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 of the Open University. Contents
|1. Dissent on UK Green Power||10. Lovins on 'Natural Capitalism'|
|2. Dissent on the Climate Change Levy||11. New Wind Rush|
|3. Renewables Need More Support||12. Oil Rig Tidal Current Power|
|4. Green Wales?||13. Energy Choices: British Association|
|5. UK Green Power Market Consumer Reactions||14. Climate Change: COP-5|
|6. PV solar competitive in 5-10 years||15. Nuclear Power in Africa, Europe and China|
|7. Renewables and Climate Change Consultations||16. In the rest of Renew 122|
|8. UK renewables up by 27%||17. Renew and NATTA subsription details|
|9. Shell shells out|
1. Dissent on UK Green Power
The Stroud based Renewable Energy Company (REC) were plainly not happy to have been denied accreditation under the Energy Savings Trusts Future Energy scheme. It is entirely designed for the electricity companies RECs Dale Vince told the Observer (8/8/99). He went on Renewable are a tiny part of their business. Yet they can easily qualify, and we cant even though all our activities are directed towards renewable energy.
As we noted in Renew 121, the problem was that REC had included some conventional power in their retail operation- and this fell foul of ESTs criteria. RECs response was that that we would love to be able to supply 100% green, but in order to get there we first have to stimulate demand and that means building a customer base. Vince added, we cannot afford to turn customers down while we put up new wind turbines. We have to take on new customers even if that means dropping our renewable percentage. That's the only way the market can really grow.
As we suggested in Renew 121, REC clearly have a good track record in trying to push renewable capacity up. The latest example is the new Ecotricity windturbine at Swaffam - see report later- and projects like that require funds. But maybe not all means are justified to that particular end- at least not if you are trying to appeal to green consumers. Not that all the accredited companies are entirely blameless either- some, like London Electricity, are offering power from waste incineration plants- but then that is allowed under the EST rules, and REC is also making use of power from waste combustion.
The World Wide Fund for Nature had initially objected to the inclusion of waste combustion in the EST qualifying technologies, but this had been over ruled by the DTI, and WWF concluded pragmatically that it was best to support it and help get the green electricity market off the ground.
Friends of the Earth were very unhappy at the result. Mark Johnson told the Observer Incinerator operators always demand long-term contracts that force local authorities to pay a penalty if they fail to deliver specified amounts of waste, often hundreds of thousands on tonnes a year. So once an incinerator is there, recycling can be frozen out of the picture for 20 to 30 years ahead.
Fortunately most of the green power retail companies have avoided using power from waste incineration. Sue Gill from Green Electron noted that they had made a decision some time ago not to include waste-to-energy in our renewable portfolio. Our research indicated that consumers would prefer us not to - and the customer is king.
But of course that may be part of the reason why they, and the other green power retailers, have had to charge a premium price: waste combustion is about the cheapest green source available. By contrast, by using it, and adding in a bit of brown power, (and also, to be fair, by using local sources and trading them locally), the Renewable Energy Company have been able to maintain their principle of providing power at standard prices. Dale Vince commented (in an article in the June issue Sustainable Energy Development) that the ESTs Future Energy system was in effect basically a premium chargers club.
In the end though what really matters is what consumers think. The EST report that surveys indicate that up to 71% of UK homeowners would be interested in buying green power, and 45% would be happy to pay more for it. But it also found that 60% of those surveyed didn't know that green power was available. So the next big task is public communication.
Dissent on the Climate Change Levy
The debate over the UKs proposed Climate Change Levy rumbles on. The Energy Saving Trust has supported it, but most large energy using companies remain unhappy with it: its seen as complex and unworkable - a view adopted by the Association for Electricity Producers.
The ILEX consultancy group was, if anything, even more forceful. They noted that the Levy would only reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1%, and argued that a carbon tax would be very much more effective as a way of reducing carbon emissions. Then there would be an incentive for fuel switching from coal fired to combined cycle gas plants- which typically resulted in half the emissions produced by coal plants. They claim that just two 500MW CCGTs would, if allowed, produce as much carbon saving as the entire levy progamme and that, to put it another way, you could cut emissions for less cost via a carbon tax- perhaps cutting the Levy by two thirds.
ILEX suggest that the Government had avoided this option precisely because they did not want to promote too much more fuel switching i.e. they wanted to protect coal and limit the dash for gas. At least then the proposed exemption for renewables was consistent- that would help reduce emissions, but for ILEX this all smacked of arbitrariness- for example, why was nuclear not also exempted? And, worse still, wasn't it also direct intervention by government in fuel choice, as opposed to 'leaving it up to the market'.
What's wrong with that, you might ask, at least its a clear policy, even if gas (and nuclear) interests might not like it. But ILEX did have a point- we now have what might be seen as a rather ill co-ordinated range of market modifications: an energy based Climate Change Levy, a capacity based NFFO for renewables and, soon, a carbon based emission permit trading system, plus an end-use efficiency based Standard of Performance scheme for energy efficiency. Instead ILEX wanted to see a carbon based approach across the board- with carbon becoming a common currency.
See (under 'Carbon') "Is Brown Really Green" at http://www.ilex.co.uk
Certainly there is still a lot of support for an approach based on carbon, although prescriptions differ. Most of the larger companies would prefer some form of emission trading schemes, which they see as more flexible than a energy tax. The Government too seems to like that idea, but as a parallel line of development, alongside the Levy, and prototype schemes are under consideration. The DETR, DTI and the Treasury have urged businesses to get involved and are backing a business-led initiative to design a domestic carbon emissions trading system. The new scheme is being drawn up by the CBI and ACBE, the Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment.
3. Renewables Need More Support
Both the UK and the EU have ambitious targets for developing renewables by 2010. The right words are said, but we found too little sign of these delivering the necessary action. Only a step change in the expansion of the renewables - supported by new policies but requiring only modest finance- will meet the targets'. So said Lord Geddes, chairman of the all-party House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities.
In its new report 'Electricity from Renewables the Committee thought that the EU-wide target of securing 12 % of all primary energy from renewables by 2010 was technically feasible, but felt that ' the three-fold increase in the rate of expanding renewable energy provision will require a determined and sustained drive'. Similarly, it felt that the UK's targets of obtaining 5 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2003 and 10% by 2010 were also technically feasible, but it did not see them being delivered 'under present policies'.
'The UK's 2010 target will require a sevenfold increase in the rate of expanding renewable energy provision throughout the next decade. This will require urgent action by the Government to put in place the range of new policies required, together with sustained leadership to ensure that the targets are delivered through coherent action by all the relevant public bodies. '
In particular there was a need 'to improve the poor success rate of renewable energy projects in securing necessary planning and other consents. The planning and consent machinery needs urgent improvement, but proposers can also help themselves by better preparation among the communities affected.'
It favoured 'a general planning presumption in favour of wind farm proposals' but added that 'there also needs to be better public awareness of the imperatives for renewable energy within the wider climate change agenda, noting that no method of energy generation is totally benign.'
To help achieve the UK's targets, the committee recommended the establishment of a strong and pro-active new agency to bring together the fragmented responsibilities for key energy matters'. Given this and proper support policies and schemes, it thought that 'private sector capital funding for the expanded renewables programme needed to meet the UK's renewable electricity targets is unlikely to be a problem. The cost of those support mechanisms could be met by a surcharge to all electricity consumers of only 0.06p a unit (kilowatt hour). This is less than a tenth of the proposed Climate Change Levy, itself at the low end of the estimated costs of pollution from fossil fuel electricity generation which are ignored in present pricing arrangements.
In parallel, the International Energy Agency made very similar points in its new report "The Evolving Renewable Energy Market" arguing that renewable energy would not expand unless governments are more "aggressive" in supporting them.
It suggested that we were at the early stages of an "inevitable transition" to an energy system "largely dependent on renewable energy", but, as things stood, the renewable energy industry was still "fragile" and would only be likely to capture a fraction of the expanding market for energy - which the IEA saw as doubling over the next four decades.
The IEA therefore called for greater research and development efforts led by government in partnership with industry, and for more fiscal and financial incentives. The report says that renewable energy generators also need a "stable policy climate" to be able to survive the fluctuations in prices of conventional energy sources and the impact of energy sector restructuring- which could initially be adverse for renewables. It suggested that renewable energy will continue to be "hampered" until electricity prices reflected environmental costs and called on governments to set "minimum shares" for renewable energy consumption - as the Netherlands and Denmark have done.
IEA Contacts: IEA ( http://www.iea.org ), tel: +33 1 40 57 65 00.
The House of Lords report is available from HMSO in two volumes and can also be accessed via http://www.parliament.uk under Select Committee publications. We will be reviewing it in more detail in Renew 123.
Tony Duffin from ETSU joined the debate over what was needed to reach the UKs current renewable targets, telling the Observer (11/7/99) that there is absolutely no way we will reach these figures unless action is taken.
He added we have to cut through the planning impasse that we now have.
4. Green Wales?
The new Welsh Assembly got off to a good start with a debate on climate change and renewable energy earlier this year. During a question time, session back in June, the First Secretary (Alun Michael), commented I expect Wales to make a significant contribution towards the UK commitment to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions He added We are starting a study in Wales to provide an overview of existing information about the impact of major climate change on economic activities and natural resources .
Although he noted that Strategic Energy Policy remains a matter for the UK Government because it is not a devolved matter, we have strong interests in energy developments, especially in respect of their economic opportunities, environmental impacts and planning aspects. The Assembly may wish to consider developing a strategic framework for energy developments in Wales.
On renewable energy, he felt that this was something that everybody is happy to support in theory and added It will be helpful if the Assembly looks at this issue, as it will inform what we do in terms of industrial policy and planning applications. The general principle is that renewable energy should be used as much as possible.
Pressed on new energy projects and the need for wide public consultation over energy strategy so that people understand the energy requirements and the options that may be available in our pursuit of energy production he noted that the word 'consultation' is sometimes understood as asking for people's comments and then doing what you intended anyway. It is important that this Assembly demonstrates that we are capable of properly dealing with consultation. The way to do that is not just to deal with things when there is a crisis but to try to develop long-term strategies.
It will interesting to see what happens when the windpower issue emerges - its been a hot political issue in Wales!
* Its also been a bit of an issue in Ryedale in Yorkshire, where a windcharger, installed to provide power for heat, light and hot water, for a public toilet, was stolen.
5. UK Green Power Market
There are now lots of green power tariff schemes, but what really matters is how consumers respond. Margo Smith reports .
In February 1999, prior to liberalisation of the market in Bristol, research was carried out to determine whether the desire to purchase green electricity was an option only for a particular subsection of the population. Building on previous research, in which commentators had quoted an uptake of between 2-5% of the consumer market for green energy*, and the many articles that commented on green consumerism belonging to the middle classes, the study investigated the following hypothesis: the desire to purchase green electricity is an option, at present, only for environmentally aware and well-paid individuals.
The results were analysed looking at a number of sensitising concepts; a profile of the consumer, their environmental knowledge, awareness of the green energy market, and any ethical stance the respondents had.
Two groups were used for the research: Group A respondents, with a variety of ethnic and social backgrounds, from a working class suburb, and Group B respondents from a wealthy suburb of the city (33 and 29 respondents respectively). Overall both groups gave a reasonably representative, and illustrative, example of the population at large; with its divergent economic and cultural groups. The research found the desire to purchase green energy, was not an option only for environmentally aware and well paid individuals. Income was linked to formal education and there appeared to be a correlation between education and environmental awareness, in particular which energy sources are renewable; yet in both illustrative groups there was a willingness to purchase green energy and to pay a tariff in order to have this choice. Of those respondents willing to pay a tariff (53.2% of Group A and 72.4% of Group B), for an additional payment of £10, or less, per quarter, 47% of Group A and 66.7% of Group B respondents would be willing to purchase green electricity ( see Figure ). The study found that up to 50% (43.7% of Group A and 51.8% of Group B) of respondents would be willing to change supplier in order to purchase green energy with 29% of Group A and 21% of Group B having already taken advantage of the liberalisation of the gas market and changed supplier.
Overall almost one in four respondents (23.3%) stated the business ethics of the parent company would affect their decision to purchase green electricity with two thirds (66.7%) being undecided.
The main problem for the renewable energy industry, at the time, appeared to be a lack of accessible, impartial information for potential consumers. Consumers are willing, and have the power to choose, yet disparate marketing approaches and conflicting information was, and will continue, to result in bewildered consumers deferring their actions; thus slowing the maturation of the green energy market. It is envisaged that the launch of the Energy Saving Trusts accreditation scheme in July 1999 with the Future Energy logo may solve some of the problems consumers had.
The research concluded that whereas previous work maintained green consumerism belongs to particular socio-economic groups, the study found the majority of respondents would be willing to purchase green electricity although, at the present time, the payment of tariffs does lead to the exclusion of a proportion of the population being able to make this choice.
* "Sparks fly as "green electricity" comes to market". ENDS Report 284. pp 35-36, 1998 and Slavin, T. "Scramble to fill the green generation gap". Observer. 17 May, p. 5, 1998. For more information Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
6. PV solar competitive in 5-10 years
Photovoltaic solar powercould become competitive on a large scale in Europe in five to ten years, acccording to a new report produced for Greenpeace UK by accountancy firm KPMG.
According to the report, the current situation of high price and low demand create a "solar power impasse" which could be broken if manufacturers launched proactive investments to vastly increase output of photovoltaic cells, which would substantially cut the unit cost. Then, the technology could become competitive much earlier than 2030 - the date currently expected under a "business as usual" scenario. To aid this process, Greenpeace say that Governments should also provide more fiscal incentives for solar cell purchases. The group focus in particular on grid-connected photovoltaic cells, with roof-top solar cells generating power for buildings but also, when available, for export to the grid. This could make a "major contribution within five or ten years," according to Greenpeace, which points to the success of the Solaris programme in the Netherlands, designed to encourage grid connected solar. This programme has so far signed up 5,000 households who have agreed to buy solar cells at a subsidised price. Market research had found that up to 200,000 households in the Netherlands would consider making such an investment.
The new Greenpeace report "Solar Energy: From Perennial Promise to Competitive Alternative." can be obtained from Greenpeace, Cannonbury Villas, London, N.1.
Tel: 0 171 865 8100.
PV moves but only slowly in the UK
Photovoltaic solar is moving ahead rapidly around the world. But the UK is way behind in actual applications. We have less than 1MW of PV cells installed at present and a tiny development budget. In an amusing editorial in the Sun at Work in Europe in September, Bernard McNelis from IT Power/BPVA noted that the DTI has commissioned ETSU to launch a competitive tender for five firms of consultants to write terms of reference for a second competitive tender, to appoint yet another firm of consultants to design a potential scheme for 'field trials' of photovoltaics in large-scale building applications, which could require development in consultation with both PV manufacturers and the construction industry ...if the DTI agrees to fund it.
The funds available for the first stage are about £20,000. He says each firm would need to spend about £5,000 on a bid, so five firms would together spend £25,000 to gain a contract worth about £20,000 - they would lose £5,000 between them.
On top of all this, the management costs for ETSU to prepare the contract documents, evaluate all five proposals, negotiate the contract, 'supervise' the consultants and report to DTI, and management time by DTI civil servants, could be another £45,000.
TOTAL: A sum not unadjacent to £90,000 is spent on paperwork...which might lead to spending £s on more paperwork... recommending a project to put PV on UK buildings ...which the DTI may or may not have money left to fund.
MEANWHILE: The USA had its nearest equivalent to field trials in 1979 and moves towards 1 M solar roofs by 2010, Germany moves towards 100,000 by Jan. 2005 !
Thanks to NATTA member David Olivier for relaying the above to us.
PV for sale in US
The US green power retail company Green Mountain has announced that, in response to consumer demand, they will sell electricity from a new 132kW PV plant to be built by GPU Solar in California - at the Real Goods Solar Living Center.
Sun Power Electric has also just commissioned a grid-connected PV plant in the state of Rhode Island
7. Renewables and Climate Change ConsultationsThe government reviews the responses
The government has responded to the consultations on Renewable Energy and on Climate Change by producing a summary and analysis of the various submissions- prior to developing new policy documents.
There were over 250 submissions in response to the Government's renewables consultation paper, from all sectors of the community, including MPs, industry, lobby groups and the general public. The analysis of the responses produced by the Department of Trade and Industry suggested that the key issues and challenges which the Government and industry would need to pursue included: national and regional targets; planning arrangements; future support arrangements; and the exemption of renewable electricity from the proposed climate change levy.
There was, the DTIs summary says, general support for the Government's target of working towards providing 10% of UK electricity supplies from renewable sources as soon as possible, and hoping to achieve this by 2010' . (Note, in passing, the DTIs revised phrasing of the 2010 target date is now, it seems, seen as something it just hopes to achieve). However, there was also some questioning of the Government's commitment to this target, and of the target's achievability given current planning and financial constraints and the limited level of development achieved to date.
There was support for the setting of regional targets to help ensure the effective take-up of renewables and there was support for greater consideration to be given to environmental and planning issues at an early stage. Howevercalls for clearer planning guidelines and for education of the public and the planners were, the DTI says tempered by concerns that the planning system should not be weighted in favour of renewable energy development.
There was widespread support for an appropriate programme of renewable energy R&D, with higher levels of investment and a focus on longer-term technologies and on environmental as well as technical issues, and, it was argued, that support should be given to a wider range of technologies and to projects of varying scale. The regular calls for smaller-scale community-based schemes were specifically mentioned. The DTI also took note of the suggestion (made by EERU and no doubt others) that the hydrogen option should not be downplayed, as it had been in the review.
There was considerable concern that the reform of the electricity trading arrangements (RETA) will disadvantage small-scale, intermittent generators of electricity from renewables sources. Finally, it was felt that renewable energy should be exempt from the proposed Climate Change Levy. That of course was the subject of a parallel consultation, the results of which have yet to emerge, although the Government has been negotiating with key players- and it seems making concessions to some of the large energy users.
The DETRs analysis of the responses to the Climate Change Consultation indicated that energy issues were high on the agenda- with strong support for renewables being a clear theme. Overall there had been 607 written responses. The UKs 20% carbon dioxide emission cutback target was supported- although not by everyone: some businesses were worried about the economic impact. Interestingly, most respondents supported a tax on aviation fuel.
The DETR say they will produce a full report in time for COP-6- the key round of the UN Climate Change negotiations, to be held late next year (or, it seems, early 2001), at which time the Kyoto protocol (and details the Clean Devlopment Mechanism and Emission Permit Trading system) will be up for final ratification- assuming, that is, that the US Senate stops its blocking tactics. But judging by the run up to the preliminary COP-5 meeting (see right), there is still a way to go, with delaying tactics being common.
RETA Consultation leads on to NETA
Following the consultation exercise on RETA, the Reform of the Electricity Trading Arrangements, theres now a 250 page consultation document outlining the proposed New Electricity Trading Arrangements (NETA) produced by OFGEM, the new regulatory body that subsumed OFFER and OFGAS.
See http://www.open.gov.uk/offer/offer.htm and then click on the OFFER icon and go to. 'What's New'. Renewables (and CHP) are in the Executive summary and in Part 3 Chapter 11. Its pretty bland stuff, and rather complacent, downplaying the potential damage that might be inflicted on renewables.
8. UK renewables up by 27%
The DTIs 1999 Digest of United Kingdom Energy Statistics indicated that consumption of primary fuels for energy use in the United Kingdom rose by 1.5 per cent in 1998 compared to 1997 but was below the level seen in 1996. There were increases in consumption in the industrial, domestic and transport sectors, with the largest increase being in the domestic sector, an increase of 2.5 per cent on 1997. Energy consumption by the commercial services sector remained at the 1997 level.
The amount of electricity supplied from gas increased by 7.5 % in 1998 and gas now accounts for 32.5% of all electricity supplied, slightly below coal's share of 33%, but above nuclear's share of 26 per cent.
There was a 27% increase in the amount of electricity generated from renewables in 1998. Generation from wind increased by 33%; generation from hydro sources by 27% and generation from biofuels by 25%. Renewables provided 2.6% of the electricity generated in the United Kingdom in 1998, up from 2.1% in 1997 and 1.8% five years ago in 1993. Renewables funded by the Non Fossil Fuels Obligations (NFFO) accounted for 1 % of UK electricity generation in 1998. Incidentally, the NFFO levy has just been reduced from its previous level of 0.7% down to 0.3%, due to the slower than expected rate of new NFFO projects coming on stream. Lets hope that doesnt mean the 1.5GW target by 2003 will be missed.
Meanwhile, the government has been congratulating itself on the success of of its policies for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. A DTI press release noted that the UK is on course to meet the target of returning to 1990 levels by the year 2000' - emissions in 1998 were 7% less than in 1990. However, it did also note that they were 1% up on 1997, presumably as a result of the slight slowing in the dash for gas as a result of government policy. So maybe congratulations are a little premature, especially given the UKs own target of a 20% reduction by 2010. Nevertheless, emissions of the complete basket of six greenhouse gasses has fallen by 9% since 1990, despite a 9% increase in energy consumption, so we are well on the way to achieving the 12.5% reduction by 2008-12 called for in the Kyoto agreement.
The Digest of United Kingdom Energy Statistics 1999 is available from the Stationery Office at a cost of £32.95
Will UK renewables continue to expand?
The expansion of renewables in the UK has not been that dramatic, but there are fears that it could all slow down if the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation is not continued.
CREA, the Confederation of Renewable Energy Trade Associations has been lobbying the new Energy Minister, Helen Liddell, to try to ensure that a new round of the NFFO emerges soon. They are worried that the government may be considering winding it up since it could be thought to have achieved its purpose in getting the price of wind power and other near market renewables down. That would mean that the next wave of renewables would be stalled. As CREA put it if support is not afforded to other technologies, there will be a delay of several years before they are deployed in any significant way.
9. Shell shells out
Shellhave launched an ambitious new $17m programme of support for renewable energy and energy conservation projects by Non-Government organisations, with the emphasis on projects in developing countries. Shell says it has set up this initiative to promote sustainable energy solutions as one of its key social investment programmes.
There will be three areas of focus:
* Reducing the environmental impact of continued fossil fuel use
* Making sustainable energy available to poor communities in developing countries
* Encouraging sustainable energy policies and practices.
The scheme has been developed after consulting widely with environmental and sustainable energy experts around the world. They were, Shell says, enthusiastic about Shell, as a mainstream energy group, starting such a programme, alongside its commercial activities.
The initiative, valued at US$ 17 m in the first three years and with a target of US$ 22 m a year within 10 years, aims to fund a wide range of projects.
Shells Web site has some useful material on renewables, and on the possibility of a switch over to a hydrogen economy. http://www.shell.com
10. Natural Capitalism: the next industrial revolution
Amory and Hunter Lovins, from the Rocky Mountain Institute, Colarado, have teamed up with Paul Hawker, from the Natural Step organisation, to produce yet another hard hitting book, Natural Capitalism, published by Earthscan, pushing the by now fairly familar line that there are a whole series of technical fixes that can help capitalism survive and indeed prosper.
The win-win meassge is that the environment and profit are not incompatible. Some of the case studies are also familar (the supercar, superwindow insulation and so on) but even so this book will no doubt turn a lot of heads- as did Factor Four. And with US industry still dragging its feet over Climate Change, that can only be a good thing.
And, for those of a radical persuasion, the rhetoric offered by Lovins et al is very winning capitalism as practiced (at present) is a financially profitable, nonsustainable aberation in human development.
And, at least if you like markets, their economic vision is quite inspiring For every activity there is an abatement, arguably meriting a value and a market in which to express it...Making markets in saved resources and avoided pollution can form the core of a powerful body of entrepreneurial innovations that turn each obstacle (in) to resource productivity and loop-closing. The bigger the problem, the bigger the potential gain, whether in energy and water, fibres and materials, or land and mobility. Trading in negawatts, why not!?
11. New Wind Rush
31 GW by 2003?
Wind power is accelerating again in the USA, in part due to the imminent withdrawal of the wind production tax credit scheme, which has stimulated developers to bring forward new projects before the end of the scheme, but also because windpower is now seen by utilities as commercially viable. The new positive mood was further reinforced by the announcement by the Clinton administration of a new wind target.
The aim is now to obtain 5% of US electricity from wind by 2020. US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said that they weregoing to double US wind energy by 2005 and then double it again by 2010. By 2020 it would be 5%'. The US had around 2000MW installed at the end of 1998, supplying about 0.1% of the USA electricity, but around 1000MW has been added in the last year and 14 states are now pursuing wind projects. See Wind Directions Vol.Xv111 No. 5 for details of the US expansion.
And it all seems that in fact, the wind tax credit scheme may be extended, rather than withdrawn. So things aren't looking too bad in the USA.
Meanwhile wind power continues to expand even more rapidly worldwide, with around 10GW in all now in place. Europe reached 7000MW (nearly half from Germany) recently, and the latest forecast (by BTM Consultants) is that there could be 31,000 MW of windturbine capacity in place by 2003 globally - a 25% pa growth rate.
1.2 GW Offshore wind farm
The German programme is truly amazing. It now includes a plan for a massive 1,200MW windfarm in the North Sea, scheduled for completion by 2005 at a cost of DM 1bn (51m euros). It would be comparable in scale to the largest conventional nuclear or coal-fired power plants. So far the largest offshore windfarms are in Danish waters and only have a combined capacity of 11MW.
According to ENDS Daily, the new German windfarm would cover approx. 200 square kilometres of the North Sea near Helgoland. It added The group of private investors behind the scheme says it hopes to start building an initial 100 4-5MW turbines in 2001, and have the entire 1,200MW in place by 2005. Other offshore wind farms are planned for Lower Saxony and for two sites on the Baltic coast but the Helgoland scheme is the largest and furthest advanced.
However, a state energy ministry official told ENDS Daily that some technical problems as well as issues arising from thesite being near a national marine park still have to be resolved. Industry sources also expressed doubts about whether construction of such a large scheme to such a timetable is feasible given the present state of the wind turbine manufacturing industry.
Contacts: Schleswig-Holstein energy ministry tel: +49 431 988 3919
Dispelling UK Gloom
In the UK, the anti-wind lobby is still being very successful at stopping wind projects: seven more proposals were turned down by planners in just one month recently. See our Reviews section for a discussion of the Country Guardian group position: not content with blocking many on land projects in the UK, they currently also oppose offshore wind projects it seems. See also our Forum section for a discussion of one possible answer- community ownership. Another is new technology.
The Renewable Energy Company has supported the new 1.5MW Enercon windturbine errected as a millennium project at the ECOTEC site at Swaffam in Norfolk. It carries RECs Ecotricity logo proudly, and is operated by the aptly named Next Generation. The Enercon gearless design is almost silent - being variable speed, the matching between wind speed and blade speed is improved thus reducing aerodynamic losses and noise and increasing efficiency. And the nacelle and tower have been redesigned to make the whole thing look slimmer and less intrusive. And the public can get access via an internal staircase (330 flights!) to view the workings.
And as for offshore wind, the Environment Council recently organised one of their Resolve conflict negotiation sessions on this issue for the BWEA - labelled as a stakeholder diologue event. Certainly there is a need for careful consultation.
12. Oil Rig Tidal Current Power
According to the Associated Press (AP), the Norwegian state oil company Statoil is considering an idea to convert unused and unwanted offshore oil platforms into tidal current-driven power plants. In the plan, now derelict platforms would be towed to port and fitted with water turbines, then repositioned in the midst of strong currents.
While not mentioned in the report, it seems possible that wind generators could also be fitted topside for even greater renewable capacity. The proposal would put platforms back into revenue service and eliminate platform disposal problems.
Visit Statoil at: http://www.statoil.com/
Wind and Gas?
Meanwhile in the UK, an Open University student, W.J.McKinlay, has developed some similar ideas in a final year Technology project looking at the potential for wind and tidal current energy, using gas rigs in Morecombe Bay/Irish Sea as a base- he works for a company operating in this area.
His conclusion is that the tidal currents there are too weak and that, given the large cost of providing an undersea power cable, windturbines mounted on the rigs would not be economically viable on their own, but might be if they shared the cable with gas turbines on the rig. We hope to report in more detail later.
Greenpeacehas helped to launch an independent Commission for Wave Power in Scotland drawing together Members of the new Scottish Parliament, wave energy experts and companies, to lobby the the Scottish Parliament. More details in Renew 123.
13. Energy Choices: BAAS
The answer to Climate Change lies in the rapid development of carbon-free energy technology, which could create options that would not otherwise exist and reduce the costs of responding to Climate Change. That was the claim made in a paper produced for the Novartis Foundation's debate on 'energy choices for the 21st Century' at this years Festival of Science gathering of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Sheffield.
The British Association often tends to see the world in terms of the benefits that science and technology can bring, rather than dwelling on the problems, so this technophile conclusion is hardly surprising. And certainly there are a whole range of sustainable energy technologies waiting to be deployed. But will that really be enough to avert Climate Change?
In his keynote speech Prof Dennis Anderson from Imperial College argued that, while the rate of economic growth and population growth defined the context, what really mattered in terms of emission levels was the rate of improvement of energy efficiency and the rate of decarbonisation of the energy supply mix. Renewable energy was obviously a key element in the latter category, along with a shift to the use of hydrogen and fuel cells, but he also included carbon stripping, sequestration and storage techniques, and, controversially, nuclear power. If deployed worldwide, these technologies could, he said, ensure that the worlds energy needs were met without damaging the Climate and without curtailing economic development.
As he put it in his paper 'a scenario of low carbon emissions has been shown to be entirely consistent with both developing countries achieving economic prosperity and rich countries continuing to increase their level of affluence'
For this to come about there was a need to further develop and then deploy the technologies quickly and widely, but at present Research and development funding on energy technology was being cut (see the Chart), the UK leading the way, having cutback from £320m in 1986 to £32m in 1997. Instead he felt that we should be looking to taxation, but a carbon tax rather than a simple energy tax, with the revenue fed to support new energy projects around the world via Joint Implementation and the Clean Developmment Mechanism, as proposed at Kyoto.
So far so good: a technological solution backed by an economic mechanism. But, a key issue remains- which of the energy technologies he mentioned should be promoted? At present the lions share was still going nuclear- fusion especially. Is that right when it was unlikely to offer anything practical for many decades, by which time the Climate Change issue would have had to have been resolved in any case?
What about renewables?
Dave Elliott from the OU, one of the panel invited to feed ideas in to the debate, argued that renewables were the best long term option. and most people present seemed to agree, although it was recognised that, at most, they could only provide 50% of world energy by mid century, so improved ways of using fossil fuel would also be necessary- and there were also still some who thought that nuclear power might make a comeback. As ever, the nuclear lobby made its presence felt at this years Festival. But the tide does now seem to be changing - renewables have arrived.
14. Climate Change: COP-5
COP-5, the fifth meting of the 'Conference of Parties', is the next round of the UN Climate Change negotiations. Its being held in Bonn in November. In the run up, all the usual positions were rehearsed yet again.
On the contrarian side, although it was getting harder to deny that global climate problems existed, the idea that Climate change was still not proven to be the result of human actions was given another airing- its all to do with increased solar activity. The reply was that, there may well be more solar activity, but that just adds to the effects of human activity. On the economics front, a new US study by the Tellus Institute and the WWF concluded that, far from leading to a crisis, an aggressive Global Warming avoidance policy would lead to annual savings up to $43 Billion plus 870,000 new U.S. Jobs by 2010.
According to Jennifer Morgan, from the World Wildlife Fund
"With smart policies, climate protection could even become an economic engine, unleashing entrepreneurial creativity on a problem that threatens huge economic and environmental costs."
On the negotiation front, things were not quite so straight forward, with the attitude of the developing countries being crucial. John Prescott noted, Developed countries, led by the UK, are already taking action... and China and India, are also taking win-win action but we are not preaching to developing countries - they well understand that they have the most to lose if we fail to make progress.
15. Climate Change and Nuclear Power
The idea that nuclear power could not make much of a contribution to slowing Climate Change should by now be familiar enough. It's expensive, potentially dangerous and creates wastes which have to be stored for millennia - and, in any case, since the bulk of electricity generated around the world is still at present fossil fuel derived, the energy used to power the nuclear fuel cycle (uranium extraction, fuel fabrication and reprocessing/storage) results in significant carbon dioxide emissions.
That's a problem not shared by most renewables - the fuel is delivered ready to use and free. Obviously, all power plants, have embedded energy costs (and therefore carbon debts) in the physical plant and materials. However, the use of natural flow renewable energy sources produces almost no carbon dioxide, and prices are falling rapidly, with the result that they make a much better deal as a substitute for fossil fuelled plants, in terms of the cost of reducing carbon emissions. As Charlie Kronic puts it in the special Climate Crisis issue of the Ecologist (see our reviews) 'a mix of renewables, energy efficiency and co-generation is three to four times cheaper than nuclear power for reducing carbon emissions'.
There is however another levy of analysis, which was touched on in the Ecologists review. Some nuclear plants are susceptible to the impacts of Climate Change. As Peter Bunyard points out, several of the UK's nuclear plants are vulnerable to sea-level rises and storm-force sea surges. The Sizewell 'A' Magnox reactor is only a few metres above sea level and the Bradwell reactor is lower. In the 1980's, the Hinkley site on the Severn Estuary was threatened by a severe storm, with sea spray knocking out the sites power supplies. He notes that if the West Atlantic ice-sheet melts, as some climatologists fear it will, then sea levels would rise by 5-6 metres.
Storms and Climate Shocks can also of course effect renewable sources - the UK's hydro plants had to be throttled back during the droughts in recent years and windturbines can be damaged by excessive winds. But if the climate really does get as chaotic as some predict, most people would presumably prefer to have to deal with a few broken windturbines rather than a smashed nuclear plant.
South African Nuclear Push
Bucking all the trends, South Africa's nationalised electric utility Eskom is planning to develop a new small(100MW) nuclear power plant- the so called Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR), designed for mass production. Given that South Africa has a large generation overcapacity, the aim is clearly to export these units. The reactor is helium cooled with a graphite moderated core.
Steve Thomas from the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex has been looking at this plan and has pointed out that high temperature gas cooled reactors are a concept which others have tried and failed to get to work sucessfully. He also thinks that the economic assumptions are optimistic: see his report on the SPRU site at:http://www.sussex.ac/spru/energy/energy.html
It certainly does seem odd for a country with so much solar potential to be trying to revive nuclear power - even if there is lots of cheap uranium nearby...
But there are good signs of a different approach. Theres a major solar programme underway, supported by Shell Solar and Eskom, involving the electrification of 50,000 homes: Details from Alexandra. J.Collins@SI.Shell.com
W. Europe Without Nuclear?
We were interested to see that the World Energy Council organised an international conference entilted Western Europe Without Nuclear Energy? in Zürich back in June, with a range of speakers including people from the nuclear industry. Thats interesting, given that WEC still has a pro-nuclear position. In the Conference blurb WEC somewhat disingenuously says that this position, however, will not constitute an obstacle to discussion, as the WEC strives to encourage the nuclear industry and governments to pursue their efforts to improve safety, cut operating costs and find solutions for the problems of nuclear waste management. We await further illumination as to how this can all be achieved.
Meanwhile though Germany seems to have made up its mind. The Government has launched a new publicity campaign saying that renewables will replace nuclear, with the text of its ads saying The wind has turned, atomic energy is a discontinued model. The sun and wind are to supply energy for the next century, safely, efficiently- and renewably .
After a long wrangle, the German Government has now reached agreement with the utilities for the completion of the nuclear phase out by 2021.
In the UK however, attention seems to be mainly on what to do with BNFL nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield. Youd think the main issue would be to deal with the emissions problems, but the government seems convinced that whats needed is to inject more commercial incentive in to its operation by converting it to a public-private company- selling off 49% of it to the private sector. Maybe though thats not all bad. It could be that the newly entrepreneurial BNFL will realise that THORP is a dead loss commercially. The main commercial future for BNFL will then be in decomissioning nuclear plants around the world - and the more of that the better! Sadly though BNFL and the Government seem more concerned to try to keep the reprocessing exercise going by turning the reclaimed plutonium into Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) to sell around the world, if they can find enough customers.
China: Slow on Nuclear, fast on Wind
China was at one time planning a quite rapid expansion of its nuclear programme - there was talk of 20 new plants. However, according to WISE News Communique 513, the new political leadership has slimmed down the public sector generally and that has reduced energy demand. So now the most optimistic estimate is four new nuclear plants by 2005. The existing plants are also in trouble: some 130,000 nuclear workers have been sacked as a result of attempts to make the industry profitable. Western nuclear companies are keen to try to sell new plants but the prices they are asking are evidently deemed to be too high for the overall system to be run economically. Meanwhile however, the World Bank has provided a loan of $100m to enable China to build five new wind projects totalling 190 MW, while the Global Environmental Facility has provided a further $35m for renewable projects, including wind projects.
Japan suffered another nuclear mishap in July and a worse one in Sept., casting further doubts on its nuclear plans.
16. In the Rest of Renew 122
Renew 122 is our Millennial edition, and in additional to our usual coverage of all things renewable, it contains some more quixotic and contrarian material , including a bitter attack on all things technological and an attack on wind power.
The Feature describes how you can use the Dreamworld computer model developed by Godfrey Boyle at the OU to produce your own energy scenarios, while the technology section looks at various developments in tidal and wave energy - and in PV solar.
The review s include coverage of Worldwatch's State of the World millennial assessment and the Ecologists analysis of the Climate Change crisis, while our Groups section looks at University level courses in renewable energy around the UK and at this years Sun Day celebrations around Europe.
There's also a Forum piece from Dave Toke who argues, controversially, that , given the strength of opposition, local community ownership of wind projects is the only way ahead for wind power in the UK. He has just produced a report, 'Community Ownership: the only way ahead for UK windpower?', published by NATTA at £3, and we are planning a NATTA conference on this area next April.
17. 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.
Details from NATTA , c/o EERU, The Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA Tel: 01908 65 4638 (24 hrs)
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