British-Dutch oil and gas giant Shell saw a record 12.5% rise in demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2019, according to its annual review.
In Europe, demand for LNG increased by 74%, significantly more than was forecast. The company explained this as being part of a global switch from coal to gas.
European countries drove the demand for LNG imports. The UK saw the biggest increase in LNG net imports during 2019 as it continued to phase out coal use. It imported over 8,000 tonnes more LNG than the year before.
The report predicts European import growth to be a temporary anomaly, which will shrink over coming years.
India imports the biggest volume of LNG, with over 30bn cubic metres a year.
Demand from China grew by 14%, continuing a steady rise of 12% since 2010. Combined, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan demanded 19% more LNG.
Consumption declined in Japan and South Korea due to warmer winters and greater nuclear capacity in 2019.
EcoTree, an innovative digital platform designed for the field of circular economy, waste recycling and developed by a Romanian start-up, will receive a EUR 215,000 seed financing for development and implementation.
The financing is coordinated by local venture capital fund Sparking Capital, as Lead Investor, in partnership with the local crowdfunding platform Seed Blink and business angels.
EcoTree is an innovative B2B digital platform that accelerates the way waste collection and recycling are carried out, regardless of typology, quantity or provenance and is due to be launched in the coming months.
Its goal is to bring real benefits to the waste recycling industry by digitizing the processes and the necessary legal documentation, ensuring transparency and traceability, analyzing data through business intelligence modules, special auction modules and thus, not only contributing to the increased degree of recycling of waste but also to a cleaner and more sustainable environment.“We mainly approach companies that would like to digitise the management of operations in the area of waste and recycling. We are bringing in a simple to use software service, its implementation standing for both minimal effort and affordable price on the part of our customers. In this financing round we aim to complete the service by 100% with all the functionalities required by the beneficiaries, so that in the next period we will implement some pilot projects with relevant organizations that are of major interest for the waste management area,” said EcoTree founders Bogdan Andronache and Alexandru Petrescu.
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Oil and gas giant Shell has plans for a 100-megawatt grid storage battery in the west of England. It is slated to be the biggest battery in Europe once it is completed later this year and will be crucial to the UK’s quest to remain the continent’s top wind power player.
The battery project in the county of Wiltshire aims to store renewable power in two 50MW cells and then sell it to consumers when demand and prices are high.
“Projects like this will be vital for balancing the UK’s electricity demand and supply as wind and solar power play bigger roles in powering our lives,” said Shell Energy Europe vice president David Wells.
“Batteries are uniquely suited to optimising power supplies as the UK moves towards a net-zero carbon system,” he added. It is the Dutch firm’s latest attempt to diversify its business holdings away from fossil fuels towards more sustainable energy.
Chinese investment fund CNIC and state-run utility Huaneng Group will build the battery but Shell insists neither will be involved with its day-to-day operations once construction is completed.
The battery will hold enough juice to power 10,000 homes for a single day once fully charged, given that UK energy regulator Ofgem says that a typical household needs about 10 kilowatts every 24-hour period.
Grid storage batteries are set to gain in popularity as countries increase the capacity of variable energy sources like wind and solar power, in order to meet both national and EU climate targets.
For EU member states, a collective target of 32% clean energy use is in force for 2030 and might even be tightened by the new European Commission, which has pledged to look again at all climate and energy legislation by the end of 2021.
The UK is no longer a member of the bloc but it does have an existing commitment to reduce its greenhouse emissions to a net-zero level by 2050, meaning the government will continue to build renewable energy capacity.
At an event on offshore wind in Brussels on Wednesday (19 February), CEO of industry group WindEurope Giles Dickson insisted that the UK will hang on to its title as Europe’s leader in harnessing the power of the winds.
“The UK has to build offshore wind farms and huge volumes of them. They’re not building as much nuclear as they’d hoped, nor gas, and its 2030 target has increased from 30 gigawatts to 40,” he explained.
That means the UK will have to build 3GW of capacity every year over the course of this decade to hit its new benchmark, which is the same amount the entire EU is building annually at the moment.
But the looming Brexit talks could curtail British ambitions if negotiations break down, as the UK is a net importer of wind equipment. It also aims to up exports of homemade products like blades and turbines.
“It is very important that we avoid tariffs on any offshore equipment,” Dickson said when asked about Brexit’s impact on the sector. Commission renewables head Paula Abreu Marques said she cannot preempt what the talks will involve but confirmed it is an area they will touch upon.
UK involvement in regional planning is already on shaky ground, after it emerged earlier in February that its membership of the North Sea Energy Cooperation platform (NSEC) had lapsed.
EU climate chief Frans Timmermans told Dutch media after the news broke: “I really don’t think it’s necessary to remove the British. If you want to arrange things properly in the North Sea, you need the British too.”
NSEC brings together nine countries, including non-EU state Norway, where decisions on grid investments, auctions and spatial planning are all hashed out. It is seen as an important forum as plans to install new wind farms with links to several countries crystallise.
“The remaining nine countries want the UK to be very closely involved. We have to find a way for that to happen,” Dickson insisted at the close of the event.
British involvement will likely depend on the course taken by the upcoming Brexit talks, due to start in March. NSEC decisions inform EU energy policymaking, so if the UK decides to diverge completely from bloc rules, there will be less chance of collaboration in the future.
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German car parts producer Draxlmaier, which already operates factories in five Romanian locations, wants to expand its activity in the western city of Timisoara by building the first battery factory for electric cars in Romania, according to an Urban Zonal Plan (PUZ) consulted by transilvaniabusiness.ro.
The company has asked the Timisoara City Hall for a new PUZ for the area, where it aims to expand the existing factory. The project includes five new buildings.
The complex designed by Draxlmaier’s architects will include five industrial halls concentrated around a core-building. The “nucleus” will be a modern office building with social spaces, canteens and research laboratories.
The production areas will have an estimated area of about 35,000 square meters, while the office spaces will have an estimated area of about 16,000 square meters. The planned development is modern and sustainable and it envisages the arrangement of green spaces and recreational spaces.
The project will be developed in two stages: the first stage, scheduled for 2020-2021, involves the construction of the first production hall with an area of 10,125 sqm while the second stage, planned for 2022-2030, will envisage the construction of the nucleus building with an area of 15,300 sqm and the remaining production spaces, according to the project submitted by Draxlmaier to the City Hall.
The German company had 14,000 employees in Romania, at production units in Brasov (Codlea), Hunedoara, Pitesti, Satu Mare and Timisoara.
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Climate-friendly stocks have outperformed the broader market in the past two years and could also help to combat “short-termism” in financial markets, the European Union’s securities regulator said on Wednesday (19 February).
The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) said integration of assets chosen for their environmental, social or governance (ESG) aspects is a growing part of portfolios.
ESMA said in its latest Trends, Risks and Vulnerabilities report that in stock markets, the ESG Leaders 50 index has for the past two years outperformed the corresponding benchmark index.
“This supports the view that investing in ESG does not compromise returns for sustainability, but instead enhances returns within a process of better incorporating ESG factors.”
Green bonds from the private sector are also growing, with €21 billion issued each quarter in 2019 with the amount now outstanding at €271 billion, still just 2% of the corporate bond market in the EU, ESMA said.
“As regards performance, there is no significant evidence yet that points to outperformance or underperformance of green bonds relative to conventional bonds.”
ESMA’s report also looked at “short-termism” pressure in markets, defined by the watchdog as the focus by market participants on a quick profit at the expense of long-term investments.
The rise in ESG investments could help counter this, it said.
“In particular, our findings suggest that the misalignment of investment horizons in financial markets and the remuneration of fund managers and executives that rewards short-term profit seeking could be potential sources of short-termism,” ESMA said.
“Improvements in the availability and quality of ESG disclosure could serve to promote more long-term investment decisions by investors.”
It said analysts at banks also contribute to short-termism.
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Energean Oil and Gas plc (LSE: ENOG, TASE: אנאג ,(the oil and gas producer focused on the Mediterranean, is pleased to announce successful results from production measurement performed during clean-up of the Karish Main-02 development well, which is located on the crest of the Karish Main structure KM-02 produced from a 35 meter interval of the C sand reservoir.
The well flowed at a maximum rate of 120 million standard cubic feet per day (Mmscf/d) of natural gas, limited only by the capacity of the surface equipment. Performance modelling confirms that the well is capable of delivering at the 300 Mmscf/d design capacity when connected to the FPSO.
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Black Sea Oil and Gas (BSOG), the only company that has already made the final investment decision to exploit an offshore gas perimeter in Romania’s Black Sea, maintains its goal of bringing the first gas to shore in 2021 despite the operations lagging slightly behind schedule.
“We are a little late, the project is at 25% [versus 50% planned], but we will start the extraction in 2021,” Mark Beacom, CEO of Black Sea Oil and Gas, said at ZF Power Summit, local Economica.net reported.
He explained that BSOG will spend another USD 300 million to start commercial gas extraction, after spending USD 200 million.
Beacom once again drew the authorities’ attention that the legislation on gas exploitation should be amended before BSOG starts delivering gas from the offshore perimeter.
“We insist, it is vital that by the time we start producing gas, things must be resolved, I hope common sense will prevail, I would not want to be perceived as a liar [and pull out of the project],” said Beacom.
The changes mentioned by Beacom target the reduction of the additional taxes set by the Offshore Law, higher deductions for investments and the possibility of selling the gas freely on the market.
The Midia perimeter developed by the American investment fund Carlyle, through BSOG, in the Romanian Black Sea shallow water area, has potential gas reserves of between 10 and 20 billion cubic meters.
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Romania’s Romgaz said it has agreed with OMV Petrom and Poland’s PGNiG to make a joint offer for Exxon Mobil’s 50% stake in a long-stalled offshore natural gas project in the Black Sea if the U.S. company decides to sell.
State-owned Romgaz would then be interested in holding a 20% stake in the Neptun Deep project, Chief Executive Adrian Volintiru said.
Exxon confirmed in January it was weighing an exit from the Neptun Deep project. The other half of the project is owned by Romania’s OMV Petrom, which is majority-controlled by Austria’s OMV.
“We have the appetite to acquire 20% of Neptun Deep should Exxon decide to sell,” Volintiru told an energy seminar organized by financial daily Ziarul Financiar, and said Romgaz had signed a joint binding agreement with OMV Petrom and PGNiG to partner in buying Exxon’s stake.
Romania’s economy minister said on Monday he was confident Romgaz would be part of a consortium to buy Exxon’s stake.
Romgaz also holds a 12.2% stake in a separate offshore joint venture in the Black Sea led by Russia’s Lukoil.
Several gas producers have spent a decade and billions of dollars preparing to tap Romania’s Black Sea gas, but they were blindsided by price caps, taxes and export restrictions pushed forward by a previous center-left government.
Romania’s current Liberal minority government is running the European Union country on an interim basis after it lost a no-confidence vote earlier this month. Prior to the no-confidence vote, it had begun undoing some of the legal and tax changes that had raised concerns with investors.
Whereas Neptun Deep is still awaiting an investment decision pending legal changes, another Black Sea oil project, Black Sea Oil & Gas (BSOG), controlled by private equity firm Carlyle Group LP, has been almost finalized. It could start producing roughly 1 billion cubic meters of gas per year in 2021 with some delays, BSOG told the same seminar.
“It’s vital to us that by the time we start producing first gas these things (tax and legal changes) will be resolved,” BSOG chief executive Mark Beacom told the conference. “We have two years to get this sorted.”
Meanwhile, Romgaz’s Volintiru said the company was also hopeful about new onshore gas discoveries. In 2017, Romgaz announced its biggest find in three decades in the Caragele field, in the central Romanian county of Buzau, with an estimated 25-27 billion cubic metres of gas.
“We have hopes that somewhere in Bucovina in eastern Romania there could be a very large field, comparable to Caragele, but we need to do some more digging to confirm,” Volintiru said.
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A subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom will be buying electricity from a 60-MW solar park in Germany under a 10-year deal with Swedish utility Vattenfall.
Power & Air Solutions and Vattenfall have signed a corporate power purchase agreement (PPA) for a photovoltaic (PV) farm that will be built in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the state-owned utility said on Thursday. The power plant is scheduled to become operational in the middle of next year.
Christine Lauber, director sales & origination at Vattenfall, explained that corporate PPAs in Germany have been slow to take off because of the EEG remuneration scheme. As EEG contracts are starting to expire in 2021 the future expansion of renewables will be mainly based on the PPA-model.
“Investors can use the PPA instrument to partially hedge their risks for new wind and solar parks, and customers have direct, long-term access to green electricity. In this way, they can contribute directly to the expansion of renewable energies,” Lauber added.
Vattenfall has set a goal to supply 10 TWh of renewables electricity to corporate European clients under long-term PPAs by end-2023. It already has several such contracts in place in Europe, with some of its most prominent clients being Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Norsk Hydro and soft drink manufacturer AG Barr plc.
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The new coronavirus outbreak could have a significant impact on the wind energy industry in China, according to research by Wood Mackenzie.
In a statement Monday, the research and consultancy firm said the virus — officially known as COVID-19 — had “brought much of China’s wind turbine component production to a standstill in recent weeks.”
While Hubei province — where the outbreak is thought to have originated — had “limited production capacity,” Wood Mackenzie noted that both quarantine and travel restriction measures would “impact an already tight supply situation for key components.”
Wood Mackenzie said this represented “bad news” for wind markets in China and the U.S. — which sources wind turbine parts from China — where developers are trying to finish projects by the end of this year in order to be eligible for subsidies from the government.
“Due to an already tight supply of key components such as turbine blades and main bearings before the COVID-19 outbreak, first-quarter production delays have already reduced annual output of those components by about 10%,” Xiaoyang Li, a senior consultant at Wood Mackenzie, said in a statement.
As of February 16, there had been 70,548 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in China, according to its National Health Commission. More than 1,700 people have died there, authorities say.
Wood Mackenzie’s Li stated that if the outbreak was brought under control in the next few months, components without pre-existing bottlenecks, like converters and generators, should be able to recover from delays in the first quarter.
“In a best-case scenario, the epidemic is contained and production resumes by the end of March,” Li added. “In a bear-case, the epidemic could continue to impact the supply chain well into the middle of the year.”
“Based on these two possibilities, we estimate production delays across the wind turbine supply chain will result in a 10%-50% decrease in 2020 wind installations in China, compared to our Q4 (fourth-quarter) 2019 wind power outlook, which was at 28 gigawatts (GW) capacity.”
China is a wind energy powerhouse. According to the Global Wind Energy Council, it installed 20.2 GW of onshore wind and 1.6 GW of offshore wind in 2018. These figures equate to global market shares of 44% and 37%.
Outside of the Chinese market, Wood Mackenzie said that the “greatest concern” lay in the U.S., which it described as “already struggling with a myriad of supply bottlenecks.”
There, 6 GW of installations aiming for a 2020 commercial operation day had been identified as being “at-risk” before the coronavirus outbreak, Wood Mackenzie noted, needing exemptions from the Internal Revenue Service to “maintain access to 100% value of the Production Tax Credit.” This number was now “likely” to increase, the firm added.
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Romania’s Government has received a letter of intent from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which reportedly wants “to be part of the listing” of state-owned hydropower producer Hidroelectrica.
The EBRD would actually be interested in taking over a 5-10% stake in the company as part of the pre-listing process, economy and energy minister Virgil Popescu disclosed at an energy conference, Wall-street.ro reported.
He did not detail on whether the “pre-listing” would be a competitive process to which more investors would be invited. However, this pre-listing “would raise the value of the company,” minister Popescu reasoned.
Hidroelectrica is “a jewel”, because it produces green energy [actually big hydro is not included in the RES-E national targets set under the European Union’s decarbonisation plans] and bringing it together with EBRD “would be a win,” minister Popescu stated.
Asked what Hidroelectrica will do with the money raised by selling a 20% stake in the planned IPO – some RON 1 bln (EUR 205 mln), minister Popescu said that “the company can have a very ambitious investment plan” mentioning the green technologies, wind and solar power.
Commenting on the IPO proceedings, Hidroelectrica CEO Bogdan Badea said the company intends to use money “for the development and consolidation of the company.”
Hidroelectrica launched last Wednesday the procedure for selecting a legal consultant to advise it on the listing process, the estimated value of the contract being EUR 700,000, excluding VAT, according to a statement from the company.
The company is also in the process of selecting an equity adviser (financial consultant) for the same process.
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eff Bezos is throwing his weight — and wealth — behind the fight against climate change months after Amazon employees publicly pressured him and the company to do more to address the issue.The Amazon (AMZN) CEO on Monday announced a new fund to back scientists, activists and organizations working to mitigate the impact of climate change. Bezos will commit $10 billion “to start,” he said in an Instagram post. The initiative, called the Bezos Earth Fund, will begin giving out grants this summer. The $10 billion commitment constitutes less than 8% of the world’s richest man’s estimated $130 billion net worth. Even so, it is one of of the biggest charitable pledges ever, according to a ranking by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, behind a $36 billion commitment by billionaire Warren Buffett in 2006 and an estimated $16.4 billion pledge by Helen Walton, the late wife of Walmart (WMT) founder Sam Walton, in 2007. “Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” Bezos said in the post. “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change.” Source: CNN
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Hellenic Petroleum on Monday announced the acquisition of a solar power park in Kozani with a power of 204 MW, the largest project of renewable energy sources in Greece and one of the top 5 photovoltaic farms in Europe.
The project is currently under development by German company juwi and it is expected to be put into operation by the end of 2021.
Presenting the project, Andreas Siamisis, Hellenic Petroleum’s CEO, said it is an 130 million euros investment that will create 350 job positions and produce 300 GWh annually, energy enough to supply 75,000 households with power and save 300,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually.
“It is the first, other projects will follow,” Siamisis said, adding that Hellenic Petroleum’s goals was to develop renewable energy sources’ power to 600 MW by 2025.
“The largest energy group in the country builds the biggest renewable energy source unit in the country,” Yiannis Papathanasiou, chairman of Hellenic Petroleum said.
Environment and Energy Minister Costis Hatzidakis, commenting on the deal said the investment was a vote of confidence in the Greek renewable energy source market and the economy in general.
He announced that a draft legislation to be presented this month will abolish production license for renewable energy sources along with simplification of approving environmental terms.
Stephan Hansen, a member of juwi’s board, said the photovoltaic farm will operate by the end of 2021 and will contribute 500,000 euros to the local society on an annual basis.
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Qatar has delayed choosing Western partners for the world’s largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) project by several months after surprising the industry with a big expansion plan despite a collapse in global gas prices, four sources said.
State-run Qatar Petroleum (QP) declined to comment on the reported delay, which comes as the global gas industry faces the major challenge of a supply glut due to booming U.S. production and a drop in Chinese demand.
Qatar, the lowest cost producer of LNG, sits on the world’s largest gas field and offers terms that led oil majors ExxonMobil (XOM.N) and Royal Dutch/Shell (RDSa.L) to invest tens of billions of dollars in the past.
The big energy firms have waited a decade for a new opportunity to invest in Qatar after the country put further development on hold to ensure the giant North Field could sustain production.
The moratorium was lifted two years ago and QP shortlisted six Western majors for the next phase of expansion. QP didn’t disclose the names but said it would announce partners in the first quarter of 2020.
But late last year QP said it had decided to expand LNG production by 60% to 126 million tonnes a year by 2027 instead of the original plan for a 40% increase. QP did not say it would delay the partnerships, but four sources involved in the talks said the company planned to take more time.
“I think Qatar has decided to firm up the capex of the project before they go to international oil companies. I think the decision should be ready by the end of 2020,” one of the sources involved in talks said.
Three other sources familiar with the talks confirmed a delay to at least the middle of 2020 because the scaling up of the expansion combined with a much lower gas price outlook were affecting every aspect of potential partnerships.
“The conversation is centered on the valuation of the project which affects equity and financing,” said one source.
“Qatar’s cost base is very low compared to other projects but in today’s environment, every project has to compete for capital,” said another source.
Qatar, which has a wealth fund in excess of $320 billion, has said it would build the facilities alone if necessary, but would prefer to have partners to share risks and costs as well as give access to new customers.
Too much gas
Global LNG prices collapsed to an all-time low in Asia in January as China reduced energy consumption because of the spread of coronavirus. Lower demand from China undermined hopes that the biggest user of the fuel would soak up excess supply to reduce its dependence on coal.
The United States is rapidly increasing LNG export capacity to drain a large domestic surplus.
Gas prices have been so low for so long in the United States that many shale-gas firms have struggled to raise debt and pioneers such as Chesapeake Energy are battling to stave off bankruptcy.
U.S. gas producers had hoped that exports would raise the value of their fuel, but instead they are contributing to a supply glut is pushing down prices worldwide.
QP did not say how much it would cost to build six more LNG trains and develop offshore production facilities.
One standard LNG train with capacity of 8 million tonnes a year costs around $10 billion, meaning QP would need to spend at least $60 billion on the expansion.
Exxon, Shell, Total (TOTF.PA) and ConocoPhillips (COP.N) have been partners in Qatar’s existing LNG plants since the country began its journey toward becoming a top player only 20 years ago.
Some of these firms have signed deals over the past year giving Qatar stakes in their oil and gas projects.
But the lower outlook for natural gas prices led energy majors to lower their projections for the rate of return on Qatar’s expansion phase, making it less lucrative than previously expected, according to the three sources involved in the talks.
A slew of LNG projects around the world from Canada to Mozambique and Nigeria is expected to lead to an even bigger oversupply later this decade.
“People began to worry where all this gas is going to go,” one of the three sources said.
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The relationship between climate change and Artificial Intelligence is one of the biggest blindspots in the European Commission ‘leaked’ white paper on AI, writes Fieke Jansen.
Fieke Jansen is a PhD candidate at the Data Justice Lab and Mozilla Foundation Fellow 2019-2020.
Only weeks after the initial ‘leaked’ white paper on AI and the EU’s consideration to temporarily ban facial recognition got media coverage, this option has already been dropped.
While the white paper still covered a range of other AI challenges and opportunities, one topic still remains conspicuously absent: The environmental impact of AI.
The white paper notes that the volume of data stored across the world — data that is used to train AI — will most likely quadruple from the current 40 zetabytes to 175 zetabytes by 2025.
And where 80% of the 40 zetabytes is currently stored in the cloud, the EU assumes that the rise of IoT products and edge computing will be a catalyst for even more decentralized storage. The paper stops there, failing to acknowledge how this massive increase in data and shift to device storage will produce a carbon footprint.
This oversight is both disheartening and dangerous, and contradictory to the European Green Deal Communication.
This EU strategic orientation aims to address the ‘twin challenges of the green and digitals transformation.’ Stressing that while technology can enable the EU to reach the sustainability goals the digital sector needs to put sustainability at its heart.
Then why has this commitment to technological environmental has not been integrated into the AI white paper?
The impact of technology on the climate crisis is not new. The shift project released their report on ‘lean ICT’ in 2019, revealing that technological energy consumption is increasing by 9% every year. Further, compared to 2010, ‘the direct energy consumption generated by 1 Euro invested in digital technologies has increased by 37%’.
To buy a book on Amazon, this project shows that the website forces you to navigate 12 ‘heavy’ interfaces, which is worth 8,724 A4 pages of printed code or 87.33MB of information. It costs 30 Watt-hours to load these pages.
In 2014 google.com received approximately 47000 global requests per second, which represents an estimated amount of 500 kg of CO2 emissions per second.
Advanced AI’s carbon footprint can be even more overwhelming. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts recently studied the environmental impact of the development and testing of natural language processing (NLP) model, a type of AI.
This research found that the training, building and testing of an academic paper-worthy NLP model can emit more than 626,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. MIT Technology review compared these carbon emissions with ‘nearly five times the lifetime emissions of the average American car’. Meanwhile, NLP is just a small part of the AI supply chain.
Despite this frightening evidence, the ‘Green’ European Commission presents a pollyannaish view on the link between AI and the environment throughout their white paper.
One section of the paper notes that ‘At home, a smart thermostat can reduce energy bills by up to 25%’ — but what about the energy it takes to train and run those thermostats?
The paper also notes that AI will allow for us more accurately predict environmental issues and hone our crisis management capacity — but doesn’t note that AI can also contribute to these very issues and crises.
The Commission’s failure to acknowledge the environmental impact of AI is especially problematic because this decade, the EU will significantly increase its funding of AI. In 2016, the EU spent €3.2 billion on AI projects and now aims to increase this investment to €20 billion per year.
This means more and more AI will be deployed without necessary environmental safeguards.
Going forward, the EU must weigh up AI’s effect on the climate crisis. This requires the EU to have a critical analysis and clearly articulated position on the relationship between AI and climate change, both in legislative options and funding mechanisms.
In particular, the EU needs to integrate environmental impact assessment on AI projects and build an explicit research agenda that looks at the relationship between AI and the climate crisis.
This isn’t a new idea. In the past, the High-Level Expert Group on AI has specifically stated that ‘AI systems promise to help to tackle some of the most pressing societal concerns, yet it must be ensured that this occurs in the most environmentally friendly way possible’.
It’s time to live up to that language.
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A German court on Sunday ordered Tesla Inc to stop clearing forest land near the capital Berlin to build its first European car and battery factory, a victory for local environmental activists.
The U.S. electric carmaker announced plans last November to build a Gigafactory in Gruenheide in the eastern state of Brandenburg.
The court ruling, by the higher administrative court of the states of Berlin and Brandenburg, comes after the state environmental office gave a green light to clear 92 hectares of forest for the plant.
Planning permission has not yet been granted to build the Gigafactory, however, meaning U.S. entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company is preparing the ground at its own risk.
In a statement, the court said it had issued the order to stop the tree-felling because it would have only taken three more days to complete the work.
Otherwise the clearance would have been completed before judges made a final decision on the complaint brought by a local environmentalist group called the Gruene Liga Brandenburg (Green League of Brandenburg).
“It should not be assumed that the motion seeking legal protection brought by the Green League lacks any chance of succeeding,” the court statement added.
Lawmakers from the pro-business Christian Democrat and Free Democrat parties have warned that the legal battle waged against the Gigafactory would inflict serious and long-lasting damage on Germany’s image as a place to do business.
Local and national lawmakers have been caught out by the strength of opposition to the Gigafactory, with hundreds of demonstrators protesting over what they say is the threat it poses to local wildlife and water supplies.
Tesla currently has two Gigafactories in the United States and one in Shanghai, China.
Tesla shares have surged 340% since early June as more investors bet on Musk’s vision.
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By Dr Lorenc Gordani, Independent Energy Lawyer*
An overview of the latest updates on renewable energy sources in Albania.
The Albanian energy market is undergoing a full restructuring process and the country, similar to the transition taking place in the region, is increasingly entering an emerging market of distributed renewable energy (DER), alternative traders and deregulated supply.
One of the more evident aspects of this deep renovation, regarding renewables has to do with approving measures for the connection to the distribution system of small photovoltaic installations for self-producers of solar electricity, that allow a full return of energy delivery without any cost for the use of the grid.
A few months ago, there was an insisting request for opening business opportunities, in particular for photovoltaic self-consumption. Latest changes were made towards the factual situation where the actors (the most prominent photovoltaic companies) have already delivered the first projects in practice.
Related to net metering, the ministerial regulation that will determine the price of surplus is still expected (based on new RES law). However, this renewed positive season toward renewables has pushed ahead more and more significant projects even with the completion of the power plants up to 600 kWp photovoltaic such as the one in the city of Korça, developed under the supervision of the prestigious companies Enerparc Energy and brands like is the SunPower, SMA, etc. Installations above 500 kWp surpass the threshold level – as admitted recently by the minister of energy Bellinda Balluku – for being connected in net metering.
In practice, photovoltaic installations are embraced more and more by all prestigious companies, Today, the power panels are becoming preferred for installations in parking like Coca-Cola Bottling Albania or on roofs of headquarters e.g. the Statkraft Albania, ProCredit, and itself Ministry of Energy, KESH, etc.
Factual evidence that is also confirmed by statistics, reveal that loan credits to the Res projects already reached the level of 200 Mil/Euro along 2019, with growth for the private sector by 43%.
A new tendency was preannounced first by the important developments related to the approval of the criteria for the licensing of Energy Managers and afterwards to those for Energy Auditors, during April and June 2019. A framework followed with capacity building of the first experts as graduates with the completion of the course of European standards in the energy managing.
A change of approach about renewables aims in diversification similar to the development in the rest of the Balkans. There is a tendency against hydro in the region that has also made Albania to take a big step away from harmful small hydropower and abandon especially the construction of small hydropower’s (SHPPs) with a capacity below 2 MW.
The above were finalised in Albania with the approval of the new National Consolidated Action Plan on Renewable Energy Sources, 2019-2020 in August and it was put in force on September 19, raising PV planned capacity from 120 MW to 490 MW, wind from 70 MW to 150 MW, and biomass from 8 MW to 41 MW.
One of the most critical aspects of this reform is the commencement of a formal procedure for the net-metering scheme that has found a relevant echo in international magazines. A decision not merely on paper, but already finalised with the first agreements from August to October of 2019 creating a good working practice and a streamlined procedure for further requests.
The above are followed closely with a lot of new opportunities and open challenges for their realization. First, there is the implementation of the first smart meter: up to now a pilot project, that foresees the enrollment of around 3700 in the area of Tirana-Durres.
The last few months were dominated by the updates on the delivery proposals for wind projects in the ministry of energy. The latest was the passing of the project to build a wind farm with an installed capacity up to 3 MW in Topoje village, near the south-western part of the country.
Furthermore, the transition is also reflected in an ambitious plan that will revolutionize transport in Tirana, with the removal of registration taxes for electric cars, etc. Also, it regards the quality of air as scheduled by the Tirana Green City Action Plan or the activation of different events and conferences.
Last but not least, regarding transport there is a new law initiative that establishes that 5% of the amount of fuel consumed for transportation in-country should consist of biofuels, while by 2020, this amount should reach 10% of the total, which opens the way for the first time for the production and use of biofuels, with the aim of achieving the 38% target by 2020.
The transition will, however, continue to rely upon traditional big hydropower plants. A top priority project for the Ministry of Energy of Albania and one of the most important hydropower projects in Europe is the Skavica HPP project. A project linked to the EC initiative Sustainable Hydropower Development in the Western Balkans.
Its Feasibility Study and ESIA include four principal phases: Project mobilisation and inception, Site investigations, Prefeasibility study and Regional Impact Assessment, Feasibility study and ESIA.
A further regional project is the Ionian Adriatic Gas Pipeline in Albania and Montenegro. The project has passed Preliminary Design and beneficiaries are the Government of Montenegro, Albania, B&H and Croatia. Total WBIF grant is € 2.500.000 for main deliverables, preliminary designs and updated Environmental and Social Impact Assessments.
However, we should also remind the delay of the Akerni PPVP project that even after one year the signing of the contract has not been finalized. The most relevant concern has to do with uncertainty related to the upcoming Albanian PXs so-called APEX.
The new market configuration is the deep reform that was foreseen by the “Strategic Plan for the Reform of the Energy Sector in Albania approved by the Albanian Council of Ministers with DCM Nr. 742, dated 12.12.2018”.
A project that considers the economic interest of the issues is deal by the politician, putting a paragraph in all the public discussions. The last in order is the newly elected primer of Kosovo that has put the coupling (i.e. the putting together through a power exchange) of the energies markets, in focus of the review to strengthen agreements with Albania.
Economists focus more on the need for diversifying and removing the obstacles to growth like in the dry years of 2019. Furthermore, in the last few months, energy production is strongly related to the discussion of GDP growth. These statements are confirmed in the World Bank’s position.
A very pressing problem has been the continuation of drought accompanied by high imports of electricity. Low production of hydro energy has reduced growth by around 1%, making the activation on the risk mitigation of renewables an emergency.
There is a fact preannounced by regional reports, such the last one of the EU, which states that despite vast resources, Albania is a net importer of electricity; inefficiencies in the energy sector hamper Albania’s competitiveness; and the dependence on hydropower for electricity generation makes the economy vulnerable.
It is an aspect, which is mitigated only by imports. Up to now there have been 170 Mil/Euros of imports and a forecast of 40 mil/Euro of direct support from the budget for OSHEE. In this regard, there is the notice in Albanian about the call for tender of the start of a high voltage interconnection between Albania and N. Macedonia.
Mitigation will be possible only with the launch of Albanian Power exchange. In this direction, after the decision to found the power exchange on May 16, followed the announcement of the call for the stockholders interested to participate in the Albanian Power exchange.
Due to the reform and the situation, Albania has two options by the beginning of next year, to realise a function PXs or be part of regional ones. The choice seems to go to Belen, but its action aims to the larger regional ones related to the interconnection Me-Ita, Macedonia’s electricity interconnection with Albania. Then, very soon, there will be a really great change.
This will be complete through the unbundling process of OSHE. After the transitory period of 1 year taken by Albanian DSO (OSHEE) to proceed with the reform and remove any plan of reintegration by the government of Albania in May 2019, follow the two agreements signed by the Ministry of Finance and Economy with the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Government.
Arrangements based at the Memorandum of Understanding on financial cooperation between Albania, Germany and France concern the program “Supporting the reform of the energy sector in Albania” and “Investment program for distribution of electricity I”.
Also, a cooperation agreement between OSHEE and USAID was signed earlier. An assistance programme that aimed primarily at strengthening management to further improve indicators in the Shkodra region. It is one of the 12 areas that will serve as a pilot to gradually extend to other parts of the country.
What is considered fundamental for any development of the Albanian energy market is the complete reform of the OSHEE for the upcoming period that is foreseen through the reform. Very soon there will be a definite unbundling plan as well as the strategy for the market retail opening for the strategic reform of the Albanian energy market plan.
We should also not forget the deployment of Natural Gas in Albania. The TAP project is proceeding and Albania is forecast to use at least 1.7 Bcm a year from TAP.
The above also concern the timeline of IAP. Recently the last multilateral meeting on was concluded, following up the feasibility study for the Ä618 million gas corridor between Albania, Bosnia and Croatia, which has full support of the EU and the US. The completion of the TAP project paves the way for the 511 km pipeline, which aims to link the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) with Montenegro, Bosnia and Croatia, for following further up to the European hub of gas in Baumgarten (Austria).
Meanwhile, there has been a temporary stop to the CCGT Korça project of 480 MW following feedback by some civil representatives and environmental organisations and above all the local authority’s decision and the ministry of environment. This shows there is a need for better thinking about the procedures and to join a dialogue in order to benefit the country through this strategic project that links Albania with the main energy strategies of the European Union.
It is a situation similar to the action against carbon in the region. There is a tendency to stop carbon projects, and in Albania we should consider the lack of any carbon power plant as reflected in the preparation of the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP). In this regard, the latest development is about the Tendering consulting services to design a carbon tax for Energy Community Contracting Parties.
We should also note that Albania is already one of the main exporters of oil in the region. Its production and exports are relatively low at around 1 billion tones per year (in years ‘70 up to 2,7 billion). However, we should consider that its needs make the country fully self-sufficient. In this context, and based on the fact of gasification of the country due to the TAP and IAP projects, the hydrocarbon sector is one to keep attention on. Relevant updates, such are the ones related to Shell, confirm high oil reserves in Shpirag.
About future perspectives, among the most important are the plans of EBRD for the regional orientation of EBRD on a new strategy for the next 5 years. In this regard, there is action again related to the economy as referred by the meeting of Minister of Economy and Finance Anila Denaj with representatives of EBRD. They discussed the second tranche of over 100 mil euro for KESH in order to reform the energy system.
In the direction of Technical Dialogue, the Albania Investment Council is working , that is part of EBRD, as well as other international organisation such as IRENA, aiming to put particular focus on improving the investment business climate.
IFC has signed an agreement with the Ministry of Finance and Economy to help Albania modernise its investment policies. Under the agreement, IFC will advise the Albanian government to better align its investment policies with those in the European Union (EU) and improve its investor services.
It is a partnership that has made possible a financial contribution by the European Commission. The EU funding is part of €2.5 million programs to help prepare the economies of the Western Balkans for EU accession and support economic development in South-Eastern Europe. Furthermore, particular attention is going to be given to service delivery in Albania through effective PPP monitoring.
In conclusion, based on the above, what remains is to find the way to better support all these energies. The main obstacle remains in the opening of the market where the right tools and clear rules will raise transparency, upgrade professional capacities, support small SMEs and education, in the way to make the things happen and not remain just a list of good wishes and finding just shortcuts of the immediate needs that will vanish without any sustainable long result.
*Dr Lorenc Gordani, Albanian Coordinator of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Independent Adviser in Energy Policy & Law, Regulation & Infrastructure in Albania.
RWE’s CEO, Rolf Martin Schmitz, delivered the German power giant’s proposal to prime minister K. Mitsotakis for a collaboration in renewables.
During his meeting with the Greek PM, Mr. Schmitz proposed to focus on renewable projects, but also on the sharing of knowhow to PPC for the process of decommissioning its lignite power plants.
Clean energy investment
It should be noted that the German group operates power plants of 25 GW in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and Turkey, using natural gas, coal, lignite, hydropower and biomass as fuels.
The company has already proceeded in a significant drop of its coal portfolio, reducing its CO2 emissions by 60 million tones (around 30%) in the years between 2012 and 2018.
At the same time, RWE has pledged to further reduce emissions in the future with continuous decommissioning in order to achieve a neutral carbon footprint by 2040. As part of this effort, the company realizes annual investments of 1.5-2 billion Euros in renewables and energy storage. Besides, Germany has announced the full decommissioning of coal plants by 2038.
It should be noted that PPC and RWE have a lot in common when it comes to their course, since the two companies were close to cooperating 12 years ago.
Specifically, the two power groups had the knowhow and a wide portfolio in lignite plants, which is the least efficient and hardest to exploit of all kinds of coal.
As to their cooperation, which was not concluded in 2007 during Takis Athanasopoulos’s tenure as CEO of PPC, the two groups had signed a memorandum for the construction of 2 giants hard coal plants of 800 MW each. Said plan was pioneering in its time, but did not progress because of political and union resistance.
Now, the prime minister’s announcement to decommission PPC’s lignite plants by 2028 creates a wide spectrum of cooperation for the two groups, with decarbonization as their common goal.
Green Tank welcomes Mitsotakis’s statement for lignite
“The country’s energy policy turns a page”, noted Green Tank, while welcoming Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s statements about the lignite transition.
During a special climate summit organized by the UN general secretary, Greek PM, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, pledged to decommission all lignite plants by 2028 at the latest.
“The PM’s pledge to shut down lignite plants by 2028 constitutes an historic decision. Our attention must now focus on the just transition of lignite regions”, said the environmental think tank.
“It is an historic decision since lignite has been our main fuel for more than six decades. At the same time, though, between 1990 and 2017, it was responsible for 34% of CO2 emissions, one of the highest percentages in the EU. Therefore, lignite is the main culprit for the fact that Greece is among the countries with the worst climate performance in Europe.
Beyond the indisputable negative effects of burning lignite for public health and the environment, progress in renewables together with European environmental law and European energy policy have made lignite economically unprofitable in recent years”, said Green Tank in its announcement.
In Green Tank’s recent report, it was highlighted that during the last 3.5 years the total damages from lignite plants’ operation reached 683 million Euros, while if PPC’s lignite portfolio remained as it currently is, damages would reach 1.3 billion in the next 3.5 years.
“Congratulations to the Greek government for its historic decision of full independence from lignite by 2028. It is absolutely necessary that this decision is mirrored in the revised National Energy and Climate Plan, while it also forces a change about the new PPC lignite plant “Ptolemaida 5”. Now that the lignite landscape becomes clear, attention must be given to these regions of the country with a high dependence on lignite. Greece’s transition to the post-lignite period must be viable and just for local communities that burned for decades in order for us to have power”, said Nick Mantzaris, policy analyst of Green Tank.
The popularity of Innovation Hubs is growing rapidly in recent years. It’s no surprise considering that they provide subject-matter expertise on technology trends, knowledge and strategic innovation management and are focal points for the Innovation Communities’ activity within the areas of focus. And although we saw Innovation Hubs in several industries in our region, we have never seen one in ports. Until now. Read all about the PoWER project – Ports as Driving Wheels of Entrepreneurial Relm – from the perspective of its coordinator Marco Padula.
Let’s start from the beginning.
What’s the PoWER project all about?
Marco: The PoWER project aims at developing and testing a new methodology and strategy supporting the evolution of Adriatic-Ionian ports into so-called “Innovation Hubs”. According to the project concept, the state of “Innovation Hub” is basically an attitude of a port towards change which implies the commitment to a three-steps methodology to address topic-specific needs, i.e. a) needs mapping; b) ideas and solutions scouting; c) scenarios foresight. This methodology – once validated – can possibly be applied to any topic. At the moment, the PoWER project is testing it in 6 pilot ports (Bari, Brcko, Durrës, Igoumenitsa, Ravenna and Rijeka) on the energy efficiency topic.
Adriatic-Ionian (ADRION) region is specific because of cultural borders and political rifts that are causing a lack of cooperation. Is that the reason why you chose this area?
Marco: Since the second post-war period, this area and especially the ports we chose underwent a progressive loss of their role of lively places of commercial and cultural exchange, which caused a lack of investments, cooperation, innovation and development, as well as a weaker application of EU policies. As a result, they suffered from low modernisation rates, inadequate smartness level and unsolved issues related to sustainability and urban regeneration needs despite being complex ecosystems and possible actors of a new development phase.
What we are trying to do, is to bring back Adriatic-Ionian port cities to their ancient pivotal role, but in a new way, set within the contemporary age. We imagine ports where the main innovation is the process through which innovation is designed and activated. This process brings back together all the stakeholders involved in the port’s “innovation supply chain”, which shall cooperate at the local level, but also at a transnational level so to achieve both vertical and horizontal innovation goals.
Can you describe how does the project work?
Marco: As I already mentioned, we are trying to regenerate port areas according to three factors: a) commercial and entrepreneurial activity, b) cultural heritage and c) surrounding territorial areas of the ports. In other words, we are leading ports to the ancient role which was a connection, cultural exchange and entrepreneurial focus. How are we planning to do that? Well, the main objective of the PoWER project is the dissemination of the PoWER methodology across the ADRION port cities and to guarantee the replicability of the PoWER Strategy by supporting the implementation and the sustainability of the activated innovation process. For that, we needed to make three main steps:
1. Mapping of needs (it provides geo-referenced information on PoWER ports, their smartness level and their needs).
2. Ideas and solution scouting (scouting sections are dedicated to C4S proposals submission, Ideas & Solutions storing and to matchmaking events).
3. Scenarios foresight (we offer to the wide public the PoWER methodology’s and strategy’s documents, the developed scenarios, as well as follow-ups on the implementation activities and results).
The main indicator of the environmental sustainability of a port is energy (EcoPorts, 2017) and that is the project’s topic. Nevertheless, it is possible to apply the PoWER methodology to any other topic of strategic interest for ADRION ports.
At what stage are you now?
Marco: This summer, we activated the last step of the project, the foresight activities. Our foresight methodology is based on the approach proposed by the European Parliament Research Service (EPRS), which has been adapted and applied to the maritime and port sector for the first time by the PoWER consortium. This methodology foresees 5 main phases, which are 1.) preparing the ground, 2.) Horizon scanning, 3.) Envisioning, 4.) short-mid-term scenarios development, 5.) Long-term scenarios development.
Currently, our piloting partners are implementing either phase 3 or phase 4, thanks to the involvement of STEEP experts gathered in local panels applying the Delphi method.
The whole point of the process is to provide local authorities and decision-makers with a clear view of actions to carry out in the short-mid-term at the local level, as well as with a more structured strategy to be implemented at the transnational level. By the end of the project, our aim is to have local entities sign a protocol, a memorandum of understanding where they agree on being interested on putting their effort in the actual implementation of the local and transnational strategy.
You said that the main topic of the project is energy. What are the main drivers for increasing energy efficiency, and what are the main obstacles?
Marco: Main driving forces for increasing energy efficiency in ports definitely are:
• Different countries regulations and requirements to implement energy efficiency measures, e.g. international, national or local legislation for increasing energy efficiency.
• Reduction of fuel consumption which will result in financial savings for ports.
• Reduction of harmful emissions and improvement of air quality which is a major issue for most countries.
• Introducing measures such as energy management system in ports and using renewable energy can mean fulfilment of strategic plans (national/local).
As for the barriers, unfortunately, there are more of these such as:
• High investment cost.
• Lack of funding for highly efficient technologies (economic barriers).
• Lack of professional staff or capacity to carry out these tasks in ports (inner organizational barriers).
• Also, different regulations can, instead of the driver, be the barrier and obstruct. For example, infrastructure projects (policy barriers).
• Lack of policies and incentives, depending on the case, can be the barrier towards these improvements.
• Lack of awareness in various ports towards energy-efficient technologies and measures that can in the long term completely transform the port and instead focusing solely on short term and absolutely necessary day to day measures.
Connected to the previous question, what would you say is the most important aspect of this project?
Marco: In general, I would say that it actually is the people living in the port. The untapped potential is their needs, their ideas, the infinite chances of cooperation that can be built, the possibility to share and to find private and public entities supporting you and to do the same for someone else, discovering that on the other side of the Adriatic Sea, some port is facing the same issue yours is facing and it’s looking exactly for the solution that you have in mind.
For example, a huge success for us was the meeting in Rijeka, where we managed to gather more than 100 people interested in a project. That is more than any other similar project succeeded to do. Also, our piloting process related to energy efficiency has brought us to the detection of 14 needs. To these needs, we gathered a total of 29 solutions from independent professionals, SMEs and researchers through our Call 4 Solutions, as well as 31 ideas drafted by high-school and university students during the gaming sessions we organized. Ideas and Solutions underwent both a local and a transnational assessment, out of which 17 solutions and 10 ideas were awarded as the best ones.
Thinking of people, how does this kind of ports development affect the locals? To their prosperity and that of the wider region?
Ports are Tools, endowed with the complexity required to encompass multi-layered and integrated supply chains and to become promoters of the regional innovation system.
Ports are Goals, as their demanding metabolisms show a need for requalification/regeneration; a condition which allows for rethinking the meaning of ports for people.
Ports are Case-studies offering a perfect background of problems, opportunities & structural conditions for identifying case-study areas, where to implement on-field activities on all possible levels of the smart innovation, to find & test solutions to urgent challenges.
Ports are the House of the enterprises linked to the Blue Growth.
They are an integral component of a city and their state affects the city and the community directly, both socially and economically.
The ports of the Adriatic-Ionian area must implement strategies that aim at innovating and internationalising the territory. Globalization and containerization’s rapid development led to bigger ships, more powerful infrastructures and supporting technologies as same as the stronger cities. Mentioned ports in this area haven’t changed since WW2 and lost their role of lively places of commercial and cultural exchange. That’s why they need to establish a permanently ongoing, collaborative and immaterial innovation process – a goal that this project is trying to accomplish with the PoWER Innovation Hub, and by clustering such IHs into a transnational network. We are sure that you are going to hear more of this project. Their next and final steps are the finalization of the foresight process and therefore, of the PoWER Strategy drafting, and the organization of the PoWER final event in Bari, at the beginning of December 2019, where our Innovation Supply Chain actors will be invited to officially sign their Memorandum of Understanding for the strategy implementation. People behind the project are giving the tool and people have to answer the call for implementation and make ports in this area better.
By Ramez Naam
Building new solar, wind, and storage is about to be cheaper than operating existing coal and gas power plants. That will change everything.
When the history of how humanity turned the corner on climate change is written, we’ll look back and see that clean energy – specifically clean electricity from solar, wind, and storage, went through four distinct phases.
Phase 1 – Policy dependent
From the 1980s until roughly 2015, there was virtually no place on earth where new solar, wind, or energy storage was cheaper than generating electricity from coal or natural gas. This was the first phase of renewables, one where they scaled entirely because of government subsidies and mandates. And in this time, renewable growth was paltry. Solar reached 1% of global electricity. Wind reached perhaps 4%. The world spend hundreds of billions of dollars subsidizing clean energy, and seemingly got nothing.
Phase 2 – Competitive for new power
Except that the world didn’t get nothing. As I’ve written often, the most important aspect of clean energy policy has been to drive down the price of clean energy by scaling it, and thus kicking in the learning-by-doing that continually lowers the unsubsidized price of new solar, new wind, and new energy storage. The policies of the 80s, 90s, 2000s, and 2010s finally drove down the cost of new solar and wind electricity by more than a factor of ten. That finally paid off around 2015, when, for the first time, building solar or wind power was, even without subsidies, sometimes cheaper than building new coal-or-gas fired electricity.
You can see this in IRENA’s graph showing the price of new solar PV, on-shore wind, off-shore wind, and solar CSP – Figure ES.2.
Phase 3 – Disruptive to existing fossil electricity
Now, after decades of subsidizing solar and wind, we’re on the verge of a new, radically different point in history – the point at which building new solar or wind power (or new energy storage systems, in some cases), is cheaper than the cost of continuing to operate existing coal- or gas-fueled power plants.
Dubious? Consider the following:
NextEra CEO: Cheaper to Build Solar & Wind Than Operate Existing Coal by the Early 2020s: In January 2018, NextEra CEO Jim Robo told investors that by the early 2020s, it would be cheaper to build new solar and wind power than to operate the utility’s fleet of existing coal power plants.
NIPSCO: Cheapest Option is to Go from 65% Coal-powered to Zero – and Replace it With Solar, Wind, and Storage. In October of 2018, a utility in Northern Indiana, NIPSCO, reached Jim Robo’s prophesied point years ahead of schedule, when it submitted a 5 year resource plan that would take the region from being 65% coal powered in 2018 to just 15% coal powered in 2023, and 0% coal powered in 2028, and replace virtually all of that coal power with a mix of solar, wind, storage, and flexible demand. Bear in mind that NIPSCO is in a region with mediocre sun, pretty good but not amazing wind, and which voted for Donald Trump by 19 points. Admittedly, this is with prices of solar and wind which are still somewhat subsidized in the US. But not tremendously so, as the US federal solar and wind tax credits (the ITC and PTC) are winding down in exactly this same period.
2019: Florida Power and Light: Cheaper to Build New Solar + Storage Than Operate Existing Gas Plants. In March of 2019, Florida Power and Light said it would retire two aging natural gas plants, and replace them with a combination of energy efficiency and the world’s largest (so far) battery, which it will use to charge with solar power during the day to deliver during the evening peak.
CarbonTracker – New Wind and Solar Cheaper than Existing Coal and Gas in the US, China, and India by the mid-2020s. Meanwhile, think tank CarbonTracker has been quietly pumping out reports showing that in country after country, new solar and wind are headed for prices cheaper than the operational cost of existing coal and gas. Consider the following chart (slightly modified by yours truly) of new solar and wind cost in the US vs coal operational cost:
See CarbonTracker’s report on the disruption of Coal in the US for more: No Country for Coal Gen. Or, more importantly, consider what CarbonTracker forecasts for China: That new solar and wind will be cheaper than the operating cost of existing Chinese coal power plants by the 2020s.
McKinsey: New Solar and Wind Cheaper than Existing Coal and Gas… Pretty Much Everywhere by 2030.
Finally, if reports from CarbonTracker, or announcements by actual utilities aren’t enough, consider McKinsey’s assessment from its Global Energy Perspective 2019. In the chart below (with a bit of help from me), McKinsey shows that on almost every continent, and particularly in China and India, where energy demand has the most to grow, new solar and wind are cheaper than existing coal and gas by 2030. And often much sooner.
We’ve gone from Phase 2 to Phase 3 much more rapidly than we went from Phase 1 to Phase 2. Why? Because solar and wind power had to drop by a factor of nearly 10 in price – from 60 cents / kwh for new electricity to roughly 6 cents / kwh for new electricity – to move from their early days to being competitive for new power. But they only have to drop by another factor of 2 or 3 to move from being competitive for new power to being cheaper than the operating cost of existing coal and gas. The “competitive zone” is much narrower and faster to pass through than the long history of subsidized prices leading up to the first fair market competition.
Phase 4 – Slowed by headwinds
Finally, there will in fact be a Phase 4 of renewables, when their penetration has grown so high that they become limited by headwinds of their own creation: Value deflation, where renewables create so much supply at certain hours that they drive down wholesale prices; Depletion of the best sites in some regions; Seasonal intermittency and the unsolved problem of seasonal storage.
But these problems are distant. Renewables will start to encounter them in earnest when solar makes up >20-30% of electricity and when wind makes up >40-50% of electricity. Today, worldwide, solar is only 2% and wind is only perhaps 6% of global electricity. Cheap multi-hour storage will arrive before that (indeed, in the next few years), lowering the price of using solar to meet the evening peak, and of dealing with intermittency on the order of minutes to several hours. Only seasonal storage (and perhaps the political challenges of long-range transmission) seem to be truly difficult problems. And we have time before they begin to impair the growth of renewables.
What the third phase means for renewable growth rate
I’ve said often that renewables have grown exponentially. But the truth is that wind power growth rates around the world have slowed substantially. And solar power, once growing rapidly in Europe, has stagnated there over the last several years (at least, until a recent growth spurt spurred by solar entering Phase 2 in parts of Europe in the last year.)
But growth rates up until now are largely irrelevant. The whole point of growing renewables has been to drive down their cost. The actual amount of solar and wind that policies have deployed up until now is almost immaterially small. It just isn’t enough to matter. What matters is that policies up until now have driven down the cost of solar, wind, and energy storage by more than an order of magnitude.
If those policies – and the fact that renewables are now competitive for new power even without subsidies in the sunny and windy parts of the world – continue for long enough for renewables to drop another factor of 2 or 3 in price – on top of the factor of 10 or more that they’ve fallen already, then we’ll enter a new domain where renewable growth rates aren’t determined by fickle policy. Instead, they’ll be limited only by the pace at which renewables can be deployed – the pace at which factories for solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries can be built; the pace at which labor forces can be trained to deploy them; the pace at which capital can be deployed to pay for their installation.
How fast is that? I have no idea. But there’s good reason to believe that in this second and third phase of renewables, the growth rate will accelerate rather than slowing. We will look back and see that the growth of renewables is an S-curve to be sure. But we may also look back and find that, as of 2019, we had not yet hit the first upward swing in that S-curve.