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UK has the best energy market system

By Dave Elliott

The UK governments response to an EU consultation on energy market design was pretty forthright: we had it right. The UK competitive market CfD system, buttressed by the new Capacity Market, was the best approach and would lead to a low cost, low carbon future. With support for some renewables being cut and the prospects for the £24bn Hinkley nuclear project looking very uncertain, doubts persist as to whether this approach would in fact deliver sufficient low carbon energy to meet the UK carbon reduction targets. But, in its EU response, the government remained very upbeat. Continue reading

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Green heat: not all going to plan

By Dave Elliott

A new report ‘Policy for Heat: Transforming the System’, from Carbon Connect, follows a cross-party inquiry chaired by Shadow Energy Minister, Jonathan Reynolds MP, and Conservative MP Rebecca Pow. It argues for the better development and greater integration of policy on low carbon heat, energy efficiency and new-build homes. It notes some big problems with current programmes, not helped by the scrapping of the Green Deal and the Zero Carbon Homes policy. Continue reading

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UK energy policy – grinding to a halt?

By Dave Elliott

At a meeting of the House of Commons Liaison Committee, which brings together the chairs of select committees, PM David Cameron in effect provided an overview of his take on key aspects of UK energy policy. It was quite revealing, with justifications being offered for the extensive cut-backs in support for most low-carbon projects, in order ‘to deliver low carbon at the lowest cost’. Very little seems to have survived unscathed. Continue reading

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Offshore wind – will the US catch up?

By Dave Elliott

It has been striking how much more enthusiastic the EU, and the UK especially, has been on offshore wind compared with the US. The EU will soon have nearly 11GW installed, compared to zero so far in the US. Part of the reason for the difference has been that, unlike the US, there are shallow waters off the UK and some other parts of the EU, which enabled earlier easier projects, with piles driven into the sea-bed for supporting towers – nursery slopes, in effect. It wasn’t until new “floating” wind technology emerged that deep-water sites further offshore became viable. Floating jacket leg and spar buoy systems are being tested off the EU coast and the US and Japan are also now in the race, in the later case as part of the response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, with a 2MW unit installed off Fukushima and 7MW floating devices now under test.
http://www.offshorewind.biz/2015/03/23/floaters-game-changers-for-offshore-wind/

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Small modular nuclear – is small beautiful?

By Dave Elliott

A new report ‘The role for nuclear within a low carbon energy system’ from the Energy Technologies Institute, claims that the UK could have 50GW of nuclear power plants by 2050, including Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). Although it says, due to basic economies of construction and operational scale, ‘large reactors are best suited for baseload electricity production’, it notes that, based on using existing sites, there is ‘an upper capacity limit in England and Wales to 2050 from site availability of around 35 GWe’, and it could be less (e.g. if CCS plants need some of the sites). However, there could be more room for small nuclear plants (under 300kW) on new sites, at least 21GW and in theory up to 63GW.

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German energy policy and phasing out coal

By Dave Elliott

The influential German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) has mapped out how it sees the future of coal. It notes that the Federal Government Coalition agreement (2013) states that: ‘the conventional power stations (lignite, coal, gas) remain an indispensable part of the national energy mix for the foreseeable future’, but it tries to put more flesh on that vague timescale, so as to better meet and exceed the 80% carbon reduction goals of the existing energy transition plan – it wants that raised to 95%. In particular it says that, with nuclear now being phased out (all of it by 2022), ‘an integrated energy policy should synchronise the phasing out of conventional power generation capacities and the increasing use of renewables’. Continue reading

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Climate action and birds

By Dave Elliott

“There is no habitat that benefits from coal pollution”, says David Roberts, commenting on an article in New Yorker last year by Jonathan Franzen, who was worried that, in the rush to deal with climate change by using renewables, local impacts on birds would get ignored, given the argument that global climate change due to fossil fuel use would hurt them much more than wind farms or whatever: http://grist.org/living/jonathan-franzen-is-confused-about-climate-change-but-then-lots-of-people-are/
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What a waste: an end of year lament

By Dave Elliott

In a post-Xmas pre-new year Scrooge-type austerity mood, I worry about the money we are wasting on energy. If you look at Sankey diagrams of energy flows from primary resources to final end use, you will see that for many countries around half the raw energy input is wasted in the conversion process, most of it being rejected into the atmosphere as heat, for example from steam-based fossil and nuclear generation systems.

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Goodbye to FiTs

By Dave Elliott

A shift away from Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) to project auctions as a way to support renewable energy seems to be underway across the EU. The UK government certainly has cut FiT levels and recently warned that the FiT system might be wound up entirely – and soon. Although it seems to have won a last minute partial reprieve, with the level of cuts being reduced from 87% to 64%, after something of an outcry, it is just a matter of time before it goes. Is this a good idea?

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Are reticent climate researchers ‘failing humanity’?

By James Dacey in San Francisco.

Droves of delegates poured into the Moscone Center in San Francisco today for day one of AGU Fall 2015 – the largest Earth and space-science meeting in the world, with a whopping 24,000 delegates expected over the week. Having arrived from the UK on Saturday night, the jet-lag has kicked in with a vengeance today, so a couple of the conference coffees were definitely in order this morning. I’m just taking a break now after an interesting session about communicating climate change, and whether those researchers who don’t engage in the public debate are “failing humanity”.

The room was packed to the rafters, no doubt down to the profile of the speakers. First up was James Hansen, the former NASA scientist who has been outspoken in his criticism of the recent COP21 climate discussions, or at least the lack of concrete proposals to cut carbon emissions. Hansen restated his beef with the deal and argued that the only workable solution is for authorities to collect a carbon fee at source, such as charging domestic mines for the weight of carbon they sell. This, he believes, is the most effective way to make renewable energy and low-carbon options more viable. Not one to pull his punches, Hansen described US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz’s idea that China will be able to curb much of its carbon missions using carbon capture and storage (CSS) technologies as “pure unadulterated bullshit”.

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