Jan 7, 2021

Centrica aims "to protect jobs" as British Gas strike starts

Centrica
BritishGas
strike
Dominic Ellis
2 min
Vulnerable households and emergencies will be prioritised as winter bites and country is gripped by lockdown
Vulnerable households and emergencies will be prioritised as winter bites and country is gripped by lockdown...

Centrica maintains it is in "urgent need of change" and introducing new terms and conditions to protect jobs and maintain a highly skilled teams of engineers, as GMB members at British Gas embarked on a national five-day strike today.

GMB conducted a strike ballot of 9,000 members in December 2020 in which it claims 89 percent voted in favour of industrial action, in response to 'fire and rehire’ cuts - a figure contested by Centrica, which reports it was 52 percent. Various pickets are planned across the country, in line with Government guidance.  

In a statement, Centrica said 83 percent of its workforce has already accepted new terms, in which base pay and pensions are protected.

A Centrica spokesperson said: "We’ve done everything we can with the GMB to avoid industrial action. Whilst we’ve made great progress with our other unions, sadly the GMB leadership seems intent on causing disruption to customers during the coldest weekend of the year, amid a global health crisis and in the middle of a national lockdown. 

"We have strong contingency plans in place to ensure we will still be there for customers who really need us, and we’ll prioritise vulnerable households and emergencies.

"GMB’s mandate for strike action is weak; they are fighting against modernisation and changes which will help to protect well paid jobs in the long term and are doing so at a time that our country needs everyone to pull together."

Justin Bowden, GMB National Secretary said British Gas boss Chris O’Shea’s attempts to "bully workers" into accepting cuts to their pay and terms and conditions has provoked this inevitable outcome – massive disruption to customers in the depths of winter and "a stain on the reputation of an historic company and brand".

"GMB is calling on the public to ask why British Gas CEO Mr O’Shea is provoking an engineers’ strike with ‘fire and rehire’ pay cuts, in the depths of winter. This is against the backdrop of the company reporting operating profits of £901m in the latest available annual accounts."

Centrica completed the sale of its North American energy supply, services and trading business, Direct Energy, to NRG Energy Inc. for $3.625bn this week.

Chris O’Shea, Centrica Group Chief Executive, said: "This sale is an important step in the turnaround of Centrica, allowing us to materially strengthen our balance sheet and become a more focused energy services and solutions company – putting customers at the heart of everything we do and helping them transition to a lower carbon future."

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Jul 26, 2021

Form Energy receives funding power for iron-air batteries

Energy
batteries
grid
Renewables
Dominic Ellis
3 min
Startup Form Energy receives $200 million Series D financing round led by ArcelorMittal’s XCarb innovation fund to further develop iron-air batteries

Form Energy believes it has cracked the conundrum of commercialising grid storage through iron-air batteries - and some of the biggest names in industry are backing its potential.

The startup recently announced the battery chemistry of its first commercial product and a $200 million Series D financing round led by ArcelorMittal’s XCarb innovation fund. Founded in 2017, Form Energy is backed by investors Eni Next LLC, MIT’s The Engine, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Prelude Ventures, Capricorn Investment Group and Macquarie Capital.

While solar and wind resources are the lowest marginal cost sources of electricity, the grid faces a challenge: how to manage the multi-day variability of renewable energy, even in periods of multi-day weather events, without sacrificing energy reliability or affordability.

Moreover, while Lithium-ion batteries are well suited to fast bursts of energy production, they run out of energy after just a few hours. Iron-air batteries, however, are predicted to have theoretical energy densities of more than 1,200 Wh/kg according to Renaissance of the iron-air battery (phys.org)

The active components of Form Energy's iron-air battery system are some of the cheapest, and most abundant materials: iron, water, and air. Iron-air batteries are the best solution to balance the multi-day variability of renewable energy due to their extremely low cost, safety, durability, and global scalability.

It claims its first commercial product is a rechargeable iron-air battery capable of delivering electricity for 100 hours at system costs competitive with conventional power plants and at less than 1/10th the cost of lithium-ion and can be optimised to store electricity for 100 hours at system costs competitive with legacy power plants.

"This product is our first step to tackling the biggest barrier to deep decarbonisation: making renewable energy available when and where it’s needed, even during multiple days of extreme weather, grid outages, or periods of low renewable generation," it states.

Mateo Jaramillo, CEO and Co-founder of Form Energy, said it conducted a broad review of available technologies and has reinvented the iron-air battery to optimise it for multi-day energy storage for the electric grid. "With this technology, we are tackling the biggest barrier to deep decarbonization: making renewable energy available when and where it’s needed, even during multiple days of extreme weather or grid outages," he said.

Form Energy and ArcelorMittal are working jointly on the development of iron materials which ArcelorMittal would non-exclusively supply for Form’s battery systems. Form Energy intends to source the iron domestically and manufacture the battery systems near where they will be sited. Form Energy’s first project is with Minnesota-based utility Great River Energy, located near the heart of the American Iron Range.

Greg Ludkovsky, Global Head of Research and Development at ArcelorMittal, believes Form Energy is at the leading edge of developments in the long-duration, grid-scale battery storage space. "The multi-day energy storage technology they have developed holds exciting potential to overcome the issue of intermittent supply of renewable energy."

Investors in Form Energy's November 2020 round included Energy Impact Partners, NGP Energy Technology Partners III, and Temasek.

In May 2020, it signed a contract with Minnesota-based utility Great River Energy to jointly deploy a 1MW / 150MWh pilot project to be located in Cambridge, MN. Great River Energy is Minnesota's second-largest electric utility and the fifth largest generation and transmission cooperative in the US.

Last week Helena and Energy Vault announced a strategic partnership to identify additional opportunities for Energy Vault’s waste remediation technologies as the company begins deployment of its energy storage system worldwide. It received new investment from Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV) in June.

Maoneng has revealed more details of its proposed 240MWp / 480MWh Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula in Australia (click here).

The BESS represents hundreds of millions of dollars of investment that will improve electricity grid reliability and network stability by drawing energy from the grid during off-peak periods for battery storage, and dispatching energy to the grid during peak periods. 

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