For a brief moment last month, it looked like the Somerset coast was destined to become the home of the most expensive object in the world — Hinkley Point nuclear plant. But after a last minute intervention by Prime Minister Theresa May, the government’s nuclear ambitions were suddenly put on hold. In the run up to the decision, Hinkley was almost unanimously condemned by the British press. So in case you missed it at the time, here’s a quick look at what’s been said.
Greenpeace 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
“Absolute chaos” is how the British Shadow Energy Secretary, Barry Gardener, has described the Conservative government’s handling of what may be the UK’s first nuclear power plant in 20 years. On July 28, the day the Hinkley Point C project was due to receive its final approval, Theresa May’s new cabinet instead revealed the proposal was under review. Hinkley Point C (HPC) was first envisioned in the mid-2000s as part of Tony Blair’s ‘nuclear renaissance’. Ignoring the protests of his own cabinet, the then-Prime Minister wholeheartedly endorsed a new generation of nuclear power stations in the hopes of providing Britain with long-term low-carbon power. Marketed by its owner, EDF Energy, as the solution to Britain’s looming energy crisis, the ill-fated Hinkley project has promised so much, yet seems set to deliver very little. Early ambitions for the venture now seem unlikely, while its ever-mounting costs are hard to ignore. The construction bill alone now stands at £18bn ($23.5bn) – triple its original £6bn ($7.8bn) price tag.
The New Economy 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
Alternatives to Hinkley
Theresa May’s delay in giving final approval to Hinkley also gives us a chance to look more holistically at future energy policy. With around 4.5 million UK households suffering from fuel poverty and over 30% of greenhouse gas emissions attributable to heat, even with 100% renewable electricity we would still need to do a lot more to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the heat sector to meet climate targets. In Aberdeen councillors have just unanimously agreed to an £11m investment to expand the City’s district heating network — offering 350 more homes the chance to save on their energy bills. Aberdeen Heat and Power (AHP) has grown substantially since it began in 2002 and currently provides heat for 2,361 flats in 33 multi-story blocks, two sheltered housing blocks and 13 public buildings. District heating networks can be fed with heat from a range of sources from gas-fired and biomass-fired Combined Heat and Power (CHP) stations which also generate electricity, to deep boreholes which extract geothermal heat from underground. In Glasgow heat is being captured from trapped water in old flooded coal mines via heat pumps. In Lerwick Shetland Heat and Power is hoping to extend its heat network by installing a 2MW heat pump made by Star Renewables in Glasgow to abstract heat from Lerwick Harbour. In the London Borough of Newham there are plans to harness the energy from ‘fatbergs’, the bus-size balls of grease which cost Thames Water an estimated £1 million a month to remove from its sewers. Despite enthusiastic support for energy storage technology both sides of the political spectrum –including The Telegraph right – the government is yet to be convinced we can cope with a high percentage of intermittent renewables. This is where CHP-district heating networks could be crucial. In Germany, for instance, as wind and solar PV take on a greater proportion of total electricity production, CHP plants are expected to take on the role of providing more flexible electricity generation. At the moment CHP plants focus on meeting the demand for heat. Electricity production is seen as a useful by-product. But in future the focus will switch to providing electricity when the output from wind and solar is low. On the other hand district heating systems could absorb large quantities of surplus electricity by using heat pumps to heat water which can be stored for use later.
Energydesk 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
Whilst much of the media may have criticised the Hinkley Point deal, there has not been as much analysis of what could replace the reactors and the electricity it may generate. NFLA is contributing to that debate by publishing a report by two commissioned experts – its Policy Advisor Pete Roche and the energy policy expert Professor Keith Barnham – which show dramatic evidence of the growth and potential of a number of renewable technologies. NFLA reissues the research produced for it by Professor Keith Barnham of the dramatic growth of renewable energy in recent years. This has been needlessly placed under genuine threat by Government cuts to financial support for solar, wind and other renewable solutions. The report puts forward six ways that renewable energy can still grow despite such retrograde cuts. Professor Barnham has just returned from a visit to the United States and looked at a number of promising new initiatives in renewable electricity, as well as discussing sustained progress on the ultimate renewable challenge: developing a solar fuel that could eventually replace gasoline in cars, trucks, buses, trains and aircraft.
NFLA 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
Countries with a strong national commitment to nuclear energy tend to make slower progress towards meeting their climate targets, compared to countries without nuclear energy or with plans to reduce it, according to research published yesterday by the University of Sussex. The researchers looked at the progress of European countries towards cutting carbon emissions and increasing their share of renewable energy under the EU’s 2020 Strategy. They found nuclear-free countries such as Denmark and Norway have made the most progress towards their climate targets, while pro-nuclear countries such as France and the UK have been slower to tackle emissions and roll out clean energy sources. “Looked at on its own, nuclear power is sometimes noisily propounded as an attractive response to climate change,” Andy Stirling, professor of science and technology policy at the University of Sussex, said in a statement. “Yet if alternative options are rigorously compared, questions are raised about cost-effectiveness, timeliness, safety and security.”
Business Green 23rd Aug 2016 read more »
Since its initial adoption, the EU’s 2020 Strategy – to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, increase the share of renewable energy to at least 20% of consumption, and achieve energy savings of 20% or more by 2020 – has witnessed substantial albeit uneven progress. This article addresses the question of what role nuclear power generation has played, and can or should play in future, towards attaining the EU 2020 Strategy, particularly with reference to decreasing emissions and increasing renewables.
Taylor & Francis (accessed) 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
Science News 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
There is a long-standing debate over price vs. quantity approaches to supporting the deployment of renewable electricity technologies. In the context of a recent shift from quantity to price-based support, the UK has also introduced a new form of budgetary framework, the Levy Control Framework (LCF). The introduction of the LCF has been very important for investors but has received relatively little attention in the academic literature. The paper gives an overview of the LCF, explores its effects on renewables policy, on consumers and on investor confidence arguing that an unintended consequence of its introduction has been to increase uncertainty, through interactions with underlying support mechanisms. A number of problems with the current scope and design of the LCF are noted. It is argued that the LCF is best understood as aimed at avoiding a political backlash against renewable support policy in a context where the benefits of such policy are concentrated economically and socially. The paper concludes by placing the LCF within a wider context of a shift towards greater budgetary control over renewable energy support policy across European countries.
IGov 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
Letter: Leonard S Hyman When assessing Hinkley Point you might want to consider these three points. First, the fact that Hinkley Point power will cost twice as much as the current wholesale price is irrelevant. Just about all non-fossil new power sources (with the possible exception of energy efficiency) will cost far more than the current wholesale price. The big problem with the wholesale market is that it does not provide a price high enough for anybody to build any kind of clean new power plant. Economists refer to this as the “missing money” problem. Second, cost of capital really matters in the nuclear business. I’d estimate that pre-tax cost of capital may account for close to half of power costs. Third, France saved big money when it standardised its nuclear programme and built the same reactor again and again. The Americans did not standardise. Each company built a custom model. You can’t learn from experience that way. Perhaps the UK should have looked at the nuclear programme on a nationwide rather than on a project by project basis. A hodge podge of projects all doing something different and importing everything throws away opportunities to reap economies and create jobs.
FT 23rd Aug 2016 read more »
UK needs to invest £215bn in energy by 2030: Barclays by 2030 in order to replace aging assets and decarbonise, analysis by Barclays Research has found. As the country undergoes an “energy revolution” nearly half – £95 billion – will need to be spent on disruptive technologies such as renewables…
Utility Week 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
Letter Mark Herlach: In “Generating criticism” Kiran Stacey provides a comprehensive review of the history leading to the current state of affairs in which the UK, a nuclear pioneer, must now rely on foreign suppliers to design and build its next general of nuclear power stations. However, one key part of the story is missing. Britain had its own nuclear champion, British Nuclear Fuels, which was dismantled less than a decade ago and would have provided the antidote to the infirmity described by your correspondent. BNFL owned Westinghouse, a pre-eminent global nuclear company with an advanced reactor design – the AP1000 – that will now be built on British soil under the Toshiba banner.
FT23rd Aug 2016 read more »
Britain’s decision to leave the European Union may push back its planned exit from coal, a mainstay in the nation’s energy supply for more than a century. As the region’s second-biggest economy plans to close its last coal-fired power plant in less than a decade, it will be forced to rely more than ever on imports of natural gas and electricity. By leaving the EU, Britain could lose easy access to foreign supplies through the bloc’s single market, just as it plans to almost triple the number of power cables linking it to European nations by 2022. EDF still expects Hinkley Point C to be constructed within a decade after getting final approval from the U.K. government. Others are less optimistic. “Even if Hinkley is built, it won’t be until the 2030s and clearly there will be a supply gap in the 2020s that needs to be monitored,” UCL’s Dorfman said.
Bloomberg 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
Energy industry experts think Britain could get most of its electricity from small modular nuclear reactors (SMR) by the mid-2020s, according to a Monday report by Reuters. “The real promise of SMRs is their modularisation. You can assemble them in a factory with an explicable design meaning consistent standards and predicable costs and delivery timescale,” Anurag Gupta, director of infrastructure at the consulting firm KPMG, told Reuters. About half of Britain’s power plants will be shut down by 2030 as older conventional nuclear plants end their operational lives, and coal plants are shut down to meet the country’s global warming goals. Experts say SMRs could provide the U.K. with power that’s more reliable and cheaper than wind, solar and conventional nuclear plants. Britain has already pumped $431 million to SMR research, hoping to replace the country’s problem-plagued Hinkley Point nuclear power project, which has been repeatedly delayed.
Daily Caller 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
US – Radwaste
A major explosion at a radioactive waste dump in New Mexico could become one of the costliest nuclear accidents in US history, according to a new report. The February 2014 explosion at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant happened when a drum of nuclear waste burst open because workers filled it with the wrong brand of cat litter. It could cost as much as $2 billion to clean up the accident, which severely limited the United States’ ability to get rid of nuclear waste, the Los Angeles Times reported. There is no question the Energy Department has downplayed the significance of the accident,’ said Don Hancock, of the group Southwest Research and Information Center, to the Times. Federal officials have not been forthcoming in admitting that the explosion has caused long-term damage to the facility, which was designed to be a dumping ground for waste from World War II-era nuclear weapons, the newspaper reported.
Daily Mail 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
LA Times 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
China has become the largest crude oil operator in the North Sea despite boasting that it uses deep-water oilrigs as strategic weapons. The scale of Chinese growth in the region meant that Britain handed about £2 billion in tax breaks to one state-run oil company last year, analysis by The Times has shown. China National Offshore Oil Corporation (Cnooc), which is controlled by the Communist Party in Beijing, runs two of the North Sea’s biggest oilfields. Nexen, a Cnooc-owned company, is responsible for extracting almost 200,000 barrels a day in the area, more than 10 per cent of output. China has moved to dominate British oil production in what one expert described as an exercise in “soft power” as Beijing expands its global role. The strategy has been pursued despite a slump in the price of crude oil from about $115 a barrel in 2014 to $50 today. Security experts have already raised concerns about China’s interest in Britain’s energy infrastructure. Last month it was revealed that China General Nuclear Power (CGN), the partner in the £18 billion Hinkley Point nuclear power station deal, was facing nuclear espionage charges in the US. Cnooc and CGN are both majority owned by China’s Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, which is under the “direct control” of the State Council, referred to as Beijing’s highest government authority. CGN’s board of directors comprises members of the Communist Party of China, US legal documents say. A decade ago Cnooc was blocked from buying a US oil company over national security concerns. No concerns appear to have been raised in Britain when the company bought Nexen, a Canadian oil operator with a large stake in North Sea oil, in 2012. Cnooc has also drawn criticism for its operations in the South China Sea, which China has claimed for itself despite an international tribunal ruling to the contrary.
Times 23rd Aug 2016 read more »
“The main barriers to a conversion“[to 100% Wind, Water, Solar] are neither technical nor economic; rather, they are social and political.” (Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson, Ph.D. in Testimony to the US Congress, 19 Nov. 2015) “Written Testimony to the United States House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Democratic Forum on Climate Change November 19, 2015 at 2 PM, Washington D.C. By Mark Z. Jacobson, Stanford University (Witness), Roadmaps for 139 Countries and the 50 United States to Transition to 100% Clean, Renewable Wind, Water, and Solar (WWS) Power for all Purposes by 2050 and 80% by 2030”
Mining Awareness 20th Aug 2016 read more »
Renewable – Finance
The Low Carbon Contracts Company (LCCC) has confirmed that all 39 Contracts for Difference (CfD) renewable projects in the UK have past their delivery milestone requirements as part of the second round of CfD funding. The 39 CfD projects and the related investment contracts currently managed by the LCCC offer a combined 6GW capacity of electricity provided from a range of sustainable technologies including; offshore wind, onshore wind, biomass conversion, biomass with CHP, solar, energy from waste and advanced conversion technology.
Edie 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
Renewables – offshore wind
The UK is the world’s leading developer of offshore wind power with a total installed capacity of more than 5,000MW. The London Array, built in the outer reaches of the Thames Estuary, presently stands as the world’s largest offshore wind farm which, with a capacity of 630MW, can rival a medium-sized gas-fired power station. The proposed Hornsea-2 offshore site, which the UK government approved earlier this month, will be larger still. More than 100km from the east coast, the project will, together with neighbouring Hornsea-1 provide up to 3,000MW. It will dwarf any of the other 60 offshore wind farms already built. These projects are getting bigger – and heading further and further offshore. A metric known as the “load factor” is used as a measure of how much a power plant produces on average (taking into account it is not at full output all the time) as a fraction of its maximum possible output. For onshore wind power this was 29.4% in 2015 and for offshore it was 33.3% During a particularly wind December 2015, the London Array’s load factor was 78.9% – which is a level closer to that expected from a nuclear power station. These figures are testament to the higher and less variable winds that are seen offshore. As projects are built further from the coast, average wind speeds increase, along with the load factor.
Scottish Energy News 23rd Aug 2016 read more »
Business Green 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
Renewables – small wind
Small wind turbines scaled to the right size for residential and urban areas have so far lived in the shadows of their larger wind-farm-sized counterparts. The power output has been too low for a reasonable return on investment through energy savings and the noise they produce is louder than most homeowners can deal with…A Dutch renewable energy start-up called The Archimedes is working to solve both of those problems in a new class of small-scale wind turbine — one that is almost silent and is far more efficient at converting wind into energy. The company states that the Liam F1 turbine could generate 1,500 kWh of energy per year at wind speeds of 5m/s, enough to cover half of an average household’s energy use.
Ecosnippets 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
Thanks to the great support we’ve received over the last few weeks, our solar build at Infinity Foods’ warehouse is now under way. 200 panels are now fitted to one of the warehouse roofs (50kWp); a second roof – a flat roof over Infinity’s office block – awaits its new decoration of panels, due over the next few weeks.
Brighton Energy 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
National Grid will reveal the winning bids this week for one of the world’s biggest battery storage projects, providing back-up power to keep Britain’s lights on. Thirty-seven companies have submitted bids for the scheme to supply 200 megawatts (MW) of power, mainly using utility-scale battery arrays. The winners will be announced on Friday. The battery arrays will help to manage peaks and troughs in UK electricity production because of the nation’s increasing reliance on volatile wind and solar power. “This is a new service that is being developed to improve management of the system,” National Grid said. Bidders include America’s AES, RWE of Germany and the British company RES as well as Japanese players, according to sources familiar with the discussions. Intermittent renewables supplied 25 per cent of electricity last year. With the closure of a string of agei ng coal-fired and nuclear power stations, the UK power grid is increasingly reliant on windy or sunny weather. Two hundred megawatts is roughly equivalent to the power produced by more than a million iPhone-sized lithium-ion batteries, according to AES. The US company is building a 100 MW battery array in Los Angeles, the biggest in the world so far. The batteries are charged up during the day using electricity generated by solar power farms in the deserts of southern California and Nevada. This is then available to satisfy peak demand in the evening when Los Angelenos return home from work and switch on their appliances and air-conditioning units. National Grid views the four-year contract to supply 200 MW of electricity within five seconds at any time of day or night as a priority for Britain. At present a small number of hydro-electric stations such as Cruachan in Argyll and Dinorwig in Snowdonia provide the bulk of the nation’s back-up electricity production.The contract will be awarded in chunks of up to 50 MW to at least four different operators.
Times 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
A key criticism of renewables is intermittency of supply, with power-generating potential lying in the lap of the gods. When the wind doesn’t blow or the sun goes abroad for a few weeks, as it often does, we could be left sitting in the dark unable to boil the kettle. Scientists around the world are working hard on possible solutions, with all sorts of research into areas such as new-generation batteries. But we already possess tried and tested technology that has the potential to play a huge role in safeguarding our future energy security – hydro electric pumped storage. The technique involves using electricity to pump water from a loch to an upper reservoir during times of low power demand, allowing it to be released to generate power in high demand periods. The UK is home to just four such schemes, two of them in Scotland – at the landmark Ben Cruachan power station, on the shores of Loch Awe, and at Foyers, overlooking Loch Ness. And plans have already been set out to increase provision, with the Coire Glas development near Invergarry receiving consent nearly three years ago and proposals to more than double capacity at Ben Cruachan being explored. Experts claim it is the only electricity storage method currently capable of operating at a commercial scale. So why is nothing happening? The main barriers are cash. Investors are being put off by a lack of clarity with regard to policy and regulation, according to industry body Scottish Renewables. Scottish energy minister Paul Wheelhouse is today visiting Foyers to highlight the huge potential of the technology. Let’s hope he can persuade his Westminster counterparts to end the ongoing uncertainty over renewables development and seize this opportunity to benefit the planet and our economy to the estimated tune of more than £1 billion.
Scotsman 23rd Aug 2016 read more »
The business case for energy storage is being undermined by many uncertainties within the burgeoning sector, such as limited revenue streams and grid services contract availability, according to new research from renewable energy purchaser and supplier SmartestEnergy. The ‘Making the case for battery storage’ survey consulted 45 battery storage innovators exploring the barriers they face to commercialisation in the build-up to the National Grid’s first 200MW Enhanced Frequency Response (EFR) auction this week. The biggest challenges for respondents were the limited revenue streams currently available to secure the battery capacity required for the “smart power revolution”, and the length of grid services contracts available which are currently deemed too short to meet lender requirements. SmartestEnergy suggested that National Grid should reassure developers by increasing the availability of contracts in order to exploit substantial amounts of storage capacity. SmartestEnergy’s demand side management vice president Robert Owens said: “It’s clear that the current EFR capacity in isolation will not be enough to unlock the full potential of batteries, so developers need to know what’s next for the projects that won’t win an EFR contract in this auction.
Edie 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
Plans to help keep the lights on this winter by paying big businesses to cut their power usage during weekday evenings have been scrapped after National Grid failed to find enough willing participants. The company launched a tender in April for its “demand side balancing reserve” scheme to ease the strain on the grid between 4pm and 8pm as a “last resort” if UK supplies were scarce. Under the emergency scheme, which was used when power plants broke down last winter, businesses could either cut their total electricity usage, or switch to using alternative source of off-grid power such as a back-up generator. But National Grid has now announced it will not proceed with the plans for this winter after the tender showed that “minimal volume would be available”. The company was seeking to recruit businesses that could reduce their demand by 177 megawatts (MW), but only had offers totalling about 30 MW from firms willing to take part in the scheme between 5pm and 6pm, the hour when UK demand typically hits the absolute peak and the last resort measures are most likely to be needed. A spokesman insisted the failure of the scheme would not affect National Grid’s ability to keep the lights on this winter, as it has already procured extra generation capacity through a separate last-resort scheme that pays old power plants to stay open on standby.
Telegraph 22nd Aug 2016 read more »
Critics say National Grid has not given enough incentive for users to sign up, while at the same time overpaying highly polluting coal-power stations to remain on the system as back-up. Last year, the company agreed to pay old coal-power stations to remain in reserve in case of another unexpected outage at a rate of up to £88,000 per MW of capacity. If they are called into action they are guaranteed to be paid up to £14,000 per MW-hour of use.
FT 22nd Aug 2016 read more »