Energy Policy

Brexit has brought Britain to a standstill. “The country—as an administrative entity—has virtually stopped working.” The energy issue has been particularly badly hit. “There are the micro-processes of government that are in turmoil because of the revolving doors of ministers, and then there’s been the internal party fighting and squabbling, which is then consuming all of the political oxygen,” says Mary Creagh, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party and chair of Parliament’s Environment Committee. “It means the normal decision-making of government is not happening and has not happened for two years.”

Bloomberg 19th Sept 2018 read more »

In response to the Prime Minister’s announcement on social housing[1], Mel Evans, Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said “Social housing must be future proof. If Theresa May wants to offer people houses to be proud of, she must make sure all new homes are net zero carbon to keep peoples’ energy bills low. The Paris climate agreement demands we decarbonise domestic heating in the UK, and that means a whole new approach to heating and insulation that should release people and their families from fuel poverty. “New social housing is urgent – and to get it right, this plan must have the modernisation of our energy system built in: renewable power, battery storage, smart electric car charging, local grids and public involvement in bringing our heat, power and transport into the 21st century. Making sure new social housing keeps energy costs down is an obvious place to start.”

Greenpeace 19th Sept 2018 read more »

Posted: 20 September 2018

Energy Markets

A group of the world’s leading energy traders and banks is looking to shake up the centuries-old trade finance industry with the launch of two new platforms underpinned by blockchain technology. Energy groups including Royal Dutch Shell, Mercuria and Gunvor, and financial institutions such as ING, Société Générale, Citigroup and ABN Amro are backing two new blockchain platforms. By digitising the large amount of contracts, letters of credit, invoices and other paperwork currently sent around the world by email, fax or post, and putting them on the Ethereum blockchain platform, they are hoping that the new platforms will lead to faster, cheaper and more secure ways of completing a trade as well as settling the transaction.

FT 19th Sept 2018 read more »

Posted: 20 September 2018

Electric Vehicles

Congestion on the roads could more than double over the next three decades despite rising numbers of driverless cars, according to analysis. Estimates by the Department for Transport (DfT) show that up to 16 per cent of roads will be clogged up by 2050 compared with 7 per cent at present. It is expected to result in slower vehicle speeds and longer travel times, with journeys taking 20 minutes on average rather than 17 now. The study forecast that the number of vehicles on British roads will grow by as much as 51 per cent. Officials said that the increase would be driven by population change combined with a drop in vehicle running costs. Growth in the number of zero-emission electric cars would have a significant impact, with motorists no longer having to spend thousands of pounds a year on fuel. Manufacturers have face d criticism over the high purchase price of existing electric cars but this is expected to drop as the technology becomes more mainstream. The government has set a target of making sure that all new models from 2040 are emission-free. This shift would lead to a sharp drop in emissions, the study said, with roadside carbon dioxide levels falling by up to 76 per cent by 2050 and deadly nitrogen oxides declining by 95 per cent. The analysis was based on an assumption of “no further planned improvements” to the road network beyond 2025, suggesting that congestion could be cut by government spending.

Times 19th Sept 2018 read more »

Posted: 20 September 2018

Energy Costs

The Energy Systems Catapult and Oxford University have this week published a new study suggesting a quirk of the UK’s energy tariff pricing regime is hampering the shift to lower carbon heating systems, at the same time as favouring decentralised generation technologies such as solar panels and off-grid diesel generators. The study explores so-called Cost Reflective Pricing and asks if the split between variable and fixed charges in energy bills – that is the unit price of power and gas and the standing grid and environmental charges – are efficiently distributed. It argues the current approach “may inadvertently distort market behaviour towards favouring investment in decentralised generation technologies, like solar PV and diesel, over demand technologies like heat pumps”.

Business Green 19th Sept 2018 read more »

Posted: 19 September 2018

Energy Policy

So far, though, Labour has revealed few details about how its public ownership plans will work. In a bid to shed some light on the party’s thinking on the UK’s rapidly changing energy system, Utility Week went to Southampton to talk to the party’s energy spokesman, shadow energy minister Alan Whitehead. Last year’s general election manifesto contained a pledge to restore public ownership across a wide swathe of the utilities sector. Alongside the water industry, the distribution networks and the National Grid would all be brought back into public ownership. Critical analyses of Labour’s public ownership plans published so far have itemised the cost of buying back the existing operators’ shares. But, clutching a Southampton FC coffee cup, Whitehead insists these sums have been drastically overestimated. He says the industry currently receives government money to smooth the transition to a low-carbon energy system and Labour would simply build up public assets by redeploying these subsidies. He visited the Scandinavian country recently with former MP Alan Simpson, who is advising shadow chancellor John McDonnell on energy and environmental issues. Public ownership certainly doesn’t mean a mass buy-back of existing energy generation kit, much of which Whitehead insists is reaching the end of its natural life. “Public ownership does not mean recreating the CEGB [Central Electricity Generation Board] with five large generators. That would not only be a nonproductive way of going about it, it would be quite counterproductive. Drilling down to a local level, he sees scope for the new breed of council-owned energy companies to widen their remit beyond energy supply to more vertically integrated arrangements, embracing distribution, transmission and potentially even generation. Changing the time-limited nature of licensing arrangements may also be on the cards. This is the point where Labour’s wider public ownership push and Whitehead’s oft-stated passion about decentralisation of the energy system link up. The latter is a topic clearly close to Whitehead’s heart. Southampton, where he led the local council before becoming one of the city’s MPs, boasts the UK’s biggest combined heat and power district energy system. Decarbonisation of the heat network poses an even more profound challenge, says Whitehead, who warns that the UK is in “danger of exhausting” what the electricity system can achieve in terms of further decarbonisation. “We damn well need to do something about heat rapidly, because it’s lagging so far behind in the decarbonisation process,” he says. Whitehead doesn’t believe that electrification and hydrogen should be treated as either/or solutions, but that both should be run in tandem with other measures, including greater efforts to manage demand. The UK can buy some time by injecting bio-methane and other natural gas alternatives into the grid, he says, adding that hydrogen is “one of the key arrows in the quiver” in terms of a longer-term decarbonisation of heating, contributing up to 30 per cent of the energy mix. However, relying on steam methane reformation, which is currently the cheapest way of manufacturing hydrogen, doesn’t deliver the goods in terms of decarbonisation because of the amount of carbon the process releases, he says: “Unless you have a really good industrial carbon capture programme alongside it you haven’t got very far.”

Utility Week 14th Sept 2018 read more »

Posted: 17 September 2018

Energy Policy – Scotland

The Scottish Government has launched a taskforce to help the country achieve a carbon-neutral economy. The Just Transition Commission will look at how to maximise opportunities of decarbonisation. Professor Jim Skea will chair the commission. Announcing the initiative, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Scotland has been widely praised internationally for our work to tackle climate change, and I am absolutely determined that there be no let-up in our efforts. “Our transition to a carbon-neutral economy is already well underway. With Scottish emissions almost halving since 1990, and 49,000 jobs already supported in our low carbon sector, I want to ensure we benefit fully from leading the global transition to low-carbon. “Part of the Paris Climate Agreement, just transition is about transitioning to a low-carbon economy in a way that is socially inclusive. A key principle is that no-one gets left behind as the employment landscape shifts. Prof Skea said: “The idea of a just transition is embedded in the Paris agreement. The challenge now is to turn the concept into practical action that shares widely and fairly the benefits of the low carbon transition. Scotland is taking a lead internationally, and I am flattered to be invited to chair the Commission. The challenge in two years is to come up with advice that is actionable and commands the support of stakeholders.”

Energy Voice 17th Sept 2018 read more »

Posted: 17 September 2018

Incineration

Suez, the French utility, is to invest more than £100m in a new energy-from-waste power station in the northeast of England as it seeks to capitalise on the growing demand for alternative ways in which to process waste. The company plans to build a new plant near Billingham in Stockton-on-Tees which will serve the public sector as well as commercial customers in the North-east and Scotland. Once operational in 2022, the plant will generate about 25GW of electricity, enough to power the equivalent of roughly 30,000 households. It will have enough capacity to process 200,000 tonnes of residual – non-recyclable – waste a year.

FT 17th Sept 2018 read more »

Posted: 17 September 2018

Electric Vehicles

Is the future of electric vehicles damaged by the chaos surrounding Tesla? Absolutely not. Whether the company survives in its present form or not is irrelevant. The future of EVs will not be determined by anything that happens in California but by decisions being taken 6,000 miles away in Beijing. This has not been a great summer for Tesla chief Elon Musk. Production problems have delayed development of the model S car. This has added to costs and stretched the company’s finances. An attempt by Mr Musk to become involved in the rescue of young footballers trapped in caves in Thailand resulted in him heaping unsubstantiated abuse on one of the rescuers. For a few weeks it seemed Mr Musk was going to take the company private, and for an even shorter period it was suggested that the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund would be the unlikely source of cash. Tesla has survived the season but has as many financial problems as ever and confidence in Mr Musk among investors, and indeed his own board of directors, is much diminished. The shares have fallen more than 20 per cent in the past 12 months. Meanwhile, the EV business goes from strength to strength – not in the US, but in China.

FT 17th Sept 2018 read more »

Posted: 17 September 2018

Energy Costs

Residents in the Scottish town of Stornoway, have been trapped on a single, pricey, standard tariff for years after wrongly being told they neither qualify for cheaper deals nor have the option of changing providers, because Centrica – which owns British and Scottish Gas, and supplies one third of British households – is the only gas supplier to the island. In a stand that should embolden thwarted customers across the land, a local guesthouse owner has taken on the energy giant and is attempting to claw back a mass rebate after discovering many residents have been overpaying by 30% for over 20 years. Derek McPherson’s five-year battle has exposed how corporations mislead customers with what is, at best, incompetence, at worst, duplicity. Fuel poverty in the Western Isles is among the greatest in the country, with over half of residents spending more than 10% of their income on heating. McPherson reckons Scottish Gas’s refusal to transfer many applicants to more affordable deals has cost them millions. “An elderly neighbour told me she has to go to the old folk’s club every day it’s open as she can’t afford to heat her home,” he says.

Observer 16th Sept 2018 read more »

Posted: 16 September 2018

Brexit

Economic warnings around a no-deal Brexit have reached fever-pitch proportions. If Bank of England Governor Mark Carney’s latest Doomsday portent comes to fruition, house prices will collapse and the streets will be choked by dole queues if the UK unceremoniously crashes out of the European Union. Certainly, the energy industry will also be affected; just don’t expect the petrol pumps to run dry or the lights to go out on March 29 next year. Based on the evidence at hand, the nation’s vital oil, gas and electricity industries can continue to prosper even in the hardest of hard-Brexit scenarios.

Telegraph 15th Sept 2018 read more »

Posted: 16 September 2018