23 March 2013

Energy Supplies

The chairman of ScottishPower’s owner has become the latest boss of a “big six” energy producer to warn that Britain faces looming power shortages. Ignacio Galan, chairman of Spanish firm Iberdrola, ratcheted up the pressure on the UK Government after Ian Marchant, chief executive of Perth-based SSE, said there was a “very real risk of the lights going out”. Mr Galan called on the ministers to provide more details about its proposed energy-market reforms if new power plants are to be built in time to avoid energy shortages in the next few years as older power stations are closed. “Although the Energy Bill currently going through Parliament is in the right direction, greater clarity of detail is needed if investment in new power stations is to be speeded up,” he said. He noted industry regulator Ofgem has warned that if no new plant construction begins now, there could be shortages in 2015. Centrica, owner of Scottish Gas, said it would not build any gas-fired power stations for at least four years due to uncertainties about pricing.

Herald 23rd March 2013 read more »

British wholesale gas prices hit a record high on Friday after the failure of a vital import pipeline demonstrated the vulnerability of the nation’s energy supply to external shocks. The breakdown and price rise followed the revelation that Britain’s gas stores could run out in a few weeks if expensive overseas supplies are not piped in quickly amid unexpected demand due to unseasonal weather. Downing Street intervened to reassure households; the prime minister’s spokesman expressed confidence supplies were not running out. Normally Britain can store up to 15 days’ gas supply, but that has run down to a few days amid freezing weather. While that is not an immediate problem because Britain is constantly importing gas and is also pro ducing some gas from the North Sea, fears of a fuel crunch were heightened on Friday morning when a pump failure caused the temporary shutdown of the UK-Belgium pipeline. The gas was flowing again by noon but not before the British wholesale gas price soared by more than 50% to 150p a therm, with the price stabilising to about 100p when the pipeline reopened. However, the looming storage crisis and the pipeline incident raised fears that Britain was becoming over-reliant on a single source of fuel for heating and electricity. It came on the heels of warnings this week by the chief of one of the big six energy suppliers that there could be blackouts within three years unless there is drastic government action.

Guardian 22nd March 2013 read more »

FT 22nd March 2013 read more »

Telegraph 22nd March 2013 read more »

Times 22nd March 2013 read more »

Scotsman 23rd March 2013 read more »

Britain faces the prospect of gas rationing for the first time as a perfect storm of prolonged cold weather and disruptions to Norwegian supplies push the energy grid close to breaking point, experts warned. Households and businesses have turned up the heating in recent weeks to keep warm in the unseasonably cold weather, running gas reserves so low that there is a very real prospect of running out in the coming weeks if the cold snap persists. “If this dreadful weather continues for the next two or three weeks we should be very worried, because if we get into a position where we do run out of gas there is not a lot that can be done in the short term,” warned energy expert Ann Robinson. “Rationing would be inevitable, for businesses and domestic users and m aybe for gas-powered electricity producers as well, so we might be looking at electricity rationing too,” said Ms Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch, the energy consultant.

Independent 23rd March 2013 read more »

How do short term warnings of gas supply shortages, and a 50 per cent spike in same day delivery costs, sit with the general acceptance across the energy sector and government that gas will – and should be – the next big source of supply for power generation ? Natural gas is readily available – and new discoveries around from East Africa to the Eastern Mediterranean suggest that the issue is how to sequence developments, rather than how to cope with a shortfall. Conventional supplies of natural gas will be followed in some countries over the next decade by supplies of locally produced shale gas. The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change has moved at a pace of an ageing snail in dealing with this issue. In fact, the issue is very simple. The energy producers should be mandated to hold supplies which amount to say 50 to 70 days of demand, with that total increased as consumption rises. Various potential new storage facilities exist but of course their development is held up because there is no such mandate. The logic is to put the requirement in place and then establish an open competitive process to identify a small number of facilities which can be developed for long term use. The solution will not be instant because the facilities will take time to construct, but if DECC continues to dither the process will never begin.

FT 22nd March 2013 read more »

Keeping the lights on is one of the most fundamental tasks of government. It has been common knowledge for more than a decade that the UK faces a “capacity crunch” as nuclear power stations reach their retirement age and dirty coal-fired power stations are forced to close by EU emissions restrictions. (ScottishPower closed its 1000 MW coal-fired plant at Cockenzie last week.) Successive governments have exhibited complacency in the face of this looming threat and a misplaced faith in the free market to save households and businesses from the dark and cold. Last month the energy regulator Ofgem warned of a one in 12 risk of blackouts, with a 10% fall in capacity by April. This week Ian Marchant, chief executive of Perth-based SSE warned of “a very real risk of the lights going out”. Yesterday, Ignacio Galan of Iberdrola, the parent company of ScottishPower, added his voice to calls for the Government to clarify details of the energy market reforms currently going through Parliament, warning of power shortages by 2015 if work did not begin now on new gas-fired power stations. Until the low carbon revolution is much further along the road, gas is required to plug the energy gap.

Herald 23rd March 2013 read more »

Magnox

The process to remove fuel from the reactor of unit 1 at the shut down Oldbury nuclear power plant has started. Meanwhile, Berkeley’s last two massive boilers have been removed from the site for recycling in Sweden.

World Nuclear News 18th March 2013 read more »

Sizewell

A nuclear watchdog group has sent a mixed message to officials drawing up a new emergency plan for the community living near the Sizewell power station site. Under draft proposals put forward on behalf of the Suffolk Resilience Forum, comprising emergency services and local authorities, the radius of the emergency zone will be increased from 2.4 to four kilometres – in line with new international guidelines. If agreed, the new radius will ensure that 5,600 people, including the entire population of Leiston, will be given advance details of what they should do in the event of a major release of radioactivity from the Sizewell site.The Sizewell Stakeholder Group (SSG), a forum for improving communication between the local community, the nuclear operators and safety regulators, has previously voted in favour of an emergency zone of up to 20km in view of the evacuation that took place after the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

Eastern Daily Press 22nd March 2013 read more »

Sellafield

Sellafield nuclear plant has been closed due to “staff welfare” following adverse weather, a spokesperson has said.

ITV News 22nd March 2013 read more »

ITV News 22nd March 2013 read more »

IB Times 22nd March 2013 read more »

Japan

Fukushima Crisis Update 19th to 21st March 2013.

Greenpeace 22nd March 2013 read more »

US

Southern California Edison said on Friday it may seek changes to the operating license of its shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant as it looks for the quickest way to return the facility to service.SCE has been trying to gain approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to restart San Onofre’s damaged Unit 2 reactor in time to meet peak summer demand. But the NRC staff and SCE have disagreed on whether the utility’s plan to operate the reactor at 70 percent power complies with its operating license.

Reuters 22nd March 2013 read more »

Submarines

THE Ministry of Defence has confirmed that old nuclear submarines will be cut up in Devonport. But fears that Plymouth could become the UK’s nuclear graveyard have been eased. Defence Minister Philip Dunne said yesterday that submarine dismantling would be put to the test in Rosyth in Scotland. If the process works, the remainder of the UK’s retired nuclear fleet will be cut up in both Plymouth and Rosyth. But he announced a further consultation on where intermediate-level nuclear waste would be stored, widening the choice to include commercial and other defence sites. The consultation will start next year, and the Rosyth pilot will not go ahead until a storage site has been identified. Fears were raised at the start of the initial consultation that intermediate-level nuclear waste could be stored in Plymouth for many years waiting for a disposal site to be chosen.

Plymouth Herald 23rd March 2013 read more »

We have decided to demonstrate the initial dismantling process for nuclear-powered submarines that have left service with the Royal Navy by removing all radioactive waste from a single nuclearpowered submarine at Rosyth. The Reactor Pressure Vessel from this submarine will be removed and stored whole. Subject to the successful conclusion of this demonstration, we then intend to carry out dismantling of the remaining submarines at both Rosyth and Devonport.

Parliament 22nd March 2013 read more »

MOD response to consultation.

MOD 22nd March 2013 read more »

Renewables

The UK wind industry has had a big boost in confidence after a wind farms investment fund revealed it had raised £260m in the second-biggest initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange this year. The money raised from the oversubscribed flotation by Greencoat UK Wind will be used to buy stakes in six operating wind farms from the RWE and SSE utilities, five onshore parks and RWE’s offshore Rhyl Flats park off the coast of North Wales. The deal means Greencoat has raised more than half the £450m in equity placed by conventional oil and gas companies on the main London market last year. It is also more than half the £470m such companies raised on Aim, London’s junior market, the traditional destination for early stage funding for energy ventures.

FT 22nd March 2013 read more »

The government-backed Green Investment Bank (GIB) has completed its first direct investment in the offshore wind sector with the £57.5 million purchase of a stake in a Welsh windfarm. The Edinburgh-based GIB has bought the 24.95 per cent stake in the Rhyl Flats wind farm, about five miles off the north Wales coast, from German firm RWE.

Scotsman 22nd March 2013 read more »

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Published: 23 March 2013