England couldn’t cope with a nuclear accident at Hinkley Point. An EDF board meeting today could spell the end of the wretched Hinkley Point C nuclear power station and its hugely over-priced electricity, for which electricity distribution companies would be obliged to pay double the current wholesale electricity price for 35 years. EDF’s finance director Thomas Piquemal resigned in March claiming that the project could put the entire future of the company at risk. The UN’s Economic and Social Council has put its own boot into the project, saying that the UK has failed to consult with neighbouring countries over the risk of a nuclear accident. But never mind neighbouring countries, the government has failed to take into account the economic consequences of a nuclear accident on local populations. The crushing problem with nuclear accidents is the economic cost of having to evacuate large areas. At Chernobyl, a 30 km exclusion zone still applies. The Fukushima disaster of 2011 was also followed by the evacuation of residents up to a 30 km radius. A 20 km exclusion zone remains in place, which the Japanese government has suggested may begin to be relaxed from next year. If such an accident were to occur (if not a tsunami, the Severn Estuary is nevertheless prone to tidal surges – and there are plenty of possible causes of a nuclear accident other than flooding) the following areas could require evacuation: 10 km: Burnham-on-Sea (population 20,000); 20 km: Bridgwater (41,000) and the southern half of Weston-Super-Mare (76,000); 30 km: Taunton (109,883 with surrounding villages). In addition the M5 might have to be abandoned, along with the main railway line to the West Country, as the latter falls into the 30km zone and the former the 10km zone. Has the government assessed the economic costs of an accident on this scale? If it has, perhaps it would care to publish its assessment. The blunt reality is that nuclear power might be a risk worth taking in lightly-populated areas. The experience of the world’s two major nuclear disasters to date suggests that it is a risk too high in crowded southern England.
Spectator 11th May 2016 read more »
EDF will face fresh pressure from its investors today over its plans to build Hinkley Point. The board of the French state-controlled energy group will address shareholders’ questions directly at its annual meeting in Paris. The gathering comes as EDF prepares to make a long-delayed final investment decision on Hinkley Point, amid widespread opposition from employees and unions. A minority of the company’s board members also remain firmly opposed to the project. Yves Marignac, director of Wise-Paris, a Paris-based energy policy consultancy, said that EDF would not be able to proceed before the completion of a 4 billion euro refinancing package led by the French state, which owns 85 per cent of the company. “What the government and EDF need to go ahead is to refinance EDF, which will take a lot of time,” he said. “They are not yet in a position to be able to make a decision [on Hinkley Point].” The French government, which has said that a decision is due in or near September, is thought to be eyeing the sale of its stakes in Renault and airports at Nice and Lyons to fund a capital injection. On Tuesday, EDF reported a 6.7 per cent slide in first-quarter sales. In France, sales slumped by more than 600 million to 12.1 billion, while in the UK revenue fell 13.2 per cent to 2.93 billion euros.
Times 12th May 2016 read more »
The controversial Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant station is expected to be divisive at the annual meeting of French utility giant EDF later today. It was due to receive the final go-ahead today, but this was recently kicked back to September amid a tussle with unions over whether the company’s strained balance sheet can stomach the £18bn project. EDF said yesterday that it would make a final investment decision on Hinkley after the company has consulted its works council, but gave no date.
City AM 11th May 2016 read more »
The UK government has completely censored a key internal report into the proposed nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point because it could threaten international relations. In documents obtained by Energydesk via Freedom of Information, every single part of the Whitehall spending watchdog’s assessment of the troubled Hinkley project was redacted. Officials drew upon various legal clauses to justify withholding the information — including the exemption for potential of ‘harmful consequences’ for international relations. It’s hard to know which international relations officials had in mind: France or China? The redacted documents originally came from a review by the National Audit Office (NAO) of the UK’s major infrastructure projects. It found dozens of major UK infrastructure projects ‘at risk’ of significant delays and spiralling costs, but none of the 37 problematic projects – some of which may be ‘undeliverable’ – have been named. The Telegraph reported that Hinkley, along with the HS2 rail line and universal credit, could be on the list. The NAO has previously been sceptical about the timeline associated with the project. Now it’s not especially surprising that the government would withhold information on Hinkley; it has been notoriously secretive about it. But one of the key reasons for the redactions is interesting. The NAO cites the Environmental Information Regulation 12(5)(a), which says disclosure would an ‘adverse effect’ on international relations. The Hinkley deal, which has faced so many hiccups and controversies I don’t even know where to begin, involves at least two energy companies owned by foreign governments. EDF, which has still yet to sign off on the deal after high-profile resignations, internal opposition, financial woes and technical issues forced a series of delays, is majority owned by the French government. CGN, meanwhile, is controlled by the Chinese government. The exemption therefore makes sense, and we have been assured by FOI experts that it is appropriate in this instance. The invocation of this exemption serves to highlight two of the major issues with the Hinkley project: Transparency and Diplomacy. On the transparency front, it’s perhaps most galling the the government has not been clear about either the size of the subsidy offered to EDF and CGN or the cost of the project overall. Diplomatically speaking, the Hinkley project may have become in many ways ‘too big to fail’ — key to how the government, and Osborne in particular, sees its relationship with China. The Telegraph recently reported that a second Chinese state-owned nuclear company (CNNC) intends on investing in Hinkley.
Energydesk 12th May 2016 read more »
William D. Magwood, IV, director general of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), highlighted some of the issues hindering the prospects of nuclear power at a two-day conference that started today at the organisation’s headquarters in Paris. These issues include the impact of deregulated electricity markets, the place of natural gas in the context of efforts to curb global emissions of CO2, and the myths surrounding the costs of building a nuclear power plant.
World Nuclear News 11th May 2016 read more »
The United States’ newest nuclear power plant has taken 43 years to build. This summer, if all goes according to plan, the second reactor at Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant will begin supplying power to the US electrical grid. Construction on the reactor in Spring City, Tennessee, has proceeded in fits and starts since the project began in 1973. It will be the first new nuclear reactor to come online in the US since the first Watts Bar reactor was completed 20 years ago.
Quartz 11th May 2016 read more »
Germany had so much renewable energy last week that customers were briefly being paid to consume electricity, it has been reported. As spotted by Quartz, who cite data from German think tank Agora Energiewende, fair weather and high winds on Sunday 8 May saw wind, solar and hydroelectric power plants producing 54.6GW of power, roughly 80 per cent of the 68.4GW of power being consumed across the country at that time. As a result, the price of power plummeted, and went negative from 7AM to 5PM, bottoming out at minus 130 euros per MWh at 1PM. Energy providers were essentially being paid by producers to take the electricity off their hands.
Independent 11th May 2016 read more »
Shares in Eon, Germany’s biggest power producer, fell 5 per cent after it said it might have to raise capital to pay its share of the cost of storing Germany’s nuclear waste. Eon has provisioned 8bn euros for waste storage, but under a proposal published by a government commission last month it would have to pay an extra 2bn into a special waste storage fund. Altogether, Germany’s four big utilities have been told they have to contribute a total of 23.3bn into the pool. The nuclear issue is just one of the problems weighing on Eon’s stock. Like its rival, RWE, Eon has been hit by Germany’s radical shift to renewables, which has squeezed electricity from fossil fuels out of the energy market.
FT 11th May 2016 read more »
Among all the talk of whistleblowers as heroes – Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, the Panama Papers leaker – one is rarely mentioned. Mordechai Vanunu came to Britain in 1986 to tell the Sunday Times the story of the nuclear weapons facility at Dimona in the Negev desert in southern Israel. Walking around London, frustrated by the time the newspaper seemed to be taking to run his story, he was lured by “Cindy”, a woman from Mossad. They flew together to Italy where he was kidnapped, drugged, and smuggled out of the country to Israel. He was sentenced to 18 years in jail for revealing details of Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons programme. He spent more than a decade in solitary confinement. He was released in 2004 but banned from speaking to foreigners without official permission, and prevented from leaving the country. Last Sunday Vanunu, now 61, was charged with violating the terms of his release.
Guardian 11th May 2016 read more »
Keith Anderson, Chief Executive, Scottish Power Renewables – a keynote speaker at the recent All Energy event in Glasgow – questioned why everyone in the renewables industry looked so “miserable” and reminded delegates to “focus on what we have achieved and continue to be a huge success”. He then went on to set out three priority areas for the renewable energy industry, which continued to be key themes throughout the event: Life extension of onshore wind assets; Energy storage and Leadership. The shutdown of 50,000-MWh of electricity from wind farms over the Easter holiday weekend due to lack of storage facilities, made energy storage another hotly debated topic.
Scottish Energy News 12th May 2016 read more »
Global food manufacturing firm Mars signaled its green credentials on Wednesday with an announcement that its U.K. operations will be completely powered by renewable electricity. A partnership with sustainable business Eneco’s Moy wind farm in Scotland will ensure that all of the electricity for its 12 U.K. sites will be clean, with Mars committing to purchase electricity via Eneco U.K. for the next ten years.
CNBC 11th May 2016 read more »
Renewables – onshore wind
The Energy Bill is soon to become law after the Lords backed down on a proposed extension to the grace period for the early closure of the renewables obligation (RO) to onshore wind. Defending the government’s opposition to an extended grace period, energy minister Lord Bourne said: “Onshore wind is a well-established technology, the costs of which continue to fall, so it is right that government should scale back subsidy. The government have a mandate to deliver on their manifesto commitment to end new subsidies for onshore wind.
Utility Week 11th May 2016 read more »
The long-awaited Energy Bill was approved by Parliament last night with no amendments, after the latest bid to extend the grace period allowing wind farms to receive subsidies under the Renewables Obligation scheme was defeated in the Lords. The amendment, which would have allowed an additional four wind projects in Scotland to go ahead, has been the subject of a long-running battle between the House of Lords and the House of Commons in recent months. A handful of wind farm developers, including leading green energy supplier Good Energy, have expressed interest in developing new onshore wind farms without subsidies. However, many developers remain adamant some degree of financial support is needed to deliver new projects, arguing the government is subsidising more expensive forms of clean energy while stopping cost-effective onshore wind farms from accessing subsidies that would impose lower costs on bill-payers.
Business Green 11th May 2016 read more »
Renewables – offshore wind
A planned £2bn wind farm off the coast of Scotland is in doubt after the cancellation of a subsidy deal. The decision, which follows a delay in the project while a judge considers its impact on bird life, is expected to have a chilling effect on the offshore wind industry in the UK. Unless reversed, the decision to terminate its “contract for difference” subsidy is likely to doom the 448MW Neart na Gaoithe project off the Forth estuary, undermining efforts to meet UK and Scottish carbon emissions targets. Mainstream Renewable Power, the international energy company developing the project, said it “strongly disputes the validity of the termination notice” issued by the Low Carbon Contracts Company, a group established by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The Neart na Gaoithe project is understood to be ready to proceed, but a final investment decision cannot be made without resolution of a legal challenge brought by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which says it and three other offshore wind projects threaten the lives of thousands of seabirds. Edinburgh’s Court of Session held a hearing in May 2015 to review the Scottish government’s approval of the projects, but judge Lord Stewart has yet to issue his ruling. Neart na Gaoithe is one of seven offshore wind farms awarded subsidy contracts since 2014 and one of only two to win subsidies in a competitive auction. Its contract guaranteed it a price of £114 per megawatt hour for its electricity, making it one of the cheapest offshore wind power subsidies issued so far.
FT 12th May 2016 read more »
On-site energy generation projects across the UK have more than doubled in the past four years, with businesses producing almost £100m worth of electricity in 2015 alone, a new report from supplier SmartestEnergy has revealed. The Energy Entrepreneurs Report, which tracks independent renewable energy generation across the UK, reveals that 155 new on-site energy generation projects were developed last year, with a combined capacity of 99MW. This figure boosted the total number of UK sites generating their own energy to 728, accounting for 13% of all renewables projects and 6% of capacity.
Edie 11th May 2016 read more »
A new £20 million National Centre for Energy Systems Integration, involving specialists at Heriot-Watt University, will take a full overview of UK energy network and provision which could help save consumers up to £8 billion a year by 2030. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council centre – with £15 million of industry support – will bring together energy experts from around the world to help unravel the energy network and understand future supply and demand. The energy systems centre is designed to bridge a major information gap in the drive towards a fully integrated, UK smart energy network, by looking for the first time at the energy system as a whole; gas, power, renewables, heating and cooling. By taking this holistic approach, and providing robust messages about the real world, the Centre will be crucial to improving energy efficiency, driving down customer bills and reducing carbon emissions by optimising the energy network as a whole and informing future government policy.
Scottish Energy News 12th May 2016 read more »
The UK Government’s vision to ensure that almost all cars on the roads by 2050 are zero-emission reached another milestone after a £2m funding pot aimed at tripling the number of hydrogen vehicles in the UK was revealed.
Edie 11th May 2016 read more »
Energy supplier Eon is to install a 5kW energy storage demonstration system at the site of a commercial customer to understand the benefits of storage to such customers. The vanadium redox flow battery will be supplied and monitored by storage company RedT at the headquarters of warehousing and logistics company JB Wheaton in Somerset, as part of a trial by Eon to understand the potential for improved payback on solar PV installations. The 5kW, or 40kWh, system is part of a project looking to overcome the challenges of commercial and industrial-scale energy storage, and will allow Eon to examine the potential of such systems in providing ancillary services to support National Grid. The system will be used by JB Wheaton to smooth out the peaks and troughs of the company’s energy demand by storing energy generated by its 3.5MW solar panel array during the day for use charging vehicles at night.
Utility Week 11th May 2016 read more »
National Grid has announced that the rising share of renewable electricity in the UK already requires battery support. A recent study by Clean Horizon investigated more than 15 project developers and distribution grid operators in the UK to better understand the challenges that the development of storage projects face. More than half of those surveyed believe that frequency support is a good way of financing storage facilities. Only 16 percent of the investors are looking at midsize capacities that are interesting for the commercial sector and industry. At present, the market therefore mainly consists of large facilities and household systems. These two segments are, however, well developed in the UK. Interestingly, the UK has a target of 35 percent renewable electricity by 2020, whereas Germany already had 20 percent wind and solar power collectively in 2015 – and yet, the Germans have not yet seen a need to call for battery storage aside from some pilot projects to test options. One major difference, however, is that Germany’s interconnections with other countries is equal to around 20 percent of peak demand, whereas the UK has far less than 10 percent (four gigawatts, compared to peak demand in the 50s). The British may therefore face a tight situation before the Germans do.
Renew Economy 12th May 2016 read more »
The head of the United Nations climate science panel has declared it is still possible to avoid a dangerous 2C increase in global warming – despite more than a dozen record hot years since 2000. But the costs could be “phenomenal”, he said. In an interview with the Guardian, Hoesung Lee, the leader of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), defied the bleak outlook of climate scientists who warn the world is hurtling to a 2C rise far faster than anticipated. Governments set 2C as the danger limit for global warming at the Paris climate conference last year – and agreed to work to limit warming to 1.5C. Global average temperatures have already risen about 1C since the pre-industrial era because of warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions. February’s hot temperatures stunned scientists, even after a string of record-breaking years. But Lee insisted the 2C goal remained technically feasible, although it could become prohibitively expensive. “2C is achievable, and if we fail to act according to what the IPCC has been advising, the cost will rise phenomenally,” Lee said. “The sooner we act, we will be able to achieve 2C stabilisation cost-effectively,” he went on. “The longer we wait to take action, the cost will be a lot higher.”
Guardian 11th May 2016 read more »
A former scientific adviser to the government who helped to prepare a report in favour of fracking in Scotland has accused ministers of treating expert evidence with contempt. Professor Paul Younger accused the Scottish government of having “taken flight from reason” for imposing a moratorium on fracking for shale gas, driving away investment and jobs in the ailing energy sector. He warned that any scientist following “basic norms of professional integrity” would refuse to work with the SNP administration in future. He said that Scotland’s failure to embrace the technology was playing into the hands of the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, because western countries would be forced to rely on supplies of Russian natural gas. Several companies have expressed an interest in fracking for underground deposits of gas in central Scotland but have been held back because of a Scottish government moratorium.
Times 12th May 2016 read more »
The Greens have urged Nicola Sturgeon to stick to her guns on fracking after a former advisor accused her of taking “flight from reason”. Professor Paul Younger, who was appointed to a Scottish Government taskforce to examine unconventional oil and gas extraction, hit out at the SNP leader’s comments during the recent election campaign. Mr Younger said he was “flabbergasted” that all but one of Scotland’s major parties were “trashing” an industry that he said could re-employ North Sea workers in a safer environment.
Herald 12th May 2016 read more »
Letter Professor Andrew Watterson, Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group: PAUL Younger clearly feels passionately about fracking both as an engineer and a keen blunderbuss enthusiast obsessed with Valdimir Putin (“Fracking expert: Sturgeon playing into hands of Putin”, The Herald, May 11). He stresses the reliance on evidence-based research, although evidence-informed research may be the way to go when faced with significant data gaps and uncertainty. If BSE (mad cow disease) taught us nothing else, it is that we should be very cautious indeed about making absolute and categorical statements on safety when we may be ignorant of many important and often complex interacting factors. For some of us researching fracking, a very different analysis exists. It is patently obvious that globally and within the UK there is no consensus on many of the short, middle and long-term risks posed by fracking, be they to public health, community wellbeing, house p rices and local and national economies. Much research in these areas rather indicate real risks exist based on good evidence. There is, however, already a scientific consensus about the adverse effects of fossil fuel on global climate change with related cross-generational public health impacts. That in itself has persuaded some leading UK scientific researchers to oppose fracking. There is an old Greek saying that states if all you have is a hammer, then everything you see is a nail. This would appear to apply to several UK engineers. Understandably, engineers look for engineering solutions to fracking problems and some are certain they can all be solved. Yet engineers and geologists for example from Ivy League universities in the United States contest that view and oppose fracking accordingly.
Herald 12th May 2016 read more »