Battery storage system could cut costs for UK businesses

/  Thrive Renewables and Aura Power are launching a joint venture (JV) business offering UK companies access to battery energy storage systems in exchange for a share of revenues.

The project will see the free instalment and operation of batteries for medium and large-scale energy users. Businesses targeted in the scheme are those spending £500,000 or more each year on electricity, with steady consumption and spare import capacity.

Thrive brings its 104MW portfolio of wind, hydro and solar assets to the collaboration, while Aura offers its experience developing utility-scale batteries.

Aura Power director Simon Coulson has said the partners are already involved in talks with potential clients, including a dairy firm, a food processor and a tile manufacturer. Other possible customers include manufacturers, water utilities, pharmaceuticals businesses, cold storage facilities, hotels and large office buildings.

According to energy market analysts Cornwall Insight, more than 8,000 businesses in the UK currently have annual electricity contracts of 10GWh or more, and are likely to be spending a minimum of £1m per year. As such, Thrive and Aura predict that a large number of companies are eligible for the scheme.

The partners estimate that companies with a mid-range 2MW battery could save more than £1m over a standard 15-year contract.

Alongside its money-saving benefits, the venture intends to increase the use of flexible energy and boost investment in battery storage technology, a sector with great potential that as of yet remains underexplored. Additionally, the spread of such energy storage methods could increase pressure to develop a more flexible national grid.

Thrive Renewables managing director Matthew Clayton said that increasing flexibility in the UK electricity system “is key to the continued transition to a cleaner, smarter energy network”, and is worth any investment risks.

Once signed up, batteries will be installed behind a facility’s energy meter, either in existing buildings such as basements, or in shipping containers outdoors. The process from signing the contract to deploying the battery can reportedly be completed in three to six months.

According to the partners, the batteries have a number of potential benefits for companies. For instance, they could help businesses avoid punitive Triad and red zone charges for using electricity at peak times, hedge against rising electricity costs, support electric vehicle charging, maintain activity during power cuts, and develop or increase on-site renewable generation.

Prior to signing a contract, potential customers’ electricity usage and bills will be reviewed by Aura, who will then recommend the appropriate battery size – starting at 0.5MW.  /


EIB to support €170m electricity network investment programme in Greece

/  The European Investment Bank (EIB) has agreed to support a €170m electricity network investment programme by Greece-based power provider PPC’s subsidiary, the Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator (HEDNO).

As part of this initiative, a second loan agreement amounting to €45m within the total loan facility of €85m has been signed by EIB.

Under the agreement, EIB will finance 50% of the new energy initiative, which will help strengthen and upgrade electricity distribution across the Greek mainland and islands.

EIB Greece lending operations vice-president Jonathan Taylor said: “Investment in energy infrastructure is crucial to ensure reliable electricity supply and reflect changing sources of power generation.

“The EIB is pleased to provide €85m to support transformational investment by HEDNO that will modernise the national electricity network, enable increased power consumption reflecting economic growth and improve reliable energy supply to millions of customers across Greece.

“This builds on the EIB’s strong track-record of financing energy investment across Greece, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, interconnectors to islands and electricity distribution.”

The 20-year loan to PPC will be used by HEDNO to upgrade and reinforce electricity distribution across Greece, including large-scale investment in Athens, northern Greece and Crete.

PPC chairman and CEO Manolis Panagiotiakis said: “The role of the distribution network, an imperative parameter for the operation of electricity, becomes extremely important for green energy and consumer’s participation, within the European policy framework and in correlation with all relative technological developments.”

Additionally, the investment programme will improve high-voltage substations and network to ensure reliable electricity supply to PPC’s customers across the country as well as improve remote monitoring of the electricity distribution network.  /


Plans stall for a Queensland clean energy company

/  The Queensland Government has stalled its plans to set up CleanCo, a state-owned clean energy company that was due to be established in the first half of this year.

Recommendations for the restructuring of the state’s existing generators to accommodate CleanCo were also due in the first half of this year, though state budget papers now show this timeline to have been stretched, saying that a government taskforce has been set up to “investigate the establishment of CleanCo”.

The pause in plans comes despite the government’s delivery of a state budget for the venture, which was itself supported by a record-breaking surge in international coal prices.

Queensland Treasurer Jackie Trad said the coal royalties boosted the state’s annual budget surplus by around $1bn more than what was predicted six months ago, with the mines bringing in around $3.8bn in royalties this year. Estimates suggest they will bring in a further $3.5bn in 2018-2019.

Though the surplus will enable government funding of renewable initiatives, it also underlines the extent to which Queensland still relies on mining, and raises some questions over how successful the state’s transition to clean energy sources will be.

The budget papers also highlighted the growing popularity of renewables in the state, with planned construction projects anticipated to bring in “over 3,500 construction jobs”.

However, members of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) have called attention to the fact that too few of these jobs are going to local tradespeople. ETU secretary Peter Ong said companies are instead choosing to use “unlicensed overseas backpackers” for renewable installation projects.

CleanCo was first proposed in the June 2017 ‘Powering Queensland’ plan which called for the establishment of “an affordable, secure and sustainable energy supply”, and which is due to receive a portion of the $1.16bn set aside in the state budget for renewable energy initiatives.

It was pitched as a government-owned green energy company that would operate renewable generators and develop new hydroelectric, gas and clean energy projects. It is hoped that the corporation will help the state attain its 50% renewable energy target by 2030.

Other green initiatives in the state include an upcoming waste levy, due to begin in January 2019. This will see a fee of $70 per tonne of waste dumped in landfill, and is intended to deter the import of waste from interstate to Queensland and enable the adoption of a waste-to-energy model.

Earlier this week, the Queensland Government announced that it will set aside $100m for the tariff. The fund will be available to private companies and local governments, intended to help them find eco-friendly ways of curbing mounting waste levels.  /


World Bank grants $125m for Morocco’s second solar power complex

/  The World Bank has agreed to provide additional financing of $125m to support the development of Morocco’s second concentrated solar power (CSP) complex, Noor-Midelt.

Morocco aims to develop solar and wind energy resources and reduce dependence on fossil fuels to move towards a green energy future.

The additional financing offered by the bank includes $25m from the Clean Technology Fund and will be used for the construction of the Noor-Midelt I and II plants, which will have a total capacity of 600MW-800MW.

The Noor-Midelt complex is being built under the Noor Solar Plan that aims to generate 52% of its electricity through renewable energy by 2030.

World Bank country director for the Maghreb Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly said: “This is yet another step toward a promising clean energy future for Morocco. The Noor-Midelt power complex seals Morocco’s position as the region’s pioneer in renewable energy.”

Additionally, the Noor-Midelt complex will be based on a new design that combines CSP and PV technologies. Construction of the solar complex will be led by the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (MASEN), which was formed to implement the solar plan in the country.

Upon completion, the Noor-Midelt complex will be even larger than the 580MW Noor-Ouarzazate complex, which is slated for completion this year and will provide power to more than one million people.

The Noor-Ouarzazate complex also minimises Morocco’s dependency on oil by about 2.5 million tonnes per year, while reducing carbon emissions by 760,000t annually.  /


US solar panel tariff halts renewable projects worth billions

US President Donald Trump’s tariff on imported solar panels has come into effect, causing several US renewable energy companies to halt investments in installation projects worth more than $2.5bn, also stalling thousands of jobs.

The sum lost in the project cancellations is double the amount of planned spending by companies due to build or expand US solar panel factories in response to the import tax.

The 30% tariff will last four years, decreasing by 5% each year. Solar developers have said the levy will bump up the cost of major installation projects by 10%. Trump first proposed the tariff in January, and was met with criticism from most of the solar industry, which said the move would only hamper a sector many saw as on the cusp of taking off.

Tax incentives and the declining cost of imported panels drove a series of utility-scale solar installations over the past year, allowing solar power to become a true competitor to natural gas and coal in the US. Additionally, job creation was anticipated to grow, with US Energy Information Administration estimates showing the US solar industry to already employ three times more people than the coal industry – providing jobs for more than 250,000 people.

Many have voiced fears that the new solar tariff will undermine progress, citing its potentially damaging impact on domestic job creation, as well as overseas manufacturing operations.

Conversely, some industry experts argue that the tariff’s impact on jobs is unimportant due to technological advancements already diminishing the need for human workers.

For instance, Martin Pochtaruk, president of Canadian energy company Heliene, said companies “don’t employ too many humans. There are lots of robots”.

Among the cancelled projects are those by utility-scale developer Cypress Creek Renewables. The firm halted 150 projects – a fifth of its pipeline – which equates to the loss of $1.5bn and 3,000 jobs. The company referenced the tariff as the motivating factor, as it raised costs beyond a viable level.

The company is one of a group of solar developers to request that trade officials exclude panels used in utility-scale projects from the tariffs, a plea still under review by the US Trade Representative.

However, some developers are continuing with their plans in attempts to take advantage of the remaining years of the 30% solar installation federal tax credit. This measure is due to be phased out starting 2020. Other firms, such as 174 Power Global, anticipated the levy and stockpiled panels prior to Trump’s announcement.  /


ABB to supply microgrid solution for ESCRI project in South Australia

/  Swiss technology company ABB has secured an order to supply the Energy Storage for Commercial Renewable Integration (ESCRI) project in South Australia with a microgrid solution. The installation of ABB Ability microgrid is expected to strengthen the power grid and enhance the overall reliability of power supply.

ABB’s Ability PowerStore 30MW battery energy storage solution will be installed at the Dalrymple substation on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia, and will be connected to the Electranet transmission system. The solution is expected to provide additional market services on a daily basis, as well as support the increased power transfer with the interconnectors to the state of Victoria in Australia.

ElectraNet, South Australia’s principal transmission network service provider, will be responsible for the installation, while energy company AGL will be responsible for the daily operations at the site.

The project is partly funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and will be delivered by Consolidated Power Projects, working jointly with ABB.

Additionally, ABB has supplied dry-type transformer and switchgear, which has been integrated into the microgrid solution as well as engineering services, operations and maintenance support.

ABB grid automation business unit head Massimo Danieli said: “Our modular and scalable ABB Ability PowerStore in combination with Microgrid Plus control and automation solution can be deployed in a fast and efficient way.

“Our advanced technology meets up to complex requirements that are part of today’s energy revolution, and microgrid solutions are playing an increasing role in the evolution of the grid.”

The ABB Ability microgrid solution will be able to deliver enough power to run about 400 homes for at least 24 hours without the input from renewable generators.  /


Four Korean firms to invest $4.4bn in Philippine energy sector

/  The Philippines Department of Energy has received letters of intent (LoI) from four Korean companies to invest a total of $4.4bn in various energy projects in the country. SK Engineering & Construction, Sy Enc, BKS Energy Industry and SK E&S formally submitted their LoIs during the Philippines-Korea Business Forum.

Philippines Department of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said: “We welcome these investments, especially as we anticipate the growth of our economy and expected demand due to the government’s Build Build Build Program.”

SK Engineering & Construction has proposed to build a coal-fired power plant, and plans to expand its operations amounting to more than $2bn in the Quezon province. If approved, the power project in Quezon is expected to create at least 3,000 jobs per year during the construction period and a total of 600 jobs per year during its operations.

Renewable energy firm Sy Enc expressed interest to build a wind power generation project. The company intends to expand its operations in the country by investing more than $255m. This initiative is projected to generate 10,000 jobs.

Additionally, BKS Energy Industry submitted a proposal to invest $500m for solar power generation in the Philippines, which is expected to generate around 1,000 jobs a year in the country.

SK E&S, which is involved in the business of power generation, district energy, and city gas in Korea as well as in the international market, has submitted its proposal for an LNG terminal hub. The company intends to invest $1.6bn for the new terminal hub, which is expected to generate 2,200 jobs during the construction period.

Cusi added: “We are expecting more Korean firms to express their interest in investing in Philippine energy projects. We are hoping that this will result in a more robust energy sector for the country, help our job generation efforts and boost our economy.”  /


Trillions could be lost from fossil fuel investment

/  Trillions of dollars worth of fossil fuel wealth will be lost over the next 17 years if companies continue to invest in the industry, regardless of whether or not governments impose carbon emission limits, according to a new report.

Researchers have said that dwindling fossil fuel demand would mean exporters, such as the US, Russia and Canada, could suffer a severe financial loss of around $1tn-$4tn if they continued to invest in the industry. A loss on this scale is comparable with that which catalysed the 2007 financial crisis.

The study, conducted by analysts from Radboud University, the University of Cambridge (C-EENRG), Cambridge Econometrics, the University of Macao, and the UK Open University, demonstrates the steady decline of fossil fuel consumption as a result of ongoing clean energy developments, as well as the tight carbon budget set in the Paris Agreement.

Results, published in Nature Climate Change, were obtained using a novel modelling technique that tracked the diffusion of low-carbon technologies based on empirical data.

In the report, Dr Jean-Francois Mercure of Radboud University/C-EENRG says countries should work to “deflate the carbon bubble” through investment in green energy sources, working towards early decarbonising and steady divestment.

The warning adds to previously voiced fears of ‘stranded assets’ in listed energy companies, as policies are brought in to try to reduce coal, oil and gas use. The belief that such climate policies will not be adopted for some years has thus far kept industry investment into fossil fuels high. However, it is this belief that the report attempts to disparage, saying that new policies would only accelerate a process already underway.

Study co-author Hector Pollitt from Cambridge Econometrics and C-EENRG said the new research displayed the “mismatch” between reductions in fossil fuel use necessary to achieve climate targets, and the actions of investors.

He added that governments have a duty to meet the goals set by the Paris Agreement “to ensure that the significant detrimental economic and geopolitical consequences we have identified are avoided.”

The team also took the US’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement into account, examining the effect of the country’s continued fossil fuel investment. The analysis showed that a global reduction in fossil fuel demand would make the US industry uncompetitive and thus lead to job losses and facility closures. This compares with the job and wealth creation that would result from its adoption and development of low-carbon technologies if it were to remain in the climate change agreement.

On the positive side, the report also says the shift to clean energy is good news for importers, including China and the EU, which will have the opportunity to shed high fossil fuel expenditures.

Omar Rahim, CEO of energy solutions company Energi Mine, said it is high time the energy companies “had a shake-up”. He added that the industry has been tightly controlled by a few key players for too long, creating a bad deal for consumers as companies have been raising energy prices.

He added that renewable energy “can begin to change the dynamic and give control back to the consumer” in the decreasing costs of installation and the ability for decentralised energy models, with consumers capable of generating their own electricity.  /