Toshiba’s audacious entry into the U.S. nuclear renaissance, once heralded as a major step forward for the industry, has turned into a financial quagmire and a potential major headache for current and future projects involving the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor. The Japanese company said this month it may have to write down billions related to an acquisition made by U.S. unit Westinghouse Electric that was completing the new generation of reactors at two U.S. facilities. The projects, directed by utilities Southern Co. and Scana Corp., are several years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. Westinghouse’s purchase of contractor CB&I Stone & Webster Inc. was expected to result in a settlement with the utilities regarding legal disputes over construction delays, supply chain issues for major components, and cost overruns. However, the acquisition turned out not to be a match made in heaven. Westinghouse and CB&I wound up in court over how expensive the delays will be and who should pay for them. Toshiba’s financial woes, and the rate at which it is spending down its cash reserve, put a number of current and future nuclear reactor projects at risk. Without enough cash, or credit, the question is whether the firm will be able to start new projects or finish acquiring components and services for the reactors that are under construction and take them through the final phases of regulatory approval to start operations to generate electricity. These plans include future efforts in the UK to build three Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the Moorside project. Toshiba will not have the billions in new capital to pay for its 60% equity stake in the project nor will it have a financial profile necessary to make new investors confident enough to share the risk of building the units. Current plans to have the first unit operating by 2024 may need a new majority investors to be realized by that date. In China projects include completion of four reactors (Sanmen 1 & 2, Haiyang 1 & 2) under construction in China, and in the U.S. there are four more, two in Georgia (Vogtle) and two in South Carolina (V C Summer).
Energy Collective 2nd Jan 2017 read more »
French energy and services giant Engie is targeting councils, museums and corporate offices as it seeks to capitalise on changing customer energy needs to expand its business in the UK. Wilfrid Petrie, Engie’s UK chief executive, said the energy industry was undergoing a “revolution” in which optimising and reducing gas and electricity usage was becoming more valuable than actually supplying it. Engie has a relatively low profile in the UK but is among the 10 biggest business energy firms, supplying 17,000 industrial and commercial sites as well as offering energy saving and management functions. Its services business – offering conventional facilities management functions such as catering, cleaning and technical support – operates in 14,000 UK sites. Councils will be among the key targets for Engie’s new integrated strategy, as it currently supplies or manages energy for only about half of the 15 local authorities with which it has other kinds of services contract. Engie has recently signed a deal with Wakefield council that will see it introduce energy saving systems such as lighting controls across 500 council buildings and 100 schools, as well as providing them with conventional services.
Telegraph 2nd Jan 2017 read more »
Letter Dr Oliver Mahony: According to Andrew Ward, (“Public finance considered at Welsh site”, December 16), “UK taxpayers’ money will not be at risk in the Hinkley project”. This is not the case. The government has pledged a £2bn guarantee on financing the investment, which has the prospect of rising over time. While this support has been achieved “off balance sheet” to avoid adding to the ever-growing national debt, the liability for the taxpayer is much the same.
FT 3rd Jan 2017 read more »
I was so sad to hear of Jean Ward’s passing. In her late eighties she had a young spirit and campaigned fiercely but with great personal gentleness. The last time I spoke to her was quite recently when she phoned me up to let me know that she had given National Grid a piece of her mind. She was inspired. She told National Grid that their actions in planning to connect pylons to three untried untested nuclear reactors was nothing short of criminal. National Grid replied to her that “Moorside has nothing to do with us.” Jean pulled them up on this and they had to admit that if Moorside doesn’t go ahead, neither do the giant pylons. Jean told National Grid that they should be ashamed of themselves for promoting such a dangerous monstrosity that has the potential to pollute much of Europe…”Scrap your pylon connection – Moorside would be an abomination.”
Radiation Free Lakeland 2nd Jan 2017 read more »
Does nuclear energy have a future or is it a technology of the past? Theo Leggett visits a power station in the UK, the first country to commercialise nuclear power in the 1950s and 60s, and counts the cost of decommissioning old nuclear reactors – a jobs that is now just beginning. Dr Paul Dorfman from the Energy Institute at University College London tells us why the vast costs involved in nuclear power make talk of a revival in the industry premature, both in the UK and in Europe. And Professor Lucas Davis from the University of California, Berkeley, explains why the election of Donald Trump is unlikely to provide a boost to a flagging nuclear industry in the US.
BBC World Service 21st Dec 2016 read more »
Just after Christmas, the Times’ science correspondent Oliver Moody’s provided a public and political service in exposing the worrying inadequacies of Britain’s nuclear safety and security regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). But whilst the article concentrated mainly on safety concerns, there are several security issues unresolved. In ONR’s latest annual report it records on page 39 that “There are areas where the duty holder’s security arrangements did not fully meet regulatory expectations.” Additionally on page 33 it reports” regarding the Sellafield facility “a requirement to improve processes in place for Cyber Security and Information Assurance (CS&IA) was identified. A contributory factor in this area was associated with a lack of resource within CS&IA capability.”
David Lowry’s Blog 2nd Jan 2017 read more »
Households have been offered Britain’s first “time-of-day” electricity tariff, with prices varying between periods of high and low demand, in a sign of how digital smart meters are opening new ways of managing energy usage. Green Energy UK, an independent energy supplier, will charge five times more for electricity used during the evening peak compared with overnight rates. The company said this would allow customers to save money by charging electronic devices and running appliances such as washing machines when power is cheapest. Businesses already have access to similar time-of-use tariffs but Green Energy’s new service marks the first time that households will be exposed to the varying cost of wholesale electricity at different times of the day.
FT 2nd Jan 2017 read more »
“India Must Black-list French Nuclear Suppliers: Former Power Secretary writes after Exposé in France”
Mining Awareness 31st Dec 2016 read more »
Two world-leading clean energy projects have opened in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. An industrial plant is capturing the CO2 emissions from a coal boiler and using the CO2 to make valuable chemicals. It is a world first. And just 100km away is the world’s biggest solar farm, making power for 150,000 homes on a 10 sq km site. The industrial plant appears especially significant as it offers a breakthrough by capturing CO2 without subsidy.
BBC 3rd Jan 2017 read more »
A breakthrough in the race to make useful products out of planet-heating CO2 emissions has been made in southern India. A plant at the industrial port of Tuticorin is capturing CO2 from its own coal-powered boiler and using it to make soda ash – aka baking powder. Crucially, the technology is running without subsidy, which is a major advance for carbon capture technology as for decades it has languished under high costs and lukewarm government support.
Guardian 3rd Jan 2017 read more »
Radioactive contamination is spreading within one of Hanford’s huge processing plants, and the problem could escalate as the plant, unused since the 1960s, continues to deteriorate. A new report on the Reduction-Oxidation Complex, more commonly called REDOX, recommends that $181 million be spent on interim cleanup and maintenance of the plant. REDOX is not scheduled to be demolished until about 2032, or possibly later because the nearby 222-S Laboratory in central Hanford will be needed to support the Hanford vitrification plant for another 30 to 40 years.
Tri City Herald 1st Jan 2017 read more »
As captains of the fossil fuel industries and their lobbyists prepare to take over the White House – appointed by a President elected by a minority, claiming to represent the people on an anti-elite ticket yet possessing by far the highest cumulative wealth of any cabinet ever – they will face evidence breaking out all around them of a fast-moving global energy transition threatening to strand the fossil fuels they seek to boost. “World energy hits a turning point”, a Bloomberg headline read on 16th December. “Solar power, for the first time, is becoming the cheapest form of new electricity,” the article marvelled. Analysis of the average cost of new wind and solar in 58 emerging-market economies – including China, India, and Brazil – showed solar at $1.65 million per megawatt and wind at $1.66.
Jeremy Leggett 3rd Jan 2017 read more »
German power utilities E.ON and RWE are able to cover their contributions to the country’s nuclear waste storage costs in one lump-sum payment, the chief executives of both groups were quoted as saying on Monday. RWE, E.ON, EnBW and Vattenfall agreed with the government in October to start contributing this year to a 23.6 billion euro ($24.7 billion) fund in exchange for shifting liability for nuclear waste storage to the state, giving investors greater clarity over the companies’ future finances. Under the deal, E.ON and RWE must pay about 10 billion euros and 6.8 billion respectively.
Reuters 2nd Jan 2017 read more »
China recently emerged as the new global champion of solar energy. Earlier this month, its grand vision of a low-carbon future and colossal efforts to meet those targets made headlines the world over. Though it continues to build coal-fired power plants at a rapid clip, by 2020, Chinese government plans call for meeting 27% of the country’s total power output through renewable energy. By 2050, the economic giant wants to take that figure up to 80%. But China is not the only country marching toward a green future. In 2017 watch out for these five emerging economies quietly surging ahead of the pack towards clean energy. (I have omitted India from the list on purpose. Its progress merits a separate full-length post). The five countries are: Chile; Kenya; Brazil; Taiwan; Egypt.
Forbes 22nd Dec 2016 read more »
Renewables – Solar
Donald Trump and the climate deniers and fossil fuel company backers he’s nominated for his cabinet don’t realize it—or refuse to believe it—but the world is starting to pass them by when it comes to developing new sources of power. In the developing world, solar power is becoming the most cost-effective new source of electricity. In nearly 60 lower-income countries, the average price of solar energy has dropped to $1.65 million per megawatt in 2016, just below wind at $1.66 million per megawatt. That means new energy development projects will focus on solar energy rather than wind power. “Unsubsidized solar is beginning to outcompete coal and natural gas on a larger scale, and notably, new solar projects in emerging markets are costing less to build than wind projects,” says a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a research and analysis organization for those investing in the energy industry.
Daily Kos 1st Jan 2017 read more »
Wind and solar energy is to be cheaper for most countries than using fossil fuels by 2018, a new report states. Following the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, most countries have been slow to give up their reliance on carbon-emitting resources, because of the cost of renewable sources. However, a new report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) says that it sees a drastic reversal of that trend, with the cost of wind and solar energy plummeting, making it a more promising investment. The report said: “Even though the renewables proposition has always had environmental appeal, technology has historically been subpar in delivering appropriate returns to investors without an impact mandate. “Inefficiencies in incipient solar and wind technologies have perpetuated a global energy matrix that still features coal and natural gas accounting for 62% of total generation. “Nonetheless, exponential improvements in renewable technology, both in efficiency and cost, have made renewable energy competitive in the past few years.”
IB Times 27th Dec 2016 read more »
THE Scottish Government must continue to champion the use of solar power, according to WWF Scotland and the Solar Trade Association Scotland. Their call came as they published figures showing Scotland had achieved two new solar power milestones during 2016, with over 200 megawats (MW) of installed capacity solar photo-voltaic (PV) systems at 50,000-plus locations. But the groups also said that the figures revealed the detrimental impact UK Government policy decisions were having on installed solar capacity north of the border, with 2016 recording the slowest rate of increase since 2011. Analysis of updated figures from Ofgem for 2016 found that Scotland’s installed solar PV capacity now stands at 209MW – a rise of 30MW on the same time last year, but the slowest rate of increase since 2011; Over 49,000 homes and 1,000 business p remises in Scotland now have solar PV arrays fitted, and there are almost 200 community-led solar PV schemes, with a combined installed capacity of 2MW, now exist in Scotland. John Forster, of the Solar Trade Association Scotland said: “Over the past year major policy changes by the UK Government have led to rooftop solar deployment stalling and thousands of jobs lost in the industry. In the coming year, the Scottish Government will have the opportunity to breathe life back into the solar industry with the publication of its new strategy on climate change and energy. We urge them to build on their manifesto pledge to work with industry to expand solar.”
The National 3rd Jan 2017 read more »
More than 50,000 solar power systems have been installed across Scotland; but the tally could have been much higher by now according to WWF Scotland and the Solar Trade Association. At least 49,000 homes and 1,000 business premises in Scotland now have solar panels fitted. One of the significant commercial installations we recently covered was Mackies Of Scotland’s 1.8MW solar farm. Additionally, there are close to 200 community-led solar PV schemes, with a combined installed capacity of 2MW.
Energy Matters 3rd Jan 2016 read more »
Renewables – Small Hydro
Brendon Energy is applying for permissions for a hydropower scheme on the River Exe, projected to generate 450,000kWh of electricity each year, saving 240 tonnes of CO2 yearly. Financial projections indicate a Community Fund of c. £200,000 over the 20 years of the project. The scheme features a ‘fish friendly’ Archimedes screw turbine.
Brendon Energy 2nd Jan 2017 read more »
A botched green energy scheme that has ignited a political crisis is on course to cost taxpayers more than £1 billion. The Treasury faces the bill after a massive overspend on subsidies encouraging farmers and businesses in Northern Ireland to run eco-friendly power schemes. The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) was supposed to cost £25 million in its first five years but the bill is likely to reach £1.15 billion over 20 years. The Treasury can claw back £490 million from the block grant to Northern Ireland, leaving £660 million to be financed by taxpayers in England, Scotland and Wales. The scandal threatens the future of Northern Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). She was the minister responsible when the scheme was set up in 2012. It was intended to boost renewable energy, but critics say Mrs Foster and her officials did not cap costs.
Times 3rd Jan 2017 read more »
Renewables – Scotland
WWF Scotland and trade body Scottish Renewables have issued a joint call for Scottish ministers to set an ambitious target of 50% renewables penetration by 2030 following a ‘landmark year’ for clean energy in 2016. Notable achievements across the Scottish renewables landscape last year include the commissioning of Scotland’s largest solar farm – a 13 MW ground-mounted array – in Tayside, the completion of the U.K.’s largest community rooftop solar project in Edinburgh, the world’s largest tidal turbine trial, and a record-setting day when wind power produced more electricity than was consumed across Scotland over 24 hours. These achievements, noted W WF Scotland director Lang Banks, makes the nation a global trailblazer for pollution-free power, with Scotland now meeting three-fifths of its electricity needs from renewable sources.
PV Magazine 2nd Jan 2017 read more »
Almost all Costa Rica’s electricity was produced by renewable energy in 2016, continuing its reputation as a “verdant gem” among a pile of “black coal rocks”. The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) said that around 98.1 per cent of the country’s electricity came from green sources. These included large hydropower facilities, fed by a myriad of rivers and heavy seasonal rains, geothermal plants, wind turbines, solar panels and biomass plants. The country used carbon-free electricity for more than 250 days last year with a continuous 110-day stretch from 17 June until 6 October.
Independent 2nd Jan 2017 read more »
Six countries that said adios to fossil fuels.
Energy Transition 31st Dec 2016 read more »
This past year had so many stories involving human-caused climate change – it will be forever in our memories. Here is a summary of some of the high points, from my perspective. When I say “high points” I don’t necessarily mean good. Some of these high points are bad and some are downright ugly. Let’s do the good first. The Good: The best news of all, in my opinion, is the continued cost reductions and huge installations of clean energy both in the US and around the word. Wind, solar, and other renewables have been on an incredible run of decreasing costs and creative financing, which has made them economically competitive with dirty fossil fuels. Improvements and expansion of grid-based power storage has al so advanced. These storage abilities are needed to allow intermittent power sources (like wind and solar) to play an even larger role in delivering power to the grid. In the end, clean power will win out based on simple dollars and cents – regardless of the fact they will also help save the world.
Guardian 2nd Jan 2017 read more »