MP hails SNP's record on North East investment

Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has hailed the SNP’s strong record on investment in vital infrastructure across the North-East despite the impact of brutal cuts imposed by the Tory party.

The Scottish Government has made multi-billion pound investments in the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, the dualling of the A96 Inverness to Aberdeen, improvements in the Haudagain junction, improvements to the Aberdeen to Inverness rail line, delivery of significant investment in the roll out of superfast broadband coverage across rural areas and an additional £254million of investment as part of the Aberdeen City Region Deal.

The Scottish Government also has a strong commitment to investing in the oil and gas sector and renewable energy, supporting long-term jobs for our communities.

But investment in the North-East would be significantly higher if the Tory government matched the SNP’s commitment to the area.

Not only has the Tory government failed to respond appropriately to the downturn in the oil and gas sector but in Banff and Buchan a promise to invest £1billion in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) at Peterhead was dropped showing disdain for jobs and the local economy.

Dr Whiteford said: “I am proud that projects which were delayed for decades under previous governments, like the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, are finally becoming a reality – and will bring lasting benefits for people across the region for years to come.

“The SNP has always been committed to investing in the North-East economy, which is a real driving force for the whole of Scotland, and this commitment will continue in the years to come in the face of crippling Tory austerity and public service cuts.

“Instead the Tory government has failed in their duty to support the North East pulling £1billion in investment for CCS at Peterhead Power Station leaving the facility’s future in jeopardy.

“The choice facing voters across the North-East in both May and June is absolutely clear – do they want to elect a strong team of SNP representatives that will always stand up for the interests of the North-East, and a track record of delivering vital infrastructure projects such as the AWPR, new schools, improvements to the Haudagain junction, thousands of new affordable homes, support for both the renewables and oil and gas sectors, and an additional £254 million as part of the Aberdeen Region City Deal?

“Or do they want to elect Tory representatives who are obsessed with cutting our vital public services such as education and health and social care, slashing investment in the vital infrastructure projects that the North-East economy depends on, continuing to ignore the needs of the North Sea energy sector, and that are utterly desperate to pile misery on the most vulnerable in our society?"

Tory windfarm policy threatens cheap energy in UK, commission finds

Conservative opposition to windfarms risks the UK missing out on one of the cheapest sources of electricity, according to the head of a Shell-funded industry group.

Adair Turner, chair of the Energy Transitions Commission, said wind and solar power costs had fallen dramatically globally and urged the government to rethink its ban on subsidised onshore windfarms.

“We have to at least understand that a ban on doing onshore wind is giving up the opportunity of what is increasingly the cheapest form of electricity. I would not personally have that ban on onshore wind,” Lord Turner told the Guardian.

A report by the commission found that the cost of wind power had fallen by 60% in the past five years. The analysis predicted that by 2040, wind and solar would account for 45% of the global power mix, with hydro and nuclear making up another 35%.

“We’re basically saying by 2040, you can get the share of fossil fuel generation down to 20%, and that is quite ambitious,” said Turner. “What is distinctive is the group of people who are making that statement. It’s not just either industry or NGOs, it’s both.”

Membership of the commission, founded in 2015 to examine how energy systems can be changed to avoid dangerous global warming, includes the fossil fuel giants Shell and BHP Billiton, plus Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the investment manager Blackrock and the green thinktank the European Climate Foundation.

The group said that by 2035, wind and solar could provide 98% of power in developed countries such as Germany and the UK, with gas power stations or batteries providing backup. Nuclear would not grow its share because of cost, while progress on carbon capture and storage of emissions from coal and gas power stations had been “too slow”.

Of Donald Trump, who recently issued an executive order rolling back Barack Obama’s clean power plan, Turner said: “The Trump presidency is not good for climate change, we can’t pretend otherwise.” But he said renewable energy had such momentum in the US and globally that Trump would be unable to deliver a “fatal setback”.

UK operates coal-free for a day

The United Kingdom went without coal power for 24 hours on April 21, reported National Grid, the system operator for the country’s electric grid.

National Grid confirmed via Twitter that it had successfully supplied UK electricity demand without coal generation, adding that the average generation mix consisted about  50.3 percent natural gas, 21.2 percent nuclear, wind 12.2 percent wind, 6.7 percent biomass, solar 3.6 percent and 8.3 percent imports, the bulk of which were from France and the Netherlands.

National Grid said it was likely be the first continuous working day without coal in Britain since the Industrial Revolution.

As part of its carbon reduction strategy and renewable energy goals, the UK government has pledged it will phase out all unabated coal-fired power stations by 2025. According to U.K.-based Carbon Brief, around 4 gigawatts (GW) of coal capacity closed in 2016, leaving 15 GW still operating. Since 2010, 8.4 GW have closed.

According to trade association Energy UK, in 2015, 22 percent of the country’s electricity supply came from coal-fired power stations, nine of which are currently operating.

Fife town ready for potential new £20m district heating scheme

A major new multi-million pound district heating project, bringing affordable low carbon heat to homes and businesses in Glenrothes, could be a reality by the end of the decade.

A planning application has already been submitted by Fife Council for the construction of ‘Glenrothes Heat’, a heat distribution network utilising the output from the RWE-run biomass plant at Markinch.

And the public are being given the chance to see and comment on the ambitious project at a consultation event later this month.

The proposed heating scheme is designed to heat businesses, public facilities and offices and up to 372 homes in the town centre catchment area once fully operational.

As well as supporting business growth and reducing fuel poverty, the scheme will contribute to Scotland’s long term climate change targets and move to low carbon energy sources.

And with the support of the Scottish Government and applications for substantial funding currently being processed, the aim is to commission the project by September 2018 and make the first connections as early as January 2019.

Around £8.5m is expected to be secured from the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Infrastructure Programme Fund, while £7m has also been committed by RWE Markinch Ltd who are partnering Fife Council on the project.

Once operational, Glenrothes Heat will mean a 10 per cent reduction in existing heating costs, and reduce environmental taxes for businesses and other public sector users.

The project will also help guarantee the future of the RWE’s CHP Biomass plant at Markinch, which has been looking to fulfill it’s supply potential since the demise of Tullis Russell paper plant in 2015.

Currently undergoing a 12-week consultation period, residents and business owners are being called upon to give their views and learn more about the scheme at a special public event being held at Auchmuty Learning Centre, Alexander Road, Glenrothes on Thursday, April 27 from 9.30am - 7pm.

UK 'bolsters' global green dream

UK companies working in the wind, wave and tidal energy sectors are exporting goods and services worldwide on a large scale, according to a new report from RenewableUK.

The report – ‘Export Nation: A Year in UK Wind, Wave and Tidal Exports – sampled 36 UK-based companies that signed more than 500 contracts to work on renewable energy projects in 43 countries last year.

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The contracts ranged in value from £50,000 up to £30m each and include Gaia-Wind in Glasgow, which is exporting small onshore wind turbines to Tonga, and JDR Cables, which is manufacturing subsea power cables in Hartlepool for German offshore wind farms, R-UK said.

The report noted that the UK is also exporting its knowledge, with renewable energy consultancies in Bristol, Newcastle, Colchester and Winchester, winning contracts to plan and oversee the development of wind farms and other renewable energy projects in countries such as USA, China, India, Chile, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan and Mauritius.

R-UK executive director Emma Pinchbeck said: “We need to act swiftly to retain this competitive advantage or other nations will capitalise on the hard work our businesses have done to build opportunities.”

Image: JDR are manufacturing subsea cables for German offshore wind farms (JDR)

Report: UK firms tapping £290bn global renewables market

RenewableUK publishes study detailing how its members are taking advantage of massive export opportunities in the wind and marine energy market

UK renewable energy firms are consistently signing multi-million pound export contracts, securing themselves a foothold in a fast-expanding global market worth $290bn a year.

That is the conclusion of a new study from trade body RenewableUK, which assesses the export activity of an illustrative sample of 36 of its members in the wind, wave, and tidal energy sector.

The report found the companies had collectively signed more than 500 contracts to work on renewable energy projects in 43 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, Australasia, and the Americas.

The contracts covered in the sample ranged in size from £50,000 to £30m and were generated by both manufacturing and consultancy companies from across the country.

For example, Sustainable Marine Energy in Edinburgh is manufacturing tidal turbine platforms for a project in Singapore, while JDR Cables in Hartlepool is working on infrastructure for German offshore wind farms.

The government-backed wave and tidal test centres off the coasts of Cornwall and Orkney are also said to be generating export opportunities by attracting firms from around the world to test their technologies in real world conditions.

The report, entitled 'Export Nation: A Year in UK Wind, Wave and Tidal Exports', comes just weeks after the latest official data from the Office for National Statistics revealed exports for the UK Low Carbon and Renewable Energy Economy topped £4.11bn in 2015.

RenewableUK's executive director Emma Pinchbeck said the report confirms clean energy as a "great British success story", but warned the UK must maintain its leadership position in the global renewables market post-Brexit.

"We need to act swiftly to retain this competitive advantage or other nations will capitalise on the hard work our businesses have done to build opportunities," she said in a statement. "This year, as part of its Industrial Strategy, the government will be looking to identify and support world-leading, innovative industries with global trade potential. This report shows that the UK's wind and marine energy sectors can offer much to the government's Industrial Strategy. Britain must secure its position as a leading exporter in tomorrow's global energy market". 

Further reading

Energy UK Outlines Country’s Pathway To Low-Carbon Transition

Clean Power uk wind turbines

Published on April 21st, 2017 | by Joshua S Hill

April 21st, 2017 by

Energy UK, the country’s energy trade association, has published a report in which it outlines the necessary steps the industry believes the Government must take to transition to a low-carbon economy, including the need for energy efficiency to become a national priority for policy makers.

The need for strong policy certainty in the UK is a long way from reality, sadly, given the many machinations of the current Government, which has out-and-out attempted to weasel out of clean energy and climate targets, delayed necessary policy decisions, and will likely create further uncertainty as the country heads to a surprise general election. However, UK environmental and energy organizations are all attempting to mitigate the problems by imploring the Government to give some sign of how it will support the climate, environment, and energy industry moving forward. Just this week, a joint-letter signed by eleven organizations and numerous well-known advocates called on the UK Government not to “scale down” environmental measures in an imaginary effort to smooth post-Brexit trade deals. At the same time, renewable energy trade bodies in the UK called on the Government to ensure that clean technologies were apart of the long-awaited Industrial Strategy.

Joining the call, therefore, Energy UK — the country’s trade association for the energy industry as a whole — published a new report in which it outlines the industry’s vision and recommendations for how the Government should help to drive the country’s transition to a low-carbon economy. The new report, Pathways to a low carbon future, calls for “a whole system approach” to developing a low-carbon society which will require “a vision to take us through the transition and transformation necessary, with buy-in from government, all political parties, the public, business, and industry.”

“Our new report highlights the need for a long-term, certain and holistic policy framework that will ensure the UK meets its carbon targets at the least cost to consumers,” explained Lawrence Slade, chief executive of Energy UK.

“As the report from the Committee on Climate Change found only last month energy efficiency measures have already been cancelling out the low carbon policy costs for the typical household. The industry believes that energy efficiency should be a national priority to make the transition to a low carbon economy more affordable for both consumers and businesses.

 “To tackle climate change we need to have an honest debate about benefits and costs. All sectors including heat and transport need to work together and play their part in the same way the energy industry has done for decades.”

Among the key messages the report puts forward, it deems it most important that policies for power, heat, and transport are better coordinated, and that policy evolution does not undermine past, current, and future investment opportunities due to unforeseen regulatory changes. This is especially important as the transport and heat sectors are set to undergo an electrification which will increase the role of the power sector. As such, the authors of the report state that the country’s Electricity Market Reform program already provides “the right tools for the transition” and that competitive access to support schemes “ensures that the market can deliver at least cost to consumers.”

“Energy UK believes the power sector will continue to decarbonise, through a range of low carbon technologies,” the authors of the new report conclude. “Many of these technologies still require financing support to compete effectively with more traditional forms of generation. Setting out the funding available through the Contracts for Difference at least four years ahead of delivery will help provide investors with the information needed to get low carbon projects delivered.”

Further, delivering on their belief that energy efficiency needs to be a top priority, the report notes that “UK homes are highly energy inefficient compared with our European neighbours, if we want to meet our fifth carbon budget targets, much more needs to be done to reduce the amount of energy required to heat our homes.”

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Jaguar Land Rover CEO latest to warn of Brexit effects on UK industry

The chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover has become the latest business leader to warn on the effects of Brexit.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ralf Speth, said that his company might not be able to attract top engineers after Britain leaves the EU, due to higher immigration controls.

He told the programme that he is pushing for “free and fair access” to other EU markets as well as Turkey after the split.

Coventry-based JLR is a multinational company with operations in countries including India, China, Brazil, Slovakia and Austria.

Earlier this week, the company posted record-breaking annual global sales, according to media reports, smashing the 600,000 barrier for the first time in its history.

But experts have warned that the automotive industry may be one of the hardest hit sectors as a result of Brexit, due to its global exposure and its reliance on overseas talent.

The number of cars built in the UK hit a 17-year high last year and more cars are being exported than ever before, but in January the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders  warned that a failure to establish proper trade deals after Brexit could damage the industry “beyond repair”.

More than one in two cars produced in the UK in 2016 was exported to Europe, thanks to a 7.5 per cent increase in demand from the Continent.

Global appetite for British-built cars rose by 10.3 per cent to an all-time high of just over 1.3 million – a second consecutive annual record.

£8.6m UK research programme on greenhouse gas removal

20 April 2017New research will investigate ways to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to counteract global warming.The UK is committed to the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep global temperature rise well below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1·5°C above pre-industrial levels. Alongside significant emission reductions, large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere could considerably increase the likelihood of achieving this goal. Researchers know there are ways to approach this challenge but they have yet to be demonstrated on scales that are climatically-significant. Major questions remain around their feasibility, as well as impacts on society and public attitudes.To help answer these questions, the £8·6 million Greenhouse Gas Removal Research Programme will evaluate the potential and wider implications of a variety of options. For example, researchers will investigate the potential for increasing carbon storage in agricultural soil and forests, and new ways to remove methane gas from the air on a local scale. Other researchers will look into using waste materials from mining as a greenhouse gas removal technique, and explore how bioenergy crops could be used in power stations in combination with carbon capture and storage methods. Recognising that the UK alone cannot solve these problems, the research will address the political, socio-economic, technological and environmental issues concerning the potential for greenhouse gas removal on a global scale.The programme is jointly funded by NERC, the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC), the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The Met Office and the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) are providing in-kind support.Professor Tim Wheeler, Director for Science & Innovation at NERC, said:'The UK research community is addressing the challenges of climate change by providing world-leading, independent research to inform decision-making that will ensure future wellbeing and prosperity for the UK and internationally. This new Greenhouse Gas Removal programme will shed light on how new approaches could be used to prevent the effects of climate change, alongside reducing emissions, aligning with the UK's commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement. This multi-disciplinary research embodies the research councils' shared commitment to working together to provide vital answers to society's most pressing questions.'Four interdisciplinary, multi-institute consortium and seven topic-specific projects have been awarded funding. Around 100 researchers from 40 UK universities and partner organisations will be involved, and seven research studentships providing PhD training will also be supported.Summaries of the projects can be found in the notes below. Full abstracts can be read on Grants on the Web- external link.

Era of $100 a barrel and Big Oil gone for good warns EU and UK energy adviser

Energy advisor Dieter Helm Energy advisor Dieter Helm

"I usually put a £5 bet on the oil price - and I'm collecting," says Professor Dieter Helm.

It's not difficult to imagine his tally of modest wagers adding up. The highly regarded Oxford University economics professor is a long-time industry observer. During the week he was in London after taking meetings with major oil executives. He is also a familiar face in Whitehall and Brussels, where he advises - both formally and informally - on the trends reshaping global energy markets.

Still, his stakes will be trillions of dollars lower than the energy leaders he advises.

If Helm is to be believed the oil market downturn is only getting started. The latest collapse is the harbinger of a global energy revolution which could spell the end-game for fossil fuels. These theories were laughable less than a decade ago when oil prices grazed highs of more than $140 a barrel. But the burn out of the oil industry is approaching quicker than was first thought, and the most senior leaders within the industry are beginning to take note.

In the past, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has faced down criticism that its global energy market forecasts have overestimated the role of oil and underplayed the boom in renewable energy sources.

But last month the tone changed. The agency warned oil and gas companies that failing to adapt to the climate policy shift away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner energy would leave a total of $1 trillion in oil assets and $300bn in natural gas assets stranded.

For oil companies who heed Helm's advice, the route ahead is a ruthless harvest-and-exit strategy. This would mean an aggressive slashing of capital expenditure, pumping of remaining oil reserves while keeping costs to the floor and paying out very high dividends.

"They'd never do it because no company board would contemplate running a smaller company tomorrow than today. It's not in the zeitgeist of the corporate world we're in, but that's what they should do," Helm says.

BP and Royal Dutch Shell are slowly shifting from oil to gas and making even more tentative steps in the direction of low-carbon energy. But Helm is not entirely convinced that oil giants have grasped the speed with which the industry is undergoing irrevocable change.

"As the oil price fell, at each point, oil executives said that the price would go back up again," says Helm. "What the oil companies did was borrow to pay their dividends on the assumption that this is a temporary problem. It's my view that it is permanent," he adds.

For a start, there is scant precedent for the price highs of recent decades. Between 1900 to the late 1960s oil prices fluctuated in a range between $15 a barrel to just above $30 - even through two world wars, population growth and a revolution in transport and industry.

It was geopolitical events which caused oil prices to surge by more than $100 a barrel following the Middle East oil embargoes of the late 1960s and early 1970s. They collapsed back to $20 by the '80s.

So, what drove oil prices to the heady levels of $140 a barrel just less than 10 years ago?

"China," says Helm, barely missing a beat. "If you look at both the rapid growth in emissions and the rapid growth of oil, fossil fuel and all commodity prices, it was while China was doubling its economy every seven years. This is a phenomenal rate."

The global oil market has managed to cling on to a fragile recovery with prices now between $50 and $55 a barrel, but Helm argues that the economic drive to keep producing even as the industry shifts to a low carbon future means prices may continue to fall - forever.

"As prices come down you'd expect producers to supply less - that's normal economics. On the contrary, in oil as output falls the production goes up. Why? Because the marginal cost of production in the Middle East is around $10 and the marginal cost in Russia is $20. So even at $50 you're making a profit. And if you're an authoritarian regime and you need $100 oil to balance the country's budget while surrounded by radicals and insurgents, then you pump as much as you can," Helm says.

"Even if you're getting less per barrel, you must get the money to keep your budgets going. And that's exactly what has happened," he says of the inevitable price collapse. "Slowly companies have adjusted to the idea that maybe we won't see $100 oil again. Then, maybe not even $80 to $90. Now, even $60 oil seems a bit aspirational. But there is still a dominant zeitgeist within the oil majors that there is one last hoorah to come. I don't think there is."

The two major demand centres for oil are petrochemicals and transport fuel. The theory previously held in the corridors of major oil company headquarters is that increasing affluence in Asia means that soon more and more families will own two cars. As population booms, the number of cars on the road could increase exponentially.

But slowly, the oil companies are beginning to come around to Helm's view that the burgeoning market for electric vehicles may have been underestimated and could radically change the outlook for oil demand.

The global dash for gas is a multi-billion-dollar bet that Shell was happy to take last year, when it defied tumbling oil market prices to snap up BG Group for £40bn. The former British Gas subsidiary is now a global leader in producing and transporting gas that is compressed into liquid form to be carried on tankers and sold on the international market.

After the oil market downturn, Shell says the new BG tie-up will be a springboard to profitability in the near term and will help to "future-proof" the company against diminishing demand for oil.

Helm believes: "Short of a nasty war - which itself would bring a price spike but not a recovery - I can't see any reason for oil prices to go up.

"Curiously, I think many of the people in oil companies agree with me on that. What they don't agree with is the short term." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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