Wednesday, 19 August 2009

China Mulls Climate Resolution

Associated Press
BEIJING -- China's top legislature will consider a draft resolution on climate change next week, state media said, after a report by the country's policy experts said the government should take action so the country's carbon dioxide emissions peak around 2030.
China is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases and has not set a cap on its emissions, believing it needs to continue to expand its economy and lift millions out of poverty. The country's stance is expected to be key to a successful December U.N. conference in Copenhagen, which will try to reach agreement on a treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol for limiting greenhouse gases, which expires in 2012.
Most scientists agree that even a slight increase in global temperatures will wreak havoc as seasons shift, crops fail and storms and droughts ravage fields.
Xinhua gave few details of the legislation but said the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress would consider a climate change resolution and a draft amendment to its renewable energy law at its bimonthly session starting Aug. 24.
The legislation follows a report by several Chinese government bodies and academics that said China should "as soon as possible research and draft targets for relative and absolute caps in the total volume of carbon dioxide emissions."
The nearly 900-page "2050 China Energy and C02 Emissions Report" said that China's gross domestic product may exceed America's by 2030, and its emissions of greenhouse gases will make up 20 to 25% of the world's total emissions.
If China implements cuts on the absolute amount of its emissions, emissions of carbon dioxide will start to slow by 2020 and peak by 2030, it said.
"I think it is realistic, but the cost will be relatively high, and there are also certain requirements on technology and policy that must be reached," Jiang Kejun, of the Energy Research Institute at the National Development and Reform Commission and one of the authors of the study, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The report -- which was released last month but was not publicized -- suggested increasing investment in renewable energy and educating the public about climate change.
Although contributors to the report came from government bodies, Mr. Jiang said it was an academic study and he did not know how much impact it would have on government policy.
China's top climate envoy, Yu Qingtai, said last month that Beijing would like to see a peak in its carbon emissions as soon as possible, but gave no date. He repeated China's position that developed countries need to make deeper cuts in emissions and provide technology and financing to help their developing counterparts.
Copyright © 2009 Associated Press

China Shuts Smelter After Protest

BEIJING -- Authorities closed a smelting plant in northwest China's Shaanxi province following a protest on Monday by villagers upset over the lead poisoning of more than 600 children in the area, state media reported Tuesday.

Hundreds of residents who live around the Dongling Lead & Zinc Smelting Co. in Baoji city stormed its plant Monday morning, breaking through the factory gates and damaging at least 10 trucks and other vehicles on the premises, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
In recent weeks, at least 615, or more than 80%, of the children under the age of 14 in two villages near the smelter were found to have excessive lead levels in their blood, and 154 have been hospitalized. Anger among residents escalated Monday morning after details emerged of a suicide attempt by a teenage student who feared she had been poisoned, Xinhua said.
Residents complained that parts of the plant continued to operate. On Aug. 6, lead and zinc operations were suspended after the lead poisoning outbreak was traced to the factory, but coke production had continued.
Responding to the concerns, Baoji Mayor Dai Zhenshe said all operations had been halted on Monday, explaining that the coke production hadn't stopped earlier because there had still been gas in the production pipelines that created a risk of explosion, according to Xinhua.
"We had to make sure the gas in the pipeline was exhausted before the shutdown," Mr. Dai was quoted as saying. "Now we've closed down the plant, we won't allow it to open again until it has been proven it will not harm villagers."
Policemen and local officials were dispatched to restore order and negotiate with the protesters on Monday. Xinhua said most of the protesters had been dispersed by midafternoon.
The county government has pledged free health care for affected children. It also said that a delayed relocation plan for families who were supposed to be moved away from the smelter, which opened in 2006, would be completed within two years.
Write to Sky Canaves at

China to debate 2030 emission cuts deadline

Emissions of carbon dioxide will start to slow by 2020 and peak by 2030 if China implements cuts on the absolute amount of its emissions, report says
Jonathan Watts, Asia environment correspondent, Tuesday 18 August 2009 10.09 BST
Chinese legislators will debate a new resolution on climate change next week, the state media reported today as a high-powered research institute called for the country to reduce carbon emissions by 2030.
The moves indicate possible flexibility in the negotiating stance of the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases ahead of climate change talks in Copenhagen at the end of this year, but, even if adopted, are far from sufficient to avoid dangerous levels of global warming.
A new climate change resolution and amendment to the renewable energy law are on the agenda of the next bimonthly session of the standing committee of the National People's Congress, according to the Xinhua news agency.
It revealed few details, but hopes for a set of more ambitious targets were raised by state media reports that a high-powered thinktank has called for emissions to fall by 2030.
China has refused to set a cap on emissions because it wants to expand its economy to catch up with richer nations that historically pumped more carbon into the atmosphere during the process of development.
That official position has not changed, but several government-linked institutes have projected possible pathways for the emissions to peak.
The most authoritative of them, the nearly 900-page 2050 China Energy and CO2 emissions report sets out several scenarios for change.
The most optimistic of them sees a fall by 2030, but this would require huge investments in renewable energy as well as financial and technical support from overseas.
"I think it is realistic, but the cost will be relatively high, and there are also certain requirements on technology and policy that must be reached," Jiang Kejun, of the Energy Research Institute at the National Development and Reform Commission and one of the authors of the study, told The Associated Press.
The panel advised the government to invest 1 trillion yuan into low-carbon technology development each year until 2050.
"The money would be mainly used to introduce technologies that would raise the energy efficiency of end-users in industry, construction and transportation," Bai Quan, another panel member, was quoted as saying by The China Daily.
Even if these recommendations were adopted and achieved, it is extremely unlikely they would be sufficient to prevent carbon levels in the atmosphere from reaching levels that scientists warn would result in devastating climate change.
The study forecasts China to account for about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, by which time its economy will be bigger than that of the United States.
Amid mounting international approbrium, China has signalled that it may be willing to adopt carbon intensity targets relative to economic growth and to make a huge investment in "new energy", including nuclear, solar and more efficient coal plants.
China's top climate envoy, Yu Qingtai, said last month that Beijing would like to see a peak in carbon emissions as soon as possible, but suggested no timetable for when this might happen.

Barack Obama critics take aim at carbon reforms after health reform success

Opponents of Barack Obama have opened up a second front in the attack on his core political agenda by launching a campaign against proposals for a "cap and trade" carbon emissions scheme.

By Alex Spillius in Washington Published: 6:31PM BST 18 Aug 2009

Inspired by the success of protests against health care reform, the critics began their fight against the carbon scheme with a rally in Houston, Texas.
Several Right-wing groups opposed to what they see as Mr Obama's tendency towards "big government" are involved in both campaigns, and hope to defeat or emasculate the two central pillars of the president's domestic agenda.

A coalition of 17 business and conservative groups, backed by dozens of local organisations, will stage further events in 19 other states over the next three weeks and has told its millions of members to bombard their representatives in Washington with calls and emails.
Conservative pressure has already forced Mr Obama to backtrack on key elements of his plans to provide health insurance to all Americans, such as the proposal for a government health insurance body.
Like the agitators against the president's plans for health reform, the alliance, known as Energy Citizens, plans to influence congressmen and senators visiting their districts and states during the August break.
The campaign will concentrate on areas where the coal or oil industry is based or where moderate Democrats are nervous about re-election in next year's midterm elections.
Many meetings on the health debate have become heated, and concerns have risen that they could turn violent after at least 12 armed men were seen outside a convention centre where the president was addressing military veterans in Phoenix, Arizona on Monday.
At least two carried assault rifles and attracted the close attention of the police and the Secret Service, which guards the president. Police said the men did not need permits, as Arizona has an "open carry" gun law.
Cathy Landry, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, which is co-ordinating the energy bill campaign, said: "We will not be shouting down congressmen, but we want to surge senators that we would like them to get this right."
Democratic leaders in the Senate have set a deadline of the end of September to finalise a cap-and-trade bill, after the House of Representatives narrowly passed its own version earlier in the summer.
That bill would set limits on carbon emissions and require polluting industries to buy carbon allowances from those that pollute less.
Mr Obama claims the bill will slow global warming and reduce dependence on foreign sources of fossil fuels but critics have said it would however raise energy costs and lead to substantial job losses.
Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau, a member of the coalition, said the current House plans would lead to a shortage of energy in about 2020 as alternative energy sources such as wind and solar would not develop at the forecast rate.
"There are serious flaws. There is no provision for other countries to come up with comparative commitments, so it is not clear what beneficial effect there will be on climate change," he said.
His organisation has encouraged its 6.2 million mostly rural member families to attend the rallies or to contact their congressmen making their objections clear.
"Members of the senate and congress are hearing strong reactions against health care and on climate change," he added. "There may be a dual effect where resistance to one builds resistance to the other."
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a pressure group involved in opposing Mr Obama on both fronts, said: "Cap and trade has just come on top of everything else – the massive stimulus, the $1 trillion budget, health care.
"We are just people who don't want the government to get bigger, too expensive and too intrusive, a government that will tell you what health care you can have at what price and what energy you can have at what price. It's a standard Left-Right choice."

Vestas Says Wind-Project Demand Is on Rise

Turbine Maker Sticks to Revenue Forecast, But Earnings Decline
In a surprise move Tuesday, the world's biggest wind-turbine supplier, Vestas Wind Systems A/S, said it still expects its revenue to increase by nearly 20% this year as order flow has begun to pick up -- a sign the sector could be starting to unfreeze.

Analysts had expected Denmark-based Vestas to lower its full-year revenue target of €7.2 billion ($10.14 billion) because tight credit markets have hit funding for the multibillion-dollar wind-power industry.
Vestas Chief Executive Ditlev Engel said the company sees signs of renewed interest in wind projects from financial institutions as government stimulus plans, particularly in the U.S. and U.K., are kicking in.
"We're seeing the activity level starting to move again despite the fact that the first six months have been challenging in terms of the orders," Mr. Engel said in an interview.
The wind-power industry, which has boomed in the past 10 years -- growing almost 30% from 2007 to 2008, for example -- has been in the doldrums for most of 2009. Some investment banks that were big lenders to renewables projects, such as Lehman Brothers, have collapsed, while others have severely restricted lending.
Vestas, which had ridden the boom, has felt the impact of the downturn. The company said Tuesday that its second-quarter net profit decreased to €43 million from €65 million a year earlier, partly because of higher costs and reduced gross margins. Revenue rose 11% to €1.21 billion from €1.09 billion.
The company is coping with the slowdown by cutting costs, closing its Isle of Wight wind-turbine blade factory in England last week.
Citing weaker demand in northern Europe, one of the regions hardest hit by the credit crisis, Vestas said it was shifting its geographical focus to China and the U.S. China is expected to become the largest market for new installed wind turbines this year, ahead of the U.S., according to the Global Wind Energy Council.
Still, Vestas said it is encouraged by signs the market could be turning.
Although it had a tough first half, the company said it had received orders of €700 million since the end of the second quarter. The company's corporate review board is also set to evaluate several new contracts, valued at more than €4.4 billion in total, Mr. Engel said, without elaborating.
"We've said all along that it was important to differentiate between a financial crisis and a demand crisis, and the bottom line is we're seeing a lot of interest," Mr. Engel said.
The chief executive also cited Vestas's recent 165-megawatt turbine order for the Bligh Bank offshore wind farm off the coast of Zeebrugge in Belgium as another indicator the market is again opening up. Bligh Bank, run by Belwind NV, a consortium of Belgian and Dutch investors, is the first offshore transaction to receive project finance since the financial crisis started.
Lower steel and energy prices this year, improving technology, and good wind-power prices due to national subsidies and stimulus money could also help get the sector moving again. Binding European Union targets on renewable energy use are also supporting the sector.
However, some analysts said there were still risks that could derail the turnaround, both for the sector as well as for Vestas.
Write to Selina Williams at

Vestas expands wind turbine manufacturing in China and US as British demand collapses

Vestas chief says wind power industry is showing signs of recovery, and blames nimbyism for blocking projects in Britain
Tim Webb, Tuesday 18 August 2009 17.04 BST
Vestas, the wind turbine manufacturer that laid off 425 workers when it closed its Isle of Wight factory this month, has hired more than 5,000 extra workers for its new factories in China, the US and Spain. .
The company said it was expanding heavily in China and the US because these markets were growing the fastest, in contrast to the sluggish pace of wind farm development in the UK.
Vestas wants to supply all its markets from domestic factories, which is why the company decided to stop making turbines to export to the US from its Isle of Wight factory.
Announcing a 15% fall in quarterly profits today, the chief executive, Ditlev Engel, defended the decision: "We are moving to the US because it makes sense to be close to where the action is."
The company had planned to convert the Isle of Wight factory so that it made turbines for the UK market, because it expected that government renewable energy policies would lead to a big increase in the number of wind farms being built here. "But it just didn't happen," he said.
The UK wind market is still relatively small. Last year, about 0.5GW of wind farms were installed in the UK, compared with 8.5GW in the US, the world's largest producer of wind energy. Because of the transport costs of shipping turbines large distances, it makes sense for factories to be located close to where they will be deployed. The cost of transporting blades from the Isle of Wight to the US was higher than the labour costs needed to make them, for example.
Vestas is also heavily expanding into China, which is the world's fourth largest wind energy producer but is forecast to overtake the US soon. In China, the government requires that at least 80% of all wind farms are made using domestically manufactured components, requiring Vestas to open new factories there if it wants a big slice of the market. The vast majority of the new 5,000 jobs are in China and the US.
Engel again hit out at nimbys and local politicians for blocking onshore projects, which he said had stymied growth in the UK market. As a result, Ditlev said that not enough wind farms were being built in the UK to support a factory in the country.
"It's very important to recognise that if the green agenda is going to move ahead the issue of planning has to be addressed," he said. "To get to the 2020 [renewable energy] targets things have to move pretty fast. You have to accept changes. That means people have to engage, not just say we don't want it [a wind farm] here."
The Guardian has also obtained a letter from the Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, Andrew Turner, calling on the local council to block an application to erect six turbines near the village of Wellow on the island in 2006 because of the impact on the countryside. Vestas executives in the UK had warned the council at the time that if the project was rejected, it could lead to the eventual closure of the factory because it would undermine the UK's commitment to wind energy.
"I fully understand that as a country we need to reduce our carbon footprint and welcome other initiatives," he wrote, "[but] I do not accept that a convincing case has been made that the development will be economically beneficial to the Island." The project was rejected and no onshore wind farms have yet been built on the Isle of Wight.
Vestas also said that the wind power industry was showing signs of recovery after being paralysed by the effects of the credit crunch. Engel said that banks had begun lending to wind farm developers again and that the firm had seen an increase in orders in the past month.
The company said government financial stimulus measures designed to kick-start such infrastructure projects were starting to have an effect. New banks were also prepared to lend to projects, Vestas said, but it added that the more thorough due diligence they were insisting on meant it took longer to secure financing than before the credit crunch.
The economic downturn also contributed to the decision to close the Isle of Wight factory. This was partly because it slowed the development of wind farms here even more, but also because the lower global demand meant the factory was not needed to make turbines for other markets and Vestas was left with an excess of manufacturing capacity in northern Europe. Vestas also shut factories in Denmark, with the loss of 1,142 jobs.
Vestas reported that pre-tax profits for the three months to the end of the June were down by 15% to €78m (£67m), in large part because of redundancy payments it made to the workers it laid off, and to pay salaries for an enlarged workforce elsewhere.

Power struggle between Ambani bothers halts gas exploration project

At the heart of the row between Asia's richest siblings is the cost of gas from a huge field in the Krishna-Godavari basin in India
Randeep Ramesh in Delhi, Tuesday 18 August 2009 20.58 BST
When Indian officials arrive in the heart of the United States' oil capital, Houston, next week for country's largest ever auction of hydrocarbons – the gas-rich seabed under the Bay of Bengal – they had hoped interest would be high. It will be, but perhaps not because of the supposed treasure beneath the waves.
Instead, what has transfixed investors inside, and outside, India is a bruising public spat between two of the richest men in the world, Mukesh Ambani and his younger brother Anil.
At the heart of the row between Asia's richest siblings is the cost of gas from a huge hydrocarbon field in the Krishna-Godavari basin. Over the last few weeks, Anil Ambani, whose net worth exceeds $10bn (£6.1bn), has gone public attacking the oil minister, an old family friend, for siding with his elder brother and writing to the prime minister with a catalogue of complaints over how his company has been treated.
Last month, in a televised address to shareholders, the younger Ambani said his older brother had "tried every trick in the book, and apparently several outside the book, to back out of its solemn, legal and contractual obligations".
Not only will the rancour cast a shadow over the Indian hydrocarbon roadshow next week, it comes just days before a hearing by the country's supreme court on the dispute between the estranged siblings.
Anil Ambani today raised the stakes again with a series of stinging advertisements on the front pages of the Indian newspapers claiming that the government's stand in the row may lead to a 50% rise in power bills. The adverts were headlined: "Is this in the public or national interest?"
Mukesh Ambani shot back with a statement claiming Anil was "indulging in an orchestrated campaign intended to bring into public debate and prejudge the issues that are pending adjudication before the honourable courts".
Both have been jousting since their mother divided their inheritance, Reliance, India's biggest conglomerate, between them in 2005. Their father, Reliance's founder Dhirubhai, died without leaving a will in 2002.
The division of the company left Mukesh with lucrative petrochemical, oil and gas, refining and manufacturing units. Anil got a smaller portion in the booming fields of telecoms, financial services and power generation.
The brothers, who live on different levels of the same Mumbai tower block but do not talk to each other, had agreed not to compete against each other.
However, their rivalry has led them to accumulate fabulous wealth amid accusations that each is out to undo the other. Some of this appears frivolous. When the older Ambani brought his wife a jet for $52m, the younger brother responded with a gift of a luxury yacht worth $80m for his wife.
In business, however, the family feud is taking a serious turn. Last year Mukesh, ranked by Forbes magazine as the seventh richest man in the world with a fortune of $20bn, blocked a proposed $40bn reverse takeover of the South African mobile group MTN by Anil's Reliance Communications.
But their biggest row now centres on gas. Under the terms of their split, Mukesh's main vehicle Reliance Industries was to supply gas from the vast field in the Bay of Bengal's "D6" block to the younger brother's Reliance Natural Resources at a fixed price of $2.34 per million British thermal units (MBtu) for 17 years. However, Reliance Industries claimed that the price agreed had to be sanctioned by the government. In 2007, ministers set a different price – almost twice the original – of $4.20 per MBtu. Officials said this reflected higher oil prices, ­ market demand and agricultural inputs such as fertilisers, which are crucial for millions of poor farmers in India.
Undeterred by the state, Anil Ambani took the case to court. In June judges in Mumbai upheld the family's original deal and the lower price. The judges also asked for the matriarch of the family to mediate. It was then that the government stepped in – saying that the gas was not the billionaire's private property but belonged to the state that had the concerns of hundreds of millions of poverty-stricken Indians to think about. In India the state collects a share of the profits from oil and gas field operators and the D6 block alone could add $20bn to the country's gross domestic product.
Anil Ambani argued that the government could claim its share of the profits at the price of $4.20/ MBtu – even if Reliance Industries provided gas to the younger brother's companies at the lower price. The bench of the supreme court is likely to need the judgment of Solomon not to offend two of the most powerful men in India.
Behind the debate, say analysts, lies, the fact the younger Ambani needs the gas for an ambitious power scheme. His Reliance Power division had plans to build more than 30,000 megawatts of capacity for energy-starved India within a decade at a cost of $30bn. Thirty percent of the gas was to come from Mukesh's D6 block.
"The real impact will be on [Anil Ambani's] Reliance Power. That project was dependent on the gas from Mukesh's [fields]. So it is not surprising in that respect," said Hitesh Agarwal, head of equity research at Angel Broking.
Foreign investors, too, have been alarmed by the government's "nationalisation" of the gas market. An editorial in the trade publication Upstream last week said that multinationals with stakes in the gas fields of the Bay of Bengal including Britain's BG Group have already complained "that prices should be determined by market forces and not by the government … if the government wants to attract more international companies, there has to be a well-laid policy that also works in practice."
Whatever the outside world thinks, what has surprised many in India is that there has been few repercussions considering the number of family firms listed on the country's stockmarket. This, says Ruchir Sharma, head of emerging markets at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, is thanks to the resilience of Indian business.
Writing in Newsweek, Sharma says: "At the start of this decade, Reliance was one of five Indian companies with a market value of more than $5bn. Currently, there are 40 such companies, the total value of the market is more than $1tn, and the Reliance Group accounts for less than 10% of the total."

Ford Plans Vehicles to Tap Power Grids

Ford Motor Co. is launching an in-vehicle technology to let its customers recharge electric cars when energy rates are low.
The "smart" charging concept announced Tuesday is key for all auto makers that are pursuing electric vehicles in a variety of forms, from plug-in gas-electric hybrids to fully electric cars and trucks that use no gasoline. Most of those vehicles are still months, if not years, away from reaching showrooms.
But car companies say that in order for electrified cars to be accepted widely, the companies must steer customers away from sapping too much power from the electric grid during peak hours—which could be cost-prohibitive and threaten the grid's stability. They also want consumers to be able to charge their cars quickly and at the most efficient times.

Developing an electric vehicle was relatively easy compared with working with "our partners at energy providers," Bill Ford, the auto maker's executive chairman, said during a question-and-answer session at the company's Dearborn, Mich., test track. There are more than 3,000 utility companies, and just a handful of auto companies.
The touch-screen technology will allow the car owner to program how to recharge the vehicle, even delaying the recharge for the middle of the night or choosing to tap renewable energy generated by wind or sun. A similar system is expected to be used when General Motors Co.'s Chevy introduces its plug-in Volt car late next year, a company spokesman said.
Other car makers working on electric vehicles include Toyota Motor Co., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., maker of Subarus. Nissan Motor Co. announced this year it will build 100,000 electric cars a year at its plant in Smyrna, Tenn., by 2013.
Ford plans to bring to market a pure battery electric Transit Connect commercial van next year, an all-electric Focus compact car in 2011, and a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle in 2012.
Those efforts are backed by financial support from the Obama administration through a new loan program to foster electrification.
Ford received $5.9 billion in Department of Energy loans this summer to help retool plants to produce 13 fuel-efficient models, including 5,000 to 10,000 electric ones a year beginning in 2011.
When plugged in, Ford's battery systems in plug-in hybrids will be able to talk to the electrical grid through "smart" meters provided by utility companies via wireless networking. The owner uses an in-dash computer to choose when the vehicle should recharge, for how long and at what utility rate.
All 21 SUVs in Ford's experimental fleet of plug-in hybrid Escapes eventually will be equipped with the vehicle-to-grid communications technology.
Tony Posawatz, vehicle line director for the Volt program, said that the kind of technology unveiled by Ford Tuesday was already demonstrated by GM in December.
Instead of relying on so-called "smart" utility meters, the Volt will be able to interact with utility companies remotely through GM's OnStar technology. "The point is some of our competitors will rely on technology that requires smart meters, which is years away," Mr. Posawatz said. "We do not."

Toyota to buy batteries for hybrids from Sanyo-source

Reuters, Wednesday August 19 2009
* Toyota to use Sanyo batteries from 2011 - source
* To lift global output target by 150,000 units in '09-Nikkei
* Sanyo shares jump as much as 17 percent
* Analyst says Sanyo shares overbought (Adds analyst comment, details)
TOKYO, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp will buy batteries for hybrid cars from Sanyo Electric Co to keep pace with growing demand for cleaner vehicles, a source familiar with the matter said, sending Sanyo shares up 17 percent at one stage.
Shares of Sanyo were up 13 percent at 253 yen in afternoon trade, while Toyota rose 1.7 percent, mirroring a rise in other auto stocks.
Toyota, the world's biggest automaker, will first use Sanyo's lithium-ion batteries from around 2011, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is not yet public.
The maker of the popular Prius hybrid will first procure about 10,000 battery units per year from Sanyo, the world's biggest rechargeable battery maker, the source said.
A Toyota spokeswoman said nothing had been decided about procuring lithium-ion batteries from Sanyo. A Sanyo spokesman declined comment, citing company policy on deals with potential and existing customers.
Demand for gasoline-electric vehicles has surged in Japan, helped by tax breaks and subsidies under a government initiative to promote fuel-efficient automobiles, with the Prius ranking as the country's best-selling car in July for a second straight month.
But customers placing orders for the Prius have to wait about eight months before delivery due partly to a shortage of batteries.
Toyota also said this week it had received about 10,000 orders for the Lexus HS250h sedan, the premium brand's first dedicated hybrid car, in its first month of sale in Japan. It aims to sell an average 500 units a month.
Toyota now procures its nickel-metal hydride batteries from Panasonic EV Energy Co, a joint venture with Panasonic Corp. Panasonic plans to take control of Sanyo, and is awaiting regulatory approval.
Panasonic EV Energy has said it plans to double production capacity to around 1 million units a year by the middle of 2010.
To further ease the supply bottleneck, Toyota has said it is considering a wide range of options, including procurement from a second source and further capacity expansion at the battery venture.
Sanyo, which has a battery tie-up with Volkswagen AG, told Reuters in June that it had secured customers for its lithium-ion batteries in the United States, Japan and Europe as it seeks a 25 percent share in the global market for auto-use rechargeable batteries by 2015.
Other battery makers such as Toshiba Corp and the joint venture between Nissan Motor Co and NEC Corp are also looking to supply their batteries to a broad customer base to bring costs down.
Shares of battery makers have been popular as batteries look set to become a core component in electrified cars, including plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles.
But analysts warn that retail investors are mainly behind the surge and that they may be overreacting to the growth potential.
"I think (Sanyo shares) are overbought," said Osamu Hirose, an analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Center.
"There's a lot of expectation about the company's rechargeable and solar cell business, but at the current price it's hard to imagine that any institutional investors would be buying," he said.
According to Thomson Reuters, no brokerage has a "buy" rating on Sanyo, which has a price-to-earnings ratio of 69 times its estimated earnings.
GS Yuasa Corp, which has battery ventures with both Honda Motor Co and Mitsubishi Motors Corp, has an estimated PER of about 145 times.
Separately, the Nikkei business daily said Toyota told its suppliers the previous day that it planned to raise its global production target for 2009 to 5.95 million units, up from 5.8 million. (Reporting by Kentaro Hamada, Mayumi Negishi and Chang-Ran Kim in TOKYO and Renju Jose in BANGALORE; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

Electric car industry boost as leading developer plans production of tens of thousands of vehicles a year

Carmaker developing three models with Renault for sale in Denmark and Israel, with plans to expand scheme further
Gwladys Fouché in Copenhagen, Tuesday 18 August 2009 13.50 BST
The electric car industry received a boost yesterday after a leading developer of low-emission vehicles said it would produce of tens of thousands vehicles a year from 2011. Better Place, which will run the scheme with Renault, plans to market them initially in Denmark and Israel.
The French carmaker is developing three models: a saloon, a compact city car and a van. In Denmark, a car will cost up to 200,000 kroner (£23,080).
"We expect the production of electric vehicles to be in the tens of thousands per year for the Danish market from 2011," said Jens Moberg, chief executive of Better Place Denmark, the Danish subsidiary of the transport company developing the lithium batteries fitted in the vehicles.
Electric car drivers will need to sign up for a monthly subscription with Better Place to get access to the batteries. "It will be like signing up for a mobile phone contract," said Moberg.
He declined to say how much a subscription would cost but said the battery would cost €8,000 (£6,900) to manufacture in 2011-12. "I expect the cost to come down afterwards as production expands," he said.
Drivers can recharge the batteries at home, which would take several hours, or switch batteries at a "swap station", taking three to five minutes – less time than it takes to fill a petrol tank.
In Denmark, close to 100 battery swap stations will be available around the country, with plans to expand further.
Drivers will also be able to top up their batteries at charge spots installed at car parks and on the streets. Copenhagen is working to install up to 60 by the time of the UN climate change summit in December, when world leaders will attempt to broker a worldwide deal to reduce carbon emissions.
A number of electric Renault cars will also be available to drive during the conference. Those trying out the cars will not have to worry about parking, as it is already free to park an electric car anywhere in Copenhagen.
Moberg said Better Place was in discussion with a number of European countries, including France, about expanding the scheme further from Israel and Denmark.

Virtuous cannot afford renewable energy now

Carl Mortished: Tempus
Virtue is never a good selling proposition — booze and cigarettes generate better cashflow than good books do. Renewable energy is another good thing that everyone wants but nobody would choose to pay for and Vestas, the Danish wind turbine manufacturer, was yesterday railing against British homeowners for wrecking its business strategy.
The firm’s chief executive said that local councils and boroughs needed to end their opposition to wind farms, but the real reason that Vestas is laying off staff at its Isle of Wight factory is due to hard economics. The same problem has hit Solon, the German solar module maker, which yesterday reported a first-half loss of €53 million (£45.2 million).
Demand for its equipment has slumped due to a cut in subsidies in the Spanish market, while the credit crunch has cut off private sector finance. Solon’s woes followed those of PV Crystalox, a UK-listed manufacturer of silicon wafers, which issued a warning in June about a fall in revenues and a deferral of orders. Clipper Windpower, the AIM-listed turbine maker, also incurred a net loss of $313 million (£189 million) last year.
These companies rode a wave of sentiment and hoped that they were the advance guard of the low-carbon economy. Instead, they have become stranded on the beach as the tide of hot money ebbs from the market. In a world where cash is tight, no one wants to invest in expensive energy solutions, no matter how virtuous, unless the government is paying. Banks won’t finance energy projects that don’t pay their own way unless governments underpin prices with subsidies or regulatory mandates to purchase clean energy.
Even as Vestas was pulling the plug on the Isle of Wight, the British Government was offering more subsidies in the form of an increased obligation for power companies to buy renewable energy, and there are signs that rivals, such as Siemens, are showing interest in the British wind energy market. However, Vestas is turning its face eastwards, hoping that the gap will be filled by China, a nation that has never allowed a planning inquiry to interfere with industrial ambition.
The renewable energy sector is added to the long queue of global industries hoping for a boost from the great pump-priming stimulus to the Chinese economy. With gas and coal so cheap, only an economy run by central command and control can justify expensive megawatts.
But this is not a reason to forget the windmill and solar ventures. They are going through a classic sweating, tested in a market fire. In the wings, we can see big industrial engineering firms watching and waiting. As the recession eases and when sensible, rather than fanciful, government targets for carbon emissions are agreed, the Siemens and GEs of this world will make their moves, buying the businesses that can survive in a real world of dear money and mean consumers.

Home-Energy Plan Spreads Out Costs

BABYLON, N.Y. -- Town employees have fanned out across this Long Island suburb this summer, armed with free water bottles and beer cozies and a simple pitch: going green can save green, especially with low-interest financing from the town.
Empowered by recent changes to local, state and federal laws, municipal governments from Long Island to the Bay Area are launching programs to help residents purchase efficient furnaces, weatherize their homes and put solar panels on their roofs. Homeowners often balk at the upfront costs of such improvements because the energy savings typically takes years to pay off.
These local officials think they can overcome this hurdle by helping residents spread the costs over a decade or more.
"To me it's the perfect recession program," says Babylon's town supervisor, Steve Bellone. "It's cost-effective. You're actually creating jobs in a way that is not impacting taxpayers. But it's helping everyone by improving the environment."
Babylon's program, Long Island Green Homes, launched last October after the city of 220,000 people redefined its solid-waste code to include energy waste, based on its carbon content. That allowed Mr. Bellone to tap $2 million of Babylon's more than $25 million solid-waste reserve fund to seed the program.
Now, residents can apply for as much as $12,000 in loans to finance home-energy-efficiency improvements like insulation and new furnaces. Homeowners also can use the program to finance rooftop solar panels.
After an energy audit to determine how much a homeowner could save in utility bills, the town pays a local contractor to do the energy improvements. The homeowner then pays the money back to the town through regular trash bills, with 3% interest, and the loan is structured so the homeowner pays less than he or she is saving in utilities.
The initiative is helping Rich Manning's Energy Master & Environmental Solutions, which has retrofit 42 houses since the program began. Fifty homeowners a month are calling the town to ask for audits, up from 10 to 12 when the program started, according to program director Sammy Chu. And he is converting most of those audits into work contracts, where previously only 20% of his audits would lead to actual work.
To keep up with demand, Mr. Manning is training a sixth employee and expects to hire at least two more workers by year end. He says, "We've taken the major stumbling block out: cash."
Eileen Conlin, 86 years old, contracted Energy Master to audit the two-bedroom house she bought with her husband in 1959. "After 50 years, I think I need a new furnace," she said, as workers shined flashlights around her basement, looking for leaks in the ductwork.
The seed money got the program started, but the town is looking to create a public-private enterprise to attract investors. "We need a more sustainable business model to finance the program going forward," said Dorian Dale, energy director and sustainability officer for the town.
Recently, the New York state legislature passed a bill that would allow every town in the state to adopt a program similar to Babylon's. The measure is awaiting signature by the governor.
Eleven other states, including Texas and Ohio, now have laws on the books that allow local governments to establish financing programs for home-energy improvements, according to the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy, a Web site that tracks such information.
In addition to Babylon, pilot programs have launched in Boulder, Colo., and five California cities. Several other local governments -- from Charlottesville, Va., to Albuquerque, N.M. -- are moving forward with programs of their own.
Many of these programs are structured to tie the cost of the improvement to the home. This allows homeowners to move without losing the cost of the project, as any new owner would have to take over remaining payments.
Changes at the federal level are spurring the programs as well. The stimulus bill removed a federal restriction on property owners participating in local or state financing programs from also receiving the full 30% tax credit for solar power and energy efficiency.
That incentive, paired with state tax credits, can halve the cost of installing a rooftop solar array or other efficiency improvements, says Rusty Hynes, project manager for the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy.
The Department of Energy recently said that local governments could also use as much as 20% of the energy-efficiency block grants they receive from the federal stimulus to set up loan programs.
That is helping to launch a $1.8 million pilot program in Milwaukee that would finance retrofits of the city's estimated stock of 80,000 single-family homes built before 1960.
Mayor Tom Barrett says the program will help lower residents' utility bills, increase the value of homes, and create high-paying jobs for energy auditors and contractors. "I call it the trifecta," he says.—David Kozo contributed to this article.