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A Tough Row to Hoe

Osama Rizvi

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap]ll seemed hunky-dory. The air was suffused with a sanguine current cascading through the markets and rallying up the prices touching a year-high of $53.73. Saudi Arabia aims to cut 2%-4% of total production and Russia also says that it will drain some 700,000 bpd. But the whole scenario was tinged with a shadow of askance.

Soon after Russia said that she is ready to cut production, Rosneft’s boss put a check on the growing positivism by infusing uncertainty into the air. He said that we will not participate in this cut or freeze program.

Few days back when Saudi Arabia and Non-OPEC members met in Vienna in order to mull upon the minutiae as preparation for the final November 30th deal. There is almost a whole month to go before the world see what might happen on that very day. But before it I would like to veer the reader’s attention towards some of the stones that the OPEC and Non-OPEC producers have to turn in their way to reach at their destination.

A Look at Fundamentals- Figures and facts tend to depict a picture that is not corrupted by subjectivity, sentiments and speculations. International Energy Agency in its last oil market report give us a peek into the latest trends. “Global oil supply rose by 0.6 mb/d in September, with non-OPEC up nearly 0.5 mb/d on higher Russian and Kazakh flows and OPEC at an all-time high”. Also, “due to OPEC growth” the world supply tumefied to 97.2 mbpd- a 0.2%increase. The rig count, calculated by Baker and Hughes (of-late, engaged in a merger with GE), has been rising for 17 weeks only to fall by 2 in the past one (ending October 28th) making the total rig count 441. The EIA states that the US production has fallen only 0.10% . The inventory level, as per American based EIA, has seen a huge build-up of 14 million barrels for week ending October 28 sending crude 3% low. The aforesaid is a kaleidoscopic picture imbued with a numerical color. Some good and some bad news.

Exemptions and Excuses- First it was only Iran now another country stands in the queue to receive the largesse of exemption from any sort of cut or freeze. The new country is Iraq. OPEC’s second largest producer says that it should be exonerated from any production cut as it needs cash to fight the balaclava wearing IS terrorists. Iran, with an unwavering stance, rejects any notion of curtailing its production by abducing a simple argument: after years of sanctions its pulverulent pumping jacks are now waggling the dust off and it will be a pure folly to halt its production. Libya is another contender waiting to be absolved. Nigeria hit by the recent spate of attacks by Niger Delta Avengers too. And both are in no mood to curb. Nigeria’s output is reaching to its pre-crisis level as pointed out by Nigerian oil Minister Emmanuel Ibe. Its Trans Niger Pipeline has also resumed operation. Libya, since September, has ramped up its production to 590,000 bpd. This puts the onus on Saud Arabia and Russia. The latter one also seems dubious for, albeit said to participate in the deal, the figures in their budget finds itself in a contradiction as they aim to extract more than 11mbpd in the coming year(s). Last month KSA’s production also broke the ceiling when it touched an all-time high of 33.6mbpd. Certainly, not a good recipe to heal the markets.

Agreement- Let’s assume the best of scenarios. At the table, Mr. Khalid Al-Falih stands up and sprinkles the words that send a wave of relief and a smile among his interlocutors. “We have decided to cut production”, he heralds with a sense of far-sightedness and sensibility deeming himself as the sailor who seem to take pride to steer away the Saudi boat away from the whirlpool of economic pressures that has caused a dent in one of the top 20 biggest economies of the world. Russia follows and Mr. Putin reverberate the same. Gasps. Some flabbergasted. Some happy. The markets revel. All back to normal (normal will now be $60-$70). An uncannily prosperous picture, indeed. But the question then swims from this sea of mirth and start to surface on the level i.e. how long will this deal hold? Russia has recently bought Essar oil company which gives it control in one of the biggest and burgeoning market of the world i.e. India. The Kashagan oil field has started oozing out black gold and it will further contribute to the current supply glut. There is no demand as the Paris based IEA also said in its October oil market report that the demand has further slowed down. China, the main driving force behind the demand, is tepid. Also, the metamorphosis of a cut into quotas can also be witnessed. “The High Level Committee of experts will meet again in Vienna on Nov. 25 ahead of the next meeting of OPEC ministers on Nov. 30, to “finalize individual quotas”. Again quoting IEA Non OPEC supply is expected to increase by 0.4mbpd in 2017.

Mr. Fereydoun Barkehsli, Advisor of the Institute of International Energy Studies and Head of Vienna Energy Center in response to the question that what might be the issues impeding Nov. 30th deal, says: “Saudi Arabia was OPEC Swing producer for several years. The Kingdom was Quota-free under the condition that once market was under-supplied or over-supplied, Saudi Arabia would adjust its supply accordingly and an official price level would be maintained. But as crude oil prices plummeted during 1984-85 Mr. Zaki Yamani who was then Kingdom’s oil minister officially announced that his country could not cut down production any longer to maintain price and asked for production quota. Since then Saudi Arabia has persistently asked for pro-rata cut by all members. Iran is not the only member who is unhappy about cutting production, but all members who have already reached their production peak do not want to cut, because once demand and price was on the rise, Saudi Arabia got most of the market share ergo the dissent of other members. Russia and non-OPEC producers have a different story of their own. Russia has consistently jumped over OPEC shoulders and benefited from the organizations higher demand and price and never contributed towards OPEC sacrifices. I believe in 30 November’s Ministerial conference in Vienna the organization will have to fight at two fronts. Moscow is, behind the scenes, lobbying with Venezuela and Iran for exemption but neither of them is supportive of giant non-OPEC producer.”

Independent Economic Analyst, Writer and Editor. Contributes columns to different newspapers. He is a columnist for Oilprice.com, where he analyzes Crude Oil and markets. Also a sub-editor of an online business magazine and a Guest Editor in Modern Diplomacy. His interests range from Economic history to Classical literature.

Energy

Australia’s commitment to affordable, secure and clean energy

MD Staff

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Australia should rely on long-term policy and energy market responses to strengthen energy security, foster competition, and make the power sector more resilient, according to the International Energy Agency’s latest review of the country’s energy policies.

In line with global trends, Australia’s energy system is undergoing a profound transformation, putting its energy markets under pressure. Concerns about affordable and secure energy supplies have grown in recent years, following several power outages, a tightening gas market in the east coast and rising energy prices.

Besides assessing progress since the IEA review of 2012, the Australian government requested the IEA to focus on how Australia can use global best practices in transitioning to a lower-carbon energy system. This question points to safeguarding electricity supply when ageing coal capacity retires, increased variable renewable energy comes on line and natural gas markets are tight. In this context, the IEA also contributed to the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market (NEM) by Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel.

“The government’s efforts to ensure energy security and move ahead with market reforms have been impressive. Australia can develop its vast renewable resources and remain a cornerstone of global energy markets as a leading supplier of coal, uranium and liquefied natural gas (LNG), securing the energy for growing Asian markets.” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, who presented the report’s findings in Canberra. “A comprehensive national energy and climate strategy is needed for Australia to have a cleaner and more secure energy future. The National Energy Guarantee is a promising opportunity for Australia to integrate climate and energy policy.”

Along with the United States, Australia is leading the next wave of growth in liquefied natural gas (LNG). As a major exporter of coal, Australia is also a strong supporter of carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies. The report commends Australia’s efforts which can be critical globally to meeting long-term climate goals.

The IEA’s review points out that the sustainable development of new gas resources is critical for natural gas to play a growing role in the energy transition, satisfying a growing domestic gas demand in power generation and industry and to honor export contracts at the same time. The report calls on Australia to continue efforts to improve transparency of gas pricing, boost market integration and facilitate access to transportation capacity.

Welcoming the government’s energy security focus, including the creation of the Energy Security Board, the Energy Security Office, and Australia’s plan to return to compliance with the IEA’s emergency stock holding obligations, the IEA recommends regular and comprehensive energy security assessments to identify risks early on, and foster the resilience of the energy sector.

In terms of power system security, the report offers a series of recommendations on how to improve the market design of the National Energy Market (NEM), one of the most liberalised and flexible power markets in the world. To accommodate higher shares of variable renewables, the IEA recommends that the NEM prioritises measures to safeguard system stability, enhance grid infrastructure, including interconnections, and regularly upgrade technical standards. As consumer choice and prices in retail markets are liberalised across Australia, the government needs to focus on wholesale competition and demand-side flexibility, in recognition of the changing ways energy is produced and consumed, thus contributing to reducing peak demand.

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Energy

5 myths about solar panels, debunked

MD Staff

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Home solar panels can drastically cut or even eliminate electricity bills, reduce a home’s carbon footprint, increase resale value, and may even help a home sell faster.

The cost of rooftop solar systems has fallen dramatically in recent years, and most homeowners have the option of buying the system, leasing it on reasonable payment terms, or having a third-party pay for and install the system at no up-front cost at all for the homeowner. Plus, home solar systems are eligible for federal tax credits.

All of this explains why the number of homeowners installing solar has sky-rocketed across America. Nevertheless, many homeowners remain skeptical about taking control of their energy use and installing solar. Why? The various myths that still persist around solar power could be the reason.

“Solar technology has been around for a long time, but even though it’s entered the mainstream, many homeowners are still skeptical,” says renewable energy expert Roger Ballentine, president of Green Strategies, a leading Washington-based consulting firm. “That’s because a number of myths persist, pointing to the need for better consumer education about the benefits of home solar installations.”

Ballentine points to private and government studies providing real information that debunks the myths surrounding solar power. For example, research by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found solar panels help homes sell faster and for more money than those without solar.

If you’re considering installing a solar panel system on your home, here are five common myths — and why you shouldn’t believe them:

Myth 1: Solar panels only work if you live in a warm, sunny climate

While solar panels work best when they get a lot of sun, a lack of bright sun doesn’t mean they’re not working. Panels can still absorb ambient sunlight, even on cloudy days or in regions that get less bright sun. What’s more, today’s solar panels are more energy efficient than ever. Newer systems like the “LG NeOn R” maximize sunlight absorption and generate the maximum possible output — as much as 26 percent more than other comparably sized solar panels. This higher efficiency means that solar panels can work in virtually any climate and every season.

Myth 2: You need a lot of roof space for solar panels

Just like other amazing technologies (think microchips), solar panels are getting smaller, more powerful and more efficient. High-efficiency panels take up less space because fewer panels are required to produce the electricity needed to power your home. So even a smaller home could have enough roof space to fit the number of panels needed to generate the necessary power and save you money.

Myth 3: Installation is a long, drawn-out hassle

While adding solar panels to your home isn’t a DIY project, installation usually takes only a day or two. New models streamline the process further, eliminating the need to install a separate inverter. Most solar panels require a separate inverter to bring electricity into your house, but new panels from LG, for instance, incorporate the inverter, simplifying and accelerating the installation process.

Myth 4: If something goes wrong, you’re on your own

As with any major investment in your home, you should make sure you understand the manufacturer and installer warranties for your solar panels, including how long the coverage lasts and what types of problems are covered. One leading solar player, LG, even offers an industry-leading, 25-year product and power warranty. And unlike a furnace or an air conditioning system, a solar installation has no moving parts to wear out and typically requires little maintenance and repair.

Myth 5: Solar panels will look big, bulky and ugly on your roof

Solar panels are becoming smaller, sleeker and more aesthetically pleasing. Higher-efficiency models are also offering increased flexibility of configuration. Instead of having to cover an entire roof with panels in a specific arrangement in order to generate power, modern options allow you to arrange panels to meet your sense of aesthetics.

Adding solar power to a home offers homeowners many benefits, from reducing energy costs, to increasing the value of your home and helping the environment, Ballentine says. “Overall, it’s a decision most homeowners feel positively about once they’ve made it.” The NREL notes in its study: “Buyers of homes with (solar panel) systems are more satisfied than are comparison buyers. A significantly higher percentage … indicate they would buy the same houses again.”

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Energy

ADB-Supported Kyrgyz Republic’s Largest Hydropower Plant Achieves Key Milestone

MD Staff

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photo: ADB

JSC Electric Power Plants (EPP), the major state-owned power generation company in the Kyrgyz Republic, today announced the award of a turn-key contract for the Asian Development Bank-supported (ADB) modernization of the Toktogul hydropower plant (HPP) to a joint venture of GE Hydro (France) and GE Renewables (Switzerland) for $104 million.

The modernization project includes new state-of-the-art units which will improve safety, efficiency, reliability, and availability of the Toktogul HPP, located on the Naryn River in the Jalal-Abad Province and considered the country’s largest and most important hydropower plant, increasing its overall capacity to 1,440 megawatts. The additional capacity will be sufficient to supply about 200,000 households for an entire year.

ADB and the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) financed the replacement of four units of the Toktogul HPP, which has been generating about 6,000 gigawatt hours per year for 43 years. Because of aging equipment, however, the plant has experienced increasing number of failures in recent years.

“ADB has been supporting the energy sector in the Kyrgyz Republic since 1996 as the rehabilitation, replacement, and augmentation of power sector assets are critical for energy security in the country”, said Candice McDeigan, ADB’s Country Director for the Kyrgyz Republic.

“The phased rehabilitation of the Toktogul plant has been the key priority for ADB’s energy sector support in the Kyrgyz Republic and its timely rehabilitation is key to the country’s plan to export summer surplus to Afghanistan and Pakistan through the CASA-1000 power transmission line”, said Ashok Bhargava, Director for the Energy Division at ADB’s Central and West Asia Department.

EPP commenced phased rehabilitation of the Toktogul HPP project in 2012, starting with the refurbishment of the secondary electrical and mechanical equipment, the rehabilitation of two Toktogul units, and later completed by the remaining two Toktogul units, with an overall target completion by 2024-2026. The latest milestone was a result of the extensive competition among all major players and EPP’s innovative approach to procurement and design, which brought in competitive pricing and accelerated completion of the project by 3 years.

“In 2016, EPP decided to fast track the procurement of the four turbines and generators of the Toktogul HPP through single procurement for economies of scale, resulting to completion three years early. With ADB support, the EPP conducted multiple roadshows to improve the

procurement design based on industry feedback and international best practice to increase completion for the project,” said EPP General Director Uzak Kydyrbaev.

GE Capital, the ultimate parent of the GE consortium, has provided a guarantee to support its operation in the Kyrgyz Republic. GE has committed to commission the first unit by November 2020, and one additional unit each year by November 2023

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