France sees potential for 14 new nuclear reactors
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France may need to build more than 14 new nuclear power plants, more than the six currently planned, if the nation is to meet its energy transition goal of reducing fossil fuel dependence from 60% to 40% by 2035.
This new energy strategy will be debated in parliament from late January and must be codified into law.
Over the course of 2023, availability improved, falling in line with EDF’s target of 300–330 terawatt-hours. EDF will construct the new plants with tens of billions in public financing and chief executive Luc Rémont said his company aims to build roughly one 1.6GW reactor a year.
President Macron also reinforced his country’s commitment to nuclear at the recent COP28 climate summit in Dubai, where he led a group of 20 world leaders signing a pledge to “triple nuclear energy capacity from 2020 by 2050”. Shortly after signing, Macron pronounced that “nuclear energy is back”.
France currently has 56 operable reactors that produce around 70% of the nation’s electricity.
Global renewable capacity marks record growth in 2023, China leads
Global renewable energy capacity experienced an unprecedented 50% surge in 2023, marking the fastest growth in two decades, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
This expansion in renewables output, which totalled 510GW, was largely driven by China and will propel the world closer to achieving critical climate targets by the end of the decade.
Solar power played a pivotal role in this growth, accounting for three-quarters of the new global renewable capacity installed in 2023. China led the charge, installing more solar power alone last year than the entire world commissioned the previous year, despite subsidy reductions in 2020 and 2021.
In addition to more than doubling solar capacity in 2023, China also witnessed a 66% increase in wind power capacity from 2022. According to the IEA, renewables are projected to surpass coal as the largest source of global electricity generation by early 2025 and constitute more than 42% of total global electricity generation by 2028.
German energy regulators push for major grid reforms
Amid increasing challenges for grid operators in the wake of the energy transition, Germany’s energy regulator has proposed major changes to the nation’s grid system. The Bundesnetzagentur has published a key elements paper outlining the future of cost and incentive regulation across the electricity and gas network sectors.
The plan focuses on shortening the regulatory period from five to three years to adapt to faster changes in costs incurred by network operators. One of the proposals for streamlining the regulatory process is to replace current individualised determinations of capital costs for new projects with the application of a weighted average cost of capital formula to evaluate the costs of new developments.
Streamlining Germany’s grid regulation procedures is vital as the nation’s 2045 net-zero target looms ever closer. With renewable generation seeing a year-on-year increase of 12% in 2023 and increased electrification placing further strain on the grid, overly bureaucratic regulatory processes can hamper progress.
BYD breaks ground on new 30GWh sodium-ion battery facility in China
Chinese automotive company BYD has started construction on new sodium-ion battery facility in Xuzhou, China.
With an investment of 10bn yuan, the new facility will have a projected annual capacity of 30 gigawatt-hours (GWh). The batteries produced at the facility will be used for electric vehicles (EVs), particularly micro vehicles and scooters.
The agreement to construct the facility was signed last November by BYD subsidiary Findreams Battery and tricycle manufacturer Huaihai Group. The partnership is expected to transform Xuzhou into a battery production hub and will capitalise on the suitability of sodium-ion batteries for smaller EVs.
Previously, BYD and Huaihai Group had collaborated on a standard battery facility in Xuzhou to produce batteries with lithium iron phosphate (LFP) chemistry.
Sodium-ion batteries, often referred to as ‘salt’ batteries, are a cost-effective alternative to lithium-based batteries. They eliminate the need for lithium, cobalt, or nickel. However, their lower energy density makes them more suitable for specific applications such as scooters, small cars or stationary storage.
China reinstates coal tariffs threatening Russian exporters
China has reinstated import levies on coal in a move that could threaten Russian exporters dependant on Chinese demand.
In 2022, the Chinese Government removed the coal tariff to secure supply in response to global energy market tumult caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. From January to November 2022, Chinese steel companies increased imports of coking coal by 21.5% compared with the same period in 2021. Despite being shunned by other buyers across the world, Russia accounted for 36.9% of this supply.
Following a peak in June, China’s imports of Russian coal have decreased as other sources have become more competitive.
The reimposed tariffs include a 6% levy on coal for electricity and heating and a 3% tariff on coking coal used in steel manufacturing. However, such tariffs only apply to nations with the status of ‘most-favoured countries’, including Russia, South Africa, the US and Mongolia. Other nations will face a higher import tariff of 20%.
China aims to protect its domestic industry through such measures.