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Energy Roundup: China Solar Subsidy, Vestas Workers Revolt, Halliburton CEO's Recovery Doubts and More

China boosts solar sector with massive subsidy plan -- China will subsidize 50 percent of the investment for solar power projects, an unprecedented plan that could spur more than $10 billion in private funding and make the country a leading market for solar equipment. The subsidies also will be extended to power transmission and distribution systems that connect to grid networks. [Source: Reuters]

Vestas workers at UK plant stage sit-in protest over job losses -- Workers angered over plans to close a Vestas Wind Systems plant in the United Kingdom staged a sit-in protest at the wind turbine factory, calling for Vestas to keep the facilities open and for government intervention. Danish-based Vestas announced earlier this year the factory, which employs 525 people, and another plant with 100 workers would be closed due to a lack of demand. [Source: Guardian, SaveVestas]

Halliburton CEO: Natural gas, oil activity recovery in North America doubtful for 2009 -- Weak commodity prices, natural gas stockpiles and reduced spending will scuttle any meaningful recovery in natural gas prices and drilling activity for the remainder of the year, Halliburton CEO Dave Lesar said in statement explaining the company's weak second-quarter earnings. The oil field services company saw its second-quarter profits cut in half from last year due in part to steep declines in drilling activity in North America. [Source: Houston Chronicle]

Exxon must answer sabotage wells complaint by end of July --The Texas Railroad Commission has given ExxonMobil, the largest U.S. oil company by market value, two weeks to respond to claims by the Texas General Land Office that the company sabotaged abandoned wells by plugging them with trash, sludge and cement in an effort to keep future producers out. Exxon could face an estimated $1 billion in fines, Land Office Commissioner Jerry Patterson said. [Source: Bloomberg]

U.S. renewable energy grant rules snub private equity -- Renewable energy projects that have investors with tax-exempt status can not access grants included in the federal stimulus package passed earlier this year. The grant program's rules -- published July 9 by the U.S. Treasury Department -- will likely stifle investment because most private equity firms have financial backing from tax-exempt limited partners including endowments, pension funds and family trusts, critics say. [Source: WSJ]

U.S. was fastest-growing wind market 2008, turbine prices weakened in 2009 -- U.S. wind power capacity increased by 60 percent in 2008 and for four straight years has led the world in new wind capacity, according to a report released Tuesday by the Department of Energy and prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Wind turbine prices and installed project costs, which rose into 2008, have weakened as the global recession has dampened demand. [Source: Renewable Energy World]