Monday, 31 July 2017

NS Emera proposes 1.2GW of Canadian wind exports to New England, by Karl-Erik Stromsta, Recharge News, 31 July 2017

Canadian utility Emera has proposed exporting power from 1.2GW of future onshore wind farms in eastern Canada via a subsea cable to Massachusetts, to help the New England state meet its mandated renewables target.
Emera’s Atlantic Link project would harness seven as-yet-unbuilt wind farms in the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, backed by a range of both large international developers like RES and EDF-RE as well as smaller players like Natural Forces and SWEB.
The largest of the seven proposed wind projects is the 403MW Salmon River development in southeastern New Brunswick, owned by Germany’s Enercon and Nova Scotia-based Natural Forces. If built today, Salmon River would be the largest wind farm in Canada, topping EDF’s two-phase 350MW Rivière-du-Moulin in Quebec.
The Atlantic Link is one of a group of proposed transmission projects that have been put forward under Massachusetts’ Clean Energy tender. The land-constrained state seeks to import 9.5 million MWh of renewable power annually – and will provide developers with coveted long-term contracts.
Massachusetts’ clean-energy tender represents one of the largest opportunities for developers of renewables and transmission projects in the region today – and a lifeline for eastern Canada’s once-thriving wind sector, which faces a shortage of domestic opportunities
Massachusetts will announce the winners by January 2018.
Separately, Massachusetts is also seeking 1.6GW of offshore wind contracts by 2027, in the largest offshore wind request for proposal to date in the US.
Among the other transmission projects offered into Massachusetts' onshore tender are Avangrid’s New England Clean Energy Connect, National Grid’s Granite State Power Link, Transmission Developers Inc.’s New England Clean Power Link, and Eversource’s Northern Pass. All are tied to existing renewables capacity or new developments, like the proposed expansion of the Seigneurie de Beaupré wind farm in Québec.
But Emera’s Atlantic Link is perhaps the most audacious of the lot, proposing to run a 1GW high-voltage direct current cable from Coleson Cove, New Brunswick, down through the Bay of Fundy and along the Atlantic coast, ending at Plymouth, Massachusetts – near the state’s retiring Pilgrim nuclear plant.
The Atlantic Link would become the longest subsea interconnector in North America when it came on line in 2022, running for 375 miles (600km).
All told, Emera is offering to deliver about 5.7 million MWh of renewable power each year into Massachusetts at a fixed rate over 20 years, including 4.1 million MWh from the wind farms and the remainder from Canadian hydropower.
In doing so, it would only be utilising 65% of the Atlantic Link’s total capacity, meaning Massachusetts could increase its purchases over time – perhaps fostering additional Canadian wind development.
Emera says it has already executed power-purchase agreements with the wind developers, whose projects would more than double the installed onshore wind base in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
The seven wind projects that would initially feed into the Atlantic Link are the:
·        403MW Salmon River project, developed by Enercon/Natural Forces.
·        155MW Yorkshire, developed by EDF-EN Canada
·        151MW Black Spruce, developed by SWEB/Black & McDonald
·        148MW Higgins Mountain II, developed by Elemental Energy/Katalyst/3G Energy
·        148MW Colborne, developed by RES Canada
·        130MW Silver Brook, developed by RES Canada
·        59MW Andy’s Pond, developed by Enercon/Natural Forces

Halifax-based Emera is presently nearing completion of its Maritime Link, which will connect the island of Newfoundland to the North American grid for the first time, via a 500-mile subsea HVDC line running to Nova Scotia.
The Maritime Link is also expected to open opportunities for renewables development in Atlantic Canada – including perhaps the country’s first offshore wind project.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Ontario suspends LRP II round, leaving projects in limbo, by Karl-Erik Stromsta, Recharge News, pdated 25 October 2016

In a severe blow to Canada's largest renewables market, Ontario unexpectedly suspended its plan to sign contracts with developers for nearly 1GW of new capacity, citing a desire to hold electricity prices down amid a glut of electricity in the province.
Following the massively oversubscribed first round of Ontario's Large Renewables Procurement process (LRP I) – which saw EDP Renewables, EDF-RE, and other developers winning contracts for 455MW of new capacity earlier this year – Ontario had been in the process of readying an even-larger LRP II round.
The LRP process replaced Ontario's feed-in tariff system, which helped the province emerge as a major market for renewables and attract a number of manufacturers.
With 600MW of wind, 250MW of utility-scale solar and smaller amounts of other renewables capacity up for grabs, LRP II was expected to draw bids from heavyweight developers like NextEra and Recurrent Energy as well as from traditional Canadian energy giants like Suncor.
But on Tuesday Ontario energy minister Glenn Thibeault announced the province has suspended LRP II indefinitely, leaving many well-developed projects across the province in limbo. 
Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), said he was "shocked and extremely disappointed" by the decision.
Thibeault says Ontario does not need 1GW of new generating capacity, and scrapping LRP II will save the province's electricity consumers C$3.8bn ($2.9bn) without leading to any additional carbon emissions.
The province intends to begin consultations on a new long-term energy plan this autumn, with the strategy to be finalised sometime next year.
"Given Ontario's strong energy position, and in the interest of maintaining an affordable electricity system, the government has determined that it will suspend the planned LRP II," Thibeault wrote in a letter to province's grid operator, IESO.
"Our decision to suspend these procurements is not one we take lightly," he added.
But Hornung argues the province is underestimating its future need for clean power, especially as the economy becomes increasingly electrified.
LRP II was seen as the last opportunity for at least a few years to win contracts for large-scale renewables in Ontario.
The province emerged as a major market for wind and solar following the establishment of its feed-in tariff as part of 2009's Green Energy Act, with turbine OEMs like Siemens and GE winning big orders in recent years.
Today Ontario has 18GW of installed renewables capacity, including 40% of Canada's wind and nearly all of its utility-scale solar. The province is home to many of the country's renewables manufacturing facilities – including a Siemens blade plant in Tillsonburg.
Canadian Solar, one of the world's leading PV companies, is based in Guelph, Ontario.
The decision to scrap LRP II will accelerate the westward shift in Canada's renewables market, with Alberta and Saskatchewan having recently emerged as the most promising provinces for development in the medium term thanks to the establishment of new renewables targets.
Much of the future opportunity for renewables development in eastern Canada may be tied to opening the US to greater amount of electricity exports, particularly if the Clean Power Plan is upheld by US courts.

Siemens Gamesa to close Canadian blade factory, by Karl-Erik Stromsta, Recharge News, 18 July 2017

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy on Tuesday confirmed it will lay off hundreds of workers and close the blade factory it opened six years ago in Tillsonburg, Ontario, citing the decline of the eastern Canadian wind market and the industry’s shift towards larger rotor blades.
Rumours began swirling after Siemens Gamesa reportedly locked workers out of the factory over the weekend.
On Tuesday the company confirmed that “regretfully” more than 200 of the plant’s 340 employees will be let go immediately, with the remaining workforce to be fired in phases throughout 2017 – and the plant to be closed altogether in early 2018. 
The factory is among the largest employers in Tillsonburg, located roughly halfway between Toronto and Detroit in Ontario's industrial heartland, and was seen as one of the most tangible benefits to come from the province's renewables boom earlier this decade.
“This was a very difficult decision that was taken only after assessing all the options,” says David Hickey, head of Siemens Gamesa’s business in Canada.
“We have a great team of employees at the plant who have produced quality work for the last six years, and we sincerely appreciate all their efforts,” Hickey says.
“However, the harsh reality is that in order to remain competitive we must constantly re-evaluate our global manufacturing footprint.”
The outlook for new wind projects has dimmed considerably in eastern Canada over the past year, with Ontario scrapping its plans for another large-scale renewables tender in late 2016 amid a glut of power in the province. 
Most of the blades made in Tillsonburg have remained in Ontario, although the plant has also sent some output to Quebec and onward to Europe.
As recently as November 2016, Hickey told Recharge the Tillsonburg plant was in a “very strong position” in spite of the weak local market, given its potential to ship blades to emerging wind markets in western Canada and down into the United States.
But Siemens Gamesa’s ability to cost-competitively transport large blades to western Canada was always somewhat doubtful given the logistics and immense distances involved, and the company has struggled recently to win new wind-turbine orders in the US – where it already has factories making blades and nacelles in Iowa and Kansas.
The company noted that its plans to export blades into the US were “delayed due to a combination of factors, including uncertainty around US tax policy” under President Donald Trump.
At the height of Ontario’s wind boom, Siemens was a dominant turbine supplier in the Canadian wind market. But it has also faced recent headwinds in Canada, falling behind German compatriots Enercon and Senvion in the Canadian wind market last year.
In announcing the plant closure, Siemens Gamesa also cited the industry’s shift towards larger blades, saying the Tillsonburg factory “cannot easily be adapted to manufacture this product portfolio”.
“The significant investments necessary to bring the plant in line with current market requirements would result in costs that could not be competitive in the global markets,” the company said in a statement.
The decision to shutter Tillsonburg comes just three months after Siemens completed the merger of its wind business with Spain’s Gamesa.
Germany’s Siemens announced plans for the Tillsonburg blade plant at the beginning of this decade as part of the controversial multi-billion dollar renewables deal South Korea's Samsung struck with Ontario.
The Samsung was given generous off-take deals with the province for big wind and solar projects in exchange for ensuring that four renewables-related factories were built locally – with the other three plants backed by SMA Solar, Canadian Solar, and CS Wind.
As it closes shop for good in Tillsonburg, Siemens Gamesa says it remains “focused on supporting new wind opportunities in Canada” – like the combined 600MW procurements underway in Alberta and Saskatchewan – as well as continuing to support existing customers at the more than 30 wind projects it has supplied to date in the country.
Much of the excitement today in the Canadian wind market is centred on Alberta and Saskatchewan, with many of the supply-chain players in Ontario and Quebec looking for ways to shift their business westward. 
Unlike Ontario, which relied on an overly generous feed-in tariff system in the early years of its renewables boom, both western provinces have adopted competitive tenders, which they believe will allow them to build more sustainable markets.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

IEA chief economist: fossil giants risk ‘major strategic mistake’, by Leigh Collins, Recharge News, 27 June 2017, Updated 06 July 2017

IN DEPTH | Oil & gas companies need to rethink their corporate strategies as the world moves towards greener transport and heating, Laszlo Varro tells Leigh Collins

For most of its 43-year existence, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has been primarily concerned with the security of fossil-fuel supplies. Now it seems that its core task is helping the world wean itself off fossil fuels.
In a keynote speech at the Eurelectric convention in Estoril, Portugal, last week — which was followed by an exclusive interview with Recharge — the organisation’s chief economist Laszlo Varro was critical about the inertia of the leading oil & gas companies, and highlighted the need for electrification of transport, heating and cooling to the climate effort, as well as the necessity for political action on carbon pricing and fossil-fuel subsidies.
Clearly, increased electrification of the transport, heating and cooling sector would require the generation of huge amounts of clean wind and solar power.
“We have been quite outspoken… that it is a major strategic mistake by energy [ie, fossil-fuel] companies not to incorporate climate change and climate policy into its corporate strategy,” Varro told Recharge. “In fact, several major energy companies, like Total, are on the record as stating that they are assessing the resilience of their investment strategy to the [keeping climate change below] 2C pathway [as laid out in the Paris Agreement].
“Certainly, the future of fossil fuels under climate constraint is a topic that is very much part of our discussions with these companies.
“The large internationally active oil & gas companies are not climate sceptic, they have full awareness of the problems ahead,” he adds, pointing to Total’s purchase of solar manufacturer Sunpower and battery giant Saft, as well as the likes of Shell and Statoil investing in offshore wind projects.
Transport is one of the areas where oil & gas companies could lose out the most.
“There’s a reasonably clear understanding that in order to get to 2C, the two big pillars that we need to hit really hard are improving energy efficiency and vehicles,” Varro said. “Two thirds of the emissions reductions [needed]… are coming from energy efficiency and vehicles.
“By the middle of the century, the dominant propulsion source will have to be electric. Electrification of the vehicle sector will have to be more rapid than [what carmakers are promising]. We have to overachieve.
“I should warn that personal vehicles represent only less than one quarter of total global oil demand. Today oil demand is so rapid in the other parts of the transportation sector, like aviation, that if the market share of electric cars suddenly magically jumped to 50% — so every second car sold is electric, which will be easier said than done — global oil demand would still increase, driven by heavy-duty transport and other sectors.”
The current fleet of batteries simply do not provide enough power or range for trucks, trains, buses and planes, Varro explained. So what are the options?
“Some people promote the idea of biofuels, but we don’t really believe in that, because there are some hard biological constraints on how much sustainable biofuel you can have. And in fact, the amount of biofuels we have in our scenarios is already pretty high.”
Hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicles are more likely to be the long-term answer, he said. “We think that fuel cells have missed the boat for personal transport. So we don’t think that fuel cells will play a meaningful role in personal vehicles, but the high-energy density of hydrogen can come into the game for heavy-duty transport where you need much more energy stored in the vehicle.”
With some estimates saying that there will be as many as 18 million electric vehicles on the road by 2020, this segment will be able to offer more than just low-carbon travel — their batteries can help balance the grid.
“We see a really large-scale acceleration of the electrification of transport,” said Varro. “It’s a very interesting situation that the question is not going to be whether we have enough batteries — we will have enough batteries. We will have roughly ten times as much battery capacity as what we would conceivably need, even in the very worst case scenario to integrate a very high share of wind and solar into the power system.
“The question is, how will we use that very large battery capacity, which will be locked into the vehicle fleet? In our view, electric cars can be a fantastic variable asset to the power system, but they can also become part of the problem.
"Uncoordinated non-smart charging — Mr Smith running home and plugging his EV into his house at 7 o’clock in the evening — is part of the problem"
“Uncoordinated non-smart charging — basically Mr Smith running home and plugging [his electric car] into his house at 7 o’clock in the evening — that is part of the problem. A lot of electric car users do that today.
“At the same time, if you have optimised smart charging of electric vehicles, then you can do very, very interesting things, such as charge them during the day when solar output peaks.
“The inherent flexibility of electric cars will enable you to reduce capital investment into substations, it can bypass network bottlenecks and it can [reduce] the investment need into both [static] battery storage and PV generation.
“Our analysis is that investment in electric car chargers pays for itself. So if you roll out the dense electric-car charging network and you operate it smartly, then the net investment need is negative.”
Heating and cooling
Electrification of the heating and cooling sectors is another area that would contribute massively to the climate change effort — and be a huge boost to the renewables sector.
“Today, the buildings on Planet Earth consume 123 exajoules [34,166TWh] of energy [annually] — a lot of gas in the form of natural gas heating and electricity for air conditioning and so on,” said Varro.
“In our 2C pathway, total buildings-sector energy use declines somewhat. This is actually an incredibly radical assumption for energy efficiency, because we are talking about a planet where you would have two billion more people living in the world by the middle of the century.
“Urbanisation right now is running at the speed of a city of London every month — you take the people who leave their villages and move to Lagos, move to Mumbai, move to Jakarta, or move to Chongqing, that’s the equivalent of building a city of London every month.
 “Specifically in India, we’ve seen that around three quarters of the buildings that will stand in India in the middle of the century are yet to be built. So having this massive expansion of the building sector and a slight decline in buildings energy use means that we really, really have to get out of our comfort zone.
“It is not simply that we have to use energy more efficiently in buildings, the structure of the energy use is also completely changing. So the share of electricity in buildings’ energy use is 31% today, and this has to go to almost two thirds. So the majority of the energy use in buildings becomes electricity, that is both heat-pump heating and air-conditioning. This requires reconstruction of millions of building systems, but it also offers a major opportunity to integrate this potentially flexible electricity use into the power system.”
Carbon pricing
Another vital method for reducing climate change is to ensure that the price of fossil fuels includes its costs to the environment, and is not subsidised in any way.
But as Varro says, this will be far from easy.
“We are true believers in carbon pricing, so by all means use every political opportunity that you can get to reinforce carbon pricing,” he told Recharge. “Having said that, under realistic assumptions we are not going to have a situation where we have can have just one carbon price guiding the entire world.”
This means there would have to be several carbon prices in different parts of the world. But wouldn’t that mean that regions with a relatively high carbon price would be at a disadvantage in a global economy?
“This is a major issue for the energy-intensive heavy industry… and something policymakers must pay attention to,” he admitted. “But for a large measure of the European economy, I think that it is not a problem. The energy-intensive heavy industry is only around 2% of European GDP.”
"There has never been a single year for 100 years where fossil fuels did not receive more subsidies than renewables"
Varro said he wouldn’t expect that a higher carbon price in Europe would have a huge impact on the continent’s competitiveness. As he pointed out, BMW has already outsourced its energy-intensive aluminium forging to a company in Canada, due to the cheaper electricity prices there. “So if you buy a BMW, your BMW will contain around €50 worth of Canadian electricity — but it’s a €50,000 car.”
In terms of fossil-fuel subsidies, Varro is clear. “There has never been a single year for 100 years where fossil fuels did not receive more subsidies than renewables.”
Solving this problem will require “a lot of hard work”, as there is “no short-term magic solution”.
However, he says that some countries have already made considerable progress. Indonesia, Mexico and India have taken politically unpopular decisions to reform their fossil-fuel subsidy schemes, which resulted in higher prices for consumers’ petrol and diesel.
“We are very strongly contributing to the G20 in this respect and if you go to our website, you will see our recent work on fossil-fuel subsidy reform, for which we worked together with the Mexican and Indonesian governments, so there is a lot of knowledge-sharing and experience-sharing ongoing. And also there is a lot of work on reinforcing the political momentum behind this. It’s an ongoing programme. Progress is being made.”

Monday, 10 July 2017

Oil exports will help Canada's renewables industry, Carr says, by Karl-Erik Stromsta, Recharge News 24 April 2017

The Canadian government sees no contradiction in supporting the development of its carbon-intensive oil sands while simultaneously touting its push towards a low-carbon power system, says James Carr, Canada’s minister of natural resources.

“You have to develop your conventional resources at the same time that you invest in the low-carbon economy, and it makes a lot of sense to take that wealth in the ground and use the revenues from it to help finance the transition,” Carr said Monday, taking questions at the Bloomberg New Energy Summit. “We think you have to do both at the same time.”
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party took power in late 2015, many expected a sea change on Canada’s energy and climate policies compared to his Conservative predecessor Stephen Harper, a climate sceptic and oil industry ally. More recently, however, Trudeau has disappointed many environmentalists by approving several high-profile pipeline projects that seek to transport carbon-heavy oil from Alberta to markets in the US and Asia.
Trudeau made headlines around the world late last year by announcing a pan-Canadian carbon price, set to go into effect in 2018. Yet last month at an oil industry conference in Texas, Trudeau said: “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.”
Speaking Monday in New York City in front of many leaders of the US renewables industry, Carr, a member of Trudeau's cabinet and Liberal Party, attempted to address the inherent tensions in government’s energy positions – hitting optimistic notes on the shift to renewables while defending Canada’s massive oil export industry.
“As we make our way around the world talking to nation states … the agenda is the same,” he said. “Everybody knows the trajectory is clear – there’s a movement away from fossil fuels – but it’s going to take a long time.”
“My own sense is the pace of change is going to accelerate, but it’s not going to happen overnight,” he added.
The policy of the Trudeau government, then, is “to extract these [fossil fuel] resources more sustainably, move them more safely, while investing in the lower-carbon economy”.
“We have consensus across Canada that that’s the way to go. We don’t have unanimity. These projects are controversial. There are people who want to keep that stuff in the ground. There are people who don’t [want any] regulations.
“But then there are an awful lot of people in between, who say it should come out of the ground sustainably and be moved safely while we look very clearly at the future energy economy.”
Canada installed 702MW of new wind capacity in 2016, less than half of its 2015 additions, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. Still, its performance was good enough to make it the world’s ninth largest wind market.
While important new opportunities for renewables developers are opening up in the western provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the near-term picture looks fairly grim in the historically core markets of Ontario and Quebec. One potential bright spot is the prospect of selling power into the US, where New England states like New York and Massachusetts have aggressive targets for renewables and emissions reduction.
“Canada is interested in further exports to the United States, including in New England,” Carr said. “We think we ought to be working together as governments to take the integrated energy environments we have now and build upon it.”
While the prospect of trans-border electricity trading seemed to dim with the election of “America First”-minded US President Donald Trump, Carr said that having met new US Energy Secretary Rick Perry twice – including two weeks ago – he sees ongoing reason for optimism.
“He said to me both times that he believes the North American energy market is highly integrated – and that that’s in the interest of all three nations,” Carr said. “So that’s a very good place to start.”

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Shell drives forward with its plans for the energy transition, by Leigh Collins, Recharge News, 29 June 2017

The world’s sixth-largest oil company is working hard on preparing a future without fossil fuels — actively building up a portfolio of wind and PV projects, as well as developing a range of emerging technologies, a senior executive tells Recharge.
“Our New Energies group covers a number of activities — solar, onshore and offshore wind, energy integration, strategy innovation and, last but not least, fuels,” says Matthew Tipper, vice-president of new fuels within Shell’s New Energies unit. 
“My role is to develop new fuels for the group, so a particular focus on transportation — literally everything from planes to trains to automobiles. And the fuels that we’re developing most actively are hydrogen, battery-electric vehicle charging, biofuels — both conventional and advanced biofuels — and synthetic fuels made from methane and potentially other materials.
“New Energies is established to ensure that as and when petrol and diesel are phased out, if that ever happens, that we do have alternative sources of energy and energy carriers that we can deploy. The world’s still going to need energy, we don’t accept the premise that we’ll be out of business should fossil fuels be phased out.”
Tipper explains that the New Energies unit is taking an experimental, hands-on approach to new sources of energy.
“We’ve given ourselves until the next two or three years to experiment with a number of technologies, [to] learn by doing. So this isn’t desktop work, this requires investment in different activities, businesses and projects and essentially to bring ourselves to a deeper understanding, to a practical understanding, so that we continue to invest further in 2020 and beyond.”
He says that Shell is taking a three-pronged approach to future energy.
“Essentially, you have a choice: you have liquids, gases and electrons. In the liquids, if it’s not oil, we have biofuels made from biomaterials, plant waste and such like. In gases, there’s really a choice between methane — fossil methane or biomethane — or hydrogen; and then clearly in the electrons, we have renewable power, so wind and solar through to batteries and into vehicles. So we’re experimenting in all of those.
“I’m trying to think of a future fuel that anyone’s taking remotely seriously that we’re not involved in, and I’m struggling.”