Several French trade unions walked out of a meeting with the economy minister on the nuclear sector on Monday, saying they did not want their participation used as a cover to sanction decisions such as on EDF’s Hinkley Point project in Britain. Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron was expected to meet the energy branch of the trade unions to discuss the overhaul of the French nuclear sector which has been in turmoil since the Fukushima disaster in 2011. The unions, worried that heavily indebted state-controlled utility EDF is taking on too much, are against the company pushing ahead with an 18 billion pound ($23.4 billion) plan to build a nuclear reactor complex at Hinkley Point in southern England and have asked for it to be delayed. Macron has backed the project and said he expects EDF to make a final investment decision in September. Representatives of several unions, including the hardline CGT and FO, arrived at the meeting, read a brief statement and left. “Nothing guarantees us that this meeting is not a facade to endorse a decision that we do not agree to. Among others, we reject any forceful decision on Hinkley Point,” the CGT, FO, CGC and UNSA unions said in a joint statement. The unions said that although the meeting was about the French nuclear sector that comprises several players such as AREVA and CEA, only EDF was present at the talks. The moderate CFDT union took part in the meeting.
Daily Mail 18th July 2016 read more »
Britain should shelve plans for a nuclear revival and fast-track proposals for new gas-fired power stations, a leading energy industry boss has warned. Keith Anderson, chief corporate officer of ScottishPower, of the six big energy providers, said that government policy was failing to deliver urgently needed investment in new conventional power stations, putting the country at risk of price rises and power cuts. He said that the UK system was becoming increasingly unstable after the loss of big coal-fired power plants, which have been the backbone of the country’s electricity supply for more than a century. “As a country we have been saying we are committed to new nuclear for ten years. How long is [Hinkley Point] going to take to come through? Let’s get on and build what we know how to build. The risk is we are sitting here in five years’ time and we have not built anything.” He expressed concern that at a time of considerable political uncertainty linked to Brexit, the UK was also facing an energy crunch. “As an economy we should be taking control of our own energy supply,” he said, pointing out that last winter the gap between peak demand and supply fell to its lowest level in ten years.
Times 20th July 2016 read more »
EDF Energy has launched a competition aimed at finding new ways of inspecting and monitoring its UK nuclear power plants, offering successful projects up to £10,000 ($13,000) of funding. The competition opened yesterday and the deadline for applications is 28 September. Successful projects are to start in January next year. The French state-owned utility operates 14 advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs), which provide about 18% of the UK’s electricity. In a statement, EDF Energy said it had designed its R&D program to show how it will extend the operating periods of these reactors in a safe and cost-effective way. “Access to accurate data on the state of the different critical components is vital,” it said.
World Nuclear News 19th July 2016 read more »
An innovation competition aimed at finding new ways of inspecting and monitoring EDF Energy’s UK nuclear power stations and offshore wind farms has launched this week, offering successful projects up to £10,000 of funding. Launched by the French-owned energy firm yesterday, the competition is being run in partnership with UK government-backed Innovate UK and is aimed at finding solutions to two challenges faced by EDF’s nuclear and offshore wind fleets.
Business Green 19th July 2016 read more »
Brussels has opened a full probe into France’s state-backed rescue package for Areva, raising the possibility of stricter restructuring conditions being attached to public support for the nuclear reactor maker. Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, said that the size and importance of the proposed rescue would require a careful review to ensure “the restructuring plan is sound and the state aid does not unduly distort competition”. As part of an intervention that is set to overhaul dramatically the country’s energy sector, the French government backed a big recapitalisation to save the state-controlled group. Brussels said France informed it of a public capital injection worth €4bn in April. While such state support for restructuring can be permitted in certain circumstances, the package of aid usually comes with EU conditions. It must contribute to “an objective common interest” while avoiding distorting competition in markets.
FT 19th July 2016 read more »
European Commission 19th July 2016 read more »
A regional council in Cumbria, northwest England, has given planning permission for the construction of two new vaults and the extension of a third vault at the UK’s low-level radioactive waste repository near Drigg, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) said. According to the NDA, the repository expansion project will ensure the future of the facility until 2050. The NDA said it expects work to begin in 2017. Planning permission also allows the construction of a final cap over existing and new vaults and seven clay-lined trenches, where waste was disposed of before the first engineered vault opened 1988. The repository was opened in 1957 as the only UK location for the disposal of solid waste containing low levels of radioactivity. It receives waste from a range of producers, including nuclear power stations, defence establishments, general industry, hospitals and universities. The NDA said more than £100m (€119m, $131m) has been invested in the site’s infrastructure over the past decade to maintain it as an important national asset.
Nucnet 19th July 2016 read more »
Environmentalists are turning towards nuclear power as one of the cleanest sources of energy. Nuclear does not produce greenhouse gases or air pollutants like coal, and environmentalists are now seeing it as a vital energy source which can protect the environment. Kirsty Gogan, director of Energy for Humanity, says: “Everyone thinks nuclear is the most dangerous source of power, and actually it is the safest. If you look at the conservation impact of energy technologies across the board, nuclear just comes out again and again almost against every metric whether it is water use, resource use, emissions and air quality. “The obvious reason is you are not burning anything. You have a vast amount, more output per kilogram. Even the waste stream itself is contained and managed – there is no waste output into the environment.”
Business Reporter 20th Jul;y 2016 read more »
The government has offered the clearest signal yet that the merger of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Department of Business, Innovation, and Skills (BIS) is intended to strengthen the UK’s efforts to tackle climate change, confirming the new department will enable a “whole-economy” approach to decarbonisation. Speaking following his appointment last week as the secretary of state at the new Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS), Greg Clark said the department was “charged with delivering a comprehensive industrial strategy, leading government’s relationship with business, furthering our world-class science base, delivering affordable, clean energy and tackling climate change”.
Business Green 19th July 2016 read more »
With the ministerial merry-go-round of the new Prime Minister’s cabinet reshuffle now complete, a degree of confusion remains over who exactly holds the keys to the Government’s green agenda. Here, edie lists the energy and environment ministers that have traded places in the recent overhaul.
Edie 19th July 2016 read more »
The merger between the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills “does not mean the clock is being turned back”. However, the marriage will not be “cost free”, the director of the UK Energy Research Centre, Jim Watson, has warned. “Some people see opportunities to integrate energy and climate policy more firmly with wider industrial strategy, while others are concerned over an apparent downgrading of climate change as a policy priority,” he said, at an event in London. He said “time will tell” which view is correct but the merger “does not mean that the clock is being turned back to the days when government viewed energy as a priority, or when energy and climate issues were split across different departments”.
Utility Week 19th July 2016 read more »
Jim Watson: As part of the new Prime Minister’s extensive reshuffle late last week, it was announced that the Departments of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) are to merge to form a new Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Taken at face value, this looks like a backwards step to a time when energy and climate policy were much less important. But is the creation of BEIS necessarily a bad thing?
SPRU 19th July 2016 read more »
HANT Members will be joining a UK-wide day of Action & Awareness Raising 11:00 to 14:00 Saturday 23rd July 2016 at the entrance to Inverness Station next to the Eastgate Centre (just outside ScotRail entrance and platforms) HANT s urging its members and supporters to come and support HANT’s Campaign to stop nuclear trains running through Inverness and on the whole route from Georgemas Junction to Barrow-in-Furness – en route from Dounreay to Sellafield – described by environmental organisations as Europe’s most toxic nuclear site.
HANT 19th July 2016 read more »
Radiation detection firm Kromek believes its product, which helps security services protect cities from nuclear terrorism, presents a billion dollar opportunity in the next five to 10 years. The DS3 detectors — small, blackberry-like devices that can be carried around by individual police officers — create a comprehensive heat map of radiation. This then identifies irregular radiation sources, such as a person moving through a busy public space with a dirty bomb.
City AM 18th July 2016 read more »
In the debate on Trident nuclear WMD renewal in Parliament on Monday, the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, in a peculiarly ill-informed speech – demonstrating her political career that has virtually no experience in security or defence affairs- made, inter alia, the following unsupported assertions: “….today the threats from countries such as Russia and North Korea remain very real. North Korea has stated a clear intent to develop and deploy a nuclear weapon, and it continues to work towards that goal, in flagrant violation of a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions.” North Korea has developed nuclear weapons. But what she did not say was they did it withcopied British bomb-making technology. There is significant evidence that the British Magnox nuclear plant design – which was primarily built as a military plutonium production factory – provided the blueprint for the North Korean military plutonium programme based in Yongbyon. Here is what Douglas (now Lord) Hogg, then a Conservative minister, admitted in a written parliamentary reply in 1994: “We do not know whether North Korea has drawn on plans of British reactors in the production of its own reactors. North Korea possesses a graphite moderated reactor which, while much smaller, has generic similarities to the reactors operated by British Nuclear Fuels plc. However, design information of these British reactors is not classified and has appeared in technical journals.”
David Lowry’s Blog 18th July 2016 read more »
Deep in the vast forests of Russia’s Ural mountains lies the forbidden city of Ozersk. Behind guarded gates and barbed wire fences stands a beautiful enigma – a hypnotic place that seems to exist in a different dimension. Codenamed City 40, Ozersk was the birthplace of the Soviet nuclear weapons programme after the second world war. For decades, this city of 100,000 people did not appear on any maps, and its inhabitants’ identities were erased from the Soviet census. The city’s residents know the truth, however: that their water is contaminated, their mushrooms and berries are poisoned, and their children may be sick. Ozersk and the surrounding region is one of the most contaminated places on the planet, referred to by some as the “graveyard of the Earth”. Yet the majority of residents do not want to leave. They believe they are Russia’s “chosen ones”, and even take pride in being citizens of a closed city. This is where they were born, got married, and raised their families. It is where they buried their parents, and some of their sons and daughters too.
Guardian 20th July 2016 read more »
Throughout his political career, Corbyn has based his political integrity on a steadfast commitment to a set of principles regardless of public opinion, not least on nuclear non-proliferation. Asked about his adamant anti-Trident stance, Corbyn said: “I’ve been involved in peace transformation all my life … [but] I recognise people are going to take some time to get into that position.” Corbyn seemed isolated and hemmed in by Parliament’s decision to replace Trident. However worthy, standing ground in Parliament is an inadequate way to rally people to a new position. By contrast, the largest cohort opposing Trident, the Scottish National Party, injected a populist flavour into the debate. Unlike Corbyn, their interventions appealed not just to moral opinion but to a Scottish popular mood, driving up against the consensus of the Westminster Parliament. One would suppose from SNP House of Commons leader Angus Robertson’s tirades against Trident that a majority of Scots oppose its replacement. This is not so. Not all polls indicate that the SNP has the support of a majority on this issue but it acts as if it does — and it does it no harm. This weekend thousands marched against Trident in Scotland. The SNP’s ability to present opposition to Trident as Scottish common sense is impressive. Indeed, the groundswell against Trident has grown to such an extent that Scottish Labour also opposes its replacement. The SNP combines the moral case for disarmament with a popular pledge to redirect the billions that would be saved and invest in childcare and the NHS. Trident has become part of an anti-austerity message that resonates well beyond the core group of voters whose opposition to Trident is purely moral.
Morning Star 20th July 2016 read more »
Renewables – solar
Solar energy has grown 100-fold in this country in the past decade. Globally, solar has doubled seven times since 2000, and Dubai received a bid recently for 800 megawatts of solar at a stunning “US 2.99 cents per kilowatt hour” — unsubsidized! For context, the average residential price for electricity in the United States is 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. Solar energy has been advancing considerably faster than anyone expected just a few years ago thanks to aggressive market-based deployment efforts around the globe. Since it’s hard to keep up with the speed-of-light changes, and this is the fuel that will power more and more of the global economy in the near future, here are all the latest charts and facts to understand it. If you are looking for one chart to sum up the whole solar energy miracle, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) Chairman Michael Liebreich has one from his keynote address at BNEF’s annual conference in April titled “In Search of the Miraculous”: Thanks to sustained long-term deployment programs, Liebreich explained, “We’ve seen the costs come down by a factor of 150 since 1975. We’ve seen volume up by 115,000.” “How much more miracle-y do you need your miracles to be,” Liebreich added. What that chart doesn’t reveal is that the price drop and the sales volume increase are directly linked. There is a learning curve: Over the past four decades, for every doubling in scale of the solar industry, the price of solar modules has dropped roughly 26 percent. Given how fast solar PV has been coming down in price — and given the world’s commitment in Paris last December to keep ratcheting down carbon pollution in the coming decades to keep total global warming “well below 2°C” — it seems entirely possible if not likely that solar power will outperform the IEA’s scenario. Indeed, it’s precisely because clean energy has been moving at the speed of light that “almost everything you know about climate change solutions is probably outdated,” as I’ve been detailing for months. Stay tuned to this channel for more surprises.
Climate Progress 18th July 2016 read more »
The Renewable Energy Association – the largest trade body for the industry in the UK – has launched a new guide to help commercial building owners and tenants looking to reduce their carbon footprint and gain control over their on-going energy costs. The guide was written by REA members with legal, financial and technical expertise in commercial rooftop solar, and has been published jointly with the BRE National Solar Centre.
Scottish Energy News 20th July 2016 read more »
Renewables – Offshore Wind
Conservationists have won a legal challenge in Scotland’s highest court against four major offshore wind farm projects. RSPB Scotland opposed the developments in the Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay over concerns for wildlife. Scottish ministers approved the Inch Cape, Neart na Gaoithe and Seagreen Alpha and Bravo projects in 2014. The projects could provide power for 1.4 million homes. RSPB Scotland lawyers argued that the Scottish ministers were in breach of the requirements placed upon them by the law when they made their original decisions. The lawyers argued that the ministers didn’t give proper consideration to the area being a haven for rare wildlife. Judge Lord Stewart ruled in favour of RSPB Scotland at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
BBC 19th July 2016 read more »
Multi-billion pound plans to build a series of wind farms off the coast of Scotland are in doubt after the RSPB won a legal challenge to quash their planning consent over fears they would kill too many birds. A judge ruled in favour of the RSPB’s claim that there were flaws in way the Scottish Government granted consent for the Neart na Gaoithe, Inch Cape, SeaGreen Alpha and SeaGreen Bravo wind farms, which together would have comprised 335 turbines generating up to 2.3 GW of power. The RSPB claimed that the projects, in the firths of Forth and Tay, would together result in the deaths of “thousands of gannets, puffins, kittiwakes and other seabirds from iconic internationally protected wildlife sites like the Bass Rock and the Isle of May” each year. The £2bn, 450MW Neart na Gaoithe project was already facing the axe after a subsidy contract from the UK Government was revoked in May as the developer was unable to invest due to the ongoing legal challenge.
Telegraph 19th July 2016 read more »
The cost of offshore wind power in the North Sea is 30% lower than that of new nuclear, writes Kieran Cooke – helped along by low oil and steel prices, reduced maintenance and mass production. By 2030 the sector is expected to supply 7% of Europe’s electricity. A building boom is underway offshore in Europe. Up to 400 giant wind turbines are due to be built off the northeast coast of the UK in what will be the world’s largest offshore wind development. Output from the Dogger Bank project will be 1.2 GW (gigawatts) – enough to power more than a million homes. Next year, a 150-turbine wind farm off the coast of the Netherlands is due to start operating, and other schemes along the Dutch coast are in the works. Costs have also dropped due to lower prices on the world market for steel, a major building component in offshore installations. And new methods have been adopted for laying foundations for pylons at sea. The industry says that as projects have grown in size, economies of scale have been achieved. The cost of cables connecting the wind pylons to power networks onshore has also been reduced. Initially, cables were produced to operate at full capacity at all times, but new cables that are less bulky and less expensive are able to cope with the intermittent power produced. Earlier this month, DONG Energy of Denmark, the world’s largest offshore wind company, won a bid to build two wind farms 22 kilometres off the Dutch coast. The company says power will be produced for less than any other offshore scheme to date. It is estimated that when the scheme is fully operational, electricity will cost €72.70 per megawatt hour (MWh) and €87 / MWh when transmission costs are included. At present, the cheapest offshore power is €103 MWh, generated by a wind farm off the coast of Denmark.
Ecologist 19th July 2016 read more »
A damning report on serial failures in the Green Deal energy efficiency scheme published today appears to provide an explanation as to why the Dept for Energy (DECC) was suddenly abolished last week by the prime minister without explanation. It is likely that DECC was axed simply to minimise the political fall-out from today’s highly-critical report by MPs on the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee – published while parliament is on holiday.
Scottish Energy News 20th July 2016 read more »
The Public Accounts Committee report says that failures highlighted by the design and implementation of household energy efficiency schemes put public money at risk and must not be repeated. The Committee’s report concludes take up for the Government’s Green Deal loans scheme was “woefully low” because the scheme was not adequately tested. The forecast of demand for Green Deal loans was excessively optimistic, says the Committee, and “gave a completely misleading picture of the scheme’s prospects to Parliament and other stakeholders”. It raises concerns that while taxpayers provided £25 million—more than a third of the initial investment in the Green Deal Finance Company—to cover set-up and operational costs, the Department of Energy and Climate Change had no formal role in approving company expenditure or ensuring it achieved value for money. The Committee also finds the Government lacks the information it needs to measure progress against the objectives of the complementary Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme, including its impact on fuel poverty.
Parliament 20th July 2016 read more »
Demand Side Management
Britain could save billions of pounds in energy costs by paying businesses to shift their power usage or run their backup generators instead of building new power plants, an industry report has found. Business energy users could ease strain on the grid by 9.8 gigawatts (GW) – a sixth of peak UK power demand, or more three times the capacity of the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) said. National Grid and the National Infrastructure Commission have both backed increased use of such techniques, known as “demand side response” services, to help keep the lights on. So far as little as 1GW of such capacity is thought to be on offer, but the ADE, which represents groups providing demand side response services, claimed there was scope for an almost ten-fold increase. The group estimated that it would be economically viable for industrial users to temporarily cut their demand by 2.8GW, by scheduling power-intensive processes for different times of day. Commercial users such as retailers or public sector organisations could provide another 1.7GW of capacity, for example by temporarily turning off refrigeration units and letting the insulation keep goods cold. A further 5.3GW could be provided by getting businesses to run their existing small-scale power generators such as combined heat and power plants or diesel generators, which provide backup power for sites such as hospitals.
Telegraph 19th July 2016 read more »
The government’s cancellation of a pioneering £1bn competition to capture and store carbon emissions may have pushed up the bill for meeting the UK’s climate targets by £30bn, according to a report from the UK’s official spending watchdog. The National Audit Office (NAO) report, published on Wednesday, says the move has delayed by a decade the deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology in the UK, which takes emissions from power stations and industry and buries them so they do not contribute to global warming.
Guardian 20th July 2016 read more »
The decision of the then Chancellor George Osborne to cancel the Peterhead carbon-capture competition last year will impose a 15-year time lag on the industry in the UK and may also increase the costs of meeting CO2-reduction targets. A report by the National Audit Office published today also reveals that the now-abolished Dept for Energy (DECC) told the UK chancellor this during last year’s spending review – ie before Osborne made his announcement – ie that without large scale deployment of carbon-capture infrastructure, it could cost the UK an additional £30 billion to meet the UK’s 2050 carbon targets.
Scottish Energy News 20th July 2016 read more »