Renew On Line 75

Extracts from the News section of Renew 175, Sept- Oct 2008


The full 34 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, EERU or the Open University.




1. UK targets:  Getting 15% by 2020

2. Tidal delivery and debates

3. Micropower

4. Offshore Wind  boost

5. Coal, CCS and costs

6. Personal carbon rationing plan stalled

7. WREC in Glasgow

8. EU News

9. Renewables around the world

10. Nuclear news

11.In the rest of Renew 175

12. Renew and NATTA subscription details


We have changed the format of Renew On Line- so that it is now all in one file. This means you can download it easily if you so wish.  To get to specific items, as listed above, scroll through the text.


Renew on Line 75


1. UK targets:  Getting 15% by 2020


In the new Consultation on how the UK might meet its EU imposed renewable energy target by 2020, BERR, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, notes that ‘the scale of action required to generate 15% of the UK’s energy from renewables is ambitious- it will require a ten-fold increase in the level of renewable generation and use in the UK over the next 12 years,’ which they say is three times more than current policies will achieve.


So they propose to extend the Renewables Obligation so that 30-35% of UK electricity comes from renewables by 2020. In addition they will support renewable heat production and use, and expand the adoption of micro generation for heat and electricity supply. To back this up they propose measures to upgrade and improve access to the national grid and to support the development of the skills and workforce necessary for the success of the policy. 


On the transport side they still look to biofuels and the adoption of the EU’s 10% biofuels target for 2020, but want proper sustainability criteria: ‘if 10% renewable transport is feasible and sustainable, then one possible scenario to deliver 15% renewable energy in the UK in 2020 might be: 10% renewable energy in transport (compared with less than 1% today), 14% in heat (less than 1% today) and 32% in electricity (less than 5% today). If sustainability concerns meant that the transport sector could not contribute 10%, and the same overall renewables target were retained, then the contribution from the other sectors would have to be higher. In this circumstance it is unclear how we could meet the target domestically without making use of other options such as trading with other countries.’ But they add that they want to ‘explore how far other renewable transport strategies, such as the development and use of electric powered cars, can contribute to the renewable transport fuel target by 2020’.


They say that after the consultation, they will produce a new Renewable Energy Strategy in the spring of 2009, presumably to tie in with the completion of agreements within the EU on the overall EU approach. The EU Emission Trading System is seen as the main vehicle for moving ahead since it will provide a carbon price and market that will drive investment forward, but there is also a need for specific incentives like the RO, and to ‘encourage behavioural change to reduce energy use’. Overall they say that ‘increased investment in renewables in the UK to meet a 15% renewable energy target in 2020 will reduce UK gas imports by 11-14% in 2020’, and create 160,000 jobs.


Markets must rule


BERR says that within the overall strategy, the choice of technology must be left up to the market, but suggest that wind on and offshore will dominate supplying perhaps 32% of total renewable energy (19% from offshore, 13% from on land) while biomass heat might supply 15% of the total renewable energy by 2020. 

Overall to get 15% of all energy from renewables by 2020, renewable electricity might they say make up 47% of the total renewable energy (120TWh in 2020, which would then be 32% of UK electricity), renewable heat 33% (90TWh, which would be 14% of total UK heat production in 2020) and renewable transport fuels 20% (55TWh, 10% of total fuel use in 2020).


They put the total cost at around £5-6bn pa in 2020 or perhaps £100bn in total over the next decade, but say that costs will depend on oil prices and on demand and also crucially on the final design of the EU Renewable Energy Directive. They note that ‘A particular issue under discussion is whether trading with other EU member states or investment in renewable projects outside the EU should be allowed to count towards the target. The measures set out in this document relate to increasing renewable deployment in the UK. But because the cost of renewables projects in some other countries (both within and outside of the EU) are lower than the cost in the UK, allowing a specified and limited proportion of our target to be delivered abroad would make the task significantly less expensive- we estimate that trading one percentage point of the target could save 15 to 20% of the costs of meeting the target domestically, with a correspondingly lower impact on energy prices. Supporting the deployment of renewables outside the EU could also provide investment in clean energy technology in poorer countries.’


They clearly see some degree of flexibility as vital, at least for a ‘limited and pre-specified proportion of the UK target’. They are also keen to use the provision in the EU plan for the acceptance of some large projects against national targets even if they would not be fully in operation by 2020, presumably with the Severn Barrage in mind. The EU rules say such projects must be over 5GW and have to be started by 2016 and completed by 2022.


*The full report is at:

 The consultation ends 28 Sept.


Specific new policies


Although the targets are ambitious, the delivery plan seems less so- and maybe not up to the job, not least since the touchstone is that markets must drive it. There are some sensible proposals for tidying up the increasingly baroque regulatory system and improving agency advice networks. But the bewildering array of initiatives and programmes for energy efficiency remain (CERT, CSH etc) and there are few new ideas about providing financial incentives for renewables.


In terms of renewable electricity, they say that ‘In 2020, if around one third of our electricity consumption were to come from renewables, this would mean around 35 to 40 GW of renewable capacity- seven to eight times 2006 levels’. They see planning constraints as a major hurdle and look to the proposed new fast track planning laws, with an independent ‘Infrastructure Planning Commission’ adjudicating on projects, as a solution. This could make it possible to get acceptance for the 14 GW of new on shore wind project they project as needed- that’s 4000 3MW turbines on top of the 2000 (2GW total) of smaller machines already in place. 

BERR even talks of the new planning system being used for projects under 50MW in exceptional circumstances: at present they are dealt with by local councils. But the new planning bill was savaged in the Commons just before the Renewable Consultation emerged and it’s far from clear whether it will ever be acceptable- or, if enacted, whether it will work.  There is still a lot of opposition to wind projects- and there is likely to be even more if draconian planning processes are used to try to impose new nuclear plants and new runways on unwilling communities. This may be less of a problem for the extra offshore wind capacity that BERR proposes, but then come the financial support issues. Will an expanded RO really be enough?


Actually BERR seems to have backtracked a bit on its initial suggestion than a extra 25GW of wind could be in place by 2020 (giving 33 GW in total). It now says that’s not likely until 2030, and that 14 GW is more credible by 2020. RAB put it at 18GW. Will the RO be sufficient to support that even given the 1.5 ROCs it will now offer for each offshore generated MWh?  Wave and tidal current turbines are only seen as likely to supply 15-20% of current electricity (with 2GW installed) by 2020, although perhaps 30GW by 2050. Under the present support regime that may well be true, even with double ROC’s per MWh. Indeed they only get a 3% share in the indicative 2020 energy mix- 1% for wave, 2% for tidal stream. Similarly hydro only gets 1%, and biomass electricity 4%. We really need to do better.


RO- still the way ahead


In the new consultation BERR says that the Renewables Obligation, as now about to be modified, should deliver 14% of UK electricity by 2015-20.  That’s debatable. But they go on ‘To meet the EU 2020 renewable energy target, however, we will need to at least double this figure. This consultation examines various alternative ways to provide the financial incentive for this, including strengthening the RO or introducing a new scheme such as feed-in tariffs (which guarantee renewable generators a fixed sum per unit of electricity generated). Our analysis indicates that, while feed-in tariffs could in some circumstances have theoretical financial advantages, these benefits could be within the margin of modelling error and would be small for the scale of deployment required. More significantly, it is less likely that a new system of feed-in tariffs could achieve the target by 2020, due to the delay and uncertainty that a change of support scheme (which could take several years to introduce) would necessarily entail. There could also potentially be difficulties in the operation of feed-in tariffs in the UK’s market-based system. This document therefore concludes strongly in favour of maintaining the RO for large-scale electricity while recognising that we need to continue to improve its efficiency. The RO will nevertheless need modifying, including significantly increasing the level of the Obligation (e.g. 30-35%), and extending its end date. On the assumption that the RO is maintained, we would like your views on any further changes required.’

 Should it be continued beyond 2027, it’s current end date?  Should there be more, or different, technology bands, or sub bands?    


So there is not a lot of room for discussing whether to dump the RO altogether... basically just more of the same, with a renewable heat obligation possibly added on, along with the existing Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation.

To be fair though the Renewables Heat issue is worth exploring, not least since, quite apart from it being a key, as yet, undeveloped area, in this context rather than an Obligation, BERR actually seems to favour something more akin to a Feed-In Tariff- what they call a Renewable Heat Incentive. Evidently they feel that an Obligation and certificate trading mechanism may not work well given the complex nature of the heat market- and they also seem to accept that Feed-In Tariffs might work for microgeneration electricity, as well as heat. That’s progress of a kind! But they also say that  ‘on balance, we believe that the differences between the RO and Feed-In Tariffs in terms of effectiveness for microgeneration deployment are not likely to be significant’. What mattered more was the level and stability of the support over time and whether it could include an initial amount to offset installation costs. 


Even so, you can sense a bit of unease about the RO, especially when it comes to supporting newer renewables. BERR  has had to introduce a whole series of capital grants (£500m so far) and other traditional state support measures to get offshore wind, biomass and wave and tidal current technology moving- none too successfully in many case, as illustrated by the £42m Marine Renewables Deployment Fund, which so far has not been able to support any projects.  But they say it will soon.




Overall, the BERR paper was quite well received. The Renewable Energy Association said that the changes heralded a ‘new maturity’ in the government’s approach to renewables, ‘they are taking a much wider view of the issues than has been the case in the past’. The BWEA said it ‘could transform the UK’s energy supply, with wind leading the way’; and even Friends of the Earth said it showed that the government is ‘ready to shift up a gear’, though they were concerned about the idea of ‘wriggling out’ of the EU targets. But Dale Vince from Ecotricity said ‘We’ve had big plans before, though not this big- what we’ve always been missing is the guts to make them happen, to drive the change needed. That’s why we’ve missed targets before and why we’ll miss them again. Talk is one thing.. what we need is action.’


RAB says 15%‘hard’


Just before the government issued its new consultation on how the UK might meet the target of getting 15% of UK energy from renewables by 2020, its Renewables Advisory Board (RAB) published its own assessment of what might be possible. It said that although 15% was possible, 14% was more realistic.  “If the 15% target is to be approached we need to establish a different energy world with new policy, economic and social drivers. Many of these changes will need to be radical and will require, above all else, political leadership and a determination to succeed.”


Current policies will produce just 6% renewable energy by 2020.  Since there is little scope for rapid changes in the transport and heat-generation sectors, to compensate, up to 40% of Britain’s electricity would have to come from renewable sources by 2020- eight times the current level. The amount of electricity generated by onshore wind farms would needs to rise from 1,850MW at the moment to 13,000MW by 2020. Offshore wind capacity would need to be increase from 394MW as at present to 18,000MW by 2020. And we would need 4,000MW of Biomass fired generation- currently it’s just 576MW. 


On domestic micro-renewables, one home in every 20 would need to be fitted with solar panels to heat water, and one in 38 would need photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate electricity by 2020. “The UK is starting from a very low base in this sector”, the report noted. The Severn barrage might provide a way of reaching to 15% target- although it might not be in place by 2020. But all of this was dependent on what RAB saw as an “urgent” need to extend and reinforce the National Grid to make it suitable for large-scale renewables generation. 


RABs conclusions


The RAB report concludes that ‘the 2020 target of 15% UK energy from renewables is achievable, but that rapid development of a transformed energy framework with radically new economic, political and social drivers is necessary’.  RAB also says that ‘renewables must be at the heart of energy policy’ and that ‘many new policies are required and some, urgently’.


In  terms of a 14% energy target it says ‘bulk electricity could provide 7.1%; bulk heat could provide 0.9%; built environment 3.3%; and transport at 2.7%’.  That means that renewables would have to supply 40% of total electricity. In terms of the 7.1% of bulk electricity  3.2% would have to come from onland wind, 1.8% from offshore wind, 1.5% from biomass and SRF (sustainable wastes), and others 0.6%.


To achieve that it says that ‘On average we need to install slightly less than 1GW p.a. of onshore wind, 1.5 GW p.a. of offshore wind, and 250MW p.a. of biomass and SRF. For comparison, over the next five years, Spain is expected to install 2.5GW p.a. of wind and France and Germany 2GW p.a. each.’ 


With a further 1% remaining to reach 15%, the report sets out three possible options- which it saw as challenging:

• Installation of the Severn Barrage, half of which would count towards the 2020 target provided construction begins before 2016.

• A further 6GW of wind power, mostly offshore, bringing the total offshore capacity to about 24GW.

• A further 30% increase in energy production from renewables in the built environment sector, which would need to be retrofitted to existing stock, and would probably require installation of district heat networks.


RAB: ‘2020 Vision- How the UK can meet its target of 15% renewable energy’,


SKM scenarios


The new BERR paper seems to owe a lot to a consultants report from Sinclair Knight Merz which assesses scenarios for renewables supplying 35%, 40% and 50% of the total electricity in 2020. In the low one wind is at 32GW, and in the high one it’s 48GW. It found the 40% scenario was marginally less costly than the others, due to the reduction in fuel costs. But there are diminishing returns beyond about 40% as total costs rose and because of the increased need to ‘curtail’ wind’s occasional excess output.  It assumes that only two AGRs and one PWR remain operational by 2020, although 2.5 GW of new nuclear capacity is constructed. But it says that even if there was a lot more, excessive wind curtailment could be avoided if the new reactors could load follow- though that could have economic, safety and operational penalties. 



Select Committee gets tough…


The House of Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills select committee, has produced a detailed report on renewables, focussing on electricity. It looked at all the options and progress so far  and concluded that ‘Currently, developers of renewable electricity generation projects have to negotiate a crowded funding landscape, a protracted- and often costly- planning system, and a poorly conceived regime for accessing the UK electricity transmission system. Further, the ability of developers to deploy renewable electricity-generation technologies is being hampered by a growing shortage of personnel with the necessary skills to develop, install and maintain these devices. It is essential that the Government engages with the renewables industry in order to remove current barriers to technology deployment, and develop a coherent policy framework to bring on the development of pre-commercial technologies.’


It commented ‘We find it highly unlikely that, given current progress, the UK will meet the Government’s ambition for 10% of electricity to be generated from renewables by 2010, let alone the EC Mandated Target for 15% renewable energies by 2020’. 


It added ‘we have been consistently disappointed by the lack of urgency expressed by the Government-and at times by the electricity industry- in relation to the challenge ahead’.




On the Renewables Obligation the MPs were ‘pleased that the Government has recognised the need to develop a mechanism for supporting the deployment of renewables post-2027’, when the current RO system stops, but meanwhile said they were ‘concerned by the apparently narrow focus of the Government’s considerations. In addition to the potential for modifying the RO, we believe that BERR should give serious consideration to the introduction of an alternative support mechanism, the ‘feed-in’ tariff.’  



They say that they had heard ‘repeated praise for the efficacy of the feed-in tariff from a number of organisations’ but ‘when we asked BERR whether they would consider introducing a feed-in tariff as successor to the RO we received mixed messages. Sarah Rhodes, BERR, assured us that feed-in tariffs “are not off the agenda, they are firmly on the agenda”, whereas Malcolm Wicks was more guarded: “we will look again at microgeneration and on the table will be one or two different mechanisms including feed-in tariffs, but that is not about large scale deployment or turning our back on the RO, which we think is the appropriate mechanism, and one does not want to keep chopping and changing because of investor confidence”.’


They noted that the Marine Renewable Deployment Fund had not yet funded any projects and commented ‘it was launched in a funding landscape that did not provide adequate support for technology demonstration projects. As a result, marine energy devices failed to develop to the extent required to qualify for support under the MRDF. We recommend that BERR consult the Energy Research Partnership, Energy Technologies Institute and Renewables Advisory Board when developing future funding programmes, to ensure they are targeted appropriately.’ 


On nuclear, they were worried that ‘nuclear energy and renewable energy are ‘uneasy bedfellows’. Nuclear power plants generate a constant supply of energy that cannot be reduced to accommodate increased production of electricity by other sectors. If nuclear generators are given long-term contracts for electricity production, and particularly if these contracts guarantee the purchase of electricity produced, the potential for renewable installations to contribute to the UK’s electricity supply may be restricted.’


They concluded that it was ‘essential that the deployment of nuclear energy does not compromise the ability for the UK transmission system to accommodate all electricity generated by renewable technologies, and that the Government should guarantee there will be no nuclear blight on the renewables industry’.


On grid links they  noted the UKERC view that intermittency need not compromise the reliability of the electricity system, but said that was only for up to about 20% of supply, whereas we now need double that. ‘We were dismayed by the complacent attitudes of Ofgem and National Grid with regard to the potential demands that generating 30-40% of electricity from renewables might place on the evolution and management of the transmission system. We recommend that detailed research into the implications of sourcing 30-40% of electricity from renewables be supported as a priority.’


Finally, they noted that ‘there is currently significant concern on the part of employers that the supply of skills will not be adequate or suitable in coming years to meet their demand for technical personnel. This concern extends to all levels of education and qualification, from technicians to experienced professional engineers and advanced researchers.’




Salter also has his say..


In his submission to the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee review of Renewables (see above) Prof. Stephen Salter, the wave energy pioneer from Edinburgh University, commented on the problems now facing marine renewables.


He suggested that ‘some over-confident newcomers are not using existing information and are not doing enough small-scale testing of tank models to identify the worst loading conditions. Pressure from non-technical investors to cut corners and get quick results is very hard for inventors and engineers to resist if their incomes depend on doing as they are told. All developers claim to be front-runners in the field with leading-edge and patented, but simple and proven, technology. Some of the statements made in fund-raising advertisements do not bear close examination.’


He also had some wry comments on installation hazards: ‘Although the Royal Navy spent much of the 19th century taking soundings of the world’s oceans, the installation of a prototype tidal-stream device in the Orkneys was halted by a collision with an uncharted rock. This is a much more expensive way to improve chart accuracy than traverses with a side-scan sonar. However the latter is too expensive for small struggling tidal stream developers.’


And he re-iterated his view that estimates of the tidal stream resource had been understated since they ignored the energy that was used up by seabed frictional effects. ‘Estimates for the tidal stream resource in the Pentland Firth have used equations taken from the wind industry. These are based only on the kinetic energy flux in an open flow field with just an adjustment for the higher fluid density. They may be inappropriate for long channels with rough beds and irregular walls because they ignore friction losses. We do not have accurate values for friction coefficients or the Pentland Firth but, if they are similar to those in the Menai Strait, then present peak bed dissipation would be over 50 GW. Any small reduction in velocity caused by turbine installations will release large amounts of energy. About one third of the present total friction loss could be extracted giving a possible resource of 10-20 GW, much higher than previous estimates.’







2. Tidal delivery


Marine Current Turbines Ltd successfully completed the installation of its twin rotor 1.2 MW SeaGen tidal current turbine in Strangford Narrows, Northern Ireland earlier this year and despite blade problems with one unit, power is to be delivered ashore, and distributed across Ireland via a Power Purchase Agreement with Irish utility ESB. But the race to be the first to connect a tidal device to the UK grid seems to have been won by OpenHydro’s ‘Open Centre’ prototype tidal device, which is on test at the European Marine Energy Centre’s (EMEC) test site at the Fall of Warness, off the island of Eday in Orkney. In May, Neil Kermode, EMEC’s managing director, said: ‘Electricity has been generated onto the National Grid through the Caldale Substation on Eday’. But this is just a test of a small unit. More tidal and wave-devices also soon to be tested at EMEC.  The tidal race is on! But sadly  the Wavehub in Cornwall has been delayed by a year..


No to Barrage


The National Trust, RSPB and WWF, in a 10 strong coalition with other groups, have come out strongly against the Severn Barrage, which they claim would be ‘economically dubious and ecologically disastrous’. A report they commissioned from consultants Frontier Economics, says that ‘the cycle of the tides in the Severn means that a barrage would not necessarily provide electricity at peak times’.  The group says that 5m tonnes of CO2 will be emitted during construction and 5m tonnes from transport of the materials, and the barrage would destroy nearly 86,486 acres of highly protected wetlands across the estuary.  And the real cost could be much higher than the widely quoted £15bn. ‘This does not take into account costs of land acquisition in Cardiff and Weston or the creation of new wildlife habitats to compensate for the lost land.’  It also rejects the Sustainable Development Commission’s view that the barrage should be built and run by the state.


Report author Matthew Bell says this wouldn’t be allowed under Treasury rules. In any case ‘the private sector [is] more than able to finance a scheme of this scale, but, even using the most conservative estimates of costs, the barrage is one of the most expensive options for clean energy generation there is’. They see tidal current turbines as a longer term option. The Frontier Economics report is at:


Tidal Debate


The debate over which technologies, or mix of technologies, are best to use for exploiting tidal energy was given an airing by the Professional Engineering journal  May 21st. It noted that there was strong support for the 8.6 GW Severn Tidal Barrage (see the Severn Tidal Power Group’s concept, left), but also pointed out that some saw free standing tidal current turbines and impounded reservoir ‘tidal lagoons’ as possibly better, less invasive, options. 


However Professor Roger Falconer of Cardiff University had his doubts about lagoons. He told the journal: “Anyone who thinks you can put an island that size into the sea and not have an impact on the environment is living on a different planet”. He went on “I’m not against impoundments, but let’s build them against the coast, where they can produce more power and provide flood defences”.  But he added, “like a barrage, they will have to be built offshore, in deep water, with three walls instead of one. It’s going to cost a hell of a lot more than what has been quoted.” He felt that Tidal-stream turbines were ‘a fantastic opportunity’, but noted that ‘you need so many of them. It shouldn’t be seen as an either/or situation. But the barrage will produce 8GW of power. You’d need thousands of tidal-stream turbines to get anywhere near that figure.’  That’s certainly true- assuming 2MW units in tidal farms of say twenty units, you would need over 200 tidal farms around the coast. Of course you could also have some tidal lagoons and maybe some smaller barrages.


Professor Dave Elliott from the OU pointed to the advantages of a distributed system like this, as opposed to one large barrage- it could exploit the natural time delay of the tide rising at different points: ‘I’m not a fan of large tidal barrages, they’re too slow to build, too capitial intensive, inflexible and very environmentally invasive. The trouble is, pushing the button on a big project like the Severn Barrage carries kudos. Tinkering with small developments doesn’t get you the big headlines. But no one around the world is proposing barrages at the moment, everyone is going for tidal currents. What terrifies most of us in the renewables game is that the barrage proposal will be used as an excuse not to do anything else.’


While tidal turbines should have low eco-impact, Prof. Falconer seemed happy with the Severn barrage, despite its potential eco-impacts:  ‘If you operate a barrage there will be a huge loss of intertidal mud flats, which is something we hear about all the time, but there are some positives as well’, such as the reduction of silt in the water, which he said could help aquatic life to flourish.  He admitted that the average level of the tide will increase by 3m if a barrage is built, but said the effect would be inconsequential to flooding: ‘When people say the mean level will rise by 3m it’s a meaningless thing to state. If you own a house by a river it’s the peak water level you are interested in, because it’s the peak level which floods houses.’


To be fair, others have of course suggested that the barrage will help reduce some flood risks by acting as a barrier against storm tides.  And Dave Elliott did point out that large barrages might become more viable when and if there was a large energy storage system- e.g. a hydrogen based system. Renewable power sources such as the barrage could electrolyse water during the night to store hydrogen, which would then be run through fuel cells when energy is required. But the investment required in plant would still be substantial, and the efficiencies in the conversion processes are not good.





Barrage v Nuclear: Not mentioned in the Professional Engineering article, or covered directly by Frontier Economics, but likely to also be important, is the issue of what would happen if the UK does go ahead with the proposed major expansion of nuclear power to perhaps 20 or even 30GW?

Although they might be able to load follow to some extent, the nuclear plants would have to be kept running at more or less full power most of the time to be economic- meeting most of the 20GW baseload. That would mean that, in the absence of significant storage capacity, when the tidal cycle enabled the barrage to produce power during a low energy demand period, this power could not be used.  It would all be supplied by nuclear. So the barrages’ main use would just be when the tidal cycle happened to coincide with peak demand. Although, very speculatively,  it might also be used, during some tidal phases, as a (rather expensive) pumped storage system for excess nuclear electricity produced during low demand periods- pumping up an extra head for release and generation when power was needed. The tidal element, when available in phase with demand, would then just be an occasional bonus. A version of this argument could of course be used for wind or wave- the barrage could sometimes be used to store any excess wind or wave generated electricity, for use at peak demand times.


Severn: Wicks v RSPB

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks has been letting off steam about opposition to the Severn Barrage by groups like the RSPB:  ‘It is the duty of a sensible NGO supported by the public that occasionally they say yes to projects and (are) not always seeking the comfort zone of saying no to a barrage, no to a windfarm, no to this, no to that’. He said the RSPB was ‘clearly not understanding that unless we are prepared to take some courageous action on climate change the devastation of species will be truly enormous’.


The RSPB responded ‘Mr Wicks is ignoring the difficult issue facing the government over the cost of the Severn Barrage- the energy it produces can be produced at half the cost by other renewable technologies. Why should we spend £15bn, at least, on a barrage when the same amount of renewable energy could be produced at half the cost? Does Mr Wicks think that wasting £7.5bn is good government policy?’


*While not taking a position on the Barrage, Tory leader David Cameron was upbeat about wave & tidal current turbines: ‘The next Conservative government will put rocket boosters behind this area’. 


Warwick v Wicks

Malcolm Wicks was unhappy with a submission by Warwick University

to the Innovation Select Committee. Warwick Business School had said that ‘the UK has never taken renewable energy deployment seriously’. During cross examination he said ‘I would ask Warwick University, with all due respect, to do their research more thoroughly’.  It had to be looked at historically. ‘Yes, as a percentage of all of our energy we are still somewhat under 2%, and that looks very small, but every year now we are seeing major developments, not least in terms of wind farms, particularly offshore’, and that ‘the momentum in terms of our total energy coming from renewables is increasing’.


3. Micropower


Slow Micropower  Last year just 270 solar PV panels, were put on Britain’s homes, compared with 130,000 in Germany. At this rate, David Orr, CEO of the National Housing Federation told MPs in May, it would take the UK 1,500 years to equal the number in Germany now. Independent 1/6/08


Industry wants more


The Microgeneration Industry has called on the government to bring forward strong policy measures underpinned by legally binding government targets to help consumers to produce their own sustainable energy using micropower units. The report, ‘The Growth Potential for Microgeneration in England, Wales and Scotland’ was billed as ‘the largest piece of independent consumer research ever conducted into the market potential of microgeneration,’ and concludes that by 2020 up to nine million microgeneration installations could be in place with an ambitious policy support framework- producing as much energy as five large new nuclear power stations, and by 2030, saving as much carbon as if we were to take all HGVs and buses off our roads.


Dave Sowden, Micropower Council CEO, said that the report “clearly shows that with the right policies in place, the ability for citizens to save money, make a marked difference to tackling UK emissions and future-proof their homes in a world of uncertain and unprecedented energy price movements is substantial. It is now clear that setting binding targets would lead to greater certainty for investors, lower costs for consumers, leading to more microgeneration and greater carbon savings from British households.”


The report says that a government target of 2-3 million units installed by 2020 could readily be met through a combination of cost-effective measures, including ‘a long lasting and consumer-friendly financial incentives scheme to stimulate substantial uptake’ so as to deliver ‘the equivalent of over 40p/kWh in above energy price for wind and photovoltaics, 5p/kWh for micro CHP and 2p/kWh for sustainable heat technologies such as heat pumps and solar thermal systems’. There would be a need for ‘flexibility for consumers to choose to receive these incentives up-front or spread out over a long period to help with the high initial costs of equipment and installation’. Feed-In tariffs were seen as probably the best bet, but 50% grants, or low-interest ‘soft loans’ payable over 25 years, were also options.


In addition there would be a need for ‘large scale field trials or an early public procurement scheme to support technologies that are not yet ready for full-scale commercial production’ and ‘continued consumer campaigns to improve consumer accounting for energy-based decisions, focused on lengthening consumer time horizons when considering energy purchase’. It would also be necessary to adhere to ‘the policy of zero carbon new build housing from 2016 and all buildings in 2019, with clarity over the extent to which developers are allowed to offset their consumption using offsite electricity generation’.


The report was produced by consultants Element Energy Ltd  supported by TNS Social and Newcastle University, overseen by a Steering Group chaired by Prof. John Cheshire, made up of representatives of each funding partners- including BERR; British Gas Service Ltd; Ceres Power plc; E.On UK plc; The Ashden Trust; The Energy Saving Trust; the Micropower Council; National Energy Action; Renewable Energy Foundation; the NW, SW, SE, London and East Midlands Development Agencies  It’s at


What next? The involvement of BERR may suggest that it will get government backing. Energy Minister, Malcolm Wicks, assured a Parliamentary Committee in Jan. 2006 that: “If by November 2008 the indications are that a target would have a beneficial impact on market penetration by microgenerators, we will be able to undertake further work to develop a suitable target or targets”.  And last November, Gordon Brown indicated that it should be “made easier for people to generate their own energy through microgeneration, and sell it on to the grid”.


However, despite attracting backing from 278 MPs who have signed an early-day motion calling on the Government to adopt them, it’s not clear if that will extend to the implied use of a Feed-In Tariff for micropower. The government has indicated that it will look at this as an option, but Lord Jones, a junior DBERR minister, recently claimed that feed-in tariffs were “a regulatory nightmare and extremely expensive”. He added: “If we were to change now we would destroy the consistency and stability that business craves and private sector investors need”.


That certainly seems to be the way the government sees Feed-In Tariffs generally.  It failed to include them in the Government’s Energy Bill, despite the rebellion of 33 Labour MPs. But micropower might be seen as an exception. After all BERR has allocated an extra £3m for micropower as part of a programme to help vulnerable consumers and especially the elderly make their homes warmer and more energy efficient.


*The BWEA has now backed a FIT for micropower, in a new drive with the REA.


Micro-heat option


A new report produced by the Energy Saving Trust and the Open University Design Innovation Group ‘YIMBY Generation- yes in my back yard!’, funded by the UEA’s Carbon Connections Fund, summarises the responses to a survey of over 900 households who were considering or buying microgeneration heat technologies-  Solar thermal hot water, Ground source heat pumps, Wood-fuelled boilers, Automatic pellet-fed biomass room heaters or stoves.  It notes that people, in the past, have been put off from purchasing microgeneration for a range of reasons: the price and pay pack period, practicalities e.g. lack of space, and perceptual e.g. lack of confidence in the technology.


*It’s at: YIMBYGeneration.pdf




The survey covered three types of households:

*Considerers- people who had considered buying.

*Non-adopters-   considerers who had decided not to buy.

* Adopters- who had been awarded a LCBP grant.


It says that the current UK ‘adopters’ of microgeneration heat technologies are ‘largely confined to a niche market of environmentally concerned, older, middle-class householders living mainly in off-gas areas and larger properties for which biomass and ground source heat pump technologies are currently appropriate and cost-effective. The solar thermal water heating market is wider, but still nascent. Like the other technologies, solar thermal is mainly bought by people wanting to use a low or zero carbon technology to reduce their emissions and fuel bills.’ 


Though the adopters are generally ‘highly satisfied with their purchase’, for the micropower heat market to expand beyond the current consumer niche and reach its potential, the report says that the following issues had to be dealt with:

• Price thresholds- these should be reduced with a range of measures including better grants, subsidies from energy suppliers and council tax relief.

• Better advice- consumers want ‘one-stop’, independent, trustworthy advice with comparative information on the suitability, performance and payback of the different systems.

• System compatibility- ground source heat pumps and biomass stoves and boilers do not generally suit smaller properties, and neither are all homes compatible with solar thermal systems. Technology and design improvements could address some of these compatibility issues.

• Better usability- more user-friendly and informative controls should make the technologies more appealing to a wider range of non-technical consumers.

• Lack of independent information on the reliability/performance of technologies- independent monitoring would increase consumer confidence.


ZCH- ‘no imports’ 


The UK Green Building Council (GBC) has backed the view that zero-carbon homes (ZCH) should self-generate the vast majority of the energy they use, with no imports from remote renewables being allowed. However a small amount of near-site or off-site renewable generation could be allowed, as long as it came from plants that were additional to the national renewable capacity.  So some district heating schemes could be allowed, presumably if they used biomass or waste, or house builders could, in certain circumstances, pay into a community energy pot to fund local projects: ‘The price of paying into the fund should be set at a margin above the cost of community-scale solutions so as to clearly incentivise the installation of on-site or local measures first’.


The GBC report was backed by WWF, which has been a key driver behind the government’s zero-carbon homes initiative. WWF said the 2016 ZCH target was ‘eminently achievable’  and was optimistic that the findings from the GBC Task Group ‘will dispel confusion over the definition of zero carbon’

It should invest ‘more developers with the confidence to build to the very highest levels of sustainability. We hope this will help deliver practical zero-carbon homes well ahead of the 2016 deadlines.’


Comment: The main driver for this ‘no imports’ stance, which was also adopted by the Renewable Advisory Board (see Renew 172), seems to be the view that allowing imports would water down the push to micropower.  So it seems that, for example, even if it is clearly much less efficient to use power from microwind turbines than large windfarms, micropower will be defended, presumably in the belief that this requirement will gradually lead to technical improvements.  That is perhaps more credible in the case of PV solar- volume production will lower costs and in time lead to new more efficient cells.  But it is still hard to see how individual houses can run all their electric systems 24/7 just from PV, plus a bit of micro-wind. Some may be able to balance imports due to shortfalls with exports of excess power at other times, and certainly it makes sense to share with others, and use local sources, to balance out supply and demand variations. But they may also need imports from larger remote green sources.


On the heat side, it’s possible that demand can be reduced a lot by good design, but even so, some heating will still be needed, with solar heat panels and biomass-fired micro-CHP being seen as key zero carbon options, the latter providing some more electricity.  But larger scale community-wide CHP may be more efficient. See Renew 174 .


The Zero Carbon house developed by Barratts - has opted for solar heating plus air source heat pumps with PV electricity used to drive them. It has a huge concrete thermal mass- and no gas connections.  Barratt plan to roll out its zero-carbon homes on the site of Hanham Hall hospital near Bristol. It will build 200 of them, a third of which will be affordable by lower income buyers, although the larger ones are priced at around £500,000. All will be code level 6 and, according to Barratt, will completed in 2011, five years ahead of the ZCH 2016 deadline. Meanwhile, RuralZed’s entry into the ZCH race is allegedly already available for purchase at somewhat lower cost, and is very different in construction terms: see our Technology section. It has PV and micro wind options.


* Tory views:  The Conservatives announced that they would introduce a Feed-In Tariff for microgeneration- an idea now being looked at by Labour. Certainly following Camerons launch of a ‘Blue-Green’ Charter, Gregory Baker, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Environment, made much of these policies, and the Party’s ‘Power to the People’ decentralised energy report, in his presentation to the Energy and Environment Conference in London in June. 


Micro-CHP  The conference was sponsored by Mitshubishi and Baxi, both of whom have developed micropower units. Baxi have a 1.1kWe DACHS micro-CHP internal combustion engine, with 15.5 kWth heat output (condensing), otherwise 12.5 kWth, and a claimed overall fuel efficiency 79- 92%; a 1.1kWe/24kWth ‘Ecogen’ Stirling Engine CHP unit, with overall efficiency claimed at 92%, and a 1.5kWe/3kWth PEM fuel cell CHP unit, with a built-in auxilary boiler- with overall efficiency claimed at 80%. Mitshubishi have a 1kW rated Ecodan air source heat pump unit claimed to deliver 3kWth.

4. Offshore Wind  boost


The government has announced plans which could boost  offshore wind power.  For Round three of the programme, the Crown Estate, which owns the UK seabed, has agreed to invest up to 50% of the cost of obtaining planning consent for wind farm sites, including ‘the funding of enabling works intended to speed up windfarm delivery’. This it says ‘may include action to address generic, zone-wide environmental concerns, consenting bottlenecks, supply chain constraints and options for connecting new windfarms to the national grid’. However, ‘the selected partners will remain wholly responsible for construction and operation of windfarm sites. The Crown Estate is not intending to take any role in the eventual ownership or operation of offshore windfarms resulting from this programme other than to provide leases of the seabed to operators.’


Round three it’s hoped will build on the 8 GW of offshore windfarms currently under development and to be delivered by rounds 1 and 2. If successful, Crown estates say ‘the addition of the capacity from round 3 would lead to a potential total of 33 GW of wind energy coming from offshore wind resources’ adding up to 25GW of electricity by wind power in 12 years, with up to 7,000 new turbines installed by 2020. Energy firms will be invited to bid for sites to develop wind farms, earmarked by the Crown Estate and BERR.

In a preliminary analysis, 11 zones around the coast have been identified by Crown Estates as the most economically suited for their levels of wind, water depth and potential grid connections. Crown Estates say that environmental and shipping concerns will also be taken into account. Consultations should be complete by early 2009.


Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks said wind energy was already a ‘real success’ in the UK. He hoped that the next phase of expansion would ‘provide developers with confidence to make investments much earlier on, like signing grid connection agreements or ordering turbines. We are working to reduce other barriers such as radar, shipping, grid access and infrastructure issues. We will be consulting in the summer to drive this forward even further to achieve our renewable energy targets.’


Offshore Suffolk


Scottish and Southern Energy is to press ahead with the 504 MW Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm off the Suffolk coast, with Siemens Wind Power supplying 140 of its 3.6 MW turbines. On completion in 2011 it will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm, covering two areas, Inner Gabbard and The Galloper, about 25 km off the coast, in the outer Thames Estuary. Three 132kv sub-sea cables will bring power ashore to a new substation near to the Sizewell reactor complex. 


* Radar breakthrough?  BWEA, BERR and the MoD have agreed to ‘explore innovative technological solutions to Air Defence and Air Traffic radar, as well as radar absorbent wind turbine technology’ and to ‘work with industry to establish financial and staffing resources dedicated to finding solutions’. The deal might lead to joint funding of costly radar equipment upgrades, thus breaking an impasse that threatened several projects. And a Scottish government backed research has shown that the carbon payback for wind farms on peatlands can be under three years- which may defuse some local conflicts.

5. Coal, CCS and costs


DRAX: more biomass


The DRAX coal-fired power plant in Yorkshire, which produces 7% of UK electricity, is to expand co-firing with biomass, replacing up to 10% of the coal used. This follows earlier trials with a 2-3% mix of biomass in some boilers. In the new scheme a range of biomass, up to 1.5 m tonnes p.a, the energy equivalent of 1m tonnes of coal, will be converted into a fine powder and fired with coal.  Building work for the new processing unit should be completed by the end of 2009. It’s claimed that this programme is the equivalent of 400MW of renewable capacity. Friends of the Earth said they were happy with it as far as it went: it was a better use of the resource than using biomass to make biofuel, although biomass powered CHP would be even better. If it proves successful DRAX may expand to using 20% biomass.


CCS race

Scottish Power Generation BP, E.On UK and Peel Power have been chosen for the next stage of the competition for building a 300-400MW coal fired plant with 90% Carbon Capture and Storage.  To get government support it must be finished by 2014.  But it may be beaten by a Powerfuel IGCC project-  excluded from the CCS competition as it will use pre-combustion, rather than post-combustion capture. E.ONs stalled 1 .6GW Kingsnorth  project in Kent is its entry.  But  the Conservatives announced that they would require all new coal fired plants to have Carbon Capture and Storage.


E.ON: costs will rise


E.ON UK’s chief Paul Golby, launching E.ON’s energy manifesto, called for an “honest debate” about Britain’s energy future. He stressed that costs would inevitably rise: the UK currently has 76 gigawatts of generating capacity, with about 25GW of  this coming to the end of its life as ageing power stations are decommissioned. But by 2020 the UK will need more than 120GW. The EU’s carbon emissions reduction targets mean the UK may have to build about 50GW of renewable capacity. And he said that would have to be backed up with fossil fuel plants- at up to 90%.


He was hopeful that renewables might become more cost effective, but for now ‘We must dispel the myth that renewables are cheap. Because we have all been silent on this, people think it won’t cost anything. I'm not saying that moving to renewables is not the right thing to do. But we need to be honest with our customers. Moving to a low carbon economy is going to cause some economic pain in the short term.’


Overall, building the necessary new generating capacity- from renewables, nuclear and coal and gas- could cost  £50-100bn. He said we had to a recognize that new coal-fired generation ‘will play a significant role in restraining prices. Without coal, bridging the energy gap will mean allowing gas to dominate our energy mix and a second “dash for gas” is something we need to avoid.’ But new power fossil stations must include CCS.

6. Personal carbon rationing plan stalled


“The Government remains interested in the concept of personal carbon trading and, although it will not be continuing its research programme at this stage, it will monitor the wealth of research focusing on this area and may introduce personal carbon trading if the value of carbon savings and cost implications change.”   So said DEFRA (, back in  May. See Box below for its reasons.  This produced some pained responses from supporters of the idea of allocating individuals an allowance of marketable carbon credits. 


The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee which had been looking at the issue, produced a report on Personal Carbon Trading, which says that it was disappointed with the Government’s decision, following its pre-feasibility study into personal carbon trading, to wind down its work on developing and assessing the practicality of such a scheme. Instead the Committee urged the Government to lead and co-ordinate further research into personal carbon trading. The Committee says radical measures must be considered if the personal and household sector is ever to make a meaningful contribution to UK targets. It finds that personal carbon trading ‘has the potential to be more engaging, more effective and more progressive than green taxation, provided it is carefully developed and sensitively implemented. Personal carbon trading could be essential if the UK is to meet its emissions targets.’


The Committee acknowledges the obstacles facing the successful development of personal carbon trading, not least the cost of implementation, the issue of dealing with vulnerable groups, and the extent of public resistance to the concept. However, it says  ‘these challenges must be met head on. It is crucial for the Government to take an active role in co-ordinating research into personal carbon trading if the concept is ever to make the leap from the academic realm to a truly viable policy option’.  It notes that ‘Any personal carbon trading scheme would need to be accompanied by a range of policies, educating and assisting individuals in making the necessary changes to their lifestyle. It is also imperative that any personal carbon trading scheme includes a detailed and determined strategy for assisting disadvantaged groups and the financially excluded.’


EAC Fifth Report of Session 2007-08, Personal Carbon Trading, HC 565.


CSE- more research needed


Simon Roberts, from the Centre for Sustainable Energy in Bristol, which had done some of the research on what they call Personal Carbon Allowances (PCA’s), was a bit more sanguine, stressing the need for more research:  ‘Defra may be right that it is more effective to cap the supply of carbon ‘upstream’ rather than control the demand ‘downstream’ through PCAs- but they could also be wrong because there are still key gaps in knowledge. For example we need to know what would make individuals more likely to make the lifestyle changes that are required: having to manage their own carbon allowance, or simply having to pay extra for more carbon-intensive services. If it’s the former, then the additional benefits of PCAs would potentially justify the additional system cost’

He added ‘.We also need to understand how the significant negative social impacts of an ‘upstream’ scheme- which would cause price increases for key services like heating- could be addressed.’


He concluded ‘It would make sense for Defra actively and quickly to pursue answers to these outstanding questions to keep the PCA option genuinely open so that it can be available if the evidence shows it adds real additional benefit’.

CSE’s technical feasibility report and executive summary for Defra can be found at


    The full set of Defra studies together with its synthesis report are at:



Personal Carbon Rationing -DEFRA’s Analysis


DEFRA came out pretty clearly against the idea- at this stage. It was seen as too radical and costly. ‘Whilst Defra remains interested in the concept of personal carbon trading, the findings of this initial study mean that we will not be pursuing this option further at this stage.’


In its synthesis report it notes that ‘The costs identified are large and outweigh, by many times, the estimated potential benefits of personal carbon trading’. It said ‘Estimates of the likely set-up costs of the type of scheme explored ranged between £700m and £2 bn, and the running costs £1-2 bn p.a.’.


It added ‘It is possible that alternative policies could raise the visibility of personal carbon emissions more cost-effectively, such as introducing labelling of CO2 impacts on airline tickets, and such alternatives should be explored’.


But there was a hint of political concerns about pressing ahead with a mandatory rationing system at present: ‘There is scepticism that such a scheme would be fair, that Government could be trusted to manage it or that it would deliver emissions reductions. In addition there was little evidence that people would be likely to trade- a crucial element of the scheme.’


Comment: DEFRA noted that some poorer people might be disadvantaged, but, as some objectors (including us!) have argued, that could be just the tip of the iceberg: what was really worrying about this idea is that the poor would be encouraged to sell off their credits to the rich and might well be tempted sell them all, since the value would increase as scarcity grew- and then they might have to buy in dodgy unregistered energy/fuel illegally. A recipe for a spiv economy, requiring heavy regulation and policing to keep a check on rogue traders and fake credits. But we certainly do need to find a way to deal more fairly with the impacts of rising fuel cost- it’s only going to get worse as we try to get environmental costs included: see below.




WREC , the  tenth World Renewable Energy Congress in July in Glasgow had 800 or so delegates from around the world, and  nearly as many papers.   Some were quite dramatic. Prof. Donald Swift-Hook, chair of WRECs wind section, argued that, although wind was attractive as a zero carbon renewable source, given that global temperature rises had at least temporarily slowed, it might be easier/best to promote wind mainly as a cheap option, given the ever rising cost of fossil fuels and the complexity of nuclear technology. Indeed based on his estimates of actual current wind prices he said it was already competitive with gas CCGT.  He said that in making this estimate, ‘wind energy prices have been taken from the last round, which was the third Scottish Renewables Obligation (SRO3), and those prices are now being paid to the winners of the contracts for various wind farms in Scotland’.


 He added ‘At present, wind prices are artificially high.  Renewable energy has become a victim of its own success.  So many orders have been placed, for $50bn or more of both wind and solar plant, that the few manufacturers have not been able to keep up. There is a shortage of gear boxes, of large blades, of many steel components for wind.  Solar cells have to compete with computer chips for their high grade silicon. Scarcity has pushed prices up.’ He went on ‘Commodity prices generally have risen where shortages cannot immediately be made up but iron and silicon are two of the commonest elements on earth.  When the market has had time to respond and manufacturing capacity has been increased, prices should come down substantially. As a rule of thumb, a 10% reduction can be expected for doubling manufacturing capacity and doubling of renewables installations has been occurring every 3 or 4 years for at least 2 decades’.


He concluded ‘So wind energy prices will inevitably come down quite a lot and quite soon. Gas prices have risen considerably recently and the signs are they will continue to do so- they tend to follow the price of oil. The very real prospect is that renewable energy could soon be economic in its own right, without any subsidies.  At that stage, renewable energy will not need to concern itself with the other reasons for wanting it.   If and when it becomes the cheapest method of generation available, it will be the power source of choice.’


Prof. David Elliott, from the OU, and chair of WRECs Policy section, argued that although wind was clearly the most attractive option currently, and would continue to expand, we should also push ahead with wave and tidal current power, using a Feed-In Tariff: see the Feature in Renew 175. WREC also had a special OU-EERU led session on developments in Central and Eastern Europe: see our Groups section. And of course, being held in Scotland, WREC paid proper attention to the ambitious renewables programme being mounted there- supplying 20% of its electricity now and 50% of by 2020!  SNP First Minister Alex Salmond gave a tubthumping pro-renewables opening speech, announcing that the Scottish government had agreed to the 540MW Clyde wind farm - the largest so far. See Groups in Renew 175 for more on Scotland.

There will be a full review of WREC in Renew 176.

8. EU News


Portugals renewables


Portugal is pressing ahead with its renewables programme. It already gets 29% of its electricity from renewables, chiefly hydro, but also now has about the same amount of wind capacity in place as the UK (see our cover), including the 120 machine Alto Minho wind farm. It is also developing PV solar and wave energy. Following on from the 52,000 panel PV installation at Serpa, the new larger Moura PV array, currently being built (see above and right), will cost £190m. Meanwhile UK company OPD is installing a  2.2MW Pelamis wave energy ‘sea snake’ array (see below).  It will get 18p/kWh.    Source: BBC News web


By 2010 Portugal aims to get 39% of its electricity from renewables, and its new EU target for 2020 is to get 31% of its energy from renewables- and 60% of its electricity.  It uses a Feed-In Tariff to support the projects.


Germany- no to low wages


A German government campaign aimed at attracting oversees investment into renewable energy manufacturing activities in the economically deprived eastern region, by pointing to its low wages and weak trade unions, has been scrapped following objections, including from the unions. The Financial Times noted that the East  is its weakest economic region, with unemployment at double the rate in western Germany. Average wages are 33% below those in the west, and fewer workers are union members, partly because of the closure of many manufacturing companies after re-unification in 1990.  The promotion campaign sought to attract new solar and wind engineering investment. But the FT added that although  ‘over 40 of such companies have invested in east Germany in recent years’, trade unions complain that working conditions in some of them are ‘very poor’. The FT claimed that ‘some pay less than € 9 an hour - compared with average hourly German wages of € 24- and hostility to trade unions is not uncommon’. Lets hope they pay union rates for the current conversion of the Reichstag parliament building to run solely on renewable power!


FIT changes  To push it on faster, the Feed-In Tariffs for on-land  wind have been raised 1.2 euro cents/kWh, but, to cut FIT charges to consumers, those for PV have been lowered. More in Renew 176


Denmark 20% by 2011


Denmark plans to get 20% of  its  energy  from renewables by the end of 2011, up from 15% at present. The EC set Denmark’s target for renewables at 30% of all energy by 2020. A new Danish plan involves better subsidies for energy from wind, biomass and biogas, and for two new offshore windfarms. 

For more see


Dutch stay green

The Netherlands will focus on developing cleaner coal plants and raising  renewable energy output to cut  carbon emissions rather than going for nuclear energy

industry at present, the environment  minister said-.Guardian website


Spain goes for wave


Spanish utility Iberdrola Renewables has been testing a pilot wave energy buoy system prior to installation of 10 Power Take Off (PTO) units located 4 km from the coast of Santoña.  Iberdrola will initially install just one 40 kW buoy, anchoring it to the seabed in 50m of water. The remaining nine buoys will be installed later and will each have a capacity of 125 kW. Iberdrola  is also developing a 3MW Pelamis wave energy plant off the Orkney Islands in Scotland. Source: Modern Power Systems


Sweden too


Swedish utility Vattenfall and the Irish wave energy project Wavebob are to collaborate on bringing prototype wave power devices to readiness for deployment in full-scale commercial wave power farms. Wavebobs first prototype buoy has been deployed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Irish coast and began generating in Oct 2007.


Ireland- zero C by 2035


Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board has announced an € 22bn investment programme, half of which it plans to spend on renewables (€ 4bn direct,      € 6.5bn on infrastructure) to halve its carbon emissions by 2020, with renewables then delivering one-third of its electricity from over 1.4 GW of wind, in addition to wave, tidal and biomass. The longer term aim is to achieve ‘carbon net-zero’ by 2035, also using carbon capture and offsets.


EU hydrogen option


An EU-funded research project claims that introducing hydrogen into the energy system could reduce the total oil consumption of the road transport sector by 40% between now and 2050. The HyWays project published a ‘European Hydrogen Energy Roadmap’, drawn up by project partners from industry, research institutes and government agencies in 10 European countries.  Meanwhile the EU research ministers have agreed on essential elements of the Joint Technology Initiative to develop fuel cell and hydrogen technology. Over the next 6 years, the industry-led public private partnership will receive € 470 m in EU funding, to be matched by investment from industrial partners. The aim is to speed up the development of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, so that their time-to-market is reduced by two to five years, making them commercially available between 2010 and 2020.


The HyWays roadmap points out that a swift introduction of hydrogen technology into the road transport sector would contribute considerably to the reduction of CO2 emissions. ‘Total well-to-wheel reduction of CO2 emissions will amount to 190 to 410 Mton per year in 2050. About 85% of the reduction in emissions is related to road transport, reducing CO2 emission from road transport by about 50% in 2050.’

In addition, the researchers say that hydrogen decouples energy demand from resources and could also act as a temporary energy storage medium, thus facilitating the large scale introduction of renewable energy into the power system. However, they note that the cost of end-use applications needs to be reduced considerably: ‘A substantial increase in R&D investments is needed together with well balanced distribution of deployment to ensure that the economic break-even point is reached as soon as possible at minimum cumulative costs’.


*The HyWays roadmap is based on an analysis of the road transport and energy situation in Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and the UK.


Not all keen to pay for Green power


The Financial Times / Harris Poll asked 6,448 adults in six countries how much they were willing to pay more as a premium price to support renewable energy.  The highest level (6.1%) came from U.S. consumers, 5.3% in Spain, 5.1% in Italy, 4.7% in France, 4.4% in Germany and 3.9% in Britain. In fact the Brits seemed very loath to part with their money- a majority of those who have  responsibility for paying their household energy bills in the UK would pay nothing more for renewables.


When asked about more windfarms, 92% strongly favoured (or favoured more than opposed) in the US, 91% supported in Italy, 90% in Spain, 89% in France, 87% in the UK and 79% supported in Germany. Government subsidies for biofuels were favoured by 90% in Italy, 85% in Spain , 84% in France 77% in the UK,  71%  in the US and 65% in  Germany.

Government subsidies for nuclear power were favoured by a high of 62% in Italy to a low of 34% in Germany, while support for building new nuclear reactors ranged from 58% in Italy to 32% in Spain.


Masdar Spanish CSP link up


Spanish engineering group Sener Grupo De Ingenieria S.A. and Abu Dhabi’s pioneering alternative energy Masdar programme have announced a joint venture Torresol Energy, which will design, build and operate concentrating solar power (CSP) plants in the world’s Sunbelt regions. Initially Torresol will start work on three solar power plants in Spain with an approximate combined value of €500m, one of which will be a CSP Central Tower Receiver system. The programme is seen as facilitating an anticipated 500MW of CSP projects across the Sunbelt countries by 2012- 1GW longer term    Sener is currently designing and building three 50 MW CSP plants with molten salt storage in Spain.   Source: Reuters/MPS   See:

 9. Renewables around the world


Renewables- now 1TW


The ‘Renewables 2007 Global Status Report’, prepared by the Renewable Energy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) in collaboration with the Worldwatch Institute, says that in 2007, global wind generating capacity increased 28% to 95GW while grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity rose 52% to 7.7GW. Overall, since 2004, renewables electricity generating capacity had expanded by 50%. ‘So much has happened in the renewable energy sector during the past five years that the perceptions of some politicians and energy-sector analysts lag far behind the reality of where the renewables industry is today,’ says Mohamed El-Ashry, Chair of REN21.


The renewable energy sector now accounts for 2.4 million jobs globally, and has doubled electric generating capacity since 2004, to 240 gigawatts- or 1,010 GW (over 1TW) if you include large hydro. That’s nearly three times the worlds total nuclear capacity. More than 65 countries now have national goals for accelerating the use of renewable energy and are enacting far-reaching policies to meet those goals. Non-hydro Renewable energy now represents 5% of global electric power capacity and 3.4% of global electricity generation, the latter rising to 18.4% if large hydro is included. Heat supplying renewables are also expanding, contributing to the total renewable energy consumption share  of 18%.  See:


One of the key trends is that China is catching up fast- chiefly due to its large and also small hydro projects. But even leaving out large hydro, it’s only just behind the EU in terms of total renewable capacity. It now has over 6GW of wind capacity in place. And in terms of solar thermal, in 2006 it had 64.5% of the total 105 GW (Th) capacity in place globally. And it’s just starting a 1.1GW offshore wind farm. See below.


World wind at 100GW


Global installed wind power capacity has reached 100,000 megawatts, growing by 20,000 MW last year. Germany remains in the lead with 22,200MW but Spain was one of the main EU growth areas, installing 3,520MW last year. It now ranks third in total  global installed wind capacity with 15,100 MW. France, a late entrant in the wind race, also demonstrated impressive gains in 2007, increasing its total installed wind capacity by 57% to 2,450 MW and overtaking the UK, now at 2,400MW. But for the third consecutive year, the USA led the world in new installations, with its 5,240 MW accounting for one-quarter of global installations in 2007. Installations in the fourth quarter of 2007 alone exceeded the figure for all of 2006, and the US, which currently has 16,800MW in place, is, on current trends, on track to overtake Germany as the leader in installed wind power by the end of 2009. But India is coming on well with 8000MW, while China was at 6,050MW at the end of 2007. Offshore wind was nearly 1,170MW worldwide, with Denmark the leader at  426MW, just ahead of the UK.

More at:

PV solar  to boom


The European Photovoltaic Industry Association  expects the global market for PV solar to be  44GW- nearly five times more than in 2007 (9GW)- within the next five years. It expects annual installations to reach a 10.9 GW by 2012 globally, up from about 2.2 GW in 2007, and said annual growth rates could be over 25%.


The European Energy Council has forecast that by 2010 about 1.6% of total energy generation will derive from PV sources, compared  0.01% in 2003. By 2010 the council expects about 19% of generation will derive from renewables, 15% from nuclear and 66% from fossil sources.  Source: Reuters/EPIA


Biofuels –good or bad?


The Gallagher report, from the UK  Renewable Fuels Agency, says that the biofuels programme should be slowed to give time to make sure sustainability criteria are in place.  Estimates vary, but some say that 10-20% of global food price rise is due to biofuels, although a World Bank leak said 75%.  The RFA wants the UK’s 10% by 2010 biofuel target delayed until 2013/14 .  But  a study by New Energy Finance, found that since 2004 biofuels were responsible for at most 8% of the 168% rise in global grain price and 17% of the136% rise in food oil prices.


US hosts WIREC 2008


The Washington International Renewable Energy Conference earlier this year in Washington DC provided a show case for US efforts on renewables. It was claimed that the administration of President George Bush had spent $12 billion to research, develop and promote alternative energy sources. and it is certainly true that it has pushed ahead with a lot of new hardware- 29GW so far.  


Bush took the opportunity to point out that ‘since 2001, the U.S. has increased wind energy production by 300% and, last year, 20% of new generating capacity in the country came from wind turbines. Between 2000 and 2007, solar capacity in the U.S. has doubled and, last year, U.S. solar installations grew by 32%’.  He added ‘We have spent, since I’ve been the President, a billion dollars on harnessing the power of the sun’. 

But he perhaps rather over-egged it by insisting that ‘America is in the lead when it comes to energy independence; we’re in the lead when it comes to new technologies; we’re in the lead when it comes to global climate change- and we’ll stay that way’.  

 He may also have been unwise in backing nuclear, which he said ‘is limitless; it’s one existing source that generates a massive amount of electricity without causing air pollution or any greenhouse gases’.


The conference ended with 2,800 delegates from 119 countries pledging to promote renewables through the Washington International Action Programme- committing countries, regions, cities, organizations to advance the uptake of renewables.

The pledges ranged from policy commitments, to renewables adoption targets, to programme implementation. Specific pledges were made by over 40 nations:

• New Zealand pledged 90% renewables by 2025, 30% renewable energy electricity generation by 2010

• The USA pledged $10 bn in loan guarantees for renewable and electric energy to make solar PV competitive by 2015, to produce 36m gallons of bio-fuels by 2022, and to contribute $2 bn to new developing countries clean energy trust fund.

The Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN 21) will monitor the status of pledge implementation and provide periodic reports.

WIREC 2008 was the third global ministerial-level conference on renewables, following similar conferences in Beijing in 2005 and Bonn in 2004. The next conference will be 2010 in India.

* WIREC attracted a lot of lobbyists, for example pushing for the adoption of Feed-In Tariffs in the USA and elsewhere around the world. Several US states have now taken up the idea and there is pressure for a national FIT programme- now it seems being labelled ‘Renewable Energy Payments’ (REPS) in the US. And globally FITs have been established in 45 countries and regions. 


US Offshore wind


The USA may be pushing ahead in some areas, but it isn’t doing very well with offshore wind as the long running saga over the windfarm proposed off the coast from Cape Cod in New England illustrates. But there are signs of movement. ReFocus reports that US Federal regulators have held four public hearings on the proposed Cape Wind offshore windfarm, with proponents arguing that the Nantucket Sound site is ideal for turbines while opponents claim that the units would harm fishing and transportation safety, and be a visual detriment in a popular recreation area. The US Minerals Management Service will release its final report later this year.  ReFocus added ‘A survey conducted by Opinion Research shows that support among 1,200 local residents has climbed to its highest level in the state due, in part, to findings in the draft environmental impact statement released in January by the U.S. Interior Department. Key findings of the survey indicate that 87% of state residents and 77% of Cape Cod/Islands residents are now ‘more likely’ to support the windfarm.’


* ReFocus also reported that environmental regulators in Rhode Island want to ban construction of offshore wind turbines and wave energy developments in the state for at least one year, which would impact on Governor Don Carcieri's proposal to install 100 turbines off the coast and source 15% of the state’s electricity from wind within three years. Staff at the Coastal Resources Management Council evidently want a delay to create a zoning plan for the ocean, where siting of turbines would minimize public opposition.  From  ReFocus weekly




Intermittency? No problem


Wind power is doing much better on land in the US- which may soon even overtake Germany. The American Wind Energy Association has produced a good short overview of the issue of intermittency which concludes with this summary from a study by the US Utility Wind Integration Group in co-ordination with the trade associations of all three utility sectors (investor-owned, public, and co-operative):      


           Wind resources have impacts that can be managed through proper plant interconnection, integration, transmission planning, and system and market operations.    

           System operating cost increases arising from wind variability and uncertainty amounted to only about 10% or less of the wholesale value of the wind energy.

           A variety of means- such as commercially available wind forecasting- can be employed to reduce these costs.   

           In many cases, customer payments for electricity can be decreased when wind is added to the system, because the operating-cost increases are offset by savings from displacing fossil fuel generation.



BP backing out? They say no


With its new CEO, and an alleged profit squeeze, BP has it seems decided to move  a bit away from its ‘Beyond Petroleum’ policy and back to oil- with a commitment to one of the most environmentally unappealing options,  extracting oil  from  tar sands in Canada, a very energy intensive operation, resulting in three times as much CO2 production as conventional oil extraction. Meanwhile it’s dropped the Peterhead Carbon Capture and Storage project (Guardian 21/2/08). But it still claims to be backing renewables and other non fossil options- it says it is to invest $1.5m in alternative energy this year, accelerating a 10-year business development programme. According to a report by Bloomberg, ‘BP values its existing alternative-energy business at $5 bn to $7 bn, and 2005, it agreed to spend $8 bn by 2015 to expand production of solar, wind and biofuel energy. This year, BP expects global investment in clean-technology projects to rise as much as 205 from $117.2 bn in 2007, while demand for funds will total $300 bn.’


Vivienne Cox, chief executive of BP’s Alternative Energy division, told investors that the company didn’t plan to sell, ‘marginalize or sideline’ the business: BP has invested about $1.5 bn in alternative energy since 2005. BP’s solar business was valued at $2.1 bn to $3.9 bn and its wind business between $1.8 bn and $2.1 bn. 

Shell, which has backed out of the 1GW London Array offshore wind project (see Renew 174), also says it is still supporting renewables. 



China does it well


With China set to get 10% of its energy from renewables by 2010, New Energy Finance Ltd and the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association (CREIA), note that China is doing well overall. It’s installed 6GW of wind, with 56% of the turbines being Chinese made. Only Germany and Japan produce more solar photovoltaic cells, and perhaps wisely, unlike the US, China has halted the approval of new ethanol projects using food crops in preference to non grain crops. Learning from EU and US experiences, China has also implemented a detailed plan to compensate grid companies for the extra cost of purchasing renewable power via a quota exchange system and has reformed the bidding system for the fifth round national concession wind projects to discourage cut-throat price competition. Project developers who field bids closest to the average bid now score highest in the price evaluation section. Guangdong becomes the first province in China to set a fixed feed-in tariff for wind power at $0.09588 per kWh.


South Africa

10GW of wave power?


South Africa’s coast has the potential to generate between 8,000 and 10,000 MW of wave power, according to the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies. The majority of this would come from the west and south coasts of the country. The centre organised a workshop in Feb. on behalf of the South African National Energy Research Institute (Saneri) and the Eskom Research and Innovation Department (ERID) to look at wave and ocean current energy.


Canada’s Finavera Renewables recently said that it was planning to build a 20 MW wave-power project in South Africa and power utility Eskom is also looking at ways to harness wave and ocean energy. However, finance is seen as an issue and it’s felt that a feed-in tariff aimed specifically at electricity from ocean energy resources would be helpful. The government has evidently talked about this idea but not as yet acted on it. An information network has now been set up, and Saneri, through the centre at Stellenbosch University, and ERID, will be  championing the interest of ocean energy.




Four countries are in the race to be the first to  be 100% carbon neutral- Iceland, New  Zealand, Norway, Costa Rica- the latter is aiming for 2021





10. Nuclear news


Beyond just replacement...


Secretary of State John Hutton evidently sees the UK becoming ‘the gateway to a new nuclear renaissance across Europe’ Guardian 26/03. And he told the Financial Times that he would be ‘very disappointed’ if the proportion of electricity generated by nuclear did not rise ‘significantly above the current level’- which is 18%. He saw expansion beyond that as ‘the ambition we should have’ and pledged to ‘keep our foot down on the pedal’ for more nuclear power: he said no ‘artificial cap’ would be put on the proportion of electricity to be generated from nuclear power, or other ‘low carbon’ sources. 


Until now the new nuclear push has been presented as a ‘replacement’ programme, and as such won some guarded support from the public (see below). But going further- with talk of 30% or more-  opens up new issues e.g. it would suck in even more resources that might otherwise have gone to renewables.


Local resistance starts


Bradwell nuclear plant, which operated for 40 years until 2002, is now being decommissioned, a process that will not be finally finished until the next century. But Bradwell is also a possible candidate for a new plant, and this has led to the emergence of local opposition, the Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG), following a public meeting in March at the Mersea Island community centre, across the estuary from the Bradwell site. One issue that particularly worried local people was that the site was only a meter or so above sea level- what would happen when climate change led to sea level rise? See:


US waste mounts up


The radioactive wastes from the USA’s 100 plus reactors is mounting up, with as yet nowhere for it to go long term.  Typically each reactor generates 20 tonnes of waste per year.  At present, it is put in temporary storage at 122 sites in 39 states, mostly at nuclear plants. This is costing the private utilities a lot- and they weren’t expecting to have to deal with it for so long, in some cases after the reactors have closed.  The New York Times (17/2/08) noted that in the early 1980s, the US government promised to dispose of the waste for a fee of 0.1 cents/kWh. ‘It was supposed to begin taking away the fuel in the then far-off year of 1998’.  But no final repository has yet emerged and the utilities have filed 60 lawsuits to claim compensation. The NY Times claimed that via court orders and settlements, the US Federal government has ‘already paid power utilities $342m, but is virtually certain to pay a total of at least $7 bn in the next few years and probably over $11 bn’.


It all depends on when- and if- the repository that the government is trying to develop at Yucca Mountain, near Las Vegas, can start accepting waste.  So far it has spent $11bn on it. The opening date is officially 2017, by which  time, the NY Times reported, the damages would run about $7 bn. But it noted that this opening date was unlikely to be achieved, and ‘if the repository opens in 2020, the damages would come to about $11 bn, and for each year beyond that, about $500 m more.  The industry says the total could reach $35 bn.’ The Times added ‘Initially, the Energy Department tried to pay the damages out of the Nuclear Waste Fund, the money collected from the nuclear utilities, plus interest, which comes to about $30bn. But other utilities sued, saying that if the government did that, there might not be enough money left for the intended purpose, building a repository. So the government now pays the damages out of general revenues.’  So it’s the taxpayer who pays.  


Maybe its not surprising that Presidential candidate McCain has called for an international repository!


Can the same mess happen here? Well, the  UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA) now says it will need £83 bn from the taxpayer to deal with the existing nuclear clean up and decommissioning task, but the cost of dealing with waste from any new plants that are built is meant to be met by the private sector. But in the end the NDA would presumably have to deal with any defaults. And as yet we still have no agreement on a repository site. Moreover a new study claims that, with the new high fuel burn up reactor designs proposed, the problem will be worse- the waste will be twice as active:  see Groups and


* With the NDAs clean up programme needing more cash, the government has shifted £15m from the sustainable energy capital grants programme to the NDA, according to the Guardian 25/2/08.  But DBERR says it was just to balance the books.


Meanwhile, the £470m Sellafield MOX Plant, designed to make use of plutonium extracted from nuclear wastes, but still not working properly, attracted more adverse publicity, when it was reported that the most it had ever produced per annum since 2002 was 2.6 tonnes of Mixed Oxide Fuel- whereas it had been designed to produce 120 tonnes p.a. See Guardian 3/3/08.  NDA seems likely to try to sell it off- and THORP- to try to fund the decommissioning programme.


New Nuclear- what next?

With DBERR looking at the idea of nuclear CHP, PB Power has patented a novel NUGAS hybrid nuclear and gas fired combined cycle power plant, which it is claimed exploits the advantages of nuclear generation with those of combined cycle gas turbine generation, by operating as a single unit which can deliver ‘record breaking thermal efficiency of 62 %’.

* The first US contract for a Westinghouse AP1000 has been signed by Georgia Power- for a plant near Atlanta. But in Jan, the MidAmerica Nuclear Energy Company  dropped  plans for a new plant in Payette County, Idaho, saying ‘it does not make economic sense at this time’.  According to the US Nuclear Information & Resources Service, cost estimates for new nuclear plants in the US have risen 300-400% over the last 2-3 years.



11. In the rest of Renew 175


In addition to an article by Horace Herring on Rebound Effects, our Feature includes part of Dave Elliott’s contribution to the WREC conference in Glasgow, and WREC session on New Europe is also covered in Groups- as are developments Scotland.  Our Technology section looks at the Rural Zed zero carbon house, BRE’s new micropower review and yet more tidal projects. Our reviews section includes coverage of Open Europe’s critique of energy taxation and more views on Feed-In Tariffs. Groups has a report of the Warwick micro-wind power trials, and some views on biomass from OPT, while our Editorial asks if the renewables boom can last.


12. Renew and NATTA Subscription details


Renew is the bi-monthly 34 page newsletter of NATTA, the Network for Alternative Technology and Technology Assessment, currently based at the OU Energy and Environment Research Unit . NATTA members gets Renew free. NATTA membership cost £18 p.a. (waged) £12 p.a. (unwaged), £6 pa airmail supplement. Corporate/Institutional sub £50 p.a. Make Cheques payable to The Open University  please (not  to 'NATTA') and send to NATTA , c/o EERU, The Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA 


Renew can be supplied in PDF format (and in colour) by email rather than in print by post, if you like.  Tell us which version you want.


From Sept 2009, when the editor, Prof David Elliott retires, he will be running Renew and NATTA independently of the OU, and there will be some changes in the subscription levels - and only PDF versions will be available from then on.

Details from