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Hosepipe Ban in UK Affects 20 Million

Following two of the driest years on record, seven water authorities in parts of southern and eastern England have imposed bans on hosepipes. Nearly 20 million citizens will be affected by this decision, made in part due to drought and “extreme circumstances.”  Failure to comply with the ban may lead to fines of up to 1000 GBP.

To help ease this pressing shortage, water experts and municipal administrators are considering water transfer options from Wales.  However, expense and logistical difficulties may prevent water resources from being accessed by groups who desperately need it.

The UK’s agricultural sector, particularly in the south of England, is at severe risk.  Former National Farmers’ Union vice-chairman Gwyn Jones said if the drought became any worse, “there could be complete crop failure which would be really bad for us.”

The government is encouraging all UK households to be “smarter” about how they use water during these extenuating circumstances.

Continue to read more about this serious water shortage issue here.

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Posted by on April 13, 2012 in Agriculture, Water

 

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United States & Europe Vulnerable to High Oil Prices

“Given the limited reserves of oil in the Member States, the EU is a net importer of crude oil,” reports the European Commission.  Given the high energy dependency amongst many  EU member nations, higher oil prices may be a serious drag on peripheral economies.

The graphic below better illustrates the troubling extent of this issue:

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also cited rising oil prices as a key point of economic concern for the United States in recent remarks in New York.

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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Oil

 

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Norway Commits $300 million/year to Support Carbon Markets & Energy Efficiency

The oil-rich nation of Norway has announced significant financial commitments to support broader global access to energy and the development of a new carbon marketplace.

As part of its “Energy+ Partnership” with the UK, France, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands and South Korea, Norway will invest $300 million a year to further these goals.  Poor, developing nations including Bhutan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Maldives, Morocco, Nepal, Senegal and Tanzania will receive aid to build new, efficient power plants and increase public access to energy.

The Energy+ Partnership initiative will be launched this June at the Rio+20 summit.  The top priority of the conference will be broadening global access to energy.  The International Energy Agency (IEA) warns this undertaking may cost $48 billion a year – at a minimum.

Included in the Energy+ agenda are measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing nations and develop practical ways to establish new carbon markets.  Instead of the project-by-project approach established by the U.N.’s Clean Development Mechanism system, many governments are now advocating for the creation of carbon markets across entire sectors.  Norway’s investments will go towards furthering these markets in energy.

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Sinopec & Total to Invest $4.5 Billion in U.S. Natural Gas

Booming natural gas resources in the United States have attracted significant investment from major foreign energy players in Asia and Europe.

China’s China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec) and France’s energy giant Total SA recently announced new investments totaling $4.5 billion to take advantage of as of yet undeveloped shale rock formations in Alabama, Mississippi, Colorado, Ohio and the Michigan Basin.

In its first entrance into the U.S. natural gas industry, Sinopec will partner with Devon Energy Corporation in  a $2.2 billion joint venture to develop five fields.

Total cemented a $2.3 billion agreement with Chesapeake Energy Corporation to develop the Utica gas field in Ohio, which studies indicate is rich in liquids such as butane, propane and ethane as well as natural gas.

At under $3 per million BTUs, U.S. natural gas prices are at their lowest in over two years.  As a result, shale formations with high concentration of liquids, such as the Utica field, are attractive to investors because prices of extracted liquids are linked with crude oil, rather than natural gas.

Additional interest in U.S. natural gas has been seen from Norway’s Statoil ASA and India’s Reliance Industries Ltd., indicating that global energy conglomerates are seeking to add “unconventional” fossil fuel resources to their portfolios and are willing to spend big money to do so.

The explosive growth in North American natural gas resources is one of today’s key energy trends.  For more information, click here to read more of our posts on natural gas.

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European Union to Build Stockpile of Rare Earth Elements

The European Union has announced it will build a stockpile of rare earth elements to boost domestic supply and safe-guard against Chinese dominance.  Rare earths are necessary components in a wide array of clean energy and high-tech devices, and China largely controls global supply, supplying 97% of the world’s demand.

As China’s domestic clean energy production and demand has grown, it has imposed export quotas with an eye towards preserving its rare earth resources for its own future use.  These limitations have had a significant negative impact on clean energy and technology manufacturers in the West, sending governments into a frenzied search for new mining sources.

The EU plans to store rare earth elements in the form of a mixed carbonate.  So far, EU proposals call for an annual procurement of 3,000 tons.

Strategic initiatives to secure rare earth supplies have also taken hold in the United States and Britain.  Because the rare earth element supply chain cuts across the manufacturing, defense and science and technology sectors of the global economy, the United States Department of Defense considers the supply of rare earth elements to be a natural security issue.  More information can be found in this key briefing, available here:  “Rare Earth Metals and U.S. National Security.” The British government has likewise implemented a “strategic metals plan” to guard against future supply shocks stemming from China’s export policies.

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German Nuclear Shutdown Boosts Demand for Wind & Renewables

Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022 is already having a positive impact on the renewable energy sector.

Under Germany’s new energy roadmap, renewable energy from sources such as solar and wind will replace the power lost from the closure of Germany’s 17 nuclear reactors.

Renewable energy deployment in Germany has increased significantly over the past decade.  In 2000, the percentage of electricity generated from renewable resources was 6.3%; in 2010, that figure rose to 17%.

After accounting for Germany’s new power needs resulting from the closure of its nuclear power plants, it is expected that renewables could supply as much as 40% of the country’s electricity by 2022.

This directional shift in energy is translating into new demand for wind turbines.  BWE, the German Wind Energy Association, reports Germany will add 1,800MW worth of new turbines in 2011 – a 16% increase from the 1,551MW total in 2010.  In total, Germany’s total wind power capacity rose 5.6% from 2009 to reach 27,214MW in 2010.

So far this year, offshore wind power in Europe has grown by 4.5% with 101 new offshore turbines coming online.  The energy from these turbines has been connected with power grids in Norway and the United Kingdom, as well as Germany.  The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) reports another 2,844MW of offshore capacity are currently under construction.

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'Aggressive' Renewable Energy Law Approved in Germany

The German Parliament has approved an “aggressive” new version of its landmark Renewable Energy Sources Act, which was first made into law in 2000.

Germany has strengthened its Advanced Renewable Tariff program, setting a minimum requirement of no less than 35% renewable energy it the nation’s total electricity supply by 2020, no less than 50% by 2030, no less than 65% by 2040 and no less than 80% by 2050.

Germany decided to abandon its nuclear power effective in 2012, and in its place, will significantly boost domestic production of renewable energy.  Besides setting ambitious generation targets, this revised Renewable Energy Sources Act will either maintain or increase tariffs for key renewable energy technologies, including biomass, geothermal, on- and off-shore wind and solar photovoltaics (PV).

Solar PV is of particular interest to Germany.  The Parliament is aiming to continue a “growth corridor” of 3,500MW of new development per year.  If this rate continues, Germany’s PV capacity is likely to surpass 50,000MW by 2020, keeping the nation firmly entrenched as the global PV leader.

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