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2 November 2022

The world of renewables this week

The Shanghai Metals Market observes that China’s solar wafer orders in September were up 36% year-on-year according to customs data. That fits with the situation in which China’s solar manufacturing output has grown by around 50% year on year, while its domestic installations – which must of course subtract from export figures – will be up around 80% from 2021.

Yongjia County in China’s Zhejiang Province has instituted a $13.7 per kWh subsidy for distributed photovoltaic projects. The same level of subsidy, but per kW rather than per kWh and specific to industrial enterprises has been instituted in Fanchang District, in the somewhat less prosperous neighbouring Anhui Province. Haining City in Zhejiang has brought into force a $165 per kW subsidy for residential solar installations.

EnergyTrend has tracked 50 GW of 210mm solar modules in the first three quarters of 2022. According to its latest research, by the end of 2022 production capacity for modules of 182mm and 210mm size will have reached 512 GW, 83% of the total. In 2023, 210mm alone will have 466 GW production capacity, which will be 57% of the total. This means 600+ Watt modules will soon become the norm if they haven’t already, with 210mm reaching 66% in 2025 and 182mm 30%.

Polysilicon prices have dropped for the first time since January, by around 0.3% in a week. For the past several months the material had mostly posted weekly increases of 0.3%. There are three reasons for this price fall. The first is that China’s state institutions stepped in to limit price-gouging with the soft-touch approach of “interviews with leading companies”. The second could be that it’s now too late to manufacture polysilicon in time for an end-of-Q4 solar installation, although we are a few weeks too early for that. And the third is that new polysilicon factories have opened and production capacity has roughly doubled since the start of the year. There could still be a price rise on the order of a few percent this month, but it is unlikely and would swiftly revert. From now of the trend for prices will be a constant decline, we think to around $15 per kilogram by the end of 2023, from $41 today. That in turn will make 1 kW of solar $69 cheaper, assuming a 2.65 grams per watt consumption rate. This week also saw Zhonghuan lower its wafer prices by several percentage points.

LONGi, the world’s biggest wafer manufacturer, has seen its revenue grow by 54.85% year-on-year to a little under $12 billion in the first three quarters of 2022. Another leading company JA Solar has increased its revenue in the first three quarters to $6.8 billion, up 89% year-on-year with profit attributable to shareholders up 151%.

China’s solar installations in the first three quarters of 2022 come to 52.6 GW, almost as much as full-year 2021 and almost double the year-on-year figure for the first three quarters of 2021. The country will install at least 30 GW in Q4 alone, for a final figure ranging from 82 GW to 100 GW. If official figures end up reporting even more than that, perhaps that will be owed to shenanigans with nominally grid-connected projects that don’t yet have all of their ranks of modules put in place.

US utility Xcel Energy serving 3.7 million electric and 2.1 million natural gas customers in Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico said this week it would retire the last of its coal plants early bringing the retirement of coal operations at Tolk Generating Station in Texas forward to 2028, four years early. It now says it can get out of coal by 2030. It will still have considerable gas assets which will likely remain in place until 2050.

This week Shell Petroleum completed the sale of its 100% shareholding in Shell Philippines Exploration agreed in May to Malampaya Energy, a subsidiary of Prime Infrastructure Capital. Shell will continue to own a 45% operating interest and be the operator of the Malampaya gas field.

Sweden’s Vattenfall has delivered 32 fast chargers to Tide Bus in Denmark’s fifth largest city, Vejle. This is Vattenfall’s first Power-as-a-Service project for passenger transport in Denmark.

French utility Engie says it has acquired 6GW of solar and battery storage pipeline from Belltown Power in the US. This includes 2.7GW of solar, 700 MW of solar-plus-storage and 2.6 GW of standalone battery energy storage systems across through ERCOT, PJM, MISO and WECC. Engie already has 3.9GW of installed capacity in North America as of June 2022 and it says it is in track to have 80GW of installed renewable capacity by 2030.

Canadian closed loop geothermal specialist Eavor has broken ground on a site in Germany at the site of the Eavor-Loop project in Geretsried in Bavaria. This is supposed to be the pilot project for massive expansion in Europe. In February last year BP and Chevron and other partners BDC Capital, Eversource and Vickers Venture Partners invested $40 million into Eavor. The company uses fracking technology to drill holes a couple of kilometers deep, and a couple of kilometers along and back up, which uses thermosiphoning to move as fluid around, keeping the system cheap as no pumps are involved.

Oxford University Professor Dieter Helm, famous for conducting an energy review for the Conservative Government in 2017 which was largely ignored has insisted that the Office for Budget Responsibility in the UK should at least consider that natural gas prices may fall in relatively short order. Coincidentally that’s a position Rethink Energy has argued in its Natural Gas paper earlier this Summer. Helm pointed out that there is now “new normal,” and that prices fell rapidly after great OPEC shocks of the 1970s and oil price peak in 2014. Essentially his latest podcast suggests there are plenty of fossil fuels and that real time trading markets generally operate well and reflect current real demand not market speculation.

Electric vehicle maker Nikola is working with KeyState Natural Gas Synthesis, a clean hydrogen and chemicals production facility under development, to build Pennsylvania’s first low carbon hydrogen production supply chain which includes full integration of commercial carbon capture and storage. The project is intended to represent the transition to lower emissions transportation, chemicals and manufacturing. The parties are working towards a definitive agreement to expand the hydrogen supply for Nikola’s zero-emissions heavy-duty fuel cell electric vehicles.

 

As part of the €3 billion European Hydrogen Bank, a new round of Contracts for Difference will be released next year which will aim to close the price gap even further between green hydrogen and its fossil fuel based counterparts, grey and blue hydrogen.

Dominion Energy has reached a settlement agreement with Virginia’s state attorney office regarding the performance guarantee of its massive 2.6GW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project which was in danger of being shelved.

The world’s first hydrogen powered tugboat has arrived in Belgium at the Port of Ostend. The tugboat was built by Armon Shipyards in Spain and will be fitted with a hydrogen sub-system on-site. The Hydrotug 1 is aimed to be fully operation in Antwerp in Q12023.

The European Parliament and Council has tabled an official agreement to end the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles (ICE) in 2035. This legislation will also include that the average emissions of new cars will need to be reduced by 55%, and 50% for vans by 2030. This agreement comes about as a result of the Commission’s “Fit for 55” legislation which was tabled in July of 2021, and before COP27 as an attempt to solidify commitments before the climate summit. Larger countries in Europe like Germany and France have already put forward plans to ban ICE vehicle production, with some having more aggressive targets. This legislation is likely aimed at forcing slow movers like Italy and Spain alongside smaller countries with less capital available to develop the necessary ancillary infrastructure. The agreement now requires official adoption by the Parliament and Council, at which point it will be published in the official Journal of the Union and enter into force.

Californian utility PG&E has received approval to establish the first vehicle to grid (V2G) export compensation mechanism for commercial EV customers. The mechanism will also allow stationary energy storage systems (ESS) that are connected to a charging station to contribute in the same way. It is hoped that commercial vehicles such as electric school buses will contribute to the grid at times of peak demand. PG&E’s press release mentions how its service area includes 1 in 6 EVs within the US, around 420,000, and that it sees larger vehicles and fleets as a crucial grid resource in the future. The agreement was made between EV charging station network operator Electrify America, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and advocacy group Vehicle-Grid Integration Council (VGIC). Currently, of the US’ school bus fleet of 100,000, 3,500 are electric but as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) this is set increase significantly as schools receive $1 billion to fund another 2,300.

Taiwanese company Alees will provide licensing and knowledge to Israel-based ICL Group’s $400 million LFP cathode manufacturing plant in Missouri, US. The plant will be the first of its kind within the US and is set to be operational in 2024. Phase one will see the plant open at limited production while full production is expected in 2025, at which point it will be capable of producing 15,000 tons of LFP material annually. ICL has been awarded $197 million for the plant as part of investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The two companies signed an MoU in July where Alees agreed to license its methods to ICL and agreed to provide the company with technical information to accelerate the project’s development. Freyr, a Norwegian battery company also announced a partnership with Alees for LFP manufacturing methods to be employed at its initial gigafactory in Norway.

Britishvolt has avoided entering administration as a mystery investor provided the necessary funds required for the company to remain afloat. The company has suffered multiple delays shifting production expectations from the end of 2023 to the middle of 2025, the most recent delay cited increased interest rates and other economic problems in the UK. This occurred after Britishvolt requested £30 million in advance from the £100 million the UK government had originally pledged for the project, which was subsequently denied on the grounds that this investment was set to be provided at production milestones, if our recent drive by the site in Blyth is any indication, these have yet to be met. This led to Britishvolt seeking new investment and the appearance of this mystery buyer. Most suspect India’s Tata, since it owns Jaguar Land rover who has already made commitments towards the gigafactory for its production factories in Coventry, UK. However this is just speculation as the investor has requested anonymity. Britishvolt claims that it has secured its short to medium term future with this investment.