Category Archives: Renew your energy

Solar PV and energy storage

By Dave Elliott

Some say that the vision of households and businesses moving largely off-grid by storing solar power generated during the day for use overnight is close to becoming a reality. The prospects for moving entirely off grid may be limited – most projects will still need grid links to allow for top-ups when solar input is low for long periods and the stores are exhausted. However, that still leaves a significant potential for self-generation and storage.                                                                                        (more…)

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Swansea tidal lagoon ‘should be backed’

By Dave Elliott

The review of tidal lagoons by former energy minister Charles Hendry MP called on the government to start final negotiations with Tidal Lagoon Power Ltd on a CfD strike price so that the construction of the Swansea Bay plant could go ahead. Ministers are expected to respond to the Review before the March budget and, as reported in my last post, some reservations have been expressed about the high cost. Hendry, however, seems to be very enthused. He says it could be a wise test investment, possibly opening up options for cheaper lagoons in the future.    (more…)

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Whatever next?

By Dave Elliott

Simon Taylor’s The Fall and Rise of Nuclear Power in Britain’  (UIT Cambridge) is a readable scamper through the history of the UK nuclear programme, warts and all, with much detail on who did what. The government’s Chief Scientists, Sir David King and Sir David MacKay, are seen as having played key roles in recent years, and Taylor seems to accept the resultant official view that renewables won’t be sufficient: During those inevitable dreary November days when the UK has grey skies and no wind, it will be thermal power, whether gas-fired or nuclear, which keeps the UK moving, lit and warm. Nuclear therefore has a place in the mix for the foreseeable future’. 

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Green heat in the UK

by Dave Elliott

‘Heat is very difficult to decarbonise and no consensus is yet reached on the mix needed for the long term and you will have seen that from the various different reports on the subject.’  So said the then UK Minister of State for Energy, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, at the Heat Summit last December, with the next phase of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) central to the agenda. There certainly are some competing options, including community-wide heat networks, green gas supply networks, biomass and solar home heating and domestic heat pumps powered by electricity.

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WEC on renewables – a glass half empty!                                 

By Dave Elliott

The London-based World Energy Council (WEC) and the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) both regularly produce global energy scenarios. While they both still back nuclear and see fossil fuels as continuing to play a major role, these days they also increasingly identify renewables as a major player. However, the IEA tends to be more assertive in its promotion of renewables and efficiency, while WEC is usually more cautious.

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Renewables and nuclear both have problems

By Dave Elliott

Nuclear and renewables continue to be seen as rivals, with, as part of the debate, studies emerging that address their problems. A study by the Energy Institute at University College London says the UK’s proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear plant will be obsolete by the time it starts up (possibly EDF says in 2025/6) since it will be in competition with cheaper low carbon options, including wind and PV solar. These sources are variable, but at times they will produce all the electricity needed, leaving no room for Hinkley unless their output is curtailed. At other times they will only make small contributions, but the UCL team calculates that only around 20GW of ‘firm’ inputs like Hinkley will be needed to operate for more than half the year by 2030 to meet the gaps and peak demand. And there are cheaper more flexible balancing options for this than Hinkley.

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The cost of nuclear waste

A new year’s worry…

By Dave Elliott

One clear difference between renewables and nuclear power is that the former do not lead to the production of long-lived radioactive wastes and the associated problems and costs of dealing with them. Also, old wind and solar facilities can be easily removed, whereas nuclear plant decommissioning is complicated, risky and expensive. With a new UK nuclear expansion programme planned, how much will it cost us to eventually clean it up and deal with its wastes? (more…)

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Renewables hit by economic success

A Christmas success story – of sorts

By Dave Elliott

Renewables are getting cheaper, with the costs for some falling dramatically. However, as overall energy prices fall, due in part to the success of renewables, it is not just old fossil and nuclear plants that suffer, becoming stranded assets. Older less efficient renewable projects can also face problems, as has happened, it seems, with some older wind turbines. They need replacing with new better designs – reblading and repowering. But, as energy prices continue to fall, upgrades like this may not yield enough extra income to be worthwhile. This will be a continuing issue as renewables expand and get cheaper: the market value of wind and PV power drops with increasing market penetration and success.

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Energy in the US: the rise of renewables

By Dave Elliott

Energy use and impacts are changing in the USA, in part due to progressive policies from Obama, but also because of structural changes in the energy economy. Carbon dioxide emissions from US energy sector have fallen 12% since 2005, mainly since there has been a decline in the use of coal, although its fall back has mostly due to an increase in the use of natural gas to generate electricity. However, renewables are also playing growing roles, supplying around 16% of US power, eclipsing nuclear (their output overtook that from nuclear in 2010) and they are expanding fast, hitting 17% in the first part of 2016. But all that could change when Trump takes power. (more…)

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EU Energy politics at its best – and worst

By Dave Elliott

A 50% renewable electricity target for 2030 and a radical free market shake up – that’s what is on the cards from the latest EU proposals, with consumers empowered to self-generate and sell power themselves. The European Commission’s recent proposed energy policy changes aim to keep the EU competitive as the clean energy transition changes global energy markets. It also proposes new approaches to empowering and informing consumers, enabling them to self-consume renewable electricity without facing undue restrictions, and ensuring that they are remunerated for the electricity they feed into the grid. It also ‘recognizes energy communities and facilitates their participation in the market’.  (more…)

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