News

Renewables – solar

The global solar market today is a success story redolent with potential to inspire progress on wider fronts in the battle for a livable future. The UK story is incongruent with this global picture. Why? What needs to be done to set things right? At the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum this morning I offer my top three suggestions for what needs to change.

Jeremy Leggett 21st Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 22 January 2019

Local Energy

Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) has unveiled two landmark solar-plus-storage projects on existing landfill sites which aim to be the first of their kind in the UK. CCC, which has been a prominent proponent of renewables, last week unveiled plans to develop the energy projects on landfill sites in Woodston and Stanground, both near Peterborough. The Stanground site is proposed to be the largest, combining a 2.25MW ground-mount solar array with a 10MW battery storage system, while the Woodston project will use a 3MW battery.

Solar Power Portal 22nd Jan 2019 read more »

Peterborough Telegraph 22nd Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 22 January 2019

100% Renewables

Washington DC has committed to plans to source 100% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2032, as part of its Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 which last week signed into law a raft of new clean energy policy initiatives. The District of Columbia City Council voted before Christmas in favour of passing the Amendment Act, the second of two necessary votes to move the bill forward and placed on the Mayor’s desk.

Renew Economy 22nd Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 22 January 2019

Energy Storage

Rocks in the seabed off the UK coast could provide long-term storage locations for renewable energy production, new research suggests. An advanced technique could be used to trap compressed air in porous rock formations found in the North Sea using electricity from renewable technologies. The pressurised air could later be released to drive a turbine to generate large amounts of electricity. The study found that using the technique on a large scale could store enough compressed air to meet the UK’s electricity needs during winter, when demand is highest. This process might help provide steady and reliable supplies of energy from renewable sources – such as wind and tidal turbines – all of which is believed will help limit global temperature rise as a result of climate change.

Edinburgh Reporter 21st Jan 2019 read more »

Britain could store enough renewable electricity to last through winter by creating vast reservoirs of compressed air under the North Sea, a study has suggested. Researchers from the universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde propose using electricity generated from wind and tidal power to force hundreds of millions of cubic metres of air into porous sandstone formations. These undersea reservoirs of compressed air could be charged during the summer, with the air released during the depths of winter to drive turbines that would produce electricity when demand rose. Supporters of the technology say that it would address one of the biggest challenges facing renewable energy sources: our inability to turn them on and off to meet our needs.

Times 22nd Jan 2019 read more »

Herald 22nd Jan 2019 read more »

Independent 21st Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 22 January 2019

Fossil Fuels

China financed more than a quarter of all coal plants announced outside the country last year according to a new report, putting its clean energy image at risk as Chinese institutions fund coal-fired projects in emerging markets. Chinese institutions last year provided $36bn of financing for coal plants outside the country, 26 per cent of the 399 gigawatts of such plants planned or committed last year, according to a report published by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), a US-based non-profit. As development banks scale back or completely halt their investment in coal-backed energy projects, China has emerged as a chief lender for such power plants, putting its international policies at odds with its domestic agenda to cut coal use, reduce carbon emissions and boost consumption of renewable energy.

FT 22nd Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 22 January 2019

Climate

Greenland’s enormous ice sheet is melting at such an accelerated rate that it may have reached a “tipping point,” and could become a major factor in sea-level rise around the world within two decades, scientists said in a study published on Monday. The Arctic is warming at twice the average rate of the rest of the planet, and the new research adds to the evidence that the ice loss in Greenland, which lies mainly above the Arctic Circle, is speeding up as the warming increases. The authors found that ice loss in 2012, more than 400 billion tons per year, was nearly four times the rate in 2003. After a lull in 2013-14, losses have resumed. The study is the latest in a series of papers published this month suggesting that scientific estimates of the effects of a warming planet have been, if anything, too conservative. Just a week ago, a separate study of ice loss in Antarctica found that the continent is contributing more to rising sea levels than previously thought. Another new analysis suggested that the oceans are warming far faster than earlier estimates. Warming oceans are currently the leading cause of sea-level rise, since water expands as it warms.

New York Times 21st Jan 2019 read more »

Greenland is melting faster than scientists previously thought, with the pace of ice loss increasing four-fold since 2003, new research has found. Enormous glaciers in Greenland are depositing ever larger chunks of ice into the Atlantic ocean, where it melts. But scientists have found that the largest ice loss in the decade from 2003 actually occurred in the southwest region of the island, which is largely glacier-free. This suggests surface ice is simply melting as global temperatures rise, causing gushing rivers of meltwater to flow into the ocean and push up sea levels. South-west Greenland, not previously thought of as a source of woe for coastal cities, is set to “become a major future contributor to sea level rise,” the research states. “We knew we had one big problem with increasing rates of ice discharge by some large outlet glaciers,” said Michael Bevis, lead author of the paper and a professor of geodynamics at Ohio State University. “But now we recognize a second serious problem: increasingly, large amounts of ice mass are going to leave as meltwater, as rivers that flow into the sea.” The research provides fresh evidence of the dangers posed to vulnerable coastal places as diverse as Miami, Shanghai, Bangladesh and various Pacific islands as climate change shrinks the world’s land-based ice.

Guardian 21st Jan 2019 read more »

Independent 21st Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 22 January 2019

Wylfa

Business and political leaders will meet to discuss ways they can help workers affected by the suspension of work on a new nuclear power station. Japanese firm Hitachi’s decision to halt its Wylfa Newydd project on Anglesey was described as a “tremendous blow” to the north Wales economy. About 9,000 workers had been expected to build the £13bn plant. Economy secretary Ken Skates will be at an emergency meeting of the North Wales Economic Ambition Board later. Mr Skates said he wanted to discuss what job opportunities there were for people in similar fields in and around Anglesey. Energy is not currently devolved to the Welsh Government and Mr Skates said he was “deeply concerned” and wanted the UK government to “step up to the plate” to give assurances about the project and the wider implications for the regional economy.

BBC 21st Jan 2019 read more »

Almost every farmer who owned land on the prospective new Wylfa B site sold it to Horizon. All, that is, except one. Richard Jones and his wife Gwenda refused steadfastly to sell their farm to be torn up for the nuclear site. It had been in the family for 300 years. “They could have offered us a billion pounds an acre and we wouldn’t have sold,” said Richard when we met in their cosy farmhouse kitchen last year, drinking warm mugs of tea and eating three kinds of homemade cake. Richard pulls out a map that shows all the farms sold off around him. “Churchill said something like ‘you cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth,’” he said. His farm is positioned like the head inside the tiger’s mouth, surrounded on three sides by lands sold to Horizon. But he and Gwenda did more than reason with Horizon, they defied and challenged the company and its frequent emissaries to their farm. When the local activist group — People Against Wylfa B (PAWB) — brought the former prime minister of Japan, Naoto Kan, to Anglesey, he met with the Jones family (and hopefully was also treated to some of Gwenda’s delicious cakes!) The family had been getting quite a bit of press for their refusal to sell out. Horizon didn’t like it.

Beyond Nuclear 20th Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 21 January 2019

Bradwell

China’s largest state-backed nuclear company is in talks with Rolls-Royce about supplying equipment for the power plant it hopes to build in Essex as it seeks to allay national security concerns about the project. CGN is in discussions with the British engineering group over providing the control systems for the Hualong HPR1000 reactors the Chinese group plans to install at Bradwell. Regarded as the central nervous system of a nuclear power plant, this technology not only drives the operation of the reactor, but allows it to be safely shut down should problems occur. Using the British group’s equipment would be a significant concession by CGN. The Chinese group has developed its own control systems which it hopes to export along with its reactor technology. But the move is seen as a necessary sop to ease concerns about Chinese companies building critical national infrastructure in the UK.

FT 20th Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 21 January 2019

Hinkley

Plantforce Rentals has acquired assets and taken on staff from Hawk Plant at the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station project in Somerset. Hawk went into administration last week, citing cashflow problems. Plantforce has worked alongside Hawk at Hinkley Point C for the past four years with 186 of its own items of plant on site. It has now taken on all of Hawks’ 100+site-based machinery, contracts and infrastructure, securing the employment of more than 100 full-time plant operators.

Construction Index 21st Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 21 January 2019

New Nuclear

One thing British politicians have never lacked when making nuclear policy is optimism. When it comes to atomic energy, they leave Dr Pangloss in the shade. Take the last big nuclear programme back in the 1960s, whose purpose was to meet a fifth of the UK’s electricity needs. Rather than using proven (if US made) reactor technology, the government bet instead on a homegrown gas-cooled type. The minister of power, Fred Lee, confidently predicted the experimental design would be a world beater. Britain had “hit the jackpot”, he declared. The UK certainly hit something. But it wasn’t pay dirt. The AGR programme dragged on for more than two decades and was, in the words of the man who commissioned it, Arthur Hawkins of the Central Electricity Generating Board, “a catastrophe that must not be repeated”. Which brings us to the present, and Britain’s latest programme. Once again, there is plenty of wishful thinking. Indeed, policy has been driven largely by a series of optimistic guesses. These include not just the cost of new reactors, but also the willingness of private capital to fund them without assistance from the state. There are multiple reactor types. Repurposing often almost untested equipment for UK safety rules means that each starts from scratch with its own prototype, learning as it goes along. Add the need to fund these “first of type” schemes with private capital and it’s not surprising that projects have been falling by the wayside. The result is that a decade in, Britain has just one project under way – at Hinkley Point in Somerset – for which the government has struck an eye-wateringly expensive contract. The owner, EDF of France, is now saying it could do subsequent projects cheaper, because it will have the Hinkley experience to draw on. But given the absence of competition (the only other participant left in is CGN of China, EDF’s partner at Hinkley), the government faces the unpalatable prospect of a series of potentially disadvantageous bilateral deals. If more plants are to be built, the government needs much more bang for its buck. Logically the answer is to tender competitively for a fleet of reactors of the same design. The potential gains are substantial. Consider the difference between Hinkley and the deal Abu Dhabi struck by tendering for a fleet of four reactors, won by Kepco of Korea. While Britain is getting 3.2GW of capacity for £20bn, Abu Dhabi will get 5.3GW for an estimated $24.4bn, and in far quicker order, too.

FT 20th Jan 2019 read more »

Hitachi’s decision to freeze its $28 billion nuclear power project in Britain strengthens the hand of France’s EDF and its Chinese partner in talks with the government on how to finance new reactors. Funding new nuclear plants has become critical as Hitachi became the second Japanese firm to say its British nuclear power project had hit the buffers over financing. The two projects would have covered about 13 percent of Britain’s power needs. EDF and its partner China General Nuclear Power Corporation(CGN) want to use a financing model under which investors in their nuclear projects receive payment from the moment they start construction, reducing their risk. But to proceed with this approach, the government must first win over lawmakers and consumers, already frustrated by hefty energy bills and costly nuclear projects that often face delays. “The question is whether it is sellable to parliament that all the risks go to the public. But if that is not the case, they will get no investors,” said Stephen Thomas, emeritus professor of energy policy at Greenwich University. EDF is negotiating with the government on funding the Sizewell C project using the so-called regulated asset base model in which investors earn a government-set fixed return from the start, instead of waiting years until construction is completed before receiving a return. China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) has a 20 percent stake in Sizewell C, while EDF has a 33.5 percent stake in CGN’s project to build a reactor at Bradwell, Essex.

Japan Today 20th Jan 2019 read more »

Posted: 21 January 2019