24 May 2013

Nuclear Subsidy

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander yesterday told the Association for Consultancy and Engineering centenary conference in London that there would be an agreement on strike price before parliament breaks up for summer recess.

New Civil Engineer 23rd May 2013 read more »

EMR

Investing in low-carbon technologies and decarbonising the power sector by 2030 could save the country £25 to £45 billion, according to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in a new report. But to get there the government must avoid a ‘dash for gas’ approach and think long term, it warns. The government is planning big changes to the power sector. It aims to shift to a low carbon system and maintain energy security – while keeping costs down – through a policy package known as Electricity Market Reform (EMR). But in a report out today, the CCC says that the government’s lack of clarity about where energy policy is going, and particularly the suggestion that it might also be expanding the amount of power the country gets from gas, is threatening the entire process. It’s worth pointing out that the report is based on a crucial assumption – that the UK government and governments worldwide will be committed to decarbonising in the future. Indeed, the CCC’s prediction of savings in the UK is based on there being an effective carbon price. And in the UK, cutting emissions and reforming the electricity market continues to present a challenge to politicians focused on short-term energy bills, especially as the savings the CCC predicts depend on high renewable rollout – which will cost money. In fact, in the short term, the CCC estimates that subsidies for low-carbon technologies will add £100 to consumer energy bills by 2020. The greatest economic benefits from investing in low carbon would come after 2030 – which, when the next election is in just two years, is a long time in politics.

Carbon Brief 23rd May 2013 read more »

The benefits of UK investment in renewable power that will add £100 a year to household energy bills are in jeopardy and should be bolstered with an approach that would add a further £20, the government’s climate watchdog has said. Assuming the UK remains legally bound to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 20 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050, this would still be up to £100bn cheaper than increasing reliance on new gas-fired power plants, according to a report by the Committee on Climate Change. The government has already committed to spending nearly £8bn a year by 2020 to support new nuclear power stations and wind farms. These developments are expected to add about £100 a year to bills. But there is a “high degree of uncertainty” about what will happen after 2020 according to the climate change committee, a statutory body set up to advise the government on meeting its climate targets. The government should, therefore, agree to extend its funding commitments so they total £10bn by 2030, the committee says. It should also – in the energy bill that is now moving through parliament – set a 2030 target for sharply cutting the carbon intensity of power generating plants. Some rebel government MPs are already saying they would support such an amendment.

FT 23rd May 2013 read more »

As I said back in March when the Department of Energy and Climate Change released its predictions for how its climate policies would impact energy bills up to 2030, I am instinctively suspicious of any claims to know what energy prices might be decades away from now. There are simply too many variables at play. However, what I think today’s report does do well is emphasise how (most) low-carbon technologies, once installed and running, see their on-going costs fall considerably, unlike sources such as gas which will forever be vulnerable to market volatility, with or without “miracles” such as fracking. What the report can’t hide, though, is that the low-carbon “agenda”, as some call it dismissively, will cause our energy bills to rise over the short term, which means for the rest of this decade and possibly into the 2020s. It will take many billions of pounds – and time – to install the low-carbon generating capacity required to account for the winding down of unabated gas and coal. Will consumers tolerate this over the short-term, especially with a media that, in parts, continues to rail against the “agenda”? Can any politician today, whose horizon and fate is determined by five-year election cycles, campaign successfully for a rise in energy bills in the near-term in order to help reduce bills for coming generations?

Guardian 23rd May 2013 read more »

Energy Supplies

Britain came within six hours of running out of natural gas in March, according to a senior energy official, highlighting the risk of supply shortages amid declining domestic production and a growing reliance on imports. “We really only had six hours’ worth of gas left in storage as a buffer,” said Rob Hastings, director of energy and infrastructure at the Crown Estate, the property portfolio managed on behalf of the Queen. “If it had run any lower it would have meant interruptions to supply.” The Crown Estate owns the rights to gas storage sites under the UK seabed including Rough, the UK’s largest gas storage facility. Rough is leased by Centrica, owner of British Gas. British wholesale gas prices surged to a record in late March, after a technical fault temporarily shut down one of the main import pipelines. The disruption coincided with a period of low gas storage levels as persistent wintry weather drove up demand for gas. The price spike triggered fears that household energy bills could rise this year. SSE, one of the big six power suppliers, warned on Wednesday that consumers should brace themselves for higher bills “unless there is a sustained reduction in prices in wholesale gas and electricity markets”.

FT 23rd May 2013 read more »

March was not a good month for UK energy security. First, problems at a gas processing plant in Norway disrupted supplies through the Langeled pipeline that brings Norwegian gas to Britain. Then a water pump failure led to a brief shutdown of the gas Interconnector between the UK and Belgium. The UK gas price surged to record levels.

FT 23rd May 2013 read more »

Horizon

Horizon Nuclear Power has today announced the signing of a major contract with its reactor technology provider, and primary contractor, Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy to build new nuclear reactors in the UK. Known as the Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) contract, it sets the framework for design work to be undertaken for a new build nuclear project at Wylfa, North Wales, close to the site of a previous, now closed, reactor. Horizon’s chief operating officer Alan Raymant said: “This is a multi-million pound contract stretching over several years, and represents another major step forward in our project.

Link 23rd May 2013 read more »

Energy Live News 23rd May 2013 read more »

A UK Government big-hitter met nuclear chiefs who want to plough billions of pounds into two or three new reactors in North Wales. Business and Energy Minister Michael Fallon spoke to executives from Korean firm Hitachi and UK company Horizon, which between them have £20 billion plans for Wylfa, Anglesey, and Oldbury in Gloucestershire. “I want to be clear that we are firmly committed to ensuring that new nuclear goes ahead in this country,” said Mr Fallon, ahead of yesterday’s get-together.

South Wales Evening Post 24th May 2013 read more »

More than 400 companies hoping to become suppliers on the programme to build a new nuclear power station at Wylfa on the Isle of Anglesey attended business events organised by developer Horizon Nuclear Power this week. Horizon, which was acquired by Japanese engineering firm Hitachi last year, is developing two new 2,600MW nuclear power stations in the UK – at Wylfa and at Oldbury, Gloucestershire. The first reactor at Wylfa is expected to be operational between 2020 and 2025, with work starting at Oldbury soon after.

Professional Engineering 23rd May 2013 read more »

Urenco

The Dutch government on Thursday removed the final obstacle to a full privatisation of Urenco, saying it would join other state shareholders in seeking an exit from the uranium enrichment company. The announcement clears the way for a sale later this year that could value the business at between €8bn-€14bn, with the sale of shares to the public through a flotation also an option under consideration. Urenco’s bankers have already held informal talks with potential buyers.

FT 23rd May 2013 read more »

Nuclear Safety

Take a look at what Jan Bens, chief of Belgium’s nuclear watchdog FANC, had to say about wind turbines the other day: “The harbour of Antwerp is being filled with windmills, and the chemical industry is next to it. If there is an accident like a break in one of the wings, that is a guillotine. If that goes through a chloride pipe somewhere, it will be a problem of a bigger magnitude than what can happen at [Belgian nuclear power plant] Doel. Windmills are more dangerous than nuclear power plants.” Wind turbines are more dangerous than nuclear power plants? Tell that to the people of Chernobyl and Fukushima, Mr Bens. It’s such a mind-boggling thing to say, I’m not sure where to begin. This is just a theory but it’s possible that Mr Bens is just a little confused. Maybe he watched the movie Mission Impossible 3 and mistook it for a documentary.

Greenpeace 23rd May 2013 read more »

Politics

David Cameron has appointed a former lobbyist for British Gas to be his personal advisor on energy and climate change. Tara Singh, whose previous role as public affairs manager at British-Gas owner Centrica involved frequent contact with the Conservative Party, took up her newly-created role at Number 10 this week. She is responsible for briefing the prime minister on a day-to-day basis on issues relating to energy and climate change.

Independent 23rd May 2013 read more »

Carbon Market

The collapse of the European emissions system over the last few weeks is a serious indicator of the loss of interest in the issue of climate change among the top policy makers, especially in Germany. Unless the market can find a new credibility the whole structure of the European climate agenda looks vulnerable. The latest crisis has been triggered by the defeat in the European Parliament of proposals to postpone the auctioning of new permits under the European Emissions Trading Scheme. The aim of the proposal was to keep the markets alive and functioning. The effect of the defeat, which does nothing for the reputation of the Parliament as a serious policy making body, was a 30 per cent collapse in prices which in any case had fallen to so low as to be ineffective. In economic terms a carbon tax is clearly the most effective and simplest way of encouraging the shift to a low carbon economy. Of course the level of the tax matters. Stephen Tindale, in an excellent paper for the Centre for European Reform, suggests a floor price of 30 Euros a tonne. I am not convinced this is enough to force people to shift given all the costs of making the change but it is certainly more effective than a price of 3 Euros. Unfortunately Tindale’s proposals have little chance of success. German politics in particular seem to be working against any rational solution.

FT 23rd May 2013 read more »

Cumbria

NEW Government strategy which outlines the pivotal role of nuclear power in meeting the nation’s energy needs and as a driver for economic growth and job creation has been welcomed by the Chairman of Britain’s Energy Coast. The Rt Hon Brian Wilson said the Nuclear Industrial Strategy – the UK’s Nuclear Future demonstrates a “long overdue” commitment to supporting the commercial growth of the UK nuclear sector both at home and abroad. West Cumbria features prominently in the document, which has been published jointly by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

NW Evening Mail 23rd May 2013 read more »

The £7 million Construction Skills Centre at Lakes College is being delivered on schedule and on budget. The building itself has been completed but is still being fitted out in readiness for the first cohort of students in September. It will provide modern teaching spaces and workshops for up to 600 students initially. Contractor Esh Group, which was awarded the £5.5m building contract in January 2012, and project manager Cumbria County Council have now officially handed over the keys to the building to students and funding partners. Mark Wilkinson, of Esh Group, led a tour around the spacious building, which contains workshops where students can learn trades from carpentry and joinery to welding, providing vital skills for the nuclear industry. Britain’s Energy Coast has, through funders Nuclear Management Partners, invested £4 million in the centre. Britain’s Energy Coast Campus has provided a further £2 million through its funders Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Lakes College will invest £1 million in new equipment and facilities.

NW Evening Mail 23rd May 2013 read more »

Supply Chain

AVEVA CEO Richard Longdon has forecast a fresh surge of global growth for the Cambridge UK engineering technology business after a thumping set of full year results and signs of a potential bonanza in oil & gas and the nuclear power new-build sector in China and India.

Business Weekly 23rd May 2013 read more »

Uranium

Islamist suicide bombers struck a barracks and a French-run uranium mine in Niger on Thursday, officials said, killing 20 people and wounding dozens in attacks that showed armed unrest spreading across West Africa.In Agadez, the largest town in northern Niger, at least 20 soldiers were killed and 16 injured when suicide bombers attacked a barracks at dawn, Defense Minister Mahamadou Karidjo told state radio. Three Islamists were also killed.

Reuters 23rd May 2013 read more »

FT 23rd May 2013 read more »

Times 24th May 2013 read more »

Finland

Finland’s energy policy framework – including the expanded use of nuclear energy – paves the way for a more sustainable energy system in the longer term, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). In a review of the country’s energy policies, the IEA found that “Finland has succeeded in developing a particularly well-diversified national electricity production mix, with roughly three equal thirds of its production coming from renewable, nuclear and hydrocarbon energies respectively.”

World Nuclear News 23rd May 2013 read more »

Japan

The Nuclear Regulation Authority accepted on Wednesday an assessment that a reactor at the Tsuruga plant in western Japan is sitting above an active fault, making it increasingly difficult for the facility to resume operation. It is the first time Japan’s regulatory authorities have acknowledged an existing reactor is located above a fault feared to move in the future, according to an NRA official. The judgment may leave plant operator Japan Atomic Power Co. with no option but to scrap the No. 2 reactor.

Mainichi 22nd May 2013 read more »

Japan’s nuclear regulators and an atomic energy company are locked in a battle over the safety of the Tsuruga plant. Environmentalists say it is a test case for the future of nuclear energy in the country.

Deutsche Wellr 23rd May 2013 read more »

Keeping the felled Fukushima nuclear plant in northeastern Japan in stable condition requires a cast of thousands. Increasingly the plant’s operator is struggling to find enough workers, a trend that many expect to worsen in the decades-long effort to safely decommission it.

Business Week 23rd May 2013 read more »

US

The Hanford nuclear site, located on the Columbia River in Washington state, was built as part of the Manhattan Project to process plutonium for nuclear weapons. Operated until the end of the Cold War, the decades of weapons production has left Hanford as the most contaminated nuclear site in the US, with a long history of cover-ups about the leaking high-level radioactive waste. In a project that is currently 10-years behind schedule, the DOE is attempting to build a vitrification plant at Hanford to process and neutralize the massive amounts of radioactive waste left behind by the creation of nuclear bombs. Today, nuclear policy expert Robert Alvarez joins Kevin and Arnie to discuss the ongoing environmental damage to the Hanford site.

Fairwinds 22nd May 2013 read more »

North Korea

North Korea has offered to renew nuclear disarmament talks, Chinese state media have reported. At a meeting on Thursday between vice-marshal Choe Ryong Hae and Liu Yunshan, a senior figure in the Chinese Communist party, North Korea heeded China’s wishes after months of rising friction between the allies, according to reports.

Guardian 24th May 2013 read more »

Iran

The UN has warned that trades by the commodity companies Glencore and Trafigura could have breached international sanctions by supplying a company linked to Iran’s nuclear programme.

Guardian 23rd May 2013 read more »

Renewables

The plenary of the European Parliament supported a call launched by the Socialists and Democrats for the Commission to come forward with a binding renewable energy target for 2030 without delay. S&D got support from other political groups to pass an amendment calling for a binding target in an own- initiative report about the current challenges and opportunities for renewable energy in the European market that was voted on this afternoon. The S&Ds vowed to push for a target of up to 45% renewables in the EU energy mix.

S&D Press Release 21st May 2013 read more »

Chinese solar-panel makers are seeking separate trade settlements with the US and the EU to avoid steep tariffs in their biggest markets. The negotiations are being pushed by a group of Chinese solar companies that include many of the biggest manufacturers. The initiative comes as solar-panel makers in Europe and the US have faced losses and bankruptcies as a result of excess capacity in the world market. Chinese manufacturers are also being hit by punitive tariffs and rising trade tensions. After ruling that China was unfairly dumping panels in the US market, the US commerce department last year imposed tariffs of more than 30 per cent on Chinese panels. The European Commission is set to unveil similar tariffs of about 47 per cent within the next two weeks.

FT 23rd May 2013 read more »

I was delighted to see Glasgow had been shortlisted – alongside Bristol, Brussels and Ljubljana – for the European Union’s 2015 European Green Capital award in March this year. Today the final judging will take place in Brussels and, though the winner will not be announced until next month, I believe Glasgow’s dramatic reinvention from industrial powerhouse to leader in green innovation puts it firmly ahead of the pack. In recent years the city has emerged as a green technology leader within the United Kingdom, on the cutting edge of sustainable technology. Glasgow was the first city in Britain to win a grant from IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge initiative, which will see it leverage data and analysis to make the services it provides more efficient while at the same time supporting sustainable economic growth. In addition, the city has also secured £24 million in funding from the UK’s Technology Strategy Board’s Future Cities competition that will demonstrate how the intelligent deployment of technology can better integrate and connect more streamlined public services in the city. This joined-up working will minimise waste, decrease emissions and provide a template for other cities seeking to provide cleaner, greener and more responsive services to its citizens. While these initiatives will position Glasgow well to meet the challenges of the future, work also continues apace across the city on everyday environmental improvements. One such project is looking at ways to heat homes using water trapped in the abandoned mines underneath parts of the city where the coal came from that helped fuel the city’s industrial development. It has been estimated that up to 40% of Glasgow’s heat could be generated in this way, which promises a dramatic fall in emissions compared to conventional power sources.

Herald 24th May 2013 read more »

Energy Efficiency

The government has this week confirmed plans designed to encourage businesses to curb their electricity consumption and invest in energy efficiency as a way of helping to deliver substantial cuts in national power demand and reducing the need for costly new power plants. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will include an amendment in the forthcoming Energy Bill, allowing energy efficiency projects to compete for back up capacity contracts against generation plants. As a result, businesses could be paid to reduce energy use at peak times, in the same way as energy companies will receive capacity payments for operating back-up power plants.

Business Green 23rd May 2013 read more »

The Government’s policy to reduce energy use could open the door to mass mis-selling of products that claim to save consumers money, MPs have warned. The Green Deal aims to encourage consumers to insulate their houses and improve their heating systems. The Government is providing a slice of cheap finance to companies that offer loans to customers who want to reduce their energy use. They pay back the loans through savings on their energy bills and, once they are repaid, benefit from lower bills.

Times 23rd May 2013 read more »

Fossil Fuels

German brewers have warned Chancellor Angela Merkel that any law allowing the controversial drilling technique known as fracking could damage the country’s cherished beer industry.

Telegraph 23rd May 2013 read more »

FT 23rd May 2013 read more »

The Cumbrian coal industry could be reborn after the discovery of one to two billion tonnes of coking coal, a key ingredient for making steel, deep under the sea near Whitehaven. Riverside Energy, an Australian-owned company, hopes to float in London next year. It has hired RFC Ambrian, a broker, to raise £13 million privately to develop a mining plan for the deposit, which could result in £500 million worth of investment and up to 500 new jobs in the county. Riverside originally went looking for coal deposits in Cumbria with the aim of “gasifying” them — extracting gas for sale to energy companies. But after getting hold of some records that had been gathering dust since the Eighties and doing some drilling, it discovered that the Whitehaven coal was of such high quality that turning it into gas would be a waste.

Times 24th May 2013 read more »

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Published: 24 May 2013