Zero Carbon Campaign Urges Carbon Price Revolution

Higher carbon pricing urged for net zero

Carbon prices in the UK need to reach £75/tonne by 2030 and renewable subsidies should be shifted away from being levied onto electricity bills to help achieve net zero, according to a new report.

The white paper from the Zero Carbon Campaign, made up of scientists, business leaders, environmental and academic experts, argues that carbon prices should begin to be increased incrementally from 2021 and should apply to all upstream producers of emissions if the nation is to meet its 2050 net-zero target.

A higher carbon price across both power and heating could bring in annual revenues of £27 billion by 2030 and could be used to fund support mechanisms such as the Renewables Obligation and Contracts for Difference schemes, which the report argues should no longer be levied directly onto electricity bills. New support schemes for the expansion of renewables could be funded by general taxation or carbon charge revenues.

The campaign also argues carbon pricing instruments including the Carbon Price Support (CPS), the UK Emissions Trading System (UK ETS), Climate Change Levy charges (CCL) and Climate Change Agreements (CCA) should be streamlined, with a single, simple mechanism.

The report stressed that “a carbon charge is neither the only policy required to get to net-zero nor the only source of funding”.

“More will be required to fund R&D and industry transition than a carbon charge is likely to raise. But carbon charges could form a very substantial part of the money needed, whilst driving the behaviour necessary to transition.”

The Zero Carbon Commission was formed in February 2020 to review the UK emissions pricing landscape and explore how it might be re-designed to be consistent with the UK’s legislated ‘net zero’ target.

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Government planning to replace RHI with Clean Heat Grant

29 April 2020, source edie newsroom

The UK Government has outlined its intentions to replace the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) with a new Clean Heat Grant that will aim to help households and businesses decarbonise through technology and push the nation towards its net-zero target for 2050.

The RHI was put in place by the Government as a means to convert 12% of UK homes to renewable heat by the end of 2020

The RHI was put in place by the Government as a means to convert 12% of UK homes to renewable heat by the end of 2020

The Government announced on Tuesday (28 April) that the non-domestic RHI scheme would close for new applicants from April 2021. As promised in the Budget, however, the RHI for households and organisations has been extended to March 2022.

A consultation had been launched to formalise the replacement scheme for the RHI. The Government is proposing a Clean Heat Grant that would commence in 2022, offering funding support of up to £4,000 for each household or business that integrates heating technologies such as heat pumps. An eligible list of technologies applicable for funding support will also be outlined.

The Government is also proposing a new Green Gas Support Scheme to increase the percentage of biomethane available on the gas grid. However, the Government is no longer considering banning biomass boilers in urban areas from securing financial grants. There had been some concerns that the systems were worsening air pollution.

The Government intends to use the consultation to outline the support mechanisms required by business to decarbonise the UK’s commercial and domestic building stock, which accounts for approximately 40% of the UK's carbon emissions.

The RHI was put in place by the Government as a means to convert 12% of UK homes to renewable heat by the end of 2020. Current trajectories suggest it will reach 8-10%. While Government figures claim that the RHI has delivered payments of £2,800 annually to those signed up, all while saving 5.2 tonnes of carbon annually, it has been criticised for failing to provide financial value. In 2018, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) concluded that the RHI had failed to provide value for money for the £23bn it was set to cost taxpayers.

The Committee on Climate Change has suggested that the UK would require 15 million homes to be fitted with heat pumps or hybrid heat pumps by 2035.

Last year, the Science and Technology Committee’s ‘Clean Growth: Technologies for meeting the UK’s emissions reduction targets’ report outlined a lack of replacements for the RHI as one of the 10 major shortfalls of Government efforts to date to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Commenting on the consultation, Frank Gordon, head of policy at the REA said: “Overall, these are mixed announcements for the renewable heat industry. On the one hand, they have provided much-welcomed clarity on the completion of projects currently underway, the prospect of new projects and the Government’s commitment to green gas. This is a step in the right direction for the sector, providing the certainty needed to increase investor confidence and deploy much needed renewable heat technology.

“On the other hand, we were disappointed by the lack of extension for new Non-Domestic RHI projects and the implications the cap on the future grant scheme will have. Both of which could result in business’s being unable to finish their projects or continue to operate at a time when the industry needs to be bolstered to achieve our legally binding Net-Zero targets.”

Matt Mace


Green Finance Institute assembles businesses for zero-carbon heat taskforce

17 September 2020, source edie newsroom

The Green Finance Institute has convened representatives of dozens of businesses alongside experts from local authorities, policy and science for a new taskforce tasked with decarbonising heating systems in the UK.

Heat pumps, district heat networks and off-grid properties will be key focuses of the review

Heat pumps, district heat networks and off-grid properties will be key focuses of the review

Launched in recognition of the fact that heating and hot water for homes account for almost two-fifths of the UK’s annual energy consumption and one-fifth of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the Zero-Carbon Heating Taskforce will conduct a review into the barriers and enablers for investment into low-carbon heating across the UK’s housing sector.

Using the results of the review, the Green Finance Institute will develop and launch new financial products to help attract investment. It will also advise government departments on which policy changes could scale up the market for low-carbon domestic heat in line with the national net-zero target. At present, the nation is off track to meet a target of converting 12% of UK homes to renewable heat by the end of 2020. Current trajectories tracked by the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) team suggest the proportion will reach 8-10%.

All members of the new Taskforce are partaking in the Institute’s Coalition for the Energy Efficiency of Buildings (CEEB). Businesses represented include British Gas owner Centrica, E.ON, Engie and Octopus Energy. Policy experts hail from organisations including Defra, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and E3G. Finance firms represented include BNP Paribas, Legal & General, Lloyds and Santander, with councils including the Greater London Authority and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority also sitting in the panel.

The Green Finance Institute’s chief executive Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas called the creation of the Taskforce a “natural next step” in its work to “create financial pathways to the wide-scale adoption of retrofitting across all residential tenures.”

“Decarbonising the way we heat our buildings over the next 10 years is presently one of the largest policy and investment gaps to meeting the UK’s domestic carbon budgets,” E3G’s programme lead for heating, cooling and energy efficiency Pedro Guertler said.

“How we finance the transition to zero-carbon heat is a key part of the challenge, and we are keen to see policy-makers emboldened – by the steps the finance sector and supply chain are taking to tackle it head-on – to be ambitious in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review and Heat & Buildings Strategy.”

Changing policy picture

The Heat and Buildings strategies highlighted by Guertler are due for publication this autumn, Business Secretary Alok Sharma has repeatedly told peers and media representatives.

Sharma and his peers are facing mounting pressure to deliver joined-up policy supports for the long-term transition to net-zero and it is hoped that these policy changes will offer clarity in the short and medium-term. They are expected to be published to coincide with the Autumn Statement and the National Infrastructure Strategy.

The Heat Strategy, specifically, will confirm the government’s plans for replacing the RHI once it closes in 2021 for non-domestic applicants and 2022 for homeowners. Last year, the Science and Technology Committee’s ‘Clean Growth: Technologies for meeting the UK’s emissions reduction targets’ report outlined a lack of replacements for the RHI as one of the 10 major shortfalls of Government efforts to date to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Sarah George


Your recycling actually gets recycled, right?

Not always, says this report

A man on a boat collects plastic materials from dirty water in Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC15820905D0
Thousands of tonnes of this could be ending up in the world's waterways and oceans.  Image: REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain
  • Up to 31% of plastic exported from Europe for recycling doesn’t end up being recycled, a new study estimates.
  • Thousands of tonnes could be ending up in the oceans.
  • Technologies that enable traceability could help create a 'circular economy'.

Here’s a different perspective on the plastic waste problem. You’ve probably heard how 90% of the plastic in our oceans comes from just 10 rivers – eight of which are in Asia. But have you ever thought about where that debris actually comes from?

For at least some of it, the surprising answer could be Europe, according to a new study.

European countries benefit from sophisticated waste management infrastructure, and they’re collecting an increasing amount of post-consumer plastic waste. But 46% of plastic separated for recycling in the European Union, UK, Switzerland and Norway is still exported. This often ends up in South-East Asian countries, where a significant amount is rejected from recycling streams into overstretched waste management systems.

And up to 31% of this plastic isn’t recycled at all, according to research published in the journal Environment International. Instead, thousands of tonnes of it could be entering the ocean – up to 7% of the total exported, the study says.

plastics oceans river water polymers environment renewable solar energy change transition friendly environment carbon footprint carbon emissions reduction change natural climate change global warming air pollution clean energy power renewables plastic plastics Weather extreme storm hurricane typhoon flooding flood floods danger rain wind windy rainy flash floods Agriculture pollen insects bugs bees honeybees bumblebees farming farms crops crop stable
Estimated loss of polyethylene plastic into the ocean from recycling waste mismanagement.                                                                                                                                   Image: Environment International

What did the study look at?

To reach these numbers, the researchers looked at international trade and waste management data for destination countries. They then modelled what happens to all polyethylene – one of the most common types of plastic in Europe ­– that is shipped away from the continent for recycling. This ranged from being turned into recycled resins to ending up as landfill – or ocean debris.

PLASTIC

Countries including the UK, Slovenia and Italy export a higher share of their plastic outside of Europe, the report says, which could mean a higher share of their recyclable plastic waste continues life as ocean debris.

Plastic is a cheap, convenient material whose benefits include helping to prevent food waste by preserving food and enabling the creation of lighter-weight parts to make vehicles more fuel efficient.

And the authors of the Environmental International report say their findings should not put people off recycling, which remains the best waste management treatment from an environmental perspective.

But they also warn that for Europe to realize its planned 'circular economy', this potential pathway for ocean debris needs to be blocked.

Making material flows more transparent could help – and there are some innovative ways technology could enable this.

The World Economic Forum report Harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Circular Economy says information on optimal recycling methods can be introduced at batch or unit level for plastic packaging that could help downstream partners identify the materials.

This involves scanning what’s known as a cryptographic anchor attached to or embedded into the packaging, such as IN-Code’s programmable, tamper-proof, edible markers. These markers would enable traceability throughout the life of the packaging.

And in the near future, an “internet of materials” – a decentralized, standardized data system allowing a large number of parties, including downstream recycling operators, to securely exchange information – could also play a part.

For more on the Forum's work on plastics, please click here.


UK electricity system price spikes to over £500/MWh due to low wind

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

The UK’s electricity system price spiked to over £500/MWh last night (15 September) in response to low levels of wind generation.

According to data from Drax Electric Insights prices hit £540.22/MWh at 18:16 on 15 September, remaining between £530/MWh and £540/MWh until prices decreased to £315.49 at 19:16, and then fell back down to £40.50 at 20:16.

This spike was due to a combination of low levels of wind generation and high demand, according to Jean-Peal Harreman, director of energy market data analyst EnAppSys BV.

This was echoed by European power market Nord Pool, which found that the daily average wind power on 13 September in the UK was 8,733MWh/h, falling to 2,507MWh/h on 14 September and “even lower” on 15 September.

However, the high electricity system prices weren’t contained only to the UK.

“The biggest issue was that all of Western Europe had the same problem. This meant that, whereas countries would normally trade across the interconnectors to solve their issues, this was not really an option yesterday,” EnAppSys’ Harreman said.

The high prices were seen across Europe, with EnAppSys stating that prices of over €1,100/MWh (£1,005/MWh) were seen on hourly trading in Belgium and close to €4,000/MWh (£3,655) on quarter hourly trading in Germany.

“This shows again how important it is to look at the European power market as an interconnected and interdependent system. The interconnectors can solve problems, but they also allow the problems of other markets to seep through to neighbours,” Harreman added.

In the UK, a Capacity Market notice was issued at 13:04 for 17:30 that day, meaning there was not sufficient capacity for the usual buffer of 500MW above the forecasted demand and operating margin. These are automatic notices, and yesterday’s was cancelled at 14:05 following response from the market to ensure there was sufficient capacity available.

In March, the electricity system price skyrocketed to £2,242/MWh following lower than expected wind generation during the evening peak in a similar - though more extreme - scenario to this week's price jump.

In March, the prices jumped to the £2,242/MWh mark during settlement period (SP) 37 (6-6:30pm), and remained high at £1,708/MWh during SP 38 (6:30-7pm), around the same time as this week's spike.

“The CM warning yesterday alongside volatile pricing in the Day-Ahead, Intraday and Imbalance markets over the last few days highlights the growing need for large-scale deployment of energy storage to meet grid requirements,” Aaron Lally, managing partner of clean tech trading house VEST, said.

“Energy storage and renewables need to be deployed and traded correctly to ensure we have enough electricity on stand-by for when the wind isn't blowing.”


Turning the dead end of consumerism into a roundabout

WASTE-TO-ENERGY

The garbage collectors come early in the morning, before the city awakes. Everything from last night’s dinner scraps to empty milk cartons, newspapers and discarded clothing is gathered, thrown in a lorry and whisked off to the local landfill. No worries. No problems.

Disappearing act

Or is that really the case?

When garbage is carted off to the local landfill, it doesn’t disappear. Plastic doesn’t decompose. It sits there for decades, centuries, even millennia. Organic waste rots and stinks and releases methane – a greenhouse gas, trapping heat in the atmosphere, and considered 20% more harmful than CO2.

The sheer wastefulness of the whole setup rubs Bjarne Bech the wrong way.

INTRODUCING THE RESPONSIBLE CONSUMER

BWSC’s waste-to-energy power plants use combustion technology to transform garbage into useful energy.
Here are some of the advantages:
  • Organic waste no longer is allowed to decompose and release methane – a potent greenhouse gas that is 20% more harmful than CO2
  • Advanced flue gas treatment technology means plastics and other non-organic products are converted without polluting the air
  • Island communities and isolated locations can reduce their dependence on oil imports.

As one of BWSC’s sales managers, he scours the globe, looking for markets where our waste-to-energy (WtE) plants can replace landfills. Using the most advanced combustion technology, BWSC’s WtE power plants can divert waste products from the landfill and transform them into electricity.

"While landfills are convenient, they don’t solve the inherent problems of our consumer-driven economy," says Bjarne. "Our society uses enormous energy resources to make products and transport them around the globe. The products are only used for a short time, but they are waste for a very long time."

Bech invites us to step back and see the big picture and rethink our consumption model.

"Wouldn’t it be great if we all recognised that being a consumer means we also take responsibility for properly dealing with our waste products? So instead of just thinking about production, transport, purchase, and consumption, we make sure we follow up with responsible disposal of our products. Instead of sitting in a landfill for ages, your trash becomes fuel that is part of an energy cycle."

Introducing the responsible consumer

The Hooton Bio Power Resource Recovery Centre in the UK is a good example of how BWSC can re-route waste product from the dead-end of landfills.

Upon completion in 2021, the WtE power plant will transform 240,000 tonnes of waste into electricity every year. That’s waste which instead of ending up in a landfill, is processed and used to provide energy for about 50,000 British homes.

The high incineration temperatures of 900-1000 C, together with advanced flue gas treatment technology, means that the power plant’s waste products are crystalized bottom ash which can be used as construction material, a small amount of water vapour, and a small fraction of flue gas cleaning residues which must be stored carefully.

According to Bech, a Hooton-sized facility can be the answer in many communities that are struggling to deal with overfilling landfills. For example on some island communities, that are known as tourist destinations, landfills are no longer a viable option since they take up valuable real estate and cause far-reaching damage to air quality.

Bech doesn’t pretend that WtE is an easy solution to implement. There are a number of logistical and bureaucratic issues that need to be addressed.

The gate fee, or how much it costs to deliver trash, can’t be set too high. Otherwise, islanders will be tempted to find other ways of disposing of their trash. Such as dumping it into nature.

Likewise, the price of electricity needs to be affordable for residents and provide a viable alternative to oil imports.

He notes, however, that BWSC’s project development team can crunch the numbers and do the calculus to make WtE a solid investment.

"There are a lot of factors that need to be balanced," says Bech. "But in addition to technical know-how of power production, we also have insights in the regulatory framework and financing mechanisms needed to make power plants feasible."

Bech suggests there’s a growing awareness that we have to rethink our consumer-driven economy. And while manufacturers are always striving to deliver products at the lowest cost possible, consumers are beginning to ask them to explore ways of including waste disposal as part of the price.

"We can’t continue the linear model of produce, transport, consume, landfill," says Bech. "Our waste-to-energy power plants are an important step in making it possible for consumers to become responsible."

The dirty truth

For centuries, landfills have offered a seemingly easy way to dispose of garbage. But below the surface, problems lurk:

  • Over the decades, chemicals can leach into groundwater
  • Landfills take up valuable real estate – especially on densely populated island communities
  • A public nuisance due to smell and eyesore
  • Methane emissions
  • Fire hazard

 


‘Little evidence’ government has confronted scale of net zero

A coherent plan and consistent policy will be needed from government to hit net zero.

A coherent plan and consistent policy will be needed from government to hit net zero.

There is still ‘little evidence’ that the UK government has confronted the enormous scale of reaching net zero, according to a new report by the Institute for Government.

It warns that meeting the challenge of decarbonisation is more challenging than responding to the COVID-19 pandemic or getting Brexit done, as it will require transformations of every sector in the country’s economy. This will take sustained investment over the next thirty years, and change everyone’s lives substantially.

As such, one of the report's biggest suggestions is to take the responsibility for reaching net zero away from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

“It lacks the necessary authority and clout over other departments,” the report stated. "The Cabinet Office should take over responsibility for co-ordinating net zero from BEIS, with government plans for tackling climate change led by a senior Cabinet Office minister. That minister should be supported by a new net zero unit.”

This should be supported by the Treasury, which should make net zero a big theme in its spending review and produce a tax strategy that supports it.

The Institute for Government highlighted the Committee on Climate Change’s previous estimate that reaching net zero will cost 1-2% of GDP per year, the government must work out how to confront this cost and enact it, regardless of it is unpopular with specific groups.

While the report acknowledges that progress has been made in the power sector – thanks to successful approaches developed by both government and businesses – the scale of the rest of the task will make this look as though it were "easy".

Transitioning transport and heating will provide much bigger challenges to decarbonisation, but there will be substantial benefits if the right upfront investment is made and the cost balanced between businesses, consumers and taxpayers. This include improved health, new jobs in low-carbon industries and long term savings.

“But government should be under no illusion about the difficulty of its target, and of securing the public support needed to meet it,” the report continues.

In order for the UK to reach net zero by 2050, the Institute for Government has set out seven requirements.

These include the need for a coherent plan, consistent policy and regulatory frameworks, co-ordination across the government and beyond and minimising the costs while maintaining competitiveness.

Additionally, there must be the capability to make key decisions when necessary – even if technology options are uncertain – a project that builds public and political consent should be brought in, and there should be effective scrutiny by parliament and other bodies to avoid ‘backsliding’.

For the full report, click here.


How Europe Can Lead The Technical ‘Moonshot’ Of Carbon Capture And Sequestration

The race to combat climate change is accelerating. Every day, large investors and corporations launch strategies to curb emissions and pledge ambitious goals of becoming carbon neutral. Consider the shocking open letter written earlier this year by Laurence D. Fink, the CEO of investing giant Blackrock. Fink said, in effect, that if corporations don’t factor climate change mitigation into their long term plans, then Blackrock will take action by voting out boards or simply withdrawing investments.

Companies investing in climate change technology

What draws particular interest from the likes of Blackrock is the field of carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS. The pertinent question: is investment in expensive climate mitigation technology worthwhile — for anyone other than the ten biggest US corporations that can afford to please their customers and employees? After all, China emits more CO2 than the US and the EU together.

Some steps are being taken. “Big oil” led by Shell and Equinor has already announced intentions to eliminate emissions from exploration, but that only represents a small fraction of total emissions from the oil and gas they bring to the market. Airline companies aim for carbon neutrality through offsets. Amazon chief Jeff Bezos pledged a ten-billion-dollar fund to spur investments in renewable energy, forests and efficiency.

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CO2 storage technology exists

Microsoft intends to invest in technology that can remove all the atmospheric CO2 the tech giant has emitted since its inception in 1975. On an episode of "The Daily" podcast earlier this year, the New York Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin discussed the potential of carbon sequestration, and referred to Microsoft’s plan to capture carbon and store it safely underground a “breakthrough shoot-the-moon technology”, adding, “but if we’re being honest, it's not there yet.”

We might be closer than assumed. The CCS technologies to capture and store CO2 from natural gas and coal fired power plants, industrial processes and heating and cooling, are already proven and available. There are existing, successful CCS operations in Norway, Canada, the US and Australia.

Plans for clean energy and industry hubs using CCS technologies in the UK and the Netherlands are underway. German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently said CCS will be necessary to reach the 2050 net-zero target.

CCS must be a part of Europe's ambitious plans

In March, the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, proposed a new climate law that will put a stop to carbon emissions before 2050. Branded as A European Green Deal, it enshrines the goal of becoming the first climate neutral continent by 2050.

To achieve a climate neutral Europe by 2050, the EU must decarbonize energy intensive industries, transport, power as well as heating and cooling sectors. Fossil fuels must be replaced by vast production of clean Hydrogen. As an energy carrier, clean Hydrogen can be produced from renewable energy with electrolysis and from natural gas with CCS technology to remove the CO2. This way, wide-scale CCS deployment will retain and revive European industry, creating thousands of new jobs.

Reducing the cost of CCS at scale is key

Only by reducing costs can CCS be deployed on a wide scale, including by the biggest emitters such as China and India. "For CCS to make a difference, it needs to be dictated by governments across the globe," said Sorkin. That is an idealist view, and the reality needs to be different. Governments need to take action yes, but there needs to be a business case to truly move the needle.

So how do we make CCS technology cost competitive? The European Union has already showed the way when it in 2009 agreed on renewable targets for 2020 and governments introduced support schemes and incentivized investments. Prices fell as production scaled up and soon renewable energy became a market opportunity, also for US and Chinese manufacturers. Today, the cost of renewable energy competes with fossil energy in many countries.

Leadership from Europe

The EU Innovation Fund provides investment grants to support today’s costly capture technology. Government funded storage hubs, more than 1.5 miles under the seabed of the North Sea between Norway and the UK is planned to be operational by 2023-24. If fully realized, the storage capacity under the North Sea alone is enough to receive and permanently store CO2 from all main emission sources in Europe for decades. It is a way to return CO2 to its original home.

Other means, such as setting up a certificate market, or introducing emission ceilings performance targets, could also be considered. The EU could also set binding targets, introduce emission performance standards, or a certificate mechanism, for deploying CCS technologies in energy intensive industries and waste incineration, where up to 80% of burned waste originates from biogenic sources. Combining CCS with sustainable biogenic sources will remove CO2 from the atmosphere, just like trees do naturally. That is how Microsoft can compensate for its emissions from 1975.

The European Commission is already showing unprecedented political leadership with the proposed carbon border tax to avoid carbon and investment leakages. Such bold steps will be meaningless without decarbonizing European industry.

Every stakeholder in the CCS value chain is ready, willing and able. All we are waiting for is the political leadership to enable broad deployment of "shoot-the-moon technology." It’s a precondition to fulfilling the challenging goals of the Paris Agreement.


UK Government halves offshore wind cost forecasts

27 August 2020, source edie newsroom

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has slashed its forecasts for offshore wind energy costs through to 2030 by more than half, in the first update to predictions since 2016.

While the steepest decline is for offshore wind, large-scale solar is forecast to be the cheapest generation method by 2030

While the steepest decline is for offshore wind, large-scale solar is forecast to be the cheapest generation method by 2030

According to the Department’s latest electricity generation cost report, offshore wind projects which come online between now and 2030 will produce power at an average cost of £47 per megawatt-hour over the course of their lifetime. BEIS’s previous forecast had placed the figure at £103 per megawatt-hour.

From both being forecast at £64/MWh in 2016, the equivalent figures for onshore wind and large-scale solar have also fallen, to £45/MWh and £39/MWh respectively.

In comparison, BEIS is forecasting that the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) for new gas will reach £82 per megawatt-hour by 2030 and that the LCOE for new nuclear will reach £93 per megawatt-hour within the same timeframe.

“Since 2016, renewables costs have declined compared to gas, particularly steeply in the case of offshore wind,” BEIS’s updated report states. “Across the renewable technologies, increased deployment has led to decreased costs via learning, which has then incentivised further deployment, and so on.”

Offshore wind has received particular policy support from the Conservative Government. While onshore wind, solar and energy storage were effectively banned from competing in the Contracts for Difference (CfD) auctions in 2015, offshore wind projects were still eligible to participate. This decision was only reversed in March 2020. Additionally, offshore wind is the only renewable energy sub-sector with a fully developed sector deal at present. The policy package has seen companies within the offshore wind sector commit to invest £250m over the next 11 years in exchange for participation in £557m of state subsidies. It additionally commits the offshore wind sector to boost annual exports fivefold by 2030, to reach £2.6bn.

In related news, wind accounted for a record 59.1% of the UK’s generation share on Saturday afternoon (22 August) as Storm Ellen hit.

Winds of change

The publication of BEIS’s update comes in the same week that milestones were reached for three major offshore wind projects in Lincolnshire, the Shetland Islands and Norfolk.

Off the coast of Lincolnshire, the installation of turbine foundations and export cables has been completed at the site of the Triton Knoll windfarm. Once the £2bn project comes online in 2022, it will have a capacity of 857MW.

RWE has a majority stake (59%) in the project, with Japanese firms J Power and Kansai Electric Power holding majority stakes. The array will play host to 90 giant turbines.

Triton Knoll secured support through the CfD in the second half of 2019, achieving a strike price of £74.50 per MWh.

Meanwhile, Equinor has signed agreements to lease seabed off the coast of Norfolk to expand the Sheringham Shoal and Dudgeon windfarms, in which it holds stakes. The energy major plans to double the size of both windfarms and create as much as 719MW of new generation capacity.

Equinor updated its climate targets in February and has laid out plans to develop a wind generation portfolio of at least 4-6GW by 2026, rising to 12-16GW by 2035, to meet its new emissions intensity goals.

SSE Renewables has also signed a contract with Vestas to supply 103 of the 117 turbines which will form the 443MW Viking windfarm in the Shetland Islands this month. Ofgem approved the transmission link back in June after SSE confirmed that it would be proceeding with the £580m project.

Sarah George


Environment Bill update: UK to introduce legally binding nature, water, air and waste targets from 2022

19 August 2020, source edie newsroom

After enshrining its 2050 net-zero target in law last year, the UK Government is developing similar legally binding targets for biodiversity, air quality, water and waste.

The Environment Bill will be reintroduced to Parliament shortly after the summer recess finishes

The Environment Bill will be reintroduced to Parliament shortly after the summer recess finishes

In an update to the Environment Bill, published today (19 August), the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed that it is developing time-bound, numerical targets aimed at tackling an array of environmental issues.

At least one “strong and meaningful” target will be introduced for each of the four priority areas for the Bill: biodiversity, air quality, water and waste. All targets will be deadlined for the mid-to-late 2030s and will be backed up with interim targets that will not be legally binding, to help spur early progress.

The goals should be set in statute by the end of October 2022 at the latest, the Defra documents state. The Department has promised to use a “robust, evidence-led” process for developing and implementing the new targets, such as was used for the UK’s updated Climate Change Act.

According to Defra’s documents, the UK’s post-Brexit watchdog for green issues, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) will report annually on progress against the new targets. Recruitment for the OEP’s inaugural chair began last week, meaning that the OEP is likely to be created in early 2021, subject to the Environment Bill receiving royal assent.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said the targets will be a “driving force” behind the Conservative Party’s overarching commitment to leave Britain’s nature in a better state. By enshrining targets in law, he said, the government will “guarantee real and lasting progress on some of the biggest environmental issues facing us today”.

The Environment Bill, in its current form, was first introduced in October 2019. It was reintroduced in January, then updated at a second reading in February, but its process has been shelved since then as Ministers grappled with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Eustice argued that, by reintroducing the Bill with new targets “as soon as possible” once Parliament resumes after the summer recess, Defra will “provide some much-needed certainty to businesses and society, as we work together to build back better and greener”.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly voiced support for a Covid-19 recovery approach which creates a “greener and more resilient” UK economy. However, with a small fraction of the Treasury’s £160bn package having been directly earmarked for low-carbon activities so far, concerns remain about the true environmental impact of Johnson’s plans.

‘A significant opportunity’

Reacting to Defra’s announcement, the Aldersgate Group’s public affairs manage Signe Norberg said that the new targets “need to set a clear expectation for future policies and result in coherent and holistic improvements to the natural environment”.

“If designed correctly, these targets will provide much needed long-term policy direction to businesses, shape environmental policies in the decades to come, and drive private sector investment in the natural environment,” she said. “Looking ahead, it is crucial that the targets are accompanied by the passage of an ambitious Environment Bill, including a clear process for setting robust interim targets, and accelerated work to put in place a functioning and well-resourced Office for Environmental Protection by the start of 2021.

“As the Government looks to ‘build back greener’, it is essential that the new target framework is sufficiently clear and ambitious to drive policymaking for many years to come and result in much higher levels of investment in the natural environment and resource efficiency.”

The Government has long faced criticism over its approach to environmental issues. Beyond the swathe of climate activism which, coupled with new scientific research, laid the basis for the 2050 net-zero target, Ministers have repeatedly faced direct action over air quality and biodiversity in the UK.

On the former, levels of nitrogen dioxide, have been above legal limits in most urban areas for a decade, and the government has been defeated three times in court over the adequacy of its plans. Air pollution is estimated to cause about 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK. The coronavirus lockdown has resulted in traffic plunging to 1955 levels and pollution cut by a third to a half in cities, but experts say this is likely to be short-lived.

As for biodiversity, the world is thought to be on the brink of a sixth mass extinction, from which the UK is not exempt. According to the most recent State of Nature report, co-authored by key wildlife charities, 133 species have become extinct in Britain since 1500, with much of this loss having occurred in the last 100 years. It highlights the fact that 41% of surviving species have experienced “marked” population decline since 1970, with one-quarter of surviving British mammals now considered under threat of extinction.

Sarah George