Renew On Line (UK) 65

Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 165 Jan-Feb 2007
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Contents

1. Energy Review-RO changes

2. Stern report

3. Policy developments

4. Around the UK

5. World Developments

6. EU Developments

7. World roundup

8. Nuclear Developments

3. Policy developments Climate Bill

Following the publication of the Stern review Environment Minister David Miliband announced that the government were planning to legislate for a Climate Change Bill which would:

* put into law the government’s long-term goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60% by 2050;

* establish an independent body to work with the government on how efforts to reduce emissions should be spread over time and across the economy- a ‘Carbon Committee’

*strengthen Parliaments monitoring & reporting arrangements

* create new enabling powers to put in place new emission reductions measures to help meet the UK’s goal.

The governments decision to include proposals for a Climate Change Bill in the programme of legislation announced in the Queens Speech in November, had been trailed previously- and followed mounting pressure from green groups and opposition parties, with the Stern review providing a peg to hang it on. However, the government has resisted the idea pushed by Friends of the Earth- and the Tories- of an annual target, arguing that unforeseen factors, such as extreme weather or unexpectedly strong economic growth, could mean that targets might be missed from one year to the next. Specific targets for possibly each 5 years, were proposed- subject to consultation- linked to EU targets.

To that end Gordon Brown announced new proposals for the next stage of the European Emissions Trading scheme, including the setting of a new EU-wide emissions reduction target of 30% by 2020, and then at least 60% by 2050 in line with the UK goal. He also announced agreement on a new partnership with the World Economic Forum and the World Business Council on sustainable development to bring the private sector into the framework. ‘Our aim- leveraging in both private and public contributions- is a $20 bn fund to increase energy efficiency and investment in low carbon technologies. By 2010 the global environmental market could be worth almost $700bn. I am determined that Britain leads the development of this market and today I established a new Commission to make detailed proposals on securing what could be at least 100,000 more jobs over the next ten years.’ He also asked former US Vice-President Al Gore to become an adviser on environmental issues.

But then in Dec. his pre-budget only (re) introduced some rather weak green taxes on transport- an increase in all rates of air passenger duty from Feb., and in the main road fuel duties, in line with inflation- plus ‘measures to promote the use of cleaner fuels, including support for the development of biofuels’.

In addition there’s ‘an ambition for all new homes to be zero carbon by 2016, with a time-limited stamp duty exemption for the vast majority of new zero-carbon homes’. That’s fine, but new houses are a small % of the housing market, so its impact will be relatively low.

Overall, Brown seems to be wary of green taxes- instead he’s looking to Emission Trading.

  • Meanwhile Lord Lawson- who served as chancellor for 6 years under Margaret Thatcher- has expressed some contrarian views. He told the Centre for Policy Studies that scientists warning of climate change disaster via ‘distinctly unconvincing’ models for climate change had a ‘pre-determined alarmist global narrative’, and were a new ‘eco-fundamentalist’ priesthood, who regard challenges to their predictions as ‘blasphemy’. He claimed that in any case, sea level rises should not be ‘too difficult to live with’, and that some countries would ‘actually benefit from a warmer climate’. And if we had to respond, one possible option was ‘geo-engineering’, e.g. ‘blasting aerosols into the stratosphere, so as to impede the sun’s rays’.

Bioenergy needs more

Current government policy focuses on renewable electricity generation at the expense of the prospects for the development of renewable heat’, according to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee in ‘Climate change: the role of bioenergy’.

It said it was ‘disappointed to find that current government policy on bioenergy is piecemeal and so lacking in ambition as to raise questions about the extent of the government’s commitment to its domestic climate change agenda. We are disappointed that the government has failed to take the opportunity offered by the Energy Review properly to address the issue of biomass heat,’ adding ‘If it is to lead by example, the government must renew and redouble its efforts to exploit the potential of bioenergy’.

It recommended that government set ‘clear and quantifiable targets for biomass heat’ in its forthcoming biomass strategy. The Committee was concerned that biofuels (for vehicles) received more support than biomass (for heat and power), but even so they were still keen that more attention be paid to ‘second generation’ biofuels, including ‘biomass-derived second generation aviation fuels’.

And they say that the potential of marine biomass should not be overlooked. In this context, they note that land use would become crucial and were concerned by the government’s claim that, by 2050, the UK could meet a third of its transport energy needs from renewables: ‘If the government goes ahead with the increase in the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation beyond 5%, as proposed in the Energy Review, there may be serious UK land use implications’.

Micropower bailed out

With B&Q now selling the Windsave micro-wind turbine and solar collectors, and Curry’s offering PV solar panels, perhaps it’s not surprising that the initial allocation of funds by the government to support subsidies for domestic micro-power under the new Low-Carbon Building Programme ran out. Out of the total of £80m allocated to the LCBP, only £6.5m was set aside for household projects over a three year period, £3.5m of it for the 2006-07 financial year, i.e. up to April, but this was spent by Oct last year, with 1,948 projects having been backed. According to a report in the Guardian (21/10/06) the DTI wanted to ‘develop a sustainable industry that does not rely too much on subsidies’, so more might not be forthcoming and in answer to a Parliamentary Question on Oct 20th, Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks noted that ‘past experience leads us to believe that not all of these projects will go forward as expected’, so some money might be saved for new projects.

However subsequently he allocated £6.2m more, ‘drawn from the total £28.5m phase 1 funding, into the householder stream’. This is a big step: the initial budgets for the household stream in years 2 and 3 were £2m for 2007-08 and only £1m for 2008-09. But of course the new funding is not new money- it’s come from the remainder of phase 1 (the £50m allocated in the last budget is for phase 2, focussing on larger public schemes). Wicks said that, on current projections, the new funding ‘should allow us to operate the grant programme until mid 2008. By this time some of our wider measures to promote micro-generation should be taking hold, and we believe the sector will have matured to a point where householder grants are no longer the best use of our resources.’

Decentral Move

A radical shift away from large centralised power production to community based ‘locally grown’ energy could help cut carbon emissions and improve efficiency, according the the DTI’s Alistair Darling. Following the Energy Review the Government, together with Ofgem, is examining the incentives and barriers, and potential for, and impact of, distributed energy.

Darling said: ‘There is huge potential for us to make energy a local issue, involving individuals, businesses and communities. More and more people want to generate their own electricity at home and people can now buy the products on the high street. Solar panels, wind turbines and greater energy efficiency can help cut emissions and the impact on the environment. Making it easier for people to sell surplus electricity back to the Grid and looking at the potential of new combined heat and power domestic boilers, must be considered. We want to understand the barriers to generating energy locally in large buildings like hospitals, hotels and universities.’

Ofgem Chief Executive, Alistair Buchanan, said: ‘Ofgem has already taken action to help more locally-based electricity generators connect to electricity networks. This includes incentives for local network owners to respond to growth in renewables and to invest in research and development to realise their potential. Ofgem has also identified action energy suppliers need to take to make it easier for people to generate their own electricity at home and sell back surplus electricity.’

But the report is a bit sniffy about ‘private wire’ networks like Wokings’, since they don’t pay for national grid system costs. See Renew 166. The Distributed Electricity generation document is at: www.dti.gov.uk/energy/review/page31995.html

Party Pieces

Last autumn saw Climate Change feature strongly in all the Party Conferences- they almost seemed to try to outdo each other in trying to be seen to be concerned. With the news from NASA’s Godard Centre that the arctic ice cap was melting very much faster than expected, and the issue high on the electoral agenda (see box), there was certainly plenty of scope for alarm and radical posturing.

The Lib Dems talked about the urgent need to plan for adaptation and the merits of green taxes. The newly green Tories were less forthcoming on specific policies, but called for more co-operation on climate issues between parties, a new market-based emissions trading system with binding targets, and an independent international body, working alongside the WTO, to monitor scientific research on climate change and make recommendations for action. For Labour, Tony Blair said we needed ‘the most radical overhaul of energy policy since the War’ and promised to ‘increase the amount of energy from renewable sources fivefold; ensure every major business in the country has a responsibility for greenhouse gas reduction; treble investment in clean technology, including clean coal; and make sure every new home is at least 40% more energy efficient’.

£1bn for ETI...

The government is pushing ahead with the proposed new private/public Energy Technology Institute (ETI) for which it says it will provide matching funding of £500m over 10 years. As we report in our Groups section, the aim of the ETI is to support the development of low carbon energy technologies- although not including nuclear. BP, EDF and E.ON have already pledged matching support and more is being sought, for a 2008 start up.

...but what about the UKERC?

There has however inevitably been some concern over the respectives roles of the ETI and the already established Research Council funded UK Energy Research Centre. Speaking at the UKERC supported ‘New Europe-New Energy’ conference at the Open University in Sept (see Renew 164) Prof Jim Skea, UKERC’s research director, suggested that the UKERC might focus more on new R&D, while the ETI might look at follow up development work, a view also relayed at an open information event on the ETI held in Oct. in London. But the current aims of the ETI (see Groups) seem to cover R&D across the board....

Meanwhile, the UKERC has launched a National Energy Research Network (NERN), which aims to connect the UK’s broad energy research community. UKERC says that ‘the Network will be a uniting umbrella network for energy researchers. It will not duplicate, but will support existing networks- while providing a mechanism to draw them and other interested individuals together.’

  • NERN members will get regular newsletters, invitations to and notification of relevant events, access to an online extranet with details of existing energy networks, events, job opportunities. The UKERC has also produced an Energy Research Atlas, designed to provide an open and definitive picture of energy research in the UK. The web-based Energy Research Atlas provides an authoritative account of research capabilities and unsolved research problems across the energy domain. The hope is that NERN members will contribute to updates of the Research Atlas. Membership of the NERN is free and is offered to ‘organisations and individuals who are making a material contribution towards sustainable energy R&D in the UK’. www.ukerc.ac.uk

Ministerial moves

Malcolm Wicks has moved from from being Energy Minister to take over Science and Technology from Lord Sainsbury, who has stood down. The DTI Secretary of State Alistair Darling now covers the energy portfolio.

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