German engineering giant Siemens has revealed plans to give up its unprofitable solar business in what is being described as a blow to the company’s effort to capitalise on its green portfolio. “Due to the changed framework conditions, lower growth and strong price pressure in the solar markets, the company’s expectations for its solar energy activities have not been met,” Siemens said in the statement, adding that it would offer its solar operations – bundled into a separate unit just one year ago – up for sale.
Bloomberg reports that the Munich-based company also revealed it would end its membership in the high profile, and ambitious, Sahara renewables project, Desertec, which in a 2009 interview was described by Siemens CEO Peter Löscher as being “about energy superhighways for the low-loss transmission of (solar and wind) power over thousands of kilometers.” Siemens will, however, keep its wind and hydro-power activities, and says it will continue to sell solar-related products including steam turbines, generators, and control systems.
According to Bloomberg, Siemens’ solar retreat is part of an effort to take profit margins back to 2011 levels. Operating profit at the company’s renewables division fell 34 per cent to €100 million in the nine months through June 30, while sales rose 35 per cent. Löscher aims to generate 40 billion euros from sales of environmentally friendly products by 2014 “This is more evidence that there is no such thing as too big to fail at the solar industry,” said Jenny Chase, BNEF’s head of solar research. “Solar thermal at the moment is a hard sell.”
In other news…
The Chinese government is developing new policies to support the connection of PV power producers to the national grid, according to a China Daily report that cites the Deputy Director of the China Renewable Energy Society, Meng Xiangan. The move is part of the government’s bid to expand the domestic solar market and see the industry through tough times. China’s installed distributed solar generation capacity is expected to reach 15GW by the end of 2015, 5GW more than the target in the 12th Five-Year Plan.
South Korea has been selected to host the UN’s Green Climate Fund, after the fund’s board approved plans for a new headquarters in Songdo, Incheon City. BusinessGreen reports that the South Korean government announced on Saturday that it had been chosen to host the planned $100 billion-a-year fund after beating out bids from Germany, Mexico, Namibia, Poland and Switzerland.
New research out of Japan has found that demand for houses with rooftop solar systems is rising rapidly, with Japanese home-buyers more likely to consider houses with PV systems already installed. The study, by Digitimes Research, also found that power generated by residential rooftop solar in Japan accounts for more than 80% of the country’s total solar-generated power, but that the cost of installing rooftop solar remains prohibitive, despite the full buy-back program.
Japanese trading company, Marubeni, has announced that it will build an 81.5MW solar power plant in Japan’s Oita prefecture. Bloomberg reports that a statement from the company – which has investments in wind in the UK and in geothermal in Indonesia – said the solar project would cost about ¥24 billion ($US303 million) and would have the capacity to supply about 30,000 households. Construction is set to begin in November, while operations are scheduled to start in March 2014.
Novozymes CEO Steen Riisgaard has predicted that India can meet nearly half of its fuel demands using second-generation biofuels derived from the country’s huge agricultural residue. Business Standard reports that Riisgaard said domestic production of 2nd gen biofuels could help India meet 59 per cent of its growing energy needs by 2020, while reducing emissions and boosting the economy and job growth.
A fully electric Cessna 172 aircraft, powered by Panacis’ advanced lithium batteries, has successfully completed multiple flights. EV World reports that the plane, designed by Beyond Aviation, has been undergoing ground testing and short hop flights for almost a year with increasing range and altitude testing culminating in the recent completion of the test plan.
The Climate Change Authority’s discussion paper on the Renewable Energy Target (RET) is due for release at the end of this week. The review received 8700 submissions before it closed last month: 170 of them non-campaign submissions, 8500 campaign submissions. After releasing the paper, the CCA will commence “consultation and feedback” in November, and issue a final report released in December.