SNH's vision for Scots uplands

Uplands such as the Cairngorms have enormous potential

Scottish Natural Heritage has reported to Scottish Ministers on the possible development of a strategic vision for Scotland’s uplands.

Acting on a commitment in their Land Use Strategy for 2016-2021, the Scottish Government asked SNH to scope the potential.

The SNH has explored the multiple benefits the uplands provide – including how they help to reduce the impacts of climate change – and has actively involved a wide range of people and organisations with an interest in uplands.

The report summarises SNH’s work and the views expressed. It includes a number of broad recommendations that could inform the development of a strategic vision if ministers decide to proceed.

"A strategic vision would be a high level aspirational statement about the benefits that we want the uplands to provide for Scotland, both now and in the future, and the balance of land uses that we need to achieve this," said SNH chair Mike Cantlay.

"Key benefits our uplands provide include the production of food and timber; water supply and food regulation; carbon capture and storage; renewable energy and biodiversity. They also provide fantastic recreation opportunities, such as for hillwalking, mountain biking, deer stalking, grouse shooting and wildlife watching.

"Our discussions with stakeholders, and our report, indicate that there is widespread agreement about the social, economic and environmental benefits that our uplands provide. There are many views about how best to maintain and enhance these benefits for the future, but amongst all those we met we found a keen willingness to work together to address the challenges that would be involved. We would like to thank everyone who contributed to this work."

The report says that any vision should be developed collaboratively to help achieve wide ownership across all sectors: it should be concise, focused and inspiring, with the greatest possible consensus and support of stakeholders. The process should create a "neutral" forum that encourages fair, balanced and open discussion, and agreement where this can be achieved.

"Ensuring that the benefits nature provides us with are better understood, appreciated and managed is one of the ‘Six Big Steps for Nature’ set out in the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy."

Mr Cantlay added: "If ministers decide, in due course, to proceed with the development of a strategic vision for the uplands, the broad cross-sectoral input that we received would provide a strong foundation, and SNH is happy to assist in whatever way is considered to be appropriate."

The full report, Scoping a strategic vision for the uplands, is available on the SNH website at http://www.snh.gov.uk/land-and-sea/managing-the-land/upland-and-moorland/scoping-upland-vision/


Wind energy could have a promising future in the UK

Falling cost of wind turbines could encourage UK government to show more support for clean power

The cost of wind energy is dropping quickly, which is creating more pressure on the United Kingdom government to rethink its support of clean power. According to consultancy firm Arup, onshore wind energy systems can be developed in the UK for the same price as new gas systems. Onshore wind farms are also approximately half as expensive as some nuclear power plants. Arup suggests that the technology used in the wind energy sector has become so affordable that wind may no longer need to rely on subsidies from the government.

UK government is showing limited support for onshore wind energy projects

The falling cost of wind technologies could encourage the UK government to show more support for clean power. ScottishPower hopes that the government will see the promise of wind energy and allow onshore wind projects to once again be developed. In 2015, the UK government decided to prohibit new onshore wind projects from competing for subsidies. The government also imposed new planning restrictions on such projects. These measures have made it significantly more difficult for new wind energy projects to take form in the country.

Politics continues to affect the future of wind energy

Politics has played something of a disruptive role in the renewable energy space for years. Many politicians have shown modest support for clean power, particularly wind, but are more interested in supporting conventional forms of energy. Recently, politicians in the UK have become more supportive of the coal and gas industries in order to secure economic stability. The renewable energy sector is growing very quickly, however, and may have much greater economic prospects.

Scotland has become a bastion of wind power

While wind energy is facing greater challenges in the UK, the falling cost of wind technology could help change this in the future. In Scotland, wind energy is becoming very popular. Scotland is currently home to some of the most innovative wind projects in the world, including the first floating wind farm to ever be developed.


UK households shun green energy

Survey finds just one per cent are on a green tariff

Energy providers are being urged to do more to promote green energy after a survey revealed just 1 per cent of the population is on a green tariff.

Despite years of education and falling costs for green energy options consumers still say renewable energy isn’t a priority.

The poll, conducted amongst energy bill payers and commissioned by ENGIE, revealed:

  • Half of consumers don’t consider green energy tariffs because they think their bills will rise - while a third say they’ve never even been offered a green energy tariff
  • 80 per cent say price is the main consideration when choosing their energy tariff
  • 90 per cent say environmentally-friendly tariffs don’t influence their choice of energy provider
  • 80 per cent say money is more important than the environment
  • Even in London only 1 in 10 rate the environment above saving money
  • A fifth have done absolutely nothing to be environmentally-friendly in the last year

Yet increasingly green tariffs are affordable. ENGIE, the largest new entrant to the UK home energy market for 15 years, has led the way by offering 100 per cent renewable electricity on all of its tariffs at no additional cost. Plus, customers can also receive 100 per cent green gas guaranteed at minimal extra cost – one of the few plans of its kind on the market. Recent research by uSwitch has also revealed that green tariffs are becoming increasingly affordable.

Renewable energy tariffs are backed by 100 per cent green electricity – meaning that, for every unit of electricity used, the same amount is produced and put back into the grid from a renewable source.

Paul Rawson, CEO of ENGIE’s home energy business, says: “With so few people choosing green energy tariffs, it is the responsibility of energy providers and the wider industry to offer solutions which appeal to and persuade consumers.

“We don’t believe customers should have to make a choice between saving money and choosing a green option and we are optimistic that increasingly they won’t have to.”


UK solar growth hamstrung by ‘deeply frustrating’ Westminster policy ‘bonfire’

UK solar jobs, turnover and operating companies all witnessed significant declines last year as a result of what the Renewable Energy Association has termed a Westminster policy ‘bonfire’.

Earlier this week the REA published its annual ‘REView’ of the UK’s renewables supply chain. While the wider industry demonstrated growth – albeit at a slower rate than previous years – the solar and onshore wind industries have been demonstrably hit hard by government policy changes.

According to the REA’s statistics, the number of people employed within the UK’s solar supply chain fell by nearly 20% to 13,687 in 2015/16, having steadily grown to a high of 16,880 in the four previous years.

This study provides an update to a joint-survey conducted by consultancy giant PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Solar Trade Association last year which suggested a 32% reduction following government cuts to the feed-in tariff.

The REA also found that sector turnover fell dramatically, recording £2,037 million in the reporting year. Solar companies turned over around £2,477 million in the previous year, equivalent to a decline of nearly 18%.

While the number of companies active across the UK solar supply chain had been gradually falling from 2011/12 onwards – perhaps indicative of consolidation as the market matured – it accelerated in the previous year. The REA estimates that there were just 1,241 active companies in UK solar during 2015/16, almost half the 2014/15 figure of 2,005.

This deterioration in UK solar, coming at a time when other clean energy industries in the UK have grown and the global green economy has shown its potential, left REA chief executive Nina Skorupska to describe the current policy landscape as “deeply frustrating”.

“Policy instability in Westminster has slowed growth. Our member companies are helping build a system that is reliable, low-carbon and more affordable than the previous one.

“There’s fierce competition to be at the fore of these new technologies internationally. Government action is needed to ensure the opportunity to be leaders in technologies such as energy storage and decentralised systems does not slip between our fingers,” Skorupska added.

The REA has however proposed that for solar to thrive without subsidy support there is a need for the government to introduce different incentives that could make the technology more attractive.

In particular the trade association has proposed the introduction of enhanced capital allowances or enterprise investment scheme (EIS) tax incentives as ways of tempting investors, both of which have been raised before.

Community solar schemes have benefitted from EIS relief in the past, a factor which drove significant interest in the sub-sector until solar was famously made exempt. HM Treasury claimed that this exemption was enacted to stamp out abuse of the scheme, prompting legal action from Community Energy England which was later shelved.


Octopus buys 149MW wind projects in UK

Octopus Investments has purchased four onshore wind projects in the UK from Blue Energy.With a total of 149MW, the portfolio includes Blue Energys 109MW Beinneun, 21MW Cour, 12.3MW Grange, and 6.9MW Hillhead of Auquhirie windfarms.Supported by the UKs Renewables Obligation scheme, the four farms will be developed to provide enough renewable energy to power 125,000 households."The four farms will be developed to provide enough renewable energy to power 125,000 households."The company has also retained a portfolio of other assets, including interests in the 52MW Blackcraig and 24MW Whiteside Hill farms, as well as a portfolio of other development and consented projects.Octopus Investments team director Chris Gaydon said: Alongside the UKs largest portfolio of solar photovoltaic (PV) and our investments in advanced grid technologies and energy supply, the acquisition of these windfarms marks another major milestone in our ambition to become the industry`s leading generator and supplier of clean energy in the UK.The latest deal follows an announcement that Octopus closed a 300m institutional fund to invest in UK renewable energy power plants. The company has also recently raised 484m of debt finance for the UK solar assets.(c) 2017 MediaQuest Corp. All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info)., source Middle East & North African Newspapers


US and UK government reports show that nuclear power is set to become more expensive than renewables

Posted on : Jul.21,2017 15:20 KST Modified on : Jul.21,2017 15:20 KST

Construction has been suspended on Shin-Kori nuclear reactors 5 and 6 (by Kim Bong-kyu, staff photographer)

Data refutes claims by conservatives in South Korea that nuclear phaseout will lead to spike in energy prices

Official reports by the governments of the US and UK project that nuclear power will actually become about 50% more expensive to generate than it is now, and more expensive than renewable energy by the early to mid-2020s, and that the unit cost for nuclear power will even become more expensive than that of liquefied natural gas (LNG). These projections provide evidence that directly rebuts the argument recently made by opposition political parties and by the nuclear power industry that the nuclear phaseout in South Korea and the expansion of new and renewable energy will lead to a surge in the price of electricity. These figures appear in a report titled “Examples of Selecting Generation Prices in Major Countries” that Lee Yong-deuk, a lawmaker with the Minjoo Party, received from the National Assembly Budget Office on July 20. The report cites figures for the power generation cost of various sources of power that were released by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) in Feb. 2017, which predicted that, in 2022, generating 1MW of electricity will cost US$99.10 in the latest nuclear reactors it (excluding tax deductions), US$123.20 in coal plants (equipped with carbon-capture devices), US$66.80 for solar energy and US$52.20 for onshore wind turbines. Even combined-cycle power plants using natural gas will cost US$82.40 per 1MW, making them cheaper than the unit cost of nuclear power, the EIA predicted. In estimates of power generation cost released last year, the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy also said that generating 1MW of power in 2025 would cost 95 pounds at nuclear plants and 131 pounds at coal plants, but 63 pounds at large-scale solar farms and 61 pounds at onshore wind farms. Combined-cycle power using natural gas was projected to cost 82 pounds, making it lower once again than the cost of generating nuclear power. In short, official documents from the US and UK governments provide evidence to counter the argument that replacing nuclear power with new and renewable energy or with natural gas will entail huge costs and will necessitate a major increase in the price of electricity. With the goal of comparing the relative cost of generating power with different power sources, the two countries settled on the ”levelized cost of energy” method for projecting generation costs. This method involves dividing the total cost required during the lifetime of a given energy-generating asset (including its design, construction, operations, funding and decommissioning) by the total amount of electricity it generates. Recently, the Korean Nuclear Society, the nuclear industry and opposition parties have claimed again and again that, if the government’s policy of phasing out nuclear power is implemented, the cost of generating electricity would skyrocket, causing electricity prices to rise between 18% on the low end and 79% on the high end. The government intends to increase the share of new and renewable energy in the energy mix to 20% by 2013 from its current level of 6.7% (or 1.48%, according to an estimate by the International Energy Agency is 1.48% that excludes waste-to-energy). But the projections by the US and UK governments clearly suggest that there is a low likelihood of electricity prices soaring and that instead electricity prices are likely to decrease after nuclear power and coal are phased out. “The trends over the past two or three decades show that the unit cost of nuclear power continues to rise when the safety and environmental costs of nuclear power are included, while the technological level of new and renewable energy improves every day. As a consequence, it’s an unshakeable fact that the cost of nuclear power is rising and the cost of new and renewable energy is falling, in terms of the levelized cost of energy,” said Paik Un-kyu, South Korea’s newly appointed Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy, during his confirmation hearing on July 19. This raises the question of whether these American and British unit-cost projections are applicable to South Korea as well. “The unit-cost of nuclear power continues to rise around the world, following the inclusion of social costs, including the cost of decommissioning nuclear reactors,” said Kim Jong-dal, a professor at the department of economics and trade at Kyungpook National University. “Even if the cost of electricity increases because of a step-by-step nuclear phaseout, it’s estimated to be 6,000 won [about US$5] at the most. As new and renewable energy replaces nuclear power, we could reach a point in the future when domestic energy costs are actually lower than they are now.” By Cho Kye-wan, staff reporter Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr] original

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BlackRock UK renewable fund surpasses £1 billion landmark

Published: 20 Jul 2017, 16:56

Leading asset management group BlackRock has taken its Renewable Income UK fund up to £1.1 billion, making it one of the largest single investments in renewable energy.

The fundraiser, for its third reopening, secured an additional £475million (US$612million), building on the £600 million already invested in 40 wind and solar projects across the UK.

70% of the investment was raised from BlackRock’s existing partnerships while a proportion of the investment comes from British pension funds, highlighting the demand from the UK for renewable power income.

Manager of the fund, Rory O’Conner said: “The successful fundraising for RIUK demonstrates the attraction for the Fund’s stable and inflation-linked income profile in the current market environment”.

BlackRock said the investment opportunities are appealing to their clients as they benefit from immediate ownership of cash generating assets. It added: “Investors are turning to renewable energy assets to meet long-dated liabilities”.

Charlie Reid, BlackRock portfolio manager, said that it identified the attraction of the renewables platform early, adding that it is now the largest renewable investment fund in the UK.


John MacNeil: Smart move is way ahead for community renewables

Imagine living in one of the windiest areas in Britain. Not much fun, you might think, but presumably the costs of the broken umbrellas, lost hats and ruined hairstyles would be offset by the vast potential for a reliable renewable energy supply and cheaper electricity bills?

In fact, the opposite is often true – a range of technological, economic and behavioural factors can limit the extent to which communities can exploit renewable energy.

Many rural communities draw the short straw when it comes to energy options, with homes that are often less energy efficient and dependent on more expensive heating fuels. The obvious solution would be to harness wind, solar or hydro sources, but many rural communities face barriers linked to the limitations of the local distribution network infrastructure. In some cases, local electricity networks cannot accept new connections from renewable energy sources. As a result, in the past local renewables have often not be harnessed and local community energy generation projects deemed too expensive.

However, a solution is at hand in the form of smart technology, including smart meters. A number of areas in Scotland, including Shetland, Orkney and Eigg, have already set up smart community energy projects using the technology to monitor local networks, enabling more community renewable energy projects to come online.

Heat Smart Orkney is one such project, run by the Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Development Trust alongside Community Energy Scotland. Community-owned wind turbines in Orkney have significant power capacity, but at times of low local electricity use the supply of energy can outstrip demand by a large amount.

Automated equipment is being installed in households to switch on devices such as smart storage heaters and water heaters, that increase local demand for electricity, and displace oil and coal. Participating households in the project will receive a rebate on their increased electricity consumption, funded by increased income to the community turbines. This reduces the cost of their electricity and makes it more competitive with oil heating.

Smart technology can offer an improvement in the security of energy supply, an increase in the use of renewable energy produced locally, and a cut in consumer costs and fuel poverty.

Another important purpose of smart technology is to encourage behaviour change in householders, leading to a reduction in energy use. In rural areas, many projects have tried to incentivise customers to change their energy use through time-of-use tariffs, lower tariffs for locally produced, renewable energy and capping energy use. In all of these projects, smart technology makes it easy for customers to be aware of their energy use and to change their behaviour as a result. And it’s not just residents in rural areas who can benefit from smart technology. Smart meters, being rolled out across the UK, are a stepping stone for the greater integration of renewable energy into our energy supply, across the country.

Smart technology provides a solution to many of the difficulties faced by the renewables industry. On the downside, it does mean Scots can no longer complain about the weather.

• John MacNeil is head of policy and communications in Scotland for Smart Energy GB. Contact your energy supplier today about getting your smart meter installed, at no extra cost.


report says electric vehicles could increase power demands in UK

An increase in electric vehicles could lead to demands of up to 18GW of power by 2050 in the UK, says the National Grid.The estimation is the equivalent to more than five Hinkley Point C nuclear facilities and it is expected that there may be as many as nine million electric vehicles on roads by 2030.In its annual report titled `Future Energy Scenarios`, National Grid explained the potential use of energy in the future and its source of production.Improvements in the use of smart technology in electric vehicles and the ability to charge at off-peak times in key locations could increase the demand by 6GW by 2050, said the report.The UK currently produces 34GW of renewable energy, which is more than a third of total installed capacity."This new era of network operation is exciting and manageable, but it is important there is investment in smart technologies and electricity infrastructure."National Grid energy insights head Marcus Stewart was quoted by Belfast Telegraph as saying: The energy landscape is changing rapidly and becoming more diverse and complex. An energy system with high levels of distributed and renewable generation is already a reality.Electric vehicles are one of many new technologies that are rapidly transforming the energy sector. Technical progress and cost reductions in storage and solar panels have driven major change in a short space of time."This new era of network operation is exciting and manageable, but it is important there is investment in smart technologies and electricity infrastructure, and a coordinated approach across the whole electricity system".According to National Grid, the scenarios were not a forecast but simply intended to spur debates on the future power requirements in the country.(c) 2017 Bakhtar News Agency. All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info)., source Middle East & North African Newspapers


National Grid scenarios suggest electricity demand could surge as UK embraces EVs

New study suggests national electricity demand could peak at 85GW by 2050, compared to around 60GW today, thanks to surge in EV use

A massive rollout of electric vehicles could deliver a sharp increase in peak electricity demand by mid-century, National Grid has suggested.

In the annual update of its Future Energy Scenarios, released today, National Grid says peak electricity command could hit 85GW if EV adoption surges to account for 90 per cent of new vehicle sales by 2050 and are then charged haphazardly by wealthy consumers who are not driven by environmental concerns.

In comparison, in a world where electric vehicle numbers increase at the same rate but smart charging technologies are used more widely, shared vehicles are commonplace, and more people charge their cars at off-peak times, peak electricity demand could rise by just 6GW by 2050, despite the widespread electrification of the transport system.

The annual paper sets out National Grid's four prospective visions for a future energy system, based on extensive analysis of current energy demand and future projections, as well as changes in consumer behaviour and technological advances.

This year's scenarios reflect the growing acceptance of low-carbon technologies, with all but one of the four scenarios envisioning a rapid uptake of electric vehicles, a sharp growth in the number of heat pumps and renewable energy generation hitting 40 per cent by 2030.

The report comes just a day after the Go Ultra Low campaign confirmed that sales of EVs set new half yearly, quarterly, and monthly records during the first half of the year.

The best case scenario for the environment mapped out by National Grid - dubbed the "Two Degrees" in reference to the Paris Agreement's temperature goal - promises the highest level of economic growth of the four scenarios.

Under the company's projection, consumers make a conscious effort to be greener, while higher taxes are levied on those consumers and businesses that continue to choose carbon intensive options such as natural gas for heating.

However, while being broadly in line with the government's decarbonisation plans the 'Two Degrees' model is the only scenario in which the UK meets all its carbon targets.

In contrast, under the worst case scenario, dubbed "Steady State", the UK experiences sluggish economic growth with investment focused on cutting the short-term cost of energy rather than investing in low-carbon solutions for the long-term. Little progression on decarbonisation is delivered, with consumers not incentivised to switch to greener technologies and businesses adopting a low-risk, short-term value approach to innovation.

"The scenarios are not predictions, but they aim to be a catalyst for debate, decision making and change, and provide transparency to the wider industry," Marcus Steward, head of energy insights at National Grid, said in a statement. "Electric vehicles are one of many new technologies that are rapidly transforming the energy sector; technical progress and cost reductions in storage and solar panels have driven major change in a short space of time."

"This new era of network operation is exciting and manageable, but it's important there is investment in smart technologies and electricity infrastructure, and a coordinated approach across the whole electricity system," he added.

Further reading