UK’s “unavoidable loss”: gas prices push smaller utilities to ruin

25 september | grid

A wholesale gas price hike in the UK has caused the bankruptcy of two more small utilities. This brings the total to six, with more expected to follow.

Utilities Avro Energy and Green Supplier have both collapsed, leaving approximately 830,000 customers without an energy supplier. UK energy regulator Ofgem will move customers to another supplier, though utilities remain reluctant to take on new accounts.

These bankruptcies bring the total number of affected customers to 1.5 million. The UK Government continues to discuss a variety of measure to help struggling firms overcome the gas price discrepancy.

Ofgem sets caps on consumer energy tariffs in the UK. Current wholesale gas prices have remained consistently above what the cap allows utilities to charge. While the cap is due to change in October, any purchase that utilities currently make comes at a significant loss to them. After this, utilities can pass the cost on to consumers.

Speaking to lawmakers, Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley said that the industry had recently seen “an unprecedented rise” in gas prices. He also said that supply could “more than meet demand”.

Smaller companies face the most risk from fluctuating prices, having a smaller financial cushion to absorb falling margins. Several “competitor” companies lowered their prices in 2020, taking advantage of record-low gas wholesale prices to lure in new customers.

27 September | Policy

Nations launch compact to cancel new coal power projects

A group of countries, including the UK, Chile, Sri Lanka, Denmark, France, Germany and Montenegro, has announced an initiative to encourage other nations to halt their construction of coal-fired power plants.

The No New Coal Power Compact aims to keep the Paris Climate Accords' 1.5°C global warming target ‘within reach’ and achieve the seventh Sustainable Development Goal of providing affordable and clean energy.

Countries joining the scheme will need to stop approving and building unabated coal-fired power generation projects by the end of the year.

The seven founding nations are urging all other governments to join the No New Coal Power Compact ahead of the UN Climate Summit COP26, to help deliver on the summit’s goal to ‘consign coal power to history’.

COP26 president-designate and former UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “I am delighted that the UK is partnering with a diverse group of countries that are showing bold leadership to cancel coal through the No New Coal Power Compact, demonstrating the positive impact that countries working closely together can have in generating climate action.

“The cost of clean renewable technologies continues to fall, making coal expensive and uncompetitive. I call on more countries to come forward and sign up to this compact ahead of COP26, and play their part to limit global warming and keep 1.5°C alive.”

24 September | Coal

Drax may keep coal-fired power plants open beyond planned closure

UK power provider Drax has announced that it could keep its coal-fired power stations in operation beyond their planned closure date of next year due to the energy crisis gripping Europe. Drax’s chief executive Will Gardiner stated that the UK is likely to face a “tough winter” if temperatures are colder than the average.

He went on to state that Drax’s last remaining coal units would be ready to help balance a grid that has been under increasing supply pressure.

This comes as British gas and electric prices have surged to record highs due to fears that Europe faces extremely tight natural gas supplies during the winter months. The UK is heavily reliant on European supplies of natural gas for almost all its heating and over 50% of its power generation.

Drax stopped short of saying that it would run its coal fired stations at full capacity during the winter but indicated an openness to ramp up production if directed by the government.

“If the government wants us to rethink our plans, we need to talk to them in the next few months,” Gardiner said in an interview with the Financial Times.

23 September | Solar

GE Renewable Energy to supply technology for solar plant in Turkey

GE Renewable Energy has secured a contract to supply its Flexinverter solar power station technology for Kalyon’s Karapinar solar power plant in Turkey.

Under the contract, GE Renewable Energy will be responsible for the design, engineering, commissioning and project and site management for the 270MW Karapinar phase II-A and 810MW Karapinar phase II-B projects. Located in Turkey’s Konya Karapinar province, the project is expected to begin commercial operations by next December.

GE intends to manufacture the mounting structures and DC cables locally, while its Grid Solutions business manufacturing site in Gebze will produce transformers for integration in the solar inverter system.

GE Renewable Energy Renewable Hybrids CEO Prakash Chandra said: “There is tremendous potential for solar energy in Turkey, which can be addressed through smart solutions that will help integrate this natural energy source into the grid in a reliable way and at utility-scale.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Kalyon on these projects and look forward to more opportunities to increase the penetration of renewable energy in Turkey.”

The Karapinar solar power project is part of the first YEKA solar tender, which was launched by the Turkish Government in 2017. It will support the country’s energy transition and that of its neighbours, as well as helping Turkey enhance its renewable energy resources and commission 10GW of solar capacity by 2027.

22 September | Investment

UK Government to invest £200m in a bid to cut carbon emissions

Businesses in some of the UK’s most polluting and energy-intensive industries will be able to bid for a share of a new £200m government fund to help cut their carbon emissions and offset the costs of their energy bills.

This move comes following the government’s announcement in April that it aims to cut the country’s emissions by 78% by 2035 – the world’s most ambitious climate change target. It aims to build a more secure, home-grown, and clean energy sector to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and exposure to volatile global wholesale energy prices.

The new investment will support green projects that help businesses across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland clean up their industrial processes, improve their energy efficiency and reduce their carbon emissions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “With innovation and investment across the economy, we can power the UK’s green industrial revolution. But we know for the most polluting and energy-intensive businesses, this will mean a big shift in the way they operate.

“That’s why we’re putting £220m more into helping them cut their carbon emissions, bring down their energy bills, and support good jobs – creating a sustainable future as we build back greener around the country”.

20 September | Solar

Lightsource BP aims to develop 25GW of solar capacity by 2025

UK-based solar energy company Lightsource BP has announced a target of developing 25GW of solar power capacity by 2025, having secured a $1.8bn revolving credit facility and trade finance facility.

The funding was supplied by ten global financial institutions and will be used to install solar facilities across the world. The company expects to create more than 500 jobs over the next four years as a result of these operations.

Lightsource BP group chief executive Nick Boyle said: “Globally, renewable energy is shifting from a mindset of gigawatts to terawatts. Investments are being made by the billion, not the million. And big companies like Amazon, McDonald’s and eBay are switching to clean energy.

“If we’re going to meet the commitments of the Paris Agreement, business as usual isn’t going to cut it. Our industry-leading 25GW by 2025 target and the finance package are further proof that Lightsource BP has left ‘business as usual’ far behind.”

Lightsource BP has developed a total of 3.8GW of solar capacity worldwide since 2010. The company is currently developing a 9GW solar portfolio exclusively for BP.

In brief

NTPC secures 1.9GW solar power contract in IREDA auction

Indian energy conglomerate NTPC has won a 1.9GW solar power project contract in an auction organised by the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency, which aimed to establish grid-connected solar photovoltaic power projects.

NuScale Power to explore SMR technology for coal-fired plants

NuScale Power has signed a memorandum of understanding with Getka Group and Unimot to explore opportunities for using its small modular reactor technology at coal-fired power plants in Poland.

NESF and Eelpower form battery storage joint venture in UK

NextEnergy Solar Fund has entered the UK’s energy storage sector by forming a £100m ($137m) joint venture partnership with battery storage company Eelpower, to acquire battery storage assets with up to 250MW of total capacity.

Amp Power Australia secures financing for 120MW solar farm

Amp Power Australia has secured financing for its 120MW Hillston Solar Farm in New South Wales, which will have the capacity to generate almost 235,000GWh of clean energy a year.

MEAG to acquire 50% stake in renewable projects in California

MEAG, acting on behalf of Munich Re, has entered a strategic partnership with EDF Renewables North America to acquire a 50% stake in two renewable projects in California, including a 131MWdc solar project.

15 September | deals

ACWA Power seeks to raise up to $1.2bn in initial public offering

Saudi Arabian energy company ACWA Power is set to raise up to SAR4.5bn ($1.1bn) through a planned offering of 81.2 million shares. The company will sell the shares for between SAR51 ($13.6) to SAR56 ($14.9) to a share. A final price could be set before the offering opens to retail investors.

For this initial public offering (IPO), ACWA Power will sell 11.1% of its existing shares. The company is expected to use the proceeds to move towards being a low-carbon energy generation company, according to a Bloomberg report.

The listing will value ACWA at up to SAR41.3bn ($11bn) and is said to be the biggest offering in Riyadh since Saudi Aramco’s listing. In 2019, the Saudi government divested 2% of its shares in Aramco in an IPO raising a record SAR112.5bn ($30bn).

ACWA Power also plans to divest 4.14 million company shares (0.57%) to some of its employees and subsidiaries under the employee IPO grant plan, as reported by Reuters.

14 September | Wind

Asper Investment Management to sell onshore wind firm Vasa Vind

UK-based investment firm Asper Investment Management has agreed to sell its 100% stake in Vasa Vind Holdings to funds managed by APG Asset Management.

Asper agreed to sell the stake on behalf of one of its funds under management. The financial details of the deal have not been disclosed. Established in 2013, Vasa Vind has developed and built large-scale onshore wind projects with 337MW of combined capacity in Sweden.

Asper claims that under its management, Vasa Vind has become a leading developer and operator of onshore wind projects in the Nordic region.

Asper director Allister Sykes said: “Our work with Vasa Vind over the last eight years is a great example of Asper’s strategy to Build the New. We are proud of our legacy and delighted with what Vasa Vind has achieved over this period.

“Together we have mobilised more than €400m of investment in new-build sustainable energy projects and built a highly professional team capable of delivering many more projects in the future.”

In brief

Berenberg to fund Elgin Energy solar projects in UK and Ireland

German private bank Berenberg has signed an agreement with solar and storage developer Elgin Energy to fund the late-stage development of Elgin Energy’s 1.36GWp solar project pipeline in the UK and Ireland.

Vistra completes construction on Phase II battery storage system in US

US-based energy company Vistra has expanded its battery energy storage system with the completion of Phase II of Moss Landing energy storage facility construction in California.

BOEM concludes environmental review for South Fork Wind Farm

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has completed its environmental review of the proposed South Fork Wind Farm offshore from New York and Rhode Island.

PSEG to sell fossil generating portfolio to ArcLight subsidiaries

US-based energy company Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) has signed an agreement to sell PSEG Fossil, its 6,750MW fossil power generating portfolio.

EDF and Nissan partner for vehicle-to-grid EV charging

French utility company EDF has announced that it will partner with Japanese automaker Nissan to launch a new commercial vehicle-to-grid charging service for EV fleet operators in the UK.