France's future will be greenerFrance's National Assembly officially adopted the government's so-called energy transition law. The text sets in stone the pledge made by François Hollande to reduce the part of nuclear power in the domestic mix to 50% by 2025 (from 75% today). It also imposes a cap of 63.2 GW on nuclear power, meaning that EDF cannot start new reactors without closing existing ones. Accompanying the reduced nuclear contribution, France will have to raise the proportion of renewable energy to 23% of total consumption by 2020 and 32% by 2030 when renewables have to make up 40% of power output. France will also have to lower carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 compared with 1990. The law stipulates lowering energy consumption by a fifth by 2030 and by half by 2050 as well as reducing 'primary' fossil-fuel consumption by 30% in 2030 compared with 2012. French MPs have also included the target of increasing four times the carbon tax or CCE (Contribution Climat-Energie) between 2016 and 2030.
Handelsblatt, Suddeutsche Zeitung, Le Monde | 2015, July 23rd
UK: government announces cut in renewable subsidiesThe British government announced plans to curb the costs of subsidies for renewable forms of energy like solar power, arguing that the industry could survive without the support. Representatives of Britain's solar industry expressed dismay and environmental groups saw the move as a setback for the countryss efforts to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions. The government also said it was acting to decrease the costs for consumers, who pay for the renewables through taxes in their energy bills. The government says that its projections show the cost of subsidies exceeding the target of £7.6 billion it has set for 2020 by about £1.5 billion. The plans need parliamentary approval, which is expected under the Tory majority, and would take effect in April.
International New York Times | 2015, July 23rd
How Europe's energy giants are facing the crisisEurope's main utilities have managed to resist the crisis, through cost-cutting measures and asset disposal plans. Sales revenues were down 2.6% in 2013 and 5.6% in 2014. The response to such environment was strong, with major cuts in spending and costs. RWE, for instance, plans to save €2 billion by 2017, or twice what it anticipated in its previous plan. Utilities have also mothballed or closed down unprofitable plants. Furthermore, the companies decided on asset disposal plans, in order to reduce debt. The strategy proved successful, limiting the impact on the gross operating margin. However, as all utilities have cut investments, the European Commission said that €2,000 billion would be necessary over the next 10 years to finance grids, interconnections and the energy transition. Some companies have called on new investors such as pension funds or insurance companies.
Les Echos | 2015, July 20th
Will Bavaria accept nuclear waste?German Environment minister Barbara Hendricks wants to impose temporary storage of highly radioactive nuclear waste in Bavaria, if necessary without the consent of Bavaria's Minister-President Horst Seehofer. "Bavaria has taken advantage of nuclear energy for decades, more than any other federal state. I expect that it takes responsibility," Mrs Hendricks said. Contrary to other federal regions such as Baden-Württemberg, Hessen or Schleswig-Holstein that already gave their approval, Mr Seehofer has rejected the federal decision and accuses Ms Hendricks of speeding up the process and thus violating coalition agreements on the energy transition.
Die Welt | 2015, June 23rd
Atomexpo: Russia announces agreementsA number of agreements between Rosatom and several countries have been announced on the occasion of the Atomexpo Forum in Moscow. The international event gathered more than 1,000 players of the industry, coming from 40 countries. Tunisia and Indonesia signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Russia on cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Ghana, Vietnam and Argentina have also signed framework agreements. In an effort to gain further market shares abroad, Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Rosatom signed an agreement to coordinate efforts and "create favourable conditions" for the implementation of strategic business projects overseas.
Le Monde Eco & Entreprise | 2015, June 06th
Britain's nuclear plants must work on looksAs the UK is set for a complete overhaul of its energy infrastructure in the next decade, the new nuclear power stations and other energy infrastructure projects must be designed to look beautiful to garner essential public support, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary said. With so much costly construction planned, it is crucial to make sure the public is on side - by making the projects visually inspiring, Amber Rudd said.
The Independent | 2015, June 06th
German nuclear fuel tax deemed legal by top EU courtThe European Court of Justice has ruled that a German tax on nuclear fuel is legal. The ruling is a setback for the country's energy groups, including E.ON, RWE and EnBW, which were arguing the tax was illegal. The groups, which have already paid €5 billion under the scheme, were hoping to get reimbursed. Germany's utilities are now pinning their hopes on a related lawsuit filed with the Constitutional Court, which ruling is expected in the second half of the year.
Die Welt | 2015, June 05th
Oil majors turn to gas, urge for carbon pricingOil majors such as Shell, Chevron, BP, Total and Exxon Mobil are massively investing in the gas sector, hoping that the future agreement that could be reached at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference will accelerate the transition from coal to gas. Meanwhile, Europe's top oil and gas companies urged governments around the world to introduce a pricing system for carbon emissions. In a joint statement published by 5 European dailies, the chief executives of BG Group, BP, Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil and France's Total said carbon pricing "would reduce uncertainty and encourage the most cost-effective ways of reducing carbon emissions widely".
Le Figaro, Le Monde Eco & Entreprise | 2015, June 01st
German electricity supply safe even after nuclear phase-outGermany's electricity supply will be safe even after the last nuclear plant has been switched off in 2022, but decommissioning costs may be significantly higher than estimated, a study by economic think-tank DIW said. Germany is currently producing far more power than it needs and DIW does not expect the situation to change even with the nuclear phase-out. Meanwhile, Germany's CO2 emissions should decrease progressively, as renewables grow in importance. On the other hand, the issue of the decommissioning and the management of nuclear waste remains to be solved, with costs still unpredictable. Provisions set aside by German could prove insufficient.
Berliner Zeitung | 2015, May 29th
Japan's NRA grants final approval to Sendai 1 & 2Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) gave Kyushu Electric Power Company its final regulatory approval necessary for restarting units 1 and 2 of its Sendai nuclear power plant. According to the country's nuclear watchdog, the two units are compliant with the stricter safety regulations adopted after the Fukushima accident. Kyushu has already obtained approval from the prefectural government and that of Satsuma-Sendai City for the restart of both reactors. The utility plans to restart Sendai 1 in July or August, while Sendai 2 could resume activity later in September. They thus look set to be the first Japanese reactors to be restarted.
Les Echos | 2015, May 28th
Saudi Arabia to switch to solarSaudi Arabia's Oil Minister said the country will switch its energy focus to solar power as the nation envisages an end to fossil fuels, possibly around 2040-2050. 'In Saudi Arabia, we recognise that eventually, one of these days, we are not going to need fossil fuels, I don't know when, in 2040, 2050', Ali Al-Naimi told the Business & Climate conference in Paris. He added that Saudi Arabia intended to become a world leader in solar energy. The kingdom is contemplating the eventual exhaustion of its oil resources, as its own energy consumption has exploded. Saudi Arabia could follow the example set by neighbouring emirate Abu Dhabi, which is currently building its first nuclear reactor while massively investing in the development of solar power.
Le Figaro | 2015, May 23rd
The World Bank Advocates for "Zero Carbon"According to the World Bank's experts, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero - a prerequisite for not exceeding 2 degrees of warming by 2100 - is technically and financially possible. The new electrical capacities installed from renewable energy exceeded all those from fossil energy last year. The World Bank wants to accelerate this movement and to complement it with other policies, namely by implementing a new tax or by submitting to the rules of a trading market to emit carbon.
Les Echos | 2015, May 12th
Negotiations of the Paris Climate AgreementLast week, the representatives of 45 countries met in Paris to negotiate the elements of the future Paris climate agreement, a preparatory work with a view to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) that will take place in Paris from 30 November to 11 December. The 194 participating countries are trying to reach an agreement on measures to keep the rise in global temperature under 2°C by 2100.
Le Figaro | 2015, May 12th
IEA says Innovation will be Crucial for EnergyThe International Energy Agency published a report dedicated to technological innovation in the energy sector. Innovation is the key to fight against global warming. The action of emerging countries could be crucial, as their energy consumption is the fastest-growing and they can make a "technological leap" more easily.
Le Monde, Les Echos | 2015, May 05th
New battery to revolutionize energy sectorTesla has launched a battery that can store energy and that will possibly be used in houses and companies. The device, which will be sold $ 3,000, will offer a bigger autonomy.
Le Monde, The Wall Street Journal Europe | 2015, May 03rd
EU to investigate capacity mechanismsThe European Union has opened an inquiry to see if capacity mechanisms violate the bloc's competition rules. A number of EU countries have created "capacity mechanisms", in order to help balance renewable energies' power generation shortage. These mechanisms allow payments to owners of traditional power plants not only for the electricity they actually generate, but also for merely standing by to provide energy during peak-usage times, when energy generation from solar or wind plants is too low. In its sector inquiry, the Commission will examine capacity mechanisms in Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
The Wall Street Journal Europe | 2015, April 30th
Japan: court ruling on Sendai paves the way for nuclear restartA Japanese court has rejected a legal bid to block the reopening of the Sendai nuclear plant on safety grounds, removing one of the last big hurdles to switching reactors back on in June, as scheduled by operator Kyushu Electric. The Sendai ruling said that based on the latest scientific knowledge the court found nothing wrong in the regulations set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA).The ruling comes just over a week after another court sided with a citizens' group by temporarily halting the restart of reactors at the Takahama nuclear plant.
Les Echos | 2015, April 23rd
Japan: local court rules against restart of nuclear unitsA Japanese court, citing safety concerns, blocked the latest attempt to get atomic power back onto the grid in the country, issuing an injunction forbidding the restarting of two nuclear reactors at the Takahama plant in Fukui. The court ruled that new regulations implemented after the March 2011 Fukushima accident were no guarantee against another disaster.
International New York Times | 2015, April 15th
New British law to bypass local approval on nuclear storageNuclear waste storage in the UK could be imposed on communities without their support under a new law. The sites considered to store Britain's radioactive waste are now officially defined as "nationally significant infrastructure projects" and so will be decided upon by the Secretary of State for Energy. Local councils and communities can object to details but cannot stop developments. Last year, the Department of Energy and Climate Change published a white paper that said ministers would prefer to work with public support, but reserved the right to take more aggressive action on planning.
The Guardian | 2015, April 06th
Associations' case against French Cigeo project rejectedA High Court in Nanterre refuted allegations made by anti-nuclear associations against the National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (Andra) concerning its Cigeo project of deep geological repository. The associations argued that the Andra had intentionally underestimated the geothermal potential of the region's underground, in order to pursue with its Cigeo project. But the French court said that authorities only were entitled to assess the studies conducted on the geothermal potential of the area.
Le Monde | 2015, March 28th
Technology leap needed to decommission FukushimaThe chief of the Fukushima nuclear power station has admitted that the technology needed to decommission the three melted-down reactors does not exist. Akira Ono conceded that the stated goal of decommissioning the plant by 2051 may be impossible without a giant technological leap. "It may take 200 years, but I would say our target is 30 to 40 years", he said. Operator Tepco is relying on the future development of robots that will be capable of removing the radioactive material, and placing it inside suitable storage vessels, which have also yet to be invented.
The Times, 2d ed | 2015, March 28th
Brokdorf nuclear plant under threat of premature closureGreenpeace is using a legal loophole to speed up the closure of one of the most modern nuclear power plants in northern Germany. Together with residents close to the Brokdorf plant in Schleswig-Holstein, the NGO has officially requested the nuclear regulator to revoke the operating license of the plant. Greenpeace can use as a precedent a recent decision by the Federal Administrative Court regarding the Brunsbüttel nuclear storage facility. Its operating license was cancelled because the operators have failed to demonstrate that the system is sufficiently secured against terrorist attacks.
Die Welt | 2015, March 25th
Who will bear the cost of Germany's nuclear phase-out?A new German governmental report is stoking fears that the country's energy companies can't shoulder the cost of the plan to close the country's nuclear power plants and that the bill eventually ends up on taxpayers. "The financing of nuclear phase-out faces a significant risk in the event of insolvency of the operators", the report said. As a solution, experts recommend the setting up of special funds. An internal fund should be provisioned by each operator individually and clearly separated from the utilities' balance sheet. It should be aimed at short-term needs, such as nuclear dismantling. Besides, the annual financial statements of each operator should be subject to "stress tests". An external fund in the form of a public foundation should be created for the long-term project of a final waste depository, the report further suggests. Meanwhile, German utilities are seeking to reassure investors that the companies' financial liability isn't crippling.
Suddeutsche Zeitung, The Wall Street Journal Europe | 2015, March 23rd
Japan to scrap up to 5 nuclear reactorsKansai Electric Power Company and the Japan Atomic Power Company (JAPC) have decided to decommission three nuclear power plants shut down after the Fukushima accident of 2011 rather than applying to restart them. Kansai Electric officially announced its decision to decommission units 1 and 2 at its Mihama plant, while JAPC will decommission Tsuruga unit 1, citing hefty costs to comply with the new safety standards imposed by authorities. Kyushu Electric Power and Chugoku Electric Power are both expected to announce their plans to scrap two old reactors (Shimane 1 and Genkai 1). The five reactors are among Japan's oldest, ranging in age from 39 to 44 years, and have relatively low generating capacity of up to 559 MW each.
Enerpresse | 2015, March 18th
Rosatom wants to triple sales by 2030Russia's Rosatom is hoping to triple its sales by 2030, betting on a strong growth in international markets. The Russian nuclear group is notably targeting new comers in nuclear power. Rosatom recently signed a deal with India, for the building of 12 reactors in the next 20 years and it will also work for South Africa, building up to 8 new reactors by 2023. Besides, a letter of intent was signed with Egypt, for the building of the country's first nuclear plant. In a more controversial deal, Russia has also partnered up with Iran. Rosatom is now targeting Asian countries, such as China and India, but also Vietnam and Bangladesh. The Russian group is marketing a global, turn-key offer dubbed "Build, own, operate", which provides for the financing and operation of the project. The group is also targeting European countries.
La Croix | 2015, March 16th
Nuclear phase-out in courtFour years after the Fukushima disaster, the Federal Constitutional Court is about to examine the legality of the German nuclear phase-out. The judges want to verify before the end of the year whether the 2011 nuclear energy law was compatible with the Basic Constitutional Law, as explained in the yet unpublished "2015 Annual Perspective" by the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe. The ruling could pave the way for energy companies to claim damages against the Federal government at a height of up to €22 billion. However, the exact amount of any subsequent compensation could only be determined after another, presumably long-lasting, civil action. In the now pending Karlsruhe trial, the three affected nuclear power plant operators E.ON, RWE and Vattenfall, claim that the Fukushima nuclear energy law was tantamount to an enacted government expropriation.
Die Welt Am Sonntag | 2015, March 15th
German utilities in severe crisisE.ON posted its largest-ever net loss of €3.2 billion for 2014, hit notably by massive write-downs of the value of its power-generation assets. The day before, RWE reported a 25% decrease in its operating income. Both companies warned that they face grim prospects this year, amid low oil prices, volatile currencies, and a continued decline in European power prices. German utilities are going through a major crisis, triggered by the government's decision to phase out nuclear power and massively subsidise renewable energies.
Le Monde Eco & Entreprise | 2015, March 12th
British authorities admit uncertain forecasts for SellafieldAccording to The Independent, the British Energy Department is not having "general confidence" in the forecasts for decontaminating the Sellafield nuclear facility as costs have constantly escalated. "We still do not know by any stretch of the imagination all the technical challenges of the site. The difficulties are pretty much unprecedented", the Department's Permanent Secretary said.
The Independent | 2015, March 12th
China approves two new nuclear unitsChina's government has approved the construction of two reactors in the country's north-eastern Liaoning province by state-owned China General Nuclear Power Corp. The reactors are the country's first new nuclear units to be approved since the Fukushima accident in 2011. Units five and six of the Hongyanhe nuclear power plant will each have a 1,000 MW capacity and will be located near the coastal city of Dalian.
The Wall Street Journal Europe | 2015, March 11th
Brussels' plan to reduce Europe's energy billThe 28 member states of the European Union are to integrate their markets and increase security of supply under a policy set known as the Energy Union. Brussels on February 25 unveiled its plan to reduce Europe's energy bill. The document also contains measures - to be partly funded by Jean-Claude Juncker's Investment Plan for Europe - meant to improve the interconnection of electricity grids across borders and overall energy efficiency. The Commission also plans to take part in negotiations between member states and supplier countries. Besides, the European Commission insisted on the need for EU member states to be able to export at least 10% of the electricity produced by their power plants. This goal aims at ensuring supply to consumers in case of breakdown or shortage, easing the integration of solar and wind power and, ultimately, contributing to lower prices on energy wholesale markets.
Les Echos, Le Figaro, Suddeutsche Zeitung | 2015, February 26th