Infratil upbeat about US renewable energy

Wednesday 08 February 2017 11:44 AM

Infratil upbeat about US renewable energy despite Trump uncertainty

By Rebecca Howard

Feb. 8 (BusinessDesk) - Infrastructure investor Infratil is still upbeat about its investment in US renewable energy development company Longroad Energy Holdings, despite President Donald Trump's election promises to boost coal.

While Infratil said the company's progress has been overshadowed by the potential impact of Trump's promises, "the president's comments about each of coal, gas and renewables are inconsistent, making outcomes hard to anticipate."

In a market update to the New Zealand stock exchange, it noted that while there is no way of knowing how federal and state policies, the rising cost of coal mining, the falling cost of gas, and improving renewable plant economics will play out, there are also political, societal and commercial factors which make it extremely unlikely that the US will suddenly stop building renewable generation.

"There will be headwinds, but the ship is unlikely to sink," it said.

The current US situation is "hardly ideal" for Longroad's plans to develop, but Infratil said its business model is suited to dealing with uncertainty.

Infratil and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund teamed up with a local management team to invest in Longroad in October last year. At the time it said the investment gives the Kiwi team exposure to one of the largest and fastest-growing renewable markets in the world, with an experienced US management team who were previously involved in First Wind, which Infratil said was one of the most successful independent renewable energy development teams in the US over the past decade.

It said today that shareholders have jointly agreed to provide initial funding of US$100 million and Infratil's share is NZ$65 million. Since October, Longroad has announced the purchase of a portfolio of early stage solar development projects across several states, as well as the purchase of wind turbines which will be deployed as developments become available.

Infratil shares last traded up 0.4 percent at $2.875.



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New Coal Build Most Expensive Energy Option For Australia, According To BNEF


Published on February 7th, 2017 | by Joshua S Hill

February 7th, 2017 by

A report published last week by Bloomberg New Energy Finance showed that new ultra-supercritical coal would be the most expensive form of new energy supply in Australia, well above the Levelized Cost of Energy for other sources such as wind, solar, and natural gas.

Reports earlier this month revealed that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had moved to fund and support the development of ‘ultra-supercritical coal-fired power stations’ (new-coal) — a type of coal-fired power plant which is said to run at a much higher efficiency than traditional coal-fired power plants. However, Australia’s division of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) published a new report to coincide with the reports, which shows that any move to build new coal of any level of efficiency is the least economically viable option available.

Specifically, Bloomberg reports that the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCoE) of new ultra-supercritical coal-fired power in Australia sits at AUD$134-$203/MWh. This ranks well above the current LCoE for new build wind(AUD$61-$118/MWh), solar (AUD$78-$140/MWh), and combined-cycle gas (AUD$74-$90/MWh).

2017 levelized cost of energy for new build technologies in Australia (AUD/MWh)

As a result, new build coal would only serve to increase electricity prices across the country, whereas a combination of wind, solar, and natural gas would only serve to drop electricity prices for all Australians.

“New coal is made particularly expensive due to the substantial carbon, reputation, trading and construction risks the technology presents to an investor,” said Leonard Quong, a Senior Associate with Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Sydney. “But even if the government were to completely de-risk coal by paying for the whole plant and guaranteeing an exemption from any future liabilities, the lowest LCOE that could be achieved is AUD 94/MWh, which is still well above wind, solar or gas.”

The authors of the report conclude that the LCoE “of new coal is high due to the substantial carbon, reputation, trading and construction risks the technology presents.” Even if the Government were to totally “de-risk coal by assuming all these risks,” the lowest the technologies’ LCoE would reach is AUD$94/MWh.

Unsurprisingly, the report also concludes that this “new coal” is far from being ‘clean.’ Already, Australia’s existing coal fleet is 0.85-1.52tCO2-e/MWh sent-out. Unfortunately, “new coal,” though less emissions intensive — with a typical emissions intensity of around 0.76tCO2e-MWh sent-out — is nevertheless double the intensity of a combined cycle gas turbine generator — between 0.37-0.46tCO2-e/MWh — and renewable energy — which is ostensibly 0.

Further, BNEF predicts that the role of inflexible, fossil-fuel based generators will decrease in the future. “The fundamental control paradigm of grids is changing from baseload-and-peak to forecast-and-balance,” Quong explains. As such, more flexible generating sources will be required, such as natural gas and wind.

“Whilst we estimate that 19.1 GW of coal capacity could reach the end of its technical life by 2040, a combination of gas and renewables is the lowest-cost option to replace this generation and maintain secure energy supply in Australia,” Quong added.

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Legislators take closer look at wind farm

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 6, 2017 9:57 AM

State House Majority Leader John Bell of Goldsboro is among a group of 11 state legislators who have asked Homeland Security Secretary Gen. John Kelly to take another look at a soon-to-be-completed wind farm in northeastern North Carolina.

That request includes shutting the facility down should it be proven to interfere with a nearby military radar installation.

"If the Department of Defense and the military installations say this is not a threat to military training or military operations or national security, then I wish them luck and hope they move forward," Bell said.

Unlike an earlier wind farm that Bell led successful efforts to stop, the one in northeastern North Carolina poses no threat to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base or the Dare County Bombing Range base jets use for training.

There could be an issue if the new facility was to expand in certain directions, and that is a reason to keep an eye on it, he said.

Also, Bell said there is still concern about cracking the door to such facilities locating in the state.

"That is why Sen. Harry Brown and I have continued to work on the permitting process with the wind facilities to ensure it does not interfere with our military operations," he said. The 11 lawmakers, including Sen. Louis Pate of Mount Olive, who signed the letter to Kelly argue that a government-funded study concluded the facility would "seriously degrade" the radar's operational performance.

The preferred option is to shut the facility down, and the company compensated for its investment, but not for any lost future profit, lawmakers said in their letter to Kelly.

The second option is make changes to the Department of Defense agreement that allowed the project to proceed in the first place.

That option would require the developer to shut down when a 5 percent degradation of the radar signal is experienced.

"We have a new administration in Washington, and from what I understand there were a number of residents and folks up in the area who (were) concerned about the impact it would have on the radar system," Bell said. "All we did in that letter was to ask him to strongly consider looking at that one.

"One, if it would interfere with the radar system, which would be our national security, to look at shutting that wind facility down. The other option said to temporarily put a halt until we are 100 percent that it could not interfere with the radar."

Bell said he had heard off and on for a while about the project, which was approved by the Department of Defense.

"I give this example, it is one thing to talk with a farmer, but the Department of Agriculture doesn't represent every farmer," Bell said. "They don't understand the views of every single farmer. That is the same with the military and the DOD. The DOD, a lot of that is bureaucracy, and they march to a political tune.

"If there is something interfering with a military installation, Seymour Johnson, Cherry Point or even the radar system, then you actually need to have these conversations with the wing commanders and representatives there because they can give you a better boots-on-the-ground feel of exactly is going on."

That is how concerns started several years ago as to how that earlier wind facility could impact the mission of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and the Dare County Bombing Range, he said.

"It wasn't because DOD notified Seymour Johnson," he said. "(Fourth Fighter Wing Commander) Col. (Jeannie) Leavitt spoke up and said, 'Hey, this could be detrimental to Seymour Johnson.' That is how the first wind farm was actually blocked.

"My concern is that an active military installation or an active radar system, I just want to make sure that our national security is put first and foremost. Until there is a positive 'yes, it interferes,' or 'no, it does not interfere,' I think that needs to be weighed out first before they flip the switch on the farm."

Bell said he would have no problem with the facility as long as it doesn't interfere with national security, military training or radar.

However, Bell said he continues to have problems with the tax structure and how the facility came about even though company is in compliance with how the law is written.

"I would like to go back and change the 80 percent property tax abatement and those types of things, which are why these projects are able to exist to begin with," Bell said. "I would like to go back and change some of those policies. But as of right now, those facilities are compliant with the law. I just want to make sure they are not interfering with any of our military operations."

Comments from some suggest that the letter is the result of legislators trying to protect the coal and fuel industry. That is unfounded, Bell said.

"I would say that is 100 percent false," he said. "Part of the issue we have with people's power bills actually creeping up is because the renewable energy such as wind or solar cannot actually stand on their own.

"They are subsidized. I believe they receive about an 80 percent property tax kickback. That is one way they are able to do it. So they are subsidized through the taxpayers. Then on top of that, on the wind farm side, it could put our second-largest economic impact, which is the military, at risk."

Also, power companies such as Duke are required to purchase the energy.

Bell said he is not against renewable energy.

"I just don't believe it should be subsidized by the taxpayers of North Carolina," he said. "One of the other issues that was brought up to me, which I guess I had thought about it, but really didn't think about when I visited the wind facility there in the Perquimans area, is the effect that it had on the surrounding property owners.

"They were upset because they feel like their property values are declining because there was a wind farm right next door to them. You had cost associated with running the amount of equipment and the utility and infrastructure they had to have in place to provide power to those wind turbines."

The local community does not benefit from the energy produced at the plant, he said. It is sold to another entity, Bell said.

"Of course, the community gets the benefit because it is their largest tax base," he said. "But it is also subsidized by 80 percent. So there is a lot of concern there about quality-of-life issues. There is a lot of concern from residents there about noise and the lights.

"They felt like that infringed on their property rights. It is more than just the military. There were a lot of people there who had a lot of concern from the local community."

Bell said people had asked him why he visited the facility last week if he was against wind farms.

"I said I am against the wind farm because if you put them in the wrong location it can interfere with the military," he said. "I am against the subsidizing from the taxpayers. But if I don't understand both sides of the issue, I'm really not as informed as I should be. I try to hear all sides.

"That is the reason I went and saw it. Frankly, from an architecture perspective it is very impressive. They are huge. The operation there is very impressive and unique. But I tend to like our F-15s a little more."

Bell said officials of the company building the facility assured him they do not want to interfere with the state's military missions.

They are willing to work with the state to protect the military, he said.

Bell said he attended several meetings this past week on the original House bill he helped sponsor on permitting the wind farms.

The state Military Affairs Committee was not in place when that bill became law.

"What I am trying to work on now is have our state Military Affairs Committee, which every major military facility is represented on that committee, to have the first crack at looking at proposed project to see if it impacts the military or not," Bell said.

"That way the wind companies before they make an investment, they know if it is going to be an uphill battle or if they are going to have smooth sailing. I just don't think it is fair for them or any other company to invest funds, time and energy and then get to the 11th hour like this project and realize there could be a problem that could jeopardize the project. They need to know that right up front before they spend the first dollar."

Yesterday’s Retail Tariff and a Transforming Grid

Yesterday’s retail tariff is prohibiting the optimal dispatch of co-generation resources as our grid is transforming with high levels of solar generation and potential over generation issues.

An Unintended Consequence of Policy

California has some of the most ambitious energy efficiency and renewable energy goals in the world. Investments in renewable energy and other clean energy technologies have been substantial, and California has established itself as a true leader in the fight against climate change. A clear example is the investment in solar energy. California currently has more than 8 GW of grid-connected solar and more than 5 GW of rooftop photovoltaic solar. California’s continued leadership in renewable energy has yielded climate change benefits but also created some challenges, including the potential for significant over generation—that is, more generation than can be integrated reliably into the grid.

The state has been exploring several solutions to over generation, including energy storage, facilitating exports through more integrated markets with the rest of the West, and flexible loads that can be increased in over generation conditions. While storage is a potential game-changer, the technology is still immature, and it is unclear that it can be deployed cost-effectively in the volumes necessary to really address over generation. Integrating markets across the West has raised many vexing market design, jurisdictional, and political issues. Flexible loads, on the other hand, provide a potentially low-cost and easily implementable solution to over generation.

A Potential Solution: Co-generation

One type of potentially flexible load that is often overlooked is load associated with California’s large fleet of co-generation plants. Co-generation plants generally use natural gas–fired generation to produce both power and steam for an industrial host, such as a large factory. Most host loads are subject to standby tariffs—when their electrical loads are not served by on-site co-generation facilities, they pay a retail rate of approximately $100/MWh. This rate generally exceeds prevailing wholesale prices by a wide margin. The structure of standby tariffs encourages host loads to rely on on-site generation even when it is significantly more expensive than power from the wholesale market, for example under over generation conditions.

An example is Calpine’s Los Medanos Energy Center (LMEC) in Pittsburg, Calif. The power plant provides power and steam to both the Dow Chemical Co. (Dow) and USS-POSCO Industries (UPI). The electric load of both entities combined rarely exceeds 90 MW, which is smaller than the minimum load at which LMEC can operate (190 MW). Consequently, operating LMEC entails not only serving the Dow and UPI loads but also exporting at least 100 MW to the grid.

The Tariff Problem

Given the standby tariff, even if the wholesale price is zero, and accounting for the cost of liquidating any excess generation beyond what is needed to serve their loads into the market, it is generally less expensive for Dow and UPI to rely on generation from LMEC, rather than meeting their needs from the wholesale market. Consequently, LMEC generally sends power to the grid, regardless of wholesale prices and over generation conditions.

If standby tariffs were modified to better reflect wholesale prices and market conditions, co-generation facilities such as LMEC would be encouraged to decrease generation and effectively increase load under over generation conditions. In the case of LMEC, not only might it stop sending excess power to the grid, but it could also draw from the grid to meet host loads, resulting in a swing of 190 MW and allowing excess solar generation that might otherwise be curtailed or exported to other states to be used to support California manufacturing and jobs. This large flexible load is available with essentially no additional capital investment.

More rational rate design could open additional opportunities for co-generation units to address over generation conditions above and beyond replacing the generation from co-generation facilities with wholesale market purchases when wholesale prices are low. For example, when LMEC is not operating, steam for Dow and UPI is provided from gas-fired auxiliary boilers. These auxiliary boilers could be replaced with electrical auxiliary boilers that could consume significant amounts of grid power under over generation conditions. Presumably, similar opportunities exist at other co-generation facilities meeting substantial steam requirements.

Just as the grid needs a balance of resources to meet demand throughout the day, the over generation problem will be solved in many ways. But leveraging existing infrastructure and making some basic rate changes could make a real impact in the over generation problem—not in a few years, but today. ■

Ashley Bernstein is director of origination and development at Calpine Corp. 

Greenwish Seal Partnership Deal On Jigawa 50mw Solar Power Project

Oriental Renewable Solutions (“Oriental”), a subsidiary of the Oriental Group has reached an agreement with GreenWish Partners (“GreenWish”) to co-develop the company’s solar power project in Jigawa State. The 50:50 equity partnership will see both firms work together to deliver new capacity of 50MW to Northern Nigeria. Oriental signed a 20 year dollar denominated Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader (“NBET”) for the Jigawa project in July 2016. The agreement formed part of a wider NBET process to sign PPA’s to deliver 1.2GW of solar generation capacity to the Nigerian grid, the first series of solar PPAs ever signed in Nigeria.

The Jigawa solar project will have an output of circa. 96 GWh per year, equivalent to the consumption of more than 650 000 people. The plant will also generate estimated savings of around 354 000 tons of CO2 per year (World Bank data). The community is strongly involved in the project at all steps in order to ensure support from all stakeholders and positive local impact, in line with GreenWish and Oriental's inclusive business models. The plant will also create 300 jobs during construction and 25 permanent jobs during operations. Finally, the project will feed local infrastructures such as hospitals, schools and businesses with grid power, directly and indirectly creating hundreds of jobs in the region.

Nigeria has installed generation capacity of 12.6GW, but availability of considerably less than that, and average transmission of between 3 and 4.5GW over the last year. This is further affected by disruption to gas supply, on which the vast majority of Nigeria’s power infrastructure relies. The development of significant generation capacity in solar, and other renewables offers a strong counterbalance to the vulnerability of gas production and distribution infrastructure, while significantly reducing Nigeria’s long term carbon footprint.Commenting on the partnership, Alhaji (Dr.) Muhammadu Indimi, Oriental Group Chairman said: “Nigeria's potential is hindered by the current power deficit.

Oriental Group recognises the important role renewable energy can play in bridging this gap by offering up a viable alternative to oil and gas extraction. The potential impact of solar power is limitless and will cut across all sectors of the economy, reducing the cost of doing business and increasing the quality of life for Nigerians. “We are pleased to be working in Partnership with GreenWish. They share our belief that renewable energy has the potential to meet the challenges we face and are bringing a combination of both financial and technical support. I look forward to working with them as we work towards financial close."

Charlotte Aubin-Kalaidjian, president, GreenWish Partners also commented saying: "The Jigawa solar plant is a first concrete step towards the extension and diversification of the energy mix for a sustainable electrification of Nigeria. Not only will the solar farm help local communities in remote areas to have access to electricity, it will also unleash economic activity while reducing the deficit of the balance of payments for the country as a whole."

(c) 2017 2016 Communication Week Media Limited. All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (, source Middle East & North African Newspapers

Game On! NRG and NFL Power Super Bowl LI with Clean, Renewable Energy

NRG Energy Inc. (NYSE:NRG) and its subsidiary Reliant, the premier retail electricity provider in Texas, have teamed up with the NFL to provide 100% Green-e certified renewable energy to NRG Stadium, site of Super Bowl LI, and the George R. Brown Convention Center, location of the NFL Experience and other NFL celebrations in Houston.

“Reducing the environmental impact of our events is something we have worked toward for more than 20 years,” said Jack Groh, Director of the NFL Environmental Program. “Using clean energy at our largest events, we can minimize the climate impact of our activities. This is something that’s good for business, and good for our fans and the communities where we live.”

“As the official electricity company of NRG Stadium, we are proud to support the NFL and Houston by powering the largest U.S. sporting event with renewable energy certificates together with the onsite efficiency and renewable energy solutions,” said Bruno Sarda, Vice President, Sustainability, NRG. “At NRG, we want fans to benefit from sustainable solutions and together with the NFL, we can demonstrate that even a huge event like the Super Bowl can significantly reduce its energy usage.”For a period leading up to, during and following the Big Game, for every megawatt hour of electricity used to power these events, NRG and Reliant will purchase and retire one Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) on behalf of Super Bowl LI. The RECs account for the electricity used at NRG Stadium and the George R. Brown Convention Center, supporting renewable energy and the over one hundred thousand fans visiting Houston to celebrate the Super Bowl.

The NRG family of companies includes Houston-based Reliant, and collectively NRG’s retail brands are the largest providers of electricity in Texas. Sustainability solutions at NRG Stadium also include 65,000 energy-efficient LED field lights, which use 60 percent less energy than the stadium’s previous lighting system. NRG Stadium is the sixth professional football facility NRG has upgraded with smart energy technology. To learn more about NRG’s work with stadiums across the country, visit:

 Green-e Energy, a program of the Center for Resource Solutions, is a third-party certification program that guarantees RECs are generated from new renewable facilities and marketed with transparency and accuracy. A REC represents the environmental attributes of power produced from renewable energy projects.

About NRG

NRG is the leading integrated power company in the U.S., built on the strength of the nation’s largest and most diverse competitive electric generation portfolio and leading retail electricity platform. A Fortune 200 company, NRG creates value through best in class operations, reliable and efficient electric generation, and a retail platform serving residential and commercial businesses. Working with electricity customers, large and small, we continually innovate, embrace and implement sustainable solutions for producing and managing energy. We aim to be pioneers in developing smarter energy choices and delivering exceptional service as our retail electricity providers serve almost 3 million residential and commercial customers throughout the country.

About the NFL Environmental Program

The NFL Environmental program began in 1993 with the goal of reducing environmental impact in our host communities and leaving a positive, environmental benefit through our projects and activities. In addition to sourcing renewable energy, the NFL focuses on solid waste recycling, donation of prepared food to local shelters and food banks, collecting leftover materials for donation locally including décor, carpeting, building materials and office supplies and equipment. The annual Super Kids Super Sharing project recruits thousands of local school children who donate their used books, sports equipment and school supplies to children in need in their own community. In partnership with Verizon and the local Host Committee, tens of thousands of dollars in matching urban forestry grants are provided and tens of thousands of pounds of E-waste are collected and recycled responsibly.

Faced with blackouts, Pakistan's largest public park goes solar

By Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio

ISLAMABAD, Feb 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Mushtaq Khan, a 48-year-old bank manager, used to enjoy his nightly jog in Islamabad's huge Fatima Jinnah Park - until worsening power cuts two years ago began plunging him into darkness mid-stride, forcing him to run in the morning instead.

Now, however, new large-scale solar lighting for the Pakistani capital's largest public park has let Khan return to his old schedule - and he no longer worries about running into porcupines or wild boar in the dark.

"After learning that a new solar system now provides uninterrupted power to the entire electric system round-the-clock, I have swapped back the jogging schedule from morning to evening," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation during a brief pause in his evening run.

In December, city authorities installed 3,400 solar panels on a 2.5-hectare parcel of the 300-hectare (750-acre) park, at a cost of $4.8 million.

The system aims to provide a constant power supply to one of the city's key recreational attractions at a time when power cuts remain a major problem due to shortfalls on the grid.

The solar installation, which produces 870 kilowatts of electricity - enough to power the equivalent of 450 homes - runs water pumps and sprinkler systems for the park, and provides power for the offices of the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation (IMC) and Capital Development Authority (CDA), both located within the park.

The initiative, financed with a grant from China, uses batteries to store solar energy to meet lighting and other electricity needs 24 hours a day, said IMC chairman Anser Aziz Sheikh.


As solar energy extends the hours the park can be used - and powers irrigation to keep its flowers and other plants in top condition, as well as rides in the children's playground - officials say visitors who had abandoned it are returning.

"We are seeing more and more visitors coming back to the park for recreational and physical fitness activities," Sheikh said, noting that solar power "has restored life to the park".

Around 50,000 people come to the open space weekly for exercise, sports, flower exhibitions and the panoramic view of the lush green Margalla hills nearby, CDA officials said.

Park gardener Karam Ali said solar power has made his job much easier, particularly now that the water pumps and sprinklers are no longer shut down by persistent power cuts.

"The new solar energy system is really marvellous and no less than a good friend," he said. Power outages used to force employees to stay after hours to get their work done, without payment, he said, but that problem is now solved.

Similar solar installations could potentially play a wider role in Pakistan, which struggles with severe power shortages, particularly in the hot summer and cold winter months when air conditioning or heating are in demand and power cuts can last up to 20 hours a day, researchers say.

Only about two-thirds of the country's nearly 200 million people have access to electricity, according to the World Bank. To expand access and keep pace with economic and population growth, Pakistan needs to invest between 3.7 percent and 5.5 percent of its GDP each year in electricity generation, the bank says.

Putting money into renewable energy could reduce blackouts, improve health, boost the economy and help the country meet its goals to cut poverty and climate-changing emissions, energy researchers say.

Pakistan could produce as much as 2.9 million megawatts of power from solar, 340,000 megawatts from wind and 100,000 megawatts from hydropower if funds were available to build the infrastructure, according to Pakistan's Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) and World Bank studies.

With the costs of renewable energy falling fast, Pakistan's Planning, Development and Reforms Ministry late last year announced plans to boost wind and solar power generation by the end of 2018.


"These energy plans are being implemented on a fast-track basis in Sindh, Punjab and Baluchistan provinces, which account for 80 percent of the total solar and wind energy generation potential," said Amjad Ali Awan, chief executive of the AEDB.

The longer-term aim is to boost renewable energy from 5 percent to 25 percent of the country's energy mix by 2030, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Ahsan Iqbal, federal minister for planning, development and reforms, said the government hoped to replicate solar projects like that in Fatima Jinnah Park.

The project "is convincing us to work with provincial governments to provide solar power to similar public parks, to lessen the load on the national grid and save the budget spent on hefty electricity bills in these public parks", he said. (Reporting by Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio; editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit

EU on track to meet renewable energy targets – but UK lags behind

The European Union is on track to meet its renewable energy targets but the UK is one of only three member states to become more dependent on imported energy in the last decade.

A report from the European commission boasts of good progress towards the goal of using 20% of final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020.

As of 2014, the share of renewables reached 16% of the gross final energy consumption of the EU.

It also finds the EU has managed to significantly reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of its economy and to decouple its economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. Between 1990 and 2015, the EU’s combined GDP grew by 50%, while emissions decreased by 22%.

“[The EU] is presently one of the most greenhouse gas-efficient major economies, and is set to become the most greenhouse gas-efficient economy in the G20 through the implementation of the 2030 climate and energy targets,” the report says.

However, while for 22 member states total net import dependency decreased between 2005 and 2014, over the same period import dependency significantly increased in Denmark, Poland and the UK “due to the decline of indigenous fossil fuel production”.

Lithuania also became more dependent due to the closure of nuclear plants.

The commission’s Second Report on the State of the Energy Union adds: “Largely driven by falling coal and gas prices, the gradual penetration of renewables into the power sector and subdued demand, wholesale electricity prices decreased in most member states between 2013 and 2015. Regional differences remained significant, with the highest prices in the United Kingdom and southern Europe and the lowest prices in the Scandinavian countries.”

The report also found that 11 of the EU’s 28 member states have not yet reached the target of 10% of their energy production being connected to other member states. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and the UK are said to need “to continue their efforts” to improve interconnectivity. The commission believes connecting Europe’s electricity systems will allow the EU to boost its security of electricity supply and to integrate more renewable energy.

Energy poverty also remains an issue in many member states. On average, energy-related costs made up 8.6% of low-income households’ expenditure in the EU. This share has increased for most EU countries since 2005.

VIEW: Renewable energy co-operatives: Europe can literally be powered by...

By Dirk Vansintjan, President, REScoop

In its recently released Clean Energy Package, the European Commission finally acknowledged that energy communities – such as cooperatives – have a major role to play in the Europe’s energy transition. This could be a potential game changer for people and communities across the EU.

On 30 November, 2016, the Commission published a series of proposals to reform the energy market. Referred to as EU’s “winter package” the new rules outline plans to put efficiency first and maintain the EU as a global leader in renewables. Significantly, this includes placing consumers at the centre of Europe’s energy market.

We can question whether, as a whole, the package is capable of achieving all of these goals. In fact, it is far from perfect. But one thing is undeniable: it establishes building blocks for a dedicated legal framework so that communities can participate in the energy system without being encumbered by rules that were made for old, centralised and dirty fossil fuels.

This could be the potential start of a game changer for communities across the EU that want to cooperate with each other to change the energy system.

And it could not come fast enough. Communities have been pioneering the clean energy transition since the 1970s in countries like Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Over the past decade or so, more and more citizens have been coming together to produce and supply themselves with clean renewable energy, and the trend is likely to continue. According to a study by CE Delft, by 2050 around 83% – or about 187 million – of EU households could contribute to renewable energy production, demand response and/or energy storage. People join up, not just because of competitive energy prices and investment returns, but also their desire to fight climate change, develop cooperation with their neighbours, and support the added value of community projects towards the local economy.

There’s also a clear correlation to participating in a renewable energy cooperative (REScoop) and self-empowerment: over 40% of the members of the Belgian renewable energy supplier , Ecopower, also have installed solar panels on their roofs.

It’s not just about renewables. Some REScoops own and operate their own local grids and they provide services to their members to help them use less energy. And it’s not stopping there either – the movement has its sights set on providing storage and demand response, and in setting up micro-grids. It is through these activities that REScoops will lead the transition towards a clean decarbonised and decentralised energy system.

At the moment, however, European energy legislation does not even mention community participation in energy production. This means REScoops must play by the same rules as large, centralized players, essentially placing REScoops at a competitive disadvantage.

With the Commission’s proposed Package, that would change. This is encouraging news, because the old energy system can no longer support the growth of community energy. In many ways it is even attacking community participation, as if it were a virus.

Faced with unwanted growing competition, ‘dinosaur’ energy companies have lobbied their governments, many times with success, for new laws that make it more difficult for citizens and their energy communities to compete. One only needs to look at Germany. After feed-in tariffs were scrapped and replaced with tendering schemes in 2014, the creation of new REScoops decreased by 60%.

And that’s not all. In Western European countries, the number of community energy projects has steadily increased over time. However, in most Eastern European countries it is still virtually impossible for citizens to do the same. This is not for pure lack of desire by citizens there to set up projects – policy frameworks play a big role in allowing or even helping them.

The Commission’s proposals address these issues. Perhaps most importantly, they guarantee that REScoops are entitled to participate in the energy market, not just through generation and supply of renewables, but throughout the entire energy system. They will ensure Member States have legal frameworks in place to support REScoops, simplify over burdensome regulations, and ensure they are not discriminated against. In particular, they will help ensure that REScoop’s are not excluded from tenders simply because they have less financial and human resources than larger players with big portfolios of projects.

There is still a need to go further. National regulators need to be encouraged to better understand the REScoop model, but there is no strong push at the moment to change this. Renewable energy cooperatives also need to be ensured a seat at the table as further European energy regulations and guidelines are developed, particularly through a potential new DSO body. REScoops need guarantees that they will be able to input into national plans that Member States develop in order to contribute to the achievement of the EU’s 2030 climate and energy goals.

Overall, the Commission has demonstrated that it understands the success of the energy transition hinges on ensuring local citizens can exercise their right to choose. This extends to citizens generating and supplying themselves – both individually and collectively – with renewable energy.

The outcome on the details is far from certain. It is now time for national and EU politicians, decision makers and regulators to jump on board with the idea.

One thing is certain though: REScoops will continue to trail blaze the energy sector to make it more democratic and beneficial for citizens. They just need the space to act.

The views expressed in opinion articles published on euronews do not represent our editorial position

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Scotland eyes 50% renewable energy by 2030 in shift away from North Sea oil

The Scottish government has taken the first steps to heavily cutting the country’s reliance on North Sea oil and gas after calling for 50% of Scotland’s entire energy needs to come from renewables.

In a subtle but significant shift of emphasis for the Scottish National party after decades championing North Sea production, ministers unveiled a new energy strategy intended to push motorists, homeowners and businesses into using low- or zero-carbon green energy sources for half their energy needs by 2030.

Currently, 47% of Scotland’s total energy use comes from petroleum products largely extracted from Scotland’s North Sea oil platforms, and 27% from domestic and imported natural gas needed for home heating.

With opposition parties and environment groups expressing scepticism about a lack of detail in the new strategy, Scottish ministers privately admit cutting oil use is their biggest challenge in hitting far tougher targets unveiled last week to reduce Scotland’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 66% by 2032.

While North Sea oil and gas production is in decline as reserves run dry, the new strategy implies Scotland will need to accelerate its transition to a low-carbon economy faster than reserves run out to hit both targets.

Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish energy minister, told MSPs on Tuesday that the new energy target was intended to directly support that climate target. Scottish renewables already supplied nearly 60% of Scotland’s domestic electricity use, Scottish islands were pioneering energy self-sufficiency, and community-owned renewable schemes now had an installed capacity of 595mw, he said.

Wheelhouse said: “We can all take pride in such successes, however, it is clear that more progress will be required – particularly in the supply of low-carbon heat and transport – if we are to remain on track to meet our ambitious climate change goals.”

It would put pressure on onshore windfarm operators to make their wind energy so cheap that it would not require a subsidy. Bus companies would be asked to invest in hydrogen-powered buses, and motorists expected to shift to electric cars.

Renewables industry sources say hitting that much higher target could be slower and harder than Wheelhouse admitted because the Scottish government is expected to miss its target of supplying 100% of Scotland’s domestic electricity needs from this source by 2020.

Industry analysts believe 87% will be renewable by 2020, in part because offshore wind power projects have been slower than expected. Wheelhouse pointed out, however, that the cost of offshore wind had fallen faster than expected, by 32% since 2012.

The draft energy strategy, released for public consultation on Tuesday, failed to deal with substantial questions about the costs of meeting the new target, sidestepped Scotland’s continuing use of nuclear energy and also the exact mix and quantity of green energy schemes now needed by 2030.

The paper also again sidestepped a decision on the future of fracking of Scotland’s large shale oil and gas reserves, with ministers are at odds over allowing it or banning it on climate and environmental grounds.


An oil platform in the North Sea.

An oil platform in the North Sea. Nearly half of the country’s energy comes from the area Photograph: StatoilHydro / Oyvind Hagen / HO/EPA

Environmentalists, opposition parties and SNP activists are putting the Scottish government under heavy pressure to convert an existing moratorium on fracking into a permanent ban.

Wheelhouse said ministers were taking an “evidence-based and measured approach” and would soon launch a new public consultation on whether to allow fracking.

And despite standing for election on strong anti-nuclear platforms, Scottish ministers have admitted they are content to see the life of Scotland’s two nuclear power stations at Hunterston and Torness to be extended further, beyond their current contracts that run until 2023 and 2030 respectively.

Nuclear power provided 35% of Scotland’s electricity in 2015. EDF, the French-owned utility that operates the two stations, is building up a technical case to win support from the UK’s nuclear regulator to extend both stations’ operating lives by several years each.

That strategy is supported by Scottish ministers. Wheelhouse’s energy paper had very little detail on what power sources would provide the remaining 50% of Scotland’s energy needs but it said “thermal energy” – power provided by conventional nuclear or gas-fired stations – would be a significant part of that.

While all opposition parties welcomed Wheelhouse’s overall 50% target, they were immensely critical about the lack of detail in the paper, particularly on the costs and funding of the strategy.

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s energy spokeswoman, said the SNP often set targets it failed to meet. “Scotland has previously been required to import energy from elsewhere in the UK, particularly baseload power from England,” she said. “Yet the SNP’s energy strategy provides little detail about how to keep the lights on.”

Mark Ruskell, a Scottish Green party MSP, said it remained unclear how the target for 80% of homes to use low-carbon heat by 2032 would be delivered, since the 2025 target was just 18% and current funding levels were inadequate.

“Warming our homes affordably and with low-carbon power is a priority but the Scottish government’s targets don’t make sense,” he said. “There’s too much trust in a technological miracle in the future and not enough action on fuel poverty today.”

Gina Hanrahan, the climate and energy policy officer at environmental group WWF Scotland, said the strategy “fails to put enough meat on the bones of the commitment to transform the energy efficiency of existing homes”. She added: “With 1.5m cold homes in Scotland, these proposals are too slow and underfunded.”