Green Economy


16
Nov 13

‘World’s First’ Carbon Control Centre brings 20 New Jobs to Wicklow

‘World’s first’ carbon control centre brings 20 new jobs to WicklowEnterprise Ireland-backed Crowley Carbon is to create 20 new jobs at what is claimed to be the world’s first carbon control centre (C3), which will be located in Powerscourt, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow.

The state-of-the-art facility will enable Crowley Carbon to monitor, control and alert clients to any event that is causing their equipment to consume more energy than should be required.

The ground-breaking, proprietary technology has been in development for the past two years and has undergone extensive testing at sites in Ireland where its use has reduced energy costs by as much as 30pc.

“With ever-rising energy costs, the rollout of C3 technology will allow businesses to be proactive, rather than reactive, towards any potential increases that may arise in relation to ongoing energy bills,” the company’s CEO Norman Crowley explained.

“By providing our customers with accurate, reliable, and real-time information around excessive energy consumption, Crowley Carbon has reset the benchmark for Irish consumers and businesses, all of whom will benefit from the significant cost savings, job creation and environmental benefits that will arise as a direct consequence of greatly reduced energy consumption.”

Read [+]

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Share/Bookmark

14
Aug 12

FMI to create an extra 40 jobs to service Electric Ireland contract

FMI to create an extra 40 jobs to service Electric Ireland contract

FMI to create an extra 40 jobs to service Electric Ireland contract

Charley Stoney and Liam Molloy, general manager, Electric Ireland

Field Management Ireland (FMI) said today that it will be creating a further 40 new jobs as part of its field sales contract with Electric Ireland.

This is in addition to the 100 jobs initially promised when the contract was announced in May.

FMI said the jobs boost follows a successful partnership between the company and Electric Ireland last year.

Earlier this year, FMI was awarded an exclusive residential field sales contract, directly selling electricity and gas supplies to residential consumers.

FMI is also offering additional home energy services to consumers including gas boiler maintenance at reduced rates, attic and cavity wall insulation, and boiler replacement.

The recruitment process is underway and details are available on the FMI website.

“The sales campaign for Electric Ireland has been a big success to date and that couldn’t be better illustrated than by our immediate need for additional new people to sustain that momentum,” said Charley Stoney, managing director, FMI Ireland.

Read [+]

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Share/Bookmark

31
Jul 12

Windfarm holds jobs promise for Offaly

Pictured is Kevin O' Donovan, Element Power ,Sean Flemmimg, FF TD Laois-Offaly, and Charile Flanagan, TD, Laois-Offaly and Tim Cowhig, CEO Element Power. Photo Chris Bellew /Fennell PhotographyPictured is Kevin O’ Donovan, Element Power ,Sean Flemmimg, FF TD Laois-Offaly, and Charile Flanagan, TD, Laois-Offaly and Tim Cowhig, CEO Element Power. Photo Chris Bellew /Fennell Photography

National Grid UK, the operator of the UK electricity network, has confirmed that a firm grid connection of 3,000 megawatts has been awarded to global renewable energy developer, Element Power and this holds the prospect of a major jobs boost for Offaly and the Midlands region.

This is the first such dedicated UK connection offered to an Irish renewable energy exporter and enables Element Power to progress ‘Greenwire’ – a series of connected projects exporting wind power generated in the Midlands of Ireland to the UK via two independent subsea cables. ‘Firm’ connection means that the UK power market can take the output at all times, enabling €1.2billion worth of energy exports annually from the Irish economy.

Greenwire will involve a total spend of €8billion during the construction phase, of which a significant proportion will be spent in developing wind energy infrastructure in Ireland. It will result in the creation of an estimated 10,000 development and construction jobs and up to 3,000 long term jobs. A legacy interconnector between the two countries will also provide an enduring benefit.

Greenwire will deliver considerable direct benefits to the Midlands region as well as the national economy. Rental payments to local landowners combined with annual rates to the local authorities across the Midlands will amount to €50million each year.

Greenwire’ proposes the development of around forty separate wind farms across the Midlands. These will be linked together through underground cabling to a central collection point.

Up to 3000 megawatts (MW) of electrical power could then be exported from this point via two underground and subsea cables to UK grid connection points, Pentir in north Wales and Pembroke in south Wales. No new overhead power lines will be installed. The first 2000MW connection has been confirmed for 2017 and remaining 1000MW connection will be available for 2018.

The project will use the latest high voltage direct current (HVDC) technology, which allows for very efficient transfer of energy over long distances, and is offered by established companies such as Siemens and ABB. The cables will be laid in the verge of public roads on shore, in a similar manner to other services such as water, phone, or gas pipes. Offshore, the cable will be installed by specialised ships under the seabed of the Irish Sea.

The project will be totally independent of the Irish electricity grid and will involve absolutely no cost to the Irish taxpayer. It will however, enable Ireland to export in excess of €1.2billion of wind generated electricity annually to the UK.

UK National Grid has requested tThe Greenwire cables be sized to help offset the need for UK onshore grid reinforcements and enhance the level of interconnection between the Irish and UK power systems.

It is also intended to install fibre optic connection along the two undersea cables between the UK and Ireland and between each of the wind-farms which will itself create a new an substantial broadband network in its own right, significantly improving the prospects for attracting technology and data processing related industries to nearby towns.

Along with the existing 500MW EirGrid Interconnector and the 450MW Moyle Interconnector, the additional interconnection capacity created by Greenwire will give Ireland enormous additional security in its electricity supplies, helping attract foreign investment in energy sensitive industries.

Element Power’s Irish operation in Cork is headed up by Tim Cowhig and a team of experienced wind developers, previously of SWS Energy. The wider Northern European operation is led by Mike O’Neill, previously of RES Group. The company is backed by Hudson Clean Energy Partners, a leading global private equity firm with over $1billion in funding capital dedicated to investing in clean energy.

IDA Ireland is championing the development of Ireland’s renewable energy export industry, recognising that Ireland has wind resources far in excess of what is needed to meet its own renewable energy targets. IDA’s Clean Technologies Division sees the ‘export of electrons’ from Ireland to the UK and other European neighbours as a great opportunity for employment creation in Ireland.

Last month Irish Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte and UK Energy Minister, Charles Hendry agreed a formal Memorandum of Understanding on renewable energy trading between the two countries to be in place by the end of the year.

Element Power Ireland CEO, Tim Cowhig commented, “Greenwire is a particularly timely project which will enable the economy to harness our renewable energy resources to our economic advantage. The UK energy requirement has become Ireland’s opportunity, it makes perfect sense to capitalise on our geographic location and create an export industry. Greenwire is the enabling project that will allow this to happen boosting our national trade and generating considerable employment and benefit to the Midlands region.”

“In anticipation of getting UK grid connection, the company has been working in Ireland over the past two years identifying potential wind farm sites, speaking with local authorities, working with environmental consultants and reaching agreements with land-owners. This is an important step in enabling the project and helping us to meet our target of exporting renewable energy to the UK by 2018. We also spent considerable effort identifying the best grid points in Wales, and we designed our project to match the capacity available. Our connections are not triggering any new overhead line reinforcements in the UK, and this gives us confidence that we can connect by 2018, in time to help the UK meet their 2020 targets.”

The planning application for the Greenwire project will be made in consultation with local authorities and communities in the Midlands. Element Power is currently in consultation with An Bord Pleanála with a view making an application under the terms of the Strategic Infrastructural Development Act 2006.

Read [+]

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Share/Bookmark

17
Jul 12

Energy developer Element Power to create 13,000 wind-farm job opportunities

Pictured at the signing of contracts offering the grid connection to Element Power in Ireland on 16 July were, from left: Tim Cowhig, CEO, Element Power Ireland; Julian Leslie, head of Electricity Customer Services at National Grid UK Transmission; and Mike O'Neill, president and COO, Element Power GroupPictured at the signing of contracts offering the grid connection to Element Power in Ireland on 16 July were, from left: Tim Cowhig, CEO, Element Power Ireland; Julian Leslie, head of Electricity Customer Services at National Grid UK Transmission; and Mike O’Neill, president and COO, Element Power Group

Global renewable energy developer Element Power has announced that National Grid UK, the operator of the UK electricity network, has today confirmed its Irish operation has been awarded a ‘firm’ grid connection of 3,000 megawatts. Element Power said the grid offer means it will be able to progress its Greenwire wind farm projects in Ireland, resulting in the creation of around 10,000 development and construction jobs and up to 3,000 long-term jobs down the line.

According to Element Power, the offer from National Grid UK is the first such UK connection offered to an Irish renewable energy exporter.

It said that the connection offer will mean that it will be able to progress its Greenwire plans – a series of connected projects exporting wind power generated in the Midlands of Ireland to the UK via two independent subsea cables.

The company said that ‘firm’ connection means that the UK power market can take the output at all times, enabling €1.2bn worth of energy exports annually from the Irish economy.

Greenwire will involve a total spend of €8bn during the construction phase. A significant proportion of this figure will be spent in developing wind energy infrastructure in Ireland, said Element Power.

Green jobs

On the clean-tech jobs front, the company said the project will spell the creation of an estimated 10,000 development and construction jobs and up to 3,000 long-term jobs. It added that a legacy interconnector between the two countries would also provide an “enduring” benefit.

As well as this Element Power is hoping that Greenwire will deliver “considerable” direct benefits to the Midlands region as well as the national economy.

Apparently rental payments to local landowners combined with annual rates to the local authorities across the Midlands will amount to €50m each year.

Element Power’s Irish operation in Cork is headed up by Tim Cowhig and a team of wind developers, who were previously with SWS Energy.

The wider Northern European operation is led by Mike O’Neill, previously of RES Group.

The company is backed by Hudson Clean Energy Partners, a global private equity firm with over US$1bn in funding capital dedicated to investing in clean energy.

Last month Irish Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, and UK Energy Minister Charles Hendry agreed a formal memorandum of understanding (MoU) on renewable energy trading between the two countries. Rabbitte recently said that this MoU would be in place by the end of the year.

As a result of declining North Sea gas reserves as well as ageing coal and nuclear power stations, the UK is making moves to ensure its long-term energy security.

Element Power believes that its Greenwire could save UK consumers nearly €9bn over the project’s lifetime compared to sourcing the same supply from sea-based offshore energy.

The UK said it needs 30,000 megawatts of new wind generation to meet its target of 15pc of all energy coming from renewable sources by 2020. It is currently consulting on trading renewables with neighbouring countries.

Julien Leslie of the National Grid UK Transmission commented spoke about the grid connection agreement today.

“This agreement will break new ground by connecting wind generation in Ireland directly to the UK transmission system. We are looking forward to working together with Element Power as we move forward with this unique piece of infrastructure,” he said.

Element Power indicated today that the planning application for the Greenwire project will be made in consultation with local authorities and communities in the Midlands.

The company is currently in consultation with An Bord Pleanála as it plans to make an application under the terms of the Strategic Infrastructural Development Act 2006.

Read [+]

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Share/Bookmark

22
Jun 12

Bord Bia programme looks to build Irish food and drink’s green cred

Bord Bia programme looks to build Irish food and drink's green cred

Bord Bia programme looks to build Irish food and drink’s green cred

Pictured: Aidan Cotter, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney and Michael Carey

Bord Bia has this morning launched a national programme designed to help Ireland become a world leader in sustainably produced food and drink.

Origin Green is a voluntary programme whereby participating food manufacturers commit to developing a sustainability plan, in conjunction with Bord Bia. Interested parties will sign up to a new sustainability charter setting out clear targets in areas like emissions, energy, waste, water, biodiversity and CSR activities.

Once approved, successful members will be entitled to use the Origin Green logo as part of their trade marketing, communications and customer relations. Each year, participants will be required to submit independently verified progress reports.

In turn, Bord Bia said it will promote, communicate and develop trade awareness of the Origin Green programme among buyers, international media and relevant stakeholders in key export markets.

“Retailers are looking for suppliers that can align with their commercial strategies and offer them a point of difference,” said Aidan Cotter, chief executive of Bord Bia. “Our research has highlighted the significant opportunities that exist if the Irish food and drink sector can demonstrate its commitment to delivering continuous improvement.

“With Origin Green, we can effectively begin to add proof and assurance to our sustainability claims, and provide the evidence that our export customers are looking for.”

“The development of a sustainability programme to build Ireland’s brand reputation around green credentials is one of the four key strategic priorities for Bord Bia over the next three years,” said Bord Bia’s chairman, Michael Carey. “In addition we will be focusing on enhancing competitiveness; promoting exports and building a vibrant domestic market for the agri-food sector.”

As part of a pilot programme, Bord Bia is currently working with nine Irish food and drink companies – Kerry Group, Glanbia (Dairy Ingredients Ireland), Marine Harvest, Country Crest, Dawn Farm Foods, Flahavans, Irish Distillers, ABP and Errigal Seafoods.

Bord Bia said its objective is that 75pc of Irish food and drink exports will be sourced from signed up members to the programme before the end of 2014, and 100pc by the end of 2016.

The programme was launched at Bord Bia’s Pathways for Growth Food and Drink Leadership Summit, which is taking place in UCD Michael Smurfit School of Business.

The vision behind Origin Green was introduced to the delegates in an audio visual presentation setting sustainability in an Irish context and fronted by Irish actress Saoirse Ronan.

Bord Bia said it commissioned extensive trade research with leading retailers, food manufacturers and foodservice organisations, including M&S, Sainburys, Unilever, McDonald’s and Subway, to support the development of ‘Origin Green’.

“The research, currently being undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), has shown that sustainability is now more deeply engrained in retailers’ commercial strategies than ever before and increasingly they see sustainability criteria as becoming a critical requirement of suppliers looking to do business. They view sustainability as helping them boost the efficiency of their supply chain while also driving brand reputation and securing supplies over the longer term.”

Read [+]

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Share/Bookmark

8
May 12

Clean tech sector in Ireland could generate 80,000 jobs by 2020

Clean tech sector in Ireland could generate 80,000 jobs by 2020Clean tech sector in Ireland could generate 80,000 jobs by 2020

At least 20,000 and as many as 80,000 new jobs and a boost of €3.9bn to Ireland’s GDP by 2020 are possible if Ireland focuses on clean tech. This would require a national clean tech framework.

At present Ireland’s import of fossil fuels stands at €5.6bn, according to Ernst & Young. And the grimace on the face of most motorists as they drive away from a petrol station across Ireland today speaks volumes as they are forced to pay higher and higher fuel costs.

But there is an opportunity to instead become an exporter of fossil fuels when you consider opportunities for renewable energy. After all, Ireland has one of the longest coastlines in Europe.

Globally the clean tech sector is estimated to be a US$5 trillion market and according to Ernst & Young if Ireland takes advantage of its natural advantages in this area as many as 80,000 direct and indirect jobs could be created in areas like renewable energy and retrofitting and construction.

“The clean tech sector can transform Ireland’s economy in two fundamental ways. Firstly, the sector can drive economic recovery through job creation and growth,” Barry O’Flynn, Head of clean tech and Sustainability at Ernst & Young Ireland explained.

“Secondly, it places future economic growth on a sustainable path by breaking our dependence on importing fossil fuels which currently stands at €5.6 billion, by significantly reducing domestic national energy consumption and generating more indigenous renewable energy,” O’Flynn added.

The Ernst & Young report warns, however, against policy inaction and points out Ireland’s international competitiveness will be eroded if volatile, high energy prices prevail.

The negative impact on GDP is estimated to range from €9.8bn to €12.3bn. Fiscal suicide in these recessionary times!

Correct clean tech actions

The report urges that energy efficiency and renewable energy measures be implemented at scale.

Denmark and Germany already have in place 30-year national policy frameworks for certainty in investing in renewable production.

In Demark the industry employs 24,000 people, accounts for 8.5% of total Danish exports and generates approximately DKK51.1 billion or €6.91 billion.

In Germany, studies show that the renewable energy sector employed approximately 370,000 people in 2010 and this could rise to over half a million by 2030.

“Globally renewables are seen as a key strategic sector to be developed to help economies recover from austerity,” Kenneth Matthews, chief executive, Irish Wind Energy Association.

“From an Irish perspective it has always been clear that we have abundant resources both naturally and in term of talent to develop the renewables sector not only to meet our own EU binding renewables targets but also to assist other EU countries in meeting theirs.

“If the correct actions are taken to create regulatory certainty, deliver infrastructure, create public acceptance and the political will exists Ireland can become the renewable energy hub for Europe, transforming our economy via cheaper, cleaner and more secure electricity, creating much needed jobs in energy and energy enterprise through the transition,” Matthews added.

Efforts such as Ireland’s Green IFSC seem to be a step in the right direction and last week it emerged that the Green IFSC could eventually manage US$200bn worth of green funds.

“The Green IFSC is an excellent initiative to accelerate growth in green finance in Ireland and it already reaping benefits in terms of increased assets and jobs,” Ernst & Young’s O’Flynn said.

“Now the Green IFSC has been given a mandate it can really co-ordinate and pull together the many positive public and private sector initiatives in this area.

“An implementation plan is well underway and Green IFSC close collaboration with the private sector and the investment community will strengthen further. This sort of certainty and co-ordination in policy-making will drive investment into the sector, attracting external investors and creating exciting businesses,” O’Flynn concluded.

Read [+]

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Share/Bookmark

23
Apr 12

Galway-based firm to create 14 greentech jobs

Fourteen new jobs are to be created at an Irish start-up greentech company after it was awarded a €2.8m grant from the European Commission.

Galway-based Cellulac has been given the grant to commercialise its biorefining technology which converts agricultural waste into lactic acid.

The company, which is supported by Enterprise Ireland, said the acid can then be used in food and beverages, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Cellulac said it will be recruiting graduates from the life sciences and engineering sectors for their research base in Ireland.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Share/Bookmark

17
Apr 12

Venture capital and pension funds to invest in Irish wind energy firms

The wind energy industry contributed €32 billion to the EU in 2010.

INSTITUTIONAL INVESTORS are poised to target the Irish wind energy industry, which will need funding of €900 million a year between now and 2020 if it is to deliver on agreed targets.

According to a leading figure in the industry, institutional investors such as pension and venture capital funds, are preparing to invest in the sector both in Europe and Ireland.

Kenneth Matthews, chief executive of the Irish Wind Energy Association, said at the weekend that wind farms with the capacity to deliver 1,700 mega watts (MW) of electricity are now operating in the Republic. Capacity in Northern Ireland is about 400 MW.

Mr Matthews said that, in order to meet green energy targets agreed with the EU, the Republic will need a further 3,750-4,000 MW of capacity built between now and 2020, while Northern Ireland will need about 1,200 MW.

That means that the construction of 300 MW a year is needed in the Republic and a further 150 MW in the north. At current costs, – €2 million per megawatt – Mr Matthews said this would require investment of €600 million a year for the next eight years in the Republic.

Those figures point to necessary investment of €300 million a year over the same timeframe in Northern Ireland.

According to Mr Matthews, the current pipeline indicates that these targets could be met. The outstanding issue is funding.

The Irish Wind Energy Association chief said the current model, which involves utilities investing their own equity and borrowing from the banks, needs to be supplemented with something else.

He estimates that around 60 per cent of the funding – €360 million annually in the Republic – needed will have to come from new sources.

A report from global investment business Hg Capital, which has a dedicated renewable energy division, shows that Europe as a whole needs to invest €1 trillion in renewables over the next eight years.

Of this, utilities have the capacity to put up about €400 million. Mr Matthews says that this scenario applies to Ireland as well. He explained that institutional investors are likely to step in to provide the rest of this funding.

“There is a clear appetite to invest in wind infrastructure being seen from pension funds, insurance companies and sovereign wealth funds and 2011 marked the biggest investment year for the renewable energy sector,” he said.

The introduction of a new round of markets supports, known as Refit 2, will make the sector more attractive to institutional investors in the Republic. It is designed to support projects built and operational between the start of 2010 and the end of 2015.

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, announced the programme last month. It will guarantee prices of €66.35 per MW hour to large-scale wind farms and €68.68 for smaller operations.

Separately, the European Wind Energy Association will today publish a report showing that the industry has been growing twice as fast as the EU economy. According to its figures, the wind energy industry contributed €32 billion to the EU in 2010. The sector now employs more than 2,000 people in the Republic.

Read [+]

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Share/Bookmark

22
Mar 12

Imperative considers $10M biopark in Bay State

Ireland-based Imperative Energy Ltd., a provider of biomass heat and power, said its expansion into the U.S. market will include a biopark in Taunton. The park will be modeled after a similar campus in Ireland that was designed by Imperative’s partner, J.P. Pendergrast.

The proposed $10 million biopark will include a biomass-fired CHP plant, wood pellet production facility and biopharma facility. The Irish company already submitted a planning application for a feasibility study for the project, according to the company.

The company announced its plans at a recent networking event in Washington, DC. The event included Prime Minister Enda Kenny and was hosted by Enterprise Ireland, a government agency whose mission it is to increase growth of Irish companies in international markets.

Imperative’s Managing Director Joe O’Carroll in a release said biomass resources, energy demand and strong policy and regulatory support are the core fundamentals for growing biomass opportunity. “All of these factors are in play in many regions across the U.S., particularly in New England and the Pacific Northwest.”

Imperative Energy, founded in 2007, recently closed a round of funding, taking in investment from the Northwest Fund for Energy & Environment (NWF4EE) which is managed by CT Investment Partners.

Read [+]

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Share/Bookmark

20
Mar 12

Germany’s $263 Billion Renewables Shift Biggest Since War


Vestas Wind Systems A/S. is the largest maker of wind turbines. Photographer: Ken James/Bloomberg

Not since the allies leveled Germany in World War II has Europe’s biggest economy undertaken a reconstruction of its energy market on this scale.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning to build offshore wind farms that will cover an area six times the size of New York City and erect power lines that could stretch from London to Baghdad. The program will cost 200 billion euros ($263 billion), about 8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2011, according to the DIW economic institute in Berlin.

Germany aims to replace 17 nuclear reactors that supplied about a fifth of its electricity with renewables such as solar and wind. Merkel to succeed must experiment with untested systems and policies and overcome technical hurdles threatening the project, said Stephan Reimelt, chief executive officer of General Electric Co. (GE)’s energy unit in the country.

Utilities running gas-generating plants in Germany lost 10.92 euros a megawatt-hour today at 12:16 p.m. local time, based on so-called clean-spark spreads for the next month that take account of gas, power and emissions prices. That compared with a profit of 20.95 euros in October 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. U.K. generators earned 2.06 pounds ($3.27), down from a profit of 7.02 pounds in October.

“Germany is like a big energy laboratory,” Reimelt said in an interview. “The country has a political and societal consensus to drop nuclear power but lacks a clear technological solution.”

Already, the program is expanding markets for Suntech Power Holdings Co. (STP), the world’s biggest solar panel maker, and Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS)., the largest maker of wind turbines. It’s hurting utilities from RWE AG (RWE) to EON AG (EOAN), which have stepped up cost-cutting to curb losses from closing nuclear stations early.

Bloomberg Conference

Technology officers from Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), IBM Corp. (IBM) and BP Plc (BP/) will discuss innovations that are spurring renewable energy businesses on a panel at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York today.

“The German energy transformation is as challenging as the first moon landing,” said Peter Terium, who in July takes over as chief executive officer of RWE, Germany’s second-largest utility. “It’s a huge challenge we’ll be able to master only if everyone works together.”

Germany is among the first nations to grapple with a global need to upgrade power stations. By 2035, at least $10 trillion of investment is needed to add 5,900 gigawatts of generation worldwide, more than five times the capacity of all U.S. utilities, the International Energy Agency estimates. Half of that will come from renewable. A gigawatt is about enough to supply 800,000 homes in the U.S. and a bit less than the capacity of a nuclear reactor.

‘Be a Disaster’

“If Germany succeeds, it could be a role model for economies all over the world,” said Claudia Kemfert, DIW’s senior energy expert. “If it fails, it will be a disaster for Germany’s politicians, society and economy.”

Germany’s efforts in the industry are sending shocks through European power markets. When it’s windy and sunny, turbines and solar cells flood the grid with electricity, undermining the economics of natural-gas fired generators, since clean energy has supply priority over fossil fuels.

Utilities running gas generating plants in Germany lost 10.92 euros a megawatt-hour today at 12:16 p.m. local time, based on so-called clean-spark spreads for the next month that take account of gas, power and emissions prices. That compared with a profit of 20.95 euros in October 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. U.K. generators earned 2.06 pounds ($3.27), down from a profit of 7.02 pounds in October.

Statkraft SF, a Norwegian power generator, said last month it’s shutting a gas-fired plant in the German city of Emden near the Dutch border because prices are so low. A biomass plant at the same site will keep working, the Oslo-based utility said.

‘Negative Margin’

“The picture for last year, the year before and the next two to three years is so negative that we see a negative margin going forward,” Asbjoern Grundt, a Statkraft executive vice president for markets operations, said in reference to his utility’s gas plants.

Norbert Roettgen, the 46-year-old lawyer who is Merkel’s environment minister and protege, is managing the transition and aims for the nation to generate at least 35 percent of its power from renewables by 2020, up from 20 percent last year.

Roettgen seeks 25,000 megawatts of power generated by wind farms in the North Sea and Baltic Sea by 2030, about the same as 25 nuclear power stations. About 200 megawatts of offshore wind plants are working now.

Scale of Shift

That will require 5,000 turbines, each standing taller than Big Ben and taking up 247 acres of sea each, on average. Combined, their footprint would cover 1,931 square miles (5,000 square kilometers), compared with the 305 square miles comprising New York’s five boroughs.

In January, German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler estimated grid operators would have to add or upgrade 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles) of high-voltage power lines to connect the turbines with the national electric grid. Operators also must modernize their systems to integrate fluctuating supplies from renewable with the steady output that comes from coal and nuclear stations.

“The energy transformation is the biggest modernization and infrastructure project in the coming decade,” Roettgen said in a televised speech on March 11. “Whether other countries follow our model will depend on whether we succeed.”

Others are making similar pledges, and Germany’s only ranks fifth in Europe in terms of ambition. Sweden, Austria, Spain, Slovenia, each of which have richer hydro-electric resources, are promising a bigger share than Germany for renewable by 2020. The U.S. has no federal mandate on renewable. Japan, also phasing out nuclear power, will announce policies to accomplish the goal in the next few months.

‘Open-Heart Surgery’

“The energy transformation is open-heart surgery,” Hannelore Kraft, state prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, said Dec. 20 in Essen. “We need a master plan and careful monitoring so this operation can succeed.”

After lobbying against clean-energy subsidies for years, utilities are gearing up to make money from the industry. EON, the country’s biggest operator of nuclear power stations, plans to invest 7 billion euros in renewable energy projects in the next five years. That includes 1 billion euros on the Amrumbank West wind farm in the German North Sea, a project that Siemens AG (SIE) will supply with 80 of its turbines.

“We don’t do this because we think it’s nice, but because we believe we can be successful,” Johannes Teyssen, EON’s chief executive officer, said Dec. 20 in Essen. The German energy experiment, Teyssen said, is “a task that will occupy an entire generation.”

Hurdles to Clear

Roettgen faces difficulty on a number of fronts in achieving his targets:

– Delays in connecting offshore wind turbines to the grid are threatening the government’s aim to have 10 gigawatts installed by 2020, according to RWE and EON, which say slow permitting and the short supply of cables and transformer stations are to blame.

– German solar manufactures including Solarworld AG (SWV), Q- Cells SE (QCE) and Conergy AG (CGYK) are struggling to finance their operations after competition from Chinese companies led by Suntech depressed margins and panel prices. Solon SE (SOO1) and Solar Millennium AG (S2M) are in bankruptcy proceedings.

– Output from solar panels and wind turbines is highly unpredictable, which strains the stability of the power grid and has forced utilities to pay renewable generators to shut off supplies on some days. Last month, the Czech government complained it was close to a blackout because wind farms in northern Germany overloaded the grid.

Mixed Messages

Merkel herself is raising questions about how quickly companies should push into the new business, slashing subsidies for solar energy. A record 7.5 gigawatts of solar capacity was installed last year, more than double the government’s target for this year. Her government plans to cut rates for solar power by as much as 29 percent from April 1 and make further reductions each month beginning in May.

“We’re very concerned by the government’s recent steps on solar energy,” said Eicke Weber, the head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, a Freiburg-based institute researching renewable energy technologies. “They look like an about-face.”

Germany’s advantage is it was the first major economy to provide incentives for clean energy, offering a feed-in tariff guaranteeing above-market prices for solar power starting in 2004. That made it the world’s biggest market for solar panels when it comes to total capacity and an innovator in other technologies from wind to building materials.

Germany’s Edge

Already, Germany has built the world’s biggest renewable generation complex, with 53.8 gigawatts of wind and solar generators at the end of last year. Italy last year added a record 9 gigawatts of solar panels, overtaking Germany for the first time. The U.K. plans 18 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2020, up from 1,500 megawatts now.

Some of Germany’s biggest companies are entering the renewables business and backing the innovations needed to make expand the scale of the industry.

Robert Bosch GmbH (RBOS), the world’s biggest car parts supplier based in Stuttgart, has invested about 1.5 billion euros into its solar energy business by purchasing companies and building new plants. Hochtief AG (HOT), Germany’s biggest builder, has commissioned four heavy-duty ships to erect wind farms at sea including the 200 million euro “Innovation.”

Volkswagen AG (VOW)’s Audi luxury car division plans to build a plant that uses water and carbon dioxide to convert electricity into natural gas, backed by 5 million euros of investment from EON in a pilot plant based on a similar technology.

“This energy transformation is about innovation,” Roesler, the German economy minister, said in Stuttgart in January. “If we do it right, there will be many chances for economic growth.”

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Share/Bookmark