Monday, June 27, 2011

Policy on Climate Change tabled in Namibia

The Namibian newspaper is reporting that the National Policy on Climate Change for Namibia was tabled in the Namibian parliament last week, bringing the country closer to an official policy to deal with climate change. The majority of Namibians rely on agriculture, livestock management and fishing for an income, and scientists have said that climate change impacts will range from increases in temperature and evaporation as well as unpredictable rainfall, causing flooding or draughts. On the positive side however, climate change also offers opportunities, Minister of Environment and Tourism, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, pointed out. She noted that the global drive to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations is increasing the importance of alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind and other renewable energy resources, which Namibia is particularly well-endowed with. Addressing the opportunities and mitigating the negative effects are part of the policy on climate change. “The policy lays out a number of principles that ought to guide the process, while also outlining the roles and responsibilities of the relevant stakeholders to ensure the effective implementation of the policy,” the Minister writes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Shore Gold signs MoU for biomass ethanol production with Nipawin Biomass

Under the terms of the MoU, Shore Gold Inc. (“Shore Gold”) will provide waste timber from its mining activities to Nipawin Biomass Ethanol New Generation Co-operative Ltd. (“Nipawin Biomass”) which will process and convert the timber to cellulose ethanol at its proposed green fuel facility in the town of Nipawin, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Shore Gold is currently in the process of developing Saskatchewan's first diamond mine, the Star-Orion South Diamond Project, at a site in the Fort à la Corne forest which is approximately 60 kilometres west of the town of Nipawin, Saskatchewan. Shore Gold states that the proposed diamond mine site will require approximately 4,250 hectares to be cleared of timber, which is less than 4 percent of the forest.

Nipawin Biomass and the Saskatchewan Research Council have jointly developed a proprietary conversion technology which will process synthesis gas from waste wood and waste farm fibre, such as flax fibre or straw, into ethanol and other alcohols. Its proposed ethanol plant in Nipawin will require approximately 200,000 oven dried metric tonnes of cellulosic fibre per year, approximately two-thirds of which would come from forest waste product. Shore Gold's available supply would provide a significant volume, but only a fraction of the ethanol plant's needs.

The MoU provides that the parties will work together to achieve cost reduction for Shore Gold, a secure supply of cellulose at the best possible terms for Nipawin Biomass and seek involvement of First Nations people or businesses in the clearing, removal and transportation of the biomass.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Unique “Wind Storage” provision in Power Purchase Agreement

Manitoba Hydro and Minnesota Power have signed a 250 MW Power Purchase Agreement which includes a unique provision whereby Minnesota Power can transmit electricity generated from their wind farms in the US state of North Dakota to the Canadian province of Manitoba where it will be “stored” in Manitoba Hydro’s hydroelectric reserves. When Minnesota Power transmits electricity northward to Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro will absorb it into its system – in essence storing the wind power, using the Manitoba system as a rechargeable battery. Minnesota Power will complete the second phase of its 82 MW Bison 1 Wind Energy Center in fall 2011 and recently announced its intent to build Bison II, an additional 105 MW, $170 million USD wind farm in North Dakota. Manitoba Hydro plans to construct two new hydroelectric stations on the upper Nelson River near Hudson Bay: the Keeyask and the Conawapa installations. The new hydro facilities would add another 1930 MW of electricity to the Manitoba Hydro system. The PPA also provides for construction of additional transmission capacity between Manitoba and the United States.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Greengate signs deal with Vestas

Calgary, Alberta-based Greengate Power Corp. and Vestas-Canadian Wind Technology, Inc. have entered into agreements under which Vestas will supply turbines to the 300 MW Blackspring Ridge I Wind Project in the Canadian province of Alberta and provide long-term service and maintenance for the facility. Under the turbine supply agreements, Vestas will deliver 166 of its V90-1.8 MW turbines for installation at Blackspring Ridge I, which is being developed in southern Alberta about 30 kilometers north of the city of Lethbridge. Vestas will also service and maintain the turbines for a period of ten years. Deliveries of the turbines are scheduled to begin during the third quarter of 2012.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nova Scotia COMFIT plans move forward to boost renewable generation

The Canadian province of Nova Scotia is committing to generate 25% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015 from a current level of 13%. Among the first steps to meeting this ambitious target is a new Community Feed-in Tariff (COMFIT) program to support community-owned projects using a variety of technologies and a competitive bidding program for medium- to large-scale projects.

The COMFIT combines local ownership with a traditional feed-in tariff market design, offering fixed rates for big wind (projects greater than 50 kW), small wind, biomass, tidal and hydro technologies. Projects must be 51% owned by community groups including municipalities, universities, First Nations, co-ops and Community Economic Development Investment Funds (CEDIFs).

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) held a hearing to discuss draft rates in early April and final rates are expected soon. Prices range depending on the perceived level of risk associated with the technology. In-stream tidal, a relatively new technology, has a high proposed rate at $0.652/kWh compared to big wind, a more established technology, at $0.452/kWh.

Big wind is expected to play a leading role in Nova Scotia’s new renewable energy mix. Under COMFIT, there are opportunities for partnering with community groups and First Nations who will be looking for expertise. The local Mi’kmaq community is currently in the process of developing its very first renewable energy strategy and is looking at potential areas of collaboration with developers and technology providers on these projects.

Nova Scotia’s new competitive bidding process also paves the way for more medium to large wind projects in the province. In its initial phase, 600 GWh is reserved for larger projects to be split evenly between the province’s main utility, Nova Scotia Power (NSPI), and Independent Power Producers (IPPs). The province will be appointing a Renewable Electricity Administrator (REA) to oversee the request for proposal (RFP) process.

Financing is expected to be a challenge but more so for the smaller-scale COMFIT projects, which may have trouble finding early-stage investment. There is a possibility the province may allow for contract bundling for these smaller projects that would allow developers to reach economies of scale and create more finance options. Canadian banks aren't interested in providing equity for smaller projects at the moment. But hopefully some Canadian banks will draw lessons from European banks that have developed tools for financing small, community-owned renewable energy projects.

The opportunities for developers and suppliers in Nova Scotia will become clear over summer 2011. Clarity on the timing and details on the new RFP are imminent following the appointment of the new REA. The Department of Energy will also open the application process for COMFIT projects following the rates announcement.

Source: Adrienne Baker, Director of Canadian Clean Energy Conferences. Canadian Clean Energy Conferences is organizing the Nova Scotia Feed-in Tariff Forum on September 21-22 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Biomass "bush-to-electricity" generation opportunities in Namibia

Namibia’s national power utility, NamPower, plans to conduct a prefeasibility study into the potential for as many as 20 biomass power plants fuelled using wood from invasive bush species - called "bush-to-electricity" projects. The invasive bush is accelerating desertification by encroaching on pasture land and using limited supplies of water to undermine agriculture in the vast Southern African country.

There is already one “bush-to-electricity” pilot plant operating in northern Namibia supported by a power purchase agreement (PPA) from NamPower. The terms of the PPA are not known.

In May, 20111 NamPower issued a tender notice calling on experienced organisations and individuals to prequalify to undertake the prefeasibility study which is expected to provide a roadmap for developing such power facilities.

A 2010 report by Combating Bush Encroachment for Namibia's Development notes that 26 million hectares of land have already been affected by the invasive bush.

The NamPower prefeasibility study will seek to analyse the potential for "bush-to-electricity" biomass power facilities, as well as identify possible sites and technological solutions.

This is an interesting opportunity as the "bush-to-electricity" projects serve the dual aim of providing renewable electricity and preventing further desertification of Namibia's farmland. I have been in contact with large ranchers affected by invasive bush who have already expressed interest in providing land for such projects and purchasing part of the electrical generation to power their ranches. I am also aware of one Namibian investment company actively pursuing "bush-to-electricity" projects in Namibia.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Changes to carbon trading market in Alberta

The Canadian province's greenhouse gas emissions reduction program, the only one in Canada, currently allows industrial emitters to purchase offset credits from other sectors. This includes certain agricultural sectors that have voluntarily reduced their emissions level in Alberta. Farmers who meet the requirements under various protocols can sell their credits once they have complied with the quantification and verification rules for different types of qualifying projects, such as zero or reduced tillage.

Alberta Environment recently announced important changes to the system which will affect farmers and aggregators.

Farmers will now have until March 31, 2012 to ensure retroactive credits earned from 2002 to 2011 are verified and entered into the registry for sale.

As of January 1, 2012 the system will move to “go forward” credits which will now be verified to a higher standard of reasonable assurance, similar to that of a full financial audit. Once the “go forward” system commences farmers can expect aggregators to require more verification procedures to meet the new tests.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wind energy in Ontario a significant investment draw and employment engine

The development of wind energy in the Canadian province of Ontario will generate more than 80,000 person-years of employment and attract more than $16 billion CAD in private-sector investment over the next eight years, according to a recent report by renewable energy market research and advisory firm ClearSky Advisors. The report, which was commissioned by the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CANWEA), was based on a quantification of the economic benefits of the projected growth in Ontario’s wind power market from 1,428 megawatts (MW) at the end of 2010 to more than 7,100 MW by 2018. Ontario’s Green Energy and Economy Act, feed-in-tariff and Long-Term Energy Plan “have opened up the market in Ontario for wind energy and will allow faster growth than otherwise would be the case,” said Tim Wohlgemut, a ClearSky principal consultant and co-founder. “Ontario has been put on the global map for renewable energy development, and this has the potential to create a significant number of highly skilled jobs and attract billions in investment to the province.” About 2,125 MW of wind energy projects in Ontario have already been signed and are expected to be constructed during the period covered by the report.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Public information meeting for innovative utility-scale landfill wind turbine project a success

There was a good turnout yesterday evening in Saskatoon to hear Kevin Hudson, P.Eng. and Rod Neufeld, P.Eng. discuss the proposed 2 MW utility-scale wind turbine project at the Saskatoon landfill. This innovative project in only one of a few projects in the world which will reclaim parts of a landfill to install a utility-scale wind turbine and generate clean energy. The project is proposed by the City of Saskatoon utility, Saskatoon Light & Power.

Residents of the residential community of Montgomery in the city of Saskatoon which borders on the existing landfill were in attendance and expressed common concerns relating to sound, shadow flicker and equipment failure. The turbine is proposed to be set back 700 meters from the nearest residence so problems with sound, shadow flicker or equipment failure are very minimal if existent at all. Residents of Montgomery seemed generally more concerned about the fact that the landfill itself was not being closed and other large projects such as a new bridge and freeway will also be constructed in their area in the future.

Personally, I was a bit disappointed as the residents of Montgomery failed to see the opportunity to capitalize on the new Green Energy Park which is proposed to include a number of renewable and/or low impact electrical generation facilities, including a Tall Wind Turbine, Landfill Gas Power Generation Facility, Turboexpander Power Generation Facility (in conjunction with SaskEnergy), and potential to add fuel cells, heat recovery and solar power generation in the future. Instead of being referred to as “the community next to the landfill”, Montgomery could become “the community next to the Green Energy Park” and could move towards incentivizing homeowners in the community to develop their own renewable generation projects on their homes and become a true low-emissions “green” residential community.

Monday, June 6, 2011

South African utility, Eskom secures loan of $365 million USD loan for renewable energy development

The African Development Bank has approved Eskom’s $365 million USD loan for financing the 100 MW wind project which Eskom plans in the Western Cape and a 100MW concentrating solar power project in the Northern Cape. South Africa and Namibia are expected to lead the continent in renewable energy development in Southern Africa. The Namibian Ministry of Mines and Energy has recently revived its Solar Revolving Fund freeing up $1.5 million USD in order to encourage private households in Namibia to invest in solar PV systems.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Canadian Solar to build PV cell plant in China

Canadian Solar Inc. (Toronto, Ontario) has signed an agreement with Suzhou New District Economic Development Group Corporation and Suzhou Science and Technology City Development Co., Ltd. under which the parties will form a joint venture to build and operate a 600 MW PV cell production plant in Suzhou, China. The new facility will be located approximately eight kilometers from Canadian Solar’s existing solar cell production plant in Suzhou and will produce the company’s ELPS and ESE high-efficiency solar cells. Canadian Solar will contribute 61% of the registered equity in the joint venture. The company said that the new joint venture will allow it to reach a total PV-cell production capacity of approximately 2 GW by the first quarter of 2012.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Japan takes WTO dispute with Ontario regarding FIT local procurement requirements to next stage

Reuters is reporting today that Japan asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to form a legal panel to decide whether Canadian provincial backing for renewable energy gives an unfair advantage to Canadian equipment makers.

Japan has given up attempts to resolve amicably a dispute over the Ontario feed-in-tariff (FIT) that guarantees prices for renewable energy as long as it is generated with Canadian-made equipment, Japan's ambassador to the WTO said in a letter to the chairman of the WTO's disputes division.

"Consultations failed to resolve the dispute. As a result, Japan respectfully requests that a panel be established to examine this matter," Japanese Ambassador Yoichi Otabe wrote.

The dispute stokes a larger debate over plans by countries including Canada, the United States and China among others to reserve public works as well as energy and environmental projects worth billions of dollars for local firms.

"Japan is seriously concerned about a possible proliferation of such protectionist measures all over the world," Japan said in a statement.

Canadian officials in Ottawa were not immediately available for comment.

Japan says that the Ontario FIT violates Canada's obligations as a WTO member.

Japan says that the local procurement requirement of the FIT is illegal and cites Ontario's decision in January 2011 to further raise the local content requirement.

WTO members will discuss the opening of legal proceedings on June 17, 2011 with Canada likely to ask for a delay while it studies Japan's complaint.