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).
Professor Christian Breyer of LUT University in Finland and Jonathon Porritt will be speaking at a webinar on Friday September 3rd (noon start) on the subject of ‘100 per cent renewable energy in Europe’. This is in support of the effort to raise funds for the 100 per cent renewable energy model for the UK which is being organised by 100percentrenewableuk.
Please donate to the fund to pay for the model to be done here! We still have a long way to go to pay for the study to be done!
After an introduction by Jonathon Porritt, Professor Beyer will talk about ‘100 per cent renewable energy in Europe’. Then he will answer some questions on the subject. After then we shall conduct a fundraising auction for the signed copy of Jonathon Porritt’s book! Jonathon Porritt is founder of ‘Forum for the Future’ and is perhaps the leading British author on green politics. His latest book is called ‘Hope in Hell’.
Christian Breyer is leading the team that has been chosen by 100percentrenwable uk to do the 100percent renewableuk model.
Christian Breyer is Professor for Solar Economy at LUT University, Finland. His major expertise is the integrated research of technological and economic characteristics of renewable energy systems specialising in energy system modeling for 100% renewable energy, on a local but also global scale. His team published the most studies on 100% renewable energy systems for countries or major regions globally. Energy system transition studies are carried out in full hourly and high geo-spatial resolution. Publications cover integrated sector analyses with power, heat, transport, desalination, industry and negative CO2 emission options. Power-to-X investigations is a core research field for his team. He published more than 300 scientific papers, thereof more than 100 in scientific journals. He worked previously for Reiner Lemoine Institut, Berlin, and Q-Cells (now: Hanwha Q Cells). He is member of ETIP PV, IEA-PVPS, scientific committee of the EU PVSEC and IRES, scientific advisory board of CO2 Value Europe, academic council of Global Alliance Powerfuels, chairman for renewable energy at the Energy Watch Group, reviewer for the IPCC and a co-founder of the Desertec Foundation. His academic background is general business, physics and energy systems engineering and a PhD in electrical engineering. He communicates in Twitter @ChristianOnRE.
There’s been a story circulating recently about how Orsted’s plans for a big offshore wind park are clashing with BP’s plans to test under-sea storage of carbon dioxide. Big oil looks like it might take precedence over offshore wind. But in reality, things are even worse than this. Big oil are grabbing the best undersea storage resources for disposal of carbon dioxide and depriving renewable energy of potentially vital hydrogen storage options.
There’s lots of information being pumped out by the anti-renewables lobby about how renewable energy causes great increases in the costs of upgrading electricity networks, but in fact there’s a lot of ways in which decentralised energy will actually REDUCE network costs. A recent study from California emphasizes how the cheapest path to clean energy is a mixture of large renewable energy projects and small decentralised renewables (mainly solar pv) linked to battery storage systems. Solar pv-battery systems can exist as a mixture of domestic systems and larger ground-mounted systems.
There isn’t yet a similar study for the UK (the big energy companies who fund these things won’t want the truth leaking out!), but there’s logic to suggest that much the same thing might be the case in the UK. Sure, the UK isn’t as sunny as California, although in winter there’s a lot of wind power. But in any case the untold secret of a decentralised solar-plus-battery system is that the batteries will soak up electricity produced from whatever sources so as to even out the pressures on the electricity network. By reducing pressure on the electricity network both transmission and distribution network costs can be reduced.
Even-handed analysis of data from Germany and the UK indicates that it is still easily possible to dramatically reduce carbon emissions whilst greatly reducing the amount of energy coming from nuclear power.
One thing not usually appreciated in the arguments about the impact of nuclear power plant retirements in Germany is that in reality much the same process has occurred, for different reasons, in the UK. In both Germany and the UK the falling proportion of electricity coming from nuclear power has gone along with dramatic reductions in carbon emissions from electricity in both countries.
The Government is discouraging the adoption of heat pumps through the very important ‘Energy Performance Certificate’ (EPC) system. The EPC system shows energy consumption for particular buildings and gives advice on how to reduce it. It is legally essential when selling properties. Incredibly, even when a property is entirely heated using ‘resistance’ electricity, and therefore especially suitable for heat pumps, the standard advice given for energy improvements fails to mention the most important single measure which is likely to be the conversion of the heating system to a heat pump. Various other piecemeal measures will be selected under the EPC system, but heat pumps are not explicitly promoted.
There is a surge in capacity of onshore wind and solar projects with planning consent in anticipation of more Government-backed contracts being available later this year.
With public attention focussed on offshore wind the increasing amounts of onshore wind and solar projects awaiting commercial opportunities are being ignored. Yet (on top of those projects already under construction) already there is enough renewable energy projects with planning consent to supply over 3 per cent of UK electricity generation.
Doug Parr, Chief Science Officer for Greenpeace, exposes how the Government is using unreasonably pessimistic assumptions about storing renewable energy to bolster the case for its scenarios which involve large amounts of nuclear power and fossil generation with carbon capture and storage
How is UK government continuing to justify continued emphasis on nuclear power development when the cost of renewables has fallen so far? The answer is about the weather – government will point out (although this will not be a shock to most people, or renewables energy experts) that the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. In other words, what can manage the gaps in electricity supply when there isn’t enough solar or wind power? We can max out on electrical connection to other countries, demand response and batteries and there’s still a gap. So to fill that ‘gap’ we need some form of long term storage for renewable power.
We say Yes to hydrogen for:
- Decarbonising heavy industry
Heavy industry requires large amounts of energy, and whilst some industries could be electrified at best this would place significant additional demands on electricity generation and electricity grids, and in many cases is simply not practical or possible. The leading candidate for using hydrogen is the refinement of iron ore into iron for the steel industry, but others including the ceramics and chemicals industries all have a high potential for conversion to hydrogen.
- Grid-level energy storage
There is an easy case to be made for using ‘excess output’ from windfarms and other large-scale renewables in remote locations to produce green hydrogen as a form of energy storage. Such sites can also be located in close proximity to ports, where hydrogen-powered shipping could provide a potentially lucrative local market. More localised use of hydrogen as an energy store, however, is far less favourable as the need for and cost of the necessary infrastructure means batteries offer lower costs and greater flexibility
Ships do not suffer from the same constraints of the weight and volume of their power sources that apply to other forms of transport, and the co-location of sources of hydrogen with ports means that hydrogen is a more favourable solution than electrification and batteries. In a one hundred percent renewable future it is highly likely that hydrogen will power the vast majority of ships.