Canada Inches Closer to Nationwide Carbon Price. Canada’s government in early December struck a deal with eight of the country’s 10 provinces to introduce its first national carbon price. The government has proposed that carbon would cost C$10 per metric ton in 2018, rising by C$10 a year until it reaches C$50 in 2022. Only Manitoba and Saskatchewan, a province that relied on coal for about 46% of its power in 2015, declined to sign the deal, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on December 9. Trudeau also said that the government would impose a carbon price on provinces that refused to voluntarily implement a carbon tax or cap-and-trade market. The move follows Ottawa’s announcement in November that the country would phase out the use of coal-fired power generation by 2030. However, the federal government later agreed to let Saskatchewan continue operating its coal-fired power plants beyond 2030 as long as it achieves equivalent emission-reduction outcomes. In late November, Alberta’s government announced that it would pay three coal-fired generating companies—Capital Power Corp., TransAlta Corp., and ATCO Ltd.—a total of C$1.36 billion in compensation for its decision to close their plants early.
Netherlands to Phase Out Renewables Subsidies. In an “Energy Agenda” published by the Dutch government on December 7, the Netherlands explains that it plans to gradually phase out subsidies for renewable energy and focus on energy saving and carbon capture. The country, which is struggling to reach 2020 renewables targets under European Union (EU) goals, in November announced a 33% increase in subsidies for 2017 compared to the year before, up to $12.9 billion for solar, wind, geothermal, and other renewable projects. The Energy Agenda issued by the Economic Affairs ministry outlines how the country will cut its greenhouse gas emissions 80% to 95% compared with 1990 levels by 2050. Among its key points are that offshore wind turbines will no longer require subsidies by 2026 and that the EU’s cap-and-trade market won’t affect the Netherlands until the 2030s. The agenda also calls for newly built houses to be built off the gas grid, while existing houses will be gradually disconnected from the gas grid. By 2050, the country expects that houses will be heated in part with waste heat from industrial processes and geothermal heat. The agenda, notably, does not include plans to shutter existing coal-fired power plants.
Massive Power and Water Generating Plant Begins Operations in Kuwait. ENGIE on December 12 said it started full commercial operations of the 1,539-MW Azzour North One project, a $1.7 billion facility that is Kuwait’s first integrated water and power plant (IWPP). Construction on the natural gas–fired combined cycle gas turbine plant (which is capable of firing fuel oil as a back-up fuel) began in January 2014. It has the capacity to generate 10% of Kuwait’s power requirements at peak capacity with five General Electric (GE) GTG 9F-3 gas turbines generating 225.8 MW each and two GE STG D1 steam turbines generating 251 MW each. The facility also produces 20% of the country’s water, with 107 million gallons per day (mgd) produced by a seawater desalination plant that uses a multiple-effect distillation unit. The plant is owned and operated by Shamal Azzour Al-Oula KSC, a company that is 40% owned by a private consortium comprising ENGIE, Sumitomo Corp., and A.H. Al Sagar & Brothers. The remaining 60% is owned by the Kuwaiti government, though the government is mandated to sell 50% of its ownership to its citizens through an initial public offering. The power and desalinated water produced by the plant will be supplied to the national grid, which is operated by the Kuwait Ministry of Electricity and Water under a 40-year energy-conversion and water-purchase agreement. Kuwait is looking to expand its generating capacity to meet an anticipated demand of 25 GW by 2025. To meet this goal, the IWPP in the Azzour area will be expanded to a total capacity of 4.8 GW and about 280 mgd of desalinated water.
DONG Energy, Eversource Partner to Build Mass. Offshore Wind Farm. DONG Energy and Eversource Energy are taking equal stakes in a partnership to build the Bay State Wind project, an offshore wind farm proposed to be built about 15 to 25 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. DONG Energy Wind Power U.S. and Eversource—a company formed in 2012 via the merger of Northeast Utilities and NSTAR Electric and Gas—will seek to jointly develop, build, and operate the utility-scale project under the joint company Bay State Wind. DONG Energy, which has built several offshore wind farms in Europe, will develop and build the project’s offshore generation and transmission assets, while Eversource will develop and build the onshore transmission system. DONG Energy won rights to a 300-square-mile ocean area offshore of Massachusetts in a 2015 lease auction held by the Interior Department. NSTAR had agreed to buy 27.5% of the power from the 130-turbine Cape Wind project, a proposed project in Nantucket Sound that failed to obtain financing before that contract was terminated. In August 2016, Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to mandate that its utilities purchase offshore wind power, specifically 1,600 MW by 2027.
Google Eyes 100% Renewable Power for All Operations in 2017. Internet service mogul Google will power 100% of its global operations, including data centers and offices, with renewable energy by the end of 2017, Urs Hölzle, Google senior vice president of technical infrastructure, announced in December. The company became one of the first corporations to create large-scale long-term contracts to buy renewable power directly when it signed an agreement to buy all the electricity from a 114-MW wind farm in Iowa in 2010. At the end of December 2016, Google had power-purchase agreements that surpassed 2.6 GW for wind and solar power from 20 projects sited in diverse locations from Grady County, Okla., and Rutherford County, N.C., to the Atacama region in Chile and municipalities in Sweden. To achieve its 100% goal as quickly as possible, the company pioneered a “fixed-floating swap model.” This approach, described in a December white paper, essentially involves purchasing fixed-price renewable energy in competitive wholesale markets and then reselling that power into the market at a variable market rate. The company then buys “smooth 24/7 energy” at the data center from its regulated utility and applies renewable energy certificates from its power purchase agreements to that consumption. The company’s data centers require tremendous amounts of power, and renewables are increasingly becoming the lowest cost option, Google said. “Electricity costs are one of the largest components of our operating expenses at our data centers, and having a long-term stable cost of renewable power provides protection against price swings in energy.” The company added that in 2017 it will also broaden its purchases to a variety of energy storage resources.
Sumitomo Completes 1-MW Concentrator Photovoltaic System in Morocco. Japanese manufacturer of electric wire and optical fiber cables Sumitomo Electric Industries in November celebrated the completion of its first 1-MW concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) power plant in Ouarzazate City, Morocco. The company embarked on development of a thin, lightweight module for concentrating solar power generation in 2010 (originally for use in space) and commercialized the product in 2014. By September 2015, the company had installed a demonstration 20-kW CPV system at a site owned by the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy in Ouarzazate. It later expanded the project to 1 MW. The system comprises several modules, each about 120 millimeters thick and weighing about 8 kilograms. It consists of lenses that directly collect sunlight, as well as compound semiconductor cells that convert that light into energy twice as efficiently as standard crystalline silicon solar cells, the company says on its website. The modules, which are mounted on trackers, have little temperature dependence, making them suitable for regions with high radiation and high temperatures. Another verification test is underway in Mexico. “Conversion efficiency is being improved by 1% each year,” said Takashi Iwasaki, a Sumitomo engineer affiliated with the power system research and development center. “In the meantime, we are trying to develop a technique to reduce optical loss to eliminate variance between each product, improve efficiency, and expand the application range.”
Sudan Readies for Five New Gas Power Units. Sudan’s state-run power provider Sudanese Thermal Power Generating Co. will get five SGT5-2000E gas turbines from Siemens to amp up the national grid’s power capacity by 850 MW, the companies said on December 2. All five power plant units are scheduled to commence commercial operation at the end of 2017. Three of the turbines will be installed in the Garri Power Station, north of Sudan’s capital of Khartoum, while the remaining two will generate power further east in Port Sudan on the country’s Red Sea coast. All five of the E-class turbine-generator sets will be initially commissioned as simple cycle units. However, later add-on of steam turbines is planned to expand the units to combined cycle configurations, Siemens said. The German firm said the Republic of Sudan, which has struggled to emerge from decades of violent conflict and saw a recent surge of instability in Darfur, has “substantial market potential” for power plant components and solutions. The country, which has electrified only 35% of its total population, has embarked on extensive investments in its energy infrastructure to meet the rising electricity demand. ■
—Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor.