In the North Sea, the number of rigs drilling for crude oil and natural gas has plunged to the lowest level in nearly 35 years as energy companies cut spending in the wake of low prices.

Norway is dipping into its $890 billion sovereign wealth fund to support an economic recovery as it foresees a continued slump for the nation’s petroleum industry. The government is taking $28 billion next year out of the fund next year according to its 2017 budget. The fund has been created of the years from the country’s oil and gas wealth in the North Sea.

In the UK, Cuadrilla Resources was given permission to use fracking to drill four wells in northern England. If the company can prove it won’t cause too many traffic problems, it could get permission to drill another four wells. This is the first step in an attempt to exploit the UK’s shale gas resources.

In a significant change to Brazil’s offshore oil industry regulations, the government is allowing companies other than state-owned Petrobras to operate in the largest deep-water crude oil deposits discovered this century. The deposits are located several miles deep in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil.

Fierce competition at European government auctions is driving down the price of off-shore wind energy contracts. Dong Energy recently stunned the industry by agreeing to an offshore deal in the Netherlands at a strike price of €72.5 per megawatt hour (MWh), half the price less than five years ago. Yet the agreement was quickly surpassed in a few weeks was quickly surpassed by an even cheaper bid of €60 per MWh by Vattenfalls in a Danish tender. The Danish deal is roughly half the strike price for the UK’s Hinkley Point nuclear project – now £97 per MW. These low offer prices are helped by low world steel prices and the slump in North Sea oil and gas exploration which enables wind operators to lease ships and offshore crews at bargain rates. Wind prices may even go lower if Chinese firms move from focusing on their own market and start to venture into the global marketplace.

A surcharge levied on German consumers to support renewable electric power will most likely rise by around 8% next year. This fee makes the biggest single contribution to financing Germany’s policy shift to more renewable electric power, raising 24 billion euros ($27 billion) last year. Renewable energy, such as wind turbines and solar panels, receive above-market payments in order to make them competitive with conventional energy generation units whose output is priced by the wholesale market. The surcharge will rise to 6.88 euro cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) in 2017, up from 6.35 cents this year. This year the fee accounted for about 22% of customers’ total electric bill.

Driverless vehicles carrying passengers took to Britain’s streets for the first time this week. The trail took place in Milton Keynes, north of London, by Transport Systems Catapult which plans to roll out 40 of these vehicles in the city. The vehicles are confined to residential streets at speeds of around five miles per hour. The vehicles do not use GPS but instead rely on data from cameras and lasers to navigate the route. The system could be integrated into “anything that moves”, from cars and buses to forklift trucks, golf-carts and disability vehicles.

Work has started on what will be the UK’s first electric vehicle-only car lane. The six mile lane will be introduced as part of the Nottingham Eco-Expressway, which begins construction next summer and is scheduled to be ready by late 2017. It will be used by electric buses and any other EV.

Germany will be asking all Europe nations to prohibit gas and diesel powered automobiles by 2030. The Dutch and Norwegian governments are considering banning non-electric car sales, and only allowing EVs by 2025 while India is considering the same policy for 2030.  German auto manufacturers Daimler and Volkswagen, have already promised to be producing millions of EVs annually by 2025.




h/t Tom Whipple


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