Renew On Line (UK) 60

Extracts from NATTA's journal
, issue160 March-April2006

   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. Intermittency- not a big issue?

2. Marine renewables- tidal and wave progress

3. Wind power- problems and successes

4. The Energy Review- UK split on nuclear power

5. NFFO fund raided – Treasury helps itself

6. Microgen for all – micro CHP in action

7. LCBP gets £30m  - Skills gap? 

8. UK roundup – local wind and solar projects

9. Global Developments - Clinton Global Initiative

10. Europe - France, Spain, Portugal, Germany

11. Around the World - USA, Canada, China

12. Nuclear News- Chernobyl revisited, US Safety

4. The Energy Review

Malcolm Wicks, the Energy Minister, straight-batted any suggestion that the new Energy Review would be anything but impartial. In the Observer Dec 4th, he insisted that ‘on my watch, in my review, there is no foregone conclusion to the prospect of new nuclear power stations’.  He also refuted the idea that nothing has changed since the government looked at energy policy in 2003: ‘Faster-than-expected North Sea decline, global oil prices rising by 50% in just three years, hardening of the scientific consensus around climate change and, with 30% of the UK’s generating capacity set to close by 2020, critical investment decisions on new capacity fast approaching. This is a very different world from just three years ago.’

Well yes and no- these trends were clear then. But for good or ill, we now have a review- see Wicks’ ground rules and the details of the new consultation exercise below. Wicks said he wanted to see ‘what today’s more advanced civil nuclear technologies can offer’ and was interested in Carbon Capture and Storage, but he was also keen on renewables. ‘As an island nation, we would be foolish not to exploit to the full all the natural resources that affords. Research from Oxford University recently confirmed that Britain has the best wind resource in Europe, providing most energy during peak daytime and winter periods.  I am wedded to increasing the amount of energy we source from this and other forms of renewables.’

 Wicks spells out review ground rules

Speaking at the Social Market Foundation meeting on Dec 19th, Malcolm Wicks posed the following key questions for the new Energy Review:

  • How can we speed up progress in reducing carbon emissions, particularly through the way we generate electricity?
  • How can we develop more effective policy tools for securing energy efficiency?
  • How can we ensure we achieve reasonable reliability and security of energy supplies?
  • How do we achieve all of these things in a way that is affordable and doesn’t damage our competitiveness, public finances and prosperity?

He concluded: ‘I want to use this review to have a grown up, informed debate around these difficult issues. I am not interested in spending the next few months responding to those people who have written off this review as a forgone conclusion- or who believe that there is only one answer to the challenges we’re facing. There will be challenging decisions to be taken at the end of this process but it is better to take them soon- and in good time- than to be judged severely by future generations who might otherwise ask why we did not act when we had the opportunity to do so.’ 

* Interviewed in the Guardian (23/1/06) Wicks noted that a ‘fast track’ approach to planning decisions might be need, if nuclear plants were to be backed, with the use of pre-licensing arrangements for nuclear technology. As it noted earlier (21/1/06), these would allow for any public inquiries to focus just on local issues, something most objectors would oppose.

Energy Review- details

Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, launched the three-month consultation process in January, saying that he wanted ‘the widest possible engagement in this vital debate’. Certainly the consultation brief was very wide, asking for comments on just about all aspects of energy policy: ‘What more could the Government do on the demand or supply side for energy to ensure that the UK’s long-term goal of reducing carbon emissions is met? With the UK becoming a net energy importer and with big investments to be made over the next twenty years in generating capacity and networks, what further steps, if any, should the Government take to develop our market framework for delivering reliable energy supplies? In particular, we invite views on the implications of increased dependence on gas imports’.  Crucially, the brief noted that ‘The Energy White Paper left open the option of nuclear new build. Are there particular considerations that should apply to nuclear as the Government reexamines the issues bearing on new build, including long-term liabilities and waste management? If so, what are these, and how should the Government address them?’

The consultation also asks: ‘Are there particular considerations that should apply to carbon abatement and other low-carbon technologies?’ and ‘what further steps should be taken towards meeting the Government’s goals for ensuring that every home is adequately and affordably heated?’ It also invited comments on ‘the long-term potential of energy efficiency measures in the transport, residential, business and public sectors, and how best to achieve that potential,’ and on the ‘implications in the medium and long term for the transmission and distribution networks of significant new build in gas and electricity generation infrastructure’.

Finally it asks for comments on ‘opportunities for more joint working with other countries on our energy policy goals’, and last but hopefully not least on ‘potential measures to help bring forward technologies to replace fossil fuels in transport and heat generation in the medium and long term’. The brief noted that ‘the issues will be looked at in the context of the Government’s policies for competitiveness and sound public finances’ and said that the aim was to ‘bring forward policy proposals by the summer’ with the review being led by Malcolm Wicks and drawing on expert support and analysis ‘both within and outside Government’.   The closing date for submissions is 14 April.

The consultation document is at:

Labour Nuclear rebels

A group of Labour MPs, brought together by a former minister, Alan Whitehead and including two members of the Environmental Audit select committee, David Chaytor and Colin Challen, has produced a manifesto setting out the case for continued investment in renewable energy, rather than taking ‘a dangerous leap with nuclear’. According to the Guardian (22/12/05) the group claims the indirect support of the environment minister Elliot Morley, who it says told a seminar organised by SERA: ‘I don’t think nuclear development is economically viable, and since no one is offering to pay, it would certainly need to have financial support from the government. Is it the right time for that? Should we not be putting this money into renewables and other efficiency measures? I would prefer to see investment in carbon-capture technologies.’

Whitehead claimed that ‘If there was a free market in energy, i.e. no assistance for new nuclear build, no long term promise of a guaranteed market and no minimum price for nuclear, no one would build a new nuclear station. Nuclear is not carbon-free, nor is it renewable. We have been promised by government that there is a debate to be had, and no decisions have been made. But there is a change in attitude in government. Only three years ago a white paper pretty well ruled out nuclear, but it is now centre stage.’

UK split on nuclear

An Ipsos MORI survey of 1500 people carried out jointly by the Centre for Environmental Risk and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change  at the University of East Anglia, has found that while 54% may be prepared to accept new nuclear plants if they were shown to help tackle climate change, 78% thought renewables and energy efficiency were better ways of tackling global warming. 63% believed the UK needed a combination of energy sources, including nuclear and renewables, to ensure a reliable supply of electricity.

A Guardian/ICM poll last Dec. found that that 48% of people asked opposed expanding nuclear energy, while 45% supported it. The poll reveals sharp gender differences: 57% of men but only 33% of women supported building new nuclear power stations; 57% of women and 39% of men were against. Among the over 65s 47% approved (39% against) compared with 42% of the 18-24s (57% against). Conservative voters were most likely to be pro-nuclear (56% for and 38% against), with 49% of Labour supporters (48% against), and 41% of Liberal Democrat voters- despite their party’s anti-nuclear policy.  However, according to former Energy Minister Brian Wilson, a more positive view emerged if a promise was made to back renewables as well as nuclear. He told the Guardian (27 Dec) ‘They are not alternatives. When people are asked if they would support nuclear as part of a solution that also supports renewables, the levels of public support rises to 62%’. His proof of ‘good intent’ would be to see the renewable obligation extended to 2030, with ‘cross-party support’.

For the Tory view see :

* According to a Euro-barometer poll in June 2005 for the European Commission, 38% of Germans backed nuclear power; while 55% opposed it across the EU.

Still no Climate Review

‘The Government are aware that more needs to be done to achieve their 2010 goal-latest published projections indicate that emissions of carbon dioxide will be about 13% below 1990 levels in 2010’ so said Climate & Environment Minister Elliot Morley last year (30/11/05). And the UK Climate Change Programme has been looking at how existing policies are performing and the range of policies that might be put in place to put the UK back on track towards a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2010. But so far, there is no sign of the climate policy report, which was promised ‘early in the new year’. A bit odd, since you’d think the climate strategy was needed before consulting on the energy review (see above). 

According to the Guardian (Jan 31st) one reason for the delay was that there is a dispute between the DTI and DEFRA on whether the UK can meet the 20% target. The DTI say that, on current policies, we might achieve ‘only around 10% below 1990 levels by 2010’. According to the Guardian, the review is also being held up by uncertainties over the contribution Britain can make to the second round of the EU emissions trading scheme, due to start in 2008 and end in 2012.  Upping the sense of urgency, in January, DEFRA published a book ‘Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change’ drawing together the papers presented to the Met Office conference in Exeter last Feb. (see Renew 156), which includes the suggestion that the Antarctic ice sheet may be starting to disintegrate, with the result that sea levels around the world might eventually rise by 16ft. We may be approaching a ‘tipping point’ after which changes will be irreversible. At best we might, it says, have 20 years to get emissions down to stable levels.

Also Coming soon   With the energy underway, the report from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee on its own energy review couldn’t be more timely and is eagerly awaited. In addition, Jonathan Porritts’ government-backed Sustainable Development Commission is about to publish a major report on the nuclear issue: it’s likely to be forthright.

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