Bank of England calls on banks and insurers to step up climate risk oversight

Prudential Regulation Authority recommends that boards task a senior executive with managing climate risks

The Bank of England (BoE) will today step up calls for financial institutions to better manage climate risks, with the release of formal recommendations detailing how banks and insurers should identify a senior executive for managing climate-related risks.

In what is thought to be the first such move by a central bank anywhere in the world, the BoE's Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) is reportedly set to publish a draft supervisory statement instructing companies to ensure a senior figure is in place who can report to the board on climate-related risks and opportunities.

The bank is poised to warn that a failure to strengthen climate risk governance arrangements could resultin tougher regulations and the risk of penalties.

The move is the latest in a string of interventions from central banks to encourage more businesses to enhance their climate risk disclosure and will fuel speculation that reporting in line with the recommendations of the Taskforce of Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFDs) could become mandatory.

Only last week 18 central banks, including those of England, Germany, France, Japan and China, issued a statement warning financial risks arising from climate change are "system-wide and potentially irreversible if not addressed".

It also comes in the wake of green law group ClientEarth writing to a number of regulators and listed firms to warn legal action could soon follow if they fail to strengthen their climate risk disclosure practices.

Dr Ben Caldecott, founding Director of the Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme at the University of Oxford, said the recommendations from the PRA were part of a wider trend.

"The Bank of England is making clear that supervisory expectations are changing and that the regulator will now be factoring climate-related risk explicitly into different aspects of banking and insurance supervision," he said in a statement. "This is a logical next step as the Bank of England has repeatedly highlighted the potential risks to firm solvency and financial stability from climate change. Other regulators in the UK, such as the Financial Conduct Authority, as well as regulators internationally, will almost certainly follow suit."

He also stressed that ensuring senior executives take responsibility for managing climate-change risks and face board-level accountability for doing should "undoubtedly spur greater action". "Financial institutions now need to develop credible and robust plans for measuring and managing climate-related risks," he advised. "Among other things, they need to determine what analytical capabilities they require and how they intend to resource them."

Jon Williams, PwC Partner and a member of the TCFD, said significant changes were required across the banking and insurance sectors in response to the new recommendations.

"It's encouraging that some banks and insurers are now taking climate-related financial risks seriously, but there's still lots of progress to be made to ensure resilience through the transition to a lower-carbon economy," he said. "The PRA's own survey shows that whilst 70 per cent of banks see climate change as a financial risk, only 10 per cent of them are managing these risks comprehensively. The TCFD status report, published last month, also shows that the majority of banks are not disclosing on climate governance and find it challenging to integrate climate change into business strategy and risk management."

The intervention comes as a number of banks and financial institutions responded to last week's IPCC report on the urgent need for deep and rapid decarbonisation by warning investment markets would have to transform over the coming decades.

A note from banking giant UBS said investors could support the IPCC report's recommended goal of delivering a net zero emission global economy by 2050 by pursuing attractive renewable energy investment opportunities, supporting the transition to electric cars, and backing green financial instruments.

"By choosing sustainable investing options, investors can contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions, along with other positive goals, without sacrificing economic returns," the note stated. "Green bonds, typically, have the same seniority as conventional bonds, yet their investment proceeds are ring-fenced for green projects, such as carbon reduction. BlackRock finds that a $1m investment in the bonds that form the Bloomberg Barclays MSCI Green Bond index represents over 2,000 tonnes of CO2 avoided, in addition to over 88 million litres of water saved, and other positive contributions."

Separately, credit ratings agency Moody's launched a new quarterly Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) themed research compilation - dubbed ESG Focus - which will pool together the agency's ESG research and green bond assessments.

And investment management firm Brooks Macdonald last week launched a new Responsible Investment Service, which will offer clients investment strategies that either avoid certain companies or sectors or seek to step up support for firms with strong ESG track records.

Meanwhile, the Natural Capital Finance Alliance (NCFA) published a report last week - entitled Connecting Finance and Natural Capital: A Supplement to the Natural Capital Protocol - which provides advice on how investors can better assess their impact on natural capital.

The latest green investment developments come against a backdrop of further reminders of the huge scale of the reforms that will be required to deliver a genuinely sustainable investment community.

A separate report last week from the US non-profit Consumer Watchdog revealed the top 10 US insurance companies continue to hold $51bn in fossil fuel assets, while eight out of 10 have not altered their investment strategies in any way to address escalating climate risks.

The report came as a new coalition of public-interest groups came together under the banner Insure Our Future to call on US insurance companies to divest from coal and tar sands companies.


National Museum focuses on saving planet with sustainability showcase

International climate experts this week issued the starkest warning yet about the perilous state of the planet and the urgent need for humankind to take major action to limit global warming.

It might seem an impossible task to many, but a new green showcase at the National Museum of Scotland could offer some hope for the future.

A programme of events being staged this week, entitled Our Green Future, will allow visitors to learn all about sustainability and eco-friendly living.

There will be a host of interactive and hands-on activities around wildlife conservation, renewable energy and recycling.

The museum has also scheduled a series of special Science Saturdays, which focus on themes highlighting the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths.

As part of the activities, members of RSPB Scotland’s Dolphinwatch team showed off plastic litter found during beach cleans to illustrate the dangers to wildlife from man-made debris and to encourage recycling.

Clare Meakin, science engagement manager for National Museums Scotland, said: “We’ve run Science Saturdays on all sorts of different science topics like anatomy, coding, encryption and even viruses and bacteria.

“It’s fantastic to have both our curators and learning teams at these events, and also people who do active research or work in science careers that explore the world around us and look at how it’s changed over time.

“Our Green Future – the theme for our activities over half-term – will look at different aspects of our environment and what impact we have.

“We’ll be exploring more about plastics, what they are, how we use them and what we can do to reduce impact on the environment through our own actions. Scotland is a world leader in developing new green technologies, so we’ll be exploring renewable energy and we’ll be talking about nature’s recyclers and looking at some of our insect collections with our entomologist.”

Meakin said she believed the museum offered a unique opportunity for people get to grips with novel concepts and complicated technologies.

“Having something physically in front of you can really help to understand more about science ideas and new research and how that relates to our lives now and in the future,” she said.

Adam Ross, membership and engagement officer for RSPB Scotland, said getting up close and examining the rubbish found on beaches can turn up nasty surprises, particularly the length of time some commonly discarded items take to decompose.

“The likes of cigarettes can take years, although most people think because they’re made of paper they will disappear very quickly,” he said.

“Banana skins can be over a year as well. Things that people think are biodegradable often aren’t.”

Funding for the collaboration came from the ScottishPower Foundation.

Ann McKechin, trustee and executive officer for the organisation, said: “Both National Museums Scotland and RSPB Scotland have vast amounts of knowledge and insights into how we can make our lives more sustainable.” Our Green Future starts today and runs until Friday in the museum’s Hawthornden Court.


Fair Isle gets 24-hour electricity for the first time

There will be no more scrabbling for torches or lighting candles in the night on Fair Isle as the island gets a 24-hour electricity supply for the first time.

Residents of the island, which sits halfway between Orkney and Shetland and has a population of 55, used to have their power supply turned off between 11.30pm and 7.30am.

The three windturbines will be supported by solar panels and massive battery packs. PIC: Contributed.

The three windturbines will be supported by solar panels and massive battery packs. PIC: Contributed.

Electricity was powered by wind and two generators, with the costly diesel-run kit switched off overnight to save resources.

READ MORE: From Fair Isle to the Faroes, 150 years of the shipping forecast

While some residents built back-up battery supplies for their homes and businesses - including the island’s shop in order to keep its freezers running - many were left powerless throughout the night.

Now, a round-the clock supply has been secured with a £3.5 million renewable electricity system officially launched today.

READ MORE: Nurse wanted for one of Scotland’s most remote islands

Fair Isle Electricity Company (FIEC), the community-led organisation that led the energy project, hopes the stable supply will help to draw more people to live and work on the island.

Robert Mitchell, company director of FIEC who also runs the Fair Isle shop and post office with his wife Fiona, said the new system would save islander’s money given battery back up would no longer be required and generators seldom used.

Mr Mitchell said: We have had times in the past when the children were young and they wouldn’t be very well, they’d be having a bad night, and you would be trying to find a torch.

“Also, if we had an emergency here and a nurse was being called out to see a sick person that we had to get out of bed to go and put the generators on so we could go an alert the coastguard and so on.

“Power on the island has always been a major hurdle and now that has been overcome.”

Mr Mitchell said he hoped the new power supply would help boost the population of the island, which has fallen from just over 80 to 55 over the past 25 years.

He said: “The population has been in slow decline. You get families come and they might stay for a couple of years. Quite often they the reason is there is not enough income and they don’t like having the power go off.

“We asked all the islanders for help working out what was needed. We asked children who moved away what, if they moved back, what they would like to see. They said they would want 24-hour access to the internet.”

Other planned community-led projects on Fair Isle include the building of one and two-bedroom properties to offer good housing to single people and couples as well as improvements to the ferry service.

The new energy system combines three wind turbine generators, ground-mounted solar panels and battery storage with the generators to be retained for emergencies.

Diesel to run the equipment cost around £1,500 a month with transportation costs by ferry an added expense, Mr Mitchell said.

“It’s has been an ambitious project and is another step in ensuring that the community of Fair Isle continues to thrive,” he added.

The new system was backed by £1.5 million from the Scottish Government and £250,000 from development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The 24-hour power system has been working for two weeks with the official launch of the project today.

Scottish Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse said: “Those of us living on the mainland of Scotland can often take reliable supplies of electricity for granted.

“This has never been possible for the islanders of Fair Isle.

“The reality of having, for the first time in their history, 24-hour supplies of electricity presents exciting prospects for the Fair Isle community, who will not only benefit from access to a reliable electricity supply around the clock, but also now have in place a new cleaner, greener energy system.”

Alan Rankin, Islands Operational Manager at National Trust for Scotland, which owns the island and most of the properties on it, said: “This is a big milestone for the community of Fair Isle.

“The new renewable energy system is going to make a massive difference to them all and to the future of the island. A huge congratulations to all involved in the project which the Trust was pleased to play a part in supporting.”


Joyce McMillan: Why politicians are failing to tackle climate change

The growing problems being caused by global warming show the need to curb our elaborate Western lifestyles, but politicians can’t seem to stop talking about economic growth in old-fashioned material terms, writes Joyce McMillan

It has been a bad week for those who hope – or ardently believe – that climate breakdown caused by human activity is not really happening. Just a month after hurricane Florence administered a savage battering to the coast and inland areas of North Carolina, hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida panhandle on Tuesday, while in north-east India, 300,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in Odisha state because of a massive approaching cyclone. Ten people died in Majorca after unusually intense October rainstorms swept the western Mediterranean.

And here in Scotland, we are bracing ourselves again, just three weeks after storm Ali, for a new storm called Callum, which is expected to wreak some havoc down the western side of the country today. And comfort ourselves as we may with tales of dramatic weather events gone by, and of humanity’s perpetual tendency to imagine that the world is coming to an end, the story told by climate science, and emphatically repeated in this week’s latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is implacable, and profoundly alarming. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere warms the planet, and we have been pumping out Co2 at unprecedented rates for almost two centuries now, creating a rapid change in the Earth’s fine climate balance which is evident in recent disrupted weather patterns, and will soon reach a level that our familiar ecosphere cannot withstand.

READ MORE: Ruth Davidson: Real Conservatives fight climate change

So if we set the natural impulse of denial to one side for a moment – along with the politically motivated denial of right-wing environment-wreckers like Donald Trump – and accept that the IPCC’s dire predictions are accurate, what should we be doing to try to stabilise our climate? The answer, according to the IPCC, is simple. We need to stop using carbon-based fuels almost entirely over the next generation, and drastically reduce their consumption within the next 12 years; otherwise global warming will rise beyond 1.5 degrees centigrade, setting in motion feedback mechanisms that will lead to runaway change.

Nor are we short of technologies which can replace fossil fuels; it has been repeatedly demonstrated that we now have the ability to supply all the energy needs of the current global human population from solar and wind power alone. The forces stopping our rapid transition to a low-carbon and no-carbon economy are not technical or practical, in other words; they are psychological, and profoundly political.

And this is where the story becomes interesting, although not less frightening; for the truth is that even those governments which are fully signed up to the carbon reduction are still not moving at anything like the necessary pace. The Scottish Government, for example, is something of an international poster-child in tackling climate change, praised by the UN as “exemplary” in its approach to carbon reduction.

READ MORE: Lesley Riddoch: Scotland can lead the way on climate change if it acts now

Yet while Nicola Sturgeon once again trumpeted Scotland’s environmental credentials in her SNP conference speech on Tuesday – and while Scotland is undoubtedly one of the nations on Earth best placed to move rapidly to an economy based on renewable energy – she devoted only three lines of her 50-minute speech to the subject, and simply avoided any mention of what Scotland would actually have to do, in order to meet the IPCC’s climate schedule.

And this, as she has occasionally acknowledged herself, is because almost all of the easy, low-hanging fruit in carbon reduction has gone, with the closure of old coal-fired power stations. This week, a powerful report from the London-based Carbon Disclosure Project argued that just 100 large transnational corporations are now responsible for 71 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions; and that suggests that we are now entering a time-frame where saving the planet is no longer about individuals making tiny voluntary lifestyle changes, but about massive co-ordinated government action to confront those corporations, and to restructure our society so that climate-wrecking lifestyles are simply no longer available.

And of course, it is extremely unlikely that any government seriously seeking re-election will walk into the political hurricane involved in that task. Challenge Western voters’ right to drive around at will, or to eat a diet of meaty junk-burgers if they choose, and you run the risk of simply handing their vote to the next opportunistic climate-change denying populist. And any government that commits to confronting major corporations about their role in climate breakdown will not only risk a serious loss of investment and jobs, but will also be challenging more than a generation of dogmatic belief, across the West, that business knows better than government, and that the way to a bright future for us all is for government to stand clear, and leave corporations and consumers to get on with it.

Scotland’s Government is almost as good as they get when it comes to climate change, in other words. Yet it still cannot stop talking about economic growth, measured in old-fashioned material terms, as an unquestioned good; it cannot stop building roads, in which it invests far more than in public transport; it does not confront Britain’s archaic landholding system, which sells off the very life-sustaining fabric of the country on a global open market; and it dare not, in most areas, confront the big corporations which are trashing our world for short-term profit.

So of course, I am not optimistic about the chance of Scotland, far less the world community as a whole, making the decisions on climate change that now have to be made, to avert disaster. What I know, though, is that our hope of finding our way through this crisis-point in human history will depend first on our ability to name the obstacles we face, and to confront them honestly and squarely. The brute fact is that our elaborate Western lifestyles probably cannot survive this crisis in their present form; and that the current imbalance of power between government and a turbo-charged form of global capitalism makes the necessary change impossible within the time-frame before us. And once we fully acknowledge that – well, there is just a chance that the tectonic plates of our society can begin to shift, and that the juggernaut of the economic system we have built can be halted and re-engineered, before it crushes us all.


Funding Secured for UK’s First Hydrogen Injection System on a Ferry

Innovate UK have granted £430,332 of funding to design and integrate a hydrogen diesel dual fuel injection system onboard a commercial ferry.

Members of the HyDIME consortium at the kick-off meeting at Ferguson Marine (Credit Ferguson Marine)

The hydrogen to be used in the project will be produced by the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, from the abundance of clean renewable energy sources available on the islands and will power a ferry operating between the main town of Kirkwall and the island of Shapinsay.

The 12-month HyDIME (Hydrogen Diesel Injection in a Marine Environment) project, formally started on 1st August 2018, will provide a stepping stone to de-risk and kick-start future hydrogen marine projects and contribute to reducing emissions within the maritime industry.

Led by Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited, the project will be executed by a consortium consisting of Orkney Islands Council, High Speed Sustainable Manufacturing Institute (HSSMI), the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), and Lloyds Register. The project will apply, with Ultra Low Emission Mileage Company (ULEMCo), a globally unique technology in hydrogen dual fuel.

With the need to reduce harmful emissions, using hydrogen as a fuel is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to fossil fuels. Hydrogen/diesel injection technology is already being demonstrated within the automotive industry and can significantly reduce harmful emissions.

The aim of HyDIME is to prove the use of hydrogen/diesel injection technology in the marine industry. Ferguson Marine, in conjunction ULEMCo will develop the design of how this technology can work in tandem with existing systems to power auxiliary units onboard vessels.

Following this, the system will be physically integrated and will result in the UK’s first hydrogen injection system on this type of vessel.

Orkney is the ideal location for the HyDIME project. As one of the renewable energy leaders in the UK, Orkney offers the infrastructure to produce completely green hydrogen. On the Island of Eday, there is often a surplus of renewable electricity which, instead of being wasted, is fed into an electrolyser sited at EMEC’s tidal test facility. The electrolyser splits water into hydrogen and oxygen, the former of which can then be stored and transported.

As part of the project, HSSMI will conduct a scale-up analysis and carry out a techno-economic assessment of the current system and of potential future scenarios. The aim is to determine if there are any other regions of the UK where similar hydrogen infrastructure could be implemented, leading to similar and larger projects to contribute towards growing the hydrogen economy in the UK.

Chief Naval Architect of Ferguson Marine Chris Dunn said:

“Over recent years Ferguson Marine has been at the global forefront of green marine propulsion technology development.  This exciting project is yet another positive step on that journey, joining up with world leading technology innovators to move us one step closer to our goal of delivering a zero-emission, hydrogen powered commercial ROPAX ferry by 2020."

Project Manager Tristan Coats of HSSMI said:

“HSSMI have a rich history within the automotive sector, and with a newly opened office in Glasgow, we are looking to transfer our learnings from this industry and our knowledge of advanced manufacturing into different sectors. We believe that developing a hydrogen economy within Scotland and the greater UK is essential for decarbonising transportation and energy production. HyDIME is an exciting first step on this journey."

Jon Clipsham, Hydrogen Manager at EMEC said:

"Orkney has an abundance of renewable electricity which the local grid cannot cope with. This led EMEC to look into alternative ways to store and use electricity so that Orkney’s wind, tidal and wave power potential could be fully realised. Having invested in an electrolyser to generate hydrogen from Eday’s tidal and wind resources, EMEC has been exploring various opportunities to support the development of a hydrogen economy on the islands. The potential for developing hydrogen powered vessels is one of the most exciting prospects, particularly given the number of carbon-intensive inter-island ferries located here. We’re really excited to be part of this project to create a ferry run on a carbon neutral fuel."

Orkney Island Ferries have said:

“Orkney islands council and the Ferry services are very proud to be part of this ground-breaking project; which may lead the way to reducing the many form of pollutants released when using hydrocarbons and lead onto communities producing some of the energy for their own transport.”

Source: https://www.fergusonmarine.com/


Design released for new hydro power site

River Ness hydro

An artist's impression of the structure which will house the new Archimedes screw.

ARTIST’S impressions have been released of a new Inverness hydro power scheme Highland Council hopes will generate "significant interest" among visitors to the city.

The council has submitted a planning application for an Archimedes screw-based water turbine at the Torvean Weir on the River Ness.

The design will be capable of generating up to 600,000 kWh per annum and help to power the sports facilities and Highland Archive Centre in the Bught. Any excess power would be fed into the national grid to generate extra funds for the council.

It is thought it could raise between £90,000 and £120,000 a year. And the structure in which it will sit has been designed to shelter people looking to visit its viewing area.

"This modern, innovative project provides an excellent opportunity for the council to generate income and renewable energy and make savings," said Councillor Allan Henderson, the chairman of the council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee.

"It is a fascinating piece of engineering which in itself should be a feature of significant interest and may hopefully inspire young scientists of tomorrow."


How green is Europe’s tank?

As the need for climate action gets more urgent, new labels give motorists a clearer picture of fuels’ and cars’ eco-friendliness, writes Emmanuel Desplechin.

Emmanuel Desplechin is the Secretary General of the European renewable ethanol association (ePURE).

Motorists across the EU will notice something different at fuel station pumps and on new cars starting this week: a fuel-labelling system that gives clear information about the compatibility of their cars with climate-friendly biofuels they are putting in their tanks.

This change comes at a crucial time, as European policymakers try to respond to public concerns about car emissions. It also comes as international organisations continue to sound the alarm over the urgent need to act on climate change – and underline the importance of sustainable biofuels like ethanol as an important solution.

The new fuel-labelling system, which is due to be implemented across the EU28 and neighbouring countries by 12 October, is meant to help consumers choose the right fuel grade for their cars. Currently, most motorists around the EU are probably not aware that the petrol they are using contains up to 5% renewable ethanol – a biofuel produced sustainably from European crops, wastes and agricultural residues that delivers more than 70% greenhouse gas savings over fossil fuels.

In several countries, petrol is blended with up to 10% ethanol, known as E10; the higher the blend, the greater the greenhouse gas savings.

With the change, fuel grades containing ethanol will now be labelled clearly on pumps as E5 and E10 in all European countries. Fuel flaps on new cars will have the same labels, showing compatible blends. In some places, motorists may even see grades such as E85 – a “super-ethanol” blend that can be used in petrol cars that have been designed to run on petrol and any kind of ethanol blend up to 85%, or have a simple conversion box.

The need for fuels to be greener has never been more urgent. A report issued this week from the UN IPCC showed just how critical it is for governments to act to fight climate change. The intergovernmental panel of climate scientists warned of dire consequences for the planet if measures are not taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Another report from the International Energy Agency sounds a similar alarm, and talks about the significant “untapped potential” of biofuels for decarbonising transport.

The IEA confirms that bioenergy has a huge contribution to make in the global energy future. Among the report’s key conclusions are that there should be a bigger scale-up of conventional and advanced biofuels, and that biofuels and electric vehicles are complementary solutions to decarbonise transport.

Which brings us back to the new labels on fuel pumps and cars. They will do more than just highlight the level of GHG-reducing ethanol in the petrol blends motorists choose. They could also spur drivers to think more about how even a fuel grade can help fight climate change in today’s cars and light-duty vehicles.

That’s important because the EU is pushing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and setting ambitious targets for renewable energy. Transport accounts for one-fifth of EU GHG emissions, and it’s the one sector in which emissions have actually been going up. Electric cars are one solution, but studies show they will not make up a significant share of the EU auto fleet for many years.

Europe still needs to decarbonise the majority of cars and light-duty vehicles that will be using petrol – and that means using ethanol blends like E10. While E10 is available in countries like Finland, Belgium and France, where it is the highest-selling petrol grade, it could do a lot more to help lower emissions from cars on the road today across Europe. With many governments already struggling to meet their national targets for renewables in transport, switching to E10 should be a no-brainer.

And there’s room to do even better. A recent study for the European Commission found that petrol with even higher blends of ethanol has even greater benefits for engine efficiency and for reducing emissions of GHG and harmful pollutants.

Unfortunately, as the IEA report points out, European policy support for biofuels is weakening at a time when they could help deliver even better GHG-reduction results – and at a time when other countries around the world (such as Brazil, China and India) are boosting ethanol as a transport energy solution.

So next time you fill up your petrol car, take a look at the label and think about whether your country could do a better job of driving toward its renewable energy and climate targets.


EDF Energy and Nissan partner to develop second life commercial battery projects in the UK

Published: 11 Oct 2018, 10:02

By:

David Pratt's photo

Under the new partnership, Nissan will develop more C&I second life battery projects similar to the 3MW/2.8MWh energy storage system at Amsterdam’s Johan Cruyff ArenA completed earlier this year. Image: The Mobility House.

EDF Energy has partnered with Nissan to launch a new energy storage proposition using second life batteries with the utility’s proprietary demand side response (DSR) platform in the latest high profile collaboration in the UK energy sector.

The pair have signed a new agreement in Paris which will begin with a joint project to test the business case around using retired batteries from Nissan electric vehicles for commercial battery storage.

Nissan has experience in this field already, having worked with long-term partner Eaton and others to build a 3MW/2.8MWh energy storage system at Amsterdam’s Johan Cruyff ArenA, using 250 second life battery packs with 340 first life battery modules.

According to the car manufacturer, a trial site has been identified in the UK with more details to be announced in the coming weeks. While the types of application being considered more widely have not been restricted, the first project will be at a commercial and industrial site.

The system, under development with EDF Energy, would utilise the French firm’s Powershift platform to quickly release stored electricity into the grid under DSR schemes in the UK. It will also be trialled to see how it can support on site generation while providing greater control and flexibility over energy use and additional revenue streams.

Francisco Carranza, director of energy services for Nissan Europe, said: “We believe electric cars are just the start, and our second life programme ensures batteries from our cars continue to provide energy storage capacity in other applications – in houses, businesses, football stadiums even – long after their life in cars.

“It’s an exciting prospect and we look forward to working closely with EDF Energy on these developments in future.”

Beatrice Bigois, managing director for customers at EDF Energy, and Francisco Carranza, director of energy services for Nissan Europe, signed the agreement today in Paris. Image: Twitter/@edfenergycomms.

EDF has previously stated its plans to become a leader in energy storage, announcing in March that it would invest €8 billion (~£7 billion) in deploying 10GW of new projects by 2035.

Under its Electricity Storage Plan, the utility said it would launch at least three battery projects including the near 50MW West Burton project completed in June to deliver Enhanced Frequency Response to National Grid, with further UK projects planned.

It is not known how the latest partnership for use of second life batteries will feed into these plans.

The new agreement with Nissan also comes as EDF president Jean-Bernard Lévy detailed the group’s strategic plans on electric transport, which refer to the UK-based partnership with Nissan for “the development of shared offerings in the areas of electric mobility, smart charging, second-life battery use, energy storage and renewable energy sources”.

For Nissan, the partnership marks the latest push in the UK following the launch of Nissan Energy Solar in May, offering homeowners a combined solar-plus-storage package utilising its own xStorage battery system developed with long-term partner Eaton.


Construction starts on Strathdearn community hub

© DC Thomson

Six-year-old James Roden, grandson of Tomatin Community Council chairwoman Vivienne Roden prepares to help with the construction of the villages new Community Hub. Picture by Sandy McCook.


Anti-Wind Farm Activism Is Sweeping Europe—and the U.S. Could Be Next

In September, the Netherlands counterterrorism unit the NCTV identified a new group threatening public safety: anti-wind farm activists.

These activists, the NCTV claimed, had “radicalized” to the point that they represented a public risk. The picture the NCTV painted—of a group that has threatened, intimidated, and destroyed the property of politicians and developers—might sound bizarre to the casual follower of the renewable energy industry. But anti-wind farm activism is serious business, and it isn’t limited to the Netherlands.

At the December 2017 inauguration of France’s first offshore wind turbine, protesters set fire to tires in front of police in riot gear. Earlier this year, French protesters went even further, setting fire to wind turbines directly and lodging explosives in others. Across Europe, where last year countries erected about 5,000 wind turbines, the sudden emergence of the towering machines—both on land and offshore— has incited deep-seated anxiety in a small but vocal minority. Anti-wind activists are a diverse patchwork, from local residents stirred by NIMBY-ism to fishermen claiming wind farms displace fish populations to coal workers dreading a renewable energy future.

In the Netherlands, which is home to one of the largest offshore wind farms in the world (150 turbines in total) and which is planning another, even larger offshore wind farm that it will anchor to an artificial island, anti-wind farm activism reached a fever pitch this year. In April, activists distributed pamphlets calling pro-wind farm politicians Nazis and planted flags with swastikas that compare the encroachment of wind turbines to living in “occupied territory.” Farmers who have supported the construction of land-based wind turbines have discovered heavy chains, concrete-filled cans, and iron bars on their property, seemingly left by activists who want to damage their farm equipment.

This July, anti-wind farm activists in the northern regions of Drenthe and Groningen in the Netherlands issued a threatening letter to 34 companies involved in the construction of wind farms. Jan Nieboer, a leader of the anti-wind farm group Platform Storm, told the Dutch news service NOS that he has heard of people buying hand grenades and other explosives for protests.

The complaints of these activists are multitudinous. Many resent the way wind farms are located without their input. Others despise the presence of turbines along their skyline. Some fear that living near wind turbines will cut into their home values (although at least in the United States, research has shown no effect).

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Another sore spot is that the money made from wind farms is rarely shared with the local community. “Communities are almost always more supportive of wind projects when the financial benefits are distributed widely among locals residents, rather than flowing to outside investors,” Bob Darrow, a PhD candidate at UMass Amherst who studies the politics of renewable energy, told Earther.

But, at least for onshore wind farms, the most galvanizing fears revolve around rumors that wind turbines punish the health of local residents. Activists claim that the low noise emitted by turbines triggers everything from persistent headaches to behavioral changes in animals in what they term “wind turbine syndrome,” a concept that scientists have largely rejected.

A 2013 analysis from researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia concluded that although noise from wind turbines can result in “annoyance” and potentially “poorer sleep quality” among residents, “there is no consistent evidence” tying that noise to many of the self-reported health effects. In a 2014 paper, King’s College psychology professors attributed “wind turbine syndrome” to the “nocebo effect”—a psychological phenomenon in which the expectation of negative health outcomes becomes self-fulfilling—and to anxiety about technological encroachment.

“There is also a lot of ‘fake news’ circulating about wind power,” said Darrow. “Often this misinformation is intentionally spread by groups with a vested interest in slowing the adoption of renewable energy.”

One prominent vessel for those false claims is U.S. President Donald Trump. During an August 2018 rally in Indiana, he insisted that people living near wind farms “go crazy after a couple of years,” before adding that wind turbines “kill so many birds” and that resisters “can blow up the windmills” if they need to.

Whether Trump’s rhetoric has stoked more wind energy resistance on the American right is unclear. But even land-based wind, which is a booming industry across parts of the midwestern U.S. and Great Plains, struggles against backlash from rural communities that pushed over 120 local governments to scrap or restrict turbines from 2015 to 2017. Offshore wind, meanwhile, has long struggled to gain a toehold thanks to fierce local opposition.

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In Cape Cod, a 2001 attempt to launch what would have been the U.S.’s first offshore wind farm was abandoned in December 2017 after a decade of lawsuits from local residents concerned about disrupting fishing patterns and coastal views. Rhode Island’s 6-turbine Block Island Wind Farm, which opened in December 2016 after angry locals likened it to “visual pollution,” now holds the title of the first U.S. offshore wind farm.

Recently, U.S. states like Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New York have unveiled ambitious plans to build offshore wind farms that will power hundreds of thousands of homes within the next decade. But UMass professor Erin Baker, who has written about the rise of offshore wind farms, doubts that these projects will see opposition on the scale of Europe because most U.S. offshore wind farms will be located 25 miles or more from the coast. That distance “will not get the general public too interested,” Baker told Earther. Fears about “wind turbine syndrome” tend to dissipate when a wind farm is far offshore, and 25 miles is roughly the distance where wind farms become invisible from the shore, pre-empting complaints of visual pollution.

What’s more, only a small subset of the U.S. population actually opposes wind farm development. Just a quarter of residents living within half a mile of a wind farm have a “ negative” or “very negative” view of wind farms, while three-quarters take a neutral or positive view, according to a poll of Americans from researchers at the California-based Berkeley Lab. And most Americans, including roughly 8 in 10 Republicans, support expanding wind and solar energy, according to a May 2018 Pew poll.

In Europe too, the number of people who oppose wind farms is quite small. In the Dutch region of Groningen, where wind farm opposition is at its strongest, only 2 percent of people have reported experiencing “a form of hinder in their everyday life by windmills,” according to statistics that University of Groningen researcher Tom Postmes shared with Earther. In Denmark, where wind turbines accounted for an unprecedented 43.4 percent of the nation’s electricity last year, at least 8 in 10 people support their construction.

Still, the anti-wind minority remains an exceptionally vocal one. Especially for onshore wind farms, resistance in Denmark has grown so intense that it has become nearly impossible for some local governments to approve turbines, according to Darrow. “In many municipalities, officials are hesitant to support wind projects for fear of the public backlash such proposals inevitably generate,” he said.

One strategy to quell that backlash is for wind energy proponents to work more closely with nearby communities about where to site wind farms so that they will be the least disruptive. Denmark has seen some success engaging with fishermen to build offshore wind farms away from prime fishing territory, for instance.

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But if there’s one thing proponents of wind energy have learned in Europe, Darrow said, it’s “not to get overconfident about the public supporting their projects.” And while U.S. opposition hasn’t reached the kind of fever pitch that it has across the Atlantic, it seems unlikely that the renewable energy source will continue to spread without a few fights.

Michael Waters is a freelance writer and a junior at Pomona College.