Renew On Line (UK) 58

Extracts from NATTA's journal
, issue 158 Nov-Dec 2005

   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. Decentral power:
Greenpeace  proposals

2. Farm Power:
Biofuels delays

CHP to backup wind

4. Welsh Renewables: 
Wind plan

5.  BETTA hurts Scotland:
but H2 CCS project emerges 

 6. Going for Micro power:
the Low Carbon programme

7. UK Energy Roundup:
getting there slowly

8. UK Climate Policy:
Blair changes tune?

9. UK Energy Policy Developments:
How not the cut carbon

10. News  from around the world:
US beats EU?

11.World Policy Roundup:
G8 on Climate change

12. Nuclear News:
US, UK, Australia and Russia

10. News from around the world

EU to have 4.5GW PV solar by 2010

Europe could have 4,500 MW of solar PV installed by 2010, according to the latest forecast from six renewable EU energy groups. Last year, 410 MWp of panels were installed increasing total capacity to more than 1,000 MW, a rise of 69% over 2003, according to the ‘barometer’ prepared by Observ’ER for the European Union.  363 MW  were installed in Germany, which now has 88% of the EU market. Germany also became the world leader in  PV, ahead of the 280 MW installed in Japan and the 90MW installed in the US.

Of the 363 MW installed in Germany, 360 MW was connected to the grid and 3 MW was off-grid. Luxembourg was in second place, with the installation of 13 MW, all grid-connected, following by Spain with 12MW & France with 6 MW. Of the 410MW installed in the EU, 403 was grid connected, 8MW was off-grid.

On a per-capita basis, Luxembourg leads with 58 watts per inhabitant, Germany is at 10, the Netherlands at 3 and Austria at 2W per person. All the rest are less than 1W, but the EU average is 2.2W per inhabitant.

Observ’ER has ‘significantly re-evaluated’ its forecast, based on 20% growth in the German market in 2005 & 2006, followed by stabilization until 2010, and says that, if the PV industry can guarantee its silicon supplies, Europe will have 4.5GW installed by 2010.

* Japan achieved its goal of equipping 70,000 homes with  PV systems by 2000, and it is on track to meet its goal of installing PV on half of all new homes by 2010- with an average annual investment of $115 m over the last 10 years. Its solar manufacturing industry has become the largest in the world-it produced 618 MW of PV cells last year- 52% of global output. European manufacturers produced 308 MW, or 26%. The 139 MW from the U.S. is 12% of the market, while the rest of the world produced 129 MW- 11% of the world total.

EU  2050  climate target sidelined

European Union leaders have backed a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the developed world by 15-30% (on 1990 levels) by 2020, but have  dropped a longer-term target, which had been backed earlier, of a 60-80% cut by 2050. They said longer-term targets should simply be considered ‘in the spirit’ of the ministers’ decision. These targets were being discussed as part of the process of considering the post-Kyoto framework, beyond 2012.

Greenpeace suggested that German and Austrian coal interests had intervened to block the long-term goal. However the EU still has a consensus  that  worldwide temperature increases should be kept below 2oC compared with pre-industrial levels and the 2020 targets are a start. The UK has adopted a 60% by 2050 reduction target.

Innovation gap -US leads EU

U.S. investors have put $942m so far into  innovative renewable energy ventures, nearly twice the amount invested by  European entrepreneurs, according to UK financial consultants New Energy Finance. It surveyed 3,500 organizations and identified 300 startups that were active in various aspects of the clean energy industry. Of these 300, 157 were in the U.S., 44 in Canada and only 75 were in Europe. It noted that up to $335m was being spent each year on R&D on renewables by the EU, compared with $530m in the U.S. at the federal level.

It claimed that governments and their environmental regulations were not helping: “The most damaging aspect of renewable energy legislation in Europe is not that it is not uniform across countries (entrepreneurs, after all, will pick attractive countries in which to operate) but that it is not stable over time”.  Support programmes were “short-lived, increasing the perception of risk among investors”.

It also saw pressure to introduce net metering as “perhaps the single biggest hurdle to the introduction of renewable energy into our electricity generation mix”.  And it concluded that “there is little evidence that state and regional development funds contribute to successful business-building” and that “What is needed from Brussels is not more co-ordination, more goal-setting and more money going to unwieldy research consortia; it is a basic understanding of the mechanics of building companies, and the breaking down of the barriers to entrepreneurship, particularly in the area of clean energy technologies”.

* As part of his drive to deal with the USA’s energy problems, in addition to backing new nuclear  plants  (see later),  President Bush has called for the construction of new oil refineries  on former military bases, creating new jobs in communities hit by base closures while also easing the country’s acute shortage of refining capacity.  No new oil refineries have been built in the USA since 1976 and existing facilities are struggling to cope with demand.   Source: FT 3/5/05

PV in California

California can make solar power affordable for the average homeowner and business within 10 years, according to a new report by Environment California’s Research & Policy Center, a nonprofit group with some 80,000 members.  Using the ‘learning curve’ idea, it identifies ‘progress ratios’ for technological development which improve as industrial experience, market penetration, sales and production volumes grow, so that prices continually fall- the report estimates the upfront cost of solar could drop to the point where government rebates are no longer needed by 2016.  It notes that the increased production resulting from the CEC’s residential incentives has already caused the price of retrofitted residential PV systems in California to drop by 36% from 1998 to 2004- from $14.01 per Watt to $8.98/W. However to push PV further along this path, there is a need for continued government financial incentives and new construction design policies.

The report notes that ‘Experience in California and in other countries, especially Japan, has shown that such government programs can lead to increased demand, lowered prices, and ultimately a robust, self-sufficient solar market in which government incentives are no longer necessary’. But it adds: ‘it is unlikely that the goal of Governor Schwarzenegger’s Million Solar Roofs Initiative- 3,000 MWp (peak megawatts) of total new solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity and half of all new homes built with PV in the next 10 years- can be achieved without a sustained, guaranteed program that combines incentives for both residential and commercial systems, as well as policies that encourage the inclusion of solar power systems into the construction of new buildings’. 

Since installation costs are significantly lower when PV is incorporated into a new home during construction, the report calls for polices to encourage that. It  also wants guaranteed long term support from a ‘dedicated solar fund, paid through a surcharge on electric bills’, but phased so that it reduces as the technology develops- much as with REFIT type schemes in the EU.  And it wants the net metering cap raised to at least 5% of a utility’s peak demand, and for the various tax  incentives for PV to be continued. It says such an approach can reduce air pollution, protect consumers from volatile electricity prices, & reduce the need for expensive upgrades to electricity transmission and distribution systems.

‘Bringing Solar to Scale’ is at:

Better PV….

The U.S. National Renewable Energy Labs have found that nanocrystals (also known as ‘quantum dots’) produce as many as three electrons from one photon of sunlight, compared with one electron with current PV solar cell materials.  They say that theoretically  they‘could convert more than 65% of the sun's energy into electricity’.  The maximum  efficiency of existing cells is 33% and most commercial devices run at 10-15%.

Pay back times fall

The energy payback time for multicrystalline solar PV modules is four years for systems which use current technology, but will drop to two years for technology coming onto the market, according to a fact sheet released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. For thin-film solar modules, the payback is three years using current technology and one year for anticipated thin-film technology. “Based on models and real data, the idea that PV cannot pay back its energy investment is simply a myth”,  it says.

However it admits that, since the PV industry recrystallizes several types of off-grade silicon from the microelectronics industry, estimates for the energy used to purify and crystallize silicon vary widely, making it difficult to calculate energy payback. But PV module fabricators are increasingly producing their own cell materials (not least because of shortages in the world market for Silicon), so it should soon be easier to make accurate comparisons.   The NREL says that, even on current data, it can be shown that  the fabrication of PV systems and fossil fuel production have similar energy payback periods when the costs for mining, transportation, refining and construction are included.

Si gap  However, the growth of the PV industry has been hit by a shortage of polysilicon fabrication capacity: see  the Technology section of Renew 158

US Climate Bill fudged

A new version of the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Bill proposed financial subsidies for development of low and zero greenhouse emitting technologies, including nuclear power, and according to the ENS News service, the latter provision ‘drained environmentalist support from the measure’.  It was also opposed by, as they say, ‘all the usual suspects’- although a compromise statement did get through Senate, indicating at least some movement. But it avoided commitment to mandatory emission  targets. The revised version of the initial Bill had included provision for the trading of emission allowances, which has been seen by some greens as an alternative to trying to get the USA to sign up to the Kyoto protocol and its expected post-2012 follow up- it sought to establish a target for the year 2010. And the bill    supported renewables and other sustainable energy options- as well as nuclear.  Senator Lieberman said the bill ‘shuns picking winners and losers between and among different technologies- we want the market to do that’. 

However, according to ENS, the bill ‘specifies that funding would be provided for development of three nuclear reactors demonstrating new technology- one of each new certified design’.  Environmental groups were clearly unhappy. The Public Research Interest Group commented that ‘America can meet our future electricity needs and reduce global warming pollution far beyond the goals in the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act without increasing our reliance on nuclear power’, and cited a 2004 study by Synapse Energy Economics which found that the USA could reduce its CO2 emissions from electricity generation by 47% by 2025 compared to ‘business as usual’ levels and still meet projected electricity demand, while saving $36bn annually in electricity costs and cutting reliance on nuclear power by nearly half.  But in any case the Bill was defeated. Whether the US nuclear push will a be similarly thwarted remains to be seen.

* Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced a plan to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions in less than five years to less than the levels in 2000. The plan calls for the further reduction of emissions by 2020 to less than the levels produced in 1990, and for the reduction, by 2050, of emissions to 80% less than the levels in 1990.

While Bush administration is still wobbling over responses to climate change, Arnie was evidently keen to get on with it.  “I say the debate is over. We know the science. We see the threat, and we know the time for action is now.” However, the targets are not binding and there are no enforcement mechanisms and critics have said it does not go far enough.

Solar Cities

The city of Los Angeles is aiming to get 20% of its power from renewables by 2017. Commissioners for the Department of Water & Power have approved a policy that sets an interim goal of 13% by 2010 and 20% by 2017, measured by the amount of electricity sales to retail customers.

Meanwhile, the International Solar Energy Society has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the city council in Oxford, England, on the need to transform urban centres into ‘solar cities’. Three-quarters of global energy is consumed in urban regions. The second international Solar Cities Congress will be held in Oxford next year, to examine global partnerships to establish “effective urban programs and international standards for the use of renewable energy systems”.

Wind cuts taxes

Residents in the Italian town of Alberona, in the province of Foggia, will pay no property or income tax as the town council receives revenue from its second windfarm. An existing facility pays Euro 150,000 every month, but the 60 new turbines will provide Euro 1.3 m. p.a. The windfarms will also pay Euro 10,000 for eco-friendly and social programmes and a one-off fee of Euro 1.3 m.  ReFocus

* Wind can supply 35% of New Zealand’s future peak electricity demand, according to a study for the Ministry of Economic Development and the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority. At present New Zealand gets  2.5% of its electricity from wind.

PV gets big in Portugal

A German consortium including Siemens has announced plans to build the world’s biggest solar PV power station in Portugal, covering about 250 hectares and, at 116 megawatts peak capacity capable, it is claimed, of sustaining 130,000 households. It would be in an abandoned pyrite mine near the town of Beja, in the southern Alentejo region, and would cost £290m. Israel, meanwhile, is planning a 100MW PV power station for the Negev desert.

38% of Dutch go Green

In 2004 nearly 38% of Dutch households used green electricity under the national tariff system-  an increase of 6% compared to 2003.

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