Renew On Line (UK) 70

Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 170 Nov-Dec 2007
   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. Dodging the EU Target: or room to grow?

2. Scottish green power cut off? or growing with the Marine Obligation

3. SCD on Tidal Barrage: 4.4%, or 25% from tidal current power?

4. Renewables progress: 4.6% but could be much more with a UK REFIT?

5. The Nuclear decision: wind a better bet? New Energy Bill

6. CAT s Zero carbon plan: 474TWh or wind by 2027!

7. Energy and Climate Policy: Carbon tax messes

8. EU News: New German plan

9. Global News: Biofuels v Food

10. Nuclear News: UK problems

11. In the rest of Renew 170


9. Global News

World Energy use rises

This years BP Annual Statistical Review of World Energy was pretty sobering. Over the last year, overall fossil fuel consumption continued to grow, at 2.4% p.a. Although total consumption of fossil fuels dropped in most major developed countries, including in the USA, Japan, UK and Italy, consumption rose in nine out of the top 10 developing countries, with notably China (8.6%), Saudi Arabia (5%) and India (4.8%). Most of the growth was based on increased coal consumption- which rose by 4.5%. gloabally. Global natural gas consumption also continued to rise, as did oil consumption, which grew by 0.7%, but oil production only grew at 0.4% (compared with 1% in 2005 and 4.5% in 2004), which may say something about the proximity of Peak Oil. But Proven Reserves of oil in the Middle East are allegedly unchanged at 742.7 billion barrels, despite the production over the last year of 9.5 billion barrels.  Interestingly 20Mtoe of ethanol fuel was produced last year. See:

Meanwhile Shells CEO (Times 25/6/07) said renewables can only supply at most 30% of global energy by 2050- so fossil CCS and efficiency must be the main focus.

  • China s GHG emissions in 2006 were 6.2 billion tonnes, versus 5.8 bn tonnes from the USA. Adding to the gloom, the total verified emissions in 2006 from the 25 EU Member States were 0.8% more than in 2005. And it may get worse. Hungary may become the fourth Member State to go to sue the European Commission, following the EC s decision on the national allocation plan, under phase 2 of the Kyoto protocul/EU-ETS. The granted allocation was 12.4% short of the request. Sources: Reuters, BP, Green Prices.

RE: 50% of US power?

Renewable energy could supply half current electricity demand in the U.S. and green fuels could meet 40% of transportation fuel demand by 2025, according to the 2007 Joint Outlook on Renewable Energy in America produced by a group of industry associations led by the American Council on Renewable Energy. Wind would lead, supplying 40% of the US green power, Solar could supply 26%, geothermal and biomass 16% each, while hydro, tidal and wave power could generate 3.6%.

Biofuels: FAO backs Bioenergy

The debate over the conflict between growing food and using land for energy crops continues. No serious person can affirm that creating jobs and adding value to existing jobs in the countryside is a risk to the poor people of the world, an ethanol summit in Brazil was told- and there was plenty of spare land. The issue was also one focus of a meeting of top international experts in Rome recently, who looked at the environmental and food security impact of the rapidly-expanding bioenergy industry. While recognising the potential problems they agreed that governments could use bioenergy as a positive force for rural development.

Alexander Müller, Head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation s Dept of Natural Resources Management & Environment, said While there is legitimate concern among some groups that bioenergy could compromise food security and cause environmental damage, it can also be an important tool for improving the well-being of rural people if governments take into account environmental and food security concerns .

He added we must make sure that both large- and small-scale producers of bioenergy fully take into account both the negative and positive impacts. There is a key role for governments to play in setting standards of performance. International organizations such as FAO can also have a major role in providing a neutral forum and policy support. We need an international commitment to make sure that food security is not impaired and that natural resources are used sustainably.

*A new UN report, Sustainable Bioenergy: A Framework for Decision Makers, by cross-agency body UN Energy, warns that a hasty switch to biofuels could have major impacts on livelihoods and the environment. Although it says that biofuels can bring real benefits, there can be serious consequences if forests are razed for plantations, if food prices rise and if communities are excluded from ownership. And it concludes that biofuels are more effective when used for heat and power rather than in transport: using biomass for combined heat and power, rather than for transport fuels or other uses, is the best option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade- and also one of the cheapest .

The report notes that demand for biofuels has accelerated the clearing of primary forest for palm plantations, particularly in southeast Asia. This destruction of ecosystems which remove carbon from the atmosphere can lead to a net increase in emissions. The report also warns that use of large-scale mono-cropping could lead to significant biodiversity loss, soil erosion and nutrient leaching . This has been avoided, the report says, in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, where sugar cane farmers are obliged to leave a percentage of their land as natural reserves.

In conclusion, UN Energy suggests policymakers should take a holistic look before embarking on drives to boost biofuel use. Only through a convergence of biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions and water-use policies can bioenergy find its proper environmental context and agricultural scale.

Food versus Fuel?

The United States Dept. of Agriculture projections of world grain supply and demand for the coming crop year, 2007/08, predict that supplies will drop to their lowest levels on record. US National Farmers Union Director of Research Darrin Qualman said: The current low supply levels are not the result of a transient weather event or an isolated production problem: low supplies are the result of a persistent drawdown trend . Meanwhile he noted demand is rising. Every six years, we re adding to the world the equivalent of a North American population. We re trying to feed those extra people, feed a growing livestock herd, and now, feed our cars, all from a static farmland base. No one should be surprised that food production can t keep up. He said that the converging problems of natural gas and fertilizer constraints, intensifying water shortages, climate change, farmland loss and degradation, population increases, the proliferation of livestock feeding, and an increasing push to divert food supplies into biofuels means that we are in the opening phase of an intensifying food shortage.

The growth in demand for biofuels is clearly not the only issue, but as we noted in Renew 169, there are certainly some conflicts, and biofuels have attracted an increasingly bad press, in terms of local social and environmental impacts and also in terms of the alleged inefficiency in carbon emission reductions terms. The energy used in fertilisers, and for harvesting and then transporting the crop and finally in processing it, can wipe out some or all the carbon saved by using this fuel instead of fossil derived fuels. Environmental NGO s have called for a ban on any biofuels that do not deliver at least a 50% net carbon saving and for tight biodiversity and sustainability standards to be applied to plantations. This sound reasonable enough. However, some of these problems can be overstated. As pointed out in Renew 169, there is a need to distinguish between first generation biofuels (e.g. starch from wheat or sugar from sugar beet to ethanol, and biodiesel from rapeseed) and second generation biofuels (conversion of lignocellulose from perennial crops e.g. coppice willow or miscanthus to sugar to ethanol) which should be much more efficient. See our Feature for more discussion.

Biofuels spread

There is no doubting the world wide commercial appeal of biofuels- especially if you have lots of spare land. For example, the annual biodiesel market in Bulgaria may grow to 400,000 tons in 2-3 years, a report by the Oxford Business Group says. That would be a 300% increase compared to 2006 when 140,000 tons of biodiesel were produced. Most will be used domestically- biofuel usage in Bulgaria could, it s estimated, account for 5.75% of all fuel consumption by 2010, as required by the European Commission. But some will be likely to be exported. Bulgaria s Rompetrol Rafinare recently started to distributing Super Ethanol E85 from its own brand and Dyneff brand filling stations in France. Source: BBJ - June 13.

However the most obvious candidates are developing countries, some of whom are already heavily involved, although given the potential for major social and environmental impacts, some greens argue that other types of renewable would be less problematic. For example, Neil Crumpton from Friends of the Earth Cymru has backed Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) in N African desert areas (see Renew 169 and our Technology section) as better than biofuels: Clearly, not all desert areas are suitable for CSP schemes as large areas are either sandy or sloping and some areas may support particularly valuable ecosystems. But only a small percentage of the suitable areas is needed. Electricity generated by 1 square mile of CSP in a relatively barren desert area would require, in comparison, over 100 square miles of biomass plantation, possibly from cleared rainforest. He also sees CSP as better than nuclear for desert states like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, as well as Turkey and Israel. (Imperial Engineer Spring 2007).

Biofuels and US food prices

Recent medium US food price rises have been blamed on diversion of corn to ethanol production, but a study by the US Renewable Fuels Association found that energy price rises had twice as much impact. Corn prices impact just a small segment of the food market , whereas energy prices impact on the whole food chain

Coal back

The USA isn t just keen on biofuels, its also keen on so called clean coal and new projects are now emerging. American Electric Power says its proposed integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) plant, sited in New Haven, W.Va., could be running by mid-2012 at a cost of $2.23 bn. But it warned that getting the plant into service will require at least a 2% rise in electricity rates.

Michael G. Morris, AEP CEO, said, With restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions expected in the future, IGCC technology represents an important advancement for power generation and the coal industry. It s much less expensive to capture carbon dioxide pre-combustion in the gasification process than it is to capture it post-combustion from a pulverized coal plant. When AEP first announced it would attempt to develop a commercial IGCC plant, the company estimated that it would cost 20% to 30% more than a new coal-fired plant using conventional technology.

Morris commented “That range turned out to be accurate, but even with the cost premium we expect IGCC will be the least-expensive option over the life of the plant”. The company said it also considering an IGCC plant on a site in Meigs County, Ohio.

* With peak oil widely seen as imminent, if not already past, we are likely to see more ideas like this- and certainly China could do with clean coal systems. Meanwhile, on a grander scale, there s talk of a HVDC power transmission line from Siberia to Europe...

CCS glitch Shell & Statoil have had to abort the Norwegian carbon storage project they were involved in at the Draugen oilfield, due to corrosion problems.

Asian Green Energy Funding

The Asian Development Bank is launching a Clean Energy Financing Partnership Facility that will raise US$250m to fast-track clean energy projects in developing countries, by supporting technical assistance and investment projects that are agreed upon between financing partners and ADB. Japan will provide US$100m to the Asian Development Bank to set up special funds to address climate change & promote regional investment in green energies. It will also provide $2bn in loans to ADB during the next five years to promote investment in solar and other renewables.

The Asian Development Bank has also launched a fund to buy carbon credits at the outset of clean energy projects. Commitments in the Asia Pacific Carbon Fund (part of ADB s broader Carbon Market Initiative) have exceeded the US$80m needed for launch, mainly from Spain, Luxembourg, Sweden and Switzerland. Other countries are expected to participate with total committed funds expected to exceed $120m. ADB will act as trustee for the fund, which will pay for half of Certified Emission Reductions that will come from projects. The global value of the carbon market was estimated at $10bn in 2005, with the value of carbon market transactions reaching $27bn last year.

India- 10GW

India wants to source 10GW from renewable energy during its 11th Plan period. The first year will add 2GW, most from wind, renewable energy secretary V Subramanian told the South Asia Renewable Energy Conference. Renewable energy need not be driven only by government policy, subsidies or initiative; the government should put up the right policies for renewable energy and let stakeholders take from there and not wait for subsidies. ReFocus Weekly

1bn migrants

A billion people- 1/7th of the global population- could be forced to leave their homes over the next 50 years as the effects of climate change worsen an already serious migration crisis, a new report from Christian Aid predicts. The report, based on latest UN population and climate change data, says conflict, large-scale development projects and widespread environmental deterioration will combine to make life unsupportable for hundreds of millions of people, mostly in the Sahara, S.Asia & the Middle East.

C40- Large Cities Summit

Mayors of 15 of the world s 40 largest cities have joined forces to tackle climate change, because governments have been too slow to respond, according to London Mayor Ken Livingstone, chairing the second meeting of the mayors climate group C40 in New York in May. He said local leaders had to act on global warming because they were much closer to the day-to-day problems of their cities. They can t put it off for another study or wait for someone else to lead- you have got to act , Livingstone told Reuters.

At the C40 gathering, former US president Bill Clinton announced the creation of a $5bn global effort to retrofit existing buildings with more energy efficient products, as a project of the Clinton Climate Initiative, which brings together four of the world s largest energy service companies, five of the world s largest banks, and 15 of the world s largest cities. Urban areas are responsible for about 75% of all energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Buildings account for nearly 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and more in older cities such as New York and London. An initial group of 15 cities has agreed to participate in the retrofit programme- Bangkok, Berlin, Chicago, Houston, Johannesburg, Karachi, London, Melbourne, Mexico City, New York, Rome, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Tokyo, and Toronto. ENS

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.