It may be a new year, but the energy debate has picked up where it left off in 2013. Yesterday, the Labour party accused the ‘big six’ energy companies of overcharging their customers by a total of £4 billion. Labour, Ofgem, and the energy industry are all calling for greater transparency in the energy market. Until that happens, politicians and commentators are forced to make do with the data available to them – as Labour has this week – to try and work out whether consumers are getting value for money. As such, it seems unlikely the big six are overcharging consumers by precisely £4 billion as there are too many unknown factors. But Labour’s analysis highlights just how hard it is to know whether consumers are getting a good deal in the current energy market.
Carbon Brief 3rd Jan 2014 read more »
It’s only the second day of 2014 but already the Big Six have hit the headlines again. This time they come accused by the Labour Party of pushing up bills and profits by buying electricity at higher than market prices, often from their own generators. This follows charges of ‘green murder’ at the end of 2013 when some members of the Big Six failed to reduce energy bills following recent Government changes to environmental levies. They are the latest episodes in a saga that has seen Britain’s energy giants scrambling to deflect attention away from themselves towards the nearest scapegoat they can find. But don’t be fooled. The real problem at the heart of our energy market is not the help we give to the poor to heat their homes, nor the support we give to communities to build their own wind turbines. It is the size and structure of the Big Six themselves, and the secret world of energy ‘self-supply’ that exists at their core. The origin of our current woes lies in the botched design of our energy market. Making a market out of a natural monopoly was never going to be easy, but we didn’t even stick to the original blueprint during the privatisation of the 1980s. Whilst the pipes and wires (the National Grid) were separated off as planned, the Government ultimately allowed the generation function (power stations) and the supply function (selling that power to us) to be held within single companies. We should have had a large number of generators competing hard on price. We should have had a completely separate set of suppliers whose sole purpose was to get us the best deal by driving down prices and profits. Instead what we got was a handful of ‘vertically integrated’ giants controlling both generation and supply, and whose interests are simply not aligned with our own.
Abundance Generation 2nd Jan 2014 read more »
An energy company that raised its bills by 18 per cent last year has told its customers to cut their gas and electricity costs by giving up tea, showering with other people, going to bed early and playing Monopoly. First Utility – Britain’s biggest independent energy firm, with 120,000 customers – says households should follow the “5:2 energy diet” based on the principles of the popular weight-loss programme. The company, which charges an average £1,120 for dual fuel each year, advises customers: “Just stick to the low-usage energy plan on fast days, then use what you like on the other five and you could save an average of £154 a year.”
Independent 3rd Jan 2013 read more »
Telegraph 3rd Jan 2014 read more »
Ovo Energy says save up to £200 per year using a slow cooker.
Ovo Energy 4th Dec 2013 read more »
Can Britain’s energy companies sink even further in public estimation? You wouldn’t have thought it possible, but every day, it seems, brings new evidence of incompetance or overcharging. Yesterday The Daily Telegraph reported that three of the big six energy companies – npower, ScottishPower, and SSE – have yet to pass on the cuts in so-called green taxes, for which the big Six campaigned so vigorously last autumn, even though ministers assured us at the time that “all of the major energy suppliers have confirmed that they will pass the benefits of this package to their consumers”. British Gas implemented a rice cut yesterday, while E.on and EDF both said that they moderated their last price increase because of the deal, which cut the “taxes” – mainly in fact a scheme to help poor people better insulate their houses, and thus save energy and money – by an average £50. But, scandalously, npower and ScottishPower have given no firm details of when they will reduce bills or by how much, while SSE has pledged a reduction of about four per cent, but has only undertaken to implement it before the end of March.
Telegraph 2nd Jan 2014 read more »
Energy security and costs in the UK – the political debate continues. Dieter Helm, Michael Fallon, Alan Whitehead on R4’s The World Tonight (starts at 21 mins in).
BBC 3rd Jan 2013 read more »
Nuclear Load Factors
The learning curve for nuclear power plant operation can lead to a slow increase in capacity factor. However this leads the nuclear industry to be ‘locked in’ to existing technology. The graph below shows the average capacity factor for all US nuclear plants by year. You can see that it has increased considerably from about about 50-60% in the seventies to about 90% now. The increase is for several reasons including increased fuel burnup. However, the main reason is that the operators gained a better understanding of how to maintain and operate the plants.
Peter Lux 3rd Jan 2014 read more »
Peter Lux 3rd Jan 2014 read more »
The supply chain behind the UK nuclear sector is to get a £13 million boost. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has joined forces with other public bodies to deliver the funds with the aim of growing a “robust, sustainable UK supply chain through the development of innovative products and services for the nuclear sector”. The move follows the decision to build Hinkley Point C, the first new nuclear power station in the UK for almost 20 years. The initiative, involving the Technology Strategy Board, the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the NDA, will focus on areas including construction, manufacturing, operation, maintenance, decommissioning and waste.
Supply Management 4th Jan 2014 read more »
Prof David Smythe: in 2001 there was a white paper called Managing Radioactive Waste Safely – which was really a white paper on a white paper – it was setting out the first inkling of the government’s views, which was about finding a waste repository site by voluntarism and there was no mention of geology in it. Now this was despite expert reports from people like the Royal Society, and indeed from the House of Commons select committee saying that of course the geology has to be done first and then we look for volunteers. So it was very curious that the government’s setting up in 2001 of this white paper about MRWS made no reference to geology. Then coming out of this white paper they formed a committee called CORWM (Committee on Radioactive Waste Management), and what was highly suspicious there was that there were no Earth Scientists on this committee – some good people on it, no question – but they were all sociologists and economists.
Cumbria Trust 4th Jan 2014 read more »
Tokyo Shimbun is reporting the results of their investigation into the dealings of the Fukushima prefecture government, the medical university and the IAEA. There has been ongoing suspicion about the openness and honesty of what has been ongoing in Japan. Tokyo Shimbun has confirmed that these government entities did sign a secrecy agreement with the IAEA. The Fukushima Medical University has been the main source of all public data on exposure and had been dictating what medical care many in the region were allowed to receive related to radiation issues.
Simply Info 1st Jan 2014 read more »
Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong un, has warned of an all out nuclear war with the United States of America.
RINF 3rd Jan 2013 read more »
SOUTH KOREAN authorities have approved the restart of three nuclear reactors that were forced offline last year after it was discovered that documentation for safety-critical equipment at the plants was falsified.
Chemical Engineer 3rd Jan 2013 read more »
Areva has teamed up with Belgium-based international chemical company Solvay in an agreement aimed at developing new applications for thorium. Thorium-232 is a naturally occurring element that is more abundant than uranium in the earth’s crust. The agreement includes research & development to study the use of thorium as a potential fuel in nuclear power plants, as a complement to fuels using uranium and plutonium.
Power Engineering International 3rd Jan 2014 read more »
Renewables – Subsidies
Ministers will have to cut subsidies for wind farms under pressure from Brussels. The European Commission has also told the Government to cut financial support for solar energy by the end of the decade. It comes after Michael Fallon, the Energy Minister, announced last month that onshore wind farms would have to compete with each other for subsidies after 2015. The wind farm industry is now regarded as “mature”, and therefore not eligible for subsidies that amount to state aid and distort the single market. The move is likely to be welcomed by Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, who is trying to highlight the uncompetitive nature of the onshore wind industry.
Times 4th Jan 2014 read more »
This week’s Micropower News now available.
Microgen Scotland 3rd Jan 2014 read more »
CSE’s communities team is offering support to groups who want to apply to the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF). RCEF is a £15m funding initiative to support community groups in developing low-carbon projects in rural areas. Are you a member of a constituted community group residing in a rural area, wanting to develop a community renewable energy project? If so, RCEF could be the opportunity you have been waiting for. The funding provides a grant of up to £20,000 for investigating the viability of renewable energy in your area.
Centre for Sustainable Energy 4th Jan 2014 read more »
More than £5.2 million in loans have been written off by the Department of Energy and Climate Change over the past two financial years after companies given advances for energy efficiency projects went into administration. The taxpayer-funded loans were to help businesses reduce energy costs through “efficiency projects” but the DECC could only recover £166,000 after the companies suffered financial difficulties. DECC said there was no reasonable alternative to writing off the loans, as the organisations went into liquidation and the money was not recoverable.
Telegraph 3rd Jan 2014 read more »
BP has won permission to drill in the clear waters off Greenland, just three and a half years after abandoning similar plans to apply for a licence in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon blowout. Greenpeace said it beggared belief that a company with BP’s chequered track record would be allowed to work in one of the world’s most fragile environments.
Guardian 3rd Jan 2014 read more »
John Sauven: The government’s reaction to widespread public revulsion at the profiteering of the ‘big’ six and its impact on energy bills was to weaken green measures including energy efficiency. This makes a very clear-cut case that the long-term interests of the voters, even when united, count for less than the interests of the fossil fuel industry who mainly pocketed the rebate. This is not an isolated incident. Russia seems to see criticism of their fossil fuel industry, and peaceful protests against their dash into the Arctic, as an act of war. The US bends regulations for frackers and pipelines, and stands shoulder to shoulder with the UK in spying on environmentalists. Canada provides the most startling and disturbing example of how a society’s apparently entrenched liberal, democratic values can be sacrificed for fossil fuel interests. Energy efficiency firms hoping to cash in on the desperately needed upgrading of our housing stock to bring it closer to European standards have had their support slashed including for the poorest households. According to the Treasury view, if it isn’t dirty, dangerous and decades out of date, then it’s just not a serious option worth supporting.
Guardian 26th Dec 2013 read more »