Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Rnew On Line 119

ROL 119 is available from the link on the main NATTA site , in PDF format:

We have decided not to produce a blog format versions any longer, but earlier issues in that format are still on this site below.  

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Renew on line 118

           Renew on Line 118 
                                Nov-Dec 2015

A bimonthly roundup of news and views on renewable energy developments and policies
For a fuller PDF version with graphics/charts/pictures:

1. UK developments UK still near bottom of league
The UK is near the bottom of the EU league table for renewable energy and allegedly is one of only three EU countries to miss its 2013/14 interim renewable energy target and EU data suggests it may miss its binding target of getting 15% of energy from renewables by 2020. The Netherlands, France, Malta and Luxembourg may also miss!
The EC data says UK got 5.1% of total primary energy from renewables, but it ought to be 5.4% if it’s to reach the EU mandated 15% by 2020. It’s still possible, but it will have speed up.
The new EU data:
Though DECC disputed the sums: the 2014 figure was it said 7%, making the average for 2013/14 actually 6.1%:

Technology News
Wind roars on                       
DECC’s annual Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES) described onshore wind as ‘the leading individual technology for the generation of electricity from renewable sources during 2014’, supplying 29% of the total, while offshore wind generated a further 21%, making a total of 50% of renewable electricity supplied by wind. Overall 9.5% of the UK’s electricity was generated by onshore and offshore wind in 2014: 5.5% from onshore and 4% from offshore. Offshore wind generation increased by 17%, and onshore wind generation grew by 10%. DECC says the 2014 load factor for onshore wind was 26.4%, offshore wind’s 37.7%, which DECC notes was higher than the 30.5% load factor for gas CCGT plants.
Renewables UK said: ‘Onshore and offshore wind is delivering the lion’s share of the clean electricity we need to keep the UK powered up. But, when it comes to onshore wind, the Government is lining up this lion to be shot.’ It also noted that two-thirds of the public backed onshore wind as indicated in every government poll:
Offshore wind keeps growing - 6 GW so far
DECC has given approval to the Dogger Bank Teesside A and B Offshore wind project, which is expected to have up to 400 offshore wind turbines, 2.4 GW in all. The project, by the Forewind consortium, bringing together SSE, RWE, Statkraft and Statoil, will sit alongside the 2.4 GW Dogger Bank Creyke Bank development, which secured planning consent earlier this year. It will be between 125 and 290 km off the North East coast, and will include eight offshore power collector platforms, up to four accommodation or helicopter platforms, 10 metrological stations, 2 converter stations, and 2 sets of export cables that will come ashore between Redcar and Marske-by-the-Sea. Next up the hoped-for go ahead for the two 525 MW Seagreen offshore wind farms in the Forth/Tay, after a Judicial review due to RSPB objections. But the 970 MWNavitus project, off Weymouth/ /the Isle of Wight has been turned down:see below. Meanwhile though offshore wind load factors have been rising steadily:

Offshore wind– the state of play
There are 27 UK offshore wind farms operational with a total capacity of just over 5GW. 
One near 50MW project is currently under construction,
 22 further projects have planning approval- almost 14GW. 
4 more projects, 2.7GW in all, are in planning. There have been some retrenchments e.g. Forewind recently cancelled its Dogger Bank expansion- Teeside C & D and the withdrawal last year of the Atlantis project off Wales/N Devon. But until the Navitus decision, RUK says only one offshore wind farm had previously been refused consent- the 540MW Docking Shoal, off the north coast of Norfolk, in July 2012.
The 970 MW Navitus project was due to be built in the English Channel 13.4 miles off the coast from Bournemouth and 10.9 miles from the western tip of the Isle of Wight.  Comparisons had been made with the Rampion project, off the coast from Sussex, which had been given the go ahead, but the Navitus site was claimed to be more sensitive. That also applied to the scaled down 630MW version that was offered as a fall back.

Solar in the shade: FiT hit
DECC has consulted on halting pre-accreditation for the Feed-in Tariff (FiT), the main support system for small-scale solar PV. It said it wanted ‘to limit the risk to bill payers of a deployment surge under the FiT’. It accepted that would have a big impact: ‘By removing the
possibility for projects to pre-accredit, there is less certainty on offer to developers. When they begin to develop a project, they will not be certain as to what tariff they will receive, as there may be tariff degressions between then and the point of accreditation.’ Unsurprisingly this, and the other proposals, including those in a new wider consultation on cutting FiT support back, or even ending it entirely (see below), did not go down well. There was talk of a ‘new dark age’. But the pre-accreditation block went ahead: see below. DECC evidently fears that small PV projects are booming too much and will bust the LCF cap. Larger projects (over 5 MW), mostly supported under the Renewables Obligation, until blocked from it, were its original worry, but this has to be put in perspective: as the STA noted, RO support for solar currently puts just £3 p.a. on household bills. But though the FiT seems doomed, life goes on: E.ON is offering home PV users a guaranteed performance deal:
Oddly DECC seems to have removed the section of its regular public opinion surveys that asked for reactions to specific renewables. Previous surveys showed strong backing for PV solar (~80%), RO/FiT support for which is now being cut.
Tidal lagoons - a conflict of views                             The Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project (TPL) has been critically assessed by Tidal Electric Limited (TEL), the first proponents of an offshore impoundment scheme. The chosen site for their first plant was also Swansea Bay, but their design was for a lagoon fully offshore, so avoiding any landfall and local inshore impacts. Some saw that as likely to be costly, since a complete containment wall had to be built, out at sea, and, with DECC showing little interest, the project did not go ahead. By contrast, the current project proposal, which has DECC support, is attached to land, so only parts of the containment wall has to be built, the impounded shore- line provides the rest. So it should be cheaper. TEL did not agree: they say their designs for off-shore lagoons ‘could deliver power at a cost of £40/MWh’. See below. But TEL admit that ‘TPL is much more advanced in its proposal and it would be difficult for DECC to consider TEL a competitive provider at this point’.
A Better Lagoon – TEL’s fully out to sea design            Tidal Energy Ltd (TEL) say ‘Our design for Swansea Bay was limited to a 5km square impoundment and predicted generation of 0.18 Terawatt-hours (TWh) p.a.. Our design claims a 36% load factor requiring installation of 60MW capacity. The TPL lagoon is 12km square and claims to generate 0.5 TWh p.a.. It is claiming to require 320MW capacity which would result in an 18% load factor (less than in conventional barrages). Given that the tidal range is the same, the power outputs of the two designs should be proportional to the footprint of each§.  This would suggest the TLP plant would produce 0.43 TWh p.a. at a load factor of 15%... or would only need to install 145MW capacity if they were able to match our load factor and so… one of us is wrong.’                                                                                                                               
The high cost of TPL’s scheme (a £160/MWh CfD strike price is said to be needed*) has been justified by saying in was a novel project- later versions would be cheaper. But TEL claim that ‘the TLP project is not FOAK (First Of A Kind) because Korea’s Shiwa Tidal project was put in service in 2013, using the same configuration: tidal-range generation from water impounded by a wall touching the shore at each end. The turbines were conventional low-head ‘bulb’ turbines.’ By contrast ‘TEL’s offshore tidal power generation scheme proposal for Swansea Bay is truly FOAK and is ready for deployment’. It would avoid potential damage to the environmentally-rich inter-tidal zone: ‘because the impoundment touches the shore the area of the shore that is wet at high-tide but dry at low-tide- the inter-tidal zone- will be affected.’ Replacing that resource elsewhere would add to the cost, perhaps as much as the cost of building the impoundment wall! Nice try! We wish them both luck.                                                                 
 § Actually, it may not be directly proportionate: it depends on the output profile.                       
*See                 Renewables boom : the big picture                               
 DECC’s annual statistics (DUKES) show that overall electricity generated from renewable sources increased by 21% in 2014, compared to the previous year, and accounted for 19.1% of total UK electricity generation (up from 14.9% in 2013). The total installed capacity of renewables increased by 24% (to 24.6 GW) in 2014, partly due to a 13% growth in onshore wind capacity and a 22% increase in offshore wind capacity. In all, 7% of the UK’s total energy supply (electricity, heat and fuel for transport) came from renewables, up from 5.6% in 2013. The UK needs to meet a legally binding target of 15% of all energy from renewables by 2020. DUKES notes that in 2014, there was a further switch in the main sources of electricity generation away from coal and gas to lower carbon generation.  Generation from coal fell by 36%, as some plants closed or switched to using biomass; gas rose 5.1%, nuclear output fell by 9.7%, while renewables were up by 21%. And in the latest development, renewables reached 25% of electricity in mid 2015. 
 Grid Balancing with variable renewables
Prof. Catherine Mitchell from iGov at Exeter University has helpfully summarised how flexible plants, storage, demand side response, supergrid links etc. can back up renewables:  demand is met using a mix of variable and firm renewables, backed up by demand management (peak shifting) and interconnector imports, with surplus power fed to storage for later use when renewables are low. See  and  
Sounds good.  However a new report from the UK Energy Research Partnership (ERP) says that, even ‘very significant’ storage, demand-side measures and interconnection would not be sufficient to cope with intermittency in a weather-dependent renewables-based electricity system. On the basis of its modeling up to 2030, it says there would still be a need to have a significant amount of zero-carbon firm capacity on the system too - for dark, windless periods. It says this could be supplied by nuclear, biomass or fossil CCS. It’s counterproductive just to add more wind capacity, since that displaces ‘progressively lower carbon plant eventually causing significant levels of curtailment of its own output or that of other zero carbon plant’. While that may be true, you could also say the same for adding extra inflexible nuclear plant - it would potentially force variable wind off the grid. Power to Grid conversion of surplus wind might be a better idea, but EPR worries about conversion efficiencies. It also sees other storage options as being limited for the UK, and demand management as not being able to deal with large, longer-term shortfalls. Though it’s a bit more positive about interconnections, overall it adopts a pretty conservative view, with nuclear offered as one way to fill in the 8 TWh gap it identifies as emerging, even with up to 30 GW of storage, during the occasional long (2-3 week) low renewable periods. This despite the fact that, as it admits, there can be large sudden loss of supply in feed risks with nuclear, as with any large-unit supply project. Gas CCGT with CCS is also offered as another option, though it’s not clear how flexible that can be. But the chart above has some! You could of course, invert the ERP analysis and see it as indicating that only a small amount of fossil input would be required for grid balancing, if renewables, DSM storage, and inter-links were expanded. ERP says that with a hypothetical 100% renewable system, ‘fossil is required to fill 12% of demand’ and it also says that there would be ‘a significant spill’ - 8% of generation. If some of that was converted to hydrogen via P2G, rather than being wasted/curtailed, then the 12% might be cut back. And if marine renewables (hardly mentioned by EPR) were also added, then given their different availability patterns, the rest of the 12% residual fossil input might be removed, along with any need for nuclear.  Although a biomass input would be required, this could be indigenous, not imported, as with the UK Pugwash 2050 scenario.  Even leaving that side, what the ERP analysis indicates is that, with storage, DSM, supergrid links etc., you don’t need 100% fossil backup (as some claim) to balance a largely renewables based system, even given long-term supply shortfalls.   For more see Renew 2015 in Dec.
Community energy: it is overwhelmingly popular       78% of those asked in a Co-operative Energy poll would support renewable energy projects
benefited the local community:  But Howard Johns, founder of the first community owned PV project in the UK, said: ‘The Governments latest proposals to cut the Feed-in Tariffs will, as currently suggested, do irreparable damage to Britain’s rapidly expanding renewable energy industry. In particular, many groups of hard working people striving with their neighbours and friends to develop and build local renewable energy systems will be stopped in their tracks at the eleventh hour by these careless proposals.’  Some big local solar projects have already been facing problems:  There has also been a
battle on the Thames over a 0.5MW mini hydro project  But its not all bad news. Campaign group 38 Degrees and the Big Deal, a consumer collective, has negotiated with a series of power companies on behalf of the 100,000 households who signed up to the scheme to switch suppliers. Good Energy was chosen as one since it offered 100% renewable  electricity at a reasonable price. It already has 55,000 elec. subscribers.
Policy News
LCF cap - and ‘Blue Crap’                 
The debate continues over how to avoid overspend beyond the cash limits imposed by the Levy Control Framework (LCF), set at £7.6bn for 2020/21. The higher-than-expected spend was due to the fast falling prices of solar, and the resultant surge in solar capacity and generation, plus a rise in output from wind plants (higher load factors), and a fall in the wholesale price of gas, which means that, oddly, under the CfD, renewable projects get more support to top up to the fixed strike price. Something had to give!
Unless the LCF cap was raised. And that’s not happened. Instead wind and solar have been squeezed. But, although it risks damaging the industry, it won’t cut costs much: e.g. DECC says the early closure of the solar subsidies will save between £40m and £100m in 2020/21.Greg Barker, one-time Tory Energy Minister, tried to be upbeat: the cuts ‘will be a big challenge to the UK solar industry and in the short term very problematic for a number of companies, but I really hope that the sector can avoid the hysteria and self-damaging doom mongering that we saw in 2011. We need to focus on the fact that this review is a response to much faster and more successful clean energy deployment than anyone expected; exceptional growth that has made the UK the fastest growing solar market in Europe.’ Though that still meant cuts!  But ex-Energy Secretary, Lib Dem Ed Davey, claimed there was no overspend, since there were contingency margins, and asserted that ‘there’s not a rational case being made against low-carbon technologies and renewables. It’s an ideological case.’ Or ‘Blue Crap’, as it’s been naughtily labeled, re-working the ‘Green Crap’ slur allegedly used by PM David Cameron. With the RHI green heat scheme maybe next for cuts:
A practitioners reaction: And the public? In DECC’s latest survey 75% backed renewables, 24% strongly, 4% opposed it, 1% strongly. Also see:   
DECC: nuclear subsidy ‘supports renewables’
In evidence to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee in July, Amber Rudd MP, DECC Secretary of State, defended the high CfD subsidy for the proposed Hinkley nuclear project by saying that ‘in terms of affordability we have to have secure baseload, so you should not be surprised, I may suggest, that we are prepared to pay more for that in order to make sure that nuclear is part of the mix. In a way that enables us to support more renewable in terms of renewables at the moment without storage.’ She added ‘The requirement for nuclear is absolute, particularly in terms of wanting to have renewables as part of the mix because, as we all know, until we get storage right, renewables are unreliable’. Oh yeah?
She was challenged further on the high strike price for Hinkley Point C (£92.5/MWh), which will be available for 35 years, given that she had said that subsidies were meant to help projects reach the point when they can stand on their own two feet: did she share that ambition for subsidies for Hinkley? She replied ‘This is going to be the first new nuclear plant in over 20 years, so it is essential to me that we succeed in it, but it does not mean that future plants will have a CfD at the same price’. So it was new - and vital to help ‘unreliable’ renewables!  But there are plenty of ways to balance variable renewables, and not just by storage, while nuclear isn’t much use at that - it’s too inflexible (and costly).
*The economics certainly don’t seem to add up: the £92.5 strike price is index linked so it will rise: it’s already now more like £94. And recent policy, technology & fuel cost changes have altered things: 
Policy impacts: the onshore wind cuts                Around 19,000 people are said to work in the UK onshore wind sector, but some will have been made redundant as a direct impact of the governments policy of withdrawing support - around 270 MW of projects have, it seems, already been scrapped.  Many more could follow.  For example, Swedish energy giant Vattenfall has scrapped plans for an 11-turbine wind farm near Conwy in North Wales after 10 years in development, partially blaming the policy shifts. The Nant Bach wind farm was granted planning consent four years ago, but Vattenfall said it was not economically viable in current market conditions - that would require larger turbines and a new planning application which might not succeed, given the new planning policies for onshore wind, and which would delay it until after the expected deadline for the closure of access to the Renewables Obligation for new onshore wind projects. With projects like this disappearing, it has been argued that, if the UK is to meet its 2020 renewable energy targets, more expensive projects will have to be supported e.g. offshore, which will push up cost to consumers. DECC denies this: Energy and Climate Secretary Amber Rudd said ‘consumer bills will not rise because of this change, while Andrea Leadsome, Energy and Climate Minister, said we do not accept that we have missed it [the UK’s interim EU renewables target]. Our interim reporting covers the period to the end of 2015, and we believe that we are on track to meet that target.’ A new campaign aims to fact check claims like this: 
The proposed FiT cuts 
- take it or leave it                                       
Despite much lobbying by the Solar Trade Association and others, the results of the DECC review on the Feed-In Tariff for small PV and other small renewables were even worse than expected, with, at the minimum, support across all small technologies to be cut drastically and a cap set on the number of schemes supported each quarter. As a minimum, DECC proposes forced price degression each quarter, via a deployment cap per domestic band, with capacity thresholds triggering price cuts of 5% or 10%, no further project then being supported. STA says in effect that sets a total new PV capacity cap of 42MW per quarter - 170MW/year. It noted that 620MW was installed in the last year. Smart meters and higher EPCs will be required. And it gets worse:  tariffs will be reduced to zero by 2019.  Similar cuts are proposed for wind and hydro. All so as to stay within the LCF limits: and all to be halted if they don’t.
DECC took a hard line re the consultation process and whatever came after it. It says that ‘if such measures cannot put the scheme on an affordable and sustainable footing then there should be an end to generation tariffs for new applicants as soon as legislatively possible, which we would expect to be January 2016’. However they say they would then keep the export tariff ‘as a route to market for the renewable electricity they generate’, though it might be revised.  But even if all went as they wanted, they saw their proposed ‘more stringent degression mechanism and deployment caps’ as ‘leading to the phased closure of the scheme in 2018-19’. Not much of a consultation: take it or leave it! In either case, as DECCs Impact Assessment admits, carbon emissions will rise.
The DECC review followed an earlier consultation in July-August on removing FITs pre-accreditation to limit the impact on bill payers of deployment surges (see earlier). It has now responded to that saying pre-accreditation will be frozen immediately, though it might be reinstated depending on the results of the consultation on the tough new FiT proposals above.
The end of the FiT?
DECC’s consultation on the Feed-In Tariff (see above) includes this statement: The future
and size of the scheme will be determined by affordability criteria’, with the Levy Control
Framework limits clearly being central. It includes a reworking if the LCF expenditure
projections with the FiT spend presented as overwhelming it by 2019: see right. So it says:
‘If following the consultation we consider that the scheme is unaffordable in light of these criteria, we propose ending generation tariffs for new applicants from January 2016 or, alternatively, further reducing the size of the scheme’s remaining budget available for the cap. This consultation seeks views on the impacts of scheme closure, whether implemented in the immediate term or as a phased closure over several years.’  With costs falling (for PV especially) they evidently see no reason for the FiT to continue. PV is where most of the FiT has gone to (supporting nearly 4 GW so far), and it gets hit hardest, with, in the interim proposals, support for domestic roof top schemes (under 4 kW) cut massively, from 12.47 p/kWh to 1.63p. But small wind also gets hit: the tariff for micro-wind (under 50 kW) falls from 13.73 p/kWh to 8.61p, and for larger project (up to 500 kW) from 10.85 p/kWh to 4.52p - more than halved. Projects over 1500 kW will get no support at all. Micro hydro (under 100 kW) gets cut from 14.43-15.45 p/kWh to 10.66p. DECC says these interim proposals would cap new FiT expenditure at £75-100m by 2018/19.
Prosumers hit DECC note that ‘at periods of peak PV generation there may be additional, rather than avoided, distribution and transmission costs if power flows put pressure on the network infrastructure’. They admit that ‘where PV generation coincides with periods of high demand it can be valuable in reducing power flows on the network’, but clearly they are worried about the impacts of ‘prosumer’ PV generation. They are also worried about the export tariff paid for surplus power sold back to the grid: ‘Over the course of 2014, the spot wholesale electricity price fell below the export tariff.’  Although the prosumers’ export tariff will be retained, DECC says a cut, from its current 4.85 p/kWh, is an option. Alternatively a more flexible system might be adopted: ‘the price paid for exporting energy remains static and customers have no incentive to store energy produced at times of low demand for use during times of peak demand. It may be appropriate in the future to consider how the export tariff can more accurately reflect the value to electricity suppliers of electricity exported onto the grid’ with an annual price reset, or, more dynamically, variable pricing via smart meters, being options. There may also be changes to the index (inflation) linking system. But all this tinkering aside, it’s pretty clear DECC wants the FiT as we know it to go: we are just debating timescales, with massive cuts, up to 87%, proposed in the interim.  
Reactions Cuts do seem inevitable and reasonable, given the reduced cost of PV, but Renewable UK said the cap system was too complex and unworkable and that the whole thing lacked vision:
The Solar Trade Association (STA) tried to mount a damage control exercise. It saw the proposals as premature and damaging. It would ‘push the industry over a cliff when it is so near to being able to repay public investment through lower & more stable bills in future - as well as tens of thousands of jobs. A sudden cut combined with the threat of scheme closure is a particularly bad idea - it will create a huge boom and bust that is not only very damaging to solar businesses and jobs but does nothing to help budget constraints. We really are astonished at how self-defeating these proposals are. Instead, we are calling on the Government to work with the solar industry to deliver our plan for a stable glide path to subsidy-free solar.’
The cuts - impacts
Renewables have enjoyed subsidies, as part of the investment pattern shown by PwC right, but these will now fall, and possibly faster than shown, depending on what becomes of the FiTs, the CfDs, and the RHI. But it’s already clear that the removal of the Climate Change Levy exemption for renewables will have a big impact. It was worth about £4/MWh to renewable and clean energy producers and accounted for just over 6% of onshore wind generators’ revenues, according to Dr Gordon Edge from RenewablesUK. The abolition of exemption will earn the Treasury £450m in 2015/16, doubling to £910m in 2020/21. But the UK will lose out from the early closure of Renewable Obligation (RO) access for onshore. UK’s 8 GW onshore wind sector made up around 5% of electricity generation in 2014, supported by around £800m of subsidies, but RUK says the onshore wind industry generated £906 m in revenue for the UK economy in 2014. That will now fall.  PV solar will be hit hard by the FiT and RO cuts, depending on whether the FiT goes entirely or only gets cut back. It might save £100m by 2020/21, by killing off growth. Biomass is also hit (no more big bio-conversion project will be supported), but so far offshore wind has not been directly targeted for cuts, although that depends on what happens to the CfD: see below. DECC’s line in the past on wave and tidal has been that emerging options like this need special support, and the first 100 MW of wave and tidal capacity to apply for financial support was meant to have guaranteed access to the CfD at a strike price of £305/MWh under the current delivery plan, which runs up to 2019. But that may change. So it’s not surprising that the UK has now dropped out of the top ten in Ernest and Young’s international league table of investment attractiveness for renewable energy projects for the first time since it began 12 years ago. EY said the government had sentenced the renewable energy industry to ‘death by a thousand cuts’ and that investor confidence in the sector had collapsed because of the policy changes. More at:

The FiT cuts: DECCs policy explanation - its all fine
Here’s how DECC responded to a petition on the FiT review which got 10,000 signatures: ‘The Government is committed to a low carbon and affordable future for energy while also ensuring bill payers are getting the best possible deal. It is a condition of our State Aid approval from the European Commission that we review the performance of the Feed-in Tariff scheme (FITs) every three years and ensure that generators receiving FITs are not overcompensated. We are currently consulting on new generation tariffs based on fresh evidence collected by independent consultants which suggests that, amongst other issues, the costs of buying and installing solar technology has fallen significantly since our last review in 2012. The proposed new tariffs are designed to bring forward more renewables deployment and still give investors a return on their investment of between 4-9%. Proposing appropriate tariffs is part of the consultation process and we welcome further evidence from stakeholders on our assumptions. The generation tariff is not the whole picture for those benefitting from generating their own electricity. FIT recipients also benefit from significant savings on their electricity bills as well as payments for exporting electricity to the grid. Factoring these benefits into the overall lifetime revenue for small-scale solar investors results in an overall reduction in revenue of 40%, rather than 87%, and this still provides an appropriate return on investment. FITs has been successful in meeting its renewable energy deployment projections. We have already met or exceeded our 2020 projections for wind, hydro, and anaerobic digestion and, even if we implement the cost control measures of the FIT Review, we will be within the 2020 deployment range for solar PV. Since 2010 we have seen an average of £7 bn a year of investment in renewables and last year we reached a record high of almost £8 bn. However, figures released by the Office for Budgetary Responsibility in July 2015 project that we are likely to exceed the budget set for renewable energy subsidies (the ‘Levy Control Framework’) by £1.5bn a year in 2020/21. Public expenditure on renewables has therefore exceeded all our expectations. This expenditure is helping to meet our target to generate at least 30% of our electricity from renewables by 2020. Even with the actions proposed in the FIT Review we are on track to deliver at least 30% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2020. At the end of 2013, our share of electricity generation from renewable energy was 14.9%. In 2014 this figure rose to 19.2%, and a record of 22.3% was recorded in the first quarter of 2015.’ DECC’s letter to petitioners- a good try!
 What next? A ‘subsidy free’ CfD?
A new Policy Exchange report, ‘Powering Up: The future of onshore wind in the UK’, says that, rather than being excluded from Contracts for Difference, onshore wind should continue to receive CfD support, albeit with the subsidy element phased out in stages, so that they effectively become ‘subsidy free’ by 2020. It predicts that this would help the onshore wind industry reduce costs from £85/MWh to approx. £60/MWh by 2020, putting it on a par with new gas plants. This from a right-wing group! There’s hope yet - even maybe for PV?
Meanwhile we can expect more lobbying on the proposed FiT changes. Here’s a good start point, noting that the current set up only costs consumers about £7 p.a., while under the proposed new interim scheme, returns to PV investors would fall to 4-5%, making it unviable:
DECC puts it higher (see Box above), but also says it’s assessment of affordability in the review will depend not just on ‘future generation tariffs settled through this consultation,’ but also on ‘deployment in other areas of the LCF’ (the CfD perhaps?), as well as (even more open ended), ‘Government’s decisions surrounding other renewables priorities’. So it’s all in flux.
*The Ecologist came up with a proposal to scrap it all and just go for low interest grants/market access guarantees:b  Not quite as radical, but the FT did finally say Hinkley should be rethought:  That would free up the CfD...
Corbyn’s radical new direction for Labour
 ‘I am opposed to fracking and to new nuclear on the basis of the dangers posed to our eco- systems. We must take action now to keep fossil fuels in the ground - end dirty energy hand- outs, ban fracking and set a target date to end new fossil fuel extraction, and begin to phase out high polluting coal power stations with support for workers to re-train. Britain should scrap the ‘capacity market’ which subsidises coal, gas and nuclear power at greater expense.’ Note that Germany has decided not to introduce a UK-style capacity market for similar reasons. Corbyn says Britain has the largest renewable energy potential in Europe. Using just one-third of our offshore wind, wave and tidal energy potential would make Britain a net exporter of electricity. 275,000 people already work in renewable energy in Britain, and renewables already generate nearly a fifth of our electricity. Under Tory cuts to solar, wind and home insulation programmes, green projects are being scrapped along with their potential for jobs. Investment in a green future could re-establish a manufacturing base of the future, rebalance our economy and create a million high-skilled jobs.’  He included ‘clean coal’ as a possible option: gasification for H2 with CCS? Manifesto:i Policies:  Praise for the change:  and Also helpful, on the municipal approach that Corbyn
Energy options: where we might go next
Prof. Catherine Mitchell’s ‘no regrets’ scenario review is interesting:
Certainly we have to spread risks, but, along with PV, offshore wind is set to expand, with monthly average capacity factors reaching 38.3% in Round 2:  Though eco-impacts will need careful attention:                   
*Dave Elliott’s new book, ‘Green Energy Futures’, offers a strong case for pushing ahead with renewables. Greenpeace say ‘85% by 2030’ is possible:
Shale gas Labour Peer Bryony Worthington says fracking will create less CO2 than compressing gas in Qatar and shipping it to Britain. But she wants CCS to cut it more. 

DECC, renewables and the longer term 
DECC seems to be on a mission to cut back support for renewables across the board- so as to save money. The scale and pace of change is stunning. DECC admits that this may have a big impact. For example, in terms of the sudden withdrawal (on Oct 1st) of pre-accreditation for FiTs, it said ‘we recognise that this decision will introduce considerable uncertainty in the short term, but consider that it is necessary to safeguard spend under the scheme while we carry out the FIT Review’, although that may do away with FiTs altogether - by January!
The RO is almost dead. The RHI looks like it might be next. Following the Green Deal, and the Zero Carbon Homes, on the (mainly) heat side… But there may be more. On the power side, the cuts so far have focused on solar and on-shore wind. Will offshore wind be next?
So far, it’s escaped cuts, and is expanding.
However the expected next round of CfD, its future mainstay, has been delayed and the demise of the Navitus project does not bode well - although that was a planning decision, based on the allegedly high visual impact on a World Heritage site. Even so we may see more cuts and dramatic policy shifts, maybe dressed up in wider strategic terms. Thus Stephen Lovegrove, Permanent Secretary to DECC, told a Parliamentary Committee: ‘One of the things we’ve recently learnt is that technology across the energy system moves much more quickly than we thought.’ In particular smart grids and dynamic energy demand management are being portrayed as ways to meet emissions targets without having to use allegedly expensive renewables. Lovegrove said ‘It may be that energy efficiency measures mean those carbon targets may be achieved through reducing demand rather than replacing generation’. Warming to the theme, and adding energy storage to the mix, a Mail Money feature said that, in an expected new policy move (with a market reset policy awaited), Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, ‘will focus on how technology could transform the industry’ and quoted a ‘high ranking energy source’ as saying ‘the changes we see coming at an extraordinary pace will result in central power generating capacity becoming redundant. It will mean fewer of everything including fewer big power stations.’ This, the Mail noted, was after a further delay to Hinkley had been announced. Could it be DECC is preparing to ditch it and other major projects? And (see below) the EU targets too?  Labours New Shadow Energy Secretary Lisa Nandy, will be busy. She is pro- nuclear but has spoken out on EPR costs.

UK & EU Will the UK cop out of its 15% 2020 EU renewable target?
By paying for credits from projects elsewhere in the EU? Or just pay a small fine?
It is already opposing any attempt to toughen up the EUs next, 27% 2030, target -
which is not mandatory on individual countries. So what happens if 27% isn’t
reached? The UK can duck out of that too. Given that there are no real sanctions…

Nuclear News
Hinkley gets going- maybe

Despite the problems and opposition (e.g., EDF’s 3.2 GW Hinkley project is live, though delayed and still awaiting a final investment decision ‘by the end of the year’.
A Chinese corporation will provide a third of the upfront investment. The clawback costs will still fall on future UK consumers, thanks to the generous £92.5/MWh CfD index-linked strike price, backed by a £10bn state investment guarantee - with £2bn offered initially. That, and maybe fears about Chinese dominance, led to calls for all nuclear to be privatised.

Nationalise it

In a report on green levies, ‘When the Levy Breaks’, the centre-left IPPR backed the idea of publicly owned nuclear. Hinkley, it noted, was the first of 12 the government wants to build. ‘Our view is that a new nuclear programme at this scale is not feasible due to the costs involved.’ But, if new nuclear power projects are to continue to be supported, beyond Hinkley, ‘the government should use different financing arrangements that would provide better value for money for the British public’.  It said that ‘public ownership of new nuclear projects could bring substantial savings to families and businesses compared to the current approach because the government is better placed than private firms to bear certain risks. The government could borrow more to enable this to happen, or projects could be financed through existing capital budgets in place of other major infrastructure schemes. The cost of building new nuclear capacity could be significantly reduced if the British
government owned the new reactors while contracting construction & leasing operation to private firms. For a nuclear programme on this scale, public ownership during the construction phase could save consumers £1.2-1.8 bn between 2015 and 2035, by socialising policy risks and therefore reducing financing costs. If public ownership was continued during the operational phase but private companies ran each nuclear plant, this could produce additional savings for the consumer of £2.5-3.7 bn over the period.’
Forget it Former Tory Energy Secretary Lord Howell saw the Hinkley project as ‘by far the biggest future burden on consumers and households’ and ‘one of the worst deals ever for British households & British industry’. He was ‘very pro-nuclear’, but he ‘would shed no tears at all if the elephantine Hinkley C Project was abandoned’.
Public views on nuclear- still mixed
In DECC’s last public opinion survey, 33% of those asked backed nuclear (an all time low), 24% were opposed, 40% were unsure: An industry poll found much more support, but was framed with some oddly optimistic assumptions: Three new generation plants - including the station at Hinkley Point - are expected to start coming online in 2023, with an estimated 19 GW of capacity’:  More like 2030, if then! There do seem to be gaps opening up in viewpoints. At the launch of the 2015 edition of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, lead author Mycle Schneider said: ‘The gap between the perception of the nuclear sector by decision-makers, the media and the public and the general declining trend as well as the deep crisis that threatens the very existence of some of the largest players is puzzling. A thorough reality check is urgently needed, especially in countries like the U.K.’  
Hinkley waste costs In June, DECC Minister Andrea Leadsom said they
estimated the decommissioning and long-term radioactive waste management costs for Hinkley will be ‘around £2 /MWh of the [£92.5] strike price’.
Bradwell   China gets  a plant option there under the Hinkley deal…

Wylfa & Oldbury Reactor chemistry issues with Hitachi-GE’s Advanced
Boiling Water Reactor were raised by the UK regulators when they assessed it:
Moorside The Westinghouse AP1000, proposed for a site in Cumbria, may be no better:

2. Global news and developments
Green Jobs There were 7.7 million people employed in renewable energy globally in 2014, says IRENA, an 18% increase from to 2013 figure of 6.5 m. The 10 countries with the largest renewable energy employment figures were China, Brazil, the United States, India, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, France, Bangladesh and Colombia.
Stranded assets Private and state-owned energy companies own reserves of fossil fuel that are nearly 5 times more than can be burned if the global temp rise is to be kept below 2o:  But subsidies continue!
Booming assets By contrast, things are looking up for renewables, to judge by media coverage. Earlier this year the Financial Times said that ‘instead of the subsidy cuts, bankruptcies, trade rows and investment  dips that dominated the sector three or four years ago, there have been  record levels of installations, surprising price falls and a welcome surge in spending’.  
And Grist had this very positive assessment:
Certainly, as a UNEP/ BNEF report made clear, globally renewables are becoming a significant power source. Driven by rapid expansion in developing countries, new plant installations in 2014 surpassed 100 GW for the first time, according to its Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment report, with £270bn being invested. That was after a dip in the 2 years before. It saw this ‘rebound’ as a case of renewables ‘brushing aside the challenge of sharply lower crude oil prices’, led by wind and PV. The Guardian said ‘It appears that renewable energy is now entering the market at a scale that is relevant in energy industry terms - and at a price that is competitive with fossil fuels’. It does all seem to be looking promising:                                              
WTO  The World Trade Organisation isn’t all bad in relation to renewables, says a new study: Well, we’d take some persuading e.g. on TTIP
The IMF put world fossil fuel subsidies at $5.3tn p.a.- 6.5% of global GDP:
The G7 says phase-out all fossil fuel use by 2100- far too late!

 Sustainable Energy for All 
The UN’s global Sustainable Energy for All programme rumbles on, with three key goals of: doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix; doubling the global rate of energy efficiency improvement; and ensuring universal access to modern energy by 2030. There have been major high-level gatherings at the UN in New York, like this one on finance:  Kandeh Yumkella, CEO of the SE4ALL initiative, said it was not a question of charity: ‘This is about markets and investments. We see this as a trillion-dollar opportunity, not a trillion-dollar challenge.’ But there are also a lot of good grass roots initiatives e.g. the EU backed programme in eastern and central Africa, supported via the EU’s Technical Assistance Facility. There’s a strong focus on technology e.g. see the SE4ALL biomass initiative: But as that illustrates, there can be conflicts over technology choices. See below for examples that have emerged initially in industrial countries, but are relevant globally.
Solar battles  Focused CSP and PV are to some extent rivals. PV is winning on cost. CSPToday says ‘PV currently prices at around US$0.08/kWh on average according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. The winning tender in the recent Dubai Solar Park II project demonstrated that even US$0.06 is possible. By comparison, the LCOE for CSP is higher. It is generally around US$0.20 and US$0.25 with parabolic trough systems ranging between $0.17 and $0.35 and solar tower plants between $0.17 to $0.29.’ But it says CSP has the big plus that some of the collected heat can be stored in molten salt heat stores and used to raise steam to keep the turbines running when the sun is down. Fair enough. Unless batteries or other types of electricity storage get very cheap, CSP can still beat PV if firm power, 24/7, is needed. But battery storage is getting cheaper and there are other non-storage options for balancing grids, so CSP may have problems. It also needs cooling, though so does desert CPV.        PV can be deployed at a range of scales, so it may have the edge. It’s doing well in the USA- over 20GW, with talk of local mini grids:   and Not everyone likes fully decentral power- MITs new report (see later) says utility scale PV is cheaper. But there is a social dimension, and local initiatives, like this one in Japan, can be inspiring:             
Battery Battles Much could change if batteries get cheap. They can enable local off-grid or mini-grid operation which may be the only current option in developing regions like rural Africa. But not everyone sees this as an ideal approach long-term, since full grid integration allows for a wider range of renewables of all scales to be linked in, to balance local supply and demand variations. But batteries may have a role, even in industrial countries. See this EU report:
Biomass battles The US based Dogwood Alliance dig in against burning trees. ‘There was a general misunderstanding’ when Europe included wood pellet biomass in their 2020 renewable energy target. It was thought that the industry would rely on scraps or waste left over from other manufacturing processes. But what has happened instead is that ‘utilities really like burning stuff’ and they are now burning whole trees and large, coarse woody residues, like tree tops, harming local forests and setting back climate targets: at the very least more regulation is needed, but there are better biomass options. http://thinkprogressorg/climate/2015/04/16/3644889/woody-biomass-is-thicket-of-trouble/  Also see  The biomass lobby however see it as all booming: WBA report:
There are more battles e.g. over hydro impacts, but pumped storage is a plus:

Global Apollo: Big Technology push
The Global Apollo Programme calls for efforts to be made on clean energy comparable in scale and scope to a unified international space programme and has been put together by a team which includes Sir David King, a former chief scientific advisor to the UK government.
It calls for ‘a major scientific and technological programme of research, using the best minds
in the world & the best science’. GAP says that three ‘pillars’ of clean energy are renewables,
nuclear and fossil fuel CCS, supported by energy efficiency, transmission, and storage. It
claims that nuclear, CCS and efficiency already enjoy a ‘high level of research effort’, 
but the renewables, storage and transmission need extra support. Well most renewables are now well beyond the R&D stage – it's help with wide deployment that is needed. 
But R&D can help get prices down and find new ideas - with system integration level innovation being the key.
Global tech overview                                                                                          Wind energy is now at over 370 GW. It continues to grow, spreading well beyond the initial leaders (Germany, China and the USA) into developing countries, although they have helped this diffusion. For example Germany’s Siemens has won an Egyptian order for 12 wind farms in the Gulf of Suez and West Nile areas, with about 600 wind turbines and an installed capacity of 2 GW. Offshore projects are a new focus in many developed countries, led by the UK, but with Japan making progress with floating devices - a 7 MW unit is under test 20km off Fukushima. New ideas also continue to emerge. One of the more interesting (see fig. above) is the idea of direct heat production from wind turbines, using mechanical churns or, more likely, eddy current electromagnetic induction heating, the heat being stored for later use for power generation, avoiding the need for back-up power:                                                  
Solar PV has also continued to grow, reaching over 180 GW in total and is meeting over 1% of the annual global electricity demand, with levelized costs of electricity as low as 6 US cents/kWh or less. See:  Projects in Arizona are going ahead at 4c/kWh! UBS says that PV could supply up to 10% of the world’s power within a decade, with installed capacity to tripling by 2025, with PV becoming the ‘default technology of the future’.
The debate on scale continues: while kW-scale domestic roof-top projects boom, so do MW-scale solar farms and larger utility-scale schemes, 500 MW and above.  MIT (see below) says the latter are 30% cheaper in system cost terms, but this may only apply to the US and, in any case, misses out local social and economic benefits from decentralised energy self-generation, e.g., see  There are also land-use constraints on large utility projects which roof-top projects avoid. Though, as MIT says, grid-linked self-generators ought to pay the grid connection and management costs of balancing. Pity the attempt by prosumer activists in Berlin to take over the local distribution system from private utility control failed: a city-wide consumer owned co-op could perhaps have sorted this. As it is, it remains an issue in the EU and the US. 
Municipalisation might be an answer.             
Carbon recycling  Buckminster Fuller, US philosopher, systems theorist, architect and inventor, once said: Pollution is nothing but resources we’re not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value. But if we got onto a planning basis, the government could trap pollutants in the stacks and spillages and get back more money than this would cost out of the stockpiled chemistries they’d be collecting. In an interesting article in the RSCs Green Chemistry Energy and Environment journal, Geoffrey Ozin says You can’t have an energy revolution without transforming advances in materials, chemistry and catalysis into policy change and action,’ and looks at how CO2 should be considered ‘as a chemical resource to be harvested and recycled to a renewable fuel using the power of the sun and the assistance of a catalyst’. Energy Environ. Sci., 2015, 8, 1682:  There are certainly some ideas for that around the world - e.g. using renewably generated hydrogen to convert CO2 into synfuel, with Germany taking the lead in developing Power to Gas and Power to Liquid systems. Not everything can be recycled. Few now want diesel cars: diesel was once touted as lower carbon and priced cheaper than petrol, but now particulate/NOX  emissions are a concern. The French government is offering €10k if you swap one for a plug-in electric vehicle! To run off (mostly still) nuclear electricity!
EU News
EU Energy:Towards 2030 
- dialogue project                                              
  It’s usually hard wading through EU energy reports, but the Towards 2030 dialogue series is an exception. See for example the 3rd Issue Paper ‘What will be the main challenges for the design of Renewable Electricity policy in the EU?’. All the issues on the way to 2030 were very familiar: e.g. how to keep prices down while supporting innovation - to reduce prices!  Also see    
Germany: offshore wind gets EC approval  
German plans to support the construction and operation of 20 offshore wind farms do not conflict with EU state aid rules, the European Commission (EC) has found. The 17 wind farms in the North Sea and three in the Baltic will further EU energy and environmental objectives without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market, the EC said. It also expects these projects to enable new electricity providers to enter the German generation market. ‘This will have a positive effect on competition,’ it added. The total costs for the 7 GW of project is €29.3bn. All wind farms are planned to start producing electricity by the end of 2019 at the latest, generating 28 TWh p.a., almost 13% of Germany’s 2020 renewable energy target:  They will feed into the proposed new revised Electricity Market 2.0:,did=721538.html 
100%possible  A German Federal Environmental Agency study looks to a greenhouse gas-neutral Germany in 2050, with no nuclear, CCS or biomass crops. But imports would be needed.
*Critical look: German FiTs lock wind in and limit change:
*Power consumption fell 3.8% last year, even as the German  economy grew 1.4%. Wholesale power prices fell 13%, but  subsidies to fund Energiewende pushed consumer bills up 2%to the second-highest in the EU after Denmark. Eurostat Power market links in Germany, France & central-west Europe now let prices dictate where power flows. There’s more to come under the new Energy Union plan:  Power market links in Germany, France & central-west Europe now let prices dictate where power flows. There’s more to come under the new Energy Union plan:                     
France: 100% by 2050                                           A study by French Environment & Energy Agency Ademe, a draft of which the media leaked, says that supplying all electricity from renewables by 2050 would cost almost the same as the plan currently favored by the President and the Energy Ministry, to meet power needs with 50% nuclear, 40% renewables, &10% fossil fuel by 2050. Its 100% renewable electricity mix would have 63% wind offshore and onshore, 17% solar, 13% hydro, and 7% thermal energy (including geothermal).  Energy use would need to be cut by 14%, despite a projected population rise of 6 million. The report assumes that pre-tax consumer electricity costs will rise about 30% by mid century whether France opts for 100% renewables, or a mix of 50% nuclear, 40% renewables, and 10% fossil (primarily gas). So it’s a straight choice, with 100% renewables being a viable option. In fact Ademe says that the potential for electricity generation by renewables in France by 2050 (1268 TWh p.a.) is triple its projected electricity demand for that time (422 TWh).  So there’s plenty for heating and transport too. The full thing:                            
Spain The new PV solar tax is seen by opponents as a political tax on storing ‘illicit’ solar energy:  and                                                          
EU Experiments in local energy change     For a radical overview of progress with grass roots EU energy initiatives, see: Also see this report   And the ‘Innovations in Climate Governance’ (INOGOV) programme, a UKbased Tyndall Centre research initiative, which started in 2014, funded by  the European Co-operation in Science and Technology-COST. For a report on  a recent EU-wide workshop, stressing local initiatives, see:
Global roundup
US renewables swamp nuclear   
A review in Renewable Energy World noted that, in the last 10 years, the US added about 40 nuclear plants worth of renewables - 100 GW, but, given load factors, equivalent to 42.5 GW of firm power. Nuclear added almost nothing. Over the next 10 years renewables should add 305 GW (131 GW firm), but nuclear  only 5.6 GW (5.1 GW firm).
Why? Because renewables are now becoming cheaper:
…and MIT says PV could be the winner in the US
Some say PV solar may not be all that its cracked up to be: solar-power   However MIT’s big report on The Future of Solar Energy says PV could and should be scalable to TWs: the main goal of U.S. solar policy should be to build the foundation for a massive scale-up of solar generation over the next few decades. The federal PV R&D program should focus on new technologies, not - as has been the trend in recent years - on near-term reductions in the cost of crystalline silicon’. But in a blow to ‘grid defection’ decentralists (see Box below left) it says, given the alleged 70% higher wholesale system cost, ‘residential PV generation should not continue to be more heavily subsidized than utility-scale PV generation. Eliminating this uneconomic disparity will require replacing per-kWh distribution charges with a system for recovering utilities’ distribution costs that reflects network users’ impacts on those costs.’ It’s also unhappy with the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) support system. ‘There is certainly no general economic reason to favor a quantity-oriented approach like RPS over the price-oriented approaches generally used internationally; moreover, the quantity approach does not appear to be administratively simpler. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more complex regime than the
multiplicity of different state programs now in place in the US.’ So it seems to like FiTs: See below. A big key report:
MIT on FiTs ‘One very important and desirable property of feed-in tariffs is that they preserve strong incentives for both investment efficiency and operating efficiency. With the price of output fixed, every dollar of investment cost reduction translates into a dollar of profit, and every additional kWh produced adds to profit. From the investors’ point of view, fixing the output price removes all risk associated with the supply and demand for electricity. This may be a large part of the reason for the popularity of feed-in tariffs and their potency per dollar of subsidy spending.  But the level of spending understates the true subsidy involved, since shifting risk from renewable generators to other parties in the market for electricity is also a subsidy albeit one that is essentially invisible’.
Decentral power-pros and cons
Another good PV overview, from Hass at UC Berkeley:
For a contrasting UK view backing local generation :

North America: urban madness spreads         
Vancouver has committed to 100% renewables. The west coast Canadian city of 600,000 aims to use only green energy for electricity, heating, cooling and transport. Georgetown, a city of 54,000 in Texas, aims to become 100% renewable within 2 years, after finalising a 25 year deal with SunEdison to supply it with power from a 150MW solar plant and a new 144MW windfarm. For a new 100% renewables US state-by-state plan see : By 2045, Hawaii aims to get 100% renewables.
Next: Obama’s new Clean Power Plan aims to cut emissions from power plants by 32% by 2030:  But some say it could do more:
 India - ‘green project auctions are best’           Auctions can be an effective mechanism to achieve India’s renewable energy targets, says a new report by Climate Policy Initiative and the Indian School of Business. Going against the received wisdom, it claims that auctions are more cost-effective than feed-in tariffs’. In the 20 auctions it examined from around the world, it says ‘auctions were almost always more cost-effective when compared to feed-in tariffs. Auctions for solar power, worldwide and in India, have resulted in tariff reductions of up to 58%. In countries other than India, auctions for wind power have resulted in tariff reductions of up to 30%.’ It notes that ‘typically, wind power in India has been procured through feed-in tariffs and solar power through auctions’.
Well, the fact that India has 22 GW of wind and only 3 GW of PV suggests that FiTs worked best! And certainly some of the evidence base used in the study is a little odd. The UK’s NFFO auction system in is portrayed as being ‘highly successful’ for wind - the best they cite, in terms of the cost of power from projects: they say 30% less than typically achieved by FiTs (in 1998, though less in other years). Maybe, but (as the study notes) deployment was low. Exactly: the NFFOs competitive contracts system led to very little wind capacity actually being installed: only the most competitive projects got through, so of course it looks cost effective, against say the FiT in Germany (not looked at) which led to vastly more wind (and later PV) capacity, and helped create a market which then led to price reductions. But all the other examples used are from developing countries and it may be true that there, with a smaller base of affluent consumers, FiTs are less effective than centralised auctions, even for PV. Certainly that’s what their results imply. India wants to have 100 GW of PV by 2022. Will auctions help?  IRENA also has report series on Auctions - it says 60 developing countries now use them. And for good or ill, in the EU, FiTs are being replaced by auctions. Is this trend unstoppable? 
For a different take on Indian energy policy, calling for a local rural focus,
Japan has agreed its new energy plan, with wind and PV well placed, but some nuclear also retained:  It now has a floating 2.3 MW PV array on a reservoir in Kasai, Hyogo:
China cleans up      
Coal consumption in China fell by almost 8% and CO2 emissions by around 5% in the first 4 months of 2015, compared to 2014. Economic growth has slowed and focused more on lower-carbon sectors, with more demand being met from renewables:

Saudis look to Solar not Oil
‘In Saudi Arabia, we recognise that eventually, one of these days, we’re not going to need fossil fuels. I don’t know when - 2040, 2050 or thereafter. So we have embarked on a program to develop solar energy. Hopefully, one of these days, instead of exporting fossil fuels, we will be exporting gigawatts of electric power.’ Ali Al-Naimi, Saudi Oil Minister
Brazil Brazil's wind power industry is set to grow by two thirds to near 10GW in 2015. A new auction round for renewable project should add 4.2GW, mostly wind.
Central Asia: a huge renewable resource  
Global Leap for Africa
The Global Leap Lighting and Energy Access Partnership (LEAP) aims to create commercial markets for local renewable energy e.g. in Africa, with the focus on local access, as reflected in a new infographic: ‘Pathways for Clean Energy Access’. That doesn’t mention the potential of super-grids for efficient long distance HVDC power transmission, but then Global Leap’s focus is on local issues and its stress is on mini grids: Also see USAID’s work in Africa:  
Other options On the large scale, a Swedish company is working on big 100 sq. metre area dish CSP focused solar units in South Africa, in the Kalahari desert: see picture right. Running Stirling engines, they can reportedly supply 85 MWh p.a., at 34% sunlight-to-power conversion efficiency, double that for good PV:  Heat stores could make this viable 24/7, and that might also help avoid the problem that some times you would have too much energy available and have to curtail output wastefully. As the new MIT solar report notes, that’s also an issue with PV. It looks at CSP as well as PV: 
New biomass options may also be relevant to developing regions. Forget about big biofuel plantations which need a lot of water - go for hardy cactus in dry areas, fungus in damp areas:  That might be a better bet than mining for uranium in Africa or elsewhere! But some renewable energy technologies need rare earths, like neodymium for wind turbine alternator magnets, which are not only scarce but also occur with other elements, some of them toxic (e.g. arsenic) or radioactive (including thorium), making mining risky. Anti-wind people sometimes argue that its continued expansion may result in a greater radiological hazard than using nuclear reactors. That may be overstated but its not something miners in developing countries (or anywhere else) ought to have to face. There are also issues with some battery materials: So there are scarcity and health and safety issues to face with green energy technology. Some of these materials can be recycled from old units and substitutes may be possible, but interestingly the MIT solar study did not see any major material problems ahead soon for PV, and certainly there is plenty of sand in the world’s deserts for Si PV cells! See Renew 2015 in Dec for more Ecomodernisation  
to save the world                                         
Prof. Barry Brook, and 17 others sharing a similar contrarian perspective, produced an Ecomodernisation Manifeso which perhaps predictably sees nuclear power as a key solution to our eco-ills, but also sees advanced solar as helping.  Rejecting ‘deep green’ social change approaches (along with ‘inefficient’ small-scale alternative community initiatives), and reliance on renewables (which are depicted as mostly not up to it and land intensive), they advocate a high technology approach, aiming to ‘decouple human development from environmental impacts’, by intensifing activities such as agriculture and energy production in some areas and leaving others alone, as wild zones. So, along with fast breeders, thorium and fusion, they talk of the adoption of vertical farms and bio-engineered crops, with emerging plasma-arc torch technology that ‘can almost completely recycle and recover materials from solid waste’. A big series of dire technical fixes.
COP 21 With the key Paris climate talks due to start soon, a global poll found strong public support for action:  But the National emission cut targets don’t look too good. The EUs 40% by 2030 target sets the bar high, besting Canada’s 30% cut, Australia’s 26-28%, Japan’s 26% (all by 2030) and the USA’s 26-28% (by 2025)! China just says it will stabalise by 2030. Some seem to be on a very different planet. Here’s a good overview:

Nuclear news
German phase out
The cost of closing & decommissioning Germany’s nuclear plants could be €75 bn - a waste dump included. So some say halt the phase out. But the costs will have to be faced soon. 8 plants have already been closed. Delaying closure of the remaining 9 plants would allow them to earn more income, but they too would have to close and be decommissioned by 2022, and the waste they generated dealt with. Closing them in 2022, as planned, will save money since less radioactive waste will be generated. So there’s no big economic case for delaying closure, even ignoring the external costs.
Sweden meantime is closing its Ringhals 1 & 2 plants. With no new plants in view, that and other planned phase outs means a gradual nuclear decline. But if Sweden phases all nuclear out, emissions and deaths will rise, says Barry Brook since it will use more coal instead. Surely not if renewables take over?
Meanwhile the French reprocessing plant at Cap La Hague is going bust:
And EDFs financial problems grow: Now the Flamanville EPR’s start up has been put back by yet another year, until 2018 or maybe later, with the cost now put at €10.5bn!

Japanese radiation scares
Sendai’s nuclear plants 1 & 2 are now live, having been restarted after a long battle. That has been set in the context of some radiation scares.  Earlier this year, authorities in Tokyo cordoned off a new children’s playground where high levels of radiation were detected - in one part, 480 microsieverts per hour, or nearly half the recommended annual limit of exposure. Could it be a single particle blown on the wind? But why now? And why was the playground monitored? After the 2011 Fukushima disaster, 155 miles away, concerned parents and citizens measured radiation levels in Tokyo schools and parks, so maybe they have continued and spotted it. To add to nuclear paranoia there were media reports that a drone containing a small amount of radioactive material was found at Prime Minister Abe's office building: Another odd event was the discovery of 17 dead dolphins washed up on a beach near Fukushima. It was suggested they had died due to radiation exposure, but it’s not certain:
*‘There is a 50% chance that a Chernobyl event (or larger) occurs in the next 27 years’ says a US report:

Last EU gasp?
‘Governments must take action to ensure that the lights will stay on decades into the future and policies are needed to steer us to an environmentally sound energy mix.’ So said Agneta Rising, from the World Nuclear Association at the World Nuclear Fuel Cycle conference in Prague in April. Fair enough. She added ‘Deregulated markets, while promoting competition, are leading to prioritisation of short-term returns over more environmentally sustainable and economically sound long-term investments’. Also true. But then came her punch line: ‘Nuclear generation is by far the single largest source of low carbon electricity in Europe; it is close to being the largest single source of generation of any kind, providing 28% of all electricity consumed. And yet nuclear is frequently left off the agenda of European energy initiatives. It is time that Europe recognized that nuclear energy is the low carbon foundation of its energy system and the choice of many of its members.’ See the options below.

Next nuclear Generation IV International Forum on Gen IV options. For nuclear designs that might be developed ‘by the second half of this century’, it  chose six candidates: Sodium-cooled Fast Reactors (SFR); Very High Temperature Reactors, with thermal neutron spectrum (VHTR); Gas-cooled Fast Reactors (GFR); Lead-cooled Fast Reactors or Lead-Bismuth Eutectic (LBE) cooled Fast Reactors  (LFR); Molten Salt Reactors (MSR), with fast or thermal neutron spectrum; SuperCritical Water Reactors (SCWR), with fast or thermal neutron spectrum. A review by the French agency IRSN, from the point of view of safety and radiation protection, considered that the SFR system was the only one to have reached a degree of maturity ‘compatible with the construction of a Generation IV reactor prototype during the first half of the 21st century’, but more work was still needed. So even the best is decades away at commercial scale: for now we are stuck with Gen III PWR/BWR’s and their upgrades.
3. Forum Odds and ends for you to chew on
 Comments welcome!
Sink alone or Swim together ‘We built the electric system into a fleet of centralized, monopoly Titanics at a time when all we wanted was affordable and reliable power. But technology has radically changed the horizon. There are major obstacles ahead and electric utilities aren’t likely to act quickly enough to avoid them.’ So said John Farrell in an article entitled  Are We Sunk? The Electric Utility’s Titanic Problem’ in Renewable Energy World. And looking to what can be done, given that ‘the cost of distributed renewable energy has fallen so sharply that many people are reducing their reliance on the electric utility’, he notes that the Rocky Mountain Institute suggests that as energy storage costs start to fall with mass adoption, there’s a real possibility for (wealthier) individuals and businesses to defect from the grid, i.e. commandeer the lifeboats. However he says ‘more promising is the rise of collective action. In Boulder, CO, the city has opted to seize the ship, by orchestrating a city-driven takeover of the local energy system in order to deliver more clean, local power. In Minneapolis, MN, grassroots action has driven the electric and gas utilities into a clean energy partnership with the city under the intention of meeting the city’s climate and equity goals. Citizens in Santa Fe, New Mexico, are also asking how a city-owned utility could dramatically shift investment toward a more efficient and cleaner electricity system.’ There are of course a lot more initiatives like that in Germany. Also take a look at which notes that, whereas a decade ago California was in the grip of blackouts due to poor conventional power generation, now it had in anything a surplus of green power. * Germans pay much more for energy due to high renewable costs, say critics, but it’s not really true:
 Lost in transatlantic translation  Our US friends tie themselves in knots. When trying to think about subsidy schemes for renewables… The MITs excellent report of the Future of Solar looks at FiTs, which it admits can work well, and says ‘it is not obvious why the output quota or RPS approach is so popular in the United States when experience internationally has made it so unpopular elsewhere’.  And one of the Haas team at Berkeley has come up with convoluted proposals for rewarding avoidance of emissions: Is it all because the US hates carbon or energy taxes or surcharges? They are not exactly popular in Tory Britain! So we only have a small FiT... and a mainstream CfD market-based system. And soon the FITs will be replaced by similar auction based mechanisms across the EU.  Maybe it’s not just the Americans who are confused! In fact they may be doing better:                                                                     
 Storage issues Is Tesla’s Powerwall Li Ion battery cheap? It depends on how you do the sums and on your needs.  Batteries like this can supply with a limited amount of power for a few hours - using power bought in (or self-generated) at say15p/ kWh. To be able to meet all home power needs reliably from PV including over long periods (e.g. in winter) when there’s less sun, you’d have to invest in a lot of ~£3000 Tesla units. So what would be the total energy cost/kWh? On one, admittedly critical, analysis, £22/kWh. Ouch:
A Winters Tale A familiar issue got another airing - or rather, the lack of air movements in well-insulated buildings got recycled  Mechanical ventilation isn’t much of an answer - it uses energy! But cold, damp and mould in old buildings is surely the big killer. Some say heat them with district heating and allow plenty of natural ventilation, while removing toxic building materials. But note that the Internet is consuming at least 8% of Britain’s power output, with the energy demand from data transmission, servers and storage as well as smart-phones, laptops and televisions. That’s evidently what we do on cold winter evenings!
Conflicting views on nuclear                                                                                                                                             Dr James Hansen, former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute, and a leading climate scientist, in a MIT lecture sponsored by the Dept. of Nuclear Science and Engineering, continued his advocacy of nuclear. He said Sweden had already achieved essentially carbon-free electricity, thanks to a combination of nuclear and hydro; France is nearing this goal, thanks mostly to its extensive use of nuclear. Both built most of their nuclear capacity within a decade, ‘so that has been the fastest way to decarbonize that has been demonstrated so far’.  So ‘we should have a carbon-free energy portfolio, and let the market find what is the least expensive way. We should be doing R&D on all the good candidates, and certainly nuclear is one of them.’
In a letter to the Guardian (21/4/15), countering a pro-nuclear editorial (20/4/15), Dr Gerry Wolff said ‘Nuclear plants are notoriously slow to build. Renewables, including “negawatts” (conservation of energy), can be built very much faster. Contrary to what is often claimed, nuclear power is not “zero carbon”. Peer-reviewed research shows that the nuclear cycle produces between 9 and 25 times more CO2 than wind power. When all the hidden costs are added in, nuclear power is very much more expensive than renewables. Contrary to popular belief, nuclear power is a hindrance, not a help, in ensuring security of energy supplies. Like all kinds of equipment, nuclear power stations can and do fail. Failure of a nuclear plant is normally very disruptive on the grid because a relatively large amount of electricity is lost, often quite suddenly and with little warning. By contrast, variations in the output of renewables are much easier to manage because they are gradual and predictable. There are many techniques for keeping electricity supplies in balance with demands for electricity, which are themselves quite variable. There are now many reports showing how to decarbonise the world’s electricity supplies without using nuclear power. Many of them are listed, with download links, on’
*Hansen’s examples were perhaps not well chosen: Sweden’s new government has backed off new nuclear and France is phasing out 25% of its old plants and coming unstuck on it’s single much delayed new one. But it remains true that new nuclear technology might emerge that could avoid some of the problems encountered so far - at an unknown cost. And this is a clever twist: ‘Germany can ramp up renewables as fast as they like, but for every nuclear reactor they take offline, that represents an equivalent amount of coal generation that could have been retired instead. Death rates (deaths per GWh) for coal exceed those of nuclear power by well over two orders of magnitude.’  from  But it ignores the long term impacts of e.g. radioactive carbon-14 emissions - see Energy & Human Health (2013) Kirk et al Annual Review of Public Health, Vol. 34: 159-188. And also the potential for major loss of life: Clearly it’s all very controversial. For good or ill there is an OU course on nuclear energy:
SERA, the still anti-nuclear Socialist Environment & Resources Association seems to be making waves again after having arguably been sidelined in its Blairite phase:
Nuclear waste worries ‘The total quantity of low level radioactive waste existing in the UK, or forecast to be created in the UK, is greater than the total amount of existing disposal capacity and other management routes are therefore required.’  So says the UK government. So what are they going to do? Let it be dumped in landfill sites, and forgotten, if its radioactivity is below 4000Bq/kg, which is seen as very low level: controls on disposal of this material, after removal from the premises where the wastes arose, are not necessary’. They admit the use of landfill void is not, in principle, desirable’, but say it’spreferable to disposal at the LLW Repository, because there is only one LLW Repository; capacity there is much more limited than available landfill capacity, and disposal at the LLW Repository uses much more resources than disposal in landfill’.    Not everyone is happy with this. It’s been claimed that these levels are 6 times higher that the EU limit for food. We don’t eat landfill, but leachates from them may get into the food chain. The proposed separate higher level for materials contaminated with tritium (which will however be monitored) is claimed to be 400 times that allowed for tritium in water. See the Nuclear Free Local Authorities’ reactions to this ‘dilute and disperse’ policy:    An even worse idea: German waste No dodging
Climate change hurts - a study published in Nature Climate Change says.             75% of extreme hot days and 18% of days with heavy rainfall globally can be explained by warming seen over the industrial period. And in a future world with 2C warming above pre-industrial levels, almost all extreme hot days and 40% of heavy rainfall days will be down to rising temperatures: The ebb and flow of rainwater in the great river deltas of India and Bangladesh, enhanced by climate change, and the pressure that puts on the grinding tectonic plates under the surface of the planet may be linked to life-threatening extreme geological events, earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis, according to a group of eminent geologists and geophysicists including University College London’s Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of Geophysical and Climate Hazards, who said: ‘Climate change may play a critical role in triggering certain faults in certain places where they could kill a hell of a lot of people’.  Though here is a slightly under-cutting view: higher humidity levels may counter rising temperature impacts on rice and wheat yields:   And also this: Cold weather kills 20 times as many people as hot weather, according to an international study of over 74 million deaths in 384 locations across 13 countries. The findings, published in The Lancet, also says that deaths due to moderately hot or cold weather substantially exceed those resulting from extreme heat waves or cold spells.
* NASA now says sea level rises of 3ft are likely:
That’s mainly due to ice sheet melt, but also to the heat that has gone into the sea.
*Nature is to launch a new journal soon - Nature Energy:                        Cleaning up the seas:  If only it was so simple..
Fracking chemical fury  RSC - brazen or brave? The Royal Society of Chemistry, publishers of the journal Green Chemistry, has faced censure over an article on fracking in what is a forum seeking to harness chemistry to the green cause. The editor said this didn’t mean ‘we will now all of a sudden encourage the green chemistry community to focus on improvements of existing technologies, even if they are only incremental steps aside into the right direction on otherwise clearly unsustainable paths’. It was he said a one off. The article looked at stimuli-responsive/rheoreversible hydraulic fracturing fluids as a greener alternative to support geothermal and fossil energy production. NERN Newsletter 10/4/15                                        
Biomass visions Biomass AD could be used to support local energy supply via CHP. But dominant views see biomass just as a replacement  for conventional fuels. See this radical critique: Levidow & Papaioannou,  (2015) ‘Policy-driven, narrative-based evidence-gathering: UK priorities for decarbonisation through biomass’, Science and Public Policy:
Maybe this is a better example:

Upside down world Australia plans to import nuclear waste to make power in a PRISM plant.  The idea was relayed by Energy for Humanity, a new pro-nuclear lobby group: Why not use solar!? And with its similarly huge renewable resources, China could also do without nuclear risks, but seems to want to push ahead:  Back in the UK, here’s how Friends of the Earth see things:  But some wanted more of a focus on nuclear, and not just Hinkley:   Meanwhile watch out for some dodgy use of nuclear numbers: it’s contribution is often inflated  times 3.5:                  Smart meters may also not be all they’re cracked up to be: and And finally TEQs, the idea of imposing Tradable Energy Quotas, gets another outing: Wouldn’t this become a way for the rich to buy in carbon credits from the poor?
A Plug! Green Energy Futures: Dave Elliott’s new Palgrave Pivot