Articles in Category: Green

Our Renewables MMI was flat again this month, another sign of stagnant prices and renewable power generation markets that are simply not maturing very fast.

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Perhaps it’s a sign of just how tepid renewable technology metals markets are, that the purchase of major photovoltaic panel manufacturer SolarCity and electric/hyrid automaker Tesla Motors didn’t really make a blip in the prices of silicon or our other renewable metals.

Industry consolidation is usually a good sign for emerging technologies and the synergies that Tesla could possibly take advantage of in providing electric car batteries, home energy storage and now solar-energy-collecting panels sort of make sense to allow Tesla to own the green power storage segment. If vertical integration hadn’t been abandoned by the auto industry decades ago.

Renewables_Chart_August-2016_FNL

Markets have responded with a veritable shrug. SolarCity shareholders are almost certain to file a lawsuit questioning the merger, all the shareholders who are, of course, not Tesla CEO Elon Musk who is also a major SolarCity shareholder. SolarCity’s CEO is Musk’s cousin. The $2.6 billion takeover will pay shareholders only $25.83 a share. Less than SolarCity’s share price the day the deal was announced.

Analysts hate the merger, too. Adam Jonas, an influential auto industry analyst at Morgan Stanley, slashed his price target for Tesla and wrote in a note to clients that potential rewards would not adequately compensate investors for the greater risks and cash flow drain. Expanding into a non-auto business like solar energy exposes Tesla to “untested cost, competitive and regulatory forces,” he warned.

Tesla shares, themselves, dropped 10% the day the deal was announced. Even if this deal won’t move markets for silver, silicon, lithium or neodymium anytime soon, there are economies of scale that could pay off in the long run that Musk is looking at.

Compare Prices With the July 2016 MMI Report

Tesla owners will eventually need to get power from energy sources other than plugging into a wall unit fed by a coal-fired electricity plant, after all. Just don’t expect Tesla to become the vertically integrated battery/solar panel/electric car maker that changes the world in the next five to 10 years.

Actual Renewables Prices

Neodymium dropped from $50,642.96 per metric ton in July to $48,920/mt this month, a big drop of 3.4%. Silicon increased to $1,821.33/mt this month from $1,818.34/mt in July, an increase of .2%.

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In the coming years, India will be scouting around for strategic partnerships with multinational mining exploration companies to secure the supply of critical minerals for its defense and manufacturing programs.

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In the opinion of analysts, if the Indian government wants its much-vaunted “Make in India” campaign to be a real success, it has no choice but to do this. Over the coming years, India will need to strategically develop joint partnerships with existing global players to secure assured supply of critical minerals. Read more

The United Nations Environmental Program predicted that between 2007 and 2020, the amount of e-waste exported to India will jump by as much as 500%, and between 200% and 400% in South Africa and China.

Free Download: The July 2016 MMI Report

E-waste is an informal name for electronic products nearing the end of their “useful life.” Computers, televisions, VCRs, stereos, copiers, and fax machines are common e-waste products. Processing and recycling them is proving to be a major challenge for Indian authorities. To add to the export of e-waste, recent studies have revealed that about 1.8 million metric tons of e-waste are being generated within India, itself, annually. That figure is likely to climb to 5.2 mmt by 2020 at the predicted annual compounded rate of 30%. But only about 2.5% of this e-waste gets recycled, experts say.

E-waste figured in a major way on the agenda of a huge convention on non-ferrous minerals and metals in India’s steel city of Jamshedpur, last week. The delegates deliberated the challenges posed by the non-ferrous industry including the generation of e-waste. Read more

In its future energy scenarios report, the U.K.’s network operator, the National Grid, said even its most optimistic scenario suggests it will miss the European Union’s15% energy consumption from renewable sources 2020 climate target for member-states by at least two years.

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“While we believe the electricity sector can achieve its contribution to the 2020 renewable target, we believe the progress required in the heat and transport sector is beyond what can be achieved on time. As a result, none of our scenarios achieve the 15% level by the 2020 date. Our (most optimistic) Gone Green scenario is the earliest to reach this, meeting the target by 2022,” the report stated.

Renewables_Chart_July-2016_FNL

Our Renewables MMI fell 2% to 53 this month as it still traded in the narrow range it has fluctuated in for much of the year, but the U.K.’s situation mirrors that of many industrialized nations and shows just how difficult it has been to reliably grow renewable energy markets without burning coal or natural gas as backups. Despite the best of intentions, the U.K. simply cannot make its 15% energy reduction targets and the Leave campaign took full advantage of that fact last month when it promised citizens that it would get an independent U.K. out of such deals. But can it? Really?

Can the UK Escape EU Climate Deals By Leaving?

Withdrawing from the E.U. will certainly give the U.K. an easier route on heat and transportation policies in the short-term. The island nation will no longer be obligated to hit the 15% reduction target for 2020 whether it actually leaves two years from now or later.

But when it comes to renewable electricity, long lead-times to build new wind and solar farms (particularly wind in the U.K.) mean most of the projects needed to hit the E.U.’s 30% reduction goal for 2030 have already been granted planning permits and government money has been spent on their contracts. In other words, the genie is out of the bottle for almost all of the U.K.’s 2020 goals and even for some of its 2030 goals. It’s going to be really hard to put that genie, economically, back in the bottle.

The U.K.’s Own Goals Are More Ambitious in the Long Term

There’s also the fact the U.K.’s own unilateral Climate Change Act actually imposes even tougher requirements for cutting carbon emissions. Under the Act, the U.K. must cut its carbon emissions by 80% on 1990 levels by 2050. Again, whoever is Prime Minister and in charge of the National Grid can push the 15% 2020 goal and even the 30% 2030 goal set by the E.U. further off, but that 80% 2050 goal will only hang more ominously over the U.K. like a figurative sword of Damocles if politicians decide to do that.

The 2008 Climate Change Act also requires the government to set legally binding “carbon budgets,” which have already been set up. A carbon budget is a cap on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in the U.K. over a five-year period. The committee provides advice on the appropriate level of each carbon budget. The budgets are designed to reflect a cost-effective path to achieving the long-term objective of an 80% reduction by 2050. The first four carbon budgets have already been put into legislation and run through 2027.

Free Download: The June 2016 MMI Report

The early implementation of regulations makes it even more difficult for any future government to get out from under the U.K.’s own 2050 targets as utilities, local governments and the federal bureaucracy has already appropriated money to achieve its short-term goals. So, the possibility of a repeal of the 2008 Climate Change Act is highly unlikely, as well, although some are vocally advocating it just as they did Brexit when that idea was called “bonkers” and we all know how that turned out.

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A recent article in Engineering News-Record, examined new trends in building materials. One of them was new uses for cross-laminated timber combined with metals.

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“For us, right now, the real exciting stuff is in the mixing of materials,” Charlie Carter, American Institute of Steel Construction vice president and chief structural engineer, told ENR. “Steel has always done that, of course. A big innovation in mixing materials that I see coming is the wood industry pushing cross-laminated timber.”

Steel Moment Resisting Frame with CLT infill wall. Illustration courtesy of Earthquake Spectra.

Steel Moment Resisting Frame with CLT infill wall. Illustration courtesy of Earthquake Spectra.

Putting wooden CLT panels into a steel moment resisting frame, then putting them both on a concrete topping, is becoming  very competitive with a typical flat-plate concrete standard floor, according to ENR.

The hybrid system combines ductile behavior of the steel moment frame with lighter and stiffer CLT panels. Like many recent innovations in building materials, hybrid  CLT/SMRF systems were driven by green building codes.

In major Canadian cities, to meet urban housing demand using renewable materials, tall wood-based buildings are increasingly considered. In 2009, the British Columbia Building Code was amended to increase light wood-frame buildings heights from four to six stories.

Free Download: The June 2016 MMI Report

This article in the journal Earthquake Spectra further explains how the CLT/SMRF system can satisfy the seismic compliance requirements of building codes while still qualifying as a sustainable building material.

Indonesia’s coal mines are closing and few have the resources to clean up their messes before they leave. In China, two state-owned steel enterprises may be asked to merge.

Indonesian Coal Mines Closing

Thousands of mines are closing in Indonesia’s tropical coal belt as prices languish and seams run dry. But almost none of the companies have paid their share of billions of dollars owed to repair the badly scarred landscape they have left behind.

Free Download: The June 2016 MMI Report

Abandoned mine pits dot the bare, treeless hillsides in Samarinda, the capital of East Kalimantan province on Indonesia’s part of Borneo island.

China Considers Merging Baosteel, Wuhan Iron & Steel

A proposed tie-up between Baoshan Iron & Steel and Wuhan Iron & Steel — Baosteel and Wisco — will certainly create a force to be reckoned with, writes Bloomberg’s David Fickling. With about 61 million metric  tons of output last year combined, it would likely to be the world’s biggest steelmaker after ArcelorMittal.

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However, Wisco’s revenue over the past 12 months was about a third of Baosteel’s 157 billion yuan, but its 41 billion yuan in net debt is almost three-quarters of Baosteel’s 56 billion yuan.

Brazilian mining company Vale SA will not financially support Samarco, a joint venture with BHP Billiton, if the company is not able to resume operations, Vale’s head of investor relations said on Thursday.

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Rogerio Nogueira told analysts at an event in Sao Paulo that he did not believe Samarco would need financial support, but that in the event its mine was unable to get permission to restart — there was a major disaster at the dam last year when a tailings dam failed last year —  Vale would not fund Samarco. The joint venture’s iron ore mine closed in November.

Vale received a favorable decision this week when a Brazilian judge ruled it would not have to defend itself against a $5.7 billion civil suit in the matter.

A new $20-million U.S.-India Clean Energy Finance (USICEF) initiative will invest up to $400 million to provide clean and renewable electricity to up to 1 million households by 2020, the White House said this week during a visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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Another $40-million U.S.-India Catalytic Solar Finance Program will provide financing for small-scale renewable energy investment. Modi’s visit is one of the last opportunities the Obama administration will have to pledge tax dollars to its green energy goals and the opportunity for solar development in India is, indeed, a ripe one.

Renewables_Chart_June-2016_FNL

Cumulative solar installations in India crossed the 7.5 gigawatt mark in May 2016. About 2.2 gw of new capacity has been installed so far this year and it is more than total solar capacity installed in 2015. India’s solar project pipeline has now surpassed 22 gw with 13 gw under construction and 9 gw in the request for proposal process.

India’s Solar Mission

This is all part of Modi’s long-term plan to have 100 gw of solar capacity powering India by 2022. The investments by the Obama administration are also a goodwill gesture that’s designed to get U.S.-based solar panel companies and multinationals with a large presence in the U.S. specified as providers in India’s massive solar park projects. Both governments have been trying to iron out differences that earlier came to a head with the U.S. winning a WTO dispute panel.

The Renewables MMI fell 1.8% this month to 54 from 55 in May. It was one of many slight movements in a tight range for the sub-index that’s not shown much prince movement since September of 2015. The steel metals in the sub-index were also affected by the wild swings between U.S. and foreign steel prices, too.

It doesn’t seem like the pattern of a slow price decline interrupted only sporadically by small periods if increase will change much in the rest of year. Just like it didn’t in the previous three.

Compare Prices With The May 2016 MMI Report

As such, investments such as those being made in India will still take years to come to fruition and the markets for solar silicon, neodymium and pretty much everything but the steel components of wind turbines and solar panels will remain niche markets for the foreseeable future.

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The Supreme Court sided with a company that wants to appeal a Clean Water Act determination claiming private land is “waters of the U.S.” and Iran has found shipping partners to bring its oil to international markets.

SCOTUS Rules Against Clean Water Act

The Supreme Court recently ruled against the Obama administration in a case regarding water pollution permits.

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The nation’s highest court ruled unanimously that a landowner can appeal through the federal court system a determination from the Army Corps of Engineers that a water body is subject to federal jurisdiction and permit requirements under the Clean Water Act.
The court’s eight justices agreed in Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co. Inc. that the Corps’ final “jurisdictional determination” regarding a peat mining company’s wetlands is a “final agency action,” so the company can challenge it like any regulation. The case is likely to have consequences for the federal government’s entire enforcement of the Clean Water Act, the main law regarding pollution control.

Iranian Oil Coming to Market Faster Than Expected

More than 25 European and Asian-owned supertankers are shipping Iranian oil, data seen by Reuters shows, allowing Tehran to ramp up exports much faster than analysts had expected following the lifting of sanctions in January.

Free Download: The May 2016 MMI Report

Iran was struggling as recently as April to find partners to ship its oil, but after an agreement on a temporary insurance fix more than a third of Iran’s crude shipments are now being handled by foreign vessels.

The U.S. International Trade Commission has officially started an inquiry into the hacking and theft of trade secrets from U.S. Steel Corp., allegedly by Chinese hackers. China’s largest steel-producing province has ordered production cuts due to air pollution.

ITC Launches Hacking Probe

U.S. regulators on Thursday officially launched an investigation into complaints by United States Steel Corp. that Chinese competitors stole its secrets and fixed prices, in the latest trade spat between the two countries. The International Trade Commission said in a statement that it has not made any decisions on the merits of the case.

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The commission identified 40 Chinese steel makers and distribution subsidiaries as respondents, including Baosteel Group, Hebei Iron and Steel Group, Wuhan Iron and Steel Co Ltd., Maanshan Iron and Steel Group, Anshan Iron and Steel Group and Jiangsu Shagang Group.

U.S. Steel has accused Chinese hackers of stealing proprietary data to manufacture and sell dual-phase 980, a high-strength automotive steel alloy.

Tangshan Orders Steel Cuts

China’s top steelmaking city of Tangshan has ordered mills in and near the area to cut production for five days from Friday to ease air pollution, according to a notice from the local government.

Free Download: The May 2016 MMI Report

It was not clear how much capacity is affected but Tangshan is the biggest city in Hebei province, which accounts for more than 20% of China’s steel output.