Saturday, May 13, 2017

GWPF Newsletter: Europe’s Biggest Solar Company Goes Up In Smoke








African Nations To Build More Than 100 New Coal Power Plants

In this newsletter:

1) Europe’s Biggest Solar Company Goes Up In Smoke
Reuters, 11 May 2017 
 
2) Largest US Solar Panel Maker Files For Bankruptcy After Receiving $206 Million In Subsidies
The Daily Caller, 11 May 2017 
 
3) African Nations To Build More Than 100 New Coal Power Plants
National Geographic, 10 May 2017
 
4) Why India And Pakistan Are Renewing Their Love Affair With Coal
MIT Technology Review, 3 May 2017
 
5) Al Gore Personally Pleads With Trump to Stay in the Paris Climate Agreement
Daily Caller, 10 May 2017 
 
6) 'Apple Of Oil' Says New Permian Shale Wells 'Shattered' Records
Investor’s Business Daily, 8 May 2017 
 
7) Matt Ridley: Wind Turbines Are Neither Clean Nor Green
The Spectator, 11 May 2017 

Full details:

1) Europe’s Biggest Solar Company Goes Up In Smoke
Reuters, 11 May 2017 
 
Germany’s SolarWorld, once Europe’s biggest solar power equipment group, said on Wednesday it would file for insolvency, overwhelmed by Chinese rivals who had long been a thorn in the side of founder and CEO Frank Asbeck, once known as “the Sun King”.


 
SolarWorld was one of the few German solar power companies to survive a major crisis at the turn of the decade, caused by a glut in production of panels that led prices to fall and peers to collapse, including Q-Cells, Solon and Conergy.
 
SolarWorld was forced to restructure and avoided insolvency thanks to a debt-for-equity swap and the support of Qatar, which took a 29 percent stake in the group four years ago through Qatar Solar S.P.C.
 
A renewed wave of cheap Chinese exports, caused by reduced ambitions in China to expand solar power generation, was too much to bear for the group, which made its last net profit in 2014.
 
“Due to the ongoing price erosion and the development of the business, the company no longer has a positive going concern prognosis, is therefore over-indebted and thus obliged to file for insolvency proceedings,” SolarWorld said in a statement on Wednesday.
 
Frankfurt-listed shares in the group last traded down 77 percent at 0.81 euros.


source: Bloomberg Markets, 11 May 2017
 
Full story
 
2) Largest US Solar Panel Maker Files For Bankruptcy After Receiving $206 Million In Subsidies
The Daily Caller, 11 May 2017 
Michael Bastasch

The company once hailed as Europe’s largest solar panel producer filed for bankruptcy Wednesday, blaming cheap Chinese panels for flooding the market.



“The ongoing price erosion and the development of the business” has left the company “over-indebted and thus obliged to file for insolvency proceedings,” SolarWorld, which is also the largest U.S. solar panel maker, said in a statement.

The filing comes after SolarWorld was forced to lay off employees earlier this year. The company employs around 3,000 people, including 800 in Hillsboro, Oregon, and was one of the few German-based solar companies to survive a recent market downturn.

SolarWorld is only the latest bankrupt solar company to blame the Chinese. U.S.-based Suniva Inc. filed for bankruptcy in April, also citing stiff competition from Chinese solar panel makers.

Suniva even asked the Trump administration to increase tariffs against Chinese solar panel imports. SolarWorld backed the call, saying China has found ways to circumvent current tariffs.

“The case of Suniva dramatically demonstrates that the U.S. solar manufacturing industry still suffers from unfair trade,” Juergen Stein, U.S. president of SolarWorld, said in a statement.

“China now has managed to circumvent and violate existing trade defense measures in several ways and again incited a ruinous price race to the bottom, destroying U.S. manufacturing jobs,” Stein said.

Not everyone in the solar industry agrees increased tariffs would be a good thing. The U.S. company Sunnova sent a letter to the U.S. trade commission arguing the “imposition of tariffs on solar cells and panels will significantly harm the U.S. economy by destroying jobs.”

The Obama administration imposed tariffs up to 35 percent on solar panel products imported from certain Chinese manufacturers. The 2014 tariff doesn’t seem to have drastically changed the overall industry’s economics.

The solar industry’s biggest problem is likely the very mechanism that led to its rise: lucrative subsidies.

European subsidies, mostly in Germany, led to a massive expansion of the companies green energy industry, but eventually subsidies became their undoing as cheaper solar panels from China began to win out.

Full post
 
3) African Nations To Build More Than 100 New Coal Power Plants
National Geographic, 10 May 2017
Jonathan W. Rosen
 
More than 100 coal power plants are in various stages of planning or development in 11 African countries outside of South Africa — more than eight times the region’s existing coal capacity. Africa’s embrace of coal is in part the result of its acute shortage of power.
 

Source: IEA

 
Few places in the world exude a sense of timelessness as Lamu, an island off of Kenya’s northern coast home to the oldest and best preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa. Lamu’s old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site and an epicenter of Indian Ocean trade for centuries, is a maze of narrow winding streets that cut through neighborhoods of limestone and coral houses, past elaborately carved mahogany doors and several dozen mosques and churches. Only a handful of motor vehicles are allowed on the island; transportation is mainly the domain of donkeys or men pushing wooden carts thorough the tropical swelter.
 
Yet Lamu Island’s 24,000 residents are faced with what many here call an existential crisis. Some 15 miles north of town, on a sparsely populated seaside area of the mainland formerly used for growing maize, cashews, and sesame, a Kenyan company known as Amu Power is preparing to erect a $2 billion coal power plant, the first of its kind in East Africa.
 
Financed with Chinese, South African, and Kenyan capital, and built by the state-owned Power Construction Corporation of China, the plant is intended to add 1,050 megawatts of capacity to Kenya’s national grid and power operations of an adjacent 32 berth deep-water port. Both are part of an ambitious government plan to transform Kenya into a newly industrializing, middle-income country by 2030.
 
The project is controversial in part due to the risks it poses to Lamu’s delicate marine environment, which many fear will harm its two most vital industries: fishing and tourism. Yet it is also emblematic of Africa’s growing appetite for coal, the most polluting form of power generation, which until now has existed in significant quantities only in the continent’s most industrialized country, South Africa.
 
According to data compiled by CoalSwarm, an industry watchdog, more than 100 coal-generating units with a combined capacity of 42.5 gigawatts are in various stages of planning or development in 11 African countries outside of South Africa—more than eight times the region’s existing coal capacity. Nearly all are fueled by foreign investment, and roughly half are being financed by the world’s largest coal emitter: China.
 
This comes at a time when China and India, which accounted for 86 percent of global coal development over the last decade, are putting coal projects on hold at record rates due to existing overcapacity, the lowering cost of renewables, and crippling pollution that is thought to kill more than a million people a year in the case of China alone. Many of the world’s more developed countries are also in the process of phasing out the fuel as a power source.
 
“So many states are now withdrawing coal because of its emissions—because of its environmental destruction,” says Walid Ahmed, a member of Save Lamu, a local coalition that’s trying to stop the Amu Power project. “So we don’t see why they should bring it here.”
 
POWERING DEVELOPMENT
 
Africa’s embrace of coal is in part the result of its acute shortage of power. Although the continent’s economy has doubled in size since 2000, more than two thirds of residents south of the Sahara still live without electricity and most states lack the grid capacity to drive the expansion of job-creating industries.
 
The International Energy Agency projects the region’s electricity demand to triple by 2040, with roughly half of new capacity coming from renewables. Yet coal-fired plants, which generate 41 percent of the world’s electricity today, remain attractive because coal is relatively cheap and their operation isn’t subject to the whims of nature—unlike solar, wind, or hydro.
 
In Kenya, for example, the country’s 800 megawatts of hydropower, one third of its total capacity, has become increasingly unreliable due to recurrent drought and is virtually inoperable at present, according to Richard Muiru, an advisor to Kenya’s Ministry of Energy and Petroleum. Although the country has extensive wind and geothermal resources, which it has started to exploit, these projects aren’t coming online fast enough, Muiru says, to keep up with Kenya’s projected demand.
“Coal will give us some breathing space,” he says. “We see it as a shot in the arm as we continue to develop our renewables.”
 
For those financing Africa’s embrace of coal, the continent also offers an opportunity to counter-balance diminishing investment opportunities elsewhere. This is particularly true of China, which saw 300 gigawatts of domestic coal projects put on hold in 2016, largely due to existing overcapacity. Chinese state-owned enterprises, abetted by low-cost loans from domestic financial institutions, have played a major role in building Africa’s renewable and fossil-fuel energy infrastructure since the Communist Party unveiled its “going abroad” strategy in the early 2000s.
 
Although Chinese President Xi Jinping announced in September 2015 that the country would limit public investment to overseas carbon-intensive projects, analysts say Chinese lenders are increasingly pushing cut-rate coal on African governments in order to support Chinese contractors and equipment manufactures impacted by the domestic slowdown.
 
“China built so many coal plants so quickly that there are now a lot of state-owned companies facing a lack of demand at home,” says Christine Shearer, a senior researcher at CoalSwarm. “We’re seeing coal being offered to African governments even if it’s not necessarily the energy source they would want.”
 
Full post 
 
4) Why India And Pakistan Are Renewing Their Love Affair With Coal
MIT Technology Review, 3 May 2017
Jamie Condliffe
 
Much of the world agrees: burning coal is bad, and we ought to do less of it. But not everyone sings from that sheet including Pakistan’s Water and Power Ministry. As part of a large infrastructure investment project with China, it’s committed to spending $15 billion on as many as 12 new coal power plants over the next 15 years. Reuters reports that the figure is almost half of the $33 billion being invested into energy projects as part of the initiative, and that around 75 percent of the extra generation capacity will come from new coal plants.
 
The government insists that the new plants will use technology to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. But the nation’s minister for planning, development and reform, Ahsan Iqbal, sounds downright Trumpian in his view of the nation’s future energy policy: “Pakistan must tap [its] vast underground reserves of 175 billion tonnes of coal, adequate to meet the country’s energy needs for several decades, for powering the country’s economic wheel, creating new jobs, and fighting spiking unemployment and poverty.”
 
Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports (paywall) that India will fail to meet its own targets to reduce emissions from its coal power plants. India’s struggle to clean up its energy act is well-known. But it’s currently unable to meet its own power demands, so it’s not really that practical to shut down plants—and given that no penalties will be imposed for failing to reduce emissions, there’s little incentive to do so.
 
To anyone who would criticize the move, Piyush Goyal, India’s power minister, had this to say: “India is not a polluter,” he told the Financial Times. “It’s America and the western world that has to first stop polluting.” There’s a grain of truth to that: America and Europe did a lot of coal burning during their development, and now have strong economies to leverage in order to clean up their acts. Developing countries aren’t so lucky. And developed countries still emit far more greenhouse gases per citizen than India and Pakistan. As of 2013 the annual per capita CO2 emissions of India and Pakistan were 1.59 and 0.85 metric tons respectively. In the U.S., the figure is 16.39 metric tons.
 
The recent trend has been for that figure to fall year-on-year in the U.S., but the Trump administration certainly isn’t making its continuation a priority.
 
Yesterday, Bloomberg reported that the U.S. coal industry was enjoying an uptick thanks to Trump’s relaxed regulations and reduced production in China. While coal is unlikely to come roaring back in America, there is still scope for the industry to rebound modestly over the coming years.
 
Full post 
 
5) Al Gore Personally Pleads With Trump to Stay in the Paris Climate Agreement
Daily Caller, 10 May 2017 
 
Former Vice President Al Gore personally asked President Donald Trump not to withdraw the U.S. from a United Nations agreement aimed at limiting global warming, a source revealed.
 
Gore called Trump Tuesday morning to discuss the Paris Agreement that the Obama administration joined in 2016, the source told Axios. “Mr. Gore made the case for why the U.S. should stay in the agreement and meet our commitments,” a source close to Gore said.
 
Gore praised the Paris Agreement when it was first announced in 2015, calling it “a bold and historic agreement.”
 
The agreement requires countries to voluntarily submit plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and those plans are supposed to be ratcheted up every five years.
 
White House officials are split on whether or not the U.S. should remain in the agreement. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner favor staying, while chief strategist Steve Bannon favors keeping the president’s pledge to withdraw.
 
Ivanka Trump and Kushner have been backed by State Department career staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Multinational corporations from Starbucks to Exxon Mobil Corp. favor staying in Paris as well. Some Republicans have argued the U.S. can stay in the Paris Agreement with a weakened pledge to cut emissions.
 
That argument has been supported by former Obama administration climate diplomats who have an interest in not seeing their work thrown out.
 
Conservative groups largely oppose staying in the Paris Agreement, arguing it could derail Donald Trump’s effort to cut back Obama-era climate policies.
 
Conservatives also argue Paris should have been treated as a treaty and sent to the Senate for ratification.
 
“This treaty is designed to expand every government’s control over private energy-related capital,” said Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute.
 
“There is no way on earth an executive can reorganize the economy for the next 35 years,” said Lewis, who co-authored a paper that laid out arguments against staying in the Paris Agreement.
 
Full story
 
6) 'Apple Of Oil' Says New Permian Shale Wells 'Shattered' Records
Investor’s Business Daily, 8 May 2017 
 
EOG Resources (EOG), the so-called "Apple (AAPL) of oil," matched Q1 earnings views late Monday and beat revenue forecasts, while the shale producer touted record performance from its new Permian Basin wells.
 
While dozens of shale companies have reported or are about to report, EOG's reputation for innovation makes it stand out, especially as U.S. oil prices have fallen back below $50 a barrel. To generate bigger profits at that level, producers have to find ways to extract oil as efficiently as possible.
 
Houston-based EOG swung to a per-share profit of 15 cents, matching estimates, as revenue soared 93% to $2.61 billion, topping forecasts for $2.41 billion.
 
"EOG's Whirling Wind wells shattered industry records in the Permian Basin," said Chairman and CEO Bill Thomas in a statement, noting they set new records for 30-day initial production from Permian Basin horizontal oil wells.  "Our advanced technology and proprietary techniques are leading to break-through well performance across our diverse portfolio of premium plays."…
 
EOG has already touted its advantage from new innovation. In November, management said 75% of its cost savings were from efficiencies vs. discounts received from service providers, though some analysts have said the real number is likely a half to a third.
 
Meanwhile, other shale producers are looking into technologies normally associated with Silicon Valley, Last week, Pioneer Natural Resources said its looking into using artificial intelligence to help ensure it always drills for oil in the best places and is working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to test advanced materials and coatings.
 
7) Matt Ridley: Wind Turbines Are Neither Clean Nor Green
The Spectator, 11 May 2017 
 
We urgently need to stop the ecological posturing and invest in gas and nuclear


 
The Global Wind Energy Council recently released its latest report, excitedly boasting that ‘the proliferation of wind energy into the global power market continues at a furious pace, after it was revealed that more than 54 gigawatts of clean renewable wind power was installed across the global market last year’.
 
You may have got the impression from announcements like that, and from the obligatory pictures of wind turbines in any BBC story or airport advert about energy, that wind power is making a big contribution to world energy today. You would be wrong. Its contribution is still, after decades — nay centuries — of development, trivial to the point of irrelevance.
 
Here’s a quiz; no conferring. To the nearest whole number, what percentage of the world’s energy consumption was supplied by wind power in 2014, the last year for which there are reliable figures? Was it 20 per cent, 10 per cent or 5 per cent? None of the above: it was 0 per cent. That is to say, to the nearest whole number, there is still no wind power on Earth.
 
Even put together, wind and photovoltaic solar are supplying less than 1 per cent of global energy demand. From the International Energy Agency’s 2016 Key Renewables Trends, we can see that wind provided 0.46 per cent of global energy consumption in 2014, and solar and tide combined provided 0.35 per cent. Remember this is total energy, not just electricity, which is less than a fifth of all final energy, the rest being the solid, gaseous, and liquid fuels that do the heavy lifting for heat, transport and industry.
 
Such numbers are not hard to find, but they don’t figure prominently in reports on energy derived from the unreliables lobby (solar and wind). Their trick is to hide behind the statement that close to 14 per cent of the world’s energy is renewable, with the implication that this is wind and solar. In fact the vast majority — three quarters — is biomass (mainly wood), and a very large part of that is ‘traditional biomass’; sticks and logs and dung burned by the poor in their homes to cook with. Those people need that energy, but they pay a big price in health problems caused by smoke inhalation.
 
Even in rich countries playing with subsidised wind and solar, a huge slug of their renewable energy comes from wood and hydro, the reliable renewables. Meanwhile, world energy demand has been growing at about 2 per cent a year for nearly 40 years. Between 2013 and 2014, again using International Energy Agency data, it grew by just under 2,000 terawatt-hours.
 
If wind turbines were to supply all of that growth but no more, how many would need to be built each year? The answer is nearly 350,000, since a two-megawatt turbine can produce about 0.005 terawatt-hours per annum. That’s one-and-a-half times as many as have been built in the world since governments started pouring consumer funds into this so-called industry in the early 2000s.
 
At a density of, very roughly, 50 acres per megawatt, typical for wind farms, that many turbines would require a land area greater than the British Isles, including Ireland. Every year. If we kept this up for 50 years, we would have covered every square mile of a land area the size of Russia with wind farms. Remember, this would be just to fulfil the new demand for energy, not to displace the vast existing supply of energy from fossil fuels, which currently supply 80 per cent of global energy needs.
 
Do not take refuge in the idea that wind turbines could become more efficient. There is a limit to how much energy you can extract from a moving fluid, the Betz limit, and wind turbines are already close to it. Their effectiveness (the load factor, to use the engineering term) is determined by the wind that is available, and that varies at its own sweet will from second to second, day to day, year to year.
 
As machines, wind turbines are pretty good already; the problem is the wind resource itself, and we cannot change that. It’s a fluctuating stream of low–density energy. Mankind stopped using it for mission-critical transport and mechanical power long ago, for sound reasons. It’s just not very good.
 
As for resource consumption and environmental impacts, the direct effects of wind turbines — killing birds and bats, sinking concrete foundations deep into wild lands — is bad enough. But out of sight and out of mind is the dirty pollution generated in Inner Mongolia by the mining of rare-earth metals for the magnets in the turbines. This generates toxic and radioactive waste on an epic scale, which is why the phrase ‘clean energy’ is such a sick joke and ministers should be ashamed every time it passes their lips.
 
It gets worse. Wind turbines, apart from the fibreglass blades, are made mostly of steel, with concrete bases. They need about 200 times as much material per unit of capacity as a modern combined cycle gas turbine. Steel is made with coal, not just to provide the heat for smelting ore, but to supply the carbon in the alloy. Cement is also often made using coal. The machinery of ‘clean’ renewables is the output of the fossil fuel economy, and largely the coal economy.
 
A two-megawatt wind turbine weighs about 250 tonnes, including the tower, nacelle, rotor and blades. Globally, it takes about half a tonne of coal to make a tonne of steel. Add another 25 tonnes of coal for making the cement and you’re talking 150 tonnes of coal per turbine. Now if we are to build 350,000 wind turbines a year (or a smaller number of bigger ones), just to keep up with increasing energy demand, that will require 50 million tonnes of coal a year. That’s about half the EU’s hard coal–mining output.
 
Full post

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at www.thegwpf.com.

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