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How much of the UK’s area will be taken up with 100 per cent renewable energy?

Most, if not all, of UK energy supplied under a 100 per cent renewable scenario could be generated using less than 7 per cent of the UK’s surrounding waters for offshore wind farms.

Estimates of the annual amount of energy needed under a (2050)  net zero carbon scenario vary from around 1200 TWh (Friends of the Earth) to around 1700 TWh (Chris Goodwin). Both these estimates assume that energy is delivered mainly in the form of electricity with some green hydrogen and derivatives such as ammonia used for storage and other purposes.

FOE uses the Committee on Climate Change estimates as its basis but allows for little air travel. On the other hand Chris Goodwin does his own calculations and allows for near current levels of air travel and (what I see as) somewhat inefficient means of aviation fuel preparation. I assume 1500 TWh per year energy consumption in a net zero scenario. I choose this roughly midway estimate balancing two opposing factors: a) According to my research lower energy projections for the future tend to be vindicated rather than higher ones, but b) I would expect there still to be a fair amount of air travel in 2050.

So where would 1500 TWh come from in a 100 per cent renewable energy scenario?

I make some plausible assumptions about onshore wind and solar generation. Assume that onshore wind generation can increase to somewhat under double its current generation, say 60 TWh per year. If solar pv covered the roofs of the majority of UK buildings and less than half a per cent of the UK land was occupied by solar farms then we could generate  170 TWh per year from solar pv. Add on another 40 TWh of renewable energy from other sources including hydro, tidal, wave, geothermal and biogas (40 TWh may well be an underestimate here) and we have 270 TWh – about 80 per cent of current UK electricity consumption.

So if total annual energy (that is all energy) consumption for net zero is going to be 1500 TWh a year and we subtract 270 TWh from 1500 TWh then that leaves a further 1230 TWh of energy that would have to come from offshore wind farms (or something else of course).

Now using the figure of 3 watts per metre said by  (on page 60) by McKay to be delivered by offshore wind, the 1250 TWh of energy from wind power would come from around 46,700 square kilometres. This works out as being 6.2 cent of the UK’s offshore Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). It certainly seems that with the development of floating offshore wind technology water depth will not be a limitation on where offshore windfarms can be sited. Given the increase in the efficiency of succeeding models of wind turbines 1250 TWh will be generated in the future from around 250GW of installed offshore wind power.

Of course there are still competing uses for offshore resources including biodiversity habitats, bird flight paths, shipping routes, fishing and minerals. Ecologists will have sympathy for protecting marine habitats, but less sympathy with industrial activity such as fishing using bottom trawling. But utilising around 6 per cent of the UK’s waters does not seem to be an unwarranted call on our resources in the cause of eliminating carbon emissions from energy generation.

David Toke 29/11/2020

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Government slashes energy efficiency spending to pay for small nuclear power and hydrogen

A leading energy efficiency champion, Andrew Warren, has alleged that the Government is slashing its energy efficiency programme by 80 per cent.

The Government’s ten point plan to tackle the climate emergency includes large amounts of money to pave the way for a programme of ‘small modular reactors’ (SMRs) and payments to gas interests to establish pilot schemes for producing hydrogen from gas with carbon capture and storage (ccs). Finance will also be available to support hydrogen production from windfarms.

What is becoming clear, amidst the low cost pledges to ban petroleum based cars and install 40 GW of offshore wind by 2030, is that the funding package will be dominated by large payments to nuclear and gas industry interests, and largescale cutbacks to the energy efficiency programme.

Originally, according to the Conservative manifesto in 2019 there was a pledge to ‘help lower energy bills by investing £9.2 billion in the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals’.  Earlier this year, amid reports that the programme was being resisted by Dominic Cummings, an energy efficiency programme was announced including around £2.5 billion over a six month period. However, now, under this programme Andrew Warren, the Chairman of the British Energy Efficiency Federation commented: ‘Current 6 month budget  for Green Homes grant + public sector  £2,5 bn (e,g. annual rate of £5bn.)  (is) now cut by 80% to £1bn p.a. And unlike all energy supply projects, nothing (is) committed after March 2022′

Even if the revised level of £1bn spending a year on energy efficiency is continued beyond 2022 this level of spending will be a great deal less than what was promised in the Conservative manifesto.

Amid the Government’s ten point plan is a commitment to install 60, 000 heat pumps in buildings every year by 2028. This commitment looks very suspect since the building regulation banning the fitting of new gas fired heating will not take effect until at least 2025, and little training is going into the building industry to meet this target. On the other hand the programme to electrify heating is subject of intense negative lobbying by the gas industry.

What does seem clear is that whilst programmes of fitting energy efficiency and heat pumps can have immediate carbon curring impacts projects associated with carbon capture and storage and small modular reactors will not see any commercial projects for many years, if ever. It is expected that much of the £525 million set aside for development of SMRs will be swallowed up by a ‘generic design assessment’ of Rolls Royce SMR designs needed to satisfy nuclear safety criteria. I have previously described this SMR programme as a fantasy.

The CCS projects to be funded are unlikely to do more than fund small ‘proof of design’ pilot schemes and may amount to little more than large Government subsidies for relatively low percentage blends of ‘blue hydrogen’ and unmitigated natural gas.

Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland commented on the ten point plan saying:

“This much-trailed 10-point plan is deeply disappointing. In this Climate Emergency, what we needed was investment in measures that would reduce emissions drastically over the next decade and create green jobs immediately. Instead, the UK Government is clearly living in fantasy land with far too much reliance on long-term false solutions to the climate crisis like carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and nuclear. While there are some crumbs from the table in terms of the welcome new target of 2030 to phase out fossil-fuelled cars, overall there is too little new money and too much funding committed to long-term, dangerous distractions’

That sounds like a very good summary to me!

Of course the elephant in the room is the absence of an announcement by the Government that they are going to fund EDF’s Sizewell C to the tune of over £20 billion. Such a commitment, which would include allowing EDF to run up cost overruns at public expense would dwarf the other items in the ten point plan, even though it will be for a power plant that will not be generating well into the 2030s and which will be regarded as technologically obsolete.

Join the fightback against the Government’s toadying to nuclear and gas interests and register for our FREE webinar on December 3rd to support the campaign for Scotland to set a target of achieving 100 per cent of ALL energy used in Scotland from renewable energy.

David Toke November 18th 2020

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Leading experts opt for 100 per cent renewables and reject nuclear power

The undersigned believe that a future based on 100 per cent renewable energy underpinned by traditional and advanced energy efficiency and storage techniques is not only practicable, affordable, but immensely preferable to one that involves nuclear power. Renewable energy offers us a rapid path to net zero carbon transition that, unlike nuclear power, does not involve the need for decommissioning of radioactive plant, nuclear waste or concerns about safety or security threats. With this in mind we regard the prospect of the Government effectively offering unlimited sources of funding to EDF to build Sizewell C nuclear power plant with dismay and urge people to send in their objections to their MPs at this prospect.

  • Dr David Toke, Director, 100percentrenewableuk,

also Reader in Energy Politics, University of Aberdeen.

  • Jonathon Porritt,

Founder, Director, Forum for the Future

  • Professor Tom Burke

Founding Director of E3G

  • Professor Peter Strachan

The Robert Gordon University
Aberdeen Business School

  • Dr Paul Dorfman

Founder and Chair Nuclear Consulting Group
Honorary Senior Research Associate UCL Energy Institute

  • Professor Bryan Wynne,

Professor of Science Studies and Research Director of the Centre for the Study of Environmental Change

  • Professor Andrew Stirling,

Professor of Science and Technology Policy,

University of Sussex

  • Professor David Elliott,

Technology Policy Group

The Open University

  • Professor Stephen Thomas,

Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU)

University of Greenwich

  • Professor Mark Jacobson,

Director of Atmosphere/Energy Program,

Stanford University (USA)

  • Professor Christian Breyer,

Lappeenranta University of Technology (Finland)

  • Shaun Burnie

Independent Nuclear Consultant

  • Dr Ian Fairlie,

Vice President CND

  • Pete Wilkinson

Chairman, Together Against Sizewell C (TASC)

  • Dr Philip Johnstone

Research Fellow
Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU)

  • Dr Mark Diesendorf

Associate Professor and Deputy Director
Institute of Environmental Studies
UNSW Australia

  • Dr Stephen Connelly

Department of Town and Regional Planning
University of Sheffield

  • Dr Gavin Mudd

School of Engineering

RMIT University

  • Dr Monica Oliphant

Past President International Solar Energy Society

Register for FREE webinar on December 3rd on how Scotland can get ALL of its energy from renewables 

 

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European Marine Energy Centre heralds a triple first project – flow battery, tidal power and hydrogen!

Just how many innovations can you pack into a project? Well not many more than the tidal power-flow battery hydrogen project that is set to be deployed at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney! But perhaps newest of all, it is an important step forward towards developing techniques, in this case flow batteries, to store renewable energy in the long term.

Flow batteries represent an important step forward for energy storage in that they offer the prospect for much cheaper long term storage of renewable energy. Flow batteries are much better at long term storage compared to the now ubiquitous lithium ion battery. That’s because, as an article in Science Magazine put it: ‘They store electrical charge in tanks of liquid electrolyte that is pumped through electrodes to extract the electrons; the spent electrolyte returns to the tank. When a solar panel or turbine provides electrons, the pumps push spent electrolyte back through the electrodes, where the electrolyte is recharged and returned to the holding tank. Scaling up the batteries to store more power simply requires bigger tanks of electrolytes.’

Lithium ion batteries, as effective as they are in storing smaller amounts of energy mainly for short term purposes, would be very expensive to replicate enough storage for long term purposes. Storing liquid electrolyte is much cheaper than buying whole new solid state batteries!

The flow batteries being tested are vanadium flow batteries developed  by Invinity. A good thing about the project is that it can lead to industrial applications in the medium term as well as developing a technology to boost long term storage of renewable energy.

The project has been funded on a relative shoe-string compared to the multi-millions and billions that are being poured down the drain into dead-end technologies like nuclear power and so-called ‘blue hydrogen’. There simply are not enough projects like this – and the reason is simple – because big oil and gas and big nuclear have the benefit of sheer industrial power.

 

by David Toke

But we can fight back against this and demand focus on renewable energy development. We will be discussing these issues at our webinar on December 3rd in support of our petition for Scotland to set  a target to derive all its energy from renewables. More details here 

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Green hydrogen sidelined as blue hydrogen is set for green light

The oil and gas industry is poised to gain several tens of millions of pounds for what will turn out to be mainly a license to carry on generating carbon dioxide. A flagship ‘blue hydrogen’ scheme, that is one involving production of hydrogen from natural gas and removing part of the carbon dioxide, is to be launched on Humberside if a consortium receives £75 million from the Government. Yet, for all this money, less than 30 per cent of the carbon dioxide produced on the site will actually be captured.

Continue reading “Green hydrogen sidelined as blue hydrogen is set for green light”

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Register for free webinar on how Scotland can get ALL of its energy from renewables – December 3rd

Achieving 100% Renewable Energy in Scotland

Thursday 3rd December 2020, 19:00-21:00, free entry

Scotland has some of the most ambitious climate change targets in the world, but much more remains to be done to ensure 100% of all the energy we use comes from renewable sources by 2045. Please join us to discuss how we can achieve this goal.

Speakers

  • Dr David Toke, 100% Renewables Campaign / University of Aberdeen
  • Dr Keith Baker, Common Weal / the Energy Poverty Research initiative / Scientists for Global Responsibility / Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Prof Susan Roaf, Heriot-Watt University
  • Lesley Hinds, Chair, Edinburgh Community Solar Cooperative
  • Chaired by Dr Ian Fairlie, Vice President, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
  • See speakers’ biogs 100% Renewables webinar – speaker biogs

You can also Register on Eventbrite

Please also sign our petition to the Scottish Government 

This webinar is being organised jointly by 100percentrenewableuk and Common Weal. 

It is also supported by Scientists for Global Responsibility, the Research Centre for the Built Environment Asset Management (BEAM) and the Energy Poverty Research Initiative

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Sign our petition for Scotland to set 100 per cent renewable energy target!

It should be obvious now that Scotland can supply 100 per cent of ALL of its energy by renewables. Yet the Scottish Government has not pledged to do this yet. So let’s campaign for this commitment now!

We are asking you to sign the petition which has the following wording (in italics)

‘The Scottish Parliament should commit to a target of sourcing 100 per cent of all energy used in Scotland (not just electricity) from renewable energy by 2045 or earlier to complement the established legal goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland by 2045. This would be assumed to be achieved when a) the annual Scottish renewable energy production is a least as much as total annual Scottish energy consumption and b) all non electricity consumption in Scotland is sourced from renewable energy.’ This is necessary because:

  1. a) otherwise plans may be made for new nuclear and or fossil fuel carbon capture and storage (ccs) plants which will either not materialise or which will divert resources away from much more sustainable renewable energy such as offshore wind, onshore wind, solar pv, tidal and wave. Scotland has easily enough renewable energy potential to supply the nations’ needs and export much renewable energy elsewhere.
  2. b) the energy system needs to be decentralised rather than centralised as the case now. A decentralised system involving the integration of supply and demand through digitalised technologies fits well with renewable energy and storage systems and avoids the duplication and inflexibility of fossil fuel and nuclear systems.

To sign, access our petition page . You can access further background detail of what the 100% RE target involves here.

We shall send in the petition, together with the names of signatories (and countries of origin) to the Scottish Government.

Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland said, in support of the petition: ‘It may be just a small step, but signing this petition will send a signal that we need a genuine green energy future based on renewables rather than some failing polluting system cooked up by multinationals interested in preserving their fossil fuel or nuclear businesses under a green facade’.

PLEASE HELP US GET SIGNATURES BY SENDING THE LINK TO THE PETITION AROUND TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS YOU CAN!

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BP pushes ‘blue’ hydrogen at the expense of renewable hydrogen using inflated projections for hydrogen market

 

BP is trying to boost production of ‘blue’ hydrogen from natural gas and limit output of ‘green’ hydrogen from renewable energy. It is trying to do this using grossly inflated projections of future hydrogen use and thus claim there will not be enough renewable energy to sustain a global net zero economy. However green groups are fighting back against such efforts.

BP’s Chief Economist Spencer Dale claims, in Petroleum Economist that ‘the production of blue hydrogen helps overall global supplies of hydrogen to grow relatively quickly without relying too heavily on renewable energy’.

In reality BP’s push to convert its natural gas production into ‘blue’ hydrogen is likely to squeeze ‘green’ hydrogen out of a market that will be much smaller than what BP claims.

In its just published ‘global energy outlook’ BP makes the dubious  projection that (global) growth in hydrogen provision in buildings energy use will be faster than electricity use, as these sources replace fossil use. This is worrying and also unlikely since, as argued in other blog posts on this website, hydrogen is a very inefficient way of providing heating compared to electrically powered heat pumps. Three to four times less renewable energy is needed to provide a given amount of heating using heat pumps than using hydrogen.

BP also likely exaggerates hydrogen’s potential to supply transport needs. Hydrogen powered vehicles are currently almost non-existent compared to the take-up of electric vehicles whose cost is falling rapidly as their range increases and charge times decrease. Hydrogen may fuel some large vehicles such as buses and lorries, but even here there is growing competition from electrically powered models as the energy density of batteries increases.

The contrast between the bloated claims of the pro ‘blue’ hydrogen lobby (read Big Oil and Gas) and the essential uses of hydrogen (ie where hydrogen is best place to provide efficient use of renewable energy) is exposed by analysis conducted by the Committee on Climate Change. In their 2018 hydrogen paper (see Figure 4.1 page 97) the ‘niche’ (ie essential) use of hydrogen is barely one seventh of the bloated, ‘full hydrogen’ scenario which is dominated by use of hydrogen to heat buildings. Meeting ‘niche’ uses for hydrogen, including steel, fertiliser production, concrete production and as a means of storing renewable energy (maybe through ammonia), is a good sized market, but one that can easily be supplied by ‘green’ hydrogen from renewable energy.

But as Big Oil and Gas pull their political weight at both national and local level they can get regulatory, planning and financial support to boost production of ‘blue’ hydrogen. Given that the hydrogen market will inevitably be a lot smaller than what BP projects, green hydrogen is likely to be sidelined.

Green groups are pushing back against this attempt at a blue hydrogen coup, seeing as an attempt to keep the conventional gas industry afloat. Mark Ruskell MSP, the Scottish Greens Energy Spokesperson commented on twitter  that he was ‘Concerned that a dash for hydrogen masks what the North Sea Gas sector really wants, maximum extraction and conventional use of methane. Where is the Scottish Government’s hydrogen strategy?’ He argued that it is ‘likely that hydrogen used in the gas grid will be blended with natural gas extending its use for heating way into the future. What you should be pushing for is a massive heat pump sector deal’.

Meanwhile Richard Dixon, Director of Scottish Friends of the Earth attacked the deal under which BP will be ‘advising’ Aberdeen Council ( an arrangement which will involve ‘blue’ hydrogen) saying this was ‘a bit like asking a car dealer to help you redesign your public transport system’.

Big oil and gas’s attempts to preserve their methane industry need to be resisted and attention placed firmly on the need to expand renewable energy production from onshore and offshore wind, different forms of solar pv, and marine renewables. Of course hydrogen is a priority, but it must be green, not blue. A good way to fend off the pernicious efforts by oil and gas to grab the hydrogen market is to campaign for 100 per cent renewable energy solutions, which is what 100percentrenewableuk is doing.

 

https://www.petroleum-economist.com/articles/low-carbon-energy/energy-transition/2020/

 

rush-to-green-hydrogen-may-be-counterproductive-bphttps://www.bp.com/en_gb/united-kingdom/home/news/press-releases/bp-and-aberdeen-join-forces-in-drive-for-net-zero

 

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Government confirms renewables will be massively cheaper than Hinkley C nuclear power even including system integration costs

A Government report issued last month confirms that renewables would be at least one third cheaper than a Hinkley C type nuclear project, and that is even despite the fact that the report ignores the cheapest available storage technologies.

The report, issued by BEIS tries to take into account the extra system costs of absorbing renewable energy. In doing so the report completely ignores what many people think are going to be the cheapest way of integrating renewables, but, such is the cheapness of renewable energy sources such as offshore wind, solar pv and onshore wind, even then renewables comes out much cheaper than Hinkley C.

Continue reading “Government confirms renewables will be massively cheaper than Hinkley C nuclear power even including system integration costs”

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Are popular electric car sales being deliberately held back to undermine EU emissions reduction policy?

by David Toke

Car manufacturers are stopping production of some of their cheapest and most popular electric vehicles (EVs) just in advance of EU assessments about how far the car manufacturers should reduce the emissions that their fleets produce. Is this a coincidence, or are car manufacturers once again cheating the public?

Continue reading “Are popular electric car sales being deliberately held back to undermine EU emissions reduction policy?”

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