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5 April

US awards $20bn funding for clean energy in low-income communities

Image credit: Eros Hoagland/Getty Images

US Vice-President Kamala Harris and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan announced eight organisations that will oversee spending of a $20bn clean energy funding package to support green investment and clean energy development in low-income, disadvantaged communities. 

The investment, made available through the $27bn Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund created under the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, will go towards a national financing network that will fund tens of thousands of clean energy projects across the US. The selected groups will be operated under two separate programmes: the $14bn National Clean Investment Fund and the $6bn Clean Communities Investment Accelerator.

Projects will be completed over the next seven years and are expected to reduce up to 40 million tonnes of pollution annually.

Selected organisations have also committed to mobilising almost $7 of private capital for every $1 of public funding, which will equal approximately $150bn in total financing. 

5 April

California announces $6bn transmission upgrade plan 

California’s Independent System Operator (ISO) has recommended a $6bn plan to facilitate new clean energy connections to the state’s grid.  

26 new grid projects have been recommended, including the first phase of connecting offshore wind projects off the state’s North Coast to the grid, with $4.59bn allocated to develop three significant transmission lines from floating turbines off Humboldt County. The remainder of the $6.1bn fund will go towards 19 “reliability-driven” projects that will help California’s power grid cope with the challenges that come with renewable power. 

The plan also recommends more than 21GW of new geothermal development, primarily in the Imperial Valley and in southern Nevada, as well as battery energy storage systems near major load centres in the LA Basin, greater Bay Area and San Diego.

If successful, the plan will help California meet its climate goals. The ISO’s 2023 projections suggested that California needs to add 85GW of clean energy generation to help meet future demand and greenhouse gas reduction targets.  

10 April

Explosion at Enel’s hydropower plant in Italy claims at least three lives 

An explosion at Enel’s hydroelectric power plant in Bargi, Italy has resulted in the deaths of at least three workers and more unaccounted for.

The blast took place during maintenance at the decades-old facility. Regional fire chief Francesco Notaro informed the press that part of the nine-storey underground structure had collapsed, igniting a fire at one of the transformers at the plant and causing flooding up to depths of 60m.

Three bodies were recovered, four missing and three others severely injured and hospitalised. Enel stated that the dam basin remains intact and that the plant was not operational at the time. There was no disruption to the electricity supply.

The tragedy is expected to intensify the debate on workplace safety in Italy, with two major unions already planning a nationwide strike to address these concerns. Enel workers planned to strike for eight hours the same week over safety issues. 

12 April

Ukraine’s Trypilska power plant destroyed in Russian airstrikes 

Russian forces have obliterated the Trypilska thermal power plant (TPP), Ukraine’s largest power-generating facility in the Kyiv region, through a series of missile attacks. 

The assault saw Russia launch a barrage of 82 missiles and drones, including six hypersonic Kinzhal missiles. Despite Ukraine’s Air Force successfully intercepting 18 missiles and 39 drones, the Trypilska TPP was completely destroyed. The Ukrenergo grid operator said its substations and power-generating sites in Odesa, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Lviv and Kyiv also sustained damage. 

A critical energy asset for the Kyiv, Cherkasy and Zhytomyr regions, the Trypilska TPP had a capacity of 1.8GW, surpassing the pre-war electricity demands of Ukraine’s capital. Further strikes were reported that afternoon, with Russian forces targeting a thermal power station as well as two underground natural gas storage facilities. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin justified the strikes as a necessary response to Ukrainian drone attacks on Russian energy infrastructure. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba reiterated the urgent need for more US-made Patriot defence systems.  

16 April

Westinghouse starts construction of AP1000 reactor in Ukraine 

Representatives from US nuclear company Westinghouse and Ukranian state-owned nuclear utility Energoatom met in Netishyn, Ukraine to celebrate the start of construction of unit 5 at the Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant (NPP) in Western Ukraine. 

The reactor will be one of Westinghouse’s signature AP1000 reactors, the first in Ukraine, where existing reactors are Soviet-era water-water energetic reactor (VVER) models. The development marks a landmark step in Urkaine’s move away from Russian supply. 

The first batch of Westinghouse VVER-1000 nuclear fuel for the two operating units at the Khmelnytskyi NPP was delivered in March. The fuel was manufactured at Westinghouse’s fuel fabrication facility in Sweden, which also delivered the first batch of VVER-440 fuel to Ukraine’s Rivne NPP in September 2023.

Prior to this, VVER fuel had only been produced in Russia.

At the beginning of this year, Ukrainian officials announced plans to build at least four new nuclear power reactors by autumn to replace power capacity lost during the war with Russia.