EDF

Nick Butler: In the rapidly changing global energy environment nothing is sacred, no business model is beyond challenge and no company is safe. The latest business being forced to rethink and restructure is the French state group Electricité de France. EDF has become a symbol of technical weakness and French decline. But, as with so much else in France since the arrival of an ambitious president who feels no need to defend decisions of the past, change is becoming possible. For all its problems the company could be reborn as a successful player in the new energy economy. But where would that leave nuclear power? The continuing transformation of the global energy market is not just about climate change and the move to a lower carbon economy. It is also about the advance of new technology, the changing geography of the energy market in favour of Asia and, above all, the move from a time of scarcity and energy insecurity to an age of plenty. Nuclear costs remain too high, private investors sensibly run away from the construction risks involved and, crucially, there are alternatives. Wind and solar costs have fallen dramatically. In many markets they are now half the cost per megawatt hour of large-scale new nuclear. The prospect of commercially viable techniques of grid-level storage opens the way for an even bigger shift. If the challenges of intermittency can be overcome and the need for subsidies removed or much reduced, wind and solar can become the natural economic choice for energy supply. At last, EDF appears to be recognising reality. There is much discussion of the company being divided in two, with the legacy nuclear assets held by the French government and the rest of the business, including a major new division called EDF Energies Nouvelle, being allowed to operate on proper commercial terms in the open market, under new management. The company is also pulling back from further investment in new nuclear. UK chief executive Simone Rossi has for the first time talked about the possibility of the company dropping its interest in the next prospective nuclear venture at Sizewell in Suffolk. To go ahead, he said, would require a new financial deal. In the absence of enthusiastic private investors that can only mean funding from the French or British governments – and Mr Rossi should not hold his breath for that given the state of public finances in both countries. If EDF steps out of the new nuclear business, it will be the end of European involvement in the sector. With nuclear power in the US also in real trouble that leaves Japan, Korea and China as the main players. Such is the tough logic of globalisation.

FT 23rd April 2018 read more »

Posted: 23 April 2018

Radwaste

Ministers have been told to drop their Local Authority ‘veto’ idea, and to focus on doing more to build community confidence and trust. That is the headline conclusion from a review of responses to the Working With Communities (WWC) consultation that have already been published. Although not a statistically representative sample of the responses submitted, the opinions come from all corners of society. All the expert and public evidence received during the policy development phase said that giving any tier of local government a ‘veto’ over the process would undermine the policy and any concept of ‘community consent’. Despite that near unanimous opinion, Ministers still decided to include proposals that would give local authorities the power to block the will of the community. There has been a consistent and broad-based push back to those proposals in the published consultation responses. GDFWatch believes a veto power would make a mockery of the Government’s own consent-based policy and mean the siting process would be DOA. Community and place-based organisations, while fully recognising the integral role of local authorities, were equally critical of the proposal

GDF Watch 20th April 2018 read more »

Nobody is disputing her personal abilities or competence, but the appointment of Lorraine Baldry as the new Chair of Sellafield Limited raises concerns about potential conflicts of interest within the geological disposal programme. Baldry was also recently appointed Chair of the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Council. The Council is an independent group of experts who advise RWM, the GDF delivery body, on how to best progress the geological disposal programme. RWM is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) — Sellafield Limited is also a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NDA. This means Baldry will be advising RWM on geological disposal, while also running the company which currently owns most of the waste destined for geological disposal and has a very vested interest in the GDF. Potential conflicts of interest between the NDA and RWM were raised by Minister’s own independent expert advisors, the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) in their most recent Annual Report in January 2018.

GDF Watch 22nd April 2018 read more »

Posted: 23 April 2018

South Africa

wo grassroots women activists – one black, one white – stand together against two of the world’s most powerful men – one black, one white – over a secret, undemocratic, multibillion dollar nuclear deal. If this was the plot of a Netflix series, it might be dismissed as too neat, too perfectly symbolic and symmetrical. But this is the true story of the two South African winners of this year’s environment prize who tapped their roots in the anti-apartheid struggle to take on and beat an agreement by their nation’s recently deposed leader Jacob Zuma and Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid were the sole signatories of a successful legal challenge against the plan for South Africa to buy up to 10 nuclear power stations from Russia at an estimated cost of 1tn rand ($76bn). After a five-year legal battle, a high court outlawed the deal last April and accepted the plaintiffs’ claims that it had been arranged without proper consultation with parliament.

Guardian 23rd April 2018 read more »

Posted: 23 April 2018

Japan

An expert panel reviewing the nation’s energy strategy for the period to 2050 has proposed a number of initiatives to meet challenges stemming from radical changes in the global energy landscape. The strategy is centered on ways to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint to combat global warming. The industry ministry panel sensibly argues that renewable energy sources like solar and wind power should become the “mainstay” of energy production. Regrettably, however, its proposal remains wedded to the nation’s energy policy legacy. It is based, for instance, on the assumption that nuclear power generation will continue. As a result, the strategy fails to serve as a convincing vision for the nation’s energy future. The ideas will be incorporated into the revised Basic Energy Plan that the government intends to revise this summer. They will also constitute core components of the long-term plan to reduce Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Diet, along with related the ministries and agencies, should try to chart a path to a better future for the nation’s energy supply through debate based on a broader perspective.

Asahi Shimbun 21st April 2018 read more »

Posted: 23 April 2018

Nuclear Testing

Survivor of Britain’s nuclear tests lost all his teeth, had thyroid tumour and wife suffered two stillbirths – and he was one of ‘lucky’ ones EXCLUSIVE: Sixty years ago on Christmas Island, these army veterans had to put their hands over their eyes as a nuke 100 times more powerful than Hiroshima was set off – and more than half their unit died of cancer.

Mirror 22nd April 2018 read more »

Posted: 23 April 2018

Heat Storage

IT’S not news, but Scotland uses six times more energy for heating in winter than in summer. While the first priority should be to reduce seasonal fluctuations by improving energy efficiency and building insulation, we also need a form of energy storage that is charged during summer and discharged during winter. Interestingly, the most obvious of these is thousands of years old. Biomass – burning organic material like wood for warmth – provides a way of storing sunlight and releasing it later as heat. Another option is to use hydrogen generated from low-carbon electricity. The electricity is used to separate hydrogen from water, with the resulting gas then either injected into the mains gas grid to be burnt as normal, or pressurised and transported, as in Aberdeen, which recently deployed Europe’s largest fleet of hydrogen buses. The third option is seasonal thermal energy storage. Typically thi s would involve using the sun’s energy, converted with solar thermal panels, to heat water stored in large pits or underground. Seasonal thermal energy storage integrated with district heating systems – where a number of buildings are linked to one heat source by a network of pipes – is an effective way of shifting heat energy from summer to winter. The drawback is that around half of the energy is lost between charging and discharging. While this seems a lot, the alternative would be to pay for heat generation equipment to satisfy the demand in winter which would then lie idle in summer. Continental Europe leads the way on low-carbon heat, and we should look to countries like Denmark for best practice examples – but also be aware that directly adopting their solutions might not be appropriate. A recent study showed that the cost of solar district heating with seasonal storage for Scotland is significantly higher than for Denmark and Canada, simply bec ause Scotland doesn’t get as much sunlight. Scotland’s solution, then, must be a different one. Rather than using solar thermal panels – as in continental Europe – Scotland could use heat pumps (devices which use electricity to draw and upgrade warmth from the ground, water or air) to charge these enormous heat batteries during summer. This would mean using clean electricity, which would otherwise have been wasted, to warm homes and businesses months later when that heat is needed.

Herald 23rd April 2018 read more »

Posted: 23 April 2018

Renewables – synthesized fuels

A recent study commissioned by Agora Verkehrswende and Agora Energiewende investigates the costs and potential uses of fuels synthesized from renewable electricity. As Germany’s climate change regulations become stricter – and the coalition agreement by the Social Democrats and the Christian conservatives makes sure they will – the country will need to phase out petroleum and natural gas and replace them in part with power-based synthetic fuels. A key step in achieving this is to decrease the costs of such fuels, which today are far more expensive than their fossil-based equivalents. Agora Energiewende and Agora Verkehrswende, two of Germany’s leading think tanks for clean-energy policy, believe that the challenge lies in the construction of new fuel production facilities with an installed capacity totalling 100 gigawatts globally. To this end, a “political consensus on the future of oil and gas” is necessary. Fuels generated from renewable electricity have two crucial long-term applications in climate-friendly energy systems. First, they can be reconverted into electricity on calm, cloudy days, when feed-in from wind and solar power is low. Second, they can be used as a supplement in areas of the transport, heating, and industrial sectors where direct electricity is impractical. Indeed, from standpoint of today’s technology, renewable synthetic fuels will play an indispensable role in the deep decarbonisation of these sectors.

Agora Energiewende 17th April 2018 read more »

Posted: 23 April 2018

Renewables – offshore wind

The Humber has become “the envy of the world” for offshore wind power, according to the head of business development for Siemens Gamesa. Ray Thompson will tell the Offshore Wind Connections conference that the Humber has become the global benchmark for successful development of offshore wind, forming a powerful industrial cluster and a focus for the industry’s Sector Deal proposals to the UK government to support further growth. The event, organised by Team Humber Marine Alliance, is set to take place in Hull for the first time on 25 and 26 April 2018. Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy is the headline Diamond Sponsor.

Insider Media 23rd April 2018 read more »

The Danish government is promising a new 800MW offshore wind farm for delivery between 2024 and 2027 as part of its updated energy plan. Ministers will present the blueprint later this week including a project to be built after the 600MW Kriegers Flak, which is currently being driven forward by Vattenfall. The project will help to meet Danish ambitions to be free of fossil fuels by 2050.

Renews 23rd April 2018 read more »

Posted: 23 April 2018

Fossil Fuels

A campaign to demand that Cambridge university’s £6.3bn endowment fund sell out of fossil fuels escalated last week when students occupied a building on campus and 300 academics signed an open letter urging swift action on divestment. The university has repeatedly clashed with academics and students over divestment, partly because of concern that research funding could be hit. Oil companies including BP, ExxonMobil and Shell have given money to the university. Last week, however, academics including David King, until recently the UK’s permanent special representative for climate change, Thomas Blundell, former president of the UK Science Council, and author Robert Macfarlane stepped up efforts against carbon-intensive investments; their names appear on a public list of signatories.

FT 22nd April 2018 read more »

AN international coalition of Catholic institutions have pledged to take their money out of fossil fuels. The commitment by 35 religious orders, lay organisations and social justice movements to “divest” their money from the polluting energy sources was announced by the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM). Those signed up to the move include humanitarian aid organisation Caritas Internationalis, three Catholic banks with balance sheets totalling about €7.5 billion (£6.6bn), as well as several dioceses and other institutions. The announcement, aimed at tackling climate change and its impact on communities, was made on Earth Day.

The National 22nd April 2018 read more »

Posted: 23 April 2018

Climate

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he will pay $4.5m (£3.2m) to cover the lapsed US financial commitment to the Paris climate accord. He said he had a responsibility to help improve the environment because of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the deal. The withdrawal was announced last June and sparked international condemnation. It will make the US in effect the only country not to be part of the Paris accord. The Paris agreement commits the US and 187 other countries to keeping rising global temperatures “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels. “America made a commitment and, as an American, if the government’s not going to do it then we all have a responsibility,” Mr Bloomberg said on CBS.

BBC 23rd April 2018 read more »

Guardian 22nd April 2018 read more »

Independent 23rd April 2018 read more »

Posted: 23 April 2018