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New York Approves Its Own Green Deal as Trump Turns ‘Blind Eye’

New York State’s version of the Green New Deal is heading to the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is expected to sign it into law.

The legislation, approved early Thursday by the state Assembly and Wednesday by the Senate, will set the most aggressive clean-energy targets in the country, calling for huge additions of solar power and massive wind farms off the coast.

“As Washington turns a blind eye and rolls back decades of environmental protections, New York turns to a future of net zero emissions,” Cuomo said in a statement heralding the bill’s passage.

The measure codifies New York’s goal of getting all of its electricity from emission-free sources by 2040, putting the state ahead of all others that have set clean-energy standards — even progressive California, which has targeted 100% clean power by 2045. It also calls for an 85% reduction in economy-wide emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. In promoting the plan during a recent radio program, Cuomo called it “the most aggressive in the country.”

“It’s definitely the most progressive bill that we’ve seen anywhere,’’ Miles Farmer, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview.

Exactly how New York will pull off such an ambitious plan remains to be seen. Utility executives across the U.S. have warned that a 100% green grid is impossible using current technologies.

The bill would boost the amount of solar power in New York to 6 gigawatts by 2025 from about 1.7 gigawatts currently. It also calls for 9 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2035. None of the state’s electricity currently comes from offshore wind.

Comparing New York’s plan to those of other states “is beside the point,” said Ethan Zindler, head of Americas research for BloombergNEF. “The question is can it be done and will there be follow through?”

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Renewables offer UK ‘nuclear gap’ insurance

Increasing renewable energy capacity would provide an insurance policy against a possible ‘nuclear gap’ in the UK’s low-carbon power pipeline caused by early closure of ageing reactors, according to a new report by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.

The report – ‘Cracks in the System’ – examines the effects of the UK’s existing nuclear power stations closing earlier than government expects.

It concluded that expanding renewable energy capacity would fill the gap more cheaply than expanding gas generation.

Expansion could either be through increasing the development of offshore wind or via a combination of on- and offshore wind and solar, the report said.

Accelerating renewables rollout in this way alongside enhanced power system flexibility such as storage would be a ‘no-regrets’ option,” ECIU said.

ECIU head of analysis and the report author Jonathan Marshall said: “Although government has reduced forecasts for the amount of nuclear capacity Britain needs in recent years, no assessment has yet considered the potential impact of the early closure of the country’s ageing fleet of reactors.

“If this happens it is unlikely that the lights will go out, but it could make hitting our carbon targets more challenging.

“Ministers need to decide how to prepare for this potential clean power gap therefore, and soon; accelerating renewables deployment is probably the best no-regrets short-term option, with consideration given to how to support new nuclear projects over the longer term.”

ECIU added that recent decisions by Hitachi and Toshiba to halt new nuclear projects at Wylfa in Wales and Moorside in Cumbria, respectively, have created a shortfall between official projections of nuclear generating capacity and what the market appears set to deliver.

The ECIU analysis considers this alongside the prospect of further shortfalls – prospects raised by the discovery of cracking in the graphite bricks around the core of nuclear reactors such as that which has closed Hunterston B Power Station in Ayrshire.

If cracks affect Britain’s other advanced gas-cooled reactors, these plants may be forced into decommissioning early, the report said.

The impact of such early closures could have important implications for the UK’s carbon targets, said ECIU director Richard Black.

“Britain is already off-track on meeting the Fourth and Fifth Carbon Budgets, covering the periods 2023-27 and 2028-32 respectively, and the loss of another chunk of low-carbon power would make meeting these targets even more difficult,” Black said.

He added: “Cleaning up the power sector has done the bulk of the heavy lifting in Britain’s recent decarbonisation and, if the government does sign a target for net zero emissions by 2050 into law, it will have to do more.

“With that in mind, it would be economically pragmatic to accelerate decarbonisation in the near-term by building up capacity in low-cost renewables and flexibility mechanisms.

“If it turns out they’re not needed, all ministers will have done is to accelerate decarbonisation which they say they need to do anyway; so this really is a no-regrets pathway. But it’s one where decisions are needed soon.”

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Thames Water chief Steve Robertson steps down after regulator criticises leak record

Thames Water’s chief executive has stepped down amid harsh criticism over its failure to tackle leaks.

The country’s biggest water supplier announced Steve Robertson was being replaced in the top job by chairman Ian Marchant while a permanent successor was found.

Mr Robertson, who had been in the role less than three years, will leave the company at the end of June, Thames Water said.

In the last six months, the firm has been criticised by the industry regulator over leaks, its response to the Beast from the East and its business plans.

Mr Marchant said Thames Water had seen “significant change” and Mr Robertson had put “building blocks” in place for the company’s long-term success.

“We need to continue to ensure that Thames Water is an organisation that both customers and staff feel proud of,” he said.

“We remain fully committed to our proposed business plan focused on providing industry-leading customer service through a substantial investment programme which we are determined to deliver.”

Mr Marchant said Thames Water’s executive team had to meet its “vital” responsibilities to its millions of users “each day”.

Mr Robertson said he was “proud of what we have achieved over the last two and a half years” but admitted “challenges remain”.

Thames Water is the UK’s biggest water and wastewater services provider, with more than 15 million customers across London, the Thames Valley and surrounding areas.

Earlier this year, it was among 14 firms to fail a business review by industry regulator Ofwat, which ordered Thames Water to “substantially rework and resubmit” its five-year plan.

The watchdog placed the firm under “significant scrutiny” and said it had the most to do in order to deliver lower bills and better service for customers.

Thames Water submitted new plans, which included aims to reduce combined bills by 1.3% and set more ambitious targets on reducing pollution, supply interruptions and flooding.

In January, water companies were criticised for their response to winter weather in early 2018 that caused supply interruptions to more than 200,000 customers across England and Wales.

 

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Biomass can help deliver much-needed UK heat decarbonisation

Biomass could play a pivotal role in heat decarbonisation and help the UK meet its renewable heat targets, AMP Clean Energy said today.

Around 6% of heat in the UK currently comes from renewable sources, but EU targets require it to double to 12% by 2020.

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) report ‘Bioenergy in the UK – vision to 2032 and beyond’ has found that the UK could almost triple the use of bioenergy as a source of heat – from 6% to 16% by 2032 – with biomass a major contributor.

The report found that wood fuels could make a substantially larger contribution to meeting heating needs for buildings and industry, playing a particular role in providing low carbon heating in off gas-grid properties and those where heating via heat pumps is more challenging.

It concluded that bioenergy, which uses sustainable biomass and biofuels produced from wood, crops and food wastes, is the lowest cost route to heat decarbonisation, while also providing a pathway to the development and commercial deployment of future technologies.

Richard Burrell, CEO of AMP Clean Energy, said: “Biomass is a proven, world -renowned technology which can continue to make a significant contribution to the decarbonisation of heat in the UK.

Under the RHI, 87% of renewable heat to date has come from biomass, which has been particularly successful in decarbonising community buildings, schools, hotels and agricultural processes. We now need off-gas grid industrial processes to convert from fossil fuels to biomass and we can help with the financing, fuel and operation and maintenance.

“With the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) coming to an end in 2021, there is an opportunity to install new systems before that date as well as to look at new and innovative ways of financing the decarbonisation of heat. We need to find a way to deliver the much-needed transition to renewable heat generation to build on some of the positive steps that have already been taken and to avoid a cliff-edge for new renewable heat installations after 2021. At AMP Clean Energy we are considering what mechanisms could be deployed to achieve this and look forward to discussing our thoughts with Government.”

In January 2019 the REA launched an industry-led review of bioenergy ‘s potential and the policies needed to maximise this to 2032. AMP Clean Energy is one of the industry partners contributing to the review.

You can read the REA report here.

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Britain’s energy bosses back UK bid to host key 2020 climate talks

Bosses at the UK’s leading energy firms are urging the Government to ensure the UK is picked as the venue for key international climate talks in 2020.

Britain is bidding to host the UN climate change conference next year, the biggest since the Paris agreement was signed in 2015

Under UN rules the COP (Conference of the Parties) next year should be hosted by a European nation and take place in the first year the Paris agreement would come into full effect.

The conference will mark a crucial deadline for countries to comply with their commitments in Paris on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and move on to tougher targets for the decade to 2030.

If successful, the move would be a strong signal of the UK government’s determination to retain its role on the world stage after Brexit.

‘Strong record of leadership’

In a letter to ministers and opposition leaders, the bosses of companies including Centrica, ScottishPower, National Grid, Drax, BP and Shell said hosting the UN meeting would give the UK an opportunity to be seen as a green leader.

In addition 162 MPs have signed a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, saying the country’s “strong record of leadership and ongoing commitment on climate change” makes it the ideal place to hold them.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry revealed last December that she had officially written to express the UK Government’s interest in hosting the talks in 2020.

A decision on where in Europe to hold the “Cop26” talks at the end of next year is expected in June.

‘Maximise the opportunities’

The UN awards the hosting of the COP usually by alternating among developed and developing countries, and different continents, though the rules can be flexible

In the letter from the energy giants – which also include Affinity Water, Anglian Water, Capita, GKN Automotive, Heathrow Airport and Innogy Renewables UK, business bosses back the British bid to host the talks.

“Hosting Cop26 would provide the UK with a platform to further develop and maximise the opportunities of the global shift to clean growth and showcase to the world the best of the UK economy.

“It would be the country’s moment to build further support for an ambitious clean growth trajectory, underscore ambitions for a net-zero economy in line with the Paris Agreement, and set out the opportunity of economic renewal and enhancement through climate action.”

One of the signatories, John Pettigrew, chief executive of National Grid, said hosting the talks would let the UK send a message to the world that “we are proud to take the lead in the fight against climate change”.

“Our progress on clean energy has seen this country make international headlines; for example, when we recently went over a week without any coal generation for the first time since the 19th century. But we all need to do much more.

“This summit represents an opportunity to get the world to unite behind one of the most important challenges we all face and we look forward to working with the Government to bring COP to our shores,” he said.

Lead signatory of the letter from MPs, Labour and Co-operative MP Alex Sobel said: “Having just announced a climate emergency, MPs from across all parties in the UK Parliament are keen to see bold action taken on climate change.

“Cop26 is a key moment when the countries of the world will also be looking to cross divides to come together and build on their climate change pledges.

“With its diplomatic weight and having passed the World’s first Climate Change Act over 10 years ago, the UK is ideally placed to play this role, guiding even those less ambitious countries towards strong commitments.”

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Developing a framework for assessing whether conditions are in place for effective competition in domestic supply contracts

We are seeking views from stakeholders on our proposed framework for assessing whether conditions are in place for effective competition in the domestic energy retail market. This is for the purpose of recommending to the Secretary of State whether or not the cap on default and standard variable tariffs should remain in place, as required under the Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Act 2018.

The cap was introduced because the retail energy market was not working well for all consumers. Consumers on default and standard variable tariffs were paying substantially more than those who shopped around for fixed tariff deals. To protect these consumers, the government passed legislation in 2018 for a temporary cap on default and standard variable tariffs. This cap was introduced by Ofgem in January 2019. Alongside this, the government and Ofgem are working towards structural reforms to improve the competitive process in the domestic retail market and outcomes for energy consumers.

With the cap on default tariffs now in place, the Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Act 2018 requires Ofgem to review whether conditions are in place for effective competition for domestic supply contracts. This review must be published by 31 August 2020 and include a recommendation on whether the cap should remain in place for 2021 or be removed. The Secretary of State will consider this review and make a decision by 31 October 2020. If the default tariff cap is extended into 2021, the process will be repeated in 2021; if the cap is extended into 2022 the exercise will be repeated for a final time in 2022 as the cap will cease to have effect at the end of 2023.

This paper proposes a framework for making that assessment. We would welcome your views on it.

We plan to hold a workshop while the consultation is open, and details will be made available here shortly.

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EON confident in assets swap with RWE as Q1 profit drops

German energy giant EON expressed confidence in its planned massive assets swap with RWE’s renewable energy subsidiary, despite weaker first quarter results released Monday.

Essen-based group EON, which suffered terrible losses from 2014 until 2016 due to restructuring and Germany’s abandoning of nuclear power, has since got back in the black, but its figures were down for the first quarter of 2019.

Between January and March, its adjusted net profit — which strips out discontinued operations in the renewables segment, as well as other non-operating effects — declined 11 percent year-on-year to 650 million euros ($730 million).

Its adjusted operating profit also fell eight percent to 1.17 billion euros.

The figures roughly tally with the expectations of analysts from financial services provider Factset, which expected adjusted net income of 626 million euros and adjusted operating income of 1.15 billion euros.

“Aside from the special case of the United Kingdom,” where capped prices and keen competition saw a sharp decline in the group’s profits, “our core businesses delivered a solid performance,” said chief financial officer Marc Spieker.

The German energy giant has confirmed its target for adjusted operating income for 2019 is between 2.9 and 3.1 billion euros.

The adjusted net income is expected to be in the range of 1.4 to 1.6 billion euros.

Last year EON announced plans to take over German rival RWE’s renewables unit Innogy as part of a complex asset swap deal set to shake up the energy sector.

“The planned transaction with RWE is right on schedule,” EON said of the deal that is expected to impact the two energy giants’ financials.

EON added that as expected, the European Commission in March opened an in-depth probe into the deal but that the company was “confident that it will obtain the necessary approvals in the second half of 2019”.

The redistribution of assets allows the two former rivals to specialise in energy distribution and production respectively.

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Yü Energy shares soar after FCA drops investigation

Yü Group’s share price climbed 66 per cent in early trading on news that the Financial Conduct Authority has discontinued its investigation into the company and does not intend to take action.

The business energy and water supplier revealed a hole in accounts last October related to revenue it had booked but that was not actually recoverable from clients. As a result, Yü said would post a loss for full year 2018 and a much reduced profit for 2019. Its share price collapsed by 80 per cent.

Yü then hired PwC and DLA Piper to conduct a “forensic review” of its books, and CEO Bobby Kalar said the company would be “more selective and prudent” about customer acquisition.

Bad debt is a longstanding issue in the business energy market, particularly at SME level. Drax-owned B2B energy suppliers Opus Energy and Haven Power reported a 72 per cent increase in bad debt charges to £31m for the year ended 31 December.

 

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Siemens spins off struggling gas and power in smart digital shift

MUNICH (Reuters) – Siemens is spinning off its gas and power business, which has dragged on the German engineering firm’s performance as the rise of renewable power hits demand for gas turbines.

The new firm would be a “major player” in energy with revenues of 27 billion euros ($30 billion) and more than 80,000 employees, Siemens said on Tuesday, adding that it would now focus on its Digital Industries and Smart Infrastructure businesses.

Siemens said the Gas and Power division, which includes its oil and gas, conventional power generation, power transmission and related services businesses, will be set up as a standalone company with the aim of a public listing by September 2020.

Last week Reuters, citing sources familiar with the matter, reported that Siemens was considering carving out the unit, whose 2018 profit fell by 75 percent to 377 million euros ($421 million) as revenue dropped 19 percent.

“The new company won’t have to compete for resources with higher margin business like smart infrastructure and digital industries,” Siemens Chief Executive Joe Kaeser told reporters.

Siemens also plans to include its 59 percent stake in wind energy company Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy in Gas and Power.

The decision to separate the business, which will be led by Gas and Power head Lisa Davis, was approved by Siemens supervisory board, which met on Tuesday ahead of its second quarter figures on Wednesday.

The Munich-based company said it would remain an anchor shareholder in Gas and Power with between 25 and 50 percent.

“It’s the right thing to do; it’s necessary and courageous to trigger the planned changes when the company is doing well,” Siemens chairman Jim Hagemann Snabe said.

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Unions also supported the decision, saying the business was better off outside Siemens.

“If the unit were to stay part of Siemens, investments would be further reduced. Thus the business would literally be starved to death,” Siemens works council head Birgit Steinborn, who is also deputy chairwoman of the company, said in a statement.

“With the planned initial public offering in Germany, co-determination will be maintained and Siemens remains committed to keeping jobs in Germany and Europe. In a joint venture, for example with a Japanese competitor, we would have seen that at great risk,” she added.

Siemens is targeting cost cuts of 2.2 billion by 2023 by cutting 10,400 jobs – mainly administration and support roles – at its remaining core units, including 3,000 at Smart Infrastructure and 4,900 at Digital Industries. The company will shed at least 10,400 jobs in the overhaul.

At the same time, Siemens plans to create 20,500 jobs by 2023, resulting in a net increase.

For its Smart Infrastructure unit – which makes fire safety and security products, grid control or energy storage systems for buildings – Siemens is now targeting a profit margin of 13-15 percent by 2023.

 

Digital Industries – which among other products offers industrial software and automation solutions for companies – is targeting a margin of 17-23 percent.

Kaeser stressed that Siemens has many options and plenty of time available for its rail unit Siemens Mobility.

Siemens tried to combine Mobility with listed peer Alstom, but scrapped the deal earlier this year as antitrust concerns mounted. Analysts expect that Siemens will eventually opt for a stock market listing for the unit.

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Government sidesteps Committee’s call for Scottish oil and gas sector deal

09 May 2019

The Government’s response to the Scottish Affairs Committee’s report on the future of the oil and gas does not directly address the Committee’s call for a sector deal, and instead states that the Government’s relationship with the sector is already “well-established.”

The Committee today publishes the Government’s response to its report on the future of the oil and gas industry. The Government sidesteps addressing the Committee’s headline recommendation of an ambitious sector deal to ensure Scotland’s energy industry can navigate the challenges of its future and continue to prosper.

Chair’s comments

Chair of the Committee, Pete Wishart MP said:

“Though there are some positive noises from the government, such as their enhanced funding for carbon capture and storage technologies and the recently announced centre of underwater engineering, we are disappointed by its reluctance to give a clear answer about whether it will implement an over-arching sector deal that would truly transform the oil and gas industry in Scotland. A sector deal would provide the coordinated approach needed to support transition to a new clean energy industry. The last thing the industry needs now is continuing uncertainty, so I have written to the Minister to press for more clarification on the Government’s stance on a sector deal.”

Sector deal

The Committee recommended an oil and gas sector deal that has the detail and ambition needed to support the industry’s challenging future and reflect the Government’s climate change targets by setting out a coordinated way for the sector to transition to green energy production. However, the Government response merely “acknowledges” the Committee’s support for a sector deal and argues that the Government already has a “well-established relationship” with the sector.

The Government suggests that a phased approach to funding and supporting the sector may be preferable to a formal deal. The Chair of the Committee has written to the Energy Minister, Claire Perry MP, to press the Government for more detail on its approach to supporting the industry, including its stance on a formal sector deal and to ask how it will ensure its phased approach does not lead to areas of less immediate economic benefit to the sector, such as work on energy transition and carbon capture, being neglected in favour of the areas of the deal that promise a more immediate economic return.

Climate change and new technologies

The Committee’s report outlined that one of the biggest challenges facing the industry is climate change and called on Government and industry to take a visibly more proactive approach to limiting the sector’s carbon footprint. The Government’s has responded positively to the Committee’s recommendations for increased support for carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) technologies.

In particular, the Government highlights its enhanced funding for CCUS innovations through the BEIS
call for funding applications for feasibility studies, industrial research and experimental development.

The government recently announced its support for a new underwater engineering centre at Aberdeen, which would bring together industry and academia from across the UK to develop new technologies which would enable the sector to move towards a low carbon economy. The Committee called for this in its report, however suggested it should be part of a more structured sector plan.

Decommissioning and skills transfer

The Committee’s report recommended that decommissioning – the process by which oil and gas infrastructure is shut down, or reconfigured, after oil and gas production ceases – should be made a central part of a sector deal. While the Government response acknowledges that decommissioning expertise presents a global economic opportunity for Scotland’s industry, little tangible progress has been made. The Government response points to the launch of a call for evidence on decommissioning in spring 2019, however this announcement had already been made in the 2018 Budget, marking a significant delay in opening the consultation.

Additionally, the Government does not make it clear whether it supports the Committee’s recommendation to set measurable targets for skills transfer as oil production ceases and industry professionals seek new work in clean energy technologies. The Chair of the Committee asks the Minister to provide more information on what the Government is doing to support decommissioning and skills transfer as the sector prepares for its future.

Commenting on the response, Pete Wishart MP said:

“Though the oil and gas industry will have a challenging future, these new circumstances could bring
significant opportunities and help the Government meet the UK’s climate change targets.  If the economic potential of decommissioning and cleaner energies is to be harnessed, the Government must act now by providing strategic vision, and support for the industry.”