26 February 2016

Hinkley

What’s the (Hinkley) Point? It would be best if Britain’s French nuclear partner threw in the towel. It is symbolic of a “nuclear renaissance” after the failure of a state-run industry that limped along from the 1950s to the 1980s, and equally fraught private ownership during the next two decades. It is meant to show how private investment, with a helpful state behind it, is the best model, giving a renewed lease of life to the nuclear industry, says a new book, “The Fall and Rise of Nuclear Power in Britain”, by Simon Taylor, of Cambridge University’s Judge Business School. Yet as the book witheringly points out, the result would be “the most expensive power station in history”. The projected costs are comparable to those of the Three Gorges power station in China, which has about seven times the planned generating capacity—albeit non-nuclear. They may rise if EDF’s painful experience of building two of the same reactors in Finland and France is any guide. Both those European Pressurised Reactors are years behind schedule and three times over budget; there is even a possibility that the French one, Flamanville 3, will be dismantled. Politics may trump economics; Britain has committed to stringent climate goals, and France would discourage EDF from abandoning Hinkley Point because it would end the dream of a nuclear-export industry. If EDF does pull out, Dieter Helm of Oxford University says the British government has a fallback option: it could float “nuclear bonds” at low interest rates to pay for the project. That, he says, would be cheaper than the 10% annual return that the French would charge.

Economist 27th Feb 2016 read more »

Pity poor Jean-Bernard Lévy, the chief executive of the French power giant EDF. He is going to have some explaining to do the next time he encounters Amber Rudd, our formidable Energy and Climate Change Secretary. This week, Mr Levy vowed that his board will make a final investment decision on whether to build and run the long-planned Hinkley Point C by the end of the year. At £24.5bn this nuclear power plant in Somerset, which is supposed to herald a new generation of reactors, is a huge commitment – even for a state-backed behemoth like EDF. Ms Rudd said she “fully expects EDF to go forward” and make that commitment “very shortly”. When asked if, by this, she meant next month, the high-flying star of the Conservatives’ 2010 intake said: “I certainly hope so.” What’s the difference between “very shortly” and “very soon”? A good several months, as it turns out. Asked if he meant a decision would be taken this year, he happily grabbed the longer timeframe: “If in my thinking ‘very soon’ did not mean this year, I would be disingenuous.” Of course, this year could mean next month, but it won’t. Any chief executive with the weight of the state on his or her shoulders would take the maximum time necessary to check out the deal – and, whatever his claims to the contrary, Mr Lévy will surely want to wait until the result of the European Union In/Out referendum in June.

Independent 25th Feb 2016 read more »

The date now being talked about for switch-on is 2025, another nine years hence. The British media and public have grown increasingly sceptical, but there persists a kind of mad logic to the government’s approach. It is – as the saying goes – in for a penny, in for a pound. Coal plants are being closed down and new capacity is needed. The country has applied for, and been granted, permission by the EU to guarantee up to £16 billion in loans for Hinkley. The two Chinese units are, incidentally, only four years behind schedule so far, compared with nine years each in Finland and France. Perhaps CGN will step up its funding to save the British government’s agony. But as the case for halting Hinkley Point C becomes stronger, it’s equally possible that the special relationship Cameron thought he was cultivating may be about to suffer a little nuclear fallout.

South China Morning Post 25th Feb 2016 read more »

Tim Yeo: Echoing recent warnings on this website the Financial Times concluded a leader column last week with the words “politically painful it may be but the case for halting Hinkley Point C is becoming hard to refute”. Sadly the latest smoke signals from Paris are far from encouraging. Despite the best efforts of EDF, backed up by steadfast, indeed generous, support from the British government, the prospect of this project ever reaching fruition is fading fast. It’s a decade since Tony Blair belatedly realised that Britain cannot achieve security of electricity supplies and reach its carbon emission reduction targets without significant investment in new nuclear. But after ten years of dither and delay Britain is no nearer generating a single kilowatt of electricity from a new nuclear power station than it was in 2006. So the question now is where is Plan B? In sharp contrast to this lost decade in Britain progress in some other countries has been positive. Take the UAE for example where a Korean led consortium signed a contract for the construction of four new nuclear power stations in the UAE in 2010. Next year it expects to start generating electricity at a price well below the £92 per megawatt hour which Britain had to guarantee EDF to get them to proceed with Hinkley, proving that it doesn’t have to take for ever to build new nuclear. The problem for Britain is that abandoning Hinkley Point C has consequences which go far beyond the crowing by the anti nuclear brigade that the news will undoubtedly provoke. Hitachi has not yet secured investors for its proposed new power station at Wylfa and recently warned that this project will be in doubt if Hinkley does not proceed. There will be acute embarrassment also for the British ministers who courageously went out on a limb to back EDF and its Chinese partner CGN. But every problem contains an opportunity. Decisive leadership from Government could still turn this current challenge to advantage by exploiting the valuable cards Britain can play when it comes to new nuclear.

New Nuclear Watch 24th Feb 2016 read more »

New Nukes

Letter Prof Barry Jones: Lord Hutton’s defence of new nuclear power stations (Letters, February 24) is remarkably disingenuous. The factual arguments are somewhat misleading. On the morning of February 24, for instance, nuclear power stations provided only 7.4GW of the total of just over 40GW of electricity supplied by the UK’s National Grid. Moreover, new nuclear is price-competitive with other low-carbon generation only by ignoring the lowest costs renewable sources – onshore wind and large solar farms – from which public subsidies are being progressively removed by the government. Far more serious are the considerations ignored in Lord Hutton’s arguments. The accelerating rate of technological innovation in the generation of electricity and the storage of generating potential, in batteries or hydrogen fuel cell installations, is overlooked, despite its transformational potential for the electricity mark et over the life of any new nuclear power stations. The rising tide of arguments in favour of a more distributed and dispersed system of electricity generation, and transmission, from many informed observers, including Steve Holliday, chief executive of the UK’s National Grid, are effectively sidestepped. Finally, Lord Hutton’s arguments simply ignore the role that the costs to consumers’ bills of new nuclear power stations will play in the longer-term “death spiral” facing large-scale power generators, as many consumers take advantage of new technologies to switch to home generation of electricity and detach from the National Grid.

FT 25th Feb 2016 read more »

Areva

French state-controlled nuclear group Areva reported a 2 billion euro 2015 net loss, saying half was due to additional provisions for its Finland reactor project and the rest to restructuring and impairments related to market conditions.Chief Executive Officer Philippe Knoche said in a statement on Friday that 2016 was funded and that the 5 billion euro ($5.53 billion) capital increase promised by the French government would be launched in the coming months.Areva said revenue rose 1.9 percent like-for-like to 4.2 billion euros last year. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose to 685 million euros from 471 million a year earlier. The net loss narrowed to 2.04 billion euros from 4.83 billion in 2014. Analysts polled by Reuters had on average expected a net loss of 690 million euros, EBITDA of 578 million euros and revenue of 7.34 billion euros.

Reuters 26th Feb 2016 read more »

French state-controlled nuclear firm Areva postponed the publication of its results on Thursday after securing a 1.1 billion euro ($1.2 billion) bridging loan to make an upcoming bond repayment. Le Monde newspaper said the government had strong-armed six reluctant banks – Societe Generale, Credit Agricole, BNP Paribas, Natixis, Credit Mutuel and HSBC – into extending the credit line, citing unidentified sources. Without the credit, Areva’s board could not sign off on the 2015 accounts in the certainty that the firm could continue as a going concern, as it lacked the funds to meet a 975 million euro bond repayment on Sept. 23.

Reuters 25th Feb 2016 read more »

Areva, the troubled French nuclear reactor maker, has delayed the publication of its 2015 results by a day as it seeks to finalise a 1.1bn euro loan with six banks that should shore up its stressed balance sheet. The company, once the pride of France, has been plunged into crisis by the downturn in the nuclear industry following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, and acute difficulties with some of its projects, led by one in Finland. Areva said delaying its 2015 results until Friday – when it is expected to report its fifth successive annual loss – would allow the company to finalise documentation about the 1.1bn bridge loan. The loan will help bolster Areva’s finances ahead of a rescue package involving the French government and EDF, the French electricity utility that also builds nuclear power plants. State-controlled Areva reported a record 4.8bn euro net loss for 2014, forcing it into bailout talks with the government and EDF. In December, Areva’s credit rating was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s to B+ – four notches below investment grade. The rating agency said the “large net loss” expected for 2015 “further underscores its unsustainable capital structure”.

FT 25th Feb 2016 read more »

Engie

Engie has announced a three-year transformation plan that will see it embark on a multi-billion euro programme of disposals and site closures, cutting costs by €1bn across the business by 2018, as its 2015 results come in below expectations. The transformation plan will refocus the company on ‘low carbon activities, integrated customer solutions and activities not exposed to commodity prices’, it said. Chairman and chief executive Gérard Mestrallet said: “In a deteriorated market context, Engie launches today an ambitious three-year transformation plan to become leader of the world energy transition. This plan aims at redesigning the portfolio of activities of the Group, thanks to a €22 billion capex program and a €15 billion portfolio rotation program, and at improving its risk profile by reducing its exposure to commodity prices. We want to focus on low carbon activities and on integrated customer solutions, while improving the efficiency of the group. Our agility and our new simplified organization, closer to clients and territories, will enable us to seize new market opportunities and to develop new businesses to become a provider of global energy and digital solutions.”

Utility Week 25th Feb 2016 read more »

Iberdrola

Spanish energy giant Iberdrola has said it plans to invest €8.3bn in the UK by 2020, as it reported rising profits in its 2015 results. The Scottish Power owner said it will carry on “diversifying its business and boosting the process of internationalisation begun more than a decade ago”. As well as ploughing money into transmission and distribution infrastructure, it expects to bring online more than 1GW of offshore and 450MW of onshore wind projects in Britain.

Utility Week 25th Feb 2016 read more »

Energy Supplies

A group representing 60 local authorities has warned that recent closures of large power stations have left Britain heading for power cuts next winter, despite assurances to the contrary from the government. The Industrial Communities Alliance (ICA), an all-party association of councils from across Britain, said National Grid needed to act immediately to fill the supply gap by sending out new contracts for at least 2,500 megawatts (MW) of additional generating capacity – enough to power 2.5m homes. The alliance wants ministers to reconsider the level of carbon taxes, saying this is one of the key reasons why so man y coal-fired power stations are being shut down early. Five plants, including Longannet, Ferrybridge and Rugeley, representing 7,000 MW of electricity-generating capacity, were available this winter but would not be fully in action by the end of the year, the group said.

Guardian 25th Feb 2016 read more »

Fukushima

Shaun Burnie: Scotland is over 9,000 km from Japan, but there’s something the two countries have in common. Along the Scottish coastline, buried in riverbeds, and mixed into the Irish Sea, you can find significant radioactive contamination coming from the other side of the world. Yes, radioactive contamination. All the way from Japan. Since the 1970s, Sellafield, a nuclear-reprocessing plant in northwest England has been contracted to process high level nuclear waste spent fuel from Japanese reactors. More than 4000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel was shipped from Japan to Sellafield, including waste from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the owner of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. As result of reprocessing at Sellafield, more than 8 million litres of low level nuclear waste is discharged into the ocean every day. It’s been labelled the “most hazardous place in Europe” – with levels of contamination in the fields, soils and estuaries at a level that can only be described as a nuclear disaster zone. In fact, the Irish Sea is arguably the most radioactively contaminated sea in the world. Greenpeace Japan sent a team to the Fukushima evacuation zone to conduct independent radiation testing; and researchers on the Rainbow Warrior, kitted up in full body chemical suits, pulled floating seaweed from the surrounding area to use as samples. Our results were unfortunately as you would expect – high levels of contamination. Subsequently, we’ve also found radiation is still so widespread that it’s unsafe for people to return across large parts of Fukushima. Nearly five years later and I’m in Japan on-board the Rainbow Warrior – this time with the famously anti-nuclear former Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Naoto Kan. It’s truly an honour and privilege to hear him describe the first hours and days of the accident in March 2011, as well as show him the research that we are carrying out. As we sailed within 2km of the nuclear plant the feelings are both profound and surreal. From the deck we’ve seen steel tanks holding hundreds of thousands of tons of contaminated water; the four reactors now shielded behind temporary structures in an effort to contain some of the radioactive material from being released into the atmosphere; and inside the reactors themselves lie hundreds of tons of molten reactor fuel for which there are no credible plans to deal with.

Greenpeace International 24th Feb 2016 read more »

Germany

This working paper analyses governance for demand management innovations in Germany, related energy system outcomes, and issues still outstanding. Demand management is understood in its broad sense here to include demand reduction, demand side response, and distributed energy, but it is also understood to be pivotal to an affordable and sustainable energy system transformation. The working paper is informed by the IGov theory of governing for sustainable energy innovations in that it governance is also understood in a broad sense to include objectives, policies, regulations and market rules. The paper takes sustainable energy governance to be an iterative process that is contingent upon a variety of domestic political and energy structures that affect choices made, as well as the effectiveness in practice of attempts to govern for sustainable demand innovations.

IGov 25th Feb 2016 read more »

Belgium

The Tihange nuclear power station is causing concern amongst residents living nearby, local politicians say. Belgium’s interior minister met their elected representatives on Tuesday. Talks were held with officials from Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. The plant is on Belgian territory, some 70 kilometres from the German city of Aachen, but also close to the border with the Netherlands. The Belgian government will set up a group of experts to look into safety concerns. A reactor was switched off on Tuesday for checks. They were similar interruptions last year.

Euro News 24th Feb 2016 read more »

Trident

Caroline Lucas, Leanne Wood and Nicola Sturgeon: On Saturday we will put our party allegiances aside and march together for a Britain free from nuclear weapons. As elected politicians, our overwhelming priority is to protect the safety of the people we represent, and it is our firm belief that renewing Trident will not only fail to improve Britain’s security, but will increase the dangers we face. Trident is an outdated weapon system from a bygone age. The government’s own analysis has relegated “weapons’ proliferation” to being a “tier 2” threat – below far more pressing concerns such as terrorism, public health and major natural hazards. Replacing Trident is neither necessary nor sensible. The evidence is stacked against spending billions of pounds on these exceptionally dangerous weapons. They won’t make us safer. The Westminster parliament will soon choose whether to join the vast majority of nuclear-free nations by moving on from Trident. It would be bold for Britain to ditch this weapons system, but it would be the right thing to do.

Guardian 25th Feb 2016 read more »

TRADE unionists representing defence workers today (Thursday, February 25) made a strong call for renewing the Trident nuclear missile system, arguing tens of thousands of jobs depended on it. Leaders of the GMB, meeting in Newcastle, made it clear they oppose plans to scrap the nuclear deterrent.

Northern Echo 25th Feb 2016 read more »

Renewables – solar

The Solar Trade Association (STA) has released a new document of 20 ways the Scottish Government can catalyse significant growth in the deployment of solar energy across the country. The ‘key asks’ document from the STA has outlined the numerous ways which the Scottish Government can boost the ambitious plan to generate 100% of electricity from renewables by 2020.

Edie 25th Feb 2016 read more »

What will be the biggest floating solar photovoltaic (PV) array in Europe once completed — a 6.3 megawatt (MW) array on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir in London — is now under construction. The developer — Lightsource Renewable Energy — has revealed that the project will be composed of 23,000 solar PV panels and will generate enough electricity to provide for the need of around 1800 local households once finished. Ennoviga Solar is handling the construction of the project — which is expected to make use of 61,000 floats and 177 anchors. Construction is occurring to the west of the city, near Walton-on-Thames.

Clean Technica 21st Feb 2016 read more »

Climate

Climate scientists have bad news for governments, energy companies, motorists, passengers and citizens everywhere in the world: to contain global warming to the limits agreed by 195 nations in Paris last December, they will have to cut fossil fuel combustion at an even faster rate than anybody had predicted. Joeri Rogelj, research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, and European and Canadian colleagues propose in Nature Climate Change that all previous estimates of the quantities of carbon dioxide that can be released into the atmosphere before the thermometer rises to potentially catastrophic levels are too generous. Instead of a range of permissible emissions estimates that ranged up to 2,390 billion tons from 2015 onwards, the very most humans could release would be 1,240 billion tons.

Climate News Network 25th Feb 2016 read more »

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Published: 26 February 2016