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10 August 2013

Press review 10-08-2013

The European Commission took this time of slow business to track back on its intentions to impose import duties on solar panels manufactured in China. There is an half victory to celebrate: a lower limit to price and a top limit on yearly capacity imported. But has I have been writing, a globalised marked is not really complacent with this sort of tactics. On the one hand China has surely waved retaliative measures, on the other hand manufactures can simply shift production to other countries. As technology progresses these limits may soon become outdated and force further negotiations; the struggle of centralised governance structures against decentralised power supply has just began.

Deutsche Wella
China and EU reach new solar power deal

The EU and China have found a compromise in a row over dumping prices for Chinese solar power modules. Politicians and environmentalists are relieved, but the solar power industry is outraged.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht had a reason to be happy following Monday's (29.07.2013) press conference in Brussels: after much wrangling, the EU and China had come to an agreement in the dispute over imports of cheap photovoltaic panels from China.

​​De Gucht is keeping specific details of the deal to himself for the time being, but further information was available from diplomatic circles: in future, Chinese solar modules will have to cost at least 0.56 euros ($0.74) per watt, and exports will be limited to a maximum of seven gigawatts capacity per year. In 2012, 13 gigawatts of Chinese solar module capacity were installed in the EU, although the EU Commission expects a slowdown in solar power expansion in Europe in 2013, predicting an increase of only 10 gigawatts.[...]

According to De Gucht, 70 percent of Chinese manufacturers have accepted the agreement. For the remaining 30 percent, the provisional anti-dumping tariffs of 47.6 percent will apply as of August 6. This voluntary commitment of the Chinese manufacturers will initially apply until the end of 2015. The compromise will now be discussed by the EU member states and must subsequently be approved by the EU Commission.
Days later news emerged that the Commission is still considering duties to counter subsidies from the Chinese government to local panel manufacturers. This might just be to test the patience of the Chinese, or a reserve measure in case the growth of solar capacity does not slow down as desired.
Commission rules out duties on Chinese solar panels - for now

The European Commission has decided not to impose provisional duties on Chinese solar panels but plans to continue its anti-subsidy investigation.

China and the European Union, following six weeks of talks, defused their biggest trade dispute last week with a deal to regulate Chinese solar panel imports and avoid a wider war in goods from wine to steel.

In parallel to that anti-dumping probe, the European Union's executive arm also launched an anti-subsidy investigation into solar panels, cells and wafers from China in November last year and had nine months to decide whether to impose provisional duties.

The Commission chose not to take provisional measures but it has until 5 December to decide whether to impose definitive anti-subsidy duties.
Interestingly, it is from countries that do not subscribe to the Commission's tenets of liberalisation and de-regulation that investment on cheap electricity sources is starting to pick up. While in Europe the goal is to stop solar power, other countries are ready to reap the benefits of the incentive systems paid by EU citizens throughout the past decade.
Solar Daily
OPEC Nations Seek Cash For Solar Shift

Two of the largest oil producers are readying the Middle East's first big push into renewable energy, planning solar-power plants that will need more than $1.5 billion in financing by the end of 2014.

Saudi Arabia, the biggest member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and the United Arab Emirates, fourth-biggest in the group, are seeking to add 1,000 megawatts of solar capacity, enough to electrify 200,000 homes. The forecast expansion, which includes Jordan, will require loans and export credits, said Vahid Fotuhi, president of the Dubai-based Emirates Solar Industry Association.

Governments across the Middle East and North Africa consider sun and wind energy as crucial for meeting the needs of growing populations and economies, with Saudi Arabia leading the way. Oil-producers want to develop renewables to conserve more crude for export, while countries relying on imported fuel see local green power as a cheaper alternative.
The apparent irrationality of renewable energy policy in Europe has a reason: cheap decentralised power supply threatens the entire electrical system, that for decades has nurtured and supported huge monopolistic monoliths.
Bugger the utilities: wind and solar will be built anyway
Giles Parkinson, 25-07-2013

But as the electricity incumbents continue to circle the wagons around their threatened business models, the renewable energy industry may be able to take comfort in some good news: Australia may be able to meet its 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020, and go beyond that, simply because renewables will represent the cheapest option as the electricity industry looks for new generation and is forced to replace ageing and redundant capacity.

Kobad Bhavnagri, the Australia head of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, told the Clean Energy Week conference on Wednesday that renewables could supply 46 per cent of Australia’s electricity by 2030, compared to around 12 per cent now, and the official target of a minimum 20 per cent target by 2020.

How would this be achieved? Well, according to BNEF, large-scale solar – mostly PV – will account for around 17GW (17,000MW) of installed capacity. That compares to just 10MW now. This does not include at least 10GW of rooftop solar – compared to around 2.5GW now. BNEF expects wind energy to account for around 12.5GW, although it expects wind’s share in new investment to diminish rapidly from around 2017 as it is overtaken by solar PV.
Shifting now gear to fossil fuels, this silly season is also being used by some companies to get up to date with geological realities. The focus has been on Shell, but more is certainly to come, perhaps with a few bankruptcies along the way.
The Telegraph
Shell profits drop on shale write-down and Nigerian woes
Emily Gosden, 01-08-2013

Royal Dutch Shell profits dropped 60pc to $2.4bn (£1.6bn) in the second quarter after drilling of its shale oil assets in North America showed they were worth $2.1bn less than it had thought. [...]

Shell announced it was “retiring” its target for increasing production to 4m barrels per day (bpd) by 2017, from just over 3m bpd now, to focus on financial targets instead. [...]

Shell said the $2.1bn post-tax write-down related to shale oil assets that it had acquired over the past five years and reflected “the latest insights from exploration and appraisal drilling results and production information”. [...]

But Mr Voser said the potential for shale gas and oil elsewhere in the world had been “a little bit overhyped” and he remained “very sceptical” of its potential in Europe where it had not been proven. [...]

Exploration costs rose to $1.2bn including $600m for unsuccessful wells in French Guiana, the Gulf of Mexico and Egypt as well as the North American shales. Shell announced a dividend of 45 cents a share, up 5pc on the same quarter last year.
Shale/tight fossil fuel resources in North America seem to be the most overblown story in the energy industry, at least in a decade. Oil and gas companies are here to stay and make money, fossil fuels are not coming to an end, they are just becoming a bit harder to produce, a bit less affordable.
Casey Research
The Coming Shale Write-Downs
Marin Katusa, 06-08-2013

Not all shales are equal. Some shales are deeper than others; and some are dry gas, while others are gas with liquids. In North America, billions of dollars have gone into developing all types of shale formations to extract as much natural gas, natural-gas liquids, and oil as possible. The production from shale formations has truly been a game-changer for North America, but yet, oil is still more than US$100 barrel.

How can oil be more than US$100/bbl even though the shale revolution was supposed to save us from high oil prices?
The big talk in town is the crowd sourcing play by Canonical to bear out its Ubuntu Edge - I hope to dedicate a full post to it in the following days. Today I'd rather like to focus on a bit of data that may well justify Canonical's move towards de-materialisation: the complete failure Microsoft's Surface has been so far. It is clear to me that the computer industry is entering a new transition that will completely change the way we interact with these machines. Some companies might not make it through, others may completely change focus to survive; in the end nothing will stay the same.
The Register
Microsoft's Surface sales figures are in: OH DEAR
Neil McAllister, 30-07-2013

In Redmond's annual 10-K report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), published on Tuesday, the software giant reported actual Surface revenue figures for the first time – and they're not good.

According to the report, Microsoft's total Surface revenue for all of fiscal 2013 amounted to just $853m. That's nearly $50m less than the $900m charge Redmond took when it discounted its remaining Surface RT inventory by $150 per box.

And that's not all. That $900m writedown was related to Surface RT only, but the $853m revenue figure includes sales of Surface RT and Surface Pro combined. [...]

Further down in its 10-K filing, Redmond reports that it upped its sales and marketing budget for the Windows Division in 2013 by a jaw-dropping $1bn, which included an $898m increase in advertising costs "associated primarily with Windows 8 and Surface."

Got that? Microsoft spent more in a single year advertising the Windows 8 and Surface launches than it took in from Surface sales that same year.
Have a nice weekend and enjoy the summer wile it lasts.

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