Consultation opens over the UK’s carbon price future

The UK government is consulting, along with the devolved administrations, on a new UK carbon pricing scheme that would be employed in the event the UK could not take part in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) after Brexit.

The consultation reiterates that a linked UK ETS is the preferred carbon pricing option, because it allows:

  • access to a larger market
  • increased abatement opportunities
  • more cost-effective emissions reductions for UK businesses

If that is not possible the government has promised that there would be a new arrangement that “would be at least as ambitious as the current EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and will provide a smooth transition for relevant sectors”. Fall-back options include the UK introducing its own domestic trading system, which would not be linked to the EU ETS or the introduction of a tax on carbon. It also considers  the implications if the UK participates in Phase IV of the EU ETS (as the UK is still in the UK, regulations for this phase have to be transposed into UK law during 2019).

A UK ETS would follow the EU model in auctioning allowances, but with some free allocations which the government said would help stop ‘carbon leakage’ when industries move to countries with no emission limits. Free allocation would not apply to the power sector. The auction would have a reserve price that would take into account recent prices for carbon emissions, which have ranged from £4.70 to £13.70.

Government is also considering a decarbonisation fund and considers whether such a fund should be set up and whether it should be funded from free or auctioned allowances.

An initial review of the new system would take place in 2023.

The consultation does not include detail of the carbon tax option, but it says responses may feed into further work on this alternative. It said if the option went forward, government would explore ways of incentivising installations to reduce emissions, how the rate would be set and how to ensure that businesses would have sufficient visibility of future costs.

See the full consultation here. The closing date is 12 July.

See the HMRC technical note on a carbon tax here


UK100 and the zero carbon approach in local authorities

Members of the UK100 network of local authorities have pledged to convert to using 100% green energy by 2050. Janet Wood spoke to the network’s director, Polly Billington, about taking a local approach to energy.

Ofgem should have more‘sandboxes’ (projects where temporary derogations are permitted) and they should “not be stuck at the demonstration level – get them bigger”

My hunch is that the regulatory framework has probably run out of road

There is a long way to go for local leaders in understanding the rapidly changing energy landscape and how theycan formally engage with it

I’m not convinced that the DNOs/DSOs know what their business model will be yet in the new environment, so they are trying lots of things out

April cover

Download the full interview New Power Report 122 April UK100


Renewable Energy Generators, The RE100 and Growth in Renewable PPA's

PPAs boom as corporates eye economic benefits of renewable power

The world’s biggest companies are driving a boom in power purchase agreements (PPAs) with renewable generators.

A new report from the RE100 group, which encompasses 122 large corporates committed to buying 100% renewable power, shows PPA deals increased four-fold across the group in 2016. Most of the PPA growth in Europe came from deals struck between members and off-site generators in the UK.

The report breaks down the procurement practices and progress of members towards their renewables ambition.

Collectively, RE100 members’ electricity demand stands at 159TWh per year, more than enough to power Poland.

On average, members sourced 32% of their power from renewable sources in 2016. That was down from 50% in 2015, but is attributed to new members joining RE100 over the year that currently procure less renewable power as a percentage of their overall consumption.

Some 25 firms have already achieved 100% renewable power procurement, with Marks & Spencer and Sky joining the club last year.

RE100 members include tech giants Ebay, Facebook, Google and Microsoft as well as telcos, media companies, data centres, consumer goods companies, manufacturers, banks, insurers, carmakers, pharmaceutical companies and retailers (see the full list here).

Surveyed for the report, 88% of member companies said economics of buying renewable power were an important part of the rationale to commit to doing so.

The group plans to increase membership to 200 this year and is specifically targeting large energy users from the metals, cement and other heavy industrial sectors.

It believes that by bringing the buying power of the group to bear, RE100 can also help deliver significant progress within renewables supply chains, further driving down costs.

As well as PPA growth, the report suggests member companies are also massively increasing the amount of power they generate and consume from on-site renewables.

See the report here.


Committee on Climate Change - Net Zero Report

Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming

This report responds to a request from the Governments of the UK, Wales and Scotland, asking the Committee to reassess the UK’s long-term emissions targets. Our new emissions scenarios draw on ten new research projects, three expert advisory groups, and reviews of the work of the IPCC and others.

The report’s key findings are that:

  • The Committee on Climate Change recommends a new emissions target for the UK: net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050.
  • In Scotland, we recommend a net-zero date of 2045, reflecting Scotland’s greater relative capacity to remove emissions than the UK as a whole.
  • In Wales, we recommend a 95% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050.

A net-zero GHG target for 2050 will deliver on the commitment that the UK made by signing the Paris Agreement. It is achievable with known technologies, alongside improvements in people’s lives, and within the expected economic cost that Parliament accepted when it legislated the existing 2050 target for an 80% reduction from 1990.

However, this is only possible if clear, stable and well-designed policies to reduce emissions further are introduced across the economy without delay. Current policy is insufficient for even the existing targets.

View the presentation of the report findings from Chris Stark, Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change.

Supporting research, charts and data

Selected external work informing our assessment:

Infographic

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The Landfill Ban in Scotland - what next for the 1M tonne Gap

It seems fairly clear that the looming landfill ban to be enforced in Scotland by legislation, enacted in 2012 (The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012) and which comes into force on 1st January 2021 will leave around 1 million tonnes of biodegradable residual waste stranded. In England there is no absolute ban yet, but the Committee on Climate Change has urged government in Westminster to follow Scotland's lead by 2025 and legislate by implementing a legally binding ban. Governments in Scotland and England have encouraged the reduction of landfilling biodegradable waste and thus the production of environmentally damaging methane by gradually increasing landfill tax in the expectation that private enterprise would step in and build more and better recycling; and energy recovery facilities (ERF's) for the inevitable material that cannot be recycled. To an extent this has been successful, but not entirely so and various estimates suggest that there will be a shortfall in available recycling and ERF's of 1M tonnes in Scotland and at least 8M tonnes in England.

In the last few months there has been an increasing media interest in what will happen in Scotland on 1st January 2021 when the ban comes into force. Various suggestions have been made including shipping to Europe, transporting it, by road or ship, to English landfill or derogation on the ban in those areas which are not served by recycling and ERF's.

Shipping waste to Europe particularly from more remote areas, involves multiple handling, road transport and storage and is increasingly, and rightly, recognised as an irresponsible solution for waste disposal. There is now a public awareness of the dangers of waste export, making headline news with the 'Blue Planet' and 'Drowning in Waste' and other documentaries, and highlighting a fact long known within the industry that not all waste exported is treated responsibly. Responsible waste handling/disposal aside, fossil fuelled shipment of waste overseas is costly both in terms of cash and carbon emissions and is simply unsustainable and environmentally damaging. We must recycle what we can and recover energy with what is left. But, what of the landfill ban and the stranded 1M tonnes in Scotland?

There are a number of options for this waste which excludes shipping it overseas for the above reasons:

  1. Ship the waste to England for landfill - can only be a temporary solution as England is likely soon to implement a legal ban. Furthermore, this will be a costly exercise adding at least £50/tonne to the cost of landfilling in Scotland today. The most striking result however will be the flight of landfill tax out of Scotland and into the English exchequer and this surely would be politically and economically unacceptable.
  2. Lift the ban on landfill - but this would be environmentally unacceptable and probably constitute political suicide on the part of the sitting Scottish Government
  3. Allow a managed derogation of the ban - in certain areas where there is no or insufficient recycling/ERF facilities. Derogated landfilling would be subject to close scrutiny by SEPA and subject to an additional landfill tax designed to accelerate the building of recycling and ERF's to replace landfill. In other words simply an acceleration and intensification of the drivers currently in place that have been largely, but not wholly successful.

Of the options suggested above, we believe that derogation of the landfill ban is now inevitable in certain areas. It keeps landfill tax in Scotland, avoids costly transport and breaking of the proximity principle and will increase and enhance the financial incentive for private enterprise and councils to build and operate recycling and energy recovery facilities. As soon as such facilities are in place then landfills in the catchment area can be immediately closed and the derogation for them removed.


Committee calls for landfill ban on biodegradable waste

2 MAY 2019 by Joshua Doherty

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has called for a ban on all biodegradable waste sent to landfill by 2025, if the UK is to reach ‘net zero emissions’ by 2050.

The CCC released its long-awaited report this morning (May 02) outlining what several sectors need to do in order to reach the 2050 target.

For the waste industry, it noted that along with measures to reduce food waste, policy needs to be introduced to ban biodegradable waste going to landfill by 2025.

Today’s report outlines how the UK can reach ‘net zero emissions’ by 2025

“Bio-degradable waste streams should not be sent to landfill after 2025. This will require regulation and enforcement, with supporting actions through the waste chain, including for example mandatory separation of remaining waste,” the report stated.

“Emissions from waste [sector] have fallen by 69% since 1990, due to the UK’s landfill tax, which has reduced the amount of biodegradable waste going to landfill, and due to an increase in methane captured at landfill sites,” it added.

Pressure

The recommendation comes as Scotland has faced mounting pressure in recent weeks over its preparation for the 2021 landfill ban it introduced.

A Eunomia report commissioned by the Scottish Government said insufficient preparation had been made (see letsrecycle.com story), while the Chartered Institution of Wastes management called for the ban to be halted (see letsrecycle.com story).

With regards to policy, the CCC said that taxes on the waste industry sending waste to landfill has helped it to reduce its emissions over the last 10 years (as outlined below) and urged similar action for high carbon activities.

“The landfill tax, which was introduced in 1996 and has since increased in price more than tenfold, has driven a reduction of over 75% in biodegradable waste being sent to landfill and a diversion to other disposal routes such as recycling. It has been supported by policies to reduce waste arisings,” the report stated.

It added: “These policies demonstrate that there are multiple routes to success , including taxing high carbon activities.”

However, some remaining emissions by 2050 are likely to be unavoidable from continuing waste degradation at legacy landfill sites.

‘Core options’

The report outlined the ‘core options’ that are likely to be required under any climate strategy for each sector. For example, in transport, the core scenario needed reflects the Government’s current commitment to phase-out sales of conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.

For the waste sector, it stated that much of this was already in place, including an increase in recycling rates in line with current ambition in England and the devolved administrations (e.g. from around 45% in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and over 60% in Wales today, to 65% in England by 2035 and 70% in Scotland and Wales by 2025).

Food

The report also explained that reducing food waste is a “key step” that individuals can take to reduce emissions, but the focus here was largely on consumer behaviour.

This included reducing the quantity of food purchased as currently, a significant share of agricultural land is devoted to the production of food that ends up being thrown away, “often still in an edible state”.

At an embargoed launch event of the report earlier this week, Chris Stark, the committee’s chief executive, explained that nothing stated in the report is unreasonable.

Lord Deben, the former environment secretary who introduced the landfill tax, unveiled the report an an embargoed event earlier this week

“It is not just a target, and must cover all sectors of the economy. This is technically possible with known technologies and without major changes to consumer behaviours.

“It is more than just a target, and it is not credible to set the target without a significant change in policy to establish it. These are all things the CCC has mentioned before and we have been planning this for some time. The costs are manageable and can be met at an annual resource cost of up to 1-2% of GDP to 2050.”

Also at the launch event was Lord Deben, who is chair of the CCC, who challenged the government to implement the changes, and said the targets are conservative.

“We know we can achieve this and the means by which we can do so. We have been entirely conservative and not based our answer on some new technology as yet unknown arising at some point. We have taken the technology and circumstances we do know and have looked at those to say truthfully we can reach this end in 2050.

“We haven’t pretended you can estimate as to what will happen with these new technologies, we believe it is better to say this is based on a principle in which we don’t make those improvements that have happened in our lifetime,” he added.

The full report can be read here


Scottish Government Climate Change Bill - Revised Target for 2045

NEWS

Climate Change action

Published: 02 May 2019 00:01

Scotland will go greener, faster with world-leading targets.

Scotland will stop contributing to climate change within a generation under new, tougher climate change proposals.

Amendments to the Climate Change Bill have been lodged to set a legally binding target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the latest with Scotland becoming carbon neutral by 2040.

The existing targets proposed in the Bill were already world-leading. In response to calls from young people, scientists and businesses across the country, Scottish Ministers have adopted the advice of independent experts, the UK Climate Change Committee.

This means that in addition to the net-zero target for 2045, Scotland will reduce emissions by 70% by 2030 and 90% by 2040 – the most ambitious statutory targets in the world for these years.

The Committee’s recommended targets for Scotland are contingent on the UK adopting a net-zero greenhouse gas emission target for 2050.

Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

“There is a global climate emergency and people across Scotland have been calling, rightly, for more ambition to tackle it and safeguard our planet for future generations. Having received independent, expert advice that even higher targets are now possible, and given the urgency required on this issue, I have acted immediately to set a target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for 2045 which will see Scotland become carbon neutral by 2040.

“I have been consistently clear that our targets must be ambitious, credible and responsible. We must take an evidence-based approach and balance our climate, economic and social responsibilities. We have already halved greenhouse gas emissions from Scotland while growing the economy, so we know we can do it. I am committed to meeting the most ambitious targets possible, and doing so while continuing to build an inclusive and fair economy.

“Every single one of us now needs to take more action – not just the Scottish Government but also all businesses, schools, communities, individuals and organisations. The UK Government must also act.

“The Committee on Climate Change say that Scotland’s ability to meet these world-leading targets is contingent on the UK Government also accepting their advice and using the relevant policy levers that remain reserved. As such, I call on the UK Government to follow our lead, accept the Committee’s advice, and work with us to achieve this goal.

“We can, and we must, end our contribution to climate change. I invite everyone to accept the advice we’ve received and work with us in a just and fair transition to a net-zero economy.”


Millerhill EfW plant enters full operation

30 APRIL 2019 by Elizabeth Slow

The Millerhill Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility (RERC), located in Midlothian in the east of Scotland, is now fully operational.

That’s according to operator, FCC Environment (UK), which signed a 25-year contract to deliver and operate the £142 million plant in October 2016.

The Millerhill EfW facility in Midlothian has now entered full operation

The new energy from waste plant, which will mainly serve the company’s contract with the City of Edinburgh and Midlothian councils, commenced construction in October 2016 and has been receiving residual waste since October 2018 for commissioning purposes.

A further “significant milestone” was achieved in December 2018, FCC says, with the generation of energy from the plant’s 13 MW turbine commencing.

The Millerhill RERC was developed jointly with the two Scottish councils, in a partnership with FCC . Waste will also be sent to the plant from East Lothian council.

The engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) role is being delivered through a joint venture between FCC Medio Ambiente SA and Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI),

The plant will have the capacity to process around 155,000 tonnes of household and commercial residual waste. It will generate sufficient electricity to satisfy the energy demand of up to around 32,000 households, FCC said. In conjunction with the partner councils, district heating proposals are also being developed.

‘Welcome news’

Commenting on the announcement, Councillor Lesley Macinnes, transport and environment convener for the City of Edinburgh council, said: “It’s very welcome news that this excellent new facility is entering full operation ahead of schedule.  By working together, both Edinburgh and Midlothian Councils will be able to benefit from this state-of-the-art thermal treatment solution for our residual waste.

“By working together, both Edinburgh and Midlothian Councils will be able to benefit from this state-of-the-art thermal treatment solution for our residual waste.”


Cllr Lesley Macinnes,
City of Edinburgh council

“As a council, we are fully committed to cutting the amount of waste that ends up as landfill. This new facility will be key to our efforts, while also providing a long-term solution for the recovery of value from the residual waste.”

A spokesperson for Midlothian council said: “I am delighted to see this partnership project coming to fruition and generating green energy ahead of schedule. The plant will be a huge asset, helping both councils meet Zero Waste targets and diverting an astonishing 155,000 tonnes of waste from landfill.”

Food waste

A separate facility, which takes all of the food waste collected by the partner councils, is already in operation on the neighbouring site to the RERC. It is hoped these new facilities to treat both food and non-recyclable waste, creating renewable energy in the process, will help both authorities contribute to the national recycling target of 70% by 2025 and the national landfill diversion target of 95% by 2025.


Waste crisis ‘imminent’ as landfills could overflow by 2022

by:

England’s landfill sites will be overflowing by 2022, according to research from The Furniture Recycling Group.

They say that 45.4 million tonnes of waste is dumped at landfill each year, with only enough space for 175.1 million tonnes of waste left in total, creating an increasingly shortening capacity gap.

The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan promised to tackle many important waste recycling issues, including a major focus on the elimination of single-use plastics, but TFR Group says England will reach crisis point soon if there isn’t an immediate focus on the recycling of bulkier waste streams.

According to their research, over 1.6 million tonnes of bulky waste is sent to landfill every year, with furniture and mattresses accounting for 42% of this.

They estimate 7.5 million mattresses are being dumped into landfill across the country each year.

Nick Oettinger, managing director of TFR Group, said: ‘I cannot stress enough the severity of the issue now facing the waste management industry because bulky waste has continually been ignored.

‘Even if mattresses were the only form of waste sent to landfill, England’s landfill sites would reach full capacity within just 50 years, but with all forms of bulky waste, we have less than four years left.

‘This spells disaster for future generations, who now face the horrifying prospect of seeing precious green space piled high with decaying mountains of mattresses and other waste that simply cannot be disposed of properly.

‘The data is compelling and there are a number of promising solutions, but it remains to be seen if the country can head the warning and transform its recycling processes before the dangerously limited time runs out,’ he added.

In a speech at the Conservative party conference last week, Environment Minister Michael Gove promised to ‘invest in cleaner technologies and take tougher action against the fly-tippers and the waste criminals who pollute our landscape and trash our blue planet.’

Defra is expected to publish a new waste strategy later in the year.

Back in February, Mr Oettinger wrote in Environment Journal about the need for legislation to be put in place to stop linear products from going to landfill.


The Evolution of Hydrogen: From the Big Bang to Fuel Cells

Published on By 

It all started with a bang…the big bang!

The explosive power of hydrogen fueled a chain reaction that led to the world we have today.

Now this power is being deployed on Earth to supply the energy needs of tomorrow.

Visualizing the Power of Hydrogen

Today’s infographic comes to us from the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, and it outlines how hydrogen and fuel cell technology is harnessing the power of the universe to potentially fuel an energy revolution.

The Evolution of Hydrogen: From the Big Bang to Fuel Cells

What is Hydrogen, and How’s it Used?

With one proton and one electron, hydrogen sits at the very beginning of the periodic table.

Despite hydrogen being the most common molecule in the universe, it is rarely found in its elemental state here on Earth. In fact, almost all hydrogen on the planet is bonded to other elements and can only be released via chemical processes such as steam reforming or electrolysis.

There are five ways hydrogen is being used today:

  1. Building heat and power
  2. Energy storage and power generation
  3. Transportation
  4. Industry energy
  5. Industry feedstock

However, what really unleashes the power of hydrogen is fuel cell technology. A fuel cell converts the chemical power of hydrogen into electrical power.

Hydrogen Unleashed: The Fuel Cell

In the early 1960’s, NASA first deployed fuel cells to power the electrical components of the Gemini and Apollo space capsules. Since then, this technology has been deployed in everything from the vehicle you drive, the train you take, and how your favorite products are delivered to your doorstep.

Nations around the world are committing to build hydrogen fueling stations to meet the growth in adoption of fuel cell technology for transportation.

Hydrogen: A Green Energy Solution

Hydrogen fuel and fuel cell technology delivers green solutions in seven ways.

  1. Decarbonizing industrial energy use
  2. Acting as a buffer to increase energy system resilience
  3. Enabling large-scale renewable energy integration and power generation
  4. Decarbonizing transportation
  5. Decarbonizing building heat and power
  6. Distribution energy across sectors and regions
  7. Providing clean feedstock for industry

According to a recent report by McKinsey, hydrogen and fuel cell technology has the potential to remove six gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions and employ more than 30 million people by 2050, all while creating a $2.5-trillion market.

This is technology that can be deployed today, with the potential to transform how we live and power our economies in a sustainable way.