News

27 November 2015

Energy Policy

The ‘Autumn Statement’ delivered with such aplomb by the Chancellor is yet another attack on the UK’s sustainable future, write David Lowry & Oliver Tickell – cutting energy efficiency funds just as tens of thousands are set to die of cold this winter, betting £250m on pointless nuclear research, and raiding the renewables budget to fund subsidies to nuclear power and fossil fuels. Osborne slashed the budgets of the two key green departments, DEFRA and DECC by 22% and 15% respectively. He even failed to reveal to MPs in his Parliamentary Statement that, barely days before the major Climate Change Conference in Paris next week, he was cancelling the £1bn competition for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology – only six months before it was due to be awarded. The move has been greeted with widespread shock and dismay. “This is devastating”, said Dr Luke Warren, chief executive of the CCS Association. “Moving the goalposts just at the time when a four-year competition is about to conclude is an appalling way to do business. It is a real blow to confidence for companies investing in CCS. This technology is critical for the UK’s economic, industrial and climate policies.” Shell responded by saying its own CCS project at Peterhead in Scotland was now dead and its CCS work would henceforth be based in other countries: “Shell remains committed to CCS – as our involvement in demonstration projects in other parts of the world shows – and we view it as an important part of a low-carbon energy future.” In other regressive moves, the Chancellor decided to cut Government-backed schemes to promote energy efficiency and low carbon technology. He slashed spending on home energy efficiency by a whopping 83%, amounting to £132m, in winding up the energy company obligation (ECO) scheme. Osborne also said that The Spending Review and Autumn Statement doubles spend on energy innovation. However most of the money – £250 million over five years – is to go into an “ambitious nuclear research and development programme” into ‘small modular reactors’ (SMRs) – widely promoted by the nuclear industry as the ‘next big thing’ despite the lack of any demand for the technology or any prototype. At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn led with questions on renewable energy: “This week, 55 Labour councils have made a commitment for their areas to be run entirely on green energy by 2050. With the Paris climate talks just days away, will the Prime Minister join me in commending those councils, and will he call on all Conservative councils to do the same?”

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Posted: 27 November 2015

26 November 2015

Small Modular Reactors

Ministers announce £250m funding for nuclear research and development including competition to develop small modular reactor. The UK could build one of the world’s first small modular nuclear reactors in the 2020s, after ministers announced support for the technology through a £250m research package. A competition to identify the “best value small modular reactor design for the UK” will be launched in the new year, which will “pave the way towards building one of the world’s first small modular reactors in the UK in the 2020s”, the Treasury said. Developers say small reactors would be much cheaper and quicker to build than conventional nuclear power plants, with components manufactured in factories and then assembled on site. The small reactors would have a lower capacity than conventional nuclear plants, such as the proposed Hinkley Point plant in Somerset, but would also be more flexible in their generation. Westinghouse, one of the companies developing the technology, has already sought Government support for a 225-megawatt design which it says could rapidly increase or decrease power output to help balance out fluctuations in renewable power. The small nuclear reactor competition will form part of a pledge to invest “at least £250m over the next 5 years in an ambitious nuclear research and development programme”. The Treasury hopes this will “revive the UK’s nuclear expertise and position the UK as a global leader in innovative nuclear technologies”.

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Posted: 26 November 2015

25 November 2015

Hinkley

The Government’s energy policy is looking increasingly inept, as Jonathon Porritt and Molly Scott Cato MEP agree to act as Patrons to the Stop Hinkley Campaign. The recent energy policy re-set shows the Government plans to rely mostly on imported and fracked gas and nuclear power for UK energy supplies, just as Scientific American publishes a study showing we could use renewables for all our energy needs by 2050. Meanwhile, the Hinkley Point C project looks more and more financially toxic. Now even the association of employee-shareholders says it could spell doom for EDF as a company. Mounting losses accrued by AREVA and EDF on the EPRs being built elsewhere have already put the future of the company in jeopardy. Investment bank Investec, Moody’s and Standard and Poor have all advised clients to sell shares in EDF.

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Posted: 25 November 2015

UK Government energy policy goes backwards

The Government’s recent energy policy re-set shows it plans to rely mostly on imported and fracked gas and nuclear power for UK energy supplies, (1) just as Scientific American publishes a study showing we could use renewables for all our energy needs by 2050. (2)

Meanwhile, the Hinkley Point C project looks more and more financially toxic. Now even the association of employee-shareholders says it could spell doom for EDF as a company. (3) Mounting losses accrued by AREVA and EDF on the EPRs being built elsewhere have already put the future of the company in jeopardy. Investment bank Investec, Moody’s and Standard and Poor have all advised clients to sell shares in EDF. (4)

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd has been busy slashing support for renewables since she came to office because she says she is concerned about energy bills. And yet she has attacked two of the lowest cost energy sources (wind and solar) just as they are making progress towards being competitive with gas, whilst subsidising one of the most expensive sources of electricity – nuclear power. Britain could have six times the power-generation capacity for the same money by investing in wind turbines instead of Hinkley Point C according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (NEF). (5) And the Solar Trade Association has shown that solar PV could provide the same amount of electricity for half the subsidy cost of Hinkley Point C. (6) The future for solar and wind in the rest of the world looks bright and now the Lazard investment bank is predicting the cost of energy storage will be competitive in five year’s time. (7)

While innovation and enterprise bloom in the renewables industry Stop Hinkley Spokesperson Roy Pumfrey says: “The Government, on the other hand, seems to have invented special glasses to help it look backwards.”

Environmentalist and Writer, Jonathon Porritt, campaigner, author and Founder Director of Forum for the Future, and now a Patron of the Stop Hinkley Campaign, says:

“The Government’s ‘energy trilemma’ – tackling climate change at the same time as providing energy that is affordable and secure – can be solved primarily with renewables and energy efficiency but it seems determined to ignore the answer staring us in the face. Instead of making a risky 35-year bet on the most expensive electricity power generation station ever proposed, it should be supporting the creation of a world-leading renewables industry that already has widespread public support.”

In the run-up to the Paris Climate Talks at the end of this week, South West Green MEP, Dr Scott Cato, and also a new Stop Hinkley Campaign Patron says:

“We need to see a transformation to the way our economy works and we need to see it quickly. 100% renewable energy by 2050 is possible, and the report I commissioned on the South-west region demonstrated just that. (8) This transformation could create 122,000 new quality jobs in the process and add £14bn to the regional economy. Yet this Government seems to be doing everything it can to kill off any chance of achieving this.”

1. Amber Rudd’s speech on a new direction for UK energy policy 18th November 2015
2. 139 Countries Could Get All of their Power from Renewable Sources Scientific American 19th Nov 2015  Plan for the UK
3. Telegraph 12th November 2015
4. Dave Toke’s Blog 27th October 2015
5. Bloomberg 21st Oct 2015
6. Politics 20th Oct 2015
7. FT 17th November 2015
8. See Molly Scott Cato’s website

Posted: 24 November 2015

24 November 2015

Hinkley

London Mayor Boris Johnson has called the plan for Hinkley Point “a disgrace.” – just a few weeks after the PM announced a landmark deal with the Chinese to build it. Cameron called it a “flagship project of cooperation” between the two countries. But Boris has broke ranks and said the £18n cost for the first nuclear power in two decades underwritten with £2bn of taxpayers’money was an “extraordinary amount of money to spend”.

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Posted: 24 November 2015

23 November 2015

Dounreay

A TORY MSP hopeful has been ridiculed for saying he wants to reboot Dounreay’s nuclear plant. Malcolm Mackay says he wants it to start producing electricity – 21 years after it closed down. The remote Caithness facility is being decommissioned at a cost of £3billion to the taxpayer. Politicians and nuclear experts described former UKIP European Parliament candidate Mackay’s plan as “ridiculous”. Mackay, a business developer, is standing for Holyrood in Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch and is on the Highlands and Islands regional list. On an election leaflet, he pledges to campaign to “restart Dounreay’s nuclear programme” as part of a “Scottish northern powerhouse”. The leaflet, along with statements from other Tory list hopefuls, was sent to homes in the Highlands.

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Posted: 23 November 2015

22 November 2015

Hinkley

Letter Jo Brown: I am writing on behalf of Parents Concerned About Hinkley in response to the comments made by the Government minister Amber Rudd. She said that opponents of nuclear misread the science as it is safe and reliable and the challenge, as with other low carbon technologies, is to deliver nuclear power which is low cost as well. It is Amber Rudd who is behind the times in understanding nuclear science. Since the government decided that public health detriment from exposure to nuclear radiation was justified we have provided new evidence of individual radionuclide health impact from the US Environmental Protection Agency; evidence that There is No Safe Dose of Nuclear Radiation Exposure from NIRS – Nuclear Information Resource Service and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

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Posted: 22 November 2015

21 November 2015

Hinkley

Boris Johnson attacks ‘disgraceful’ spending on Hinkley – just a month after David Cameron hailed the ‘flagship’ deal. Mayor of London said the estimated £18bn cost of Britain’s first nuclear power station in two decades was an ‘extraordinary amount of money’. Asked by Baroness Jones, a Green party London Assembly member who is fiercely opposed to nuclear power, whether he supported the building of Hinkley Point C despite its cost, Mr Johnson said: “I’m totally with you on that one – it’s a disgrace.

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Posted: 21 November 2015

20 November 2015

Hunterston

Cracks have been discovered in bricks which make up the core of one of two nuclear reactors at the Hunterston B power station in Ayrshire. Operator EDF Energy said the cracks in three graphite bricks were found during planned maintenance on Reactor Three. The firm insisted there were no safety implications and the finding had no impact on the operation of the reactor. A similar issue – known as “keyway root cracking” was identified in Hunterston’s other reactor last year. EDF Energy said it was publicising the latest findings “as part of its commitment to openness and transparency”. “The level of cracking which is considered reasonable is far below anything which would affect the reactor’s safe operation. “It is accepted by our regulators and materials experts that cracks will occur in some of the bricks and that the core will lose some of its mass as part of the normal ageing process.” Mr Weir added: “The observations were anticipated and are in line with our understanding, so our view of the best estimate lifetime planning date of 2023 has not changed.”

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Posted: 20 November 2015

19 November 2015

Energy Policy

The UK will close all coal-fired power plants by 2025, the first major country to do so, but will fill the capacity gap largely with new gas and nuclear plants rather than cleaner alternatives. Rudd said she wanted policy to focus on making energy affordable and secure. The government wanted a “consumer-led, competition-focused energy system that has energy security at the heart of it”, she said, adding that the balance had swung too far in favour of climate change policies at the expense of keeping energy affordable. Rudd acknowledged that gas and nuclear power generation would in effect need a government subsidy for building power plants, but insisted they were the most secure energy sources. Several analysts, campaigners and the affected industries argue that slashing support for renewables is a backwards step when it comes to tackling climate change, growing green industry and saving consumers money in the longer term. Ed Davey published a series of questions for Rudd on Tuesday night, including asking how the UK would meet its legal obligations under the Climate Change Act under her new policies.

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Posted: 19 November 2015