Battles continue over the economic viability of the proposed £18bn Hinkley nuclear project, with EDF still saying it can go ahead, despite the resignation of two key senior executives, opposition from the French trade unions and even doubts now emerging from the French Government. Energy minister Ségolène Royal said: ‘This project must offer further proof that it is well-founded and offer a guarantee that the investment in this project will not dry up investments that must be made in renewable energies.’ It is interesting then that EDFs recent R&D Paper ‘Technical and Economic Analysis of the European Electricity System with 60% RES’, by Alain Burtin and Vera Silva, looks at an EU future dominated by renewables, with nuclear only playing a moderate role, 90GW total. The EDF team says that storage and flexible demand can help a bit with balancing, but there will still be a need for back-up plants. EDF do not see large scale storage as being very viable. But what about Power to Gas Conversion? That could turn the surplus ‘problem’ into a balancing ‘solution’. I have looked at options like that in my new IoP book on ‘Balancing Green Power’, now out: http://iopscience.iop.org/book/978-0-7503-1230-1
Environment Research Web 9th April 2016 read more »
Letter Amory Lovins: Roger Gill (Letters, April 8), like the UK government, believes only large thermal (“baseload”) power stations can keep the lights on, because varying wind and solar photovoltaics (PV) require unaffordably vast electrical storage. But that’s the dearest way to manage their variability. Cheaper ways include: efficient use; flexible loads (demand response); forecasting wind and PV output more accurately than demand; diversifying variable renewables by type and location; using renewables operable at will (virtually all other kinds – half the world’s modern renewable power – including night-time solar power, two-fifths cheaper in Chile than Hinkley Point C); integrating CHP (Combined Heat and Power); and distributed storage worth buying anyhow (for example storing heat in buildings and water heaters, ice-storage air conditioning, and smart charging and discharging of electric vehicles). These seven resources make largely or wholly renewable grids highly reliable and raise variable renewables’ price (about $30-$50/MWh unsubsidised) by just a few per cent. Grid integration of central thermal stations is typically dearer. Four EU countries with no or modest hydropower met about half their 2014 electricity needs with renewables – Portugal 64 per cent, Denmark 59 per cent, Scotland 50 per cent, Spain 46 per cent – without adding bulk storage or degrading reliability. Former East Germany’s ultra-reliable utility was 46 per cent wind- and PV-powered last year. Operators learnt to run these low-carbon grids as a conductor leads a symphony orchestra: no instrument plays all the time, yet the ensemble continuously produces beautiful music. As Steve Holliday, of National Grid, has confirmed: “It’s simplistic to only look at storage. We will have the intelligence available in the system to ensure power is consumed when it’s there a nd not when it’s not there.” Mr Gill’s storage need is a myth.
FT 13th April 2016 read more »
Letter Professor Tony Trewavas Scientific Alliance Scotland: ELIZABETH Marshall’s letter (April 13) on electricity shortages makes sober reading but echoes conclusions reached by most members of the Scientific Alliance Scotland. Scotland’s electricity supply has survived up to now thanks to the foresight of scientists and engineers who ran the old South of Scotland Electricity Board and the North of Scotland hydro electricity board. They placed two nuclear power stations, coal-fired and oil-fired power stations mixed in with hydro that has ensured up until recently that Scotland easily had a reliable supply. Frequent excess could be passed down south and in the case of any short fall supply stability maintained from the rest of the UK. Margaret Thatcher broke up and privatised the electricity supply; potential price was considered more important than supply stability. But it then provided the opportunity for politicians to use electr icity generation for party political purposes and they were not slow in doing it. The fundamental requirement of any civilised society is the provision of a reliable electricity supply and that it be as cheap as possible because economic activity jobs and general employment are utterly dependent on price as the present situation with UK steel indicates. Politicians have not acted responsibly, price has increased because of political sentiment and desires to lead the world in supposed green policies but at the expense of the people who live here. It is time to put electricity generation back into the hands of qualified scientists and engineers who understand how to ensure that Scotland receives a stable abundant supply, to establish a uniformity of price throughout and that electricity generation be removed from the onerous and unnecessary policies that increase price.
Herald 14th April 2016 read more »
The Commission inquiry on capacity mechanisms shows they can increase security of electricity supply but many Member States must be more thorough assessing whether they are necessary and in their design to ensure they are targeted and cost-effective. Unnecessary and badly designed capacity mechanisms can distort competition, hinder electricity flows across borders and lead to consumers overpaying for electricity.The Commission now invites Member States, stakeholders in the electricity sector and others to submit comments on its initial findings.
European Commission 13th Aprl 2016 read more »
On Wednesday 13 April the European Commission presented an interim report on its sector inquiry on electricity capacity mechanisms. A public consultation on the Power Probe (the interim report and the annexed staff working document) starts as of today; the deadline for comments is 6 July 2016. The Power Probe will serve as input for EU’s new power market design, said Commissioner Vestager at the press conference. She also said that capacity mechanisms should be as climate-friendly as possible. However, this clashes with Vestager (or her team?) seeming to favour capacity mechanisms that are “open” – read: technology-neutral. This means that only 4 months after Paris’ agreement, the EU Commission is – again – coming up with strategies to support and extend the fossil fuel era.
Alice Stollmeyer MEP 13th April 2016 read more »
Alison Macfarlane: In the wake of terrorist attacks in Brussels, Paris, Istanbul, Ankara and elsewhere, nations are rethinking many aspects of domestic security. Nuclear plants, as experts have long known, are potential targets for terrorists, either for sabotage or efforts to steal nuclear materials. At last month’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., representatives from 52 countries pledged to continue improving their nuclear security and adopted action plans to work together and through international agencies. But significant countries like Russia and Pakistan are not participating. And many in Europe are just beginning to consider physical security measures. From my perspective as a former nuclear regulator and now as director of the Center for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University, it is clear that nuclear plants are vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
US News 13th April 2016 read more »
Latest electricity switching data shows the highest recorded number of switches away from large suppliers. Small and mid-tier suppliers saw the number of switches at a record high of 206,419, which is 43 per cent of all switches. March saw 476,528 customers switch electricity supplier, which is the highest recorded since November 2013. For the third time in less than a year the number of switches has exceeded 400,000.
Scottish Energy News 14th April 2016 read more »
In pictures: The construction site of the European Pressurized Reactor project (EPR) was unveiled to the press in Flamanville, France, on Wednesday (March 30). Subject to years of delay and cost overruns, the EPR nuclear reactor is being built by Areva and will be operated by French energy group EDF.
Straits Times 31st March 2016 read more »
Additional tests are necessary on the lid and the reactor vessel. Areva and EDF have not finished with the setbacks on the Flamanville EPR. Both groups said Wednesday that further tests were needed on the lid and the bottom of the reactor vessel, causing additional delays in the approval of these items by the ASN (Nuclear Safety Authority). In April 2015, ASN announced that it had been informed by Areva of an anomaly in the composition of the steel in some areas of the cover and the reactor vessel that contains the nuclear fuel. Specifically, the carbon concentration was greater than expected, resulting in a “mechanical resilience” lower than expected. A test program was then undertaken in consultation with the ASN, to ensure compliance with these safety standards.
Les Echoes 13th April 2016 read more »
Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) has applied for an operating licence for its much-delayed Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor, saying it is on track to start production in late 2018. “This is a significant milestone. The project is moving from installations to tests,” project manager Jouni Silvennoinen said in a statement on Thursday. It was originally due to start operation in 2009, and TVO has traded blame for the delay with the plant’s supplier consortium Areva-Siemens , with both demanding billions of euros from each other in an ongoing arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce.
Reuters 14th April 2016 read more »
More than 1,000 tanks brimming with irradiated water stand inland from the Fukushima nuclear plant. Each day 300 tonnes of water are pumped through Fukushima’s ruined reactors to keep them cool. As the water washes through the plant it collects a slew of radioactive particles. The company that owns the plant – The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) – has deployed filtration devices that have stripped very dangerous isotopes of strontium and caesium from the flow. But the water being stored in the tanks still contains tritium, an isotope of hydrogen with two neutrons. Tritium is a major by-product of nuclear reactions and is difficult and expensive to remove from water.
Guardian 13th April 2016 read more »
Telegraph 13th April 2016 read more »
US – MOX
A House subcommittee agreed Tuesday to maintain the current funding level in next year’s federal budget for the construction of a MOX-fabrication facility at the Savannah River Site. Anti-nuclear advocate Tom Clements, executive director of SRS Watch, calls the subcommittee’s funding level a defeat for MOX. He says it’s less than half of the amount experts say is needed to finish the facility and instead represents a holding pattern the administration wants as part of its eventual shutdown of the project.
Augusta Chronicle 12th April 2016 read more »
Luxembourg offered to chip in financing to close an ageing French nuclear power plant near its border on Monday, saying the tiny nation could be obliterated if the station malfunctioned. During a press conference with his French counterpart Manuel Valls, Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said a problem at the Cattenom plant could “wipe the duchy off the map”. “The Cattenom site scares us, there’s no point in hiding it,” he said of the plant that has been in operation since the mid-1980s. “Our greatest wish is that Cattenom should close.”
Languedoc Living 12th April 2016 read more »
The announcement by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia sent tremors through global energy markets. He said that the desert kingdom – the world’s biggest oil exporter – would, within 20 years, no longer be dependent on oil revenues and plans to use an estimated US$2 trillion in assets to diversify the country’s economy and invest in companies and projects around the globe. Great news, say the renewable energy specialists. Now is the time for Saudi Arabia – for years, one of the countries most opposed to any serious global action on tackling climate change – to use its massive financial resources to invest in renewable energy, and in particular solar. “In 2016, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a major opportunity to develop a new industry,” says Jeremy Leggett, a leading solar specialist, in an article written for Saudi’s national finance daily, Al Eqtissadaih.
Climate News Network 13th April 2016 read more »
Utilities in Germany will have to set aside more money to cover the cost of storing nuclear waste, four sources in a government-appointed commission told Reuters, after a meeting on Wednesday failed to reach agreement on how much more. E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall, Germany’s “big four” power firms, have set aside about 40 billion euros ($45 billion) in provisions to pay for the dismantling of plants and storage of waste, part of the country’s plans to ditch nuclear power generation. Fearing that utilities could buckle under the weight of the financial burden and fail to come up with the money, Berlin has set up a commission to protect it, most likely through a government-controlled fund to cover storage operations, the most complex element of the nuclear exit. Uncertainty over how much money the utilities will have to set aside has clouded their prospects and investors and analysts are watching the commission’s actions closely. The cost of storing the nuclear waste is about 18 billion euros and this money is likely to be transferred into the government-controlled fund to ensure it is available when needed. Members of the commission said a surcharge (on top of the 18 billion euros) was a fundamental requirement to shake off liability for any future risks. This surcharge has become the main sticking point in the talks.
Reuters 13th April 2016 read more »
Renewables – solar
The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) Scotland Forum has published a report outlining the scale of UK Government cuts to renewable energy subsidies in the past year which now jeopardise the ongoing low carbon revolution in Scotland. And the report urges the next Scottish Government to concentrate on support for solar energy – an area of renewable energy where Scotland lags behind other parts of the UK. The Solar Trade Association has suggested a 2020 target of 2GW for solar PV (compared with around 180MW already installed), and 141MWth for solar thermal, while renewable consultants Sgurr Energy have suggested that raising Scotland’s solar ambition to 2GW is possible and could get Scotland close to its 100% renewable target by 2020.
Scottish Energy News 14th April 2016 read more »
A new report has called for the next Scottish government to tap into the potential for solar deployment within local authority areas, which it says could play a pivotal role in achieving the country’s renewable energy consumption targets. The briefing from Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) claims local authorities are still supportive of deploying solar panels, despite subsidy cuts damaging the financial case to do so. It adds that while many have been installing solar PV on social housing due to what was an attractive feed-in tariff, recent cuts have caused only a short hiatus in new projects while councils adjust to the new support framework. These findings support comments made recently by councillor Alan Clark of Nottingham City Council, who said: “The change in FiT has hit our ability to meet our ambitions. That was clearly a blow to us as much as it anyone else in this field. But we are determined to continue to install renewable energy wherever we can make the business case.”
Solar Power Portal 13th April 2016 read more »
The UK’s solar panels have generated more electricity than coal in a full day for the first time ever, Carbon Brief analysis shows. On Saturday 9 April, solar generated 29 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity, 4% of the total used that day and more than the 21GWh output from coal (3% of demand). This pattern was repeated on Sunday, with solar (6%) outpacing coal (3%). The milestone is largely symbolic. Solar output had already started regularly topping coal during the middle of the day. And it has yet to overtake coal across a full week, month or year.
Carbon Brief 13th April 2016 read more »
Guardian 13th April 2016 read more »
The Solar Trade Association (STA) has launched a campaign aimed at highlighting the aesthetic prowess of modern solar installations, in an attempt to promote the number of installations on old and new buildings.
Edie 13th April 2016 read more »
Renewables – biomass
SCOTLAND’s energy minister has heralded the construction of a university’s £25 million green energy centre as a “visionary project”, which will be a significant asset to Scotland. St Andrew’s University’s state-of-the-art biomass facility, which is currently is being built on the site of the former paper mill at Guardbridge – just outside of the town – will not only help the institution meet its aim of becoming carbon neutral, but also create hundreds of local jobs in the north east of Fife, it has been claimed. It is due to be operational by the end of the year. The university has also promised the project will support apprenticeship and graduate training, creating about 225 jobs under what it has dubbed the “Guardbridge Guarentee”. The 6MW biomass centre will use only locally sourced wood fr om sustainable forests, creating green energy which will pump hot water four miles underground to St Andrews to heat and cool its labs and student residences. During a site visit to the University yesterday Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing said: “St Andrews is leading the way with a visionary plan. This is a terrifically exciting project and a major investment.
The National 14th April 2016 read more »
Community Energy Scotland has forged new links with islands communities in Ireland after being invited to present at a major energy conference in Dublin run by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). Development officer Nick Chapman outlined the success of community energy in Scotland where 500MW of energy is now under community and local ownership. An increasing number of countries are interested in learning from Scotland how this has been achieved. One of the delegates, Lughaidh O’Braonain, Director of Energy Cooperatives Ireland, said: “From hearing Nick’s presentation at the energy show in Dublin, I can say that this event was well worth attending.” After the conference, Chapman later travelled west to Árainn Mhór / Inishmore, largest of the three Aran Islands, to meet up with Aran Islands Energy Co-Op to share with them how small island communities in Scotland are working towards becoming energy self-sufficient.
Scottish Energy News 14th April 2016 read more »
An abandoned government programme to insulate UK homes cost taxpayers nearly £400m and did not deliver energy or carbon savings, a report by official auditors has found. The green deal scheme was launched in January 2013 with the intention of handing out loans to improve domestic energy efficiency. It folded in July 2013 despite claims by David Cameron that his would be “the greenest government ever”. The National Audit Office has examined the scheme for the first time and found that the Department for Energy and Climate Change spent £240m on the scheme. Another £154m has been spent on the green deal home improvement fund which was set up to provide subsidies for efficiency measures, auditors found. They said 1.4 million homes benefited from measures ranging from new boilers to insulation by the end of last year under government schemes, but just 1% of households took out “green deal” loans. Around 14,000 households opted for the loan scheme but the numbers fell far below expectations, the report said. Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the public accounts committee, said the report shows ministers and officials had little idea how to implement the scheme.
Guardian 14th April 2016 read more »
The Scottish Greens have launched their 2016 election manifesto, vowing to build more homes, make rent fairer and end fuel poverty. Published yesterday, the manifesto sets out how the party intends to create jobs through building good homes for all; increase socially rented homes and make fuel poverty a national priority. Believing that renting should be a positive option, the party said it will push for action to increase the amount of social housing, control rents, increase security of tenure and improve management in the private sector. According to the Greens, Scotland needs at least 12,000 new social rented homes to be built each year, and thousands more than that just to meet population growth and replace older housing. It plans to enabling councils to buy land cheaply to encourage the construction of more and better homes. WWF Scotland welcomed the Scottish Greens’ manifesto commitment to end cold homes. Director Lang Banks said: “Their pledge to support all homes to reach a minimum ‘C’ energy performance standard by 2025 would cut emissions, tackle fuel poverty and create thousands of jobs. “All the party leaders reiterated their support for the Scottish Climate Act by signing the Climate Leaders’ Agreement late last year. With households across the country wasting carbon heating the cold air outside their homes, it’s vital we improve the energy efficiency of our buildings if we are to meet our climate targets. “With a new climate action plan legally required by the end of the year, it’s crucial all parties bring forward policies that will secure the benefits of moving to a zero-carbon economy.”
Scottish Housing News 13th April 2016 read more »
Only 10 weeks and UK voters will make the most profound decision of this decade – will Britain stay or leave the European Union? There have been numerous analyses of what the implications of a so-called Brexit might be. Those include the economic impacts, security, and sovereignty. In this blog I will discuss one specific area that would be significantly affected by Brexit but where an analysis is missing so far: energy efficiency. Historically, the EU had little influence on national energy efficiency but this has changed particularly in the last years. A number of important directives set EU-wide standards and targets for energy efficiency. One could argue that the UK would simply replace EU legislation with national policies. However, recent policy changes in the UK do not instil a lot of confidence that there would be a strong national energy efficiency drive. As a result, progress would stall with little energy efficiency improvements in a country that still has one of the oldest and leakiest housing stocks in Europe. Whilst EU energy efficiency policy is by no means perfect, it plays an important role for achieving a long-term transition towards a more sustainable, modern and fairer energy system. The prospect of a Brexit in June this year is all but encouraging for the future of energy efficiency in Britain.
SPRU 13th April 2016 read more »
Smart meters fail to provide customers with “genuinely” useful information, and are only useful to electricity providers who can use them to cut costs, according to the Association for the Conservation of Energy. The group’s chair Andrew Warren slammed the technology for “not keeping pace” with the market, and failing to provide “genuinely interesting information”. “It is very useful for people running electricity companies that need to be able to get to know their customers’ usage patterns better and to have more time of use arrangements,” he said.
Utility Week 13th April 2016 read more »
The UK government has been accused of including a large loophole in its legal definition of fracking which could enable companies to bypass safety regulations, according to a leading geologist. In rules that came into force on 6 April, fracking is defined by the amount of high-pressure fluid used to fracture shale rocks and release gas or oil. However, the only well fracked in the UK so far, which caused small earthquakes near Blackpool in 2011, would not qualify as fracking under the definition. Furthermore, according to Prof Stuart Haszeldine at the University of Edinburgh, analysis of more than 17,000 g as wells fracked in the US from 2000-10 shows 43% would not be defined as fracking under UK rules. More than 4,500 US wells were fracked to release oil in that time but 89% would not be covered by the UK definition. The safety regulations in the new rules, such as independent inspection of the integrity of the well and sealing it after use, only apply if the drilling activity is defined as fracking.
Guardian 13th April 2016 read more »
Peabody Energy became the latest miner to buckle under the weight of the commodities price collapse after filing for bankruptcy in the US on Wednesday. The coal giant’s voluntary Chapter 11 petition comes less than a month after the 133-year-old company stunned the market by admitting it had failed to meet bond repayments totaling more than £3bn, and may not be able to survive without protection from the US court system.
Telegraph 13th April 2016 read more »
BBC 13th April 2016 read more »
Times 14th April 2016 read more »
FT 13th April 2016 read more »