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Strong winds in Europe boost Innogy’s H1 renewables profit

Above average winds in most of continental Europe coupled with higher electricity prices have boosted earnings in Innogy’s renewables segment during the first half of this year, ahead of the likely re-incorporation of the German utility’s green generation business into parent RWE.

Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation in renewables rose to €415m ($464m) in the first half of 2019, compared to €322m in the same period a year earlier.

Innogy’s renewable generation business together with that of rival E.ON will be bundled under a new RWE, while Innogy’s grids and retail segments are slated to go to a beefed-up E.ON if a complex share and asset swap deal wins final approval by competition authorities – a move expected in September by E.ON.

Wind levels in North-Eastern, Central and much of Southern Europe – regions where most of Innogy’s onshore wind farms are located – during the first half were higher than the long-term average, more than compensating for lower winds in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands.

That helped the utility’s output from renewable sources to rise to 5.5TWH, from 5.3TWh in the year-ago period.

Rising electricity prices in the UK and Germany also pushed earnings higher, although some 60% of Innogy’s renewables earnings are quasi-regulated due to fixed feed-in tariffs (FITs) in Germany.

A positive contribution to earnings came also from operational improvements of the existing portfolio in part from a bonus for timely, on-budget completion of the Galloper offshore wind farm in the UK and higher earnings at the Belectric project development subsidiary.

“In Renewables, the fact that we extended our scope to international markets right from the outset has paid off,” said chief executive Uwe Tigges.

“We currently have three large-scale projects simultaneously under construction: the Limondale solar plant in Australia, the Triton Knoll offshore project in the UK, and the Scioto Ridge onshore wind farm in the US.”

Earnings were also bolstered by onshore wind farms commissioned in 2018 and 2019 in the UK, Ireland and Italy.

Innogy’s overall adjusted Ebitda fell to €2.14bn during the first half compared to €2.25bn in the same period in 2018, while net profit went down to €488m compared to €662m during the first half of 2018, as lower grids and retail earnings pulled results down.

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Ørsted earnings hold firm as utility on track for ‘ambitious green transformation’

Ørsted remains on track to deliver what it’s described as “one of the most ambitious green transformations” in the energy sector after it reported steady growth in H1 2019.

Reporting its half-year results today, Ørsted revealed its H1 earnings to have reached DKK8.8 billion (£1.1 billion), up marginally (2%) on last year’s performance.

That performance means the utility is on track for its full year guidance of earnings between DKK15.5 (£1.9 billion) and DKK16.5 billion (£2 billion).

First half profit did however slip 6% to DKK3.7 billion (£457 million).

It achieved this, chief executive Henrik Poulsen said, undertaking “one of the most ambitious green transformations in the global energy industry”, triggered by a commitment to the Paris Agreement and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Its share of energy generation determined to be green rose from 71% to 82% in H1 2019, and Poulsen said the firm was on track to meets it target of achieving a 98% reduction in its carbon emission intensity from generation by 2025.

Furthermore, the firm said it was now taking the “next major step” in its decarbonisation agenda by targeting indirect carbon emissions from its business, occurring primarily within its natural gas and consumer-facing units, while phasing out all fossil-fuelled cars from its fleet by 2025.

“We remain very pleased with the operational and financial performance of the company as we continue to expand our position as a global leader in green energy,” Poulsen said.

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Energy prices to fall for millions as Ofgem lowers cap

The price of energy is set to fall for millions of British households this October after the regulator, Ofgem, lowered price caps.

Ofgem sets maximum prices that can be charged for gas and electricity to those who have not switched suppliers and are on default tariffs.

The new cap could see these households typically pay £75 less a year.

However, bills will still be higher than they were in January when the first price cap came into force.

Ofgem boss Dermot Nolan said: “The price caps require suppliers to pass on any savings to customers when their cost to supply electricity and gas falls.

“This means the energy bills of around 15 million customers on default deals or pre-payment meters will fall this winter to reflect the reduction in cost of the wholesale energy.”

About 11 million households are on default, or standard variable tariffs, and are set to be affected. Such a household, which uses a typical amount of energy and pays the bill by direct debit, should now expect to pay £1,179 a year.

Consumer groups say they could save hundreds of pounds by shopping around for a better deal.

Another four million people are on pre-payment meters, so pay for their energy in advance. The price cap will fall on their tariffs too, with the typical customer paying £1,217 per year, down £25 from the previous cap level.

 

How do these caps work?

Energy price capping, brought in under Theresa May, is designed to protect the vulnerable and those who have stayed loyal to their energy supplier.

From next year, Ofgem will set the cap twice a year for households in England, Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland has a separate energy regulator and its own price cap.

The regulator sets a cap on the unit price of energy for electricity and gas, and a maximum standing charge.

Energy companies are not allowed to charge default tariffs that are higher than these thresholds.

Are the caps effective?

The first caps came into force at the start of January and have been revised twice since then – once in April when they went up, and now for October, when they will fall.

However, Stephen Murray, energy expert at MoneySuperMarket, warned that the new cap for a standard variable and default tariff is still higher than the £1,137 level set back January.

He added: “Crucially, there are more than 100 cheaper tariffs available to consumers in the market today.

“That means someone switching today could secure a deal that delivers three times the saving the price cap offers, while protecting themselves from this rollercoaster of price fluctuations every six months. It’s a no-brainer.”

Major energy companies such as Centrica have complained the price caps are squeezing their business, while a number of smaller suppliers have blamed the policy for putting them out of business.

But Ofgem boss Dermot Nolan told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme that the cap was working “reasonably well”.

“I think it has done what parliament has asked us to do which is to make sure the cap protects people who don’t wish to switch.

“It’s forced some of the bigger companies to make efficiency savings… and it’s also still permitting switching. So you still see fairly significant switching, you see lots of other firms in the market.”

Will my bill fall automatically?

The cap is per unit of energy, not on the total bill. So people who use more energy will still pay more than those who use less.

The new cap also takes effect in October, just when people are starting to switch the heating back on, which will offset the impact of lower prices.

Ofgem recommends consumers should shop around for cheaper fixed rate deals – something that would make the cap irrelevant for them.

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Turning Natural Gas Into Fuel Just Became Cheaper

The advantages of natural gas over the other two fossil fuels—coal and crude oil—seem to be indisputable when it comes to carbon emissions. Natural gas is a much less carbon-intensive fuel, which has drawn attention to it as an alternative to oil-derived liquid fuels. However, there have been challenges that now a team of Chinese scientists claim to have come closer to solving.

Natural gas consists mostly of methane and some propane. Methane is a sticking point between the industry and environmentalists because it is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon. But if this methane can be turned into fuel it would be a win-win situation since the byproducts of burning natural gas are water vapors and carbon dioxide.

Processing natural gas into liquid fuel is tricky, Phys.org reports in an article on the Chinese scientists’ breakthrough. This processing involves the introduction of oxygen-hydrogen compounds into the gas, which rearranges its atoms. However, not all atoms react to the oxygen and the hydrogen at the same speed and this could ruin the resulting alcohol that would be used as a fuel.

What the Chinese researchers did, essentially, was increase their control over the conversion process, which allowed them to manipulate the speed at which the carbon and hydrogen in the methane and propane rearranged themselves to create alcohol molecules. This, according to the team, would make gas-derived fuel more economical to produce.

The potential of natural gas as a replacement for gasoline and diesel should not be underestimated especially amid the current abundance of natural gas, notably in the United States, thanks to the shale revolution.Related: Why Oil Prices Plunged Today

“Our conclusion is that natural gas as a transportation fuel has both adequate abundance and cost advantages that make a strong case to focus interest in the technology as a real game changer in U.S. energy security.” This is what one engineer from the Argonne National Laboratory told Talking Points Memo, a news outlet, seven years ago, a few months after the Obama government launched a US$30-million grant program for research into making natural gas a more popular fuel for vehicles.

Since then, however, little progress has been made and part of the reason is that challenging conversion process. A simpler form of natural gas—compressed natural gas or CNG—is already in use for some countries’ public transport vehicles and also in passenger vehicles, but it has yet to become a real challenger for gasoline and diesel. While cheaper and more efficient, CNG gets burned up more quickly, it requires a larger tank, and has less torque than gasoline and diesel.

This is where the potential of liquid natural gas fuels lies. In liquid form, natural gas would probably be more competitive with oil-derived fuels but only after the challenges with its conversion into liquid are overcome.

It’s a positive that scientists are working on this. If research is successful it could eventually motivate oil producers to seek ways to reduce gas flaring, which in the U.S. last year grewby 48 percent driven by the shale boom. That’s a lot of methane being burned for no revenues when it could be captured and turned into fuel at some point in the future.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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Low-carbon energy makes majority of UK electricity for first time

Rapid rise in renewables combined with nuclear generated 53% in 2018

Low-carbon energy was used to generate more than half of the electricity used in the UK for the first time last year, according to official data.

A rapid rise in renewable energy, combined with low-carbon electricity from nuclear reactors, made up almost 53% of generation in 2018, the government’s annual review of energy statistics revealed.

Renewable energy sources set a new record by meeting a third of the UK’s power generation last year after the UK’s capacity to generate power from the sun, wind, water and waste grew by 10%.

The UK’s use of coal fell by a quarter to a record low of just 5%, according to the report.

The government’s annual “energy bible” confirms a string of record green energy records broken in recent years, as the UK undertakes more renewable energy projects and shuts down old, polluting coal plants.

National Grid said earlier this year that the UK had recorded its greenest ever winter due to windy weather and dwindling coal-fired power.

This followed the second greenest summer, which fell narrowly short of the 2017 record for renewable energy due to a long heatwave. Very hot weather can have a negative impact on renewable energy generation because high pressure weather systems can suppress wind speeds, and solar panels produce less electricity if temperatures climb too high.

The rise of renewables has edged out coal and gas plants which together made up less than 45% of the UK’s electricity last year.

Gas generation fell to 39.5% of the generation mix last year, from 40.4% in 2017. Coal generation continued to decline, falling to 5.1% last year after the Eggborough coal plant shut and Drax converted one of its units to burn biomass instead.

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Only five coal plants will be left running by the end of the coming winter after SSE announced plans to shut its last coal plant at Fiddler’s Ferry near Warrington, Cheshire, in March 2020.

Emma Pinchbeck, the deputy chief executive of Renewable UK, said the record-breaking figures “clearly show that investment in renewables and the government’s championing of offshore wind is delivering rapid change to our energy system”.

“As well as helping keep prices down for consumers and boosting the competitiveness of our businesses, renewables are a huge economic opportunity, bringing employment and investment to all parts of the UK,” she said.

The government threw its weight behind the offshore wind sector earlier this year by promising developers the chance to compete for a share of £557m of state subsidies in exchange for industry investment of £250m over the next 11 years.

The deal could help offshore wind grow to 30% of the UK’s electricity by 2030 as the UK works towards a 2050 target to cut emissions from the economy to net zero.

But ministers have refused to lift a block on support for new onshore wind farms, which are unable to compete for subsidies despite being one of the cheapest forms of electricity.

“To achieve its net zero ambitions, the new government needs to go further and faster – and the first steps should be removing the barriers to onshore wind which is our cheapest source of power, and building on our successes in innovative technologies like tidal energy and floating wind where the UK can be a world leader,” Pinchbeck said.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/25/low-carbon-energy-makes-majority-of-uk-electricity-for-first-time

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The UK’s shift to clean energy is about to get really, really tough

Renewable electricity in the UK has had a great year, but with our homes and transport still almost totally reliant on carbon the hardest part of the zero-carbon future is still ahead

It’s been a bad year for fossil fuels in the UK. In May, Great Britain went two weeks without burning any coal for electricity – the longest stretch of coal-free electricity since the first coal-fired power station came online in 1882. In late June the National Grid confidently predicted that in 2019, fossil fuels would make up less than half of the total electricity mix for the first time ever.

Fossil fuel, it seems, is entering its twilight years. In 2009, 75 per cent of Great Britain’s electricity was produced by burning coal or gas. In the first five five months of 2019, that portion fell to just 44 per cent. In the same time period, wind has soared from providing one per cent of total electricity to just under a fifth.

But the decline of high-carbon energy might not be as imminent as the headline make things seem. In the UK, heating is still overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuel. And on the electricity front, the UK is due to lose seven of its eight nuclear power plants in the next decade, leaving an energy production gap against the backdrop of increasing electricity demand from the rise of electric vehicles.

So are fossil fuels really on the way out in the UK? Not quite yet. While electricity production has been shifting fairly speedily towards renewables, heating – which makes up 40 per cent of the UK’s energy consumption – has been lagging way behind, says Martin Freer, director of the Birmingham Energy Institute. Some 85 per cent of UK households are still heated using fossil-fuel based natural gas. Cleaning up in-home heating would require switching to heat pumps, which run on electricity and draw warmth from the environment to heat homes, or burning biowaste.

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But heat pumps are only useful if homes are so well insulated that they only require a small amount of heating. And the UK isn’t doing well on that front either. According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the UK’s 29 million existing homes aren’t being insulated fast enough to save on needless carbon emissions.

To push the government towards cleaner heating, the CCC – an independent body that advises the UK government on tackling climate change – has set a 2025 deadline, after which any new homes should not be connected to the gas grid at all. But homes aren’t being heated by gas, then they’ll need to be heated by electricity, and there’s no guarantee that electricity will come from renewable sources.

Although the UK’s dirtiest form of electricity generation – coal – has been on the decline, that gap has mostly been filled in by burning natural gas, which still releases about half the amount that coal does. While coal plummeted from 25 per cent to three per cent of the energy mix between 2015 and 2019, gas went up from 28 to 41 per cent. “You can’t build a low carbon energy strategy out of gas,” says Freer.

And nuclear is about to drop out of the energy mix too. Nuclear power plants – which are only slightly more carbon intensive than solar panels – currently supply 18 per cent of the UK’s energy. But by 2030, only one of the UK’s currently operational nuclear power stations will still be active: Sizewell B, which currently supplies around three per cent of the UK’s energy. Hinkley Point C, which is currently under construction and projected to come online in 2031, is expected to provide seven per cent of the UK’s electricity needs.

For Freer, this signals a big problem. Even if wind power continues to grow in popularity – and there’s every sign that it will – the UK will always need backup power plants. “Wind power is intermittent,” he says. “Nuclear power is always generating electricity.”

Batteries could provide a solution to our need for always-on energy production. Large-scale battery storage would let suppliers stock up on renewable energy and release it when the wind isn’t blowing. “Once you have cheap storage, then you can use all that variable power all the time,” says Catherine Mitchell, professor of energy policy at Exeter University.

In January, the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy announced a £20 million initiative intending to fund large-scale energy storage solutions, but it’s not at all clear whether the UK’s storage capacity will scale up quickly enough. This could be partially remedied, Mitchell points out, by more flexible electricity demand that cuts down the amount of wasted energy generation that’s wasted, but that doesn’t solve the storage problem altogether.

Whatever happens, Mitchell is confident that our overall energy mix is only heading in one direction. “It’s always cheaper to take wind and solar, because they have zero marginal cost – so you always want to take wind and solar when it’s on,” she says. “The overall system, just because of the economics, is definitely decentralising and it’s a good thing for the environment and society – it’s going to be cheaper for everyone.”

Will things happen fast enough to meet the UK’s clean energy goals? In a swansong piece of legislation, Theresa May committed the UK to reaching net zero UK carbon emissions by 2050. Given our current trajectory, that might be a stretch. Of the 38.4 million licensed cars in the UK, only 226,000 of them are plug-in electric vehicles. The decarbonisation of heating, too, is far from resolved.

For Mitchell, this suggests that leaving things to market forces alone isn’t enough to secure a zero-carbon future quickly enough to meet the demands of climate change. A little – or a lot – of governmental nudging will be required. “The system is just inexorably moving that way, but it’s not moving that way quickly enough to meet those targets so it needs far more help from the government than we have.”

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Sizewell B nuclear plant ammonia leak closes part of beach

A beach near a nuclear power station had to be closed to the public after a “small amount of ammonia leaked”, an energy firm said.

EDF Energy said the leak from a storage tank at Sizewell B in Suffolk on Friday afternoon was “immediately contained”.

But part of the beach was cordoned off “as a precaution” because ammonia fumes could have a “strong smell”.

A spokeswoman said: “There is no risk to public health and no-one was hurt as a result of this incident.”

She said the power station remained switched off for planned maintenance and refuelling.

The beach has reopened.

EDF Energy said ammonia was used on the site to control pH levels.

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Delivering Energy Data Taskforce recommendations

We are delivering

Following the recent publication of the Energy Data Taskforce (EDTF) report, Ofgem, in collaboration with BEIS and Innovate UK, is deciding on the specific and immediate steps that the sector needs to take to keep the momentum from the EDTF going and realise the vision of a modern, digitised energy system. Ofgem is also learning whether the findings are applicable to other energy data.

Don’t stop your work

We know many organisations are already working to progress the energy market’s data agenda. Our message to you is: please don’t stop. Keep working on your projects to deliver consumer benefits. Though, we do suggest that you reflect on the EDTF report and its data vision. Ask yourselves, whether there are opportunities for your work to better align itself to the EDTF principles and recommendations and so help realise that vision. Even if you consider the data you work with to be outside the scope of the EDTF definition of Energy System Data (see page 7 of the report), do still ask yourselves, “Can these recommendations and ways of working also be of benefit to consumers for my work?”

Work with us

Over the coming weeks we will be contacting energy data users to see how they believe the desired outcomes from the EDTF recommendations can be achieved and to learn what their organisations are already doing to improve their data processes and meeting the data needs of their stakeholders. Don’t wait for us to contact you. If you have specific suggestions for how the EDTF vision is best realised, get in touch with us and share your action plan. Please contact us at OfgemDataServices@ofgem.gov.uk. Help us understand:

  1. What do you think the priority next steps should be?
  2. What data projects you are working on that the EDTF report did not include.
  3. What early benefits can be achieved?
  4. How applicable do you think the EDTF recommendations are to other energy data and to data beyond the energy market?

We look forward to hearing from you!

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EDF Energy bids to shift gear in EV infrastructure with NEoT Capital deal

EDF Energy has signed a partnership with investment firm NEoT Capital to accelerate its deployment of EV charging infrastructure in the UK.

The deal will see EDF become NEoT’s preferred partner for EV charging infrastructure, providing engineering, procurement, construction and management services, while NEoT will take on the mantle of becoming EDF’s preferred provider of financing for EVs, batteries and related infrastructure.

The duo pointed towards a “limited” investment by businesses into electric fleets, with few businesses able to finance the kind of energy systems necessary to support EVs, including battery storage and vehicle-to-grid systems.

EDF recently launched a nationwide advertising zeroing in on its proposition in electric vehicles, and the two companies said they intend to trigger “more meaningful” investment into EVs by providing their business customers with an end-to-end solution.

Energy suppliers in the UK are racing into the EV space in their droves, with end-to-end packages incorporating financing, vehicle ownership, charging infrastructure and clean power supply proving popular.

The likes of ScottishPowerDrax and Centrica have launched special purpose, end-to-end EV product offerings in recent times, while Volkswagen launched its own clean energy supplier – Elli – in Germany earlier this year to secure its position in the EV power supply market.

Beatrice Bigois, managing director for customers at EDF Energy, said: “To accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles, we need to find innovative ways to finance the required investments. This strategic partnership with NEoT Capital will help us make electric mobility a reality for our customers.”

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Innovate UK and ENGIE launch £4m energy innovation competition

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), has joined forces with ENGIE to discover and fund innovative projects that can speed up the development of solutions to decarbonise, digitise and decentralise energy and help achieve a sustainable energy transition.

A £4m competition will link government grants from Innovate UK, awarded alongside and simultaneously with private sector investment from ENGIE.

It’s the first time an Innovate UK programme has private funding from overseas.

ENGIE, a French energy and services company, will work with Innovate UK to make joint investments and the competition’s aim is to allow organisations to form investment partnerships at an early stage.

To do this, ENGIE and Innovate UK are bringing together Innovate UK’s expertise in identifying promising innovations and using funding to materially change their risk profiles as well as ENGIE’s expertise in the commercial sector.

Ian Meikle, director of clean growth and infrastructure at Innovate UK, said: ‘We are seeking the very best of British ideas in clean growth innovation.

‘By teaming up with ENGIE we can multiply our funding and do even more to grow the industries, businesses and jobs of tomorrow by bringing in the private sector at an earlier stage through this investment accelerator programme.”

Nicola Lovett, CEO of ENGIE UK & Ireland, added: ‘We are delighted to be working with both Innovate UK and ENGIE’s Paris-based New Ventures team to directly assist innovative UK companies in the clean growth sector – in areas such as renewables, energy services and e-mobility.

‘This initiative also supports our own ambition to be a leader in making zero-carbon transition possible for businesses and local authorities.’

The first round of the competition closes on August 14.