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Poland's nuclear plan seen coming unstuck by finances

Poland's nuclear plan seen coming unstuck by finances

Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw
February 7, 2014

The Polish government hailed the adoption in late January of a programme to develop nuclear energy as a decisive step towards the construction of two power plants by the mid-2030s. But the political decision to adopt the 152-page document was the easy part; finding the financing is likely to prove more difficult.

Under the programme, Poland will build two 3,000-megawatt (MW) nuclear plants of by 2035. Drawing on the cost estimates of 11 new nuclear plants underway in the US and Europe, the government assessed the cost at PLN40bn-60bn (€9.5bn-14.3bn).

Poland's biggest energy company, the 61% state-controlled Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE), has been tasked with leading the project. But the nuclear programme will stretch the finances of an already hard-pressed utility, which has been pressured by the government to push on with a 1,800MW, PLN11bn coal-fired plant in Opole. PGE is also a key member of a group of state firms picked by the government to explore for shale gas in northern Poland.

To ease the burden of the nuclear project, PGE entered into a loose agreement in the autumn of 2013 with three of its state-controlled siblings – energy firms Tauron and ENEA as well as copper and silver mining group KGHM – to sell a 10% stake in nuclear power unit SPV to each. While one condition for the agreement to go ahead – namely, the adoption of the government programme – has now been met, it still requires the green light from the boards of the three partners...


India Wants To Switch 26 Million Water Pumps To Solar Power Instead Of Diesel

India Wants To Switch 26 Million Water Pumps To Solar Power Instead Of Diesel

The Indian government is aiming to swap out 26 million fossil-fuel-powered groundwater pumps for solar-powered ones, Bloomberg reports.
The pumps are used by farmers throughout the country to pull in water for irrigation, and currently rely on diesel generators or India’s fossil-fuel-reliant electrical grid for power. Pashupathy Gopalan, the regional head of SunEdison, told Bloomberg that 8 million diesel pumps already in use could be replaced right now. And India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy estimates another 700,000 diesel pumps that could be replaced are bought in India every year.

“The potential is huge,” said Tarun Kapoor, the joint secretary at the ministry. “Irrigation pumps may be the single largest application for solar in the country.”

The program works by subsidizing the swap, and operates in different capacities in India’s various states, sometimes subsidizing the solar pumps up to 86 percent.

Thanks to that aid, and the dramatic collapse in prices for solar power, the pumps pay themselves off in one to four years, according to Ajay Goel, the chief executive officer of Tata Power Solar Systems Ltd., a panel maker and contractor. And Stephan Grinzinger, the head of sales for a German solar water pump maker, told Bloomberg the economics will only get better: diesel prices will rise and spike during farming season, and economies of scale will help the swap program.

Two-thirds of India’s electricity is generated by coal...


Solar storage from used EV batteries set for testing in Japan

Solar storage from used EV batteries set for testing in Japan

By Sophie Vorrath on 10 February 2014

The world’s first large-scale solar power storage system to incorporate used batteries from electric vehicles has been built in Japan.

The commercial-scale energy storage system has been developed and deployed at a 10MW solar farm in south western Japan, having been selected by Japan’s Ministry of Environment as a ‘model project’ to test the use of battery storage in conjunction with renewable energy.

The Hikari-no-Mori (‘Forest of Light’) solar farm was built by Sumitomo Corporation and six associate companies, when their mega-solar proposal won the city of Osaka’s 2010 public tender for ideas on a new use for a landfill site located on Yume-Shima Island, Osaka.

Sumitomo then created a joint venture company with Nissan Motors – 4R Energy Corporation – to investigate the re-purposing of used EV batteries. This led to the development and installation of a 600kw/400kWh prototype system, using sixteen used lithium-ion batteries from Nissan’s Leaf model EV.

The idea that the used battery from a hybrid or electrical car can be re-used for such purposes as the storage of renewable energy is an exciting one for the industry...


New solar threat to networks – death spiral for gas

New solar threat to networks – death spiral for gas

By Giles Parkinson on 10 February 2014

Australia’s energy utilities have added a new element to their push for solar incentive schemes to be removed, arguing that gas networks now face the same threat as the nation’s network of poles and wires – a “death spiral” scenario where rising costs push consumers to consider other technologies.

The Energy Network Association – which represents the distribution and transmission networks in the electricity and gas markets – has called on the federal government to remove the small-scale renewable energy scheme, which provides certificates for rooftop solar PV, and solar hot water systems, as well as heat pumps.

“To reduce pressure on electricity prices, we should stop subsidising technologies that don’t need it,” ENA CEO John Bradley said in a media statement accompanying its submission to the Energy White Paper. “Solar PV technology is now well established and is forecast to undergo significant growth without further subsidies.”

Bradley also said gas hot water systems – which provide significant emission reductions compared to the 4 million electric water heaters still in the market – are competing against subsidised heat pumps and solar hot water systems in distorted appliance markets.

The push to remove subsidies for solar comes as ...


Former Duke CEO Jim Rogers: The US Grid Will Be a ‘Blank Sheet of Paper’

Former Duke CEO Jim Rogers: The US Grid Will Be a ‘Blank Sheet of Paper’

Former Duke CEO Jim Rogers: The US Grid Will Be a ‘Blank Sheet of Paper’
Rogers calls for “de-coupling on steroids” in order to get utilities prepared to rewrite the future.

Stephen Lacey February 10, 2014

Former Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers predicts that nearly every single power plant operating today -- aside from some hydro and perhaps a few nuclear plants -- will be replaced by the middle of the century. He called it a “blank sheet of paper” that opens up the possibility of a major transformation for utilities.

Speaking at a recent Brookings Institution event on the future of utilities, Rogers offered his candid take on where the power business is headed. Although centralized natural gas and nuclear are at the top of his list for low-carbon technologies, Rogers said he believed a more distributed grid is inevitable.

"If you believe that climate is a problem -- and I do -- one of the big challenges as we redesign the generation fleet in this country is what will this mix will be," said Rogers. "Utilities need to embrace the future. They need to embrace distributed generation."

Before leaving his position as CEO last July, Rogers was blunt about the need to strengthen Duke's promotion of rooftop solar. The utility has already procured 400 megawatts of solar PV projects, but only 50 megawatts of that is rooftop solar. In 2009, Duke started a 10-megawatt rooftop solar program in North Carolina; however, Rogers called for legislative changes in the state to allow its renewables development arm to compete directly in the market with solar installers.

“This is a business we want to invest in -- we want to earn off of it. We don’t want to cede it to others...


Donald Trump buys Irish golf resort after losing Scotland court battle over wind farm

Donald Trump buys Irish golf resort after losing Scotland court battle
US billionaire says he'll divert energies to five star complex while he appeals against defeat over decision to approve windfarm

Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent, The Guardian, Tuesday 11 February 2014 14.14 EST

....The billionaire property developer said that while he appealed against the court defeat in Scotland he would be diverting his energies to the exclusive Doonbeg golf and hotel complex on the Atlantic coastline of County Clare, restyling it the Trump International Golf Links, Ireland.

Trump had taken the Scottish government to court over a decision to approve a major experimental windfarm in Aberdeen Bay, which will be about two miles south east of his planned £750m golf resort, because it spoilt the view.

He had alleged in court that Alex Salmond, Scotland's first minister and local MSP, had secretly interfered in the decision to approve the 11-turbine site, known as the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, and there had been clear bias in favour of the windfarm.

He alleged in the judicial review that his own human rights had been breached, because the windfarm, which is funded by the European commission and supported by many local organisations which had also backed Trump's golf resort, interfered with his "peaceful enjoyment of his property".

His claims were rejected by Lord Doherty, in the court of session in Edinburgh, but ...


See also:

CREW Exposes Koch Brothers' Influence in Pennsylvania

January 16, 2014
By Carrie Levine

In 2011, a new Pennsylvania nonprofit, All Votes Matter, began spending tens of thousands of dollars lobbying in favor of changing how Pennsylvania’s electoral votes are awarded to presidential candidates. Instead of awarding all 20 electoral votes to the winner of the state’s popular vote, the group wanted to allocate one vote to the winner of each of the state’s 18 congressional districts, with the remaining two electoral votes going to the winner of the popular vote.

The plan was widely viewed as giving Republicans an opportunity to pick up some electoral votes in Pennsylvania, which was considered a battleground state. The proposal won support from several prominent Pennsylvania Republicans, including Gov. Tom Corbett and state House and Senate leaders, but others in the party opposed it, including the head of the state Republican party and members of the congressional delegation, and the change was never made.

All Votes Matter was headed by William Sloane, a former chief counsel for Pennsylvania’s House Democrats, but most of the support for the proposal came from Republicans and the group hired a prominent Republican firm to lobby state legislators during the period leading up to the 2012 elections.

The source of the money behind All Votes Matter, which was organized under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, was a mystery. The group refused to reveal its donors’ identities.

A new analysis of nonprofit tax filings by CREW, however...


Read more about CREW's research in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Ethics group says politics fueled GOP's quest to change voting rules

Germany Plans to Raze Towns for Brown Coal and Cheap Energy

Germany Plans to Raze Towns for Brown Coal and Cheap Energy
Villages face the bulldozer as one of Europe’s renewable energy leaders leans more heavily on an old habit.

Giant machines dig for brown coal, or lignite, at Vattenfall's mining operation near Jänschwalde, Germany, in the Lausitz region. Its planned expansion could force relocation of towns.

Andrew Curry in Atterwasch, Germany for National Geographic

The German village of Atterwasch is tiny, its single street lined with sturdy brick and stone houses. The village has a single church whose bells peal out at noon each day, a small volunteer fire department, and a cemetery with a special section devoted to German soldiers who died nearby in the closing months of World War II.

Atterwasch may soon be gone.

Vattenfall, a Swedish energy company, hopes to relocate the village and its residents in order to strip-mine the ground underneath for lignite, or "brown coal."

"They would tear everything down, dig up the cemetery, blow up the church and cut down all the trees," said Christian Huschga, a screenwriter and father of two who has lived in Atterwasch for more than 30 years.


Yet those in Atterwasch, and environmentalists elsewhere, blame not nuclear's pending demise but brown coal's political clout in the region and around Germany. Because of the way Europe's energy market works, brown coal remains much cheaper here than natural gas, an alternative that produces lower carbon dioxide emissions. While nuclear energy indeed has declined in Germany 10 percent since 2011, natural gas power is down 23 percent. Coal power is up 9 percent, and electricity production overall is up 3 percent.

The plans to plow Atterwasch under, and relocate its 900 people, in fact, have been in the works since 2007, before Fukushima sealed the fate of Germany's nuclear power industry. "The connection between the nuclear phase-out and the phase-out of coal is not there," said Stefan Schurig, climate and energy department director at Hamburg's World Future Council, a think tank devoted to sustainability issues. "The resistance of the coal industry is massive."

Brown Coal Jobs



All of the false rhetoric you hear about the costs of a transition to renewable energy originates from the same source; the industrial and political complex that promotes centralized generation, both coal and nuclear.

Here is how some specialists describe the situation in Japan. Note their conclusion, "...it is our belief that such events and situations are not things limited to Japan, but will happen in any country of similar industrial structure and at a similar stage of economic development".

5. Introduction of nuclear power as a set with coal-fired power generation
The theory of introducing nuclear power generation to reduce the number of coal thermal power plants seems to be too naïve a thought, in the political sense. In reality, nuclear power plants and coal thermal power plants were built and introduced in Japan simultaneously. For us, nuclear power and coal thermal power have been considered as a set, with coal thermal power acting as a back-up system in case of reduced operations at nuclear power plants. Consequently, Japan has consistently increased the number of coal thermal power plants, while promoting nuclear power generation, resulting in the eventual increase in CO2 emissions.

The most important reason for this is the fact that stakeholders promoting nuclear power plants are the same as those promoting coal thermal power plants, i.e., economic bureaucrats, power generation companies, major heavy equipment manufacturers, and energy intensive industries. As they are in a mutually beneficial relationship, they share strong economic incentives to build a massive centralized power generation system and to maximize their fixed assets and electricity sales. Therefore, these stakeholders are inclined to be less enthusiastic to introduce energy-saving measures and renewable energy. In Japan, the Government and other stakeholders intentionally advocated for a trade-off relationship between nuclear power generation and climate change measures. Climate change measures are “used” to promote nuclear power generation. Many Japanese people have eventually accepted such an idea.

The conclusion in Japan is that, in order to reduce the number of coal thermal power plants, it is essential to reform the structure of industry and interests through denuclearization. Moreover, it is our belief that such events and situations are not things limited to Japan, but will happen in any country of similar industrial structure and at a similar stage of economic development.

Nuclear Power is not the Answer to Climate Change Mitigation
January 31, 2014 (ver.2)

Jusen ASUKA, Professor, Tohoku University*
Seung-Joon PARK, Associate Professor, Kwansei Gakuin University
Mutsuyoshi NISHIMURA, Former ambassador for the United Nations climate change negotiations
Toru MOROTOMI, Professor, Kyoto University

Full article available to read here http://www.democraticunderground.com/101684781

Duo tracks double-dipping in U.S. oil firms' toxic tank cleanup

Source: Reuters

A pioneer in cleaning up toxic messes, Thomas Schruben long suspected major oil companies of being paid twice for dealing with leaks from underground fuel storage tanks - once from government funds and again, secretly, from insurance companies.

Schruben, a detail-oriented Maryland environmental engineer who helped draft government pollution rules going back 30 years, looked for a lawyer to help ferret out what he believed could in some cases be fraud. He found a partner in Dennis Pantazis, a buoyant, mustachioed son of Greek immigrants in Alabama known for bringing environmental and civil rights cases.

"Together we started unraveling the mystery," Schruben said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Schruben's former employer, has called the rusted, leaky steel tanks the single largest threat to groundwater in the United States. Often built for gas stations during the 1950s and '60s highway construction boom, the tanks corroded over time, spilling gas and diesel with potentially cancer-causing chemicals under properties and into aquifers.

The two men assembled a team of lawyers...

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/10/us-usa-environment-tanks-idUSBREA1905G20140210

Exclusive: Regulator plans purge of Wall Street arbitrators

Source: Reuters

Wall Street veterans would no longer be allowed to act as arbitrators in many legal disputes between investors and their brokerages under a proposal that a U.S. regulator will present to its board on Thursday, a person familiar with the matter said.

The plan by the U.S. brokerage industry self-regulator, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), would mean that investors could opt to have their cases heard by a panel of three so-called public arbitrators who would not include people who had past industry ties.

That would not only exclude former bankers and brokers but also others, such as lawyers who worked on behalf of brokerages, even for brief periods in their careers, the person said.

FINRA allows people who have been out of the industry for at least five years - but who may have worked in it as many as 20 years - to hear cases as public arbitrators.

Under the ...

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/10/us-finra-arbitration-idUSBREA191SI20140210
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