US president Barack Obama has pledged to do more to tackle climate change in his second term. During his speech at his second inauguration, he said that the US should be a leader in sustainable energy, saying “We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise”. The commitment was somewhat unexpected, and suggests that Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse gas emission limits, which are due to be released in the coming months, may be on the strict side.
The Japan Iron and Steel Federation and seven other metal-related industry bodies have called on the Japanese government to allow utilities to restart nuclear reactors, or “cause unthinkable damage to the economy and society.” Since shutting down most of its reactors following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan’s reliance on imported fossil fuels has increased massively, and the concern is that if fossil fuel prices rise, Japan’s industrial competitiveness will decrease. Japan’s fossil fuel bill already increased by 10% over 2012; only two of the country’s 50 nuclear reactors are currently operating.
The Brazilian Mines and Energy Minister, Edison Lobao, has been forced to deny that the country is considering introducing energy rations, as dam levels drop and power demand increases in the hot summer. “The country has a stock of energy to attend to all our needs,” Mr Lobao was quoted as saying, who also pointed to the fact that thermal power generation capacity increased in 2012, and that the country is expecting summer rains to increase dam levels.
Xinhua has reported that Chinese power consumption grew at a slower rate in 2012 than in 2011. The 2012 growth rate was 5.5%, made up of 11.5% increase in consumption by the service sector, a 3.9% increase in the industrial sector, and no increase from the agricultural sector. In 2011, the overall growth rate had been 11.7%. The slower growth rate for power consumption in 2012 went hand in hand with China’s slower economic growth rate; electricity production grew 4.52% to 4.94 trillion KWh over 2012.
Turkey and the United Arab Emirates signed an agreement in early January to develop the Afsin-Elbistan basin coal field, in southern Turkey, and build coal-fired power generation capacity. The agreement was signed at ministerial level. The Emirati company TAQA is to invest $US 12 billion/€8.9 billion in the projects, which are expected to deliver something in the region of 5 GW of power generation capacity. It is the second largest investment in Turkey’s history.
Legislation and Regulation
The EU Emission Trading Scheme saw its carbon price drop to a record low on 24 January, reaching just €2.81 per tonne of carbon ($US 3.78/t), though it moved up to around €4 later the same day. The sudden drop was the result of a vote by the European Parliament’s energy and industry committee to oppose ‘backloading’ to support the carbon price. Connie Hedegaard, the EC climate commissioner, responded by saying “This should be the final wake-up call both to governments and the European Parliament. The alternative is a re-nationalization of climate tools meaning a future patchwork of up to 27 different systems and taxes instead of one market creating a level playing field internally in Europe.” As Reuters reports, the vote and the price fluctuation is a sign of the difficulty the EC is having in intervening in the carbon price. The following day, Societe Generale cut its price forecast for carbon from €9.30 ($US 12.52) to €6.50 ($US 8.75).
The Chinese province of Shanxi has been eyeing ways of using a 120 million tonne stockpile of coal ash that has accumulated in a 1.2 square kilometre landfill over the last three decades next to the Shentou No. 2 power plant in the city of Shuozhou. The municipal government has invested $US 1.9 billion/€1.41 billion into an industrial zone which aims to recycle 5 million tonnes of the ash per annum, with various businesses occupying the zone and using the ash in different ways. There are presently nine enterprises taking part, and between them they are projected to have used 2.4 million tonnes of ash by the end of the year. Amongst the uses of the ash has been brick production and flooring material. Despite the recycling zone, the accumulation of ash is expected to continue, as new coal power generation in the province will result in total production of 18 million tonnes of coal ash annually.
RWE npower has announced that its carbon capture pilot plant at its Aberthaw Power Station in Wales has commenced operation and captured its first tonne of CO2. It is the first carbon capture plant to be built in Wales, and one of the largest in the UK – though being a pilot plant it is somewhat modest in size. When fully commissioned, the pilot plant, which uses technology designed by CanSolv Technologies, will capture around 50 tonnes of CO2 per day, equivalent to emissions from a plant of around 3 MWe. While it will build the company’s knowledge of operations of carbon capture for coal-fired plants, RWE npower expects Aberthaw to be its only coal-fired power plant by the end of 2013, as the rest of its fleet moves to gas.
EON has announced that it has reached an agreement to sell its EON Energy from Waste business to EQT Infrastructure II, an entity of which it will be 49% owner. Swedish equity group EQT will own 51% of the venture. EON sold the business as it believes that waste incineration is not part of its core business. The deal is subject to regulatory approval, but is expected to be completed early this year.
Lafarge is to join with Mexican building materials company Elementia in producing cement in Mexico. They plan to operate three plants with a total annual production capacity of close to one million tonnes, with Elementia owning 53% of the venture and Lafarge the remaining 47%. Lafarge will contribute two plants, which are already operation, and Elementia will contribute one, which was close to completion late last year. A decision on approval of the plan is due in the second half of the year.
General Electric and Toshiba have signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly develop high efficiency combined cycle power systems around the world. The global agreement builds upon a thirty-year strategic partnership between the companies, and also includes an option of a joint venture to develop technology. The two companies are currently working together on the Chubu Electric Power’s Nishi Nagoya Thermal Plant, in which GE’s FlexEfficiency technology is being employed, which the company claims will achieve a 62% thermal efficiency at site conditions, the world’s highest.