Europe and US head in Opposite Electricity Directions
Europe and the US are headed in opposite directions in regards to electricity pricing, as renewable energy subsidies, fossil fuel prices and taxation impact upon residential power prices across the two regions, according to analysis released by research and consulting firm GlobalData.
According to the firm, the difference between residential retail electricity prices across countries was "dramatic", with German residential consumers paying more than 2.5 times their American counterparts in 2012.
Jonathan Lane, GlobalData's Head of Consulting for Power and Utilities, explains why domestic energy consumers in the US have the best deal by far: “Consumption taxation across most goods in the US is relatively limited and electricity is no different, with very few states applying a sales tax. The major renewable support scheme in the US, the production tax credit (PTC), is financed by the tax system rather than recovered through electricity pricing, so there are very few extra charges for consumers to pay. The wholesale price in the US is even better news for consumers, as high hydro production and low gas prices stemming from the shale-gas glut feed through to lower wholesale electricity prices.
“In contrast, Germany suffers from some of the highest residential electricity prices in the world due to the high cost of subsidising significant solar and wind generation via the Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz (EEG) and 19% VAT, though German consumers are able to sustain these costs through high GDP per capita. However, German wholesale electricity costs are actually rather low, reflecting low coal and carbon costs.
“Italy suffers from similarly high residential electricity prices, but these are driven by high wholesale costs, as high gas prices are set by long-term, oil-indexed import contracts, which hold great weight in a country which relies heavily on gas-fired energy generation. Italian residential consumers also pick up a significant bill for solar subsidies. Italy’s Ministry of Economic Development calculates that its wholesale gas prices are 20% higher than in Northern Europe, and the country is seeking reform of the wholesale gas market to bring prices in line with neighbouring countries."
Lane also says that residential electricity consumers in Spain should be paying rates similar to those found in Italy, or even Germany, if the full costs of renewable subsidies, wholesale electricity and taxes were included. “Instead,” Lane says, “the government has decided over several years to keep prices in the regulated electricity market low. Spain’s so called 'tariff deficit' represents the cumulative cost of what has been charged to customers and what should have been charged in a liberalised market. This process of effectively subsidising Spanish electricity prices left the tariff deficit at €24 billion at the end of 2011. The government is planning to reduce the deficit via a 6% tax levied on all generation (including renewables) and a 'green cent' tax on coal, fuel oil and natural gas.”
In contrast to the Spanish government’s efforts to keep regulated electricity prices down, residential prices for electricity consumers in Ireland are being driven up by the wholesale price in the Single Electricity Market (SEM), which operates as a mandatory pool across both the Republic and Northern Ireland. Irish electricity prices are heavily influenced by wholesale gas prices and the Euro-Pound exchange rate, as 90% of gas is imported from the UK, and the depreciation of the Euro against the Pound played a big part in the 13% increase in Irish wholesale gas prices during 2011-2012. However, Irish residents do not face significant bills for renewable subsidies, and the reduced VAT rate on electricity of 13.5% enjoyed by Irish consumers, compared to the standard rate of 23%, helps to mitigate higher wholesale costs.
British domestic electricity consumers enjoy relatively low electricity prices due to an even lower VAT rate of 5%. “However,” argues Lane, “consumers pick up other charges such as the Renewables Obligation, the Energy Company Obligation (an energy efficiency scheme), and small scale renewable feed-in tariff schemes. Wholesale electricity prices in Great Britain are slightly higher than found in many European markets, due to the high share of gas in the generation mix and the higher costs associated with the UK’s BWR nuclear fleet compared to PWR fleets in Europe.”
Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process
Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.
Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.
The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content.
In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.
Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.
"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president.
“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.
"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.
Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.
Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.
A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.
The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.