News late last week that the UK government was planning to boost the feed-in tariff (FiT) for micro power and heat solutions from £0.141 per kWh to £o.156 has been welcomed by Australia’s Ceramic Fuel Cells, with the ASX-listed company saying on Friday that the move would be a boon for sales of its BlueGen product. The new FiT, unveiled on Thursday, includes a £0.125 generation tariff per kWh of power produced on-site plus an export tariff of £ 0.031 per kWh of power fed into the grid. A consultation on the FiT changes is already underway, and is set to close on April 26, while the FiTs are planned to become effective this October.
Ceramic Fuel Cells says its BlueGen fuel cells — which convert natural gas into electricity and heat for hot water for homes and other buildings — are the first and currently the only fuel cell m-CHP product to receive certification under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) and be eligible for the feed-in tariff. Ceramic’s managing director Brendan Dow says the proposed tariff increase is a step in the right direction, but still falls short of the 15 pence tariff advocated by industry. “The requested 15 pence tariff is consistent with the m-CHP industry’s ambition to install one million units by 2020, an ambition which the minister has stated that he shares,” Dow said.
US CSP tower complete
America’s first commercial-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) plant has moved one step closer to producing round-the-clock energy from the sun, with the completion of the project’s 540-foot tower. The project’s developer, US-based SolarReserve, announced the milestone in the development of its 110 megawatt solar plant on Thursday. SolarReserve says the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant, located in Nevada, will generate enough electricity — 480,000 megawatt-hours annually – to power up to 75,000 homes, and will be the US’s first commercial-scale solar power facility to fully integrate molten salt energy storage, as well as being the largest solar power plant of its kind in the world.
“Our US-developed technology has the ability to store energy for 10-15 hours and solves the issue of intermittent power generation to the grid,” said Kevin Smith, SolarReserve CEO. “We can deliver electricity ‘on demand’ the same way a coal, natural gas or nuclear-fueled plant does – but without emitting any harmful pollution or hazardous materials – providing a genuine alternative to conventional power generation.” The flagship project is jointly owned by SolarReserve, solar engineering and power plant construction group ACS Cobra, and global financial group Santander. Crescent Dunes has secured a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with NV Energy. Electricity from the plant is projected to cost 13.5 cents per kilowatt-hour and will rise one percent per year during the 25-year PPA.
The project is also expected to have a significant economic impact, with estimates that it will create more than 4,300 jobs throughout the US. Construction will create up to 500 on-site jobs, and up to 50 permanent jobs. The project is being built on federal land operated by the Bureau of Land Management, and is expected to be operational by the end of 2013 — once operational, Crescent Dunes is expected to generate $47 million in total tax revenue through the first 10 years of operation.
AGL in Loy Yang talks
AGL Energy Limited has confirmed it is reviewing options for its future investment in the Loy Yang A power station and coal resource. In a statement issued to the ASX on Monday, the power ‘gentrader’ said it was holding discussions on the future ownership structure of Great Energy Alliance Corporation (GEAC) — owner of Victoria’s Loy Yang A power station and more than 1.6 billion tonnes of coal resource — with other shareholders in the group. The announcement comes after reports that AGL was negotiating with embattled Japanese energy provider Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), a fellow shareholder, over its stake in the asset.
In the statement, AGL said the talks were preceded by a review by TEPCO of its assets, as well as the passing of the Australian government’s Clean Energy Future Act. The company also flagged that it may increase its ownership interest in GEAC, but said this would be “contingent upon any transaction providing returns in excess of AGL’s investment hurdle rate, an accretion to underlying earnings per share from the first year of ownership, and satisfaction of outstanding issues,” including ACCC approval and the removal of current Federal Court undertakings which limit AGL’s ownership of GEAC to a maximum of 35 per cent. AGL currently owns 32.54 per cent of GEAC, meaning any increase to its holding would give AGL control of the group.
According to reports, AGL is looking to buy the stake at a heavy discount, as TEPCO struggles to offload $US2.5 billion in assets in return for financial aid from the Japanese government, following last year’s devastating tsunami which crippled the company’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. AGL is believed to be pushing an agreement that values TEPCO’s 32.54 per cent Loy Yang stake at just $145 million. TEPCO currently values its 32.54 per cent stake at $326.7 million.