21 December 2015

Energy Policy

The rest of the world is powering ahead on renewables and we’re being left behind,’ writes Green party leader Natalie Bennett. Small- and medium-sized enterprises around the country who’ve invested in training staff – and could be taking on many more apprentices to improve Britain’s skill base – for solar installation and home energy efficiency could be given a secure future by a sensible response to the feed-in tariff consultation and a recognition that housing is part of our national infrastructure and desperately needs investment. That investment could tackle Britain’s awful, indefensible excess winter deaths – the reality that many people, particularly older people, are in homes that are impossible, or too expensive, to heat, and are dying and suffering serious ill health as a consequence. Investment in local public transport – buses, local trains, walking and cycling – could tackle social exclusion (two-thirds of jobseekers don’t have access to a car), cut the toll of air pollution deaths, and reduce the pressure on the NHS from obesity and diabetes. Support for community energy schemes would not only give us a decentralised, resilient energy supply but ensure people can invest in their local communities, and keep that money circulating locally, rather than swishing off into tax havens. In short, tackling climate change isn’t a cost to bear but an opportunity to rework our economy and society so that it creates jobs people can build a life on, ensures households are warm and comfortable and communities prosperous, and our air is breathable.

Guardian 20th Dec 2015 read more »

MPs have published the three areas of work by which the House of Commons Energy Committee aims to hold Energy Minister Amber Rudd to account – with the top priority being the UK’s climate-change targets. Their work programme includes: Scrutinising DECC policies to identify whether all three aspects of the energy trilemma are being addressed by the Government in a balanced way. Investigating the potential impact of new and possibly disruptive technologies to assess whether the UK is adequately prepared to deal with the changes that are already happening and to capitalise on the opportunities that these new technologies will bring. Focussing on the Government’s long-term approach to meeting climate targets, including the outcome of the Paris summit and the fifth carbon budget and the associated carbon plan.

Scottish Energy News 21st Dec 2015 read more »

The UK House of Lords has called on the European Council to ask the European Commission to introduce a monitoring and enforcement mechanism that guarantees the agreement and ensures Member States live up to their own commitments and share fairly the effort to meet the 2030 renewable targets. The Lords’ report also calls on the UK government to do more to report on its own progress on energy and climate goals. The Government should also be clearer about its own long term renewable energy strategy and energy and climate targets to ensure investors are confident to invest in energy for the long term.

Scottish Energy News 21st Dec 2015 read more »

Hinkley

Cannington’s bypass has finally opened bringing relief to the villagers who have had to put up with lorries rumbling through the streets. Now heavy traffic bound for Hinkley can take the new road from the roundabout at the Nether Stowey side of the village.

Bridgwater Mercury 20th Dec 2015 read more »

Toshiba

Toshiba Corp said on Monday that it expects to report a record annual loss of 550bn yen (£3bn) as it carries out a restructuring to streamline its focus on chips and nuclear energy following a $1.3bn (157bn yen) accounting scandal. The Japanese firm, which expects sales to drop 6.8% to 6.2 trn yen, put the wider loss down to restructuring costs and a deterioration in its semiconductor and infrastructure divisions. Toshiba plans to cut up to 7,000 jobs in consumer electronics while 5% of its global workforce could be culled by the end of the financial year.

Share Cast 21st Dec 2015 read more »

Guardian 21st Dec 2015 read more »

Reuters 21st Dec 2015 read more »

Capacity Market

The conventional wisdom for a long time has been that you cannot store electricity – you have to generate it, send it down the wires, and, by the way engage in a lot of complicated balancing arrangements to ensure that, on any one day, anticipated demand meets whatever it is you are sending out. And it is this ‘truth’ that lies behind the forecasts of tightening capacity margins that we are again hearing about for this winter – the capacity of the power stations we have on the system to provide for the highest likely demand at some stages in the coming winter is increasingly marginal. This is not helped by some gas fired power stations being ‘mothballed’ by their owners because they don’t make money generating, and the closure of some coal fired power stations as they wear out and fail to meet important pollution standards. It is no longer really true that we cannot store electricity: in fact there have been short term storage schemes, using electricity generated in times of low demand to pump water uphill and release it downhill again to recreate electricity at peak times. But these are essentially ‘day balancing schemes’ and also lose a lot of electricity in the process. What we can now do, increasingly effectively, is store electricity in batteries. I do think Government ought to get seriously behind the next stages of battery storage development. Battery power may well turn out to be that additional arm of reliable back up power that fills the gap between sufficient and insufficient capacity for winter demand – and by the way, it potentially flattens that demand if operated smartly in any event. And it may not need subsidies in operation to any great extent, because of the ability it has, at scale, to sell into the system at most advantageous points, and make its investment costs back fairly rapidly.

Alan Whitehead MP 20th Dec 2015 read more »

Saudi Arabia

Russia is prepared to assist Saudi Arabia develop nuclear energy power plants to replace its dependence on fossil fuels, Arab News reports. Sergey Kiriyenko, director of the Russian nuclear regulatory body Rosatom, made the above statement when he met with Hashem Abdullah Yamani, president of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), a KACARE official said last week.

Kallanish Energy 21st Dec 2015 read more »

US

Thousands of people are expected next year to tour the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, home of the world’s first full-sized nuclear reactor and the most polluted US nuclear weapons production site. Hanford, near Richland, about 200 miles east of Seattle in south-central Washington state, is the newest national park. Visitors will not, however, be allowed anywhere near the country’s largest collection of toxic radioactive waste.

Guardian 20th Dec 2015 read more »

Daily Mail 21st Dec 2015 read more »

Japan

About 3,600 officials and residents have taken part in nuclear disaster drills near Japan’s Sendai Nuclear Power Plant. The plant was the first to be reopened following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, despite warnings over tectonic risks. The drills in Kagoshima Prefecture in southwestern Japan, within 30 km of the power plant, simulated a serious nuclear accident, Kyodo news reported. At least 1,200 residents who were living within 5 km from the Sendai plant were evacuated by buses and other vehicles. These exercises assumed that the nuclear plant might have been hit by an earthquake ranked 6 or higher on the Japanese scale of 7 and the plant lost power sources which made it unable to cool its reactors.

Russia Today 20th Dec 2015 read more »

Security at France’s 58 nuclear power plants was purportedly raised to its highest level last month as a result of the terrorist attacks in Paris, stoking concern over the safety of Japan’s nuclear facilities. After the triple meltdown in Fukushima in 2011, Japan shut down all 48 of its viable commercial reactors in light of the crisis. But attempts are now being made to bring many back online. And despite opposition from anti-nuclear activists and groups, two reactors in Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, were restarted this fall and summer, with applications for 26 more pending Nuclear Regulation Authority approval. “I can understand there are concerns after terrorist attacks like the ones in Paris,” said NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka at a news conference on Nov. 18. “For now, we will tighten security measures by asking (for the) cooperation of related organizations like the police,” he said. But the NRA’s recent decision to revise its requirements to cope with terrorism has fueled fears over potential attacks on Japanese plants. The NRA’s new safety rules, introduced in July 2013 based on lessons learned from the Fukushima crisis, gave nuclear plant operators five years to set up special backup facilities to cope with possible attacks.

Japan Times 20th Dec 2015 read more »

Steel barrier creating more contaminated water: The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant says a steel barrier that it built along the plant’s embankment is causing an unexpected problem. Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, installed the steel piling wall in October to prevent contaminated groundwater from flowing into the sea. The utility had planned to pump up the blocked water, remove radioactive materials from most of it, and release it into the sea. But on Friday, TEPCO officials told nuclear regulators that the water has too high a salt content to be processed by decontamination equipment. They also said the amount of pumped-up water was larger than expected. The officials say workers are therefore releasing the water not into the sea, but into reactor buildings. They say the amount is about 400 tons per day. The utility had previously been reducing the flow of water into the plant’s buildings. Workers have been pumping up groundwater from wells inside the compound, and had managed to reduce its inflow into buildings from 400 tons to 200 tons per day. TEPCO says it plans to pump up more groundwater upstream so that less reaches the embankment. It says it will also try to process the salty water by monitoring changes in its quality.

NHK 18th Dec 2015 read more »

100% Renewables

The Paris pact ratifies an ongoing renewable energy revolution spreading across the globe. Each year since 2013, the world has added more power-generating capacity fueled by renewable sources than from coal, natural gas and oil combined. Global investment in renewable energy hit $310bn last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And major companies are pledging to go 100% renewable, too. Much of that growth in clean, renewable energy has come from the subnational movement, in which cities, states and regions are banding together and leading even if their national governments are lagging. This bottom-up approach – one that so many people around the world are already part of – is what was most alive about Paris. Meanwhile, cities from London to Los Angeles, from Jakarta to Rotterdam, are pioneering innovative approaches to cutting their own carbon footprints. Momentum is growing, too: following the meeting, Republicans and Democrats in San Diego, America’s eighth largest city, unanimously agreed to transition to 100% clean energy.

Guardian 20th Dec 2015 read more »

Renewables – offshore wind

THE UK Government has been accused of trying to wreck Scotland’s offshore renewable industry, as three wind-farm developments have been put on hold. The sites, which were awarded planning permission more thanover a year ago, have been held up, as developers cannot secure contracts to supply energy to the UK grid. Officials at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) indicated it could still be another full year till the permits to provide the green energy go up for auction again. Campaigners and MSP’s have said that the rigid contract structure is another unnecessary roadblock, which has halted the Scottish renewable industry, and endangered the chances of Scotland reaching its renewable energy targets. A 110-turbine development at Inch Cape, just off Dundee, and anothe r large farm in the Outer Moray Firth have both been hampered by UK energy contract scheme, and the DECC hasve said there will not be another auction till late 2016 the end of next year. Scottish Greens co-convenor Patrick Harvie, said: “The UK Government appears determined to wreck Scotland’s offshore as well as onshore renewables industry. Certainty for investors is essential if we are to capitalise on our clean energy potential.

The National 21st Dec 2015 read more »

Renewables – Onshore wind

Natural Power has successfully completed the ground investigation at the Druim Leathann Wind Farm on the Isle of Lewis on behalf of 2020 Renewables – paving the way for later construction of the remote and highly environmentally-sensitive 14 turbine development, which is due to be generating electricity by 2020. The £70 million Druim Leathann Wind Farm was granted planning permission in April 2013 amidst some controversy when councillors went against their own policy to grant permission due to the resounding support of the local community on the Isle of Lewis. The impact of a project of this size will have a major impact the Lewis community. The community benefit payments could be worth £294,000 per year – £7m over the lifetime of the development. The wind farm is expected to bring £63m to the Lewis economy and create 70 jobs during construction.

Scottish Energy News 21st Dec 2015 read more »

Renewables – solar

The Christmas tree in the reception of what used to be Mark Group, an energy company with more than 1,000 staff, looks jaunty enough but underneath it there are barely a handful of presents. “They’re fake,” confides one of the few remaining staff. It is a grim reminder of the hardship being faced by hundreds of people who lost their jobs when the company went into administration in October. George Baker, 27, a thermographer, was part of a team analysing thermal images of homes to see how much energy they were wasting. The cost of Christmas presents for his two daughters, aged three and six, will come from his jobseeker’s allowance and his partner’s part-time wage, with support from friends and family. “We’ve tried to the best of our ability not to let this affect them and we’ve kept their routine the same, as far as possible,” Baker explained after the weekly trip to collect his dole money. “Christmas is just around the corner so that’s one of the main struggles at the moment.” George was one of nearly 1,000 workers who were informed by administrators from Deloitte that their services were no longer required at the Leicester-based business.

Guardian 20th Dec 2015 read more »

Biomass

The world produced a record 26 million tonnes (Mt) of wood pellets last year, fuelled by increasing demand for renewable power. Despite record volumes, the UK increased its share of imports to a third of the 14Mt total, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). UK wood pellet imports have risen rapidly as Drax, its largest power station, has progressively converted units to burn biomass instead of coal. UK imports have tripled since 2012 and its share of global trade has risen to 33%, up from 17% in 2012. Carbon Brief ran an investigation of whether biomass burning is good for the climate earlier this year. Related research for the Department of Energy and Climate Change is now overdue.

Carbon Brief 21st Dec 2015 read more »

Fossil Fuels

If you think the fall in the oil price is dramatic and disruptive, take a moment to consider the natural gas market. The world’s three main gas markets – in Europe, the US and Asia – may be distinct but the growth of trade in liquefied natural gas which can take it across the world has linked them. The impact of a swing in one market soon spreads across the globe. According to the excellent analysis from Energy Aspects, prices for LNG in the key north-east Asian market – the supply into Japan and Korea – are down this year by more than 50 per cent to between $7 and 8 per million British thermal units (Btu), even allowing for a slight seasonal ramp up in the fourth quarter. That is almost 70 per cent down from the peak in 2013. Unfortunately, at the time of that peak many companies got carried away and set in train dozens of new LNG projects worldwide. The complex technology of liquefaction means that each project is expensive – costing at least $5bn and often much more. Of the projects planned dozens have been cancelled, often forcing investors to write off substantial sums. But the bad news is that many are still under construction. Once work has begun, it is very hard for companies to go back on a major investment decision. The result is that 40 per cent (an extra 128m tonnes per annum, according to the International Gas Union) is due to be added to capacity in the next few years. Seven new plants are due on-stream in Australia alone in the next two years, quadrupling export capacity. The market is also about to be further destabilised by the addition of new export volumes from the US, starting with the Sabine plant in Louisiana which should be on-stream early next year. With US natural gas prices back to $ 2.5 per million Btu the temptation for producers to look for export markets is very strong. Demand is flat, and in a number of key markets, including Japan, it is actually falling. A number of buyers holding long-term contracts are reselling supplies leading inevitably to a further weakening of prices. Even that is not the limit of the problem. By 2019, if everything goes to plan Gazprom will be supplying another 55bn cu feet of gas through the new Nordstream 2 line into a European market where demand is declining as subsidised renewables gain market share. And looking further beyond 2020 comes Iran, which is actively seeking a share in the market to exploit its huge low-cost gas resource base. The Iranians join a queue of countries from Turkmenistan to Australia with gas waiting to be developed.

FT 21st Dec 2015 read more »

Letter Dr G Rayner: Your report the granting of new fracking licences to 124 sites across the UK and quotes energy minister Andrea Leadsom who says that fracking will secure “homegrown energy to hardworking families and businesses for decades to come”. I’m not sure if this will be the most likely outcome. The Financial Times reported that in the US, the model for Britain, 16 fracking companies had already defaulted, while many others were facing economic catastrophe. The price of oil and gas has fallen steadily since. The only way these companies could make money in the first place is because they could avoid costly environmental and health scrutiny, a fact confirmed by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s June 2015 report on fracking and drinking water. In effect, the industry’s external costs have been pushed far into the future when the potential pollution effects might then be revealed. Many of the current operators are unlikely to be around. The implications for the UK are obvious. If government claims that our “homegrown” industry is going to be better regulated than in the US then their costs will be higher still, particularly in the more densely populated UK. It seems to me that, given the serious financial scenarios facing such companies, local authorities and water utilities should demand sureties to cover likely clean-up costs. As with the nuclear industry in the past, it should not be the taxpayer who picks up the tab.

FT 20th Dec 2015 read more »

Climate

Ed Miliband has vowed to build a “high-ambition coalition” of UK businesses, trade unions and civic society to challenge the government’s “backward” environmental policies. The former Labour leader said the agreement reached at the UN climate talks in Paris this month provided a historic opportunity to tackle climate change. But he said time was running out. “This is the thing my kids will judge me on,” Miliband told the Guardian. “Did you do something about this? Were you the last generation not to get it or the first generation to get it? I think that is in the balance now.” Miliband, who stood down as Labour leader after losing the election in May, said he would throw his energies into rallying support for a cross-party coalition – encompassing business, civic society and religious groups – that was capable of persuading the government to change direction on environmental policy.

Guardian 20th Dec 2015 read more »

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Published: 21 December 2015