Other stories below: Morocco to Host Massive Solar Farm; Plummeting Clean Energy Shares Exaggerate Risk
China will phase out power-draining light bulbs within five years in a move to make the world’s biggest polluting nation more efficient but also certain to impact the global market.
China will ban imports and sales of 100-watt-and-higher incandescent bulbs from Oct. 1, 2012, in an attempt to save energy and curb climate change, China’s main planning agency said Friday.
Bans will also be imposed on 60-watt-and-higher bulbs from Oct. 1, 2014 and 15-watt-and-higher old-style bulbs from Oct. 1, 2016. The time frame of the last step may be adjusted according to an evaluation in September 2016, the National Development and Reform Commission statement said.
State-run Xinhua News Agency quoted Xie Ji, deputy director of the NDRC’s environmental protection department, as saying China is the world’s largest producer of both energy-saving and incandescent bulbs and so the plan will also “have a significant impact” in reducing the use of incandescents worldwide.
Last year, 3.85 billion incandescent light bulbs were produced in China and 1.07 billion of them were sold domestically, the agency said. Power consumption for lighting is estimated to be about 12 percent of China’s total electricity use, it said.
Morocco has been chosen as the first location for a German-led, €400bn project to build a vast network of solar and windfarms across North Africa and the Middle East to provide 15% of Europe’s electricity supply by 2050.
The Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII), a coalition of companies including E.ON, Siemens, Munich Re and Deutsche Bank, announced at its annual conference being held in Cairo on Wednesday that “all systems are go in Morocco”, with construction of the first phase of a 500MW solar farm scheduled to start next year. The precise location of the €2bn plant is yet to be finalised, but it is expected to be built near the desert city of Ouarzazate. It will use parabolic mirrors to generate heat for conventional steam turbines, as opposed to the photovoltaic cells used in the UK.
The 12 square kilometre Moroccan solar farm will, said Paul van Son, Dii’s chief executive, be a “reference project” to prove to investors and policy makers in both Europe and the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region that the Desertec vision is not a dream-like mirage, but one that can be a major source of renewable electricity in the decades ahead.
Van Son described Desertec as a “win-win” for both Europe and MENA, adding that the Arab spring had created both opportunities and “questions” for the ambitious project. Discussions are already underway with the Tunisian government about building a solar farm, he said, and Algeria is the next “obvious” country, due to its close proximity to western Europe’s grid. Countries such as Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Syria and Saudi Arabia are predicted to start joining the network from 2020, as a network of high voltage direct current cables are built and extended across the wider region.
The performance of clean energy stocks, which have plummeted 41 percent this year, exaggerates the risks of an industry that is more likely to reward investors amid an increasingly volatile global economic climate, BNP Paribas SA said.
“There’s a perception at the moment that listed equities in the clean energy space are highly volatile,” said Peter Dickson, technical director at BNP Paribas Clean Energy Partners, which invests in renewable energy power projects in Europe. “That’s overlooking a trend that’s very secure and very robust.”
The S&P Global Clean Energy Index, comprised of 30 companies including the world’s biggest solar panel and wind turbine makers, has lost 35 percent since Aug. 1 amid concerns that Europe’s worsening debt crisis could stall projects. Customers can’t get loans to start new plants, Renewable Energy Corp. and Canadian Solar Inc., two of the world’s biggest solar panel suppliers, said this week.
“Returns in conventional energy projects have now become commoditized,” said Mumtaz Khan, chief executive officer of Maybank MEACP Pte., which has raised $150 million from investors including the Asian Development Bank for clean power projects and plans to raise an additional $350 million by the end of 2012.
China and other developing countries are resisting a U.S. proposal to cut tariffs on environmental goods, casting doubt on one of President Barack Obama’s goals for a Pacific Rim summit he hosts next week.
The U.S. has been pressing for years, with little success, to liberalize trade on “green” goods, such as wind turbines and solar panels, and services in World Trade Organization talks. Mr. Obama’s efforts on the issue at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit Nov. 11-13 in Honolulu face the same divisions that have stymied the WTO campaign.
he atmospherics aren’t good: The president this week said Chinese energy companies have engaged in “questionable” trade practices. His administration is reviewing claims by U.S. companies that their Chinese rivals are “dumping” solar panels on the U.S. market below the cost of production to gain market share and that Beijing is illegally subsidizing Chinese firms.
At the same time, Mr. Obama is under domestic political pressure over a government loan guarantee to solar-power company Solyndra LLC, which later went bust.
China said Friday its solar-energy policies are WTO-compliant, pressing Washington to avoid protectionism and use more “rational” policies to address bilateral trade disputes. Developing the solar industry is a focus for Beijing to address climate change and energy security, and China hopes the U.S. will boost bilateral cooperation on solar energy, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a news conference.
Massachusetts congressman Ed Markey is slamming the way Republicans are probing President Obama’s ties to failed solar-panel maker Solyndra, saying the GOP only wants to embarrass the president and kill “green” energy.
“The White House is saying they want to cooperate, (but) you’re saying ‘no,’ ” Markey (D-Malden) told Republicans on a House subcommittee that yesterday voted 14-9 along party lines to subpoena administration records.
“The reason you’re saying ‘no’ is that from the minute you took over (the House) in January, you have had a concerted effort to destroy the renewable-energy program,” Markey charged. “That’s what this is all about.”
The House is probing alleged ties between the Obama administration and Solyndra, a California “green-tech” company that collapsed in September despite $535 million in federal loan guarantees.
BP will pay Texas $50 million after the sides reached an unprecedented settlement over air pollution violations at the beleaguered oil giant’s Gulf Coast refinery, the site of a massive explosion in 2005 that killed 15 people.
The settlement announced Thursday coincides with BP PLC’s attempts to restore its reputation and resolve lawsuits over the April 2010 rig explosion that killed 11 people and caused the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. It may also help BP find a buyer for the Texas City refinery since it will settle pollution liabilities with the state.
The agreement covers 72 emissions violations since the explosion. But some environmentalists note the decades-old refinery consistently has problems complying with basic environmental regulations, and any buyer would have to contend with the lingering problems of old, outdated equipment.