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News24.com | Geothermal Powerhouse Iceland Struggles With Lack of Electricity

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Steam rising from Svartsengi, geothermal power station in Iceland.

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Iceland is facing electricity shortages this winter.Iceland will take at least four years to bring online new
generation capacity.The country is fuelled by geothermal power and hydro
generation and even considered exporting electricity.

Isolated from any other country’s power networks, Iceland
has this winter faced a new predicament: running out of electricity.

Sitting in the Atlantic Ocean, 850 kilometers from the
Scottish coast, the country had to be self-sufficient in electricity
generation, and power was always so plentiful that a large aluminium-smelting
industry emerged half a century ago to churn wealth for Icelanders, who until
then had relied on fishing for their livelihoods.

Located between two tectonic plates, the land of glaciers,
highlands and ample rainfall is fuelled by geothermal power and hydro
generation. Iceland has even considered exporting electricity, but never
undertook the investment to connect to any other countries’ grids on economic
grounds.

But this winter, rising demand from an electrifying society
and power-hungry industries combined with low reservoir levels after summer
droughts meant the country spent four months curtailing power to certain
industries, including fish-meal factories and district heating plants in some
remote areas.

While the restrictions have for the most part ended after
recent rains, Iceland is taking in the lessons.

The need to increase generation capacity “is quite urgent,”
Hordur Arnarson, chief executive officer of national power company Landsvirkjun
HF, said in an interview. Still, there’s no quick respite in sight, as it will
take at least four years to bring new generation capacity – up to 300 megawatts
– online, he said.

The world’s biggest power producer relative to the size of
its population, Iceland sells almost 80% of the electricity generated in the
country to its heavy industry – the bulk of that made up by aluminium smelters
belonging to Rio Tinto Plc, Century Aluminium Co. and Alcoa Corp.

When power has been scarce, the smelters continued to be
served by their long-term contracts. In contrast, fish-meal factories in the
east of the country have been running on oil, because there was no electricity
to power them, and heat for some homes had to be generated with crude over the winter.

All that has put environmentalists on the back foot.

“It’s crazy that people in the Westfjords need to heat
their houses with oil when electricity supply goes down,” Audur Onnu
Magnusdottir, general manager of environmental association Landvernd, said in
an interview. “The big international companies are prioritised. This shows
how flawed our priorities are.”

What she wants to see going forward is more focus on where
energy is spent and reducing consumption.

“We cannot be pressured by polluters of the world to
sacrifice our nature,” Magnusdottir said, referring to plans to increase
land use on power production, even for renewable energy.

The power crunch has also meant lost opportunities to
diversify the economy, said Sigurdur Hannesson, managing director of the
Federation of Icelandic Industries. Several green projects were pulled because
companies couldn’t get power contracts, he said in an interview, adding that
algae-based foods and battery production are among industries that could be
built if electricity could be secured.

The government is taking a middle road as it weighs new
power projects. Key considerations include ensuring the public benefits from
private profits in energy generation, and what power will be used for, Prime
Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir said in an interview.

“The domestic energy transition should be prioritised
over the extensive export of energy,” she said. “Those of us who want
to protect nature a lot, like myself, and those who are more pro harvesting,
all need to look at the overall interest.”

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News24.com | Thousands Protest in Madrid Against NATO Summit

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A crowd demonstrates against NATO.

Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto

Carrying the hammer and sickle flags of the former Soviet Union, thousands protested in Madrid on Sunday against a NATO summit which will take place in the Spanish capital next week.

Amid tight security, leaders of the member countries will meet in Madrid between 29-30 June as the organisation faces the unprecedented challenge of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NATO is expected to consider the bid, opposed by alliance-member Turkey, for Finland and Sweden to join.

The Nordic nations applied in the wake of the Russian assault on Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the war a special military operation he says in part responds to the accession to NATO of other countries near post-Soviet Russia’s borders since the 1990s.

READ | Biden said Putin’s goal of weakening NATO by invading Ukraine backfired spectacularly

“Tanks yes, but of beer with tapas,” sang demonstrators, who claimed an increase in defence spending in Europe urged by NATO was a threat to peace.

“I am fed up (with) this business of arms and killing people. The solution they propose is more arms and wars and we always pay for it. So, no NATO, no (army) bases, let the Americans go and leave us alone without wars and weapons,” said Concha Hoyos, a retired Madrid resident, told Reuters.

Another protester, Jaled, 29, said NATO was not the solution to the war in Ukraine.

Organisers claimed 5,000 people joined the march, but authorities in Madrid put the number at 2 200.

READ | Pandor says Finland’s bid to join NATO indicates a decline in international security

Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday that the summit would also focus on the threat from Europe’s southern flank in Africa, in which he said Russia posed a threat to Europe.

“The foreign ministers’ dinner on the 29th will be centred on the southern flank,” he told El Pais newspaper.

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News24.com | Turkey Police Break up Istanbul Pride March, Detain Dozens: AFP

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Hakan Akgun/dia images

Turkish police on Sunday forcibly intervened in a Pride march in Istanbul, detaining dozens of demonstrators and an AFP photographer, AFP journalists on the ground said.

The governor’s office had banned the march around Taksim square in the heart of Istanbul but protesters gathered nearby under heavy police presence earlier than scheduled.

Police detained protesters, loading them into buses. AFP journalists saw two buses of people who had been held, including AFP’s chief photographer Bulent Kilic, who had been handcuffed from the back.

Kilic, who was also detained last year during the Pride march, is currently in police custody.

Hundreds of protesters carrying rainbow flags pressed ahead with the rally in defiance of police.

Although homosexuality has been legal throughout the period of the modern Turkish republic, LGBTQ individuals point to regular harassment and abuse.

Istanbul Pride has taken place every year since 2003.

The last march which took place without a ban – in 2014 – drew tens of thousands of participants in one of the biggest LGBTQ events in the majority Muslim region.

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News24.com | NASA Blasts Off From Australian Outback in ‘historic’ Launch

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NASA’s first-ever launch from a commercial site outside of the United States blasted off from Australia’s Outback late Sunday, in a “historic” moment for the country’s space industry.

In the first of three planned launches from the Arnhem Space Centre, the rocket, carrying technology likened to a “mini Hubble” telescope, lifted off — blasted about 350 kilometres (218 miles) into the night sky.

“It is a momentous occasion for us as a company in particular, but it’s historic for Australia,” Equatorial Launch Australia CEO Michael Jones told AFP ahead of the lift-off.

Jones, whose company owns and operates the launch site in the far north of Australia, described it as a “coming out” party for the country’s space industry and said the chance to work with NASA was a milestone for commercial space firms in the country.

After a series of rain and wind delays, the suborbital sounding rocket soared into the sky to study x-rays emanating from the Alpha Centauri A and B systems.

After reaching its apogee, the rocket’s payload was to capture data on the star systems before parachuting back to earth.

READ | NASA is slowly powering down the Voyager probes. Here are 18 photos from its 45-year mission.

According to NASA, the launch offers a unique glimpse of the distant systems and unlocked fresh possibilities for scientists.

“We’re excited to be able to launch important science missions from the Southern Hemisphere and see targets that we can’t from the United States,” Nicky Fox, NASA’s Heliophysics Division director in Washington, said on announcing the mission.

Jones said the unique location had made preparations hard, with years of work to get regulatory approval and the need to haul rockets on barges to the launch site – about 28 hours drive from Darwin in northern Australia.

“I think for the team, it’s gonna be, you know, a huge relief that it’s done,” he said.

READ | ‘Giant leap forward’ – South Korea space rocket launch puts satellites in orbit

But with the next launch already looming on July 4, the break would be short-lived.

“We need to, you know, dust ourselves off, take a day off and then get back into it in readiness for the next launch because it’s just as important.”

It is the first NASA rocket to launch from Australia since 1995, and the project was hailed as the start of a “new era” for the country’s space industry by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

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