Offshore wind set for 15-fold increase: IEA

Offshore wind could become Europe’s largest single source of electricity. Above, the Walney Extension offshore wind farm operated by Orsted off the coast of Blackpool in Britain. (Reuters)
Updated 25 October 2019

Offshore wind set for 15-fold increase: IEA

  • The European Union and China are set to lead the transition toward more wind power,
  • EU’s capacity could jump as high as 180 gigawatts if member states reach their carbon-neutrality aims

PARIS: Offshore wind could become Europe’s largest single source of electricity and is set to increase 15-fold worldwide by 2040, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Friday.
In its annual assessment of the clean energy source, the IEA said that falling costs, supportive government policy and technological breakthroughs could see as much as $1 trillion (€900 billion) invested in growing capacity.
The EU and China are set to lead the transition toward more wind power, with offshore capacity in Europe set to surge from 20 to 130 gigawatts by 2040 under current policy and pricing.
The IEA said the EU’s capacity could jump as high as 180 gigawatts if member states reach their carbon-neutrality aims.
China’s capacity is predicted to rise from 4 gigawatts today to 110 by the same date, overtaking Britain as possessing the largest offshore wind fleet of any country.
“In the past decade, two major areas of technological innovation have been game-changers in the energy system by substantially driving down costs: the shale revolution and the rise of solar,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.
“And offshore wind has the potential to join their ranks in terms of steep cost reduction.”
Offshore wind currently provides just 0.3 percent of global power generation, but as prices fall and investor confidence in long-term fossil fuel projects wavers, the zero-carbon technology is projected to rise in lockstep with insatiably growing energy demand.
The IEA said energy firms needed to develop bigger and more efficient turbines that would allow offshore wind to compete for price with natural gas and onshore wind.
Emissions from energy hit record levels in 2018.

Cirque du Soleil walks a tightrope through pandemic

Updated 06 June 2020

Cirque du Soleil walks a tightrope through pandemic

  • Suitors wage backstage battle to rescue debt-stricken Canadian circus icon
  • Among the potential bidders is former fire eater Guy Laliberte, who fouded the acrobatic troupe in 1984

MONTREAL: Its shows canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an already heavily indebted Cirque du Soleil’s fight for survival has invited an intense backstage battle to try to save the Canadian cultural icon.

High on a list of potential suitors is former fire eater Guy Laliberte, who founded the acrobatic troupe in 1984 but later sold it.

“Its revival will have to be done at the right price. And not at all costs,” said the 60-year-old, determined not to see his creation sold to private interests.

The billionaire clown said after “careful consideration,” he decided “with a great team” to pursue a bid, but offered no details.

Under his leadership, the Cirque had set up big tops in more than 300 cities around the world, delighting audiences with contemporary circus acts set to music but without the usual trappings of lions, elephants and bears.

Then the pandemic hit, forcing the company in March to cancel 44 shows worldwide, from Las Vegas to Tel Aviv, Moscow to Melbourne, and lay off 4,679 acrobats and technicians, or 95 percent of its workforce.

Hurtling toward bankruptcy, the global entertainment giant and pride of Canada commissioned a bank in early May to examine its options, including a possible sale.

Meanwhile, shareholders ponied up $50 million in bridge financing for its “short-term liquidity needs.”

Laliberte, the first clown to rocket to the International Space Station in 2009, ceded control of the Cirque for $1 billion in 2015.

It has since fallen into the hands of American investment firm TPG Capital (55 percent stake) and China’s Fosun (25 percent), which also owns Club Med and Thomas Cook travel. The Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (CDPQ) retains the last 20 percent.

The institutional investor, which manages public pension plans and insurance programs in Quebec, bought Laliberte’s last remaining 10 percent stake in the business in February, just before the pandemic.

Since 2015, the Cirque has embarked on costly acquisitions and renovations of permanent performance halls, while its creative spirit waned, according to critics in the Quebec press.

Meanwhile, it piled on more than $1 billion in debt.

Fearing that the Cirque would be “sold to foreign interests,” the Quebec government recently offered it a conditional loan of $200 million to help relaunch its shows as restrictions on large gatherings start to be eased worldwide.

But the agreement in principle is conditional on the Cirque headquarters remaining in Montreal and the province being allowed to buy US and Chinese stakes in the company at an unspecified time in the future, “at market value” and with “probably a local partner,” said Quebec Minister of the Economy Pierre Fitzgibbon.

“The state does not want to operate the circus, but the circus is too important to Quebec (to leave it to foreigners),” he said.

In addition to Laliberte, other prospective buyers include Quebecor, the telecoms and media giant of tycoon Pierre Karl Peladeau, whose opening lowball bid was outright rejected.

“It is essentially the value and reputation of the brand” that has piqued interest in the company, says Michel Magnan, corporate governance chair at Concordia University in Montreal.

But “as long as there are restrictions on gatherings of people, the future is not very rosy” for the Cirque, he said.

Several challenges await, according to Magnan.

“There were a lot of people working in all of these shows. Where are they now? What are they doing? How are they doing? In what shape are they, what state of mind?” he said.

“The more time passes, the more this expertise risks evaporating.”

Small consolation: The Cirque resumed its performances on Wednesday in Hangzhou, China, five months after a coronavirus outbreak in the city.