The full 36 page journal can be obtained on subscription (details below). The extracts here only represent about 25% of it. This material can be freely used as long as it is not for commercial purposes and full credit is given to its source. The views expressed should not be taken to necessarily reflect the views of all NATTA members.
The UK doesn’t look likely to reach its target of getting 10% of electricity from renewables even by the end of 2010: our guess is 7%, but see Box below.
However the UK does now have over 4GW of installed wind generation capacity. This milestone was broken last Oct by the final commissioning of three wind farms- the EDF Energy Renewables 38MW Longpark, Scottish Power Renewables 30MW Dun Law extension and the first phase of Dong Energy’s 173MW Gunfleet Sands offshore wind farm. The British Wind Energy Association said ‘there are over 12GW of wind schemes either operational, being built or already with planning permission. When this pipeline of projects is built out in 2012, wind energy will have overtaken nuclear in installed capacity.’ But it also noted that wind farm planning approvals by local councils were at new low, with council approvals of applications having fallen to just 25%, from 63% in 2007. See BWEA’s State of the Industry Report: www.bwea.com/pdf/publications/SOI-report.pdf
Speaking at the BWEA annual conference last Oct former Labour Deputy Prime Minister Rt Hon John Prescott MP, said: ‘It is absolutely scandalous that three quarters of all planning applications for onshore wind turbines are turned down. We cannot let the vocal minority stop our move to a low carbon economy and stop us meeting our global emissions targets.’
In his speech to the BWEA, Tory Shadow Energy Minister, Charles Hendry said that renewable energy companies should be encouraged to offer greater benefits to the local communities who agree to host wind farms. He said that the Conservatives ‘want to see communities benefiting from new wind development in their area. This is why I would encourage renewable energy companies to offer discount rates or shares in commercial projects to the local community so they can share in the profit. We will also look at changing licence obligations to allow companies to offer discounts to those living near to a facility. Of course, more and different innovations should be expected from private industry. Whilst this will never take away the local community’s ability to say no to a development, it sets out clearly that there can be benefits to hosting a facility, which is the right approach to increasing the number of wind turbines in the UK.’
.. but UK will miss targets
Cambridge Econometrics say renewables will only reach 6.5% of UK electricity in 2010, not 10%. It will rise to around 15% by 2020, but well short of the aspirational 30% target. The renewable share of total energy would then be around 5%, compared to 2% in 2008- and the15% target! www.camecon.com
CCC want more FITs, wind, nukes, CCS
The first annual report to Parliament by CCC, the Committee on Climate Change, says that a step change is required in the pace of UK emissions reduction to meet the UK’s new carbon budgets, and that in some areas, new policy approaches will be required to deliver the Government’s Low Carbon Transition Plan.
It says the EU-Emission Trading System will not provide enough support for new energy projects. Additional options to be considered include carbon price strengthening (e.g. a fixed ‘floor’ price), providing more certainty on prices paid for low-carbon generation (e.g. via feed-in tariffs), and ensuring low-carbon investment (e.g. through a low-carbon obligation or emissions performance standard). It backs a scenario with 23GW of new wind (27GW in total, with an additional 12 GW onshore and 11 GW offshore), four CCS demonstration plants by 2016, and three new nuclear plants by 2022, (two by 2020), together with 4 GW of new non-wind renewables.
It notes that ‘there are concerns about the long-term sustainability of nuclear waste storage and about the possible implications of a global nuclear power industry for military nuclear proliferation. The Committee recognises that these issues go beyond cost economics alone. The Committee argued, however, that if nuclear is in principle acceptable, then cost economics will argue for a significant role in the generation mix.’ It also notes the view that ‘there may be a tension between high levels of renewables and the economics of nuclear new build’. It says ‘modelling, however, does not appear to bear out this hypothesis, and suggests that the projected demand/supply balance is such that there may only be limited periods of excess supply (‘spill’) even with both high levels of renewable and nuclear new build’.
It claims that, based on Poyry and Redpoint figures, by 2030, with nuclear and wind both on the grid together supplying up to nearly 64% of electricity, ‘spill’ would only occur 1.3-1.5% of the time. This seems remarkably low, given that for example, at night in summer electricity supply only needs around 20GW. Maybe they are assuming that the nuclear plants can be throttled back when there is ‘excess’ windpower available. That’s possible, but would add to the cost and has operational penalties, if done regularly. But then their scenario only has 3 new nuclear plants, not even a full replacement for the current 10GW or so in place. So you would not expect the operational conflict to be large. However, with the much larger nuclear programme also now planned (10 new plants: see p. 5), and more being discussed as a follow on, it would presumably get much worse.
Ploughing ahead though, CCC says that ‘high levels of wind generation and nuclear new build are both desirable over the first three budgets’, i.e. up to 2030, and adds:
• Wind generation offers the best opportunity for early decarbonisation of the power sector because it is the only low-carbon technology that is ready for deployment now.
• Nuclear new build is a cost-effective form of low carbon generation and early entry into the mix will contain the costs of decarbonisation through the 2020s and beyond.
Their scenario does not include the Severn Barrage, which they say ‘could deliver low-carbon electricity at reasonable cost but is relatively expensive compared to other low-carbon options currently available and offers limited scope for driving down costs through learning/wider technology deployment’. They add ‘Whilst this project may become an attractive option in the future if other technologies fail to deliver, it is not a clear current priority. However, we note that nuclear, CCS and other renewables carry their own delivery risks, and the option of constructing a barrage at the Severn in future should therefore be kept open. As such, even if building a smaller barrage or lagoon proves more cost-effective it may not be desirable to proceed with this option if it rules out the addition of a large barrage in the future.’
The government also seems to be treading it carefully. Lord Hunt, minister of state for energy and climate change told the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee on Oct 14th that a decision on the Severn Tidal projects will not be reached until 2010 and that if one of the larger schemes was chosen, it was unlikely to contribute towards meeting 2020 renewable energy targets. But ‘there are targets beyond 2020 and Severn tidal would be of long term benefit’, though ‘clearly the environmental impact poses very great challenges indeed’ and ‘in this case the economy issues do not trump the environmental impact’.
So for now it’s no baby and no bathwater!
The CCC chapter on new power generation options is at http://hmccc.s3.amazonaws.com/docs/21667%20CCC%20Report%20Chapter%204.pdf
New Grid link
National Grid has agreed with its Norwegian counterpart Statnett to draw up proposals for a £1bn grid interconnector link-up, to be funded on a 50/50 basis, which could help solve the problem of winds intermittency, given that Norwegian hydro could act as back-up for the UK, in return for electricity from the UK on windy days. As yet no UK landfall site has been indicated, but it could include connection nodes along the route with spurs taking power from offshore wind farms and become the backbone of a new North Sea ‘supergrid’. National Grid said ‘Greater interconnection with Europe will be an important tool to help us balance the system with large quantities of variable wind generation in the UK’.
Reporting this plan, the Telegraph noted that the UK ‘already has a connection with France and there is a link under construction with the Netherlands. France was forced to import UK electricity earlier this year when low river water caused 14 of its nuclear power stations to grind to a halt.’ These exchanges of course involve price battles. One idea we had to reduce them, and ease green power balancing, was an EU-wide Cross-feed Tariff, for green power that had been stored.
Ofgem has proposed a £500m fund to support large-scale trials of advanced network technology, which it says could help the electricity network accommodate growth in domestic micro-generation and electric vehicle use.
Wind not saved
The Glasgow-based Windsave’s domestic micro wind turbine company went into administration last year. Founded in 2002 Windsave launched its 1.2 kW turbine amidst much publicity. At one point the company claimed the roof-mounted windmill could save households up to 15% of their electricity bill. It said its competitive advantage came from its “Plug ‘n’ Save” technology which allowed electricity generated to be sent straight into the mains power unit instead of being stored in batteries. But, it acknowledged that, after paying for the turbine, it could take 5 to 10 years before homeowners started saving money. Until recently, Windsave turbines were sold at £1,900 through the B&Q chain but were withdrawn after research by the Energy Saving Trust. A statement on the company’s website said: ‘The study confirms that current micro wind turbine technology fails to deliver the results we originally hoped it would for the everyday householder living in an urban environment’.
Windsave told the BBC that some turbines had been erected in locations which were not suitable because of the lack of wind speed. A separate part of the business, Windsave Holdings, which supplies turbines to companies and public buildings, is continuing to trade. Source: BBC News web site
For a useful assessment see: www.bettergeneration.com/wind-turbine-reviews/windsave-ws1000.html
2. FIT/RO Consultation
The DECC consultation on the proposed new ‘Clean Energy Cashback’ Feed-In Tariff (FIT), and on the next set of baroque adjustments to the Renewables Obligation (RO) and to the linked Renewables Obligation Certificate (ROC) trading system produced some interesting inputs.
The FIT consultation led to some complaints by pioneering investors who installed small-scale renewable generators but who, it transpires, will not qualify for the FIT. Under the plan outlined in the consultation document all operators who installed a generator accredited under the RO before July 2009 with a capacity of under 50kW will automatically transfer to FITs. But generators of between 50kW and the FIT maximum of 5MW will have to remain in the RO, as will those with a capacity above 5MW.
The ‘We Support Solar’ lobby group, which includes the Federation of Master Builders, National Federation of Roofing Contractors, and the Electrical Contractors’ Association, says that the proposed feed-in tariff (FIT), or ‘Clean Energy Cashback’, rates represented a ‘missed opportunity’, and claimed that adding 10p/kWh would drive demand for 400,000 new solar PV installations on homes by 2014, and create 30,000 jobs in solar manufacturing, design, installation and servicing.
The FIT could see homeowners with solar PV make up to 36.5p for every kWh they generate in systems up to 5MW. But that is only predicted to yield around 0.5% of UK electricity by 2020. The lobby group, in its ‘Small change, big difference’ campaign, say, that, with the additional fee, PV would deliver over 6 times more. The governments estimate for the impact of the new FIT overall was just a 2% contribution to electricity by 2020.
Alan Simpson MP, Ed Miliband’s ‘Clean Energy Cashback’ advisor, said: ‘Crucially, we need a scheme which will ensure rapid uptake of solar PV from year one of the scheme, not one that may or may not deliver post 2014. This means an increase of at least 10p on the proposed solar PV payments for 2010. Without that, we are not even in the game as far as solar PV is concerned.’
Simon Hughes, Lib Dem Energy & Climate person added: “The proposed ‘cash back’ payments are designed to dampen solar PV demand over the next three years rather than to encourage it. This mindset needs to change. Solar power can play a significant role in the ‘greening’ of our towns and cities, while providing tens of thousands of new construction sector jobs.” Sources: NewEnergy Focus and http://wesupportsolar.net/
The Renewable Energy Association said they were ‘concerned by the low level of ambition set for the scheme (just 2% of electricity by 2020). The UK faces the most challenging renewable energy target in Europe and we urge the government to be more ambitious’. They suggested that ‘all technologies should benefit from the same rate of return’, which should ideally be 10%. They argued that ‘a 10% return on investment will get the scheme off to a good start, foster early necessary investment in the UK industry, and reduce the risk of tariff rates needing to be adjusted significantly up at future reviews. We believe that the 5 - 8% proposed is simply insufficient.’ They added ‘although, 8% might be adequate for some householders, it is not sufficient to engage the commercial sector. It should be noted that the commercial sector (and large public sector) may find even a 10% return inadequate, but might be able to accept this if they could also benefit from Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) and/or other carbon benefits.’
They went on: ‘Tariffs, generation and export, need to be index-linked to ensure that they retain their value for their full life. Tariff degression should not be applied until the third anniversary of the scheme, to ensure a robust start. The generation tariff, as well as the export reward should be exempt from income tax, for household installations. Enhanced Capital Allowances should be extended to all renewable technologies to support their growth in the commercial sector. Onsite renewable technologies should be exempt from assessment for business rates, council tax and stamp duty. Existing installations should be eligible for the tariffs.’
Quite a shopping list! And all before April, when it’s supposed to start. REA added ‘In line with BWEA, w recommend increasing the cut off band for 15 - 50kW, to 15 - 100, and moving the 50 - 250kW band to 100 - 500kW,’ and noted that ‘the Tariff levels for wind appear to decline dramatically over 500kW’ which meant, that according to one community scheme developer they asked ‘there will be no schemes over 500kW at the current proposed Tariff levels’. ROCs would be used instead, though REA said ‘it is clear that ROCs have not been effective at stimulating community schemes- hence the need for user-friendly Tariffs. We hope government will want to ensure the success of community schemes.’ The FITs runs for 25 years so it should help a bit.
But REA noted that several technologies had been omitted from the consultation document and said that ‘Tariffs should be set for geothermal, gasification and pyrolysis, biofuels, and wave and tidal energy from the outset’.
And finally it said it was ‘concerned with the low level of awareness about the scheme. It is vital to communicate with potential investors to ensure that proposals are effective from the perspective of a range of key investors. Important groups we have spoken to, including commercial companies, were not aware of the scheme or unclear on key aspects of the design proposals.’
*BWEA asked for the proposed sub-15kW wind tariff bands to be raised, to maximise potential economic and job growth for micro-wind. And the 15-50kW band should be changed to15-100kW to let more small wind projects receive the proposed 20.5p/kWh tariff.
* The governments Renewables Advisory Board also called for changes to the bands.
*SWRegen wanted an index linked, untaxed 10% rate of return.
Meanwhile, on the RO/ROC system, DECC is pondering ‘whether to introduce, at a later date, a mechanism to reduce or remove the risk of fluctuations in the wholesale price of power (and possibly the ROC price)’. You might think that continued market-led variations in earnings from the RO/ROC system are inevitable, and that a FIT for large as well as small schemes would be a better approach, since then income for projects would be stabilised. But DECC seems wedded to the competitive-market ROC system for projects above 5MW.
3. NPS: Nuclear Plan
In addition to backing renewables and CCS, the government’s new National Policy Statement backs new nuclear plants at Bradwell, Hartlepool, Heysham, Hinkley, Oldbury, Sellafield, Sizewell, Wylfa, plus newcomers Braystones and, tragically, a windfarm site, Kirksanton, both in Cumbia. But Dungeness, another existing site suggested in the strategic siting assessment process, was rejected.
Three potential new sites, Druridge Bay in Northumberland, Kingsnorth in Kent and Owston Ferry in South Yorkshire were said to be worthy of further investigation, but ‘not credible’ before the end of 2025.
NPS: www.energynpsconsultation.decc.gov.uk/home/ It also covers wind & CCS
This followed a spate of land purchases. Having missed out on earlier land auctions for nuclear sites, the Iberdrola-GdF Suez-Scottish & Southern consortium has bought a site at Sellafield from NDA for £70m, and announced its intention to build up to 3.6 GW of nuclear plant there, from 2015. The earlier winning bids for Oldbury and Wylfa were from the RWE-EOn, that for Bradwell was from EdF Energy. That auction raised £387m for NDA. These four sites are among eleven being considered for new nuclear plants in the Strategic Site Assessment. EdF Energy is advancing its plans for 6.6 GW at Sizewell and Hinkley, and RWE and EOn are taking forward plans for 6 GW by 2020, at Oldbury and Wylfa. That’s 16GW in all. Source:WNN
So now, with the public consultation done (see Box below), and the National Policy statement (NPS) in place, at least in draft, it’s up to the IPC, the new Infrastructure Planning Commission (see below) to act on it. IPC says it will consult. But not it seems on waste, even if spent fuel will be kept on site for decades and some low level n-waste may end up in landfill! The NPS says bluntly ‘The Government is satisfied that effective arrangements will exist to manage and dispose of the waste that will be produced from new nuclear power stations. As a result the IPC need not consider this question.’ This raised a lot of hackles.
And one way or another we’ll all end up paying extra for all this. The government has it seems been thinking of a £30/tonne guaranteed minimum carbon price to support nuclear. And there’s more: www.mng.org.uk/gh/private nuclear_subsidies1.pdf
DECC says of the much legally challenged public consultation on the nuclear programme, that ‘overall, in spite of the difficulties experienced, largely created by the context within which the consultation took place, and although there is always potential for improvement, this was a good process’.
They added ‘The consultation strengthened the legitimacy and soundness of decision making. It provided a much stronger sense of public and stakeholder support for certain policy proposals, and a clearer idea of where there were still concerns.’
EdF's Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C nuclear plants, plus related connectors, appear in the list of the first major infrastructure projects for which the UK’s new Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) expects to receive applications, which also includes five windfarms and a biomass power plant. IPC chair Sir Michael Pitt said that the projects ‘raise important issues for the nation and for local communities and we want the public to have confidence that their views will be heard. In every case there will be an opportunity for an open floor hearing as part of the IPC examination process.’
The IPC will start taking applications in March and will decide on them where a relevant National Policy Statement (NPS) is in place. Where no statement is in place, the IPC will make recommendations to the Secretary of State as to who will be responsible for deciding on the application. Sir Michael added: ‘we expect many more proposals to follow in the near future, as promoters begin to undertake the extensive public consultation which they must carry out under the new regime, before they can submit applications to the IPC. I would urge all members of the public affected by a project in their area to find out more about the improved opportunities created through the new regime, for them to have their say.’
* The new process places a duty upon promoters to consult widely with local communities, and to investigate the potential impacts of projects upon the local environment. Local authorities can also play a role: promoters must consult them about the best way to engage local people in their consultation. Local authorities will also be able to produce a Local Impact Report describing the likely effects of the proposed development on the local area, for consideration by the IPC. The new planning legislation aims to ‘smooth the path’ for large projects such as power stations. Most green groups however see the whole thing as top down, autocratic and designed to steam-roller through unpopular plans. But Sir Michael said: ‘The bottom line is that the IPC will not accept any application, where it considers that the consultation process has been unsatisfactory or the community’s concerns have not been addressed’. We’ll see.
Backing the plan…
The future is green, the future is nuclear
‘Britain could never live on its own renewables. If the aim is to get off fossil fuels, we need nuclear power or solar power generated in other countries’ deserts, or both’ David MacKay, S. Times 4/10/09
Although he professes to be neither pro or anti nuclear, the media seem to have painted Prof. David Mackay as a proponent. Thus the Sunday Times ran a story (and editorial) on Oct 4th, which said that, when speaking to a group of Cambridge academics on his first day as chief scientist at the Dept of Energy and Climate Change, MacKay ‘set out a vision of how Britain could generate the threefold increase in electricity it needs, with nuclear power at its heart’. He evidently said: ‘This plan would involve a fourfold increase in nuclear power over today’s levels. So at Sizewell, for example, you would have four Sizewell Bs and at other nuclear sites you would have another four Sizewell Bs, and so on.’
The Times admitted that the scale of the programme hinted at by MacKay ‘is far greater than that suggested by ministers’, but the editorial commented ‘MacKay believes the country should aim for between 40 and 50 GW of nuclear capacity by 2050, four times the present 12GW. The expected rise in electricity demand, as more people switch to electric vehicles, will make that case even stronger. These decisions need to be taken soon. Too much time has already been wasted’. See Renew 182 for reviews of MacKays book + Forum in Renew 183.
….with a little help from the EU…
Processing nuclear fuel may be given an exemption from EUs plans to auction carbon allowances from 2013-20, under the next round of the EU Emission Trading System (ETS), subject to a review. At present, participants in the EU-ETS receive emissions allowances for free to cover most of their expected CO2 emissions based on their past emissions Participants then buy and sell allowances depending on what their actual emissions are. But from 2013 the scheme will reduce the free allocation, from 80% in 2013, falling annually to 30% in 2020, and companies will have to buy allowances in an auction.
WNN says that most nuclear activities, including power generation, waste management, reprocessing and recycling of spent fuel, will still have to purchase allowances, but new nuclear fuel production (processing uranium to make it into reactor fuel, including enrichment), which is an energy intensive activity, has been listed for possible exemption, evidently since the EC was worried that otherwise this activity might be moved outside the EU. That seems far-fetched (unless we are going to get, say, Iran to do it for us!). It seems more like an attempt to support nuclear by the back door via a major concession.