23 January 2017

Moorside

Toshiba is facing pressure to secure investment from a South Korean energy group and the UK government to keep afloat a multibillion-pound British nuclear power project as the Japanese conglomerate struggles with mounting financial difficulties. Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) has been in talks for months to join the NuGen consortium planning a nuclear plant at Moorside in Cumbria alongside Toshiba and Engie of France. The need for new partners has been increased by huge write-downs on Toshiba’s nuclear business in the US, which has left the group scrambling to shore up its balance sheet. As well as Korean capital, Toshiba is angling for UK government investment in the Cumbrian project after Theresa May’s administration recently signalled its willingness to put public money into new nuclear plants. This would represent a reversal of longstanding UK policy not to expose taxpayers’ money to the heavy expense and high risks involved in building nuclear reactors. A Whitehall official said it was “premature” to talk about government involvement in financing Moorside but several other people involved in the process or briefed on the matter said the option of public investment was on the table. But these people said a more immediate step to keep the scheme on track was the proposal for Toshiba to sell part of its 60 per cent stake in NuGen to Kepco, the utility majority-owned by the South Korean government. There has also been speculation over the commitment of Engie, the French utility one-third owned by the French government, but NuGen told the Financial Times that both its shareholders were “committed to the development of the Moorside project”.

FT 23rd Jan 2017 read more »

Energy Policy

This week, the UK government will launch an industrial strategy designed to help the economy as we leave the EU. To be effective, policy in this area needs to be sustained. Short-term incentives are not enough to create new industrial strengths. This raises the whole question of how policy-makers deal with long-term issues. How do governments, companies or investors assess the value of assets with a long or very long life? The question is provoked by the generally negative response to the proposal to build a tidal energy scheme off the South Wales coast. A review conducted by Charles Hendry, the former energy minister, was extremely positive but failed to address the challenge of financing a project requiring up-front investment of £1.3bn and costing an index-linked £92.50 per MW/h for 60 years – almost twice as long as the period granted to Hinkley Point. The ministerial response to the idea has been distinctly lukewarm, with a junior energy minister telling the House of Commons in December that the project would be a very significant deviation from existing policy. As a statement of fact that is true. But no attempt is being made to address the challenges associated with long-term capital investment. The requirement for short-term returns is real. But financing issues should not be allowed to dictate everything. The development of long-term infrastructure is important and should be part of any government’s natural thinking, especially in the context of a new industrial strategy. Just saying no to schemes that don’t match rigid methodology is rather pathetic. Many elements of our infrastructure were built on the basis of financing schemes that sometimes included local authorities. The London underground would not have been built without investment by the City of London – the local council.

FT 23rd Jan 2017 read more »

Theresa May will signal an era of greater state intervention in the economy as she launches her industrial strategy with a promise of “sector deals”, a new system of technical education and better infrastructure. The prime minister will publish the strategy at a cabinet meeting in the north-west of England, setting out five sectors that could receive special government support: life sciences, low-carbon-emission vehicles, industrial digitalisation, creative industries and nuclear. She will say the government would be prepared to deregulate, help with trade deals or create new institutions to boost skills or research if any sector can show this would address specific problems.

Guardian 22nd Jan 2017 read more »

Scotland – Energy Policy

SCOTLAND’S leading energy industry experts have called on the Scottish Government to “grasp its opportunity to transform the country’s energy sector”, ahead of the publication of its energy strategy later this week. The Future Energy Taskforce is calling for a bold vision to decarbonise Scotland’s energy system and hit climate change targets, and it says that the Scottish Government will need to use all the powers at its disposal, including targets, incentives and regulation to bring about the changes required. Meanwhile, the world’s largest subsea power cable has come ashore at Ardneil Bay in North Ayrshire. At around 385km long, it’s a crucial part of the £1 billion Western Link project, a joint venture between ScottishPower and National Grid to take renewable power from Scotland to homes and businesses in England and Wales. Professor Jan Webb, of Edinburgh University, said: “Scotland’s relatively old and often draughty buildings account for nearly half of our energy spending, and we have a great opportunity to improve their warmth without turning up the heating. “All homes should be renovated to a minimum ‘C’ energy performance rating by 2025, through incentives and standards which build on successful existing schemes. “We also need to start planning now for a future sustainable and renewable heat supply. “Local governments will need to examine the best options for their areas and be empowered and resourced to develop detailed strategies.”

The National 23rd Jan 2017 read more »

The Scottish government must “grasp its opportunity” with a “bold vision” to transform the energy sector, according to a panel of experts. The Future Energy Taskforce, brought together by charity WWF, said targets, incentives and regulation should all be used to help decarbonise the sector and hit climate change targets. Calls for change come ahead of planned publication later this week of Scotland’s draft Energy Strategy. It will cover electricity, transport and heat. “This new energy strategy is an excellent opportunity for the Scottish Government to assert overall leadership and control over the nation’s energy future. Decisions will need to be made, and ‘low regrets’ options like energy efficiency taken forward now, rather than waiting for silver bullets in t he future,” said taskforce chair Keith MacLean. “A major task like decarbonising the energy system will not be achieved on a piecemeal and incremental basis, nor without an integrated long-term plan,” he added. Trade body Scottish Renewables welcomed the recommendations and said: “The Scottish government’s upcoming energy strategy gives us a chance to grasp the huge benefits of a truly low-carbon, joined-up energy system and raise the game in heat and transport, where the process of cutting carbon has been slower to date than in the electricity sector. This requires leadership and ambition from government, industry and the public.”

Renews 23rd Jan 2017 read more »

Energy Voice 23rd Jan 2017 read more »

Theresa May told to end electricity “discrimination” against the Highlands. North MP Ian Blackford demanded that ministers put a stop to the “discrimination” in charging and introduce a universal network charge. The region pays the highest bills in the UK, despite producing a surplus of energy, because of a regional system for distribution costs. The Press and Journal has campaigned for an end to the “postcode lottery” in recent years, but the Conservative government scrapped plans to alleviate the pressure on Highland consumers when they won a majority in 2015. Prime Minister Theresa May was grilled on the issue at Prime Minister’s questions in Westminster this week by Mr Blackford, the SNP MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber.

Press & Journal 21st Jan 2017 read more »

EDF

‘Scotland matters a lot to us, and as the First Minister put it in her speech, we matter for Scotland,” says Vincent De Rivaz. The chief executive of EDF Energy was in the Scottish capital to join First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last Tuesday as she opened a centre in Edinburgh for EDF Energy Renewables – the 50:50 joint venture between EDF Energy and EDF Energies Nouvelles, the renewables arm of the French-based group. Sturgeon acknowledged that EDF Energy Renewables has “built strong relationships with Scottish industry – making a commitment to use towers manufactured in Scotland by CS Wind UK, using local supply chain companies wherever possible, and developing renewables in areas like the Western Isles”. By setting up in Edinburgh, the centre sits alongside other trailblazers in the renewables sector, such as Atlantis Resources, whose chief executive Tim Cornelius has laid claim to “the world’s most high-profile tidal stream project” with its pioneering MeyGen venture, which started generating power in November. Atlantis last week welcomed the Energy Technology Institute’s findings that tidal-stream generation will soon compete with other low-carbon energy sources on cost.

Scotsman 21st Jan 2017 read more »

Plant Life Extensions

Plant Life-Time Extensions for Scotland’s Ageing Reactors the Lack of Public Participation in the Decision-Making Process. A report for the Green MSPs by Pete Roche.

Scottish Greens 22nd Jan 2017 read more »

The nuclear industry is bidding behind closed doors to relax safety standards by doubling the number of cracks allowed in the radioactive cores of Scotland’s ageing reactors.

Ferret 23rd Jan 2017 read more »

The Scottish Greens are urging the Scottish Government to intervene in a review of safety at the Hunterston nuclear power plant in Ayrshire after a report revealed that operators EDF plan to allow for an increase in cracking in its reactor core. The report, by energy consultant and Safe Energy Journal editor Pete Roche, says that despite it being probably illegal under international law, the Scottish public are being given no say in an imminent UK Government decision on whether Scotland’s oldest nuclear power station can keep running longer than planned.

Greens 22nd Jan 2017 read more »

Politics

Carbon Brief interview with Barry Gardiner. Labour’s shadow secretary of state for international trade and shadow minister for international climate change.

Carbon Brief 23rd Jan 2017 read more »

Fusion

[A reminder] A question mark hangs over a world-leading laboratory that has pioneered research into fusion for nearly 40 years. The Culham Centre for Fusion Energy near Oxford is largely funded by the EU and dozens of its scientists come from outside the UK. Since the vote for Brexit, many at the centre have become “extremely nervous” amid uncertainty about future financing and freedom of movement. Five researchers have already returned to continental Europe with others said to be considering their positions.

BBC 29th Nov 2016 read more »

Trident

Labour and the Scottish National Party are urging the government to give a full explanation to MPs on how a test firing of a Trident missile went wrong. The unarmed missile reportedly veered off course a few weeks before MPs voted to renew the nuclear weapons system. The Ministry of Defence says submarine HMS Vengeance and its crew were “successfully tested”. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said it was “extremely worrying” Parliament had not been told of June’s incident. Nia Griffith, Labour’s shadow defence secretary, is calling for the prime minister to give “a full explanation” to MPs later. Meanwhile, Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon – a long-standing opponent of Trident, whose submarines are based at Faslane, on the River Clyde – said the apparent misfire was a “hugely serious issue”. The SNP leader tweeted: “There should be full disclosure of what happened, who knew what/when, and why the House of Commons wasn’t told.”

BBC 23rd Jan 2017 read more »

New York Times 22nd Jan 2017 read more »

Telegraph 22nd Jan 2017 read more »

France

As expected, France was heavily dependent on power imports during the first cold spell of this winter. Yet, most of the country’s reactors are back online. The US is now also investigating 17 reactors with parts from France that could also be defective. Craig Morris has the details. In the fall of 2016, 20 of France’s 58 reactors were offline, largely for inspections. As of mid-January, most of these reactors were back online, however. The fleet’s total generation capacity is 63 GW, and RTE’s website shows an ouput level approaching 55 GW, which is near the maximum (power plants generally do not run far above 90% so they can still provide grid services, such as reactive power). EDF’s list of production by plant on January 11 seems to show that 7 reactors are still offline, which is not an especially high number (only 15 percent of the fleet). The risk is that France gets a lot of its space heat from electric units, so a cold spell poses a challenge, as we saw in 2012, when Germany helped prevent a blackout in France.

Renew Economy 23rd Jan 2017 read more »

Saudi Arabia

British renewables firms are preparing to compete for a multi-million dollar windfall by snapping up contracts to develop wind, solar and power storage projects in Saudi Arabia through the kingdom’s $50bn renewables drive. Within weeks the world’s largest producer of oil will launch a tender process for an ambitious renewable energy program which is expected to involve investment of between $30bn and $50bn by 2023 to help kick its addiction to fossil fuels. The Saudis are planning to shift their power sector towards renewables, which is less expensive than its oil-burning power plants, in order to meet its rocketing demand for power which is increasing at a rate of 8pc every year. Already UK renewable energy firms are preparing to compete for a share of the funding pot in what could prove a crucial test of the sector’s ability to export world-leading technology and skills. Solar developers including Lightsource Energy, RES and Solar Century are expected to be first in line for a multi-million dollar Saudi windfall, and the Telegraph understands that a raft of energy storage, engineering and software firms are also preparing to take part in the tender.

Telegraph 22nd Jan 2017 read more »

CCS

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (the department) has not achieved value for money for its £100 million spend on the second competition for government financial support for carbon capture storage, according to the National Audit Office. Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) is a process to avoid the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. CCS has the potential to help the UK achieve its ambitious targets to reduce CO2 emissions, if it is used in the power and industrial sectors. The Department also spent £68 million on the first competition on support for CCS, which it cancelled in 2011. Today’s report found that the Department’s plan to use a second competition to develop and deploy carbon capture and storage was ambitious, but ultimately, unsuccessful.

National Audit Office 20th Jan 2017 read more »

Climate

The Government has been accused of trying to bury a major report about the potential dangers of global warming to Britain – including the doubling of the deaths during heatwaves, a “significant risk” to supplies of food and the prospect of infrastructure damage from flooding. The UK Climate Change Risk Assessment Report, which by law has to be produced every five years, was published with little fanfare on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) website on 18 January. But, despite its undoubted importance, Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom made no speech and did not issue her own statement, and even the Defra Twitter account was silent. No mainstream media organisation covered the report. One leading climate expert accused the Government of “trying to sneak it out” without people noticing, saying he was “astonished” at the way its publication was handled. Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said the report made clear that climate change was “one of the biggest security threats” faced by the UK and that urgent action was required. “So it’s somewhat troubling that ministers decided to sneak out this vital assessment , produced only every five years, the day after the Prime Minister’s Brexit speech. Neither Defra nor the Environment Secretary thought it even worth a tweet,” he said.

Independent 22nd Jan 2017 read more »

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Published: 23 January 2017