The SNP-led Energy Committee of MPs in the House of Commons will quiz British Energy minister Amber Rudd on the controversial new nuclear power station to built at Hinkley Point. Rudd will be supported by DECC permanent secretary Stephen Lovegrove at a session which will also quiz them on other current energy issues, including: The current and future spending of the Department; The future role of the National Infrastructure Commission; Smart meters, Capacity Market, and Contracts for Difference, and Paris climate negotiations. Angus MacNeil, MP (Western Isles) is Chairman of the Energy Committee, which meets on Tuesday, 10 November.
Scottish Energy News 6th Nov 2015 read more »
Ministers are facing calls for an urgent overhaul of UK energy policy, with politicians and industry experts demanding swift investment in new power plants and storage after a near-breakdown in the electricity network. Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s energy minister, has written to UK energy secretary Amber Rudd voicing concern over the country’s “worryingly low” safety margin of supply over demand. He accuses the government of having ignored repeated warnings that critical infrastructure is near breaking point. His comments follow an unexpected supply crunch last week that showed just how fragile Britain’s creaking electricity network has become. As the system came under severe stress, sending prices soaring, big industrial users were asked to reduce usage to prevent a breakdown. A full-blown emergency was averted. On a balmy, windless November day, the N ational Grid’s plans for dealing with the failure of back-up power plants were sufficient. But what about a midwinter supply squeeze? Last week’s scramble highlighted the challenge facing Ms Rudd as older, uneconomic coal-fired power stations are closed to meet new EU rules on air quality and ageing nuclear plants are retired. While the closures have long been expected, not enough new capacity is being built. Malcolm Webb, former head of industry group Oil & Gas UK, blames failures by successive governments, describing British energy policy as an “unholy mess”. Mr Ewing says ministers should ensure that new capacity, including renewables, is built more quickly alongside storage. However, wind and solar power cannot meet the grid’s baseload needs because they do not provide a guaranteed uninterrupted supply of power. Sometimes, like last week, things can go wrong. The UK looks likely to become more dependent on undersea interconnectors and imported gas. One answer could be to extend the demand-side measures used by the grid – or, put simply, to manage energy usage better. Dieter Helm, professor of energy policy at Oxford university, says the focus should be on ensuring the economic incentives are in place for back-up power. So-called “capacity” auctions, introduced to address this need, are flawed, he argues. Polluting diesel-powered generators, for example, look set to benefit disproportionately. Instead, says Prof Helm, the UK urgently needs more gas-fired capacity. These plants can be built quickly, relatively cheaply, and are able to respond to fluctuating needs in a way renewables cannot. “The government needs to get on with it. They will have to be more interventionist and make sure gas gets built before returning to a more market-based approach later.”
FT 8th Nov 2015 read more »
Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has written to the UK Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, asking for urgent changes to the UK Government’s policies and seeking reassurance that energy security issues are being properly considered.
Scottish Energy News 9th Nov 2015 read more »
Tightening electricity supply and demand margins in recent days have seen considerable spikes in wholesale electricity prices as the electricity market system struggles to meet demand. This has required significant intervention by the National Grid and the use of strategic reserves not expected to be used in these mild weather conditions. Power prices reached almost £200/MWh – against a norm of £40-45/MWh – last week as levels of margin tightened noticeably during periods of low wind. On Wednesday prices as high as £2,500/MWh were being accepted to bring additional generation on stream.
Scottish Energy News 9th Nov 2015 read more »
Matt Ridley: So-called cleaner energy has in reality created a dirtier, costlier and less reliable electricity industry. It’s time for a rethink. Suppose that a government policy had caused shortages of bread, so the price of a loaf had shot up and was spiking even higher on certain days. Suppose that the high price of bread was causing massive job losses. Suppose that the policy was justified on the grounds that the bread was now coming from farmers whose practices were better for the environment, but it turned out they were probably worse for the environment instead. There would be a rethink, right? For bread, read electricity. The government needs to rethink its electricity policy. Last week’s emergency was a harbinger of worse to come: because the wind was not blowing on a mild autumn day, the National Grid had to call for some large electricity consumers to switch off, and in addition offe red to pay up to Â£2,500 a megawatt-hour – 40 times the normal price – for generators capable of stepping into the breach at short notice. Among other lessons, this teaches us that letting Liberal Democrats run the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) for five years was an expensive mistake. What puzzles me is how little the current government seems to realise it must make a U-turn or get the blame itself.
Times 9th Nov 2015 read more »
The body charged with protecting Scotland’s environment is to allow factories, public utilities and even nuclear power stations to monitor their own discharges. The move to allow the bodies that come under the control of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) to carry out their own tests has sparked concern with an MPS vowing to raise the issue with ministers. Sepa is to implement its new Regulatory Evidence Strategy over the next two years, and according to a leaked internal email “this will have substantial implications for Sepa”. The scientist who leaked the memo, who has long experience within Sepa, insisted: “The agency is effectively abandoning it is own direct sampling and analysis, for example, where a river is receiving effluent from a manufacturing plant. Instead it will rely on monitoring the operators’ results, only verifying that the sampling from the river has been done properly.
Herald 9th Nov 2015 read more »
The driving force behind the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission is the idea that the state could make billions from storing or disposing of high-level nuclear waste for power reactors around the world. Accepting nuclear waste might be profitable. Or it might not. Proponents are talking up the billions that might be made by making Australia the world’s nuclear waste dump but they have said little about costs. Since the volume of waste would presumably be large (as a commercial venture), the cost of a deep underground repository for high-level nuclear waste would likely be in the tens of billions of dollars. Plans for a high-level waste repository in Japan may be comparable: the estimated cost is ¥3,500 billion (A$40.8 billion).
Renew Economy 9th Nov 2015 read more »
Bolivia plans to build a $300 million (£194m) nuclear research centre, according to reports. Russia is said to provide the technology for the project which will include a research reactor. President Evo Morales told reporters the centre will include a cyclotron for radiopharmaeuticals, a multi-purpose gamma irradiation plant.
Energy Live News 8th Nov 2015 read more »
The crisis gripping Britain’s steel industry has forced one of the nation’s oldest industrial firms to consider selling out to China as a glut of cheaper Chinese metal, rising energy prices and business rates threatens its existence. Sheffield Forgemasters, which traces its roots back to 1805, is evaluating the state of its finances, although it is not thought to be in danger of immediate collapse. Such a deal would worry Ministry of Defence officials because it means Beijing could potentially become involved in Britain’s nuclear deterrent at a pivotal time amid discussions about a replacement for the Trident fleet.
Daily Mail 9th Nov 2015 read more »
Jeremy Corbyn has accused the chief of the defence staff of political bias after he criticised the Labour leader’s anti-nuclear stance.
BBC 8th Nov 2015 read more »
Daily Mail 8th Nov 2015 read more »
Renewables – Hydro
Plans to revamp hundreds of 19th-century river weirs to produce green hydroelectricity have run aground amid severe cuts to government subsidies for renewable power. Barn Energy, a developer of “run-of-river” hydropower sites in the north of England, said that it was shelving projects and was finding it increasingly difficult to raise finance because of government policy U-turns on clean energy. Last month Barn Energy opened Yorkshire’s biggest low-head hydropower scheme at Thrybergh on the Don near Rotherham. The project, which will generate 260 kilowatts of clean electricity for up to 100 years, is the first of a string of small-scale projects designed to harness the hydropower of former industrial weirs in the north of England. However, to be commercially viable, they rely heavily on government subsidies – or “feed-in-tariffs” – which have be en eliminated by the government.
Times 9th Nov 2015 read more »
Renewables – Tidal
Government officials are reviewing whether the technology behind a proposed £1bn tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay, the first of its type in the world, could be as easily exported as its backers have claimed. Executives at Gloucester-based Tidal Lagoon Power wanted construction to start in the spring after getting planning permission in June, but it has been delayed by 12 months. The postponement was partly blamed on negotiations with the Department for Energy & Climate Change (Decc) over the contract for difference (CfD), which is the subsidy the Government will pay for each unit of renewable energy produced by the lagoon. At Â£168 per megawatt hour, the CfD is nearly double the payment that EDF is guaranteed for electricity it will produce at Hinkley Point C, the proposed new nuclear power station off the Somer set coast. But, if successful, the lagoon could be replicated in at least five other locations on the west coast, including Colwyn Bay and Cumbria, which, combined, would produce 8 per cent of the UK’s electricity. The lagoon would also help Britain to meet sustainable energy targets, and, potentially, develop a lucrative new export. But sources have told The Independent that officials also want to verify that other countries would be as interested in adopting the sophisticated technology as Tidal Lagoon executives argue. Several countries are said to be interested in the technology, including Canada and France, and any orders would boost Britain’s attempts to be seen as a leader in green energy technology.
Independent 8th Nov 2015 read more »