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Data finds that more than half of UK energy comes from foreign providers

Data released by Good Energy, the UK’s only 100% renewable electricity supplier, shows that most UK consumers (71%) are concerned that the majority of fuel used to generate electricity in the UK is imported from overseas.

The Good Energy data reveals fuel to generate electricity in the UK is imported from nearly 40 countries from as far afield as Australia, Russia, and Qatar*, making us susceptible to international events beyond our control. Almost half (44%) of British consumers were unaware that the majority of fuel used to generate electricity in the UK is imported.

71% of consumers worried about where the UK sources fuel for electricity Data reveals the countries that hold our energy future in their hands….

Data released by Good Energy, the UK’s only 100% renewable electricity supplier, shows that most UK consumers (71%) are concerned that the majority of fuel used to generate electricity in the UK is imported from overseas.

The Good Energy data reveals fuel to generate electricity in the UK is imported from nearly 40 countries from as far afield as Australia, Russia, and Qatar*, making us susceptible to international events beyond our control. Almost half (44%) of British consumers were unaware that the majority of fuel used to generate electricity in the UK is imported.

Top five fuel suppliers for UK electricity generation*

  • Russia 9.5%
  • Canada 8%
  • Qatar 7%
  • Australia 5%
  • Netherlands 5%

Juliet Davenport, CEO of Good Energy said: “The research shows that energy users are concerned about where their energy is coming from, and rightly so. Our reliance on fossil fuels imported from countries like Russia is what’s been pushing our electricity prices up recently. Clean, green electricity produced in the UK from natural sources can provide resilience against volatile international fossil fuel prices – a result of events around the world beyond our control.”

Good Energy believes the current energy set up in the UK is unsustainable and that households, businesses and communities represent the UK’s energy future. Unlike traditional fossil fuel power plants, renewable generation can vary in scale and is available to all.

The UK is home to some of Europe’s greatest green energy resources, with 40% of its wind resource and enough tidal power to provide approximately 20% of the country’s electricity demand. The company feels that the solution to future energy security should start at home with support for community energy projects, encouragement for independent generators and more British households producing their own electricity.

The research into the origins of the energy used in the UK and our attitudes towards its use shows some other concerning facts about our energy habits. For example, 82% of respondents claim they make efforts to cut down their electricity use (e.g. turning off the lights when not in the room, not leaving TVs on standby) in order to save money on their bill, but only a meagre 2% has reduced their electricity consumption because of the government’s campaigns, illustrating there’s a long way to go before government messages make an impact.

More positively, 41% are interested in generating their own electricity and 3% claim to be already generating their own renewable electricity and therefore reaping the environmental benefits as well as the long term financial reward of lower energy prices.

Juliet Davenport added: “One of the reasons Good Energy was set up was to raise awareness of where our energy comes from so people will value it more and use it less. Giving people greater control and ownership of their energy use is key to this. Our household customers use 10% less electricity than average and we want to empower the rest of the UK to reduce their electricity consumption for a greener and more secure energy future.”

Floating windmills in Japan help wind down nuclear power

Japan is preparing to bolt turbines onto barges and build the world’s largest commercial power plant using floating windmills, tackling the engineering challenges of an unproven technology to cut its reliance on atomic energy.

Marubeni, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel are among developers erecting a 16-megawatt pilot plant off the coast of Fukushima, site of the nuclear accident that pushed the government to pursue cleaner energy. The project may be expanded to 1,000 megawatts, the trade ministry said, bigger than any wind farm fixed to the seabed or on land.

“Japan is surrounded by deep oceans, and this poses challenges to offshore wind turbines that are attached to the bottom of the sea,” Senior Vice Environment Minister Katsuhiko Yokomitsu said at a meeting in Tokyo this month. “We are eager for floating offshore wind to become a viable technology.”

The world’s third-biggest economy is struggling to diversify its energy mix after last year’s earthquake and tsunami crippled Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear station. A few countries including Britain, the US and South Korea are testing windmills that float, a technology far more expensive than most fossil-fuel or renewable energies.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and its partners are positioning themselves for future contracts to develop gear that so far isn’t used in commercial electricity production.

Cost comparison

Capital expenditure is about $1.7 million a megawatt for an onshore wind project and $5.5 million a megawatt for offshore, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Statoil ASA (STL) has the largest floating project currently, a 2.3-megawatt “Hywind” turbine off the coast of Norway, which cost $29 million a megawatt, according estimates by Fraser Johnston, an offshore wind analyst for the agency in London, based on company data.

A spokesman from Statoil wasn’t available to comment.

“Japan certainly has excellent offshore wind resources and huge potential to develop this sector,” Justin Wu, lead wind analyst for New Energy Finance in Hong Kong, said in an e-mail. “But offshore wind is significantly more expensive than onshore wind at the moment.”

Japan, whose island geography and earthquake risk have long shaped its economy, is lagging behind developed nations including the US, Germany and Spain in wind energy, which supplied just 0.4 percent of its electricity demand in 2010, according to the International Energy Agency Wind 2010 Annual Report. Ranking as the world’s fifth-largest carbon emitter, Japan is trying to elevate its wind-energy capacity from 2,500 megawatts, the 13th-highest among all nations, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.

Countries first offshore wind farm approved in Virginia

The proposal was submitted by Gamesa. The wind power project now requires approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and review by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has voted unanimously to approve proposed construction of a 479-foot-tall, 5 MW offshore wind turbine generator prototype in the lower Chesapeake Bay, three miles off the coast of Cape Charles, Va. The construction of the prototype turbine is scheduled to be completed in late 2013, which could make this project one of the first offshore wind energy prototypes in the U.S.

The wind power project now requires approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and review by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The proposal was submitted by Gamesa Energy USA, which is partnering with Huntingon Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding to develop and test new offshore wind turbines technologies that will reduce the cost of wind power.

The purpose of the project is to advance the demonstration of Gamesa Energy USA LLC’s new offshore WTG technology, the G11X, specifically designed for deployment in offshore wind farm environments worldwide. The expected design life of the prototype turbine is expected to be 20 years or more.

The information collected by the construction and operation of this prototype will help to perfect this new technology for worldwide commercial market deployment by 2015, through testing and validation to ensure optimal performance characteristics and reliability are met.

Although the wind energy project is just one single wind turbine generator and is not principally intended as major energy supply source, an added benefit of the prototype will be the production of up to 5 MW of clean, renewable wind power to the local Virginia transmission grid for public use.

ABB creates EV charging breakthrough with launch of Terra SC

ABB, the leading power and automation technology group, today launched the Terra Smart Connect (SC), a breakthrough product that will significantly improve the business case for installing electric-vehicle (EV) fast chargers throughout Europe. The Terra SC will be available for delivery in Europe in the second quarter, starting at the breakthrough price of 9,988 euros for small volume orders. The Terra SC is a cost-effective direct-current (DC) charger specifically designed for convenient fast charging in commercial and office areas. It fully charges an electric car in 30-120 minutes, while the driver attends a business meeting, goes to the movies or enjoys a meal. The Terra SC is also perfectly suited for people who want to keep driving but don’t necessarily need a full charge: it can charge the battery of currently available EVs from 30% to 80% in less than half an hour. Despite its breakthrough price, the Terra SC comes standard with outdoor stainless steel housing, a full-color 8 inch intuitive touch-screen user interface and all the smart connectivity features that ABB’s Terra chargers are known for. It is quick and easy to install at almost any location due to its ultra-thin design and simple floor and wall-mount connections, which create maximum space efficiency. On top of that, the Terra SC – unlike some other DC fast chargers – uses the widely available 3-phase 32A input, which eliminates the need for a costly grid connection upgrade. “The launch of the Terra SC demonstrates our commitment to deliver the optimal charging solution for every possible location in the network – both in terms of functionality and affordability. With its breakthrough price, low commissioning costs, easy installation and smart design features, the Terra SC creates a much more compelling case for installing EV fast chargers at many more locations throughout Europe – providing a strong boost to the development of electric mobility,” said Hans Streng, Senior Vice President and General Manager of ABB’s Product Group EV Charging Infrastructure. Full range of connectivity features The Terra SC is a web-connected charger that comes with a full range of connectivity features, including remote assistance, management and servicing and smart software upgradeability. Its key optional features include RFiD and PIN code authorization, a billing interface for parking operators and a web-based statistics module with data per user to support energy usage reporting. ABB’s connectivity suite supports all existing and future connection standards within the same network. The Terra SC perfectly complements ABB’s existing portfolio of fast-charging solutions. ABB’s highway fast chargers – the Terra 51 and multi-port Terra Base Station 100.2 – are mainly used along highway locations to offer a 15-30 minute “charge and go” service. The Terra SC is a more cost-effective solution for locations where people can easily spend a couple of hours and don’t necessarily require a 15-30 minute fast charge. Convenient charging with the Terra SC is therefore perfectly suited for company car parks, fleet operators, (off street) parking operators, rental companies, car dealerships, EV infrastructure service providers, roadside meeting places and shopping malls. ABB will release a standard version with a 20 kW DC charger and a dedicated company fleet version, which also features two integrated alternating current (AC) connections for 8-hour charging, allowing three cars to be charged simultaneously. The growing number of electric vehicles is driving a global market opportunity for charging solutions including sophisticated monitoring systems and software to support the electric grid. ABB estimates that the market for charging infrastructure solutions will be worth $1 billion by 2017. Since launching Europe’s first commercially operated fast-charging station in the Netherlands in May 2010, ABB has delivered and installed many DC charging stations and networks throughout the region. In January, ABB won a tender offer to build a network of 200 fast chargers throughout Estonia, creating the world’s first DC charging infrastructure with full nationwide coverage.

Japan’s new feed-in tariff is attractive for solar and wind

The new feed-in tariff scheme in Japan offers attractive returns for both solar and wind power projects, according to analyst Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The development of wind and solar projects in Japan will generate highly attractive returns under the feed-in-tariffs recently proposed by the Japanese Government, despite the much higher costs for solar in Japan than elsewhere in the world, the analyst says.

The feed-in tariff programme, set to start in July 2012, is part of policy measures to diversify Japan’s energy mix after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year.

If the Japanese Government implements the rates it is now proposing, they will rank among the world’s most attractive support mechanisms for renewables, Bloomberg New Energy Finance says.

The analyst estimates that under the proposed tariffs solar and wind projects could achieve equity returns as high as 44% and 51%, respectively. This could lead to a surge in project proposals, particularly for the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry.

Depending on how projects are treated by Japan’s traditionally conservative planning regime, Japan could see a cumulative 20 GW of wind and solar capacity by 2014, requiring total investments of up to US$37.5 billion over the next three years, assuming costs stay near current levels.

In the longer term, renewable costs will decline, enabling accelerated renewable deployment across the country despite aggressive reductions in the very generous initial tariffs on offer.

Yugo Nakamura, Head of Japan Research at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, says: “The Government faces the challenge of picking the best rate for stimulating renewable energy investment while not over-paying for clean power. With the very high rates which have been proposed there is a very real risk that Japan will experience the same boom-bust cycles we’ve seen in other countries.”

10.7 GW by 2014

Because of the attractive returns offered to investors from the proposed feed-in tariff, Bloomberg New Energy Finance says over 10 GW of new solar and 0.7 GW of new wind could be installed by 2014, requiring annual investments of $US12.5bn over the next three years.

New solar project development will take off immediately while new wind capacity is expected ramp up from 2015 onwards due to longer lead times in developing wind projects.

Japan could become the third largest solar market in the world by 2014.

Milo Sjardin, Head of Asia at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, comments: “The feed-in-tariff scheme has the potential to significantly alter Japan’s energy future. The country may build enough distributed solar capacity over the next three years to equal the electricity output from almost three nuclear power stations, and do so in a fraction of the development time. To enable further renewable deployment beyond that, the country will likely have to liberalise its power sector.”

Suzlon and CGN Wind Energy co-develop 800 MW of wind projects

Suzlon Group has signed a global strategic partnership agreement with China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group’s subsidiary, CGN Wind Energy Co Ltd, to develop 800 MW of wind projects worldwide.

The 800 MW of domestic and international wind power projects will be developed over the next three years.

A working team has already been set up to explore the most viable projects globally, covering countries such as Brazil, South Africa, India and China, Suzlon says.

Chensui, Chairman at CGNWE, comments: “We are very happy to partner with Suzlon for the development of wind power projects worldwide. With Suzlon’s experience in the global market and CGNWE’s expertise in wind power, we are confident of building very successful projects to meet the renewable energy needs for these markets effectively.”

Tulsi Tanti, Chairman at Suzlon, adds: “We at Suzlon are delighted to partner with CGNWE for the development of wind projects globally with our latest generation of turbines. We hope that Suzlon’s extensive experience in across 32 markets worldwide will be valuable for CGNWE in its endeavour to operate wind farms globally. The professional approach of CGNWE and its experience in developing large projects make this a symbiotic partnership.”

US Army base installs 3000 solar PV panels

The US Army’s base at Fort Hood in Texas, USA, has seen the installation and activation of a 684 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system at the base’s Liberty Village Military Housing.

The 4-acre ground-mount solar PV system consisting of 3000 SCHOTT Solar PV panels, is expected to generate around 1 GWh of energy annually – which is roughly 20% of the energy consumed in the 300 homes at Universal Services Fort Hood’s (USFH) Liberty Village. USFH financed the US$3 million dollar project, and will own, operate and maintain the solar PV system.

Garrison Commander Col. Mark Freitag, says: “Generating solar energy at military housing is a win for our soldiers, for Fort Hood, and for our larger community. We are committed to bringing renewable energy to the base and leading in the Army’s challenge for Net Zero energy.”

Engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firm Axium Solar executed the four-month project to install the solar PV system.

The Department of Defense objective is to use 25% renewable energy to power its installations by 2025.

Solar cell industry will buy 35 GWp of equipment by 2017

Yole Développement says 35 GWp of new solar photovoltaic (PV) cell manufacturing equipment will be purchased by 2017, in its report Crystalline Silicon PV: Technology, Equipment & Materials. In the years to come, the manufacturing cost reduction in the solar PV industry will be led by equipment and material innovations, the analyst says. It therefore believes that part of today’s solar cell manufacturing capacity will be shut down or used at lower rates, and will be replaced or supplemented by new equipment suited for high-efficiency solar cell and module production. Staying afloat in a difficult market With market oversupply and reduced incentives in key markets, the solar PV industry is facing tough times. This will increase the focus on newer, higher efficiency solar cells, the report suggests. “Today, the key objective of PV manufacturers is no longer to increase their production capacities, but to differentiate themselves from their competitors in an overcrowded market thanks to added value products (with lower price, higher efficiency…),” explains Milan Rosina, Technology & Market Analyst, Photovoltaics at Yole Développement. c-Si wasn’t dead As photovoltaics becomes a commodity market and many different solar PV products have become commercially available, the ‘old’ vision of a PV technology development in which thin-film technologies would progressively increase their market shares has become obsolete, the analyst says. Over the last few years the technology progress in crystalline silicon (c-Si) technology has surpassed all expectations, and c-Si modules are now available at prices close or even lower than US$1/Wp. This is comparable to the price of thin-film modules, but c-Si can boast higher efficiencies.

ABB launches fast EV charger

ABB is launching the Terra Smart Connect (SC), a direct current (DC), fast charger for electric vehicles (EV) in Europe.

The fast EV charger has been designed for fast charging in commercial and office areas, and can fully charges an electric car in 30-120 minutes.

It can also charge to set levels in a shorter period of time if a full charge is not necessary. Charging from a 30% to 80% takes less than half an hour, ABB says.

The Terra SC uses the widely available 3-phase 32A input, eliminating the need for a costly grid connection upgrade.

“The launch of the Terra SC demonstrates our commitment to deliver the optimal charging solution for every possible location in the network – both in terms of functionality and affordability. With its breakthrough price, low commissioning costs, easy installation and smart design features, the Terra SC creates a much more compelling case for installing EV fast chargers at many more locations throughout Europe – providing a strong boost to the development of electric mobility,” says Hans Streng, Senior Vice President and General Manager of ABB’s Product Group EV Charging Infrastructure.

he Terra SC is web-connected and includes features such as remote assistance, management and servicing and smart software upgradeability. Its key optional features include RFiD and PIN code authorisation, a billing interface for parking operators and a web-based statistics module with data per user to support energy usage reporting.

The Terra SC complements ABB’s existing portfolio of fast-charging solutions, which include the highway fast chargers Terra 51 and the multi-port Terra Base Station 100.2 that are mainly used along highway locations to offer a 15-30 minute ‘charge and go’ service.

UK renewable heat incentive faces ‘cost control’ after 4 months

The UK Government introduces measures to control spending under the £860 million Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme introduced last November.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) says it plans “manage the budget” for commercial, public sector, industrial and community-scale installations under the RHI to “ensure its long term success”.

The proposals include a package of measures to be in place by the end of this financial year and a plan to control spending under the RHI in the interim.

Climate Change Minister, Greg Barker, says: “Putting in place cost control measures for the Renewable Heat Incentive is the prudent thing to do, given this is millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money at stake and taking on board the lessons learned from the feed-in tariff scheme.”

DECC recently lost an appeal against a ruling stating that DECC’s retrospective changes to feed-in tariff payments was unlawful.

On the RHI changes, Barker says DECC will ask for the industry’s view this summer with Ofgem holding a series of conferences for potential applicants over the next few months.

Possible options include a system to lower tariffs as the scheme grows – like what was seen with the feed-in tariffs.

The RHI consultation will also include amendments to the existing scheme covering air quality and biomass sustainability issues as outlined in the original RHI policy document.

The interim measures includes the possibility of “giving industry one month’s notice to temporarily suspend the scheme to new entrants if 80% of the available budget is expected to be spent.”

DECC says, however, that regular updates on the budget spend will be published to avoid surprises to the industry.

These measures will be in place as early as the summer and will last until the longer term cost control system for the RHI is in place.

Unnecessary and unhelpful

Responding to the announcement, the Renewable Energy Association’s (REA) Chief Executive, Gaynor Hartnell, says: “To launch an official consultation on bringing the shutters down, having only just fired the starting gun on the RHI, is premature to say the least.

“The renewable heat market isn’t going to flare up like solar did. If anything were concerned about an underspend.

“We’re totally supportive of getting effective cost control measures in place. Done properly this will be reassuring to the industry.

“In our opinion this consultation on interim cost control is unnecessary and unhelpful, but it’s certainly not a reason for lenders to become alarmed – particularly as Government intends to remove this power when longer-term control measures are in place.”