11 January, 2018

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UK government sets date and terms for phase out of coal generation

The UK government has set the date and terms for the phase out of coal generation. Following a two-year long consultation, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is to introduce new emissions intensity limits on generating units at 450 gCO2/kWh, which would apply instantaneously from 1 October 2025.

The UK generated more than half its electricity from low carbon sources in 2017 for the first time ever. Wind generated double that of coal, supplying more power in every month except January and helping provide the first entirely coal free day since 1882. Wind generation increased by 31% while solar increased by 11%.

A combination of strong winds and low demand after New Year’s Eve allowed Germany to briefly cover 100% of its electricity use with renewables on 1 January at 6:00 am. Wind power alone accounted for 85% of Germany’s power consumption, with the rest met with hydropower and biomass. The data is preliminary, with some estimates showing renewables only met 95% of total demand. Despite reaching this milestone in its energy transition, Germany’s total emissions stagnated for the third year in a row, primarily because more oil and gas were used in transport, heating, and industry.

Denmark set a new record in 2017 for electricity generation from wind, meeting 43.6% of its electricity consumption. This has been due to larger and more efficient turbines providing 5.3 GW of capacity, despite a decrease of 20% in the number of turbines since 2001. By 2020, it is expected that renewable energy will meet 80% of Denmark’s electricity consumption.

China spent US$44 billion on large, international clean energy projects and mergers and acquisitions in 2017, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. This investment marked a 38% increase from the previous year and signals China’s increasing interest in international clean energy investments, which have more than doubled since 2015. The report also found that China’s solar manufacturers accounted for 60% of global solar cell production and the country’s miners are responsible for 62% of the global supply of cobalt.

The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) delivered an unexpected ruling that rejected a Trump administration plan to subsidize coal-fired and nuclear power plants. The five-member Republican-controlled agency made the decision in response to Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposition for government support for coal-fired and nuclear power plants to make the country’s electricity system more resilient. In its decision, the panel agreed with critics who said there was no evidence of a threat to the grid’s reliability that would justify the emergency action Secretary Perry was seeking.

While the new US tax plan passed by Congress just before Christmas may divide opinion, it’s expected to be favourable towards commercial solar investment. A report by Greentech Media Research shows how the reduction in the corporate tax rate and increase in bonus depreciation increases the value associated with reducing utility bills through solar investment (by up to 27% in the California example provided).

Electric vehicles

2017 has been a record year for electric vehicles in the UK, with a 35% increase in registrations of electric, hydrogen and hybrid vehicles in 2017. This compares with a modest 2.7% increase in petrol vehicle registrations and a 17.1% decrease in diesel registrations. The UK is Europe’s largest market for pure electric and hybrid vehicles, with a new annual market share of 4.7%.

A battery-supported fast-charging station known as a “GridBooster” has been installed at a shopping centre in Slovakia by GreenWay. The first-of-its-kind charger utilises 52 kWh of battery capacity to support two 50 kW fast-charging stations, supplementing the grid, while charging when electricity rates are low.

The Chinese city of Shenzhen announced the completion of the transition to a fully electric bus fleet with the introduction of 16,359 electric busses. It now hopes to convert the city’s 12,518 taxis to fully electric before 2020. China has more electric car sales than the rest of the world combined, and now 14 Chinese ministries have released an action plan to transform the road freight industry.

Norway has achieved its goal of reducing transportation emissions to 85 g/km three years early. The ambitious target, set in 2012, is 10 g/km lower than that set by the EU. It has been achieved due to the popularity of Tesla vehicles along with favourable government incentives. Over 50% of new vehicles sold in Norway in 2017 were either fully electric or hybrid vehicles.

Solar-plus-storage

With ever increasing solar deployment in India where the government plans to auction 77 GW between 2018 and 2020, Indian insurance companies have launched products to protect lenders and developers. Generation from solar comes with unique risks for developers and the insurance will cover loss in generation due to faulty products, damage, errors during design, faster than expected degradation, and lower than expected solar radiation.

UK developer INRG has announced its intentions to build the second 100MW+ subsidy free solar-plus-storage project near Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire. While the project is at a very early stage, the solar farm could be built alongside a 50 MW battery storage facility and would have National Significant Infrastructure status.

Proposed legislation in Florida could see a pilot programme to investigate and value the use of solar-plus-storage for providing energy resilience during natural disasters, enabling quick power restoration afterwards. Particular focus will be on key facilities such as community centres, airports, public buildings, and hospitals.