TUESDAY 16 SEPTEMBER, 2014 |
China To Ban Some Australian Coal Imports
Australia's coal industry is in a flap after an announcement from the Chinese government it would ban the import of certain types of coal.
According to the Wall Street Journal
, the directive is primarily aimed at low-grade coal mainly coming from Indonesia and Australia.
"Effective Jan. 1, the government no longer will allow sales or import of coal with 40% or more of ash content and 3% or more of sulfur content, the National Development and Reform Commission said late Monday. Specifically, it will ban lignite - a low-grade coal burned by power plants - if it contains 30% or more of ash content and 1.5% or more of sulfur content, the agency said. Heavily populated areas will have even tougher standards."
Victoria is the only State in which lignite (brown coal) is mined, but as it's largely unsuitable for export due to its filthy, low-grade nature; most of it is burned here for power generation.
However, the Sydney Morning Herald reports China is also moving to force power utilities to slash coal import volumes
. Up to a quarter of all coal shipped through Newcastle goes to China currently.
"Australia exports an estimated 49 million tonnes of thermal coal a year to China, and a large part of this could be at risk with the ban," states the SMH report.
It's not just China clamping down on coal - and even the future of high grade coal exports is looking a little shaky as countries move to rein in emissions by turning to renewables.
Earlier this year a study warned international coal projects, including Australia's Galilee Basin project, that rely on new export markets such as India face major financial risks
The coal industry is facing multiple threats, including some investors bailing on the industry.
HESTA, one of Australia's largest superannuation funds, announced last week it is progressively implementing a restriction on investments in thermal coal
across its portfolio. Aside from demonstrating good environmental stewardship, the move may have been influenced or accelerated by the recent launch of Australia's first fossil-fuel free superannuation fund, Future Super
. The new fund, founded by Simon Sheikh, says it will focus its energy related investments on renewable energy and energy efficiency.
5MW/H Battery Energy Storage Plant Opened
Europe's first utility scale battery energy storage facility was officially opened on Wednesday.
Situated in the Schwerin district of Lankow, the system was constructed by Younicos AG
for Wemag AG
Wemag AG supplies an area of 8,600 sq km and 80 percent of its electricity was generated by wind and solar power in 2013. The storage facility, which helps address intermittency of renewable sources and other fluctuations that can lead to blackouts and damage, will enable the company to go 100% renewable this year.
"Up to now the power grid has been largely stabilized by inflexible coal-fired power plants, which can only use a fraction of their output for control power. This blocks space in the grid, increasingly forcing wind and solar generation to be taken offline," explained Clemens Triebel, CTO of Younicos.
"Our battery park avoids this economic impact because it is much faster and more precise than a thermal power station. Thus, our 5 megawatt battery in Schwerin provides the same control power as a conventional 50 megawatt turbine."
The 5-megawatt hour lithium-ion battery based facility incorporates 25,600 lithium-manganese cells supplied by Samsung SDI; which have been guaranteed for 20 years. Five, four-ton medium-voltage transformers connect the power plant to regional distribution as well as the nearby 380-kV high-voltage grid.
Germany is leading the way on the deployment battery based energy storage; particularly in the residential sector - much like it did with solar power systems.
German government subsidies and low interest financing has already made home energy storage "very affordable
" for households and businesses.
While Australia has some way to go before home energy storage could be considered affordable for many, some competitive solutions have already appeared; such as the PowerLegato
and SMA's flexible storage system
Trivia: Younicos AG's slogan is "let the fossils rest in peace".
Duke Energy's Half Billion Dollar Solar Spend
The USA's Duke Energy will invest half a billion dollars on a massive solar power expansion in the country’s sunny South-East, building three new solar plants and signing purchase agreements for a further five projects.
The company announced North Carolina will be the recipient of a $500 million commitment in solar investment after a request for proposals (RFP) tender which began in February this year.
The investment will allow the company to acquire and construct three new solar photovoltaic plants in the state, totalling 128 MW of capacity. The company will also buy electricity through power purchase agreements (PPAs) from five other new solar projects with a combined capacity of 150 MW.
North Carolina has become a booming solar state, with more than half of its 627 MW solar capacity installed last year. According to North Carolina’s Sustainable Energy Association, up to 20,000 people are employed in the clean energy sector across the state. Duke’s solar expansion is expected to help NC meet its mandated Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) goal of 12.5 per cent of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2020.
Only solar plants capable of generating over five megawatts were considered during the company’s RFP process.
"This is Duke Energy's largest single announcement for solar power and represents a 60 per cent increase in the amount of solar power for our North Carolina customers," said Rob Caldwell, senior vice president, Distributed Energy Resources. "We are bringing large amounts of renewable energy onto our system in the most cost-effective way possible."
The plan includes the construction of the biggest solar PV facility on the USA's east coast. The 65 MW Warsaw Solar Facility in Duplin County will be built by local company Strata Solar for Duke and will complement the 40 MW Elm City Solar Facility, Wilson County (developed by HelioSage Energy), along with the 23 MW Fayetteville Solar Facility, Bladen County, near Cumberland County line (developed by Tangent Energy Solutions).
Duke has signed PPAs with these new solar farms:
48 MW – Bladen County (developed by Innovative Solar Systems)
48 MW – Richmond County (developed by FLS Energy)
20 MW – Scotland County (developed by Birdseye Renewable Energy)
19 MW – Cleveland County (developed by Birdseye Renewable Energy)
15 MW – Beaufort County (developed by Element Power US)
Ailing Australian Dollar = More Expensive Solar
The Australian dollar is weakening and should this continue, it could have implications for households considering going solar.
The Australian dollar broke below US90˘ for the first time in six months on Monday afternoon. According to the Sydney Morning Herald
, the dollar hit an intraday low of US89.90˘ in late afternoon trade, and experts warned that "if a significant slide starts it could be difficult to unwind".
Warnings last year that the days of the dollar being above parity are done and dusted
appear to have proven correct. In April last year, the dollar was sitting as high as USD 105 cents; but it hasn't reached parity since late May 2013. The dollar had reached as high as 93.77 cents early this month.
If the slide continues or the sub-90c position maintained, it will put increasing pressure on prices of a wide range of equipment imported into Australia - including solar panels and solar inverters. With margins on solar components often wafer-thin, there isn't a lot of wiggle room these days and a difference of just a few percent can add hundreds to the final cost of installing a solar power system.
While solar equipment has been dropping in price generally due to competition and more efficient manufacturing, any differences in currency exchange can eat into those reductions.
The other, and larger, potential issue is the ongoing threat to solar subsidies as a result of the Renewable Energy Target review
report. The report recommends the closure or rapid winding down of the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES). If the subsidy is lost, it will could add thousands
onto the cost of a solar power system.
While the value of the Renewable Energy Target
has far exceeded its cost and a major campaign in under way to save the RET, the Australian Government's seemingly hostile nature towards renewables means all bets are off as to the ongoing security of subsidies for small scale solar.
Energy Storage Council Launches
Australia now has a body to represent the local energy storage sector - and some of the names behind it will be familiar.
Launched last week, the not-for-profit Energy Storage Council
is governed by a volunteer board and its CEO is John Grimes, who is also the CEO of the Australian Solar Council. The ASC has been actively engaged in energy storage focused training courses in the past.
"Energy storage brings exciting new opportunities for the energy industry and for energy consumers. Deployed wisely it can significantly bring down electricity costs and make the electricity network more robust, flexible and reliable," said Mr. Grimes.
"It is important that energy utilities engage with the energy storage sector sooner rather than later. Too often the energy sector ignores emerging technology trends and is blindsided when they are deployed widely. That’s why one of the first things the Energy Storage Council will do is to focus on developing standards and protocols for embedding energy storage into the energy network".
The Council's board members are: Steve Blume (President), Glen Morris (Vice President), Paul Scerri (Secretary), Anthony Sachs (Treasurer), Dr Bill Parker, Barbara Elliston, Geoff Bragg, Lucas Sadler and Gabrielle Kuiper.
The Australian Energy Storage Council says it will play an important role to play in creating industry standards and encouraging best practice.
"The time is right for this organisation to be developed in its own right and it will be guided by its membership and the needs of the energy storage sector beyond solar applications," said Mr Grimes.
The Council represents companies including technology manufacturers, equipment providers, project developers, consultants, utilities and other energy industry leaders and aims to connect local and
global industry partners in the rapidly growing sector.
In 2012, Pike Research forecast that the total capacity of long-duration or bulk energy storage on the grid (ESG) systems worldwide will surpass 14,000 megawatts by 2022.
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