case the developing world, we can see the potential for similar outcomes everywhere,” said Grace.

New Zealand Herald:  The impact of climate change on rugby

Rugby fans losing themselves in the glory of the World Cup have been warned not to take their eyes off the ball. More than one fifth of athletes on display at RWC2015 can trace their routes back to Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, claims an article on Responding to Climate Change. And what, the article mulls, will happen to the great game when those islands slip under the sea? “Amid the hoopla of a major sporting event, it perhaps offers a timely platform to highlight their vulnerability to climate change,” writes Alex Pashley. “Hardy seafarers, the Polynesians have endured life on volcanic islands for millennia which prepared them for the hard-hitting sport. Yet as climate impacts ramp up over tens of World Cups, will that fan further emigration and hobble their capacity to compete?”

VOA News:  Climate train chugs across France

A train is chugging its way across France this month to raise awareness about climate change and what is at stake during December’s climate summit in Paris. The climate train got a high-level sendoff Tuesday at Paris’ Gare de Lyon station that included champagne and speeches by Environment Minister Segolene Royal and other officials. Those invited wandered through rail cars displaying maps and interactive images of how a warming climate will change our planet — and how it already has made changes. The train is part of a series of events France’s government is planning ahead of December’s climate conference. In July, lawmakers adopted a measure that aims to slash polluting emissions and energy consumption. Not everybody supports it. Train workers staged a small protest outside the station. Gilbert Garrel, general secretary of the CGT train workers union, criticized the government’s energy policy as insufficient and called the train a publicity stunt.

World Tribune:  Saudi King Salman hospitalized after he “went crazy”

Saudi King Salman, said to suffer from dementia, was hospitalized after “he went crazy” and attempted to injure himself, sources said. Arabic-language al-Ahd news agency reported on Oct. 8 that the 79-year-old Salman was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) section of King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh. Sources said Salman had to be restrained and placed under heavy sedation. One prince, who is a grandson of founder Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, told the UK’s Guardian that the royal family and the public are questioning the leadership of Salman, who acceded the throne in January. The prince said he wrote two letters earlier this month calling for Salman to be removed. “The king is not in a stable condition and in reality the son of the king is ruling the kingdom,” the prince said. “A lot of the second generation is very anxious. The public are also pushing this very hard, all kinds of people, tribal leaders,” the prince added. “They say you have to do this or the country will go to disaster.”

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10 Responses to Blowout week 93

  1. Joe Public says:

    “Norway Expects Oil, Gas Investments To Fall 21% By 2017”

    Is it surprising when Norway taxes its oil firms at 78%. [Ordinary Petroleum Tax at 27% plus a Special Tax at 51%]

  2. PhilH says:

    Re: the Financial Post’s article on the likely coming glut of LNG. Presumably this will tend to lower the price of gas in those markets with LNG import facilities, such as the UK. I wonder to what extent this will further the shift of the last couple of years in the UK from choosing to use the existing coal-fired power stations to gas-fired ones (re: also the Bloomberg article on closing UK coal stations). And to what extent it will also undermine the finances of fracking for gas in the UK.

  3. Willem Post says:

    Regarding the Bloomberg article, here is the actual report.

    Here is a Bloomberg report that states on page 23, LCOE of wind in Vermont about 5 c/kWh, subsidized, and about 9 c/kWh, unsubsidized.

    Reality check:

    The recently installed 63 MW (21 Vestas at 3 MW each) Lowell Mountain Project, owned by Green Mountain Power, has a subsidized LCOE of about 9.8 c/kWh, per GMP.

    The capital cost was about $170 million, including about $20 million to connect to the grid.

    My estimate of the unsubsidized LCOE is about 15 c/kWh.

  4. ColA says:

    If greenpeace buys the plants and shuts them down causing a brownout that causes deaths will greenpeace will they brush that of as “collateral damage”??
    If they knew that scenario was a distinct possibility could they be sued for criminal negligence??

  5. Euan Mearns says:

    One thing that concerns me about the Greenpeace story is the scale of funding they can call upon. Not only national governments but tech billionaires prepared to commit billions to the anti FF, anti nuclear and anti humanity cause.

    It is also the case that coal assets are now valued dirt cheap as a consequence of the Green cause. We should be suspicious of billionaires moving into the market and buying dirt cheap energy assets.

    • The other side of the coin is billionaires waxing fat at taxpayers’ expense on RE subsidies. As Warren Buffet recently said: “For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

    • Lets have a think on what happens.

      Greenpeace presumably do not have money to buy the plant so they will borrow (damn dirty capitalists). They will use the leverage of their wealthy supporters to get the loan but these will be too savvy to actually act as guarantors. Then some surprising candidates will come in as well under the same umbrella.

      Greenpeace then goes bust as this scale of investment with zero return cannot be sustained. Supporters swoop in to claim the dirty cheap assets in liquidation.

      So not necessarily the green cause but…

  6. Rob says:

    The independents article wind now UK cheapest source of energy
    Is this article deliberately missleading.
    Where is he getting his figures
    Also he states wind intermitancy a myth 85% running time

    • Roberto says:

      ‘Wind intermitancy 85%’

      Data show that uk wind installations generate less than 10% of their installed power more than 30% of the time.

  7. “The independents article wind now UK cheapest source of energy”

    Why are they moaning about their subsidies being cut then? Why do they need contracts that pay them whether their power is needed or not?

    85% running time? Running at what percentage of load? And we still need electricity that other 15% of the time. Right now wind is around 5% of low late night demand.

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