News

Dounreay

A £7million contract to demolish Scotland’s oldest nuclear reactor is out for tender. The weekend marked the 60th anniversary of the first criticality achieved in Scotland using a test rig at Dounreay in Caithness – a nuclear term referring to the balance of neutrons in the system. Now the decommissioning team responsible for the site is marking that milestone by demolishing the oldest reactor that remains at the former fast reactor research centre. Companies are being invited to bid for a contract to demolish the Dounreay Materials Test Reactor (DMTR) which became Scotland’s first operational reactor in 1958.

Energy Voice 15th Aug 2017 read more »

Posted: 15 August 2017

Sellafield

Thousands of workers at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant are voting on whether to take industrial action. The Unite and GMB unions, which together represent half of the waste facility’s 10,000 staff, have described a pay offer of 1.5% as “completely unacceptable”. Sellafield Ltd said the award was “fair, reasonable, and affordable”, and had been accepted by another union. The ballot has now opened and the result will be announced in September.

BBC 14th Aug 2017 read more »

Politics Home 14th Aug 2017 read more »

Posted: 15 August 2017

Utilities

RWE recorded a surge in profits following a tax refund from the German government, with the German utility confirming its full-year earnings would be at the upper end of its forecast range. Shares in RWE rose 3 per cent after the company posted half-year net income of 2.7bn euros up from 457m last year, after receiving a refund of about 1.7bn euros from Berlin. Adjusted net income – which does not include the refund – totalled 809m, a 35 per cent rise on 2016.

FT 14th Aug 2017 read more »

Royal Dutch Shell’s decision to sell electricity direct to industrial customers is an intelligent and creative one. The shift is strategic and demonstrates that oil and gas majors are capable of adapting to a new world as the transition to a lower carbon economy develops. For those already in the business of providing electricity it represents a dangerous competitive threat. For the other oil majors it poses a direct challenge on whether they are really thinking about the future sufficiently strategically. Three key reasons: First, the state of the energy market. The price of gas in particular has fallen across the world over the last three years to the point where the International Energy Agency describes the current situation as a “glut”. Second, there is the transition to a lower carbon world. No one knows how fast this will move, but one thing is certain: electricity will be at the heart of the shift with power demand increasing in transportation, industry and the services sector as oil and coal are displaced. The third key factor is that the electricity market is not homogenous. The business of supplying power can be segmented. The retail market – supplying millions of households – may be under constant scrutiny with suppliers vilified by the press and governments forced to threaten price caps but supplying power to industrial users is more stable and predictable, and done largely out of the public eye. The main industrial and commercial users are major companies well able to negotiate long-term deals. Given its scale and reputation, Shell is likely to be a supplier of choice for industrial and commercial consumers and potentially capable of shaping prices. This is where the prospect of a powerful new competitor becomes another threat to utilities and retailers whose business models are already under pressure.

FT 14th Aug 2017 read more »

The UK’s increasingly competitive energy market will become a little more crowded later this year with the arrival of Ireland’s state energy provider. ESB, the state-backed supplier for most of Ireland’s homes, is poised to enter the British market within months to battle more than 50 rival suppliers now vying for customer accounts. The Irish incumbent already has an established presence in the UK power generation sector but hopes to establish a more competitive presence through a retail arm. ESB is responsible for one of the few new gas-fired power plants to be built in recent years. The 884MW Carrington plant outside Manchester began generating power last year and ESB also runs the 350MW Corby power plant in Northamptonshire, as well as a wind farm in England and one in Wales.

Telegraph 14th Aug 2017 read more »

Good Energy has today formally urged shareholders to reject an attempt by rival green energy retailer Ecotricity to win two seats on Good Energy’s board, as the war of words between the two companies escalates. Shareholders will meet in Chippenham, Wiltshire, on September 6 to decide whether executives from arch-rival Ecotricity should be granted a presence on Good Energy’s board, Good Energy announced today.

Business Green 14th Aug 2017 read more »

Posted: 15 August 2017

China

China has approved a plan from its two state nuclear developers to promote a single integrated nuclear reactor brand that will help speed up construction and strengthen their ability to compete in markets overseas. China is in the middle of an ambitious nuclear program that could bring total capacity to as much as 200 GW by 2030, and it also aims to win more projects abroad. But approvals have been slow with a variety of new advanced reactors subject to repeated delays. The China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and the China General Nuclear Project Corporation (CGN) have been jointly developing an advanced model known as the “Hualong One”, but despite government pressure, they have continued to work separately on their own designs. In a plan approved by regulators last week, the two companies agreed to use integrated technical standards when building Hualong reactors. They will also transfer intellectual property rights to Hualong International, a joint venture launched by the firms last year, China’s Energy Observer reported, citing a CGN spokesman.

Reuters 14th Aug 2017 read more »

China plans to build 20 floating nuclear power stations to help consolidate its hold on the South China Sea. Announced last week by China National Nuclear Power (CNNP), the barge-based power stations would be used to provide electricity and thermal energy for desalination in disputed areas. A statement carried by state-owned Global Times said the aim was to develop China’s sea power, further the maritime silk road and integrate civil and military nuclear-powered vessels. Spearheading the move will be a new company based in Shanghai formed by five existing companies, led by CNNP and Shanghai Electric Power. It will have a registered capital of $150m.

Global Construction Review 14th Aug 2017 read more »

Posted: 15 August 2017

Renewables- Geothermal

Some of Scotland’s most densely populated communities are sitting on what could, quite literally, be a hotbed of limitless clean energy. Though our coal industry is pretty much dead and buried, the landscape today still bears the legacy of a long history of mining across the central belt. And it’s this network of disused shafts that experts believe could hold the key to what is a potentially massive – and so far virtually untapped – resource of green power derived from geothermal energy. Two small-scale experiments using ground source heat pumps to tap warm water collected in defunct mines in Glasgow’s Shettleston and Lumphinnans in Fife have already proved successful, but those who know about these things say it’s time to think bigger, much bigger. The British Geological Survey (BGS) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the UK’s main funding body for earth sciences, have unveiled plans to investigate the true scope of recovering heat from water trapped deep underground in abandoned mines in a pioneering new project that will be based either in the east end of Glasgow or in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire. The proposed Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site is one of two such schemes being put forward as part of the £31 million UK Geoenergy Observatories Project. The other one will be in England.

Scotsman 15th Aug 2017 read more »

Scottish Energy News 15th Aug 2017 read more »

Posted: 15 August 2017

Renewables – offshore wind

The Scottish economy is set for a £500million windfall from a landmark renewables project. The Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (BOWL) in the Outer Moray Firth is one of the largest private investments ever made in Scottish infrastructure. Over the weekend the first of 86 jacket substructures for the joint venture project arrived on site, marking another step forward for the £2.6billion renewable energy project. Scottish Government Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse, last night welcomed the progress.

Energy Voice 15th Aug 2017 read more »

Posted: 15 August 2017

Hydrogen

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the ‘hydrogen economy’ have long been touted as essential tools in decarbonising our energy system, yet they have always seemed to be 10 years away. CCS in the UK received a major blow in 2015 when the Government announced that it was cancelling a £1bn demonstration programme for power plants equipped with carbon capture technologies. Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles were originally thought to be the mostly likely driver of a new hydrogen economy, but due to recent dramatic cost reductions and range increases from battery-electric light vehicles, hydrogen-powered cars seem to be losing the race in the low emissions transport market. Despite this bleak picture for CCS and hydrogen sectors, they have been thrown a potential lifeline by proposals to decarbonise industry and domestic heating systems using hydrogen that is produced by the steam reformation of natural gas. A report by the H21 Leeds City Gate project suggests that converting the entire natural gas network of Leeds from methane to hydrogen is feasible. This process requires all domestic appliances that run on methane, like boilers, to be replaced with hydrogen-fuelled equivalents. The authors estimate that this entire transformation would cost £2bn, which sounds like a lot, but is likely to be less disruptive and costly than alternative paths to decarbonising heating systems, such as district heating, heat pumps or electrification. Just last week, another major UK hydrogen project was proposed. Cadent and Progressive Energy are launching a plan to convert methane-powered heavy industry in the Liverpool-Manchester region to hydrogen. They also propose to blend a small percentage of hydrogen with the local domestic natural gas system.

Business Green 15th Aug 2017 read more »

Posted: 15 August 2017

Energy Storage

The Renewables Infrastructure Group (Trig) has bought a Scottish battery energy storage project for £20million. Trig, a London-listed investment company, said it would fund the deal for Broxburn Energy Storage using cash resources and a drawdown on its revolving acquisition facility. Construction of Broxburn should be finished by 2018 and will add to Trig’s 56 existing projects.

Energy Voice 15th Aug 2017 read more »

Posted: 15 August 2017

SMRs

The key nuclear power players have been called in by the Government for crunch talks on plans to meet Britain’s energy demands with new small reactor technology, amid mounting fears over delays and Whitehall paralysis. Industry giants including NuScale, Rolls-Royce, Hitachi and Westinghouse have been summoned by ministers in a bid to reignite interest in the project. They have been asked to present their plans in meetings over the next few weeks. Small modular reactors (SMRs) are a fraction of the size and cost of major nuclear power stations such as EDF’s controversial Hinkley Point C project. The Government signalled a key role for the technology in efforts to secure the energy supply and meet climate change targets two years ago. An apparent lack of action since then has drawn criticism and raised industry concerns that the project has fallen by the wayside amid the political instability of Brexit and the general election. In May, a House of Lords report branded the Government’s failure to publish the results of a competition for development funding as “particularly alarming”. Companies considering investments in the technology had hoped that ministers would indicate which proposals they would support months ago, but they received no communication, fuelling the speculation that SMRs were being quietly abandoned. Hinkley Point C, currently under construction in Somerset, is set to generate 3.2 gigawatts. Cost projections on the project have soared from £6bn in 2013 to £20bn, and the first new power is not expected to be generated until at least 2025. Last month, the National Audit ¬Office (NAO) hit out at Hinkley Point, saying taxpayers could face a final bill of as much as £50bn, because the wholesale market price for electricity is falling steadily while nuclear power construction remains expensive and high-risk. Under a 2013 deal between the Government and EDF, Hinkley is guaranteed to earn £92.50 for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of energy produced through a combination of wholesale market prices and a levy on consumer energy bills. At the time, the Government said this would require top-up payments totalling £6bn from consumers’ energy bills to meet the “strike price”, but falling market prices have widened the forecast gap every year since then.

Telegraph 13th Aug 2017 read more »

Posted: 14 August 2017

Energy Costs

A five-strong advisory panel assisting Dieter Helm with a UK government-commissioned review into energy costs will only have time to meet a handful of times because of a tight deadline. One member of the panel said participants had little idea of what the structure of these meetings would be, or how they were expected to contribute to the final report. The review’s stated objective is to “reduce costs in each element and consider the implications of the changing demand of electricity, including the role of innovative technologies such as electric vehicles, storage robotics and artificial intelligence”. But such claims contrast starkly with the nature of the review reported by insiders. Observers have also questioned whether Prof Helm, an economist at Oxford university, and his team can fulfil such a wide-ranging agenda given its staffing and the limited time the government has allotted to the task. The report is due to be delivered by the end of October, and Prof Helm has been paid for only 30 days’ work. “A review by one man backed by an unpaid challenge panel and operating against a rushed timetable seems a way of simply finding out what Dieter Helm thinks,” said Doug Parr of Greenpeace. “It is unambitious compared to the review we were expecting.” Helm has a reputation as a vocal sceptic of nuclear and renewable energy technologies on grounds of their cost and economics, although he is thought to have moderated his views. He is backed by a panel including Terry Scuoler, head of the manufacturing organisation EEF, Richard Nourse, managing partner of Greencoat Capital, an investor in renewable technologies, and Laura Sandys, the former MP. Ms Sandys has argued that the parliamentary pension fund should disinvest from fossil fuels. Mr Parr of Greenpeace questioned why there was no consumer representative on the panel, given the involvement of Mr Scuoler as an apparent industry advocate, and the fact that the review was supposed to consider both household and industrial costs. The government has mandated that the review should consider only “system issues” and should not comment on the status of individual projects. Critics have queried the sense of this, given the technological choices the UK faces over pursuing a new nuclear fleet or enlarging the renewables sector. “How you can consider the cost issues facing UK energy without looking at the £20bn Hinkley Point reactor project defeats me,” said an energy consultant. “We didn’t want Prof Helm to spend two months simply arguing against the Hinkley project as that doesn’t meet the task in hand,” said a government spokesperson for BEIS, the business department.

FT 14th Aug 2017 read more »

Posted: 14 August 2017