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Renewables are most cost-competitive energy tech for UAE, report finds

April 8th, 2015

Renewables could contribute 10 per cent of the UAE’s energy mix by 2030, saving $1.9bn per year, new analysis has found.

A report representing the UAE’s first public comparison of the costs and potentials of various energy technologies, titled Renewable Energy Prospects: United Arab Emirates, was released this week by the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Masdar Institute. It found renewables to be the Emirates’ most cost-competitive energy technology.

Dubai's 13 MW Mohammed bin Rashid Solar Park, phase one

According to the report, the key drivers for renewables’ financial attractiveness in the UAE are sharp cost declines in the sector combined with rising costs for natural gas. As the nation produces less gas domestically and begins to import more, prices have risen to $6-8/MMBtu for domestic gas and $10-18/MMBtu for imported gas, while costs for solar photovoltaics (PV) have fallen by 80 per cent since 2008. The report found that power from solar, wind and waste-to-energy plants can be “immediately competitive” in the UAE when the price of gas is above $8/MMBtu.

The report notes that gas will still be required to fill the intermittency gaps in solar and wind power generation. However, it said the savings that can be achieved by generating solar power during daylight hours rather than consuming gas could justify the UAE’s installing 17.5 GW of PV by 2030. The current installed capacity is around 40 MW.

"This report is an eye-opener," said Dr Fred Moavenzadeh, Masdar’s president. "It provides policymakers and investors with an objective cost baseline, making the clear case that renewables, and especially solar, will have a much larger role sooner than we ever expected in the UAE and Middle East."

"The UAE’s strategy of innovation and diversification has placed it at the fulcrum of the massive transformation of the global energy landscape that has already begun,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z Amin. “The dramatic technology cost declines we are mapping present a real possibility to move to a sustainable energy future even in the hydrocarbon producers in the MENA region.”

The UAE currently aims to get 7 per cent of its power from renewables by 2020, while in January Dubai announced a new renewable energy target of 15 per cent by 2030.

White paper outlines Australia’s likely energy direction

April 8th, 2015

A report from the Australian government reads as good news for the country’s coal industry and carbon capture and storage technology in particular.

The energy white paper argues that no single energy source should be prioritised over another but says electricity from fossil fuels, particularly coal, will continue to play a "vital role" in "providing low-cost energy around the world until the cost of renewable power becomes more competitive".
Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane
Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane released the report, known as the energy white paper, on Wednesday morning. 

It says that investment support for low emissions technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, is important for Australia "as a major user of coal-fired power and can aid international development efforts that help economic growth in developing countries by using coal and gas while limiting emissions".

The report’s main thrust is that remaining state-owned electricity assets should be privatised to increase competition and lower power bills. The paper argues that competition between electricity suppliers has been stifled by state government ownership of assets.

Green energy proponents will continue on the backfoot if the paper is implemented as the report highlights that renewable power has contributed to the surplus supply of electricity in Australia.

Macfarlane has used this as an argument to support the government's efforts to reduce Australia's renewable energy target. The paper calls for a "technology neutral" approach to energy supply, which would be determined by the market.

Eskom vows labour row will not stall Medupi unit

April 7th, 2015

The first of six 800 MW units at Medupi coal-fired power plant has been successfully synchronised to South Africa’s national power grid.

And operator Eskom has promised that the unit it will reach full power by the end of May, despite labour disputes which have stalled work at the plant in Limpopo Province in recent months.Artist impression of completed Medupi power plant

Just last month the site was evacuated after some workers – who are employed by contractors and not Eskom – protested against working conditions.

In a statement, Eskom said it was “pulling out all stops to ensure that the completion of the remaining five units is not hampered by technical or labour issues”.

It said that the synchronisation of the first unit “will take time to ensure that the power it delivers is stable, consistent and reliable. From its first synchronisation, the unit has been delivering 400 MW, but because of the testing and combustion optimisation, this power is delivered intermittently, and this will continue until full power is reached around end-May 2015.”

On the recent labour dispute, Eskom said that contractors have “evaluated their position on the evidence gathered and are executing their plan to deal with their employees that actively participated in the unprotected industrial action”.

Those workers involved in the strike are said to number 1700 out of a total complement of around 14,000.

Eskom cancels Alstom and hires ABB for coal plant contract

Eskom chairman steps down


South Africa’s 100 MW Xina CSP plant achieves financial close

April 2nd, 2015

A 100 MW concentrated solar power (CSP) plant which will be built in South Africa has reached financial close, lenders’ technical advisor Mott MacDonald has announced.

The $800m Xina Solar One plant is planned to produce enough power for over 95,000 households and save 348,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. Its power will be sold to utility Eskom under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

Plans for the parabolic trough plant include a five-hour molten salt energy storage system to help meet evening peak demand.

Xina Solar One is to be built near the northern city of Pofadder next to the 100 MW KaXu Solar One CSP plant (pictured), which has a molten salt storage capacity of 2.5 hours. Together the two plants will form Africa’s largest solar complex.

The plant will be built under South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer (REIPPP) programme by co-developers Abengoa Solar, Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and Xina Community Trust, with funds from the African Development Bank, the International Finance Corporation, IDC, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and Absa Bank, a subsidiary of the Barclays Africa Group.  

Germany signs off on fracking

April 2nd, 2015

The German government has performed a U-turn on fracking, deciding to permit the practice just months after the country’s Environment minister sought to ban it.

Minister Barbara Hendricks has reversed that opinion, and is now defending the law to permit the controversial gas extraction technique, as the strictest set of regulations ever on the method.

“I am happy that, after a long discussion, we have finally decided on regulations for fracking technology, which has so far been unregulated,” Hendricks said in Berlin.
Barbara Hendricks
With the legislative package, the government will be able to restrict fracking to a point where it no longer poses a threat to people or the environment, the Social Democrat pledged.

Euractiv reports Hendricks as stating that, as long as risks cannot be determined or cannot be conclusively assessed, the gas extraction method will remain forbidden.

The new regulatory package will not allow anything that has been forbidden in the past, she said. “On the contrary, it will prohibit a great deal that has been possible up till now.”

In reality, the fracking law will introduce strict rules where there have been no clear rules before, the minister assured.

Hendricks concluded that it is doubtful whether there will ever be a need to conduct fracking in Germany. She indicated that she expects only a few trial drillings over the next few years because these can cost companies around €30 million.

Estimates indicated that shale and coal bed deposits in Germany could cover demand for over 10 years.

The new bill, drawn up by Hendricks and Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel, plans a ban for sensitive areas like water conservation sites as well as restricting fracking to below 3,000 metres.

In addition, the package contains far-reaching restrictions for fracking measures in shale, clay, marl and coal beds. But it does not prohibit commercial fracking under certain conditions.

Considerable criticism for the new bill came from the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

World wind power surges to new high in 2014 says report

April 2nd, 2015

The world’s wind power sector installed a record 51 GW of new capacity in 2014 and is set to reach 60 GW per year by 2018, new analysis has found.

According to the Global Wind Report: Annual Market Update, released this week by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), 2014 was “a great year” for the world’s wind industry – especially in emerging markets.

World-leader China installed a new high of 23 GW of wind power last year, the highest annual installation ever for a single nation, bringing its total capacity to 114 GW. Brazil, the world’s fourth-largest market in 2014, entered GWEC’s top 10 ranked nations for the first time, installing around 2.5 GW. Africa’s market took off with nearly 1 GW installed, and GWEC expects the continent – led by Morocco (with 300 MW added in 2014), South Africa (560 MW) and Egypt (60 MW) – to be the fastest-growing regional market to 2018.

The report noted that Germany (5.3 GW added), Chile (506 MW), Canada (1.9 GW) and Turkey (3.8 GW) also had record years. GWEC said Germany’s record was particularly notable as it represents “the first time any country other than China or the US has installed more than 5000 MW in a single year”.

According to GWEC, the world’s top wind markets in 2014, in terms of total installed capacity, were: China, the US, Germany, Spain, India, the UK, Canada, France, Italy and Brazil.

In its future projections, GWEC said it expects China – which aims to install 200 GW by 2020 – to meet its goal “well ahead” of that year, and to continue to lead future global growth. India, which has targeted 100 GW by 2022, is also expected to “grow substantially” although it had an “unspectacular” 2014, adding only 2.3 GW; while Latin America – led by Brazil, but with Mexico (which added 634 MW) hot on its heels – is identified as a strong regional market.

In terms of traditional markets, GWEC expects Europe (with a total of 12.9 GW added) to remain “relatively stable”. The trade body said the North American market is “the most difficult to predict” given potential policy uncertainty in both the US and Canada post-2016.

For more wind power news

Dutch and Turkish blackouts prompt EU stress tests

April 1st, 2015

Brussels plans stress tests for the European Union’s power sector in 2016, prompted by energy blackouts in the Netherlands and Turkey in recent weeks.

The stress tests will closely resemble those being carried out for the bloc’s gas sector.

Turkey suffered a serious power transmission blackout that affected the entire country on Tuesday while Amsterdam and surrounding regions lost power for five hours last week.

On Tuesday, a major power outage hit Turkey, including the capital Ankara, and for Europe the issue was highlighted last week when the Amsterdam region suffered a blackout of more than five hours.
European Commission
"We would like to repeat the positive experience we had with the stress test for our gas supplies," said Maros Sefcovic, who is vice president of the European Commission and in charge of energy union in the 28-nation EU bloc.

The tests could look at various scenarios. For instance for last year's gas tests, they examined how a nation could cope if supplies were cut off for say one month, two months or even a year and what kind of contingency plans were in place.

"When it comes to power, the problem is not generation but how well we are connected, how we can transport energy around Europe, where the bottlenecks are," Sefcovic said.

The Commission's vision is for a single market in which energy flows across borders and price differences between countries disappear.

Apart from stress tests, plans include legislation on a new power market design and smarter grids to incorporate intermittent renewable energy.

The Commission has said around 400 billion euros is needed to upgrade grids and it hopes much of that will be private money, under a plan presented by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.


Eskom chairman steps down

April 1st, 2015

Zola Tsotsi, Eskom’s chairman, has resigned his position at the South African utility, following a board meeting on Tuesday.

Spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said Mr Tsotsi, who had been in the role since 2011, took the decision to resign “in the interest of the company and the country. He felt it necessary to resign so that the board can focus on resolving the company's issues."

Ben Ngubane had since been appointed acting chairman of Eskom.

Mr Tsotsi’s resignation came after a dispute over the suspension of four managers including the chief executive officer.

His departure follows the suspension of Chief Executive Officer Tshediso Matona and three others, including the finance director, on March 12th.

Eskom, which generates about 95 percent of the South Africa's power, implemented almost-daily rolling blackouts in February as demand eclipsed supply, with maintenance overdue at its aging power plants. Tsotsi had announced the suspensions and started a probe into the state of the business, including under-performance of generation plants, delays in starting up new facilities, high costs and cash-flow problems.

The power shortages are curbing economic growth, which at 1.5 percent last year was the slowest since a recession in 2009, as industrial and mining output is reined in and some new projects can’t get the electricity they need.


Weitzmann is new boss at Voith Turbo power division

April 1st, 2015

Cornelius Weitzmann has today taken over as managing director of the power, oil & gas division at Voith Turbo.Cornelius Weitzmann

He succeeds Matthias Grawe, who left the company yesterday. The Voith Turbo power, oil & gas division develops and manufactures variable speed drives, couplings, valves and controllers.

Weitzmann (pictured) joined Voith in 2007 and two years later became managing director of Voith Paper in the US. In 2011 he was appointed president of Fabric & Roll Systems EMEA.

"The oil and gas business is one of our most important growth industries," said Voith Turbo chairman Carsten Reinhardt, adding that Weitzmann’s "comprehensive strategic experience” made him “well-positioned to continue to strengthen our international success and develop new fields of business".

Gabriel faces strong resistance to power plant climate fee

March 31st, 2015

Germany’s economic affairs minister, Sigmar Gabriel, is facing vigorous opposition to his proposal for power plants to pay a new climate protection fee.

The fee is targeted at the country’s older power plants, but has met with vocal opposition in eastern regions where dependency on lignite coal for energy and employment is still strong.

Gabriel is motivated in helping Germany meet its climate target of a 40 per cent CO2 reduction by 2020. The document includes plans to require the oldest and most inefficient coal-fired power plants to pay the fee.
Sigmar Gabriel
Euractiv reports Brandenburg’s state prime minister Dietmar Woidke as saying that “the Economic Affairs Ministry’s plans will create significant insecurity in the energy sector and the entire German industrial sector”. Climate protection can only be executed successfully, he explained, if actions are globally coordinated.

“But a model that eliminates many thousands of jobs in Germany will not be copied internationally,” Woidke said, speaking in the Bundesrat, the legislative body in which Germany’s 16 regions are represented at the national level.

Saxony’s centre-right Minister-President, Stanislaw Tillich, said that in light of the existing system of certificate trading at the European level, this will create a double burden for German power plants, and also questioned its compatibility with EU law.

He warned against a national solo effort, pointing to the roughly 10,000 jobs dependent on the lignite power plant in Lausitz alone. Numerous power plants would have no more future, he predicted, leading to higher energy prices as a result.

Gabriel met with regional ministers to discuss the subject late last week and is giving them the opportunity to draft alternative proposals by the end of April. The federal states of Saxony, North-Rhine Westphalia and Brandenburg have now planned to form a working group with the Federal German Economic Affairs Ministry.

Wolfgang März, CEO of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Magdeburg said the plan would threaten the country’s security of supply.

“A simultaneous exit from nuclear and coal power is simply impossible or else linked to catastrophic effects,” he warned. Politicians are forgetting lignite’s significant contribution to the current security of supply, März said.

He added that an increase in the cost of coal power in Germany is more likely to lead to importation of cheaper coal power from Poland and the Czech Republic, rather than drawing from more efficient but more expensive gas power plants. As a result, März said, the proposal would have almost no effect.

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