Posts by: Dave Elliott

Renewable innovation – and jobs

By Dave Elliott

IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, has looked at innovation options and potentials in the sustainable energy sector, in terms of what needs to be done to reduce global carbon emissions. It says that ‘energy efficiency and renewable energy have the potential to achieve 90% of the emissions reductions needed by 2050, with renewables accounting for two-thirds of primary energy supply in 2050’. At that point, wind and solar heat will lead at 15% each. However, in most cases, while some technical R&D may still be needed, innovations in business models, market designs, enabling infrastructure and systems operation, are equally crucial to achieve the energy transformation’. (more…)

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Whatever happened to wave power?

By Dave Elliott

‘The average rated capacity of wave energy devices over the past three years (2015-2017) was 70% lower than (in) the period between 2000 and 2014. In contrast tidal stream saw a 124% increase in the average rated capacity during the same period’. So says a report from Imperial College London and Strathclyde University, looking at what went wrong with the UK wave energy programme.

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Energy transitions in the UK

By Dave Elliott

The UK energy transition is progressing quite well on the electricity side, despite on-shore wind being constrained, but less progress has been made on green heat. A new Energy Research Partnership report on decarbonising heat, Transition to low-carbon heat’, looks at the technical, social, financial and governance aspects and highlights the key actions that need to be taken now and in the next few years. ERP says that ‘supplying natural gas or oil directly into homes will need to be replaced by a decarbonised gas or by electric heating or heat network. But it is not a simple choice: each option has challenges that could limit their deployment. A combination of options is likely to be required; no one option may not dominate, as natural gas currently does. Demand reduction will be an essential part of a cost-effective transition’.

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The Helm energy cost review

By Dave Elliott

In his wide-ranging review of energy costs for the UK government, Dieter Helm says ‘the cost of energy is too high, and higher than necessary to meet the Climate Change Act (CCA) target and the carbon budgets. Households and businesses have not fully benefited from the falling costs of gas and coal, the rapidly falling costs of renewables, or from the efficiency gains to network and supply costs which come from smart technologies. Prices should be falling, and they should go on falling into the medium and longer terms’.  And he sets out his ideas for enabling that to happen.                   (more…)

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Hydro power: good or bad?

By Dave Elliott

Hydroelectric power is still the largest source of renewable electricity, generating nearly 17% of all global electricity, with over 1,200GW of large and small capacity in use around the world, the small plants (under 10MW) making up over 10% of the total. Most projects involve the construction of large dams and reservoirs, but smaller run-of-the-river schemes are also common, operating on river flows, without reservoirs. More capacity of all types is being added all the time. For example, Brazil recently installed an extra 4GW, and some see hydro use expanding significantly worldwide in the years ahead. Others are less sure, and point to a range of environmental and strategic problems. (more…)

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The UK’s new Clean Growth Strategy

By Dave Elliott

Given the uncertainties about Brexit – when where, how, why and even if – there had been a striking lack of government policy activity in the energy field over the last few months. Many key issues seemed to be pushed into the future while we waited for the much delayed new Carbon plan and the Helm Price review. But the government has now finally come up with its new Clean Growth Strategy, as well as a (re) commitment (announced at the Tory party Conference) to a temporary energy price cap, though that may not start up until next year. (more…)

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Energy saving

By Dave Elliott

Efficient energy end-use is a huge and urgent topic. It obviously makes economic and environmental sense to avoid energy waste in all sectors, but it’s often hard to achieve savings effectively. And it’s often difficult to identify which options work well. POST, the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, recently came up with a useful review. But, rather glumly, it concluded that, although energy efficiency improvements can reduce fuel poverty and greenhouse gas emissions and improve comfort, health, wellbeing, energy security and economic productivity…. there is insufficient evidence to identify which types of policy are most effective’.   (more…)

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Offshore wind breaks through

By Dave Elliott

It’s unusual but things do occasionally change in the UK. We had been quietly awaiting the government’s much delayed Carbon Plan but then came an unexpected shock, a dramatic fall in offshore wind prices emerging from the new round of the Contract for Difference (CfD) auction process. Hornsea Project 1, now being built, had got a CfD strike price of £140/MWh in the first full CfD round in 2014. But in this second one, Dong’s huge 1.3 MW Hornsea Project 2 won a contract at £57.5/MWh for a 2021/22 start up – 60% less. So did another offshore large wind project, in Scotland, for a 2022/23 start up, while a third one got through at £74.5/MWh. That’s still way below the index-linked £92.5/MWh allocated to the Hinkley nuclear project, which won’t start up until years after these projects, if it ever does.

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Electric vehicles – will they break the system?

By Dave Elliott

Much has been said recently about electric vehicles (EVs) – they are on the way in large numbers, we are told. The Carbon Tracker/Grantham Institute report (see my earlier post) says that, by 2050, EVs will account for over two-thirds of the road transport market globally. That could change the transport system dramatically, although that alone won’t stop congestion. Unless we also move to autonomous cars and taxis, which should use road capacity more efficiently, we will just have queues of EVs – and continued pressure for more road building. But it could change the energy system. Not just in terms of replacing fossil fuels, but also in terms of changing and challenging the emergent non-fossil energy supply system.

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Greening road transport

By Dave Elliott

Road transport is responsible for around 15% of global carbon emissions. Can this be cut? The first question to ask is – do we want to have private and commercial vehicles on roads as at present? Buses, trams, trains, bikes and walking may be better for many journeys. But assuming we still need private and commercial road vehicles for at least some purposes, the most direct and least disruptive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to switch to lower carbon fuels, biofuels and synfuels. That’s easier than switching to electric vehicles (EVs). However, there are limits to biofuels – EVs are likely to win out.

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