Nick Butler: The cloud of doubt around EDF’s long-planned new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset continues to grow. In a remarkably frank interview the French energy minister, Segolene Royal has said that the company may have been “carried away” by its enthusiasm for the project and has joined the chorus of internal staff and engineers in warning of the risks to EDF’s finances from going ahead. But although Hinkley inevitably gets all the attention in the British press, EDF’s real problem is to be found in the half constructed plant at Flamanville on the Cotentin Peninsula on the other side of the English Channel. The prototype development of the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) at Flamanville began in 2007 and should have been operational by the end of 2012. In 2009, EDF in the UK told the British government that the experience of building Flamanville would be invaluable in reducing costs at Hinkley. It has not quite turned out that way. The Flamanville project is six years behind schedule and 7bn euros over budget. The most recent problem has been the identification of weakness in the steel which makes up the reactor vessel. That weakness is now being investigated by the French regulatory authorities and it was quietly announced a few weeks ago that those tests were being extended by the French nuclear regulator the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire on the advice of its permanent group of experts. The scale of the risks to EDF if those tests identify a serious problem is hard to exaggerate. Building work has continued around the reactor core despite the uncertainties. If the concerns prove to be serious the whole structure at Flamanville will have to be dismantled and work will have to start again. The costs would be overwhelming and would be compounded by the inevitable loss of confidence in all the other prospective EPR projects. That includes Hinkley but also extends to EDF’s aspirations in the Middle East and its ambitions in China. Two new plants under construction at Taishan are using the same reactor vessels. One can only imagine the reaction of the Chinese to the news. The real problem for EDF is the corrosive loss of confidence in its technical capability. For the sake of its minority shareholders, who have seen their shares fall in value by almost two thirds over the last three years, as well as its prospective customers around the world EDF should now publish in full all the studies which have been undertaken on what has gone wrong at Flamanville.
FT 14th May 2016 read more »
Radiation Free Lakeland have written to the United Nations following the findings that the Hinkley new nuclear build underway in Somerset is in violation of the European Transboundary Environmental Impact Convention (Espoo Convention).
Radiation Free Lakeland 15th May 2016 read more »
It was a historic moment — the first time the UK’s electricity was supplied without burning any coal. The milestone was passed last week — on seven separate occasions, in fact — when Britain was powered without recourse to coal for the first time since the country’s first steam-driven public power station opened in 1882. From Monday May 9 to the following Sunday lunchtime, the UK was at “zero coal” almost one-third of the time. Falling power prices have made it increasingly uneconomical to run coal-fired power stations, especially when high winds or sunshine boost renewable generators. In the past 25 years cheap and abundant gas has supplanted coal as the most significant form of thermal generation, while renewables have provided additional electricity. Dieter Helm, professor of energy policy at Oxford university, said: “Since 1990 three things have happened: nuclear has made no progress, gas has become a big fuel source and renewables have come along.” In the longer term, with concerns mounting about whether a new nuclear plant will be built at Hinkley Point by 2025 as planned, some are suggesting the Grid might need to do more to encourage coal operators to stay online. Peter Atherton, an analyst at Jefferies, said: “The UK government wants to phase coal generation out by 2025. But looking at the situation today, the bigger challenge will be keeping coal plants on the system to protect security of supply.”
FT 16th May 2016 read more »
Isabelle Kocher says the price of electricity has no reason to rise. Low European electricity prices are here to stay, according to the new chief executive of Engie, the world’s largest non state-owned producer of electricity. “I do not think that this is cyclical. I think that the price of electricity has no reason to rise. It will never be like it was before,” Isabelle Kocher told the Financial Times. The bleak outlook from Ms Kocher, who was last week formally appointed at Engie’s annual general meeting, goes against predictions by some companies that a painful five-year trend of falling prices will soon reverse. Jean Bernard Levy, chief executive of French utility EDF, last week said: “We are faced with a historical, record low in wholesale electricity prices. The price of a megawatt hour in western Europe has virtually divided by two.” In Germany it has fallen from â‚¬60 per megawatt-hour in 2011 to around 25 this year. The French price has moved from around 56 per MWh to around 30. Some companies, including EDF, have predicted electricity prices in Europe will start to go up again after two or three years. Ms Kocher told the FT that while fluctuations are possible, sluggish economic growth and the energy transition in Europe and around the world, which is putting a much greater focus on subsidised renewable energy, is set to keep prices “structurally” low for the foreseeable future. The drop has had a deep effect on power providers. Paris-based Engie has written off nearly 24bn worth of assets over the past two years, as many of its gas power plants become uneconomical.
FT 16th May 2016 read more »
Renewables and nuclear are expected to be the fastest-growing energy sources in the world by 2040 as consumption increases. That’s according to a new report from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), which states global energy use is projected to grow by 48% between 2012 and 2040. Most of the consumption growth is expected to come from countries that are not part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), including nations where demand is driven by strong economic growth, particularly in Asia.
Energy Live News 16th May 2016 read more »
More than 1,000 clean-energy exploration jobs may be lost if the UK exits the EU, the boss of the country’s nuclear research agency has warned. Prof Steve Cowley, CEO of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, spoke out over fears £55m in annual European Commission (EC) funding would be withdrawn. Joint European Torus, in Oxfordshire, experiments with fusion, with an aim to create clean, almost limitless energy. But Adam Afriyie MP said Prof Cowley’s claims were “absolutely ridiculous”. Prof Cowley said the issue was not simply about the jobs at Culham Science Centre, where Joint European Torus (JET) is based, but the fact the UK could lose the expertise of the staff.
BBC 15th May 2016 read more »
Just a week after denying Germany’s request to shut down two of its oldest nuclear reactors, the Belgian government decided to distribute anti-radiation pills to its entire population. Do the authorities know something about the safety of its aging nuclear plants that it isn’t sharing ? The two reactors in question are 40 years old, and their pressure vessels have shown signs of metal degradation, raising concerns over their safety. Belgium still gets 50 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. Germany, in contrast, has decided to shut down all of its nuclear reactors and to focus on renewable energy.
Who What Why 15th May 2016 read more »
The US Environmental Protection Agency chalked elevated gamma radiation levels around America’s largest nuclear waste storage facility, the Hanford site, up to natural causes, but RT’s Alexey Yaroshevsky has found a few inconsistences in its claims. RT has reported extensively on the situation at Washington State’s Hanford Nuclear storage facility since various leaks and injuries to workers were reported. An incident on May 5th covered by RT, when radiation levels in the area adjacent to the site skyrocketed, prompted a federal investigation.
RT 15th May 2016 read more »
Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, has established a separate division, New Energies, to invest in renewable and low-carbon power. The move emerged days after experts at Chatham House warned international oil companies they must transform their business or face a “short, brutal” end within 10 years. Shell’s new division brings together its existing hydrogen, biofuels and electrical activities but will also be used as a base for a new drive into wind power, according to an internal announcement to company staff.
Guardian 15th May 2016 read more »
Renewables – offshore wind
Renewable UK has claimed that investor confidence in UK offshore wind “remains high” following the announcement that £1.3 billion funding has been secured for the Dudgeon windfarm. The 402MW major offshore wind farm project off the North Norfolk coast reached a £1.3 billion agreement to achieve financial close, and will be the first offshore wind project to be developed under the Contracts for Difference (CfDs) scheme. Renewable UK’s deputy chief executive Maf Smith said: “This announcement proves that the UK is the go-to destination for offshore wind investors.
Utility Week 13th May 2016 read more »
Renewables – floating turbines
The world’s largest floating wind farm – to be located at the Buchan Deep, some 15 miles offshore from Peterhead – is one step closer to becoming reality following The Crown Estate granting a lease to Statoil that will enable construction to commence. The Hywind Scotland project consists of five 6-MW turbines which will be deployed in deeper water than any previous offshore wind turbines around the coast of Britain.
Scottish Energy News 16th May 2016 read more »
Herald 16th May 2016 read more »
Renewables – hydro
I think we have all accepted there will be virtually no new schemes coming forward after 2017, and 80% of all run-of-river hydro jobs will be gone by 2020. However this does not mean that the world stops turning, or that all activity ceases today. At Green Highland Renewables we have a very active pipeline of projects in construction, and our strategy is to build and acquire hydro assets with the goal of establishing a significant operational hydro portfolio by 2018.
Scottish Energy News 16th May 2016 read more »
Energy UK chief executive Lawrence Slade has said he has “strong concerns” over how the government’s next energy efficiency scheme will handle the able-to-pay market, and the cost of the scheme to customers in fuel poverty. Speaking at a Public Accounts Committee hearing this week, Slade said: “I think it is very useful that we have an interim to take us from the end of current Eco [Energy Company Obligation] to the next one, I generally support the idea of focusing the money available towards the fuel poor.“I have strong concerns, though, over how we are going to handle the able-to-pay market and complexity of measures that need to be delivered there to meet our interim targets but also the amount of work that needs to be done there.”
Utility Week 13th May 2016 read more »
When it comes to grabbing headlines with visions of the future, few can beat entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk. He’s behind SpaceX, the rocket company that he sees as a vehicle to his dream of colonising Mars. Better known, perhaps, are his Tesla electric cars, an increasingly common sight in the US and here in the UK. While powerful rockets and fast cars might be the most exciting of Musk’s products, his hopes of changing the way we live are much more likely to be delivered by something much more prosaic – Tesla’s Powerwall. Much less glamorous than Musk’s other concepts, this plain white battery, intended to harness energy from renewable sources such as the wind and sun and make it available for household use or feed back into the power network, could have a far bigger impact than anything else the billionaire has dreamt up. The concept behind these batteries in homes – which working together are known as a “distributed grid” – is that they will store up cheap electricity generated when demand is lower, then discharge it at peak times when energy from the traditional network supplied mainly by large power stations is expensive. Not only do these batteries – known as “behind the meter” storage – raise the prospect of reducing households’ electricity costs by optimising the time they receive power, they could cut further bills by selling excess power back to the network at times of high demand. They could also provide an emergency back-up if the main grid fails.
Telegraph 15th May 2016 read more »
Carbon Capture & Storage
Professor Stuart Haszeldine; Renewable, and therefore low-carbon, energy in Scotland successfully supplies much electricity but this is just one quarte r of our energy needs. There are also carbon emissions resulting from heating for homes and businesses, and the carbon footprint of industries and transport (by road, rail, air and shipping). How do we meet these multiple climate targets? The answer could lie in the findings of a crucial study for the UK Government, published last week by Aberdeen-based consultants Pale Blue Dot. Shared with stakeholders in April but kept under wraps until after the Scottish election, the study shows how the UK’s offshore assets can set us on the right trajectory. Part of the findings from the highly technical report boil down to this: carbon dioxide (CO2) may be Scotland’s biggest unplayed natural resource card. The North Sea’s vast wealth in oil and gas production must, in future, be balanced by an equal or greater amount of CO2 being put back in the ground. Offshore depleted oil and gas fields and, especially, the larger CO2 storage volume offered by rocks containing unusable sa lty water (aquifers) offer a vast and useful asset. Crucially, the Pale Blue Dot report shows this asset can be unlocked to deliver climate action without breaking the bank. Thanks to devolution, management of these geological resources will be transferred to the Crown Estate Scotland and operated by the Scottish Government. This resource equates to 35 per cent of Europe’s CO2 storage potential, which can permanently store more than 100 years of emissions from the UK’s industry, power generation, heating and transport sectors.
Herald 16th May 2016 read more »