This week’s Blowout features the demise of DECC and its amalgamation into the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Does this signal a sea change in UK government energy policy, or is it business-as-usual under a new banner?
BBC: Government axes DECC
The government has axed the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) in a major departmental shake-up. The brief will be folded into an expanded Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy under Greg Clark.
It comes at a time when campaigners are urging the government to ratify the Paris climate change deal. In his statement, Mr Clark appeared keen to calm concerns about the priority given to tackling global warming. He said: “I am thrilled to have been appointed to lead this new department charged with delivering a comprehensive industrial strategy, leading Government’s relationship with business, furthering our world-class science base, delivering affordable, clean energy and tackling climate change.” The climate “sceptic” group Global Warming Policy Forum has long demanded the demise of Decc, so alarm bells are ringing loudly for some green groups. Decc has made the UK a world leader in climate policy, and scrapping the department removes the words “climate change” from the title of any department. Out of sight, out of mind, in the basement, perhaps.
Following up are stories on the reactions of the greens to the disappearance of DECC and on what Theresa May thinks about climate change. (It seems that she has never established a position; her few recorded utterances are heavy into energy security but say nothing about climate change per se.) Below that we have the usual mix, including an 8-year high in OPEC production, record oil exports from Russia, US and Canadian rig counts up, Gazprom loses its $3.4 billion court case with Ukraine, the UK’s Rough gas storage facility shuts down, Hinkley subsidy increases to £30 billion, Canada benefits from “confused” US energy policy, RWE staring at bankruptcy, the UK paints itself into a corner on coal, Iran offers gas to Europe, Germany to use artificial intelligence to reduce intermittency problems, Kangaroo Island to go renewable, global renewable energy investment falls and Greenland loses a trillion tons of ice.
The abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change has been condemned by former ministers as a major setback to British efforts to combat global warming. Decc was closed in a series of sweeping changes to the government unveiled by the new prime minister, Theresa May, on Thursday. Its functions, which include representing the UK at inter-national climate talks, responsibility for meeting carbon targets and levying subsidies for green energy, have been transferred to a beefed-up business department led by Greg Clark. But Ed Davey, who served as Liberal Democrat secretary of state at Decc between 2012 and 2015, criticised the decision. “This is a major setback for the UK’s climate change efforts.” he told the Guardian. His view was echoed by Ed Miliband, the department’s first secretary of state when it was created in 2008 by Labour, who tweeted that the move was: “Plain stupid. Climate not even mentioned in new dept title. Matters because depts shape priorities, shape outcomes.” Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat head of Decc between 2010 and 2012, said: “It is a big problem to have only one department charged with any environmental objectives – Defra. At a stroke, the number of cabinet voices with a departmental remit for the environment and climate change has been halved. A group of international statesmen and women including Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu issued a statement saying they regretted the decision and it failed to encourage leadership on climate change.
It was, with the possible exception of appointing Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, the starkest statement of intent made by Theresa May in her first 24 hours in Downing Street. Amid mounting concern that the world must do much more to prevent the worst effects of climate change, our new Prime Minister decided to abolish the UK’s climate change department. May’s priorities could not be more clear. The clues are in the titles. Britain now has a Secretary for Exiting the European Union – a very sensible move if Brexit is inevitable – a Secretary for International Trade and a Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. You wouldn’t know it, but the latter will be responsible for dealing with climate change. So, it appears, Britain will concentrate on one thing for the next four years – preventing the economy from disappearing down the toilet. Fear of a Brexit apocalypse seems to have prompted May to sacrifice the fight against climate change in the hope of avoiding a recession that would almost certainly see her removed from office – by her own side, if not Labour. But, make no mistake, this could be a historic blunder of global proportions.
CarbonBrief: What is Theresa May’s stance on climate change?
To date, very little has been known about May’s personal policy stance on energy and climate change. Last week, EnergyDesk noted: “May has been largely silent on the issue of climate change since becoming an MP. Meanwhile, her voting record on the environment while in government mirrors that of her party.” Yesterday, during a speech made just before Leadsom’s exit, May said: “I want to see an energy policy that emphasises the reliability of supply and lower costs for users.” However, Carbon Brief has uncovered a cached version of a statement published on May’s website back in December 2008, in which she was reacting to the passing into law of the Climate Change Act. May says: “I am thrilled to see that after years of Conservative pressure, we have finally passed a necessary and ambitious piece of legislation on Climate Change. Britain is the first country in the world to formally bind itself to cut greenhouse emissions and I strongly believe this will improve our national and economic security. To stay reliant on fossil fuels would mean tying ourselves to increasingly unstable supplies which could endanger our energy security and the Climate Change and Energy Bills mark an important step for both the health of our economy and the health of our nation. It is now vital that we stick to these targets.”
Oil futures settled at their lowest level in two months on Monday after a survey revealed that crude production from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has climbed to a nearly eight-year high. The report exacerbates concerns that global output is set to climb as recent supply disruptions ease. OPEC’s June crude production rose 300,000 barrels a day from a month earlier, to 32.73 million barrels a day, which is the highest level since August 2008, according to S&P Global Platts. “There is a concern that demand might be falling when supply might be on the rise,” Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Price Futures Group, told MarketWatch in an email. “Not only is the market expecting the return of Canadian oil, [but] we may see more oil out of Nigeria and Lib-ya,” he said. “Iran is boasting that they are getting ready to boost output as well.” The OPEC survey from S&P Global Platts, which said crude production in Nigeria and Libya “tentatively recovered,” added pressure to oil prices Monday. Flynn pointed out that energy “demand is suspect” because of ongoing uncertainty stemming from the U.K. exit from the European Union, also known as Brexit.
Hellenic Shipping News: Record Russian Oil Exports Are A Bigger Threat To Prices Than OPEC
There’s been a lot of press lately about OPEC’s effect on oil prices. With many observers wondering if surging crude exports from places like Saudi Arabia and Iran will hold back prices for the indefinite future. But at the same time, there’s another, less-discussed oil exporting nation having a potentially bigger effect on the market. Data released earlier this week from Russia’s energy ministry showed that crude exports to the end of June rose 4.9% as compared to same period of 2015 — hitting 5.55 million barrels per day. Exports for the month of June were up 1.14% year-on-year, with Russia’s shipments now having increased during every month since July 2014. At current rates, exports would hit a record this year — passing the old yearly high of 253.9 million tons (1.8 billion barrels) set in 2007. A big part of the reason is Russia’s desire to compete with OPEC. With Russia’s benchmark Urals blend crude being similar to oil produced by Iran — prompting Russian producers to sell more in order to hold market share, at the same time as Iran is ramping up sales globally. The competition between these two nations is unlikely to reduce anytime soon. Meaning there’s going to be a lot of supply coming from several places around the planet — with potential dampening effects on prices.
Oilandgas360: US Rig Count Continues to Increase
After an up and down week for crude oil prices, the U.S. rig count extended its upward momentum to make it six out of the last seven weeks in the positive. The total number of active rigs increased by seven rigs over last week to 447, according to date released today by Baker Hughes (ticker: BHI). Despite gains in the last few weeks, the rig count remains low having fallen 410 rigs from the year ago mark of 857. The upward move was mostly due to increases from oil rigs, with oil plays adding six rigs and gas plays adding one rig. The turnaround in rig count over the last few weeks comes as oil hovers in the $45 to $50 range. Oil originally breached the $45 mark in late April and made the move toward $50 a barrel in early June, closing above $50 on June 7 for the first time since July 2015. Rig count consequently went up that week for the first time since August 2015. Canadian rig count increased by 14 rigs this week to 95 rigs, giving the North America count a 21 rig boost overall. Oil rigs and gas rigs both gained seven rigs this week, with the largest increase coming in Alberta with seven additional rigs.
The ugly divorce between Russia and Ukraine continues. This time, Gazprom is rejected by a higher court in its appeal regarding a $3.4 billion fine for breaking a contract for gas shipments with Ukraine-owned Naftogaz. The Supreme Economic Court of Ukraine rejected Gazprom’s appeal regarding the imposition of a fine for the “abuse of a monopoly position” in the Ukrainian natural gas market between 2009 and 2015. According to the Anti-Monopoly Committee in Kiev, Gazprom failed to allow for “market competition” in gas transit via Ukraine. Both Gazprom and its partner Naftogaz have a virtual monopoly of gas deliveries in the country, with Gazprom being Ukraine’s biggest supplier. Gazprom called the ruling a “great surprise” because the company is dependent on state-owned Naftogaz for deliveries. “This decision can only be seen as an attempt to put pressure on Gazprom in the higher courts,” the $52 billion company said in a statement on Wednesday. Gazprom could refuse to pay the fine, further driving a wedge between Moscow and Kiev. If so, the Ukrainians could try to block Naftogaz payments for future gas transit until the court winnings are forked over by the Russians.
Wholesale gas prices have jumped after British Gas owner Centrica said it had been forced to shut a major storage facility for the winter. The Rough facility accounts for about 70% of all UK gas storage. Tom Marzec-Manser, an analyst at market information provider ICIS, said the gas price “rocketed” to 12-month highs after the announcement “To ensure security of supply is maintained… companies are going to have to pay a premium,” he said. They will will be “reliant on storage on the European mainland”, he added. Centrica said it is working to return a third of the capacity to operation by November, in time for colder months when gas demand by energy companies climbs. There have been problems at the Rough facility since March 2015, when Centrica imposed restrictions on storage levels because of an issue with its wells. Last month following testing on the wells involved, Centrica said, it had “identified an additional issue” on one of them and Rough facility would close until 3 August for further tests. Centrica issued a statement on Friday saying it had ended those tests early and had plugged the affected well. “However, the affected well has identified potential uncertainties in the remaining untested wells,” it said. It would continue with an “enhanced” testing programme. “We estimate completion in March to April 2017. In the meantime because of the uncertainty as a prudent and safe operator (Centrica) cannot inject or withdraw gas from Rough,” it added.
Iran could step in to help address European energy security concerns once the doors to financial regimes open, the speaker of the Iranian parliament said. Speaker Ali Larijani told visiting Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov the Islamic republic could penetrate deeply into the European energy sector and help address some lingering security issues with the right conditions in place. “Of course, under present conditions there are impediments on the way,” Larijani said. “Banking relations with Europe are not yet fixed.” Sanctions pressures on Iran started easing in January after the United Nations confirmed compliance with a multilateral nuclear agreement brokered last year. European sanctions are easing faster than those enacted by the United States, though some sanctions that remain in place make it difficult to do business with Iran. President Hassan Rouhani nevertheless toured Europe this year, returning with renewed commitments from energy companies eager to engage in a post-sanctions Iran. Iran has offered its natural gas to a European market working to break Russia’s hold over the energy sector. Russia supplies about a quarter of Europe’s gas, though much of that runs through Ukraine, where regional conflicts have created risks to energy security.
US News & World Report: The New Nuclear Renaissance
There has been a groundswell of activity and investment in recent years surrounding advanced nuclear reactors. A dynamic group of nuclear engineers and scientists are chasing the future – and racing against China and Russia – to develop innovative reactor designs. These technologies hold enormous promise to provide clean, safe, affordable, and reliable energy, not just for our country, but for the world. Some would argue that we have been here before. In 2005, Congress passed incentives to encourage a “nuclear renaissance” amid high natural gas prices. The industry stood ready to build a large number of modern light-water reactors, improved versions of existing nuclear technology. But reality fell short of expectations and the re-sult was only five new nuclear plants, with a price tag of $8 billion to $10 billion each. Now, in an age of low-cost natural gas, it is becoming harder for the nearly 100 existing reactors to compete. The Energy Information Administration calculates that electricity generation from a new nuclear plant would cost about 25 percent more than electricity from a new gas-fired combined-cycle power plant.. So this begs the question: Will this new wave of innovative reactors live up to its promise? Investors think so, and so do we. For starters, these advanced reactors differ significantly from their predecessors. Rather than water, they use materials like molten salt or noble gasses as coolants. Most are considered “walk away safe,” since they are designed to use the laws of physics, rather than equipment, to prevent accidents. If a natural disaster strikes, for instance, these reactors would simply shut down, substantially reducing the threat of a meltdown.
China aims to launch a series of offshore nuclear power platforms to promote development in the South China Sea, state media said again on Friday, days after an international court ruled Beijing had no historic claims to most of the waters. Sovereignty over the South Chi-na Sea is contested by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, and any move to build nuclear reactors is bound to stoke further tension in the region. The China Securities Journal said 20 offshore nuclear platforms could eventually be built in the region as the country seeks to “speed up the commercial development” of the South China Sea. “The marine nuclear power platform will provide energy and freshwater to the Nansha Islands,” it said, refer-ring to the disputed Spratly Islands. The Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, announced similar news in April and said the nuclear power platforms could “sail” to remote areas and provide a stable power supply. “The news is old,” an expert with the China Nuclear Energy Association said. “It is repeated in reaction to the latest South China Sea disputes,” the expert, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.
Financial Times: Hinkley subsidy quintuples to £30bn
Consumers will pay a £30bn subsidy for electricity from the proposed Hinkley Point nuclear power station — almost five times the original estimate — according to the latest projections from the National Audit Office. The increase reflects a reduction in long-term forecasts for the wholesale cost of electricity — widening the gap between market prices and the amount promised by the UK government to EDF, the French company planning to build the plant. Under a deal agreed in 2013, EDF will be guaranteed a price of £92.50 per megawatt hour of electricity — rising in line with inflation — as an incentive to shoulder the £18bn construction cost. This represents a premium over the current wholesale price of about £45 per MWh and forecasts for the future size of these “top-up payments” has increased as falling fossil fuel prices has lowered long-term expectations for the cost of electricity. In a report on nuclear power published on Wednesday, the UK public spending watchdog said the estimated value of the premium due to EDF over the 35-year duration of the contract had increased from £6.1bn when the deal was struck to £29.7bn. The revised projection will add to debate over the heavy cost of a project which is crucial to the UK’s strategy to renew its ageing energy infrastructure, and to France’s efforts to maintain its industrial strength in nuclear power.
SeeNews: Rosatom to harness wind power
The Russian wind power sector is about to welcome a huge player, Rosatom, the Russian state-controlled nuclear energy company running around 400 subsidiaries. Recently, VetroOGK, a subsidiary of OTEK which is part of Rosatom, won contracts for 610 MW of wind capacity in the extended procurement for state-supported clean energy capacity distribution in 2018-2020. “Over the next couple of years, starting this year, we are determined to develop a wind energy business in Russia with a prospect of entering international markets,” Vladislav Bochkov, Vice President for Communications of Rusatom International Network, told SeeNews Renewables. The company plans to install 150 MW by 2018, 200 MW in 2019, and a further 260 MW in 2020. The total investment is estimated at RUB 83 billion (USD 1.3bn/EUR 1.2bn). “The 610 MW we were awarded amounts to 17% of the new wind energy capacity projected in the country by 2024,” Mr. Bochkov added. Russia has set a renewable energy target of 4% in its total energy generation by 2020.
A proposal by Massachusetts to boost the use of renewable energy may put New England’s last two nuclear reactors out of business and undermine the state’s efforts to cut carbon emissions, according to an industry group. Legislation requiring utilities to use renewable power to meet nearly half the state’s energy needs would test reactors already grappling with cheap natural gas prices and falling demand, said Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association Inc. The legislative session ends July 31. Governor Charlie Baker supports the measure. While backers says the measure is needed to help the state meet a target to cut carbon emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, Dolan said it could back-fire. If Dominion Resources Inc.’s Millstone plant in Connecticut and NextEra Energy Inc.’s Seabrook plant in New Hampshire close as result of the renewable mandate, Massachusetts will lose a major source of zero-emitting electricity, he said. “You could very well do all this contracting and knock out the nukes, and from an emissions standpoint you end up at the same place,” Dolan said in an interview.
One of Germany’s largest electrical companies is facing bankruptcy due to the enormous amounts of money it poured into green energy, according to a report published Wednesday by the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The German utility Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk (RWE) was forced by the government to shut down many of its profitable nuclear reactors and build expensive wind and solar power. The government’s mandate to replace nuclear reactors with wind or solar power cost over $1.1 trillion. The company has a 46 percent chance of going bankrupt within the next two years, according to investment groups. “It is the sheer distress which is behind the project. That’s because RWE needs huge amounts of money pretty soon. Especially for its nuclear phase-out,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported Wednesday. “A good 10 billion euros have been reserved already. But that is hardly enough. The Initial public offering (IPO) is presumed to generate the additional resources that are required. RWE cannot afford to accumulate more debt. It is already loaded with €45 billion in long-term liabilities on the balance sheet, almost eight times its equity, a menacing rate, while the rating agencies have given RWE just above ‘junk’ status.” RWE’s overall earnings fell by almost 10 percent between 2014 and 2015 and are predicted to fall by up to 14 percent this year. The company’s attempt to sell stock reeks of an effort to raise the money required to stave off bankruptcy.
America still generates a fifth of the nation’s electricity from controlled nuclear fission and you might think its star should be rising, given the mounting concern about the impact of fossil fuel emissions on the climate. Instead, nuclear power is under grave threat, not so much from the continuing campaign by the anti-nuclear lobby but from market forces. Fossil fuels have become so cheap, in particular natural gas from shale, that nuclear power cannot compete; nuclear’s zero-carbon benefit doesn’t translate into dollars and cents in a competitive electricity market. In this ferment of concern over safety, economics, climate change and not-in-my-backyard politics, Canada offers a potential solution, abundant hydro power. In the absence of a mechanism that skews the electricity market away from fossil fuels, nuclear power will struggle to survive as long as cheap methane continues to bubble up from ancient shales. Moreover, without guaranteed pricing or fiscal incentives, the building of new nukes to replace the retired plant is even more unlikely in a competitive U.S. electricity market. Of course, Canadian hydro power is not a perfect solution for America. It will require a massive investment in wires and pylons and, inevitably, New England’s leaf peepers will complain that infrastructure is spoiling the view. But that will be in someone else’s backyard and as long as the locals up north don’t kick up too much fuss, there is a reasonable chance that Canadian power companies will profit from America’s confused energy politics.
NuclearStreet: New York Commission Proposes Nuclear Power Subsidy
New York’s Public Services Commission over the weekend proposed a subsidy for upstate nuclear power plants that would start at about $482 million per year and rise over a 12-year period until it reached $805 million per year. In their proposal, the PSC cited a study by The Brattle Group that was paid for by Exelon Corporation and Up-state Energy Jobs that found as many as 25,000 jobs and $3 billion in economic activity were directly or indirectly supported by the three upstate nuclear power plants, including Exelon’s two-reactor Nine Mile Point two-reactor plant in Oswego and R.E. Ginna plant in Ontario, N.Y. and the Fitz-Patrick plant north of Oswego, which is owned by Entergy. The PSC proposal also acknowledges that “replacement of the zero-emission attributes with equivalent amounts of fossil-fueled attributes would result in an increase of approximately 31 million metric tons of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere in over the next two years.” The value of that was worth approximately $1.4 billion, the PSC said, although they also cited The Brattle Group’s research that pointed to zero-emissions from nuclear power plants as a value of $1.7 billion per year.
China’s crude output dropped 4.6 percent to 101.59 million metric tons in the first six months of the year, the lowest for that period since 2012, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics on Friday. Coal production fell 9.7 percent to 1.63 billion tons in the first half of the year. For June, crude tumbled 8.9 percent, coal fell 16.6 percent and natural gas slipped 0.5 percent. Ethylene output also decreased to the lowest in a year to 1.39 million tons. The cutbacks highlight cost and environmental pressures on the world’s second-largest economy as it shifts toward consumer-driven growth and away from industrial production. Oil producers including PetroChina Co. and Cnooc Ltd. shut unprofitable fields amid a price crash and took advantage of cheaper overseas supplies. Meanwhile, coal output has slipped as President Xi Jinping’s government compels miners to reduce an overcapacity in the biggest producer and consumer of the fuel. “The nation’s reduction in domestic oil and coal output last month have been larger than expected,” Tian Miao, an analyst with policy researcher North Square Blue Oak Ltd., said by phone. “Ample, cheap overseas resources have made the government more comfortable with deep cuts to high-cost local supplies.”
Even as coal miners struggle with an epic decline in their business, including headwinds on regulatory, legal, and economic fronts, the industry faces another test that is just over the horizon – one which could prove an existential threat to the long-term business model. That test is the ability of the industry to access coal reserves that are held on federal land. The Obama administration put in place a moratorium on new coal leases on federal land earlier this year. That moratorium has been in place for about six months now and has another 2.5 years to go. The moratorium was predictably lauded by environmentalists but denounced by industry and politicians in western states where federal coal leases provide significant numbers of jobs and help bolster state coffers. Now, there are calls emerging for that moratorium to be made permanent. So far, the current moratorium is still temporary, but if Democrats retain the White House in November, it is all but certain that the ban will continue and possibly be made permanent. If the ban is made permanent, it won’t immediately impact existing coal operations. The existing leases are contracts which cannot be easily broken or abrogated. Those leases give coal operators access to roughly a 20-year supply. At the same time though, without new leases, coal’s future will increasingly be endangered.
Timera Energy: UK coal plants & security of supply
The UK government announced in November 2015 that all UK coal plants would be closed by 2025. But the government certainly did not anticipate that 6 months later, the whole UK coal fleet would be driven to the wall by falling gas and power prices. Since the Nov 15 announcement, 4.3 GW of coal plants have closed. Another 4.3 GW remain on life support in the form of (ancillaries and SBR) reserve contracts with National Grid. And most of the remaining 9GW of UK coal plant are now cashflow negative. There is also uncertainty hanging over the ‘renewable’ status of biomass units at coal stations which could further exacerbate closures. Government support for renewables is steadily delivering new capacity. But because this is predominantly intermittent in nature, new flexible gas fired plants need to be developed to replace retiring coal plants. This is where the UK government has painted itself into a tight corner. New gas fired plants require support from the Capacity Market which has a 4 year delivery lead time. That means as things stand there will not be substantial new baseload capacity until 2020. So the government is in the awkward position of working to close all coal plants by 2025, while critically depending on the same units for security of supply until 2020. The way that this conundrum is resolved is set to drive generation margins and capacity pricing in the UK power market across the next 5 years.
The Murdoch media and conservative Coalition parties have ramped up their attacks on renewable energy in light of the big spike in electricity prices in South Australia this week, saying that wind and solar are solely to blame for the state’s electricity problems. Power prices spiked sharply again this week, but energy analysts say that wind and solar are not at fault, pointing out that gas prices have jumped to record highs, and the interconnector to Victoria was constrained due to delayed work on network upgrades. But this has cut no mustard with the Murdoch media and the Coalition, who have used the incidents of the past week to renew their usually skewed attacks against the high levels of wind and solar in the state. “SA’s reliance on wind and solar power is responsible for these absurd prices,” thundered The Advertiser, Murdoch’s monopoly daily newspaper in Adelaide. “The state’s electricity supply cannot be left at the mercy of the weather gods and erratic spot prices. Labor’s great green energy experiment will cost it ultimate power in 2018,” it threatened. Murdoch’s position has been eagerly supported by the local state Opposition, which like all Coalition parties across the country – at both the state and federal level – is pushing back against any moves to increase the amount of renewable energy in the electricity system. “The (South Australian) government’s complete and utter obsession with renewable energy has left us in a very vulnerable state without a workable energy strategy,” Opposition leader Steven Marshall said.
Kangaroo Island is one of the great icons of Australian tourism. As Andrew Boardman, the chief executive of the Kangaroo Island council, says: “You can’t buy a name like that.” But now the third-biggest island in Australia, which lies just 120kms from Adelaide, wants to make its mark in a different way: by supplying 100% of its electricity needs and much of its transport fuels through locally sourced renewable energy. The island is calling for proposals that could use a mixture of its local resources – solar power, wind energy, biomass and even ocean energy – and combine those with battery storage, smart software and the existing diesel back-up. Even more dramatically, it is also supporting a push to cut the island from the mainland grid. Indeed, the move has been prompted by a need to update and replace the ageing cable that currently supplies electricity from the mainland. South Australian Power Networks has called for “alternative proposals”. If someone can come up with a proposal that matches the $45m to $50m replacement cost of the cable, then they will consider it. They aim to make a decision by the end of the year. Boardman says: “100% renewable is a very real, very clear target … Technology is not the issue. We have got solar, wind, wave, tidal, biomass. There is nothing we can’t really do.”
Renewable energy sources can never provide a constant source of power. No matter how many solar panels you build, they all provide zero power when the sun goes down. And if you build a large number of solar panels, you risk generating too much power when it’s sunny, which can be a problem too. Ultimately, most countries are relying on fossil fuels for so-called baseline power, throttling up or down the output of coal and gas plants to ensure energy demands are met without being exceeded. But this isn’t a perfect solution either. It takes time to make these adjustments, called “re-dispatches,” and the government has to compensate utility companies for lower outputs, which costs taxpayers millions of dollars a year. To combat this, researchers in Germany are developing software that uses machine learning to predict the amount of energy generated by renewables over the next few days. This early warning system, called EWeLiNE, was modelled after a similar program in the U.S. EWeLiNE takes realtime data from solar panels and wind turbines around Germany and feeds it into an algorithm that calculates the renewable energy output for the next 48 hours. This algorithm uses machine learning, and the researchers compare real data with EWeLiNE predictions to refine the algorithm and improve its accuracy. The EWeLiNE team hopes that most of the wind and solar farms in the country will be transmitting live data by 2018, and the program can be fully implemented soon after.
BusinessGreen: Renewables investment falls after 2015 record
Global clean energy investment fell by almost a third in the second quarter of 2016 compared with the equivalent period in 2015, according to analysis released on Thursday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The figures show that while investment during the second quarter increased to $61.5bn – 12 per cent higher than the first quarter of the year – the outturn fell well short of $90bn investment in the equivalent period of 2015. However, the global figures hid some good news for Europe, where investment over the first half of the year was up four per cent at $33.5bn, driven mainly by several major offshore wind projects reaching financial close. Brazil also showed a major rise in investment, with a 36 per cent rise compared with the previous year, meaning a total of $3.7bn was invested in the first half of the year. But other regions showed significant downturns, with investment in China down by 34 per cent to $33.7bn, in the Middle East and Africa down 46 per cent at $4.2bn, and in the Americas (excluding the US and Brazil) down 63 per cent to $2.3bn. The US and India also showed sluggish growth, with investment figures down five and one per cent respectively.
Daily Caller: China Wastes Enough Wind Energy To Power Great Britain
China is wasting enough wind energy to power Great Britain, according to an article published Monday by the Worldwatch Institute, a green think tank. China is wasting an estimated 15 percent of its wind electricity, and the country generates more wind power than any other country on Earth. “The scale of this waste is enormous, equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 3 million American households and greater than the United Kingdom’s total wind power generation in 2015,” Laqiqige Zhu, who studies climate and energy at Worldwatch, wrote on GreenBiz. “Perhaps most striking, although China nearly has doubled the installed wind genera-tion capacity of the United States (145.1 GW versus 75.0 GW), actual Chinese generation is less than U.S. generation (186.3 terawatt-hours [TWh] versus 190.9 TWh).” The sheer scale of the waste is causing even environmentalist outlets like InsideClimate News to worry, as it led to the Chinese government refusing to build any new wind turbines because the wasted electricity has caused serious damage to the country’s electrical grid. “This wasted energy reflects not only sunk investment and foregone economic benefit, but also a missed opportunity to fight climate change,” Zhu continued.
That is the call to action from Scottish Renewables and consultants Everoze, which have produced a report calling on the UK Government to de-risk investment opportunities for energy storage systems. Scottish Renewables’ director of policy Jenny Hogan said: “Energy storage is an essential part of the transition to a cleaner energy mix, for delivering an energy system for the 21st century and for reaching our climate change targets. While batteries today are 94% cheaper than they were in 1990, and a range of pumped storage projects are ‘shovel-ready’ or in the planning process, the current market arrangements are at risk of favouring more expensive sources of flexibility for our network. A whole series of changes are needed if we are to ensure that the cheapest and most efficient technologies provide the services that a modern clean electricity system requires.” The report notes that in order to “level the playing field” for energy storage, historical revenue streams that are tailored towards conventional generation methods would have to be “cracked” and re-established. Currently, storage operators can’t monetise the full range of services that the plant can deliver compared to conventional plants.
A new paper reports that over half of Earth’s land area has suffered biodiversity loss beyond “safe limits.” The study, released today in Science, compiles a global dataset of bio-diversity change and compares it to human land use patterns. The analysis shows that 58 percent of Earth’s land, which is home to 71 percent of the human population, has surpassed a recently proposed safe limit for biodiversity loss, beyond which ecosystems may no longer support human societies. “We’re crossing into a zone of uncertainty,” says lead scientist Tim Newbold of University College London. While the news sounds dire, other ecologists contend that the very notion of setting “safe limits” is a danger in itself, and criticize this line-in-the-sand approach to assessing the planet’s ecological health. In fact, critics say setting a limit may do more harm than good. The “fact that we’ve lost biodiversity isn’t surprising,” says Newbold. What is surprising is “the magnitude of the change … how much of the world’s land surface has gone past the boundary.” However, determining where the safe limit is — and how much of the planet is past it — is problematic. “This thing is a house of cards … one assumption after another,” says Erle Ellis, director of the Laboratory of Anthropogenic Landscape Ecology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Hydro International: Greenland Melting Ice Contributes More to Sea-level Rise
Information from ESA’s CryoSat satellite reveals how melting ice in Greenland has recently contributed twice as much to sea-level rise as the prior two decades. Between 2011 and 2014, Greenland lost around one trillion tonnes of ice. This corresponds to a 0.75mm contribution to global sea-level rise each year – about twice the average of the preceding two decades. The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, combines data from the CryoSat mission with a regional climate model to map changes in Greenland ice sheet mass. CryoSat carries a radar altimeter that can measure the surface height variation of ice in fine detail, allowing scientists to record changes in its volume with unprecedented accuracy. The study also shows large variations in the amount of ice loss from year to year, with the highest losses occurring in 2012 when summer temperatures hit record highs. This demonstrates Greenland’s sensitivity to sudden changes in the surrounding environment. CryoSat’s measurement of Greenland ice losses are in close agreement with those computed from NASA’s GRACE mission, which carries sensors that are specially designed to weigh changes at the scale of the entire ice sheet.
Enginering & Technology: Climate change advisers call for urgent government action
Urgent action is needed to deal with the already significant risks of flooding and heatwaves caused by climate change, UK government advisers have warned. Risks that need to be addressed as a priority also include water shortages for homes, power plants and industry and the impacts of rising temperatures on agriculture at home and abroad, which could push up food prices for consumers. More action is needed by government in the next five years to put in place measures which will help make sure the UK can cope with climate change in the coming decades, the Committee on Climate Change’s adaptation sub-committee warned. But climate change could also present opportunities for the UK, the committee said, including a potential boost to agriculture and forestry from warmer weather and a longer growing season and British businesses being able to sell products and services to help people worldwide adapt to climate change. Impacts such as water shortages and overheating homes, schools, hospitals and businesses will not be limited to London and the south east of England, the committee said. The analysis warns that floods and coastal erosion are already a significant risk, but ‘more ambitious approaches’ could offset growing flood damage if temperature rises were kept to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. However, while improving protection for some towns, cities and villages would be possible, others will face a significant increased risk, even putting the viability of some communities under threat.