Renew On-Line 15
Extracts from the News section of Renew issue 114 ( July-Aug 1998)
The views expressed should not be taken to necessarily reflect those of EERU or of the OU.
This material can be freely recycled for non commercial purposes, so long as credit is given to its source
|1. Solar PV boom|
|2. Sea Energy revitalised||8. Wind Roundup|
|3. SRC Picks Up-slowly||9. Green Power for Cities - will liberalisation help?|
|4. Dash for Landfill Gas||10.Climate Change and Business|
|5. Green Power Market||11. Nuclear: Dounreay Dies|
|6. EU's renewable harmonisation||12. In the rest of Renew 114|
|7. Labours Green Business Plan||13. Renew/NATTA subs.|
1. A Bright Solar Future?
'Solar energy will be one of the key technologies in the development of renewable energy sources for the future', Minister for Science, Energy and Industry John Battle predicted recently, while opening the largest application of solar photovoltaics in the UK, at Ford's Bridgend plant, South Wales. Battle said the company was not only showing great foresight but setting an example to the whole of manufacturing industry.
He said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) had supported the installation - 26 solar skylights supplied by BP Solar - along with the European Commission's Thermie programme, because it was important to demonstrate photovoltaic technologies in a range of buildings.
He issued a rallying call: "Let's get on with it and pull everyone together - building users, component manufacturers, systems designers and regional electricity companies - to solve the practical problems associated with building-integrated photovoltaics. We need to demonstrate the widespread applications for photovoltaics, to prepare for a future where PV will be competitive with electricity generated from conventional sources."
The Ford project is the first large-scale installation of its kind in an automotive plant, covering 25,000 square metres of roof and costing £1.4 million, funded jointly by Ford, the European Union and the DTI. Power, to provide all lighting requirements for the building, will come from 26 solar units, each one 9 metres long, 4-5 metres wide and containing 1540 photovoltaic cells supplied by BP Solar.
The level of support so far in the UK is small compared with the massive German and Japanese programmes, but the DTI is nowadays showing more interest.
Other PV projects already supported under the DTI programme include Dr Sue Roaf's Solar House at Oxford, where solar panels make up the whole of the south-facing roof; the Northumbria University building where the panels are integrated into the facade; and the large PV roof at the Centre for Alternative Technology in North Wales (see Renew 106 for a roundup).
Future projects to be monitored under the programme include the Doxford Solar offices at Sunderland (see Renew 110) and the weather canopy of the Earth Centre near Doncaster (see Renew 111).
The first batch of schools participating in the Government backed SCOLAR programme will receive their PV canopies over the next few months.
SCOLAR is a Foresight initiative to put PV arrays into 100 schools and colleges across the country by the year 2000. Equipment is designed to be used as a teaching aid and participating schools will also received a software package and Internet access.
Mr Battle commented that the question of the level of further support that might be given to help the development of solar technologies such as photovoltaics was 'an important part' of the DTI's ongoing review of renewable energy policy. In the meantime, he reported that "we have cancelled the previous Government's cuts to the renewables programme and increased the budget for photovoltaics next year."
The UK Renewable R&D budget had certainly been falling - down from £25.6m in 1992/93 to £13.4m for 1997/98. The new PV increase halts the decline and brings the total renewable R&D allocation for 1998/99 to £14.5 m. That's not much though. Given the fact that the DTI no longer has a massive nuclear R&D programme to support, surely more could have been passed on to renewables?
However, Battle seems to be looking to the Non Fossil Fuel Order (NFFO) as the main driver of renewables. Although he clearly hopes that the liberalisation of the electricity market would help stimulate renewables, he saw the response to NFFO-5 (see below) as 'very encouraging' not least since, given the large field of contestants "this round promises to be very competitive, and I expect to see further price reductions".
NFFO-5: 5.3 GW of bids
5305 MW of renewable generating capacity had been proposed by the deadline for receipt of application forms for the fifth NFFO Renewables Order. Obviously not all of it will be taken up, but 5.3 GW of declared net capacity translates to over 6 GW- which is about 10% of total UK installed capacity
Landfill gas projects showed by far the greatest increase in interest over NFFO-4 levels and interest in energy from waste has been maintained, but there was a marked loss of interest in projects with Combined Heat and Power operation. There was however an increase in interest from developers of small-scale hydro and wind energy projects.
2. Sea Energy Rules again
As part of the Technology Foresight process, last May the Department of Trade and Industry's Foresight Marine Panel organised a one day workshop on Future Opportunities for Marine Renewable Energy, supported by the Society for Underwater Technology(SUT) and the Institute of Marine Engineers (IMarE).
It seems to have been something of an epic affair- in effect putting offshore renewable energy firmly on the political agenda- and, in particular, resuscitating wave energy.
Certainly, the underlying feeling was that wavepower is coming in from the cold. There was talk of a whole new series of demonstration schemes. The workshop was chaired by Gordon Senior, who had as it were also come in from the cold- he was the independent consultant who had fallen foul of the last Government when he objected to a report he wrote supporting wavepower being tampered with. Also reinstated was Tom Thorpe, who had been ETSU's wave energy project officer, and is now with the Strategic Consultancy Group of AEA Technology.
He has produced a new, very positive, 'Overview of Wave Energy Technologies" (May, 1998) which was fed into the discussions at the workshop.
In it he notes that there has been 'a considerable improvement in the costs of devices, so that there are now several with costs of 5p/kWh (or less) at 8% discount rate' and, he adds, 'this indicates that wave energy is already economically competitive in niche markets and has a good prospects of being commercially competitive with further R&D'
This upbeat presentation led New Scientist (16/5/98) to claim that 'energy from the sea is now so cheap that no government can afford to ignore it' and certainly it seems likely that wavepower will feature strongly in the new DTI review of renewables, out shortly. DTI Minister John Battle told New Scientist that he was very encouraged by the Thorpe report and that he would be asking officials to 'report to me with positive and practical proposals to see what we can go for to enable wave energy to break in as a source of renewable energy'.
All in all, this was a crucial event for the future development of marine renewable energy sources. At long last offshore renewables seem to be looking real, and might even now get some proper support.
Although the formal report of this workshop will not be available until October, its agenda was clearly to prepare the ground for offshore renewables to be taken seriously and for wave-power to be rehabilitated in the DTI's renewable energy review (expected in July).
It might even be that some offshore projects will be included in the NFFO- one of the conference calls being, in effect, to 'marinise' the NFFO! SRO-3 in Scotland has already made a small commitment to wavepower, but so far there was no sign of anything in NFFO-5. But who knows. Things are moving fast.
TF Workshop conclusions
The Marine Renewables workshop split into three groups, offshore wind, wave, and tidal streams.
On wind power some of the key issues seemed to concern what was not wanted or seen as useful. For example there was little enthusiasm for floating windfarms- at one time the only area of offshore wind research that the government was funding. And surprisingly there was not much enthusiasm for integrated hybrid 'mixed generation' wind/tidal/wave energy systems, although it was felt that in some situations offshore wind projects might usefully share sites with tidal stream or wave projects.
It was also felt that there was not a lot of need for hardware R&D-it was just a question of 'marinising' existing technology - with two bladed windturbines being favoured. However there was a need for work on environmental impact and visual intrusion- some ground rules as to location and distance from shore had to be established. But regulation should develop as an extension of on-shore wind regulation and not as an extension of oil-rig regulation.
On Wave it was felt that a fast-track demonstrator project is urgently needed (only 20 years late!) and that the NFFO should be 'marinised', with capacity targets set for shoreline, nearshore, and offshore. Having learnt the lesson from nuclear and oil it was noted that decommissioning must be considered and provided for beforehand.
The favoured technology was still the Oscillating Water Column (OWC) but it was felt that second generation technology should be developed now. To push things on it was suggested that there should be a Marine Renewable Energy Centre, possibly a virtual one.
Finally there was the newcomer- Tidal Streams. Tidal barrages were clearly out of the question, but the development of tidal-stream generation at a location such as the Pentland Firth was potentially attractive, not least since such sources could be developed incrementally. You didn't have to build a complete barrage before you could generate power.
IT Power's propeller type turbine, as demonstrated at Loch Linnhe, came under attack early in the workshop for its gearbox technology but was defended on the grounds that the mass production of standard gearboxes may help keep overall costs down. IT Power's problems with the device were, it seems, to do with mooring, water leaks and costs. Nevertheless this technology, seen as too constrained by some, survived the day and by the end it was being seen as good value and not all that difficult.
The Active Water Column Power system (which we will be looking at in Renew 115) is a novel approach the tidal power. It uses large hydroplanes to cause oscillation of a buoyant chamber- in effect making use of Oscillating Water Turbine technology as developed initially for wave power. As the collector is moved up and down, air is alternately sucked into and expelled from the chamber passing as it does through a duct which houses the turbine. This technology has certainly been pushed hard by its developers, Engineering Business Ltd, so much so that some delegates might have been forgiven in thinking that the technology was fully available. In fact the company has only just won a DTI grant to investigate the shape and hydrodynamics of the collector, and would need much investment to go further.
Clearly there is a lot of R&D still to do in the tidal stream field, with a lot of ideas and issues still emerging, for example concerning mooring, the use of seabed piles, plus new technological possibilities such as helical rotors and, storage/transmission options- in the longer term , after 2010 say, gyro storage, pumped storage, and then, perhaps after 2020, electrolytic hydrogen transmission.
Based on a report on the workshop by Chris Pym from EERU.
3.SRC Picks Up-slowly
Short rotation coppicing (SRC) has been seen as a key new energy source for the UK, but so far progress has been a little slow. Several NFFO projects have been supported under the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation, but, as we reported in Renew 111, there have been problems.
However, things seem to be getting going at last with what should be the first power station fuelled by short-rotation willow coppice in England -the 8MW ARBRE project at Eggborough, North Yorkshire. Contracts have been signed between the developers and the company who will construct the power plant- and that should give more confidence to local farmers.
"Until now there has been too much uncertainty as to whether the scheme would go ahead", said local farmer Mike Newland, who has planted 12ha of willow at Youlton Lodge Farm, Tollerton. 5000 acres of coppice will be needed to ensure that sufficient fuel is available for the power station, so there will be a need for more farmers to follow his lead.
Project ARBRE (Arable Biomass Renewable Energy) is a joint venture between Yorkshire Environmental Ltd (a subsidiary of Yorkshire Water), South Wales Power, Associated Energy Projects, and TPS Termiska Processor AB. It is also supported by the EC's THERMIE programme.
John Battle MP, Minister for Science, Energy and Industry, confirmed last autumn that the Government saw a bright future for electricity generation from biomass and described the ARBRE project as "a beacon for biomass energy".
He saw it as 'an international demonstration project which would create all kinds of opportunities: for industrialists, who would gain experience of a technology which could be exploited in world markets; for farmers needing to find an alternative to surplus production; for rural employment prospects; and for the creation of wide areas of new wildlife habitat .'
Meanwhile, a wood fuelled gasifier unit has already opened in Northern Ireland. Developed out of the NI Department of Agriculture's R&D programme on SRC, the gasifier, fuelled by willow SRC, is now up and running at Brook Hall Estate, Co. Londonderry. It is the first farm-based willow CHP gasifier to be installed anywhere in Europe. The project, which cost £138,000 and received £69,000 of European Regional Funding, has a simple payback period of six years.
The willow is being grown at the site on set-aside land on a three-year cycle. 14ha is harvested annually, chipped and bulk dried to produce 500 tonnes of wood chip. This is fed into a pressurised gasifier where it is gasified at 1200oC. Electricity generated by the 100kWe unit is sold to the grid under a second Northern Ireland NFFO Renewables Order contract. 150kW of heat, in the form of hot water from the cooling and exhaust systems, is also being used to provide space heating and district hot water for the Estate houses and the drying floors for both the wood chips and the Estate’s grain. A further 40kW of heat is recovered from the condenser, gasifier and CHP unit to supplement the drying of the wood chips and grain.
For more information, contact John Gilliland, Brook Hall Estate, Tel: 01504 354635, Fax: 01504 350970
Source: New Review Feb 1998.
4. Dash for Landfill Gas
As noted earlier, the fifth round of the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation attracted proposals for 616 MW of new landfill gas projects. Not everyone is keen on landfill gas, since some see it as taking pressure off 'source reduction' and waste recycling, but as long as land fill sites exist, it make sense to use the gas instead of venting their methane to the atmosphere causing global warming.
According to David Fitzherbert, Chairman of the Landfill Gas Association, "Landfill gas is one of the cheapest sources of renewable electricity - almost as cheap as natural gas and its environmental benefits are tremendous. Methane is twenty one times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and at most landfill sites it simply leaks into the atmosphere. If this gas is harnessed to generate electricity, not only does it avoid the harmful methane emissions, but it also saves the carbon dioxide emissions from conventional power stations."
There are already over 140 MW of landfill gas projects in the UK, generating enough electricity for 260,000 households. The 616 MW of proposed new capacity would involve 264 sites which, according to the LGA, would generate enough electricity for an extra 1,156,000 households. And in the process 990 thousand tonnes of methane emissions could be avoided. This is equivalent to 20,800 thousand tonnes of CO2 saved - equivalent to taking 18% of UK cars off the roads.
"Landfill gas is very cheap and it has proven it can deliver", says David Fitzherbert. "Not only are over 90% of the projects commissioned, they are also first off the mark too. We hope the Minister makes a large order for landfill gas in NFFO5, so that as many projects as possible can deliver their environmental benefits".
The Landfill Gas Association is the trade association representing the landfill gas industry. Its members include electricity generators, equipment suppliers, consultants and local authorities.
David FitzHerbert, Chairman, Landfill Gas Association, 0171 629 2668.
20-22 Queen Street, Mayfair, London, W1X 7PJ Tel 0171 493 0297, Fax 0171 408 1216
See Groups for an update on the ENTRUST scheme which uses income from the Landfill Tax to fund green projects.
5. Green Power Market
With the liberalisation of the UK electricity market soon to get underway, the various green energy suppliers have been making their preparations.
The Renewable Energy Company is making a strong pitch on the basis of its policy of only charging the standard price for its green power. Unlike South West Electricity's Green Electron, which charges a 10% premium, it says it will not be adding a surcharge.
The Stroud based Renewable Energy Company certainly has a good track record so far. Operating since 1996 in the medium scale '100kW plus' market, it has been providing power generated from landfill gas from local sites to a range of local users including Stroud District Council, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and a number of schools and Colleges. Interestingly, as we reported in Renew 111, Stroud District Council switched over to the Renewable Energy Company from Green Electron - who charged a 10% premium price.
The Renewable Energy Company's annual turnover over the last year was around £4m, so the low pricing doesn't seem to have hurt them much, but obviously the whole market will change when, from September onwards, power can be sold to ordinary domestic consumers. The company plans to sell green power nationwide as well as locally.
Clearly, to do this it will need extra capacity. Part of this will, it seems, come from a new contract that has been made with Thomas Graveson and Son Ltd., for an extra 30MW of landfill gas generating capacity. Gravesons' already provided the Renewable Energy Company with power from 15MW of landfill gas powered plant and is adding a further 5MW of new capacity. But it is also adding in a further 10MW which has been operating within the Non Fossil Fuel arrangement, under NFFO 1 and 2. So the new contract represents the first example of a project shifting from NFFO support to the so called 'green power' market. Evidently Graveson see this as a better bet than bidding for support under NFFO-5.
In addition, the Renewable Energy Company is hoping to obtain power from a new windfarm project. The development company with which REC are involved, Western Windpower, is looking for a site for what could be the UK's first non-NFFO supported windfarm. To be viable a critical mass of 2000 customers would be needed, but Dale Vince from REC told the BWEA journal 'Wind Directions' that 'we've done the numbers and it will be tight, but we are confident that we can pull off a demonstration project'. Which means that REC's consumers would still not have to pay extra. Vince says this is vital since 'asking people to pay a premium will only lead to a limited niche market'.
For their part, Green Electron seem to justify their premium price in part on the basis of supporting the development of extra capacity. So far they have been retailing landfill gas and micro hydro power- but they have talked of adding in power from other sources, including windpower. However they have also indicated that they feel that the premium is necessary to dampen down demand- given that it will take time for new capacity to made available. On the other hand it seems likely that conventional power will get cheaper after liberalisation, so, unfortunately, demand for green power may be limited without a premium price being necessary.
For further discussion see TPG's new report (Reviews)
More Green Power
Scottish Power and Manweb, now a subsidiary of Scottish Power, have come up with a Green Power scheme something like the Eco-Power scheme already offered by Eastern Electricity (see Renew 112).
Scottish Power and Manweb are offering their 3 million customers the opportunity to pay a 5% surcharge on their electricity bills to fund the development of new renewable energy projects. The income from this voluntary scheme will be fed into a separate fund and will be invested in wind and hydro schemes.
According to Windpower Monthly, Scottish power will work in conjunction with local community groups to choose projects, and the projects will be audited by an independent authority.
We remain a little sceptical about the merits of this sort of approach, so it seems are FOE of Scotland . It will obviously be good if altruistic consumers volunteer to pay more for the development of renewable capacity as a longer term process. But the schemes run by Green Electron, who offer to supply 100% green power now in return for a premium price, and the Renewable Energy Company, who offer green power without a surcharge, seem more likely to prosper- if any do.
That of course is far from certain.
Not so green in the USA?
In California, where deregulation opened up the electricity market in April, so far there has not been much sign of interest in green power- despite all the hype.
But then, so far only three companies are offering green power, so maybe its early days yet. And, rather than offering 100% 'green electrons as in the UK, the emphasis in the USA seems to be on offering a mixture of green and conventional power- with for example the 'Green -e' scheme guaranteeing that at least 50% of the power supplied comes from green sources. Maybe that's too vague and lost in the confusion surrounding deregulation?
6. EU's renewable harmonisation
The European Union is looking at ways in which the various separate national schemes for supporting renewable energy around Europe can be harmonised. At present a wide variety of approaches are in use in various EU countries- ranging from direct grants, to percentage obligations, and this could make it hard for cross national competition to be fair, when the European electricity market is liberalised.
According to a new report from the European Commission (EC) to the Council of Ministers and European Parliament, the multiplicity of schemes 'appears likely to result in distortions of trade and competition. For example, exporting may be advantageous for renewables producers in countries with generous support schemes and disadvantageous for producers in countries which take a more competitive approach'. It adds 'Fifteen ways to support renewables is clearly not the best way forward'.
A draft directive outlining proposals should emerge before the end of the year. However it will not be easy to come up with a common approach. The REFIT type tariff schemes in Denmark and Germany, which guarantee minimum tariff levels to renewable energy producers, and the similar schemes being introduced in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, differ fundamentally from the more competitive market approaches adopted in the UK, Ireland and France, where tender-based support schemes like the NFFO are in use - with renewable energy producers bidding competitively for fixed term contracts. Although the Commission does not indicate which approach it will favour, its says a competition-based system would have "clear advantages in terms of cost- effectiveness, trade, quick development of renewables, strengthening the technological leadership of the EU renewables industry and meeting the Kyoto deadline."
However, not everyone sees it that way. As Catherine Mitchell has pointed out in her new report for the CPRE (see Reviews, Renew 114), market based approaches also have their problems. For example, as the NFFO experience has indicated, competitive pressures can lead to the selection of less environmentally desirable technologies, or, as in the case of some wind projects, location in environmentally sensitive areas. And, far from being a way to progress the spread of renewables, as the EC suggest, the NFFO type approach seems to have been far less effective than the REFIT type approach at getting renewable capacity in place.
Source: ENDS Daily 18/03/98 E.C tel: +32 2 295 1111
7. LABOURS GREEN BUSINESS PLAN
A business plan for the UK environment industries was jointly launched recently by John Battle, DTI Minister, and Michael Meacher, DETR Environment Minister.
It was produced by the government's Joint Environmental Markets Unit (JEMU) following a consultation exercise with the environmental goods and services industry last year: see Renew 110.
John Battle saw the environmental industries as 'the industries and businesses of the future' and noted that the JEMU database lists around 5,000 firms, mainly small to medium sized enterprises, employing some 140,000 people, with a turnover of some £5 billion, or one per cent of the UK Gross Domestic Product.
He added "There's a world to be won out there. Research carried out for JEMU suggests that the global environmental market is worth $280 billion now and likely to grow to over $640 billion by 2010. In global terms,the potential is huge, and growing, as we face environmental challenges of the 21st Century, such as the growing demand for water."
The plan sets out an action programme for the next three years, showing how JEMU will work with the UK's green industries, in such fields as air pollution control, waste management, environmental monitoring and energy management (which it seems is where renewables have been put.)
Labours Environment campaign group SERA held a major conference 'An Environment for Business' in June, looking at how business could help tackle global warming. We'll report on it in Renew 115.
8. Wind Roundup
UK Wind Firms Sold
The Wind Energy Group, the UK's only surviving large windturbine manufacturer, has been taken over by the Danish windpower company NEG Micron. The UK Construction company Taylor Woodrow owned WEG as well as the blade maker, Taywood Aerolaminates- which has also now been bought by NEG Micron.
That leaves the UK without a significant wind power manufacturing base other than Marlec, who produce excellent, but very small, machines.
Bogus Wind Objections?
The anti- wind farm group Country Guardian have claimed that a number of letters sent to Pembrokeshire County Council, objecting to a windfarm proposed by National Wind Power, were fake and were designed to discredit the anti-wind farm campaign.
We're tempted to ask how would you tell the difference form the real thing?
Source: Windpower Monthly, March
No Wind at Sellafield
Agriculture Minister Jack Cunningham, who is well known for his pro-nuclear views, recently opposed a plan for a five turbine windfarm near the site of the UK's largest nuclear waste dump, at Drigg, in Cumbria.
The 300 acre Drigg site consists of trenches in which low level nuclear waste is dumped. It's near the 1000 acre Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Cunninghams Cumbria constituency.
Its hard to see how the windfarm could be visually intrusive against that backdrop, but Cunningham has evidently expressed his 'emphatic opposition' and in a letter read out at the Public Inquiry on the windfarm proposal, he argued it would be 'massively intrusive'. He also claimed that windfarms only existed because of a 'substantial subsidy',whereas one might feel that was a description that better suited nuclear power.
Source: Sustainable Energy Industry Journal, No 7.
Greenpeace has launched a campaign for offshore wind, claiming that it could supply 10% of UK electricity by 2010. Details in Renew 115.
Irish Wind is Cheap
Electricity from windturbines is now competitive with power from conventional sources in the Republic of Ireland- at least on the basis of the bids put forward to the third round of Irelands version of the NFFO- the Alternative Energy Requirement. Several wind projects with prices set at just over 2p/kWh have been accepted in AER-3.
In all there are 17 wind projects in AER-3, with a combined capacity of 137MW. 8 of them (36MW) are small schemes of below 5MW. Prices range down to I£0.0221/kWh for the larger projects and I£0.0275p/Kwh for the smaller ones. .
Originally AER-3 was planned to be for 100MW in total, but since a lot of competitive projects came forward it was increased to 159MW, with 86% involving wind power. In addition there are 10 small hydro schemes (4,42MW) 2 waste to energy projects (14MW) and a landfill gas project (2.93MW). The most expensive was small hydro at 3.9p/kWh. They are all meant to come on stream by 2000 and ought to generate 675 MWh.
In parallel, as we reported in Renew 111, the Irish Government is also providing support of up to I£1m for wave energy, although the exact nature and choice of projects is still under discussion, and wavepower therefore did not figure in AER-3.
A Green Paper on Sustainable Energy is now being produced, setting out the next stage of Ireland programme of obtaining 10% of its electricity from renewable energy by the year 2010.
Harder Japanese Line on Wind
While wind power developers in the UK are bending over backward to be environmentally sensitive, and avoid negative public reactions, the Japanese engineering company Mitsubishi, which sells large numbers of wind turbines around the world, seems to be adopting a tougher line on local environmental sensitivities.
Hidemi Sawada from the Overseas Operations Section of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries told the Sustainable Energy Industry Journal (Issue 7) that they did not pay overriding 'special attention' to aesthetic matters, but rather were concerned with improving performance and efficiency - and that defined the best location.
As environmental problems increased and spread across the world, he felt that 'the market for wind turbines will naturally expand', with installation being a necessity rather than a debatable matter.
The Sustainable Energy Journal added 'this argument echoes the sentiment that the countryside will have to be made to accommodate such renewable energy structures if the environment is to ultimately benefit'.
If that is really how Mitsubishi now see the issue, then it might be seen as a bit provocative - or perhaps as a reflection of the limits to the patience of wind developers faced with NIMBY reactions.
Wind Info: One of the best sources of information we've seen on windpower is the Web site run by the Danish wind companies at: http://www.windpower.dk
9. Green Power for Cities
will liberalisation help?
Will the deregulation of energy markets in Europe fatally undermine municipal efforts to save energy, develop renewable energy sources and reduce CO2 emissions? That was the key question debated by Local Authority representatives from 20 European countries at the Energie Cites conference in Barcelona in March. Godfrey Boyle from EERU reports.
Barcelona has recently taken a leading role in promoting the sustainable city concept, thanks mainly to the city’s first Green councillor, Josep Puig (a long-standing member of NATTA, incidentally), who directs Barcelona’s sustainable cities office and is Chair of Energie Cites.
European community directives on gas and electricity market deregulation oblige member states to bring into effect legislation allowing free market competition in gas and electricity supply.
In the UK, this process is almost complete, and has brought substantially lower prices for consumers - at the cost of massive job losses in the utilities. But in many other countries deregulation, or liberalisation, of energy markets is only just beginning.
The European directives stipulate that 25% of the market be opened to competition by 1999, 28% by 2000 and 31% by 2003. But these are minima and most countries will allow greater liberalisation. It is estimated that 60% of the European market will be liberalised by 2000, with only 40% remaining“protected”.
But the EU deregulation directives are probably in serious conflict with other important EU objectives, such as the Kyoto pledge to cut CO2 emissions by 8%, and Community targets to double by 2010 the Union’s Combined Heat and Power (CHP) capacity and to increase the share of renewables from 6% to 12%, as outlined in the recent White Paper on Renewable Energy. Delegates were keen to hear how deregulation is already affecting Local Authorities (LAs) on the ground, in the EU country where it has been implemented to the greatest extent- the UK.
Don Lack of Leicester City council described some of the positive and negative consequences of privatisation so far. Reduced energy prices have, of course, given Authorities the benefit of lower energy bills, but have lengthened the payback time of energy-saving measures, making them less attractive. Service to customers has suffered as profitability has become the primary motive of the utilities.
On the other hand, Authorities have been able to take advantage of liberalised access to networks to sell the electricity produced by their CHP units in one part of the city to LA customers, such as council house tenants, in another part of the city.
To encourage domestic customers to take advantage of the new, liberalised electricity markets, as they become available during 1998, Leicester has produced a leaflet , “Plug in to Green Energy”.
This encourages customers to write to their current energy suppliers pointing out that they will have the option to take their custom elsewhere if suppliers do not (a) give information on how their electricity is generated and the associated environmental impacts (b) offer energy efficiency packages, with costs repayable though bills, and (c) encourage greater use of renewable energy sources.
John Buckham, from another UK Authority, Newcastle-on-Tyne, described the City’s substantial efforts to conserve energy and improve efficiency over the past 10-15 years. To build on its impressive track record in the new, privatised environment, Newcastle now aims to set up an energy services company, which will provide energy services (heat, light etc) rather than just electricity and gas, to its customers.
In Saarbrucken in Germany, represented at the Conference by Jurgen Lottermoser, the situation is potentially very serious for the municipal energy company, SWS, which produces 95% of locally consumed electricity, 85% of it from CHP. SWS already has in place a number of ambitious energy management and conservation schemes- and its profits partly finance the city’s public transport system.
The Municipality fears what it calls a “High Energy Winter” if nothing is done to alleviate the adverse effects of impending competition in Germany. It suspects that measures ostensibly designed to protect municipal energy providers will, in practice, be insufficient.
For example, large customers who currently get their electricity from SWS could buy it more cheaply from Electricite de France, reducing SWS income and leading to less cash for energy conservation, renewables and public transport.
But Saarbucken has decided it will continue to give a high political priority to supporting its “green” activities, such as to assist photovoltaic (PV) installations, wherever possible. It will be rationalising its activities to cut costs and improve customer service, and, like Newcastle, will become an energy service provider.
A positive note was struck by Hugo van der Steenhoven from Utrecht, the Netherlands’ fourth-largest city, who contended that, despite the widespread skepticism about the new directives, local governments would still be able to implement good energy-saving policies.
And there would be new opportunities - at least in the Netherlands. The Dutch government’s new Energy Act will impose a legal requirement on production and distribution companies to conserve energy; will require a percentage of all energy to be “sustainable” (including a system of transferable certificates); and will encourage green measures through, for example, taxation, new performance standards and incentives to install insulation.
Municipalities also, as he pointed out, have considerable influence over their residents. They can encourage their customers to switch to more “sustainable” energy suppliers who, whilst perhaps charging more per unit for energy supplies, would undertake to help customers achieve lower energy bills overall by providing finance for installing energy saving measures and renewable energy supplies such as solar water heating or PV.
So overall, though many municipalities remain worried by the impact of the new directives, at least in some countries it seems there are new opportunities to be grasped.
The meeting ended by passing a detailed Declaration urging (inter alia) that the EU should implement the subsidiarity principle (by which decisions are supposed to be taken at the lowest practical level) in full, by encouraging power to be exercised at local, not just national, level. It should also re-activate plans to require energy producers to “internalise” the external environmental and social costs of energy production.
The Declaration urged EU member states to encourage local and municipal initiatives, to integrate environmental objectives into legislation, and to provide tough regulation not only on prices but also on environmental and energy efficiency objectives. Regulations should also allow municipalities to consume, in dispersed locations, the electricity and heat that they themselves produce; and allow municipalities to be treated by utilities as single, large, consumers, aggregating their consumption over dispersed locations, so giving them much more leverage over energy suppliers.
The Energie Cites conference was entitled 'The Opening up of the Energy Markets, Energy Management and the Environment: What Roles are there for Municipalities in the City of the Future?' and ran from March 12-13
Energie Cites is at 2 Chemin de Palente, F-25000 Besancon, France. Tel: 188.8.131.52.36.80 Fax: 184.108.40.206.73.51
10. Climate Change and Business
The Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment (ACBE), recently reported to the Prime Minister on how business can contribute to meeting the challenge of Climate Change. It recommended a programme of measures, including increased take-up of new green technology, support for renewables, and consideration of a carbon tax.
Tony Blair welcomed it as 'a major contribution in the campaign to meet the climate change challenge. It shows that UK business is taking the challenge seriously and coming up with concrete ideas to help reduce Greenhouse gases. This contribution is vital if we are to fully meet the commitments we signed up to at the Kyoto summit. As the report highlights, cutting global warming gases is a challenge, an opportunity not a threat.'
The report calls for the establishment of a UK National programme with targets and supporting policy measures to reduce global warming gas emissions from all sectors - including proportionate savings from the domestic sector and transport.
The report places strong emphasis on 'raising awareness' and 'the use wherever possible of voluntary agreements', and it welcomes the introduction of the regulatory regime of Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) as a good interim measure. But there is also a recognition that there might be an need for more radical approaches in order the meet the Kyoto carbon dioxide reduction target.
ACBE's view is that, 'if additional measures are required', there is a case for a carbon tax 'providing it is set at a level which does not damage UK competitiveness', and provided that its revenues are fully recycled to low carbon technology.
ACBE argue that 'in the medium and longer term, the further development of low carbon technology and carbon fixing will be critically important. So will be trading of carbon permits internationally and Government should act now to ensure that a regime is developed to make this attractive to business.'
The report notes that there is 'substantial scope to boost energy generated from renewables to reach a 10% target by 2010, provided Government and business increase their support for this sector now, and to obtain further gains through market transformation and incentives for homeowners and transport users to switch to low carbon technology.'
To push things on, ACBE recommend that the Government should 'take action to ensure that the regulatory barriers to the wider use of CHP continue to be tackled. There should be a new voluntary Business Commitment to Renewable Energy, set at 1% rising progressively to 10% by 2010, providing Government maintains and increases NFFO funding, and providing the cost of such energy is and remains competitive with prices currently obtainable'.
ACBE adds that 'Government and the Regulator should also increase incentives for domestic take-up of solar power, for example through the Regulator allowing domestic PV installers to sell surplus electricity back to the grid at the same price as they have been charged for non PV purchases.'
So far so good. But it also claims that 'provided that high standards of safety and environment protection are maintained - and that decommissioning liabilities are fully funded, nuclear power will continue to be important as a means of helping to deliver the UK's Climate Change targets' and recommends that the Government ensure that this potential is fully investigated
ACBE was set up in 1991 in response to a commitment in the 1990 Environment White Paper 'This Common Inheritance' to engage in a strategic dialogue with business on environmental issues. See Renew 111.
11. Dounreay Dies
The long running battle over nuclear waste disposal and radioactive pollution at Dounreay in Scotland seems to have played a key role in the governments recent decision to finally close down reprocessing operations there- by 2006.
Dounreay was the site of the experimental Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR), now closed, and it has been increasingly trying to fill the gap by offering to reprocess waste from abroad. However, all has not been well: Greenpeace have described it as 'one of the worst nuclear contaminated sites in western Europe'.
Radioactive particles have been found on the beach, with some it seems being sufficient to present a significant hazard, and there were concerns about a waste shaft used to dump radioactive material, which might be the source. There is no full inventory of its contents, but the presence in the shaft of sodium wastes from the fast breeder programme have given rise to fears of another hydrogen explosion - the shaft was sealed up following an explosion 21 years ago, which lifted the 12.5 tonne concrete lid into the air and sprayed the area with radioactive debris. Worse still, at one point earlier this year the Scottish media were reporting that there was even a possibility of a nuclear explosion, since it was thought to contain enough fissile material to cause a 'criticality' incident.
The DTI describes the situation as follows:
'The 4.6 m diameter 65.4 m deep vertical Shaft was constructed in the 1950s as a route for removing spoil during building work at the Dounreay site. The Scottish Office licensed the Shaft as a nuclear waste disposal facility in 1959. It continued to be used during the 1960s and 1970s. A chemical explosion occurred in the gas above the waste in 1977. The Shaft was made safe and has since remained under a strict care and maintenance regime with no further use of the Shaft for disposal. The replacement underground storage facility, the Wet Silo, has been used to hold Intermediate Level Waste since 1970, with the intention that its contents should be recovered eventually and treated prior to final disposal'.
The DTI added "It is now clear that the Shaft does not provide standards of waste disposal that are acceptable today and that retrieval is the best practicable environmental option"
It has therefore been decided to tackle the very difficult task of extracting the wastes from both the shaft and the Wet Silo - at an estimated cost of up to £355 million. By co-incidence, this is more or less exactly the total sum spent so far by successive Governments on Renewable Energy Research and Development. The nuclear clean up progamme will take 25 years...
And all this at a time when the Dounreay was trying to get permission from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to increase discharges of radioactive waste into the environment, so that it could import more foreign waste for reprocessing. Like the uranium from Georgia.
All to no avail in the end - now Dounreay will only be allowed to meet existing reprocessing contracts and reprocess the spent fuel/waste from the decomissoned FBR.
Greenpeace were quick off the mark, arguing that decommissioning did not require reprocessing: indeed that simply created more waste. Instead on site storage was the answer. But either way Dounreay's future, and by implication, the future of reprocessing, has changed dramatically following the governments decision.
The nuclear industry has tons of low level radioactive waste stacked up, including metals, glass, plastic and concrete all too 'hot' under the present law (The Radioactive Substances Act 1993) to re-use or dump without a license.
A new Euratom law (Directive Euratom 96/29 if passed) will permit the release to the environment or the recycling of this nuclear waste without any need for reporting or authorisation, so long as the concentration of radioactive substances in the waste is below thresholds set out in the Directive. These new thresholds are much lower in some cases, up to a million times more so, than the present law permits.
The Low Level Radiation Campaign claims that these new law will make it possible to release large quantities of substances like the dangerous isotope Strontium-90, Plutonium-239 and Tritium, especially since it allows these 'slightly contaminated' radioactive wastes to be recycled into consumer goods, dumped in landfill tips, or burnt in incinerators. As the campaign leaflet puts it 'Below the threshold levels there will be no restrictions. Nothing can stop the radioactive waste ending up in anything we buy. We won't know what is radioactive and what isn't. Radioactive nuclear waste will contaminate the environment by erosion, weathering, and leaching from landfill sites. There will be fallout from incinerated waste, and isotopes will enter the food chain from the application of diluted nuclear waste to farmland'.
The National Radiological Protection Board say that the doses involved would pose relatively trivial risks to the public, but the Campaign group are clearly not convinced.
For details contact the Low Level Radiation Campaign, Ammondale, Spa Rd Llandrindod Wells, Powys, LD1 5EY, UK (01597 824771).
e mail: cato5.demon.co.uk
website at: http//www.mediascope.co.uk/IIre
But science may yet come to the rescue. The US company Clean Energy Technologies (CET) has been developing the Patterson Transmutation Cell (which we mentioned in Renew 104) so that it can be used to transmute radioactive waste into less dangerous materials: CET claim that in one experiment using 7.5 grams of depleted uranium dissolved in water and circulated through the cell, radioactivity was cut by 73.4% after 2 hr 15 min.
CET say that its not Cold Fusion, but a form of 'low energy nuclear reaction induced by a proton or deuteron that occurs without the harmful radioactive byproducts such as gamma radiation'.
We remain to be convinced, but you can check it out on http://www.ceti.net/page2.html.
12. In the Rest of Renew 113
In addition to its usual coverage of all thing renewable, including a review of wave energy options, there's a look at the future of coal. and a review of the prospects for energy efficiency. The Feature consists of an overview of Tam Dougans new report on the reactions of residents to the various low energy/solar house projects in Milton Keynes.
There's also a review of Catherine Mitchell's new report on UK renewable policy for the CPRE, who are cautious about wind, preferring energy conservation, and discussion of Dave Elliots new TPG report on the Green Electricity Market.
13. Renew/ NATTA subs
The full printed 30 page bimonthly Renew journal can be obtained from NATTA, the Network for Alternative Technology and Technology Assessment, on subscription for £12 pa for students/unwaged, otherwise its £18pa, payable to 'NATTA'.
Further details from NATTA, c/o EERU, Open University, Milton Keynes, MK 7 6AA
Tel: 01908 65 4638 (24 hrs) Fax: 01908 65 4052 (24 hrs)
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