Will the last energy giant to leave your home please turn off the lights! Scottish Power has installed just short of 50 batteries in solar-equipped homes across Britain to understand how the technology, paired with real-time data fed to a smartphone app, translates to bills. The Lewises’ have dropped by a fifth. It is no idle experiment. Scottish Power is dipping its toe into waters that threaten to capsize it and the rest of the industry. Since 2010, Europe’s top energy utilities — including Scottish Power parent Iberdrola — have written off an astounding €104bn (£81bn) of assets, according to Jefferies, the investment bank. From their 2007 highs the market values of the top utilities have shrunk by more than €400bn — losses on a scale comparable to the big banks in the wake of the financial crisis. And the reckoning is far from over. Iain Conn, chief executive of Centrica, owner of British Gas, recently told The Sunday Times that the industry was “on the edge of a revolution”. Paul Massara, former chief executive of Npower, put it in more stark terms: “The energy supply business is facing a life-or-death moment.” Three forces have come together to turn the industry on its head. Climate-change rules are snuffing out dirty old power plants with astonishing speed. Since March alone, four coal-fired stations capable of powering 8m homes in Britain have shut. At the same time, plunging fossil fuel prices have led to sharp cuts in energy bills, hollowing out the balance sheets of the incumbents. And some renewable technologies, for years reliant on government subsidies, have become so cheap they can be built with little or no support. Solar panel costs have plunged 70% in five years. The result has been an explosion of what the industry calls “distributed generation”. In place of the few dozen giant power plants that were controlled by the top suppliers, hundreds of thousands of wind turbines and solar panels are springing up. Most are not owned or operated by the big six. The incumbents are being gradually cut out of the power production game. They are also getting elbowed out of the supply market, where web-savvy supply companies are luring away their customers with cheaper deals and customer service that isn’t terrible. In 2012, less than 1% of British homes were supplied by non-big six companies. That figure is now close to 15%, and rising. More than 40 companies are fighting it out for a share of the household market. As the big six struggle to stem the tide, a fourth factor has emerged that threatens to supercharge the revolution: batteries. FOR decades electricity storage has been a holy grail for the industry. Power is a fleeting commodity. You can’t put in a barrel and stash it underground. For intermittent sources such as wind, this has been an Achilles heel. If the breeze is blowing at times of particularly low demand, National Grid pays turbine owners to turn them off because it has nowhere to send the power. North Star Solar, have begun devising solar and storage deals that require no subsidy or upfront investment, the way mobile companies offer free iPhones in exchange for a long-term service contract. His company recently signed up the first council in Britain to a deal under which it will fit 10,000 homes with solar panels and batteries. He claims the kit will slash bills by a fifth and pay back his company over 20 years. Simon Virley, UK chairman of KPMG’s energy advisory practice and a former Cabinet Office official, said such contracts raise the prospect of homes becoming largely self-sufficient. He said: “This presents a significant challenge for the conventional power generators. They have to find a way to make money by selling a lot less of the product they produce.” EDF is clinging on for dear life to Hinkley, a project that, whether it happens or not, is likely to serve as a reference point for a time of immense change in which the industry desperately sought the right answer. Many will have got it wrong.
Sunday Times 5th June 2016 read more »
Jeremy Leggett: The speed with which the renewables industries will be able to grow in the years ahead will be much affected by the course of the gas and nuclear industries’ efforts to grow. Having considered gas in my last column, let me turn to nuclear, and focus on a project that will have much to do with nuclear’s prospects globally: EDF’s Hinkley Point C plant. I start with a set of numbers surely destined to become a classic case history for business schools. Imagine you are the CFO of a company that has a market capitalisation of €18 billion. You are being asked to find investment of €22 billion for a new nuclear plant, the first of a whole new fleet. Without that fleet your company cannot hope to grow, assuming it sticks with nuclear generation, and therefore without that one plant its business model will be exposed as broken. Yet your plant is the most expensive power station in the world, and one of the most expensive human construction projects ever, in real terms. And here is the thing: you carry €37 billion of net debt on your balance sheet. You have two further problems. The first is €55 billion in estimated liabilities to keep a fleet of aging reactors, of earlier generations, open beyond their long-scheduled closedown dates. The second is an unknown number of further billions to fix a grave safety flaw in the steel of a pressure vessel in the forerunner of the new plant you must build.
Jerermy Leggett 3rd June 2016 read more »
On Tuesday The Guardian published a story based on a refusal by the Information Commissioner’s Office to back my appeal against the Department for Energy and Climate Change(DECC’s) refusal to provide the documents they sent to the European Commission to justify the planned subsidies for the radioactive waste created by the proposed Hinkley C nuclear power plant. Why did Information Commissioner back secrecy over disclosur eover Hinkley C nuclear waste?
David Lowry’s Blog 4th June 2016 read more »
A PEACEFUL protest has been planned to highlight the natural beauty of an area that will be affected by a £10bn nuclear project. Anti-nuclear campaigners have organised a picnic to enable people to get close and personal to the flora and fauna that exist in the vicinity of the Moorside plant. The picnic, organised by Radiation Free Lakeland, is an attempt to highlight what the group thinks will be destroyed by the nuclear new build.
NW Evening Mail 3rd June 2016 read more »
Britain’s Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) on Friday said it had granted its consent to allow the EDF Energy Nuclear Generation LTD to return the Sizewell B nuclear power station to service following a statutory periodic shut down for maintenance, inspection and refueling. The ONR noted that EDF NGL inspections, reviewed by the regulator, convinced the agency that the integrity of the reactor pressure vessel was not in question. “ONR’s technical specialists examined the results of these in-service inspections and were satisfied that they demonstrate the continued integrity of the reactor pressure vessel and that the hydrogen flaking present in the Doel 3 and Tihange 3 reactors in Belgium is not evident at Sizewell B,” the agency said.
Nuclear Street 3rd June 2016 read more »
A leaked “strategy paper” in the German media has thrown up fresh questions over what Europe intends to spend its innovation budget on. In the paper the European Commission and member states set out broad goals for the nuclear industry, including developing small modular reactors. Nuclear opponents reacted furiously. In her new Brussels Insider column, for the Energy Post Weekly premium newsletter, Sonja van Renssen investigates the fight over nuclear research – and over energy R&D in general – going on in the corridors of Brussels.
Energy Post 2nd June 2016 read more »
Chernobyl & Fukushima
30 years after the disaster at Chernobyl, the area surrounding what was once a booming nuclear power plant still carries a considerable amount of radiation. The same can be said of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, and its surrounding areas, since the disaster in 2011.
Although the physical reminders of destruction are still visible, evidence of the lingering radiation is far less apparent. In an attempt to visualize the high radiation levels in these areas, Greenpeace photographer Greg McNevin overlaid measurement graphs of radioactivity onto long-exposure photographs. McNevin’s Lightmapping Radiation efforts, in both Russia and Japan, employ a special light painting tool to displays levels of radiation in real time. Cataloged areas of radioactivity are represented by walls of luminous graphs running across contaminated landscapes like cautionary fences.
Creators Project 4th June 2016 read more »
When Iran and the P5+1 signed a deal over Tehran’s nuclear program last July, members of Congress, Middle East analysts, and Arab Gulf governments all warned that the agreement would prompt Iran’s rivals in the region to race for the bomb. In a report that Bob Einhorn and I released this week, we assessed this risk of a so-called proliferation cascade. We look at four states in particular—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Turkey—and Bob briefly explores each case in another blog post out today. In the paper, we argue that although the likelihood of a proliferation cascade in the Middle East is fairly low, and certainly lower than a number of critics of the Iran deal would have you believe, it is not zero. Given that, here are eight steps that leaders in Washington should take to head off that possibility:
Brookings 2nd June 2016 read more »
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said more parts of the zone contaminated by emissions from a crippled nuclear plant along the country’s northeast coast will be opened to returning evacuees in March 2017, the Yomiuri newspaper reported. The prime minister ordered officials to prepare to lift evacuation advisories in two restricted areas, the Yomiuri reported Saturday, citing Abe. The zones to be re-opened include the towns of Kawamata, Tomioka and Namie, according to the report. Japan has repeatedly delayed planned returns of former residents as decontamination and reconstruction efforts have taken longer than expected to complete. About 9,200 evacuees remain outside their former homes in northern Japan more than five years after an earthquake and tsunami led to meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi atomic power plant, according to the local government’s website.
Bloomberg 4th June 2016 read more »
Many analysts are now calling not just to preserve existing nuclear power plants, but to invest in new designs to help fight climate change. “A new round of innovation for nuclear reactors would be quite important,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz last month. Across the United States, nuclear provides 20 percent of all electricity and more than 60 percent of greenhouse gas-free electricity. But some plants have already shut down ahead of schedule, and others may do so, as well, not because of environmental opposition but because of market forces.
Scientific American 3rd June 2016 read more »
America’s relationship with India has blossomed under President Obama, who will meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week. Ideally, Mr. Obama could take advantage of the ties he has built and press for India to adhere to the standards on nuclear proliferation to which other nuclear weapons states adhere. The problem, however, is that the relationship with India rests on a dangerous bargain. For years, the United States has sought to bend the rules for India’s nuclear program to maintain India’s cooperation on trade and to counter China’s growing influence. In 2008, President George W. Bush signed a civilian nuclear deal with India that allowed it to trade in nuclear materials. This has encouraged Pakistan to keep expanding a nuclear weapons program that is already the fastest growing in the world.
New York Times 4th June 2016 read more »
Ashoka Finley is helping to lead the effort for community-owned solar on the rooftops of Oakland—to harness the power of distributed solar for the public good. The well-spoken project leader at the Energy Solidarity Cooperative works with schools and community-based organizations to build more just and sustainable cities. At our Global Learning Forum, he led the session Developing creative energy cooperatives in an uncooperative environment.
Renewable Cities 2nd June 2016 read more »
England is not windy enough to justify building any more onshore wind turbines, the chief executive of wind industry trade body has admitted. Hugh McNeal, who joined RenewableUK two months ago from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, insisted the industry could make the case for more onshore turbines in some parts of the UK, despite the withdrawal of subsidies. But he said this would “almost certainly” not be in England, as the wind speeds were not high enough to make the projects economically viable without subsidy.
Telegraph 4th June 2016 read more »
Renewables – Tidal
A pioneering new green power device is set to be launched in the Firth of Forth this week that could revolutionise the emerging marine energy sector. The unique tidal stream turbine is the brainchild of two Scottish engineers who believe it can offer an affordable and efficient way of harnessing the power of the sea to provide reliable renewable energy. Dr David Anderson and Dr Charlie Silverton, co-founders of Roslin-based firm Renewable Devices, say their Capricorn marine turbine can outperform offshore wind schemes with respect to the cost per unit of electricity as well as ease of installation and maintenance.
Scotsman 4th June 2016 read more »
This week’s Micro Power News.
Microgen Scotland 3rd June 2016 read more »
Scotland’s next big capital project should be an investment in making homes energy efficient, according to a coalition of charities. With six months to go until the Queensferry Crossing is opened, campaigners the Existing Homes Alliance is calling for the forthcoming Spending Review to include significant investment in a National Infrastructure Priority for energy efficiency, with an overall goal for all housing to be warm and healthy by 2025. Such a move, say campaigners, would help the 35% of households in Scotland currently in fuel poverty, save the NHS money and create new jobs. Unlike other infrastructure projects, these jobs would be spread around every part of Scotland, creating and sustaining many small and medium sized businesses. The alliance brings together conservation, environmental as well as health organisations. Alan Ferguson, chair of the Existing Homes Alliance said: “Construction of the Queensferry Crossing has been a major infrastructure investment project for the Scottish Government, and with 6 months to go to its completion, the time is now right for the Scottish Government to say that investment in ending the scourge of ‘cold homes’ will be its next big infrastructure project. It’s well accepted that investment in infrastructure is good for the economy, but a major investment in energy efficiency will also help tackle fuel poverty, address health inequalities and reduce our climate change emissions. In addition, such a move would create up to 9,000 jobs, spread across all of Scotland, unlike other infrastructure projects. No other capital investment can make such a social and economic difference to every part of the country, making investment in ending ‘cold homes’ an infrastructure investment of truly national importance.” Irene Johnstone, head of the British Lung Foundation in Scotland said the Scottish Government needs to increase its emphasis on preventing poor lung health and that cold, damp and mouldy homes cause illnesses, It therefore seems obvious that improving the condition of Scotland’s homes is a key component to the overall preventative healthcare agenda,” she said. Fabrice Leveque, climate and energy policy officer at WWF Scotland added: “A recent independent Infrastructure Task Force identified energy efficiency as one of the three types of low-carbon infrastructure most in need of investment from the Scottish Government. “A political commitment that no-one should live in a hard-to-heat, draughty home would be good for millions of households, and would drastically reduce emissions too.”
Third Force News 3rd June 2016 read more »
The SNP government is being urged to join a coalition of “centre-left” parties at Holyrood and impose an outright ban on fracking in Scotland. The Scottish Parliament voted last week in favour of a ban after Nationalists chose to abstain rather than vote with the Tories in favour of the controversial method of gas extraction. It is opposed by environ¬mentalists who fear it can contaminate water supplies and cause earthquakes. A Scottish Government report last year concluded it could be done safely, but ministers have called for more research and imposed a temporary moratorium in the meantime.
Scotland on Sunday 5th June 2016 read more »