The government has repeatedly cited official forecasts of rising energy costs to justify cuts to subsidies for renewables, saying consumer bills need to be kept under control. But the calculations behind the forecasts – until now undisclosed – show it expects domestic energy bills to be nearly £100 lower in 2020 than previously thought, despite rising subsidies. The revelation comes in emails exchanged last May between senior civil servants at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Treasury. The redacted emails – classified as “sensitive” – have been released by DECC to Carbon Brief following a long-running Freedom of Information request. The updated estimates – made in early 2015, but not previously released – found an average household energy bill would be £1,222 in 2020, some 7% (£97) lower than the £1,319 projection made the previous year. The reduction is largely down to falling fossil fuel prices. With fossil fuels responsible for about half of the UK’s power generation in 2015, DECC now expects wholesale electricity to cost less than 5p per unit in 2020, around 10% lower than it was projecting a year earlier. Yet ministers have repeatedly cited the official forecasts when explaining their changes to green energy policy. For example, Amber Rudd, energy and climate change secretary, told parliament in September: “I was shocked to find the scale of the [renewable energy subsidy] overspend and have therefore responded in order to keep consumer bills under control.”
Carbon Brief 4th Jan 2016 read more »
This paper offers a new, interdisciplinary framework for the analysis of governing for sustainable energy system change by drawing together insights from, and offering critiques of, socio-technical transitions and new institutionalist concepts of change. Institutions of all kinds, including rules and norms within political and energy systems, tend to have path-dependent qualities that make them difficult to change, whereas we also know that profound change has occurred in the past. Current decisions to pursue climate change mitigation by dramatically changing how energy is produced and used depend to some extent on finding the right enabling conditions for such change. The approach adopted here reveals the highly political and contingent nature of attempts to govern for innovations, how political institutions mediate differently between forces for sustainable change and forces for continuity, as well as specific interactions between governance and practice change within energy systems. It concludes that it is only by being specific about the contingent nature of governing for innovations, and about how this affects practices in energy systems differently, that those of us interested in sustainability can credibly advise policy makers and drive for greater change.
IGov 31st Dec 2015 read more »
WYLFA Reactor One, the last generating Magnox nuclear reactor in the world, finally closed down on 30 December 2015 after 44 years of operations. The Wylfa power station, on Anglesey, Wales, UK, began generating electricity in 1971. At the time, its two reactors had a combined output of 1,000 MW, making it the world’s most powerful nuclear power station. Reactor Two shut down three years ago. Production of Magnox fuel ceased in 2008 and Wylfa was originally scheduled to shut down in 2010. However, a further five years of operation became possible after regulators approved a process to transfer partly-used fuel between nuclear reactors, known as inter-reactor fuel transfer, or IRX. Over the course of its lifetime, Wylfa generated 232 TWh of electricity. Staff at the site gathered on 30 December to watch the final switch-off procedure.
Chemical Engineer 4th Jan 2016 read more »
Nukes vs Climate
Comment by Mark Z Jacobson on Jim Hansen’s remarks on nuclear power’s role in tackling climate change.
Stanford University 30th Dec 2015 read more »
Almost 60 years since the world’s first commercial nuclear power station began to deliver power to the UK’s grid, the industry remains as far from being able to cover its costs as ever, writes Pete Dolack. But while unfunded liabilities increase year by year, governments are still willing to commit their taxpayers’ billions to new nuclear plants with no hope of ever being viable. The entire industry would not exist without massive government subsidies. Quite an insult: Subsidies prop up an industry that points a dagger at the heart of the communities where ever it operates. A Union of Concerned Scientists paper, Nuclear Power: Still Not Viable Without Subsidies, states: “Despite the profoundly poor investment experience with taxpayer subsidies to nuclear plants over the past 50 years, the objectives of these new subsidies are precisely the same as the earlier subsidies: to reduce the private cost of capital for new nuclear reactors and to shift the long-term, often multi-generational risks of the nuclear fuel cycle away from investors. And once again, these subsidies to new reactors-whether publicly or privately owned-could end up exceeding the value of the power produced.” Significant cost overruns are the norm in building nuclear power plants, and it isn’t investors who are on the hook for them. Three nuclear projects are under construction in the United States and two in Western Europe, a group that features an assortment of cost overruns and generous guarantees.
Ecologist 4th Jan 2016 read more »
In 2015, a total of ten new nuclear reactors were connected to the world’s grids, more than in any year since 1990. Two reactors were closed, Grafenrheinfeld in Germany and Wylfa in the United Kingdom. As of 1 January 2016, a total of 398 reactors—eight more than a year ago, but 40 less than in 2002—were operating in 31 countries. Two reactors, Sendai-1 and -2, were restarted in Japan, the first since the country was shaken by the triple disaster earthquake-tsunami-radioactive fallout on the coast line of Fukushima in 2011. Most of the Japanese reactors, 38 units, remain in Long-Term Outage (LTO). An additional reactor in Belgium, Doel-1, was restarted after the Belgian nuclear phase-out legislation was amended in order to extend the lifetimes of Doel units 1 and 2 by ten years. However, the decision does not affect the legal date for nuclear phase-out completion in 2025.
World Nuclear Industry Status Report 5th Jan 2016 read more »
Global nuclear generating capacity increased slightly in 2015 as 10 new reactors began supplying electricity and eight were permanently shut down, according to World Nuclear Association data. Last year saw new reactors with total capacity of 9497 MWe connected to the grid, up from the 4763 MWe added in 2014. China added eight units, which were, in month order: Fangjiashan 2, Yangjiang 2, Hongyanhe 3, Ningde 3, Fuqing 2, Yangjiang 3, Fangchenggang 1 and Changjiang 1. South Korea and Russia added Shin Wolsong 2 and Beloyarsk 4. Uprates saw a further 484 MWe added. South Korea, the USA and Sweden accounted for 19 MWe, 290 MWe and 175 MWe of this total. There were two downrates, of 19 MWe each, at South Korea’s Wolsong 3 and 4.
World Nuclear News 4th Jan 2016 read more »
Efforts to speed carbon cuts pledged under the Paris climate deal will require a fast, mass mobilisation of low carbon technology at costs that can be competitive with coal, a task to which nuclear power will likely be unsuited. So says a new version of the World Nuclear Energy Industry Status Report, which tracks developments in the sector and provides outlooks based on developments energy and climate policy. Time is the main enemy of the world nuclear industry, says Mycle Schneider, the author of the report which had its abridged version published in Beijing this week. “Everyone needs to speed up energy transition, and cheap quick technology is going to be the first choice,” he said, pointing to figures in the report which indicate that 70% of the 60 or so reactors currently worldwide are delayed. Five of these have been listed as “under construction” for over 30 years. The 40 reactor units built between 2005 and July 2015 had an average construction time of 9.4 years, suggesting that a fast-roll of the technology in future decades is highly unlikely.
China Dialogue 22nd Dec 2015 read more »
In the wake of the COP21 climate meeting in Paris, which subtly endorsed nuclear power, and the aggressive move by China to build a nuclear plant a month, the supplies of uranium are once again in the spotlight. The price of uranium for fuel in nuclear reactors has had a complicated history over the last forty years. After the 2011 Tohoku tsunami and Fukushima reactor accidents, uranium prices dropped about 60%, bottoming out near $30/lb in mid-2014. By late 2013, all of Japan’s nuclear facilities were completely shut down. Other countries also closed nuclear power plants, including Germany and Switzerland. However, reliance on brown coal, and large-scale wind and solar systems, have neither met the climate needs of Germany, nor provided reasonable and stable electricity costs in Japan. But uranium prices are recovering and the outlook for the uranium market has brightened for several reasons.
Forbes 4th Jan 2016 read more »
Engie, which is one-third owned by the French government, is reported to be in talks with British local authorities about setting up joint ventures in major cities to provide power and gas to domestic consumers. It could also offer district heating, energy efficiency measures and small scale generation. Engie chief executive Wilfrid Petrie told The Times: “The challenge for councils is to reduce costs. There is a need for them to transform the way they do things, and by having this national presence we are able to help them optimise things.”Engie is already a major player in the UK retail market with a 5-7 per cent share of the highly competitive B2B energy supply market, and a 30 per cent share of independent energy company Opus Energy. At the same time the firm operates a portfolio of 7GW of power generation.
Utility Week 4th Jan 2016 read more »
Newly formed Uniper will assume control of the German energy giant’s conventional energy portfolio, with E.ON focusing on renewables and energy networks.
Business Green 4th Jan 2016 read more »
Energy Policy – Scotland
Tom Ballantine chairman of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland: The message from the UN climate talks was clear: people power is pushing our politicians to take action on climate change, and now is the time to keep up the pressure. Before the Paris talks, hundreds of thousands of people around the world came together to demand urgent climate action and to highlight the positive changes that communities are taking to reduce carbon emissions. I was immensely proud of the support that people showed for Scotland’s Climate March in Edinburgh on the eve of the talks. The deal in Paris shows that politicians are responding to those demands, and the popular global movement that supports them. The Scottish Parliament elections offer political parties the chance to show how they will invest in a new low-carbon Scotland that meets its carbon emission targets. We need warm, energy efficient homes. We need a meaningful shift away from investment in private cars, and towards investment in public transport and active travel like walking and cycling. And we need the Scottish Parliament to use its new tax powers to help cut climate emissions, especially when it comes to Air Passenger Duty. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland will continue to push our politicians for the bold action needed to deliver the promise of Scotland’s Climate Change Act. The Paris talks are over. But the fight for action continues. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland will be proud to play our part.
Scotsman 5th Jan 2016 read more »
US – radwaste
Radioactive contamination from a St. Louis-area landfill containing nuclear-weapons-related waste likely has migrated off-site, according to a study published this week in a scientific journal. One of the authors of the private, peer-reviewed study, which appeared Tuesday in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, said he doesn’t see any immediate health risks posed by the contamination that appears to be seeping from the West Lake landfill in Bridgeton, Mo. Still, the findings are likely to intensify debate about how much of a threat the buried waste at the landfill poses to people in the area.
Wall St Journal 3rd Jan 2016 read more »
Japan – reprocessing
It’s designed to recycle spent uranium from Japan’s nuclear power plants, consists of more than three dozen buildings spread over 740 hectares (1,829 acres), costs almost $25 billion and has been under construction for nearly three decades. Amount of fuel successfully reprocessed for commercial use: zero. Under construction since the late 1980s, the complex is designed to turn nuclear waste into fuel by separating out plutonium and usable uranium. The start date of the project has now been pushed back for the 23rd time, with operations set to commence in 2018. The money continuing to pour into the Rokkasho reprocessing complex in a northeast corner of Japan’s main island of Honshu is raising speculation that attention is being diverted from more-promising avenues of energy development, including renewables.
Bloomberg 5th Jan 2016 read more »
Energy Voice 5th Jan 2016 read more »
There are already 22 nuclear power plants under construction in China, according to the World Nuclear Association. The People’s Republic of China is set to build around 40 domestic nuclear power plants over the next five years, the country’s Government has said. The country’s 13th five year plan period, running from 2016 to 2020, includes provisions for building six to eight new nuclear power plants a year. If all goes according to plan, the country will aim to increase its output to ten plants a year past 2020. British energy policymakers will be eyeing China’s domestic nuclear power programme with interest after the country’s government signed a deal to finance the next generation of UK nuclear power. Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping signed the £40bn UK deal as part of a series of investment accords in a visit to the UK in October. The deal will see the state-owned General Nuclear Corporation take a two-thirds stake in the Bradwell nuclear power plant, where a Chinese-designed nuclear reactor is planned. A one-third stake will be taken in Hinkley Point, a plant run by the French state-owned firm EDF. A one-fifth stake will be taken in a project at the Sizewell plant.
Independent 4th Jan 2016 read more »
The final module – the containment water tank – has been installed at the second AP1000 unit under construction at Sanmen in China’s Zhejiang province. The operation to lift the 312-tonne containment cooling tank – with an outer diameter of almost 26 metres, an inner diameter of 10.6 metres and a height of just over 10 metres – was completed on 27 December, plant constructor China Nuclear Engineering Corporation (CNEC) announced.
World Nuclear News 4th Jan 2016 read more »
Environmentalists want the Ontario government to abandon plans for a $13-billion refurbishment of four nuclear reactors at the Darlington generating station east of Toronto and instead import more electricity from Quebec. The Ontario Clean Air Alliance says nuclear projects always run over budget, and it doesn’t want to see taxpayers on the hook to pay for rebuilding the Darlington reactors that are owned and operated by Ontario Power Generation. “Every single nuclear project in Ontario’s history has gone massively over budget by two and a half times,” said Alliance president Jack Gibbons. “OPG says this project will cost $12.9 billion, but if history repeats itself it will be $32 billion.” Gibbons said even if the refurbishment came in on budget, the cost to taxpayers of maintaining about 2,225 jobs at Darlington would work out to nearly $6 million per job. Greenpeace Canada, meanwhile, is concerned about the safety and health risks posed by nuclear power generation in the event of an accident, and says refurbishing the aging reactors at Darlington is not worth the risk.
Globe and Mail 4th Jan 2016 read more »
Now that the historic COP21 Paris climate talks have concluded with a big push to reduce human-related carbon emissions sooner rather than later, nuclear energy has been gaining more traction as the most effective way to do that. Russia is among the nations already moving in that direction, but a new study from Finland’s Lappeenranta University of Technology indicates that Russia nuclear energy is a move in the wrong direction, and that Eurasia as a whole would be better served by a less expensive, less risky renewable energy “super-grid.” The 100% renewable resource-based energy system options for Eurasia presented in this work are considerably lower in cost (about 44-61 %) than the higher risk options, which have still further disadvantages. These include nuclear melt-down risk, nuclear terrorism risk, unsolved nuclear waste disposal.
Clean Technica 4th Jan 2016 read more »
Assuming that Jeremy Corbyn wants to make it Labour policy to scrap Trident, the UK’s nuclear weapons system, it’s a surprise that he initially appointed shadow Foreign and Defence Secretaries – Hilary Benn and Maria Eagle – who support its retention. But that’s the least of his problems. The greater insoluble is that there are thousands of people, union members all, whose jobs depend on the decision to renew Trident. Just as Corbyn was rearranging the names on his front bench, the GMB fired a missile that was supposedly aimed at an SNP MP named Brendan O’Hara, but whose real target was obviously Corbyn. O’Hara had called for the work on a successor to the Trident fleet to be abandoned. Gary Smith, head of the GMB in Scotland, retorted: “Thousands of Scottish jobs are dependent on the successor programme… These elected politicians agitating to sack our members are no longer bothering to promise pie-in-the-sky alternative jobs for workers who are vital to our national security. It makes no sense to abandon our longstanding overall defence strategy unilaterally for solely political reasons. GMB Scotland will not play politics on this and will stand up for our defence workers and their communities right across the UK.”
Independent 4th Jan 2016 read more »
Converting a coal-fired power station to one that burns wood might sound easy enough, until you see first-hand what is involved. It is only when you stand in the middle of the sprawling Drax power station near Selby in North Yorkshire – the biggest in Britain – that you realise the sheer scale of Europe’s largest decarbonisation project. The first thing to hit you is the difference between how the coal and the wood pellets are stored on site, and the incendiary reason why. While the vast store of coal is spread out, open to all weathers, the bone-dry pellets have to be protected from the elements in four huge storage domes 50m (164ft) high – about 30 per cent taller than the Royal Albert Hall. Whereas coal is fed into a power station when wet (it quickly dries out when milled into dust for the furnace), the wood pellets become unusable if damp. So they have to be kept dry inside their storage domes, which themselves have to filled with nitrogen gas to limit the risk of spontaneous combustion. But this is just one of the many differences between the old and the new Drax. Converting a power plant from coal to biomass fuel has never been done on this scale anywhere in the world – and the engineering involved has broken new ground.
Independent 4th Jan 2016 read more »
In 2009, Stanford University engineering professor Mark Jacobson outlined a plan for the world to get all its energy – including transport and heating fuel and electricity – from wind, water and solar resources by 2050. Considered radical at the time, the model has been fleshed out to provide details for 139 countries and is now seen as far less extreme than it once was. The conversion would not only eliminate most greenhouse gas emissions, Mr. Jacobson says; it would dramatically improve human health and create millions of new jobs. He spoke recently to The Globe and Mail’s Richard Blackwell.
Globe and Mail 3rd Jan 2016 read more »
Renewables – solar Scotland
Scotland’s solar capacity has increased by 28 per cent in the past year alone, with almost 44,000 homes and 850 business premises now fitted with solar photovoltaic systems. According to December figures from regulator Ofgem, capacity in the country now stands at 179MW – a rise of 39MW on the same time last year. The data confirms the continuation of a remarkable surge for the country’s solar industry – in 2010, total installed solar capacity in Scotland stood at only 2MW. Regionally, Aberdeenshire continues to lead the way, accounting for over 10 per cent of the total capacity, according to the new figures. The counties of Fife and Highland are also Scottish solar hubs, while even Orkney has 337 solar installations. The vast majority of the installations are fitted on homes, accounting for 159MW of total capacity. Commercial properties account for 16MW, with solar panels installed on 854 businesses across Scotland. John Forster from the Solar Trade Association Scotland attributed the rise to Scottish building regulations, which support the installation of solar in new homes. However, further measures are needed to promote the installation of solar panels on existing homes, he said.
BusinessGreen 4th Jan 2016 read more »
Scottish Energy News 5th Jan 2016 read more »
The Scottish Government has been called upon to act as a catalyst for the uptake of solar power in Scotland, with new figures revealing that the PV sector rose by more than a quarter in 2015. WWF Scotland and the Solar Trade Association’s (STA) Scotland branch have published the new figures, revealing that total installed capacity of solar photovoltaics in the country had risen by 39MW – to a total 179MW capacity – representing a 28% increase from December 2014.
Edie 4th Jan 2016 read more »
Renewables – wind
Wind power provided enough electricity to meet the annual needs of more than 8.25 million homes last year, figures show. Onshore and offshore wind generated a record 11% of the UK’s electricity in 2015, up from 9.5% the year before, as the clean technology also set new weekly, monthly and quarterly generation records, industry body RenewableUK said. The renewable energy source provided the equivalent of meeting the power needs of more than 8.25 million households, around 30% of all UK homes, up from 6.7 million the previous year. A new monthly record was set in December 2015, when 17% of demand was met by wind, while a weekly record 20% of the nation’s needs was supplied in the last week of the year, over Christmas, according to the figures from National Grid. Onshore wind made up 5.8% of the UK’s electricity supply in 2015, while 5.2% came from offshore wind farms. RenewableUK’s directory of policy Dr Gordon Edge said: “This is a great way to start the new year – the wind industry can be proud that it has shattered weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual generation records in 2015.
Daily Mail 5th Jan 2016 read more »
Utility Week 5th Jan 2016 read more »
Scottish Energy News 5th Jan 2016 read more »
Somewhere in the middle of the Berkshire countryside sits an unmarked single-storey brick building, barely visible over the surrounding trees. Deep inside, a group of technicians carefully monitor the behaviour of people out in the real world, making sure they have enough electricity to keep the lights on but not so much as to short-circuit their devices. If all goes well, nobody will notice the work of the 20 or so people who run Britain’s network from National Grid’s headquarters in Wokingham. But in November, the grid had to use unprecedented emergency measures to keep the power up, highlighting the country’s supply crunch and thrusting the company into the spotlight.
FT 4th Jan 2016 read more »
Cordi O’Hara says National Grid is looking to industry to help curb consumption. Emergency measures are likely to be needed several more times this winter to keep Britain’s lights on, National Grid has warned. Cordi O’Hara, the director of market operations at the organisation that runs the UK’s electricity network, said electricity supply is at its tightest for a decade. The margin of supply above demand at peak times would continue at historically low levels for three years, said Ms O’Hara.
FT 4th Jan 2016 read more »