The French owner of the Hinkley Point C project is selling off prime assets in order to fund development of the controversial UK nuclear reactor. According to reports in Le Figaro over the weekend, EDF, is looking for a buyer of a 50 per cent stake in RTE, Europe’s biggest high-voltage electricity transmission grid. The debt-laden French state-controlled energy provider needs to sell non-core assets in order to fund the tens of billions of euros of investment that Hinkley Point requires. Although RTE is run as an entirely separate entity – due to EU rules that prevent utility companies controlling the electricity networks – the plan would be to create a holding company which would either be held directly by EDF or via French state-owned bank Caisse des Depots (CDC). On Friday EDF announced that it would be holding an EGM on 26 July to obtain clearance for a 4 billion euro share issue. As an 85 per cent shareholder the French government would be would provide over 3 billion euros. The cash is to be used alongside proceeds for non-core sales to fund projects such as Hinkley Point.
City AM 5th June 2016 read more »
Parts of the Sizewell B nuclear plant built at the French factory at the centre of a fakery scandal have been given the all-clear by regulators. EDF Energy said it planned to restart the Suffolk nuclear plant, which was shut for planned maintenance, on Friday after the parts made at the troubled Le Creusot manufacturing site passed inspections. Anomalies have been identified in documents related to 400 nuclear components made at the Areva-owned site. But Areva has also now confirmed that the components supplied to Sizewell, and also to the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, were not those affected by the flaws. EDF said: “EDF Energy can confirm that its Sizewell B nuclear power station in Suffolk is not affected by issues under investigation at Areva’s Creusot forge in France. “The UK’s independent regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has given consent for Sizewell B to return to service which is the normal procedure following an outage.”
Telegraph 6th June 2016 read more »
The modernisation of the French nuclear fleet is the “best means of producing competitive electricity by 2030”, according to a spokesman for power incumbent EDF. Yet market observers are divided on the ability of the company to bear the costs. EDF plans to invest a total of €51bn over the period 2014-2025, increasing its annual investment commitments to €4.2bn from €3bn. The operating cost of the French nuclear industry will reach €55.00/MWh, according to the company’s own calculations, while the wholesale power price for delivery in 2019 has not been above €33.00/MWh this year, despite the government’s plans to introduce a carbon price floor in 2017. The average age of French nuclear reactors is now 30 years and the oldest reactors will reach the originally intended lifespan of 40 years in 2017. The lifespan is not fixed by law and extensions are considered case by case on the basis of ten-year reviews. The first reactor to undergo its fourth ten-year review will be the 915MW Tricastin 1 in 2019.
ICIS 6th June 2016 read more »
Life extensions to nuclear plants in Europe and North America are repeatedly being granted by safety regulators. But, according to nuclear plant owners, 25% of parts are now obsolete, so keeping the reactors going is becoming an increasing problem as components wear out. This is the background to the Nuclear Power Plant Optimisation Summit being held in Brussels tomorrow and Wednesday, when 150 of the world’s top nuclear executives will share experience on how to keep their stations open. In theory, it makes economic sense to keep running a nuclear reactor well beyond its original design life, so long as it does not pose safety problems. With the capital cost of building the reactor written off decades earlier, profits can be substantial if the running costs can be kept low.
Climate News Network 6th June 2016 read more »
Energy Policy – Scotland
The new Scottish Energy Minister has already accepted one the ‘big wishes’ from Scotland’s Renewable Future forum – to embed a ‘systems-wide’ approach de-carbonising the heat and transport sectors. In a speech at a renewable energy conference today in Perth, Paul Wheelhouse is likely to flag up a clear direction of ‘system wide’ travel for the Scot-Govt’s new Scottish Energy Strategy. He is expected to say: “Our approach to heat in particular offers many exciting opportunities – not only helping us to deliver on our climate change ambitions, but also contributing to our efforts to promote growth and tackle inequalities – particularly fuel poverty. The Scotland’s Renewable Future forum ‘manifesto’ for the government’s new Scottish Energy Strategy has also been sent to the SNP MP Pete Wishart, Chairman of the Scottish Affairs Committee in the House of Commons, ahead of its evidence-session in Edinburgh this week with prominent figures in the Scottish energy industry. The House of Commons committee will also take evidence from Paul Wheelhouse, the new Scottish Energy Minister to find out how the Scottish Government supports Scotland’s renewable energy sector and the move to a low carbon economy.
Scottish Energy News 7th June 2016 read more »
Given the environmental concerns, the low price of fossil fuels, the cost and complexity of building nuclear plants, and the increasing competition from wind and solar energy sources, the prospect for a major expansion of nuclear energy in the US looks bleak. John Rowe, the former CEO of Exelon, the largest supplier of nuclear power in the U.S believes that public policy concerns rather than market realities are driving the nuclear power industry off a financial cliff. All these negatives are further confirmed in an uncompromising assessment of the future of nuclear power by Brian Palmer, writing for the Natural Resource Defense Council, who likens the vicissitudes of the nuclear industry to the good and bad days exhibited by patients in their death throes.
Economist 5th June 2016 read more »
North Korea appears to have restarted its nuclear facility at Yongbyon, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said. The Yongbyon site processes spent fuel from power stations and has been the source of plutonium for North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. The reactor was shut down in 2007 but Pyongyang said last year that it was operational again. It has since conducted its fourth test of a nuclear weapon. That and its multiple missile tests broke existing international sanctions and provoked further measures from the UN and individual countries.
BBC 7th June 2016 read more »
Telegraph 7th June 2016 read more »
Guardian 7th June 2016 read more »
Daily Mail 6th June 2016 read more »
Poland’s General Directorate for Environmental Protection (GDEP) has approved the scope of the initial environmental impact report for the country’s first nuclear new build project, PGE EJ1, the company in charge of the project, said in a statement. The environmental assessment report will focus on two sites – Lubiatowo-Kopalino and Żarnowiec – both close to Poland’s Baltic coast in the northern province of Pomerania, the statement said. Earlier reports have claimed the site shortlist included Choczewo instead of Żarnowiec, but PGE EJ1 said it had abandoned Choczewo as an option due to its proximity to the region around Białogóra, part of the EU’s Natura 2000 natural reserve network. Environmental impact examination and analysis will now be carried out to the “fullest extent” for the two focus sites, Lubiatowo-Kopalino and Żarnowiec, PGE EJ1 said. Poland’s Ministry of Economy said in May 2014 that the country is planning to generate 12 percent of its electricity from nuclear by 2030 with its first reactor in commercial operation in 2024.
NucNet 1st June 2016 read more »
Work is under way in secret at Britain’s nuclear bomb factory to upgrade the existing Trident arsenal and to develop an entirely new warhead, according to a report from the Nuclear Information Service. The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire is working on a programme to upgrade the current UK Trident warhead to produce the “Mark 4A”, which will be more accurate and have greater destructive power, the report says. The costs and timetable of the programme have not been revealed to parliament. Tuesday’s report, published by Nuclear Information Service (NIS), an independent research body, says £85m has already been spent by the AWE on new nuclear warhead design studies.
Guardian 7th June 2016 read more »
One of the country’s top scientists has said it is time to address how the skills and resources at Britain’s nuclear weapons factory could be used if the government decided to cancel the Trident programme. Writing in the foreword to a new Nuclear Information Service report about the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), the Berkshire factory where the UK’s Trident nuclear warheads are built and maintained, Professor Martin Rees (Lord Rees of Ludlow), Astronomer Royal and a former President of the Royal Society, said that it was “highly relevant” to consider how these skills and resources “might be gradually redeployed in the civil sector”. AWE’s future is closely linked to the future of the Trident programme and the report examines the consequences of a decision by a future government to close the programme, and sets out a blueprint to show how the Establishment could successfully diversify its work into the civilian sector.
NIS 6th June 2016 read more »
A group of anti-nuclear campaigners lay across roads to block access to a weapons factory in Berkshire. The protest happened near AWE Burghfield and is the start of a month-long campaign.
BBC 6th June 2016 read more »
Background gamma radiations are higher than previously thought on Bikini Island, 60 years after the end of the US nuclear testing programme. The consequences on the environment and the challenges of repopulating the area remain important, scientists said.
IB Times 6th June 2016 read more »
Renewables – onshore wind
Onshore windfarms offer the cheapest form of new electricity generation in the UK, says the chief executive of industry group RenewableUK, as long as they are at windy locations. Those sites “almost certainly” won’t be in England, says Hugh McNeal in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph. McNeal joined RenewableUK two months ago, moving from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). McNeal’s comments have attracted wide, negative coverage under headlines including “England Simply Isn’t Windy Enough For Wind Farms Admits Industry Chief” (Huffington Post). The Daily Mail, MailOnline, Express, Times and a Daily Mail editorial all take similar lines. McNeal focuses on the positives. He tells the Sunday Telegraph: “We are now the cheapest form of new generation in Britain…That means there are plants we can build – I prefer the word onshore wind ‘plants’ to ‘farms’ – which are cheaper than new gas.” Another potential positive for the renewable industry is that the cost of wind is falling, while the cost of electricity from new gas plant is uncertain and depends on future wholesale energy prices, as well as the price of CO2 emission permits. Of the 8.9 gigawatts (GW) of onshore wind currently in operation, two-thirds is in Scotland (5.4GW) compared to around a quarter in England (2.3GW). There is an even larger disparity when it comes to the windfarms not yet built. Scotland accounts for around 70% of the project pipeline, compared to less than 10% for England. McNeal says the best and windiest sites can generate power even more cheaply than gas, a fuel often cited as a cheaper alternative. Unfortunately for McNeal, this potentially significant story is in danger of being lost in favour of headline-grabbing “admissions” that England is less windy than Scotland.
Carbon Brief 6th June 2016 read more »
Renewables – offshore wind
A group of offshore wind companies have pledged that the technology will generate electricity as cheaply as fossil fuels in Europe within a decade – but only if policymakers across the EU take the steps needed to ensure such growth as a matter of urgency. The pledge and the challenge to ministers are designed to reposition offshore wind as having a strong future in the EU. The European commission has tended to emphasise gas as the priority source of energy security. The companies include the renewable energy arms of General Electric, Siemens, RWE, Iberdrola, Statoil and Vattenfall. In an open letter, chiefs or senior executives from the 11 companies wrote: “Offshore wind will be fully competitive with new conventional power generation within a decade. The industry is on track to achieve its cost reduction ambitions and will be an essential technology in Europe’s energy security and decarbonisation objectives.” By 2025, according to the 11 companies, offshore wind should cost no more than €80 a megawatt hour. This is likely to compare favourably with the costs of coal, under carbon penalties, and gas, of which most of the EU’s supply must be imported. It is also lower than the price of generating nuclear electricity that the UK government has promised to the French nuclear company EDF. Ministers have guaranteed a price of £92.50 a megawatt hour, roughly double current prices, for electricity produced by the Hinkley Point C reactor.
Guardian 6th June 2016 read more »
Utility Week 6th June 2016 read more »
The UK is among 10 northern European countries to sign an agreement on enhanced cooperation within the offshore wind sector, in a deal which aims to reduce the costs and accelerate the deployment of wind power at sea through joint development and purchasing. Government Energy Ministers from Britain, Germany, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, France, Denmark, Ireland and Belgium gathered in Luxembourg to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Work Programme which outlines a number of actions to help reduce costs in offshore wind, including collaboration on spatial planning, grids, finance, technical standards and regulation such as health and safety rules. Additionally, the MoU highlights the need to coordinate the timing of offshore wind tenders and explore options for joint support initiatives. The cooperation will make it easier for civil society organisations, universities, environmental organizations, network operators and companies to do business across borders apply for permits and receive grants.
Edie 6th June 2016 read more »
Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd is to carry out a public consultation on its proposed new outer Moray Firth wind farm, which could meet the average electricity needs of more than 700, 000 households. Six years ago, the Crown Estate awarded Moray Offshore development rights for offshore wind development in Zone 1 (Moray Firth). Moray Offshore split the site into an Eastern and Western Development Area, and developed proposals for the Eastern Development area first, receiving consent from the Scottish Government for 1,116MW two years ago The company will open consultation later this month on proposals to develop the Western Development. The combined two zones are capable of producing up to 1,500MW offshore wind generation in the Outer Moray Firth, generated by up to 200 turbines based on platform technology developed by the North Sea oil and gas sector in water up to 200-ft deep.
Scottish Energy News 7th June 2016 read more »
Renewables – solar
Scotland’s largest solar-power parc officially opens today in Perthshire. Located on the Errol Estate near Perth, the new solar farm has been developed by Bristol-based Elgin Energy and will deploy solar PV panels supplied by global provider Canadian Solar. The 13MW scheme has been constructed on 70 acres of land and will ultimately provide power for more than 3,500 homes. Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Energy Minister, will formally ‘cut the ribbon’ to declare the new solar farm open for generation. And ‘more solar’ is also one of the key points raised by Scotland’s Renewable Future forum in its ‘manifesto’ for the new Scot-Govt. Scottish Energy Policy.This project is proof that large scale solar PV systems work well on the east coast of Scotland and the firm is continuing to source solar sites across Scotland, with a view to developing schemes that are financially viable without subsidy support.
Scottish Energy News 7th June 2016 read more »
Mel Courtney is choosing his words carefully. Like many executives in the UK solar industry, the general manager for Kingspan Energy in the UK and Ireland is keen to look to the future after a bruising 12 months and talk about the “relative optimism” that is slowly returning to the market. But BusinessGreen is asking about the fall-out from the government’s controversial decisions last year to slash subsidy support for solar deployments and Courtney pauses as he considers the best way to phrase what it is he wants to say. “We were surprised and shocked to hear the announcements from the Conservatives last July that they intended to make the cuts that they subsequently went on to make,” he replies. “We were getting a totally different message from DECC before that, that they were going to make a rooftop solar revolution. It went totally against the messages that were out there previously. The industry has had to find its feet and is still finding its feet.” Having gone through a period of retrenchment Courtney is now focused on ensuring Kingspan Energy plays a key role in any UK solar market recovery, and again he hopes being part of a larger group will prove beneficial. “We’re focused on the PV side, but we can integrate LED lighting as part of a zero energy lighting solution and we also look at a building holistically, so if there are any barriers to PV adoption like the condition of the roof we can deliver a roof refurbishment,” he explains. “We have the suite of products within Kingspan to deliver a full solution…The Kingspan name has opened a lot of doors for us.” Courtney is now optimistic that name can continue to open doors, even if the financial returns from solar rooftop deployments have fallen. “What we are now seeing is relative optimism in terms of what is coming through in our pipeline,” he reflects. “The benefit of commercial and industrial rooftop installations have is you are competing with retail electricity, you are not competing with wholesale electricity prices.
Business Green 6th June 2016 read more »
A coalition of environmental, health and anti-poverty campaigners has called for major infrastructure investment to boost energy efficiency in Scotland’s homes. The Existing Homes Alliance is calling for significant investment in a National Infrastructure Priority for energy efficiency, with the overall aim of making all housing warm and healthy by 2025. With 35 per cent of households in Scotland classified as living in fuel poverty, the Alliance is campaigning for all homes to be upgraded to the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C. Campaigners argue it would save the NHS money and create new jobs. Meanwhile the Head of the British Lung Foundation in Scotland, Irene Johnstone, warned that cold and damp homes cause illnesses such as lung disease, placing additional strain on our hea lth and social services.
Holyrood 6th June 2016 read more »
Scottish Construction Now 6th June 2016 read more »
The government must work with local community groups or authorities on the next energy efficiency measures after the closure of the current scheme in March 2017, Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) chief executive Mike Foster has urged. The Energy Companies Obligation (Eco), which requires suppliers to install energy efficiency measures in domestic households, is due to enter a transitional year in March 2017 before a new scheme is announced. In January this year, energy minister Lord Bourne told MPs that the recast Eco would focus on fuel poverty. Speaking to Utility Week, Foster said: “Connection to the gas grid is something that for me is a win-win for consumers but other areas Eco should examine as it moves forward and looks to change… would be looking at working closer with local community groups or local authorities.”
Utility Week 6th May 2016 read more »
Sonnen, a German battery start-up that has become Europe’s largest maker of rechargeable energy storage units, has secured an investment from General Electric as it expands its presence in the US and UK. The private German company was founded in 2010 and competes with the likes of Tesla and Samsung to provide homeowners with lithium-ion battery packs powered by solar energy. To date it has sold 11,000 units, including 2,600 units worldwide in the first quarter – just enough to outpace sales of Tesla’s wall-mounted Powerwall units. GE Ventures, an arm of GE, paid a “mid double-digit million-euro” amount for a stake in the company. Sonnen and GE would not disclose the exact amount, or say what it implied about Sonnen’s valuation. Jonathan Pulitzer, managing director at GE Ventures, said that Sonnen was “helping to reshape the energy industry” with “clean and affordable energy”. The cost of a “sonnenbatterie” starts at 3,500 euro, but the average system is between 7,000 and 8,000 euro. Once installed customers can move “off the grid” and save up to 80 per cent off their utility bill.
FT 6th June 2016 read more »
Renew Economy 7th June 2016 read more »
Global oil demand could peak by the end of the next decade even as global economic growth climbs. The latest downward revision to forecasts, from consulting firm McKinsey, could leave major new investments uneconomic if demand for energy fails to meet expectations. McKinsey said it has cut its forecast for growth in demand to 0.8pc a year to 2040, “well below mainstream base case perspectives”, including its own estimate of 1.1pc made last year. Demand for oil is expected to grow even more slowly beyond 2025, with the research pointing to a possible peak of 100m barrels a day by 2030, from current levels of 94m. Major investments in the energy system may no longer be needed and some could be at risk of being stranded.
Telegraph 6th June 2016 read more »
Two investors are betting they can make a profit from coal by burning hardly any of it. Daniel Kretinsky, 40, and Patrik Tkac, 43, are trying to capitalize on Europe’s rapid expansion into renewables by embracing the fuel, a mainstay of European energy before efforts to curb global warming, in its new role as a backup for when the wind dies down and the sun fails to shine.
Bloomberg 3rd June 2016 read more »