Image: AES commenced operations of the new LNG hub in Panama. Photo: courtesy of Carlo San from FreeImages. US-based electric power distribution company AES has commenced the operations of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) hub at the AES Colón plant in Panama, Central America.Located at the AES Colón plant, the LNG storage facility will enable the usage of LNG throughout the region.The AES Colón plant comprises 180,000m3 LNG tank and a 381MW combined cycle power plant, which began commercial operations in 2018. The power plant had been operating with gas from temporary sources.The new LNG facility is also expected to establish Panama as the natural gas hub for the Central American region.AES president and CEO Andrés Gluski said: “The inauguration of the AES Colón storage facility is a significant milestone toward transforming the Central American energy sector, and enabling a safer and more sustainable energy future.“Since AES introduced natural gas in the Dominican Republic 19 years ago, it saved consumers more than half a billion dollars a year and avoided approximately four million tons of CO2 emissions annually.”The LNG hub project employed over 2,000 PanamaniansAccording to the company, construction of the LNG hub was completed in 39 months and more than 2,000 Panamanians were employed for the project.The new LNG hub is expected to provide a new market for US LNG exports.The company has reserved 80% of AES Colón’s terminal capacity for industrial and commercial companies in Panama and Central America.In the future, AES is planning to build a similar project in Vietnam, which is expected to bring many of these same benefits to Southeast Asia.Recently, the firm has secured approval from the Vietnamese government to develop the 2.2GW Son My 2 plant.To be located in the south-central province of Binh Thuan, the Son My 2 plant is a combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plant and will have a 20-year contract with the government.AES expects the Son My 2 plant to achieve financial close in 2021and begin commercial operations in 2024. The new LNG facility is expected to establish Panama as the natural gas hub for the Central American region
Family-run Scottish business Stephens claims to have opened the UK’s first drive-through independent bakery site.Opening yesterday (18 January) in Dunfermline, the drive-through is also believed to be the first drive-through bakery in Scotland, according to the business.The site will operate as a walk-in shop and a drive-through, which will be open seven days a week. The bakery where the drive-through stands was purchased in 2014 and was granted planning permission last year.Stephens managing director Andre Sarafilovic credited his wife, Rona, with the idea of a drive-through.“Rona first had the idea of a drive-through in 2014 and, although it seemed bold at the time, we have always strived to innovate and look for new ways to do things.”Pupils from local primary schools Milesmark and McLean were invited to the launch and drove around the site in a custom-made cardboard convertible.A ‘subtle’ rebrand was unveiled at the opening, and will be rolled out more widely across the company. The bakery has also launched new marketing campaign ‘Stop for a Stephens’.The business has 14 retail outlets and six vans, as well as partnerships with convenience stores, including Co-op, Scotmid and McColl’s.Stephens’ move follows Greggs opening its first drive-through on the outskirts of Salford, Manchester, last summer. Tim Hortons also opened a drive-through in the city last year.
The UK should consider the launch of collective pension provision based around the more individualised approach being debated in the Netherlands, a wide-ranging report on the future shape of the pensions industry has urged.The 600-page report, written by David Blake of the Pensions Institute at the behest of the opposition Labour party, also suggested the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) be allowed to provide income-drawdown products to all savers in an effort to lower costs.The suggestion was made after recent changes allowed savers to access pension pots from 55, and ended a previous requirement to annuitise.Blake’s report, likely commissioned in 2014 to function as a policy blueprint had the Labour party won the 2015 election, also proposes an overhaul of the UK’s regulatory architecture, merging the Financial Conduct Authority with the Pensions Regulator, while introducing ‘safe haven’ pension providers that could be recommended without risk of later lawsuits over mis-selling. The academic said the Review of Retirement Income (IRRI) report was necessitated by the shift in retirement provision caused by the liberalisation of pension savings, labelled pensions freedoms.The shift away from annuities to pay out income in old age marked a “monumental change” for a market that was previously home to around half of the world’s annuities, Blake said.The report set out to examine how the risks associated with drawing down retirement income – rather than having a guaranteed income stream for life – should be explained to savers.Revisiting defined ambitionBlake touched on the role of collective defined contribution funds – part of the defined ambition agenda introduced by previous pensions minister Steve Webb – and argued that the idea of risk-sharing was still feasible in a world where members had access to savings from age 55, as long as the scheme allowed for individual accrual.The report examined a number of risk-sharing approaches employed across the world, including the use of deferred annuities by Denmark’s ATP, and recommended the introduction of collective individual defined contribution (CIDC).CIDC funds, the report said, would exploit economies of scale and allow risks to be pooled.When asked, Blake said the approach could be modelled on discussions occurring in the Netherlands, where policymakers have sought to avoid a shift towards individual DC funds as used in the UK.Benchmarking decumulation strategiesThe report further recommended that a vehicle akin to the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) be launched to act as a benchmark for decumulation strategies, able to set standards and cost levels other providers would need to match to remain competitive.The focus on NEST was also in line with Blake’s proposal to see retirement income offered by institutional investors, rather than savers previously auto-enrolled into institutional providers being asked to access the retail market on retirement.“In many respects,” the report said, “scheme drawdown is a natural extension of the default fund used by modern multi-trust, multi-employer schemes for the auto-enrolment accumulation stage.“It is also a natural extension of the trustees’ governance role and fiduciary duties, which, prior to [the introduction of pension freedoms], ended very abruptly when members were steered towards the purchase of [lifetime annuities] at the point of retirement,” it said.One of the report’s key proposals also built on previous work by the Turner Commission, which recommended the introduction of auto-enrolment in 2005.The launch of a Pensions, Care and Savings Commission would provide independent scrutiny of the pensions freedoms, Blake suggested, and help establish what he saw as the absence of a national narrative around retirement savings.The idea was previously proposed by the National Association of Pension Funds, the Association of British Insurers and the Trades Union Congress.