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16 December 2021

The world of renewables this week

Macquarie’s Green Investment Group has teamed up with Dutch chemicals producer Nobian to launch a new 50-50 joint venture to develop industrial scale green hydrogen projects. The Hydrogen Chemistry Company will initially focus on the Netherlands before expanding into Europe, with a pipeline of more than 400 MW of electrolyzer projects, including: a 100 MW green steel project; a 60 MW electrolyzer focused on aviation fuels; and a 250 MW facility in Rotterdam designed to replace supplies of fossil-based hydrogen.

Taiwan’s Swancor Renewable Energy has entered into a joint venture with Shizen Energy to develop offshore wind farms off Japan’s Kyushu region. Swancor developed the first offshore wind project in Taiwan in 2012 and has since been involved in the development of 5,000 MW of projects globally. Shizen Energy has developed approximately 1 GW of renewable energy power plants in Japan.

The Spanish government will allocate €6.9 billion to renewable energy, green hydrogen, and energy storage over the next two years, as part of its Covid-19 recovery spending. The funding comes from a €16.3 billion energy plan, with the remaining €9.45 billion set to come from as-yet unconfirmed private sources. Around €1.55 billion of the state funding will be channeled into the development of green hydrogen infrastructure, opening up avenues for future exports, and hoping to satisfy the country’s target of having 4 GW of electrolysis capacity in place by 2030.

United Airlines has taken an equity stake in hydrogen-electric aircraft pioneers ZeroAvia, and expects to purchase up to 100 of the company’s ZA2000-RJ engines by 2028. The engine uses hydrogen fuel cells to power electric motors, with the company’s first flights successfully taking place back in September.

Longi – a Chinese solar company – has stated that its hydrogen arm will develop a production capacity of 1.5 GW for electrolyzers next year, up from 500 MW today, and accounting for over 60% of projected global installations in 2022. Conservative analysts – mainly in the US – are concerned that this is a publicity stunt to offset to lack of public support in the country’s wind and solar industries, although its far more likely that the company is simply keen to get cracking in building out its production capacity in such a growth area of business.

European gas prices have soared after German officials said that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline which comes from Russia, but which bypasses the Ukraine, could not be approved. We suspect that Russia misunderstands Europe, and thought its show of force on the Ukraine border would push Europe to agreeing the deal, instead it has had the reverse effect. At present the Ukraine could cut off the old pipeline if Russia behaved in a hostile way, but the new Nord Stream 2 would take this advantage away. Gas prices in on European markets have already gone through the roof. It will be a long, cold winter in Europe.

It was back in June that Volvo and Northvolt cut a deal to work together and for Volvo Cars to source 15WGh of batteries from existing Northvolt plants by 2024. This week it has quantified the involvement at $3.3 billion, and given more detailed plans of its joint R&D center in Gothenburg. The two are trying to make their next gen battery venture the most “Green” it can be and Volvo is heading for fully recyclable cars. Volvo is owned by Chinese firm Geely. The planned joint venture includes a new gigafactory in Europe for 50 GWh a year with production scheduled for 2026. Volvo Cars expects to sell 50% of all its cars as EVs by 2025, and all EVs by 2030. Northvolt has already committed to producing a joint battery plant for Volkswagen, and has supply deals with BMW, Fluence and Scania, as well. This week Northvolt said it would build a lithium processing plant with Portugal’s Galp Energia with investments estimated at around $790 million. The JV will be called Aurora and produce 35,000 tons of lithium hydroxide a year.

Shell New Energies US, has signed a deal to buy 100% of Savion, in Kansas City, a large utility-scale solar and energy storage developer in the US, from Macquarie’s Green Investment Group. Savion has over 18 GW of solar and energy storage under development for customers. The amount paid was not revealed, and the acquisition is expected to close by year end.

Nebraska has become the 20th US State to commit to 100% clean electricity by 2050, voting 9–2 to adopt this goal.

Volkswagen’s chief executive, Herbert Diess will not be standing down, but his responsibilities will be reduced. This is the result of investors being worried about his leadership style. More authority goes to Ralf Brandstätter, 53, who will join the board and begin managing the company’s business in China. China is Volkswagen’s most important market outside of Europe, but it has failed to make any headway in EVs there .

Hilariously the Ford F-150 Lightning has wildly exceeded Ford’s expectations in terms of reservations and it has capped them at 200,000 or  three times what Ford expected to sell. Now it will take real orders as customers configure their Lightnings in January, with first pick-ups delivered in the spring. Ford is now planning more for Generation two of the electric pickup.

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister this week said that it would invest $101 billion) in renewable energy projects and a further $38 billion in energy distribution through 2030. It has made statements like this before and reneged on plans.

PwC says that investment from VC groups is flowing into climate technology, and is $60bn in the first half of 2021 alone. This is up 210% over the $28.4 billion invested 12 months before. Deal sizes have now quadrupled and mobility received the lions share of the funding and the US markets leads the world, it says.

The UK Government has gone and cut its grants for EV purchases. This is the second time it has done this in the past 12 months and it is now £1,500 as a maximum instead of £2,500. This is almost certain to slow the uptake rate of EVs in the UK, which is around 17.5% year to date, although it was 28% during November.

China’s Photovoltaic Industry Association has lowered its 2021 national forecast for solar installations from 55GW-65GW to 45GW-55GW, which is in line with our predictions in the recent Q3 Solar article, where we said China would install at most 55 GW. Wang Bohua, the Honorary Chairman of the Association, also stated the following year-on-year comparison for the first three quarters of 2021 compared to 2020:

  • National polysilicon production was up 24.1% at 360,000 tons
  • Silicon wafer production was up 54.2% at 165 GW
  • Cells were up 54.6% at 147 GW
  • Modules were up 58.5% at 130 GW

The Chairman went on to state China’s 2022 solar installations will rise to 75 GW. This is in line with our global expectations of 220 GW next year and 169 GW this year as China is typically a third of the global market.

The US’s Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has likewise lowered its 2021 forecast by 25%, from 29.6 GW to 22.2 GW for the same temporary supply chain reasons.

Solaires Enterprises, a Canadian startup we have previously interviewed, has launched its product – a perovskite ink formula which it plans to sell to manufacturers. According to the company, its product has the stability required for full-scale perovskite solar module manufacture with air-processed fabrication techniques, and is compatible with blade coating, slot die coating and other scalable deposition processes. Solaires claims efficiencies of up to 17% from devices manufactured using think ink in a blade-coated process. The ink can be stored in ambient conditions with a four-month shelf life.

Fourteen Chinese provinces and cities have announced rooftop solar subsidies, with the highest set at $63 per MWh. In some cases the subsidy is apparently set on a “per square meter” basis ranging from $5 to $50 (the latter in Shanghai) per square meter of photovoltaics.

Just as 182mm (M10) and 210mm (G12) solar cells  gain market share, an even larger size category – 218.2mm – have appeared with a listing made by a Tianjin wafer manufacturer.  Cell sizes of 210mm or more require a larger outlay on new manufacturing equipment which is why both 182mm and 210mm have acquired “alliances” of manufacturers in their respective courts.

The price of polysilicon has fallen to $39, down from its recent plateau of $42.5 per kilogram, following similar price declines of a few percent in the rest of the supply chain.

Shandong Province, already China’s leading project for photovoltaics thanks to various initiatives, has stated it will “fully liberalize” the participation of commercial and industrial consumers in power market transactions and expects a transaction scale of 380 TWh in 2022.

Japan has issued new guidelines for its agrivoltaic sector, which so far amounts to 200 MW in scale. Land availability in Japan is low and standalone ground-mounted PV projects are taxed, which is not the case for agrivoltaic projects.