Turbulent year for oil industry and Abu Dhabi emerges as solar powerhouse

The Masdar City project in Abu Dhabi relies on solar energy and other clean energy resources. archdaily.com 

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The head of BP is predicting a “very turbulent” year for the oil industry as the big plunge in oil prices cuts profits. BP’s fourth-quarter profit fell 91%, while Exxon Mobil profits for the same period fell 58%. Institutional investors are agitating for more information from fossil fuel companies about the risks they face from climate change. 2015 crushed global heat records. Here are three things you should know.

Just over 1.94 million NZ electricity customers have switched providers over the past five years compared with a total market size of 2.06 million at the end of 2015. KiwiRail says the collapse of state coal mining company Solid Energy has hit the company hard. Revenue for carrying bulk materials like coal has been been cut by $27 million over the last two years. A new, $40 million C02 processing plant has been opened at Marsden Pt. It will purify the gas so it can be used for carbonating drinks, chilling food and packaging. New Zealand has an opportunity to partner with other countries with similar emissions profiles on how to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, says the director of Victoria University's Climate Change Institute.

2015 was a good year for China’s renewable energy ambitions, with the country leading global markets for several renewable energy technologies, including solar, biopower, small hydropower and onshore wind. Renewable energy could supply Russia and Central Asian countries with all the electricity they need by 2030 − and cut costs significantly at the same time, according a Finnish study. Abu Dhabi is beginning to emerge as a solar energy powerhouse in the 21st century, after powering its way through the 20th century on petroleum. The Philippines is now the largest wind power generator in the ASEAN region and plans to continue increasing capacity. Distributed generation of electricity in Brazil showed a remarkably strong growth trend in 2015, as the number of connections grew 308%. Australia has the largest household uptake of solar panels in the world with almost 16% of Aussie homes using solar power. The country has far fewer large-scale solar energy plants but that’s about to change. Plans for a large coal-fired power plant in India have been switched to solar as the developer says “the economics of photovoltaics are more attractive.”

While solar is growing rapidly opinion is divided on how big a player it will become in the global energy sector. The Guardian looks at some of the factors which are key to solar’s growth. Distributed storage for solar systems is expected to be worth $8 billion in 2026 according to new analysis from Lux Research. Clean energy business expert Salvatore Scagliarini sheds light on the different business models being developed as long-awaited energy storage solutions for distributed renewable energies become a reality.

Yahoo Japan is set to host the country’s first online auction of an unfinished solar power station. Facebook will be building a new €200 million data centre in Ireland that will get 100% of its electricity from renewable energy projects, according to recent reports. Google is testing solar-powered drones to explore ways to deliver high-speed internet from the air.

Over the next five years, France will install some 1,000km of solar roadway. The Wattway panel system is only 7mm thick and is glued to the existing road surface. The company says 20m² will provide enough electricity to power a single home. Electric vehicles have been named alongside solar PV, onshore wind and LEDs as one of four current “winning” low-carbon technologies by global investment bank Goldman Sachs. Major electricity retailers have yet to be encouraged into providing public charging stations for electric cars in South Canterbury, reports Stuff.