Nuclear generation nears record high in 2019: World Nuclear Association

MANGALURU: Nuclear generation reached a near-record high in 2019, with output reaching 2657 TWh, enough to meet more than 10 per cent of the world’s electricity demand. However, action is needed now to kick-start more than 100 new reactor construction projects that would generate jobs, boost economies and make a major contribution to a clean energy future.

These points are highlighted in the World Nuclear Association Performance Report 2020 published on Tuesday.

Launching the report, Agneta Rising, Director General of World Nuclear Association said, “In 2019, nuclear electricity generation rose for the seventh year running, demonstrating excellent performance. In 2020, the world’s nuclear reactors have shown resilience and flexibility, adapting to changes in demand while ensuring stable and reliable electricity supplies.”

Growth was particularly strong in Asia, where nuclear generation rose by 17 per cent in 2019. China has more than tripled nuclear generation in six years, from 105 TWh in 2013 to 330 TWh in 2019, and is now responsible for more than half of nuclear generation in Asia.

While the performance of the world’s operating reactors continued to improve, the pace of new nuclear start-ups needs to increase to meet the nuclear industry’s Harmony goal. Six reactors, with a combined capacity of 5.2 GWe started supplying electricity, compared to an average annual objective for 2016-2020 of 10 GWe.

Agneta Rising commented: “Globally there are more than 100 nuclear new build projects that are ready to begin. Each would generate thousands of jobs during construction and hundreds of jobs during 60 years or more of operation. They would help contribute to economic recovery plans and deliver the clean and reliable electricity needed to meet sustainable development goals.”

Six reactors started up in 2019, four large PWRs commenced operation, one in South Korea, one in Russia and two in China. In addition, two small reactors started up on the world’s first purpose-built floating nuclear plants, harboured at Pevek on the northeast Russian coast.

Nuclear generation fell fractionally in North America and in West and Central Europe, but rose in Africa, Asia, South America and East Europe & Russia. The average global capacity factor for reactors generating electricity in 2019 rose from 79.8 per cent to 82.5 per cent.

More than two-thirds of the world’s reactors achieved a capacity factor greater than 80 per cent, This maintains the significant improvement there has been since the 1970s, when fewer than 30 per cent achieved this level of performance. Five reactors reached 50 years of operation in 2019. There is no age-related decline in capacity factor seen in nuclear reactor performance, with average capacity factors increasing with age for reactors between 40 and 50 years old.

Thirteen reactors shut down in 2019, four in Japan had not generated since 2011 and three were shut down due to phase-out policies in South Korea, Germany and Taiwan. Construction started on five reactors in 2019, two in China and one each in Iran, Russia and the UK.

Median construction time for reactors starting up in 2019 was 117 months. This is above the average achieved since 2001. This is in part due to the majority of reactors entering service in 2019 being first of a kind, or reactors that started construction soon after the initial FOAK reactor.

Construction of a new design need not result in a long construction time, Yangjiang 6, the second ACPR-1000 unit to be built, was completed in 66 months.

ONGC shuts 2 rigs after spurt in Covid cases

NEW DELHI: A spate of the novel coronavirus infections aboard western offshore installations has forced ONGC to evacuate crew members from two of the four hired rigs and has forced the state-run explorer to put additional checks to prevent contractors from compromising on the company’s stringent protocols to cut down on costs.

Sources said ONGC stopped the operation of ‘Greatship Chitra’ and ordered evacuation after 16 crew members tested positive more than a week ago. ‘Greatship Charu’ was the next to face shutdown, sources added. A large number of cases have also been reported from BHS, Neelam and Bedlam installations.

The outbreak has given rise to the apprehension that contractors may be cutting corners to save on additional cost of testing and quarantine of the relieving crew since these are not covered under the rig contract. “Our employees are compliant. We have started cross-verification of test reports of contractors’ crew and are keeping an eye on their quarantine,” a senior ONGC executive told TOI.

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Jharkhand is a lawless state: Karat

(Representative image)

RANCHI: Former CPI (M) Parliamentarian and current politburo member Brinda Karat on Sunday called Jharkhand a ‘lawless’ state in the light of the recent police firing in Hazaribag’s Barkagaon area, over protests against land acquisition for NTPC‘s mining project, which left four people killed.

Condemning the government’s initiative to amend the Chotanagpur and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Acts (CNT and SPT), Karat, who was also critical of the Das government, alleged a state backed foul-play in the computerization of land records.

“Deliberate errors are being made during land mapping. Thereafter, notices are being served to the landowners. We have received hundreds such complaints from across Jharkhand. This is a pre-meditated move to rob owners of their land,” Karat said.

Shifting focus to September’s cross-border surgical strikes, Karat accused the Narendra Modi government of giving a religious makeover to the Indian armed forces.

Referring to Rajasthan’s BJP ruled government’s October 6 ‘Rashtra Raksha Yagna‘ near the Indo-Pak border in Jaisalmer and defense minister Manohar Parikkar’s ‘Hanuman’ comment on the army, she said, “Twelve Brahmins were made to perform the Yagna that was endorsed by Rajasthan CM. On the other hand, the defense minister compared the army to Lord Hanuman after the surgical strikes. Why is the government inclined to giving a particular religious blend to our armed forces?”

The remarks came after Parikkar, following the cross-border surgical strikes, reminded armed forces of their capabilities and compared them to the Hindu monkey god, who leaped across the ocean after being reminded of his extraordinary powers by Jamwant.

Karat, who is attending a party meeting at the state headquarters here, said moves to associate the army with one religion was demeaning and was a dangerous trend. “This is what happens when a government is run by Nagpur (headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh),” she said.

The former Rajya Sabha member criticized the Modi government for raising the prices of petrol and diesel despite falling crude oil prices in global market. “Petrol now costs Rs 66.10 a litre despite crude petroleum costing $50 a barrel. This government wants to empty the pockets of the people to fill in their coffers,” Karat alleged.

Indian Oil second quarter performance likely to surprise on the upside

New Delhi: Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), the nation’s largest fuel retailer, may have suffered a 47 per cent drop in June quarter profit as fuel demand and refinery margins took a hit from the pandemic, the second quarter numbers are likely to be better if the numbers for July are any indication.

Auto fuel net marketing margin is down 7 per cent Year-on-Year (YoY) at Rs 2 per liter in July but Gross Refining Margin (GRM) and inventory gains are likely to be higher YoY. The company’s core GRM in July is estimated at $2.5 per barrel and that including crude inventory gain is estimated at $8.1 per barrel.

“We estimate IOC’s crude cost in July 2020 at $37.1/bbl vs spot price of $42.6/bbl, implying inventory gain of $5.6/bbl; July 2020 crude cost is estimated as weighted average of opening inventory valued at $33.4/bbl and crude purchases in July 2020 at spot prices,” equity research firm ICICI Securities said in a note.

IOC’s product inventory gain is estimated to be up 316 per cent YoY at Rs 14.7 billion in second quarter so far. The company’s Earnings per Share is likely to be up sharply YoY on a very low base, as compared to second EPS at just Rs 0.6.

According to the firm, strong marketing margins and inventory gains are likely to make up for any disappointment on GRM front. Auto fuel net marketing margin is at Rs 5.07 per liter in Apr-July 2020 and at Rs 2 per liter now, which suggests it is on track to be either in line with or higher than the estimate of Rs 2.5 per liter in 2020-21.

IRFC, NTPC raise Rs 2,700 crore via bonds on BSE e-book platform

to sell the bulk of its Rs 7,400-crore bond issue with LIC and the retirement fund body EPFO.

New Delhi: IRFC and NTPC today raised Rs 2,000 crore and Rs 700 crore, respectively, through issuance of debt securities on BSE‘s newly launched electronic book mechanism platform.

With this, the exchange’s e-book platform has crossed 200 issuances and Rs 1 lakh crore of fund raising through debt securities by corporates in India, BSE said in a release.

“In 2016-17, till November 22, 2016, 45 issuers have done 200 issues of bonds and have successfully raised Rs 1,00,308 crore using BSE Debt platforms,” the exchange said.

“We congratulate BSE and its team to introduce a system which is simple to use, robust and helped raise capital in the most cost effective and transparent manner,” Neeraj Kumar, Director Finance, IRFC, said.

The platform — BSE Bond — was launched in July to facilitate online bidding for private placement of debt securities.

The funds have been raised from various sources, including banks, mutual funds, insurance companies, foreign portfolio investors and corporates, among others.

“We congratulate BSE and team on providing a strong Electronic Bidding Platform (for private placement of Debt Securities). The same is convenient to use and has improved processing time with market participants,” said Harish Shah, CFO, Kotak Mahindra Prime.

The platform, which allows all categories of investors to place bids, helps bring in transparency and efficiency in price discovery for private placement of debt securities.

TERI sounds the alarm on damage to India's electricity demand from Covid

New Delhi: The Covid-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on India’s electricity demand which will continue to face significant dent for years to come, according to a new report published by The Energy and Resources Institute today.

The report said the COVID-19 crisis will lead to a sharp recession in the current year, adding, “The COVID-19 shock will lead to substantially slower electricity demand growth and a lower level of total demand even several years after the shock.”

The report — authored by Thomas Spencer and titled “Bending the Curve: 2025 Forecasts for Electricity Demand by Sector and State in the Light of the COVID Epidemic” — was released today.

The report developed three scenarios for the Indian economy to 2025. The Baseline Scenario sees a sharp contraction in Indian GDP in 2020-2021 of 6.4 per cent, a rebound of economic growth in 2021-2022 and then a return to the pre-COVID trend rate of economic growth.

The L-Shaped and V-Shaped scenarios represent, respectively, a more pessimistic and optimistic version of the Baseline Scenario. “In the Baseline Scenario, the electricity demand for 2025 is 11 per cent below the level it would have been by then without the COVID-19 shock. In the L-Shaped Scenario, electricity demand is 17 per cent below the level of the counterfactual without the COVID-19 shock,” the report said.

TERI sounds the alarm on damage to India's electricity demand from Covid
The study recommended policy-makers, generators, DISCOMS, and investors need to prepare for a future in which the shock to electricity demand growth persists.

The rate of economic growth in India has been closely associated with the rate of electricity demand growth over the past 15-20 years. As the economy has followed a generally slowing trend after the global financial crisis of 2008-09, the growth rate of electricity demand has also slowed.

Coronavirus surge, renewed lockdowns fan fresh worries about global fuel demand

LONDON/NEW YORK: Surges in coronavirus infections are slowing a recovery in fuel use from the doldrums of lockdowns in the United States and other countries, raising concern it could be years before consumption rebounds from the impact of the pandemic.

Global fuel demand fell by around a quarter at the peak of the lockdowns, when over 4 billion people worldwide were asked to stay at home. The unprecedented decline in demand forced producers to make record output cuts and pump hundreds of millions of barrels of oil into storage.

Fuel consumption and oil prices had recovered some ground as governments relaxed restrictions on population movements and the output cuts stemmed the glut.

That recovery is stalling, however, as infections swing upward in top fuel consumer the United States, as well as in other major economies such as Brazil and India.

In the week ended July 11, U.S. retail gasoline demand fell 5% from the previous week, according to GasBuddy, which tracks real-time retail gasoline purchases, after several states reimposed restrictions to control outbreaks of COVID-19. Demand also fell the week before, the first time since lockdowns began in March that it dropped for two straight weeks.

“Normally this two-week period would have been the peak demand period and we didn’t get it,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital in New York. “The recovery has been unwinding.”

The surge in U.S. virus cases is happening in some of the most populous states including California, Texas and Florida, which account for more than one-quarter of U.S. gasoline consumption.

U.S. gasoline demand pre-pandemic was around 9 million barrels per day (bpd), or around 9% of global oil supply, according to U.S. government data.

Driving in major U.S. cities with rising infection rates dropped in July, including in Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Miami, according to Dutch location technology company TomTom.

Traffic in Houston, Texas, had recovered in early June, but it has now dropped to where it was at the depth of the lockdown in April, TomTom showed.

The U.S. Northeast, another major fuel-consuming region that took the brunt of the infections in the spring, is coming out of stringent lockdowns cautiously, which is expected to temper gasoline demand.

ELSEWHERE

Gasoline demand rose nearly 3 million bpd worldwide in June compared with May, the largest month-on-month increase on record, according to the International Energy Agency.

But markets are concerned that some countries could be hit with a U.S.-style surge in cases in later waves of the pandemic.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said a second wave of cases could cause demand to fall by 11 million bpd this year, according to internal OPEC research seen by Reuters. The current expectation was for a year-over-year drop of 9 million bpd.

OPEC already cut supply by an historic 9.7 million bpd to try to bring output in line with lower demand and support prices.

“If the second wave materializes, global oil demand will recover much more slowly in 2021, dragging the pandemic’s market effect further in time,” Rystad Energy analysts said.

FEWER RESTRICTIONS

India has more than 1 million cases, third-most worldwide, and is seeing a renewed surge in infection after government lockdowns ended in June. Authorities have instituted lockdowns in several states across the country, but not nationwide.

More than 2 million people have contracted coronavirus in Brazil, second-most in the world, and infection rates are accelerating. That nation’s leader, Jair Bolsonaro, has resisted calls for a lockdown, even after he tested positive for the virus.

Australia, Spain, China and Britain are also among some of the major countries to enforce local lockdowns in recent weeks to control outbreaks of the disease.

In the United Kingdom, the government imposed a full local lockdown in Leicester last month because of a rise in coronavirus cases even as nationwide restrictions were loosened. Traffic in Leicester has dropped to April’s level of activity when the nation was under strict lockdown, data showed.

Activists protest by burning power bills across Maharashtra

Kolhapur: Activists and local leaders of several parties on Monday burnt the copies of electricity bills outside government offices across the state, demanding waiver of power bills for consumers with monthly consumption of less than 300 units.

Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Corporation Limited (MSEDCL) has issued combined bills for three months of the lockdown period, which irked the consumers as they are not in a position to pay the bills.

The state government has given an option to pay the bills in three instalments and waiver of 2 per cent of the bill amount if it is paid in a single instalment.

Pratap Hogade, the president of Maharashtra Rajya Veej Grahak Sanghatna, said, “Activists, consumers from over 20 districts participated in the protest outside the government offices. We have a simple demand to waiver off the bills for consumers who were out of work for three months and hence cannot afford to pay the bills. The petitions were submitted to the district collectors for taking it up with the state government.”

At Kolhapur, N D Patil, a veteran activist, led the protest outside the district collector’s office. After the protest, district guardian minister Satej Patil met N D Patil and assured the state government will try to provide relief to the consumers.

Rooftop revolution: Coronavirus chill upends solar power industry

LOS ANGELES/MADRID/LONDON: The booming rooftop solar panel industry nosedived overnight when the coronavirus forced homeowners to rein in spending and keep their distance from would-be installers.

Now, in their struggle to survive, companies on both sides of the Atlantic are turning to online marketing rather than knocking on doors, using drones to inspect roofs, arranging digital permits and coming up with attractive new financing plans, according to interviews with 12 executives.

At stake is the future of a key driver of the global transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy: solar power was the second-fastest growing renewable source after wind in 2019, according to the International Energy Agency.

And rooftop installations, which generate electricity used by homes or businesses rather than feeding into the grid, made up more than 40 per cent of the market before COVID-19 struck.

Energy research firm Wood Mackenzie has slashed its rooftop solar installation forecasts for Europe and the United States by a whopping 30 per cent this year, while lifting its forecast by 3 per cent in Asia, where China provides strong government support.

Joana Palau, 42, a council worker on the Spanish island of Ibiza, was one of the few in her neighbourhood who pressed ahead with a plan to install 12 solar panels on her farmhouse in June: “If I had not been working and did not have the stability of a salary every month, I definitely wouldn’t have done it.”

By contrast, large-scale solar installations that power the grid have fared relatively well. Wood Mackenzie trimmed its forecast by less than 10 per cent for Europe and barely touched its U.S. outlook as rock-bottom prices, subsidies and government mandates helped insulate larger projects from the pandemic.

‘RADICAL SHIFT’

In the United States, the third biggest rooftop solar market after China and Japan, about 80 per cent of the 100,000 job losses in the solar sector so far have been at rooftop installers, the Solar Energy Industries Association said.

Many of the staff who were not laid off, however, began to focus on one of the industry’s most persistent challenges: how to cut the cost of identifying homeowners with suitable roofs, and then persuading them to buy panels, executives said.

Quickly, companies made sales appointments virtual.

Leading U.S. installers SunPower Corp, Vivint Solar Inc and Sunrun Inc said that reassured potential clients worried about the virus. It also cut the cost of acquiring customers, which Wood Mackenzie puts at nearly $4,000, or 22 per cent of the average $18,000 cost of a U.S. system.

Normally reliant on door-to-door visits, an effective but expensive sales tactic, Vivint trained hundreds of salespeople to canvass by phone as its sales slumped 60 per cent following state lockdowns, Chief Executive David Bywater said.

By early May, sales were down only 30 per cent.

“It was a radical shift,” said Bywater, adding that it had hastened Vivint’s plan to diversify sales strategies and cut costs: “I hope we never lose that and we accelerate that.”

In fact, the strategy was so successful that larger rival Sunrun announced on July 7 that it had agreed to buy Vivint in an all-stock deal valued at $3.2 billion, saving $90 million a year and creating a solar player with half a million customers.

Sunrun bought Vivint because of its focus on direct selling, a model Sunrun Chief Executive Lynn Jurich said had become even more durable during the COVID-19 pandemic: “Both companies are delivering above where we expected.”

‘GAME CHANGING’

Rival SunPower has also seen a massive shift to digital sales, with about three-quarters of consultations now happening via video chat, up from a 10th previously.

Chief Executive Tom Werner said he expected half of its sales would be digital from now on. He said it was harder to close deals in virtual chats but that was offset by cutting out travel time between appointments.

“Ideally, you have the day when solar is like Amazon, so you can buy and be fulfilled in a very efficient process,” he said.

Sunrun, meanwhile, had to pull its salespeople out of stores such as Costco and Home Depot during lockdowns, outlets that had been bringing in nearly a third of its sales.

Within two weeks, Sunrun had moved its field sales team online and launched a promotion offering six months of home solar power for $6. While initial online commitments were lower, the percentage of customers following through was higher.

Sunrun said innovations like virtual sales and automating permits to avoid physical processing by authorities will trim about $2,000 off the cost of an array over the next year or so.

EmPower Solar, a rooftop installer based in Long Island, spent New York’s lockdown on “game changing initiatives” such as digitising sales and paperwork, and using satellite imagery and drones to inspect roofs, said Chief Executive David Schieren.

He said, however, that it was harder to build rapport with potential customers without face-to-face contact.

ROOFTOP REVOLUTION

In Europe, rooftop solar firms developed more enticing finance plans as the pandemic made clients wary about spending.

SotySolar in Gijon in northern Spain accelerated the roll-out of a “Netflix-style” subscription model. It installs panels and charges a monthly fee though homeowners can buy them or end their contract when they like, said co-founder Daniel Fernandez.

“We have been thinking about doing this for a while but we brought it forward because of this situation,” he said, adding that he expected to triple installations with the offer.

In Barcelona, renewable energy utility Holaluz has accelerated an initiative to install panels free for people with available roof space – and use them to generate power for all its customers. It aims to extend the plan to apartment blocks and commercial buildings.

Holaluz expects to boost clients to one million and carry out 50,000 rooftop solar installations by 2023. It estimates fewer than 10,000 Spanish homes currently have panels.

“This is the rooftop revolution,” said co-founder Carlota Pi. “We have spent so much time at home, we have become much more conscious of the value you can create by transforming your roof into a source of energy generation.”

Nevertheless, despite such innovations, the industry will take time to bounce back, according to industry groups.

In Italy, one of Europe’s biggest rooftop solar markets, one in five companies fear they may close due to COVID-19, according to a survey in May by Italian solar trade group Italia Solare.

In Spain, solar association UNEF, for example, has slashed its forecast for rooftop installations this year by a third.

Nevertheless, European firms are hoping moves by the European Union and governments in Spain, Germany and elsewhere to pursue “green” post-pandemic economic recoveries will help.

“The sector looks set to undergo a quick recovery,” said Michael Schmela, head of market intelligence at industry association SolarPower Europe in Brussels.

In the United States, residential installations are not expected to return to previously forecast levels until 2025, according to Wood Mackenzie – and some say going online won’t work for all, especially in some rural communities.

“It’s a totally different culture,” said Benjamin Mayer, vice president of marketing for SunBug Solar, which sells in the countryside of western Massachusetts. “If you are going to get traction in that community, you need to be there for a decade.”

Power demand slump narrows to 2.6 pc in July beginning

New Delhi: Power demand slump has narrowed to 2.6 per cent in the beginning of July from 9.6 per cent in June, showing improvement in commercial and industrial activities in the country. The peak power demand had declined by about 25 per cent in April and 8.82 per cent in May this year due to lower commercial and industrial demand during the COVID-19 induced lockdown.

The government had imposed the lockdown from March 25.

Experts have expressed hope that power demand would reach normal levels by August this year. Unlock 2.0 is expected to bring economic activities to almost normal levels, which would be reflected in power demand data.

The government had started easing the lockdown from April 20, 2020.

According to power ministry data, peak power demand met was recorded at 170.54 GW on July 2, which is just 2.61 per cent lower than 175.12 GW in July 2019.

The peak power demand met was 166.78GW on July 1, 168.34GW on July 3 and 160.83 GW on July 4.

The peak power demand met in June dipped 9.6 per cent at 164.94GW compared to 182.45 GW in June 2019.

Peak power demand met is defined as the highest energy supply during the day across the country.

In May, the peak power demand met stood at 166.42 GW, 8.82 per cent less than 182.55 GW in the year-ago period. In April, it stood at 132.77 GW, about 25 per cent lower than 176.81 GW recorded in the corresponding month a year earlier.

Many lockdown relaxations from May 4 to 31 perked up industrial and commercial demand. Rising temperatures due to the intense heat wave also led to an increase in power demand.

The data also showed that the slump in power consumption narrowed in June to 9.74 per cent from 14.86 per cent registered in May and 23.21 per cent recorded in April this year.