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South Australia announces plans for A$510M gas power plant

March 14th, 2017

South Australia’s premier Jay Wetherhill has announced plans to build a 250 MW gas-fired power plant as the state looks to improve its energy security.

The state is Australia’s most renewable energy-oriented region and recently its energy policy came under the spotlight after a blackout left homes and industries without power for weeks. It has prompted clean energy tycoon Elon Musk to get involved in offering his company, Tesla's storage battery as a solution.
South Australia’s premier Jay Wetherhill
Reliant on wind for about a third of its power capacity, the state has become vulnerable to outages and soaring prices as it does not have enough back-up power when the wind is not blowing.

They are now set to spend around A$510m ($385m) keep the lights on, just four days after Tesla Inc boss Elon Musk offered to save the state from blackouts by installing large-scale battery storage.

That plan includes A$150m to encourage the development of 100 MW of battery storage, possibly from Musk or from local providers.

"Today, South Australia takes hold of its energy future. We have a national electricity market which is failing not only South Australia but failing the nation," Weatherill said in a statement.

South Australia's last coal-fired power station shut down last May, as it was making losses, and France's Engie SA mothballed one of two units at a gas-fired power plant for the same reason.

On the batteries front, Weatherill said he was speaking to a range of providers.

"We want as much local content as possible," he told a news conference. "We also need to put in the balance the reputational effect of attracting an iElon Musknternational player of the size of Elon Musk to South Australia. "

Tesla chief Musk has offered to supply 100 megawatt-hours of batteries for $25 million within 100 days of signing a contract, or provide it free.

"Over the coming days Tesla are assessing with stakeholders how best to deliver on this exciting opportunity for the benefit of the Australian energy market," a Tesla spokesman said.

Australia is the latest country to consider battery storage as a solution to the challenge of providing reliable power supplies as grids become more dependent on renewable energy and phase out more polluting — but more stable — coal and gas

Engie considers shock move to purchase $19.8bn Innogy

March 14th, 2017

France’s Engie is mulling a bid to take over RWE’s renewable business, Innogy.

Bloomberg reports that Engie hasn’t made a final decision to proceed. The deliberations are preliminary and may not lead to an offer, according to insiders. Representatives for Engie and Innogy declined to comment. RWE said on Tuesday that it “can in principle sell Innogy shares and thereby reduce its stake to 51 per cent.”

RWE owns about 77 per cent of Innogy’s shares after splitting the company off last year in a bid to adapt to difficult market conditions associated with the German government’s Energiewende push.
In the event of a sale of Innogy, “RWE would have lots of money but no sustainable business model,” Erkan Aycicek, an analyst at Landesbank Baden-Wuerttemberg, told Bloomberg.

The utilities sector is likely to see “large, game-changing” mergers and acquisitions because of low borrowing costs and stronger balance sheets, according to a January report from Goldman Sachs Group, which advised RWE on the Innogy spin off.

Engie, part-owned by the French state, is also trying to shift away from fossil fuels. It plans to reinvest the €15bn it expects to raise from disposals to expand in energy services, renewable power and gas pipelines, where revenue is regulated or more predictable. It is bidding for renewable projects in the Middle East and predicts that solar power, battery storage and rising sales of electric vehicles will all weigh on demand for crude.


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North Sea wind power hub to be developed

March 13th, 2017

TenneT and are hopeful that a new wind power hub in the North Sea will help accelerate the transition to renewable energy in northern Europe.

The Dutch grid operator is set to sign an agreement with Danish power transmission company to develop the hub on manmade constructs called the Power Link Islands on the Dogger Bank.
TenneT banner or pylon
The wind power generated from the hub will be distributed and transmitted over direct current lines to the North Sea countries of the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Norway and Belgium.

The vast artificial island to be built at Dogger Bank will also entail a harbour, airstrip and homes, to help provide a vast new supply of renewable energy, under plans drawn up by two companies with the blessing of the European Union.

TenneT CEO Mel Kroon said: “This project can significantly contribute to a completely renewable supply of electricity in Northwest Europe.”

The company said Dogger Bank was an ideal location for an artificial island as it was “centrally located and in relatively shallow water” and also had “optimal wind conditions”.

The trilateral agreement for the construction of the hub is planned to be signed on 23 March 2017 between TenneT Netherlands, and TenneT Germany during the upcoming North Seas Energy Forum.

Separately, TenneT announced its plan to invest €25bn over the next 10 years, in onshore and offshore grids in the Netherlands and Germany to ensure reliable power supply.

By 2025, TenneT aims to increase its installed offshore transmission capacity in the German North Sea from current 5.2 GW to more than 10 GW.

Financial boost for Greek renewables

March 10th, 2017

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is to provide a financial injection aimed at developing the Greek renewable energy sector.

EBRD is to provide $318m (€300m) in funding for renewable energy projects in Greece, aimed at mobilizing investment and commercial financing for the projects.
EBRD’s framework will assist Greece in achieving its target of adding 2.4 GW of new green-energy generation capacity by 2020.

The funding will be used for the development of renewable projects such as solar, wind, biomass and geothermal power, helping Greece to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and imports.

One such project considered for finance is the 43MW wind farm project developed by Volterra. Volterra is a Greek renewable energy developer and electricity operator, which is owned by the Greek construction company J&P Avax.

According to EBRD, the framework is expected to result in annual emissions savings of 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

EBRD power and energy new director Harry Boyd-Carpenter said: “This framework marks a milestone in our engagement in Greece. It provides us with the opportunity to play an important role in ensuring that the country’s new renewables scheme is successful and thus supporting Greece’s energy security and carbon-reduction goals.

“The EBRD renewable energy framework will make the Greek economy greener, more resilient and more competitive.”

The bank has already invested around €850m in 17 projects in the financial, energy, infrastructure and agribusiness sectors of the country.


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UK government report positive on biomass

March 10th, 2017

A report commissioned by the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has found that using biomass instead of coal is playing a positive part in decarbonizing the power sector.

The findings, by Ricardo Energy & Environment, come in a week where the biomass power sector has had to defend the technology’s reputation as a positive replacement for coal-fired power.
Ricardo Energy and Environment
The study titled “Use of North American woody biomass in UK electricity generation”, reaffirms the positive impact of US biomass industry on US forests and carbon emissions.

Reacting to the news, US Industrial Pellet Association (IPA) Executive Director Seth Ginther said, “This study confirms that biomass sourced from US forests is sustainable and carbon beneficial and that bioenergy plays a key role in reducing emissions and mitigating climate change as a low-cost replacement for fossil fuels.”

“The report reaffirms the findings of countless academics and scientists – that when sourced sustainably, biomass can play an important role as a baseload renewable energy source.  This report can be added to a growing body of academic and scientific research which shows that using biomass in place of coal can reduce carbon emissions by 74 per cent or more.”

This report and the accompanying Bioenergy Emissions and Counterfactuals (BEaC) Model was commissioned by the UK government to look at the carbon intensity of different supply chain models for the bioenergy industry and found that normal, widespread industry practices deliver major cuts in carbon emissions when compared to using coal for energy production.

According to the report’s authors, assertions from the environmental NGO community that wood pellet production and use leads to reduction in forest cover, increased carbon emissions, or changes forest management and harvest decisions are shown in this study to be unfounded.

“The report shows that using wood pellets for energy generation supports healthy forests and generates significant carbon savings at a lower cost. Thanks to a strong forest market, to which woody biomass contributes, forest inventory in southern US forests has continued to increase year over year for the last several decades.”

The research identified economic decision-making as the driver for forestry practices, showing that the main value of a tree is in sawtimber, not biomass for wood pellet production. It is therefore unlikely that demand for biomass would cause foresters to change behaviour and harvest sooner than they intended or to switch to supplying wood for bioenergy.

Earlier this week environmental law specialists ClientEarth had expressed their skepticism about the claims the biomass sector was making about its potential as an alternative to coal-fired power.

A Drax spokesperson told Power Engineering International: “This report backs up what we have said for a number of years about biomass – sustainably sourced wood used for bioenergy is having a big impact on cutting carbon emissions. Sustainable biomass is a cost effective, flexible renewable energy source which is helping to get coal off the system in the UK."

“The biomass Drax uses to generate electricity is comprised of low-grade wood which is sourced sustainably and meets the robust requirements set out in the UK Government's regulations. Last year we generated 16% of the UK’s renewable electricity using this sustainable biomass – enough to power four million households. We have already upgraded half the power station to run on sustainable biomass resulting in carbon savings of 80% compared to coal."

“Independent research has shown biomass is also a very cost effective source of renewable energy."

However biomass's doubters remain undeterred. RSPB website pointed out the introduction to the report, stating it “openly admits that ‘bioenergy is not carbon neutral’ because of direct and indirect land use changes. And it goes on to admit that its own emissions calculation methodology is the reason that high-carbon bioenergy is being classified as low carbon and as eligible for subsidy. This is an astonishing admission in a Government-produced report, and suggests the need for urgent action to fix a broken bioenergy policy that could be failing to deliver emissions savings.”


Biomass UK defends green credentials as scepticism persists

Biomass under the microscope


Gas power shortage sees Australia face blackout threat

March 9th, 2017

A shortage of gas-fired power generation and gas supply has seen the Australian gas market operator issue a blackout warning.

The country faces a gas crunch from 2019, as a string of outages and electricity price spikes in Australia's eastern states over the past year highlighted the need for gas-fired generation to shore up power supplies.
Mike Cleary
"We're going to see security of both systems, gas and electricity, become more challenging," Mike Cleary, chief operating officer of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), told Reuters.

Reuters reports that according to the AEMO annual gas outlook, more gas power plants will be needed as they can raise and lower output more quickly than coal-fired plants as a back-up for intermittent wind and solar.

The need has become more acute after three new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plants opened in the northeast, tripling gas demand and drawing supply out of the domestic market

Aquila Capital buys Finnish wind farm

March 9th, 2017

Investment company Aquila Capital has expanded its portfolio in the Nordic region with the acquisition of its first project in Finland, a 14.4 MW wind farm.

Windpark Ykspihlaja is on the coast near Kokkola and comprises four Nordex N131/3600 turbines.

It’s the third project that Aquila Capital has acquired on a turnkey basis with OX2, one of the largest wind developers in Scandinavia.

As seller and general contractor, OX2 is responsible for completing the park by the beginning of 2018 and the ongoing technical onsite management.

Susanne Wermter, head of special infrastructure investments at Aquila Capital, said the acquisition “represents the realization of another project from our Scandinavian pipeline and our first in the popular Finnish wind market”.

She added that the Ykspihlaja wind farm is “one of the last projects to benefit from the expiring Finnish green energy support scheme, from which it will receive a state-guaranteed, fixed-market premium on the electricity price in the first 12 years of operation”.

The acquisition increases Aquila Capital’s track record in the ​​wind sector to about 1000 MW. In the Nordic region, Aquila has implemented renewable energy projects with a total installed capacity of more than 800 MW since 2011.

$3.39bn loss for Uniper

March 9th, 2017

E.ON spin-off power company, Uniper, has recorded a $3.39bn (€3.2bn) loss, after writedowns of its generation and gas storage assets continued to impact.

The company is in its first financial year, and was formed as a means of adapting to the German Energiwende, or energy transition, which has badly affected conventional power assets that had backboned European utilities for decades.
Power generated from coal and gas has been squeezed out of the market by abundant, subsidised wind and solar energy, which has also depressed the wholesale price of electricity.

The company is also suffering from the German government order to phase out nuclear power, which also resulted in a large pay-out by the company in order to satisfy waste decommissioning regulations.

Uniper, which listed in Frankfurt last September, said, despite the net loss it had delivered a “solid” operating performance and strengthened its balance sheet.It said its adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation stood at €2.1bn, a 24 per cent increase on 2015.

Ebitda from its European generation division fell 42 per cent to €654m, due to lower power prices and higher nuclear provisions in Sweden. Klaus Schaefer, chief executive, said the solid performance in 2016 “gives us good momentum for 2017″.

Biomass UK defends green credentials as scepticism persists

March 8th, 2017

Biomass UK has launched a renewed defence of the technology as environmental agencies continue to question its credentials in the clean energy space.

In recent weeks biomass has come under some scrutiny. A Chatham House report found that biomass pellets were more polluting than coal.
Sam Bright of Client EarthBenedict McAleenan of Biomass UK
In a statement to Power Engineering International, ClientEarth took proponents of biomass to task for what they maintain is a failure in carbon accounting.

ClientEarth energy lawyer Sam Bright said, “Biomass energy is classified as carbon-neutral in the UK and Europe, but this is based on a carbon accounting error - emissions from biomass are ignored when determining the carbon impact of the energy sector. But energy produced from the large-scale burning of biomass, for example vast quantities of wood pellets, may emit as much or more carbon than coal.”

However Benedict McAleenan of Biomass UK, part of the UK Renewable Energy Association, hit back, dismissing ClientEarth’s statement asclaims that have been heard before and found to be wrong by academics, government regulators and experts in the field.’

McAleenan said biomass is ‘a brilliant way to replace coal with a low-carbon alternative.’

“Compared to coal, it can show a 90 per cent cut in emissions, including the whole supply chain. So there’s no accounting error. Some people just don’t understand how biomass works."

"Carbon isn’t reabsorbed by simply replacing each tree with a new one and waiting. Instead, foresters actively manage the growth rate of the whole forest so that growth outpaces removals. That way, the forest is a continual carbon sink, sucking in carbon and locking it away."

“This isn’t just theory. Growth is outpacing removals in supplier forests year on year. Privately owned forests in the USA have nearly doubled their wood stocks in 60 years. In the Southern USA, where the UK sources most of its pellets, net growth of forest inventories was +0.7 per cent each year between 2008 and 2014. That’s after removals for all the wood product industries. And wood pellet exports were just 0.09 per cent of total forest stocks – far less than overall growth.”

“Our supplier forests are growing, not shrinking, as a result of good management, good regulation and active industry demand.”

Earlier ClientEarth had taken aim at power generators such as Britain’s largest coal power operator, Drax, for the claims they are making about biomass. The environmental law agency believes biomass should only be used on a small scale.
Biomass pellets
Bright said, “The wood pellets burned by huge plants such as Drax are largely sourced from forests in the USA and Canada. Even if the trees are regrown (which is not always the case), it takes decades for a sapling to become a mature tree, and reabsorb the carbon emitted by its predecessor. This time lag is not reflected in carbon calculations either."

“Small-scale biomass operations, such as burning waste for energy, or using coppiced wood for local heating schemes, bear no resemblance to what the biomass industry is proposing, which is to generate a substantial proportion of our energy needs from burning biomass. This is absolutely not acceptable, given its serious climate change and other environmental impacts.”

Bright responded later on Wednesday to McAleenan’s comments, and continued to hold a sceptical line. He said that regardless of questions around the supply chain and forest management, the legal point remains that stack emissions (what comes out of the chimney) when biomass is burnt are currently not accounted for.

 "This makes it impossible to assess the true damage it can and will cause. This is something that must be explored and corrected.”

ClientEarth believes the case for biomass is not a foregone conclusion. Asked was there any scenario where biomass could be deemed an appropriate energy solution, Bright reinforced the agency's position.

“As a sizeable part of the energy mix, biomass is certainly not a tenable solution. It can also be problematic on the smaller scale. Any assessment of biomass’s ‘appropriateness’ should be made based on correct carbon accounting – something the UK and EU have not mastered yet.”

"It’s an approach based on some shaky environmental principles, and it doesn’t remotely resemble the sort of clean energy innovation we’ll need to meet the Paris obligations and secure a healthy planet."

Report names top women in windpower

March 8th, 2017

A new report names the top women in the windpower industry.

The Women’s Power List is compiled by wind industry intelligence service A Word About Wind and profiles the top 100 female dealmakers and power-brokers shaping the wind industry.

“This new power list highlights the important role women are now playing in the wind industry,” said Emma Pinchbeck, executive director of British trade group RenewableUK.

“The UK is one of the leading performers in the rankings, which is an encouraging sign that our sector is becoming more inclusive. We need to ensure that women across the country see wind energy as an open and attractive industry to work in. This means promoting renewable skills and opportunities to a new generation of women entering the workforce.”

The top five includes Carol Gould, Head of Power & Renewables (EMEA) at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Anja-Isabel Dotzenrath, chief operating officer for E.ON Climate & Renewables, Isabelle Kocher, Engie chief executive, Beatrice Buffon, deputy chief executive of EDF Energies Nouvelles, and Anne McEntee, vice-president of Renewable Energy Services at GE Renewable Energy.

The report stresses that across technology and finance industries as a whole, women remain significantly under-represented at senior management and board level, and the wind sector is no different.

It cites two primary reasons for this: firstly, the wind industry draws heavily on engineering and finance graduates – both of which are male-dominated subjects. And secondly, company policies within the sector, as in others, firms can struggle to retain women after they become parents.

“Issues surrounding gender equality have wider repercussions for the wind industry as a whole,” said Richard Heap, Editor at A Word About Wind. “If businesses within the wind industry are struggling to recruit from half the population, or unable to retain talented female employees, then that’s a serious problem.

“With the Women’s Power List we’ve aimed to highlight and discuss the underlying issues affecting women in our industry, as well as celebrate the achievements and exciting careers of some of the leading female investors, developers and engineers in the field.”

Click here for further information about the report

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