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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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Chernobyl 2.0 fears as nuclear expert warns against re-opening cracked UK reactor

Nuclear experts have warned against re-opening a 43-year-old Scottish nuclear reactor riddled with cracks over fears of a meltdown.

Hunterston B nuclear power plant was shut down last year after it was found that Reactor 3 had almost 400 cracks in it – exceeding the operational limit.

EDF, which own the plant in Ardrossan, Ayrshire, are pushing to return the reactor to service at the end of June and July and want to extend the operational limit of crack allowed from 350 to 700.

However, the plans to reopen the plant have sparked fears it could lead to a nuclear meltdown similar to the 1986 Chernoybl disaster .

Experts have warned that in the very worst case the hot graphite core could become exposed to air and ignite leading to radioactive contamination and evacuation of a large area of Scotland’s central belt – including Glasgow and Edinburgh.

According to Dr Ian Fairlie, an independent consultant on radioactivity in the environment, and Dr David Toke, Reader in Energy Policy at the University of Aberdeen, the two reactors definitely should not be restarted.

Speaking about the cracks in the barrels, they warned: “This is a serious matter because if an untoward incident were to occur – for example an earth tremor, gas excursion, steam surge, sudden outage, or sudden depressurisation, the barrels could become dislodged and/or misaligned.

“These events could in turn lead to large emissions of radioactive gases.

“Further, if hot spots were to occur and if nuclear fuel were to react with the graphite moderator they could lead to explosions inside the reactor core.

“In the very worst case the hot graphite core could become exposed to air and ignite leading to radioactive contamination of large areas of central Scotland, including the metropolitan areas of Glasgow and Edinburgh.”

A planned inspection of the graphite bricks that make up the core of reactor three in March last year uncovered new “keyway root cracks”.

Around 370 hairline fractures were found, which the BBC reports equates to about one in every 10 bricks in the reactor core.

EDF Energy said these have now grown to an average of 2mm wide.

The operational limit was 350 cracks but the inspection found this had been exceeded.

Cracks to the graphite blocks is known to occur but legislation is in place to ensure they do not threaten the structural integrity of the reactor.

EDF is now hoping to prove it is safe to use and would stand up to the most stringent tests and wants the ONR to increase the upper operational limit to 700  cracks.

The reactors have been closed since October 2018, but EDF Energy said yesterday it was confident its Hunterston B nuclear plant would eventually reopen.

Station Director Colin Weir said: “Nuclear safety is our overriding priority and reactor three has been off for the year so that we can do further inspections.

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EDF Energy expects UK nuclear plant where cracks found will reopen

LONDON (Reuters) – EDF Energy said on Friday it was confident its Hunterston B nuclear plant in Scotland would eventually reopen, having been offline since last year after cracks were discovered in the reactor’s graphite core.

The plant, which is more than 40 years old, can generate enough electricity to power more than 1.7 million homes, and is one of Britain’s eight nuclear plants which provide around 20 percent of the country’s electricity.

“Hunterston B will operate until 2023,” said a spokeswoman for EDF Energy, the British arm of French utility EDF.

The two Hunterston reactors have suffered several restart delays and are currently scheduled to return to service at the end of June and July.

EDF Energy said a 100 million pound, 5-year research process had been undertaken into issues surrounding the lifetime of its plants.

“Market rules mean we would immediately have to announce if this extensive research had altered our expectations about the closure of our power stations,” the spokeswoman said.

She was responding to a report by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a non-profit organisation, published on Friday, which said Britain’s climate target could be in jeopardy if the plant does not re-open and if the six other nuclear plants in Britain, with the same Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) design, were also forced to close early.

“If this happens it is unlikely that the lights will go out, but it could make hitting our carbon targets more challenging,” said Jonathan Marshall author of the ECIU report.

The ECIU report said the government should launch fresh support for new renewable projects, to ensure any gap in nuclear generation is filled by low-carbon sources instead of gas plants.

EDF Energy said the scenario outlined in the report was unrealistic.

“The extensive work we have carried out at Hunterston B has given us a greater understanding of how graphite ages and for that reason we don’t expect other AGRs to have to undergo the same lengthy outages,” she said.

The ultimate decision on reopening Hunterston lies with Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation which must be satisfied the reactors would be safe even in an extreme and unlikely earthquake scenario.

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Renewable energy jobs in UK plunge by a third

The number of jobs in renewable energy in the UK has plunged by nearly a third in recent years, and the amount of new green generating capacity by a similar amount, causing havoc among companies in the sector, a new report has found.

Prospect, the union which covers much of the sector, has found a 30% drop in renewable energy jobs between 2014 and 2017, as government cuts to incentives and support schemes started to bite. It also found investment in renewables in the UK more than halved between 2015 and 2017.

The union compared the situation to the devastation caused to coalmining communities in the 1980s and demanded instead a “just transition” to clean energy.

The Prospect report analysed and collated data taken from various sources, including the government, surveys and industry.

Sue Ferns, the senior deputy secretary general at Prospect, told the Guardian: “The government’s market-led approach has failed, and resulted on offshoring green jobs while UK workers are left behind. Without a proper industrial strategy from government that promotes low-carbon generation like renewables and new nuclear, we will be unable to secure the future of our energy supply, which is under threat in the coming decade.”

The focus on Brexit had not helped, she added. “The government’s tunnel vision on Brexit means the real challenges facing our country have been neglected for too long. We need a sensible deliverable strategy that provides a stable long-term pathway to decarbonisation.”

The drastic fall in jobs came as the government effectively shut down schemes that rewarded consumers for buying solar panels, withdrew subsidies for onshore wind and reduced incentives for low-carbon energy. Ministers have argued that as the costs of renewable energy have fallen sharply in recent years, the industries should no longer rely on public subsidy, but multiple redrawings of government schemes in recent years have helped to create turmoil and a lack of certainty for companies.

Government support has taken the form of various schemes across the last decade, including feed-in tariffs for consumers with solar panels, a renewables obligation forcing the big energy suppliers to invest in renewables, and most recently, contracts for difference. The latter were meant to overhaul the whole energy sector by setting up auctions by which companies would bid for generation contracts favouring low-carbon energy, but early troubles meant dirty energy such as diesel generators were often the inadvertent winners, and while the scheme still operates it has enjoyed little support from successive chancellors.

Between 2016 and 2017, there was a sharp fall in investment in UK renewables, which fell 56% to the lowest level since 2008, according to the as-yet-unpublished Prospect report that has been seen by the Guardian. Last year, the annual rate of addition of renewables capacity fell to its lowest level since 2012, which the union said was driven by the collapse in solar and onshore wind deployment. Without the significant rise in bioenergy capacity that took place in 2018, the fall in new renewables would have been much greater, the union said.

While some sectors have remained buoyant, such as offshore wind, new capacity in onshore wind in England slowed markedly after the government withdrew financial support and changed planning laws to make the construction of windfarms more difficult.

Luke Clark, head of external affairs at the trade body RenewableUK, said: “We’re expecting the number of direct jobs in offshore wind to treble to 27,000 by 2030, as part of the landmark offshore wind sector deal we’ve agreed with government, as this provides long-term certainty for the industry. However, as onshore wind remains excluded from government-backed auctions for contracts to generate power, the UK is missing out on employment and investment opportunities offered by this technology. The auction process has also failed to bring forward new technologies like tidal energy projects, so there is huge potential to ramp up employment in renewables as we move to net zero emissions.”

The trade union said the dismal picture for jobs in much of the sector contrasted with government rhetoric on issues such as moving to a net zerocarbon target and parliament declaring a climate emergency.

Ferns told the Guardian: “Successive governments have promised us a green jobs revolution, but after an initial upsurge we have now started going backwards. This is deeply worrying for the future of the energy sector and for low-carbon jobs in the UK.”

She added: “The Committee on Climate Change has recommended zero carbon by 2050 and others are pushing for even more ambitious timescales. We need a just transition for all the workers affected and this means we need to work proactively to ensure that the damage inflicted on coal communities in the 1980s is not repeated.”

A spokesperson for BEIS told the Guardian: “We’ve seen the number of green collar jobs soar to approximately 400,000, with clean growth at the heart of this government’s modern industrial strategy. This figure could more than quadrupled to 2m by 2030. We’ve injected £2.5bn into low-carbon innovation and [the] deal with the offshore wind industry will see up to £40bn infrastructure investment.”

Green collar jobs are defined by BEIS as those in clean growth, which means activity that increases the national income while reducing emissions. The number of people working in green jobs in the UK was estimated at 1m in 2012, by the UN.

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UK power prices turn negative for nine hours, balancing costs spike during ‘extraordinary’ weekend

UK power prices turned negative for nine consecutive hours on Sunday in what’s been billed as an “extraordinary turn of events” for the country’s electricity system.

Unusually low demand, some 2GW below forecasts, combined with high wind generation to send prices spiralling, and National Grid was even forced into instructing onshore and offshore wind farms to turn down their generation.

Between the hours of 12:00pm and 9:00pm on Sunday 26 May, the UK endured an extended period of negative pricing, with wholesale power prices falling to as low as -£71.26/MWh.

National Grid Electricity System Operator’s daily balancing report for 26 May 2019 reveals that the SO paid more than £6.6 million on balancing costs, having spent just £300,000 the day before, providing an indication as to the scale of the volatility experienced on the system throughout the day.

At nine hours long, it amounts to the longest consecutive period of negative pricing the UK has encountered and has been described as “unprecedented” by energy tech company Limejump, which acts within the balancing mechanism.

In addition, after a slight recovery, the market dipped back into negative pricing between 11:45pm on Sunday and 1:45am on the morning of Monday 27 May, meaning that negative prices were in action for around 11 hours within a 24 hour period.

The instances of negative pricing left the average system price for power on Sunday 26 May at -£12.16/MWh.

Those prices were essentially created by low demand. The average power demand on Sunday was just 25.4GW, while the minimum demand in that period was 19.8GW, recorded between 3:45am and 4:15am, right towards the lower end of minimum demand forecasts within National Grid’s 2019 Summer Outlook.

The event comes just two months after the previous long run of negative system prices, a period of six hours which occurred on Sunday 24 March that witnessed system prices fall to similar lows.

Limejump said in a trading note issued to customers: “The question traders have been asking themselves earlier this year – ‘Are negative system prices an anomaly or are they here to stay?’ – has now been answered without a doubt by these an a number of other observed similar scenarios.”

Speaking to Current±, a Limejump spokesperson said that those operating battery storage plants over the weekend were obvious winners.

“Smart trading strategies deliver great revenue especially those with accurate forecasting. Batteries that were charging during these negative prices time frame, including Limejump’s, were definitely happy recipient.”

It was also a significant weekend for the carbon intensity of the grid, which at times dipped well below the 100g CO2/kWh threshold required to comply with the Fifth Carbon Budget. Sunday afternoon saw carbon intensity dip to just 69g CO2/kWh on the back of surging wind and solar activity.

Coal meanwhile is in the midst of yet another record breaking absence from the UK’s power mix, having not generated for more than 250 hours, equivalent to almost 11 days. Only earlier this month Britain celebrated its first coal-free month since the Industrial Revolution, and coal has now experienced more than 1,500 hours off the grid in 2019.

Wind meanwhile spent large portions of Sunday afternoon providing more than 11GW of power, equivalent to 37-39% of total demand.

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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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Britain Is Brimming With Natural Gas

Britain’s appetite for natural gas usually declines in the summer, but this season is different with a record number of LNG tankers due to land this month.

The incoming cargoes show no sign of slowing, and will keep the pressure on benchmark prices already trading below their five-year seasonal average. That’s good news for factories and households as Brexit clouds the nation’s economic outlook.

“We can expect a significant pressure on prices this summer,” said Murray Douglas, a research director for European gas at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. “The global LNG market is strong, we will still have a lots of LNG turning from the Asian to the European markets and we still see lots of LNG deals” and approvals for new projects.

Cargoes are heading to the U.K. and other northwest European nations because thanks to the extensive infrastructure and traded hubs they can absorb any global surplus as well as handle a growing worldwide production boom. Britain is still taking imports of the super-chilled commodity even after its gas export pipeline shut for repairs this month.

LNG prices in Asia, the biggest consumer of the fuel, have also been too low to spur traders to ship cargoes east. Cooler weather is also supporting demand in the U.K.

For projects due to reach FIDs this year, read this BloombergNEF report

While Asian LNG spot prices have regained their traditional premium over European hubs, Atlantic basin suppliers such as the U.S. and west Africa are still sending most of their cargoes to Europe, their nearest liquid market. Longer term, more plants are due to start producing LNG and a number of projects from Mozambique to Russia are nearing investment decisions this year.