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5 December 2019

The world of renewables this week

Egypt will strengthen its electricity grid with $183 million in loan funding from The European Bank for Reconstruction (EBRD). The money is for the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company to modernize its grid so it can handle 1.3 GW more of renewable energy. Renewable projects in Egypt have so far focused on solar, with EDF as one of the major players in the region. However, traction is starting to be seen within onshore wind, with a 262.5 MW farm recently commissioned by Engie.

Greece is eyeing up €44 billion in funding to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels. It has the ambition to reduce its carbon footprint by 55% by 2030, closing all coal-fired power plants, a strategy approved by the Greek cabinet which said €9 billion of this would increase wind, solar and hydroelectric power.

LONGi Solar is planning a new 10 GW monocrystalline silicon ingot manufacturing plant in the Yunnan Province of China. Hoping for operation at the end of next year, the facility will be built with the Tengchong Municipal People’s Government, with a total investment of around $355 million. The plans follow LONGi’s recent expansion of annual production capacity for solar modules to 10 GW and solar cells to 5 GW, as other Chinese-based manufacturers ramp up due to ever-increasing demand.

The Cuban government has signed a new decree to promote the growth of renewable electricity, most notably from solar, through a range of incentives, import tariff exemptions and tax benefits. In the publication released this week, “Decree No. 345 declares as an objective the creation of a national industry, the production of equipment and components for the development of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.”

The European Union will release a document on the 11th of December detailing a new climate law to make the bloc carbon-neutral by 2050, with many worried that current country-level action is insufficient. The report is also expected to present a plan to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The UN has appointed Bank of England governor Mark Carney as the Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance. Carney will take up the role on January 31st, 2020, following the end of his term as governor.

Washington State Ferries will switch from diesel to batteries as the trend emerges for electrification within the shipping industry. The government-owned ferry operator is currently the second largest in the world and the single largest polluter in the state, consuming nearly 20 million gallons of diesel per year.

The UK Government has been forced into releasing a previously secret fracking report, after a 22-month Freedom of Information battle with Unearthed. The document, which was produced by the Cabinet Office in 2016, shows the concern of the government and industry players about the use of shale gas in the UK, at a time when its growth was promoted. The Labour Party has criticized the Conservatives for “bending over backwards to serve the interests of the oil and gas industry,” ignoring public opposition concerning safety and the environment.

Oil and gas player Repsol, has pledged to become carbon neutral in nearly all of its operations by 2050. The 95% reduction in emissions will be an ‘industry first’ as other energy companies seem reluctant to comply with Paris goals. This would include reaching net-zero with regard to scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, identifying interim targets for 2020 and 2040. The company expects that the move will incur a €4.8 billion hit to the value of its oil and gas assets, which it intends to balance by bolstering its green credentials, including 7.5 GW of new, low-carbon generation capacity in its home country of Spain. Following the announcement, both environmentalist groups and institutional investors have hailed Repsol as a ‘poster child’, urging other energy firms such as Shell and BP to follow suit in adopting more aggressive decarbonization targets.

Amazon has committed to a range of new renewables projects to power its data centers in Australia, Spain and the US, as it strives towards its 80% renewable energy target by 2024. The company, which intends to be carbon neutral by 2030, will benefit from 180 MW of combined solar projects in Illinois and Virginia, US, as well as 149 MW in Seville, Spain. Six new projects have also been announced for Australia, with a combined capacity of 711 MW, which will be the company’s first renewables venture outside of the US or Europe.

Orsted has announced a big restructure, with a new operating model to support the global expansion of offshore wind and the company’s growing pipeline. With the company moving to the likes of Taiwan and the US, the move intends to combine “market proximity with global scale and efficiency” to create a “scalable organization.” This will be executed by managing the company in four distinct regions: the UK; continental Europe; North America; and Asia Pacific, with each responsible for independent project development and asset management. Construction and operation of projects will still be delivered by Orsted’s global engineering teams, and the company maintains that close collaboration will be present between each sector of the business.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has released a report predicting that battery prices will fall nearly 50% by 2023. Having fallen from $1,100 per kWh in 2010 to $156 per kWh in 2019, the price of battery packs will further fall due to the rise of electric vehicles as well as new efficiency developments. The 2019 Battery Price Survey Predicts that in 2023 the average market price for battery pack will be $100 per kWh, although previous forecasts have fallen short of estimating full cost reduction. In 2016, BNEF predicted that this $100 mark would be reached in 2030, when it now estimates a figure closer to $60.

Nevada could be set for up to 1,000 MW of new storage by 2030, after the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada acknowledged a 2018 bill directing it to look into realistic goals. This follows a report by the Brattle Group which indicated that the optimum amount of cost-effective storage lay in the range of 700 MW to 1,000 MW. The new proposal would likely include 100 MW by the end of 2020, 400 MW by 2024 and 800 MW by 2028.

Orsted has signed a framework agreement with Nexans and Eversource to provide cables for its North American wind farms up to 2027. Cable manufacturer Nexans will invest in a US-based facility for the production associated with projects such as the 700 MW Revolution Wind project off the coast of Rhode Island and Connecticut, as well as the 880 MW Sunrise Wind project off New York. Energy provider, Eversource will be more focused on the distribution of the power from these cables to the grid. This is another sign of developers looking to localize the supply chain for US-based projects, although questions still remain around the available shipping capacity for construction. Orsted has told us that it will use European feeder barges while it waits for US shipbuilders to catch up but refused to comment when asked about any plans beyond this or ongoing conversations with this part of the supply chain.

German polymer supplier, Covestro, has signed the world’s largest offshore wind power purchase agreement (PPA) with Orsted, buying 100 MW of the output from the Borkum Riffgrund 3 project. This will account for over 10% of the power from the North Sea project following its expected commission in 2025. This deal is another indicator of the growing size of PPAs in the offshore wind market, with interest starting to gather in data-center-heavy countries like Ireland or the US.

Carbon Trust has awarded £300,000 to firms experimenting with low-carbon methods to cut the impact of offshore wind maintenance, as part of its annual prize-giving scheme. This includes £70,000 to Chartwell Marine for vessel design to reduce emissions alongside others working towards hybrid ships and hydrogen-powered boats. Chartwell this week signed an order with Atlantic Wind Transfers to develop two crew transfer vessels for the US offshore wind sector.

Tidal Power will try to raise £1.2 million, in a last-ditch attempt to enable works for the Swansea Bay lagoon before consent expires next year. Permission for the 320 MW project in Wales will lapse on March 20th next year and will be revoked if material works have not commenced by June. CEO Mark Shorrock has said that “No amount of political will can resurrect this vital pathfinder project if the planning permission is allowed to lapse. By raising a relatively modest sum we can retain for the UK the option of large-scale, multi-generational tidal power,” with the project so far attracting £37 million from individual investors since it was granted permission in 2015, with the total project costs amounting to £1.3 billion. Without support from the government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, public shares are being offered at a price of £2.50, with a minimum subscription of £500.

Mexico’s clean energy sector has been boosted after a decision to limit renewable credits was overturned. Companies including AES Corp and Enel won in court after filing injunctions against amendments to a renewable credit rule, which critics worried would see the cost of renewables increase.

BayWa is close to finalizing a deal to sell 49% of its renewable arm. Following sales of several renewable projects, BayWa has stated that the stake value has exceeded expectations.

SolarEdge has lost a patent for its multi-level topology, after a battle with Huawei in a Germany court. In 2018, SolarEdge filed lawsuits against Huawei regarding the infringement of three patents related to its solar invertors and optimizers. Of these three, two have so far been heard and rejected in court. Following the judges rule, the European Patent Office also revoked one of the patents, claiming that SolarEdge’s technology did not involve an inventive step.

An advisor to China’s negotiating team criticized the European Union’s proposed “carbon border tax” at a UN conference on Wednesday, claiming that it would bring “uncertain and harmful factors” to climate negotiations. While the proposed tax would not follow the Paris accord’s voluntary nature, EU climate officials state that the new tax would help address carbon emissions from foreign firms. This will see the price of Chinese carbon-based products rise in Europe, which is likely to be the cause behind China’s complaints.

Spanish retailer El Corte Ingles has announced the launch of a blockchain-powered system to verify the sustainability of electricity, along with provider EDP’s renewable arm EDP Renovaveis. “Using the Blockchain Energy Tracking, companies will be able to assure stakeholders that they are meeting environmental objectives” claims EDP CEO Joao Manso Neto.

The UK’s National Grid and Scottish Power have partnered with US startups to test distribution and transmission technology on the UK grid. Due to the current lack of penetration of wind and solar in the US market, utilities have struggles to move innovative technologies beyond the pilot stage, but with a larger percentage of renewables, the UK may provide a better platform to test smart grid technology. Projects being tested include at least five Smart Wires installations from California to “reduce the congestion that limits renewable generation,” as well as Ermco’s GridBridge technology for use on the low-voltage distribution network.

Scottish Power will build solar panels and storage facilities beside its wind farms to squeeze more generating capacity from its renewable projects in Cornwall, Lancashire and Coldham, UK. The company claims that in some cases, 10 MW of panels and 10 MW of storage could double the green energy capacity of small windfarm sites. In countries like the UK and Ireland where resources are fairly abundant, this could be a sign of hybrid projects starting to take-off. Reduced Capex costs due to the lack of requirement of new transmission infrastructure could see onshore renewables starting to exist side-by-side on a more regular basis.

The world’s largest finance manager, BlackRock has raised $1 billion for wind, solar and battery storage projects. Over 35 institutional investors committed to the company’s third global renewable fund, indicating how keen investors are to turn profit from clean energy. Clean-energy investments are expected to reach $322 billion through 2025 – triple that going into fossil-fuel plants.

Wind power capacity has reached over 37 GW in India, according to the latest government figures. This is a significant contribution towards the intentions of reaching 60 GW by 2022, although the shortfall is likely to be another addition to India’s history of missing renewables targets.

Lightsource and BP will equalize their shares in Lightsource BP, creating a 50:50 joint venture in the solar industry. A further investment from BP will see its share rise from 43% to 50%, with funds dedicated to help support the solar developer’s ambitions of reaching 10 GW of developed assets by the end of 2023.