As the COP26 climate summit gets closer, expect the spotlight to shine ever more brightly on the world’s governments – because if they don’t have the power to drive the energy transition forwards, nobody does.
Policymakers were prominent on the Recharge website this week, not least those in Scotland where COP26 will be held in November. In a new high-water mark for their influence in UK government, the Greens cemented a power sharing pact with the ruling Scottish National Party that will see the two commit to a doubling at least of onshore wind power, but also exposes divisions between them over hydrogen and the future of the North Sea oil & gas industry.
Another key European market where the Greens have big ambitions is Germany, and with September’s elections that will spell the end of the Merkel era looming – and likely to be close-run – the wind industry this week took the chance to remind the contenders of the urgent policy fixes needed to get onshore wind rolling again.
Whatever the election outcome, German officials are already among the world’s most active in what they admit is a global race to secure the best sources of green hydrogen output to meet future massive demand in Europe’s largest economy.
Having already laid down a marker in Australia, the Germans have now reached an accord with Namibia, the sparsely populated southern African nation with plenty of room and excellent renewable resources to produce plentiful supplies for export.
An in-depth article in Recharge ran the rule over the varying policy approaches of major governments to the future hydrogen economy, with the conflict between emphasis on the blue or green varieties to the fore.
And as Recharge Editor-in-Chief Darius Snieckus makes clear in an opinion article, it is up to policymakers to help abide by the calls of the International Energy Agency, among many others, to halt new oil & gas activity, in the face of a hydrocarbons sector that fiddles while the planet burns.
The policy impetus of President Joe Biden’s 30GW end-of-decade target is playing a crucial role in the momentum behind US offshore wind.
Recharge readers got an insight into how that is progressing, from the point of view of Tommy Beaudreau, deputy secretary at the Department of Interior (DoI), who reckons the plan is on track thanks to a regulatory team that has “come out of the blocks fast”.
Things are certainly moving. Recharge also reported how Port of Virginia’s Portsmouth Marine Terminal has been lined up for staging and pre-assembly of turbine foundations for Dominion Energy’s up-to-3GW offshore wind project, Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind.
The sector passed another milestone when partners Orsted and Eversource tapped contractor Kiewit to build what will be the first American-built offshore wind substation, for the South Fork project under development in the US Atlantic.
There was also a new boost to New York State’s credentials as an offshore wind supply chain big-hitter with news that European fabricator Smulders will add transition piece capability to the Port of Albany hub that will serve giant projects planned by Equinor and BP.
We’ll end Agenda with a couple of gems from the never-dull world of hydrogen technology, which between them suggest that by the time the H2 economy is in full swing it could be very different to what is currently envisaged.
Spanish oil group Repsol is claiming more progress with its “very disruptive” plans to link solar power directly to production, doing away altogether with the electrolysis step that is currently crucial to green H2.
Nuclear also just refuses to stop staking a claim to a role in the hydrogen future, and this week research group Wood Mackenzie said future ‘mini-nuclear’ reactors could compete with green hydrogen from renewables at a price point of around $65/MWh – not too far below what is already being claimed as possible by the like of Rolls-Royce. Watch this space.