Renewable Energy Will Account For More Than 50% Of The UK’s Electricity Generation By 2025

Renewable energy

Renewable energy will account for more than half of the UK’s electricity generation by 2025, according to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), driven in part by the falling cost of generating energy from wind and solar.

Highlighting the significance of BNEF’s findings, Dr Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, said: “The study shows that wind and solar power are now the cheapest form of new build generation in many cases, and costs will continue to fall dramatically.

“Massive increases in future renewable power generation mean that industry and government must start planning now to ensure low-carbon, cost-effective ways of balancing demand and supply.”

Balancing supply and demand will be one of the biggest challenges for the National Grid as wind and solar become more central to the country’s energy market, given the variable nature of these two sources of renewable energy, which are much more unpredictable (and weather dependent) in nature than traditional power stations.

One strategy that will become increasingly important for balancing energy supply and demand will be ‘demand response’, which could see industrial firms quickly respond to surpluses on the grid by consuming additional renewable energy for variable industrial loads. Another approach is smart metering, which can help address changing conditions on the grid by dynamically adjusting the price of energy supply (upwards, in the case of an energy deficit; downwards in the case of an energy surplus) during periods of variable energy generation.

Energy storage solutions will also become more important as the Grid strives to ensure there are additional options available to meet demand when wind and solar fail to generate enough electricity due to dense cloud cover or low wind speeds.

However, there will also be a requirement for other energy sources that can serve to plug the power supply gap during times of peak demand, and traditional baseload power plants, whether they run on fossil fuels or nuclear power, will be less suitable to meet this need, since they are specifically designed to run at a constant, stable output rather than serving as a gap-fill.

“This study highlights a seismic shift in how power systems will operate in the future. As wind and solar become the cheapest options for power generation, the race is on to develop and deploy the flexible resources that will complement them,” explained Albert Cheung, head of global analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

There is already one likely candidate though: fuelled renewable energy sources, such as biomass and energy from waste, which can serve as a gap-fill because they have much more flexibility than baseload power plants, yet they are not weather dependent like wind and solar.


Nobel Family Backing “Sustainable” UK Venture Capital Fund

Clean Power

Published on November 28th, 2017 | by James Ayre

November 28th, 2017 by


The Nobel family of Sweden, known internationally for the Nobel Prize series of awards, as well as the billionaire co-founder of Hargreaves Lansdown, are now backing a new venture capital fund that will be investing in manufacturing and service companies based in Britain that are focused on on the production or use of “sustainable” technologies, according to recent reports.

This news, probably not coincidentally, follows closely on the announcements from the UK government concerning plans to increase investment (both public and private) in the sector by some £20 billion in coming years.

The new venture capital fund, appropriately named “The Nobel Sustainability Growth Fund,” is essentially a partnership between Sustainable Technology Investors Ltd (STIL) and the Nobel Sustainability Trust (NST) — the NST being a trust founded by the Nobel family as a response to growing concerns about anthropogenic climate change.

The deal, apparently, is for the NST to get a slice of profits for the use of its prestigious name.

“Initial backing of £10 million ($13.3 million) will be provided by SET3, the investment group founded by Gordon Power and Stephen Lansdown, and Monaco’s sovereign wealth fund. The fund aims to grow to £100 million and make 10–12 investments of between £3 and £10 million,” Reuters reports.

“The UK continues to offer a strong pipeline of investments post Brexit,” was the comment provided by STIL managing partner Jim Totty.

Further funds will reportedly follow, focused on a number of different sectors, including clean energy and “resources efficiency” (presumably, that means cutting waste in various sectors and improving recycling — “cradle-to-cradle” sort of stuff).



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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.




UK oil and gas reserves may only last a decade

The Scottish oil industry could be entering its final decade of production - researchers have warned.

A study has revealed UK oil and gas reserves may only last another decade, with close to just 10 per cent of recoverable oil and gas left.

Researchers have warned that if the predictions are correct, the UK will soon have to import all the oil and gas it needs.

The analysis also found that fracking will be “barely” economically feasible in the UK, especially in Scotland, because of a lack of sites with suitable geology.

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh examined the UK’s likely potential for fracking and carried out a fresh analysis of the country’s oil and gas production.

Their findings take into account the long-term downward trends of oil and gas field size and lifespan, alongside the break-even costs for fracking.

They found that the UK only has minimal potential for fracking.

They explained that many possible sites are in densely populated areas, have “low quality source rocks” and “complex geological histories.”

Scientists say: “Fracking is likely to be too restricted to become an effective industry, which would require thousands of wells.”

Analysis of the Earth’s mineral reserves shows that discoveries of oil and gas have consistently lagged behind output since the late 1990s.

Researchers are calling for a move towards greater use of renewable energy sources, including offshore wind and advanced solar energy.

The study, in The Edinburgh Geologist, is published by the Edinburgh Geological Society.

Professor Roy Thompson, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said: “The UK urgently needs a bold energy transition plan, instead of trusting to dwindling fossil fuel reserves and possible fracking.

“We must act now and drive the necessary shift to a clean economy with integration between energy systems.

“There needs to be greater emphasis on renewables, energy storage and improved insulation and energy efficiencies.”


Claire Mack: Europe’s windiest country is set to reap the economic benefits

Scotland is the windiest country in Europe. That’s a fact which gives us an unassailable edge in tackling one of the world’s most important challenges: climate change.

While doing so is a moral obligation, Scotland’s abundant renewable energy resources mean it’s an obligation which is already delivering significant economic and social benefits north of the border.

Onshore wind power is the most recognisable face of our renewable energy industry, and it’s one which is already providing almost a quarter of the electricity used by our homes and businesses.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show 7,500 people are employed because of this one technology alone in Scotland, while onshore wind developers invested more than £440 million in the country in 2015, the most recent year for which figures are available. Most importantly, onshore wind is cheap and popular, with figures from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy showing public support is at a record high. With the average UK thermal power station now more than 30 years old, replacements are urgently required.

Figures from the UK Government in November 2016 showed new onshore wind projects would be cheaper than new gas plants, and almost a third cheaper than the price agreed for the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. That means using a mix of renewable technologies, including onshore wind and solar power, is the cheapest way of modernising our energy system.

A recent Cost of Energy Review commissioned by the UK Government recognised the rapidly falling cost of renewables, but the UK’s onshore wind industry hasn’t enjoyed plain sailing of late.

A Conservative manifesto commitment made ahead of the 2015 General Election meant new onshore wind and large-scale solar developments were locked out of the energy market. They’re the only technologies from any energy sector which aren’t eligible to compete for long-term contracts for power. Instead, more expensive technologies have taken their place.

Progress on preventing a hiatus in onshore wind development has been hard-won. The industry is striving to adapt to these new market conditions, and despite the many challenges, optimism within the onshore wind sector in Scotland continues.

Analysis by Baringa Partners this year found that the UK Government could deliver one gigawatt of new onshore wind capacity – enough to meet the equivalent annual demand of 600,000 homes – at no additional cost to consumers over and above the long-term wholesale price of power.

Changes to the way we generate, transmit and consume electricity mean the shift to a renewably powered future is happening quickly – and is more sustainable than ever. Rather than requiring fossil fuel plants to step in when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine, our new energy system will use storage and smart technologies to flex supply and demand to fit the generation profile of clean energy plants.

In a time of suggested energy bill caps, there are increasingly compelling arguments to be made in favour of onshore wind. It’s part of a suite of renewable technologies and electricity network changes which can cut the carbon emissions from our power system while simultaneously delivering jobs and investment to Scotland.

Claire Mack is chief executive of Scottish Renewables


"60 Minutes" takes a trip to Scotland

Every now and then, just for the fun of it, we decide to go off to some obscure place that you've never heard of and are not likely to visit. This time we're taking you to Eigg, or the People's Republic of Eigg, as it's jokingly referred to in Scotland. A country where half the privately held land is owned by fewer than 500 people. A lot of it is tied up in huge estates owned by lairds who often run them as fiefdoms. Twenty years ago, after two centuries of servility, the people of Eigg drove away their laird and seized control of their own destiny, establishing the first community-owned estate in Scotland's history. We wanted to see what they've made of it.

charlies-house.jpg

CBS News

Just three miles wide, six miles long and ten miles off the Scottish coast, Eigg is part of the Inner Hebrides, surrounded by the Isles of Rum, Muck and Skye at the edge of the North Atlantic. It is an ungroomed masterpiece of nature, too wild to tame, a craggy isle of incredible beauty populated mostly by sheep and the dogs that keep track of them. The people do their best to stay clear while taking everything in.

Steve Kroft: So what's your average day like?

Charlie Galli: Some people would say very lazy. I like to think I just make the hard work look easy. All depends on your outlook.

Charlie Galli is the taxi driver on Eigg and the only source of public transportation up and down the island's furrowed main artery. It's a niche he claimed for himself when he arrived from the mainland with his wife and this aging Volvo four years ago, plenty of time to get the feel of the place.

Steve Kroft: You know everybody on the island?

Charlie Galli: I know them and their shoe sizes and like I say, there's no secrets on an island, so ...

Steve Kroft: So what are they talkin' about this week?

Charlie Galli: Mainly you.

charliegallitaxidrivier.jpg

Charlie Galli and correspondent Steve Kroft

CBS News

It's not like they don't get visitors, 12,000 tourists came here last year, most of them to spend only a few hours. There are very few places to stay. We were going to be here for days asking questions about Eigg's quirky history, and everyone directed us to Maggie Fyffe, the island secretary, who landed here 41 years ago after touring Afghanistan in a camper.

Maggie Fyffe: I never imagined that I would spend the rest of my life here.

Steve Kroft: Does that mean you like it?

Maggie Fyffe: I think so, yeah.

It was 1976, just after the entire island had been purchased by a wealthy English toff named Keith Schellenberg, who became the seventh Laird of Eigg.

Under Scotland's feudal landlord system he had absolute power over virtually every aspect of his estate.

Steve Kroft: What kind of impact did he have on people's lives?

Maggie Fyffe: He had that control over everything -- and people, jobs, houses. And he wouldn't give anybody a lease on anything.

By all accounts, Schellenberg used the island as his personal playground, lavishly entertaining guests and driving about in a 1927 Rolls Royce while most of his tenants lived in poverty without electricity.

Steve Kroft: Was there a rebellion?

Maggie Fyffe: Eventually, yep.

It started with a slow burn that burst into flames one night in 1994 when Schellenberg's beloved Rolls Royce met a fiery end, burnt to a crisp like a slice of bacon under circumstances still unexplained.

Maggie Fyffe: A mysterious fire, spontaneous combustion, who knows?

Steve Kroft: So did you ever figure out what happened to the Rolls Royce?

Maggie Fyffe: No.

Headline writers all over Britain couldn't believe their luck. There was "Scrambled Eigg," "Burnt Rolls," and "Eigg comes to the boil." It went on for a year until Schellenberg gave up, expressing his disdain for the islanders in a BBC interview.

Keith Schellenberg: I think that my ultimate failure with Eigg is that I can't be bothered to try and get on with them anymore.

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CBS News

His final act was to sell the island to a wacky German who called himself Maruma and claimed to be an artist of note and a professor. He turned out to be neither. Up to his beret in debt, Maruma stopped paying people's wages, and within two years creditors put Eigg up for auction. Maggie Fyffe and others thought, why not buy the island for ourselves?

Maggie Fyffe: By the time we got to Maruma and two years of somebody that was living in Stuttgart and had only visited for four days, it had convinced everybody that we wouldn't have to do very much to do better than what he'd done, which was nothin'!

No one in Scotland had ever tried a community buyout before, certainly not 64 residents on a depressed undeveloped island with no cash or credit. But lots of people were familiar with their story and fancied the idea of wee folk taking on the big guys. In 1997 a public fundraising campaign brought in $2.5 million to close the deal. The funds came from 10,000 individual contributors and one huge check from an unknown woman.

"You'll look at the scenery or you'll see a pod of dolphins come through and you just remind yourself how lucky you are."

Maggie Fyffe: The bulk of the money came from a mystery benefactor.

Steve Kroft: A mystery benefactor. Sounds like Dickens ...

Maggie Fyffe: It's a pretty crazy story, really.

Steve Kroft: You don't know who she is?

Maggie Fyffe: The only string attached was that she remained anonymous.

Steve Kroft: She ever been to the island?

Maggie Fyffe: Not as far as I know.

Steve Kroft: Do you know why she did it?

Maggie Fyffe: I think she's given money to a lot of what she regards as good causes, and we're lucky enough to be one of 'em.

That was 20 years ago. The Eiggers and their friends marked two decades of self-rule with a big blowout they call a Ceilidh, with traditional music, dancing and drink. We decided to cancel the next day's shoot to allow time for recovery, but 24 hours wasn't enough.

ceilidh-band-in-front-of-we-cracked-it-sign.jpg

A Ceilidh on the Isle of Eigg

CBS News

Steve Kroft: What time did you leave the Ceilidh?

Johnny Jobson: It was about 8 am, I think, when we finally left, yeah.

Steve Kroft: How long did it take you to recover?

Johnny Jobson: Eh…it'll probably be tomorrow.

Johnny Jobson first experienced Eigg in his 20's working on a fishing boat as a scallop diver. Since then, a lot has changed. One, there is electricity now which allowed him to move his wife and family here last year and edit a sports journal online from their tiny cottage. It's required some sacrifices, but they love the beauty of the place and its eccentricities.

Johnny Jobson: You'll look at the scenery or you'll see a pod of dolphins come through and you just remind yourself how lucky you are.

Steve Kroft: You seem to have a lot of characters on this island…

Johnny Jobson: Yeah.

Steve Kroft: Were they normal when they came here?

Johnny Jobson: Yeah, not all of us.

Dean Wiggin turned up in a kayak 14 years ago, and he's still here. He's very good at fixing things. Jobs are extremely scarce, so you have to bring one with you or use your wits to invent one.

Sarah Boden: It's one of those places that really gets into your soul, I think. It's quite enchanting.

Sarah Boden runs her uncle's sheep farm on Eigg. She grew up here, then left to work as a music journalist in London where she met her future partner Johnny Lynch, one of Scotland's most popular musicians. She coaxed him to Eigg.

Steve Kroft: Did you think he was going to come?

Sarah Boden: Not really. No because I was living in a caravan at the time and yeah, it was all quite rustic.

Johnny Lynch: Yeah, you did look a bit shocked.

Sarah Boden: And Johnny's, you know, a proper, suburban, city ...

Johnny Lynch: Wha!?

Sarah Boden: Well, you're not a natural country boy are you?

sheep-farm-ws.jpg

CBS News

Johnny Lynch: If you mean, I look after my nails, then, then yes, yes I do. But, yeah, I knew from when…as soon as I got here, I couldn't really see a reason for me to go back. And just look at me now.

When it comes to the essentials on Eigg, there is basically one of everything. One primary school for five students, one grocery shop where a hundred islanders all choose from the same food and one pub at the tea room down by the wharf, where the best beer is local. Stu McCarthy and Gabe McVarish, who are both married to women who grew up on Eigg, got so tired of drinking the mass-produced stuff from the mainland they started their own mini micro-brewery two years ago.

Steve Kroft: So this is it. Is this legal?

Stu McCarthy: It's legal.

Gabe McVarish: It's legal.

They make eight different brews, including 'I am the Eiggman,' which is very popular with the tourists. They're just beginning to turn a profit, but say they've saved a lot of money drinking their own beer.

Steve Kroft: Are you the biggest-selling beer on Eigg?

Stu McCarthy: Thankfully, yes. Yeah, we can say that.

None of these younger people would be here without the island's tiny, but unique power grid that runs almost entirely on renewable energy. A combination of wind, hydroelectric and solar, the first time it's ever been accomplished anywhere.

Maggie Fyffe: That is the biggest and most impressive project that we've done.

Steve Kroft: It's changed everything, right?

Maggie Fyffe: Oh, yeah. It's made life so much easier.

It was designed and funded with multiple grants mostly from the European Union and engineers from all over the world have come to study it. Like everything else on Eigg, it is run and maintained by revolving committees of islanders, the only visible sign of any sort of government. There are no offices, no court system, no police.

Steve Kroft: Is there any crime on the island?

Charlie Galli: There's no crime or anything.

Steve Kroft: Never?

Charlie Galli: Not that I can remember.

Steve Kroft: Nobody's snatched something or borrowed something ...

Charlie Galli: They borrow it and you'll get it usually within the week, you know. Returned to you kinda thing. You just don't know where it is at that point in time, you know, when you're looking for it. But it will turn up again. It can't go anywhere, it's on an island, so, yeah.

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CBS News

Steve Kroft: What happens if somebody gets sick?

Charlie Galli: You basically have to be sick on a Tuesday. The doctor comes from Skye on a Tuesday and spends the day here. And that's, sometimes, weather permitting. It's really rough in the wintertime.

Eigg is dependent on boats for everything. When a ferry comes in with fuel and food, people flock to the wharf to help out. It's not a courtesy; it's a necessity on an island where everyone is more or less scraping by. To survive, they have to rely on each other, look after each other and put up with each other. The island is too small for feuds or lingering resentments.

Steve Kroft: What's the difference between people who live on the mainland and people who live on Eigg?

Charlie Galli: You know, the people on Eigg, I'd have to say, are more evolved.

Charlie Galli, the taxi driver and amateur philosopher, says most people here have done the whole life on the mainland thing and rejected it.

Charlie Galli: They're all doin' their hamster wheel thing, you know.

Steve Kroft: Hamster wheel?

Charlie Galli: You get a mortgage, you get a car, you get a job. You do this and the next thing. And they all get so involved, they forget to look about them and see what's actually goin' on in life, you know.

You should know Eigg is not always served sunny side up. As the days get shorter, the windy, rainy weather turns to sleet with gusts up to 100 miles an hour. The boats might not get through for a week, so people keep lots of beans and spam in the storeroom. Even the sheepdogs look forlorn.

Sarah Boden: If you accidentally open your mouth when a gust of wind's coming, it involuntarily fills your lungs. You're like (gasp).

To live here, you have to be resilient, self-sufficient and patient and not just with the sheep.

Charlie Galli: The cows like to go down and lie on the beach, on the sand. And they'll all trail down the road. So you cannot argue with a cow, you know. It wants to do what it wants to do. And you've just gotta give it plenty of time, you know.

There are no grand ambitions here and no discernible interest in development despite the sea, the cliffs and the vistas. The owners don't want hotels or a Donald Trump golf course or hundreds of new residents.

Maggie Fyffe: I think we're lookin' for one or two at a time. I think that's how, how it works here. Then it works a lot better. And we've got time to get used to new people.

We would have liked to stay longer, in this stress-free, non-conflict zone where everyone seems to be more or less on the same page. But we were out of clean laundry, we had a ferry to catch and hamster wheels to jump back on to. As for the people of Eigg, I don't think they were sad to see us go.

Produced by Draggan Mihailovich and Laura Dodd.


Iain Macwhirter: Sleight of hand from Chancellor as Scotland bypassed by Barnett

THERESA May recently caused apoplexy among Scottish Conservatives by posting a tweet that talked as if Scotland was already a different country than the UK. But, looking at yesterday’s Budget, you can understand her confusion. In fiscal terms, the divergence between Scotland is becoming an aching void. Many of the key measures in Spreadsheet Phil’s speech either didn’t apply to Scotland or involved our old friend the Barnett bypass.

Take the headline measure: abolishing stamp duty on first time buyer homes up to £300,000. This will not apply in Scotland, where we have our own Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT). And it may anyway seem academic because very few first-time buyers pay that amount for a house in this country.

However, hardly had the Chancellor sat down than the Scottish Government was under pressure to introduce a similar tax break here. Let’s hope Nicola Sturgeon resists because this is a wrong-headed tax break which does little to help the people it is supposed to assist. That’s not my view, but that of the Government’s own independent advisers, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

The OBR says it will actually benefit home owners and only very few first-time buyers. This is because, on its calculations, it will increase house prices by an equivalent amount. This is much the same as the previous Help to Buy scheme, which largely helped house price inflation. It remains to be seen whether Mr Hammond will press ahead with this: spending £3.2 billion to increase the wealth of existing home owners doesn’t look like a responsible use of public funds. Like his National Insurance hike on the self-employed in March, it may not last the week.

The tax divergences didn’t end there. Mr Hammond again raised the threshold for higher-rate tax, but only in England. This means that many more middle-class earners in Scotland will be paying 40 per cent tax than in the south. Council tax bands have been stretched at the higher end in Scotland too, and there’s also the small matter of that minimum unit price of alcohol.

Plus, there are more tax divergences to come. There’s a consensus across the non-Tory parties at Holyrood that at least some basic-rate taxpayers in Scotland should pay more. We’ll hear more about new tax bands for middle-income earners in next month’s Scottish Budget. But you could practically write Ruth Davidson’s election manifesto already. We are about to discover whether Scottish voters really do like paying more tax.

The Chancellor’s jokes weren’t bad this year: “More maths for all. Let no one say I don’t know how to show the nation a good time”. He seemed to be trolling the First Minister by announcing a freeze on beer, wine and whisky duties in the very week the Scottish Government had the go-ahead for minimum pricing, which will double the cost of a can of normal-strength supermarket lager. By contrast, the Chancellor says he will effectively cut the price of a pint by 12p and whisky by £1.15. Message: if you want to lay less tax and get more drunk, head south.

Nor did the trolling stop there. Was the Chancellor having a laugh by claiming that Scotland was receiving another £2bn for public spending? An alert Gordon Brewer on BBC Scotland’s excellent Budget analysis programme deconstructed this in questions to Scottish Secretary David Mundell, who more or less admitted that most of this comes with strings attached, and that day-to-day resource spending was going down, not up, in Scotland.

Moreover, it appears that the Barnett bypass may have been used to prevent the extra money for nurses in England benefitting the Scottish NHS. Normally, the Barnett Formula increases Scottish funding as a proportion of increases in UK, in most cases English, departmental spending. Chancellor Hammond suggested that his proposed increase in nurses’ pay would be funded outside the normal departmental route and would not therefore yield the normal Barnett Consequentials. It’s complicated but greater use of the Barnett bypass – we last saw it applied to the “billion-pound bung” to the Democratic Unionist Party after the General Election – serves to magnify the tax divergence between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

It also poses problems for Ms Sturgeon as she tries to maintain standards. In an era of shrinking budgets and sluggish growth, there is pressure to increase the tax take in Scotland; not to improve public services but just to stand still. Under the Scotland Act, the Government has little option but to do this through increasing income tax, the toxic tax, which no UK chancellor has touched for three decades.

Of course, for all this fiscal divergence, Scotland is not a separate country. There is only one UK economy, which will become only too apparent when we leave the EU. The Chancellor allocated £3bn for Brexit in the Budget, which Labour pointed out was more than the £2.8bn he was giving the NHS. His message on growth after we leave the European single market was exceptionally downbeat.

Thanks to our dismal labour productivity – British firms prefer cheap workers to new technology – UK growth has stalled and wages have been stagnant.

Indeed, according to the Budget documents, the British economy is set to be around one-fifth smaller than it would have been had the financial crash not happened and growth had continued along the lines of previous decades. One fifth!

That means the UK will have lost approaching £400bn in annual wealth – equivalent to 10 times the entire Scottish budget. Britain is at the bottom of the G7 growth league and average pay has barely risen since 2008. On most forecasts, wages are actually falling in real terms as inflation ramps up to three per cent. This is the longest pay freeze in modern history. Yet the Chancellor appears to have no real plans for productivity other than boosting maths teaching in schools.

Renewable energy and the electrification of transport could provide growth for the future but, again, the Chancellor seems to be all over the place. On the one hand he told Jeremy Clarkson where to get off and insisted that electric and self-driving cars are the future. On the other he again froze fuel duties, which will only lengthen the life of the internal combustion engine.

Since 2010, Mr Hammond said, this freeze on fuel duties has cost the Treasury £46bn. I think even the most committed petrol heads will wonder if this money couldn’t have been put to better use.

As expected, the Chancellor tried to take the sting out of Universal Credit by shortening the six-week wait. But he didn’t do anything to stop the cuts to work allowance or the freeze on working age benefits which will continue for another two years despite three per cent inflation. It seems like the priorities of this Chancellor are somewhat awry. Extending the young person’s rail card to 26-30 year olds sounded like a ticket to nowhere for the millennial generation.

After this effort, Chancellor Hammond may be getting his own ticket to ride in the not too distant future.


No subsidies for green power projects before 2025, says UK Treasury

Companies hoping to build new windfarms, solar plants and tidal lagoons, have been dealt a blow after the government said there would be no new subsidies for clean power projects until 2025 at the earliest.

The Treasury said it had taken the decision to “protect” consumers, because households and businesses were facing an annual cost of about £9bn on their energy bills to pay for wind, solar and nuclear subsidies to which it had already committed.

The revelation that there will be no more money for projects before 2025 could dash hopes for pioneering projects such as the proposed £1.3bn tidal lagoon in Swansea, which has a mooted launch date of 2022.

In a Treasury document on carbon levies published on Wednesday, officials said: “On the basis of the current forecast, there will be no new low-carbon electricity levies until 2025.”

Environmental groups criticised the Treasury move. The WWF said it was a huge disappointment, while Greenpeace claimed Wednesday’s budget was one of the least green ever.

Business groups also reacted with dismay. The pro-environment Aldersgate Group, whose members include BT, Ikea and Marks & Spencer, said the lack of clarity on low-carbon power investments was disappointing.

James Court, head of policy at the Renewable Energy Association, said: “The UK government seem to be turning their back on renewables by announcing no new support for projects post-2020 and a freeze on carbon taxes.”

It is understood the policy will only affect projects generating electricity before 2025, so would not stop firms signing contracts for power stations coming online after 2025. That means the backers of new nuclear power stations are unlikely to be affected by the decision, because none was expected to be built by then. But it could be a blow for the companies wanting to build solar farms, onshore windfarms and other clean power plants at an earlier date.

Some industry figures took comfort from Treasury language suggesting that some contracts might be allowed for renewables if the price were so low as to be effectively subsidy-free.

The government confirmed that it would honour an existing pledge to auction £557m of renewable energy subsidies, beginning next year. But most of that pot is expected to be taken by giant offshore windfarms, likely crowding out other technologies such as tidal.

John Sauven, chief executive of Greenpeace, said: “Despite the chancellor’s pride in the UK’s climate leadership, hidden away in the unannounced text of the budget, he quietly revealed this was one of the least green budgets ever because there will be no new money for renewables until at least 2025.”

Gareth Redmond-King, head of energy and climate at WWF, said: “It is a huge disappointment that there will be no new investment in UK renewables.”

The government also announced that until 2025 it was freezing a carbon tax on dirty energy generators. Big energy firms, including SSE, have been calling for the tax, the carbon price floor, to be strengthened to encourage new investment in greener energy.

Recent research by energy analysts suggested that without an increase in the tax, coal power plant owners would enjoy a last hurrah in the early 2020s before they hit a government deadline for the closure of all coal-fired stations by 2025.

One expert said the decision to freeze rather than increase the tax meant the UK’s climate change target for 2030 was being put at risk.

“It is disappointing that the Treasury is continuing its indefinite freeze of the carbon price support rate, a move that could endanger the achievement of the UK’s emissions target for 2030,” said Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

He added that the current price of around £24.50 a tonne of CO2 was likely to be too weak to drive the energy market to shift from gas power stations to renewables and nuclear.


Green for go as Aberdeenshire farmer powers up with hydrogen

David Barron beside the JCB loader, which has been retrofitted with hydrolyser technology

An Aberdeenshire farmer is embarking on a pioneering trial into the use of hydrogen technology to reduce, and possibly even eradicate, carbon emissions from tractors and heavy-duty farm vehicles.

David Barron, who farms at Nether Aden near Mintlaw, Peterhead, is participating in a Scottish Government-funded trial into the use of hydrogen electrolyser technology on his JCB loader tractor.

The loader has been retrofitted with a special hydrolyser, or hydrogen electrolyser as it is also known.

This is not designed to replace the vehicle’s reliance on diesel, but instead reduce it and in the process cut its carbon emission output.

The hybrid vehicle features a hydrolyser unit, which essentially puts an electric current through distilled water to create oxy-hydrogen which is then put through the engine.

“You put distilled water in and it goes through the electrolyser, and gas goes round into the engine and it keeps it really clean,” said Mr Barron, who farms 570 acres in partnership with his wife, Nicola, and their three children, Jack, Tom and Jamie.

He said as well as reducing the JCB’s carbon emissions, the hydrolyser unit had reduced the machine’s fuel reliance by about three litres per hour.

Based on a fuel cost of 50p a litre, this equates to a saving of £1.50 an hour and a potential annual saving of £1,500 if the machine is used for 1,000 hours during the year.

Phil Davies, of Water Fuel Engineering Ltd, which fitted the hydrolyser to the loader, said Mr Barron’s JCB was the first agricultural machine in the UK to be fitted with this new technology. He said: “What we have created is an electrolyser which produces oxy-hydrogen on board and on demand.

“We have turned a standard diesel vehicle into a hybrid to clean up the emissions – it takes out about 80% of the emissions.”

He said the company was confident that the technology would be mass produced and commercially available to farmers, at an affordable price, from 2019.

“We are really excited because in the past five to 10 years the government has made a lot of noise about emissions in cities, but in rural areas it’s more significant,” added Mr Davies. “What perhaps we will need to be thinking about is how heavy industrial traffic could actually contribute to cleaner air.

“There’s a danger sometimes that we might take clean air for granted.”

Mr Barron’s interest in the hydrogen technology was sparked by his involvement in the Scottish Government’s Farming for a Better Climate initiative.

His farm is one of nine across Scotland taking part in the project, which sets out to help farmers find ways to make their businesses more profitable and efficient, while in turn reducing their carbon footprint.

Alan Bruce, of SAC Consulting’s office in Turriff, oversees Nether Aden’s involvement in the government project.

He said improved efficiency and reduced carbon emissions went hand in hand.

As well as installing the hydrolyser on his JCB, Mr Barron has discussed a wide range of issues with fellow farmers attending meetings at Nether Aden as part of the Farming for a Better Climate initiative.

Topics covered ranged from grassland management to a “black v white” debate when deciding whether to continue using Charolais bulls or switch to Aberdeen-Angus on Nether Aden’s 130-cow suckler herd of mainly Angus cattle.

Cropping was also discussed and Mr Barron has since taken the decision to reduce his winter cropping in a bid to cut fertiliser use – carbon audits of the farm revealed its fertiliser usage was too high.

In addition, Mr Barron has enrolled Nether Aden in the government’s Agri-Environment and Climate Change Scheme and green manure has been incorporated into cropping plans as part of this.

For Mr Barron, though, the real potential for future farm business improvement is the hydrolyser.

He believes it is the first step towards a wave of new technology use in agriculture.

He is confident in future years that technology which allows energy from renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines, to be stored as hydrogen could lead to farmers producing their own fuel and fertiliser.

Hydrogen storage is currently possible, but the cost is too high, said Mr Barron.

“The electrical charge through the water in the hydrolyser could be taken from renewables,” added Mr Barron.

“I would love to get some sort of co-operative of farmers together to get the hydrogen storage thing going. Farming is not about reinventing the wheel, but I think hydrogen (technology) is a major benefit. It’s putting out oxygen and not carbon dioxide.”


Canada & UK launch coal phaseout plan

At the UN climate summit a group of countries has undertaken to end the use and the financing of coal.

BONN, 17 November, 2017 – Canada and the UK have launched the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a collection of 20 countries, six provinces or states, and one city committed to phasing out coal, shifting to cost-competitive renewable energy alternatives, and embracing the health and economic benefits that will result.

The Alliance opened with 25 signatories. By the end of the 75-minute launch event on the second-last day of COP23 here in Bonn, El Salvador and Oregon had both signed on.

By joining the alliance, governments commit to “phasing out traditional coal power and placing a moratorium on any new traditional coal power stations without operational carbon capture and storage,” the formal declaration states, while business and non-government partners agree to power their operations without coal.

Climate Action Network-Canada (CAN-Rac) executive director Catherine Abreu said: “Canada and the UK are right to kick-start the Alliance, as science tells us that OECD countries need to phase out coal by 2030 at the latest.” She said it was important for members also to encourage a shift of international financing away from coal.

“Health professionals worldwide are beginning to treat climate change by prescribing an end to coal”

Now, a big push is on to sign up more countries, sub-national governments, cities, and businesses that have committed to low-carbon or 100% renewable targets, said Canadian environment and climate minister Catherine McKenna, who co-chaired the launch along with UK business, energy and industrial strategy minister Claire Perry and Bloomberg New Energy Finance chair Michael Liebreich.

“The path to the transition away from coal looks different for all of us, but we’re all here for the same reasons,” McKenna said. Coal is “the dirtiest fossil fuel in terms of carbon pollution” and is “literally choking our cities and our people,” causing nearly a million deaths per year and billions of dollars in economic costs.

“So go, find a friend, get them to join the coolest club in town,” she told participants.

In its analysis of the announcement, CAN-Rac traces the origins of the alliance back to “years of grassroots advocacy by environmental and health groups” in Canada, which encouraged the federal commitment to phase out coal by 2030.

Big savings

Ontario’s environment minister, Chris Ballard, said his province has saved $4.4 billion per year in avoided health, environmental, and social costs since it burned its last lump of coal in 2014, a phaseout that still ranks as one of North America’s biggest carbon reduction efforts.

“In 2005, there were 53 smog advisories issued in Ontario,” he said. “In 2016, two years after our last plant was closed, there were none. Zero. Our children can now play outside without risk of damage to their lungs, their health.”

Fiji minister for climate change Aiyaz Khaiyum stressed the symbolic importance of his country joining the alliance. Like many Pacific island nations, “we don’t use coal, we’ve never used coal, we don’t intend to use coal,” he said. But the alliance is still an important step to speed up reductions in countries’ carbon footprints.

While several of the government ministers present, including the UK’s Perry, made a point of stressing their commitment to carbon capture and storage technologies [good luck with that!], at least one country was prepared to extend its ban to another unsustainable energy technology.

Inuit gains

Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which represents more than 60,000 indigenous people, said a coal phaseout would have “very positive impacts” for Canadian Inuit who had been “affected by global emissions since the beginning of the industrial period.”

With the Arctic warming twice as fast as the global average, “we are already seeing massive impacts from climate change,” he said. “The world as we know it is just slipping away, melting away, before our eyes.”

With its potential to curtail pollution ranging from black carbon to mercury contamination, he said the Alliance held out “more hope for us as a people to be able to maintain our lifestyle, culture, and identity in a way that we have for millennia.”

Courtney Howard, president-elect of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, recalled a 2009 study in The Lancet that cited climate change as the century’s biggest global health threat.

Biggest opportunity

“I had been taught to treat heart attacks and strokes, and I wasn’t sure how an emergency physician was supposed to treat climate change,” she said. But six years later, in 2015, The Lancet also identified the response to climate change as the century’s biggest public health opportunity—and a coal phaseout as one of the main measures to achieve it.

“The coal phaseout is about less trauma, less displacement, fewer deaths from heat exhaustion, fewer burns from wildfires, fewer clouds of smoke and breathing problems, fewer malnourished children, less conflict and migration, fewer kids with asthma puffers, fewer ER visits and costly hospital admissions,” she said.

“So health professionals worldwide are beginning to treat climate change by prescribing an end to coal.”

“As an emergency doc, I know what it’s like to move too slowly and have a patient die,” Howard added. “I also know what it’s like to act quickly enough to pull someone back from the spiral, into a place where they can thrive. I’m acting from the assumption that climates are the same as people.” Climate News Network

Republished by permission from The Energy Mix, a thrice-weekly e-digest on climate, energy and post-carbon solutions.

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Luxembourg seeks to become Europe’s green finance hub

At the COP23 summit in Bonn, Luxembourg’s finance and environment ministers joined with directors of the European Investment Bank to launch a de-risking mechanism that will allow financing of climate-friendly projects.

Luxembourg is a tiny state but a big polluter. Only slightly bigger in size than Malta, it is the EU country with the highest per capita emissions: 21.85 tonnes per person per year, against the EU average of 8.72, according to a 2016 report by the European Environment Agency.

But it is striving to do better. “We stick to our commitment on renewables but also on emission reductions. At the moment, we will be able to meet our objectives to be coherent with the objectives of the Kyoto protocol for the emission reduction. We are on track,” Minister of the Environment Carole Dieschbourg told EURACTIV.com.

Under the EU’s renewable energy directive, countries came up with their own renewable energy objectives. Luxembourg decided that by 2020, 11% of all energy consumed should come from renewable sources.

Luxembourg recently entered an agreement with Lithuania to buy the Baltic state’s surplus wind power data and count it towards its own target.

“We looked very carefully at the characteristics because we need to be very careful about the deal we make in order not to have adverse effects on biodiversity or other things. If we won’t be able to reach our targets, we set out a clear set of criteria. We have been in touch with the colleagues in Lithuania to speak about this deal and to make it the most robust possible,” Dieschbourg explained.

Luxembourg buys up surplus energy to hit renewable target, in EU first

Lithuania and Luxembourg became the first EU member states to agree on the transfer of renewable energy statistics on Thursday (26 October), meaning the Grand Duchy will now probably hit its 2020 target. Estonia hopes to broker a similar deal to finance its wind power ambitions.

This has attracted interest from states that already met their renewable targets, like Estonia, which is looking for buyers. On the other hand, it risks discouraging countries from investing in renewables.

But the land-locked Luxembourg is doing what it can to go green – investing heavily in solar and wind-power and hoping to become a green-finance hub for Europe.

It certainly has the right assets: 140 banks, €400 billion in assets under management, and the headquarters of the European Investment Bank (EIB) – the world’s largest issuer of green bonds.

“We want to position ourselves as the green financing centre in Europe”, Pierre Gramegna, the finance minister in the Grand Duchy and a candidate for the Eurogroup presidency, told EURACTIV.

He announced a joint venture in which Luxembourg and the EIB will provide seed money to leverage funds from multilateral development banks and private investors. The first project will receive €5 million in seed funding and support energy efficiency and renewables in the North Africa & Middle Eastern region.

Renewable is an obvious choice: the sector has been growing at the staggering rate of 72% per year for the past 10 years.

Asked if he would treat green finance as a priority as president of the Eurogroup, Gramegna quipped:

“We are not there for the Eurogroup yet, but I think that green bonds and green finance are key topics that all countries should be interested in. And by having the European Investment Bank on board, we already have a very important European touch to the whole initiative.”

His candidacy has raised eyebrows in France, which thinks that a state that was exposed for shady tax practices (LuxLeaks scandals in 2014, Panama Papers in 2016, and more recently in the Paradise Papers) could hardly be a credible leader for the Eurogroup.

But Gramegna is optimistic: “I think Luxembourg has come a long way since a couple of years. We have abandoned the bank secrecy to allow automatic exchange of information. Under the presidency of Luxembourg, and my own presidency of the Ecofin [council of finance and economy ministers] we set up the automatic exchange of information on [bank] rulings.

“We are implementing together with other European countries all the anti tax-avoidance measures which are called for by the OECD. I think we’re a very good student now and therefore we mustn’t look at the past but how we stand today.”

Luxembourg may gain in image and status from this venture. But will it work?

The EIB has a track record of multiplying funds. Under the Juncker plan, from initial seed funding of €10bn, it was able to attract €180bn of additional investments to kick-start the European economies. The shift from grants to loans has been a focus of the Juncker presidency.

EU bank invests in Mongolia's green future

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has agreed to help finance a large-scale wind farm in Mongolia, as part of the East Asian country’s plans to embrace renewable energy.

Jonathan Taylor, vice-president of EIB in charge of environmental and climate action investments, agrees: “The key is the leveraging. If we are going to shift the billions to trillions, public money isn’t going to be enough.

“The important thing is to shift climate funds into sound investments, green investments, climate-friendly investments. Once you look at this in the long term, it multiplies up over time.”

EIB president: Europe needs a paradigm shift in development policy

The Juncker Plan has been a “miraculous instrument”, and Europe now needs the same paradigm change in development policy. That means moving from social policy to economic development, and from grants to loans. The EU will play a huge role in that shift, Werner Hoyer told EURACTIV.com in an interview.