Plans for new Northumberland coal mine scuppered

Plans to develop an open cast coal mine in the North East of England have been rejected on climate change grounds, according to Reuters.

Last year Northumberland County Council approved a proposal from the Banks Group to extract 3m tonnes of coal from near Druridge Bay, Highthorn. Supporters of the project said it would boost local employment.

However, the Minister for Local Government has rejected the plans. The UK is set to phase out coal power stations by 2025 in order to meet carbon emission targets in accordance with international agreements.

Following a public enquiry, Minister Sajid Javid decided against permitting the open cast or surface mine to go ahead. A government report said “the scheme would have an adverse effect on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change of very substantial significance.”

Banks Mining’s director Gavin Styles said the decision was made for “purely political reasons” and noted that Britain is still dependent on coal for some purposes.

Styles said: “The importance of securing investment in North East England, creating dozens of high quality local jobs, and opening up opportunities for regional suppliers to win substantial contracts could not be any clearer.”

Banks Group claimed the mine would employ 100 people and generate almost £50m in related contracts and community benefits.

Britain has a legally-binding target to but greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050.

Ofgem rule change for energy network company investments

New rules from energy regulator Ofgem could see UK consumers save £5bn on bills over five years, according to BBC News.

The energy watchdog wants to reduce the amount customers pay towards improving energy networks through their bills. The plans could save consumers around £15-25 each year.

The plans, which are scheduled to come into force in 2021, will cut profitability of energy network companies.

National Grid runs the UK’s main energy infrastructure. IT said it would continue working with Ofgem “to achieve the best outcomes for all stakeholders.” National Grid said that Ofgem was taking its key concerns, such as long-term investment in critical infrastructure, into consideration.

Since 1990 energy network companies have invested around £100bn into local and national grid infrastructure. As a result, power cuts have been reduced by around 50% since 2001. According to Ofgem, the cost of transporting electricity around Britain has fallen by around 17% since the mid-1990s, when calculated by the retail price index measure of inflation.

The regulator has said energy network companies need to begin consulting more closely with customers about business plans, to ensure that customers want and are willing to pay for changes. Ofgem also promoted the use of modern technology to optimise performance of grids, sharing the resulting savings with customers.

The changes come after a 2017 report by Citizens Advice which claimed the energy network companies had made £7.5bn in ‘unjustified’ profits.

Offshore wind energy cheaper than nuclear for the first time

The cost of energy generated in the UK by offshore wind is cheaper than nuclear power for the first time, according to figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The disparity in costs was revealed by an auction for government subsidies, in which private contractors bid for opportunities to generate power based on bids for the lowest subsidy.

Bidders were prepared to build offshore wind farms based on government subsidy of £57.50 per megawatt hour for 2022-23. In contrast, the subsidy secured for the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is £92.50 per megawatt hour.

In the last offshore wind subsidy auction in 2015, projects secured subsidies of between £114-120 per hour. This means the subsidy level has halved in the last two years.

Emma Pinchbeck of Renewable UK told the BBC that the latest figures are “truly astonishing. […] We still think nuclear can be part of the mix – but our industry has shown how to drive costs down, and now they need to do the same.”

Tom Greatrex of the Nuclear Industry Association said: “It doesn’t matter how low the price of offshore wind is. On last year’s figures it only produced electricity for 36% of the time.”

The lower costs of offshore wind were achieved through larger turbines, higher voltage cables and lower cost foundations. A downturn in the oil and gas sector and growth within the UK supply chain also contributed.

SSE blames rise in wholesale gas prices and low energy consumption for expected loss in first half of 2013

Perth-based electricity and gas company SSE, which operates mainly in the UK and Ireland, stated today that its retail arm is expected to report a loss on its adjusted profit before tax in the first half of the company’s financial year.

According to the company, the expected loss is a result of increases in wholesale gas prices, higher costs and lower energy consumption. SSE saw an operating profit at its retail arm of GBP75.7m in the first half of 2012 and a GBP101.4m loss in the same period of 2011.

However, despite the predictions SSE said it is on target to raise dividend payments to its shareholders, which will exceed retail price inflation for the 2013-14 financial year. It also expects its wholesale and networks divisions to be profitable in the six months to the end of September 2013. These results will be published on Wednesday 13 November 2013.

Finance Director of SSE, Gregor Alexander, commented; “Despite challenging energy market conditions, SSE has made solid progress in recent months, including taking a number of specific steps to help small business customers and improve standards for household customers. We continue to benefit from maintaining a balanced range of energy businesses, illustrated by again meeting the criteria for a single A credit rating. Despite the intensifying political debate, we will maintain our operational and financial discipline, to enable us to deliver an above-inflation increase in the dividend for this financial year and beyond.”

SSE is said to be the second largest energy supplier in the UK and has 9.5 million customer accounts. It also has a 50% stake in the 504MW Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm.

UK household energy consumption drops by 24.7%

Household energy usage in England and Wales has fallen by almost a quarter since 2005, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data released today.

ONS area based analysis for household energy consumption in England and Wales between 2005 and 2011 reveals that all of the English regions and Wales consumed 24.7% less energy per household during the period, a drop from 26.2 megawatt hours (mWh) in 2005 to 19.7mWh in 2011. Over the seven years, households in the East Midlands consumed the most energy consumption each year; however this usage was reduced by 29.4%, from 39.0mWh per household in 2005 to 27.5mWh in 2011.

The ONS data shows that on average, households in the milder climate of South West of England used the least energy for five years during the period and Wales achieved the lowest energy consumption per household in 2005 and 2011.

According to the BBC, consumers may be using less energy and economising because of sharp rises in energy bills, which are said to have increased by 28% in the last three years. However, more households are taking energy efficiency measures, such as installing insulation, double-glazing and new boilers.

Public awareness of energy consumption and environmental issues is said to be increasing and the UK government has been making efforts to encourage lower energy usage with the introduction of the Green Deal initiative, where various energy efficient improvements are offered to householders at no upfront cost. This includes work such as cavity or loft insulation and the resident will eventually pay for them through small payments taken out energy bills.

In addition, smart meters are to be installed in 53 million homes by 2020. These meters provide householders with a measurement of exactly how much energy they are using at any given time.

German renewables group Entrade acquires bio-energy firm Agnion

German renewables specialist The Entrade Group said today it had acquired bio-energy plants operator Agnion Energy Inc from its owners for an undisclosed amount.

Entrade agreed this month to buy the business from venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Wellington Partners, Munich Venture Partners and waste management services provider Waste Management Inc (NYSE:WM).

The vendors’ previous combined investment in the target amounts to EUR35m (USD45m).

Benefits from the acquisition include technology transfer and synergies in wood gasification, the buyer noted.

Agnion, which is headquartered in Pfaffenhofen, Germany and has a branch in Bolzano, Italy, will be integrated into Entrade Energiesysteme AG.

Two investor groups agree to acquire energy trader LDH Energy

Dutch commodities trader Louis Dreyfus Commodities BV and US hedge fund Highbridge Capital Management LLC have agreed to dispose of their energy trading joint venture Louis Dreyfus Highbridge Energy LLC (LDH Energy) to two investor groups, the target firm said on Thursday, without revealing financial terms.

The new owners will be DF Energy Acquisition LLC, a private investment firm owned by Glenn Dubin, and a group of strategic and financial investors including investment vehicles of family trusts created by Paul Tudor Jones and Timothy Barakett, as well as Continental Grain Company / Paul Fribourg. They will have non-operating positions with the company.

LDH Energy’s chairman and CEO William C Reed II welcomed the agreement, saying it opens a new chapter in the company’s future growth, aimed at increasing its merchant footprint and expanding asset portfolio. The experience in global finance and industry and the fresh vision of the new owners are a guarantee for great growth prospects, Reed added.

Louis Dreyfus Commodities Group said it would focus on its core business as a global commodities group, while remaining a minority investor in LDH Energy.

Glenn Dubin, who is also co-founder and chairman of Highbridge Capital and served in the board of LDH Energy for the past five years, pointed out that the target firm had built a strong operating platform supporting a diversified energy business that is well positioned for future growth.

Once the transaction closes, LDH Energy will operate under the new name Castleton Commodities International LLC, keeping its management team, but with a new board.
Completion is expected by the end of the year, subject to conditions.

DF Energy Acquisition LLC received advice from Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The investor group was advised by Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, while Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP advised Highbridge Capital Management and Cohen & Gresser LLP advised LDH Energy’s management team.

Forestar’s target Credo Petroleum gets no offers

US oil and gas explorer Credo Petroleum Corp (NASDAQ:CRED) announced on Tuesday it had received no alternative takeover approaches during the go-shop period agreed with its suitor Forestar Group Inc (NYSE:FOR) in June.

The agreement announced on 4 June for $14.50 (€11.60) a share, or some $146m in total, allowed Credo to seek alternative proposals during a 30-day period which ended on 3 July, the target firm said.

At the signing of the agreement, Credo’s chairman James T. Huffman said that the deal, backed by both companies’ boards, reflected the value built into Credo since it started its transition four years ago from natural gas to oil. Forestar’s size and substantial oil and gas portfolio would help step up that transition, while the tie-up would create synergies from the combined human and technical resources, Huffman added.

For Forestar, the acquisition of Credo would more than double its existing oil and gas production and proven reserves, give it operating flexibility and establish a strong platform for future growth, the group’s president and CEO Jim DeCosmo has said. It also serves Forestar’s Triple in FOR strategy to accelerate value realisation and boost net asset value through investments, he added.

Credo expects now to wrap up the deal in the second half of this year, pending a number of conditions, including clearance from its shareholders.

The transaction does not need the approval of Forestar stockholders and it is not subject to financing conditions.

The target company has substantial assets in regions including North Dakota Bakken and Three Forks, Kansas, Nebraska, the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma.

National Grid completes disposal of New Hampshire distribution business

British power and gas distributor National Grid Plc (LON:NG) announced today it had wrapped up the $285m (€226.8m) sale of its New Hampshire electric and gas distribution units to a subsidiary of Canada’s Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp (TSE:AQN), or APUC.

The deal was signed back in December 2010 and got the final clearance by the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission at the end of May 2012. Under its terms, National Grid sold Granite State Electric Co and Energy North Natural Gas Inc to APUC’s regulated distribution utility Liberty Energy Utilities (New Hampshire) Corp. The completion occurred yesterday.

The vendor said it had received gross proceeds of $309m, including working capital of $24m. The purchase price represents a multiple of 11.9 times the business’ EBITDA for the fiscal year to 31 March 2010. National Grid noted it plans to use the money for general funding purposes.

The British company announced in May 2010 it was considering its alternatives for an exit of both of its New Hampshire-based gas and electricity distribution businesses. National Grid was then approached by various suitors but decided that Algonquin’s proposal was the most attractive outcome for its stockholders.

Hanergy agrees deal to acquire Q-Cells’ Solibro division

Hanergy Holding Group Limited, the Chinese renewable energy company, said it had agreed to acquire Solibro GmbH, the thin-film division of German solar cell manufacturer Q-Cells SE (ETR:QCE), without disclosing any financial details.

Hanergy explained its move with the 25-year experience of Solibro and the successful development of its copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) co-evaporation technology. The buyer’s chairman Li Hejun said the acquisition will consolidate the group’s position on a global level and create synergies that will bring added value to both companies.

Jason Chow, senior vice president of Hanergy Industrial PV Group, in turn, commented that his company will support Solibro’s proven track record in the thin-film CIGS technologies with its wide network, solid production capacity and long-term R&D investments.

Upon completion, Solibro will keep its staff and leadership team as well as its operations and after-sales service.

Beijing-headquartered Hanergy Holding Group, with units in China, the US, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Singapore and Hong Kong, was set up in 1994. It’s installed hydroelectric capacity stands at 6,000 MW.