Energy Supplies

Michael Gove’s proposal to ban the sale of new cars with petrol or diesel engines from 2040 is very midsummer madness. Don’t just take my word for it. Stuart Haszeldine, professor of carbon capture and storage at Edinburgh University, told me: “It doesn’t have the hallmarks of a well-thought-through policy. If you’re going to deliver electrification of vehicles, you have to think about how it happens. A thought-through policy would also count the carbon emissions of making electricity at a power plant; that has to be nearly zero for electric cars to clean the national emissions inventory as well as cleaning cities.” Using gas means we have to do more to clean up the emissions at the power plant, or else the UK fails its international Paris 2015 UN agreements. A previous government in 2015 chose against carbon capture and storage to clean up electricity from gas burning. If we now want clean electricity for cars, that needs to be brought back quickly.” National Grid also warned that, regardless of the Scottish government’s opposition to fracking, gas will continue to play a key role in powering and heating our nation for decades. Its Future Energy Scenarios report added that as North Sea production declines, our already worrying dependence on gas imports will increase further with additional amounts of liquefied natural gas having to be shipped to the UK. The report comes hard on the heels of a similar assessment by the trade union GMB and Strathclyde University’s Centre for Energy Policy, which warned Scotland’s energy demands cannot be met without gas.

Sunday Times 30th July 2017 read more »

Identifying a tipping point is not always easy. But when one of the world’s most powerful oil bosses says he is in the market for an electric car, there can be little doubt. Shell is already shifting its focus from drilling for oil to natural gas, but within the next year Shell will unveil early plans for a deeper presence in renewable energy and the electrical chain to tap the boom in electric vehicles. “Everyone is repeatedly surprised at how fast electric cars are coming forward,” Professor Dieter Helm told The Telegraph in April. The number of new registrations of plug-in cars has grown from 3,500 in 2013 to more than 100,000 at the end of May. “But the political pressure to adopt this technology is increasing all the time. It’s not due to concerns over climate change – it’s city air pollution,” he said. “There is no doubt that batteries completely and utterly metamorphose the market in that they make the uncontrollable controllable. It makes the arguments against renewable energy fall away,” says Nick Boyle, the founder of Europe’s largest solar operator Lightsource. The new energy reality is not simply about consumers taking power from generators, but means the roles of producer and consumer will flip and, in some cases, merge. Lightsource is already pairing solar panels with battery packs to allow customers to effectively become their own energy market. Solar panels create energy which can be used at cheaper rates than electricity from the main grid, or stored in the battery to use later. If the battery and electric vehicle are both charged a Lightsource customer could sell their power back to the grid. By creating a network of households and businesses which can generate power and reduce demand, Lightsource could create a string of virtual low-carbon power plants. “We’ve always said that we would like to equip a million homes with solar panels and batteries. If you use a 4kW panel that would be 4GW of capacity,” says Boyle. This is the equivalent scale of Hinkley Point C plus a gas-fired power plant, but only when the sun shines. “But if you add a 6kW battery you’ve created an extra 6GW of storable electricity which could be used to balance the grid.” “It’s not about hardware anymore. It’s about software. And this can move at such an incredible pace and will only get quicker,” says Boyle. “It seems like we’re offering something impossible. But this is only because many are still using a yardstick of how they bought energy in the past. You almost need to draw a line under what has come before and start again.” Redesigning the electricity system is no easy undertaking though. Basil Scarsella, chief executive of Britain’s largest electricity distributor, UK Power Networks, says the industry is “on the verge of a change as significant for electricity as the advent of broadband was for telecommunications”. The network operator connects 18 million people across East Anglia, London and the South East to the electricity grid and has already had applications for 16GW worth of battery storage. Following the Government’s battery backing it has launched a fast-track online application process to connect even more home batteries. “The good news is that we don’t need to build a whole new stack of generation,” says Rob Doepel, a partner at EY. “There could be a 10pc increase in demand, but this doesn’t mean we need to increase our capacity by the same amount. The majority of cars are likely to charge overnight when many plants stand idle. So we can use our existing fleet more often.”

Telegraph 29th Jly 2017 read more »

Christopher Booker: To the few of us who have long been trying to follow the Government’s woefully unreported plans for Britain’s energy future, the news of the switch in 2040 to electric cars was hardly a surprise. But the full implications of this drive to phase out virtually all use of fossil fuels in the coming decades have not yet begun to sink in. And there are many more shocks to come. Brushed aside in the daylong blizzard of propaganda to which we were treated in favour of all-electric cars, there are of course many practical reasons these have not caught on. Despite hundreds of millions of pounds in taxpayer bribes to persuade motorists to buy them, they make up only 0.3 per cent of the 31.7 million cars on our roads. It didn’t take long for the crucial question to be asked: where is all the extra 30 gigawatts (GW) of electricity needed to charge these cars to come from, when this would add nearly 50 per cent to our current peak electricity demand, half of it still supplied by the fossil fuels the Government wants to eliminate?

Telegraph 29th July 2017 read more »

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Published: 30 July 2017