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Tag Archives: renewable energy

US: energy in La La land

By Dave Elliott

It is hard to know what will happen in the energy and climate policy area in the USA under Donald Trump’s presidency. Before his election he had famously rubbished climate change as a fraud and was clearly pretty hostile to renewables – and all things green. In office he has set about cutting support for climate-related US policies and has announced withdrawal from the COP21 Paris climate agreement. He has also sought cuts in government support for renewables in the US. But although federal support is important, many programmes are run at the state level and states may resist his directives. Companies may do too – renewables are increasingly profitable investments, and an area of rapid growth: just the sort of thing you would imagine he would like.

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Election promises on energy

By Dave Elliott

In the UK general election run up, with consumer power costs rising provocatively, there had been talk of a cap on energy prices and, in its election manifesto, although specifics were absent, the Conservative party certainly focused on economics. It said Our ambition is that the UK should have the lowest energy costs in Europe, both for households and businesses’ and it would aim for ‘competitive and affordable energy costs following a new independent review into the cost of energy’. (more…)

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Emission Reduction Plan

By Dave Elliott

Between 1990 and 2015, UK greenhouse gas emissions fell by 38% and should fall by 48% by 2020 on current policies, within the framework of carbon budgets established by the Climate Change Act. Looking further ahead, the UK has committed to a 5th carbon budget (for 2028-32) which requires greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 57% by 2030 (against 1990 levels), on the way to at least 80% by 2050. But there is still a way to go.

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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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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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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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EU Renewables round up

By Dave Elliott

Renewables are roaring ahead in Europe, with wind at over 140GW and PV surpassing 100GW. There have been some spectacular successes, with renewables briefly supplying 87% of German electricity at one point, and Portugal achieving similarly high contributions-something that’s a regular occurrence in Denmark. But progress may soon be slowed as  economic pressures mount and political reaction sets in with support schemes being withdrawn or constrained. For example, in Germany it’s all change as the government revises the Energiewende energy law with a slow down for wind and solar expansion, via annual capacity caps and reduced support levels. Portugal has also started to phase out its support for renewables, although not quite so aggressively as happened in Spain, or, for that matter, the UK. (more…)

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What sort of green grid system?

By Dave Elliott

It’s clear that we will need energy transmission grids and networks to help balance variable renewables and link up locations where there is excess to areas where there are temporary lulls, but what sort of energy is best for transmission? And for storage? Both are important and can interact: in some cases storage may be better as a local option than long distance transmission, while in other cases, long distance transmission may allow access to areas where storage (e.g. pumped hydro reservoirs) is easier.  However, electricity isn’t necessarily always the best option for either: for example, gas can be transmitted long distances with low losses and, once installed, gas pipelines are less invasive than power grid tower links. Gas can also be stored in bulk in underground caverns and the gas grid itself is a store. So as we move to a new energy system, we need to think about all the possible energy vectors – and that also includes heat.

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Delivering the goods – clean energy policy

By Dave Elliott

‘Delivering Energy Law and Policy in the EU and the US’, edited by Raphael J. Heffron, Gavin F. M. Little and published by Edinburgh University Press, is a compilation of short chapters from a very wide range of academics that reviews the state of play in the energy policy field in the West. As the editors note, one issue that emerges is the slow progress in relation to the adoption of new cleaner, greener energy options, which they say ‘encourages incumbents and in essence maintains their status’.  The reviews in this book look at what has been done so far and at what could be done to move things on in the future, via new policies and legislation.

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Renewables continue to boom globally

By Dave Elliott

BP says renewables have shown ‘a quicker pace of penetration than any other fuel source in modern history’, and their strong growth meant that they ‘accounted for all of the increase in global power generation in 2015’. BP’s latest review of world energy trends carbon notes that wind power capacity grew by 17.4% and solar by 32.6% last year, with China overtaking Germany and the US as the largest solar generator: www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy.html  REN21 has come up with equally high figures. And looking to the future, both see renewables booming, as does Bloomberg.

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