Britain’s energy industry has cause to celebrate the resounding Conservative victory in the general election. Under an ill-conceived, Labour-led coalition government — backed by the Scottish nationalists and Greens — the lights would have been in danger of going out across the land before Christmas. More than any other sector, energy would have felt the full force of Ed Miliband’s socialist quest to hammer free enterprise by virtually making “profit” a prohibited word in the English language. The now ex-leader of Labour had placed freezing energy prices — in effect choking off private investment — at the top of his party’s agenda without any consideration for the massive shortfall in energy supply that Britain faces. David Cameron’s choice to lead the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will now be critical in ensuring a competitive environment for energy utilities to make a fair profit. It will need to make sure investment is encouraged to generate the new electricity capacity that is vital to power the growing economy that will come from another five years of Conservative government. With spare energy capacity expected to drop to around 4pc again this winter, Britain must urgently build more conventional and nuclear power plants without delay. Forget ill-conceived commitments to generate 15pc of the UK’s power from renewables by the end of the decade by building even more useless windmills and solar parks. The construction of the Hinkley Point nuclear plant and several new gas-fired stations is now vital. the country cannot afford to fall into the trap set by the climate change zealots who would see our great oil and gas companies bankrupted on the evidence of some questionable scientific assumptions. As Tony Hayward, the former chief executive of BP, recently pointed out when asked about the “carbon bubble” theory, the solution to reducing emissions doesn’t have to be financial Armageddon that would follow divestment from the industry. According to Mr Hayward, if much of the billions invested into renewables over the past 20 years had instead been directed towards technologies such as carbon capture, which can mitigate pollution, then climate change might not be such as issue. Ed Davey – who lost his seat in the election and saw his party wiped out in the polls – DECC lurched too far towards pandering to the green lobby and arguably made itself the enemy of an industry that it is intended to nurture and oversee.
Telegraph 8th May 2015 read more »
With all 650 seats having declared their election results, the Conservatives have secured 331 seats, five more than they needed to form a majority in the House of Commons and return David Cameron to Downing Street. The top line on the Conservative approach to climate and energy issues is that the party will stick to the UK’s overarching carbon targets, while focusing on minimising costs. We’ve summarised some key messages from the Tory manifesto in this graphic.
Carbon Brief 8th May 2015 read more »
The next five years will be crucial in the global fight against climate change but the Conservatives must improve their shaky record on green issues if they are to meet the challenge. The difficulty is that for many observers, even supporters, he has been horribly inconsistent on green issues, having said “vote blue, go green” before the 2010 election then afterwards installing a climate change sceptic as environment secretary and reportedly railing against the “green crap” levies on energy bills. Will the short-term difficulties of a tiny majority and a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union trump the medium-term benefits of supporting the thriving green economy and cutting carbon emissions? The Conservative manifesto is brief on both energy and environment, but contains some specifics. Subsidies will be scrapped for new onshore wind farms, the cheapest form of low-carbon energy. That contradicts the Tory’s pledge on the same page to support renewables that “represent value for money”, but will please some in the shires. The Conservatives want to deliver EDF’s huge and expensive new nuclear plant in Somerset and have talked up a possible tidal barrage in Swansea Bay. But fossil fuels will get wholehearted backing from the Conservatives, with fracking for shale gas a priority and further help for the struggling North Sea oil and gas fields, which saw record investment in the last government.
Guardian 8th May 2015 read more »
It is clear from even a cursory reading of the Conservative manifesto that sustainability plays a very minor part of the thinking of most key party figures. We should contrast that with the way it informed all policy making by their erstwhile Coalition partners. But inevitably that very prominence can too easily lead to the conclusion that such issues are not just irrelevant to the electorate. Given yesterday’s decimation of the Liberal Democrats, it may just be that highlighting environmental matters may be deemed by the Government to be toxic. Certainly the perceived abject failure of the Coalition erstwhile flagship programme, the Green Deal, has already led to a deliberate distancing from endorsement of energy efficiency. Despite its job creating, resource conserving, import reducing, infrastructure-improving consequences. If we are to progress on matters environmental over the next few years, I suspect it will have to mostly by stealth, eschewing flashy headlines. We will instead have to content ourselves with just nudging things along. It won’t be easy. But as Kermit the Frog sung, “it isn’t easy being green.”
Business Green 8th May 2015 read more »
E3G is publishing ‘Changing the Game’ a 10 point programme for government that will put the environment to work for the economy. For too long Britain’s environmentalists have asked British Governments to do more for the environment. It is now time to turn the tables and tell the government what the environment can do for Britain’s economy. Properly insulating people’s homes would drive down energy bills permanently, help save the NHS £1.3 billion a year, create 100,000 jobs and pay for itself by 2024. Stronger controls on air pollution would cut the £15 billion/year it costs the NHS. Buying electricity to fuel your car is half the cost of buying petrol or diesel. An honest carbon tax would recycle its revenues into paying for the investment to avoid dangerous climate change. Britain needs a powerful Department of Natural Resources to balance the ‘growth at any price’ mentality of the Treasury.
Tom Burke 6th May 2015 read more »
With the Tories now in power, there are already calls from Labour peer Bryony Worthington to ensure that a climate sceptic is not allowed to head up the department of energy and climate change, after renowned climate sceptic Owen Paterson’s stint as the head of Defra. But what does this result mean for energy policy in the UK? With the Tories able to command a majority, fracking will get the go ahead, though it will be interesting to see how quickly the government is able to embrace the technique. On the campaign trail, Conservatives have been at pains to strike a conciliatory tone on the subject. Onshore wind, so long the bug bear of conservative middle-England, will effectively be scrapped, if the Tories election manifesto is to be believed. The absence of the Liberal Democrats from the new government, and parliament as a whole, will mean their vaunted idea for a Zero Carbon Britain Act will remain a pipe dream. The Tories commitments to renewables and emissions targets are weak. Their promise to insulate more than a million homes in the next parliament actually represents an 80% cut in the number of homes treated compared to the last parliament, according to statistics from the Association for the Conservation of Energy. While it is worth noting that in all their talk on renewables cutting emissions they repeat the line that such measures must be “cost effective”.
Energy Desk 8th May 2015 read more »
The election of the first Conservative majority government in nearly 20 years has begun a round of speculation about the country’s policies on green energy and global warming. The energy and climate change department was one area of the last administration where the influence of the Conservatives’ junior Liberal Democrat coalition partners was highly visible. Under its two Lib Dem secretaries, Chris Huhne and then Ed Davey, who lost his own seat on Thursday, subsidies for the onshore wind farms that many Tory MPs oppose were kept intact, along with support for other renewable energy projects. An effort by George Osborne, the Conservative chancellor, to change targets for greenhouse gas emissions that he feared would make the UK less competitive was rebuffed. Tory enthusiasm for a homegrown shale gas industry was tem pered by stringent drilling rules that some in the energy industry said would add millions to production costs. So what will happen now that the Conservatives are free to govern in their own right and the Lib Dems have been reduced to a rump in Westminster? “I think people are wrong to say there’s going to be a lurch [from green] to brown,” said Michael Liebreich, founder of the Bloomberg New Energy Finance research firm and a potential Conservative party candidate for London mayor. Much of the party’s attitude to green policies was driven by a desire to protect itself from an expected surge in support from the UK Independence Party, he said. “Now Ukip is in disarray,” he said, pointing to the party’s failure to achieve the political upset its followers had hoped for and the resignation of its leader, Nigel Farage, following his failure to win a seat. Still, the fate of the energy and climate change department itself is unclear, as is the name of the person who will run it.
FT 8th May 2015 read more »
Areva & EDF
For decades, France has been a living laboratory for atomic energy, getting nearly three-quarters of its electricity from nuclear power — a higher proportion by far than in any other country. And France’s nuclear companies have long been seen as leaders in building and safely operating uranium-fueled reactors around the world — including in the United States — and championed by Paris as star exporters and ambassadors of French technological prowess. But in the last few years, the French dynamo has started to stall. New plants that were meant to showcase the industry’s most advanced technology are years behind schedule and billions of euros over budget. Worse, recently discovered problems at one site have raised new doubts about when, or even if, they will be completed. Alarmed by the French industry’s problems, the Socialist government of President François Hollande is expected soon to announce an industry overhaul. As the majority owner of the country’s two main nuclear companies — the reactor maker Areva and the big utility operator Électricité de France — the government will aim not only to put the companies on a firmer financial footing but to reorganize them in hopes of restoring the French industry’s role-model luster. On Wednesday, China National Nuclear Corporation told reporters in Beijing that it would be interested in making a financial investment in Areva. The French company responded in a statement that same day that “we are happy that CNNC is ready to strengthen its cooperation with Areva.” stumbles elsewhere by Areva and Électricité de France — better known as EDF — have raised troubling questions about the viability and cost of the Hinkley Point plant. And while Prime Minister David Cameron has courted the Chinese, other British officials have raised security questions about involving state-backed Chinese companies.
New York Times 7th May 2015 read more »
The first signs of trouble for the EPR strategy cropped up in Finland, where Areva and its partner, Siemens, had won the job of building the Olkiluoto 3 power plant. Areva had built more than 100 reactors, but it had never before played the leading role on a project of this magnitude, a role for which analysts now say it was unsuited. Construction on the plant began in 2005 with a 2009 target date to begin operations. The earliest is it now expected to go into service is 2018 — at a cost that could be three times the 3 billion euros, or $3.8 billion, originally estimated. A government study made a number of recommendations including closer integration of the various French nuclear companies and a reworking of the EPR design. But it is only now, after the company’s loss last year of €4.8 billion made ignoring the problem impossible, that the government seems prepared to take the drastic step of reorganizing its showcase industry.
New York Times 7th May 2015 read more »
Shares in big UK power generators soared on Friday morning as general election results pointed to a Conservative government. Centrica led the way, trading about 9 per cent higher. Markets were reacting with relief to the political news. Centrica, SSE and the subsidiaries of European utilities that make up the rest of the UK’s big six power suppliers would have been hit with freeze on energy prices until 2017 if the opposition Labour party had won. Ed Miliband, the party’s leader, had proposed forcing the companies to split their power generation and supply businesses and to open their books.
FT 8th May 2015 read more »
A $13 billion deal agreed by China to build two reactors for Argentina hinges entirely on the Chinese side putting up the financing, with a final arrangement on the cash deal to be inked in 2017, according to sources in the Chinese nuclear industry.
World Nuclear News 8th May 2015 read more »
An appeals court has overturned sabotage convictions against an elderly Catholic nun who broke into a US nuclear defence site in 2012. But the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld other guilty verdicts against Sister Megan Rice, 85, and two others for damaging government property. It ordered a lower court to give them new sentences. Rice was jailed for nearly three years for entering the Oak Ridge facility in Tennessee, which stores uranium. The other two protesters, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed, were each sentenced to more than five years in prison. The July 2012 incident prompted security changes at the Y-12 site.
BBC 8th May 2015 read more »
Environmentalist and entrepreneur Jeremy Leggett argues that, after a quarter century as a campaigner feeling like we were losing the carbon war, we have begun the process of winning. In this extract from his new book he and Steve Sawyer bat for the solar and wind industries at the Lima Climate Summit on a 100% renewables target for Paris. “Something huge is happening this week”. So reads an e-mail from the online activist group Avaaz to its 40 million members. In Lima, governments are about to set a goal to cut carbon pollution completely. But it is at risk. The e-mail appeals to Avaaz members to get busy signing one of their multi-million-signature international e-petitions.
Energy Desk 5th May 2015 read more »
Renewables Offshore Wind
In 2015, Germany will install over two gigawatts of offshore wind power, almost four times as much as the 529 megawatts installed the previous year, according to the research firm GlobalData. In hiking its installation so much, Germany will overtake the UK as the biggest installer of offshore wind globally, GlobalData points out—though the UK will still have much more capacity overall. (Denmark comes behind the UK in the pecking order by capacity, followed by Belgium and, for the moment at least, China.)
Clean Technica 7th May 2015 read more »
This week’s Micro Power News.
Microgenscotland 8th May 2015 read more »
Sewage and solar power may be odd bedfellows in the race to save the climate. But in Sonoma County, one hour north of San Francisco, an experiment is underway to install the nation’s largest floating solar array on a series of wastewater treatment ponds. The sprawling 12.5MW Megawatt “flotovoltaic” park due for completion in 2016 covers 38 acres, or the area of 35 football fields, in a farming and vineyard region where real estate costs are at a premium. The project signals the growing clout of Sonoma Clean Power, a new government-run agency that has made this county of 500,000 the lead producer of solar energy per capita in America. At 310 watts of installed power per person, Sonoma has five times the national average. Since launching last May, the programme says it has saved 100,000 metric tonnes in emissions – the equivalent of taking 21,000 vehicles off the road – while lowering consumers’ energy bills 6-9%. Now, this publicly-run model to finance and produce clean energy is leading a nationwide movement as communities look to speed the US transition toward renewable power, with similar programs flourishing from Massachusetts and Rhode Island to New Jersey, Ohio and Illinois. Known as Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA, programmes like Sonoma’s are bringing competition into power generation by letting cities and counties decide where their energy comes from.
Guardian 8th May 2015 read more »
If you read our piece Tuesday on Tesla’s new PowerWall battery storage announcement, but spent the past three days thinking about whether you wanted to get one for your own home, well, you waited too long. According to several reports, Tesla has sold 38,000 PowerWalls since its announcement a week ago, and is now sold out through mid-2016. Not terribly surprising since its Nevada Gigafactory to manufacture batteries for both its cars and electricity storage use won’t even be completed until then. Perhaps more significantly for the future of clean energy, Tesla also has sold 2,500 of its larger PowerPacks. Those are the systems designed for commercial, industrial and utility purposes. And those 2,500 batteries will surely store a lot more power and enable a lot more renewable energy deployment than will the larger number of home systems. The significance of Elon Musk’s Tesla battery-powered announcement is two-fold: first, Tesla has dramatically lowered the cost of electricity storage, and has done so even before its Gigafactory is in operation. Mass production will lead to both lower prices and greater capacity. Tesla competitors will also have to up their game and develop lower-cost batteries. Second, Tesla is doing this with the precise intent of entirely transforming the nature of electricity generation and distribution, and of moving the entire world–as quickly as possible–to a clean energy future.
Safe Energy 8th May 2015 read more »
The simple reasons nuclear will lose the battle for our energy future to companies like Tesla.
Earthtrack 6th May 2015 read more »