24 October 2016


It’s been another turbulent month in the long-running saga over the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. Having looked as if she might be contemplating a rethink, Theresa May unveiled an apparently decisive approval just before the Conservative Party conference. But with longstanding issues still unaddressed – and new problems emerging even since the PM’s announcement – the debate over Hinkley is far from over. Now might be a good moment, then, to reflect on the contribution that social science can make to these kinds of controversies over science and technology. Of course, what counts as useful in any given controversy will depend on your perspective. It is inherent to democracy that different values and interests yield contrasting conclusions. This is especially so over deeply-fractured faultlines like those which run through the UK’s commitments to nuclear power. Social science can provide a better understanding of why different perspectives disagree – and help (when possible) to identify common ground. Hard-pressed policymakers often find it useful to understand how to foster trust, confidence and “acceptance” of their institutions and procedures.

Guardian 24th Oct 2016 read more »


The planned Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station will present “significant challenges” to services in north Wales, the health board has said. Horizon, the company behind the massive project near Cemaes, Anglesey, has carried out a second public consultation which closes on Tuesday. The company said the project will bring significant investment to the island. Geoff Lang, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s strategy director, said services could be squeezed. He said, with the addition of workers and their family members, the population of Anglesey could rise by about 12% and the impact may fall on a small number of GP practices.

BBC 23rd Oct 2016 read more »


Twenty workers at a Scottish nuclear site have been made redundant. The staff all work with contracted firms at Dounreay in Caithness, which is being decommissioned at a cost of £1.6billion. No staff from site operators Dounreay Site Restoration Limited have been affected by the redundancies.

Press & Journal 24th Oct 2016 read more »

Waste Transport

The UK Government was warned by BP that the Western Isles required a dedicated emergency towing vessel – five years before it took 18 hours to scramble a tug after the Transocean Winner rig ran aground last month. The warning, revealed in a letter published following a Freedom of Information request, came after the UK Government asked BP to provide emergency cover for the Minch shipping channel – despite BP not using the route.

Scottish Energy News 24th Oct 2016 read more »

Energy Policy

Six things you need to know about energy subsidies.

10:10 23rd Oct 2016 read more »


The French government has estimated that the new fast-breeder demonstration reactor ASTRID will cost roughly 5 billion euros (around 570 billion yen) to develop, and it wants to share that cost with Japan, it has been learned. The Japanese government plans to conduct research with France on ASTRID (Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration) to develop a fast-breeder reactor that can replace its trouble-plagued sodium-cooled fast reactor Monju in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture. While France reassures that the fruits of the research would be shared by both countries, some predict that the development cost may swell above estimates. As there remains resistance to sharing the colossal sum, the Japanese government is expected to consider the issue with caution.

Mainichi 22nd Oct 2016 read more »


In a rare move for power-hungry Asia, the Taiwanese government has decided to abolish nuclear power generation by 2025 to meet the public’s demand for a nuclear-free society following the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Taiwan’s Executive Yuan, equivalent to the Cabinet in Japan, approved revisions to the electricity business law, which aim to promote the private-sector’s participation in renewable energy projects, on Oct. 20. “Revising the law shows our determination to promote the move toward the abolition of nuclear power generation and change the ratios of electricity sources,” said President Tsai Ing-wen. The government plans to start deliberations on the revised bill in the Legislative Yuan, or the parliament, in the near future, with the goal of passing it within this year. The three nuclear power plants currently in operation will reach their service lives of 40 years by 2025. The revised bill will clearly stipulate that operations of all the nuclear plants will be suspended by that year. The stipulation will close the possible extension of their operations.

Asahi Shimbin 23rd Oct 2016 read more »


Germany will soon be home to a groundbreaking wind farm that solves a big problem with wind power: What happens when the wind isn’t blowing? General Electric’s (GE) renewable energy arm has signed a turbine-supply agreement with German construction company Max Bögl to develop the world’s first wind farm with an integrated hydropower plant capable of generating power even when there’s no breeze. According to GE Reports, project “Gaildorf” consists of four wind turbines scattered along a hill in the Swabian-Franconian Forest. These towers are unique in two ways. First, they will stand at a record-breaking height of 584 feet once built. Second, at the base of each tower is a water reservoir containing 1.6 million gallons of water. The four towers are daisy chained by a channel that takes water down a valley to a 16-megawatt pump/generator hydropower plant. The site will house another reservoir holding 9 million gallons of water for additional water storage.

Eco Watch 20th Oct 2016 read more »

Renewables – onshore wind

The Scottish Affairs Committee has published the British Government’s response to its inquiry into the renewable energy in Scotland, in which the UK energy department says that there is a significant pipeline of new wind power coming forward in Scotland. He said: “Looking forward, we expect significant further deployment in Scotland over the coming years. The majority of onshore wind projects that qualified for the Renewables Obligation early closure grace period are expected be in Scotland, as are 10 of the 15 onshore wind projects that were successfully allocated a CFD.

Scottish Energy News 24th Oct 2016 read more »

THE UK Government has been told it is guilty of “worrying complacency” over the future of the renewable energy industry. Pete Wishart, chairman of the House of Commons’ Scottish affairs committee, said ministers have failed to respond to concerns about the impact changes to subsidies will have on future development plans. The SNP MP urged the UK Government to do more to work with representatives of the industry and the Scottish Government to help develop the green energy sector. Wishart’s call came after the committee asked ministers to make clear their future support after decisions such as the early closure of the Renewables Obligation scheme to onshore wind projects. Industry body Scottish Renewables has previously warned this could cost Scotland up to £3 billion in lost investment and put 5,400 jobs at risk. But in the UK Government’s response to the committee’s report, Energy Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe said “significant further deployment” is expected in Scotland over the coming years. She said: “The deployment of renewables in Scotland continues to rise, driven by the support received as a result of UK Government policies.” Figures from the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy show total deployment of renewables in Scotland stood at more than 7.7 gigawatts (GW) in 2015, a rise of six per cent on 2014 and 57 per cent higher than in 2008. Wishart claimed the response from the Government showed “a worrying complacency”. He added: “They are right to recognise the strong performance of Scotland’s renewable sector, but they have not responded to the voices of those in the industry who have told us that they are facing an uncertain future.”We are told that everything is fine, but where are the reassurances to the renewable sector that the support will be there to encourage the development of new plants and new technologies? Where is the investment in infrastructure? “They have provided us with a tacit admission that they think onshore wind has reached its limit. Let us hope that is not their view of the industry as a whole. “Scotland has been way ahead of the rest of the United Kingdom when it comes to renewable energy. The Government should be celebrating this and doing everything it can to ensure this success continues into the future, not cutting support and reducing confidence.”

The National 22nd Oct 2016 read more »

Renewables – AD

The Edina Group, the combined heat and power installer, has won a new contract to supply and install an additional CHP biogas engine at a bio-waste and energy plant in Ayrshire. The SSE Barkip Biogas plant – officially opened by Princes Charles in May 2012 – is one of the largest combined organic waste treatment and energy generating facilities in Scotland. The plant processes up to 75,000 tonnes of organic and food waste per year, and currently generates 2.2MW of renewable electricity, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the biogas produced.

Scottish Energy News 24th Oct 2016 read more »

Energy Storage

Matt Ridley: we shouldn’t pin our hopes on battery power. Batteries are no longer boring. Whether catching fire in Samsung Note 7s, being hailed as the answer to future electricity grids thanks to breakthrough chemical innovation, or being manufactured on a gigantic scale in Elon Musk’s gigafactory in Nevada, batteries are box office. And though battery technology is indeed advancing by leaps and bounds, there is a considerable quantity of balderdash being talked about it too. If only we could store electricity! Then we could make it in the summer sun and on windy days, for use on cold winter nights. All right, let’s do a simple calculation. Britain uses about a terawatt-hour of electricity during an average winter day. If we wanted to store just two days’ worth of power, after making almost all transport and heating run on electricity – for that’s the plan, remember – then we would need nearly ten times as many car and lorry batteries as th ere are on the entire planet. (I borrowed this calculation from a similar one for Germany by the physicist Clive Best.) Yes, but we would not use car batteries; we would use bigger units, and more efficient and newer lithium-ion batteries. All right, let’s buy Tesla Powerwalls instead. We would need 160 million of them to cover a day’s consumption, or 3.3 billion to cover a week when we’ve electrified heat and transport too. They retail for $3,000, so that’s about £8 trillion. For a system that would only rarely be needed in full. Maybe we could get a discount. You begin to see why nuclear and gas make sense. But even if you only stored enough juice to turn our existing fleet of wind turbines into reliables – able to provide baseload electricity on demand – the cost would still be huge. The late David MacKay, former chief scientist at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, in his invaluable book Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air, reckoned that about a terawatt-hour of storage would be needed to turn 33 gigawatts of wind capacity into a reliable source. That implies that we would need 400 gigawatt-hours of batteries to turn today’s 14GW of wind capacity into 4GW of electricity on demand: which would cost north of £130 billion today.

Times 24th Oct 2016 read more »

Fuel Poverty

New figures show almost 900,000 homeowners owe their gas and electricity supplier money in unpaid energy bills, even before the seasonal thermostat adjustment kicks in. Households that are behind on their bills – around 5 per cent of the UK population, according to Gocompare.com, owe an average of more than £120 each, despite these bills typically relating to the summer period of relatively low energy costs.

Independent 22nd Oct 2016 read more »

Fossil Fuels

The UK’s Communities Secretary Sajid Javid recently approved plans for fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton in Lancashire in what the BBC has called a “landmark decision”. For the first time, after many years of regulatory struggle and public debate, fracking may really start in the UK. Professors Alex Russell and Peter Strachan argue that the plans if they go ahead will result in environmental and economic disaster. In the UK we are told that all will be “ok” and that we have learnt from the US experience and can formulate appropriate regulatory oversight. But if one takes time to reflect on UK environmental and health protection over the past 200 years, it soon becomes clear that it can take years, decades, and sometimes generations, for appropriate safeguards to be formulated and put in place. The activities of the fracking industry are no different and it is delusory to think otherwise.

The Energy Collective 21st Oct 2016 read more »

An unlikely resurgence in the price of coal could deliver an $18 billion boost to the four big mining groups listed in London. Despite falling foul of increasingly stringent environmental regulations around the world, the unfashionable fuel has rebounded spectacularly this year, making it one of the best-performing commodities. The leap in prices is on a similar scale to that after the Fukushima nuclear incident in 2011, which took place when China’s boom was in full flow. The rise in prices is down to the vagaries of Chinese policy. Beijing has ordered mines to cut back on production, which sent import prices soaring. Few, if any, mining executives saw the move coming, but the price rise since the start of the year could deliver an $18 billion boost to their revenue on the basis of the production forecasts for BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Glencore and Anglo American.

Times 24th Oct 2016 read more »


Published: 24 October 2016