G7 rejects Putin’s demand for rouble payment for Russian gas – Germany

BERLIN (Reuters) – Energy ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized nations reject demands by President Vladimir Putin that “unfriendly” countries pay for Russian gas with roubles, Germany’s Robert Habeck said after talks with his counterparts on Monday.

“All G7 ministers have agreed that this is a unilateral and clear breach of existing contracts,” Habeck, who is German economy and climate protection minister, told reporters after a virtual conference with G7 energy ministers.

The ministers “underlined once again that the concluded contracts are valid and the companies should and must respect them … payment in roubles is unacceptable, and we call on the companies concerned not to comply with Putin’s demand,” he said.

“Putin’s attempt to divide us is obvious, but – as you can see from this great unity and determination – we will not be divided.”

(Reporting by Joseph Nasr and Paul Carrel)

Massive food market in Mexico City poised to harness sunshine for power

By Valentine Hilaire

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A sprawling fruit and vegetable market in Mexico’s capital wants to spark a greener future as the world’s biggest urban solar farm, with thousands of photovoltaic panels set to be installed this year on the seemingly endless roofs of its buildings.

The 400 million peso ($19.9 million) roof-top solar project will cover a chaotic wholesale market that serves half a million customers daily, extending over a land equivalent to about 400 football fields.

Once online later this year, the Central de Abasto market’s roofs will power some 18 megawatts of generating capacity, according to Fadlala Akabani, the capital’s economic development minister, or enough to supply around 14,000 homes.

The project marks a rare green initiative during the government of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has mostly sought to prioritize fossil fuel production and power generation via two state-run energy giants – national oil company Pemex and electricity utility CFE.

The CFE is, however, designing the market solar installation and will later operate it.

During his first three years in office, Lopez Obrador has quarreled with private firms that have invested heavily in renewable power in Mexico, even pushing a reform that would cancel many existing private power projects.

“The development of large-scale (solar) projects has been on hold for over a year,” said Javier Romero of solar energy association ANES, pointing to heightened political risk and legal limbo seen undermining would-be private generators.

“Who is going to invest without guarantees?”

Solar only contributed about 5% of Mexican power generation last year, according to industry data.

But Mexican solar generation in percentage terms is greater than in the United States, where it contributed almost 3% last year, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed.

While the EIA forecasts that U.S. solar will grow to a fifth of the country’s electricity by 2050, Mexico’s state-run CFE declined to provide its own estimate.

“It’s not about percentages, but instead to plan out our energy transition,” CFE spokesman Luis Bravo told Reuters.

‘WOEFULLY INADEQUATE’

Mexico’s past governments have pledged to reach 35% clean energy by 2024, up from 29% currently anchored largely by the CFE’s hydroelectric plants and private wind farms. But hitting that target is seen by sector experts as all but impossible given current trends.

Mexico City’s wholesale market constitutes one bright spot.

The market is home to around 10,000 booths that mostly sell fruits, vegetables and meat, one of them operated by Arturo Mesa, whose stall was covered by mountains of apples and lettuce on a recent visit.

Mesa hopes new solar panels can cut his power bill.

“I pay 5,000 pesos ($249) every month. That’s too much,” he said.

Around 36,000 panels are set to blanket building roofs and ultimately generate much more power than the market consumes, with the excess electricity likely made available to other users, said Jose Alberto Valdes, a top energy official with the city’s government.

Valdes added that officials aim to equip additional market rooftops with solar panels, but provided no further details.

CFE’s Bravo said Lopez Obrador also wants to boost solar power, and pointed to the company’s industrial-scale $1.6 billion photovoltaic project planned for northern Mexico’s Sonora state.

The facility is expected to cover 2,000 hectares of sunbaked desert, and feature a 1,000-megawwat annual generating capacity.

But it’s not expected to come online until 2028.

The solar association’s Romero argues that the electricity generation projects in Sonora and Mexico City are woefully inadequate given Mexico’s potential.

“It’s peanuts,” he said. “These are not figures to brag about.”

($1 = 20.0961 Mexican pesos)

(Reporting by Valentine Hilaire; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Alistair Bell)

UK govt says public sector must review Russian ties including energy contracts

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain on Monday instructed public sector bodies to review any contracts they have with Russian firms and consider switching suppliers, noting that most existing contracts were for energy and could benefit the Russian state.

“Public money should not fund (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war machine. We are asking hospitals, councils and other organisations across the public sector to urgently look at all the ways they can go further to sever their commercial ties to Russia,” government minister Steve Barclay said in a statement.

(Reporting by William James, Editing by Kylie MacLellan)

UK’s National Grid to sell 60% stake in gas unit to Macquarie, BCI

(Reuters) -Britain’s National Grid said on Sunday it would sell a 60% stake in its British gas transmission and metering business to Australia’s Macquarie Asset Management and British Columbia Investment Management Corporation as it shifts towards electricity.

The deal implies an enterprise value for the unit of about 9.6 billion pounds ($12.7 billion), the company said in a statement.

Macquarie said its investment will ensure the transmission system will play a leading role in delivering the UK’s net-zero by 2050 target, by supporting hydrogen’s role in the energy mix.

National Grid will receive about 2.2 billion pounds in cash and about 2 billion pounds from additional debt financing following completion of the deal.

“This transaction further enhances our role in delivering the UK’s energy transition, pivots our portfolio towards electricity, whilst ensuring the security of the energy supply for the country,” John Pettigrew, chief executive officer of National Grid said.

The company’s announcement comes as Europe’s tight gas market has sent wholesale energy prices soaring, exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Multiple energy suppliers in Britain have gone out of business since last September as prices in the country have rocketed and the regulator Ofgem’s price cap prevented suppliers passing on rising costs to customers.

National Grid’s gas transmission business includes a 7,000-kilometre pipe network across the UK, among the largest gas transmission businesses in the country.

Following the transaction, the London-listed company said it will own a 40% minority stake via a new holding company called GasT TopCo but it also has an option to sell this remaining stake.

The transaction does not require National Grid’s shareholders’ approval and is expected to be completed in the second half of 2022.

(Reporting by Jahnavi Nidumolu in Bengaluru; Editing by Edmund Blair and Elaine Hardcastle)

Zurich Insurance removes Z symbol after letter used to show support for Ukraine war

ZURICH (Reuters) – Zurich Insurance has removed its Z logo from social media after the letter became a symbol of support in Russia for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The company said it was removing the logo – a white Z on a blue background – because it did not want to be misinterpreted as supporting Russia in the conflict.

“We are temporarily removing the use of the letter ‘Z’ from social channels where it appears in isolation and could be misinterpreted,” the company told Reuters in a statement.

“We’re monitoring the situation closely and will take further actions if and when required,” the company said, following a report by The Telegraph newspaper in England.

The letter Z has been used as a marking on Russian military vehicles taking part in the conflict and has been adopted by Russians supporting the war, with it being prominent on flags and at pro-Kremlin rallies.

Moscow has described its actions in Ukraine as a “special military operation.”

Zurich Insurance said earlier this month that it was no longer taking on new domestic customers in Russia and will not renew existing local business.

(Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Multiple rockets hit Lviv city in western Ukraine

By Natalia Zinets and Mari Saito

LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) -Four rockets hit the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Saturday, local officials said, in the most significant attack on the city since the start of the war with Russia.

Lviv, just 60 kilometres (40 miles) from the Polish border, has so far escaped the heavy bombardment and fighting that has devastated some Ukrainian cities closer to Russia since Moscow launched its invasion on Feb. 24.

Governor Maksym Kozytskyy said five people had been wounded after two rockets hit a fuel depot and two others later hit a military factory. Earlier he reported powerful explosions in Lviv’s eastern outskirts from the strikes.

“Stay in shelters! Do not go out into the streets!,” he warned after the first strike.

The rockets fell as U.S. President Joseph Biden, speaking in Warsaw during a visit to Poland, condemned Russian aggression and assured Ukraine of the United States’s unwavering support.

“With today’s blows, the aggressor sends greetings to President Biden, who is in Poland,” Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy said in a televised briefing, saying Russia had fired the rockets from Sevastopol in Crimea which it annexed in 2014.

There was no immediate comment on the Lviv attacks from the Russian authorities, who refer to the invasion as a “special military operation” aimed at demilitarising Ukraine.

The city authorities did not give the exact locations of the strikes, but said they damaged critical infrastructure, set fire to the fuel depot and blasted the windows out of a school building. No residential buildings were hit, according to the mayor.

Reuters witnesses in central Lviv saw heavy black smoke rising from the northeast side of the city and a strong smell of burning filled the air.

Men huddled together on the street to watch a plume of smoke rising behind an apartment block. Most residents appeared to stay indoors, peeking out from behind curtains as others hurried past on the road carrying their bags.

The Ukrainian president’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak said the attacks showed Russia wanted to intimidate Ukraine and the foreign diplomats who have relocated their embassies to Lviv for the perceived relative safety compared to the capital, Kyiv.

“Ukraine should definitely not be intimidated by such crimes of the Russians, and I want to say to my Western partners once again – close the sky, show strength,” he said on Telegram.

This referred to Ukraine’s repeated request for no-fly zone, which NATO has ruled out.

Lviv had a pre-war population of around 717,000, but for the thousands of families fleeing the worst of the fighting in eastern, southern and central Ukraine, it has become either a place of refuge within the country or a transit hub for people leaving the country.

Two weeks ago, a barrage of Russian missiles hit a large Ukrainian base just 25 km (15 miles) from the border with Poland.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Mari Saito and Silvia Aloisi Writing by Alessandra PrenticeEditing by Stephen Farrell, Ros Russell and Frances Kerry)

France’s Macron: no reason to accept Russia demands for gas payments in roubles

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday there was no reason to accept a demand from Russia to pay up in roubles for Russian gas.

“All the texts that have been signed are clear. This is forbidden,” Macron told a news conference after a European Union summit in Brussels.

“European firms that buy gas and which are operating on European territory have to do so in euros. Therefore it is not possible today to do what is being demanded, it is not contractual,” added Macron, referring to the Russian demands to be paid in roubles.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had said earlier this week that Russia will seek payment in roubles for gas sold to “unfriendly” countries, raising alarm about a possible gas crunch in Europe.

He said he did not believe that Russia wanted to break its contracts, but if that was the case, then Moscow should say it explicitly.

“The objective of this announcement, I think, is to find a way around sanctions, but it does not respect what was signed so why should we apply it?” he said.

Russia’s demands to switch gas contract payments to roubles have raised concerns of an energy supply squeeze and even higher prices.

In order to counter this, the United States and the European Union said on Friday that the U.S. will work to supply 15 billion cubic metres of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the European Union this year to help it wean off Russian energy supplies.

The EU is aiming to cut its dependency on Russian gas by two-thirds this year and end all Russian fossil fuel imports by 2027 due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia supplies around 40% of Europe’s gas needs.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Marguerita Choy)

TotalEnergies: 1.1 billion euros total exposure to Yamal LNG and Arctic LNG 2 programmes

PARIS (Reuters) – French company TotalEnergies, under pressure from politicians over its business interests in Russia, detailed a toal exposure of 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) in total to the Yamal LNG and Arctic LNG programmes.

“It is specified that TotalEnergies granted guarantees in its capacity as shareholder for the benefit of lenders to cover its share of the debt under the financings of the Yamal LNG and Arctic LNG 2 projects,” it said in its annual report.

“On Yamal LNG, the amount of the guarantee that could be called, if applicable, is approximately 400 million euros; on Arctic LNG 2, the company’s exposure amounts to approximately 700 million euros,” added the company.

($1 = 0.9103 euros)

(Reporting by Benjamin Mallet; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)

TotalEnergie’s head Pouyanne got paid 5.94 million euros for 2021

PARIS (Reuters) – TotalEnergies’ Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne received a total compensation of 5.94 million euros ($6.5 million) for 2021, according to the French company’s annual report which was published on Friday.

Pouyanne’s 2021 compensation represented an increase of 51.7 percent compared to the 3.92 million euros he earned for 2020.

TotalEnergies has said it would not renew some Russian supply contracts, but it has nevertheless faced criticism for not following rivals in shedding Russian assets.

It holds a 19.4% stake in Russia’s largest LNG producer Novatek, a 20% stake in the Yamal LNG project, and a 10% interest in Arctic LNG 2, scheduled to start production next year.

($1 = 0.9101 euros)

(Reporting by Benjamin Mallet and Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)

Yemen’s Houthis attacked Aramco facilities, Ras Tanura and Rabigh refineries, spokesman says

(Reuters) – Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said on Friday that Yemen’s Houthis had attacked Saudi Arabian state oil giant Aramco’s facilities in the port city of Jeddah with missiles and the Ras Tanura and Rabigh refineries with drones.

Sarea added that the attack also targeted vital facilities in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

(Reporting by Alaa Swilam and Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Saudi Aramco Jeddah storage facility hit by attack – source

DUBAI (Reuters) – A Saudi Aramco storage facility has been hit by an attack in Jeddah, a source told Reuters.

Saudi state media had reported a string of drone and rocket attacks by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement and a huge plume of black smoke was seen rising in Jeddah.

(Reporting By Maha El Dahan; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Explainer-Could the U.S. ship more LNG to Europe?

By Scott DiSavino

(Reuters) – The United States, the world’s top natural gas producer, wants to send more liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe to help its allies break their dependence on Russian gas after Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

On Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden promised the United States would deliver at least 15 billion cubic meters (bcm) more LNG to Europe this year than planned before, sources familiar with the matter said.

That amount – 15 billion cubic meters (bcm) – converts to about 1.5 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd). For context, 1 billion cubic feet is enough to heat 5 million U.S. homes for a day.

HOW MUCH LNG DOES THE UNITED STATES EXPORT?

The United States, which produces 96.7 bcfd of gas, has the capacity to supercool about 12.7 bcfd into liquid for transportation by tanker.

All seven U.S. LNG export plants, however, are currently operating at capacity and liquefying about 12.7 bcfd of gas. So, no matter how high global prices rise, the U.S. cannot produce anymore LNG – at the moment.

About 24%, or around 2.4 bcfd, of U.S. LNG exports went to Europe in 2021, according to data from Rystad Energy.

The United States has already supplied an extra 0.8 bcfd from January to February, compared to the same period a year ago.

“The U.S. can easily exceed this 15 bcm (1.5 bcfd) target, as European price signals … are likely to far exceed Asian spot prices,” Sindre Knutsson, vice president at Rystad Energy, said in a note.

U.S. processing capacity was on track to rise to around 13.1 bcfd by the end of 2022 as more liquefaction trains at Venture Global LNG’s Calcasieu Pass export plant in Louisiana enter service.

WHAT DOES EUROPE IMPORT FROM RUSSIA?

Russia produced about 67.9 bcfd of gas in 2021 and exported 24.4 bcfd, of which almost 75% (18.3 bcfd) went to Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) countries in Europe. The OECD is a club of mostly rich countries.

SO, CAN THE UNITED STATES GET MORE GAS TO EUROPE?

Yes, but it would not equal what Russia sends to Europe, and it will largely involve rerouting existing shipments.

“We expect near-term measures to support European LNG imports to rely on the reallocation of existing supply,” analysts at Goldman Sachs said.

A senior U.S. administration official said the effort will involve arrangements with allies around the world, both producers and consumers, to route shipments to Europe.

Goldman Sachs said “such a relocation to Europe is already happening” because European gas prices have been among the highest in the world for the past few months.

Analysts said governments can find ways to encourage tankers to keep going to Europe. In the short-term, governments could provide subsidies to enable European utilities to pay more for LNG cargoes or the governments could provide the extra money directly to shippers to encourage them to deliver more cargoes to Europe.

However, Europe’s LNG terminals have limited available capacity to absorb extra supply from the United States or other major producers in the event gas from Russia is disrupted.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino and Marwa Rashad; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Saipem to launch 2 billion euro cash call and sell assets in rescue plan

By Stephen Jewkes

MILAN (Reuters) – Saipem will launch a 2 billion euro ($2.2 billion) capital increase this year and sell assets to help fund a turnaround plan to bring the troubled Italian energy services group back into the black.

The company stunned investors in January when it downgraded earnings by a billion euros due to a significant deterioration of margins on contracts including offshore wind.

The downgrade came just three months after Chief Executive Francesco Caio had presented the group’s business plan.

Asked about his position, Caio said he planned to continue working with his team. “We see growing momentum for energy infrastructure round the world,” he said.

Controlled by energy group Eni and state lender CDP, Saipem said on Friday its two core investors and banks would advance 1.5 billion euros of the capital increase, confirming what sources told Reuters this week.

Eni and CDP, tied by a shareholder pact, will stump up 645 million euros while the banks will fund 855 million euros to help meet immediate liquidity needs.

Saipem, advised by Rothschild, expects to raise more than 1.5 billion euros from asset sales, including onshore drilling where talks with a leading international operator are advanced.

“The exclusive expires end-May… and the aim is to complete the deal this year,” Managing Director Alessandro Puliti told analysts, adding the value was more than 500 million euros.

The group also intends to raise cash from sale and leaseback deals involving its fleet, he said.

NEW FOCUS

In its new plan to 2025, Saipem plans to cut costs and focus more on its legacy offshore engineering and construction (E&C) business where it expects yearly growth of 8%, especially in the Middle East and Africa.

Liquefied natural gas will be a focus for onshore business at a time when a global rush to secure more oil and gas after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is reshaping the energy market.

“Now LNG is even more important… a key element for diversification for many countries,” Puliti said.

Saipem said it did not envisage the acquisition of new contracts in Russia where it has four projects under way, including the giant Arctic LNG 2 of Novatek.

“There are no outstanding payments. We will close out our commitment,” Puliti said.

The energy transition will remain important but the group will rein in ambitions for the next two years by focusing on its lower-risk offshore wind business.

Saipem, a market leader in subsea E&C, has been looking to develop new lines of business to meet an increasing customer focus on green technologies, including offshore wind.

But analysts say renewable energy requires a different set of skills to guarantee the kind of returns Saipem has achieved from its traditional business.

Adjusted core earnings are expected to be more than 500 million euros this year after a loss of more than 1 billion euros in 2021 when it posted a net loss of 2.47 billion euros.

The company said it would return to cash generation between 2023 and 2024 with around 700 million euros in cash expected in 2025.

Banks will also arrange a new revolving credit facility of up to 1 billion euros by the start of the cash call and bilateral signature lines worth around 1.35 billion euros.

Global coordinators underwriting the cash call include BNP Paribas, Citi, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit.

Shares in Saipem, down more than 40% since the start of the year, were down 3.7% at 1425 GMT. ($1 = 0.9070 euros)

(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; editing by Agnieszka Flak and Keith Weir)

Germany makes progress in cutting back on Russian energy, minister says

BERLIN (Reuters) -Germany has made significant progress towards reducing its exposure to imports of Russian gas, oil and coal since Russia invaded Ukraine, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Friday.

Germany is trying to wean itself off Russian energy in the wake of the Ukraine crisis, but this is an uphill battle after decades of relying on Russia for energy supplies.

Habeck said imports of Russian oil now accounted for 25% of German imports, down from 35% before the invasion, and gas imports have been cut to 40% from 55%. Russian hard coal imports were down to 25% from 50% before the invasion.

“The first important milestones to free us from the grip of Russian imports have been achieved,” he said.

By this summer, the share of Russian gas imports will fall to 24%, but he said it could take until the summer of 2024 for Europe’s largest economy to no longer be reliant on Russian gas.

Habeck said achieving that goal would require enormous effort by the government, states, municipalities, companies and consumers. He said utilities were working hard to tackle decades of reliance on Russian pipelines.

The minister has been visiting gas producers such as Qatar and Norway in recent weeks to ask them to step up supplies for Germany.

Utilities Uniper and RWE are working on liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals to bring sea-borne gas into the country.

The European Union and United States are set to unveil a deal to supply Europe with more U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG), sources have told Reuters.

President Joe Biden, who attended the EU leaders summit in Brussels on Thursday, promised the United States would deliver at least 15 billion cubic metres (bcm) more LNG to Europe this year than planned before, sources familiar with the matter have said.

Germany has made the most progress in reducing its dependence on oil and coal shipments from Russia.

Habeck said German companies had been able to diversify quickly by cancelling contracts, letting them expire, or striking new ones with alternative parties.

Germany could halve its dependency on Russian oil by the summer and this could be cut entirely by year-end.

Power generation plants burning Russian coal could go without Russian supplies as early as the autumn of 2022.

Habeck said while it was too early for an immediate energy embargo, already “every supply contract that is ended will damage Putin.”

(Reporting by Joseph Nasr and Vera Eckert; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Jane Merriman)

Power costs drive Spanish industrial prices to record high

(Reuters) – Spanish industrial production prices rose at a record annual rate for the fifth straight month in February, pushed up by soaring energy costs, data from the National Statistics Institute (INE) showed on Friday.

Fuelled by a strong post-pandemic recovery, industrial prices had been soaring in Spain even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exerted additional pressure on power costs.

Prices rose 40.7% in February, the highest level since the data series began in January 1976, led by a 114.4% increase in energy costs compared with the same month last year.

Capital goods rose 4.6%, boosted by increased costs facing carmakers, INE said.

Companies tend to pass on industrial price rises to customers, fuelling inflation. In recent months, energy prices and inflation have soared in European countries, with Spanish inflation is running at its fastest pace in 35 years.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing economic fallout has dented hopes that price rises will ease any time soon and the European Union’s southern countries, including Spain, have called for the bloc to adopt common energy policies to face the situation.

(Reporting by Aida Pelaez-Fernandez and Mariana Ferreira Azevedo; Editing by Inti Ladnauro and David Goodman)

G7 leaders tell Russia not to use biological, chemical, nuclear weapons

BERLIN (Reuters) – Leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations warned Russia not to use biological, chemical or nuclear weapons in its war with Ukraine, they said in statement released after talks in Brussels on Thursday.

“We warn against any threat of the use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons or related material,” said the leaders in a joint statement released by Germany.

All countries were ready to welcome refugees from Ukraine, they said.

On energy, the leaders called on oil- and gas-producing countries to act responsibly and boost supplies to international markets, adding that OPEC had a role to play in this. They also said they would avoid food export bans.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers, editing by Thomas Escritt)

S.Africa nears 5-year investment goal -president

By Joe Bavier

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -South Africa is close to reaching a five-year target for new investment, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday as he sought to drum up further backing for the pandemic hobbled economy.

In 2018 soon after coming to power, Ramaphosa set a goal to raise 1.4 trillion rand – or around $100 billion at the exchange rate at the time – to revitalise Africa’s most developed economy following repeated recessions and years of anaemic growth.

The global pandemic, which temporarily shuttered swathes of the economy and helped push unemployment rates to record levels, has complicated those efforts. But speaking to an investment conference in Johannesburg, Ramaphosa said South Africa nonetheless remained an attractive investment destination.

“You see opportunities in this country. You see beyond the difficulties and the challenges,” he told investors. “Your investments are making a difference in our country and our local communities.”

The conference, which in part aims to sell foreign companies on South Africa’s potential, brought in a total of 332 billion rand ($22.83 billion), bringing the total of new investment since 2018 to 1.14 trillion rand.

“We’ve now reached 95% of the ambitious target we set ourselves four years ago,” Ramaphosa said.

MANUFACTURING, MINING, VACCINES

Ford Motor Co has committed 16.4 billion rand that would enable it to produce its next generation Ranger pick-up in South Africa.

Mining companies, which were benefiting from favourable market conditions even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent prices soaring, are also boosting their South African operations.

Anglo American plans to expand an existing 100 billion rand investment to put an additional 10 billion rand into the country this year. And Impala Platinum pledged 11.8 billion rand to develop new mining and processing capacity.

With the pandemic, South Africa has sought to position itself as a vaccine manufacturing hub for the vastly underserved African continent, attracting investment from Pfizer and South Africa’s Biovac Institute and Aspen Pharmacare.

Netflix Inc meanwhile is investing 929 million rand for television and film production in South Africa’s Gauteng and Western Cape provinces.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) is committing $2.8 billion over the next five years to support private sector investment in agriculture, renewable energy, transport, youth employment, health and vaccine manufacturing.

The bank is already supporting South Africa’s struggling state-owned companies, and is currently preparing a $400 million loan package to assist coal-dependent power utility Eskom’s transition to renewable energy.

($1 = 14.5431 rand)

(Reporting by Joe Bavier; Editing by Toby Chopra, Kirsten Donovan and Jonathan Oatis)

Italy’s Terna to invest in power grid as Ukraine crisis drives renewables

By Stephen Jewkes

MILAN (Reuters) -Italy’s Terna is planning to spend 10 billion euros ($11 billion) over the next four years to upgrade the country’s power grid, to meet energy security and climate change demands.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, governments across Europe have stepped up efforts to find ways to cut their dependence on Russian gas and enhance energy security.

The European Union, which is looking to cut its dependence by two-thirds this year, has said it intends to expand clean energy at a faster rate.

That means power transmitters like Terna will need to invest more money to modernise grids to cope with the less predictable flows from solar and wind power.

“(This is) a plan to make the country more energy independent thanks to more rapid development of renewable energy,” Terna Chief Executive Stefano Donnarumma said on Thursday.

In its 2021-2025 plan, Terna said its investments would help strengthen connections between the south of the country, which produces increasingly more electricity from renewable sources, and the industrial north.

The group will also ramp up connections with neighboring countries like Greece, France and North Africa to boost its role as a European and Mediterranean power transmission hub.

Italy, which imports nuclear power from France, is looking to more than double its wind and solar capacity to 71 gigawatts by 2030.

LATAM EXIT

Terna, which makes most of its money from running the domestic grid, said it was looking to sell its assets in Latin America which could be worth 250-270 million euros.

“Talks are in an advanced phase and signing is expected in coming months,” Terna Chief Financial Officer Agostino Scornajenchi said, adding a lot of interest had come from investment and pension funds in the area.

Terna said it was interested in new opportunities in low-risk markets with good growth potential like the United States which is launching investments to upgrade its grids and renewable energy capacity.

The interest for now is in participating in projects in the U.S. through partnerships, Donnarumma said. “Then we’ll see.”

State-controlled Terna, which confirmed its dividend policy, said it expected to report core earnings in 2025 of 2.14 billion euros from 1.85 billion euros in 2021.

($1 = 0.9101 euros)

(Reporting by Stephen JewkesEditing by Bernadette Baum, Alexandra Hudson)

UK energy regulator probes National Grid unit over breach of maintenance rules

(Reuters) – OFGEM launched an investigation into National Grid Electricity Transmission Plc potential breach of rules concerning the maintenance of the Harker electrical substation in Cumbria, the British energy regulator said on Thursday.

OFGEM said the investigation does not imply it has made any findings about possible non-compliance by the unit of National Grid.

(Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

Cuba says fuel shortages due to spike in demand, troubles at power plant

By Nelson Acosta

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba’s government said on Wednesday a spike in demand for fuel, caused in part by the failure of the country’s largest power plant last week, had led to fuel shortfalls at service stations nationwide, prompting hours-long queues for gasoline.

Lines of cars, buses, trucks and motorcycles as long as a kilometer formed at gas stations in Cuba’s capital this week, piling fresh frustration atop a biting economic crisis that has already left food and medicine in short supply across the island.

Ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma said Cupet, the national fuel distributor, had been forced to deliver more gas and diesel recently to service stations as well as the country’s backup system of smaller generation plants called into action after the Antonio Guiteras power plant broke down last week.

“The distribution of diesel and gasoline to service centers in the country has been affected in recent days due, among other causes, to an increase in demand,” reported Granma.

The Antonio Guiteras plant came back online Tuesday.

Cupet said it continues to make “enormous efforts to guarantee the usual supply (of fuel) to the economy and the population,” according to the Granma report.

On Wednesday in Havana, long lines at service stations once again formed early throughout the city. Tourists driving rental cars were given preferred access to two service stations in the capital, according to local media.

A Matanzas provincial official told a local state-owned newspaper late last week that rationing in that province, which began Sunday, would be temporary and was primarily due to distribution issues, not fuel shortages.

Cuba’s fuel supply has grown increasingly precarious in recent years, according to experts, as U.S. sanctions have complicated imports and both domestic production and refining have declined.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and related sanctions and boycotts have led to increased oil prices and concerns over supply globally, further complicating Cuba’s efforts.

(Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Dave Sherwood and Richard Chang)