I kick off Blowout 102 with Justine Greening allocating £billions to save Britain from climate refugees. While she does not link the Syrian conflict directly to climate change it is held up as an example of what may happen. Confused? I think she is. Also a look at Storm Desmond and the floods – was Desmond caused by, caused partly by or not caused at all by climate change? Also the usual diet of diesels, blackouts, oil price crash, COP21 and breeder reactors below the fold.
Roger is to be away for another few weeks and so the office is very short staffed and the volume of content on the blog will inevitably fall. Blowouts may become occasional instead of weekly for a while. Guest posts are always welcome, but these must be written to a high standard and publication ready.
The Telegraph: Justine Greening: Our choice is climate aid or more refugees
Britain risks having to take more refugees if it fails to spend billions of pounds tackling climate change overseas, according to Justine Greening, the international development secretary.
Helping poor countries to go green and adapt to the effects of global warming is in Britain’s “national interest” because climate change will render other countries unliveable, sending displaced people in search of new homes, she argues.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Ms Greening said Britain’s commitment to spend almost £6 billion on overseas climate aid in the next five years was “the smart thing to do”, because climate change could trigger refugee crises similar to that caused by the conflict in Syria.
Energy Matters: Drought, Climate, War, Terrorism, and Syria
We have established that there was no drought of any unusual significance in Syria between 2006 and 2011, that climate change did not cause the crop failures which resulted in millions of farmers fleeing to the cities or that they triggered the Syrian uprising when they got there. The claim that refugees from Syria are in any way, shape or form “climate refugees” is therefore entirely without foundation, as is the claim that man-made climate change had anything to do with the Syrian civil war or the rise of ISIS.
Manmade climate change was partly responsible for Storm Desmond’s torrential rain which devastated parts of Scotland, the Lake District and Northern Ireland, scientists have concluded.
The researchers at Oxford University and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) calculated that climate change had made the flooding event 40% more likely, with the estimate of the increased likelihood ranging between 5% and 80%.
The Times: Minister wrong to blame climate change
Scientists have contradicted a minister’s claim that last weekend’s flooding in Cumbria was unprecedented and linked to climate change.
They say that there have been 34 extreme floods there in the past 300 years and that lives had been put at risk by “grossly underestimating” the risk of floods and failing to consider evidence from records.
Liz Truss, the environment secretary, told MPs on Monday that Cumbria had experienced an “unprecedented weather event” that was “consistent with climate change trends”.
Dr Tom Spencer, a reader in coastal ecology and geomorphology at the University of Cambridge, said that analysis of deposits
The Met Office: Climate change and weather caught in a media storm
On Monday, in a blog, we were very clear not to link the record-breaking rainfall with climate change. This is what Professor Dame Julia Slingo, Met Office Chief Scientist has said: “It’s too early to say definitively whether climate change has made a contribution to the exceptional rainfall. We anticipated a wet, stormy start to winter in our three-month outlooks, associated with the strong El Niño and other factors.
“However, just as with the stormy winter of two years ago, all the evidence from fundamental physics, and our understanding of our weather systems, suggests there may be a link between climate change and record-breaking winter rainfall. Last month, we published a paper showing that for the same weather pattern, an extended period of extreme UK winter rainfall is now seven times more likely than in a world without human emissions of greenhouse gases.”
The Telegraph: Coal, nuclear and diesel to keep lights on in £800m scheme
Hundreds of millions of pounds in subsidies will be paid to diesel generators and old coal and nuclear plants to help keep the lights on later this decade, ministers are set to confirm on Friday.
National Grid is preparing to publish the results of the latest “capacity market” auction, a Government scheme that will pay energy companies to guarantee they can provide electricity in 2019-20.
On Thursday night, the company said the price of the subsidies would be £18 per kilowatt, to be paid for just over 46 gigawatts of capacity, giving a total subsidy bill of about £830m.
Wealthy investors will earn millions from polluting diesel generators – and get lucrative tax breaks for doing so – under the government’s energy regime.
So-called “diesel farms” won contracts worth £175.5m to make power available to the National Grid as part of the capacity market auction that ended late on Thursday.
One of the major beneficiaries is Rockpool Investments, a private equity firm set up and chaired by former City fund manager Nicola Horlick, who is estimated to be worth £20m.
The second Capacity Market auction has successfully concluded, securing electricity generating capacity for 2019/20. The auction attracted enough bidders to secure the capacity needed at a competitive price for consumers. The amount secured – enough to provide almost all the capacity we need – cleared at a price of £18/kW, over £1 cheaper than last year. Buying capacity four years ahead of the delivery year maximises the range of participants that can compete in the auction, thereby promoting competition.
Dozens of new highly polluting diesel generators are to be built in the UK after being handed consumer-funded subsidies worth £175m over 15 years.
Companies proposing to build 650 megawatts of new small diesel engines won subsidies through the latest round of the Government’s capacity market scheme, which is designed to ensure there are enough power plants to keep the lights on in 2019-20.
The scheme was originally intended to deliver big new efficient combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants to replace old polluting coal-fired power stations, but has so far failed to do so.
Toshiba, the technology company at the centre of plans to build more nuclear reactors in Britain, is looking for outside help to fund its £8bn programme after a collapse in its share price.
The Japanese group is in talks with local financial institutions to support the construction of an atomic plant near the Sellafield facility in Cumbria, after running up losses following an accounting scandal.
The emergence of Toshiba’s problems will add to worries over Britain’s nuclear plans after the French energy group EDF, which plans to build the Hinkley Point C station in Somerset, dropped out of France’s CAC 40 index of leading shares.
In an instant, Chesapeake Energy Corp. will erase the equivalent of 1.1 billion barrels of oil from its books.
Across the American shale patch, companies are being forced to square their reported oil reserves with hard economic reality. After lobbying for rules that let them claim their vast underground potential at the start of the boom, they must now acknowledge what their investors already know: many prospective wells would lose money with oil hovering below $40 a barrel.
Companies such as Chesapeake, founded by fracking pioneer Aubrey McClendon, pushed the Securities and Exchange Commission for an accounting change in 2009 that made it easier to claim reserves from wells that wouldn’t be drilled for years. Inventories almost doubled and investors poured money into the shale boom, enticed by near-bottomless prospects.
Redesdale wrote in an opinion column for City AM that last year saw a capacity margin of just 1.5 per cent with blackouts and brownouts expected this winter.
“Renewables have been built at an astonishing rate, but the chancellor’s policies mean very little will be built over the next few years to fill the supply demand gap. New nuclear plants, such as Hinkley Point C, will only come online in the mid 2020s”, Redesdale said.
Redesdale’s comments come after National Grid asked firms last month to reduce their power demand, issuing a demand-side balancing reserve (DSBR) notice for the first time.
Jon Ferris, head of energy markets at Utilitywise, says No.
While it is easy to see where the concern stems from, I am confident that the UK will not suffer electricity blackouts this winter. There are several factors behind my conviction.
These include the reopening of mothballed gas plants following the fall in gas prices and the decade-long reduction in underlying demand.
Furthermore, additional regulatory change will come into effect this winter which will increase business awareness of energy costs even further. Finally, while National Grid is clearly under pressure, it has been evolving in tandem with the changes in generation, and it has now developed better forecasting tools and introduced new services to balance the system.
The Guardian: Anger over threat of VAT hike on renewable energy
The government has shocked the renewable energy industry by proposing a massive hike in VAT on solar panels and wind turbines from next summer.
The moves, announced by the revenue and customs authority, HMRC, made “a mockery of (David) Cameron’s claims to climate leadership” say critics and come amid proposed cuts of almost 90% in some solar subsidies.
HMRC blamed the planned increase in VAT from 5-20% on a European commission ruling covering energy saving materials used in the construction trade and said the EC decision had been upheld by the court of justice of the EU.
The Telegraph: UN climate change deal aims to limit global warming to 1.5C
A new UN climate change deal is expected to commit the world to trying to limit global warming to 1.5C – despite warnings the target cannot be achieved because people will never vote for the costly policies it would require.
The highly ambitious goal would require such a radical shift to expensive green energy that it would be impossible in a democratic society, a leading academic warned last night. It would also require as-yet-untested technologies to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, others said.
The world’s leading oil producers are preparing for the possibility of oil prices halving to $20 a barrel after a second day of financial market turmoil saw a fresh slide in crude, the lowest iron ore prices in a decade, and losses on global stock markets.
Benchmark Brent crude briefly dipped below $40 a barrel for the first time since February 2009 before speculators took profits on the 8% drop in the cost of crude since last week’s abortive attempt by the oil cartel Opec to steady the market.
The Guardian: Why cheap oil is the key to beating climate change
Keeping the price of a barrel of crude at $75 or less will devastate the profitability of fossil fuel extraction – as the shelving of three tar sands projects demonstrates.
As world leaders enter the home stretch of the Paris climate negotiations they should keep in mind a key measure of success in limiting carbon emissions: cheap oil. The lower the global price of oil, the more it stays in the ground – due to the brutal, if counterintuitive, logic of the petroleum marketplace.
Most of the easily extracted oil deposits are long gone. What’s left are high-cost, high-risk long shots such as the Alberta tar sands, deep-water reservoirs off Brazil, and drilling the high Arctic. Companies hoping to profit from the last dregs of the petroleum age need to convince their investors to part with massive amounts of capital in hopes of competitive returns often decades down the road.
A deal to attempt to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2C has been agreed at the climate change summit in Paris after two weeks of negotiations.
The pact is the first to commit all countries to cut carbon emissions.
The agreement is partly legally binding and partly voluntary.
Earlier, key blocs, including the G77 group of developing countries, and nations such as China and India said they supported the proposals.
President of the UN climate conference of parties (COP) and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said: “I now invite the COP to adopt the decision entitled Paris Agreement outlined in the document.
“Looking out to the room I see that the reaction is positive, I see no objections. The Paris agreement is adopted.”
World Nuclear News: Russia connects BN-800 fast reactor to grid
Unit 4 of the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in the Sverdlovsk district of Russia has been connected to the national grid. The BN-800 fast neutron reactor started providing power to the Urals region at 9.21pm local time yesterday.
To achieve this, the thermal capacity of the reactor was raised to 25% of its nominal capacity and its K-800-130/3000 turbine reached a speed of 3000 rpm. The generator was then synchronized with the electricity grid and the thermal capacity of the reactor was increased to 35% of nominal capacity. The new unit joined the energy system at a minimum power level of 235 MWe. (HT Syndroma)
The Telegraph: Why we have to scrap the Climate Change Act
As it reaches its conclusion – without having come to any conclusions – it’s probably worth asking: what was the point of the Paris Climate Change summit? Ostensibly the politicians and officials met to discuss the effects of global warming and how to mitigate them.
Owen Paterson: “In the wake of the non-committal Paris climate talks we need to make sure we decouple energy policy from climate change policy”