A number of looming issues are already obvious and the government will have no control over most of them. The first is the further postponement of the plans for nuclear development starting at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Two new reactors capable of supplying some 7 per cent of total UK electricity demand are planned. The first was originally supposed to be on stream in time to cook Christmas dinner in 2017. But despite the prospect of a lavish price — index linked for 35 years regardless of what happens to global energy prices – and £10bn of even more generous financial guarantees, funding for the investment required is not in place. The reluctance of investors to commit will not be helped by the technical problems in the reactor vessels, which are now under investigation by the French nuclear regulator. This problem has widespread implications for the companies involved (Areva and EDF) and for nuclear development in many countries across the world, starting with France itself. In the UK, the challenge for the new government is that development that is already seven years behind schedule will be further delayed (no station here can go ahead until at least one EPR reactor is working somewhere in the world). The new problems are likely to increase still further the amount of financial guarantees required. This will all push up the final price consumers will have to pay. At worst, the current regulatory tests could require the reactor vessels to be redesigned and rebuilt. That could extend the delay well into the 2020s, leaving a gap in supplies that the government will have to fill by approving either more expensive off-shore wind capacity or a new series of gas-fired stations and sacrificing some of the more ambitious targets for reducing emissions. A decision on that choice will have to be taken within the next year.The handover of Sellafield to new management under the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is not going well; nor is the programme to introduce smart meters. The retail market for both gas and electricity has lost consumer trust, and some of the companies involved may have lost the will to remain in business.
FT 10th May 2015 read more »
Damian McBride: During the election campaign Ed Balls refused to match Tory spending pledges because he knew they did not add up, and would not be encumbered with plans he could not deliver. Indeed, one of his first acts as chancellor would have been a review of the spiralling costs of the Tories’ proposed high-speed rail links and new nuclear power plants with a view to scrapping both. On those issues, and on the looming debt bubble crisis, he may yet be vindicated, but that will come as no comfort to him. His ambition was to deliver at least one budget, and that now looks impossible.
Sunday Times 10th May 2015 read more »
Horizon Nuclear Power has appointed Greg Evans as operations director for its planned second nuclear power plant in Anglesey, Wales. The Wylfa Newydd power plant, previously called Wylfa B, forms part of the Horizon nuclear project, which also includes plans for another nuclear site in Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire, with initial site work expected to begin this year and construction to start in 2018. Evans joins from Centrica Energy where he was director of nuclear and renewables for five years before becoming director of operational support. He was previously site director at the existing Wylfa power plant on the island. In his new role, Evans will take responsibility for developing Horizon’s operational capability, helping prepare the organisation for electricity generation in the first half of the 2020s.
Building 11th May 2015 read more »
There has never been as much dissatisfaction with the international framework governing nuclear weapons (the Non-Proliferation Treaty) as there is today. The treaty is being reviewed and debated at the United Nations in New York this month, and for the first time in 35 years there are serious concerns that it might tear apart at the seams. Increasingly, there are those who feel strongly that the world would be safer without nuclear weapons, and that the nuclear-armed states (whose promise to work seriously toward disarmament in Article VI of the treaty is one of the tender spots creating anger and resentment) are not fulfilling their obligations.
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 7th May 2015 read more »
Notification to Congress that he intends to renew a nuclear cooperation agreement with China. The deal would allow Beijing to buy more U.S.-designed reactors and pursue a facility or the technology to reprocess plutonium from spent fuel. China would also be able to buy reactor coolant technology that experts say could be adapted to make its submarines quieter and harder to detect. The formal notice initially didn’t draw any headlines. Its unheralded release on April 21 reflected the administration’s anxiety that it might alarm members of Congress and nonproliferation experts who fear China’s growing naval power — and the possibility of nuclear technology falling into the hands of third parties with nefarious intentions. Now, however, Congress is turning its attention to the agreement.
Washington Post 10th May 2015 read more »
Part of a nuclear power plant remained offline on Sunday after a transformer fire created another problem: thousands of gallons of oil leaking into the Hudson River. At an afternoon briefing, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said emergency crews were out on the water near Buchanan, trying to contain and clean up transformer fluid that leaked from Indian Point 3.
Guardian 10th May 2015 read more »
Daily Mail 11th May 2015 read more »
Tom Wallace started working at the Watts Bar nuclear plant as a young man in 1979, hoping he could eventually become a reactor operator. Mr. Wallace, 55, is still awaiting the plant’s opening 36 years later, one of the longest building projects in the country’s history. In the time it has taken to build it, Mr. Wallace raised two daughters and became a grandfather. Meanwhile, the nuclear industry designed a generation of entirely new plants that are now rising in Georgia and South Carolina. If nothing else, the second reactor at the Tennessee River site has become a cautionary tale for the power industry.
New York Times 10th May 2015 read more »
North Korea appears on track to deploy in four to five years a fully-operational submarine capable of launching nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, a South Korean military official said Monday.
Wall St Journal 11th May 2015 read more »
Renewable UK has called on David Cameron’s new government to send an early signal that ‘it is serious about supporting low-carbon energy to attract investment and create jobs.’ Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive, Renewable UK, commented: “We hope that one of the new Government’s priorities will be to act quickly to secure our home-grown energy supplies based on clean sources including wind, wave and tidal power. “We urge the new administration to confirm the importance of onshore wind as an essential part of our electricity mix, as it is one of the most cost effective ways to generate electricity, and is consistently supported by two-thirds of the public. As long as we can continue on our current course, onshore wind will be the cheapest of all power sources by 2020, so it makes sense to support it. “For the renewable energy sector as a whole, the most important signal that the Government could send to show that it’s serious about cleaning up the way we generate electricity would be to set a clear 2030 decarbonisation target to provide long term certainty. This would attract the investment needed for growth.
Scottish Energy News 11th May 2015 read more »
The Conservative election victory has dealt a severe blow to Britain’s green energy industry, campaigners have warned, as the new majority government prepares to scrap crucial subsidies for renewable power; champion the development of polluting shale gas; and make significant cuts to spending. The renewable industry is most worried about the future of onshore wind farm developments, which the Tories have repeatedly dismissed as an unwanted eyesore despite being cheaper than other forms of green energy. The party’s manifesto pledges “to halt the spread of onshore wind farms” – and although it is not clear exactly when subsidies for new land-based turbines will be scrapped, an announcement is expected soon. But the Government’s axe is likely to fall across much of the renewable energy industry, campaigners say. They point to David Cameron’s plan to remove what he in 2013 reportedly called the “green crap” that subsidises renewable power from Britain’s energy bills as evidence of his dislike for alternative energy sources. “There is nothing good for green energy about the Tories’ election,” said Tom Burke, a former director of Friends of the Earth and now chairman of the E3G sustainable development charity. “They are certainly going to show a lot of hostility to renewables and Britain is going to get left behind.” Mr Burke said he was worried the Government could abandon tackling climate change “by stealth” – especially if the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is scrapped, which he says is a distinct possibility.
Independent 10th May 2015 read more »
Renewables – solar
A “massive” global expansion of solar power — possibly enough to supply about a third or more of the world’s electricity — may be necessary by 2050 to reduce the impacts of fossil fuels on the climate, according to a report published by MIT this week. Solar’s efficiency and abundance make it the clean energy source best suited to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But for it to make a big enough climate difference, the amount of solar power generation capacity on U.S. soil would have to increase from today’s 20 gigawatts to up to 400 gigawatts, or enough to provide power to 80 million homes, Robert Stoner, deputy director of the MIT Energy Initiative and a co-author of the report, said.
Renew Economy 11th May 2015 read more »
The standard line about solar power is that while good in theory, the technology just isn’t there to keep our lights on and our Netflix streaming. But a new study from MIT suggests that’s not the case. According to the massive report (an epic 356 pages) current crystalline silicon photovoltaic technology is capable of delivering terawatt-scale power by 2050.
Engadget 9th May 2015 read more »
Renewables – onshore wind
Wind farm bosses have objected to a rival operation built next door in case it steals their wind. The owners of Westnewton wind farm in Cumbria have objected to rivals building three 360ft tall turbines nearby. They claim the plans could take the wind out of their sails, hampering electricity output. Campaigners believe it is the first time wind theft has been cited as a reason not to build a new turbine farm. David Colborn, chairman of Friends of Rural Cumbria’s Environment, which is also objecting to the proposals, said: “We have never seen anything like this… it’s a first around here.” A planning application has been submitted by Airvolution to build turbines which could power 4, 200 homes a year on farm land near Aspatria.
Telegraph 10th May 2015 read more »
Britain’s antiquated electricity grid is stopping renewable energy projects connecting to the system, threatening the country’s prospects for a low-carbon future, the solar power industry’s trade body has warned. Parts of the grid are closed to new connections and further shutdowns are likely, the Solar Trade Association (STA) said. It claimed the new Conservative government needs to invest heavily in the UK’s power infrastructure to prevent the withering of low-carbon projects and ensure Britain meets its 2020 renewable energy goals. The lack of capacity is at the 14 private sector distribution network operators (DNOs) which carry electricity from the main grid to commercial and domestic users. Western Power D istribution, the DNO for the Midlands, south-west England and Wales, has closed the grid to new large renewable projects in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset for up to six years. Large parts of eastern and south-east England barely have any capacity, maps from UK Power Networks, the DNO for these regions, show. Under EU targets, the UK must produce 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. It is about halfway there because the target includes transport and heating, as well as electricity generation. The Office for National Statistics said in February that Britain was on track to meet its commitments but to hit the overall 2020 targets, it needs to more than double the amount of electricity from renewable sources to 30%. Leonie Greene, the head of external affairs at the STA, said the grid had lacked investment for many years because of a lack of action by the government and Ofgem, the energy regulator.
Guardian 10th May 2015 read more »
Apple investing $1bn in a giant solar farm in California. Tesla building the world’s biggest battery factory to power electric cars. The Chinese deploying record numbers of wind turbines and solar panels. The renewables revolution looks unstoppable. Except in Britain. Here, two forces – one technical and one political – mean Britain’s dash to cut its carbon emissions and reduce its dependence on Russian coal and Middle Eastern oil is under threat like never before. As the Guardian reports on Sunday, Britain’s creaking electricity grid is close to being overloaded with the wind and solar farms connected to date, such that in large parts of the country the companies that run local grids are either refusing connections or charging millions for a connection for a solar or windfarm because the cables cannot take the extra load. Here is a simple fact: the Germans have around 35 gigawatt peak (GW) of solar capacity on their grid, while we in the UK have got up to about 8 GW and the grid is almost full. The Germans simply have a better grid, helped by the fact that their “feed-in tariff” system of support for renewables had a portion of money reserved for the grid companies to spend on improvements. The government has also slashed support for renewables. The feed-in tariff for smaller solar plants is being slashed by 28% on 1 July, for example. No fear of similar action on the subsidy for Hinkley Point C nuclear station, of course.
Guardian 10th May 2015 read more »
Batteries that can store renewable energy for longer and at half the current cost have been hailed as an energy revolution that could transform Africa’s power supply. The battery could allow millions to leapfrog from no electricity at all straight to renewables. Sub-Saharan Africa has more people living without access to electricity than any other region – more than 600 million people – nearly half of the global total. Although the continent is home to 13% of the world’s population, it accounts for only 4% of global energy demand.
Guardian 11th May 2015 read more »