World Energy News

IEA Calls for Energy Cooperation of EU

December 1, 2014

EUInternational Energy Agency calls for greater integration and cooperation of European Union to shift to renewable energy and ensure energy security throughout Europe. IEA commended EU’s progress in liberalizing the energy markets and leadership on carbon reduction, but the transition to a low-carbon system faces many challenges and requires more cooperation. A potential Energy Union across Europe is needed to achieve the EU 2030 goals. IEA said that transformavive steps may include pan-continental agreement on reforming the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and better investment in clean energy like solar and wind.


China Published New Energy Development Plan

December 1, 2014

china energy development planChina’s State Council published its Energy Development Strategy Action Plan on November 19, which outlined the road map of China’s energy use and development from 2014 to 2020.  According to the plan, China will cap the energy usage annual growth at 3.5% or less till 2020, equivalent to 4.8 billion tons of standard coal, and total coal use at roughly 4.2 billion tons by 2020. The State Council also aimed to raise the percentage of the total energy mix supplied by clean energy to 15 percent by 2020 and lower the overall share of coal to 62 percent from the current level of 66 percent. Focusing on clear energy, China also announced plans to build new nuclear plants in eastern coastal regions. Diversifying energy mix and reduce reliance on foreign suppliers are other focus of the plan. China set a target to produce 85 percent of total energy used by 2020. 


Nuclear Energy Becomes an Option in Australia

December 1, 2014

nuclear AustraliaPrime Minister Tony Abbott says he has "no theological objection" to nuclear energy. Nuclear energy operation is allowed in Australia, but will not receive government subsidies. Mr Abbott's deputy Liberal leader, the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, also said that nuclear should be part of the debate about Australia's energy options. He thinks that nuclear energy can bring down greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, given Australia government is considering new carbon reduction targets to be announced by the climate conference in Paris, December 2015. 


G20 Summit Highlights Energy Issues

November 18, 2014

G20 summit 副本Global energy has become a central issue at G20 summit for the first time, and leaders increased their commitment to energy and climate change through a series of agreements. Major agreements include a new set of principles on energy collaboration, with a possibility to create a new governing institution, and an Energy Efficiency Action Plan, in which country leaders agree to develop country-specific plans in 2015 to improve efficiency of heavy-duty vehicles. In addition, the United States, China, and Germany have committed to undergo fossil fuel subsidy peer reviews in order to facilitate the process of phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. Leaders also agreed that the long-term stability of energy markets is critical to accomplish goals set by the G20 as well as economic growth. The host, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, also said that G20 energy ministers will meet next year to take this work forward. 

Nanosized Batteries Advance Green Energy

November 18, 2014

tiny battery 副本Nanotechnology could dramatically improve energy storage for electronics, cars, and buildings, University of Maryland researchers published their findings in Nature Nanotechnology in November. These nanosized batteries are 80,000 times thinner than a human hair, and can be fully charged in 12 minutes and recharged thousands of times. Overcoming the major limitations of energy storage, this new technology can advance the use of electric vehicles and renewable energy. However, commercializing the research is still challenging. The materials and assemblies in nanoscale batteries are too expensive and the low oil and natural gas prices have decreased the demand for renewable energy sources that require grid-scale backup batteries.


Energy Giants Compete for Tanzania's Oil Reserves

November 4, 2014

Tanzanias Oil Reserves Have Energy Giants In Hot Competition 副本Tanzania’s new found oil and gas reserves, 53.2 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of recoverable natural gas resources, has brought hot competition among giant energy companies. Tanzania’s Energy ministry has held talks with France’s Total and Britain’s BP regarding oil and gas exploration. Before that, China’s state-run offshore oil and gas producer CNOOC Ltd and Russian gas producer Gazprom also submitted bids for four of the eight oil and gas blocks in May, joining other oil companies, including Norway’s Statoil, Brazil’s Petrobras, Royal Dutch Shell, BG Group and Exxon Mobile that are already present in Tanzania.



Green Energy Glut Challenges Japan

November 4, 2014

Japan Green Glut 副本Seven utilities, including Kyushu Electric Power Co., have announced restrictions on new applications for getting on their grids, as a response to the “green” boom in Japanese energy business. The number of applications for solar facilities with Kyushu Electric reached to 72,000 in March, about the same for the entire previous year. In addition, the government sets the tariff that utilities pay renewable energy producers to 32 yen a kilowatt hour (decreased from 36 yen in April), compared to the regular cost of electricity in Japan is about 23 yen per kilowatt hour. The glut supply and high cost of renewable energy affect foreign investors and local corporations and raise doubts on Japan’s ambitious goal to make renewable energy provide about 20 percent of energy needs by 2030.


High Energy Cost Drives German Companies Abroad

October 29, 2014

Germany 副本Due to the high energy costs, one quarter of businesses involved in heavy industry are reportedly considering about moving production abroad, according to the German Chamber of Commerce. As a result of pursuing an aggressive renewable strategy, the average industrial electricity prices in Germany have risen approximately 60 percent since 2007, while prices in the United States and in China have increased less than 10 percent. In addition, Germany has the highest tax rate in EU- forty percent of the industrial energy cost. The world’s largest chemical company BASF has moved its investment to U.S. Munich-based WackerChemie is building a $2 billion plant in Tennessee, and Siemens recently bought US Dresser-Rand for $7.6 billion and stepped away from domestic production. If this trend continues, it might impact the overall growth in the country.


Four Nigerian Companies Won Energy Challenge

October 29, 2014

Off-grid Energy Challenge 副本Four Nigerian companies- Ginphed Nigeria Limited, Quintas Renewable Energy Solutions, Sky Resources and Topstep Nigeria - won the Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge sponsored by General Electric (GE), the United States Africa Development Foundation (USADF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with each of the four companies receiving a grant of $100,000. Their projects all focus on how renewable energy resources can be deployed to power socio-economic activities within communities in Nigeria that are not connected to the country’s national grid. Selected from 300 entries, the other 18 winners come from Liberia, Ghana, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya. According to the International Energy Agency, only 12.9 percent of rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity, compared to 64.2 percent in urban areas. These winning projects include 14 solar developments, six biogas generation projects, one wind turbine system and a small hydroelectricity power plant and will provide 3.4 MW of new electricity to rural communities across sub-Saharan Africa. The Challenge is part of a broader Power Africa initiative, which aims to add more than 30,000 megawatts (MW) of cleaner, more efficient electricity generation capacity in sub-Saharan Africa as well as increase electricity access by adding 60 million new home and business connections.

People's Climate March

September 22, 2014

climate march 副本More than 400,000 people turned out for the People's Climate March in New York City on September 21, just days before the United Nations Climate Summit, where leaders from all over the world will debate environmental action. Many high-profile people attended the march, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki—moon, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Vice President Al Gore, and movie stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Edward Norton. Nearly every labor union in the city joined. The crowd stretched between 59th Street and 93rd Street, and it took the back of the line over two hours to start moving. People wore colorful costumes and carried various props. For example, a cohort of doctors marched in lab coats to protest the global health effects of climate change. Some people held an inflatable cow that intended to highlight how the meat industry hurts the environment. The attire reflected other issues that people think have close relationships with climate change. This largest climate march in history aims to pressure country leaders to make addressing climate change a top political priority.

Flammable ice becomes promising energy source

September 17, 2014

flammible ice 副本China has detected flammable ice, also called gas hydrate, in the permafrost in Qilian Mountains, Qinghai province and under the South China Sea. Deposits of gas hydrate in China are estimated to be 110 billion metric tons in oil equivalent in permafrost and ocean sediments, while China consumed 2.6 billion tons in oil equivalent last year. Gas hydrate is a relatively clean energy, releasing less than half the amount of carbon dioxide when burned that oil and coal do. Along with the increasing efforts in the research and exploration of unconventional energy, China will begin commercial production of gas hydrate around 2030 as a way to diversify its energy sources. However, due to the unclear environmental impact and safety concern of gas hydrate production, no country has been able to produce it commercially so far. Scientists think improper drilling may influence the stability of seabed structures and trigger geological disasters and cause explosions.

China sees big drop in carbon emissions 

September 16, 2014

likeqiang 副本China's carbon emissions saw the largest drop in years as the nation furthers structural readjustment to improve growth quality, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in recent week. In the first half of the year, the country's carbon intensity was cut by about 5 percent and energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product dropped 4.2 percent. China has moved to reduce overcapacity and foster new growth areas through reform and innovation. The growth of investment and production of high energy consumption and emission industries remarkably slowed down in the first two quarters. The Chinese government has pledged a 40 to 45 percent reduction of carbondioxide intensity by 2020 from the levels in 2005. Reducing carbon emissions is not only a pressing need for China’s own development, but also binding international obligation as a major responsible country. Li also said China would cooperate with other countries to tackle global climate change.

U.S. escalates sanctions on Russian energy and defense sector 

September 15, 2014

obama-putin-seriously-AP 副本The United States announced a new round of sanctions on Russia on September 12th, in response to Russian’s support for Ukrainian separatists. Targeting finance, energy and defense sectors, the new sanctions not only restrict exports of American goods, services and technology to Russian’s oil companies, but also block the assets of five Russian defense firms, as well as limit financial transactions with Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank of Russia. As a result, the ruble weakened to a record for a second day. President Barack Obama said U.S. may withdraw sanctions if Russia fulfills obligations under the Minsk agreement, including the 12 points of the ceasefire. So far, Russia has reacted in a calm manner to the sanctions. However, it is interesting to see how long Moscow addresses to this.

Ghana and China signed renewable energy technology transfer pact 

September 11, 2014

Ghana China 副本Ghana and China signed a partnership agreement on renewable energy technology transfer in Accra, Ghana on September 8. The partnership is under a UNDP’s four-year project “China-Ghana-South-South Cooperation on Renewable Energy Technology Transfer”, with $2.72 million’s funding from the government of Denmark. Only 40 per cent of rural areas in Ghana have access to electricity. The project aims to transfer Chinese renewable energy technologies and critical skills to Ghana, including solar and wind for irrigation, biogas, mini hydro and improved cook stoves. The transfer pact is hopefully to increase universal energy access to energy in rural Ghana through off-grid community-based electrification and increased share of renewable energy.

India and Australia seal nuclear deal 

September 10, 2014

India and Australia seal nuclear deal 副本After two years’ negotiation, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his counterpart Narendra Modi signed a civil nuclear deal on September 5 in New Delhi to allow the export of uranium to India. Australia, the world's third biggest uranium producer, had previously ruled out such exports to nuclear-armed India because India has not signed the global non-proliferation treaty (NPT). But during his trip to India, Abbott said that he was assured of India's commitment to peaceful power generation. The deal has major significance for both countries. The agreement would allow India to diversify sources of uranium supply and build more nuclear power stations. It would also help reduce electricity poverty in India as well as decrease its heavy dependence on fossil fuel. India is struggling to produce enough power to meet rising demand. Nearly 400 million still without access to electricity, and crippling power cuts are common. By sending a signal to India that Australia is willing to take their relationship seriously, the deal begins to change Australia’s outlier status in India’s foreign relations. More importantly, it would bring the economic partnership and security cooperation between the two countries to a new level.

Helsinki's smart cooling system 

September 9, 2014

Nicaragua - imageHelsinki recently built a giant underwater reservoir tank to cool homes. Below the city center, the tank has 100 yards and can store 9 million gallons of cold lake water. During the day when the city is the hottest, the water is pumped out into the city and to cool buildings; during the night, the water circulates back to the tank and is cooled for its next run the following day. The solution allows buildings and organizations to share resources at the city-scale and help the network to grow and reach more buildings. According to a City of Helsinki press release, this latest addition to the city’s smart cooling system means it now emits 80 percent less greenhouse gasses from cooling, compared to conventional cooling systems. The city also estimates that the overall energy efficiency is about five times that of a building-specific cooling system. Helsinki's model offered a great example for cities to move away from expensive, energy-sucking conventional air conditioning systems and save space at the same time.

Nicaragua emerging as next green powerhouse 

August 25, 2014

Nicaragua - imageNicaragua is significantly altering its energy footprint by pursuing a policy course that focuses on green energy. By utilizing its abundant geographical advantages,as well as favorable legislation of 2005 Nicaragua has seen an emergence in foreign investors worth $1.5 billion. As a result of the 2005 bill, which allowed renewable energy companies to import equipment and machinery free of duties, many international companies are investing millions of dollars into renewable energy projects throughout Nicaragua. These new geothermal, hydro, and wind projects are transforming the country’s energy matrix. According to ProNicaragua last year (Nicaragua) generated an average of 51% of its electricity from renewable sources, and is expected to achieve 90% renewable generation by 2020. If Nicaragua can successfully achieve this feat, it will firmly secure Nicaragua’s energy independence from foreign oil,which amounts to 34% of total energy consumed. Such a scenario will provide a further boost to Nicaragua's economic growth. 

Mexican lawmakers approve landmark energy bill

August 7, 2014

Energy-Reform-Gob-MX-643On August 6 Mexican legislators put the final touches on a bill to open Mexico’s energy sector, after 70 years of control by the state owned Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex. The legislation privatizes the Mexican energy sector, in an attempt to attract private international investment. The bill’s approval was major victory for Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who introduced it back in April as part of his campaign promise of economic reform. He has said that energy reform is necessary to boost the Mexican economy, and hopes that the legislation will lead to cleaner, sustainable energy, affordability and high paying jobs. His government set a goal of producing 3.5 million barrels of oil per day by 2025, which would be a 40% increase from 2013 levels. The president hopes the new legislation will help Mexico reach this production goal.

Iran signs $20 billion dollar oil deal with Russia

August 7, 2014

iran-russia222Russia and Iran signed a 5 year memorandum of understanding potentially worth $20 billion dollars on August 6, which could help Russia avoid the effects of Western sanctions. Under the deal, Russia would help Iran strengthen its oil industry and help with construction of power plants and grids while Iran would import industrial equipment, consumer goods and agricultural products from Russia. The oil trade portion of the deal would be worth $2.35 billion dollars per year and could see Russia buying 500,000 barrels of oil per year. This would allow Iran to export 2% of its annual oil production. According to the Russian Energy Ministry, the deal is intended to help Iran strengthen its oil sector after years of Western sanctions. Further talks between the two nations are expected next month.

German agency warns against fracking

August 5, 2014

germanyprotestsThe German Federal Environmental Agency put out a report this month warning that risks involved with fracking are too high. This comes as Germans are fiercely debating fracking as an option for energy security. A proposed law would ban the process below 3,000 meters until 2021. Agency president Maria Krautzberger said that an outright ban would be too hard to enforce, but that the process should require stricter stipulations. The major reason why the process is unpopular in Germany is that chemicals used in the process can leak into the water supply. Despite this, fracking does have some support in the German government. EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said in July that Germany should keep fracking open as an option as the EU deals with Russian-Ukraine tensions. However, Krautzberger remains sceptical, arguing that fracking does not constitute a climate solution.

Standard Chartered Bank invests $5 billion in African energy

August 5, 2014

obama-and-africa-heads-of-StatesStandard Chartered Bank Plc has increased its commitment to the Power Africa initiative from $2 billion to $5 billion, remaining the initiative’s largest private sector contributor. President Obama introduced the plan to double energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa last year, and it now operates in six countries. Standard Chartered Bank Zambia chief Andrew Okai said that Africa’s economic growth over the past ten years requires more similar investment to keep up with the rising electricity needs. SCB group CEO Peter Sands said he hopes to contribute to increasing the electricity production capacity of Africa, and that the bank’s investment will add about 7,500 megawatts to Africa’s power grid. The US-Africa Summit happening this week in Washington D.C. will likely see more Power Africa deals, with billions of dollars in funding expected.

Regional unrest deepens Jordan’s energy fears

August 4, 2014

Jordan oilUnrest in the Middle East is threatening Jordan’s already at risk energy security, as Iraq and Libya struggle with violence. Nearly two dozen pipeline attacks have threatened the region since 2011, and one natural gas pipeline in northern Egypt vital to Jordan has been attacked four times. When this pipeline is closed, Jordan loses a resource that supplies 80% of its energy needs. Jordan is heavily dependent on foreign fossil fuels, importing 96% of its energy. Although the country has made moves to develop its domestic resources, corruption, inconsistent legislation and bad infrastructure have held it back. A National Energy Strategy aims to make the country 39% self sufficient by 2020. The strategy includes plans for oil shale, solar power, wind and nuclear. Jordan is especially prime for shale development, with the fourth largest reserves of oil shale in the world, and solar power, with one of the world’s highest solar irradiance. However, according to former energy minister Malek Kabaniti, Jordan is not on track to meet its targets, especially because of the disconnect between agreements and their actual implementation. Much relies on the government’s cooperation with foreign companies, and its lack of transparency and unwillingness to make environmental impact reports hinders this relationship.

EU plans to improve energy efficiency 30% by 2030

July 31, 2014

EU energyThe EU set a new target on July 23 to improve energy efficiency 30% by 2030. The target was the subject of much dispute from all sides. Some industries hoped to avoid an absolute target and to instead rely on market values plus EU’s carbon price. Some disappointed critics hoped for a 40% target. EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said that the new target will create incentives to invest in energy saving technologies, to benefit consumers, companies and the environment. He also said that the target should reduce costs for consumers, as appliances and infrastructure will have to be made more efficient. EU climate chief Connie Hedegaard noted that the targets should reduce reliance on fossil fuel imports from countries like Russia. The EU currently spends over $500 billion a year on fossil fuel imports. The commission claims that each 1% efficiency improvement could equal a 2.6% fall in imports. However, critics have pointed out that this target is EU wide, and does not necessarily mean individual targets for member states, which could make the target ineffective. They also claim that the target is too low, and will not be sufficient to significantly reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Australia cuts carbon tax

July 17, 2014

Sydney oil refinery--picture from NPRAustralia repealed its two year-old carbon tax bill on July 16 with a 39:32 vote in the Senate. Those who backed the bill, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, claim carbon taxing is ineffective and puts unnecessary burdens on the Australian people. National emissions dropped 0.8% in the first year the tax was in effect, but coal and gas mining emissions increased over the two years. The tax was $25.40 per ton, and its repeal will affect around 350 companies, mostly big businesses and manufacturers. Australia still must meet the international 5% fossil fuel emission reduction target by 2020, a target Prime Minister Abbott plans to meet with his Direct Action policy. His government has said it plans offer grants of $2.5 billion to companies and organizations that voluntarily reduce emissions, with no overall cap on emissions. However, he has so far only set aside $1.14 billion over the next four years for this program, saying the government will pay only after companies reduce emissions. While recent action on carbon emissions by countries like the US and China signal hope for progress, moves such as this ahead of the 2015 Paris climate talks have the potential to destabilize the already shaky trust in the international community regarding the carbon tax.

German solar industry struggles with Chinese competition

July 15, 2014

German SolarThe German solar energy industry has seen its share of the global market shrink from 20% at its peak to 6% in 2014. While demand has increased, so has production, with more photovoltaic systems installed around the world last year than ever before. The main reason cited for the downturn is price competition, mainly from the rapidly developing Chinese industry. Chinese solar companies receive affordable loans and special production privileges from the state, as China has set an advanced solar industry as part of its most recent five-year plan. This means that Chinese companies can offer their products at below cost. The German government has similarly supported the solar industry—but not exclusively in Germany. Despite these problems, German solar developers have hoped that they can regain their position as the market continues to grow. 

Argentina-Russia sign nuclear energy deal

July 15, 2014

Argentina-RussiaArgentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed a nuclear energy deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin. While Moscow aims at bolstering Russian trade and diplomatic ties in the region, Argentina's interest is to decrease its reliance on fossil fuels through the development of its nuclear program, especially when Argentina is having trouble in attracting foreign investors because of import controls. President Fernández de Kirchner said that the deal is a sign of the two countries’ strategic relationship, and expressed her hope that this relationship continues to develop. She also mentioned that a Russian delegation will soon visit the Vaca Muerta region of Argentina—a region with one of the highest reserves of shale gas and oil in the world—for possible investment. 

U.S. House of Representatives passes energy efficiency legislation

PeterWelchEnergyEfficiencyThe bill received bipartisan support and passed by a vote of 375-36, which was authored by Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat from Vermont. The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act is the first significant energy legislation approved by the House in the 113th Congress. It was cosponsored by Republican Rep. David McKinley (R-WV). The act has four key components. The first is to create energy efficiency best practices for commercial tenants in commercial buildings, and the creation of a new Tenant Star certification program. The second component requires all federal agencies to develop and carry out energy efficiency improvements at data centers operated by the government. Third is the removal of a regulatory barrier that hinders the manufacturing of large scale water heaters, which will act as residual energy storage and offset demand during peak times. Finally, the creation of an energy consumption benchmarking and disclosure procedure for federally leased buildings. With bipartisan support it looks promising that the act will pass in the Senate and then be signed into law.

Alstom opens smart grid center in Dubai

Alstom-grid-dubaiThe French multinational opened its first smart grid center in the Middle East in Dubai, which will enable energy suppliers across the MENA region to create sustainable electricity infrastructure. The center is anticipated to aid Alstom’s customers to locally develop and integrate software, and to run performance tests. Also, there will be training available with case studies generated from customer data, which will help implement the most relevant and beneficial new technology. This is Alstom’s third smart grid center; the other two are located in France and the United States. The facility in Dubai will be able to collaborate and can seek support from experts at the two preexisting centers in real-time. The goal of the center is to help utilities to interconnect existing assets and to optimize network control to exploit the energy available and to create a smarter grid, which will lead to fewer carbon emissions. Smart grid innovation will be important in the region’s future as it is facing a growing demand for electricity, grid reliability and stability, and the desire for less of an environmental impact.

$50 billion future investment in smart grids

SmartgridAccording to a report published by Navigant Research, utilities will invest $49.2 bn between 2014 and 2023 on asset management and condition-monitoring systems (AMCM) for the electricity grid. Despite a wide variety of new asset management solutions, many utilities still handle their assets with a run-to-fail strategy. Once considered cost prohibitive, the arrival of the smart grind, including sensing and monitoring systems, are starting to make financial sense. AMCM solutions include both physical devices, such as smart meters and sensors, which provide real-time data with operational centers, and software solutions. The goal of AMCM technology is to provide utilities with a comprehensive view of current and expected performance of the grid and critical components. Emerging technology has the potential to revolutionize the way the power grid is managed and maintained. This is good news since the growth in distributed generation and electric vehicles will render current management strategies ineffective.

Berkshire Hathaway invests $15 billion in renewable energy

MidAmericanWindTurbineWarren Buffett, in his annual letter to investors, highlighted the significant investment in renewable energy by subsidiary MidAmerican Energy.  The company is an industry leader in renewables and serves customers in 11 states.  Over the past 9 years, MidAmerican’s wind generation has grown from zero to now 7% of the country’s capacity.  Many solar projects are under construction and by 2015 the utility is slated to be one of the world’s top generators of renewable energy.  While the costs of individual projects have not been released, the $15 bn investment demonstrates that renewable energy is a top priority for Berkshire Hathaway.  In the letter to investors, Buffett framed the preference on renewable energy as one of self-interest and did not reference issues such as climate change as a reason for investment.  Buffett has rationalized the enormous investment because of prior experience and the knowledge that society will always need massive investment in energy. 

Limitations of Russia’s Energy Muscle

Ukraine-gas-pipesWhile Russia is flexing its military muscle with the occupation of Crimea in Ukraine, one of its old weapons, natural gas, is proving less effective.  On two separate occasions in 2006 and 2009 Moscow slashed the supplies of natural gas being sent to Ukraine over disputes about politics, price, and late payments.  These two supply cuts sent shock waves throughout Europe, who depend on Russian gas that travels through pipelines that run across Ukraine.  The two supply cuts sent many European nations examining their energy mix and countries actively sought out ways to diversify.  Since 2009, changes in the natural gas market have loosened Russia’s stronghold on Europe’s energy sector.  First, the rise in the U.S.’ shale gas production has sent gas exporting countries looking for new customers.  Secondly, European countries are constructing terminals to handle the importation of liquefied natural gas from countries like Qatar to offset declines in local production.  In 2012, Norway’s Statoil sold more natural gas to European countries than Russia’s Gazprom.  These shifting trends in natural gas market mean countries are less vulnerable to fluctuations in the supply of Russian gas. 

Trina Solar and Australian National University develop high efficiency solar cell

TrinaSolarIBCcellTrina Solar, one of China’s largest manufacturers of solar panels, partnered with Australian National University’s Center for Sustainable Energy Systems to develop a solar cell with an efficiency of 24.4%.  Using Interdigitated Back Contact (IBC), the cell has one of the highest light-to-energy conversion levels found in conventional silicon cells.  The project has been in development since mid-2011 and offers significant advantages over conventional cells.  The cell is “rear contact”, which means that both positive and negative contact points are placed on the back of the cell and enable electrons to flow unimpeded through the device before being converted into energy.  Compared to standard cells which have metal electrodes present on the surface of the cell; the surface of an IBC cell to be uniformly black.  End users now have a product with more electricity produced per unit and more aesthetically pleasing.  Based on the high efficiency level of the IBC cell, Trina Solar is now developing a commercial version. 

President Obama approved nuclear deal with Vietnam

VietnamNuclearPlantLast week, the President approved the “123 Agreement”, which allows U.S. firms into Vietnam’s civilian nuclear power market. Already Russian and Japanese companies are planning to build reactors in Vietnam. There is now a 90-day review period in Congress, if lawmakers take no action then the deal will go into effect. The Vietnamese government has agreed to not enrich or repurpose uranium, which are both steps in creating nuclear weapons. The government have plans to build 10 new reactors by 2030, which will generate approximately 10% of the country’s electricity. The goal is to have the first plant to be operational by 2020. While the government is enthusiastic about nuclear power, there has been domestic opposition on the selection of locations, as the power plants are vulnerable to damage from earthquakes and tsunamis.

London launches electric vehicle charger, smart grid trial

EVchargingLondonUK Power, the city of London’s electricity distributor has partnered with POD Point, Smarter Grid Solutions, and Imperial College London for a 5 month study of potential barriers facing the electric vehicle (EV) industry. The trial seeks to identify ways the smart grid technology and energy management systems can enhance charging during peak times of demand. POD Point’s carbon sync software and Smarter Grid Solutions active network management will be used to briefly divert electricity away from charging sites during times of high electricity demand. The program is being deployed across the city – including the 50 most popular charging sites. The city wants to manage the electricity demand, since experts predict that a large scale adoption of EV would place a significant strain on the ageing electricity grid.

Israel and Jordan sign $500 million natural gas deal

TamarGasFieldLast week officials from the two countries signed a deal to supply natural gas from Israel to Jordan for the next 15 years. Prior to the agreement, the Jordanians have been looking for a more secure source of natural gas after their supply from Egypt was disrupted because of repeated terrorist attacks on the gas pipeline. The delivery of gas is expected to begin in 2016 once limited pipeline infrastructure is completed. Jordan’s Arab Potash and Jordan Bromine will receive 66 bn cubic feet of gas to their facilities near the Dead Sea. Just last year, Israel decided to export 40% of the country’s off shore gas. The gas being supplied to Jordan will come from the Tamar gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea. Discovered in 2009, the gas field holds an estimated 8.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. An even larger deposit, Leviathan, was found in 2010 with approximately 16 to 18 trillion cubic feet of gas. The Leviathan gas field is anticiapted to become operational in 2016. Israel is exploring export agreements with Turkey and other neighboring countries. A series of energy contracts between Israel and its neighbors has the potential to influence political relations in the Eastern Mediterranean.

 Largest fuel cell park completed in South Korea

-fuel-cell-parkThe Connecticut based company, FuelCell Energy, completed the largest fuel cell facility in South Korea at the Gyeonggi Green Energy Park. The 59 MW project is located in Hwasung City and covers 5 acres and will provide base-load power to South Korea’s electricity grid. The government has set the goal to generate 10% of its energy from renewable or alternative sources by 2020. Fuel cell parks are an attractive option for South Korea because they do not recquire the large amount of space necessary for industrial scale wind or solar facilities. The fuel cells run off natural gas, which is converted into hydrogen and electrochemically transformed into electricity, heat and water. There are limited carbon dioxide emissions because there is no combustion in the process. In addition the by products of heat and water can be used to move a turbine creating additional heat or electricity. FuelCell Energy recently announced that their fuel cells will be installed in a even larger fuel cell park outside Seoul City that will be operational by the end of 2014.

United States challenges India’s solar panel industry

IndiaPanelManufRecently, the United States filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization against India. In the complaint the U.S. has alleged that India is unfairly supporting their solar panel manufacturing and discriminating against the export of U.S. made panels with a buy local rule written in their national solar program. This is not the first time that the U.S. has lodged a complaint against India with the WTO, last year a similar compliant against the buy local rules. Also known as domestic content rule, is a common policy tool to help support and grow new domestic industries. The buy local amendment requires that half the installed capacity be built using Indian made solar cells and modules. The other 50% of the capacity can come from solar modules sourced anywhere in the world. The goal of the national solar program is to bring 20,000 MW of solar power by 2022. In the first phase the goal is to bring 750 MW of solar energy onto the national grid. India’s national solar program launched in 2010 has been a great success and solar capacity has surged from practically nothing to over 2,000 MW.

Google’s largest solar park goes online

ivanpah1The solar park which recently became operational has the ability to generate 392 MW or enough electricity to power 140,000 houses. The plant is predicted to annually reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 400,000 tons. The park uses 173,000 heliostat mirrors, which cover approximately 3,500 acres of the Ivanpah Valley in California. To accomplish the project Google partnered with energy companies BrightSource Energy and NRG Energy, and over the past two years has invested $168 million. Currently, 34% of Google’s electricity is generated from renewable sources; it is the company’s goal to be totally power by renewables. Besides the environmental incentives for Google to invest in renewable energy, there are financial incentives. In the last quarter the search giant spent $2.25 bn on just data center and infrastructure, which represents a significant chunk of their $16.86 bn revenue. Due to these costs Google has made some of the largest investments in renewable energy in Silicon Valley. In the last year alone, 15 investments were made in solar and wind projects , totally over $1 bn. Once completed theses projects will have a combined generation capacity of 2 GW spread out across the globe.

Electric vehicle production expected to surge 67% in 2014

bmwi3The prediction was made by IHS Automotive for the spike in production of electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid EVs. More than 403,000 EVs are expected to be build this year, compared with 242,000 built in 2013. This increase dwarfs the projected growth in global production of vehicles at just 3.6%. There are several factors that explain the expected growth. First, in the second half of this year, European emission standards will become stricter. Simultaneously, European car manufacturers are introducing new and exciting EVs including BMW’s i3 and i8, Audi A3 E-tron, Mercedes-Benz B Class EV, and Volkswagen E-Up EV. The increase in production will translate into falling prices of EVs. The price of the Nissan Leaf dropped $6,000 in 2014 compared to the price for the same car in 2012. The rise in popularity of the Nissan Leaf is attributed to the price drop; sales in 2013 increased 130%. The Chevy Volt, Honda Fit EV, Fiat 500e, and Ford Focus EV all reduced their pricetag with the hope of capturing more customers. China is a driver for the increased production and popularity of EVs. In an effort to improve air quality the government has created incentives to improve sales. With a wider variety of vehicles and lower prices, EVs should attract more drivers.

Lockheed Martin joins world’s largest wave energy project

Lockheed-Martin-Victorian-Wave-Partners-Sign-Development-DealThe company most well known for their military aircrafts is working to rebrand itself as a climate focused, smart energy company. As part of this effort, they have partnered with Victoria Wave Partners Ltd. to create a 62.5 MW ocean power project off the coast of Australia. The project will use the PowerBuoy, a wave-powered electricity generator, which was developed by Ocean Power Technologies. The shell of the generator is literally a buoy, which bobs up and down with the waves. This motion is transferred to a converter that drives an electrical generator. The challenge is to bring the technology to commercial scale and to develop cost effective manufacturing stream. This is where Lockheed Martin will leverage their experience in manufacturing to get PowerBuoy components. In addition to wave power project in Australia, Ocean Power Technologies has been testing the PowerBuoy in Scotland since 2011 and is in the process of commissioning a project in Oregon.

European Parliament calls for mandatory renewable energy targets

european-parliamentIn response to European Commission energy proposal for 2030, the resolution voted upon by Parliament calls for the European Commission and member states to set a binding target a minimum of 30% of electricity generated by renewables; including national targets for member states.  The individual targets will take into account the potential and conditions within each country.  The current legislation expires in 2020 and mandates that 20% of all energy is generated by renewables and each country must adhere to binding targets.  The vote by European Parliament is not binding; it does demonstrate a level of opposition to the removal of individual quotas. Additionally, the proposed resolution calls for a 40% decrease in carbon emissions that can be implemented by national targets.

Kenya’s Renewable Energy Climate

cummins marigat baringoKenya is becoming a hub for public-private partnerships for the expansion of renewable energy capacity.  Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania are all participants in President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative.  The goal is to add more than 10,000 MW of clean energy, providing 20 million homes and businesses with electricity.  Funding from World Bank and African Development Bank supports the initiative.  One of the success stories is the partnership between the government and Cummins Cogeneration Kenya Limited, which is developing a 12 MW biomass plant in Marigat, Baringo County.   Before the biomass facility, local residents cut down wood for charcoal.  The new plant is lucrative for community members who can earn four times their current salary by cutting down the same amount of wood.   Other public-private partnerships in development include two wind parks in Kinangop and Lake Turkana.  Last year, USAID and Geothermal Development Corporation signed a contract to further develop geothermal projects. 

India and European Union to develop offshore wind projects

windindia-1The Global Wind Energy Council announced a four-year project to develop a roadmap for offshore wind development.  The aim is to create a favorable environment through resource mapping, capacity building, and policy guidance.  The measures to build capacity include assessing current infrastructure and identifying areas that need improvement.  The project will focus on two areas of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.  Four million euros in funding is being provided by the EU’s Indo-European Cooperation on Renewable Energy.  The World Institute for Sustainable Energy (WISE) in Pune will handle project management for activities focusing on Gujarat.  In Tamil Nadu, similar functions will be handled by the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy in Bangalore.  The renewable energy consulting firm DNV-GL will share its expertise on the offshore wind industry.   The project will work closely with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and aligns itself well with the government’s goal for increasing renewable energy generation to meet rising demand for electricity.

BP predicts 41% increase in world energy use by 2035

BPoutlook2035BP recently published Outlook to 2035, which forecasts the changes and future landscape of the energy industry.  On a global scale all fuels will experience growth, with renewables experiencing the fastest growth.  By 2035, renewables will generate 14% of the world’s electricity, up from 5% in 2012.  Most of the growth is expected to occur outside of OECD countries, especially in China and India.  In China, consumption is predicted to grow by 71% and production will increase by 61%.  While coal has been the dominant source of energy providing 69%, by 2035 it will be in a decline to 52%.  India will experience the fastest growth in energy demand of 132% and outpace the other BRIC countries.  All fossil fuels will experience a great increase in consumption and India will become increasingly dependent on fossil fuel imports to meet their energy needs.  The United States and Europe both experience less dramatic increases in energy consumption of just 3% and 5%.  During this time period, the United States will become energy self-sufficient due to energy production increasing by 24%.  In Europe, the demand for fossil fuels will decline by 7% and renewables will expand to a 13% market share.  Even with falling demand for fossil fuels, Europe will remain the world’s largest importer of natural gas. BP’s predictions show an economy in transition, where renewables are expanding but fossil fuels still form the foundation of the global economy.  

Haitian university unveils renewable energy education program

Haitian-SolarThe State University of Haiti (UEH) has launched the Renewable Energy Education Network (RENET) with funding from the European Development Fund.  Over the next three years RENET will receive €900,000.  The goals of the education network are to build relationships with partners working in vocational and technical training for renewable energy, develop a graduate program and a technical training program.  All with the aim of improving the nation’s capacity for renewable energy.  The training and educational programs developed through RENET will not only focus on university students but will be tailored to a wide audience including secondary schools, NGOs, local and international organizations, and government agencies.  The development of RENET will help Haiti develop the capacity to meet its own energy needs.  

Royal Bank of Scotland launches energy efficiency loan program

SMEenergyefficiencyThe new loan program will cover upfront costs to improve energy efficiency, such as upgrading lights, insulation, or a new boiler, in small and medium sized enterprises (SME).  To be eligible for funds a SME must complete an energy audit.   Alongside the loan program, RBS launched a UK wide energy audit program through their subsidiary Mentor.  Loans will range from £25,000 to £500,000.  Before unveiling a nationwide program, a pilot was conducted last year in the North of England.  During the trial 86 audits were completed and businesses had savings of 34% of their energy bill or approximately £20,000 annually.  RBS has been a supporter of energy efficiency and renewable energy supporter.  Last year, the bank created a £200 million fund to help companies reduce their carbon and energy costs.  The UK’s largest lender to renewable energy projects is RBS.  

India doubles solar power in 2013

Solar Module Cleaning in IndiaThis past year India added 1 GW of solar energy into its national grid. This addition almost doubled the country’s total solar energy capacity to 2.18 GW. Over the past decade there has been a tremendous amount of growth in the country’s renewable energy capacity starting with just under 4 GW to over 27 GW. India has set the goal of 10GW of solar by 2017 and 20 GW by 2020. To help meet these goals the country is presently in the planning stages of constructing a 4 GW solar plant in Rajasthan, which would be the world’s largest solar plant. The importance of solar in India’s energy policy was strengthened when Coal India, the world’s largest coal company, started to pursue commercial solar plants as a way to cut costs. Even with the huge growth in renewables, currently over half of the nation’s electricity comes from coal, with imports hitting a record high in 2013.

$200 million new funding for energy efficiency

Energy efficiency Jan23Joule Assets and Kilowatt Financial have both announced $100 million each for energy efficiency projects. The financing of smaller projects is difficult because of inconsistent lending standards and performance data. Kilowatt Financial has signed a $100 million credit facility with Citi and will create a fund for 10 to 12 year loans up to $30,000, which is targeted at homeowners. The fund has the potential for securitization, which would expand investment options to mutual and pension funds. The fund set up by Joule Assets is structured differently and will consolidate demand response and efficiency projects for private equity investors. Joule Assets will not focus on one time retrofits, instead they will work with developers who already have portfolios with demand response and efficiency projects. The fund will work to provide capital for small to medium sized enterprises targeting projects under $250,000. The new streams of funding are what efficiency advocates have been hoping for and will help to grow the industry.

Japan building a renewable energy village near Fukushima

solarsharingJapan2A renewable energy village is being built on farmland contaminated by radiation from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant meltdown. The community-run project is located in Minamisoma, where two-thirds of all farmland is within the nuclear evacuation zone. The village already has 120 solar power panels and generating 30 kW of power. A unique characteristic of the project is the idea of “solar-sharing”, where crops are grown below raised solar panels. The goal of solar-sharing is to preserve small farming communities and way of life from being taken over by large-scale renewable energy projects. The Renewable Energy Village will serve as a model for reconstruction to farmers’ whose livelihoods have been demolished by the nuclear disaster. One of the first crops being grown is rapeseed because research has found that the plants can absorb radionuclides without contaminating the seeds. The renewable energy generated in the village will help the Fukushima Prefecture achieve its goal of converting to 100% renewable energy by 2040.

Toyota to start selling hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

ToyotaHydrogenThe car company recently announced their plan to begin selling hydrogen fueled vehicles in 2015. The prototype has a range of 300 miles on a full tank of hydrogen; the motor has a consistent output of 134 horsepower, can accelerate from 0-to-60 mph in about 10 seconds, and only takes 3 to 5 minutes to refuel. Toyota has been testing prototypes since 2002, covered more than a million miles, and invested a huge amount of money into research and development. The most significant challenge facing hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles is providing a brand new fueling infrastructure. Toyota is working to help jump-start the construction of convenient refueling infrastructure. The hydrogen vehicles will first be sold in California and the state has earmarked $200 million for the development of 20 hydrogen-fueling stations by 2015. The success and adoption of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be dependent of owner experience.

New York City to retrofit 250,000 street lights with LEDs

NYCledRetrofitNYC announced their plan to replace the city’s current amber lights with more energy efficient LEDs. The program supports the city’s long-term sustainability plan, PlaNYC, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through city operations by 30% by 2017. The task of switching all the light bulbs will take four years and cost the city approximately $76.5 million. The program will be implemented in three phases, switching out 80,000 light bulbs in each, starting in Brooklyn, then Queens, and finally the rest of the city. Once completed the LED retrofit will be the largest in the nation and will save the city roughly $14 million each year; $6 million through reduced energy costs and $8 million in savings in maintenance costs. Other large US cities conducting retrofits are Boston and Los Angeles recently completed a program.

Trina to build 1-GW solar project

TrinaSolarChina’s second largest solar panel manufacturer has signed an investment framework agreement with local authorities in Turpan Prefecture, in the Xinjiang region of Western China.  The agreement is to develop a ground mounted solar farm with roughly the same energy capacity as a nuclear reactor.  In addition to the solar farm, Trina is planning constructing a factory to provide components for the project.  The farm will be built in phases over the next four years, with construction beginning in the first quarter of 2014.  The company expects to have the first two phases completed and connected to the grid by the end of 2015 and will have a capacity of 30 MW.  Once completed the project will be the largest solar park in Xinjiang and will provide the surrounding area with a clean, stable, and reliable source of electricity.

Nicaragua’s push for renewable energy

NicaraguaGeothermalThe Central American country is well on its way of producing 90% of its electricity from renewables by 2020. In the past year, 50.51% of the country’s power was generated from renewable sources. While Nicaragua has abundant natural resources, the country has historically relied on oil to generate power. The overreliance on oil resulted in some of the highest energy prices in the region. It was not until 2006 that the country set a new course for radical and fundamental change in their energy sector. The change has been very successful with investments of $1.18 billion and installed 567.4 MW of renewable capacity within the past five years. Nicaragua has the greatest potential for geothermal energy of the Central American countries with an estimated reserves of 1,500 MW, which remains relatively untapped. If the country continues their rapid success there should be little difficulty in reaching their 2020 goal.

IRENA creates web portal for renewable energy costs  

IRENAscreencaptureThe International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has launched a unique web portal focused on renewable energy cost analysis.  The agency has compiled the most comprehensive and current database of renewable energy costs available to the public.  One barrier to the adoption of renewable energy technologies is the lack of accurate and reliable data on the cost and performance of these technologies.  The portal has become the hub for IRENA’s analysis, publications, charts, and presentations on renewable energy costs available.  IRENA’s Renewable Cost Database contains information from 9,000 utility-scale renewable energy projects.  The data is constantly being updated through the agency’s Renewable Costing Alliance, which allows companies, industry associations, governments, and researchers to confidentially input data on real world projects.  Access to this information will help guide investors and policy makers with the most current information and result in the further development of renewable energy globally.                       

Mexico’s energy reform approved

MexicoSenateThe sweeping energy reform bill passed its final legal hurdle when San Luis Potosi became the 17th state to approve constitutional changes, which will allow foreign investment into Mexico’s energy sector for the first time in 75 years.  Modernizing and improving the country’s ailing state oil giant, Petroleos Mexicanas (Pemex) has been a priority during President Enrique Peña Nieto first year in office.  The new law calls for production-sharing agreements that will allow private firms to take a slice of crude oil that they find under licensing agreements and contracts.  Other components of the bill will open up the inefficient state electricity sector and should push Pemex to become more competitive.  The energy reform is not without opponents, including many average Mexicans, who believe that the country’s natural resources should not be extracted by foreign companies.  Supporters argue that Mexico needs the outside expertise to fully capitalize on their more difficult to extract deep water oil reserves.  Due to declining production and shallow-water wells drying up Mexico could become a net importer of oil by 2020.

BP to develop $16 billion project in Oman

bp-at-khazzan-project-signingBP has signed a 30 year gas production, sharing, and sales deals to develop Oman’s Khazzan tight gas project.  Tight gas is a natural gas found in very dense reservoir rocks and requires extensive hydraulic fracturing to produce gas.  It is predicted that one billion cubic feet per day of gas from deep under central Oman, which should be enough fuel to meet around one third of Oman’s current gas demand.  Construction is planned to begin in 2014 and the first gas will become available in late 2017.  This project will be BP’s showcase for their tight gas extraction technology and is the largest upstream project in Oman. 

Azerbaijan gets $28 billion investment to send gas to Europe

TAP Gas PipelineThe Shah Deniz II consortium signed a final investment deal, which will launch the beginning phases of construction of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).  The consortium is developing a vast natural gas field off the coast of Azerbaijan under the Caspian Sea and hope to extract 16 bn cubic meters of gas per year.  The consortium decided to build the shorter and less expensive TAP, instead of the long favored Nabucco pipeline, which would have traveled north to Austria and then connect with a pipeline network reaching several Northern European countries.  The TAP will start in Greece, go across Albania and Adriatic Sea before coming ashore in Southern Italy and connecting with preexisting pipeline network.  The construction of the pipeline is a key step for Europe’s ambition to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and will help the gas to reach a lucrative market.  Currently the EU countries import 60% of their gas demand, with more than a quarter coming from Russia.  

USAID announces winners in agriculture clean tech award

usaid-motion-graphic-powering-agricultureThe U.S. Agency for International Development in collaboration with the governments of Germany and Sweden, Duke Energy Corporation, and Overseas Private Investment Corporation have selected 12 organizations to receive $13 million in funding through the Powering Agriculture program.  The award money will go toward funding projects that integrate clean energy technology into the agriculture sector of developing countries.  The 12 organizations were selected from an applicant pool 475 and the winning projects use market based clean energy solutions for agricultural production.  Projects will be implemented in Honduras, Nepal, Zambia, Senegal, Benin, Tanzania, Haiti, Jordan, India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, and Indonesia.   Powering Agriculture launched in 2012, aims to support the development and deployment of businesses that operate at the intersection of clean energy and agriculture and to attract private investment.  In the long-term the program will expand farmers’ access to clean energy technology which improves irrigation, value-added processes, and cold storage.  The result being greater economic opportunities for farmers.

Obama Administration expands Better Buildings Challenge

BetterBuildingsChallengeThe Department of Energy and Department of Housing and Urban Development have built upon the Better Buildings Challenge to include multifamily housing, such as apartments and condos.  The challenge was originally launched in February 2011 by President Obama, as a public-private partnership for commercial, education, and industrial buildings to reduce their energy consumption by 20% by 2020.  The two government agencies have partnered with market rate and affordable housing owners, and public housing agencies to cut energy waste and to help families to reduce their utility bills.  More than 50 owners of multifamily buildings have committed to the challenge, which represent approximately 200,000 units.  Participants have agreed to cut energy consumption by 20% within 10 years.   About one quarter of households in the United States live in multifamily housing, improvements to energy efficiency by 20% will save nearly $7 billion in energy costs annually and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 430 million tons of carbon dioxide.  Participants in the challenge will showcase innovative strategies in energy efficiency and will share best practices and lessons learned with other participants.  The inclusion of multifamily housing in the Better Buildings Challenge brings the country one step closer to achieving the goals laid out in the President’s Climate Action Plan.   

Hitachi develops energy storage system

hitachiThe new system can store 1 MW of electricity in a lithium-ion battery in an all-in-one, container-type storage system.  The energy storage is the collaboration between the Hitachi Group which has expertise in grid control technology and Hitachi Chemical Company, which has battery expertise.  Starting in early 2014, a demonstration project of their technology will be conducted in North America.  Energy storage will play a critical role in the expansion and of distributed renewable power and demand for such systems is expected to rise quickly.  Storage solutions will help to keep the supply-demand balance, secure backup power, and limit renewable’s impact on grid operations.  The North American and European markets are expected to lead the demand for energy storage.  Both regions will have an increase in the use of distributed renewable power, pushed forward by a combination of the development of transmission lines that will bring renewable power to the major cities and the introduction of government incentives.  As the use of renewables continues to rise so will the need for energy storage to ensure the stability of distributed renewable energy. 

Post Yolanda an opportunity for the Philippines power sector?

PhilippinesPowerThe storm which pummeled the Central Philippines this past November, greatly impaired the country’s power transmission and distribution systems.  Due to extremely strong winds, 566 transmission towers and poles were toppled and seven major substations were badly damaged, cutting off power in multiple provinces.  Still many areas are without power and the utilities are working restore power by December 24th.   Industry and government officials believe the energy sector should take advantage of this period of rehabilitation to assess the structure and integrity of the power infrastructure.  The Department of Energy is conducting a study to determine when and where to build renewable and conventional power generating plants under a vulnerability assessment program.  One potential solution is to encourage the installation of more embedded generators, which will decrease the need for long transmission lines. The rebuilt system has the potential to be more resilient and less vulnerable to future typhoons.

UK to end funding for coal projects in developing countries

CoalPowerPlantThe Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, announced the country’s plan to no longer send taxpayer money to fund coal-fired power plants during COP19.  The announcement was made in conjunction with the US and other European countries.   In the past, the UK has sent approximately $500 million to coal projects through their involvement with development banks.   Also, development banks will be asked to ensure that their funding policies rule out coal.  The World Bank has already adapted their lending criteria to exclude coal except where there is no alternative.   In June, President Obama set in motion the US’ ban on funding coal projects.  Then in September the US in collaboration with leaders from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden made a joint statement on the ban.  The participating countries realized the contradiction of working toward decarbonizing their own energy sectors while funding coal-fired power in developing countries.  The continued construction of coal power plants was undermining global efforts to stem the tide of climate change.

Norway’s flourishing electric car market

ElectricVehicleNorwayThere are more electric cars per capita in Norway compared to any other country.  The many state incentives are key to the success of electric cars in the Scandinavian country, where 9% of all new cars sold i have been electric.  Cars in Norway are very expensive because of import taxes placed upon them and can usually cost double what they would in a comparable country.  The country’s electric car revolution only began three years ago but is the result of 10 years of lobbying by electric car drivers and organizations.  The incentives for drivers to purchase an electric vehicle are no import tax and no first time registration tax.  Other benefits include free parking, free driving on toll roads, exemption from VAT and the use of bus lanes.  The Norwegian Parliament has guaranteed incentives until 2017, but if growth continues at a similar rate some of the incentives will have to be reconsidered.  The surge in electric vehicles have had a noticeable environmental impact with average carbon dioxide emissions decreasing to 118 grams per kilometer compared to 125 grams per kilometer the year prior.

World Bank announces new initiative to help cities with energy efficiency

EECityUnveiled at CitiSense in Barcelona, a World Bank event on urban innovation, and the program will aid cities in developing countries to integrate energy efficiency into their strategic planning and operations.  The City Energy Efficiency Transformation Initiative (CEETI) will have three components; first the World Bank will work with city governments to facilitate promising energy efficiency investments, second the cities will be matched with sources of financing, and finally to build the capacity of officials to help get projects off the ground.  The initial phase will last three years and will be led by the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program and will work with up to 50 cities.   In the first year, CEETI will provide hands-on training for city officials on how to identify opportunities, create energy efficiency plans, and the financings and implementation of programs.  All these activities will include knowledge sharing between cities that have been successful in their implementation of energy efficiency programs and cities just starting out.   The CEETI is the latest program to support the World Bank’s effort to help cities plan and finance sustainable urban development.

Argentina’s biodiesel sector struggling

BiodieselArgentinaIn the first half of this year, biodiesel production has dropped an incredible 42% and exports by 60%.  Argentina is the second largest producer of biodiesel in the world, producing 12%.  The sector is struggling because of inconsistency in government policy and trouble exporting.   In August 2012, domestic policy increased the export tariffs from 20% to 32%.  Recently, the EU has closed its market to Argentine biodiesel; the loss of export revenue could be as high as $1 billion.  Starting in April 2012, Spain and the EU have been investigating tariffs after the nationalization of Repsol’s Argentine assets.  This month, biodiesel originating from the South American country will face a 22% to 26% anti-dumping tariff in addition to a 5% to 6% tariff.  The addition of these two tariffs will effectively close the EU market until 2017.  A short-term solution to the situation is if the Argentine government would increase the mandatory blend of biodiesel in diesel fuels.   This would allow local markets to absorb some of the demand lost overseas.

Israeli researches develop renewable oil

AlternativeFuelResearchers at Ben-Gurion University have designed a process to convert carbon dioxide and hydrogen into a renewable alternative for crude oil.   The new fuel was made possible by using nanomaterials that reduce the amount of energy required compared to crude oil production.  To create the fuel hydrogen is mixed with carbon dioxide and synthetic gas.  This mixture is then placed into a reactor containing a nano-structured catalyst to produce an organic gas. The renewable fuel is very promising because it is composed of the two of the most common elements on earth, has the potential to be used in gas and diesel powered cars, and can be transported using existing infrastructure.   The developers believe that the new fuel is now ready for demonstration and commercialization.  They believe it could be a reality within 5 to 10 years.

New York City expands solar-powered recycling effort


The Times Square Alliance is increasing the number of BigBelly Solar powered waste and recycling stations in one the city’s highest profile commercial and tourist districts. A very successful pilot project was launched in March 2013 with 30 BigBelly solar powered waste and recycling stations, this month the number of receptacles was increased to 46. The pilot program was funded by a grant from the Alcoa Foundation. In less than a year, the Times Square Alliance sanitation team removed 18 tons of recyclable bottles and cans, and 12 tons of paper from the waste stream. These high-tech waste and recycling stations use solar energy to power the compacting and provide real-time data to improve the efficiency of collection. The onsite compaction of trash or single-stream recyclables can increase capacity by 5x, greatly reducing the frequency of collection. The expansion of the BigBelly receptacles supports Mayor Bloomberg’s “Recycle Everything” campaign, whose goal is to bring the city’s recycling rate to 30% by 2017.

General Motor’s plant to be powered by renewable energy from solid waste


The automaker has partnered with Detroit Renewable Energy to transform solid waste from the Detroit area into energy that will be used to heat and cool GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. The 15.8 MW project will account for 58% of the facility’s energy needs, becoming GM’s plant with the highest percentage of power from renewable sources. The solid waste will be turned into steam that will then travel 8,300 feet through a pipe, which will be constructed between the Detroit Renewable Power and the auto plant. Construction of the pipeline and related infrastructure is set to begin at the end of the month and the entire project will be operational next spring. GM is committed to reducing their environmental impact along their supply chain and operate 107 landfill-free facilities across the globe that recycle or reuse their waste. The addition of 15.8 MW of renewable energy brings the GM closer to their goal of adding 125 MW of renewable energy into its portfolio by 2020.

Dubai company pilots program to improve residential energy efficiency


Smart4Power offered five Dubai residents free energy audits and implemented retrofits to improve efficiency. The pilot program demonstrated what simple, easy to implemented solutions can reduce energy consumption on average by 20%, with a payback period of just 12 months. Homeowners are feeling the pressure as water and electricity prices have almost doubled in the past 5 years. One of the participants a Swedish expatriate, Lars Narfeldt, cut his utilities bill by Dh 13,000. The retrofit includes improving the efficiency of air-conditioning, switching out light bulbs with CFL or LEDs, reducing water usage, and covering the windows with a film to keep out the heat of the sun. Smart4Power has partnered with Emrill Services to offer energy saving packages to the 20,000 homes where Emrill carries out maintenance. While companies are increasingly looking toward energy efficiency as a way to save money and improve sustainability, private homes remain relatively untapped.

Energy efficiency makeover for Dubai government buildings


Seven government buildings will undergo programs to improve energy efficiency as part of a plan to improve the efficiency in 30,000 buildings by 2030. Dubai Electricity and Water Authority formed a new company, Etihad Energy Services (EES) to carry out the pilot project and to handle the expansion of the program. The pilot program is scheduled to begin in early 2014 and the goal is to save a million tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030. Currently Etihad Energy Services is documenting baseline energy consumption of the seven buildings. After the evaluation phase EES would subcontract the implementation to private companies. Similar programs in North America, Germany, and Scandinavia have been successful and are popular with building owners because they do not have to invest their own resources.

EBRD to support Kazakhstan’s green growth plan


The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has committed to supporting the country’s National Green Growth Plan. There is an established relationship between Kazakhstan and the EBRD; the bank supports the country’s participation in the Clean Technology Fund and since 2008, invested over $500 million in energy efficiency programs. Special emphasis will be placed on supporting viable projects in the country’s developing renewable energy sector. The government and EBRD will work together to identify and finance renewable energy projects. Given the country’s environmental conditions there is great potential for wind power. Kazakhstan is committed to developing their renewable energy resources and in January 2013 adopted an action plan for 2013 to 2020. The goal is to generate 1040 MW of electricity by renewable sources in 2020. To reach this target four solar, 13 wind power, and 14 hydropower plants will be constructed. The collaboration between Kazakhstan and EBRD will help the nation achieve their 2020 goal.

China pledges greater improvements in energy efficiency


The Chinese government has committed to reducing energy intensity by 16% from 2010 levels by the end of 2015. For the past two years China has fallen short of official targets. To try and meet the current target, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has mandated an acceleration of the annual targets from 3.5% to 3.84% for the remaining three years. In the first two years China has achieved an efficiency gain of 5.5%. In the previous year, Beijing invested 170 billion Yuan ($27.4 billion) in energy saving and anti-pollution efforts. Local governments have not taken advantage of the funding and value economic growth above environmental protection. The stifling smog, which has been blanketing China’s cities, has renewed the urgency to improve energy efficiency in manufacturing and power generation.

Siemens and Carlson Rezidor partner in hotel energy saving program


The Siemens Building Technologies Division and Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group have announced their cooperation to reduce energy consumption in Radisson Blu and Park Inn by Radisson hotels in Europe. The hotel group’s target is a 25% energy savings in five years. The energy savings program will focus on state of the art guest room controls, LED light bulbs, and optimizing Siemens’ Building Management System. Siemens will conduct an onsite energy audit and determine individual measurement criteria to help optimize building management and processes. Once the initial phases are completed, Siemens energy experts will remotely monitor energy consumption data. A pilot project will be conducted at the Radisson Blu Amsterdam, which is estimated to save 30% of total energy consumed at the hotel and a payback period of only four years. Carlson Rezidor’s cooperation with Siemens is a demonstration of the hotel group’s commitment to energy efficiency and is all part of their ambitious Think Planet program.

Oceanlinx launches first 1 MW wave energy converter


The Australian company installed their “greenWAVE” energy converter in Port Macdonnell, South Australia. Wave energy is an attractive option as a renewable energy source, since most of the world’s population lives near the coast. Another advantage of wave energy is its predictability, which can be forecast several days in advance. Oceanlinx’s design transforms to kinetic and potential energy of water particles into energy, and uses some of the most mature technologies in the wave energy sector. The demonstration project received $4 million in federal funds with the aim of helping renewable energy technology advance to commercialization. The converter will soon be connected to the grid and will then go under rigorous testing for the majority of 2014. To keep lifetime maintenance costs low, all the moving parts are housed above sea level. The device has limited environmental impact because it rests on the seabed under its own weight in 10 – 15 meters of water with no anchors or moorings. Additionally, the converter will act as an artificial reef for sea life. Wave energy is an exciting new technology to add to our renewable energy mix.

Microsoft signs first renewable energy PPA


The computer and technology giant has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with RES America to buy the entire output, 110 MW, from the Keechi Wind Project. The funds to purchase the renewable energy came from Microsoft’s corporate carbon fee. In 2012, the company began charging their business divisions for the carbon they emit. The benefits of the carbon fee are twofold, first there is a greater focus on energy efficiency, and the money collected is used for efficiency projects or to buy renewable energy. In addition to the carbon fee, Microsoft is working to make their data center more energy efficient. Their San Antonio data center is cooled using recycled water, cooling is the biggest cost and energy consumer in data centers. The wind farm is located 70 miles north of Ft. Worth, TX, and will send its output into the same grid that powers the San Antonio data center. Construction on the wind farm will start in early 2014 and is expected to begin delivering energy in 2015. For Microsoft the signing of a long term PPA is a significant achievement in their goal to reach carbon neutrality.

Russia and China sign 3 big energy deals


During Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to China, Russian energy companies secured oil and natural gas deals. In the first deal, state oil company Rosneft agreed to pump 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil over the next ten years to China’s Sinopec Group. This prepaid deal was valued at over $ 85 billion. Supplies are expected to arrive in 2014 and it is possible that Rosneft will need to develop new oil fields in Eastern Siberia to meet export demands. This agreement comes only a few months after Rosneft struck a deal to triple its long term supplies to China to 922,000 bpd. In a second deal, Rosneft and China National Petroleum Corporation have agreed to jointly construct an oil refinery in Tianjin. In a final deal, gas company Novatek secured a long term agreement to export liquefied natural gas in anticipation of the of Gazprom’s exporting monopoly after 2014. These energy deals demonstrate an increased level of cooperation between the two countries.

California is first in the nation to mandate energy storage


The state’s Public Utilities Commission has voted unanimously to approve an energy storage mandate for all publically owned utilities. The goals of the mandate are to encourage the continued development and investment in energy storage technology. This technology has long been thought of as the Holy Grail for the renewable energy industry, since it provides a reliable way to store excess energy and deliver it to the grid when needed. California requires utilities to source 33% of their electricity from renewables; viable storage technology is critical if utilities are to meet this mandate. San Diego Gas & Electric, PG&E, and Southern California Edison are required to collectively buy more than 1.3 GW of energy storage by 2020. California’s mandate will help to accelerate demand, development, and investment in energy storage technology.

Siemens and Accenture form smart grid joint venture


The new company, named Omnetric Group, will work with utility companies to improve their energy efficiency, grid operations, and reliability. The solutions and services provided will focus on data management and systems integration. The group will integrate operational technology such as, distribution management and real-time grid operations with IT systems which support smart metering and energy consumption. The company will bring together Siemens’ products with Accenture’s management and technology consulting. Their integrated approach of combining operational and informational technology will provide utilities with improved grid reliability and by integrating previously isolated grid functions. The joint venture will combine the strengths of its two parent companies to provide a high level of service in a quickly evolving global market.

Electric vehicles top auto sales in Norway


In September, 8.6% of the auto-market was captured by electric vehicles, an increase from 5.2% the previous year. The Tesla S topped car sales for the first time last month with 5.1% of new car registrations. The first place finish of electric vehicles are a sign that drivers view them as affordable and suited for cold-weather climates. Previously, there had been some concern that alternative fuel technology would not hold up in difficult driving conditions, such as Norway’s extreme winters. The Scandinavian country is an attractive market for electric vehicle manufacturers because of special tax break. A high import tax is imposed on foreign vehicles, but the law exempts electric vehicles. This tax exemption makes high end Teslas cheaper than comparable luxury cars. Tesla is investing in Norway’s electric vehicle infrastructure and launched their first European Supercharger station in August. They unveiled six new charging stations along popular routes between Oslo and Trondheim. The result is now approximately 90% of Norwegians live within 320 km of a charging station.

Chilean President signs renewable energy quota into law


The recent law signed by President Sebastian Piñera, mandates that utilities source 20% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. A bidding process for utilities to purchase renewable energy will be created. This includes a change in the bidding process to reduce the permitting time from 700 to 150 days. There is a price cap of USD .095-.01/kWh. The wording of the law specifically excludes large hydroelectric projects as a source of renewable energy. Chile’s President believes there is great potential for photovoltaics or concentrated solar power in the country with high levels of solar radiation in their deserts. It was a long road for the bill to become a law, the President first proposed a similar bill in May 2010 calling for 20% renewables by 2020. This original bill became stalled in the nation’s Parliament. The bill was passed by compromising on the price cap and by adding 5 years to the timeline.

Patent Boom in Renewable Energy


A study conducted by MIT and Santa Fe Institute created a database of renewable energy patents filed in 100 countries between 1970 and 2009. Their findings showed a dramatic rise in the number of patents over the past decade and a clear correlation between the increase in patents and previous investment in R&D, in addition to growth in markets for renewable energy. The effects of a jump in investment following oil shocks in the 1970’s and 1980’s is visible in today’s patent boom. The steepest increase were in patents for renewable energy technology, while fossil fuels had a more modest increase, and nuclear technology remaining flat. Between 1970 and 2000 there were less than 200 renewable energy patents filled annually to more than 1,000 annually in 2009. Solar energy patents issued annually were increasing by 13%, and 19% annually for wind power between 2004 and 2009.

Army issues $600 million in renewable energy contracts


The US Army has issued contracts to eleven companies to assist with the development of clean energy projects. The US technology and engineering companies were awarded the contracts by the Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineering Support Center. There are a wide variety of projects spanning renewable energy generation, geothermal heating and cooling, solar power plants, and energy efficiency improvements. The contracts are for one year with the option to be extended for four years to design and construction. The companies are AMEC Environment & Infrastructure, Ameresco, Balfour Beatty Energy Solutions, CH2M Hill Constructors, Eaton Corp, ECC Energy Conservation, Perini Management Services, Science Applications International Corporation, Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure, URS Group and Weston Solutions.

Masdar signs renewable energy development agreement with Serbia


This month the Serbian government has signed a four memorandums of understanding with Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Corporation, of which Masdar is a subsidiary. Mubadala will be investing in many different sectors including renewable energy, semiconductors, telecommunication, and aerospace manufacturing. Through the partnership with the Serbian government Mubadala hopes to identify opportunities for investment. The Serbian Ministry of Energy will partner with Masdar to identify opportunities for renewable investment. By 2020, the government has set the goal of 27% of energy demand to be met by renewable sources. These deals are the most recent sign of friendlier relations between the two countries and a welcome injection of money into the Serbian economy.

Solar investment in Mexico


The government hopes to increase the amount of energy generated from renewable sources to 35% by 2026. Presently the majority of renewable energy is generated from hydroelectricity. A small 1.5% of energy is generated from solar and wind sources. In many parts of Mexico solar is not cost competitive since energy prices are $0.12 kW/hour. Another obstacle to the uptake of solar is the lack of government subsidies. Despite these obstacles there are permits for 215 MW of solar plant construction in Northern Mexico. That is enough electricity generated to cover the demand for 40,000 homes. There is momentum building in the solar sector and by the end of this year 70 MW should come online, 125 MW in 2014, and 120 MW in 2015. With Mexico’s high level of solar radiation rooftop solar installations are a viable option, especially with current decrease in the price of panels. In the long-term, the government predicts an increase of 2,170 MW by the end of the decade.

World Bank and Bahrain join forces to improve energy efficiency


The Bahraini government has signed a three-year energy efficiency agreement with the World Bank in a bid to decrease energy consumption in the region. The Energy Efficiency Implementation Program (EEIP) is set to come into effect this October and will provide technical support and advisory services to governments. The World Bank will assist Bahrain by setting energy efficiency incentives and targets, identifying interventions and monitoring performance.

Bahrain’s per capita energy consumption is among the highest in the world and has been increasing 10% per annum. This is due in part to low energy tariffs, which have done little to change energy consumption behavior amongst its citizens. Deployment of new energy efficiency policies will support the goals of Bahrain Vision 2030, which aims to achieve 5-7% of installed capacity from renewable sources.

BP signs US$100 billion gas agreement with Azerbaijan


BP and partners have signed a US$100 billion deal to secure natural gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field. Under the 25-year agreement, BP and nine other utilities and gas companies will extract 10 billion cubic meters of gas from Shah Deniz annually. The consortium is working on the second stage of field development, which will deliver gas directly from Azerbaijan to Europe for the first time ever.

Gas will be transported through the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, which is expected to be completed in 2019. The pipeline will run through Greece, Albania, and under the Adriatic Sea to Western Europe, delivering up to 16bcma of gas. BP’s energy agreement will not only diversify Europe’s energy sources, but also reduce energy dependence from Russia.

Montreal furthers electrical transportation initiative with new electric vehicle charging stations


Montréal has partnered with Hydro-Québec’s Electric Circuit to introduce 80 new charging stations to the city. The partnership is part of a regional plan to expedite the development of electrical transportation over the next few years. AddÉnergie, the official suppler of the new charging stations, will both design and manufacture the charging infrastructure in Québec. The 240V stations will be installed in parking lots owned by the city where visibility and security are optimum. Deployment of new charging stations will bring the total number of available stations up to 250.

In the spring of 2014, Montréal will begin a pilot project in the city’s downtown region for the implementation of curbside charging. While these initiatives are targeted towards private transportation, the city has also made significant strides towards electrifying public transportation. In 2010, Montréal announced plans to convert its bus system to an all-electric fleet by 2025.

Tanzania set to transform energy sector with renewables


The Republic of Tanzania has received funding through an investment plan from the Climate Investment Fund (CIF) to help the country scale-up the development of renewable energy resources. CIF’s Scaling-Up Renewable Energy Program (SREP) will award US$50 million in funding, with the remaining balance coming from the African Development Bank, World Bank, Tanzanian government and private sector. Tanzania is aiming to transform their energy sector and shift away from fossil fuels and climate sensitive hydropower.

The plan calls for Tanzania to take advantage of the country’s abundance of solar and geothermal energy. The two major components of the investment plan are large-scale geothermal development and renewable energy for rural electrification. The CIF and AfDB will invest a combined total of US$70 million to mobilize the development of 100MW of geothermal energy. Rural electrification through renewable energy will be expanded through the development of infrastructure. The investment plan will benefit Tanzania in the long-run by increasing the country’s energy security and reducing energy poverty.

WIRSOL building latest solar park in the Caribbean


German solar energy provider WIRSOL has started construction on the first solar park in the Dominican Republic. The park, which is located in the province of Monte Plata, is expected to generate 64.14 MW of electricity. The first phase of construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2013, supplying 32.14MW of electricity. Solar irradiation in the Caribbean is 50% higher than that of Germany, yet solar energy generation in the region remains low.

The Dominican Republic relies primarily on expensive fossil fuels to meet their energy needs. Currently, the Dominican Republic is experiencing a dramatic increase in the demand for energy as a result of population expansion and rapid economic growth. Completion of the solar park will help the Dominican Republic meet their growing energy demands and lessen their dependence on fuel imports.

Denmark opens 400MW Anholt offshore wind farm


Denmark has officially inaugurated the 400MW Anholt offshore wind farm, putting it on track to reach its goal of satisfying 50% of electricity generation through wind power by 2020. At present, more than 30% of the country’s electricity is generated through wind power. In early September, the nation opened their largest offshore facility off the coast of the Jutland peninsula, covering roughly 88 square miles.

The 400MW facility was developed by Dong Energy and will supply 400,000 Danish households with renewable energy. The 3.6 MW wind turbines were supplied and installed by Siemens, who will conduct maintenance at Anholt over the next five years. Anholt’s opening reflects a growing trend in offshore wind energy within Europe; during the first half of 2013 Europe added 1,045MW of offshore wind capacity, compared to 522MW over the same period in 2012.

Austin Energy signs US$1.4 billion wind power deal


Community-owned Austin Energy has approved three power purchase agreements that will add 570MW to its wind energy portfolio. The contracts have a combined value of US$1.4 billion, with terms of up to 25 years. Wind farms are typically constructed in West Texas but the new turbines will be built closer to Austin on the Gulf Coast. This decision was made on the basis that wind patterns on the Gulf better align with the energy demands of Austin Energy’s customers.

Winds in West Texas usually blow in the evenings when energy demand is lower. The agreements bring Austin energy one step closer to its goal of deriving 35% of energy from renewable sources by 2020. The company current generates 25% of its energy from renewable sources.

Mexico announces energy reform plan, calls for private investment in oil industry


Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has unveiled a new proposal to open up the nation’s oil industry, signaling the largest energy reform act since in decades. Private investment in the sector has been barred for 75 years – ever since the nationalization of Pemex in 1938. Pemex holds a monopoly in Mexico and is one of the world’s 10 biggest oil producers. Peña Nieto asserted that the state will maintain ownership over Pemex and its oil reserves.

The energy reform calls for a new financial system that will allow for joint ventures, but still prevents foreign entities from investing directly in oil reserves. Instead, venture partners will be given a fraction of oil profits or a monetary equivalent of oil produced. Pemex will also be separated into two departments, including one for exploration and production. The discovery of additional oil reserves is pivotal to the long-term subsistence of Mexico’s oil industry, which has experienced declining oil production for the past eight years. The President warned that the country may become an oil importer by 2018.

China expected to overtake US as world's largest oil importer


Annual net oil imports to China will exceed those of the US by 2014, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Demand for crude oil and liquid fuel is growing steadily in China, with projected increases of 420,000 bbl/d in 2013 and 440,000 bbl/d in 2014. Last year, China’s liquid fuel consumption was 10.28 million bbl/d – accounting for 11.6% of the world’s total consumption.

While China continues to be a driver of world oil consumption, demand in the US is expected to become stagnant in the short-run. EIA cites that improvements in energy efficient transportation will outpace the growth of new vehicles on the road. In addition, the US has increased domestic oil production – reducing its dependency on oil imports. It appears that this trend could persist in the long-run; the International Energy Agency recently predicted that the US will be energy dependent by 2030.

Israel, Greece, Cyprus sign three-way energy agreement

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Representatives from Israel, Greece and Cyprus have signed an energy memorandum of understanding that will interconnect electricity grids between the three nations. A 2,000MW underwater cable will be constructed over the next three years, linking Israel to the European continent. The US$2.1 billion EuroAsia Interconnector cable will provide a cheaper source of energy for Cyprus, which imported close to 97% of its energy in 2009 according to the World Bank. Israel intends to expand its outreach in the future and export electricity to other European nations facing energy shortages.

The trilateral pact also called for collaboration between Israel and Cyprus to tap into natural gas reserves in the Levantine Basin, which is located off the coast of Israel. Cyprus officials have proposed that Israel export its natural gas to a storage terminal at Vassiliko, which will be ready for operation in 2018. They argue that storing gas reserves there will help secure energy resources in the region.

Court OKs Controversial Coal Mining in New Zealand

Denniston Landscape

The Environment Court has recently allowed Australian coal mining company, Bathurst Resources Ltd., the permission to build an open cast coal mine on conservation land of the Denniston Plateau. This area is home to various ecosystems, plants, animals, and even newly discovered insect species. Bathurst plans to spend $8 million Australian dollars to mine 125 to 167 million tons of coal from the Plateau. However, two court rulings must first pass and safety considerations regarding possible collisions between coal trucks and visitor vehicles must be taken into account. Different environmental protection agencies are using these delays to take legal action on the matter. Significantly, Bathurst has also used this time to obtain coal mining exploration permits in Canterbury, Otago, the West Coast, Tasman, and Waikato.

Petron Corporation Admits to Oil Spill

Manila Bay Oil Spill

An oil spill had been identified on August 8th in Manila Bay of the Philippines but the Coast Guard could not pinpoint the origin of the spill until four days later, when Petron Corporation came forward to take responsibility for it. Petron, the largest oil refining company in the Philippines had claimed that its underwater pipeline in Cavite Province was sealed but later admitted that this was the source of the 500,000 liters of diesel fuel in Manila Bay. The Mayor of Rosario declared a state of calamity to aid families of fishermen and to distribute rice and canned goods for the 40,000 people from over 30 villages and who depend on the fishing industry.

Effects of the oil spill encompass health and biodiversity destruction ranging from citizens who have gotten sick from fumes to dead fish and coral reef damage. Financial repercussions result from a government-imposed fishing ban in the area, effectively halting the income of many fishermen. Environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment pushes for an independent investigation, immediate compensation of affected communities, environment restoration, and the closure of the Petron oil depot in a bordering town to prevent recurrence. Coincidentally, Petron was linked to an oil spill that occurred in Manila Bay exactly seven years earlier.

Trial underway for Europe's largest energy storage project


The UK has started a 4-year trial of Smarter Network Storage, the largest energy storage device in Europe. The $28.7 million project uses a 6MW lithium manganese battery and was designed to test the cost effectiveness of energy storage. It was built as a collaboration between S&C Electric Europe, Samsung SDI and Younicos and funded by the UK’s Office of Gas and Electricity Markets. S&C Electric does not expect the project to yield results until 2016.

Energy storage still faces an uphill battle in the renewable energy sector, since costs are high and conventional electric grids typically do not accommodate renewable sources. The companies involve claim that Smarter Network Storage saves US$9 million compared to alternative solutions such as replacing transformers. In the larger picture, this energy storing technology could also help the UK meet its 15% renewable energy target by 2020.

Solar industry will benefit from US$1.17 trillion construction boom in MENA region

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Construction spending in the MENA region is projected to reach US$1.17 trillion by 2020 – an 80% increase from present figures. Experts expect the construction boom to provide a window of opportunities for the solar industry, as nations such as the UAE aim to increase their sustainability efforts. Solar energy potential in MENA is among the highest in the world, with enough power to meet half of the world’s electricity demand.

Energy consumption in MENA has been increasing at a rate of 5.2% per annum, according to a 2013 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Recent statistics by IRENA indicate the region had a total of 380MW installed capacity for solar photovoltaic, with a further 2,346MW of projects in the pipeline.

TransCanada to proceed with West-East pipeline

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TransCanada, which is still awaiting approval for its controversial Keystone XL project in the US, has announced that it will be progressing forward with the Energy East Pipeline project. The US$12 billion pipeline is expected to begin operating in 2017 and will transfer up to 1.1 million barrels of oil from Western Canada to Quebec and New Brunswick. Under the proposal, TransCanada will convert 3,000km of the existing Canadian Mainline natural gas pipeline so that it can transport crude oil. An additional 1,400km of new pipeline will be constructed, flowing into Saint John.

The Calgary-based firm has yet to receive regulatory approval from regional governments, but will begin the regulatory process next year. Quebec and New Brunswick currently import roughly 83% of their oil supply from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Angola. Transporting oil from Alberta will result in lower oil prices than those from international sources.

Hydro Tasmania achieves sustained periods of 100% renewable energy on King Island


Hydro Tasmania has achieved a significant milestone for its King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project (KIREIP), reaching 100% renewable energy through a combination of renewable generation and energy storing devices. The island is located in Bass Strait between mainland Australia and Tasmania, and has a population of less than 2,000.

The KIREIP project aims to decrease reliance on diesel generation and build a stable electricity supply for King Island. It is due for completion by the end of the year, with a target to reduce carbon emissions by 95%. In addition to solar photovoltaic energy and 2.45MW of wind power, Hydro Tasmania is also installing an electrochemical battery system capable of storing 1.6MWh of energy. In practical terms, the project is a microcosm for sustainable living and if proven successful, could be scaled up to a nationwide level to decrease dependency on fossil fuels.

Dutch scale down renewable energy ambitions for 2020


The government of the Netherlands has reached an agreement with environmental groups and social partners to decrease its renewable energy requirement from 16% to 14%, satisfying its target set by the EU. The latest response signifies tepid progress of renewable energy development in the region; last year a government report stated that given current policies, the share of renewable energy would only increase to 7-10% by 2020. In 2010, renewable energy accounted for only 4% of the nation’s total energy requirement.

More recently, the government released a draft version of the “National Energy Agreement”, which outlines plans to install solar photovoltaic systems and heat pumps for up to two million households over the next decade. According to a recent report by Rabobank, the Dutch should concentrate their efforts on solar photovoltaic, offshore and onshore wind power. This will accelerate their current rate of progress and allow them to gain footage to meet their original target.

Saudi Arabia aims to become a renewable energy hub


Saudi Arabia has set aside a $109 billion budget in order to reach its target of meeting a third of its energy from renewable sources by 2032. Under the revised National Energy Plan, Saudi Arabia intends to produce 41GW of power from solar energy, constituting the largest portion of the 54GW total. In addition, the Kingdom will generate 18GW of nuclear energy and 9GW of wind power. It is worthwhile to note that Saudi Arabia only has 3MW of solar power at present and no installed wind capacity.

The move signals an attempt to preserve the nation’s oil resources by leveraging its supply of oil. Saudi Arabia is currently the world’s largest oil exporter, producing some 11,530 thousand barrels daily according to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy June 2013. Experts will be expected to discuss key energy policy issues at the 3rd Annual Solar Arabia Summit on September 29-30 this year.

Nuclear industry slows in 2012 as energy generation falls 7%


Global nuclear electricity generation was 2,346TWh in 2012, according to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013 compiled by Mycle Schneider Consulting. As of July 1, 2013 there were 427 operating nuclear power plants located in 31 countries. Nuclear power generation declined in 17 countries, including leading producers the United States, France and Germany. Combined with Russia and South Korea, these five nations account for 67% of global nuclear electricity. Three quarters of the decline in global output can be attributed to decreased activity in Japan in the aftermath of the Fukushima incident.

As a share of commercial primary energy consumption, nuclear fell to 4.5% - the lowest level it has reached since 1984 as reported by BP. However, it seems unlikely that the decline in nuclear electricity generation will persist in the long-term. Nuclear Energy Insider has projected that 37 new reactors will be built in the Middle East and North Africa regions over the next 15 years. China has also aimed to quadruple its nuclear power capacity to 58GWe by 2020, with some 28 reactors currently under construction.

Spain announces plans to cut energy support by US$3.6 billion


Energy companies in Spain will now be faced with a US$3.6 billion reduction in compensation pay, as the nation struggles with a US$34 billion utilities deficit caused by years of forcing producers to sell below production costs. Renewable energy will account for US$1.7 billion of the expenditure cuts, leading analysts to predict that it will bankrupt companies particularly in the solar industry, which relies heavily on subsidies. In addition, the new system includes a 7.5% profitability cap for all existing renewable energy projects which will also affect profits for clean energy firms.

It is estimated that this year’s deficit will amount to US$5.9 billion. Producers have criticized the government’s recent budget details, stating that they must bear the burden of the payment and that it only worsens the unemployment predicament of the nation.

China aims to increase solar power generating capacity 4-fold by 2015


China’s State Council recently announced plans to increase its amount of installed solar power generating capacity to 32GW by 2015, up from 8GW in 2012. In order to reach its target the country will install 10GW each year between 2013 and 2015. This is an ambitious step forward from the previous 21GW target set by the National Energy Administration in 2012.

The increased demand for solar panels is a positive signal for the industry, which experienced a 20% decrease in solar panel prices last year due to oversupply. Prices stopped dropping during the first quarter of this year, ending a five-year downward spiral in solar panel prices. The move is also anticipated to ease concerns of cheap Chinese-made solar panels flooding foreign markets. Both the EU and US have launched anti-dumping campaigns against China, implementing import taxes against various Chinese manufacturers last year.

First decade of 21st century warmest on record

WMO Decade of Climate Extremes

The 2001-2010 period experienced the warmest global temperatures since modern measurements began in 1850, according to the UN World Meteorological Organization. Nine of the decade’s years were among the ten warmest in history. The report, titled Global Climate 2001-2010: A Decade of Climate Extremes, analyzes regional climate variables including temperature, precipitation and sea level.

Global mean sea levels increased at a rate of 3mm per year – roughly double the 1.6mm average during the 20th century. The 2010 year was the wettest on record, with precipitation highest in eastern USA, Canada, Europe and central Asia. Despite the extreme weather patterns from 2001-2010 the number of deaths was 16% lower than the previous decade, demonstrating the improved effectiveness of warning systems to prepare for natural disasters.

Renewable energy technologies transform village in Pakistan

Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund

In a village located 40 kilometers west of Lahore, farmers are benefitting from the installation of a solar tube well. The US$27,200 tube well irrigates 40 acres of land daily, ensuring that fields are watered even in the event of a power outage. It was funded by the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund with contributions from ten households. Contributing households state that the investment reduces their monthly electricity bill by US$1,400. Farmers are eager to install more solar tube wells, but lack the financial capability to purchase their own.

Beyond the agricultural sector, villagers are also adopting renewable energy sources. One woman has started a small business using knitting machines that operate without electricity. She received a loan from the Rural Community Development Society and has since expanded her business to six employees. With the assistance of micro-loans in developing areas such as Ahmadwala, villagers will be in a better financial position to purchase sustainable technology and escape the poverty trap.

Kuwait Focuses on Renewable Energy


The oil rich Kuwait has announced as major push to renewable energy by setting a goal of 15% energy by renewable sources by 2030. The first major project, a 70 MW hybrid power plant, under this initiative is expected to become operational in Q3 2016. Kuwait’s initiative is part of a wider trend of investment in renewable energy across the Middle East and North Africa. The development of the regions’ renewable energy sector has weathered the global economic crisis, as the investment in the region totaled USD 2.9 billion in 2012, a 40% increase from 2011. High oil prices and decreasing cost of renewable energy (especially solar) technology has made this a sound economic policy. They stand to increase their GDP by selling their oil instead of using it for domestic energy production, some of which can be met by renewable energy.

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