Theme for this week is how the energy transition juxtaposes traditional connections: jet fuel made from water, roads and schools made from plastics, even American muscle cars turning into electric SUV’s

Company news

Ørsted posts bumper earnings, eyes hydrogen investments
Ørsted earnings for 2019 “exceeded expectations” with operating profit up 17 per cent to £1.99bn on a like for like basis.
The firm said a windy December provided an end of year boost.
While divestments made during 2019 will impact earnings next year, CEO Henrik Poulsen suggested 2020 will also deliver strong growth as the company continues to build out wind farms around the world.
Ørsted said 86 per cent of its heat and power generation activities are now “green”, up from 75 per cent last year. The company is targeting carbon neutrality in its own operations by 2025.
Ørsted is starting to actively explore hydrogen, setting up a dedicated hydrogen team and  commencing a small-scale trial to produce hydrogen via electrolysis in Copenhagen.
The scheme, powered by near two near shore wind turbines, will produce hydrogen for use in buses around the Danish capital, and potentially trucks. “Based on that experience, we may later on start to scale up the project,” said Poulsen.
He said Ørsted will invest in electrolysis facilities “if we can find investment cases that stack up”. (theenergyst)

Engie exits UK domestic supply market in deal with Octopus Energy
Octopus Energy has acquired French energy giant Engie’s residential energy supply business in the UK, its sixth acquisition in two years.
The sale will see Engie’s 70,000 customers switched to Octopus in the coming months, bringing the latter’s customers up to 1.4 million. At the end of 2018, Octopus had just 500,000 customers, but has continued to consistently expand.
Engie’s strategic exit from the UK domestic energy market is designed to allow the company to focus on “leading the zero carbon journey for businesses and local authorities”, according to a statement from Octopus. (current-news)

Google is the biggest corporate buyer of green power
Bloomberg chart shows Google comfortably leads a chart dominated by tech giants (see also Texas article below)

UK news

National Grid awards £328m contracts to manage stability of electricity grid
National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) has awarded contracts worth £328 million over six years to manage the stability of the electricity grid.
Drax, Rassau Grid Services (Welsh Power), Statkraft, Triton and Uniper will either build new or modify existing assets to provide stability services to National Grid ESO to help manage electricity system properties such as inertia, voltage and short circuit.
The key service to be provided is inertia, which helps to keep the electricity system running at the right frequency.
System inertia is a measure of the energy network’s resilience to some types of disturbances on the power system, such as the sudden disconnection of a large power station due to a fault.
This service is currently a by-product of traditional power generation, like coal or gas – however, the new approach will see the new or modified assets providing a standalone service to the ESO, without the need to produce electricity at the same time.
This will allow more renewable energy generation to operate, helping reduce energy use and carbon emissions and is expected to save consumers up to £128 million over six years. (energylivenews)

UK sued for approving Europe’s biggest gas power station
The UK government is being sued for approving a large new gas-fired power plant, overruling the climate change objections of its own planning authority.
The plant, being developed by Drax in north Yorkshire, would become the biggest gas power station in Europe and could produce 75% of the UK’s power sector emissions when fully operational, according to the environmental lawyers ClientEarth, who have brought the judicial review.
The planning inspectorate recommended to ministers that the 3.6GW gas plant was to be refused permission because it “would undermine the government’s commitment, as set out in the Climate Change Act 2008, to cut greenhouse emissions” by having “significant adverse effects”. It was the first big project rejected because of the climate crisis.
However, Andrea Leadsom, secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, rejected the advice and gave the go-ahead in October. Now ClientEarth has been given permission by the high court to sue ministers, with the case expected to be heard in about two months. (guardian)

Latest Government figures spark fears that UK’s green economy is ‘stagnating’
Published this week, the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) low-carbon and renewable energy economy figures for 2018 reveal overall – but not sizeable – growth in the sector since 2015.
The digest covers businesses involved in renewable energy generation and distribution, and the manufacturing of carbon-saving products, stating that annual turnover in this space increased by £6.2bn between 2015 and 2018.
It reveals that the biggest drivers of turnover (36%) and employment (51%) within the sector were energy-efficient products. In terms of exports, the biggest contributor to turnover was found to be low-emission vehicles, despite challenges to UK manufacturing as a result of factors such as Brexit and slow legislation changes.
As for jobs, the digest states that employment in the UK’s low-carbon and renewable energy economy was equivalent to 224,800 full-time jobs in 2018, up from 200,800 in 2015.
But previous figures from the ONS claimed that there were 235,900 full-time jobs in the sector in 2014, meaning that there has, overall, been a slight decrease in employment in the sector over the past six years. (edie)

Millennials move Magway over the £1 million crowdfunding mark
Magway, the British engineering start-up which plans to revolutionise the UK’s freight delivery market with its sustainable network of underground pipes, has exceeded its initial £750,000 crowdfunding target.
Magway has to date attracted over 1,700 investors willing to back the UK’s first underground ecommerce delivery network, enabling it to smash through the £1 million mark. Almost 45 percent of Magway’s Crowdcube investors are aged between 18-30-years-old, an indication perhaps of how younger generations of GenZ and millennials have become more environmentally aware and are willing to invest their money into big ideas that involve innovative, ground-breaking clean technologies.
Magway will initially provide short delivery routes for airports such as Heathrow and Stansted, helping to alleviate freight traffic. Construction of a wider UK network of pipes, spanning hundreds of kilometres is expected to start in 2023.
Magway’s technology is being marketed at forward-looking online retailers and logistics firms that are planning for a more sustainable, reliable and ultimately affordable means of distribution. (renewableenergymagazine)

EV of the week

Ford Mustang Mach-E
If launch programs are as promised (by no means a given) 2020 will see the battle of the mid-sized e-SUV’s. Tesla confidently expect the Model Y to be its bestseller, VW will hope to launch the ID.4 and Ford are lookin as if it is going to join the party with the Mustang Mach-E.
I have somehow glossed over the Mach-E, partly because I wasn’t sure if Ford was really serious and partly because many found the idea of attaching their much prized prancing horse badge on an electric SUV (albeit a sporty one), frankly quite weird.
However, subsequent reports suggest a level of acceptance of the branding and looks and performance stats that make it interesting: 300 mile range, plenty of power. Ford have declared that they plan to sell 50,000 in the first year and that two thirds of those have now been pre-ordered.


Cement sector facing ‘dramatic’ cost rise as climate pressure intensifies
Cement production costs are forecast to rise by 61 per cent as the industry is forced to invest in nascent carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to cut emissions from the CO2-intensive sector.
Redburn has removed the “buy” recommendation to investors for the world’s fourth largest cement producer HeidelbergCement, as well as downgrading Swiss construction materials firm LafargeHolcim from “neutral” to “sell”, the FT reports.
Analysts agree that large scale investment is needed across the industry to decarbonise cement, which is widely regarded as one of the most challenging industries from which to deliver deep emissions cuts due to the high levels of energy needed to produce the material.
In addition, if CO2 prices continue to rise on the European emissions trading system (ETS) and a mooted carbon border tax comes into play across the EU in future, then it could apply further cost pressure on the sector as it works to decarbonise. (businessgreen)

Focus on Concentrated Solar Power

America’s Concentrated Solar Power Companies Have All But Disappeared
There are fears for one of America’s two last concentrated solar power (CSP) developers as the embattled sector attempts to pivot to a new business model abroad.
SolarReserve, which developed the 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes CSP plant in Nevada, is thought to have ceased operations after losing its only income-generating U.S. contract and selling foreign projects including Aurora in Australia and Likana in Chile last year.
CSP has developed a bad reputation in the U.S., not just because of problems at Crescent Dunes but also from low capacity factors overall and largely exaggerated reports of bird deaths at power tower plants such as those developed by SolarReserve and another U.S. firm, BrightSource Energy.
But the biggest challenge facing CSP, not just in the U.S. but also in the rest of the world, is the plummeting price of solar PV.
Even BrightSource, which developed the 377-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System complex in the Mojave Desert, is keeping a low profile in the U.S. these days.
BrightSource is understood to have refocused its efforts on foreign markets, and particularly the development of a 121-megawatt project called Ashalim in the Negev desert, Israel.
The foreign focus could prove fortuitous for America’s sole remaining CSP developer because while the technology has clearly fallen from favor in the U.S. it is starting to see an uptick in interest in several overseas markets.

Elsewhere things are looking up as focus shifts to storage
This month saw Chile connecting Latin America’s largest CSP plant, Cerro Dominador, to the grid. CSP is also part of the energy mix in South Africa and, increasingly, Middle East and North African markets such as Dubai and Morocco.
CSP is just as susceptible to competition from PV in these markets as it is in the U.S. But in a growing number of projects, CSP is not aiming to compete with PV.
Instead, developers are being tasked with building plants that will act as huge batteries, storing daytime heat in massive molten salt tanks that can then be used to power the grid after sundown.
South Africa pioneered this idea with an auction structure that gave CSP plants a 270 percent above-base-rate bonus for delivering power during late afternoon and evening hours, although problems with the country’s sole offtaker, Eskom, led to buildout delays that took the shine off the program.
More recently, other regulators have followed suit in looking at CSP as a form of energy storage rather than direct generation. In Dubai, for example, a hybrid CSP and PV plant called Noor Energy 1 (below) is being built with 550,000 tons of molten salt storage, the largest amount ever used in a solar project, to deliver nighttime electricity at $92 per megawatt-hour. Daytime PV output will reportedly cost $24 per megawatt-hour.
Spain meanwhile is developing a hybrid model: PV panels generate daytime energy while the CSP is all directed to molten salt storage. Spain has targeted 5GW of new CSP capacity in the 2021-30 National Energy and Climate Plan. (both articles from gtm)

Recycled school of the week

Using Plastic Waste To Build Schools In The Ivory Coast
In Abidjan, the commercial capitol of the Ivory Coast, almost 300 tons of plastic is discarded every day. Only about 5% of it is recycled. Yet the city and surrounding area have a critical shortage of classrooms. Conceptos Plásticos is a company in Columbia that makes plastic bricks out of plastic trash. In partnership with UNICEF, it has supplied enough bricks to make 9 new classrooms in Abidjan. It is building a new factory to manufacture its plastic bricks in Yopougon, a suburb of Abidjan.
When the factory is at full capacity, it will produce 9,200 tons of plastic bricks a year — enough to build more than 1,800 classrooms. UNICEF has agreed to buy enough bricks from Conceptos Plásticos for over 500 classrooms, according to France24. The bricks have several advantages over traditional bricks or concrete block. They are much lighter, which makes them easy to transport to remote locations. They can even be carried by mules or humans to places that are inaccessible to wheeled vehicles.
They cost about 1/3 less than bricks or cinder blocks, meaning cash-strapped governments and NGOs can build more classrooms and other structures with the money they have available. They use no mortar so they don’t need repointing regularly the way traditional bricks and concrete blocks do. They are a better insulator, so classrooms stay cooler. And they are non-toxic because no PVC is used to make them. (cleantechnica)

Global stuff

Texas Is the Center of the Global Corporate Renewable Energy Market
The global market for corporate renewable energy deals surged again in 2019, reaching 19.5 gigawatts of new contracts, up 40 percent over the previous record year of 2018, according to new figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
There are lots of ways to explain the market’s stunning growth, but start with this: Big corporations love cheap renewable power, and Texas has it in abundance.
Corporate deals were signed in 23 countries last year, but the U.S. accounted for virtually all of the market’s growth. Contracted capacity rose only modestly in Europe; it shrank a bit in the Asian market.
Within the U.S., Texas continued its reign, accounting for 5.5 gigawatts of last year’s deals, said Kyle Harrison, sustainability analyst at BNEF and the report’s lead author. That’s more than Europe and Asia combined.
In some ways this is unsurprising; there are few places in the world where it’s cheaper to build a new wind farm than West Texas. More surprising is the fact that roughly 80 percent of the corporate deals signed last year in Texas were for
solar energy, a dramatic shift for a market long dominated by wind. (gtm)

Korean flow battery company signs JV agreement for 200MWh US factory
Former Governor of New York George Pataki has welcomed the possible siting and construction of a vanadium redox flow battery (VRB) factory in the state.
KORID Energy Company Limited, a South Korea headquartered developer of VRBs, has signed a joint venture (JV) agreement with Canada-headquartered Margaret Lake Diamonds, a “technology and strategic metals exploration company”, hosting an event in New York earlier this month attended by Pataki, who is involved in the venture’s consortium through his own company. Margaret Lake Diamonds is looking to conduct vanadium exploration in the US as well as constructing the batteries, offering an opportunity for value chain vertical integration. (energy-storagenews)

The Philippines Is Making Roads and Cement With Plastic Garbage
Philippine companies like San Miguel Corp. and Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. are using discarded shopping bags, sachet wrappers and plastic packaging to fire cement plants and build roads as the country embarks on an 8 trillion-peso ($157 billion) infrastructure push through 2022.
San Miguel has laid down its first road combining plastic scraps with asphalt, it said in November. The surface material, developed with Dow Chemical Co., used 900 kilograms of plastic to pave a 1,500-square meter test site near the capital.
For Aboitiz’s Republic Cement & Building Materials Inc., plastic serves as an alternative to coal for heating kilns used in making cement. The company is sourcing waste from consumer giants like Nestlé Philippines Inc. and Unilever Philippines Inc. as it processes at least 25,000 tons of plastic annually, director Angela Edralin-Valencia said in an interview.
The two initiatives target soft plastics that are hard to recycle and make up a significant chunk of the trash piling up in Philippine landfills and clogging waterways. Waste management systems have failed to keep up with a growing population and robust consumption in the Southeast Asian nation, which uses 48 million shopping bags and 164 million plastic sachets every day, according to the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, or GAIA. (bloomberggreen)

Techie corner

Germany Looks to Jet Fuel Made From Water
The solution to flight shaming may hinge on a modernized version of a synthetic jet fuel that was honed by Adolf Hitler’s Luftwaffe.
German scientists and business leaders are working to create what they hope will be the first viable market for a carbon-neutral version of the kerosene that already powers most modern aircraft.
The science is still based on chemical reactions pioneered in Germany in 1925, but instead of converting coal and other fossil fuels like the oil-starved Nazis did during World War II, green kerosene is derived from water and actually pulls carbon dioxide out of the air during creation.
The process, which requires huge amounts of electricity generated from renewable resources to ensure carbon neutrality, fractures water into oxygen and hydrogen, which is then combined with carbon.
The project is being overseen by Bremen University, in a consummately German public-private research strategy
While green kerosene releases carbon when burned, the process is neutral because it recycles greenhouse gas from the air and doesn’t require more fossil fuels to be taken from the ground.