Renew On Line (UK) 66

Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 166 March-April 2007
   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. Energy Policy: White paper delay, EAC blown away

2.Wind power : Micro-wind doubts, Offshore wind boom

3. Carbon Policy: Zero Carbon Houses, Carbon rationing

4. NCC: Green power reality check

5. Regional policy: Wales and Scotland

6. FoE say no to Severn Barrage: it could crowd out alternatives

7. News Roundup: Biofuels, Planning, Solar Fine, Clean Coal plant

8. Global Climate Worsens: IPCCC 4th report

9. European Roundup: EC on Energy Efficiency

10. USA: Bush unmoved on Climate

11. Around the world: Australia, China, Asia-Pacific Climate Pact

12. Nuclear News: UK, US, Germany and Bulgaria

FoE say no to Severn Barrage

It could crowd out other green options

As we noted in Renew 164, Friends of the Earth Cymru is opposed to the construction of the Severn Barrage and supports the government' s energy reviews proposal for a comparative assessment of the potential of all tidal technologies in the Severn estuary, not just a barrage. It has now produced a report backing up its arguments- see the Feature in Renew 166 for an overview.

In addition to the issues of environmental impact and cost, one of its key arguments is that investing in the barrage would have a major impact on other generating technologies. It says that ' If a barrage were built it is probable that some other generating schemes would not get built. The Severn Tidal Barrage Group (STPG- the development consortium) say that its output could comprise nearly one third of the Government' s 2015 renewables target. It is unlikely that it could be built by 2015 but it could generate a fifth to a quarter of the Government' s 20% by 2020 renewables ' aspiration' . So it could displace the deployment of other electricity-generating technologies including other renewables. The STPG also say that the scheme could be financed by private capital, if long-term carbon credits become available (though it also appears that other forms of public funding are also being sought). Yet there are finite funds for capital allowances and Renewables Obligation (RO) support, and a limited number of carbon credits within a trading scheme. So, depending on how policy is formulated following the energy review, the barrage is bound to displace some other schemes and technologies.'

FoE say that the energy review ' signalled that there would be moves to greater reliance on carbon trading to encourage the most cost-effective low carbon technologies, along with the possible ' banding' and ' extension' beyond 2015 of the RO to achieve the 20% by 2020 aspiration. Consequently, the barrage could end up directly competing with other renewable energy schemes for a limited pot of carbon credits, capital funding and or ' ROC' certificates up to the obligation' s final year in 2027.'

They go on ' Renewables currently supply around 18 TWh/y, the much-touted ' aspirational target' of 20% by 2020 may equate to around 75 TWh/y and the barrage would supply 17 TWh/y. This would leave around 40 TWh/y from all other renewables. Yet the BWEA in its submission to the energy review estimated that on and offshore wind farms, plus a small contribution from tidal and wave devices, alone might generate around 75 TWh/y by 2020.'

But why would that matter, if it delivered green power? Well the point is that as FoE say ' The 20% by 2020 aspiration is not necessarily very aspirational as it is, especially if technological advances enable faster deployment and higher output, so a barrage could further compromise the development of other renewables' . They add ' To counter such unhelpful potential conflicts the barrage could be excluded from the RO, as are large hydro schemes. Alternatively, the renewables target could be revised upwards by including an ' impoundment band' . Without such provisions, the barrage could adversely affect the investor confidence needed for the construction of offshore windfarms, tidal stream devices, wave arrays, biomass and co-firing schemes, carbon capture and storage infrastructure, and other low carbon and renewable technologies. This is especially so in the 2015-2020 period as ageing UK power stations are required to close.'

They say that ' Any diversion of RO certificates, carbon credits and or capital allowances and possibly other resources, to one-off, site specific concrete construction could damage technological leads that UK industries have in aspects of these developing ' modular' technologies. This could have implications for technology transfer, exports and hence UK business, manufacturing and jobs. Investment in tidal stream and wave technologies where the UK has an advantage in natural resources and technological lead are a case in point. Initial schemes will have capital and revenue support from the Marine Deployment Fund. Generating costs will hopefully fall quickly as production scales up. So it would not be helpful if the barrage then crowded out further larger scale commercial deployments. Similarly, even if a clash with other renewables were avoided, the barrage could still squeeze the development of other more cost effective low carbon technologies (i.e. CHP, offshore windfarms, CCS), or indeed energy efficiency measures, as there would be finite public funds for capital allowances for major programmes and or credits and commitments for CO2 emission reductions.'

North Sea Supergird Grid

As an example of possible alternatives they cite the proposal by Airtricity for a 10 GW Offshore Wind and Transmission Foundation Project, which they say ' offers an illustration for investment in a more CO2 effective energy scheme which would also have wider developmental value than the barrage. The Euro 20 bn scheme (£13.2 bn, about the same a the barrage) was put forward in detail in evidence to the Energy Review. At a nominal 39% load factor the scheme' s 2,000 turbines would generate about 34 TWh/year, twice as much as a barrage in the critical coming 25 years period. The turbines would then be removed (and the metals recycled) and replaced with new, possibly 50% more powerful turbines, on the same foundations. The foundations and cables would likely be designed for such 50+ year operational life and re-powering. So the re-powering may be less than half the initial investment as the actual turbines comprise around 40-45% of scheme costs.'

FoE say that ' In such a scenario the windfarm would generate as much power in 50 years (2,000 TWh) than the barrage would in its 120 year design life, for possibly just £5.3-6 bn more. This assumes that sea level rise over the 120 year period does not significantly reduce the barrage efficiency by reducing the head of water.'

They conclude ' In terms of cost effectiveness, it is reductions in carbon dioxide emissions in the next twenty years rather than the next 120 years which are most needed to tackle climate change. This is because CO2 emissions have an effect over a period of around 100 years. The recent publication of the Stern report adds further weight to focusing on the earliest, most cost effective carbon reducing measures. In the Summary of Conclusions it states “The investment that takes place in the next 10-20 years will have a profound effect on the climate in the second half of this century and in the next”.'

Interestingly, as well as backing tidal lagoons, which they see as a less invasive and cheaper option (see the Technology section in the Renew 166 ), FoE also point to another large scale option- mirror-based ' concentrating solar power schemes' as another possible option. They say focused-solar thermal systems ' covering just one sixth (5.5 miles by 5.5 miles) of the impoundment area, located in a hot, virtually barren areas of the Saharan desert, could generate as much power annually' . And this could be delivered to the EU and the UK by High Voltage DC links (see Renew 165).

FoE really do seem to see the barrage as a major threat. For another view see our Feature.

* FoE' s ' crowding out other options' analysis is similar to the argument sometimes used against nuclear plants. It will be interesting to see what the government says in the new Energy White paper- still out soon?

NATTA/Renew Subscription Details

Renew is the bi-monthly 30 plus page newsletter of NATTA, the Network for Alternative Technology and Technology Assessment. NATTA members gets Renew free. NATTA membership cost 18 pa (waged) 12pa (unwaged), 6 pa airmail supplement (Please make cheques payable to 'The Open University', NOT to 'NATTA')

Details from NATTA , c/o EERU,
The Open University,
Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA
Tel: 01908 65 4638 (24 hrs)

The full 32 (plus) page journal can be obtained on subscription
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.

We are now offering to e-mail subscribers a PDF version of the complete Renew, instead  of sending them the printed version, should they wish.