Les Echos, the French business newspaper, carried an extraordinary article from a Senior Vice President of EdF, the largely state-owned utility that will build the nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point in England. Marc Boillot contends that ‘large nuclear or thermal power plants designed to function as baseload are challenged by the more flexible decentralized model’. He says that the centralised model of power production is dying, to be replaced by local solar and wind, supplemented by batteries and intelligent management of supply and demand. Not only will this be cheaper in the long run but customers are actually prepared to pay more for solar electricity and actively work to reduce usage at times of shortage. His conclusion is that ‘the traditional model must adapt to the new realities, thus allowing the utilities to emerge from …hypercentralized structures in a world that is becoming more and more decentralized’. In most jurisdictions Mr Boillot would have been asked to clear his desk. What will EdF do about one of its most senior people openly forecasting the end of the large power station as it tries to raise the ten billion Euros necessary to pay for its share of Hinkley?
Carbon Commentary Newsletter 19th Feb 2017 read more »
[Machine Translation] Can solar energy carry everything? THE CIRCLE / POINT OF VIEW – Over the last twelve months, in France, a solar and wind capacity exceeding one EPR has been commissioned. Faced with the climatic and digital ruptures, the great European and American utilities accelerate their transformation. But will that be enough to keep their leadership? It’s not just a technological challenge, it’s a challenge on mindsets. This requires action without delay, on a large scale and in disruption. And yet, solar electricity production and wind power are becoming less and less expensive. Microgrids, electrical islets at the scale of a neighborhood or a village, are multiplying. Battery storage is expanding massively in the United States. Large nuclear or thermal power plants designed to function as a base are chal- lenged by the more flexible decentralized model. The electricity grid itself, which plays a collective insurance role, is threatened by self-consumption which deprives it of its income. Citizens are seduced by this decentralized model. They are willing to pay more for solar electricity. They want to be able to become actors of the electrical system by acting at the right time on their electrical appliances by delaying or reducing their consumption, by charging their electric car when the wind blows or the summer when the sun is shining. The traditional model must adapt to the new realities, thus allowing the utilities to emerge from this paradox in which they have locked themselves up in order to perpetuate hypercentralized structures in a world that is becoming more and more decentralized. It is imperative to support innovations, initiatives, risk-taking, and creativity.
Les Echos 15th Feb 2017 read more »
Labour is mounting a last ditch bid to retain the UK’s membership of Euratom. The opposition’s Lords team has tabled an amendment to the bill to authorise the triggering of the Article 50 notice, which will kickstart negotiations to exit the EU. The government stated in its recent Brexit white paper that the UK will withdraw from the Euratom Community alongside the UK’s EU exit.
Utility Week 17th Feb 2017 read more »
Sellafield’s ongoing failure to meet its obligations to an international Strategy is the subject of a CORE critique submitted to OSPAR’s recent Radioactive Substances Committee meeting. CORE’s investigation has revealed that the UK and Sellafield have repeatedly failed to comply with the principal objectives of the Strategy – the ‘progressive’ and ‘substantial’ reduction of discharges from Sellafield’s B205 (magnox) and THORP (oxide) reprocessing facilities. Along with other European governments, the UK signed up in 1998 to the Strategy designed by the OSPAR (Oslo/Paris) Commission to protect and conserve the North East Atlantic maritime region. Sellafield’s failure to date to meet the discharge reduction objectives has significantly threatened the Strategy’s ultimate aim of ensuring that, by 2020, levels of radioactive substances in the sea are ‘close to zero’ above historic levels. CORE’s spokesman Martin Forwood said today: ‘Sellafield’s failure, aided and abetted by successive UK Governments, makes a mockery of the corporate claim that environmental stewardship is a core value of the company, and we await a response to our findings from the UK Government’s Head of Delegation to OSPAR’s committee meeting last week. We have also warned OSPAR that, for its Strategy to retain any shred of credibility, it needs to get a grip on those who fail to comply and, contrary to claims in its most recent report, acknowledge the routine breaches by the UK and Sellafield’.
CORE 19th Feb 2017 read more »
Toshiba is now set to have a higher exposure to its US nuclear unit Westinghouse. Japanese heavy machinery maker IHI said it will exercise an option to sell its 3 per cent stake in Westinghouse, bringing Toshiba’s total holding to 90 per cent. The widely expected sale came after Toshiba warned of a $6.3bn writedown on its US nuclear business earlier this week, blaming massive cost overruns and delays linked to the construction of nuclear reactors in the US.
FT 17th Feb 2017 read more »
Renewables – solar
A pioneering £1m battery storage system in Somerset will transfer power to the local electricity network after linking directly to a nearby 1.5MW solar park. The newly-opened Copley Wood facility is said to be the first of its kind in the UK; the 640KWh containerised system was shipped in from China and uses a lithium iron phosphate battery. Funded through Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance, the one-year scheme sees Western Power Distribution (WPD) partner with British Solar Renewables and the National Solar Centre. The project aims to demonstrate the technical and commercial feasibility of connecting a large battery storage facility with a local electricity network and a solar park – Higher Hill farm in Glastonbury.
Edie 17th Feb 2017 read more »
Renewables – Kite Power
KITE Power Systems, the renewable energy company, has opened a head office in Glasgow, following plans to establish a research and test facility in Dumfries & Galloway. Kite Power Systems, known as KPS, is undertaking a recruitment drive as it consolidates its activities in Scotland, with 10 posts set to be filled by the end of next month. In December, KPS announced it would open a test site on a MoD range near Stranraer, after it was backed by £5million of investment, led by Shell, along with E.ON and Schlumberger. KPS’s management and design engineering team will be based at the Tontine Innovation Centre in Glasgow’s Trongate, which was once home to James Watt’s workshop. Last year it was converted into a high-tech space in a £1.7m redevelopment as part of the Glasgow and Clyde Valley City Deal. The total headcount at the business will rise to 25 by the end of the first year in Scotland, which will result in KPS moving to a permanent workspace in the city centre later in 2017. KPS’ technology works by tethering kites to a winch system that generates electricity as it spools out. Kite power requires lower capital expenditure than conventional offshore turbines as it doesn’t require the installation of turbines and their foundations.
Herald 20th Feb 2017 read more »
More than two kilometres down a dark, dank tunnel deep inside a Norwegian mountain, the air is thick with dust and the smell of explosives. A pair of red laser beams pierce the blackness, providing guide marks for a drilling machine to bore a computer-programmed pattern of 30 holes into the rock. It forms a crucial part of National Grid’s key project: to build the world’s longest subsea power cable. Like a giant extension lead, the £1.4 billion, 450-mile North Sea Link interconnector will plug Britain into the Norwegian grid, enabling it to import 1.4 gigawatts of electricity, enough to power 750,000 homes. From Blyth in Northumberland, the cable will stretch across the North Sea before winding its way through 60 miles of fjords until the seabed comes to an abrupt halt on the far side of this mountain, 50 miles northeast of Stavanger. The cable will run through the tunnel, now close to completion, and then cross a lake to Kvilldal, home to Norway’s biggest hydroelectric power plant, where it will connect with the grid. While Britain is facing increasing challenges keeping the lights on as old coal and nuclear plants close and intermittent wind and solar take their place, plants such as Kvilldal mean that Norway’s grid is practically overflowing with cheap and reliable green power. “From a UK perspective, wind and volatility has picked up and has become a real headache,” Mr Williams, National Grid’s project director for North Sea Link, says. “These interconnectors can provide flexible services to support changes in output very quickly.” Britain has 4GW of interconnectors, but the government has backed the development of up to a further 9GW. Ofgem, the regulator, offers financial support through a new “cap and floor” system to guarantee domestic developers such as National Grid, which is building the link jointly with Statnett, its Norwegian counterpart, a minimum return.
Times 20th Feb 2017 read more »
The chairman of Iberdrola has denounced Europe’s energy regulations as “Kafkaesque”, and warned the current regime encourages utilities to keep polluting coal plants running rather than invest in green power generation for the long term. “There is not enough capacity to satisfy expected demand,” Ignacio Galin told the Financial Times. “What is happening now is that we are artificially preserving power plants that are obsolete and that would be closed if it were not for [government] incentives [to maintain capacity]. At the same time, we are not building new gas-fired power plants.” Iberdrola is one of Europe’s biggest utilities, with a large presence spread across the US, Brazil, Mexico, Spain and the UK, where it owns Scottish Power. The Madrid-based group, which claims to be to the largest generator of wind power in the world, is due to publish full-year results on February 22.
FT 19th Feb 2017 read more »