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10 August 2022

The world of renewables this week

ExxonMobil has completed its exit from the Niger delta, having sold off its assets to Seplat Energy for $1.3 billion. The deal comprises four oil fields and ends Exxon’s oil operations in Nigeria, which date back to the 1950s. In the short-term Exxon and Seplat will work together to boost production at the four fields, helping the country meet its Opec production quota of 1.8 million barrels a day.

Norway has announced measures to curb electricity exports to Europe, as a lack of rainfall in the country prompts fears of the country’s hydropower capacity. As one of the biggest exporters of electricity in Europe, the move will exacerbate the rising tensions of energy shortfalls across the continent this winter.

Vestas has reported a net loss of €182 million for the second quarter for 2022, marking a downturn from a net profit of €94 million in Q2 2021. Despite just a 7% dip in revenues (to €3.3 billion), the company cited continued supply chain disruptions and geo-political uncertainty as drivers behind increased costs. The company has, however, increased its long-term outlook, having boosted its order backlog by €2.1 billion to €50.2 billion.

The government of Colombia has set out plans for its first offshore wind tender in 2023. Led by the country’s Ministry of Mines and Energy, the process will aim to be competitive in awarding temporary occupation permits for project developers.

Iv-Offshore and Energy has developed a 500 MW offshore platform that can produce up to 85 kilotons of green hydrogen per year.

Masdar is aiming to develop up to 2 GW of renewable energy projects in Tanzania, having signed an agreement with Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO) this week. The deal will form an initial JV for the development of 600 MW of solar and onshore wind projects, while exploring the potential for a further 1,400 MW in the long term.

The Australian government has proposed the Climate Change Bill 2022, which will enshrine the 2050 net-zero target in law for the first time, with emissions to fall 43% by 2030, from 2005 levels. The Bill orders regulatory agencies such as Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to adopt and act on the targets.

India has passed the Electricity Amendment Bill 2022, which has been condemned by some politicians and officials as degrading states’ rights – India is a federation and several states have severely impeded the Modi government’s renewable energy development agenda by failing to pay developers in a reliable or timely manner for generated electricity. The issue has been litigated with state Supreme Courts tending to side with developers. A closely related issue is that many distribution companies are suffering losses, and are in debt, and hence struggle to make payments. According to some, the Amendment Bill 2022 will make this worse by allowing new companies to enter the distribution market, which will snap up profitable relationships, while the state-owned distribution companies – with their obligation to supply power to all – will be left with the least profitable and loss-making parts.

Terabase Energy has raised $44 million in Series B funding for its automated utility-scale solar deployment system product, which it says will involve robotic construction and operation of solar farms, which it intends to commercialize in 2023. Breakthrough Energy, which is backed by Bill Gates, has also invested in the start-up. While Terabase is located in California, the biggest opportunity for its technology is surely to be found in north-eastern Australia.

Spain has launched a new renewable energy tender, with 1.8 GW of solar and 1.5 GW of wind, though this capacity could be granted to other energy types if not fully bid for.

American Airlines announces investment in hydrogen-electric engine developer ZeroAvia. Additionally, a memorandum of understanding provides American the opportunity to order up to 100 engines from ZeroAvia’s hydrogen powered electric powertrain development program. The engines are intended to power regional jet aircraft with zero emissions.

Volkswagen joins the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) market with a new prototype. After launching its Vertical Mobility project in 2020 to explore solution for the urban air mobility sector, the project team developed its first validation model. An advanced prototype will undertake tests in the summer of 2023. The final version will be able to carry four passengers plus luggage over a distance of up to 200 km and have a top speed of 200km/h. The product can be used autonomously, or it can be operated by pilot.

Rolls Royce and the UK Space Agency launch first study into nuclear power for space exploration. The study aims to improve understanding of not only the capabilities of nuclear technologies in space travel but also in multiple terrestrial activities.

Bloom Energy’s solid oxide electrolyzer has been tested at the Idaho National Laboratory and initial results show it has a higher efficiency than commercially available electrolyzers. The Bloom electrolyzer is producing hydrogen at 37.7 kWh per kilogram.

The Inflation Reduction Act, one fully passed has clear messages about US manufacture – while there is no mention of union labor that we noticed (it is over 700 pages long) the percentage of manufacture that has to come from the US or countries it has a Free Trade Agreement with rises over time, including the battery, until it is 100% by 2028. Chinese output is well and truly out of the picture for these tax benefits although in the short term the US content starts out as 40%. Also it is unclear if mild hybrids, with batteries are actually out of the picture, because those running on “cleaner fuels like ethanol, natural gas, and sustainable petroleum and hydrogen, are all included in the Green vehicle definition. Cars seem to be limited to $7,500 subsidy split half and half between battery and vehicle manufacture; trucks and SUVs top out at $80,000 and there are household income limits also – if you earn too much no subsidy.

Australia’s New South Wales has given planning approval to a 500MW/1000MWh battery where the Wallerawang coal plant used to be and will be developed by Greenspot. It is the biggest Australian battery we have heard of and should costs A$404 million to build.

Asian media reports that Tesla has cut a deal with the government of Indonesia for a supply of nickel worth $5 billion over the next 5 years. This suggests that Tesla will use nickel in batteries which implies that it is not entirely married to the idea of LFP and NMC batteries after all.