At the Mellach coal power plant in southern Austria, spider webs have taken over the conveyor belts, and plants and flowers have sprung up around the vast lot that once stored coal.
The plant, Austria’s last coal-fuelled power station, was closed in the spring of 2020, but now the government — nervous that Russia may cut its crucial gas deliveries further — has decided to get the site ready again in case it’s needed.
“I never would have imagined that we would restart the factory,” Peter Probst, a 55-year-old welder, told AFP during a visit of the plant.
“It’s really sad to be so dependent on gas,” he added.
Europe had been trying to move away from coal in the fight against climate change.
But as Russia has cut gas deliveries in the wake of sanctions the West has imposed on it for the war in Ukraine, European countries are turning back to coal.
Today, the Mellach plant’s white and red chimney stands out amid fields of corn and pumpkins, the city of Graz in the distance.
Inside, the walls are black, and coal dust clings to the doors and railings.
Some 450,000 tonnes of coal were stored at the plant before its closure as Austria’s conservative-Greens coalition aimed to have all electricity come from renewable resources by 2030.
Site manager Christof Kurzmann-Friedl says the plant operated by supplier Verbund can be ready again in “about four months” — just in time to help tackle any gas shortages in winter.
– ‘Emergency measure’ –
Chancellor Karl Nehammer insisted on Monday that the plant would only go online if necessary, while Austria holds on to its goals to reduce emissions.
“It’s really an emergency measure,” the conservative told foreign correspondents at a briefing.
“It’s really something that shows how extraordinary our times are… We must prepare for any eventuality.”
The 230 megawatt power plant would take over from the nearby gas-fired plant, also operated by Verbund, which currently supplies heating to Graz’s 300,000 inhabitants, according to Kurzmann-Friedl.
He warned, however, that the site must still be readied, hooking up all the equipment again, in addition to hiring qualified personnel and above all finding enough coal.
Before, the coal mainly came from mines in Poland’s Silesia region, which the Polish government is aiming to shut.
Because coal prices have risen by as much as three times since 2020, the power produced by the plant will also be more expensive, Kurzmann-Friedl said.
Criticism has already flared with the opposition Social Democrats slamming the decision to reactivate the coal plant as “an act of desperation by the Greens”.
“Will the next step be the reactivation of Zwentendorf?” the opposition asked, referring to the country’s only nuclear power plant.
The Alpine nation of nine million people has been fiercely anti-nuclear with an unprecedented vote in 1978 against nuclear energy that prevented the plant from ever opening.
Musk, Twitter get Oct. 17 trial in buyout fight
Twitter’s lawsuit to force Elon Musk to complete his $44 billion buyout bid is set to go to trial on October 17, a US judge has ordered, in a case with major stakes for both sides.
The trial is due to open in a court in the eastern state of Delaware and is set to last five days to decide whether Musk can walk away from the deal.
The Tesla boss wooed Twitter’s board with a $54.20 per-share offer, but then in July announced he was “terminating” their agreement on accusations the firm misled him regarding its tally of fake and spam accounts.
Twitter has countered by saying Musk already agreed to the deal and can’t back out now.
An order from the judge handling the case, Kathaleen McCormick, lays out an expedited schedule to resolve a fight that has left Twitter in limbo.
She reminds both sides that they “shall cooperate in good faith” on matters like handing over information to each other, a key topic that can result in delays.
Billions of dollars are at stake, but so is the future of Twitter, which Musk has said should allow any legal speech — an absolutist position that has sparked fears the network could be used to incite violence.
Twitter blamed disappointing results last week on “headwinds,” including the uncertainty imposed on the company by Musk’s chaotic buyout bid.
What’s with the slowdown in Canada’s tech ecosystems this year?￼
Canadian venture funding cooled in Q2 2022, but Alberta is still seeing record-level funding.
As BetaKit reported at the end of 2021, that year was “undoubtedly a landmark year” for Canada’s tech scene. The sector broke an all-time venture capital funding record previously set in 2019, with firms raising a staggering $11.8 billion in Q3 alone.
So what’s with the slowdown this year?
BetaKit is reporting that the BC, Waterloo Region, and Toronto tech sectors are all showing signs of cooling in Q2, as tracked by briefed.in.
On the west coast, BC’s venture funding and deal volume dropped to a six-quarter low, with startups raising $204.3 million collectively — a decrease of 62% compared to Q1 2022. Toronto saw a 69% drop from Q1 — a fairly dramatic drop after the banner year that was 2021.
Waterloo is a bit of a different story. While the region did see its lowest quarter for deal volume in three years, there was still an increase in investment over Q1. That said, most of this (96% according to BetaKit) was from one $537.7 million Series G extension closed by Faire, a retail startup.
The one Canadian ecosystem that’s still flying high? Alberta. In Q2, companies raised $268.6 million through 12 deals – a 31% increase quarter-over-quarter, BetaKit reports. It remains to be seen if they’ll be hit with the same cooling as other ecosystems.
Speaking to BetaKit, Golden Ventures partner Ameet Shah explained “if 2021 was the party, then 2022 stands to be a sobering experience for founders, employees, and investors alike.”
What contributed to this slowdown? Unsurprisingly, stock market slumps, the cryptocurrency rollercoaster, inflation, and overseas conflict all play factors in the current volatility. After the booming decade of the 2010s, this year seems to be an overall bust for the global tech sector, including Silicon Valley, with repeated announcements of layoffs.
According to global labor trends aggregator Layoffs.fyi, 140,388 workers lost tech jobs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as reported by BNN Bloomberg.
The Canadian tech sector is also facing layoffs — including the news that Shopify is letting go of approximately 10% of its workforce. Back in June, Wealthsimple laid off 13% of its staff.
As Deena Shakir, a partner at Silicon Valley-based VC firm Lux Capital explained to CBC News at June’s Collision Conference, “right now everyone who is innovating and/or investing in tech or in startups is trying to understand what exactly is happening in this moment.”
“We’re the topic of conversation at every partner meeting, and every lunch and coffee.”
DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.
Sony trims annual profit forecast after Bungie purchase
Sony trimmed its annual net profit forecast on Friday, partly due to acquisition expenses including the purchase of US game studio Bungie, creator of hits like “Halo” and “Destiny”.
The PlayStation maker announced in February it would buy Bungie for $3.6 billion, weeks after rival Microsoft unveiled a landmark pact to acquire “Call of Duty” maker Activision Blizzard.
Microsoft says its massive merger, valued at around $69 billion, will make it the third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony — marking a major shift in the booming gaming world.
Sony Group now predicts net profit for 2022-23 will total 800 billion yen ($6 billion), down from the 830 billion yen previously forecast.
It said the expected increase in acquisition expenses was “mainly due to the acquisition of Bungie, Inc. being completed earlier than the assumed timing”.
Lower sales of games by non-house developers will likely dent its overall sales figures this financial year, it said, but this would be “partially offset” by a weaker yen.
Exchange rates also boosted the conglomerate’s movie segment, chief financial officer Hiroki Totoki told reporters.
Customer traffic at US theatres has returned to pre-pandemic levels in some weeks, and Sony Pictures is hoping to score another box-office win after the runaway success of “Spider-Man: No Way Home”.
“We have high hopes for ‘Bullet Train’ featuring Brad Pitt,” Totoki said.
The movie division expects higher sales for anime streaming, “including the impact of the acquisition of Crunchyroll”, the world’s largest online library of Japanese animation.
– PlayStation 5 sales steady –
In the April to June quarter, the Japanese conglomerate posted a three percent year-on-year rise in net profit to 218 billion yen, with sales up around two percent to 2.3 trillion yen.
Sony has faced challenges rolling out its PlayStation 5 console, which remains difficult to get hold of more than 18 months since its launch in November 2020, in part due to pandemic supply chain disruption and the global chip shortage.
Sony sold 11.5 million PS5s last year, and in May Totoki said the firm was adapting to try and weather ongoing supply chain issues, including Covid-19 lockdowns in China.
For the PS5, “the problem is more about supply than demand. The company is also facing problems transporting its products,” Hideki Yasuda, senior analyst at Toyo Securities, told AFP before the earnings release.
Meanwhile “the yen has turned lower in this quarter. This should be positive for the company,” he said, adding that a US economic slowdown could open up shipping spots, even though it poses risks overall for businesses like Sony.
In the first quarter of this financial year, Sony sold 2.4 million PS5 units, similar to the same period last year when it sold 2.3 million.
Sony also said last month it is launching a new brand that will offer PC gaming gear.
The gaming peripherals market of items used by players was valued at $3.88 billion globally in 2019 according to Grand View Research.
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