Those among you who watch these things closely may have noticed a sharp rebound in the price of carbon on the EU ETS over the last couple of days. This was because EDF announced that it is going to have to shut down a couple of nuclear reactors. It is too hard to maintain them in the current CV-19 situation. Don’t suppose they considered social distancing when designing these things, but it does once again place question marks around nuclear. I am going to focus on this a bit more next week.

Company news

Albion Capital refinances £105m UK renewables portfolio
Renewable energy venture capital company Albion Capital has successfully raised £57 million in debt by refinancing a portfolio of £105 million of renewables assets.
The refinancing required long-term, non-recourse, institutional, RPI-linked debt, the company expanded. This came from funds managed by Aberdeen Standard Investments.
The portfolio, supported through the feed-in tarriff (FiT) and Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) schemes, includes onshore wind, hydro, solar and battery projects.
These have delivered unlevered returns of between 15% and 20% for shareholders, according to the company. This is more than 30% above the target returns.
Albion Capital said that it demonstrated the company’s ability to raise, deploy and return institutional funds within five years. (solarpowerportal)

French tender results consolidate Engie renewables lead
On Wednesday Minister for Ecological and inclusive transition Elisabeth Borne announced the results of the latest solar and wind tenders. With the award of 165 MW, Engie is ranked number one in the solar tender. With over 70 MW of onshore wind projects won, Engie was awarded a total of 235 MW during these latest tenders within the French territories in particular in Nouvelle Aquitaine, PACA, Grand Est, Normandy and
These successes consolidate Engie’s position as the leading developer of renewable energy in France. With 2.3GW of onshore wind and 1GW of solar installed capacity as at the end of 2019, the Group is the leading producer of solar and wind power in the country. Engie is also the leader in hydroelectricity and a major player in green gas. (renewableenergymagazine)

UK news

Low Carbon Farming use wastewater to grow lots of tomatoes
With the resilience of British food systems being pushed to the limits by the coronavirus pandemic, Low Carbon Farming, the company behind two world-first, wastewater-heated greenhouses under construction in East Anglia, has unveiled its plans for a nationwide roll-out of sustainable infrastructure that could change the face of British horticulture.
Buoyed by the UK’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and the impending release of the government’s clean heat strategy, the company has identified potential sites for a further 41 giant, low carbon greenhouses.
Collectively, the sites could create over 8000 new jobs, invest £2.67 billion into regional economies and increase the UK’s clean heat output by almost 3 TWh per annum.
The plan represents a significant advance for national food resilience, capable of seeing the UK become self-sufficient in tomatoes and cucumbers, while removing the food miles associated with importing such produce.  In practice, growing capacity is likely to be allocated to a wider range of produce, including peppers and flowers.
Using heat pumps to capture waste heat from nearby water recycling centers, the projects displace traditional gas-fired greenhouse heating methods, and will increase significantly the production of low carbon, British produce. (renewableenergymagazine)

Is the UK’s gas grid ready to go green?
It is possible that we have approached a breakthrough week for the transition to low-carbon heating and gas.
Firstly, the Energy Networks Association (ENA) has convened the UK’s leading gas operators such as Cadent, Northern Gas Networks, and National Grid to work on a Gas Goes Green project aiming to deliver the world’s first zero-carbon gas grid.
The Gas Goes Green programme suggests that with 85% of UK homes connected to the gas grid, prioritising decarbonisation in the heat sector would act as a cost-effective measure to help meet the broader net-zero target for 2050.
The programme will aim to use existing infrastructure while boosting new technologies. Hydrogen and biomethane have been highlighted by the collaboration as areas to accelerate progress.
The project will also leverage the expertise of the gas operators taking part. (edie)

Clean air zone plans put on hold
The introduction of pollution-busting clean air zones in cities has been postponed by the coronavirus crisis, as authorities combat the outbreak.
Clean air zones (CAZs), in which the dirtiest vehicles are deterred from urban centres by charges, were due to be implemented in Birmingham, Leeds and Bath this year, but have now been delayed at least to January 2021.
A zero-emissions zone planned for Oxford in December has also been postponed until summer 2021, while a consultation in Manchester on a clean air zone due this summer has been halted. (guardian)

UK bees and wildflowers thrive during lockdown
While humans stay at home and the workforce cuts back to only those who provide essential services, mowing the verges along roadsides in the U.K. is not a top priority. This coronavirus-induced oversight may prove to be beneficial for the U.K.’s bees, butterflies, bats and wildflowers.
Much of the U.K.’s natural meadows have long been converted to housing estates and farmland, so the country’s 700 wildflower species find few places to grow freely. Roadside verges — narrow grassy strips along the highways — are a last haven and home to about 45% of U.K. flora.
The lockdown coincidentally benefits a campaign by Plantlife, a wild plant conservation charity. Its road verge campaign calls on officials to reduce the cutting schedule from four cuts per year to only two. As Plantlife’s website points out, the U.K. has 238,000 hectares of road verges but only 85,000 hectares of wild grassland. (inhabitat)

UK Government offers £10m to boost tree planting
The Forestry Commission has announced a new £10 million fund to boost tree planting.
Land manager are encouraged to sign up to the Woodland Carbon Guarantee scheme by 5th June, ahead of the next auction which will take place online from 8th to 19th June.
Successful participants will have the opportunity to sell Woodland Carbon Units to the government over 35 years at a guaranteed price.
Launched in November 2019, the Woodland Carbon Guarantee is a £50 million scheme that aims to help accelerate woodland planting and permanently remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. (energylivenews)

EV of the week

Byton ramps up production
Byton is an interesting contender in the congested competition amongst “Tesla wannabees”. Formed by well regarded engineers from the established auto trade (BMW, Mercedes etc) they have looked to create a brand manufactured out of China. We liked the early prototype of the M-Byte, a well specified all electric SUV.
Latest news from the company is that the factory re-opened on the 11th Feb and the pre-production examples are in build. The cars look pretty good almost as good as the factory. Launch in China is slated for later this year, global roll out due in 2021.
The cars feature what is claimed to be the biggest infotainment screen curving around the full width of the dashboard. The target price for an M-Byte is from $45,000.
The challenge for the M-Byte and why the company’s progress is being watched closely, is that it will probably be the first car to test whether western luxury markets will accept a fully Chinese made product. The answer to this question may have great significance for the long term shape of the automotive markets. (greencarreports)


Germany invests €2.3m in fuel cell fleet
German Ministry of Transport has released €2.3 million of new funding for the purchase of ten hydrogen fuel cell buses and related refuelling infrastructure.
The state allocated the funds to transport company Stadtwerke Wuppertal (WSW Mobil GmbH) for the purchase of 10 fuel cell buses and supplied an additional €1.08 million (£940k) for the purchase of a storage unit to supply hydrogen to the fuel cell buses. (futurenetzero)

Europe’s olive trees face a pandemic of their own
Olive trees in Europe are facing a health crisis not unlike the one we humans are currently fighting. Since 2013, a deadly pathogen called Xylella fastidiosa, also known as olive leprosy, has been creeping through Mediterranean olive groves, transmitted by spittle bugs and other sap-sucking insects. It blocks a tree’s ability to move nutrients water through its trunk, slows growth, withers the fruit, eventually killing the tree.
The BBC reports that Italy has seen a 60 percent decline in olive yields since the bacterium’s discovery, with 17 percent of its olive-growing regions currently infected. One million trees have already died and economic losses could be as high as €5 billion over the next 50 years unless Italy manages to halt its spread. In Spain, it could cost as much as €17 billion, and in Greece just under €2 billion.
Unless the infection is brought under control, global consumers could find the cost of olive oil increasing as a result of shortages. In the meantime: “Seeking resistant cultivars or immune species is one of the most promising, and environmentally sustainable, long-term control strategies to which the European scientific community is devoting relevant research efforts.”
And, as most studies conclude, more research is needed. (treehugger)

Megawatt-scale fuel-cell agreement could bring large hydrogen-powered ships
A new proposal aims to take hydrogen fuel cells from land to the ocean, using massive fuel-cell systems to power ships.
Swiss firm ABB has signed a memorandum of understanding with Hydrogène de France (HDF) to develop a “megawatt-scale” power source for large vessels.
The maritime system will be based on a stationary power plant developed by ABB and Ballard Power Systems, a manufacturer of the proton exchange membranes used in many fuel cells. HDF will handle manufacturing at a new facility in Bordeaux, France. (greencarreports)

European aluminium industry sets sights on ‘full circularity’ by 2030
Trade body European Aluminium formally launched the new strategy yesterday in Brussels, unveiling plans to ensure all end-of-life aluminium products are collected and recycled efficiently across Europe by the end of the decade.
The new action plan builds on the aluminium industry’s Vision 2050 strategy, which aims to deliver carbon neutrality for the sector by mid-century, and provides a series of policy recommendations designed to boost recycling rates across the sector. (businessgreen)

Focus on: Australian renewables

Falling electricity prices could favour shift to “mega” wind and solar projects
Australia’s wholesale electricity prices are forecast to continue to fall over the short and medium term – due to the combined impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on demand, and the growth of renewables on supply – and will likely shift investments towards new “mega” projects over smaller wind and solar farms.
Energy market analysts RepuTex on Thursday released a new study that suggests the coronavirus pandemic has helped create a “perfect storm” in Australia’s main grid, known as the National Electricity Market (NEM), because it has cut demand, and lowered gas prices.
This, combined with the commissioning of large scale wind and solar projects currently under construction, is likely to depress electricity prices by an average 20 per cent for the next two years, depending on the depth and duration of lock-down restrictions.
RepuTex’s outlook for medium- and long-term wholesale electricity prices suggests that electricity consumption over April and May 2020 may decline between 10-40 per cent before rallying in line with a possible quick ‘v-shaped’ rebound in consumption, or a later ‘u-shaped’ recovery, depending on the extent and duration of the current lockdown.
This, however, has implications for developers of new wind and solar projects. Analyst Bret Harper says smaller capacity projects – particularly those looking to buy equipment with weaker Australian dollars, may struggle at these price points.
Mega projects, such as $1 billion MacIntyre wind farm being built by Acciona in Queensland at sub-$50/MWh prices, are likely to be OK because the developers have deeper pockets, and in the case of Acciona handle the manufacturing pipeline and the currency risk. (reneweconomy)

Australia’s big battery market set to add “at least” 500MWh in 2020
Australia’s grid-scale battery market had a record year in 2019 and is expected to sail past 500MWh in 2020 and add at least double the amount of new energy storage capacity as the nation’s residential sector.
The latest annual Australia Battery Market report from SunWiz (HERE) says a total of just over 143MWh of commercial and grid-scale batteries was installed in 2019, eclipsing the 69MWh installed in 2018.
According to the report, and as detailed in the table below, SunWiz expects “at least 500MWh of non-residential storage to come online in 2020, dwarfing the 143MWh record commissioned in 2019. (reneweconomy)

Global stuff

PG&E proposes lithium-ion battery projects to replace Oakland fossil fuel plant
The projects are part of the Oakland Clean Energy Initiative, a “first-of-its-kind” utility-community choice aggregator (CCA) collaboration aimed at promoting clean energy alternatives in the region, and replacing a 165 MW jet fuel power plant that’s been in operation for 40 years.
The projects are part of the larger shift away from traditional generation and transmission to more distributed energy resources
a 36.25 MW battery system developed by Dynegy, which will be located on the site of the Oakland Power Plant, and a 7 MW project operated by Tierra Robles Energy Storage. Both systems have a four-hour duration.
Vistra expects that its battery project will be operational by January 2022, the company announced in a press release, adding that it plans to eventually retire the Oakland Power Plant and build more storage projects on its site. (utilitydive)

Big Banks Pull Financing, Prepare To Seize Assets From Collapsing Oil and Gas Industry
The finances of the oil and gas industry are so dismal that the major banks that have funded the money-losing fracking boom are now exploring taking the unusual step of taking over the oil companies that can not afford to pay back the bank’s loans.
Reuters reported that banks are exploring the option of seizing oil company assets because the more traditional route of bankruptcy will result in huge losses for the banks — while seizing assets and holding them until oil prices increase would likely minimize those losses.
While banks seizing assets from borrowers who can’t repay loans is common for industries like real estate — especially residential real estate — it is an unusual move for the oil and gas industry. Reuters reported that the last time it happened was during the oil price crash of the late 1980s
One new angle that didn’t exist in the 1980s is a dramatic change in sentiment from parts of the investment community about the viability of the oil industry as an investment.
For example, in a remarkable opinion piece for Seeking Alpha, Kirk Spano advised investors to get out of the industry now with a unique twist on why this was urgent.
“We are about to see a massive wave of shale oil bankruptcies by thieving executives who have borrowed against assets and paid themselves bonuses for years without regard to shareholder value.”
It demonstrates a decided shift in sentiment when sites like SeekingAlpha are calling for investors to get out and then “sue the dirt out of the executives who have almost all broken fiduciary duties.”
Which is why banks are now considering seizing the assets of the failed oil  companies — it is a bad option for the banks but it is the best one left. (desmog)

Techie corner

A mobile gasifier turns agri-waste into biochar
California-based, VGrid Energy, has launched its BioEnergy Server 100. The system is capable of converting biomass into clean renewable electricity and a form of ultra-pure, highly porous carbon (biochar).
The system is mobile and consists of a 100kW gasifier paired with a generator. It is also modular with 1 MW being provided in a 10 system server farm with a compact footprint. The business model is to sell “electricity as a service” at a discounted rate to what customers are currently paying for their electricity. There is no upfront cost to the customer, and the company owns, operates and maintains the systems. Any form of biomass can be converted, but the company has focused on agricultural waste, such as almond shells, pistachio shells, tree prunings, grapevine prunings and manure.
The biochar created by the system can be either agricultural grade biochar to be use as soil amendment or animal feed grade biochar to be used in animal livestock feed applications. The biochar soil amendment improves soil health and increases plant growth while the biochar animal feed supplement helps improve – animal health, reduce – mortality rates and increases – feed efficiency in livestock, plus a reduction in methane emissions. (renewableenergymagazine)