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12 May 2022

The world of renewables this week

Norway has unveiled plans to develop 30 GW of offshore wind in the country’s waters by 2040, with the next round of awarding licences to come in 2025. This will build on the first two zones that have already been announced at Utsira North and Sorlige Nordsjo 2. Likely to include swathes of floating wind capacity due to the country’s deep waters, the government is planning a step-by-step allocation of land with a goal to open a total area of approximately 1% of Norwegian sea areas.

California energy regulators are considering a preliminary goal of 3 GW for floating offshore wind capacity by 2030, with between 10 GW and 15 GW targeted for 2045, and up to 20 GW by 2050, according to a draft report released Friday by the California Energy Commission.

Global solar capacity has passed the 1,000 GW mark, according to SolarPower Europe, which predicts that the next 1,000 GW will come online as soon as 2025. Our own numbers at Rethink Energy suggest the 1,000 GW mark was passed at the end of Q1, and our upcoming solar forecast sees the 2,000 GW mark reached in January 2026.

French start-up Carbon has outlined plans to develop a Gigafactory for solar cells in Europe within just three years. The company is aiming to bring solar manufacturing back to the continent and to become a world leader by 2030, when it hopes to have a production capacity of over 20 GW.

The growth rates of renewable energy capacity could start to stagnate in the next six months, according to the IEA, if stronger policies are not implemented. While new renewable power capacity hit a record 295 GW in 2021 and is set to hit 320 GW installed in 2022, the amount of renewable power capacity added worldwide is expected to plateau in 2023, as continued progress for solar is offset by a 40% decline in hydropower expansion and little change in wind additions.

Private German boiler company Viessmann said that growth in heat pumps has led to a 21% rise in group revenue in 2021 and now it will invest in a new €1 billion gigafactory to build more heat pumps. The money will go on a larger manufacturing footprint and bigger R&D labs. The company published sales of €3.4 billion in 2021 up from €2.8 billion last year. Only last week Viessmann introduced a line of hot water heat pumps that go right the way up to 70°C, which can work directly with existing radiators.

The Times of London ran a piece this week where French energy firm EDF confirmed that there would be further delays and rising costs at the Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor it is building in the UK. It puts it down to inflation and supply chain issues and the article suggests costs will rise above the £23 billion it has already reached since go ahead in 2016 when it was supposed to cost £18 billion. Such a shame the current government thinks more of the same is a good idea.

April UK electric vehicle sales were a little disappointing, with just 10.8% of car buyers opting for Battery electric (2021 6.5%) and a further 5.4% opting for Plug in Hybrid (PHEV 2021 6.8%), but year to date figures remain strong with the two segments combined reaching 21.1% of all cars purchased in the UK, up from 13.6% a year ago, according to figures from the SSMT. Data from Germany’s KBA said that its combined EV numbers had reached 24.3% of vehicles bought year to date, even better than the UK.

A survey of 2,000 UK drivers conducted last week by Bridgestone concluded that 56% want the environmental benefits of EVs. However 66% of drivers surveyed remain concerned about charging point infrastructure. Bridgestone pointed out that it is selling a lot more of its Enliten tires, which increase available driving range on any EV.

A speech made by Carlos Tavares, CEO of Stellantis at the Future of Cars event held by the Financial Times highlighted supply chain issues and a battery shortage coming to the EV marketplace – something our Gigafactory Research paper forecast last month. He listed his own battery facilities with partners in the US, and across Europe, but still worried there would not be enough battery charging infrastructure in place in time and warned that a swift transition towards EVs could have “loads of unforeseen consequences by 2025,” referring to some companies being unable to get their hands on enough raw materials for batteries, and going broke. Tavares also worried what would happen to the millions of people who currently work in independent repair shops and parts retailers, once the mood shifts entirely to EVs.

In Brighton in the UK, a new type of tire terrorist has emerged, deflating car tires especially for SUV owners and leaving a flier on the windscreen pointing out that their gas guzzler is unnecessary  during a climate disaster. This will catch on, we’re sure. They call themselves Tyre Extinguishers using the UK English spelling for tires.

Reuters says this week that the European Union wants to cut the time taken to permit renewable energy projects to under a year, according to a document shown to it by EU officials. This is all part of a package of changes to be announced to end European reliance on Russian fuels.

Lightsource bp is setting up in France, in Aix-en-Provence with a plan to build a 1GW pipeline of solar power projects in France by 2026. This will be carried out in joint ventures with large-scale solar farms. It says it will participate in public tenders and will offer companies Power Purchase Agreements.

Vodafone says this week it has signed a 10-year agreement to take power generated from three new solar farms in Lincolnshire, Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire, as part of its push for net zero UK operations by 2027. The deal with between Vodafone, Centrica and MYTILINEOS as the generator. The solar farms will produce 75 GWh of renewable electricity every year and this will rise to more than 100 GWh. At least 55GWh will be dedicated to Vodafone UK, and the remainder will be sold on power markets by Centrica.

CECEP Solar, a Chinese solar company, has opined during its annual performance review that TOPcon cell technology will predominate in the next two to three years, with Heterojunction seizing significant market share from 2024 onwards as its cost declines.

California’s Public Utilities Commission has backed off from its NEM 3.0 proposal, which would slash payments to solar owners by four-fifths while imposing grid fees, and is once again requesting comment from solar companies, utilities and other groups. This consultation period lasts until June 10th. The questions posed by the Commission include asking if solar owners should pay fees into low-income community solar and energy efficiency programs, whether a fixed $ per Watt Market Transition Credit (MTC) should be followed or an hourly Avoided Cost Calculator (ACC).

The government of the Indian state of Karnataka has announced plans to develop 1 GW of rooftop PV plus 10 GW of utility-scale wind and solar from 2022 to 2027. This represents a mild increase of the rooftop share within solar, typically a little under 15% of total solar.

The rail network in the US has lost 20% of its employees since the start of 2019 according to Bureau of Labor statistics, contributing to a national rise in the coal price as mines struggle to transport their goods via freight trains. India is also experiencing a coal shortage due to high air conditioning demand, while China has a secure coal situation after the measures taken in response to last September’s scare. In November China set up a $30 billion loan system backed by the People’s Bank of China to “support the clean and efficient processing of coal”, and this week the system was cranked up to $45 billion.

The latest draft of Vietnam’s Power Development Plan (PDP) features effectively no new planned solar power, instead putting the country’s energy transition in the hands of wind power onshore and offshore.

Fortescue Future Industries is to invest in Dutch thin-film manufacturer HyET Solar, along with investment fund Teslin Participaties. HyET is to go public on the Amsterdam stock exchange soon to help scale up its production facilities.

US solar installations surged by 35.6% in the first two months of 2022 year-on-year according to Energy Information Administration statistics with 4 GW added.  China’s solar module exports rose more than double year-on-year, by 112%, to 37.2 GW in the first quarter of 2022. India’s imposition of its Basics Custom Duty on April 1st was the main cause. In 2021 the top six manufacturers produced 133 GW, up 42% year-on-year.