The largest and most sophisticated nuclear fusion reactor Wendelstein 7-X, or W7-X, went online this week in Germany. The stellarator reactor turned on at the Max Plank Institute for Plasma Physics. It has been under construction for the past 19 years and cost about $1 billion. The researchers and engineers behind the technology announced that they are now officially entering the testing stage. The first plasma images created by the machine show that nuclear fusion was achieved, and the machine was performing as it should- stripping the electrons from the atoms within the plasma gas. If all tests prove successful, W7-X could completely revolutionize the way we Earthlings produce and use energy. The team will next try to extend the duration of the plasma and to find out the best way of producing it. The scientists hope to sustain a plasma for 30 minutes, deemed to be proof that its technology can operate continuously and produce electricity commercially. Next year, it hopes to switch over to hydrogen, the actual target of the study. Several countries are in the race to build a fusion reactor, including a multinational effort called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). Read more here.

With $160 billion worth of projects under construction, Australia expects it will become the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as early as 2020. Australia is likely to be competing in this market with Qatar (currently the largest exporter), the US and Canada.

Germany is planning to have 80% of its electricity generated from renewable sources by 2050, with the remaining 20% provided by natural gas. Dr Niklas Hartmann of the Fraunhofer Society says his country would need four times its current renewable capacity to reach its 2050 goal. German ministry of energy officials indicated they will be in Australia early next year to start talks with the Australian liquefied natural gas industry about the logistics of shipping LNG to Europe.

The Mediterranean is abuzz after the recent discoveries of giant crude oil and natural gas fields off the coasts of Egypt and Israel.  Now the leaders of Greece, Egypt and Cyprus have agreed to speed up talks to resolve outstanding issues on delineating their respective undersea territory in the Mediterranean Sea.  In addition they said they hoped that their countries could cooperate on natural gas transportation to European markets. The Egyptian finds are only 160 kilometres from the south coast of Cyprus.

Turkey is discussing the possibility of importing natural gas from Israel as it attempts to wean itself off Russian gas. Turkey is looking for new sources of energy amid a diplomatic dispute with Moscow after downing a Russian bomber in Syria in November. Turkey relies on Russia for 55% of its natural gas and 30% of its crude oil needs.

The Mayor of New York City announced his city will be home to a “vast” municipal fleet of electric vehicles by the year 2025. The plan calls for the replacement of thousands of municipal owned gasoline and diesel powered vehicles with EVs. This would result in New York possessing the biggest electric municipal vehicle fleet in the US. A large network of charging stations will also be required to support these vehicles. The fossil fuel vehicles will be replaced as they are retired, rather than immediately.  The total cost of the conversion with the charging stations is expected to cost between $50 million and $80 million.

The UK government has agreed to work towards the goal of ensuring that all new cars, buses, and vans sold in that country in 2050 are run by electricity.

The French government has announced plans to build an electric vehicle that will be available for under $7,500 (US). The French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy wants to “create an electric car for the people.” The $7,500 price would be on the higher end and could be as low as $5,300. The idea is to produce a vehicle that is small, light, fast-charging with an appearance that “may not look like traditional electric cars”.

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