A current study by the British Geological Society (BGS) into how groundwater in former mine workings could be used to drive city-scale district heating systems has the potential to transform the way Scottish households and businesses heat their homes. David Schofield, science director for energy systems at the BGS, explains that if there is a sufficient flow of groundwater into and through old abandoned mine workings, then it could be feasible to extract some of the heat out of that groundwater to drive a district heating network. Research into the geothermal energy within these flooded mines could turn this redundant resource into a clean heating source. Schofield points out the magnitude of possibilities for reducing fuel poverty and developing resilient communities: reminding us that much of the UK’s urban population growth over the last 200 years took place above coal seams where the essential fuel to drive industrialization was being mined. Interest in geothermal energy has been growing as a part of the renewables mix. In 2013, the government published a study into the potential for deep geothermal energy in Scotland, pointing out that virtually all geological formations in the UK have the capacity to store sufficient heat to support the use of small-scale (closed loop) ground-source heat pumps (GSHP) for heating purposes. For most of the UK, groundwater temperatures at readily accessible depths – up to 100 metres underground – are at a stable temperature of around 10 to 12°C. This could rise as high as 20°C in some of the UK’s abandoned mineworkings. £31m will fund two observatories: the UK Geoenergy Observatories. A £9m observatory proposed for the east end of Glasgow will establish the Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site: to take forward research into the shallow mineworkings below Dalmarnock. A £15m observatory in Cheshire will establish the Cheshire Energy Research Field Site, which will look at the geological environment for all energy technologies. The remaining funding is invested in the infrastructure required to operate both sites.

Herald 30th April 2018 read more »

Posted: 1 May 2018

Heat Networks

Fife Council has begun work on one of Scotland’s largest district heat networks. The scheme, which has already attracted a great deal of attention and interest, is fairly unique as it utilises the availability of an existing large biomass combined heat and power plant currently owned by RWE. As Ross Tulloch, programme manager for Glenrothes Energy Network at the Council explains, the opportunity to work towards a district heating network for council buildings began in talks with RWE, who originally installed the biomass boiler for the nearby Tullis Russell paper mill. “The scheme matured through detailed discussions and feasibility studies over the course of a few years. The council then managed to secure funding for the scheme, which we estimate has total costs in the region of £23.9 million. RWE are in partnership with us on this project , and they have committed £13.573m, which was used to secure repayable assistance of £8.5m from the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme (LCITP), which is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund” Tulloch comments. Dr. Mark Picton, RWE site manager for the Markinch CHP plant, points out that the basis for the present district heating system dates back to 2010, when Tullis Russell were unhappy with the efficiency of the coal-fired power plant on the site. On March 26th this year Fife Council officially gave the go-ahead for the Glenrothes Energy Network. As Picton explains, RWE’s role in the partnership commits it to building an Energy Centre on the old Tullis Russell site that will receive steam from the CHP plant, convert it to hot water and thereby drive the district heating network. “We plan to have the Energy Centre in operation by January 2019 and whilst the project won’t generate additional long term jobs, the CHP is already generating significant local employment opportunities. We employ some 40 local people as part of RWE Markinch, and there are a similar number of subcontractors providing services such as security, industrial cleaning and fuel delivery work,” he explains. The CHP plant burns around 450,000 tonnes of biomass a year, of which around 90% is classified as RCF, or recovered cellulose fibre – waste wood by any other name. The rest is wood from sustainable Scottish forests. All the wood is delivered in the form of wood chip, by a fleet of wagons, which can number up to 70 a day.

Herald 30th April 2018

Posted: 1 May 2018

Heat Batteries

Really disruptive technologies tend to be fairly rare in the renewable energy market. However, the heat batteries developed by Sunamp, which specialises in this area, look to be capable of being more disruptive than most of the innovations one sees in this space. Andrew Bissell, the CEO of Sunamp, claims that his products are highly likely to make conventional hot water cylinders obsolete in a relatively short space of time. The technology is now in its third iteration and is barely a third of the size of a typical hot water cylinder, such as households use for hot water. However, the company is currently prototyping much larger versions capable of scaling up to provide the heating needs of commercial companies from palette-sized to container-scale. These would be ideal as a supplemental driver for large scale district heating networks. “We started developing this technology around 2006, in terms of defining the concept. In 2009, with help from the University of Edinburgh, with whom we continue to have a very fruitful partnership, we started the practical development,” Bissell explains. It has taken half a decade to refine the technology to the point where it has successfully gone through proof of concept trials in domestic housing. As Bissell explains, the basic technology is analogous to the little hand warmers that golfers and others will know well. In these devices a liquid turns to a solid and heat is released in the process. Sunamp’s heat batteries use a proprietary solid/liquid material devised by Sunamp in partnership with Edinburgh University’s School of Chemistry. The system can capture heat in a variety of ways. In domestic heating contexts it can be run off photo voltaic solar panels on the house roof, off-peak or renewable grid electricity, heat pumps, biomass or conventional boilers. The commercial scale or district heating models can be configured to capture waste heat directly. “In 2013, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, as it then was, gave us a contract to put our thermal storage system, alongside off-peak electricity and air-source heat pumps, into seven homes as a proof of concept trial. That was very successful – we were able to heat the homes at half the cost of natural gas. We had some retail sales on the back of that and in 2017 we won a fiercely contested competitive contract from Local Energy Scotland, on behalf of the Scottish Government, to put our heat batteries into 650 homes. These were in two housing associations, East Lothian Housing and Castle Rock Edinvar, which is part of the much larger Places for People Group,” he notes.

Herald 30th April 2018 read more »

Posted: 1 May 2018


Energy solutions firm Centrica has launched new trials to examine how blockchain technology can assist with multi-party peer-to-peer energy trading for 200 businesses and residential participants in Cornwall.

Edie 30th April 2018 read more »

Understanding energy blockchain opportunities, risks and value streams.

Renew Economy 1st May 2018 read more »

What is interesting to me as a researcher is whether blockchain can improve the valuing of energy efficiency. It has always been very difficult to properly value distributed energy resources (DERs) like energy savings because much of the value accrues to a grid system or a community, not just the DER owner. It is also technologically challenging to determine and communicate that value. Can blockchain be used to exchange negawatt hours (energy savings) of power in the same way the Brooklyn Microgrid pilot project is using it to exchange kilowatt hours of renewable energy? In this Brooklyn project, neighbors can purchase power generated by their neighbors’ solar panels. Blockchain enables this peer-to-peer, or more precisely, neighbor-to-neighbor exchange.

ACEEE 30th April 2018 read more »

Posted: 1 May 2018

Energy Efficiency

Labour vows to cut 4million homes’ heating bills by £270 a year with massive state-funded insulation scheme. The party will commit up to £10,000 per home in a massive state-funded insulation scheme that is set to cost £2.3billion a year. Landlords would also be banned from letting homes with an energy efficiency rating worse than ‘C’ from 2035. Under the scheme, Labour will vow to fully fund insulation costs for social homes and low-income homeowners to bring them up to the ‘C’ rating. Anyone whose income, after paying housing and energy costs, falls below 60% of the national average could qualify. Taxpayers’ average incomes were just over £23,000 a year in 2015/16. But Labour sources stressed the threshold would vary depending on housing costs. Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said: “This is part of our plan to fix our broken energy system by capping energy bills and radically reform our broken energy market. By creating publicly owned, locally accountable energy companies and cooperatives to rival existing private energy suppliers this will make a real difference to people’s lives”. Labour said the scheme would be rolled out street-by-street to make it more efficient. Subsidies would be handed directly to councils or those carrying out the insulation work. Private landlords with low-income tenants could also get a 33% subsidy, while other households could get interest-free loans. The scheme would be funded from the party’s £250billion, 10-year National Transformation Fund. Labour claims 4million homes would be brought up to a ‘C’ rating within five years and most of the cash – £11.5bn – would be spent in that period. Greenpeace backed the scheme. Head of Energy Hannah Martin said: “Energy efficiency, and in particular insulation, is the secret super-weapon in the climate war which no-one has bothered to launch. It saves you money as well as carbon. It’s not just win-win, it’s win-win-win with a couple of extra wins on the side.”

Mirror 1st May 2018 read more »

Congratulations to James Brokenshire, upon his appointment as the new Housing, Communities and Local Government secretary. There will be many “pending” issues sitting on his desk. Some will have been awaiting decision for a few days, others for some weeks, a few even for a month or two. But I am willing to bet that there is only one matter that has been hanging around for almost 40 months. It is a public consultation without any conclusion. It was back in February 2015, when Mr. Brokenshire’s predecessor-but-three, the former Communities Secretary Sir Eric Pickles, announced he intended to abolish all Display Energy Certificates (DECs) for public sector buildings in England. Subsequently no formal announcement has yet been made as to how Sir Eric’s threat will be implemented. But its’ Sword of Damocles still remains. Those consulting the official government website on the consultation will see that even now, the government’s official position is that “we are analysing your feedback”.

Business Green 1st May 2018 read more »

Posted: 1 May 2018

Energy Storage

Vasteras’s role in electrical technology started almost two centuries ago. Now the Swedish town – birthplace in 1833 of ASEA, a maker of lights and generators that became part of Swiss-Swedish engineering group ABB – hopes to be part of a modern energy revolution. Northvolt, a start-up that plans to produce lithium ion batteries, on Friday announced it would build a €100m demonstration line and research facility in Vasteras. Peter Carlsson, Northvolt founder and chief executive, said the site was “the first step in our longer journey”: building a plant to produce 32 GWh of lithium ion battery capacity annually and rival the Asian giants that dominate the battery arms race. Northvolt is one of 80 stakeholders in the European Batte ry Alliance, an initiative launched last year by Maros Sefcovic, European Commission vice-president in charge of energy, to accelerate battery production in the EU. Officials see battery technology as a strategic requirement for Europe, which has not managed to create the array of digital technology giants that the US has, and whose early lead in production of solar panels has been overtaken by companies in China. Battery technology for vehicles is viewed as particularly important if one of Europe’s most important industries is to emerge from the shadow cast by the VW “dieselgate” scandal and remain at the heart of the region’s industrial base.

FT 30th April 2018 read more »

Posted: 1 May 2018

Electric Vehicles

A £400m government plan to build electric car charging points looks likely to be significantly delayed, in a blow to car manufacturers and efforts to tackle air pollution in UK cities. The Treasury pledged last year to support the switch to zero-emission vehicles with a £400m fund for charging infrastructure. Half of the money was to come from the taxpayer, with the rest matched by the private sector, according to an announcement in the autumn budget. However, nearly half a year later, it has emerged that the government has not even started the recruitment process for an official to raise the £200m of private investment – let alone begin the process of securing the funding.

Guardian 30th April 2018 read more »

Posted: 1 May 2018

Fossil Fuels

The court considering a challenge to the Scottish Government’s ban on fracking has been told the policy is required to meet climate change commitments. Friends of the Earth Scotland has been given permission to intervene in the case and has submitted evidence on the environmental impacts of fracking. Ineos Upstream, the largest holder of UK shale licences, and Reach Coal Seam Gas are seeking to overturn the indefinite moratorium on fracking and unconventional oil and gas developments in Scotland. They say the Scottish Government policy not to support fracking applications has adversely affected their business interests and breached their human rights. They are seeking damages. This is thought to be the first time in an environmental judicial review that a third party has been given permission to intervene.

Drill or Drop 30th April 2018 read more »

Posted: 1 May 2018


An Antarctic glacier the size of Britain is threatening to submerge UK coastal towns by collapsing into the ocean and raising sea levels, scientists fear. British and American experts are launching the largest joint mission for more than 70 years to investigate how long the 113,000 square-mile Thwaites Glacier can last in its current form. A fleet of research ships, submarines and aircraft and more than 80 scientists will be dispatched to the remote west Antarctic region later this year following warnings the ice structure could collapse within decades. Glaciologists predict the collapse of both Thwaites and the nearby Pine Island Glacier, two of the largest and fastest retreating on the continent, could cause sea levels to rise by over one metre. However, this could then trigger the collapse of the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet, meaning ocean rises of more than three metres.

Telegraph 30th April 2018 read more »

The precarious state of a vast, remote Antarctic glacier will provide an inaugural mission for the British vessel once dubbed Boaty McBoatface, as scientists from the UK and US set up a new £20m research operation. Scientists from both countries are to collaborate on the five-year project to examine the Thwaites glacier in west Antarctica, a major structure that drains an area about the size of the UK. Any firm indication that the glacier could be responding to a warmer climate with faster icemelt could presage disaster for coastal areas of the globe, with the potential for sea-level rises some scientists put as high a s 1.5m by the century’s end. One of the principal research vessels will be the RSS Sir David Attenborough, the £200m research ship originally voted to be christened Boaty McBoatface in an online poll two years ago. The joke name lives on in the ship’s remotely operated submarine.

Guardian 30th April 2018 read more »

Posted: 1 May 2018