On Thursday the board of EDF will meet in Paris to give a final green-light for its £18 billion project to build a nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Billed as a critical piece of kit to meet Britain’s future electricity needs, while also cutting carbon emissions, Hinkley Point could churn out 7 per cent of British electricity for 60 years. The French government, which owns 85 per cent of EDF, hopes that by acting swiftly, only two weeks after Theresa May’s appointment as Prime Minister, it will stifle critical voices within her new administration and minimise the risk that highly favourable terms struck in 2013 to help to bankroll the station are watered down. Above all, EDF’s most cherished sweetener is a guaranteed price of an index-linked £92.50 per megawatt hour, well over double the present wholesale price, for 35 years. A final investment decision now also would help to avoid the risk that the project gets bogged down in the complexities of a French presidential election cycle, which will start in the autumn. Mr Clark says that he supports the scheme, but other senior figures within Mrs May’s administration are less convinced. Last year, Boris Johnson attacked the project as “disgraceful” and an “extraordinary amount of money” to spend. Nick Timothy, one of Mrs May’s key advisers, has described the project as “baffling” and warned of the security risks of allowing Chinese state-owned companies to invest in UK infrastructure projects. Steering Hinkley Point on to the UK grid is likely to take up a lot of Mr Clark’s time.
Times 25th July 2016 read more »
EDF recently announced that the final investment decision (FID) will be taken at a board meeting on Thursday, much earlier than expected. It had been pushed back until September, as EDF consulted the unions, a process which ended 4 July. But Paul Dorfman, an honorary senior research fellow at University College London’s Energy Institute who advises the UK government on nuclear issues, warned that the state-backed firm faces numerous issues. He told City A.M.: “If EDF decide to take a punt on Hinkley, it’s also because of the hugely generous financial support structure that the UK government is offering over a staggering 35 year contracted period.” “UK taxpayers and electricity consumers will be locked in to paying for the coming Hinkley debacle long after the current EDF Board and UK government decision-makers are dead and buried.” It comes as Greg Clark, the business and energy secretary, prepares to assure Japanese investors that are planning Britain’s next two plants after Hinkley of the government’s commitment to nuclear. While Hitachi and Toshiba are behind the Horizon project on Anglesey in north Wales and the NuGen plant in Cumbria respectively, funding for the schemes is yet to be found. The three-day trade mission to Tokyo, which kicks off tomorrow, is intended to shore up investor confidence following the Brexit vote.
City AM 24th July 2016 read more »
James Fisher, the 165-year-old maritime services company, based in Barrow-in-Furness, where nuclear submarines are built, does not have a view on how quickly old reactors should be decommissioned and waste treated. But it has some clever ideas on how to do it. It sent a robot to Japan to help with the Fukushima nuclear accident clean up as it is a world leader in remote handling, allowing irradiated parts of plants to be reached. Fisher has also come up with a novel way to dismantle reactor cores, which has won it a four-year, £60m contract with Magnox Limited to decommission the largest of the reactor cores constructed on the site in Winfrith, Dorset.
FT 24th July 2016 read more »
We are in a red metal cage bumping slowly down a mineshaft to our destination, half a kilometre under the ground near the small town of Bure in eastern France. Above us are yellow fields of oilseed rape. Below is the maze of reinforced concrete tunnels that, if it wins final approval from the French government, will from 2025 be the last resting place for the most destructive and indestructible waste in history. This is the €25bn deep geological storage facility for France’s high and medium-level radioactive waste, the residue of more than half a century of nuclear power. When the work here is finally finished, no one must ever take this journey again or, at least, not for 100,000 years. France is the world’s largest exporter of electricity and the world’s most committed nuclear nation, with 58 reactors producing 75 per cent of the country’s power. As a result, it also produces enough toxic radioactive waste every year to fill 120 double-decker buses (about 13,000 cubic metres worth, or 2kg a year for every French person). The challenge at Bure is not only to build a massive dump for radioactive trash but also to guard it from human intervention for an impossible amount of time — more than 4,000 human generations.
FT 14th July 2016 read more »
Energy Policy – Scotland
Scottish Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham has vowed that Scotland will continue to play its full part in contributing to EU-wide environmental policies. She made the commitment in a letter to environmental organisations ahead of a meeting on Thursday this week to discuss the implications of the EU referendum result. Cunningham said: “The EU referendum result has created considerable uncertainty – but what remains certain is the position of the Scottish Government. We resolutely believe that membership of the European Union delivers considerable social, economic, environmental and cultural benefits for individuals, businesses and communities across Scotland. Our priority is to protect Scotland’s interests.
Scottish Energy News 25th July 2016 read more »
Herald 24th July 2016 read more »
Energy companies should make a profit margin of just 1.25pc on household bills, a fifth of the level made by the two biggest suppliers last year, the Competition and Markets Authority has said. Roger Witcomb, who led the watchdog’s two-year investigation into the sector, said it was “appropriate” for suppliers to make only £12.50 pre-tax profit on a £1,000 gas and electricity bill, since “they don’t make the stuff”. Major energy companies have long argued that a profit margin of about 5pc is fair.
Telegraph 23rd July 2016 read more »
One of the North East’s leading academics says the massive changes on how we make and use energy are paving the way for the transition to a 100% renewable electricity system. “We need to build a new energy system to support the transition from fossil fuels to low carbon sources”, says Prof Phil Taylor Siemens Professor of Energy Systems at Newcastle University.
Newcastle Chronicle 20th July 2016 read more »
The future growth of Scotland’s flagship renewables industry could be choked off by swingeing subsidy cuts from Westminster, a committee of MPs has warned. An estimated 21,000 people now work in the green energy sector north of the Border, which produces almost 30 per cent of the UK’s renewable electricity. Environmentalists hit out when the UK government announced an end to lucrative subsidies for onshore windfarms last year. The Scottish Affairs ¬Committee has today ¬published a report into the renewable energy sector in Scotland which warns that its successes could now be undermined by changes to UK -government policy. “We have urged the government to clarify the future ¬support which will be available to the renewable sector, and set out how they will work with the Scottish Government to develop a clear, long-term plan that will allow renewable energy to remain a central part of the energy mix,” committee chairman Pete Wishart said.
Scotsman 25th July 2016 read more »
Renewables – tidal
Letter RA Collings: The time has come to revisit plans to build the Severn Barrage. It would generate the same percentage of Britain’s power (7 per cent) as the proposed Hinkley Point nuclear plant, cost at least £2 billion less and be built much quicker. It would also reduce our reliance on imported energy, and reduce our carbon emissions. It would not carry the risk of a nuclear incident, and would have a much longer life without the huge costs that come with nuclear plant decommissioning.
Telegraph 23rd July 2016 read more »
Renewables – wave
AN €11m project funded by the European Union (EU) will unite technical facilities in Scotland with others across Europe to develop ocean energy for various uses. A selection of Europe’s leading ocean energy test facilitieswill, in a joint study, test tidal, wave and offshore wind energy technologies in real-sea conditions. The Funding Ocean Renewable Energy package, delivered by Strategic the European Action (FORESEA) project and funded by the Interreg North-West Europe (INWE) programme, is also part of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It will fund the join project between Orkney, Galway in Ireland, Nantes in France and Den Oever in the Netherlands.
Commonspace 22nd July 2016 read more »
Renewables – solar
Up to 12,500 jobs have been lost in Britain’s solar power industry over the past year as a result of cuts to the subsidies available for rooftop panels, according to research by PwC released today. A 65 per cent cut in subsidies available for newly installed solar panels was announced by Amber Rudd last year when she was energy secretary, effective from February 8 this year. The decision triggered a crisis in Britain’s solar industry, forcing a string of companies out of business. The quantity of solar panels fitted to British homes and businesses is expected to fall 70 per cent this year from an average of 1 gigawatt of capacity for each of the past five years to about 300 megawatts. Leonie Greene, of the Solar Trade Association, which co-produced the report, urged ministers: “Rather than increase the tax burden of going solar, please reward investment with sensible solar tax breaks consistent with action on climate change.”
Times 25th July 2016 read more »
Dave Elliott: It is often said that the central problem with renewable energy is that it is intermittent and dealing with this will add substantially to the cost. But new insights from a range of recent studies suggest that this may not be the case. For example, since balancing systems allow variable energy supply and demand to be matched more efficiently and can avoid the need for expensive new generation, the UK National Infrastructure Commission’s influential new report ‘Smart Power’ says a mix of storage, smart grid demand management and supergrid interconnectors could save UK consumers up to £8bn p.a by 2030. So grid balancing can save money – not least by avoiding wasteful curtailment of surplus output but also by trading net excesses. There will clearly be costs for adding balancing systems. However, that will be offset by the resultant system-wide cost savings, and given technology development and higher carbon prices, the International Energy Agency says the scale and impact of the extra costs should fall dramatically. The German Agora Energiewende group agrees, especially given the savings from reduced use of fossil fuel that will be enabled by wider use of renewables. That goes against the more usual view that using and balancing variable renewables will add substantially to energy costs. It ties in with a recent study from the International Renewable Energy Agency suggesting that on-shore wind would be cheaper than anything else, even with full balancing costs added. It is also often claimed that renewables will need 100% fossil (and/or nuclear) backup. However, the influential Energy Research Partnership study says that, while backup will be needed, only a 12% fossil input would be required to meet occasional demand peaks in a hypothetical 100% UK renewable scenario with wind and PV solar meeting most electricity needs most of the time, assuming that the necessary balancing facilities were in place. That translates to almost the same small fossil capacity figure as had been suggested as being needed in an earlier Poyry 2050 scenario, with renewables supplying 94% of electricity The Pugwash 80% by 2050 UK renewables study came to a similar conclusion, although it suggested that the fossil residual could be reduced further using Power to Gas conversion of surpluses.
Ambient Energy 7th July 2016 read more »
Plans to set fire to coal under the seabed at up to 19 sites around the UK would cause significant climate pollution, groundwater contamination and toxic waste, according to a report by environmentalists. The UK government’s Coal Authority has granted licences for underground coal gasification (UCG) covering more than 1,500 sq km of seabed off north-east and north-west England, Wales and east central Scotland. The Scottish and Welsh governments have put temporary moratoriums on the technology because of concerns about the dangers. Scottish ministers are awaiting an independent review in September, which is likely to be critical of UCG.
Guardian 25th July 2016 read more »
Herald 24th July 2016 read more »