29 January 2014

Hinkley

The huge scheme to build a new nuclear power station in Somerset will be the main driver behind an expected 31,850 additional jobs that will created in the wider South West in the next five years. Fuelled by demand for 245,000 new homes across the UK each year, CITB’s Construction Skills Network forecast shows that average output for private housing in the South West will grow 5.1% annually to 2018.

Western Morning News 29th Jan 2014 read more »

CIVIC leaders in Glastonbury are to write to parish councils across Somerset and urge them not to support a third power station at Hinkley Point. While campaign group South West Against Nuclear (SWAN) welcomed the decision, the proposal was not unanimously welcomed. One councillor, Mike Free, described it as a ‘ridiculous motion.’

Central Somerset Gazette 29th Jan 2014 read more »

Radwaste

Cuadrilla, the fracking company responsible for a series of earth tremors around Blackpool in 2011, has withdrawn applications for permits to frack in Lancashire after problems surfaced relating to the disposal of radioactive waste. Hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – releases gas or oil from shale by blasting a mixture of sand, chemicals and water into the rock. The process produces huge amounts of waste water that contains, among other things, low-level naturally-occurring radiation. Industry regulator, the Environment Agency, has said that it will not grant a radioactive substances permit until it is sure that the water would be disposed of safely. When Cuadrilla fracked near Blackpool it found traces of naturally occuring uranium and thorium, as well as levels of radium that were 90 times higher than naturally occurs in drinking water. Previously, regulations classed the waste water as industrial effluent, allowing Cuadrilla to pour two million gallons into the Manchester Ship Canal after being processed at the Davyhulme treatment works at Trafford. However, “flowback water” has been re-classified as radioactive waste following European regulations which came into force in October 2011. This means the operator now needs a permit to safely dispose of the waste.

Independent 27th Jan 2014 read more »

Nuclear Skills

The Government has announced plans to establish two skills colleges in the UK, focussing on skills for the nuclear and software engineering industries. Skills and Enteprise Minister Matthew Hancock announced the two technical colleges that aim to respond directly to the needs of each industry. As yet, no location has been confirmed for the two establishments. A Government spokesperson said nowhere could be ruled out.

BDaily 28th Jan 2014 read more »

TES 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Dept Business, Innovation and Skills 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Carbon Floor Price

Household energy bills are set to fall by as much as £15 a year under Treasury plans to freeze the most expensive green levy at the Budget in March. Treasury officials are working on plans to hold the rate of the carbon tax, which primarily penalises coal and gas plants and ultimately is paid for by consumers. The move comes in the wake of the Government’s decision in December to knock £50 off energy bills after cutting other green levies. With Britain’s main political parties eager to convince voters in advance of the election that household energy costs will be capped, ministers emphasised last month that all the levies remained under review. The carbon tax, which was introduced last year, costs consumers about £9 a year but is set to escalate rapidly to an estimated £42 by the end of the decade. With the rate fixed two years in advance, the Chancellor is planning to freeze it for at least one year from April 2016.

Times 29th Jan 2014 read more »

Japan – Fukushima

Fukushima crisis update 21st to 28th Jan. TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, has said that the highly radioactive water leaking into the basement of the reactor #3 building is likely to be coming from a hole in the reactor’s primary containment vessel. The leak was discovered by a robot sent in by workers as the radiation levels are still too high for humans to enter the building.

Greenpeace 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Germany

A slump in profits from conventional power plants will force RWE to write down 3.3bn euros when Germany’s second-biggest utility reports 2013 earnings. About 2.9bn euros of this impairment is “largely attributable” to declining earnings from conventional power generation, the company said in a statement on Tuesday. This includes 1.5bn euros relating to conventional power plants in the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK, with its renewable business also hit with a 200m writedown.

FT 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Germany’s powerful finance minister said on Tuesday that Berlin may have gone too far in its attempts to protect the environment, saying his government must now “rebalance” its policies to ensure environmental regulations do not cost jobs. Wolfgang Schauble took issue with claims that the “green economy” will be a major driver of employment, saying Berlin’s decision two years ago to shutter its nuclear power plants and emphasise renewables needed to be re-examined.

FT 28th Jan 2014 read more »

South Korea

South Korea has approved a 7.6 trillion won ($7 billion) project to build two nuclear plants by 2020, the energy ministry said on Wednesday, as it struggles with tight power supply following a series of nuclear reactor closures due to safety issues.The approval is the first since Asia’s fourth-largest economy said earlier this month that it would cut its reliance on nuclear power to 29 percent of total power supply by 2035, down from a planned 41 percent by 2030.

Reuters 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Iran

U.N. nuclear inspectors arrived in Iran on Tuesday to visit a uranium mine, Iranian media reported, as part of a cooperation pact meant to help allay international concern about the country’s nuclear programme.

Reuters 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Hungary

Hungary has given Russia’s atomic energy corporation a contract to more than double production at its only nuclear power plant in a deal worth nearly $14 billion.

Machinery Market 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Nuclear Weapons

The number of US airmen embroiled in a nuclear cheating scandal has doubled to several dozen, officials speaking on condition of anonymity say.

BBC 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Guardian 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Community Energy

It’s nearly a year since I wrote about my community’s attempt to get a hydro scheme constructed on the River Lune, near Lancaster. I explained how hard it is for people like us – mostly volunteers with jobs and family responsibilities – to navigate the bureaucracy and other obstacles which face any group wanting to build a community energy scheme. Little did I realise then that it would take another ten months to get Halton Lune Hydro to the point where we can start constructing our 200kW, 1000 MWh-pa hydro, which should eventually produce enough clean electricity to power over 300 homes and save 500 tonnes of carbon. The problems kept coming. There was a dispute with a landowner that nearly killed the project. The angling lobby also caused problems with critical articles in Salmon and Trout Magazine and constant objections lodged with the Environment Agency.

Guardian 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Letter Co-op Energy: There is a growing community energy industry in the UK, where neighbours are collaborating, creating jobs and growing their social capital as well as economic power. Recent research shows community energy could grow to 89 times its current size if existing barriers were lowered. There is much to learn from the way other countries are developing their own community energy and renewables at a fast pace, while the UK suffers. The more the argument becom es polarised between government power and big business, the more ordinary people switch off and become further alienated from politics and the workings of the broader economy. There are genuine alternatives, and the party that understands and embraces them has nothing to lose and a great deal to gain.

Independent 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Renewables – Variable

While production of wind and solar power fluctuate (to use the German term), giant amounts of renewable generation capacity do not simultaneously go off-line. Conventional plants can fail quickly. In a recent storm that hit Europe, the social media world was concerned about wind turbines being blown away, but I could not find any news of such a thing happening. We do know that the Ringhals nuclear plant, with a capacity of 878 MW, failed completely, however, as one of its blocks did again just a few weeks later. I’m not arguing that wind and solar are more reliable than conventional plants. They are simply unreliable in different ways. Gigantic plants switching off suddenly can cause quite a ripple on the grid, and such events are more frequent than those who praise the reliability of fossil and nuclear wish to admit. Germany’s installed generation capacity has always been greater than its peak power demand, generally by around 20 percent

Renew Economy 29th Jan 2014 read more »

Renewables – Offshore Wind

Britain has more offshore wind turbines than the rest of Europe combined, according to an industry report. More than 200 giant offshore turbines were connected to the grid last year, bringing the total around Britain’s coast to 1,082. There are only 998 offshore turbines in the rest of Europe, according to the report by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). The EWEA said that while last year was a record year for investment in offshore wind, the figures concealed a slowdown that could mean the industry will stop growing by 2015. The EWEA has accused Britain of being “backward-looking” after it opposed plans for Brussels to set compulsory renewable energy targets for 2030. The European Commission sided with Britain, saying each country should be free to choose how to meet its target of reducing greenhouse gases.

Times 29th Jan 2014 read more »

Renewables – Wind

On Tuesday the world’s largest and most powerful wind turbine swung into gear at the Danish National Test Centre for Large Wind Turbines in Østerild. The prototype V164-8.0 MW wind turbine is 720 feet tall, has 260-foot blades, and can generate 8 megawatts of power — enough to supply electricity for 7,500 average European households or about 3,000 American households. A joint venture between Vestas and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the turbine is slated to go into production next year and was designed to take advantage of the growing offshore wind industry across Europe.

Climate Progress 28th Jan 2014 read more »

A draft study is “proof” wind turbines could slash local house prices by 11 per cent, according to the Mail – that’s£27,000 off the price of an average home. But the figure only applies if a house is nearly in the same field as the turbines, according to the research. The question of whether windfarms impact on house prices is politically controversial. It’s also not that clear. Some reports claim windfarms could increase the value of nearby homes – while others say the opposite.

Carbon Brief 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Energy Efficiency

There’s a major catastrophe under way and, as far as I can see, with a very few honourable exceptions, no-one’s reporting on it, but it’s a catastrophe nevertheless. The catastrophe I’m talking about is that the whole programme of solid wall insulation as we know it, which is supposed to be advancing via the Energy Companies Obligation, has almost completely disappeared before our eyes. And it’s a catastrophe for the simple reason that Britain has some of the least energy efficient housing in Europe. So much so that if we do not seriously get to grips with our collective home energy efficiency now, then we severely lessen any chance we might have to reduce overall carbon emissions to anything like acceptable target levels by the 2030s.

Alan Whitehead MP 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Energy firms will now only be required to carry out 100,000 solid wall installations over the course of four years (a big drop given A Department of Energy and Climate Change impact assessment predicted in 2012 that 100,000 would be installed per year by 2015) with subsidies instead being focused on loft and cavity walls in private homes.

Inside Housing 17th Jan 2014 read more »

Hot on the heels of Government tax breaks for unsustainable fracked gas supplies and loan guarantees and 35 year contracts for nuclear power stations the Government is planning to scrap rules that allow local Councils to plan for energy efficient houses. Moving under the cover of scrapping regulations on industry the Government, in flagrant breach of its claims to have low energy bills at the heart of its concern, is planning to scrap the ‘Code for Sustainable Homes’. This was introduced by the Labour Government to allow ‘bottom-up’ action by local councils to require developers to build houses that will result in lower energy consumption by being more energy efficient. Not only will generations to come be saddled with the consequences of exhausting natural gas supplies, having to carry on paying until 2058 for Hinkley C (assuming it actually starts in 2023 as planned), but they will now be saddled with increased energy bills associated with living in homes that will require more energy as a result of the Government’s policy.

Dave Toke’s Blog 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Just 40 years ago, ice used to form on the inside of windows, central heating was for the lucky few, most homes had only a few lightbulbs and the idea of a conservatory was an alien one. But today’s homes, according to a government-commissioned report showing the changes in how the UK heats and powers its homes, are kept 4C warmer on average than they were in 1970, have more than 30 lightbulbs and an array of energy-guzzling appliances like 40-inch TVs that would have been unimaginable then. But, possibly because far more of us live alone or in small households now, we use 18% less energy per household than we did 40 years ago and we pay about £200 less per household each year.

Guardian 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Telegraph 28th Jan 2014 read more »

A Government-backed study for the UK Housing Energy Fact File found that the average property is kept at around 17.7C during the winter months – a significant rise on 13.7C in the 1970s. However a poll commissioned by emergency repair firm HomeServe put the average temperature even higher, at 23C, warmer than a typical summer’s day. More than a third of people kept their thermostat at 25C and one in 20 people relaxed in 30C heat. Some 18 per cent said they kept their heating on day and night.

Independent 29th Jan 2014 read more »

Fossil Fuels

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, David Cameron once again allied the ideas of shale exploration, and cheaper gas prices. He called attention to the effects that the shale revolution has had in the US, particularly in relation to falling energy prices as permitting ‘re-shoring’ of industry. Something he is keen to see replicated in Europe, and particularly in Britain. This is not the first time Cameron has suggested that shale exploitation will reduce bills however, something he proposed when writing for the telegraph last year. There are however, very few people who share Cameron’s certainty that UK shale gas will have such a dramatic effect on prices. In fact, the list does not appear to stretch far beyond the Chancellor George Osborne.

IGov 28th Jan 2014 read more »

David Cameron is losing the battle for public opinion over fracking for shale gas because of high-profile public protests against the controversial technique, polling suggests. The latest results of a long-running survey on British attitudes towards shale gas, undertaken by YouGov and commissioned by the University of Nottingham, show an increase in the number of people opposed to fracking and a decrease in those in favour for the second time since protests at Balcombe in West Sussex last August. Public support for fracking steadily grew from June 2012 to a high of 58% in favour and just 18% against in July 2013, when asked the question: “should shale gas extraction in the UK be allowed?”. But after the protests against an oil-drilling site run by Cuadrilla at Balcombe – which saw several thousand people marching and dozens of arrests including that of Green MP, Caroline Lucas – the number in favour fell in September to 55% and has dropped again this month to 53%. Opposition has also risen, to 24% in September and 27% this month.

Guardian 28th Jan 2014 read more »

Ministers have “failed to convince the public” over the merits of fracking and have lost ground to campaigners with “exciting” clothes and banners, Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, has admitted. Mr Paterson said on Tuesday that he would like to see “shale gas exploited all over rural parts of the UK” on the grounds it would “bring wealth and prosperity and jobs”. But, appearing before a Lords committee on the economic impact of shale gas, he said: “There is a large problem with public opinion, where those who are opposed have made all the running…. frankly, we are behind the curve.

Telegraph 28th Jan 2014 read more »

East Ayrshire Council is to investigate major failings in how it handled local mining projects amid a £132m shortfall to restore former opencast sites. The huge clean-up bill was left behind by the collapse last year of Scottish Coal and another firm, ATH Resources. An independent review of the council’s planning authority role has highlighted widespread failures among officials. Some individuals may face disciplinary action when the council’s investigation concludes by the end of March.

BBC 29th Jan 2014 read more »

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Published: 29 January 2014