There’s been a lot of surprise at the extent to which prices to be paid to offshore windfarm developers have fallen over the past 4-5 years but one factor is, as reported in the Energy Flux newsletter , simply that the latest offshore wind turbines are expected to last for maybe 35 years. That is around twice as long as the earlier wind turbines were expected to last.
The Government’s new nuclear power construction financing mechanism, the so-called ‘Regulatory Asset Base’ (RAB), is likely to cost energy consumers an average of well over £1000 each added onto their electricity bills. On top of that energy consumers will have carry on paying on top of this for an as-yet-undecided amount for each kWh generated by Sizewell C.
One of the key discussions at the COP26 summit in Glasgow has been the practicalities of building a cross-continental electricity interconnector system, and this may be rather more practical than some of the commentators have implied. It could, indeed, eventually turn into a global energy system where solar pv as well as wind power and other renewables, could supply power 24/7 with a much-reduced need for storage for systems dominated by renewable energy.
George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, should be roundly condemned for his statement that ‘the technology (heat pumps) is not quite there yet‘. Well, there’s plenty of examples of heat pumps working in this country! The point is that Government policy is practically nowhere to be seen! The big factor in the way of further technological development is the Government’s own policies which have seen big cutbacks in the amount of money available for people to install heat pumps.
Under the RHI people were able to claim funding support of between around £6000 and £11000 over 7 years, depending on the size of their homes, for an air source heat pump. But now, under the new clean heat grant scheme starting in April 2022, people will only be able to claim a one-off payment of £500o. Moreover support is limited to just 30,000 applicants a year, little more than the current annual uptake.
Carbon neutral synthetic fuel whose production is powered by renewable energy is a practical way of long-term storage of renewable energy. But it is no surprise that the big energy corporations with their fossil fuel and nuclear power interests don’t advise Governments to support this – but when it can help the US military, well, it’s just chocks away chaps! The irony is that this system was researched in the UK only a few years ago at a pilot stage, and then……you’ve guessed it…….completely ignored by the UK Government in favour of kooky ideas like small nuclear reactors and blue hydrogen – not to mention large nuclear power plant that take forever to be built incredible cost!
Now that we’ve had a gas price spike the ever-behind-the-curve mouthpieces of the average suited conservative like the Economist magazine are blaming the politics of climate transition for the problem. But their story is exposed as nonsense by the exposition of some rather simple facts.
The much-trumpeted ‘new’ £5000 grant for installation of domestic heat pumps is in fact a cut in the incentives available for heat pumps compared to the existing heat pump support scheme. This is the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) under which heat pumps are currently funded. Under the RHI homeowners who install heat pumps receive £1000 each year for seven years – £7000 in all. True, a lot of people will prefer getting the £5000 upfront (especially if they are relatively short of money), but the notion, apparent in today’s media that this is some new, expanded low carbon funding programme is simply not the case. It is a cut in support!
As part of a study of how a 100 per cent renewable energy system in the UK could work academics from UCL have found that EITHER doubling the amount of increasing international electricity interconnectors OR having one third overcapacity of renewable energy generating capacity will reduce the need for storage to support a 100 per cent renewable energy system for the UK by up to half. In a paper just published in the leading Applied Energy journal they say: ”we find that, compared to the reference scenario, increasing renewable capacity by 33%, or interconnections by 200%, can lower system storage capacity by up to 50%”. They also found that delivering heating through heat pumps is half the cost of delivering the same heating using green hydrogen.
Drunk on the latest fossil fuel energy crisis, the UK Government has handed the British public a giant nuclear hangover that will leave the country scrabbling for renewable energy solutions.
Boris Johnson has promised 40 GW of offshore wind by the end of the decade, which, when added to other renewable energy sources, will generate over three-quarters of current levels of UK electricity consumption. But this growth could be threatened by the nuked-up knee jerk reaction to the current natural gas price crisis that will plunge the energy budget into a massive deficit and leave the electricity system dangerously unbalanced. After fossil fuel prices subside back towards their more usual levels, this will constitute a giant hangover.
Amidst a global shortfall of gas supplies in relation to demand (and a global increase in gas prices) the anti-renewables lobbies are busy blaming a lack of wind and solar (wot solar too?) for the soaring energy prices. It’s nonsense of course to pin the blame on renewables for a combination of a global oil and gas crisis and the UK’s unique market vulnerability to natural gas supply squeezes on renewables, but that’s precisely what is happening. The truth is we’d be much more secure and greener with a much higher proportion of energy coming from renewables backed up with a revived storage network that successive UK Governments have allowed to run down.
As coal-fired electricity production started up yesterday for the first time in months to fill the gap on a low wind day the cheapest solution – investing in more solar, wind and also storage capacity – was being widely ignored. Yet that solution would be many times cheaper than investing in Sizewell C, which was the solution being widely touted. A big spike in wholesale power prices (that won’t last anyway) is being used to justify pouring many billions of taxpayers money down a nuclear black hole.
The Government’s newly published hydrogen strategy is looking like a plan to protect the gas industry. It will, in effect if not motivation, be mainly concerned with keeping the supply of unmitigated natural gas flowing in the UK under the guise of promoting ‘blue’ hydrogen.
Windfarms are being delayed and even operating ones forced to shut down sometimes because of delays in securing planning permission for electricity interconnectors. So could green hydrogen production be a solution to this problem? The hydrogen could be produced and used in systems that avoid the need to build interconnectors for the windfarms. The problem of delays in interconnectors is biggest in Germany, but it is also affecting the UK.
A gang of so called climate cost sceptics on the Tory backbenches are busy spreading rubbish about the allegedly high cost of a low carbon energy programme. In reality the most effective measures, including heat pumps and electric cars, will turn out to be very cheap and the cost of making sure it happens will be very low. Meanwhile the big fossil fuel companies are conniving with the climate sceptics by pretending to be in favour of low carbon policies. They do this by advocating the most expensive means of doing them and then they cynically expect the public to turn against the programme.
The Government is likely to become responsible for a huge bill for building Hinkley C power station. This is despite an insistence by the UK Government since they signed a deal with EDF to build Hinkley C in 2012 that electricity consumers will not have to pay for cost overruns for the project. Yet it is now looking increasingly likely that this will end up being the case. When the deal was signed in 2012 the Government agreed to pay a much higher than expected £92.50 per MWh (in 2012 prices), this price to be paid by consumers in their electricity bills (over twice the price given to recent offshore wind projects).