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5 top stories from the weekend

1) UK: Renewables subsidies in jeopardy

Following on from cuts to onshore wind subsidies, the government is expected to be announcing slashed support for solar in an attempt to keep household bills low.

Subsidies awarded under the Levy Control Framework – which could impact solar and offshore wind projects as well – could be cut, or the scheme closed early, according to sources speaking to The Telegraph.

This creates a conundrum for the government: attempting to keep bills low, supporting emerging industries and keeping to climate change targets, the BBC’s Chris Mason writes.

A recent report by Policy Exchange said risen by £120 a year with climate and energy policies. Meanwhile, in a blogpost, Green Alliance’s Dustin Benton wrote that renewables levies were only around 3% of energy bills, which could rise to 9% in 2020.

National Geographic takes an in-depth look at the quandry of reducing support for renewables and being pro-community energy – plus the challenges of red tape.

2) US coal: bankruptcies, outlook bleak

When Walter Energy’s filed for bankruptcy last week, it was is biggest in the US coal industry since 2012. This occurred as the 200th coal plant to retire in the US since 2010 closed and Peabody’s shares continued to trade at below $2.

“Coal is losing the war on coal”, Slate reports, with several factors in play, including regulations, gas and renewables.

Last week, Obama pushed for water regulations that would make mountaintop  removal coal mining much more expensive, and environmental regulators also tried to ensure the public wasn’t left with a hefty clean up bill if more coal mines are forced into bankruptcy.

The IEA says that without CCS the industry’s prospects are bleak.

3) Arctic: Shell rigs underway, but Arctic oil huge financial risk

Shell Oil’s two drilling rigs have left Unalaska on their way to the US Arctic Ocean, where company officials hope to punch into hydrocarbon-bearing zones, reports Alaska Daily News. This is after Shell’s “worst week ever” in its Arctic programme, says MSNBC.

The FT’s Nick Butler ponders why Shell – which has historically  been cautious – is pressing ahead with such a risky and expensive venture  – as well as its BG deal and Gazprom association.

In sort of related news, an AP investigation reveals that five years after the Obama administration promised to move swiftly to permanently plug unused oil and gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico, even more shafts have only temporary sealing.

4) US fracking: Health risk study

People living near high concentrations of fracking wells in Pennsylvania are being hospitalised more frequently compared to those not living near fracking wells, according to a new study.

The research shows a correlation between the two, but not causal link.

The hospitalisation occurred due to heart problems, and neurological disorders.

The researchers said:”At this point, we suspect that residents are exposed to many toxicants, noise and social stressors due to hydraulic fracturing near their homes and this may add to the increased number of hospitalizations.” But more research is needed.

5) Oil price: Iran deal to push down oil price further

The Iran nuclear deal could see lower oil prices, and the agreement could pave the way for crude export sanctions to be lifted.

Oilprice analysis highlights no sign of a rebound in oil prices amid the ongoing slump, and WSJ warns of bleak oil company earnings in Q2 – again.

Meanwhile,  35,000 gallons of oil has been spilt in a Montana train derailment.

In other news

UK: An international scientific report commissioned by the UK government says therisks of climate change are comparable to those posed by nuclear conflict.

Tech: Algae oil – will there be a massive boom in it and can it be affordable? Gizmodoexplores.

Africa: African countries, driven by the need to power base stations for mobile phone operators in the face of serious power shortages, are starting to scoop up renewable energy technology.

Coal deaths: Five dead, four missing, in Philippines coal mine collapse.

Australia: The New South Wales Liberal Party is pressing ahead with plans for a“Carnival of Coal” in August – reports The Conversation. While PM Abbott’s war on wind farms could mean a AUS$2bn wind and solar project is canned.

Nukes vs RES: Half the world already gets more power from renewables than from nuclear, says Quartz.

India solar: India seeks to level playing field for renewables with draft renewables act.