29 June 2015

Hinkley

Letter Vincent de Rivaz: YOUR report on Hinkley Point C nuclear power station ignored many of the critical arguments in favour of the project and imagined cheaper alternatives that do not exist (“Is nuclear power really worth it?”, last week). Wind and solar power will play an important part in our energy mix, but they cannot provide a reliable energy supply all day and all year round. In a British winter, when demand is high, solar output is low. On a foggy and still day on January 23, Germany, which has many times the solar (and wind) capacity we have in Britain, saw almost zero output. Nor do we yet have the technology to store excess energy cost-effectively for use when we really need it. If the solution can be found, we don’t know what it will cost. Nuclear power is still the choice that gives reliable baseload power at the same time as helping Britain meet its carbon emission targets. When the cost of extra back-up is included, the cost of nuclear remains competitive with any other technology. The cost of new nuclear stations is expected to fall. The benefits of new nuclear mean Sizewell C will be cheaper than Hinkley Point. All this is before we count the enormous benefit of a multibillion-pound investment in Britain, with the impact on jobs, skills and our global industrial competitiveness. Hinkley Point C is not funded by taxes. Consumers will pay only when it produces electricity. Investors bear the construction risk. This means taxes can be spent on the hospitals, train lines and aircraft carriers you mention in your article. It is simply wrong to suggest it is a choice between one and the other.

Sunday Times 28th June 2015 read more »

Europe

The EU is currently discussing how power markets in member states could be redesigned to promote free trade. A leaked draft shows where the discussion is. The document is available online. Below, I attempt to highlight some of the issues. Note that, in the space given here, I cannot properly represent the full document – I am picking out some points that I find troublesome. To be fair, the other parts of the document seem sensible. The draft states that a new market design “should ensure that electricity is dispatched based on market signals.” We need to start stating more explicitly how exactly we aim to get non-dispatchable wind and solar to react to market signals. You cannot switch on wind turbines and solar panels; they react to the weather, not to the market.

Renew Economy 29th June 2015 read more »

Emergency Planning

NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) reports that in March of this year, Planet Earth broke the all-time high record on carbon dioxide concentrations at 400 parts-per-million, leaving the most optimistic limit of 350 in the distant dust. It is an ominous landmark, to say the least, and there are constant reminders that something big and unpleasant is transforming the world around us. The real challenge facing the world today is that disaster prevention models, which have been adequate even in the fairly recent past, can no longer be relied upon to predict what we are already facing. Nowhere does this disquieting fact have more significance than in emergency and disaster planning around nuclear power plants. These plants have such an essential relationship with water that they are almost invariably located along the very edge of major waterways where, coincidentally, most human activity also takes place. It is estimated that more than half of all Americans live within a 50-mile radius of one or more nuclear plants. All of them are at risk from potentially lethal radiation releases should the unthinkable come to pass at their nearest nuclear facility. Yet, what disaster preparedness is in place is limited to the population that lives within just ten miles of any one facility, and both the nuclear power industry and Nuclear Regulatory Commission are moving forward in lessening emergency preparedness requirements and post-disaster evacuation plans.

Fairwinds 25th June 2015 read more »

Supply Chain

The first phase of a new £7m nuclear innovation centre in Bridgwater has been completed on time and on budget, the county council has said. The Somerset Energy Innovation Centre has been built on land at Woodlands Court Business Park. It will offer workspace for companies involved in the construction of the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. The first phase has been funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the local authority.

BBC 28th June 2015 read more »

Iran

The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, flew home to Tehran on Sunday night for consultations on a final bargaining position as it became increasingly clear negotiations in Vienna on Iran’s nuclear programme would go past their Tuesday night deadline. Zarif’s reported decision to go to Iran followed a weekend of talks with his counterparts from the US, UK, France, and Germany. The European ministers were expected to return to their capitals to await developments, while the lead western negotiator, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, is expected to remain in Europe to await Zarif’s return.

Guardian 28th June 2015 read more »

Trident

A former Royal Navy commander has backed the Trident whistleblower William McNeilly and accused the navy of being “out of its depth” on nuclear weapons. Rob Green, who flew nuclear -armed planes and helicopters for the navy in the 1960s and 1970s, praised McNeilly for being “courageous” and “patriotic” in helping to expose a “dangerous situation” which will get worse if Trident is replaced. Green is famous for being the nephew of the anti-nuclear campaigner, Hilda Murrell, who was murdered in Shrewsbury in 1984. He is now a co-director of the Disarmament and Security Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand and campaigns against nuclear weapons.

Sunday Herald 28th June 2015 read more »

Renewables – onshore wind

The Scottish Government has called an emergency summit next month in Glasgow to discuss the impact of the UK Government’s decision to end onshore wind support. Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing will meet with key players in the renewables sector to hear the concerns of the industry which will inform in his ongoing discussions with the UK Energy Minister Amber Rudd.

Scottish Energy News 29th June 2015 read more »

UK infrastructure contracts surged in the first few months of the year, driven by renewable energy and road projects, raising hopes of a recovery in a sector hit by government spending cuts. Confidence in the sector has also been hit by a decision to scrap subsidies for onshore wind power a year ear lier than planned. Utilities was the single biggest sector within infrastructure during May, accounting for 81 per cent of the total value of contracts awarded. There are already 5,000 active wind turbines in use across the UK, producing 5 per cent of the total amount of national electricity. But although the government has a target of 30 per cent of UK electricity coming from renewables by 2020, any expansion is now at risk, said Michael Dall, economist at Barbour ABI. Onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy – it is more economic than offshore wind and solar and is also competitive with nuclear generation.

FT 28th June 2015 read more »

Renewables – solar

A Heriot Watt University academic next week (7 July) celebrates the 20th anniversary of the first solar roof in Britain and the milestone of over one million people now living in homes with solar panels. In July 1995 Sue Roaf installed the first integrated solar roof on her own home despite facing opposition from the energy industry at the time and being told by the Government that it would never work “because there is not enough sunshine in Britain”. Two decades on, the solar panels are still generating electricity and hot water and generate enough heat and electricity to ensure that this six bedroom home has one of the lowest carbon footprints for any building in Britain.

Scottish Energy News 29th June 2015 read more »

CCS

A windswept North Sea gas platform, manned by half a dozen maintenance workers, seems an unlikely place to embark on a low-carbon revolution. But Royal Dutch Shell’s disused Goldeneye, connected by a 100km pipeline to the Scottish coast, could soon get a fresh lease of life, pumping millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into depleted reservoirs deep below the seabed. The energy giant is competing for a £1bn pot of money from the UK government to develop what would be the world’s first carbon capture and storage (CCS) project involving a gas-fired power station at Peterhead, near Aberdeen. Its prospects received a boost this month when council officials approved plans for state of the art technology at the SSE-owned plant that would extract carbon dioxide waste before sending it to Goldeneye. Environmental groups remain unconvinced. Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist, says: “On paper, CCS looks like an important technology which could reduce emissions from existing high-carbon infrastructure. In practice, its main use seems to be as an argument in favour of building more high-carbon infrastructure.”

FT 28th June 2015 read more »

Fossil Fuels

A new advisor to the Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, who has vowed to “deliver” fracking in Britain, received a £5,000 donation to his local party from a company set to benefit from the introduction of the technique, The Independent can reveal. Addison Projects, part of a £25m engineering company based in Lancashire which has said it wants to play an “active role” in supporting fracking, made the donation to the constituency party of Conservative MP Paul Maynard in March. Mr Maynard was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Ms Rudd after last month’s General Election, a role which requires him to be the Cabinet minister’s “eyes and ears” in Parliament. The donation, revealed following a joint investigation by The Independent and Greenpeace, has sparked criticism from the environmental group that the Government has become too close to the shale gas lobby.

Independent 28th June 2015 read more »

Two planning decisions in the north this week will speak volumes about Britain’s ability to cope with big projects. Today, Lancashire county council will decide on Cuadrilla’s fracking proposal near Little Plumpton, outside Blackpool, having already thrown out an application to drill test wells near Preston. While the proposal is relatively small scale, another rejection will frustrate government ambitions to recreate the US’s shale gas boom.

Times 29th June 2015 read more »

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Published: 29 June 2015