Renewable Energy News Bites Around the World

It looks like the US will set tariffs on solar imports from China. The Commerce Department will make a preminary decision today but they’ve indicated the complaint filed by the US solar manufacturing group, led by SolarWorld, has merit – that Chinese trade practices have harmed the US solar industry.

Many have been looking to China to soak up some of the excess inventory it created by fostering massive solar installations at home, but its Five-Year Plan only calls for 3 gigawatts (GW) a year through 2015, far lower than the estimated production of 18-19 GW in 2011 alone. And it also calls for ramped up production of polysilicon and modules to increase solar efficiency.

We all know the problems the Dept of Energy (DOE) has been experiencing at the hands of the GOP for its loan to Solyndra, which went bankrupt because it couldn’t compete with low prices from Chinese suppliers.

Today, DOE Secretary Chu appears once again for a GOP hearing, where Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) will unveil a staff memo alleging the DOE overrode the objections of  professional staff to force funding for loan recipients, such as First Solar, that were supposed to have unique technology, but actually didn’t, reports the NY Times.

As a result of the relentless attacks, the DOE has become so excruciatingly careful that it’s barely giving out funds for related programs. More than $16 billion in loans authorized five years ago by Congress to develop fuel-efficient vehicles has yet to be disbursed. Some companies are dropping their applications because there are so many new requirements and complain that officials repeatedly alter the terms of the possible loans. Only $8.4 billion of the $25 billion authorized by Congress has been allocated, with just one small project of $50 million gaining approval in the last two years, reports the NY Times.

Meanwhile, although the renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) has yet to be extended, the White House hosted a meeting with 78 companies including Apple, Chevron and Whole Foods to promote those tax credits. A new Senate bill has been introduced to extend the PTC, the American Energy and Job Promotion Act.

Elsewhere in the world, some major investments and projects were announced. 

China Merchants New Energy Group, a Hong Kong-based developer received $1.6 billion China’s state-owned development bank to build and operate solar plants domestically and abroad.

In addition to Brazil’s new solar incentives, Egypt approved a 100 MW solar thermal plant, the country’s largest.

Pakistan’s Alternative Energy Board says it will launch a new wind project every month this year through government and private partnerships.

FFC Energy, a subsidiary of Pakistan’s Fauji Fertilizer Company,  broke ground on the country’s largest wind project to date, a 50 MW project, which they plan to expand to 200 MW. Germany-based Nordex is supplying the turbines from its facility in China.

Pakistan has strong wind resources, estimated at 11 GW, but has been slow to exploit its potential because of funding constraints. It plans to install 1500 MW by the end of 2013, and is targeting 5% renewable energy by 2030.

In Europe, Dong Energy announced plans to invest $1.8 billion a year for the next few years to build 3 GW of offshore wind, and Burcote Wind said it would construct 10 wind parks totalling 800 MW in Scotland.

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