Usually I have to think for a bit before selecting a lead article for Blowout. But this week the lead article pretty much selects itself – and there are no prizes for guessing what it is:
Theresa May has finally given the go-ahead for the controversial Hinkley Point nuclear power plant despite fears over Chinese control and huge long-term costs. The government announced its approval for the £18billion project after securing tweaks to the agreement. There will also be ‘significant new safeguards’ on future foreign investment in nuclear power.
Ministers said they had imposed ‘significant new safeguards’ for future foreign investment in critical infrastructure. A statement said: ‘Following a comprehensive review of the Hinkley Point C project, and a revised agreement with EDF, the Government has decided to proceed with the first new nuclear power station for a generation. However, ministers will impose a new legal framework for future foreign investment in Britain’s critical infrastructure, which will include nuclear energy and apply after Hinkley.’ A senior Whitehall source said Prime Minister Theresa May had accepted there was ‘no Plan B’ for keeping Britain’s civil nuclear sector alive if the controversial project was scrapped. Chinese firm CGN welcomed the Hinkley decision, and said it was now ‘able to move forward and deliver’ nuclear capacity at the separate Sizewell and Bradwell sites.
In this week’s bumper blowout: Hinkley Point C finally gets green light; KEPCO close to investing in new nuclear at Moorside; the oil at Gatwick Airport keeps on gushing; oil price tumbles as OPEC and IEA see oil glut continuing; Dutch gas (crucial to Europe) is in decline; Gazprom to increase gas exports to Europe; environmentalists oppose new gas pipeline to Europe; venture capital funds abandon clean energy; renewables losing ground in Japan; decarbonising transport in Europe is fanciful; solar panel glut in China; 40% of Ireland’s wind power curtailed; UK must add CCS to save consumers billions; UK electricity prices surge; first large scale tidal power deployed in Scotland; Stuart Paton on fracking, nuclear power and Scottish energy policy.
Carbon Brief: Media reaction to Hinkley decision
Most newspapers had taken a sceptical view of the scheme. Editorial headlines included “No point in Hinkley” in the Times, “A nuclear error” in the Sun and “Hinkley Pointless” in the Economist. Now that the plant has been approved, a few papers have softened their tone. For example the Sun headline is: “Brits must try to look on the bright side of Hinkley Point nuclear deal”. The Daily Mail says the prime minister “may have had no option but to approve” Hinkley C. The Telegraph says: “We have had our misgivings … because the economic arguments were never entirely convincing.” Even so, it concludes: “Arguments…are now at an end. The imperative is to get on and build the plant and the four others in the pipeline.” Others remain sceptical. The Financial Times says the government’s planned new rules governing foreign investment in critical infrastructure could still “put the Hinkley project in doubt” if they are sufficiently stringent. “Hinkley C is an unproven design that comes at a punitive cost,” argues the Guardian. While “keeping the lights on without adding to global warming at a price that consumers can afford is complex…nuclear, with its lethal waste and high decommissioning costs, is no long-term solution.” The Guardian editorial says the worst aspect of Theresa May’s decision is that it could “[drive] out investment in other, smarter, solutions which are the real technologies of the future”. The prime minister has overlooked “dramatic advances and cost reductions in smart grid technology, solar power, energy storage and newer nuclear designs that could render Hinkley Point obsolete before it is completed,” the Times editorial argues. In the Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard says Hinkley C will be “obsolete before it even starts… [it] will be overtaken by a host of cheaper technologies before it is even opened in the late 2020s, and risks degenerating into an epic white elephant.”
Three out of four Britons oppose the Hinkley nuclear power project that has just been approved by the Government, according to a poll. A quarter (25 per cent) of the 2,028 people surveyed in the Populus poll, conducted on 7-8 September, said they supported Hinkley, while nearly half (44 per cent) oppose the plans. The findings indicate a continuous decline in support for the project, following a previous poll in April this year that showed support was at 33 per cent, down from 57 per cent in 2013. It comes as Theresa May announced the Government had approved the project, but with new security conditions on the £18 billion deal. Business Secretary Greg Clark said Hinkley was an “important upgrade of our energy supplies” and a “major step forward” for the UK’s nuclear power programme, which he says could create 26,000 jobs. But Ms May’s decision prompted criticism, as it appeared likely the price promised to French-firm EDF for Hinkley’s electricity had not been lowered under new terms. There are also concerns over environmental issues. Green leader Caroline Lucas claimed that instead of investing in the “eye-wateringly expensive white-elephant, the Government should be doing all it can to support offshore wind, energy efficiency and innovative new technologies, such as energy storage.”
Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) is close to investing in the £10 billion Moorside nuclear plant in Cumbria, the Financial Times has reported. The company initially entered talks about joining the NuGen consortium, which is developing the project, three years ago. Negotiations have now resumed, according to four sources “with knowledge of the situation” which were quoted by the paper. The sources said progress has been made towards a potential equity stake for Kepco as well as possible role in construction. The company is 51 per cent owned the South Korean government, which has set the target of becoming the world’s third largest nuclear reactor exporter by 2030. The Moorside project is currently a joint venture between Engie and Toshiba. It will use three AP1000 reactors supplied by Westinghouse – the US-subsidiary of Toshiba. With a total capacity of up to 3.8GW, once operational it will meet around 7 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs.
The world nuclear industry aims to build about 1,000 gigawatts of new nuclear reactor capacity by 2050, World Nuclear Association Director-general Agneta Rising said on Thursday. Past installations have often been below 5 gigawatt (GW) or less per year, but in 2014 the industry built 5 GW, which doubled to 10 GW in 2015. One gigawatt is the equivalent of about one medium-size nuclear reactor. “We should be able to deliver 1,000 GW of new nuclear by 2050,” Rising said at the opening of the annual WNA conference in London. She said the target was for 10 GW per year from 2016 to 2020, rising to 25 GW per year from 2021 to 2025 and to 33 GW per year from 2026 to 2050. Rising said the UK government’s decision to go ahead with the 3.2 GW Hinkley Point project is an important boost for the industry. “We congratulate the UK government on going ahead with the Hinkley Point decision. It is important to have reliable low-carbon energy sources.”
China plans to build more than 60 nuclear plants in the coming decade, a top Chinese industry official said on Friday. Zheng Mingguang, vice president and chief nuclear designer at China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC), told Reuters at the World Nuclear Association conference in London that China would build about 30 reactors in the next five years and more in the five years after that. He said that each of China’s major nuclear companies — SNPTC, CNNC and CGN — would start building a minimum of two new reactors a year. Zheng said that the 60 new plants would include between six and 10 CAP1000 reactors, which are Chinese versions of the AP1000 made by Toshiba-owned Westinghouse. The first batch of six will include CNNC building two new reactors at Sanmen in Zhejiang Province, where Westinghouse is set to complete construction of AP1000s for the plant’s first two units early next year. SNPTC will build two aditional reactors at Haiyang in Shandong province, where Westinghouse is also building two AP1000s. CGN will build two reactors at Lufeng in Guandong province.
After spending more than 40 years and $5 billion on an unfinished nuclear power plant in northeastern Alabama, the nation’s largest federal utility is preparing to sell the property at a fraction of its cost. The Tennessee Valley Authority has set a minimum bid of $36.4 million for its Bellefonte Nuclear Plant and the 1,600 surrounding acres of waterfront property on the Tennessee River. The buyer gets two unfinished nuclear reactors, transmission lines, office and warehouse buildings, eight miles of roads, a 1,000-space parking lot and more. Initial bids are due Monday, and at least one company has publicly expressed interest in the site with plans to use it for alternative energy production. But TVA says it isn’t particular about what the purchaser does — using the site for power production, industrial manufacturing, recreation or even residences would all be fine with the agency, said spokesman Scott Fiedler. “It’s all about jobs and investment, and that’s our primary goal for selling this property,” said Fielder. Work began at Bellefonte in the mid-’70s on the backside of the nuclear energy boom in the United States. The utility initially planned to construct four reactors at the site, but demand for power in the region never met those early expectations and work halted in 1988. A series of starts and stops preceded TVA’s decision earlier this year to sell Bellefonte.
Doriemus today revealed its Brockham-1 well in the UK’s Weald Basin contains 282 million barrels of oil per square mile. The figure was given as part of petrophysical analysis and reservoir intelligence report delivered by US-based firm Nutech. The Weald Basin well sits approximately 6 miles north west of Gatwick Airport. Executive chairman David Lenigas said: “The great advantage of the Brockham oil field is that it is already a producing oil field and any new production should be able to be put on line relatively quickly. This Nutech work for Doriemus has highlighted that the conventional Portland Sandstones and the Kimmeridge Limestones that were oil productive at the Horse Hill -1 well near Gatwick Airport are indeed evident at the nearby Brockham Oil Field. Doriemus looks forward to participating in the next phase of developing the oil potential of Brockham with the proposed drill of the next side track well designed to penetrate the Portland and the entire Kimmeridge sections of the well.” Nutech also carried out an assessment of the nearby Horse Hill-1 well, which is located 4.5 miles from the Brockham play. It reported a total of 158 MMBO OIP per square mile last year.
Oil producers in the North Sea were supposed to be among the first victims of OPEC’s battle for market share. Instead their high-cost, decades-old facilities are proving surprisingly resilient to the price slump. Crude oil and condensate output is likely to continue rising in the U.K. North Sea until 2018 as projects that were sanctioned before crude’s plunge four years ago start up, according to estimates by industry consultant Wood Mackenzie Ltd. Even though production dips after that, output by the end of the decade will still be roughly equal to the 2015 level. The unexpected stamina of areas like the North Sea, where operators have proved adept at keeping the taps open to keep cash flowing, is adding to the global glut and keeping prices lower for longer. “Production has stayed resilient,” said Ian Thom, an Edinburgh-based senior research manager for U.K. upstream at Wood Mackenzie. “We saw a record number of dollars invested in the high-oil price environment,” and that is still delivering new production. Production of crude and condensate, a type of light oil, will top 1 million barrels a day in the U.K. North Sea this year, about 8 percent higher than last year, according to Wood Mackenzie. Output will reach 1.07 million barrels a day in 2017 and 1.11 million the next year before falling to about 956,000 barrels at the end of the decade.
Oil prices fell as much as 3 percent on Tuesday after both the world’s energy watchdog and OPEC revised forecasts that signaled the global crude glut could persist for much longer than expected. The International Energy Agency (IEA), which advises oil-consuming countries on their energy policies, said a sharp slowdown in oil demand growth, coupled with ballooning inventories and rising supply, means the market will be oversupplied at least through the first half of 2017. The IEA’s comments follow a surprisingly bearish outlook from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on Monday that also pointed to a larger surplus next year due to new fields in non-member countries. U.S. shale drillers are also proving more resilient than expected to cheap crude, OPEC said. “It seems the situation has deteriorated strongly in the eyes of OPEC, as well as the IEA,” said Commerzbank head of commodities strategy Eugen Weinberg. A stronger dollar also weighed on crude and other commodities denominated in the U.S. unit, making them less affordable to holders of currencies such as the euro. U.S. equity markets were down nearly 2 percent, extending the bearish sentiment across risky markets.
The European Union’s biggest natural gas producer is running out of reserves. The Netherlands, also the region’s largest trading hub for the fuel, has used up almost 80 percent of its natural gas reserves, Dutch statistics office CBS said on Friday. Production fell 38 percent over the previous two years and is set to fall further as the government limits extraction because of earthquakes in Groningen, the province that houses the EU’s largest gas deposit, it said. The nation of about 17 million people is struggling to contain tremors linked to gas production by a joint venture of Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc that has damaged thousands of homes. The government budget has been hit by the caps on extraction and declining wholesale prices, with gas accounting for just 3 percent of state income in 2015, down from 9 percent two years earlier, the CBS said. Groningen’s decline also has broader implications for the European gas market, which will be more reliant on outside countries to meet its energy needs. European and Eurasian countries consumed 1 trillion cubic meters of gas in 2015, according to the BP Statistical Review.
Russian gas exports via pipeline to Europe and Turkey in the year to date are up by 9.4%, or 10.3 Bcm, compared with the same period last year, state-controlled gas giant Gazprom said Friday, pointing to continued strong flows so far in September. After a slump in exports in July, Gazprom’s supplies to Europe and Turkey — but not including the former Soviet Union countries — recovered in August. Supplies in the first eight months of 2016 were 10 Bcm higher than in the same period last year. Russian gas supplies to Germany rose by almost 28% year on year from January 1 to September 15, while exports to Austria were up 40% and to Denmark by a huge 222%. Russian gas exports to the UK rose by 55%, to France by 27%, to Poland by 20%, to the Netherlands by nearly 92%, to Greece by 59% and to Macedonia by 20%. Exports to the countries of the former Soviet Union are also up by 9.4% in the year to date compared with the same period of 2015.
Civil society campaigners have accused the European Union of pouring unprecedented amounts of state aid into a huge energy project that runs counter to its own climate change objectives. The concerns about the Southern Gas Corridor project come amid expectations that the European Investment Bank (EIB), which is owned by European Union member states, is about to provide the scheme with up €3 billion – its biggest ever lump sum. “The Southern Gas Corridor clashes with the [climate] science”, says Anna Roggenbuck, EIB policy officer at Bankwatch, a network of environmental groups in central and eastern Europe that monitors public lending institutions. “Once built, this infrastructure will stay till 2050 and simply increase the cost of supply to the European Union, and will perpetuate the use of gas, [while] colliding with EU energy and climate change targets.” The Southern Gas Corridor is the name given to a range of fixed links – including the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) – needed to transport gas to Europe from the giant Shah Deniz gas field, in the part of the Caspian Sea owned by Azerbaijan, to the Adriatic coast of Italy. The European Commission was not immediately available for comment, but explained some of its thinking when the TAP part of the agreement was signed off last March. “The Energy Union framework strategy of February 2015 identified this project as a key contribution to the EU’s energy security, bringing new routes and sources of gas to Europe”, said Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president responsible for Energy Union at the EC.
Southern California Gas Co. agreed to pay $4 million to settle criminal charges over the massive gas leak near Porter Ranch last year, but the utility still faces potentially costly civil actions from both residents and regulators. The settlement ends a prosecution brought by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, which accused the gas company of failing to properly notify authorities when the largest recorded methane leak in U.S. history first occurred. The leak forced thousands of residents to flee their homes for months as officials worked to cap the leak. The gas company pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of failing to immediately notify the California Office of Emergency Services and Los Angeles County Fire Department of the leak that began on or around Oct. 23, 2015, in the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field.
Turkish coal plants are in line for eye-watering public subsidies and exemptions from environmental regulations, under an amended energy package delivered by the country’s parliament, late last week. But MPs and campaigners say that the new amendment known as Article 80 could instead open Turkey’s door to extraordinary largesse for the coal sector and other big energy projects, unfettered by environmental considerations. Turkey plans to build as many as 80 new coal plants in the next few years, on top of 25 that already exist, belching an extra 200m tonnes of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere each year. Under the new plan, any project deemed a “strategic investment” can be exempted from corporate taxes, tariffs, stoppages, and the duty to carry out environmental risk assessments, or even permitting applications. Coal operators could be leased state lands for free, receive a 50% discount on electricity bills, and pocket state funding for wage subsidies, insurance premiums and interest on investment loans. The government is also offering a guaranteed €0.05 per kilowatt hour (kWh) coal-generated electricity price and commitment to buy 6bn kWh’s of coal-generated electricity annually.
Wall Street Journal: The Cost of Slashing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
President Barack Obama’s pledge to slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 2005 levels by 2050 might cost more than $5 trillion over three decades, according to a new analysis. More than 190 countries announced similarly ambitious targets in Paris in December, but none included estimates of the costs. For the U.S., they’re huge: up to $176 billion a year, or $5.28 trillion over 30, according to Columbia Business School economist Geoffrey Heal. His new paper breaks down the costs of the most important prerequisite for achieving the target: making electricity generation carbon-free. The costs aren’t a line item in the federal budget, but would largely be picked up by utilities, which would pass on the capital costs to consumers. “The short answer is: You and I will be paying,” Mr. Heal said in an interview.Even under Mr. Heal’s most optimistic assumptions about the development of battery technology, the cost of meeting the president’s pledge would be $42 billion a year. The need to store energy for days when the sun and wind aren’t performing crimps the economic case for renewable energy, making up 70% of the total cost. To store a day’s power output from a single wind turbine, for instance, costs $7.8 million, or more than twice the cost of the turbine. And one day isn’t enough to ensure a reliable electricity grid. Mr Heal assumes construction of enough storage to cover two. “[But] there is no very solid basis for this number,” he said.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has escaped closure with the government agreeing to restore $800 million of funding. The agency, which provides financial grants for 40 per cent of the CSIRO’s energy research, was set to be stripped of $1.3 billion as part of the government’s Omnibus Savings Bill. The Coalition also planned to merge its funding role with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which expects to see a financial return on money it invests in research. But a compromise was reached on Monday night to limit the cuts to $500 million after criticism from the opposition, academics and workplace unions. The Canberra-based agency, which employs close to 50 departmental staff, will be funded for five years with $550 million cast over forward estimates. ARENA was established in 2012 by the Gillard government and was to be abolished by the Abbott government in 2014. It received a stay of execution in March 2016 despite plans to cut funding. The compromise came after the Australian Conservation Foundation warned a $1.3 billion funding cut could result in up to 5000 job losses in regional towns. Professor Andrew Blakers, a professor of engineering at the Australian National University, also described the proposed cuts as an “existential threat” to clean energy innovation in Australia.
Wall Street Journal: Why Venture Capitalists Abandoned Clean Energy
A decade ago, clean-energy companies were the hot trend that venture capitalists were chasing. Oil and natural-gas prices were on the rise and Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” had just made its premiere. But high hopes that the clean-energy sector would replicate the big returns of biomedical and software startups quickly faded. Instead, monumental losses piled up: Venture-capital investors lost more than half of the $25 billion they pumped into clean-energy technology startups from 2006 to 2011. A study of why venture capital and clean energy haven’t been a good match was launched by Benjamin Gaddy, director of technology development at Clean Energy Trust, a startup accelerator in Chicago, and Varun Sivaram, the Douglas Dillon fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. In a paper recently published through the MIT Energy Initiative and written with Francis O’Sullivan, the Energy Initiative’s director of research, they predict future funding for energy startups increasingly will come from more-patient providers than venture capitalists—including groups like the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, formed by Bill Gates and more than two dozen wealthy investors last year. And they argue that established energy companies and governments need to play a bigger role in nurturing clean-energy startups.
On Wednesday, U.S. Interior Department officials signed a blueprint that they touted as a finely tuned effort to balance conservation of California’s iconic desert landscapes with the state’s growing hunger for clean energy in the age of climate change. Eight years in the making, the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan implicitly recognizes that “green” energy can be environmentally destructive. It puts 9.2 million acres of federal land in the California desert off limits to solar, wind and geothermal development, while steering renewable projects to less ecologically valuable areas on about 800,000 acres, with a particular emphasis on roughly half that land. Projects proposed for Development Focus Areas would enjoy streamlined permitting. Energy development would also be possible on other lands, totaling more than 400,000 acres, but without streamlining. The push for renewables by the federal government and California has put the state’s sprawling desert lands in the cross hairs. Wind turbines, solar panels and geothermal plants are essentially industrial facilities that can kill birds en masse and scrape the desert floor clean of vegetation as well as all the creatures that depend on it. The Ivanpah solar plant west of Las Vegas, for example, is a magnet for insects and the birds that feast on them. Federal biologists say about 6,000 birds a year die from crashes or immolation while chasing flying insects around the facility’s three 40-story towers, which catch sunlight from five square miles of garage-door-size mirrors to drive the plant’s power-producing turbines.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Interior unveiled the first phase of the plan, covering 10.8 million acres of federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It designates 388,000 acres of those lands as best for renewable energy development. Applications for projects in those areas will receive a streamlined permitting process and possible financial incentives, the agency said in a press release. A coalition of five wind and solar energy trade groups said the size of the area set aside for development in the plan falls far short of what California and the United States will need to meet carbon reduction goals. “It’s just a complete disconnect with our climate change ambitions,” said Nancy Rader, executive director of the California Wind Energy Association. Wind and solar developers worry that much of the 388,000 acres set aside for them will not actually make sense for their projects. The areas have not yet been cleared for potential conflicts with military exercises and have yet to be surveyed for impacts to avian species. The government also has imposed new environmental restrictions on those areas that will drive up the cost of development, according to Christopher Mansour, vice president of federal affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association.“The BLM has chosen to greatly restrict the where we develop, and also restricted the how we can develop these projects,” Mansour said.
The variations in wind and solar energy, and the lack of adequate electricity storage facilities, result in about 15-20 per cent of all renewable energy generated in India going to waste, according to a top official in Panasonic India’s energy division. “On average, if 24 hours is the potential of electricity generation, then you can easily say that 15-20 per cent is wasted because the grid can’t manage the kind of variation in the electricity sourced from wind and solar generation,” Atul Arya, Head, Energy Systems, Panasonic India told The Hindu in an interview. The variability of generation from renewable sources—where wind changes direction and speed on an hourly basis and solar intensity can vary by the minute—is not that big a problem if renewable energy forms a small proportion of the overall grid, as it does currently in the national grid, Mr Arya said. “But if you look at state-specific grids, then the picture changes,” he added. “For example, look at the Tamil Nadu grid. Percentage-wise, wind is pretty high in the Tamil Nadu grid and that is what is creating problems for them. With wind changing its speed and direction, it becomes horrible from a grid stability point of view.” The typical strategy in India at the moment, Mr Arya said, is to simply discard the unstable power without it ever entering the grid. “So you are generating but not using it in the grid,” he said. “It gets wasted. Electricity is something you either use immediately, or you cannot use it at all.”
Wall Street Journal: Japan’s Shift to Renewable Energy Loses Power
Before the Fukushima accident, resource-poor Japan depended on nuclear plants for about 30% of its power. Now, with nearly all of the 50-odd nuclear plants in the country still shut down in the wake of the accident, the country gets 1% of its energy from nuclear power. Cheap coal and natural gas, nearly all imported, have filled the void, together comprising more than 75% of Japan’s energy needs in the year ended in March, compared with 54% before the accident. Fierce opposition to reopening nuclear plants and growing reliance on foreign energy sources would suggest a huge opening for renewables. Yet renewables made up just 14% of energy production in the year ended in March, up from 10% before Fukushima. That has advocates worried that the government’s goal of having renewables provide 22% to 24% of Japan’s energy needs by 2030 is slipping out of reach. Even with huge investments and a strong commitment to renewables, a return to heavy reliance on nuclear power is the best way to ensure Japan’s energy security for the near future, says Nobuo Tanaka, former executive director of the International Energy Agency and president of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, because it would reduce the country’s reliance on fossil-fuel imports while renewable power sources are being developed. “Expanding renewables is important, but it needs to be twinned with a nuclear-power solution that is acceptable to the public,” he says.
While the largest emitting sector, electricity production, is greening relatively fast due to energy efficiency and deployment of renewables, transport is becoming more carbon intensive by the day. When oil price dropped, drivers drove more, so energy consumption has begun to rise again, inevitably leading to higher GHG emissions. Transport is a unique sector, the most backward in terms of decarbonisation achievements and prospects. It needs to be decarbonised. How to decarbonise transport? Does Europe have an answer? The European Commission has had its say; it recently published its Communication on transport decarbonisation. The EC relies on biofuels big time to deliver GHG savings. This time on “advanced renewable biofuels” produced from wastes (or supposed wastes), agricultural residues and wood, not conventional biofuels, such as ethanol or biodiesel. There is no indication however where the 7% share in total transport energy demand in 2030 or 37% in mid-century to be met by advanced biofuels will come from, especially if wastes (like imported cooking oil) that are not actual wastes are disallowed. Indeed, up to half of the Communications ambitions for all real decarbonisation in the transport sector over the coming decade comes from the interesting hope that Europe will import tens of billions of liters of used cooking oil. Or that the EU will somehow manage to collect the one liter of used cooking oil that every inhabitant of this planet discards every day.
A sharp increase in solar power production in China and a sharp fall in domestic demand have sparked a sudden surge of cut-price exports, undermining a China-EU agreement to limit damage to European producers. China produced 27 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules in the first half of 2016, an increase of 37.8 percent and installed 20 GW of new solar power capacity in the same period, three times as much as the same period a year ago. However, demand has since tailed off. Solar projects operational since July face a reduced price paid by grid operators for their power. The China Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA) has forecast total new capacity by the year-end will be 30 GW, implying just 10 GW in the second half. EU ProSun, an association of EU solar producers, says the price of some panels had fallen to below 0.40 euros per watt, compared with a previous average European price of about 0.50 euros. EU ProSun president, Milan Nitzschke, said that prices had come down by some 20 percent in the past month to below the cost of production. “We fear a second wave of bankruptcies,” he said. The European Union and China were on the verge of a trade war in 2013 over EU allegations of dumping of solar panels into the bloc. That trade war was averted by agreeing a lower amount of Chinese panels could be imported free of tariffs as long as they did not price them below a minimum initially set at 0.56 euros. However, having signed up to the undertaking, an increasing number of Chinese firms have chosen to opt out considering it better to sell at even cheaper prices, even when faced with duties of between 27.3 and 64.9 percent.
Irish Energy: Over 40% of Ireland’s Wind Energy Shut Down Last Night
Last night, over 40% of wind energy produced was shut down or curtailed during a spell of gale force winds across the island of Ireland. This episode clearly shows the limitations of relying too much on an intermittent source of energy like wind. Billions of euros worth of turbine installations become worthless at both low wind and at high wind. The reason for the shutdown of so many wind turbines can be clearly seen in the System Frequency charts before and after the wind shutdown. As the gales gathered in strength on Sunday evening, maintaining the frequency of the grid became more difficult. The zig zag patterns in Figure 2 show how frequency fluctuated between 49.9 and 50.1 Hz. The dips represent periods of too much wind when system inertia drops (due to lack of conventional generation such as coal or gas). Should frequency drop below 49.7 Hz then a blackout may occur, so Eirgrid rectified this by shutting down some of the wind and allowing more conventional generation into the system. The frequency then rises again to 50Hz. Gas turbines are forced to ramp up and down more often to maintain system stability during such periods thus pushing emissions up and negating some of the benefits of having all the wind in the first place.
The UK must immediately kickstart an industry to capture and bury carbon emissions in order to save consumers billions a year from the cost of meeting climate change targets, according to a high-level advisory group appointed by ministers. This requires the setting up of a new state-backed company to create the network needed to pipe the emissions into exhausted oil and gas fields under the North Sea, the group said. With this government backing, carbon capture and storage (CCS) could deliver clean electricity at a lower cost than an expanded Hinkley Point nuclear power station and almost all renewables, the group’s report states. A CCS industry could also provide thousands of jobs, particularly in industrial heartlands such as Teesside and Grangemouth, and help reverse the fortunes of the declining North Sea fossil fuel industry. It could even tackle the major problem of cutting emissions from gas boilers, by enabling clean-burning hydrogen to be pumped into the grid. “Money spent now will save money later,” said Lord Ron Oxburgh, an independent member of the House of Lords and former chairman of Shell Transport and Trading, who led the report. “CCS is a priority for Britain if our 2050 climate goals are to be achieved at least expense.” Prof Stuart Haszeldine, a CCS expert at Edinburgh University and a member of the advisory group, said another crucial immediate action is to take into temporary public ownership the offshore pipelines to the gas fields of Atlantic, Goldeneye and Hamilton, which are imminently due to be decommissioned but would be ideal for transporting CO2 to storage sites.
UK electricity prices for Thursday have soared to record highs after unplanned nuclear plant shutdowns and the continued heatwave triggered an unseasonal power crunch. Industry sources suggested National Grid was close to having to issue an emergency alert to call for more power for Thursday evening, amid fears demand could outstrip supply. Day-ahead electricity prices have hovered at about £40 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in recent months but on Wednesday surged to a record £160/MWh, according to Jamie Stewart at price reporting agency Icis. Prices for the hour to 8pm on Thursday evening traded at £999/MWh. The unusual September heat has caused a surge in demand to power air conditioning units, which has coincided with several plants being on planned maintenance. Low wind power output and the unplanned shutdowns of two EDF nuclear reactors totaling 1 gigawatt (GW) have compounded the crunch. Meanwhile, the power cable bringing electricity from France to the UK also suffered an unexpected partial outage which has knocked a further 0.5GW from the UK’s available supplies. The power squeeze is set to continue into next week as wind and nuclear power remain low and the UK-France power cable partially shuts down for planned maintenance which will last almost two weeks. The tightening supply forecast has forced the price of electricity for next week to £200/MWh. “The market just isn’t providing enough capacity,” one UK power trader said.
The island of Gigha is to play an important role in pioneering work to find a way to store power generated by wind turbines, which could revolutionise the global green energy industry. The island is host to the first community-owned grid-connected wind farm in Scotland, the ‘Dancing Ladies’, which initially consisted of three turbines christened Faith, Hope and Charity. A fourth was added later, but its operation has had to be constrained. Now the turbines are to be connected to a “vanadium redox flow battery”, which is the size of a shipping container. It is a new piece of engineering which some hold could be a game-changer. Energy can already be stored using technologies ranging from pumped hydro schemes to large-scale lithium-ion batteries. But the UK government-funded trial on Gigha, will demonstrate that vanadium redox flow is now commercially viable, says Scott McGregor, chief executive of the device’s developer, the Jersey-registered RedT company. He said “The technology has moved faster than anyone has expected and what you see today is a system that is a commodity product.”
The launch of the world’s first large-scale tidal energy farm in Scotland has been hailed as a significant moment for the renewable energy sector. A turbine for the MeyGen tidal stream project in the Pentland Firth was unveiled outside Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. After the ceremony, attended by Nicola Sturgeon, the turbine, measuring about 15 metres tall (49ft), with blades 16 metres in diameter, and weighing in at almost 200 tonnes, will begin its journey to the project’s site in the waters off the north coast of Scotland between Caithness and Orkney. The turbine will be the first of four to be installed underwater, each with a capacity of 1.5 megawatts (MW), in the initial phase of the project. But the Edinburgh-based developer Atlantis Resources hopes the project which has received £23m in Scottish government funding will eventually have 269 turbines, bringing its capacity to 398MW, which is enough electricity to power 175,000 homes. Maf Smith, the deputy chief executive of the lobby group RenewableUK, said: “New technology like this will be powering our nation for decades to come.” The first minister called on the UK government to end the uncertainty around subsidies for similar schemes, warning that a failure to do so risks causing irreparable damage to the marine power industry. Sturgeon said: “I am incredibly proud of Scotland’s role in leading the way in tackling climate change and investment in marine renewables is a hugely important part of this.”
In a paper for the think tank Reform Scotland Dr Stuart Paton says: “The Holyrood government has been activist in laying out an energy policy. However, there are a number of contradictions in that policy. It has a commitment to zero emissions from electricity generation by 2020, yet a rejection of nuclear power and continued support for a coal power station at Longannet. The government shows unbridled support for the offshore oil and gas industry, but not onshore unconventionals.” Dr Paton concluded that opposition to developing fossil fuel resources such as those which can be extracted by fracking is illogical. “[It is] not a logical objection for the Scottish Government given its support of the offshore industry,” he said, making a call for communities, developers and government to work together to create an onshore oil and gas industry that would be robustly regulated. A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government is taking a cautious and evidence-led approach to unconventional oil and gas. The Scottish Government has commissioned a series of independent research projects to examine potential environmental, health and economic impacts to inform our evidence-led approach.”
Arctic sea ice appeared to have reached its annual lowest extent on Sept. 10, NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado at Boulder reported today. An analysis of satellite data showed that at 1.60 million square miles (4.14 million square kilometers), the 2016 Arctic sea ice minimum extent is effectively tied with 2007 for the second lowest yearly minimum in the satellite record. This summer, the melt of Arctic sea ice surprised scientists by changing pace several times. The melt season began with a record low yearly maximum extent in March and a rapid ice loss through May. But in June and July, low atmospheric pressures and cloudy skies slowed down the melt. Then, after two large storms went across the Arctic basin in August, sea ice melt picked up speed through early September. “It’s pretty remarkable that this year’s sea ice minimum extent ended up the second lowest, after how the melt progressed in June and July,” said Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “June and July are usually key months for melt because that’s when you have 24 hours a day of sunlight – and this year we lost melt momentum during those two months.”
Nicolas Sarkozy, who is fighting to regain the presidency that he lost to François Hollande in 2012, has finally come out of the closet as a climate skeptic. Speaking in front of business leaders Sarkozy, a candidate for Les Republicains party primary in November, told them that man alone was not to blame for climate change. “Climate has been changing for four billion years,” the former president said according to AFP. “Sahara has become a desert, it isn’t because of industry. You need to be as arrogant as men are to believe we changed the climate.” Sarkozy has minimized the climate change in the past, but up until now he has never openly suggested that man was not to blame. The former president believes the world should be concentrating on the rise in the population and movement of people rather than worrying so much about global warming. “Never has the earth experienced such a demographic shock as it is about to, because in a few years there will be 11 billion of us. And man is directly responsible in this case but nobody talks about it,” Sarkozy said.
Citylab: Global Warming To Make Fish Stupid.
There’s already evidence that rapidly warming oceans are harming fish. The acidification of the water—something that happens as the seas absorb human-produced carbon dioxide—is thought to make certain species anxious and prone to hiding, and even destroy their ability to recognize each other. Now there are indications it could turn them dangerously dumb, too. When exposed to raised CO2 levels, spiny damselfish seem to be unable to sense signs of danger emitted by their fellow damselfish, according to a study in Scientific Reports. That’s bad news, because if a predator is roaming the reefs chomping on fish, an entire micropopulation is in effect twiddling its fins waiting to be eaten. This discovery comes from scientists at the University of Miami and Australia’s James Cook University, who collected damselfish in the Great Barrier Reef and put them in two tanks, one with regular seawater and the other with seawater with elevated CO2. Inside these tanks were pumps that on one side spewed normal seawater or seawater with a “chemical alarm cue” that damselfish secrete when injured. The results: The damselfish in the CO2-tainted tank spent much more time swimming around the pump with the alarm cue. They also had altered blood and brain chemistry ostensibly caused by the CO2-enriched waters. The researchers modeled the tainted water after what ocean conditions are expected to be like in 2300. However, similar conditions “have already been observed in many coastal and upwelling areas throughout the world,” according to their press release.
Huffington Post: Man Drives From India To UK In A Solar-Powered Rickshaw
When Naveen Rabelli reached London today, he concluded a 14,200-km-long journey on his solar autorickshaw that began in Bengaluru, India seven months ago. To make this trip, Rabelli traversed 11 countries, 20 cities and 100 towns in Asia and Europe. The 35-year-old began his adventure in February in a customised red three-wheeler christened Tejas, the Sanskrit word for radiance. His aim was to promote the use of renewable energy solutions for passenger vehicles in Asian and European countries. “The first thing I wanted to address was [the notion] that a solar-powered vehicle cannot run as efficiently as a fuel vehicle,” he said before embarking on his trip. The 35-year-old electronic engineer spent over three years on the project, building and getting sponsorship for Tejas. He purchased a Piaggio Ape three-wheeler diesel autorickshaw for $1,500 and spent another $11,500 modifying it into an electric and solar-powered vehicle. He spent his own savings in building the first two prototypes, but managed to get sponsorship for the third prototype and for the final journey. Rabelli installed solar panels on its roof and an onboard computer and display system to monitor its performance at every step. He also fitted a bed, solar cooker, a passenger seat and a cupboard inside to store food donated by supporters. The vehicle has a maximum speed of 45 km per hour, and can last for 80 km after every charge.
The Tejas solar rickshaw powers through France.