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Minister Naughten Awards €20m in Community Energy Grants

Minister Naughten Awards €20m in Community Energy Grants


38 community energy projects receive €20 in grant funding through the Better Energy Communities scheme operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, which was announced by Denis Naughten T.D; the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

This year’s funding will provide for energy efficiency upgrades to more than 2,600 homes and almost 300 community and commercial facilities. The total investment in energy efficiency is almost €48 million, supporting more than 700 direct and indirect jobs right across the country.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Naughten said “I firmly believe that people will become more energy efficient not just because it helps to save the world but because it helps them to save money and makes their homes and businesses warmer, healthier and more comfortable. By supporting Community Groups in upgrading our schools, crèches, sports clubs and community halls we can demonstrate to everybody the real and practical benefits of energy efficiency. It also reduces the amount of money we spend on imported fossil fuels and instead ensures that this money supports local employment throughout the country.”

Also speaking at the launch, SEAI Chief Executive Jim Gannon said “As communities mature so too does their ability to identify and secure funds independently, gradually reducing their reliance on government funds. Most encouraging though are the innovative ways homeowners are being helped with funding the upfront works costs. SEAI are trialling and overseeing a range of these including bridging finance mechanisms, pay-as-you-save models, enhanced credit union loan terms, employer finance with some commercial participants investing their savings into community energy funds.”

Some of the notable projects that have been successful in this year’s scheme include:

  • A project with Mayo county council who will use an Energy Service Company (ESCO) model to upgrade the town Hall, firestation and library in Castlebar along with community creches, arts buildings, community buildings, one hotel and one business. The works also include energy retrofits of 43 homes in Charlestown and Castlebar which are owned by the St Vincent de Paul (SVP).
  • A partnership with the HSE which will upgrade the efficiency of twelve local Health Centres, eight daycare buildings, Cherry Orchard Hospital and a risk assessment service in Ballyowen.
  • An energy efficiency upgrade for a homeless shelter for women and children operated by the DePaul charity in Dublin 1.
  • 12 transport companies will enter into an agreement to reduce their fuel spend through driverly of training and the installation of a vehicle management system. The resultant energy credits will be donated to finance energy efficiency upgrades to schools, sports clubs and community buildings.
  • Grants to help make Arranmore Island energy independent by upgrading the housing stock and installing renewable technologies and the use of wind turbines to power community group water scheme in Galway

Geoff Corcoran, Director of Development at Co-operative Housing Ireland, one of the community groups who are benefitting under this year’s scheme, said: “Co-operative Housing Ireland is working hard to respond to the current housing crisis with plans to deliver over 1,500 new homes across Ireland over the years to 2020. At the same time, we remain committed to continued investment in our existing housing stock. The vital support of SEAI through the Better Energy Communities scheme has helped us to upgrade nearly 300 homes so far, with 80 more to be delivered this year. For us, the most valuable contribution of the scheme has been the difference that it makes to the lives of co-operative members, reducing the cost of heating their homes, raising their level of comfort, and supporting them to think about more energy efficient ways of living.”

This year’s Better Energy Communities scheme also makes funding available for the first time for the creation of a national support network for communities who want to get involved and change their energy usage. This Sustainable Energy Community network will offer community groups the expert advice and support that they need to get up and running and will assist those community groups already active to develop larger and more ambitious energy saving projects.

Already 33 community groups have signed up to become a member of the Sustainable Energy Community network and this number grows by the week. A real revolution in the energy sector is coming. With new forms of renewable energy, with new technologies that can put people in control of their own energy usage and by supporting people’s efforts to become more energy efficient, I think that we deliver a transition to a sustainable economy that will be good for the economy, good for the environment and most importantly of all good for the people of Ireland,” concluded Minister Naughten.

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HYDROSOL Plant Project – Hydrogen power for zero CO2 emissions

HYDROSOL Plant Project – Hydrogen power for zero CO2 emissions

The EU-funded HYDROSOL-PLANT project supported by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint undertaking (FCH JU) has developed a technology that has the potential to produce hydrogen on a large-scale, cost-effectively. This renewable energy could slow climate change and create a sustainable future. The reason for this innovation is that Europe relies on natural gas and fossil fuels from a limited number of countries. These energy sources generate harmful greenhouse gases that accelerate climate change and its devastating impacts.

We are all part of the result of climate change – widely believed to be caused by CO2 emissions –  with 2015 recorded as the hottest year in history. Unless we start relying on renewable energy instead of fossil fuels because the impact of climate change will simply get worse. “We need to intensify our efforts and investments into the R&D of renewable energy now before it’s too late,” says HYDROSOL-PLANT project coordinator Athanasios Konstandopoulos.

“Unfortunately, there is less of a financial and political incentive to develop alternative clean and renewable fuels because of the low price of natural gas and oil,” he explains. The production of green hydrogen is the answer to these complex environmental, geopolitical and economic challenges.” The HYDROSOL-PLANT project has developed a technology that can generate hydrogen from a renewable source without any carbon emissions.

The science behind the HYDROSOL technology

HYDROSOL technology uses solar thermo-chemical engineering to produce hydrogen from water. This involves the following two chemical processes in a HYDROSOL reactor:

  • Oxidation: When steam (H2O) passes through the solar reactor, the active water-splitting material, a metal oxide in a reduced state (MOreduced), splits the water vapour by ‘trapping’ the oxygen (O2) from the H2O (thus adopting an oxidised state) and releasing pure hydrogen H2 gas into the effluent gas stream. The chemical reaction is represented as MOreduced + H2O → MOoxidized + H2 (g).
  • Reduction: In this step, the heat absorbed by the reactor from the Sun is used to drive the oxygen away from the metal oxide (MOoxidized). This chemical reaction (MOoxidized → MOreduced + O2 (g)) produces MOreduced and oxygen in the same reactor where the oxidation process takes place.

This is a cyclical process as MOreduced produced through the reduction process is then re-used in the oxidation process.

The HYDROSOL reactor — tried, tested and enhanced in Spain

The HYDROSOL reactor is made of a ceramic material. From a distance, it looks like a giant catalytic converter from a modern car. Up close, the reactor looks more like an enormous ceramic honeycomb comprised of a multitude of segments. This ceramic material has been designed to absorb solar radiation and reach the high temperatures needed to split water.

Researchers first developed smaller reactors in a series of EU-funded projects. The 3kW thermal reactor developed within the HYDROSOL project received, among other international awards, the EU’s Descartes Prize,the annual award in science given by the European Union, A 100 kWth reactor was also developed within the HYDROSOL-II project. Within the subsequent HYDROSOL-PLANT project, a much bigger pilot reactor is being constructed and demonstrated. It will be installed and used on the solar tower facility of Plataforma Solar de Almeria (PSA) in the south of Spain. The 750 kW thermal solar tower, based on the HYDROSOL technology, is the world’s largest solar hydrogen plant reactor.

During the HYDROSOL-PLANT project, researchers have modified the reactor structure to increase performance. The past projects demonstrated that the technology can produce solar hydrogen under realistic conditions, and now a more robust and productive reactor is being deployed. “The next step would be to develop a plant that is 10 to 20 times larger than this one,” explains Konstandopoulos.

Green hydrogen — the key to a sustainable future

This technology is suitable for large centralized applications — to power a city or to produce important chemicals such as ammonia or methanol. If plants based on the HYDROSOL technology were built in sunny countries, such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy, they could supply clean renewable energy carriers (fuel produced from sunlight and electricity) to the rest of Europe. As the potential powerhouse of Europe, the southern European countries could help the continent reduce its reliance on Russia and the Middle East for natural gas and fuel.

“My vision for the future is a sustainable economy that uses a variety of clean energy sources, Not only is a hydrogen future possible, it is likely to start in Europe,” predicts Konstandopoulos. Some vehicle manufacturers have already developed prototype cars that are powered by hydrogen, but “green” hydrogen needs to be produced on a large scale before these prototype cars become widely adopted. Investment in establishing more HYDROSOL technology plants could turn this vision into a reality.

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Oil hits two-month low on glut fears, technical selling

Oil hits two-month low on glut fears, technical selling

On the 11th of July the oil prices fell more than 1 per cent, hitting two-month lows on extended selling after the market’s break below a key technical support level due to oversupply fears.

The market last week slumped nearly 8 per cent in its biggest weekly losses in six months and already hit a two-month low on Thursday after disappointing drawdowns in US crude and gasoline inventories pointed towards weak demand.

The rising US oil drilling rig count and cuts in bullish hedge fund bets on crude to four-month lows also added to the hard fall in prices.

“We have shifted to a bearish trading stance and off a neutral posture that we had maintained for approximately a month following transition from a bullish view in early June,” said Jim Ritterbusch of Chicago-based oil markets consultancy Ritterbusch & Associates.

Brent crude futures settled down 51 cents, or 1.1 per cent, at $46.25 per barrel. The session low was $45.90, the lowest since May 11.

US crude’s West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures slipped 65 cents, or 1.4 per cent, to settle at $44.76 a barrel.

Both benchmarks fell further in post-settlement trade, with WTI sliding 2 per cent to a fresh two-month low of $44.42 on the back of the thinnest trading volume in five sessions.

“We have suggested the likelihood of a price downdraft in WTI and Brent to about $37 and $38 areas, respectively,” Mr Ritterbusch said, adding that the move lower could be volatile, however, with occasional rallies of $1 to $2 a barrel.

Oil prices were down since trading began in Asia on Monday as refiners in that region cut back on crude orders due to worries of an economic slowdown.

The market shrugged off data from market intelligence firm Genscape, which according to traders reported a drop of 488,625 barrels at the Cushing, Oklahoma delivery hub for US crude futures during the week to July 8th.

A Reuters poll, meanwhile, forecast total US crude stocks fell 3.3 million barrels during the week to July 8th.

“Oil prices could drop more,” said Fawad Razaqzada, analyst at in London. “In the short-term, the bulls will need WTI to climb back above $46 and Brent $47, otherwise prices may head at least towards the support trend.”

West Texas Intermediate (WTI), also known as Texas light sweet, is a grade of crude oil used as a benchmark in oil pricing. This grade is described as light because of its relatively low density, and sweet because of its low sulfur content. It is the underlying commodity of New York Mercantile Exchange’s oil futures contracts.

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MEPs call for more ambitious A-G scale for energy labels

MEPs call for more ambitious A-G scale for energy labels

To kept up with the time of the technologies, the EU Parliament voted for a simpler and more stringent A to G scale for the energy labels, which shows the energy efficiency of the household appliances.


While the proposal was discussed, MEPs mentioned that the most appliances on the market now meet the ‘class A’. The ‘A’ requirement was first set in 2010 and in the subsequent years, they only added more pluses (A+, A++, A+++). Setting tougher requirements will create incentives to improve energy efficiency still further, they argue.

“Today´s vote gave new life to the Energy Efficiency Label, making the labelling system stronger, safer, clearer and future-oriented. Innovations such as the database, the Quick Response code and above all the reference to smart appliances set the framework for a new ´energy label 2.0´” said rapporteur Dario Tamburrano (EFDD, IT) after the vote.

“Rescaled labels for existing product groups” should be introduced within 21 months and 6 years (depending on product type) of the entry into force of the legislation, so as “to ensure a homogenous A-G scale”, says the amended text. Any future rescale should aim for validity of at least 10 years and be triggered when 25 percent of products sold on  the EU market fall into the top energy efficiency class A, or when 50 percent of these products fall into the top two energy efficiency classes A+B.

MEPs makes clear that at first the class A,(and in product groups showing rapid technological progress, classes A and B), should be empty before introducing new rescaling or labelling.

When energy classes F and G are not allowed for certain product groups, these should be shown on the label in grey, and the standard dark green to red spectrum of the label should cover A-E, they add.

The label should contain information about the energy efficiency class of the product model and its absolute consumption in kWh, displayed per year or per “any relevant period of time”, says the text.

The testing methods and environment, “both for suppliers and market surveillance authorities, should be as close as possible to the real-life usage of a given product by the average consumer”, say MEPs, who asked the European Commission to publish EU “transitional measurement and calculation methods in relation to those product-specific requirements.”

MEPs also advocated the setting up of a “product database” consisting of a consumer website, with information on each product, and a “compliance” interface, i.e. an electronic platform supporting the work of national market surveillance authorities, available in the country’s languages.

MEPS will now start negotiations with the Council on the final form of the legislation.


The energy efficiency of the appliance is rated in terms of a set of energy efficiency classes from A to G on the label, A being the most energy efficient, G the least efficient. The labels also give other useful information to the customer as they choose between various models. The information should also be given in catalogues and included by internet retailers on their websites.

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Latest figures say EU 53% dependent on energy imports in 2014

Latest figures say EU 53% dependent on energy imports in 2014

The energy dependency of the EU stood in 2014 at 53.4%, meaning that the EU needed to import just over half of the energy it consumed in 2014, according to latest figures from Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU.

Energy dependency in the EU was higher in 2014 than in 1990, but slightly lower than its highest point recorded in 2008. The evolution of EU energy dependency has not been constant between 1990 and 2014, however, it has continuously stood above 50% since 2004.

Energy dependency varies widely across EU countries, with half of them relying mainly on imports for their energy consumption in 2014, while for the other half, energy dependency rate stood below 50%.

In 2014, the least dependent EU countries were Estonia (8.9%), Denmark (12.8%) and Romania (17.0%), followed by Poland (28.6%), the Czech Republic (30.4%), Sweden (32.0%), the Netherlands (33.8%) and Bulgaria (34.5%). At the opposite end of the scale, the highest energy dependence rates were registered in Malta (97.7%), Luxembourg (96.6%), Cyprus (93.4%), Ireland (85.3%), Belgium (80.1%) and Lithuania (77.9%).

Among the five EU countries consuming the largest amounts of energy, the least dependent on energy imports were the United Kingdom (45.5%) and France (46.1%), in contrast to Germany (61.4%), Spain (72.9%) and Italy (75.9%).

It should also be noted that nine EU countries recorded in 2014 their lowest energy dependency rates since 1990: Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal and Romania. In contrast, the Czech Republic is the only EU country recording a peak of its energy dependency in 2014.

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New electricity connections between Lithuania, Poland and Sweden create “Baltic Ring”

New electricity connections between Lithuania, Poland and Sweden create “Baltic Ring”

Two new electricity interconnections connecting Lithuania to Poland and Sweden have been officially inaugurated yesterday (Monday).

The LitPol Link connects Alytus in Lithuania with Elk in Poland and the Nordbalt links up Nybro in Sweden and Klaipeda in Lithuania. These two links will add 1200 MW of interconnection capacity to the region. This means that, for the first time, the electricity markets of the Baltic States will be connected to the Swedish and Polish electricity networks.

Before these projects were completed, the Baltic Sea region was connected to the EU electricity market via just two connections – Estlink 1 and 2 – which run between Finland and Estonia :

Lithuanian Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, responsible for health and food safety commented the news :

“These two new electricity interconnections mark an important milestone in integrating the Baltic States and Poland with the rest of the European electricity market. They will have a huge impact on the European electricity network, reaching well beyond the three EU countries they directly involve.”

LitPol Link featured on the Commission’s list of Projects of Common Interest, which gave it access to a €27 376 500 Connecting Europe Facility grant for works carried out in Lithuania. It also benefitted from the EU’s structural funds for construction works carried out in Poland, a loan from the European Investment Bank of €55 million and a Nordic Investment Bank loan of €50 million. LitPol Link will also boost energy security for Lithuania and Northern Poland.

Nordbalt will help develop the electricity market in the Baltic Sea region. The project has been granted €131 million under the European Energy Programme for Recovery. Nordbalt will also help hydro energy produced in Nordic countries to flow towards Lithuania and the other two Baltic countries.

Currently, the Baltic electricity grid is synchronised with the Russian and Belorussian grids. The interconnections inaugurated today could lay the technical foundations for synchronising the Baltic electricity grid with the rest of Europe.

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Irish SEAI chief joins IEA

Irish SEAI chief joins IEA

Dr Brian Motherway is leaving his position as chief executive at The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), after having been appointed head of energy efficiency at the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris, France.

Motherway has been SEAI’s chief executive since mid-2012, during which time he helped introduce new measures to promote sustainable energy use and encourage business, homeowners and government to invest in energy efficiency.

SEAI Chair, Julie O’Neill said: “Brian has been a committed and skilled CEO and has been a champion for sustainable energy opportunities in Ireland.” She also added :

“He has brought a depth and breadth of understanding, which has progressed the sustainable energy agenda to one, which is now accepted as a vital component of Ireland’s economic recovery and competitiveness. This senior international opportunity is recognition of his outstanding work in the area of sustainable energy. The SEAI Board and I wish him every success in his new role.”

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Alstom to supply power transformers for Karadeniz Powership in Turkey

Alstom to supply power transformers for Karadeniz Powership in Turkey

Karadeniz Energy Group has awarded a contract to Alstom to supply power transformers for the 486MW Karadeniz Powership Osman Khan (KPS12) power plant in Turkey.

Under the terms of the contract, Alstom will manage the design, engineering, production, supply, testing and commissioning of the 200MVA power transformers.

The transformers will be produced at Alstom Grid’s manufacturing site in Gebze, Turkey. The company is expected to deliver the transformers by early 2016.

Alstom Grid Power Transformers commercial director Tunc Tezel said: “Alstom is very pleased to work with Karpowership, the world leader in floating power plants, on this powership concept. This contract reflects the quality and the high-performance of Alstom’s transformers, as well as its technical expertise in this field.” Then added :

“The ability to help countries meet short-term energy demand quickly and in a cost-efficient manner is an important step to providing more people access to sustainable and reliable electricity.”

Floating power plants or powerships are barge or ships mounted, converted from bulk carriers, heavy-lift vessels and they supply electricity to the countries falling under the purview of agreements signed under the Power of Friendship project.

Powerships are capable of connecting to the electricity grid immediately upon berthing, solving short-term energy problems.

According to Alstom, Karadeniz Powership Osman Khan is the world’s largest floating power plant.
Karadeniz aims to increase the installed power, from 1,500MW with nine energy ships, to more than 5,000MW by the end of 2017.

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Scotland to keep Renewables Obligation (RO) guarantees for solar developments

Scotland to keep Renewables Obligation (RO) guarantees for solar developments

Scotland will continue to offer Renewables Obligation (RO) guarantees for solar investments in the country, in order to eliminate energy uncertainty and boost investor confidence in solar developments.

This announcement by the Scottish Government is in contrast to a proposal by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), which aims to end guaranteed support for large commercial solar rooftops and solar farms across England and Wales.

Scrapping of ‘grandfathering’ in the UK, expected to be in effect from April next year, will be applicable for solar photovoltaic (PV) projects below 5MW capacity.
“The Scottish Government were not consulted on this matter prior to the consultation being published.”

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “The Scottish Government were not consulted on this matter prior to the consultation being published.

“I have written to the Secretary of State to express my concern about the impact of the proposal and disappointment at the UK Government’s failure to consult.”

The Scottish Government will retain the guarantee for the sector, according to Fergus Ewing who said the decision was made due to a need for ‘clarity and certainty’ in solar projects, in order to attract funding and reach a financial close.

Solar Trade Association Scotland chairman John Forster said: “This shows that the Scottish Government is fully committed to solar providing as much as possible of its 100% renewables target for Scotland.

“Solar projects in Scotland now know what level of support they are going to get, and that they will get it for the full 20 years.

“It won’t be possible to cut support for Scottish projects down the line in, for example, year 15 of 20.”

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UK to approve China’s proposal for nuclear development at Essex

UK to approve China’s proposal for nuclear development at Essex

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to sign a nuclear power deal with China in the next month, where China will be developing a prototype nuclear reactor at a site in Bradwell, Essex.

The completed deal will be part of a wide-ranging civil nuclear pact between Britain, France and China, that is expected to be finalised during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit in October.

The agreement for construction of the nuclear facility in the UK will be made in exchange for China’s financial assistance for construction of two new facilities at Hinkley Point in Somerset and Sizewell, Suffolk, reports Daily Express.

Both the Hinkley and the Sizewell facilities will be set-up by French EDF Energy.

Hinkley Point, which is UK’s first nuclear power construction in almost 20 years, is already facing delays. It was originally scheduled to start commercial operations in 2017, but this has been delayed until 2024.

Issues concerning funding for construction and the EPR reactor design have held up the project.

The £24.5bn nuclear plant is integral to the UK, as it has set a low-carbon target to help the country replace its ageing fossil fuel facilities.

Hinkley Point will be equipped with two 1.6GW EPR reactors to deliver 7% of the country’s power requirements.

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