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The end of the FiT

By Dave Elliott

DECC’s consultation document on the Feed In Tariff (FiT) says: The future and size of the scheme will be determined by affordability criteria’, with the Levy Control Framework limits clearly being central. It goes on: ‘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’. This seems not so much a consultation as an ultimatum: accept interim cuts or the whole thing goes now, but it will end anyway, with, they say, their proposed ‘more stringent degression mechanism and deployment caps leading to the phased closure of the scheme in 2018-19’.

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Why not nuclear and renewables?

By Dave Elliott

Nuclear plants do not generate carbon dioxide, so why can’t we have nuclear AND renewables, supporting each other, as a response to climate change? In evidence to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee in July Amber Rudd MP, DECC Secretary of State, suggested that despite its high cost nuclear baseload ‘enables us to support more renewables’ and was needed since, ‘as we all know, until we get storage right, renewables are unreliable’. Can nuclear really support renewables, and is it really low carbon?

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Green energy cuts and subsidies

By Dave Elliott

‘Government support is designed to help technologies to stand on their own two feet, not to encourage a permanent reliance on subsidies. We must continue to take tough judgments about what new projects get subsidies’. So said Amber Rudd, the new UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm150622/debtext/150622-0001.htm#1506227000002

Are the cuts to renewable energy support she is imposing sensible?

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A new UK green energy transmission and storage vector

By Dave Elliott

This helpful paper from a team at Sheffield University, UK, entitled ‘Great Britain’s Energy Vectors and Transmission Level Energy Storage’, suggests that ‘power to gas’ conversion systems could supply synthetic gas (syngas), made using renewable electricity, for storage in the gas pipe network, so as to balance variable renewables, this  being a substantially larger storage option for the UK than pumped hydro.

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Plenty of renewables – and they can be balanced

By Dave Elliott

Is there enough renewable energy to meet global needs and can the use of variable sources be effectively balanced?  Recent reports say yes on both counts. In terms of the total resource, a GIS-based study of land/sea use/availability has put the total 2070 global potential for renewable electricity at up to 3,810 EJ, led by solar PV, with about a third of the PV being on buildings. The total estimated resource was roughly in line with most other global renewable studies, like that from the IPCC, and well above likely total global electricity demand, put at around 400 EJ: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378015000072 Continue reading

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UK Renewables can get to 80% or more

By Dave Elliott

A recent paper in Applied Energy, from two researchers at Imperial College London, offers some helpful policy and economic insights on the impacts of various UK possible energy mixes for electricity supply, including a high renewables mix, but with biomass use not included, based on detailed spatial (20 regions) and temporal (hourly) modelling. Scenarios with nuclear and fossil/CCS were also explored.

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World Bank looks to renewable integration

By Dave Elliott

‘With the right combination of new policies and investments, countries can integrate unprecedented shares of variable renewable energy into their grids without compromising adequacy, reliability or affordability’. So says the World Bank in a study of renewable integration and grid balancing options, focusing on energy storage and gas fired- back up plants, but also looking at other balancing options . Continue reading

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Which support systems work best?

By Dave Elliott

Renewable energy technologies have required subsidies to help them get established in markets dominated by sometimes cheaper but also often well-supported conventional energy sources – fossil and nuclear also enjoy subsidies. Essentially the renewable subsidies seek to reflect their environmental benefits – something that conventional markets do not internalise. However there are various ways in which subsidies can be applied and some work better than others. Continue reading

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Why do communities think so differently about bioenergy?

by Felix Creutzig

Various different scientific communities address the issue of bioenergy, climate change mitigation and sustainability. While everyone acknowledges the complexity of the issue, the emphasis in conclusions can be strikingly different. And the stakes could hardly be higher, given that the recent IPCC report points to the importance of bioenergy, especially in combination with carbon capture and storage (CCS), to reduce emissions, and even produce ‘negative emissions’: bioenergy in combination with CCS would suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and bury it underground. Hence, it becomes increasingly important to understand the differences between different strands of literature on this topic.

A recent publication, entitled, ‘Economic and ecological views on climate change mitigation with bioenergy and negative emissions‘, investigates this issue (here as pdf). The paper compares papers that emphasis biophysical limits to bioenergy production with some runs of integrated assessment models. It finds that a key difference is in the assumption space, especially assumptions on yields. If yields are increasing beyond historical rates, both food and bioenergy production can fit on existing agricultural land. If this yield increase is not realized, large-scale bioenergy production would become much less attractive. Notably, the counterfactual function of land of a CO2 sink would become quantitatively relevant, compromising the mitigation function of bioenergy.

Crucially, optimistic assumptions on yields are benchmarked in observed records in field trials. These are however only feasible with very high fertilizer and management input, and currently economically not competitive. Much will hinge not only on plant technology, but also on how management improves, also allowing for upscaling sustainable multi-purpose land use practice.

 

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Renewables: ‘an expensive disaster’

By Dave Elliott

We are spending too much on renewables and undermining competitiveness, so says a report Central Planning with Market Features: how renewable subsidies destroyed the UK electricity market, published by the Centre for Policy Studies. In it Rupert Darwall  says that recent energy policy represents the biggest expansion of state power since the nationalisations of the 1940s and 1950s, and is on course to be the most expensive domestic policy disaster in modern British history.

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