Energy Supplies

Spy chiefs have warned the bosses of Britain’s key power companies to boost their security amid fears of a Russian cyber-attack that could put the lights out. The National Grid was put on alert last week by officials from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) — a branch of the signals intelligence agency GCHQ — and given advice on how to improve its defences to prevent power cuts. Electricity, gas and water firms, the Sellafield nuclear power plant, Whitehall departments and NHS hospitals have all been warned to prepare for a state- sponsored assault ordered by the Kremlin after the nerve agent attack in Salisbury.

Times 18th March 2018 read more »

Government officials are undertaking a rash of reviews into energy security as political tensions between Russia and the UK continue to escalate. For the first time, the Government’s official quarterly energy report at the end of the month will lay bare the UK’s reliance on Russia for winter gas. Meanwhile, officials are in crunch talks with key gas stakeholder groups to understand the cost of the UK’s growing reliance on foreign gas imports to major industrial energy users. The first event concluded in frustration on Friday, according to one attendee, after officials told the 80 strong group that it still believes Britain’s gas system is resilient despite two major price shocks this winter, which experts believe will raise bills for millions of homes and companies.

Telegraph 17th March 2018 read more »

Ministers should launch a review of Britain’s dwindling gas-storage capacity amid the escalating diplomatic row with Russia, according to an energy industry trade body. The Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) said the recent decision to close Centrica’s Rough facility off the coast of Yorkshire would leave Britain more reliant on imports when temperatures plunge. Rough, which is being wound down, accounts for an estimated 70% of the UK’s gas-storage capacity — or six days of winter demand. “With little gas storage capability, it makes us more dependent on imports and at greater risk to shocks in the system,” said Mike Foster, chief executive of the EUA.

Times 18th March 2018 read more »

The problem of Britain’s dependence on fossil fuels as a source of heat remains. About 85 per cent of the UK’s heating comes from natural gas, which is delivered through the gas network. By contrast, electricity is generated from a mixture of gas, coal and renewables. During peak demand in the recent cold snap, wind contributed 30 per cent of power. The mix highlights that while the country has made significant progress in decarbonising electricity supplies, heating has yet to make a similar leap. 85 per cent of the existing housing stock heated with natural gas; it’s what householders and installers know. The alternatives are not so well known and may be more expensive”.The government’s Clean Growth Strategy, published last October, set out targets to improve the energy efficiency of homes and businesses but many of them lacked detail, according to experts. The strategy also called for poorly insulated “fuel poor” homes — households that spend more than 10 per cent of their income on fuel — to be upgraded to the more efficient Energy Performance Certificate band C by 2030 — and for as many homes as possible to be EPC band C by 2035. In a report on the future of gas published last week, National Grid said that, while a “combination of solutions” was expected develop to decarbonise heat, hydrogen was “gaining momentum”. A report by KPMG published in 2016 also put the cost of decarbonisation through conversion to a form of decarbonised gas (including hydrogen) at about a third of the estimated £300bn cost of full electrification.Experts say that whichever technologies are adopted, the cost will remain a challenge. Domestic electricity bills include “green” charges that subsidise renewable power. Whether carbon-free heating can be paid for with a similar levy is still a matter of debate.

FT 17th March 2018 read more »

Posted: 18 March 2018


It has been a busy time lately. BANNG has attended a number of meetings and Prof. Andy Blowers has been involved as an expert in the Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) consultation process. And on top of that the weather has thrown a wobbly which has potential implications on the decisions for energy policies. There have been two important meetings. One concerned the Government’s consultation on reviewing the siting criteria for new nuclear power stations. For all of us concerned about the Government’s headlong rush towards more ridiculous nuclear development it is vital to respond to this consultation. Clearly the Government is attempting to extend the time period allocated for selecting potential new nuclear sites. The sites included in the previous consultation on the siting criteria in 2008 should have had power stations generating by 2025 and even Hinkley Point C (HPC) has only a remote chance of being up and running by then. BANNG also had an important strategic meeting with the Nuclear New Build departments of the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency (EA). This event was co-chaired by BANNG’s Andy Blowers and the EA’s Simon Barlow. The meeting was attended by senior representatives from the EA and ONR and 6 from BANNG. Andy Blowers once again was also able to represent Colchester Borough Council.

PeterBanks Blog 17th March 2018 read more »

Posted: 18 March 2018


RWE and E.ON’s mega-deal could spell trouble for UK’s Big Six energy firms. Europe’s energy industry has grown accustomed to constant change. Yet it has been rocked by a new shift that is both tectonic and Teutonic. In Germany two of the sector’s biggest players are plotting a £38bn shake-up that could trigger aftershocks across the continent, including in the UK. RWE and E.on last week set out plans for a complicated asset swap designed to rebuild international strength that has been sapped by Germany’s pro-renewable energy policies. The move tears at the heart of one of the UK’s biggest energy deals since privatisation, however, and could spell trouble for the rest of Britain’s big players as well. The utility death spiral led both to embark on painful restructurings to survive. E.on split off its loss-making power plants in 2016 to form Uniper, a company focused on large centralised power generation and trading. The spin-off freed E.on to focus on energy networks and customers.

Telegraph 17th March 2018 read more »

Posted: 18 March 2018


[Machine Translation] Flamanville EPR Nuclear Reactor: The Countdown to the Atomic Clock. “They are not ready. “Monday morning, at the end of a committee of health, safety and working conditions of the plant, trade unionists of the CGT are circumspect. EDF agents have just visited the future Local Crisis Center (CCL), one of the “post-Fukushima” equipment whose vocation is to ensure the management of crises. “They’re supposed to be up and running in two weeks, but we’re far from it …” After seven years of delay and a construction cost that has tripled to reach 10.5 billion euros, the commissioning of the EPR, this new generation nuclear reactor under construction in Flamanville, is scheduled for May 2019. The goal is to be able to load the fuel into the tank in December. But the context remains tense for this site which accumulated the setbacks: the problems recently discovered on the tank lid – which will have to be changed before 2024 when it is normally every 20 or 30 years – or on the secondary circuit welds leave an uncertainty about the authorization that could give – or not – the ASN, the “policeman” nuclear. Sébastien Lecornu, “second” of Nicolas Hulot and former president of the departmental council of the Eure, visiting the site of the EPR in early February, had said: “I trust EDF

Paris Normandie 17th March 2018 read more »

Posted: 18 March 2018


Nuclear: The unstoppable lessons of the Fukushima Catastrophe. Two voices from Japan shake the pronuclear torpor of France on the seventh anniversary of the Fukushima catastrophe. Listen to Naoto Kan, former prime minister who became anti-atom, and read Masao Yoshida, the defunct director of the Powerhouse, is to understand the powerlessness of Governments in the face of a nuclear catastrophe.

Mediapart 16th March 2018 read more »

Posted: 18 March 2018


The federal government is demanding that the company building a giant nuclear waste treatment plant in Washington state provide records proving that the steel used in the nearly $17 billion project meets safety standards. The U.S. Department of Energy says in a letter obtained by The Associated Press that records needed to ensure that the structural steel used in the project is safe are either missing or of “indeterminate quality.” “This condition is a potentially unrecoverable quality issue,” said the letter sent March 6 from the agency’s Office of River Protection in Richland, Washington, to Bechtel National Inc., which is building the long-delayed plant to dispose of wastes created in the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons. The agency gave Bechtel National 14 days to provide proof that work on the project should continue. The letter from the Office of River Protection, which is named for the Columbia River that flows through the Hanford site, did not contend that the structural steel in the Hanford Tank Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant was defective. Rather it says that records proving the steel can perform its safety function were missing or of poor quality. The agency directed Bechtel “to promptly investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the procurement, receipt and acceptance of materials installed … to justify the continuation of work,” the letter said.

Q13 Fox 16th March 2018 read more »

In the fall of 2015, inspectors discovered that improperly designed and installed machinery at a massive nuclear expansion project in South Carolina could allow radiation to escape into the surrounding community if problems were not corrected, according to once-secret SCE&G documents. Such problems weren’t isolated as workers scrambled to build two nuclear reactors northwest of Columbia. Similar flaws are detailed in tens of thousands of documents released recently by SCE&G to environmental groups, whose lawyers hope to use them to prove the utility’s customers deserve refunds for the now-abandoned project. The legal case, spearheaded by Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club, could be the fastest route to refunds for SCE&G customers who unwittingly have been forced to pay $2 billion over the past decade for two nuclear reactors that won’t be built. If the groups can convince the S.C. Public Service Commission that SCE&G spent money foolishly, the commission could order refunds by the end of 2018, if not sooner, Sierra Club lawyer Bob Guild said.

The State 17th March 2018 read more »

Posted: 18 March 2018


Dave Elliott: Power engineers worry that, as more renewables are added to the grid, replacing old coal, gas and nuclear plants, we will loose lock-step AC synchronous system stability, since the latter had large heavy rotating turbo-generators which provided system inertia against frequency perturbations. The big plants’ rotational inertia acts as a buffer to grid frequency changes, and to varying supply and inductive loads. However, PV solar has no rotational inertia, and wind turbines not much, though direct drive machines can provide some. With more renewables on the grid it will become more of an issue. There may be solutions, and smart grid demand management may be an option for avoiding some problems. There is certainly a big literature on that:

Environmental Research Web 17th March 2018 read more »

Posted: 18 March 2018

Renewables – solar

The global solar power market grew 29.3 per cent last year, with new capacity additions rising from76.5GW in 2016 to 98.9GW in 2017, according to the latest data from SolarPower Europe. Unveiled at the trade body’s annual conference in Brussels, the new update confirmed the European market almost matched the global market, with new capacity rising 28.4 per cent to 8.6GW last year. Christian Westermeier, president of SolarPower Europe, said it was encouraging to see the European solar market growing again after several years when policy changes and subsidy cuts have curtailed growth in key markets. “It is good to see European solar growing again, and it is particularly encouraging that this increase is at about the same level as the global market,” he said. However, he added the EU could help support the next phase of growth by delivering a more ambitious renewables target for 2030.

Business Green 16th March 2018 read more »

Posted: 18 March 2018

Renewables – wind

UK sets new wind power record as turbines deliver 14 gigawatts for first time – 37 per cent of nation’s electricity. At 10am on Saturday Wind generated 13.9GW, or 36.9 per cent of the UK’s electricity, increasing to 14GW by 11am. The previous record was 13.6GW in January this year. By contrast gas generated only 8.5GW (23 per cent), nuclear 6.5GW (17.3 per cent), coal just 4.7GW (12.5 per cent) and both solar and biomass 1.5GW (4.1 per cent). Hydro came last with 0.3GW or 0.9 per cent.

Independent 17th March 2017 read more »

Posted: 18 March 2018

Energy Storage

Power-to-gas uses electrolysis to break water down into its constituent parts of oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen can be stored along with natural gas in pipelines, or used in fuel cell vehicles. An additional step called methanisation converts the hydrogen into renewable natural gas (RNG), which can be stored in those same pipelines to be used later in a variety of industrial and domestic applications. But just how effective is it? And how does it compare to lithium-ion batteries? Last year, research funded by SoCalGas at University of California demonstrated that power-to-gas could enable them to increase the campus’ mix of renewables in their microgrid tenfold, from a relatively minor 3.5 percent up to a hugely significant 35 percent. Such a huge jump is certainly a great argument in favour of the system’s efficacy, and it compares extremely favourable with lithium-ion, at least in terms of cost. According to Matt Gregori, technology development manager at Southern California Gas, their pipeline system has about 13 tWh of equivalent electricity storage. That level of storage using battery storage facilities would cost about $2.6 trillion. It is indeed the ability to use existing infrastructure that makes power-to-gas so appealing. The North Sea for example, has an existing gas infrastructure. It is also home to offshore wind farms, with the green light having recently been given to construction of the world’s largest wind farm, which is scheduled to come online in 2023. The Hornsea Two project, along with its sister site Hornsea One will have the potential to generate nearly 2.6GW, enough to power in excess of two million homes. Using the preexisting gas pipeline infrastructure for power-to-gas will be a cost-effective way of ensuring that power can satisfy the demand of those homes, as and when it is needed.

Oil Price 17th March 2018 read more »

Posted: 18 March 2018