Five years on from the Fukushima, the human and environmental impacts of the disaster continue to grow in scale, writes UK Green MEP Molly Scott-Cato. This is a key reason why I am fighting so hard to prevent the new reactors at Hinkley point in Somerset from being built. Nuclear-power is not commercial; it cannot survive without government subsidy and never has been able to during the 60 years of its existence. That in itself should be enough to close the question of whether we wish to build new nuclear power stations in Europe. But somehow the commercially unviable deal to build at Hinkley has slipped between the scrutiny of commercial and political interests, and between the political authorities at Westminster and in Brussels. It is extraordinary that such a shaky deal could have got so far and endured for so long as it was never going to survive in a commercial market. For me one of the most shocking aspects of the deal was how little concern was raised by UK politicians. We are talking about a deal that involves two Chinese nuclear companies that are ultimately under the control of the Chinese Communist Party gaining access to our civilian nuclear industry. I am astonished that Conservative MPs are prepared to countenance such a risk to our national security. And this is to say nothing of the risk of suicide terrorism which we are left open to when nuclear stations are operational anywhere in the country. Commercially the Hinkley deal has been a dead duck for some time. In spite of the fact that EDF has been offered a price for electricity more than twice the current market price guaranteed for 35 years, the vast expense of developing nuclear power means that the capital investment is still beyond the company’s capacity. The resignation of chief financial officer Thomas Piquemal was a clear indication that he was coming under political pressure to make a decision that was against the commercial interests of the company. He refused. This led to a drop in the company’s share price and EDF has now looking to the French government for financial support directly related to Hinkley.
Euractiv 16th March 2016 read more »
Roughly five years ago, the British government and French utility EDF began a process to build another nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, an investment still awaiting the approval of EDF’s board. As odd as it seems, the tragic disaster and botched business deal have a common thread (other than the fact that EDF shares sell at one-third of their 2011 price): the role of government in nuclear power. EDF’s CFO just quit, reportedly because he opposed the firm’s involvement in Hinkley Point (described by BBC as “the world’s most expensive power project”), which is a key component of David Cameron’s UK energy policy and of François Hollande’s plan to revive France’s nuclear industry. Yet despite being 85% state-owned and the world’s largest nuclear operator, with 58 plants in France alone, EDF required UK government guarantees for debt and power pricing before it signed on to the project. EDF then sold 33.5% of the project to a Chinese state nuclear company and may be seeking additional investors. (Holding more than half of Hinkley Point would require EDF to consolidate the project on its books, opening it up to investor scrutiny for decades.) Not even a company as large as EDF can take on a project like this alone. Does Hinkley Point, needing so much government aid to get off the ground, stand at the end of the road for big nuclear reactors? Maybe, but as American philosopher, Yogi Berra, said, “When you reach the fork in the road, take it.” Hinkley Point, we believe, is at that fork. One path leads to more strained efforts to make a gigantic public works project — with hidden and unknown costs and unspecified and dubious public benefits — look like a commercial business. (Maybe energy prices skyrocket and that private owner of the power plants keeps the benefits and the consumers and taxpayers still pay the fixed costs.) But the strain seems hardly worth the effort, since other means exist to produce low carbon, secure power at similar or lower costs.
USA Today 15th March 2016 read more »
Electricite de France SA remains committed to an 18 billion-pound ($25 billion) atomic-reactor project in the U.K. to help the state-controlled power company win more contracts from India to South Africa. EDF wants to make an investment decision on the two 1,600-megawatt EPR reactors at Hinkley Point as soon as possible, Xavier Ursat, the company’s head of new nuclear projects, said Wednesday at a conference in Paris. “It will be an exceptional opportunity and a business card for our industry to best address promising markets such as South Africa, India, part of Eastern Europe, and to build on our presence in China,” Ursat said.
Bloomberg 16th March 2016 read more »
An apparent ultimatum from the chief executive of EDF suggests he is confident that the French government will provide the additional financial support he wants for a plan to build nuclear reactors in Britain. Sources familiar with the company’s thinking say the letter to staff last week should be read as an attempt to mollify French unions who are resisting the Hinkley Point project, and also a sign that the government, which owns an 85 percent stake in EDF, has already agreed in principle to give this support. Levy, who has spent years working with ministers and in state-owned firms, is seen as too politically astute to make such public statements without government clearance. Several sources close to EDF expect a final investment decision will be made before the EDF shareholders meeting on May 12, and possibly at its March 30 board meeting. Levy did not specify what form state support could take, but insiders say one option would be for the state to take future dividends in shares rather than cash. Such a move last month bolstered EDF’s coffers by 1.8 billion euros.
Reuters 16th March 2016 read more »
Letter Dr Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter CEO, Coltraco Ultrasonics: Small nuclear reactors are indeed “the future”. Since 1963 the Royal Navy Submarine Service has operated fleets of “small reactor” nuclear-powered boats, beginning with HMS Dreadnought, which on one voyage travelled more than 24,000 miles submerged. Since then the technology has developed and there is an opportunity for land-based use and “scaling up”. Smaller reactors can be placed at dispersed sites or in series to generate combined power equivalent to large reactors if required. A small reactor produces a smaller problem. Large reactors produce large problems and have done at Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011. Hinkley Point is a direct result of the decline of UK large nuclear design capability in which this country led the world up to the 1970s. A small reactor land-based design capability exists right now in the UK, at Rolls-Royce, and offers the opportunit y for the UK to generate the power that it requires, fulfil its environmental obligations, and export the technology.
Times 17th March 2016 read more »
The UK government has announced a competition to identify the “best value” small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) in the UK – paving the way for the country to build one of the world’s first SMRs. The government said in a policy statement, presented to parliament today by Chancellor George Osborne, that the competition will generate a list of SMR developers that could “deliver on the government’s objectives”. The government said it will also publish an SMR delivery roadmap later this year and will allocate at least £30m ($42m, €38m) for an “SMR-enabling advanced manufacturing R&D programme” to develop nuclear skills capacity. In November 2015 the government announced that the UK would double funding for the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s energy innovation programme to £500m over five years, which will help pay for an ambitious nuclear research programme that will revive the country’s nuclear expertise and help turn it into a leader in SMR technology. At the time Mr Osborne said the investment would strengthen future security of supply, reduce the costs of decarbonisation and boost industrial and research capabilities. In January 2016 Fluor Corporation’s NuScale unit, which is seeking to be a pioneer in the SMR market, said the UK’s ambitions to build SMRs could be realised as soon as 2025. Westinghouse Electric Company said earlier this month it is working with the UK’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre to explore the most effective way to manufacture Westinghouse SMR pressure vessels in the UK.
Nucnet 16th March 2016 read more »
EDF Energy is deploying a new fleet-wide nuclear plant telemetry system to assist responses to severe ‘beyond design basis’ events. EDF’s Continuous Emergency Monitoring System (CEMS) has been developed to help power station operators deal with a wide scale emergency, which Charlie Hall, senior consultant at Frazer-Nash Consultancy and CEMS project technical lead, defined as an event assumed to have disrupted infrastructure on and off site, such as by widespread flooding.
Engineer 16th March 2016 read more »
“Doing the right thing for the next generation is what the government and this budget is about,” chancellor George Osborne told parliament on Wednesday. “I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this parliament, doing this job and say to my children’s generation: I’m sorry. We knew there was a problem … but we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing.” However, despite rising global temperatures now shattering all records, the issue of climate change did not get a single mention in his speech. Worse than the missing words, the budget did almost nothing to support the clean energy economy the UK needs to develop for the 21st century, and did a lot to block it. Small modular nuclear reactors got a modest £30m boost, which might bear useful fruit in 2030 or so. But the UK needs clean energy now. Perhaps the most intriguing of Osborne’s words were the blink-and-you-missed-it reference to National Infrastructure Commission: “I am also accepting [its] recommendations on energy.”The NIC backed a smart and flexible vision of energy supply — saving consumers £8bn a year by 2030 — that contrasts starkly with Osborne’s current plans, which are founded on fossil fuels and massive “white elephant” nuclear plants. Perhaps Osborne hasn’t actually read the NIC report. Nonetheless, there’s £50m for storage and other smart energy technologies over the next five years.
Guardian 16th March 2016 read more »
Letter Craig Bennett etc: In December, David Cameron joined 195 other leaders to promise ambitious action on climate change. Achieving the Paris goals requires leaving most of the world’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground. A first step must be to stop subsidising fossil fuel production. Wednesday’s budget is an acid test of the government’s Paris commitment. In last year’s budget, the chancellor gave £1.3bn in new tax breaks and direct funding to the oil industry. The UK Treasury receives a smaller share of oil revenues than most other comparable countries. Meanwhile, the government has exempted a whole new fossil-fuel industry – fracking – from half of its tax, despite huge local opposition wherever it is proposed. The government has slashed support for wind and solar energy, costing thousands of jobs. Yet its free-market rationale does not apply when it comes to the oil and gas industry, which has received continued government support even in times of super-normal profits. The chancellor has to change course. He should scrap subsidies that keep the British economy hooked on fossil fuels, and instead set out a strategy to help communities currently dependent on fossil fuel jobs to diversify and to rebuild around world-leading clean technology.
Guardian 15th March 2016 read more »
Yauemon Sato is the owner of a 226-year-old sake brewery in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. In 2013, he launched a local power company hoping to revive a region suffering in the wake of the 2011 disaster and nuclear accident. People who know Yauemon call him “a dump truck with broken brakes”. He’s quick to put his ideas into action. He’s now working on a project to generate renewable energy in a village that was evacuated following the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Yauemon has teamed up with farmer Minoru Kobayashi to realize his dream. But they soon had to face reality: the radioactive decontamination effort is far from over and former residents are reluctant to return. Fukushima Reborn recounts Yauemon’s passionate campaign to save the region he loves so much. The documentary looks at life in present-day Fukushima, a beautiful part of Japan struggling to get out from under a dark cloud.
NHK 12th March 2016 read more »
The need to invest in clean energy sources was highlighted by the Bedford Green Party as it marked the fifth anniversary of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster. The group met at the Bedford Against Nuclear Dumping (BAND) monument near the former Elstow Storage Depot, which the Government chose as a possible site to bury nuclear waste in the early 1980s. Following BAND’s campaign the plans were dropped. Bedford Green Party spokeswoman Lucy Bywater said with the uncertainty and economic controversy over the UK’s Hinckley Point nuclear power station, it is “pertinent to consider how we’d like our energy future to look”. She said: “Although accidents at nuclear power plants are rare, the consequences are so devastating and far reaching that it’s surely time to turn our back on this industry.
Bedford Today 16th March 2016 read more »
Energy Policy – Scotland
Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Energy Minister has laid out some of the likely major milestones to be included in the emerging new draft Scottish Energy Strategy. He summarised current and future challenges – such as the ‘onslaught’ on renewables by the UK Government and its handbrake policy U-turn to abandon the Peterhead carbon capture and storage project by Shell and SSE in favour of new nuclear power at Hinkley Point-C. Speaking later to the first Scotland Trade Association Scotland conference, he also said that there is likely to be a place for solar energy in the new Scottish Energy Strategy.
Scottish Energy News 16th March 2016 read more »
Levy Control Framework
Group of backbench MPs write to George Osborne urging him to extend Levy Control Framework and provide a route for renewables to deliver subsidy-free power from 2025. The Chancellor is facing further calls to confirm how the government’s clean energy subsidy support schemes will be extended beyond 2020, only this time the calls have come from his own colleagues on the Conservative benches. BusinessGreen understands a group of around 15 Conservative MPs, including MP for Beverley and Holderness Graham Stuart, last week wrote to George Osborne declaring their backing for continued support of renewable energy projects and urging the Chancellor to use this week’s budget to extend the Levy Control Framework (LCF), which governs the level of subsidy available for clean energy projects, through to 2025.
Business Green 16th March 2016 read more »
Following a serious accident at the Kakrapar Atomic Power Station in Gujarat on March 11, Greenpeace India has called for an immediate investigation by independent experts, of all aging pressurised heavy water reactors (PWHR) in the country. The demand for investigation comes as the Indian nuclear regulator failed to identify the leak within 72 hours of the accident.
Greenpeace 15th March 2016 read more »
REA’s Dr Nina Skorupska argues it is time for government and businesses to recognising decarbonising the power sector will not be enough, we need to embrace the challenge of renewable heat. Final consumption of electricity is ‘just’ 303.4TWh (according to figures for 2015) compared to the final heat consumption of 760TWh (according to figures for 2013). We are extremely concerned about the proposed changes to the non-domestic biomass tariffs, which will reduce certain tariffs by up to 61 per cent by 2017, and reduce the number of yearly biomass installations from 3,023 in 2015, to only 65 systems by 2021. This would mean the loss of five years’ worth of government effort and investment that have helped built a mature and stable industry. Biomass heating represents the majority of the decarbonisation of the UK heat sector to date, and 89 per cent of all renewable heat in Europe.The suggested reform of RHI is too focused on a few preferred technologies, picked as the winners by government, rather than letting the market choose between the many available renewable low-carbon heating options. To fully decarbonise our heat supply, we need a mix of all renewable technologies: geothermal, biogas/biomethane, heat pumps, solar thermal, and biomass heating. Neither one can on their own deliver all required heating for industrial use, heating of schools and care homes, and different homes with different needs .A shortfall against either the heat or transport targets requires a significant increase in renewable power contribution. With renewable transport currently only achieving about 2.5 per cent, the power sector will need to deliver 44-45 per cent renewable energy! This at a time where the Renewables Obligation has been closed for solar and onshore wind, the FiT constrained, and the number of CfD auctions reduced to just three before 2020.
Business Green 16th March 2016 read more »
Falling coal use in China and the US and a shift towards renewable energy globally saw energy emissions level for the second year running, says IEA. Preliminary data for 2015 from the International Energy Agency (IEA) showed that carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector have levelled off at 32.1bn tonnes even as the global economy grew over 3%. Electricity generated by renewable sources played a critical role, having accounted for around 90% of new electricity generation in 2015. Wind power produced more than half of all new electricity generation, said the IEA.
Guardian 16th March 2016 read more »
Anthony Kyriakides is Renewables Programme Manager at Energy Saving Trust in Scotland: As announced in the chancellor’s autumn statement, new applicants to the UK Government’s Feed-in Tariff scheme for domestic solar energy will now receive a reduced rate of payment for the energy generated by household solar PV panels. This may seem a setback for small-scale renewables, however, given the far-reaching benefits they can bring to our homes, this will by no means spell the end for the industry. In fact, by shifting the focus from subsidies to other, more pressing drivers for consumers – reducing household bills, making homes warmer, supporting energy security – home renewables will reaffirm their value as a worthwhile, achievable longterm investment. We work with thousands of homeowners who have already made the transition to home renewables.Reducing bills rather than generating income throu gh subsidies has been the leading motivation for the owner. Regardless of whether subsidy payments exist, home renewable energy will always have the power to save money given the abundance of natural resources over fossil fuels.
Scotsman 16th March 2016 read more »
The British renewables industry today remains frustrated and unclear following announcements contained in the Chancellor’s Spring Budget. A new series of tax breaks and government support has been included for the fossil fuel industry, yet support for renewable energy ‘remains thin.’ A spokesman for the Renewable Energy Association – the largest such trade body in the UK – contrasted the government’s fiscal position on oil and gas with renewables. He said: “For fossil fuels, the Government will: Effectively abolish the Petroleum Revenue Tax; Reduce the Supplementary Charge from 20% to 10%; Provide an additional £20 million in funding for seismic surveys, and Consult on a new shale wealth fund (in England only).
Scottish Energy News 16th March 2016 read more »
Renewables – solar
The decision on a Government proposed increase in VAT rates for domestic solar systems was absent from the Budget today – raising hopes for a Treasury re-think, which the Solar Trade Association has been strongly pushing for. The association has been told that Treasury has delayed its decision, but will make a decision by Autumn. Last week the European Commission mooted fundamental reform of EU VAT rules, which have weakened the already poor justifications given for raising VAT on solar.
Scottish Energy News 16th March 2016 read more »
The Scottish Government has awarded over £10 million to support innovative large-scale low carbon local energy projects, Energy Minister Fergus Ewing announced today. Speaking at the annual Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) Conference in Stirling, Mr Ewing confirmed that nine projects will receive funding through the Local Energy Challenge Fund. The successful projects include: Two ambitious district heating schemes; Using surplus energy in Orkney to reduce fuel household costs; Empowering Edinburgh tower block residents to collectively purchase energy and reduce fuel bills; Support for a low head hydro power scheme in Galashiels.
Scottish Government 15th March 2016 read more »
Energy Live News 15th March 2016 read more »
Demand Side Management
The government has confirmed it will allocate at least £50 million to help innovation in energy storage, demand-side response (DSR) and other smart technologies over the next five years. The government said it welcomed the recently published report by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) – Smart Power – as an “opportunity to transform the future of the UK’s electricity sector”.
Utility Week 16th March 2016 read more »
100% solar-powered buses arrive in London as UK eyes zero emissions by 2050. Soon to be trundling along London’s busy streets, the zero-carbon vehicle was designed and developed by China’s BYD company. The bus is 10.2m long, features full air conditioning and offers seats and standing spaces for 81 passengers. The batteries deliver 345 kWh of power and can run for up to 190 miles of typical urban driving. Recharging the bus takes about four hours and can be completed overnight using low-cost off-peak electricity, the company said in a press release.
Renew Economy 17th March 2016 read more »
Climate – Scotland
Scotland must slash greenhouse gas emissions by nearly two-thirds in the next 14 years to hit its tough climate targets, according to a new report. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act requires emissions reductions of at least 42 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050. In a report for the Scottish Government, independent advisors from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said the country should continue its high-ambition strategy towards its world-leading goals, set out in 2009. Scotland has missed all four of its interim annual targets, though adjusted accounting techniques have been blamed. The most recent figures, show emissions have fallen 38.4 per cent from the 1990 baseline level. The CCC report recommends cuts of 61 per cent by 2030 are necessary to reach this, a move that goes beyond the goals set out by the UK government for the same period.
Scotsman 16th March 2016 read more »