The Government has just announced a £40 million research programme into so-called advanced modular reactor technology that is highly unlikely ever to see any practical use. That is because the so-called small modular reactors (SMRs) are much too expensive for civilian use.
In an important sense it is nonsense to talk about research to develop SMRs as a ‘new’ technology simply because they already exist. They power military submarines and also US aircraft carriers. Their design is simply a smaller version of the Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) design that dominates the world nuclear power industry. Indeed PWRs began as small projects housed in submarines which were then developed up in scale so that they could produce electricity more cheaply.
David Toke writes: Jonathon Porritt is, in my opinion, the most influential British green political thinker. Here I’m interviewing him about his new book ‘Hope in Hell – A decade to confront the climate emergency’, published by Simon and Shuster.
The UK Government could be poised to scrap commitments for a programme of energy efficiency and, alongside this, postpone programmes being proposed to boost energy efficiency of buildings. Instead the gas lobby will be given full rein. A range of Government departments and agencies trying to implement democratic comitments are being eclipsed in influence by a sinister ‘deep state’ that claims to really know popular will.
In a report in the Financial Times the Government, advised by Dominic Cummings, is said to be sidelining the £9.2 billion Conservative manifesto commitment for ‘energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals’ (page 55) because it is ‘boring’.
One striking fact quoted by the Committee on Climate Change in its newly published Progress Report is that: ‘while the public are generally supportive of action to tackle climate change,
and 75% of people are concerned about climate change, just 35% of people report having heard of ‘Net Zero’ as a concept, and only half of people are aware that their gas boiler causes emissions’ (page 188).
So, barely a third of people have heard of the net zero target. But people will much better understand the concept of achieving their energy requirements from 100 per cent renewable energy. This resonates with popular ideas of being self-sufficient in energy that does not run out. Of course we need to keep the net zero target, but the target of 100 per cent renewable energy should be the headline pathway to meet that target.
With world oil prices barely touching $40 a barrel and BP announcing major cutbacks in oil exploration you may be thinking this is an odd moment to talk about needing to head off an oil price spike. But the fact that oil companies are scrapping plans for oil exploration is itself a warning sign that as and when the world economy recovers there is not going to be enough production to meet demand.
Work is now underway on an energy storage scheme which could be the most significant energy breakthrough project in the last quarter of a century. It is the 50 MW liquid air storage plant in Manchester led by the company Highview. This (as yet small step) has a very good chance to pave the way for 100 per cent renewable energy systems in which sceptics who cite so-called intermittency from solar and wind as a barrier to providing total renewable energy supply are just blown away.
I talked to one of the inventors of renewable energy to liquid air storage systems – known technically as cryogenic freezing of air into a stored liquid – Yulong Ding (whose picture is featured here), about the technology.
Solar pv expert says domestic solar is nearly as cheap as large scale solar
RACHEL LEE, who has worked extensively in the solar and also wind industry discusses how the battery and solar industry is coming together in Australia and how this compares with the UK
South Australia (SA) does have some incentives in place for batteries – I doubt they would yet be economic without support. However, SA is different to here (UK)- the PV capacity factor is 50% more than southern England/Northern Europe for a start! SA in particular also had very high electricity prices for a while – that was blamed on a big shift to renewables (there is actually lots of wind resource in SA too), but, having worked for the market regulator in Australia for a while, I doubt that had much to do with economics – more likely to do with Victoria/NSW(New South Wales)/Queensland Government ownership of ancient inefficient coal plants.
The announcement by the German Government that their hydrogen strategy will include support for so-called blue hydrogen as a transitional measure must be regarded as a huge setback for a sustainable energy transition. Essentally what is being proposed is the propping up of oil and gas rather than the alternative – an energy efficient decentralised system based on renewable energy.
Here we publish a summary of our new, first, report:
How nuclear power is switching off windfarms in Scotland – The truth about wind power compensation payments
This report investigates the extent to which the operation of nuclear power plant in Scotland can be blamed for the large amounts spent on compensating windfarms for being asked by the National Grid to shut down production. These shutdowns are done in order to stop the electricity network from being overloaded and the payments to windfarms are called ‘constraint payments’. This is an important issue as these constraint sums are large and are borne by electricity consumers.
Unfortunately, compensation payments paid to windfarm operators are regularly highlighted in anti-windfarm media reports. The practice of paying windfarms to cut back their energy production exists for several reasons. These are principally because of the inability of nuclear facilities to operate flexibly, because the electricity network in Scotland is currently unable to support rapidly increasing amounts of wind power, and because enhancements of electricity interconnections with other countries have not kept pace with these developments or have broken down. Continue reading full article…
Blue Hydrogen – an implausible alternative to renewable energy
Blue hydrogen, that is hydrogen produced from fossil fuels (in practice usually natural gas), is hydrogen produced in circumstances where the carbon in the fossil fuel feedstock is captured and stored (carbon capture and storage, or ccs).
But this is not a substitute for energy from renewable energy, for a number of reasons. It is inferior to hydrogen produced from renewable electricity through hydrolysis. It is even more inferior to renewable energy used directly to power heat pumps to heat energy efficient buildings (see the section on heat pumps). Indeed the gas industry would love to scrap the Government’s commitment to end gas heating in new buildings by 2025 and instead carry on fossil fuel business in a new ‘blue hydrogen’ guise.Continue reading full article…
How we can supply all UK energy needs from renewables
by David Toke
A recent report from the International Energy Agency  has demonstrated how offshore wind power alone can supply 18 times more energy than the current world supply of electricity, including 16 times the electricity supply of Europe – with the UK better placed than any country to marshall this resource. The need to supply ALL UK energy (not just electricity) by 2050 (or sooner) under the ‘net zero carbon’ target could increase UK electricity production between approximately 2.5-4 times (see later section on this). But this appears to be easily obtainable from offshore wind resources alone – and of course there’s plenty of solar power and other renewable energy sources to add to this potential. Of course supplying less rather than more renewable energy to meet the 100 per cent target is preferable – hence the need to choose the most energy efficient systems!
Renewable energy is cheaper than other options
The cost of renewable energy has been hurtling downwards. Around the world solar pv and wind power are now the cheapest widely available sources of electricity. For example, last Autumn the UK Government auctioned off some contracts to supply electricity from some big proposed offshore windfarms, and the prices came in at £40 per MWh (2012 prices) – that’s less than half the cost of power from Hinkley C nuclear power station (£92.50 per MWh) and also less than what it would cost to build a large scale gas fired power station. Although developers have stopped building big fossil fuel power plant (despite getting incentives to provide ‘capacity’) onshore wind and solar pv farms are being built without any subsidies .Continue reading full article…
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