What will be the new normal after CV-19? Not a particularly original question I admit. As I sit at my home office looking out at a sunny and windy day I glance at Gridwatch (see snapshot below) which tells me that over 30% of the UK’s energy is being generated solar and wind, more than any kind of fossil fuel (no coal at all again). As you can see from the posts below more renewable capacity is coming online and flexibility solutions are increasingly coping with intermittency. It would seem to be very relevant to report once more on stranded assets.

(source: gridwatch)

Company news

Amply Power completes Series A, with significant backers
In what is probably the most moribund funding environment in a generation Amply Power should be congratulated for successfully raising a $13.2m “A” Round. Not only that but they have gained a couple of major heavyweights as shareholders.
The round brought in Soros Fund Management, a massive private investment fund that typically engages in much bigger deals than early-stage cleantech investment. Legacy electrical equipment giant Siemens joined the round, as did investors from the $3.8 million Seed Round: Congruent Ventures, PeopleFund and Obvious Ventures.
Amply Power offers fleet charging as a service. They manage all aspects of the charging of passenger, municipal, delivery or industrial fleets. They remove the pricing and technology risk for the fleet manager. (gtm)

UK news

Tesla Motors has applied for a UK power generation licence.
The company’s application, signed off by Tesla energy products sales director, Evan Rice, was published by energy regulator Ofgem.
The move suggests Tesla may be planning to build large-scale battery storage projects in the UK, as it has done in countries such as Australia, where it constructed a 100MW scheme in less than 100 days in late 2016.
However, it may mark Tesla’s first UK move into aggregation, as it eyes the virtual power plant (VPP) market.
The company’s ‘autobidder’ platform aims to make money from distributed batteries via real time trading and optimisation.
As well as its electric car business, Tesla also supplies battery storage for homes and businesses, plus solar roof tiles. The autobidder platform aims to harness everything from behind the meter home batteries to utility scale assets, bidding in flexibility to all available markets. (theenergyst)

£320m deal allows wind farm project to proceed
A £320m deal has been agreed to allow a 50-turbine wind farm to be built in southern Scotland.
Swedish state-owned Vattenfall already had planning permission for the South Kyle scheme near Dalmellington.
It has now secured the backing of infrastructure fund Greencoat to ensure it proceeds.
It is hoped the turbines – which straddle the border between East Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway – will be operational by 2023. (bbc)

Piclo: Flexibility will halve network investment by 2050
Use of flexible energy technologies could halve network investment out to 2050, and shave tends of billions of pounds off the cost of decarbonation, according to a new report.
Published by flexibility marketplace provider Piclo, the report suggests properly harnessing flexible demand and distributed resource, such as batteries, electric vehicles and heat pumps, would save up to £5bn per annum by 2050.
Report co-authors include UK Research and Innovation/InnovateUK, Local Energy Oxfordshire (LEO) and consultant Graham Oakes, a founder of aggregator Upside Energy.
It suggests a flexible approach would reduce the need for peaking plant by 15GW, cut use of dispatchable plant by 22TWh per annum, reduce curtailment of renewables by 22TWh per annum and lower the cost of network reinforcement by two thirds. (theenergyst)

Legal & General takes stake in British ground source heating firm
Legal & General Capital has taken a 36% stake in Kensa Group, a small British firm specialising in ground source heat pump technology, the investment company said on Friday.
Around 80% of UK homes are heated by using natural gas and finding new ways to keep homes warm is seen as vital if the country is to meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Heat pumps use natural heat sources to warm homes reducing the need for fossil fuels.
Kensa Group chief executive Simon Lomax said the investment would enable the company to increase its research and development programme and increase the scale of its ability to install systems. (reuters)

Hitachi pours millions into Gridserve’s electric forecourts project
Hitachi Capital UK has announced a multi-million-pound investment to support Gridserve’s ambitious project to develop more than one hundred electric forecourts across the UK to spur the low-carbon transition.
The project has secured planning permission for more than 80 sites across the nation to date. Image: Gridserve
The project has secured planning permission for more than 80 sites across the nation to date. Image: Gridserve
Hitachi Capital will back the Gridserve project, which will be delivered over the next five years. Gridserve unveiled a £1bn programme in March 2019 to construct more than 100 “Electric Forecourts” across the UK, which combine renewable energy, battery storage and rapid chargers to meet the needs of EV drivers.
Backed by the UK Government’s £5bn Energy Investment Portfolio, the project has secured planning permission for more than 80 sites across the nation to date. (edie)

EV of the week

Tesla Model Y – is this the one?
Tesla are now manufacturing the Model Y, the fourth and possibly most important piece of the four car S,3,X,Y range. It is coming off the line in both the USA and China and has helped drive some very surprising Q1 results for the company: a Q1 profit for the first time. Remarkable considering the all pervasive gloom in all other corners of the automotive industry.
The Model Y is a mid-size SUV, that looks very similar from a distance to the Model 3, although is notably larger inside and has a hatchback. Initial sales are just the long range AWD version priced at $52k, offering 316 miles range. The entry model will come in below $40k and have about 250 mile range. Tesla have learnt how to streamline the mass production and the quality improves with each new model. Add in an ever improving charging network (V3 superchargers rolling out now) and a level of efficiency in terms of miles per kWh that nobody else can match, it is not surprising that Tesla, having created the market now feel like they own it.
I don’t disagree with most commentators who believe the Model Y will be Tesla’s biggest seller. Assuming that it doesn’t just cannibalise the other Tesla models, I expect it to cause the rest of the automotive industry a lot of headaches (as if they don’t have enough already).


Clean air in Europe during lockdown ‘leads to 11,000 fewer deaths’
The improvement in air quality over the past month of the coronavirus lockdown has led to 11,000 fewer deaths from pollution in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, a study has revealed.
Sharp falls in road traffic and industrial emissions have also resulted in 1.3m fewer days of work absence, 6,000 fewer children developing asthma, 1,900 avoided emergency room visits and 600 fewer preterm births, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
While the pandemic continues to take a terrible toll, the authors of the report say the response has offered a glimpse of the cleaner, healthier environment that is possible if the world shifts away from polluting fossil fuel industries. (guardian)

Steelmaker swaps LPG for hydrogen
Swedish steel maker Ovako this week claimed a world-lead first, as it replaced conventional LPG as a heat source with clean-burning hydrogen. The process breakthrough promises major implications for one of the world’s heaviest carbon-emitting industries.
Working with German provider Linde Gas, the company is conducting hydrogen trials in a rolling mill at its plant in Hofors, southern Sweden.
The quality of the steel output was unaffected by the switch, Ovako reported. Now it is considering expanding its use of the clean-burning gas in future production. (theenergyst)

Focus on: Stranded Assets

Stranded Assets Are Now Everywhere
Stranded assets used to be a niche idea. The concept that fossil fuel infrastructure wouldn’t be used is one that’s been championed over the last decade by the U.K.’s Carbon Tracker think tank. These days, financial regulators have joined in. That prophecy has certainly been on display in the oil and gas sector over the past few weeks.
It’s no surprise that Wall Street is giving up on some fossil fuel asset classes that already looked bad a few months ago. Now they look much worse, since prices have collapsed and storage options for unsold stock are running thin. Morgan Stanley this week became the latest U.S. bank to rule out financing Arctic oil, joining Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo in barring future funding of these expensive projects. If prices stay where they are, high-cost oil projects will become “zombie assets” that run production without financial returns, Bond said.
Investors have just started pressuring other sectors about their stranded assets. Utilities, for example, faced several shareholder proposals seeking better disclosure on the risks (Southern Co. told investors it would provide the information). Regulators told Sempra Energy and Dominion Energy they could exclude similar proposals from their proxy ballots this year. But even without a proposal, there’s no better time for companies to talk about how they plan to rethink their current assets.
“The question every company will have to address coming out of this is what other threats are there to my business that I have to be prepared for,” said John Morton, a partner at climate change advisory and investment firm Pollination. (bloomberg)

Could large parts of Midstream become stranded?
An interesting post in Infrastructure Investor observes that Midstream describes the section of the oil and gas value chain that transports and stores the commodities. Midstream has always been considered a low risk investment space suitable for long term infrastructure strategies. They were to a large degree insulated from the volatility of commodity prices.
Coronavirus has drive a coach and horses through that line of argument. The argument that these assets are insulated flies in the face of their proximity to the wellhead. After the last downturn in oil markets in many contracts for G&P (gathering & processing) assets were renegotiated without volume guarantees, increasing their vulnerability to the commodity price.

As Oil Industry Swoons, Tar Sands Workers Look to Renewables for Jobs
There are finally signs of a growing renewable energy sector in Alberta — unlikely shoots of life in a province that has been described as a petrostate. For decades, Alberta’s economy was dominated by the exploitation of viscous bitumen in its vast tar sands, which hold the world’s third-largest oil reserves behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. But since oil prices crashed in 2014, about 35,000 jobs in Alberta’s tar sands have been lost, likely for good. Now, the Canadian oil industry is being hit even harder by the coronavirus pandemic. Some companies are scaling back tar sands operations, and others are even pulling away from oil sands investment in response to growing pressure to meet climate goals.
As Alberta’s oil and gas industry comes to grips with a long-lasting downturn, workers in the oil industry are beginning to look to the renewable energy sector to make up for the jobs being shed in the tar sands. A handful of nonprofit and economic development agencies are starting retraining programs to prepare former oilfield hands to work in solar and wind power. “Most of the workers that reach out to us have been through boom-bust cycles once, twice, three times,” says Andrea Visser, director of operations and administration at Iron & Earth, a nonprofit started in 2015 by oil sands workers to integrate more renewable energy into Alberta’s economy and to help develop retraining programs for former tar sands workers. (yale360)

Eco wooden appartment

Amsterdam apartment building is a modern “ship on land”
Wood is a wonderful building material. When you look at its chemical composition, it’s about 50 percent carbon, pulled out of the atmosphere as the tree grows and stored for the life of the building. It’s strong, “a natural composite of cellulose fibers that are strong in tension and embedded in a matrix of lignin that resists compression.” And it’s beautiful.
The architects of the new apartment building in Amserdam called Freebooter certainly believe so. The building is constructed from wood, steel, and glass. The architect says, “The building’s energy consumption is close to 0. This result is the combination of 24 solar panels on the roof, high-performance wall insulation, and glass walls, coupled with low-temperature underfloor heating and a mechanical and natural ventilation system.” (treehugger)

Global stuff

Google Data Centers Enter Upside Down World of Renewable Supply and Demand
Google’s plan is pretty much the opposite of traditional demand response. It operates in a supply-abundant paradigm where demand moves to soak up power—in this case, renewable power—at times when power is plentiful. Rather than responding to high demand by shutting things off, Google will respond to high supply by turning things on.
Prior to the wide deployment of renewable energy, peak demand hit at midday in summertime. That’s when temperatures would tend to be hottest and demand for cooling was highest. Demand response sought to turn things off at those hours.
Maximizing renewable energy consumption, though, means optimizing for a supply curve that looks different. In grids with a significant amount of solar generation, there will be ample zero-carbon generation at midday, meaning that companies will want to shift consumption to those hours. Wind generation peaks in the mornings and evenings, meaning that any large electricity consumer will want to push its peak consumption into those same hours. (bloomberg)

World’s Largest Solar Project Will Also Be Its Cheapest
Abu Dhabi has set a global record-low solar price as authorities confirmed the winning bid in a 2-gigawatt tender. Upon its expected completion in mid-2022, it is slated to be the largest single-site solar energy project in the world.
The Al Dhafra project had five bidders, with the lowest offer coming in at 1.35 U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour.
The state-run Abu Dhabi Power Corporation (ADPower) confirmed to GTM that the leading consortium consists of French energy giant EDF and the projects division of Chinese solar manufacturer Jinko Solar.
ADPower will now negotiate a 30-year power-purchase agreement with EDF/Jinko. (gtm)

As a ‘green stimulus’, Pakistan sets virus-idled to work planting trees
When construction worker Abdul Rahman lost his job to Pakistan’s coronavirus lockdown, his choices looked stark: resort to begging on the streets or let his family go hungry.
But the government has now given him a better option: Join tens of thousands of other out-of-work labourers in planting billions of trees across the country to deal with climate change threats.
Since Pakistan locked down starting March 23 to try to stem the spread of COVID-19, unemployed day labourers have been given new jobs as “jungle workers”, planting saplings as part of the country’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami programme.
The ambitious five-year tree-planting programme, which Prime Minister Imran Khan launched in 2018, aims to counter the rising temperatures, flooding, droughts and other extreme weather in the country that scientists link to climate change. (reuters)

Techie corner

FloatGen pleased with tests of mooring lines
France’s test site for offshore wind hosts the 2MW Floatgen rig, boasting a concrete floating platform. The site is off the Atlantic coast. Both availability and capacity numbers for the unit continue to impress. February showed a capacity factor of 66.3%, producing 932.2MWh, and availability of 95.7%.
Another cause for celebration is the performance of their world first nylon mooring lines, designed and build by Ideol. These are showing a 40% cost savings on hardware and more on installation which should reduce bills by many millions, further improving the cost competitiveness of the nascent technology. (recharge)