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  • amymaxwell

    The Haney Energy Saving Group : Renewable Energy in Spain Is Taking a Beating

    5 years agoReply


    MADRID — Years of disastrous policies, coupled with the economic crisis, have recast renewable energy in Spain. Once touted as the embodiment of progress, wealth and sustainability, the industry is now seen as an unwanted and costly extravagance.

    The policy turnaround started in 2010 but picked up momentum with a government decree in July aimed at closing a widening gap between the cost of electricity generation and what consumers pay — known as the tariff deficit.

    The decree’s impact has all but erased public support for renewable power, raising alarms in the industry inside and outside Spain.

    “We’ve gone from misery to ruin,” said Jaume Margarit, director of the Association of Renewable Energy Producers.

    In essence, the decree aims to stop an unsustainable annual growth of the tariff deficit, which over the years has built up a cumulative debt of about €26 billion, or $35 billion. In an embarrassing admission, the government said last month that despite past consumer price increases for power and attempts at reform, the tariff deficit this year would reach €2.5 billion to €3 billion.

    The call on the government’s coffers has soared as tax revenue has slumped because of the recession.
    While the demand for power has plummeted nearly 6 percent since 2007 because of the slide in economic activity, the share of mandated renewable output has increased, crowding out cheaper coal and gas.

    More than 27 percent of Spain’s power supply in 2012 came from renewable sources, excluding big hydroelectric generators, compared with around 13 percent in 2007 — one of the highest shares in the European Union.

    The government’s bid to change course has all but assured legal battles with investors, and has triggered diplomatic pressure by the United States and the rest of Europe, as well as expressions of concern from the E.U. authorities.

    Marlene Holzner, the European Commission’s energy spokeswoman, said: “The commission believes that careful attention must be paid to ensure that measures employed to eliminate the tariff deficit do not negatively affect the investment climate in Spain’s energy sector. In particular, ensuring a good climate for investment in renewable energy is a matter not only for Spain but for the European Union as a whole.”

    The July decree, which has been rubber-stamped by the Spanish Parliament, laid out a framework for a thorough overhaul of electricity-sector regulations — to be completed by the end of the year with the publication by the government of detailed new rules.

    The overall goal of ending the tariff deficit has broad support, including from the renewable energy industry, but nobody is happy with how the government has proposed to split the unavoidable economic pain.

    Renewable energy, which for years was nourished and pampered — making Spain a global leader in the field — will bear by far the brunt of the reforms, both the government and industry experts said. In particular, proposals that would result in retroactive subsidy cuts have deeply rattled the sector.

    The proposals have the potential to deliver long-term regulatory stability in the sector, said Tania Tsoneva, a credit analyst with Standard & Poor’s. “At this stage, however, it is still too early to conclude whether the reforms can and will be implemented,” she said.

    The problem “essentially reflects a political unwillingness to pass all costs onto final customers,” said David Robinson, an economist in Madrid who specializes in energy policy and who is a senior research fellow in the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

    “The regulatory system for renewables was badly designed and very expensive,” he said. But the proposed solution risks making some problems worse, he warned.

    Mr. Robinson said the July decree “was designed to discourage further investment in renewable generation and reduce output from existing renewable facilities, mainly because of the substantial renewable capacity already on the system and the steep decline in electricity demand.
  • amymaxwell

    Japan PM steps in to deal with Fukushima

    5 years agoReply
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    Radiation levels continue to cause concern as plant operator's ability to deal with the situation is questioned.

    The Japanese government will take prompt, comprehensive steps to clean up the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant amid growing concerns about the plant operator's ability to handle it, the country's prime minister has said.

    Shinzo Abe said on Monday that his government will step forward to take all necessary steps to handle the legacy of the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

    He said the government will draw up a fundamental plan to do so "quickly."

    Tokyo Electric Power Co, or Tepco, said at the weekend that radiation near a tank holding highly contaminated water at the plant had jumped 18-fold, to a level that could kill an exposed person in four hours.

    Abe's cabinet is likely to discuss this week funding for the Fukushima clean-up after a series of revelations about leaks of radioactive water at the coastal plant, according to Tadamori Oshima, who heads the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's taskforce on post-disaster reconstruction.

    Public concern

    Al Jazeera's Florence Looi, reporting from Tokyo, said a more detailed plan would be unveiled soon, possibly on Tuesday when the Abe chairs a nuclear response meeting.

    "This could be a plan to hire foreign experts, as Tepco intended, or a timeline for decommissioning the plant," she said.

    "That could take forty years, with some experts saying it could run to more than 100 years.

    "They have reiterated that they might have no choice but to discharge some of the water into the ocean."

    If the water were to be discharged, it would be within the prescribed safe levels of radiation, our correspondent explained.

    Public concern over Fukushima, revived by the news of leaks of radiated water at the plant, have threatened to further delay the restart of other off-line reactors - a crucial part of Abe's plan for economic revival and a pillar of the turnaround plan Tepco has given its creditor banks.

    Paul Scalise, a research fellow at the University of Tokyo, said the continued closure of Japan's nuclear reactors could lead to bankruptcy.

    "Tepco and other utility companies have been bleeding financially now since nuclear reactors have been off line," he told Al Jazeera from Tokyo.

    "The utility companies are arguing for the nuclear reactors to come back online. What is holding things up is the perception, perhaps rightly, that the reactors are on unsafe territory and are positioned on an earthquake faultline.

    "The public is concerned about turning the reactors back online and need reassurances.

    "The economy is being impacted greatly through the import of these very expensive fossil fuels, and the reality is that without the nuclear reactors being brought back online, bankruptcy will most likely ensue."

    Radioactive waste water

    Japan's nuclear industry, which once provided a third of the nation's power, has nearly come to a halt since an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima plant more than two years ago, causing reactor meltdowns.

    Tepco has been pumping water over the reactors to keep them cool, and storing the radioactive waste water as well as contaminated ground water in ever-growing numbers of above-ground tanks.

    Following the discovery of high radiation levels in recent days.Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), has said there is no evidence of new water leaks.

    However, he cautioned that the possibility that contaminated water may have leaked from the tanks "is a very serious issue".

    "We believe the monitoring of the tanks is a serious issue as well," he said.

    "The fact that radiation levels were not measured on a regular basis is an indication that management was not done in a stringent way."

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