Orsted Plots $30 Bln Green Energy Investment

Orsted Plots $30 Bln Green Energy Investment

By Stine Jacobsen and Jacob Gronholt-PedersenWednesday, 28 November 2018 09:13
Denmark's Orsted will invest $30 billion in green energy up to 2025, it said on Wednesday, as it seeks to become one of a handful of future "renewable majors" leading a global transition from fossil fuels to green energy.
(Photo: Orsted)
(Photo: Orsted)

While renewable energy technology is now able to compete with traditional power sources, the industry remains vulnerable to changing political winds as governments around the world scramble on how to address climate change.

Orsted, the world's largest offshore wind developer, said it would have 15 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power capacity by 2025, up from a previous target of 11-12 GW and plans to further double capacity by 2030 to more than 30 GW.

One of the key drivers will be expansion in the nascent U.S. market, where it recently made two acquisitions to gain a foothold in both onshore and offshore wind.

U.S. President Donald Trump has blasted renewable energy as expensive, accused wind turbines of killing birds and ruining landscapes while vowing to revive the coal industry.

While Trump this week rejected projections from his own government that climate change will cause severe economic harm, many states have set ambitious targets to source energy from carbon-free sources.

However, so far the impact on Orsted's business has not been negative, its U.S. chief told Reuters.

"It has been quite positive under this administration," Thomas Brostrom said, pointing to efforts to remove red tape around environmental approvals and new auctions for acreage.

He said the efforts were driven more by consideration for energy independency and job creation rather than reducing carbon emissions.

Orsted is also betting big on growing in Taiwan, which with a big push to attract investments in renewable technology, has become a key battleground for the world's top offshore wind developers seeking a foothold in Asia.

However, Orsted acknowledged that offshore wind projects in Taiwan could face delays after voters last week decided against a government plan to abolish nuclear power.

The vote prompted Taiwan to scrap its target of having no nuclear power by 2025 and to review its energy policy, which since 2011 has been driven by the Fukushima nuclear accident.

Before the vote, the island's offshore wind market was expected to expand to 5.5 GW by 2025, with government investments into onshore and offshore wind of $23 billion.

"It was not a vote to stop the nuclear phase-out," senior vice president at Orsted, Thyge Boserup, said.

"I think it's rather the speed of the phase-out that is up for discussion," he said.

($1 = 6.6081 Danish crowns)

(Reporting by Stine Jacobsen and Jacob Grønholt-Pedersen Editing by Alexandra Hudson and David Evans)


Leading Estonian Energy Business sold to Infrastructure Fund

European Diversified Infrastructure Fund II invests in Utilitas, leading private Estonian energy group

The European Diversified Infrastructure Fund II SPSc (“EDIF II” or the “Fund”), a dedicated long-term infrastructure fund managed by First State Investments (“First State”), has become a financial investor in OÜ Utilitas (”Utilitas”), Estonia’s largest district heating company and a leading renewable power producer.

According to an agreement signed in Tallinn today, EDIF II has acquired an 85% shareholding in Utilitas with current shareholders and managers of Utilitas retaining 15% shareholding.

Utilitas is the largest district heating company and one of the largest renewable power producers in Estonia. The Company operates 521km of district heating networks and supplies heat to approximately 166,000 households in eight Estonian cities, including in Tallinn, the capital city.

Kristjan Rahu, Chairman of the Supervisory Board at Utilitas said: “With EDIF II we have on board an acclaimed international infrastructure fund with many investments in Western and Northern Europe and access to international capital markets. Utilitas is the Fund’s first investment in the Baltics and the only investment in this region by a major international infrastructure fund to date. We look forward to a long term cooperation with EDIF II and the team at First State. Our goal is to ensure that Utilitas will remain in the forefront of green energy development as an efficient energy services provider to its clients in the region.”

Niall Mills, Partner, Infrastructure Investments at First State, said, “We are delighted that Utilitas is First State’s inaugural infrastructure investment in Estonia. Utilitas’ position as the leading operator of a sustainable, reliable district heating network with an increasingly strong focus on renewable energy production is especially attractive to us as a long-term investor. We look forward to partnering with our co-shareholders, management team and employees to further develop the company.”

In line with its integrated approach to Responsible Investment across all business areas, First State has focused on pursuing the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals across all of its portfolio companies. In 2017, more than 50% of Utilitas’ energy production was produced from renewable sources and the company is at the forefront of innovation in the energy industry, making it a very natural fit with the Fund’s investment strategy.

The management and supervisory boards of all three subsidiaries of the group, AS Utilitas Tallinn, AS Utilitas Eesti and OÜ Utilitas Tallinna Elektrijaam will remain unchanged. Priit Koit will continue as the CEO and Kristjan Rahu as the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Utilitas. The supervisory board will be reinforced by two new members, Gregor Kurth, Director at First State, and Andreas Greim, a district heating and energy expert with experience from Dalkia International, Areva and Électricité de France, as an independent member.

The transaction was financed by an international syndicate of banks consisting of Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank as underwriters and HSH Nordbank.

“This transaction clearly shows that renewable energy projects, as well as ambitious Estonian companies are attractive for global investors and SEB is happy to support further development of Utilitas,” said Artjom Sokolov, Member of the Management Board of SEB Estonia.

Shareholders of Utilitas were advised by Superia Corporate Finance and Triniti Law Firm. First State Investments was advised by DC Advisory and Cobalt Law Firm.

About Utilitas
Utilitas is the largest district heating company and one of the largest renewable power producers in Estonia. The Company operates over 521km of district heating networks and supplies heat to approximately 166,000 households in eight Estonian cities, including in Tallinn, the capital city, Maardu, Keila, Rapla, Haapsalu, Kärdla, Jõgeva and Valga.  Utilitas produced approximately 1.7 TWh of heat and 263 GWh of renewable electricity in 2017.  Utilitas had consolidated sales revenue of €117m and total assets of €301m in 2017.

About EDIF II
EDIF II is a leading European infrastructure fund managing core infrastructure assets on behalf of its investors. The fund targets primarily energy, renewable, utility and transportation assets across Europe. Its investors are largely pension funds investing for long-term stable returns.


GE Renewable Energy Invests £9 Million In UK Offshore Wind R&D Program

Clean Power

Published on November 22nd, 2018 | by Joshua S Hill

November 22nd, 2018 by


GE Renewable Energy announced on Wednesday that it has signed a £9 million ($11 million) four-year research partnership with the UK’s Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult intended to minimize the time people need to spend offshore, which will both enhance safety and reduce operating costs for the offshore wind industry.

The UK’s Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult program bills itself as the country’s leading technology innovation and research center for offshore renewable energy. Founded in 2013, ORE Catapult works with OEMs and other large industrials to improve existing infrastructure and develop the next generation of renewable energy technology. GE Renewable Energy has been working in partnership with the Catapult since the beginning of 2018, when GE signed a five-year research and development agreement with the Catapult to test GE’s mammoth 12 megawatt (MW) Haliade-X wind turbine at the Catapult’s Blyth test facility.

This latest research partnership between the two organizations is intended to launch focused technology innovation challenges to the UK Small to Medium Enterprises and academic community, in fields such as robotics, blade and tower inspections, and repair processes.

“We are a nation of innovators and this latest £9 million research partnership between GE Renewable Energy and the Government’s ORE Catapult is a fine example of how we’re working with industry to embrace cutting-edge technology to ensure the UK offshore sector stays ahead of the pack,” said the UK’s Minister for Energy and Clean Growth Claire Perry. “As part of our modern Industrial Strategy, we’re putting the finishing touches to our Offshore Wind Sector Deal to create the right business conditions to export this type of expertise around the world to ensure this sector goes from strength to strength.”

ORE Catapult’s Blyth testing facilities

The new research £9 million ($11 million) partnership has been dubbed the “Stay Ashore!” program and is intended to provide new digital and service solutions for operating and maintaining wind turbines remotely. This, in turn, will serve to reduce the operating costs of offshore wind, which will trickle down and benefit electricity consumers. The Stay Ashore! program is built on three pillars:

  • Reliability by design, which is primarily focused on the validation of key wind turbine components
  • Enabling full remote operability and troubleshooting of the turbines through advanced digital functionality, to reduce the need to go offshore for unplanned events
  • Use of robotics for planned maintenance events, specifically repetitive tasks, inspection activities as well as activities in areas that are difficult to access

“This further strengthening of ORE Catapult’s partnership with GE Renewable Energy will see significant investment in nationally important R&D, growing not only our expertise but providing opportunities for the UK supply chain to capture domestic and international market share in an offshore wind market expected to be worth £30 ($39) billion per year by 2030,” said ORE Catapult Chief Executive, Andrew Jamieson.

“By eliminating unplanned offshore human intervention through increasing productivity with digital and robotic tools, in addition to our Haliade-X 12 MW performance and design features, we will contribute significantly to reducing the cost of offshore wind energy,” added John Lavelle, president & CEO of GE’s Offshore Wind business.


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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.




Research reveals regional disparities in energy revolution

Research reveals regional disparities in energy revolution

The research, commissioned by Drax Group, found that businesses and households in London and Scotland are better placed to take advantage of the benefits of the ‘energy revolution’, including cheaper energy bills, electric vehicles and smart appliances.  Meanwhile, the North of England and East Midlands lag furthest behind.

The report breaks down the energy revolution into 12 metrics for the power, transport and buildings sectors, to provide a barometer of national and regional progress. Achievement against each of these metrics is scored as ‘not on track’, ‘within 90% of target’ or ‘ahead of target’.

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The authors found London leads progress jointly with Scotland because its transport system is the country’s greenest. As public transport, walking and cycling are more dominant in London, a Londoner’s carbon footprint from transport is up to 2.5 times less than residents in other regions. The capital also receives 45% of national funds for rail electrification, resulting in the country’s lowest carbon emissions from rail. It is also cheaper, on average, to own an electric car in London than in any other part of the country. This is due to the average London driver travelling shorter distances and the exemption of electric vehicles (EV) from London’s Congestion Charge.

Scotland leads in the energy revolution with London due to its successful shift from fossil fuels to renewable generated electricity. The number of EV charging points in Scotland is also high compared to the number of vehicles. Despite the low population density, the average Scottish household is around 2km from a charging point, but with the lifetime cost of running an EV being the highest in Scotland and Wales, this is affecting uptake in these areas.

Residential homes in leading regions London, Scotland and the East are also more energy efficient, and more likely to score high A-C Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings, and have fewer buildings rated F and G.

By comparison, all of the regions lagging behind, including Wales, Yorkshire, the East Midlands and the north of England suffer from particularly low EPC ratings.  The cost of heating, combined with lower average incomes in these areas mean that fuel poverty rates are particularly high. As the country transitions to more electric heating in future, this is likely to result in increasing energy bills in these regions unless homes can be made more energy efficient, or the cost of electric heating can be reduced, particularly for vulnerable residents.

Imperial’s Dr Iain Staffell said: “Our research reveals that Britain is at risk of creating a two-tier economy, leaving millions of families and businesses less well equipped to enjoy cheaper bills and better health outcomes. Our concern is they will not be offered the same opportunities as people living in regions which are modernising their energy infrastructure.”

Research was conducted independently by researchers from Imperial College London and E4tech, facilitated by Imperial Consultants and commissioned by Drax Group.


Why Scotland is leading the way in renewable energy and what we can learn from it

(A note from Agile Energy: Spot the negative element to the story in the picture - anyone? We think it is 'stuff' waiting collection after a beach clean-up earlier in the day, just before the photo was taken) 

 

This week we're reporting on how devolution has affected the environment in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In the complicated world of devolved responsibilities, environmental protection was one of the clearest areas in which law and decision-making was given from Westminster to the devolved parliaments and assemblies.

In the quest to go green, Scotland is way ahead of the rest of the UK, with nearly all electricity produced by wind power.

In October, 98% of Scotland's electricity was produced by wind turbines, with the devolved government on track to produce all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

One area of Scotland which is at the forefront of renewable energy is Orkney, where they generate more electricity from wind turbines than they can use, and also have the world's leading testing facility for emerging wave and tidal power systems.

While the owners of wind turbines can sell excess electricity back to the National Grid, Orkney with its 750 domestic wind turbines and several larger ones owned by community energy cooperatives, has come up with a different idea: using the electricity to split water (two resources they have plenty of) to produce hydrogen and oxygen with the help of a hydrogen electrolyser.

As Neil Kermode of the European Marine Energy Centre explains, the uses of hydrogen are many: "Once you've got hydrogen you can either turn it back to electricity somewhere else, or there's the ability to store it and transfer the power, or you can use it for heating and burn it, or you can put it in cars for hydrogen fuel cell cars."

In Orkney, they're attempting to put their hydrogen to several of these uses.

Currently they are using hydrogen to power the fuel cells on the ferries which sail between the islands, providing the vessels with all the energy for their auxiliary powers such as lighting, refrigeration and heating, but the islanders are not stopping there.

Their ultimate goal is to replace the diesel ferries with a new generation powered by hydrogen charged fuel cells.

So why is Scotland so much more successful than the rest of the UK in harnessing its natural resources to create green energy?

The devolved Scottish government has control over environmental protection, meaning it can promote renewables and energy efficient homes.

"Energy policy is not devolved," explains Andy Kerr, Executive Director, Edinburgh for Carbon Innovation.

"But what is devolved is the ability to promote renewables and to promote energy efficiency, and what the Scottish Government did was take that and just expand it massively.

"The Scottish Government has seen renewables and climate action as an economic opportunity rather than just an environmental thing that had to be done."

While energy subsidies paid for all of us have helped Scotland's renewable revolution, experts believe it's leadership on green electricity and energy efficient homes should be a lesson to the rest of the UK as we face the challenge of a rapidly warming world.


Cracks in Hunterston Nuclear Reactor Core

More than 350 cracks have been discovered in an ageing nuclear power reactor at Hunterston in North Ayrshire, breaching an agreed safety limit and prompting calls for a permanent shutdown.

Experts have warned that the cracks could lead to a “catastrophic accident” releasing clouds of radioactive contamination over Glasgow and Edinburgh. But Hunterston’s operator, EDF Energy, insisted that the reactor was safe – and is bidding to relax safety standards so that it can be restarted.

Reactor three at Hunterston B nuclear power station originally started generating electricity in 1976, and is the oldest in the UK run by EDF. It has been closed down since 9 March 2018 so that its graphite core could be inspected for cracks.

The reactor was initially due to restart on 30 March, but the date has been repeatedly postponed as more cracks have been found. EDF is now hoping for permission from the UK government’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to fire up the reactor on 18 December.

The Ferret revealed in April that new cracks had been discovered in the reactor, but at the time neither EDF nor ONR would say how many. In May EDF said that 39 cracks had been found and they were “happening at a slightly higher rate than modelled”.

Now we can report that more than 350 cracks have been discovered in reactor three. According to ONR, 350 is the “operational limit” in the safety case that determines whether or not the reactor is allowed to operate.

EDF has told the local Hunterston Site Stakeholder Group that it was likely to propose to ONR that reactor three in future be permitted to run with up to 1,000 cracks. EDF has also closed down the adjacent reactor four at Hunterston to check for cracks, but hopes to reopen it on 30 November.

Whether or not ONR allows Hunterston reactor three to restart, and under what conditions, will have major implications for the life of EDF’s other nuclear power station in Scotland at Torness in East Lothian. It will also impact five EDF nuclear plants in England.

The 3,000 graphite blocks that make up the cores of advanced gas-cooled reactorssuch as those at Hunterston B and Torness are vital to nuclear safety. Their integrity enables the reactors to be cooled and safely shut down in an emergency.

But bombardment by intense radiation over decades stresses the blocks, producing cracks at the base of key slots known as “keyway root cracks”. If enough of the blocks fail, experts say, nuclear fuel could overheat, melt down and leak radioactivity in a major accident.

The independent nuclear engineer, John Large, has previously argued that Hunterston reactor three should be permanent shut down. Before he died on 3 November he was helping radioactivity consultant, Dr Ian Fairlie, prepare a presentation on Hunterston.

Fairlie, a former adviser to the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, shared Large’s concerns. “I worked closely with John Large in the weeks before his untimely death,” he told The Ferret.

Large was concerned about the cracking causing graphite blocks to split, making the system of interlocking blocks in the reactor core less stable. “As a result, any untoward event such as a steam surge, sudden outage or earth tremor could result in a serious accident – a large release of radioactive gases,” Fairlie said.

If other safety systems failed at the same time, there could be a catastrophic accident – such as occurred at Chernobyl in 1986.DR IAN FAIRLIE, RADIOACTIVITY CONSULTANT

“If other safety systems failed at the same time, there could be a catastrophic accident – such as occurred at Chernobyl in 1986 in the former USSR. John was adamant that the Hunterston reactors should therefore not be restarted.”

News that 350 keyway root cracks have now been found meant that over 10 per cent of reactor three’s blocks had split, according to Fairlie. He said that EDF’s computer modelling had failed to predict such a high level of cracking.

He added: “EDF does not have a good handle on the ageing mechanisms inside the reactor. This means that reactor three should definitely not be restarted.”

Fairlie presented his findings to a recent meeting in Kilmarnock of the Scottish group of Nuclear-Free Local Authorities (NFLA). The group is intending to write to ONR’s chief nuclear inspector seeking a meeting, and to alert politicians at Holyrood.

“The analysis provided by Dr Ian Fairlie over increasing keyway root cracking of the Hunterston B reactors is of real concern,” said NFLA Scotland convenor and Glasgow SNP councillor, Feargal Dalton.

The increasing number of cracks was “particularly worrying”, he added. “It is absolutely critical that nuclear safety considerations are dealt with real care, and it is a concern that EDF’s computer modelling appears to not be giving them enough information on the wider safety and integrity of the reactor’s graphite core.”

Rita Holmes, chair of the Hunterston Site Stakeholder Group, accused EDF’s experts of getting their predictions wrong. “If safety were indeed EDF’s number one priority, then reactor three would remain shut down,” she argued.

“As it is EDF is seeking permission to restart an aged reactor, which despite huge efforts and high cost, failed to back up its current safety case. The Hunterston keyway root cracking was not predicted to be so progressed.”

Holmes questioned whether a new safety case allowing far more cracks would be any more reliable. “There’s a lot at stake if the experts are wrong again,” she said.

ONR confirmed how many cracks had been found. “A conservative assessment of the inspection results shows that the number of cracks in reactor three exceeded the operational limit of 350 cracks in the existing safety case,” said an ONR spokesperson.

“However, it should be noted that the safety case demonstrates a significant margin beyond this limit and safe operation was ensured.”

ONR declined to speculate about what it would decide on restarting the reactor. “We understand that EDF Energy is currently working on a revised safety case to justify a return to service of reactor three,” said the spokesperson.

“Once we have received the safety case from EDF we will fully assess it and permission will only be granted for the reactor to return to service if we are satisfied that it is safe to do so. This assessment will include consideration of the timing of further inspections.”


BEIS to allocate £60m for next CfD auction

'Genuinely bewildering': BEIS to allocate £60m for next CfD auction

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is set to finalise a draft allocation of £60m for the next Contract for Difference (CfD) auction, raising questions as to how the remaining £497m set aside for future auctions will be spent.

The publication of the draft allocation has been seen by some green groups as a missed opportunity to lower offshore costs even further

The publication of the draft allocation has been seen by some green groups as a missed opportunity to lower offshore costs even further

BEIS has today (20 November) issued its CfD Draft Allocation notice, allocating a £60m budget for “less-established” Pot 2 technologies, for the delivery years 2023-24 and 2024-25.

Earlier this year it was revealed that offshore wind and, for the first time, remote island wind providers would eligible to bid for contracts at the next CfD auctions, which will take place in May 2019 and then every following two years. The UK Government has set aside £557m for these auctions and, depending on prices, could deliver up to 2GW of additional wind capacity each year in the 2020s.

However, it appears that BEIS is set to impose a capacity cap of 6GW for the third CfD allocation round, with strike prices set below the record levels set in the previous auction. An administrative strike price for offshore wind has been set at £53-56/MWh, while the newly added remote island onshore wind technologies will have a strike price of £82/MWh for both delivery years.

Developers, green groups and politicians had welcomed previous results from the UK Government's 2017 CfD auction, which has seen the cost of offshore wind halve over the last two years to set a record low-strike price of £57.50 per MWh.

However, the publication of the draft allocation has been seen by some green groups as a missed opportunity to lower offshore costs even further.

Greenpeace UK’s head of energy, Kate Blagojevic, said: “This is a genuinely bewildering move by the government that misses the opportunity to drive down offshore wind costs as fast as possible.

“They promised over half a billion pounds in investment, that was widely expected to be divvied up and made available in sizeable chunks over the next few years. But this first chunk is a pitiful sum that could end up limiting UK export potential and jeopardising our climate goals.”

Project pipeline

The UK Government expects the offshore wind sector to invest £17.5bn in the UK up to 2021, creating thousands of new jobs in the process.

Project deployment has been aided by the record-low strike prices. Results published by BEIS show that 11 energy projects worth £176m annually were awarded contracts in the 2017 auction. Three offshore projects, the 1.4GW Hornsea Project Two, the 860MW Triton Knoll farm and 0.95GW Moray Offshore Windfarm (East), representing 3.2GW of new capacity, were awarded contracts.

More than 20 projects are in the planning process or awaiting permission, leaving some to question why the allocation budget hasn’t acquired more of the £557m fund set aside for these technologies.


Raw materials ‘megatrends’ point to looming supply risks in Europe

Markets for raw materials have recovered from the 2008 financial crash, fuelled by the continued digital transformation of the economy and the rapid deployment of green technologies. Is the world on track for a repeat of the resource boom seen in the early 21st century?

The global fight for natural resources was nearing an all-time high when the European Commission first laid out an EU strategy for raw materials, back in 2008.

“A strong and unforeseen surge in demand” driven essentially by double-digit growth in China, had led to a tripling of metal prices between 2002 and 2008, the Commission said at the time.

China, the world’s de facto sole supplier of rare earth metals, took advantage of its monopolistic position to impose restrictions on exports, prompting Japan to start stockpiling in fear of a supply crunch.

At the European level, those concerns resulted in the establishment of a “raw materials diplomacy” to secure supplies from abroad – including legal action at the WTO when necessary – a push for resource-efficiency inside Europe, and the creation of a list of critical raw materials to monitor potential supply risks.

Those fears were quickly swept away by the financial crisis, which depressed the global economy for many years.

But ten years later, the fundamental economic trends that fuelled EU worries at the time are still there. If anything, those trends have intensified, driven by the continuous digitialisation of the economy and the transition to renewable energies.

“Irreplaceable” raw materials

“It’s already happening,” said Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission’s vice-president for the Energy Union, when asked about fears that raw materials prices could start rising again.

“All the focus now in the European Commission is to reduce dependency on fossil fuels,” he told EURACTIV in an interview.

“This is why we are looking at access to raw materials with increased scrutiny,” he added, saying the objective was to avoid trading dependency on imported oil and gas with dependency on imported raw materials.

“I really think that, when it comes to the issue of dependency, we could end up in a situation where raw materials become the new oil,” he warned.

To illustrate his point, Šefčovič likes to produce one statistic about the materials necessary to produce a 3 megawatt wind turbine. Manufacturing one of those requires 335 tonnes of steel, 4.7 tonnes of copper,  1,200 tonnes of concrete, 3 tonnes of aluminium, 2 tonnes of rare earth elements as well as zinc, he says.

“For me that is really illustrative of the volume of raw materials you need for the green transition,” he told EURACTIV.

Critical raw materials “are irreplaceable in solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and energy-efficient lighting” which are essential for the energy transition, the European Commission said in its latest Report on Critical Raw Materials and the Circular Economy, published in January 2018.

Everyday consumer products in the telecoms sector are also highly exposed to raw materials price fluctuations. “A smartphone might contain up to 50 different metals” all of which provide essential properties to the final product, the EU executive remarked, pointing to the importance of critical raw materials for high-tech products.

And the majority of these primary raw materials are produced and supplied from non-European countries, the report pointed out:

 

 

Nowadays, industry people say supply risks are driven mainly by emerging demand for new products such as electric cars.

“Raw materials will be essential for manufacturing the products of the future. They form the basis of modern societies, our cities, digitalisation and the European energy transition,” said Roman Stiftner Secretary-General of the European Mineral Resources Confederation (EUMICON).

“Megatrends such as digitalisation and the decarbonisation of transport and production are resulting in new demand for raw materials, in terms of volume and of complexity,” EUMICON said in its raw materials charter, published earlier this year.

Other megatrends identified by EUMICON include increased wealth and global population growth. Global GDP is ten times higher than 50 years ago, and the world’s population has doubled. A further 3 billion people are expected to join the middle-class between 2010 and 2030, and all of them will want cars and smartphones.

Meanwhile, urbanisation, digitalisation, the low-carbon transition and the switch to electricity as the main source of energy for industry are further accelerating developments, it says.

“Electricity demand is rising, while increased production of wind and solar energy requires a greater quantity of a different mix of raw materials,” EUMICON pointed out, wondering whether the world has entered “a new age for metals and minerals”.

To be sure, the digital revolution that was already underway ten years ago has accelerated and branched out into new areas, creating excitement around things like robotics, smart cities, industry 4.0, electric vehicles, autonomous driving, and artificial intelligence, to name a few buzzwords.

On the manufacturing side, concepts have evolved. The European Commission’s resource-efficiency agenda of 2011 has morphed into a more ambitious circular economy strategy, which places recycling at the centre of attempts to close raw material loops and keep valuable resources inside Europe.

Raw power

Vanadium, borate, bismuth, gallium – they may sound like planets from a science fiction movie, but in fact they are some of the most critical elements of the European Union’s economy.

New risks, new solutions

However, recycling has its limits, even under the most optimistic scenarios. “The overall demand for raw materials is growing, and recycling alone cannot supply the market,” EUMICON said, citing aluminium as a case in point.

And “since recycling efforts will not be sufficient to feed the demand, supply of primary raw materials is irreplaceable,” it argues, calling for “new solutions” to establish “a future-proof raw materials policy”.

This includes exploiting Europe’s own geological deposits as well as securing access to raw materials on global markets to strengthen the future resilience of European industry.

But is Europe – and indeed the world – better equipped to deal with those global challenges today than it was ten years ago? From a technological point of view, maybe yes. But from a global trade perspective, definitely not.

Under President Trump, the United States has taken a hostile stance against Europe and China on trade, launching attacks on all fronts, ranging from steel to cars and food, raising the spectre of a new global trade war.

China itself has long pursued unilateral policies on access to raw materials, cutting deals with resource-rich African countries in return for cheap loans and infrastructure.

This makes the current trade environment more volatile than it was ten years ago, under a more accommodating Obama administration and a less assertive China.

“This time around, governments seem to be taking a more assertive, and in some cases, pre-emptive stance,” according to the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), a think-tank.

“Witness, for example, China’s disputes on rare earth elements or President Trump’s Mineral Order at the end of 2017. This new attitude may pose new challenges for EU trade policy,” CEPS wrote in a policy paper published in February.

A future ‘Made in Europe’?

Faced with those challenges, Europe has also taken a more assertive stance, launching WTO disputes against Chinese export restrictions on raw materials such as graphite, cobalt, copper, lead and chromium.

In his latest State of the Union speech, Jean-Claude Juncker proposed a new ‘Africa-Europe Alliance’ that hopes to tap “the full potential of economic integration and trade,” with an objective to leverage up to €44 billion of investments into the region by 2020.

Juncker offers EU-Africa trade deal in new 'partnership of equals'

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker held out the promise of an EU-Africa trade pact on Wednesday as part of a ‘partnership of equals’ between the two continents, signalling Europe’s stronger involvement in Africa, where Chinese influence is rapidly spreading.

At home, the European Commission has targeted an increase in the recovery of key raw materials as part of its Circular Economy Strategy put forward in 2015, placing the emphasis on recycling and reuse with a view to “closing the loop” of product lifecycles. Supporting innovation in European recycling technologies is also part of that plan.

But EUMICON says technological solutions, although necessary, won’t go far enough to meet the challenges Europe is facing.

“A complete approach to sustainability requires us to consider economic, environmental and social sustainability together,” EUMICON said, stressing that “all three aspects need to be addressed with equal focus” in order to ensure a future that is “Made in Europe”.

What it boils down to is the importance of strengthening raw material value chains in Europe at a time when the international trade order is being challenged.

“The EU will need to develop a proper thinking how to put raw materials in the centre of its industry strategy, since we will be facing a new global race for raw materials in the future,” said Gilbert Rukschcio, managing partner at Pantarhei Advisors, a consulting firm based in Austria.

“Global megatrends such as digitalisation and the energy transition will also force Europe to act on this field,” Rukschcio said.


Construction starts at Hooton gasification plant

8 NOVEMBER 2018 by Elizabeth Slow

Construction starts at Hooton gasification plant

Aviva Investors has acquired the 240,000 tonnes capacity gasification facility which is being developed by CoGen in Hooton, Cheshire.

The purchase of the Hooton Bio Power facility by the Aviva asset management business comes in conjunction with the start of construction at the site this week.

Technology

The facility is scheduled for completion in the second half of 2021. According to Aviva, it will be the first project in Europe to use gasification technology provided by Japanese firm Kobelco Eco Solutions. And, it is also the first time the UK market will realise a gasification plant of this size, based on fluidised bed technology, CoGen notes.

Below:  An artist’s impression of the Hooton Bio Power facility

The Hooton Bio Power facility will be the fifth energy from waste (EfW) project from renewable energy developer CoGen and will be the first non-subsidised merchant gasification facility, the company says.

The engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of the project will be delivered by power facility specialist, Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor (BWSC). BWSC will be awarded a full turnkey build contract as well as a contract to operate and maintain the facility for 15 years.

BWSC has previously built nine biomass-fuelled power facilities in the UK, most of which it also operates.

CoGen is overseeing the construction and operation of the facility as project manager on behalf of the project company. In addition, CoGen has a contract to fully manage the facility during the operational period.

N+P

Hooton Bio Power will be fuelled by “locally-sourced waste” using 240,000 tonnes of RDF each year supplied via a 15-year feedstock supply agreement (with an option for a further 10 years) with N+P Group (see letsrecycle.com story). It is expected to generate more than 200 GWh of electricity annually, according to CoGen.

Neville Roberts, managing director or the UK business, N&P Alternative Fuels Ltd, said the company has had interest from both councils and SMEs in contracts to supply the plant. Now that the plant has reached financial close, the next step for N&P will be to secure those contracts.

And, Mr Roberts said the company was keen to hear from local authorities and businesses interested in new contracts. “We want to engage with the best partners,” he added.

The facility will be developed on the Peel Environmental site, Hooton Park, the second Peel site on which CoGen will deliver a gasification plant. The first in the ongoing partnership was the recently commissioned 21.5MW Ince Bio Power plant at Protos in Cheshire (see letsrecycle.com story).

“We believe this transaction will create a positive legacy for the local community; converting waste into a resource that can offset the use of other fossil fuels and provide cost-effective, renewable power for local businesses.”


Allan Vlah
Aviva Investors

Commenting on the acquisition, Allan Vlah, director, Infrastructure Equity, Aviva Investors, said: “This project is an excellent example of our investment philosophy: working with market leaders in their respective fields, investing in a premiere technology with a proven track record, and structuring contracts to deliver a project designed from the ground up to produce the long-term, inflation-indexed cash flows valued by our investors.”

Ian Brooking, chief executive, COGEN, said: “The completion of the Hooton Bio Power deal represents a significant milestone for the UK Energy from Waste sector. The project underpins CoGen’s longer-term plans of developing regional scale merchant gasification facilities across the UK. We look forward to following the approach we took with Hooton as we begin to roll out more projects in our pipeline.”

Aviva Investors

Aviva Investors – the global asset management business of Aviva plc – says it has over £7 billion of infrastructure assets under management. The Hooton Bio Power transaction is the fourth equity investment in biomass/EfW by Aviva Investors. These include projects to develop biomass plants in Boston and Barry (see letsrecycle.comstory).


Hydrogen Powered Lorry for Europe by 2023

Nikola Motor showcases autonomous hydrogen-powered lorry for European market

Low-emission truck manufacturer, and ongoing rival to Tesla, Nikola Motor Company has unveiled a new autonomous, hydrogen-powered lorry that is set to roll out across Europe by 2023.

Expect production to begin around the same time as the US version in 2022-2023

Expect production to begin around the same time as the US version in 2022-2023

Nikola Motor Company’s new vehicle will come with a range of up to 1,200km and could go into production across US and European markets between 2022 or 2023.

While no pricing information has been revealed, the manufacturer is planning to deploy more than 700 refuelling stations for the vehicles across the US and Canada, as well as an undisclosed number in Europe to cope with demand by 2030.

“This truck is a real stunner and long overdue for Europe,” Nikola Motor Company’s chief executive Trevor Milton said. “It will be the first European zero-emission commercial truck to be delivered with redundant braking, redundant steering, redundant 800Vdc batteries and a redundant 120 kW hydrogen fuel cell, all necessary for true level 5 autonomy. Expect our production to begin around the same time as our US version in 2022-2023.”

The HGV is the company’s third to date, with the previous version of the lorry proving popular in the US. Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) has ordered 800 zero-emission, hydrogen-electric semi-trucks from Nikola Motors, for example, which can travel between 500-1,200 miles on one 20-minute charge.

However, the UK has some infrastructure work to complete before these vehicles will become attractive to businesses. Earlier this year, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) called on the government to "step up" its support for the use of hydrogen to decarbonise the energy system across power, heat and transport.

The report cited concerns over the long-term use of lithium-ion batteries, which are the preferred choice for electric vehicles (EVs) and urged ministers to look to ways that hydrogen could perform a multitude of roles across the transport and energy spectrum.

At a commercial level, Shell Beaconsfield on the M40 will be the first UK site to bring hydrogen under the same canopy as petrol and diesel. The opening follows the launch of the first fully branded and public hydrogen UK refuelling site at Shell Cobham in February 2017. It forms part of Shell’s ambition to support a shift to low-carbon transport, which has seen the launch of rapid electric vehicle (EV) charging systems at its UK petrol stations.

Nikola Tesla

It is expected that the Nikola vehicle will compete for a market share with Tesla’s all-electric semi-truck,which will benefit from a 2019 production date. Tesla’s truck has already gained orders from Wal-Mart and J.B Hunt and analysts have suggested that a 10% share of the market could be worth $2.5bn in annual revenue for Tesla.

Tesla’s semi-truck offers a range of 500 miles at maximum weight at highway speeds. This is in comparison to diesel trucks which can travel up to 1,000 miles on a single tank. It can drive for another 400 miles with just a 30-minute charge from a “megacharger”, according to the company.

However, there are some still some legal issues to iron out between the two firms. Nikola Motors has filed a $2bn patent infringement lawsuit against Tesla, accusing the latter of violating patents for the design of its Nikola One fuel cell hybrid semi-truck. Recent reports suggest that this lawsuit may be facing a few “roadblocks”.