Friday, May 1, 2015

Renew on line 115

Renew on Line 115
May-June 2015

 Bimonthly roundup of news & views on renewable energy 
   A PDF version, with figures and pictures, is at:
1. UK Developments
UK wind beats Germany!
UK renewables overtook UK nuclear at 19.2% in 2004, and hit 22% in Q4, with demand also falling.
It was also claimed that output from UK wind projects has overtaken that from German projects
Germany, at 192 GW, has over twice the UK’s 95 GW total generation capacity, but though its 40 GW of wind is a higher % than the UK’s 12 GW of wind, average wind speeds in the UK are much higher than in Germany - and the UK has much more offshore wind capacity, where wind speeds and therefore load factors are even higher. Even so, it’s surprising… 
For an interactive map of all UK renewables projects see:
And for an analysis of how energy costings may turn out as renewables begin to dominate,  And for David Milborrow’s exemplary account of wind power reliability and balancing costs in New Power, see: 
He looks at the extra cost to consumers of ‘backup’ for increasing wind percentage contributions, with and without the inclusion of a capacity credit (CC) i.e. a figure representing the amount of ‘firm’ capacity that, statistically, wind offers to the system as a whole. Even without CC, he says the extra cost is under £8/MW at a 40% wind contribution - about 10% of its total supply cost. That essentially is for ramping up existing gas plants to meet any shortfall. There may also be other extra system costs associated with  installing and using wind plants, e.g. for extra grid links and upgrades, and also, once we go beyond 40% wind, for extra backup/balancing. But it’s not a show-stopper: the new UK capacity market contracts, for ~50 GW to be available for backup duty, will add just £11p.a. to bills. And some balancing options offer compensating benefits e.g. surplus wind power export earnings from supergrids - £15bn p.a.?

UK still
ahead on

Coming soon-
Dave Elliott's new book- A Big Change for the Better


World’s largest offshore windfarm               
Dogger Bank Creyke Beck, which has got planning consent from DECC, is the largest consented offshore wind project in the world, with an installed capacity of up to 2.4 GW, which could supply around 2.5% of UK electricity. The proposed site of the two adjacent wind farms (Creyke Beck A and B) each of up to 1.2 GW, is 81 miles from the shore at its closest point, covering an area of 430 sq. miles, the furthest offshore of any UK wind project so far, while staying in shallow waters of about 30 metres. It’s the first consented phase of the much larger Dogger Bank zone, which has 6 sites of up to 7.2 GW estimated total capacity, which if developed, could supply around 5% of UK electricity. Creyke Beck will now enter a pre-construction phase, before a final investment decision is made. It’s claimed up to 4,750 direct and indirect full time equivalent jobs could be created over the projects 25 year life
 *2 offshore wind farms (1.2 GW) got backed in the CfD auction, at under £120/MWh: see below.  

Small wind eddies  
A loophole in the feed-in tariff for small-scale wind. 15 onshore wind farm projects got backed under the CfD auction at under £80/MWh (see below), but IPPR says that a FiT loophole for small wind projects threatens to cost taxpayers over £400m over the scheme’s lifetime.  IPPR said that could erode public confidence in onshore wind and the competitiveness of the wind power market. It claimed that developers ‘derate’ turbines so that they fall into a lower band Feed-in Tariff (FiT) category (100-500 kW), which earns them 13.34p/kh - more than the 7.24p they would get if over 500 MW. This, they say, disadvantages small developers who play by the rules. The derated turbines are also physically larger than correctly rated turbines of the same notional capacity, and thus threaten to exacerbate public concerns about the visual impact of onshore wind without providing any cost effectiveness compensation. IPPR say that almost half of installed turbines qualifying in the higher-subsidy 100-500 kW band were derated. Even allowing for future reductions in this subsidy, they calculated that each derated turbine will earn £100,000 in ‘excess subsidy’ each year, or £2m over its 20 year lifespan. This, they say, means that, by Sept 2014, the billpayer was already committed to £175 m in excess subsidy payments on derated turbines. Assuming the number of onshore turbines continues to grow at its historical rate, this total liability will rise to over £400m by the end of 2015, if this loophole isn’t closed. But OFGEM pointed out that, under the FiT, wind projects were paid on the basis of the actual kWh output.  It’s also the case that larger turbines are more efficient. A bit of a storm in a teacup? And odd since  the left-of-centre think tank IPPR is usually very progressive:
Solar trains
Track-side solar panels could save the UK rail network up to £150m  over a 5 year period, according to Creating Value in Our Rail Network by engineering consultancy WSP. It says 2.44 GW of PV on 50% oftrackside land could generate ~40%  of the electricity that Network Rail currently uses to power trains, and cost ~ £2.9bn, generating revenue  of £235m in its first year, a return  on investment of over 8%.
Solar steel Kinetica Solar has signed a power purchase agreement with Tata Steel. The Scunthorpe steel plant will be supplied with power from its  38MW Raventhorpe Solar Park- it will meet ~7% p.a. of Tata’s power needs @Scun TelegraphonTwitter
Sunk wave  partly re-floated
The Pelamis wave energy company left £15m in debts when it was taken into administration last year. £13m was owed to Scottish Enterprise. Its assets were put at £836,000.
The Scottish government has now allocated £14m to kick start Wave Energy Scotland. Some key Pelamis staff will be employed. But Aquamarine Power, the wave pioneer whose Oyster 800 device was much hailed, has shelved plans to build Scotland’s first wave energy farm, the 40MW Lewis scheme, for at least five years. It had attracted around £93m of investment since its foundation in 2005, 70% from the private sector, but laid off over half its staff last year after making a £15.7m loss.
Scottish wind some objections
Scotland is leading the UK in wind projects (it has the best sites) but an open letter calling into question the Scottish government’s policy on large windfarms has been signed by the National Trust for Scotland, the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, the Munro Society, Ramblers Scotland, the Scottish Wild Land Group. It says: ‘It is vital that any decisions on the location of these developments rely on the fair and impartial assessment of all pertinent information and points of view. Unfortunately, we do not believe that the Scottish Government is doing this in a consistent manner with windfarm developments.’ It notes that ‘in the face of evidence and objections’, it has approved ‘colossal’ wind farms at Stronelairg in the Monadhliath Mountains, and offshore, straddling the Firths of Forth and Tay. In both cases, the Government ‘chose to ignore’ the views of its own expert advisors, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), who, the letter says, ‘made it absolutely clear that the impact from these turbines will be very significant, and that the locations were problematic as a result’. It added: ‘It seems iniquitous to us that, having put in place a planning system which invites the expert views of statutory consultees, the Scottish Government too frequently ignores them if they prove inconvenient. At the very least, evidence of this caliber from SNH should trigger Public Inquiries.’
The Scottish Government said that it aims to strike a balance between ‘Scotland's massive green energy potential and the need to protect some of the country’s most scenic and wild areas.  That has resulted in a ban on wind farm development in areas covering almost a fifth of the landmass of Scotland.’ Moreover, a YouGov poll found that 71% of Scots want more wind (81% for 18-24 year olds) - up from 64% in 2013.
CHP/DH A CHP-fed heating network has been awarded £1m to help cut energy bills for thousands of homes in Aberdeen
Welsh tidal lagoon 
 finance on track                            
Infrared Capital has joined Prudential in backing the £1bn 240 MW Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project, with £100m of investment now agreed from both - if it goes ahead. That depends on getting planning approval. In parallel engineering companies GE and Andritz Hydro, who are bidding for the £300m contract to supply16 bi-directional turbines for the project, have committed to using mainly UK large turbine components. Tidal Lagoon Power, the lagoon developer, has shortlisted 3 possible sites in the Swansea Bay region (Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire) for a 100,000 sq ft turbine assembly plant, initially employing 100 people, that will scale up as the sector develops at home and internationally - all being well they look to series of follow up projects including 4 more UK lagoons.
 The first project’s 16 generators, the highest value component in the 700 tonne turbines, will be made at GE’s Rugby facility.  and
*The Swansea project would need significant CfD support - and CAB objects. See later.
Irish wind export plan
 still going ahead
Last year there were reports that the ambitious plans by Mainstream renewables and others to export power from wind farms in Ireland to the UK had been abandoned: and 
However it now seems that something may still go ahead, with OFGEM issuing grid interconnection permits to Element Power for their proposed Greenwire project:

The company claims there could be 3 GW in place by 2018 and 12 GW by 2020, with up to 40 wind farms in the Midlands area and underground grid links across Ireland, separate from the Irish grid. DECC has proposed that projects outside the UK could be eligible for CfD subsidy support if they fed power to the UK grid. Ireland already has around 150 wind farms.
Offshore wind gets cheaper
The cost of energy from UK offshore wind farms has fallen by almost 11% over the past three years, ahead of schedule on its path to delivering the UK Government’s target of £100/MWh by 2020, according to a report commissioned by the Offshore Wind Programme Board at the request of industry leaders and government, and delivered by the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult in collaboration with The Crown Estate, providing analysis of data gathered by Deloitte and DNV GL from offshore wind farms in UK waters.  It shows that the lifetime cost of energy from offshore wind has come down from £136/MWh in 2011 to £121/MWh for projects moving to construction between 2012 and 2014: this fall is as measured across the longer whole life of a project, not just the 15 years covered by Government CfD strike prices. And reality has caught up - as noted above (details below), 2 offshore wind farms got strike prices below £120 MWh in the new CfD allocation, despite strike prices usually being higher the levelised lifetime costs (LCOEs) used in this report. The biggest single contribution to cost reduction has been industry’s early adoption of larger turbines. 6 MW machines are now being rolled out, compared to the 3 MW turbines that were standard until recently. The CRMF summary report and the analysis of data gathered by Deloitte and DNV GL is at 
The advent of floating devices might speed up the cost reductions. A report last year from the UK Energy Technologies Institute put the likely levelised cost of the 6 MW PelaStar tension-leg platform (TLP) floating design they looked at £106/MWh in average UK conditions, and as low as £97/MWh at sites with superior wind conditions. And ‘a LCOE in 2020 in the range of £ 100 /MWh to £ 110 /MWh can be achieved across most of site conditions encountered in commercially exploitable UK waters’. Longer term, they said ‘this technology has strong potential for radical decreases in LCOE looking to 2025 and beyond, with £85/MWh a conservative forecast for 2025’. And, they say, using constant 2013 currency, the LCOE from PelaStar floating wind plants is forecast to drop to £ 64 /MWh by 2030 and to £ 51 /MWh by 2050. *Denmark’s 400 MW Horns Rev 3 offshore wind project, set to start up in 2017, is slated to run at £75/kWh: A useful detailed update on UK wind power progress: 
Tidal stream stays in the game
Despite the problems with wave energy and Pelamis and Aquamaine (see above), tidal power is moving ahead.  In addition to the 6 MW MyGen/Atlantis project in Pentland Firth, the first stage of a 400 MW scheme, Scotrenewables Tidal Power’s new 500 tonne 2 MW SR2000 float mounted turbine, built at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, is undergoing sea trials at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney and is scheduled for grid connection before the end of the year. A SR250 prototype (pictured) was tested at EMEC in 2011-13. There are also many other tidal stream projects under development, including TEL’s Delta Stream device being tested off Wales, and Minesto’s novel Deep Green Tidal Kite. And MCT is still live!
*A new Marine Energy study looks at the prospects for wave and tidal power in the UK. The companies it surveyed said they had spent ~£7 of privately sourced money for each £1 of public funding received. It notes a claim that £300m of public support was needed to get the field moving.  
Biomass Impacts
In reply to a Parliamentary Question asking, in relation to DECC’s report on the impacts of biomass electricity in 2020, what the response was to its conclusion that biomass can have the same impact as fossil fuel, DECC minister Amber Rudd said that the report ‘showed that biomass, when sourced responsibly, can provide a cost-effective, low carbon and controllable source of renewable energy. The Government has introduced some of the toughest sustainability criteria in the world and we have taken steps to strengthen them further, including by bringing forward proposals for mandatory sustainability requirements. The Department has committed to improving on the evidence base provided by the report. In December a tender was issued for a research contract to investigate the likelihood of occurrence in the period to 2030 of the scenarios identified in the report as potentially having higher carbon impacts than fossil fuelled alternatives.’ Meantime, DRAX goes ahead - with an early CfD, and also a Capacity Market contract, for its big biomass conversion project. But there may yet be EU state aid issues. And green objections:
CfD Auctions: wind leads at near 2 GW
The first full competitive auctions for renewables held under the Contract for a Difference (CfD) regime led to £315m in contracts being awarded. Two offshore wind farms, Scottish Power’s East Anglia Phase 1, and Mainstream’s Neart na Gaoithe in Scotland, a total of 1162 MW capacity, got strike prices varying between £114.39 and £119.89 per MWh. Despite recent policy shifts, contracts were also awarded to 15 onshore wind farms, across the UK, a total of 748.55 MW capacity, with average strike prices for each year varying between £79.23 per MWh and £82.50 per MWh. Two Energy from Waste/CHP projects also got contracts (95 MW total) along with 3 advanced biomass conversion projects (62 MW in all), and 5 solar PV projects (72 MW in all). Of the total 2.1 GW in this round 1 GW are in Scotland. The next round of auctions should be in the autumn, with a still tight overall £325m p.a. cap.
The PV projects bid very low and got very low strike prices: two at £50/MWh, almost at convention power cost, the other three at £79/MWh, still lower than the £120 DECC initially specified.  It could be they wont in the event be able to run at this level - that’s one of the risks of competitive auctions, as was found with the old NFFO: projects bid low but didn’t materialize. The wind strike prices were also lower than expected, though much less so: DECCs 2017/18 reference price was £90/MWh for wind onshore and £140 for offshore. PV and offshore wind were in the so-called Pot 2 CfD allocation for less developed technologies and were expected to cost more - and they didn’t have to compete in the auction with the more developed and cheaper Pot 1 projects, like on-land wind and EfW. The capped CfD allocation was skewed in favour of Pot 2, to help promote the new options - they got £259 m, 82% the £315 m total, despite only providing 1.2 GW, 57% of the total.  Some market competition orientated groups, like Which and the Policy Exchange, would prefer all the projects to compete on an equal basis: That would support more capacity at lower cost. Carbon Brief calculated that ‘DECC could have double the renewables capacity it supported for the £315 m allocated, if it had followed this advice and only given money to cheaper renewables, such as onshore wind. Instead of the 2,139 MW contracted, it could have secured 5,113 MW of cheapest-only capacity.’ But then the newer options would suffer, and on-land wind was not exactly the favourite choice of the conservative part of the government!  So we have ended up with a compromise, but still quite low prices. Renewables of all sorts are getting cheaper    
Carbon brief: Official data:
The sun went out  The solar eclipse in March didn’t have a noticeable impact in the UK.   But then it only has 5 GW of PV. In Germany with 36 GW it was much bigger deal: they saw it as a test run for dealing with intermittency: In the event, the system coped - as it does every night! But not this fast:
Policy news
Solar Farms - not guilty as charged   
Farmers can no longer claim CAP subsidies for land used for solar farms, with DEFRA seeking to ‘ensure more agricultural land is dedicated to growing crops for food’. Environment Secretary Liz Truss claimed that ‘it’s a big problem if we are using land that can be used to grow crops, fruit and vegetables’ and that this could ‘compromise the success of our agricultural industry’. However no evidence has been forthcoming to back this up. Instead, a Guardian report claimed ‘environment department officials have admitted in private correspondence and documents released under freedom of information rules that they hold no data on the land covered in England by solar panels; they have no idea how much they will save in agricultural subsidies through the change; and the claim that solar power is harming food production does not stack up’.
It quoted one document as saying ‘given the small areas of land covered currently, it is not possible to argue that, at the national level, there is yet a serious impact on agricultural output’ and, in terms of savings that might be made by not paying CAP (DEFRA said ‘up to £2 m p.a.’), an official was quoted as admitting that ‘we have no hard evidence to back these figures up’ - no one knew exactly how much land was involved. But their opponents did seem to know, with PV company Green Hedge even projecting that ‘35 GW of solar farms generating 10% of the UK’s electricity demand could be built on less than 1% of permanent pasture land without displacing any grazing sheep’. It told the Guardian: ‘These changes to CAP income  are actually quite marginal for farmers. Our over-riding concern, given the significant income security and diversification that solar projects provide for the farming community, is the misconception amongst some policy makers about the land that solar farms cover.’ Obviously building solar farms can reduce land productivity, but the Solar Trade Association said: ‘What we want is an evidence-based approach to policy. The impact of solar farms is negligible in terms of land take, many times smaller than golf courses. We’ve taken great care as an industry to avoid conflict with food production, and the co-existence of farming for grazing or poultry on low grade land is clear.’
PV ‘4% by 2020’ So says DECC- from 14 GW. But STA says that without the FiT/RO cuts, PV may have got to 20GW and have reached grid price parity sooner!
£50m from GIB
The Green Investment Bank is offering up to £50m to help community-scale renewable energy projects, e.g. a new partly GIB funded £8.5m hydro dam on the River Allt Coire Chaorach, near Crianlarich is set to generate up to 8 GWh p.a. GIB will fund up to 30 projects across the  UK, in all around 24 MW. Strathclyde Pension Fund is also investing £10m.
ETI The Energy Technologies Institute sees ‘enormous potential and value in developing CCS and bioenergy’
ETIs new 2050 scenarios build on this, but also add more nuclear- see below
CPS  Centre for Policy Studies blasts renewables to hell, in a free market diatribe:

Most of UK public want renewables
 77% of those asked in a Mintel poll thought the UK should generate more power from renewables. 73% felt the government should give more support and around 76% said the industry plays an important role in protecting the environment. 78% backed the installation of solar panels on new houses and 74% believed they should be installed on more rooftops. Support for larger solar farms was at 60%, while 61% backed onshore wind farms.  40% believed it was worth paying a little more for greener energy.  In terms of the type of energy plant consumers would find most acceptable to have nearby, solar farms came top at 28%, followed by hydro (26%) and wind (23%). 51% saw nuclear as the least desirable, coal plants 21%.    
Also see:

CfD support for the Swansea tidal lagoon?
The government is considering whether to support the proposed 240 MW Swansea Tidal Lagoon under the Contract for a Difference (CfD) scheme. It was even featured in the Budget. At present, tidal barrage/lagoon projects haven’t been given a specific reference price within the CfD set up, but a strike price of £305/MWh was set for tidal stream projects and there are arrangements for ad hoc support, outside of the existing framework - that’s what the Hinkley nuclear plant got after all. It has been suggested that the Swansea project would be looking for around £168/MWh possibly over 35 years, this time-frame being longer than the 15 years offered to renewables under the CfD, but the same as for Hinkley since, like nuclear plants, the lagoon would have a long operating life, indeed longer than for Hinkley - over 100 years, not just for 60. Even so, while less than tidal stream, the suggested CFD level is a lot more than offshore wind is now getting (under £120/MWh in the latest CfD round), and there has been an objection from CAB, the Citizens Advice Bureau.  In their submission to a DECC consultation on the project, they draw parallels with the Hinkley project, and the non-transparent way its funding was arranged, and say the process being used to assess Swansea Bay has significant weaknesses’. They conclude ‘Given the huge cost and lack of countervailing benefits of the project, the outcome of the process should be to reject the application unless there is significant change from the prices and benefits currently in the public domain’.
That’s based on it’s cost/benefit effectiveness assessment. CAB says that ‘investment in projects that are not immediately cost-effective low-carbon generating sources are only justified in cases where the additional research and development premium creates useful public value. To ensure the most cost-effective use of the limited resources available to address climate change, this benefit from innovation funding should be tightly defined on the basis of two main criteria: a). That the technology in question has scope for significant long-term global climate change mitigation, and b). That the specific investments can make a material difference to global-long term reductions in cost of the technology. It is far from clear that the Swansea Bay tidal project meets either of these criteria.’
The Swansea project developers have claimed that, after the ‘First of a Kind’ (FOAK) project, costs for the subsequent schemes it has in mindwould fall to £92/MWh for the next two, similar to what Hinkley will get, if built. But CAB claims that any such reduction would not be due to technology learning, but was due to them being larger more cost-effective sites. e.g. new plans:
CAB says ‘putting aside the speculative nature of these cost reductions, even if it were guaranteed that they could be achieved, the best possible case put forward is that at some point in the future they could reach a cost level that can already be matched or beaten by other technology choices’ while ‘those competitor technologies will likely see their costs degress further’.  So, as with Hinkley, they see a risk of consumers being stuck with expensive CfD payouts for a long time, while other options get cheaper. And CAB are also unconvinced by claims that there would be compensating social benefits, which it says in any case would be hard to quantify. Focusing on a strict cost-benefit approach and given the limited cash available under the Levy Control Framework for low carbon projects, CAB say ‘it is imperative for consumer well-being that DECC foster competition between low carbon technologies and that it concentrates its efforts on bringing forward the most cost-effective projects’. They conclude ‘we would consider it wholly unacceptable if considerably lower cost projects in alternative technologies that are subject to genuine competition found themselves frozen out as a result of determination to bring forward this project’.
On this view, how do novel projects ever get a chance? CAB say ‘we recognise the desire to take calculated gambles on immature technologies to see what can be learnt (..) But we are acutely uncomfortable with DECC making these gambles through bill levy funding (..) We note that funding has been made available for carbon capture and storage demonstration projects through taxation and EU funding, rather than UK bill levies.’ So tap taxpayers instead!
Dare we summarise it as- FOAK off!?
Capacity Market
should have backed smart grids       
Of the near £1bn committed to the new Capacity Market, which is meant to avoid grid balancing problems, only 0.4% is going to demand-side response schemes. Tim Yeo, the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee chair, wasn’t happy: ‘Every consumer in the country is currently subsidising spare electricity generating capacity that may only be used for a few hours each year. But smart technology has now made it possible to reduce unnecessary electricity demand at peak times, thereby reducing the number of polluting power stations that need to be switched on. This could mean we can reduce the total electricity generating capacity that has to be maintained in future, bringing down costs for consumers while enabling us to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. Yet this promising new demand-side response technology has been disadvantaged in the auctions under the government’s capacity market - meaning costs and emissions could be higher than necessary.’ The Committees report is at   
The Committee has also noted that plans to install simple smart meters to monitor energy use in every UK home and business by 2020 are in danger of veering off-track and could prove to be a costly failure since the project has not been driven forward effectively. It raised concerns
about technical, logistical and public communication issues which have resulted in delays to the £10.9 bn national roll-out programme. An eventual net saving of ~£6 bn is claimed due to reduced energy use, with domestic power use falling by 2.8%, but not all believe this will be achieved, or that consumers will get much of the benefit.   
Next: Distributed power 
Let a thousand flowers bloom
New decentral patterns of energy supply, ownership and control are explored in a radical new low carbon 2050 ‘thousand flowers’ UK scenario developed by the EPSRC-funded Realising Transition Pathways Research Consortium of 9 UK universities. It has local distributed energy production based on renewables, mostly wind, supplying 50% of UK electricity, with local municipal and community initiatives playing major roles e.g. running local biogas-fed CHP/DH networks. We’ll look at it, and the ETI’s two new 2050 scenarios, one (‘Patchwork’) also being decentral, in the next Renew. The other has 40 GW of nuclear! For 1000 Flowers see:      
 * The ETI also has a report on bioenergy, which says ‘Biomass combined with Carbon Capture and Storage remains the only credible route to deliver negative emissions, necessary to meet the UK’s 2050 GHG emission reduction targets,’ and that ‘gasification technology is a key bioenergy enabler’. But it accepts that ‘UK land is finite and valuable, so optimisation of land use, including for biomass production, will be important’. There’s also an ETI report on energy saving in homes. See next ROL

UK still near bottom of the EU league table
Eurostat’s new league table for renewable energy in the EU has the UK again at the bottom With its 5.1% renewable share in 2013, only the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Malta get a lower share of their energy from renewables than the UK. But at least the UK has overtaken the Netherlands now - the UK used to be third from the bottom.  Though Carbon Brief calculated that the UK is further behind its 2020 target than any other member state, remaining 10% short of its 15% goal for 2020. It did however note that its renewable energy’s share of the energy mix had grown more quickly than in most other member states, albeit from a low initial level: in the decade to 2013, the UK renewable share quadrupled, a feat matched only by other laggards, Belgium, Luxembourg and Malta. Germany doubled its renewable share over the same period. Hopefully 2014 data may improve the UK ranking..
UK wants EU-ETS
changes + Infrastructure plans
 In the run up to the COP21 global climate negotiations in Paris at the end of the year, the UK has called for the EU Emission Trading System to be upgraded by introducing a market stability reserve (MSR) to reduce surplus carbon allowances: The Energy and Climate Select Committee thought, ideally, the EU-ETS should be spread even more widely: But so far it’s been a damp squib - carbon prices have fallen since the carbon caps could not be set low enough given resistance from countries with high coal use. The UK has introduced a carbon price support system within the UK, to help make non-fossil energy more attractive.  That of course includes nuclear, which is also benefiting from some of the items in the governments new Infrastructure development plans. See for example the Radioactive Waste Geological Disposal Facilities Order 2015, which some critics see as a device for side stepping likely local opposition to waste dump plans: 
For a very different approach to large centralised nuclear, based on locally distributed energy and decentral power, see: and
Fuel Poverty The Infrastructure debate rumbles on, with big money and major, often controversial, local impacts involved, but with the election pending, some smaller scale social provisions were also highlighted e.g. a new fuel poverty strategy - the first in over a decade. DECC says ‘the strategy is underpinned by the fuel poverty target for as many fuel poor homes as reasonably practicable to achieve an energy efficiency standard of Band C by 2030 - which became law in Dec. 2014’. The strategy ‘makes it clear that we do not accept that those on the lowest incomes should be left to live in the coldest, least efficient homes’.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey added ‘With almost a fifth of our housing stock in the private rented sector, and a third of the fuel poor living in rental accommodation, a new minimum energy efficiency standard for the private rented sector is in the process of being introduced’.   And looking to the future, the government also published a (rather short) future building strategy:

Election options and impacts
Manifesto promises: The Lib Dems would set a Zero Carbon Britain 2050 target, and a 60% by 2030 renewable electricity target, plus CCS and storage. The Greens want 42GW of offshore wind, 25GW of PV, 42GW of local power by 2020. The Tories would slow onshore wind, which UKIP hates too, and like the Lib Dems, they backed nuclear. Only the SNP and Greens didn’t. Labour promised 1 million extra green jobs.
Election Blight? The uncertainty about future energy policy due to the election may be one reason why the UK has now fallen to number 8, from No.7, in consultant firm Ernst and Young’s ‘global attractiveness’ ratings for potential renewable energy investment - the lowest the UK has been in 12 years. There was concern that the new contract for a difference regime ‘will not provide enough certainty to stimulate new project investment or the commitment of development expenditure’.  The prospect of on-land wind and solar farms being blocked if the Tories won may also not have helped. Whatever, the UK is now below France, which is the new No. 7! China remains No. 1, US 2, Germany 3, Japan 4, India moves up to 5.
*In what amounted to a pre-election end of term report on DECC’s efforts, the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee review of EMR Implementation was none too flattering, while Labours Baroness Worthington, said the Hinkley nuclear deal with EDF had a ‘massive destabilising’ effect on the energy market, and caused a ‘crisis of confidence’ in the future of energy production in the UK: ‘We have become over-obsessed with the delivery of one project’.
Nuclear news
Hinkey: further delays
EDF will wait until long after the UK election to finally decide on the £24 bn Hinkley project. Maybe for months? And, with Areva’s finances likely to get even worse, it may even get halted entirely if the pressure vessel fault found at the half built much delayed Flamanville EPR in France turns out to be as serious as some fear: the carbon level in the steel was too high:                   
In addition Austria may try to block the Hinkley EDF deal. Though the UK may retaliate:  Overall it’s not looking good: ginning-end However, although it will be a shock to investors, even if EDF’s EPR goes down, there are still other irons in the fire: Hitachi’s Advanced Boiling Water Reactor design proposed for use at Wylfa and Oldbury. The formal ABWR justification got just 29 minutes scrutiny in parliament…

Nuclear Brits  
Carrying on regardless                                
Labour say they would back new nuclear in Scotland and the Dungeness AGR has been given a 10 year life extension, to 2028. Taking up propects for the future, a ComRes opinion poll for New Nuclear Watch Europe, a new industry watchdog launched by Tim Yeo, MP, found that at the end of last year a majority of UK adults (58%) supported the use of nuclear power in the UK, including 21% strongly supporting it. Only 22% were opposed. Nuclear (at 23%) had overtaken renewables like solar (18%) and wind (15%), as well as fracking (7%) and coal (3%), as the sample’s favourite single energy source for UK/EU investment. In a similar poll 4 years ago for the British Science Festival, 19% backed nuclear, 25% solar and 20% wind. In the new poll 62% would accept nuclear if it helped tackle climate change.  Tim Yeo, said:‘Nuclear power is part of the solution to the challenge faced by Britain today of providing secure, affordable, safe and greener energy and, as NNWE’s new poll shows, we are very fortunate that people in Britain are more positive about nuclearpower, indeed more than in many other countries.’

DECCs polls paint a different picture: in June 2014, 36% of UK adults asked backed nuclear, whereas 79% backed renewables:
Anti-Nuclear Brits
The Open Letter to Environmentalists, originating in Australia (see below) but with some UK signatories, argued that they should support nuclear since it had less impact on biodiversity than wind & solar. Predictably it did not go down well with most UK green  groups, Nuclear Consult, the 70 strong network of mainly UK energy academics, or with the UK based Scientists for Global Responsibility group.
The basic thesis was also attacked in radiation biology terms by Dr Ian Fairlie: “Contrary to the paper’s (unsupported) assertions that nuclear is less of a problem than wind or solar, over 40 epidemiology studies worldwide indicate increases in childhood leukemias near nuclear reactors. The large spikes in gas emissions when reactors are opened for refuelling result in radioactive plumes which may cause high radiation doses downwind of nuclear reactors. In addition, the authors appear unaware of the recent compelling epidemiological evidence that radiation risks, especially from internal emitters, are greater than currently estimated. See The new studies have good statistical power, and are mostly from government or academic sources - indeed some are by scientists who used to work in the nuclear industry. Taken together, the new studies indicate that our current understandings about radiation risks, especially in infants and children, may be incorrect and may need to be revised upwards.”
Looking more broadly, and going on the offensive, a paper discussed at the DECC-NGO Nuclear Forum in Jan. called for a complete review of the UK National Policy Statement (EN-6) on nuclear. See this summary by Neil Crumpton:
More money
The Dept of Business, Innovation and Skills, has allocated £60m for the National Nuclear Users Facility to ‘enhance the previously funded nuclear systems research facilities and allow capital investment to boost UK excellence in other key areas of nuclear energy science, engineering and technology’. It  will ‘help cement the relationships between the academic research community, national laboratories and users in industry, as well as giving people the experience and skills to be internationally competitive civil nuclear energyleaders’. But the huge Sellafield clean-up operation has been taken off the private NMP consortium, with DECC saying it was in effect too big a project for the private sector. It may actually be too big for anyone! How NMP got the £22bn contract in the first place is not a happy or innocent tale:
*In a UK poll, 32% said smaller reactors would make them feel safer, 8% said they would feel less safe. A bit odd: SMR’s would be nearer to population centres:
2. Global Developments
Investment in renewables was almost £40.8bn in the third quarter of 2014, a rise of 11% on the same period in 2013, and according to Clean Energy Pipeline, despite some falls, 2014 investment overall is likely to have surpass that in 2013.  The IEA says the EU needs to do more:
The World Bank says it will invest heavily in renewables and clean energy and only fund coal projects in ‘circumstances of extreme need’, where no clean option was viable at a reasonable price, because climate change will undermine efforts to eliminate extreme poverty.
COP20 in Peru set the scene for the major COP 21 in Paris in Dec, but though progress was made, with the China- US deal helping, it didn’t sort out much e.g. the $100bn global fund.

Full costing
The full external costs, including the health costs of emissions, of using fossil fuel are well
beyond that of renewables or nuclear. So says a draft Ecofys report for the European Commission, which also looks at subsidy levels and levelised costs (see below). The total extra external cost for nuclear is put at 18-22€/MWh, more than for any renewable.
LCOE  Even without these extra costs, on-land wind at €80/MWh beats nuclear (€100), oil and gas, but not coal (€75). PV is put at €100-115, offshore wind €150/MWh
EU Subsidies  €bn in 2012: PV 14.7, On-land wind 10.1, Hydro 5,  Biomass 8.3, Nuclear 7, Coal 10.1, and Gas 5.2
Deep Decarbonisation
The Deep Decarbonisation Pathways Project (DDPP) aims to demonstrate how countries can contribute to achieving a globally agreed target of limiting global temperature rise to below 2 degrees. This high profile UN-backed initiative identifies practical pathways to a
low-carbon economy by 2050. In an interim report, to the World Leaders Climate Summit in Sept. 2014, 15 countries, accounting for 75% of emissions, set out pathways to achieving deep decarbonisation. Country level participation enables the options to be explored using local knowledge and tools.
 Led by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, it involves Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, S. Africa, S Korea, the UK and the US, represented by over 30 research institutes.
Deep savings The global energy efficiency market is worth over  $310 bn p.a. says the IEA; it’s ‘the invisible powerhouse, working behind the scenes to improve our energy security, lower our energy bills and move us closer to reaching our climate reductions’. It’s looking to 40% cuts.
Global Renewables: the east is winning
Consultants Ernst and Young’s recent study of Europe’s Low Carbon Industries confirmed the view that China was taking a lead in most areas. It notes that ‘A predictable regulatory framework and adequate political support remain necessary for low-carbon industries even in a mature stage. Investment leakages due to political uncertainty have been observed in the cases of solar PV and wind energy, where concerns about future policy support in the EU and the US have delayed investment decisions since 2011. Renewable energy investments in the EU and the US respectively decreased by 58% and 33% between 2011 and 2013. On the other hand, China’s investments, which benefited from a more stable framework, increased by 8% between 2011 and 2013.’ But in terms of power output, the US is still ahead with around 270 TWh from wind in 2013, compared with only around 138 TWh in China.
Renewables at 100%: a full resource analysis              A global life-cycle assessment of clean energy sources by team of researchers from the USA, Norway, the Netherlands, Chile and China, shows that a renewable system could supply the world’s entire electricity needs by mid-century without major problems with resource (materials) use or eco-impacts. While other studies have looked separately at the costs in terms of health, pollutant emissions, land use change or the consumption of metals, they set out to consider them all. They assessed the whole-life costs of solar, wind, hydro as well as gas and coal generators with carbon capture and storage. But they left out biomass (too complex! See below) and also nuclear (ditto). They looked at the demand for aluminum, copper, nickel and steel, metallurgical grade silicon, flat glass, zinc and clinker and the impact of greenhouse gases, particulate matter, toxicity in ecosystems, and eutrophication (overwhelming plankton bloom), of the rivers and lakes. They found that to generate new sources of power, demand for iron and steel might increase by only 10%. PV systems would require between 11 and 40 times more copper than needed for conventional generators. But even so, ‘only two years of current global copper and one year of iron will suffice to build a low-carbon energy system capable of supplying the world’s electricity needs by 2050.’
Their overall conclusion: ‘The large-scale implementation of wind, PV, and CSP has the potential to reduce pollution-related environmental impacts of electricity production, such as GHG emissions, freshwater ecotoxicity, eutrophication, and particulate-matter exposure. The pollution caused by higher material requirements of these technologies is small compared with the direct emissions of fossil fuel fired power plants. Bulk material requirements appear manageable but not negligible compared with the current production rates for these materials. Copper is the only material covered in our analysis for which supply
Biomass resources - Africa as an example
The study above didn’t cover biomass. You can see why if you look at Africa. It’s complex and confusing. Some see it as a new source of biomass:
Others say it’s running out and will have to import biomass, or at least wood:  And just about everyone worries about the social and environmental impacts e.g. on developing countries:                                       It’s been pointed out that, by its nature, biomass interacts more strongly with ecosystems and human systems than wind or solar, which can be extracted/used without direct impact and with less land use.

Which will win? 2 TW of wind by 2030?
Installed wind capacity could jump to 2,000 GW, more than five times its current level, by 2030, the Global Wind Energy Council says, although that would require ‘unambiguous commitment to renewable energy in line with industry recommendations ... (and) the political will to commit to appropriate policies’. However, the report claims that reaching this ‘advanced scenario’ is well within the capacity of the wind industry. Under the scenario where the current trajectory is maintained, 960 GW is predicted to be installed by 2030, while the so-called moderate scenario, which the report sees as the most likely outcome, would have 1,500 GW installed. Asia will dominate in all cases, led by China.. now at 96 GW of wind.
Grid parity: PV solar will get there first        ‘Grid parity’ occurs when an emerging technology such as wind or solar can produce electricity at the same levelised cost as buying power from the grid. However that’s really retail grid parity e.g. parity with the price at which a typical household buys electricity. Since the retail price includes transmission and distribution costs, retail margins, as well as taxes and often renewables subsidies, the price paid for power is higher than the wholesale price and reaching retail grid parity is hence easier than reaching wholesale grid parity.                                                        In a new report on grid parity, Poyry says ‘Although retail grid parity will be reached sooner than wholesale parity (and in some countries has already been reached) many of the advantages may be short-lived as they stem from the way in which the fixed costs of the system (such as the cost of the grid) are shared. For example, a move to charging grid fees for consumers based on peak consumption (per kW) rather than on energy (per kWh) would quickly remove much of the advantage that solar gains. Equally, a move to charging based on time of day rather than average monthly or quarterly prices may quickly erode many benefits of selling surplus electricity back to the grid.’ So they focus on wholesale grid parity, as a more fundamental test. And they say PV solar will get their first, ahead of wind, led, in the EU, by the south: Spain will, they claim, reach solar PV wholesale parity as early as 2021 followed by Portugal (2022) and Italy (2025 to 2032 depending on specific region). As for wind, they say Ireland will achieve grid parity in 2020 followed by Great Britain in 2021, primarily due to high achievable onshore wind load factors in these countries but elsewhere later.  However Turkey gets to grid parity for PV in 2018 and for onshore wind in 2019, ahead of any other European country due to higher wholesale electricity prices in the country.
Poyry conclude ‘A system where wind and solar become competitive with wholesale market prices will mark a massive shift in the evolution of these technologies. We would expect to see large-scale deployment (unhindered by changes in regulation or government whim), with solar mainly in southern Europe and onshore wind in Northern Europe.  Although factors such as planning permission and public acceptance may reduce deployment, the ultimate cap on deployment levels would be the capture price effect - by building more wind or solar, they reduce prices and hence become uneconomic.’ But it warns, ‘the goal of wholesale grid-parity of renewables remains a long way off, and unless there is a further shift in capital or deployment costs, most large-scale renewables deployment in the next 20 years will remain subsidised’.  Global PV now >180 GW…
Solar boom  A good overview of the next phase, looking at net metering in the US.
It’s not paying consumers the full value of PV power, especially given PV costs are falling. Maybe they need FiTs, as in the EU. But they get attacked for feather-bedding prosumers: 
But even without that, net metered PV may undermine the US grid utilities profits :
* Coming on strong The global cumulative installed capacity of biopower will rise from 87.6 GW in 2013 to 165.1 GW by 2025, driven by government support and environmental concerns: GlobalData 

20% EU target may be missed                EU News   
A European Commission backed review has found that 14 European Union member states will fail to meet their share of the 20% renewable energy target by 2020, based on current progress. The EUFORES EU Tracking Roadmap warned that Belgium, the Czech Republic, Spain, France, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, and the UK are all likely to miss their 2020 renewable energy targets. There was uncertainty over whether Germany, Finland, Ireland, and Slovakia will meet their targets, but predictions show Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Romania, and Sweden will all comfortably hit their targets by 2020. The EUFORES Keep on Track! report says ‘in order for Member States to achieve their 2020 target, it is essential that a predictable and stable legislative framework for RES is ensured at the national level and, in particular, that any retrospective or retroactive changes to existing support schemes are avoided’.
Biofuel slowed  MEPs have voted to reform EU biofuels policy. A cap will be put on the use of crops to make biofuel and full eco-impact reviews carried out.                          
France gears up 
France’s ‘Energy transition for green growth’ bill has been agreed by the lower house of Parliament. It sets targets to get 40% of electricity (and 32% of all energy) from renewables by 2030 (up from 15% now), reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and 75% by 2050, and reduce national energy consumption 20% by 2030, and 50% by 2050.

 A nuclear ceiling is imposed at the current capacity level of 63.2 GW, so that state-owned nuclear operator EDF will have to shut at least 1.65 GW of nuclear capacity when its much delayed Flamanville-3 EPR start up - maybe next year, but don’t rely on that! The government initially said EDF’s old 1.8 GW Fessenheim plant should shut, but the new law leaves it up to EDF to decide which to close.
 More closures must follow: nuclear’s share of generation must fall to 50% by 2025, from 75% now. See: 
New EDF boss:                     Areva’s head also retired, due to ill health. Sadly he died soon after.
German record corrected                              There have been countless media pieces claiming the German energy programe was a mess, including an  editorial in the Financial Times last year: ‘The costly muddle of German energy policy’ (7/10/13). So it is good to see someone put the record straight. Patrick Graichen, Executive Director, Agora Energiewende, told the FT that far from being a costly disaster, ‘renewables in Germany are now cheap, as costs have come down hugely. Electrical power from new solar and wind turbines comes at the same or even lower cost than power from new gas and coal power plants. There is a substantial “backpack” on consumer bills, but that is from earlier support for renewables not future support. Due to highly efficient household appliances the average power bill in Germany is on exactly the same level as the average bill in the US, Japan and Spain. Heavy industry in Germany is largely exempted from subsidy costs, and benefits from very low wholesale prices, which have been pushed down by renewables. In addition, to claim that the nuclear shutdown has increased Germany’s reliance on Russian natural gas is palpably untrue, as Germany mostly imports gas for heating and cooking, which would not be influenced by nuclear. The shift to renewable energy even decreased the amounts of natural gas used for power generation. In fact, the main reason for increased coal burn in Germany is that gas generation has collapsed because of high gas and low CO2 prices, which predate the current Ukraine crisis by several years. Germany’s coal problem is real, but not specific to that country. Coal burn in the UK also rose to extremely high levels in 2012-13 - which is caused by a weak EU Emissions Trading System and the failure of all EU policy makers to address coal usage.’ On coal use, see:  but also    
 Energy storage - a mandatory global requirement?  An $8bn ‘wind to Los Angeles’ renewables plan has been proposed for the early 2020’s, with a 2.1 GW wind farm in Wyoming, 140 miles north of Denver, linked to a 60 GWh compressed air storage plant using constructed salt caverns in Utah, 130 miles SW of Salt Lake City, power being transmitted 525 miles between them and then onward 490 miles to LA. and   Relaying news of this project on the Energy Matters web site, Euan Mearns insists that ‘all renewables projects should be mandated to provide load balancing capacity either through storage or fossil fuel based back up’.   Does this requirement make sense globally?                     The US scheme is very ambitious, and seems to assume that California would not have enough existing generation capacity to provide grid balancing when wind in Utah was low. Or that it can’t develop smart-grid demand management systems to provide balancing. But long distance HVDC transmission is viable, as is CAES, at a price. And having a large storage capacity would be helpful: excess PV solar output could be sent there too, for later use, if there’s room! Though should dedicated storage/backup be mandatory for each new project? Isn’t that a system-wide issue? Assuming there is some holistic system-wide planning! Left to markets, it may well be that storage will be adopted for niche uses, and some of these could grow to be very significant, for example linked to roof-top domestic PV, using batteries. With PV and also storage costs falling fast, that’s been talked up as a brave new decentral option in Germany: But there are limits:_ Though it may be help some domestic prosumers:                                          They would still presumably need grid links for balancing and it’s not clear if small-scale storage of this type is as good in overall system efficiency terms as large-scale bulk storage (or DSM!). It’s also not clear if it is economic*. Wolfram Walter, CEO of Freiburg-based ASD Sonnenspeicher, says that the purchasers of the current generation of batteries are just ‘burning money’. He says stored power from roof-top PV is 2-5 times the cost of grid power :‘lead-acid batteries can’t store enough power over their entire life spans to make them worthwhile’. Lithium Ion batteries may be better in this role, but maybe not for large-scale storage:  Large-scale bulk storage makes more sense in most cases, with heat & gas being good options. Germany plans to get 25% of its power from CHP by 2020. Its heat output can be stored, and the heat/power ratio changed (e.g. if power demand is low and/or there’s a surplus), giving balancing options. The German gas industry aims to replace 10% of commercial gas volume with renewable gas by 2030, with hydrogen (or methane) from wind/electrolysis being an option- stored and used to make power when needed.,did=383282.html And some say CHP/DH beats all:   Though maybe viable but pricey outlier option is home heat storage using immersion heaters run off PV:   Also type in ‘immersion heater’ in query box at
Global roundup
Building green The Bullitt Building in Seattle has a PV canopy that it’s claimed generates all of the electricity used on site, plus many other green features.  It’s one of many super-green office buildings round the world, like the Deutsche Bank rehab, Frankfurt: 
Nearer home, there’s the Crystal, built by Siemens in London’s docklands to showcase high tech low carbon urban futures with PV and an earth heat pump
South America According to market research firm NPD Solarbuzz, the Latin America and Caribbean region has around 1 GW of PV projects currently under construction, and over 22 GW more are in the pipeline, at all phases of development, with large-scale PV power plants dominating, especially in the top three markets of Chile, Brazil and Mexico. Also see: and
Japan installed 11.1 GW of new renewables between the start of its feed-in tariffs (FiTs) in July 2012 and the end of June 2014. 10.9 GW of it was solar PV, says MITI. Market research company GlobalData expects to see 5.1 GW more of PV capacity in the July-Dec period of 2014, bringing the full-year total to 8 GW. This compares to around 5.6 GW of cumulative solar capacity in Japan before the FiT launch. Overall, Japan has given the go-
ahead to 71.8 GW of renewable energy projects, some 96% of which are solar.
Some CCS at last - in Canada. The 110 MW Boundary Dam Carbon Capture and Storage plant in Canada is claimed as the first large coal-fired plant fitted with CCS, though it relies on selling on the CO2 to the oil industry (for use in priming nearby oil fields) to make it economic, so it may not be easily replicable elsewhere. There’s news of a new CO2 absorption slurry that may cut CCS/Air Capture costs:
US Solar battery Ohio State University researchers have combined a battery and a PV cell into a hybrid device.  A mesh solar panel allows air to enter the battery, and a special process for transferring electrons between the PV panel and the battery electrode. Inside the device, light and oxygen enable different parts of chemical reactions that charge the battery:  
*Apple have committed $848m to purchase power from a 130 MW PV project in Monterey, California. And with PV booming, US interest in storage certainly seems to be growing:
Desertec cuts back  The Desertec foundation continues to function, lobbying for the desert solar/supergrid concept: But the separate commercial offshoot, the Desertec Industrial Initiative, has refocused after the withdrawal of most of its initial 19 shareholders. They were worried about the cost of generating solar power in the Middle East /North Africa and exporting it the EU. They had included Deutsche Bank, reinsurer Munich Re and the Swiss ABB, along with Siemens, Bosch, E.ON and Bilfinger. But Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power, Germany’s RWE and China’s State Grid remain on board. They will continue the DII project in an ‘adapted format’, as a service company supporting work in the MENA region - where CSP is still spreading. And in China: A step down though..
*There’s an unrelated UK-linked Tunisian project:
Though CSP, like all big projects, is not without its issues: a crane accident killed 2 workers at a CSP plant in S. Africa
West Africa The REN21/ECOWAS/ ECREEE ‘Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Status Report’ is worth a look:
Is China’s new plan any good?
China has indicated that it aims to cap emissions by ‘around 2030’, but will try to do it earlier. Some say that this is little more than what would happen anyway as fossil reserves depleted and non-fossil options expanded - with no need for significant new effort. That is very unclear: China’s economy is still growing fast (7% p.a.), so it will have to take positive action - and it is pushing renewables hard. Even so, the US plans to take much more aggressive action. There is likely to be a big imbalance, which some see as unfair:c

All change everywhere                                                 
- as oil get cheap      
 With oil prices being cut, the energy policy scene is getting increasingly fraught.  Keeping OPEC oil production levels high has forced prices down, as oil seeks to see off the boom in coal use, which in part has been due to the shale gas boom in the USA - which has been able to export more coal.  But these market manipulations are set in the context of climate change polices which seek to reduce fossil fuel use (coal especially) and promote the use of renewables.  That has had a big impact in Germany, where gas plants find it hard to compete and coal plants are frowned on - though still used. And nuclear is on the way out. One results has been that, following the lead of RWE and Siemens, who exited nuclear some while back, E.ON, the largest utility, is to back away from nuclear and fossil fuels- hiving them off into a separate new company, the rump company then focusing on renewables:
 Not everyone likes this overall trend. The competition to replace Maria van der Hoeven as head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) heated up with Fatih Birol, a former Opec oil technocrat, a potential candidate. Van der Hoeven has overseen what some see as a radical shift in the IEAs views, with renewables and energy efficiency heavily promoted, but it still backs nuclear and has strong links to oil. Will those be strengthened, given current oil issues? Oil price cuts can have major impacts on economies - beneficial for most in the short-term, but no so welcome long term, especially for oil and gas exporting countries. Russia has been hit hard for example. More worryingly, it could impact on renewables: Peter Atherton, utility analyst at Liberum Capital, says a prolonged period of $60 oil could drive UK electricity prices below £45/MWh, which ‘would destroy value on existing renewable energy projects and make it difficult to raise financing for future projects’. Though not all agreed: But it may also hit nuclear and shale gas. Then again, it’s all very volatile - the shale bubble may burst. Meanwhile there are those who worry about relying on renewables, and want to see gas and even coal used, along with nuclear, instead. In the UK, the Civitas think tank has made this sort of case yet again. In the US, Forbes warned that superficially attractive comparisons of renewables and fossil fuel costs, based on using Levelised costings, disguised the cost of dealing with variable renewables: Overall then there’s a bundle of conflicting beliefs, pressures and concerns, though the fossil lobby’s power remains strong… stronger maybe that the multifaceted climate lobby. But EONs shift away from fossil and nuclear is a big change, even if it’s just chasing green subsidies.
Nuclear news  The Flamanville EPR  pressure vessel steel faults may impact on China’s EPRs too:
US delay: work on the two AP1000 units at VC Summer’s nuclear plant in South Carolina faces a delay of a year or more, with at least an extra $1.2 bn on the $9.8bn cost .
The new US MOX plant is to be delayed  for a decade...but the Yucca mountain n-waste plan - blocked by Obama-wins  a token NRC OK…
None would be better: overview from the US NIRS ‘Nuclear Power and Climate:
Why Nukes Can’t Save the Planet’,
It says if nuclear is used ‘as new capacity, instead of sustainable technologies
like wind power, solar power, energy efficiency, etc., carbon emissions
actually would increase’. Also see its review of new reactor types, expanded at:

Japan’s nuclear restarts 4 years on..
The Japanese government wants to restart some nuclear plants. Post Fukushima, about a third of the 48 surviving plants are probably out of the question. Academics Daniel Aldrich & James Platte noted: ‘By the end of 2020, 13 reactors will have reached the 40-year limit of their operating licenses, and an additional 10 more reactors will be 40 years old by 2025. Unless the NRA begins considering license extensions, it seems reasonable to assume that most of these older reactors will not restart.’ So in theory at most 25 to 30 reactors could restart in the next 5 years or so, but ‘this does not account for newer reactors that the NRA or local governments could declare unfit for restart’. And ‘while restarting some reactors will help generate revenue for Japan’s struggling power utilities, the cost of decommissioning about half of Japan’s pre-Fukushima reactor fleet will be significant. Despite the nuclear revival ambitions of the LDP and industrial leaders, Japan’s nuclear sector appears to have a long, difficult road ahead of it.’ Nuclear Monitor 791  and
Sendai restarts - volcanic doubts  The legal battle to stop its re-start has now been rebuffed, but other court battles continue, on 3 other planned restarts, and may go on for months:  
Meanwhile, the Fukushima site still has active waste water leaks:
An Australian Oddity
Well known for his very pro-nuclear views, Australian academic Prof. Barry Brook, Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania, along with Prof. Corey Bradshaw, Chair of Climate Change at Adelaide University, have fronted an open letter to environmentalists on nuclear energy, published on the Brave New Climate website that Brooks runs, and backed by over 70 academics from around the world, though nearly half are from Australia. It calls for environmentalists to set aside their preconceptions to nuclear so that it can play a substantial role in replacing fossil fuels, pointing to a paper Key role for nuclear energy in global biodiversity conservation’ by Bradshaw & Brook in the journal Conservation Biology. It concludes that ‘of the limited options available, next-generation nuclear power and related technologies, based on modular systems with full fuel recycling and inherent safety, hold substantial yet largely unrecognized prospects for being a principal cure for our fossil-fuel addiction, yet nuclear power still has an undeservedly poor reputation in the environmental community’.  The paper is quite dismissive of renewables, but the open letter is softer; it sees nuclear playing a role ‘as part of a range of sustainable energy technologies that also includes appropriate use of renewables, energy storage and energy efficiency’.                                       *For a critique of Brook’s position see: There are many safety, security & cost issues, including WMD proliferation risks with breeder reactors:
* Ex-WNA lobbyist Steve Kidd has a radical new take on nuclear policy - ditch climate arguments! See:
Austrian clarity ‘For each of the countries analysed and for the EU as a whole (EU28), generating electricity using nuclear power requires more public support than renewables.’ Austrian Ecology Centre

3. Forum Odds and ends for you to chew on  
UK Renewables trade lobbies
The Renewable Energy Association and Solar Trade Association have ended their formal affiliation, becoming independent once again, allowing them to focus on their core strengths. The REA represents renewable energy producers and promotes all types of renewable in the UK, across power, heat, transport and renewable gas. It says it is the largest renewable trade association in the UK, with ~1k members, ranging from major multinationals to sole traders: The STA represents companies working in solar thermal and solar power in the UK:  RenewablesUK, probably the best known trade lobby group, focuses on wind and marine renewables, with a big industrial base:
It grew out of the old British Wind Energy Association. REA tends to focus on biomass and the STA has come to the fore with the battles over solar farms. There were at one time moves to combine RUK/BWEA and the REA, but evidently separate lobbying is now the norm.  
Net metered PV
‘rips off the poor’
Those who can afford PV get profits from selling excess to the grid at the expense of the poor. They should pay extra to use the grid. So says the US National Policy Alliance, a coalition of African-American politicians, though some say they’ve been misled by vested supply interests and ignore the shared social and health benefits of solar. Similar issues emerged in the UK when the Feed-In Tariff was launched: the FiT payment comes from a levy on all bills, so the poor subsidise the rich. More recently in Germany there’s been resistance to the continued exception of PV self-generators from paying the grid surcharge. An interesting ethical debate.  and

Desert power for UK?
The proposal for a Concentrated Solar Power plant in Tunisia, sending power back to the UK, has reinvigorated the debate over desert power. CSP and HVDC under-sea links are expensive, so even though N. Africa has more sun than the UK, the economics may not stack up. And shouldn’t we sort out our own energy here? But there are variants that might be better. Claverton Energy Group member Neil Crumpton has proposed using solar and local biomass to make bio-SNG in the MENA region to transport through spare capacity in existing gas pipelines and/or as LNG by tanker. Better than trying to shift electricity around? But what about local eco-impacts? A cynical take on Desertec’s demise:

Market pressures bite  ABB has pulled out of building new offshore wind ‘substation’ power converters, since it’s made a loss in this area, though it will work with others on components:   But Areva, the French nuclear construction company, has also suffered major share price decline and the completion of the much delayed EPR it’s building at Flamanville has been put back by yet another year, to 2017. And maybe longer given the new steel issue.
US Offshore wind  Why so long to get started? Partly due to lobbying by conservation groups, but also since US coastal waters are deep, and so only really viable now with floating turbines. The focus has been the east coast, but the Pacific is a huge resource too: 
In praise of CHP 
Ex-Environment Secretary Tory Owen Paterson has been singing the praises of Combined Heat and Power - making use of waste heat produced by power stations, an idea long backed by the left  and by modern day greens: even the Ecologist sought fit to recycle his otherwise pretty contrarian anti-renewables GWPF article
City-wide CHP, feeding district heating networks, was promoted as an idea in the 1970s by some radical local councils (in Newcastle and Sheffield especially) and by trade union and labour movement groups like SERA - and indeed by the Open University: if you did
an OU energy course then you could hardly miss CHP, promoted as a fine example of sensible attention to end us efficiency. Even the then chief scientist, Lord Walter Marshall, was a fan - he chaired the definitive study on it, but, as head of the CEGB, he backed nuclear (US PWRs) even more. In the event, after an attempt to push a big PWR programme (only one was built - at Sizewell), Maggie Thatcher opted instead for privatisation, which put nuclear, and coal-fired CHP, out of the running - with the dash for gas being one result. Unlike in central and northern Europe, where its use is widespread, CHP/DH was hard to promote in the UK: it always seemed to have cheap energy sources (coal and then north sea gas), so upgrading the efficiency of its uses didn’t seem that urgent. And socialistic community heat provision didn’t tie in well with UK privatisation and liberalisation.
Now, with fuel less available and climate issues mounting, it’s back on the agenda - this time pushed from the right! But maybe with mini-nukes providing the heat! It doesn’t have to be that way. Gas is the obvious interim option, but many CHP/DH systems on the continent use biomass (straw) and some community DH networks use solar, with interseasonal heat stores, with these flexible systems being seen as a way to balance variable wind. By contrast, do we really want mini-nukes in or near cites? 
New mini start-ups, new mini-nukes?
World Nuclear Association’s Jeremy Gordon says: ‘Apparently due to the distribution of influence brought by the internet, new leaders are emerging in the form of educated young people that have achieved success due to their own engineering or entrepreneurial actions. Think of the new breed of billionaire app developers. They are neither experts from the ‘top’, nor people from the ‘bottom’. At the same time, nuclear technology is looking again to designs that are smaller and more flexible than those of the current mainstream, and the start-up reactor companies better fit the current mindset that tends to encourage the bottom-up approach. One optimistic conclusion is that it is possible that a new phase for society will enable nuclear power to find new leaders, while at the same time it finds new products. Some long-overdue revision to nuclear power’s long-term image could follow.’

Public risk perception & environmental policy
Some of our fears are misplaced, says this report for the EU, and public consultation exercises can help to rebalance views. But who do you trust to give reliable information?  More focused, the APRAISE project offers a helpful approach to uncertainty. See its Policy Brief ‘Accounting for Unanticipated Effects of Environmental Policy Making’, which outlines its approach to understanding the differences between the expectations of energy, sustainability policies and the end result. The method has been applied in country case studies of renewables, energy efficiency and resource efficiency. It emphasises the inclusion of stakeholders as a crucial precondition for a legitimate and successful evaluation of unanticipated effects. More practically and prescriptively, there’s BETTER, ‘Bringing Europe and Third countries closer together through renewable Energies’ with a range of case EU and N. African studies:  But trumping the lot, with a jaw dropping account of gargantuan proposals for global environmental changes, see ‘Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism’ Jacob Darwin Hamblin OUP.
Another never ending debate: wind v energy saving
Willem Post has another dig at wind power: he says energy efficiency is better:
But Sussex Energy Groups say that energy efficiency may not reduce energy demand:  Can’t we have whatever we can get from both? Or is it all a waste of time!                            
 See this very negative analysis
Green Jobs- for ever?  
The Campaign against Climate Change booklet and backup notes argue single-mindedly for green job creation, as a key policy.  That’s fine up to a point (we need to replace fossil and nuclear jobs with green jobs and also other jobs lost in the economy with green jobs), but this job maximization focus can get a bit obsessive. In its Q&A section, the backup notes argue that the 1 million green jobs the booklet proposes can be sustained indefinitely, despite the likely improvement in technology efficiency as the programme unfolds (requiring less work). It says reasonably enough that there will be replacement/upgrade jobs to keep the system going, but also that we will go for more advanced renewables, initially harder to harvest sources (e.g. very deep sea wind), which will create more jobs. That’s not clear - e.g. floating wind will be cheaper so there will be fewer jobs. Finally it says we would go for more economic growth based on renewables - to sustain jobs. Devotees of stable state economics may not welcome this. Surely we don’t want growth just to keep people working? At some point can’t we shift to less work - shorter hours, albeit at the same pay? And away from the profit and consumption driven growth treadmill? Don’t we have to, given the planets resource and carrying capacity limits?

Climate contrarian: 
‘its not the worst issue’                       
 Global warming pales when compared to many other global problems. While the WHO estimates 250,000 annual deaths from global warming in 30 years, 4.3 million die right now each year from indoor air pollution, 800 million are starving, and 2.5 billion live in poverty and lack clean water and sanitation.’ So says contrarian Bjorn Lomborg. And anyway, he adds, our approach to dealing with climate change it is wrong and doomed: Globally, we get a minuscule 0.3pc of our energy from solar and wind. According to the International Energy Agency, even with a wildly optimistic scenario, we will get just 3.5pc of our energy from solar and wind in 2035, while paying almost $100 billion in annual subsidies. Today, the world gets 82pc of its energy from fossil fuels, in 21 years it will still be more than 79pc.’ He goes on ‘Realising that fossil fuels will be here for a long time means stronger focus on moving from coal to gas, since gas emits about half the greenhouse gasses. The US shale gas revolution has reduced gas prices and lead to a significant switch from coal to gas. This has reduced US CO2 emissions to their lowest in 20 years. In 2012, US shale gas reduced emissions three times more than all the solar and wind in Europe. At the same time, Europe paid about $40 bn in annual subsidies for solar, while the Americans made more than $200 bn every year from the shale gas revolution. Gas is obviously still a fossil fuel and not the final solution, but it can reduce emissions over the next 10-20 years, especially if the shale revolution is expanded to China and the rest of the developing world.’ And he adds ‘The German solar adventure, which has cost taxpayers more than $130 bn, will at the end of the century just postpone global warming by a trivial 37 hours’.   So we plunge on regardless, delaying the use of renewables, which actually are doing very much better than Lomborg suggests: supplying 22% of global electricity and over 19% of global energy now, including hydro and biomass, with the potential for much more at ever reducing costs. And a switch to green energy, if done right, is part of the process of building up local economies and cutting pollution-related deaths. Can the same be said of fracking?
 Coming soon: Dave Elliott’s latest book, provisionally entitled: ‘A Big Change for the Better: Green energy futures’. An up to the minute guide to the choices ahead…                And finally, don't forget: New free OU short renewables course, soon to be re-run:

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