Renew On Line (UK) 55

Extracts from NATTA's journal
, issue 155 May-June2005

   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. £42m for Wave & Tidal

2.NAO on the Renewable Obligation

3. Carbon Storage gets a look in

4.‘Tidal lagoons OK’

5. Renewables hit by new tax…and the Guardian!

6. RPA’s Green Energy Manifesto

7. Renewable Energy Bill - Green Heat

8. Climate gets worse: IPPR want 40% cut by 2020

9. UK Renewables round up : wind, geothermal, biomass

10 World Developments: EU, China, Australia, USA, Canada

11. World Renewables roundup: Latin America....and the rest

12 Nuclear News: Nuclear Waste, French mess, Nuclear Hydrogen ?

10 World Developments


EU subsidy bias against renewables

Europe provided subsidies of Euro 29.2bn to energy sources in 2001, but only Euro 5.3bn went to renewables, according to a report by the European Environment Agency, which argues that this is unfortunate since “with the exception of large hydro-electric power, renewable energy represents a much less mature industry with arguably greater need for technological and market support to enable full commercial development”.  Moreover it argues that “It can be expected that subsidies for renewable industry will fall as costs decline and the technologies mature”.  It adds “There is some evidence to suggest that, in historical terms, renewable energy subsidies in the EU 15 are relatively low in comparison with other forms of energy during periods of fuel transition and technology development,” pointing out that mature fuels such as natural gas continue to benefit from the technological and industrial infrastructure built up during previous decades.  And it warns “At current levels of political and financial support, the EU 15 renewable energy targets for 2010 will not be met”.

A similar view has emerged from EREC, the European Renewable Energy Council. In a new report on energy markets entitled ‘The Myth of Effective Competition in European Power Markets.’ it claims that the for every $1 spent on renewable energy R&D over the last three decades by developed countries, $10 has been spent on other energy sources, largely fossil fuels and nuclear.

It says that, over the last 30 years, 92% of all R&D funding (US$267 bn) among member countries of the International Energy Agency was spent on non-renewables, largely fossil fuels and nuclear technologies, compared to $23bn for all renewables technologies. From 1974 to 2002, nuclear received $168bn in research, 7.3 times larger than for renewables, with $68bn having been spent since 1987.

EREC adds  “Effective competition in the European power markets is just a myth: there is no real competition on more than 90% of the EU electricity market and, unless the current distortions in the emerging Internal Electricity Market are overcome, there will be no effective Internal Renewable Electricity Market for Renewables to compete in”.

The EU however sees the way forward as being via the new EU Emission Trading- but this view is not shared by all, especially those who benefit from the fixed price Feed-in Tariff approach used so successfully in Germany and in several other EU countries. In a new report on support systems, the European Wind Energy Association says that it is premature to force every county to adopt a single EU wide market framework until competition is more effective and distortions which discriminate against renewables are removed. The EWEA says it supports the intention to eventually adopt support mechanisms for renewables that are compatible with an undistorted market, but ‘a hasty move towards a harmonized EU-wide payment mechanism for renewable electricity would put European leadership in wind power technology and other renewables at risk.’

·        See the Reviews section  of Renew 155 for EREC’s views on nuclear insurance subsidies

EU: 25% by 2020

INforSE says the EU should aim to get renewables to supply 25% of energy by 2020, and, with an increased commitment to energy effciency, should aim to phase out nuclear and fossil energy. It sees energy efficiency as the first priority, and it recommends that the proposed target of 1% per year of energy efficiency be increased to at least 2% per year until 2010. See Reviews section of Renew 155.

REEEP offers  Eu1m

The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) is to make Euro 1 million available to fund renewable energy projects internationally in its third round of funding- covering April 2005- March 2006.  REEEP was  established by the UK government in 2002 to drive the integration of renewable and energy efficient systems (REES) into national and global energy policy. REEEP’s priority for this funding round will be projects that either use innovative financing mechanisms to catalyse the uptake of REES, or contribute to a supportive regulative and legal environment.  REEEP currently funds over 40 REES projects worldwide, most of them relative small scale.  The UK recently announced that it will contribute £2.5 million to REEEP in the 2005-6 financial year.

In parallel, the World Bank is providing US$3 million for innovative ideas in the area of renewable energy via its ‘Development Marketplace 2005’  programme, with awards of up to $150,000 each for proposals that are “a brilliant but unusual idea that may not get funded through traditional venues.”

But oil giant Exxon evidently sees this sort of thing as marginal. Renewables will only provide 1% of global energy by 2030, says ExxonMobil in its new long  range energy study- and then “mainly because of subsidies and related mandates”- while total world energy demand will grow by 1.7% per year, with oil, coal and gas continuing to dominate.

By contrast the major US power company Edison International say that, in the short term, there must be “aggressive development of renewable energy and the implementation of energy conservation and energy-efficiency programs to reduce GHG emissions,”  while the longer term must include a “reasonable and balanced” cap-and-trade system for reducing CO2 emissions. Without CO2 removal technology, it says a cap-and-trade system “merely forces a shift in the fuel mix for electricity generation to higher-priced resources, raising consumer rates.”

Solar ahead at 70GWth

With 69,320 megawatt thermal  ('MWth’) of heat generation capacity in place globally in 2001, solar thermal energy compares well with the wind capacity (then) of 23,000 MW, according to data from the Solar Heating & Cooling Programme of the International Energy Agency and seven trade associations from Europe and N America.  Although wind has since expanded to over 40,000 MW (40 GW), solar thermal is still ahead. “The worldwide contribution of solar thermal installations to meeting the thermal energy demand for applications such as hot water or space heating has been greatly underestimated in the past”,  said Michael Rantil, Chairman of the International Energy Agency’s Solar Heating and Cooling Programme: “With an installed capacity of 70 GWth solar thermal is one of the leading sources of renewable energy world wide. And its potential is much, much higher.”

Rendering the data MW and GW ’thermal’, rather than in square metres of installed collector area as in the past, avoids under-estimating   solar thermal capacity by making it comparable with other energy sources.

The 2001 total consisted of 34,332 MWth in glazed collectors, 19,375 MWth in unglazed and 15,613 MWth in evacuated tube collectors. The top five countries have 82% of installed global capacity, led by China with 22,400 MWth, the US with 17,459, Japan with 8,447, Turkey with 5,691 and Germany with 3,049 MWth.

Large Hydro OK?

Rebutting recent claims about methane emissions from rotting biomass brought down river to be trapped by large hydro reservoirs (see Renew 153) Hydro-Québec and the Université du Québec à Montréal have produced a report based on extensive new field studies on Greenhouse gas emissions from hydroelectric reservoirs. It claims that, in northern and semi-arid regions, although there was typically a rapid increase in emissions following  initial reservoir impoundment, subsequently levels returned, within less than 10 years, to values ‘similar to those measured in neighboring natural aquatic environments’.  Overall it claims that ‘GHG emissions from hydroelectric reservoirs are 35 to 70 times lower per TWh than those from thermal generating stations’. 

But what about in hot countries? And quite apart from the methane issue, what about local impacts?  Some provocative projects have been proposed.   For example, there are evidently plans for  a project on  Chinas’ Tiger Leaping Gorge- which, opponents  claim, would devastate a tourist attraction and threaten the way of life of the indigenous Naxi people. The gorge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Meanwhile, the World Bank is seeking comments on a proposal to dam a tributary of the Mekong river in Laos. The project will displace 6,000 residents and flood the fields of 40,000 villagers, and the electricity generation would be sold to Thailand.

A Chinese Tidal Lagoon?

According to the US company Tidal Electric, the Chinese government has expressed ‘enthusiastic support’ for a proposed 300 MW offshore tidal lagoon to be built by the company in the waters near the mouth of the Yalu River, and have signed an agreement pledging to cooperate with the development. At 300 MW, the project would be the largest tidal power project in the world, topping the capacity of the 240 MW French tidal power plant in LaRance.

Governor Zhang Wenyue of Liaoning Province (population 50.2 million) traveled to New York for the signing ceremony accompanied by 4 Mayors from cities nearby the chosen site, provincial consenting authorities, foreign trade officials, and a contingent of foreign affairs specialists.

Tidal Electric was represented by Chairman Peter Ullman, Director Gregory Bonenberger, and Michael Ashburn, a British citizen living in Beijing who heads up Tidal Electric’s affiliate company Tai Yang Dian Li -“Clear World”. Mayor Chen of Dandong City and a contingent of other local officials who pledged their support and agreed to provide Tidal Electric with environmental data, tidal data, and liaison services.

Peter Ullman said “China’s economy is booming and requires many new power resources to keep its momentum going. The Chinese government has clearly stated their support for renewable power. They demonstrated that by bringing top scientists and engineers together to carefully consider the tidal lagoon technology and ask all the hard questions. They are now satisfied the technology is credible. The Chinese government seems to understand the risks faced by power developers wishing to do business in China and they have made every effort to remove risks and potential problem.”

Next steps for the project are to conduct engineering feasibility studies similar to those that were recently successfully concluded in the UK by WS Atkins Engineering for Tidal Electric’s Swansea Bay project.

Australian Emissions

Australian government projections released last December claimed that it was on track towards meeting its Kyoto target- which of course allowed them to increase its emissions by 10%. However, not everyone is convinced it can stay even within this.  Eco, the journal of the Climate Action Network (Volume CX, Issue 03), claimed that, in fact, ‘Australia’s target is only in reach because of recent moves by its state governments to halt large-scale land clearing. However, these efforts were in response to other policy challenges of salinity, biodiversity loss and declining water quality, and had little to do with controlling greenhouse emissions. The dramatic reduction in land clearing emissions has hidden unrestrained growth in other sectors. Stationary energy emissions are projected to grow 46 percent over 1990 levels by 2010 and 66 percent by  2020. Similarly, transport emissions will grow by 42 percent and 61% by 2010 and 2020 respectively. Furthermore, the Australian government’s projections show a blow out from last year’s report, with an upward revision in emissions growth from energy, agriculture and industrial processes. The effectiveness of its flagship programme- the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Programme- has  been revised downwards and the only energy reform measure- the Fuel  Excise Reform- is expected to increase emissions.’  Eco concludes  This could help explain why the Australian government is hesitant to be part of the  Kyoto Club’.

Part of the problem is the low level of commitment to renewables. The Australian Wind Energy Association in its report, ‘The Cost of Federal & State Renewable Energy Targets,’ claims that Federal targets for renewable energy in Australia will result in an actual overall decline of up to 2% of the total percentage from renewables by 2020.  It notes that when it was introduced in 1997, the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) called for a 2% increase from renewables by 2010, boosting the share from 10.5% to 12.5%. However MRET was then  changed from a percentage to a fixed target of 9,500 GWh by 2010,  and AWEA say, the country’s rapidly expanding energy use means that by 2020 “the percentage of renewables in Australia will actually have declined by up to 2% compared to levels in 1997”.

USA digs in on Climate Change

“President Bush strongly opposes any treaty or policy that would cause the loss of a single American job”. This message from the White House last November was buttressed by US objections to Tony Blair  placing the climate change issue at the top of the agenda of  meetings of the G8 group of nations- the UK currently has the chair.   Blair has been arguing that “it is quite false to suggest there is a trade-off between economic growth and environmental protection”, and that tackling climate change “can unleash a new and benign commercial force... providing jobs, technology spin-offs and new business opportunities as well as protecting the world we live in”. 

But clearly Bush is not convinced. Moreover, according to a report in New Statesman, in a  Radio 4 Today programme on 4 November, one of Bush's advisers on climate change, Myron Ebell of the US-based Competitive Enterprise Institute,  which is part funded by Exxon, said that global warming was a European plot to undermine US economic dominance.  However, the New Statesman argued that the US may not be able to ‘free ride’ for ever, in effect allowing its industries to  compete unfairly with those in countries who have acted on climate change.  The rules of the World Trade Organisation forbid subsidies, which means that other countries can in theory retaliate.

But Blair also has his own  problems- from the greens. In Nov., following the downward adjustment in the UK’s National Allocation Plan for the EU Emissions Trading System and reductions in the UK’s energy conservation targets, Greenpeace, withdrew its longstanding support for the Prime Minister's climate policies saying that he “can no longer be given the benefit of the doubt” and “cannot be trusted to resist industry lobbying”.

‘Let’s do it now’- ACORE

The USA has invested US$14 billion in renewable energy technology in the past 30 years, according to Dan Reicher, co-chair of the advisory board of the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE). And now he feels it is time for the pay off. “After 30 years of outstanding effort by our country’s best scientists and engineers, it is time to declare an interim success in our nation’s RD&D program for renewable energy. We now have many technology options that can help address the nation’s energy challenges.”

ACORE and the Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Caucus of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives are currently  lobbying around the proposition that “a new set of national goals and policy framework are needed now.”  ACORE wants RD&D budgets to increase by two to three times their current levels, to handle the needed support for a national strategy for utilization of the technologies.

ACORE and the Worldwatch Institute are producing a report on renewables in the U.S. that will examine the movement by other countries such as Germany and Japan, and the need for the U.S. to catch up. From 1973 to 2002, the U.S. has invested $99 bn in energy research, including $49 bn for nuclear, $25 bn for fossil fuels, but only $11 bn for energy efficiency and $14 bn for renewables.

Antarctic Renewables

The Australian Greenhouse Office is to provide Aus $500,000 to demonstrate the use of hydrogen generated by wind at the Australian Antarctic Division’s station at Mawson. Hydrogen will be produced using electricity from tow 1MW Enercon wind turbines which were installed last June, and then stored and used in a fuel cell for both space heating and transportation in one of the station vehicles.

By 2007, AAD hopes to have a “large proportion” of the power requirements of all its continental stations provided by renewables. AAD also uses solar PV during the 24 hours of daylight during summer, and a project launched in 1999 to use solar thermal for heating water has also proved very successful, and more are planned.


Greening Canada

Canada could install 41,400 MW of renewable energy   capacity by 2025, supplying 150TWh- half of the country’s electricity generation- according to the environmental group Pollution Probe in a report entitled ‘Green Power Vision & Strategy.’  Onshore wind would provide 21,000 MW and 55 TWh of electricity, with another 3,400 MW and 12 TWh of offshore wind. Small hydro would contribute 10,000 MW and 44 TWh, biomass would b 4,500 MW and 32 TWh, solar 1,000 MW and 1 TWh output, geothermal  500 MW and 4 TWh, while wave and tidal would each contribute 500 MW and 1 TWh output a year.  The target for 2010 would be 45 to 60 TWh, rising to 90 TWh by 2015, 120 TWh by 2020 and finally 150 TWh of green power by 2025. But that does not include heat contributions, which, oddly, are not covered in the report. The report concludes that “Green Power is not a niche market; it can become a significant source of clean electricity across Canada”.

Most are willing to pay more

A national poll suggested that 87% of Canadian voters support green power as a source of electricity.  It found that 12% of respondents were prepared to pay Cdn$5 more a month for green power if it would improve air quality, 18% would pay $2 to $5, 22% would pay $5 to $10, 9% would pay $10 to $15 and 17% would pay a monthly premium of $15 to $20. Only 17% said they would not pay a premium, and 5% had no opinion.

Wind, solar, small hydro and geothermal are the preferred electricity supply source for 60%. Large hydro projects were preferred by 20% and 15% like natural gas plants, while nuclear is preferred by 5% and coal-fired power was the preferred option for 1%.

Tree Bank

HSBC is planting thousands of trees around the world, cutting its energy use and trading greenhouse gas emissions in a bid to become the world’s first international bank to be “carbon-neutral”- at a cost estimated at £3.6m in the first year.

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