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16 July 2020

The world of renewables this week

The EU’s carbon price has hit record levels of €30 per ton of CO2, after months where reduced electricity demand, economic fatigue and decimated air travel have caused the price to sink as low as €5 per ton.

Orsted has hired UK telecom provider Vilicom to provide a 4G mobile network for the construction, development and deployment of the 1.4 GW Hornsea One offshore wind project.

Saudi Arabia will use the world’s largest green hydrogen plant, mentioned last week in Rethink Energy, to fuel global bus and truck fleets. The $5 billion project will use 4 GW of renewable capacity to produce green hydrogen as a joint venture between Air Products, ACWA Power and the city of NEOM.

CATL and Honda have signed an agreement to develop batteries for new energy vehicles. With CATL providing a stable supply of batteries to Honda’s EVs, the pairing will also expand their discussion on battery recycling and reuse. As part of the deal, Honda has acquired CATL shares through non-public issuance of stocks.

TenneT has issued a €1 billion Green Hybrid Bond, with a coupon of 2.374% and a non-call period of 5.25 years. With investors snapping up the offering which was 2.5 times oversubscribed, TenneT claims that it will use the proceeds to connect large-scale offshore wind projects to the grid.

The EU has approved PKN Orlen’s acquisition of fellow Polish utility Lotos. This was granted on the basis that several commitments should be made to prevent disruption to wholesale and retail fuel supply in the country, including the divestment of a 30% stake in Lotos’ refinery, as well as nine fuel storage depots and a 50% stake in a jet fuel-marketing joint venture with BP.

UK gas network operator SGN has launched the world’s first offshore wind-powered green hydrogen project for heating. Using a single turbine from the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult’s Levenmouth site, the project will heat 300 homes in the Fife area of Scotland. The project will act as a pilot for SGN’s vision to deploy 100% hydrogen networks in Machrihanish and Aberdeen at a later date.

Nordex has received 888 MW of orders through Q2 2020, compared to 2,003 MW seen in the same quarter in 2019. Between April and June, the OEM saw 83% of its orders coming from Europe, with the rest coming from Latin America, across a total of 217 projects.

The Norther offshore wind farm is undergoing a novel project to grow seaweed on a large scale as a food source. Seaweed will grow among the project’s turbines, with the first harvest scheduled for April-May 2021, managed by consortium Wier & Wind.

The UK has eased planning regulations for battery projects of more than 50 MW capacity, which could allow as many as 100 new projects across the country. Under new regulations, projects across England and Wales can be approved by local authorities, rather than having to go through national-level infrastructure procedures, which can take as long as 10 years. Along with battery-based systems, this will also facilitate the development of technologies including compressed and liquid air storage. The UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has stated that removing such barriers could treble the number of batteries serving the electricity grid.

India’s Renew Power will look to double its green power portfolio to 20 GW by 2025, according to a statement made this week.

Eon will sell its gas and electric retail business in the Czech Republic to Hungary’s MVM, subject to approval from the European Commission.  Financial details have not been disclosed, but should the deal go ahead, it is expected to close by the end of 2020. The Czech business has previously belonged to Innogy and caters to 1.2 million gas customers and 0.4 million electricity customers across the country.

Southern California Edison has started its rollout of chargers for electric buses and trucks across the state and is looking to invest $356 million in infrastructure for fleet operators that are hoping to convert to electric vehicles. The Chare Ready Transport program would see at least 870 commercial charging point installed over the next 5 years to service at least 8,490 vehicles.

The rooftop solar sector has adapted to new social distancing practices, according to an article from ResearchAndMarkets.com, which has identified new measures put in place by SunPower, Vivint and Sunrun to improve virtual sales, digitalize paperwork and permits and they use drones for rooftop inspection.

Rivian has just closed a $2.5 billion funding round, according to a statement made on Friday. Its first round of 2020 was led by T Rowe Price Associates, and brings the total investment raised to $5.3 billion since the company launched in early 2019. Despite signing deals for 100,000 electric delivery vans for Amazon, the company is still yet to deliver a single vehicle.

Floating wind could reach a global capacity of 70 GW by 2040, according to a new forecast from the Carbon Trust, which is estimated to have a project value of £195 billion. The report outlines challenges in foundation scaling, turbine requirements, heavy lift offshore operations, dynamic export cables, as well as monitoring and inspection, as barriers to rapid cost reduction in the industry. Rethink Energy believes this forecast to be conservative and underestimating the impact that will be seen as oil and gas majors jump into the sector through the early 2020s. In our latest offshore wind forecast, we anticipate that floating wind will reach 96 GW by 2040, with annual additions exceeding 12 GW, as markets open up in the Asia Pacific and Western USA.

Leading players in the biomass sector are starting to admit that the technology cannot always be carbon neutral. Jennifer Jenkins, CSO at Envivia in the US has stated that for biomass to bring climate benefits, it needs to come from low-value wood residue, not from high-value trees that can be used in construction. Organizations like Sandbag have previously reiterated this, highlighting that the EU’s suggested biomass expansion would require 2,700 square kilometers of forest to be cut down each year, only to produce 2% of the region’s electricity. With tremendous strain on reforestation to prevent losing vast amounts of carbon sinks, both studies have highlighted the economic and environmental sense of shifting focus to both wind and solar.

A group of state-level utilities in the south-eastern USA, including Dominion and Duke Energy, have revealed plans for a regional imbalance market to handle power trading between states. The Solar Energy Industries Alliance’s vice president Katherine Gensler gave it a mixed reception, saying “News of a regional energy imbalance market in the Southeast raises more questions than answers. More competition in the electricity sector is inherently good for ratepayers and the economy, but it’s not truly competition if vertically-integrated utilities can continue exercising their monopoly power,” continuing “We cannot be in the situation where utilities ignore stakeholders and state legislators and simply announce their preferred solution.”

An Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) report has predicted that 70% of Texas’ daytime coal generation will be outcompeted by solar by 2022.

Canadian solar companies have co-signed a letter to Canadian authorities to complain of mistreatment at the hands of the Mexican government, which has suspended renewable project commissioning. Mexico added 1 GW of solar power in the first quarter of this year, but the new government is trying to undermine pro-renewable policies from previous administrations, and is hostile to foreign corporations.

BloombergNEF has reported a 12% decline in global solar investment in the course of H1 2020.

The United States Court of Appeal in the District of Columbia ruled against appeals and allowed Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Order 841 to stand after some utilities tried to opt out of it. It is the rule which allows all form of energy storage, including distributed storage, to participate in the wholesale market.

Iberdrola has secured $903 million from the European Investment Bank and Instituto de Credito Oficial, to go towards wind and solar projects totalling 2 GW in Spain.

The UK government is to remove size limits from battery storage projects, which had been set at 50 MW in England and 350 MW in Wales. This change will be enacted by removing battery projects from the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime.

The Australian state of New South Wales is planning a second 8 GW Renewable Energy Zone, weeks after the first received 113 registrations of interest totalling 27 GW for a 3 GW Zone.

PacifiCorp has issued an RFP for 1920 MW wind, 1823 MW solar and 595 MW battery storage, to be completed by 2023. Pacificorp and its subsidiaries are active in six US states.

Indian developer Renew Power plans to establish 2 GW of solar manufacturing, having confirmed an interest in the transmission business previously this year.