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16 March 2022

The world of renewables this week

We have come full circle on the issue of California being able to set its own vehicle emission standards, after the Trump administration had issued a law that prevented it. This came from an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) statement saying they would drop the 2019 order known as SAFE-1 which bars California form its own standards. This should now also mean that the Executive Order from California Governor Gavin Newsom which phased out new gas-powered vehicle sales by 2035 is now likely to stand. Most car-makers had already seen the way the wind was blowing and had backed the Californian standards.

UK headquartered supply chain traceability provider Circulor says it has partnered with Canadian lithium miner Rock Tech Lithium to provide supply chain provenance and emissions traceability for Europe’s first lithium refinery. It is planned in Germany as a battery-grade lithium facility to produce 24,000 tons of lithium a year with the lowest possible environmental impact. Circulor will make sure every batch of lithium is traceable and has CO2 tracking associated with it.

Dominion Energy in the US has yet again increased the solar plus storage ion its IRP in Virginia adding 1,000 MW of solar to existing projects, adding a further 15 solar projects of its own plus another 24 from other providers.

Construction of the 15 Dominion Energy Virginia projects will generate $880 million in economic benefits across Virginia the company claims but only add $1.13 to the typical residential customers’ monthly bill.

The EU carbon border tax has been voted into existence on imports of high-polluting goods from 2026 onwards. The tax will include carbon used on making steel, cement, fertilizers, aluminum and electricity which will stop EU firms from being undercut by cheaper goods made in countries with weaker environmental rules. Few details have so far been released.

Goldman Sachs Renewable Power which owns 850 solar and storage projects in the US said that its Slate solar and energy storage project is now in operation serving five Californian customers. This has 390 MW of solar plus 561 MWh of storage and was originally developed by Recurrent Energy, a subsidiary of Canadian Solar.

There are continuing question marks over the manufacture of Electric Vehicles for as long as there is a shortage of semiconductions. So it’s important that Intel has just invested phase one of what will eventually be €80 billion in the European Union over ten years right along the semiconductor value chain, from R&D to manufacturing to packaging. The first round is a €17 billion semiconductor fab mega-site in Germany, and a new R&D and design hub in France. Pat Gelsinger, CEO of Intel, said: “Our planned investments are a major step both for Intel and for Europe. The EU Chips Act will empower private companies and governments to work together to drastically advance Europe’s position in the semiconductor sector.”

The London Metal Exchange is having a terrible time around Nickel trading, and after a week-long suspension, after prices rose on news of the Russia Ukraine war, once it restarted it already proved too volatile as prices plunged past a new daily limit which was imposed to create order. Nickel is used in lithium ion and other types of batteries and it was trading at four times its usual price after Russian sanctions took out the 11% of Nickel that is sourced from Russia. Little Nickel was traded while it was so high and the exchange reversed some transaction that had happened at record prices.

There is a lot of noise picked up from a statement by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China and the National Energy Administration about deploying 30 GW of non-hydro energy storage by 2025. This news came out initially 9 months ago as first glimpses of the new Chinese five year plan were shown and is entirely in line with Rethink Energy’s forecast for Chinese energy storage made two years ago. The 30GW figure includes electrochemical, compressed air, flywheel and supercapacitor systems, but not pumped hydro.

Germany car firm Mercedes-Benz this week added a new battery production plant in Bibb County, Georgia which will create 600 jobs. It is in partnership with Japanese battery specialist Envision AESC and the batteries are for luxury electric SUVs EQS and EQE models. Mercedes-Benz said that by 2030 it will produce 200 GWh of battery globally

The recent South Korean election should see an about face over renewables, with nuclear once again in fashion with the elected party. Immediately all nuclear related stocks took off on the South Korea markets including Kepco, Korea Electronic Power, Bosung Power Technology, Doosan Heavy Industries and GS Engineering.

Heterojunction solar market share is expected to reach 20 GW to 30 GW in 2022, up from 8.1 GW in 2021, according to a survey of 501 institutions carried out by Maiwei. Supply chain issues are hindering the rollout of this high-cost, high-performance technology.

Solar-rich South Australia may completely abandon synchronous generation – having already reduced its need for gas baseload to 80 MW with the installation of synchronous condensers. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) is considering the move alongside further battery developments.

Chinese policymakers are reacting to a spate of battery fires and accidents which have occurred worldwide in the past few months, ranging from a fire in the Nigerian Ministry of Finance, to a tugboat battery explosion in British Columbia, to an apartment fire in southern Germany. One of the most noteworthy was the fire and sinking of the vehicle cargo ship Felicity Ace, which had some EVs on board, off the coast of Portugal in February. South Korea’s Xinglui solar plant battery fire in January was the country’s 34th battery fire since August 2017, with $38 million of property damage suffered. Meanwhile Viridi Parente in the US has raised $95 million in Series C financing for lithium-ion safety system development. New energy storage safety regulations can be expected in China soon, including from specific provinces such as Qinghai, while nine provinces had already released such regulations at the start of the year.

Minesto is to deploy its Dragon Class wave energy converters at its Vestmannasund site in the Faroe Islands this year. The company will deploy several MW there and is working toward an 80 MW project off the north coast of Wales.