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.
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.
Centrica has announced that it is talking to the Government about using the UK’s largest natural gas storage facility to store hydrogen.
Although the stated purpose of the negotiations is to discuss the storage of blue rather than green hydrogen, this is nevertheless a good sign for using hydrogen to store renewable energy. That is because the discussions demonstrate the credibility of the hydrogen storage option.
In its latest call for evidence on how to balance renewable energy, the Government wants to make windfarms and solar farms be responsible for assuring power delivery all the time. This is something that is not even required of fossil fuel and nuclear power plants. Apparently fixated on this notion, and also that of ending the current system of incentivising renewables through giving the long term contracts guaranteeing to pay them set electricity prices, the Government ignores the most practical options for balancing fluctuating renewables.
David Toke, Ian Fairlie and Herbert Eppel from 100percentrenewableuk discuss how nuclear power effectively switches off wind and solar power and how a 100percent renewable energy system is much better for the UK than one involving nuclear power
The Government, backed by a lot of public policy reports paid for by pro-nuclear interests, constantly pushes out the view that nuclear power is ‘essential’ to balancing wind and solar power. But what they never mention is the massive waste of renewables that occurs in such a scenario. Under the scenarios planned by the Government nuclear power is paid very high prices to generate power even when there is excess electricity, which pushes renewables to close down. The Government also refuses to undertake serious investigations of how a system that uses excess renewables to create short and long term storage is a much better way of organising our energy needs rather than wasting more money on building nuclear power statitons.
Look at our video which, drawing upon research on the role of nuclear and renewables, discusses these issues.
Brighton Energy Cooperative is surging ahead to make community energy into big business as it plans big solar power developments. It may herald a wider move of community energy companies into organising projects with local businesses.
In a historic change of policy the Conservatives have announced that consumers, not EDF, will pay for cost overruns in building Sizewell C. The crucial phrase in the Government’s document on the so-called ‘Regulated Asset Base’ (RAB) model is ‘Cost overruns that were not excluded from the RAB would be shared between investors and consumers through suppliers’ (para 47 page 14). Note: ‘consumers’ means electricity consumers who will have to pay twice for Sizewell C; extra on their bills long before any power is generated and for many years after generation begins. The inclusion of cost overruns on consumers’ bills means that their bills will rocket upwards even before they receive even a single kWh in supply from Sizewell C .
The main reason that the UK is falling behind countries like Germany and Denmark in rolling out heat pumps is because building regulations and other regulations are suited to support gas boilers not heat pumps. This claim has been made by a heat pump installer attempting to develop a cheaper heat pump programme.
This contradicts the story emerging from the Environmental Audit Committee which blames high electricity prices relative to gas as being the biggest problem facing the heat pump programme in the UK.
Ever bigger offshore wind turbines will plunge wind power prices below wholesale power prices. Even as a contract was being announced for GE Renewables to supply 14 MW wind turbines to SSE/Equinor’s Dogger Bank C site, plans were being progressed to test even larger machines, perhaps 20MW by a German research company.
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