Andrew Brown: Brother of the Prime Minister Gordon Brown – Studied journalism at Edinburgh University
2004: Brown was appointed “head of media relations” at EDF, the French utility company. He is now the director of corporate communications. When he took the job, Andrew admitted that, “the energy industry is not something I knew much about before”. Nevertheless, he has been at the forefront of EDF’s expansion in Britain after it bought London Electricity, Sweb and Seeboard. He lives with his wife, Clare, 49, in Victoria, central London, less than half a mile from Gordon’s flat.
11 July 2007 – EDF – UK government clears the obstacles so that EDF can make it’s bid for the nuclear energy market
French energy giant EDF has been at the forefront of the campaign to change perceptions of nuclear power. The company, which operates 58 nuclear reactors in France and is already a big player in the UK electricity market, has said it is ready to invest in a new generation of plants in the UK, provided it gets the go-ahead from government. It has successfully lobbied ministers to introduce a fast-track planning process to make it easier to build new plants avoiding the need for lengthy public enquiries. Chancellor Gordon Brown’s brother, Andrew, is EDF’s head of media relations in the UK. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5149676.stm http://www.theguardian.com/business/2006/jul/11/greenpolitics.nuclearindustry1
2 November 2013 – Fergus Ewing raises grave concerns in letter to Ed Davey.
Scotland’s Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, has warned that the UK Government’s Electricity Market Reform proposals could undermine Scotland’s renewables sector and supply chain, while threatening security of supply across the UK, and further price increases on consumers bills as a result.
Mr Ewing also challenged Mr Davey to explain a last minute amendment to the UK Energy Bill that will remove the Scottish Government’s existing powers and discretion over support for renewable technologies across Scotland. The UK Government’s amendment is to be debated by the House of Lords on Monday November 4, 2013.
“We now know that the UK Government has also proposed a last ditch amendment to the Energy Bill, which will allow UK ministers to close the Renewables Obligation in Scotland. I find it extraordinary that the UK Government has chosen to act in this way, and to strip Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament of their powers and discretion in an area of such vital importance.
“The UK Government has produced this amendment with no consultation or explanation. We are deeply concerned about this summary removal of the Scottish Government’s discretion in an area of such vital importance to our people and economy. “As a matter of urgency the UK Government must provide a detailed justification for its action.
4 November 2013 – Lords axe Holyrood’s power over Scottish renewables
Commenting on the debate in the House of Commons on the Lords’ amendment to the UK Energy bill – and in particular Amendment 54 which removed the Scottish parliament’s powers in respect of renewables obligation in Scotland – SNP Energy spokesman Mike Weir said:
“This is an outrageous example of the unionist parties ganging up to remove powers from the Scottish parliament. Worse still they did so by introducing last –minute amendments in the unelected House of Lords, rather than even having the courage to debate it on the floor of the House of Commons. There was no consultation with the Scottish Government or the Scottish parliament prior to the introduction of this amendment, nor when challenged in the Commons did the minister or his Labour front bench counterpart have any reasonable explanation as to why this happened in such an underhand manner.” http://www.scottishenergynews.com/lords-axe-holyroods-power-over-scottish-renewables/
Most political parties are funded by corporations of one sort or another – & thus in turn are open to abuse.
In the UK, 50% of the people working in DECC come from power companies such as EON, EdF RWE etc. It is they who set government energy policy – which naturally suits the power companies. The Tories are highly influenced by the power sector lobby – which cruises around giving money to whoever is in power.
Playing with peoples’ lives for profit seems to be part of what big business is all about. A responsible government wouldn’t allow such cynical views to infect their policies and drive their actions, but the Westminster government seems to share the corporate perspective of seeing pound signs where they should be seeing people, fellow human beings. It’s not simply putting profit before people to say “we want softer targets regardless of what harms our products and actions incur”, it’s treating people as profit; treating humans as fodder, units of expendable cost against the potential to make money. It’s disgusting, and it has to stop. I bet there are a number of politicians and highly placed mandarins receiving bungs or later “moving on” to highly paid “jobs” in the companies they helped. This is not just corruption, it’s the kind of corruption that kills tens of thousands of people every year.
14 January 2014 – UK Energy Policy The Next Ten Years -Industry Insiders Comment
Niall Stuart, Chief Executive, Scottish Renewables: “it is important that both governments return to working together to meet the incredibly important challenges facing our country, such as tackling climate change and growing the economy. Renewables can make a significant contribution to both. Scottish Renewables is calling for a new joint Scottish and UK Government energy policy that balances the interests of Scotland within a single GB energy market; a more open and accountable energy regulator; our islands connected up to the grid and coordinated investment by the UK and Scottish Governments to support our flourishing marine energy sector.”
Infinis Energy: “Preservation of an integrated UK energy market and the UK-wide applicability of the RO-legislative framework in support of continued investment in renewable energy is necessary.”
Tony Ward, Head of Power & Utilities at EY UK & Ireland: “The established dynamic in the energy markets needs to continue its current course. The UK markets have developed ever-closer and more integrated systems and ways of operating that serve to reduce, then smooth, the cost burden across all users. This also enables investment choices to be made on system-wide merit and help achieve a degree of energy security that can often be taken for granted.”
30 August 2014 Wind Energy Smashes UK Electricity Share Record
According to RenewableUK, Britain’s fleet of onshore and offshore wind turbines met 22 per cent of electricity demand during Sunday 17 Aug 2014, setting a new record, comfortably outperforming coal, which met just 13 per cent of demand. Nearly 5.8MW of wind power was generated, which is equal to the power demand of 15 million homes. August 2014 already looks set to be a particularly strong month for the UK wind energy industry, with reports confirming wind turbines also met 21 per cent of demand last week as the UK felt the tail end of Hurricane Bertha. “We’re seeing very high levels of generation from wind throughout August 2014 so far, proving yet again that onshore and offshore wind has become an absolutely fundamental component in this country’s energy mix. It also shows that wind is a dependable and reliable source of power in every month of year – including high summer,” said RenewableUK’s director of external affairs, Jennifer Webber.
Critics pointed out that the National Grid is forced to pay wind turbines millions of pounds to switch off on windy days in order to balance out demand. Last week, it paid wind developers £2.8m and £1.1m to other generators in balancing payments at the time high winds coincided with a period of low demand. Constraint payments are necessary but only until electicity storage capacity is put in place and they will be further reduced following upgrades to the national electricity network, such as the Western Link – a £1bn subsea cable that will bring renewable energy from Scotland to the rest of the UK. Yesterday’s record is the latest in a string of strong performances across Europe for the renewables industry over the past 12 months. Recent data has suggested that Germany and Spain have also delivered record levels of clean energy output in the past six to 12 months, as surveys across Europe have also demonstrated high levels of public support for renewable energy.
8 October 2014 – Why is Hinkley a bad deal for the UK consumer?
The world of energy is changing. The world’s largest private bank, UBS, has recently advised its clients that large centralised power stations (like Hinkley) are not the future (1) solar power, electric cars and cheaper storage batteries are. Meanwhile, tech leaders Google have invested $3.2bn in Nest, a smart home energy company. (2)
Yet our energy policy in the UK seems stuck in the past, with government’s Electricity Market Reform seemed largely to be based on getting nuclear stations built – with a generous price for 35 years of supply (3) for the proposed new 3.2GW EDF reactor at Hinkley which will cost £24.5bn to build and open at the earliest in 2023. (4)
Today the European Commission has decided to approve state aid subsidies for two reactors at Hinkley Point, Somerset – despite the Commission estimating the deal between UK government and NNBGeneco (a subsidiary of EDF) will cost up to £17.6bn in subsidies from the British energy billpayer. (5) However, according to calculations the total (undiscounted) subsidy to Hinkley over its lifetime would be much higher at £37bn, with a £14 increase per household per year. (6)
This is based on a 35-year index-linked price guarantee (‘strike price’) of £92.50 per MWh, which is is almost twice that of the UK wholesale electricity market price of around £50/MWh. This means that the British public funds the difference between the amount EDF will be paid and the market price – which at present seems unlikely to go up much. Nuclear has been delivering power at the same real cost for over 50 years and it would require a huge level of optimism based on little evidence to suppose that historic flat-lining would be changed now. (7)
Already, the cost benefits of learning from building a number of EPRs (the proposed reactor model for Hinkley) (8) across Europe seems to have disappeared because the price for Hinkley seems to be as big or bigger than the first plants in Finland and France. In contrast renewable energy is on a downward price curve, in the case of solar very rapidly indeed, and subsidy may be justified in bringing a technology to its technological potential. Also part of the deal is a whole host of protections – implicit subsidies by any other name – that are specific to Hinkley, including:
* Loan guarantees – If costs overrun or the plant defaults the government (read billpayers) will cover the repayment of the first £10bn to investors.
* There will be two re-negotiations of the strike price, 15 and 25 years after the plant starts to generate. At these two re-openers, the strike price might be increased following raises of operating costs, including increases in fuel costs and maintenance. (9)
* And, another interesting detail is that the deal includes protection against curtailment (the plant stops running) in case of “the evolution of power systems”, according to the CEO of EDF. (10) What this means is that if the energy mix changes to include more renewables, storage, and demand-side management, the plant will be given preferential grid access or payment for power (presumably at the strike price) that would otherwise have been produced. This curtailment risk cover is also understood to extend to changes in political decision making or changes in law based on environmental and safety reasons. (11)
* As a large generating unit, having 3.2GW on the Grid potentially going off at short notice requires the rest of the Grid to accommodate it and these costs – £160m a year – are being shared by everyone including renewable generators, not paid for by the Hinkley development. (12)
In addition to all this – on top of of the Commission’s estimate and outside of state aid considerations – Hinkley will also receive other long-standing protections that are given to all nuclear plants. Firstly, limitations on liability in case of an accident up to £1.06bn (13) – after which bill payers foot the bill (liability costs from Fukushima are around $100bn and rising). And secondly, planned subsidies of as much as £15.72bn for radioactive waste management from new reactors. (14)
All of this adds up to the fact supporting Hinkley is not a cost-effective option for the UK power supply. (15) As Professor Mitchell of Exeter University puts it in relation to the grid arrangements: “There is no justification for nuclear being exempted from paying the additional costs to the system other than to make nuclear look cheaper than it is relative to other sources of electricity.”
The Chief Technology Officer at Siemens has said (16) that renewables developers would ‘give an arm and a leg, at least’ for the kind of terms being offered to nuclear in UK – yet even so, some renewables will be cheaper at a headline level than nuclear by the time Hinkley opens in 2023 at the earliest. But most of the support for Hinkley is not available to low carbon generators like renewables, or not available at the same rate. For example onshore wind will have a lower ‘strike price’ than Hinkley from 2017, (17)
and will in any case now be subject to competitive bidding processes which would lower the price further, again, unlike the Hinkley project. (18)
Hinkley’s 35-year strike price contract is unprecedented – and will mean someone leaving school now could still be paying for this contract after they retire. Not only is Hinkley set to become a huge drain on the public purse, and shifting a huge amount of risk onto the public, but neither of the coalition government parties wanted this heavily subsidised plant in the first place – as you can see from the Coalition Agreement at the start of government. The Lib Dems opposed nuclear and the Conservatives wanted a free market – not subsidies.(19) And it seems that the Commission has done a similar policy volte-face:
* The original Commission analysis was scathing about the deal – especially the lack of competitive tendering for the scheme, (20)
* EDF may be overcompensated for what it is doing (21)
* Energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger described the concept as Soviet’. (22)
The question of the state aid stamp of approval arises because as part of the EU we should be heading to a single market in power, resulting in lower electricity prices. The Hinkley deal is therefore troublesome because of the precedent that is sets, shielding EDF from risks that other market operators are subject to, and meaning an EU member state can arbitrarily buy any power it wants to, leading to an end of any meaningful single market. (23) But this isn’t the end of the Hinkley state aid saga – Austria confirmed it will appeal against the EU Commission decision to allow generous subsidies for Hinkley. (24)
(3 ) http://markjohnston.org/2014/09/30/hpc-cabinet-briefing/
(19) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/78977/coalition_programme_for_government.pdf (page 17).
(20) http://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/Global/eu-unit/reports-briefings/2014/State aid SA.34947 (2013C) Greenpeace 2nd Submission (Article 8 Electricity Directive.pdf
22 January 2015 – Stop Hinkley welcomes Austrian Government’s legal move against Hinkley
The Stop Hinkley Campaign has today welcomed the Austrian Government’s announcement that it will go ahead with a legal challenge against the European Union’s (EU) decision to allow billions of pounds of subsidies for Hinkley Point C. The group also welcomed the opinion expressed by Dr Dörte Fouquet, a lawyer for the Brussels based law firm Becker Büttner, which specialises in energy and competition law, that Austria’s chances of success were “pretty high.”
Stop Hinkley Spokesperson, Alan Jeffery said: “If Hinkley C goes ahead it would be the most expensive project of any kind ever built, yet it is not what is needed. What people want are warm homes, efficient appliances and bills that are affordable. We need renewable energy sources that aren’t going to damage our climate. We don’t need a massive project that is going to leave us with a legacy of highly dangerous nuclear waste and radioactive emissions into our environment.” http://www.stophinkley.org/PressReleases/pr150122.pdf
24 January 2015 – Japan follows Germany and other european countries – Abandoning Nuclear Power In Favour Of Clean Energy
Japan said that it would seek to phase out nuclear power by 2040 — a historic shift for a country that has long staked its future on such energy, but one that falls far short of the decisive steps the government had promised in the wake of the world’s second-largest nuclear plant disaster last year. By comparison, Germany, which in 2010 relied on reactors for 26 percent of its electricity, was rattled enough by the Fukushima disaster to announce a move away from nuclear power by 2022.
With the long-term energy plan set, the political battle is set to refocus on the struggle by the government to build consensus for reopening the vast majority of the country’s reactors, which were idled after the nuclear catastrophe, amid public opposition to restarts until better safety regulations were in place.
With only two reactors operating, Japan struggled through a sweltering summer after parts of the country were asked to conserve electricity use by as much as 15 percent, the second year such requests were made. Power companies fired up old gas- and oil-powered stations and scrambled to secure imported fossil fuels. Despite fears of widespread blackouts, however, none materialized, strengthening nuclear critics’ argument that Japan could do without nuclear energy.
Japan is set to significantly increase its investment in clean energy sources. In previous government estimates through 2030, eliminating nuclear power would require investment of $548 billion in solar, wind and other types of renewable energy and $66 billion on power grid technology.
Under the new goal, Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 would be between 5 percent and 9 percent less than levels in 1990, the documents said. Environmentalists say that a more aggressive push to develop clean energy can further reduce Japanese emissions. “The government must use its new energy strategy as a starting point for a far more ambitious renewable policy, greater energy efficiency measures, and increasingly bold strides toward the sustainable green economy that will secure Japan’s future prosperity,” Greenpeace said in a statement. “A nuclear-free future is not a choice, it’s an inevitability,” it said. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/15/world/asia/japan-will-try-to-halt-nuclear-power-by-the-end-of-the-2030s.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0
Scotland – World leader in the production of clean energy
Clean energy produces more power in Scotland than nuclear, coal or gas and this is set to increase significantly. The expertise of Scottish industry is being exported to other countries worldwide and the decision of Japan to embrace renewables over nuclear vastly increases opportunities for Scottish outward looking firms. Recent developments have brought forward the use of wave power and Scotland is in the vanguard in the development of this new technology which the island country of Japan will embrace. Scotland is getting it right but we need Westminster to provide funds allowing an extension of the national grid to our offshore islands since it is a lack of grid access and capacity that is delaying clean energy development and power production which in turn is preventing the UK from meeting emission targets. http://www.environment.scotland.gov.uk/get-learning/energy/third-and-fourth-level/
The Inefficient UK National (Electricity Supply) Grid
The electrical grid is viewed by the public as a natural and strategic asset. As such it is, in the view of many, totally unsuited to the pressures of market forces. But if a market is to operate then application of variable transmission costs make sense.
Electricity transmission loss in transfer forms a small part of overall electricity loss. The real problem with the grid is capacity crunch. The lack of a transmission cable from the islands to the Scottish mainland brings with it much reduced amounts of electricity transfer from the North of Scotland. Supply of electricity to the grid is therefore rationed and this brings with it increased transmission costs. In England there is a lot of demand, but not much generation.
The option of expanding Coal, Gas and Nuclear power stations, (using lease lend contracting) funded, designed, built and operated, using foreign finance and workforces may appear to be attractive and cost effective but fossil-fuels and nuclear have been indulged for far too long. When the cost of cleaning up their long-term residual mess is factored in renewable energy is by far the most cost effective.
But, at this time, entirely due to a lack of forward planning by Westminster governments, short term measures are considered necessary and the Tory government is determined to expand nuclear production, (although the preferred options would breech EU financial rules). The Department of Energy and Climate Change, (DECC) a government funded and civil service staffed, (blinker wearing) policy think tank strongly believes in market forces, but only so far as nuclear is good and renewables are bad. So the future of UK renewable energy looks bleak.
Scotland is rich in renewable energy production resources but this is of no consequence since the “No” vote brought with it the introduction in the next parliament of a “National UK Energy Production Policy Unit” which will direct the development of ALL energy production within the UK. All that has been achieved in Scotland will be set aside in favour of the pursuit of nuclear power expansion.
20 April 2015 – There are tough choices ahead on energy that need to be underwritten by a long-term strategy
David Cameron’s promise in 2010 to lead the greenest government was much welcomed by the UK public. Yet it was abandoned less than two years into the coalition. There were some solid achievements, but too much was lost as the Conservative climate-sceptic right, led for a time by the environment secretary Owen Paterson was allowed to undermine the more ambitious Liberal Democrat-led Department of Energy and Climate Change.
The deal with EDF on the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point is a significant contribution to meeting targets for a decarbonised energy supply and an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050. But it is telling that the coalition has had to rely so heavily on the one technology that is most compatible with “business as usual”.
The chancellor, George Osborne, has become the leading nay-sayer after scoffing in 2011 that he would never “save the planet by putting Britain out of business”. Lib Dems lost out on ambitious plans for home insulation through the green deal that was compromised by an over-complicated structure, while the green investment bank never got the borrowing rights it needed to fulfil its promise.
The Tories have cast off their green disguise. They have ended subsidies for onshore wind power relying on the market to bring down prices, they are enthusiastic about fracking and they want to build more roads. The Greens, remain committed to creating a zero-carbon economy, even if that is at the cost of economic growth. That will alienate many cash-strapped voters, but their willingness to say the unsayable about the polluting way in which we run UK plc is one reason why, for all the party’s shortcomings, the Green voice deserves to be heard. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/20/guardian-view-britain-choice-2015-energy-policy
Statement: “The deal with EDF on the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point is a significant contribution to meeting the targets for a decarbonised energy supply.”
Comment: Oh! No it isn’t!!! What is the carbon equivalent of managing ten thousand years of nuclear waste? What is the carbon equivalent of releasing radioactive material from mining, transportation, use and inevitable accidents of radioactive material? What is the carbon equivalent of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl? Buying into the utter bullshit of the nuclear industry is one thing. Fawningly spouting the ‘decarbonising’ agenda is equivalent to suggesting that four-by-fours are environmentally friendly so long as they replace Trabants. Decontextually true and monumentally trite.
8 May 2015 – Contrast the forward looking plans of Germany, most european countries and Japan against the Nuclear energy policy of the Westminster government
Development plans are to build at least 8 new nuclear power plants in England, which it is projected will provide around 16 gigawatts of power. The plants are to be built by:
i. EDF Energy intends to build 4 new EPRs (6.4GW) at Hinkley Point in Somerset and Sizewell in Suffolk.
ii. Hitachi Ltd. has confirmed plans to build 2 or 3 new nuclear reactors at Wylfa on Anglesey and the same at Oldbury in South Gloucestershire.
iii. Nu-Generation plans to build up to 3.6GW of new nuclear capacity at Moorside, near Sellafield.
2 June 2015 – The 2015 Paris Summit
Governments of more than 190 nations will gather in Paris to discuss a new global agreement on climate change, aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and thus avoiding the threat of dangerous climate change.
Why now? Current commitments on greenhouse gas emissions run out in 2020, so at Paris governments are expected to produce an agreement on what happens for the decade after that at least, and potentially beyond.
Why is this important? Scientists have warned that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, we will pass the threshold beyond which global warming becomes catastrophic and irreversible. That threshold is estimated as a temperature rise of 2C above pre-industrial levels, and on current emissions trajectories we are heading for a rise of about 5C. That may not sound like much, but the temperature difference between today’s world and the last ice age was about 5C, so seemingly small changes in temperature can mean big differences for the Earth. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/02/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-paris-climate-summit-and-un-talks
2 June 2015 – Plan launched to prevent critical climate change by making green energy cheaper than coal
Scientists and economists have joined forces to launch a global research initiative to make green energy cheaper than coal within 10 years, a target they believe is critical to avoid dangerous climate change. Leading academics warn that the world cannot be saved from global warming unless coal – the dirtiest fossil fuel – is put out of business.
They have called the plan the “Global Apollo” programme and hope to recruit countries from around the world in an international commitment to boost research and development into key areas of renewable energy, storage and electricity transmission. By 2025, they hope the research will mean that wind, solar and other forms of green energy will be able to undercut the cost of burning coal to generate power, making it feasible to keep within the critical 2C increase in global temperatures needed to prevent dangerous climate change.
Sir David King, former UK Government Chief Scientist and one of the architects of the programme said “It all starts with this climate-change risk we’re facing. It’s a looming catastrophe that I think can be avoided. This is a massively important global opportunity and we need to commit ourselves to action. To stay below 2C is going to be very challenging. We need to treat this as an extremely urgent problem. If we delay the progress towards that required pathway it will become far more painful to do so in the future.”
World leaders agreed in 2010 that it was important to limit global temperature increases to 2C which would mean keeping atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to within 450 parts per million. However, the burning of fossil fuels, and coal-fired power stations in particular, has resulted in carbon dioxide emissions continuing to increase, with concentrations reaching 400ppm with no signs of abating. Meanwhile, global energy demands are expected to rise by a further third by 2035.
the “Global Apollo” report says “The average temperature is already 0.8C above the pre-industrial level. If it rises to over 2C above that level, there will be serious environmental consequences for billions of people – including increased droughts, floods and storms. Millions will lose their livelihood and have to migrate.”
The worldwide, publicly-funded research and development of renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar, is estimated to be around $6bn (£4bn) a year. This compares to $101bn spent on annual production subsidies for renewables and $550bn in subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. Research and development could dramatically change the economics of solar energy, for instance, given that the Sun provides 5,000 times more energy to the Earth’s surface than our total human demand for energy. The cost of solar panels, which convert sunlight directly into electricity, has fallen dramatically from just under $10 (£6.60) in 1992 to less than $0.50 today. Wind energy costs are falling more slowly, but this could be transformed with further innovation, the report says.
Both wind and solar energy are intermittent generators of electricity. If spare electricity generated when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing can be stored for when it is needed on cold nights and windless days, this would help make these renewables more cost effective. The Global Apollo Programme identifies much-needed research into batteries, thermal storage, compressed air, fuel pumps, flywheels, molten salt and pumped hydro-electricity and hydrogen fuel, as the key goals for improving energy storage.
More efficient transmission of electricity by balancing supply and demand more carefully, and improving electricity grid software, could dramatically reduce the unnecessary losses. A major obstacle in the deployment of renewable energy beyond 30 per cent of the grid power is the poor integration of current electricity grids. Smart grids could improve this, and so make green energy more efficient and cost effective. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/plan-launched-to-prevent-critical-climate-change-by-making-green-energy-cheaper-than-coal-10290467.html?origin=internalSearch
18 June 2015 – Tory plans to end onshore wind farm subsidies will see ‘bills rise or climate targets missed’, campaigners warn
Conservative plans to end subsidies for onshore wind farms will push up energy bills and leave thousands of jobs in the balance, campaigners have warned. The Government proposal to close the existing scheme for new onshore wind projects a year early has been criticised by campaigners for hitting the cheapest form of clean energy.
Energy Secretary Amber Rudd today announced the plans to close the “renewables obligation” scheme for onshore wind farms from April 2016, fulfilling a Tory election manifesto promise. The Tory Government has said onshore wind farms “often fail to win public support and are unable by themselves to provide the firm capacity that a stable energy system requires” – despite latest Government survey statistics suggesting 67 per cent of people support them.
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “This decision risks undermining the development of the cheapest form of renewables in the country, and is bad news for Scotland’s clean energy ambitions. “Cutting support early for the lowest cost renewable technology is a backward step that will either see bills rise or climate targets missed.” Campaigners have also warned the move sent a “chilling signal” to investors across the UK’s infrastructure sectors – and will leave millions of pounds of investment in the balance.
RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said: “It means this Government is quite prepared to pull the rug from under the feet of investors even when this country desperately needs to clean up the way we generate electricity at the lowest possible cost – which is onshore wind. “People’s fuel bills will increase directly as a result of this Government’s actions. “Ministers are out of step with the public, as two-thirds of people in the UK consistently support onshore wind. “Meanwhile the Government is bending over backwards to encourage fracking, even though less than a quarter of the public supports it.”
Alasdair Cameron, Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy campaigner, said: “Slashing wind support on the day the Pope calls for stronger climate action, and 24 hours after thousands lobbied their MPs to do more for the environment, shows the Government is living in a different world. “Far from showing global leadership ahead of the crucial Paris climate summit later this year, the government appears to be making the environment pay the price for rash pre-election promises.”
Greenpeace UK energy and climate campaigner Daisy Sands said: “Ministers have just moved to raise everyone’s energy bills by blocking the cheapest form of clean power, whilst continuing to back the impossibly expensive Hinkley C and going ‘all out’ for unpopular, risky, and unproven fracking. “Even if this omnishambles of an energy policy survives the many legal challenges threatened against it, it will send a clear message to international investors that the UK Government is willing to wreck our power sector to please their most ideological backbenchers. “This mistake will cost the UK dearly.” http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/onshore-wind-farm-subsidies-cut-tory-plans-to-end-scheme-for-cheapest-form-of-renewables-will-see-bills-rise-or-climate-targets-missed-10328975.html
25 July 2015 – Energy Secretary Amber Rudd must not let the anti-wind lobby decide Government policy
The UK Government is dressing up drastic cuts in spending on things we need as “cold, hard economic sense”. Ministers seem to be competing in a “Britain’s got austerity” contest with the Chancellor in the role of Simon Cowell. But history shows that markets can be free only if they are regulated to be free. The alternative is that those with the power and capital to pursue their own selfish interest control markets at the expense of society. A free-for-all economy is not capitalism; it is a form of feudalism. Competition is ruthlessly crushed.
The UK has the resources to be a green-energy powerhouse for Europe, it is are blessed with copious wind and bountiful solar potential, from the South-west to Scotland. Green energy represents the biggest potential investment in the rural economy since the agricultural revolution and will help keep farmers, the custodians of our rural environment, on the land. The levy on energy bills has helped leverage billions of pounds of inward investment, long-term skilled jobs and financial support for communities who have seen their other local infrastructure spending slashed.
The previous government had put together, with cross-party consensus, a series of initiatives to support the growth of this market, and help it move to being sustainable; which means being able to compete with established, highly subsidised industries such as fossil fuels. Just as that was about to happen, the support has been cut and the industry left to fend for itself.
What about competition? Surely this will drive down energy prices and make us all better off? We should ask where this competition comes from.The cheapest sources of energy are gas, onshore wind and solar. However, the Government wants nuclear to be competitive (which has a guaranteed price that rises with inflation from 2020, and perverse incentives for the constructors to take their time getting the thing built so that its price could rise to 40 per cent above the “market” rate).
The other alternative is offshore wind, which despite its huge production potential, is still more expensive than nuclear. So Amber Rudd’s competition solution is to subsidise the technologies that are more expensive and undermine the technologies that have used subsidies to reduce their costs to the bill payers.
So here is a problem for Ms Rudd to consider in that “cold, hard economic”’ way she espouses. Capital has choices. There are lots of incentives out there, especially if you want to risk your money developing shale gas or draining the last of the oil from under the North Sea. It is the nature of big capital that it avoids things that look “difficult” and it is unlikely to want to bet against government policy. It will seek the line of least resistance and choose the path to easy money if it can. She needs to understand that her rhetoric, directed as it is towards a narrow interest group of anti-wind campaigners, does make markets. I will say it again: we make the markets we deserve.
A free-for-all energy market will see capital go where it thinks it can make the best (and easiest) returns in the short term, which, right now, are to the expensive but politically palatable technologies such as offshore wind and nuclear. And, of course, oil and gas. It would be easy to say that energy is too complicated and should be left to the experts to argue it out. But remember that your money, via your energy bills, is paying for the next generation of the energy market to be created. You can choose to let the anti-wind lobby put up your energy bill and push us towards technologies that will get only more expensive with time or you can make your voice heard. The voice of cold, hard democratic finance. (Bruce Davis is co-founder of Abundance and visiting research fellow at Bauman Institute, Leeds University) http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/energy-secretary-amber-rudd-must-not-let-the-antiwind-lobby-decide-government-policy-10416197.html
Nuclear Plant Contracts
Proposed new nuclear power stations — are set to cost British taxpayers £20 billion more than predicted in subsidies over their lifetime, according to environmental groups. Adding to problems over operational viability the cost of building the UK’s next-generation nuclear power stations is set to soar by billions of pounds despite massive taxpayer subsidies, according to environmental campaigners.
The Austrian government confirmed it is to take the European Commission to the European Court of Justice over its agreement to a deal that would allow EDF Group and the UK Government to build a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C in Somerset
The agreement contains a controversial promise that the UK Government will guarantee the “strike price” (a guaranteed minimum energy price) for Hinkley Point C of £92.50 per MWh. Effectively, the Commission has agreed state subsidies by the UK Government. Independent energy supplier Ecotricity said it is among other companies and organisations considering joining the legal challenge against the European Commission decision.
Cracks, Weird Welds and Delays
The Hinkley Point C proposal has already been hit by many years of delay — mostly because the reactor it is considering using has been plagued with problems. EDF has chosen the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), a third generation pressurised water reactor (PWR) design. It has been designed and developed mainly by Framatome (now Areva), EDF in France and Siemens in Germany.
However, the first ever EPR nuclear power station under construction in Flamanville, in northwest France, is already massively over budget and seriously delayed. Since construction began In April 2008, the French nuclear safety agency has found that a quarter of the welds inspected in the secondary containment steel liner were abnormal, cracks were found in the concrete base and it also ordered a suspension of concrete pouring on the site.
In November 2014 EDF announced that completion of construction was delayed to 2017 due to delays in component delivery by Areva. In the same month, Areva issued a profit warning and said it would suspend future profit predictions because of problems on a similar EPR power station project at Olkiluoto in Finland.
None of which bears much hope for plans to build a similar one at Hinkley Point. Environmental groups dispute the UK Government’s figures on agreeing a set price — effectively a 35-year taxpayer subsidy to an energy giant to produce electricity. Other energy companies and at least one European country are now taking legal action against the European Commission for agreeing the deal they say is illegal, even calling the technology at the heart of the EPR reactor into question.
3 September 2015 – Former minister Ed Davey says chancellor is pursuing ideologically driven campaign against renewable energy
Ed Davey, the former energy and climate change secretary, has accused George Osborne of putting tens of billions of pounds’ worth of private sector investment at risk with an assault on the green agenda he pioneered. The Liberal Democrat said the chancellor was pursuing “bonkers economics” and an ill-advised and ideologically driven campaign against renewable energy that risked leaving the UK hopelessly dependent in the longer term on fossil fuels such as gas.
Phasing out aid for zero-carbon homes, onshore windfarms and solar arrays are among a raft of measures introduced by the Tories which represented “disastrous” economics, said Davey in his first interview since losing his seat in parliament. “What is frightening is that, despite all that success in low-carbon energy infrastructure, [Osborne] is prepared to send those disastrous signals. It was bad enough in the coalition when they were sending mixed signals but now there is no mixed about it. (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/24/the-9-green-policies-killed-off-by-tory-government)
“It is ‘we don’t want it’ and [renewable energy investors] will go elsewhere and we will lose out on tens of billions of pounds of private sector investment. Canals and railways would not have been built if people had taken this kind of short-term, unimaginative, inward approach. [Osborne] is the opposite of an entrepreneur when it comes to green energy.”
Davey, who lost his parliamentary seat at the last election, revealed that he had been engaged in an almost permanent struggle against leading Tories when he was energy secretary. “We battled every day. There were some Conservatives who were supportive like Greg Barker and Charles Hendry but they were a minority and the push was against the green agenda.
“Onshore wind was the one everyone knew about where we were having daily battles sometimes with Eric Pickles and the Treasury, but it was not just onshore wind – it was everything. I had to fight like a tiger to stop him [Osborne] slashing the budget on fuel poverty and on renewable energy. We succeeded although he still took a chunk out of the ECO [Energy Company Obligation] energy efficiency programme. It was much less than he originally wanted and that fight went on for two months. It was huge.”
Davey, who was tipped as a potential future Lib Dem leader until his election defeat in May, said the Treasury was endlessly trying to underplay the major advances achieved in the energy field because the department was being run by a Lib Dem who was convinced that energy security and climate change were vital issues. “It’s frustrating because we [the UK] were doing so well and also alarming for the economy.
It was an inconvenient truth for George Osborne that the green economy was doing extraordinarily well and the investment in energy infrastructure – primarily low-carbon energy infrastructure – that happened under the coalition government and is in the pipeline to continue was the infrastructure success story of the government. Not transport that he used to go on about, not telecoms, not water – it was energy.”
A Treasury spokesman said: “The government is committed to cutting carbon emissions while also controlling energy bills and saving consumers money. That’s why we’ve taken urgent action on spending to protect households and businesses from higher than expected costs.Government support has already driven down the cost of renewable energy significantly, but it is important that this support is affordable and offers good value for money.” Amber Rudd, Davey’s successor as energy and climate change secretary, has previously insisted that the government takes global warming seriously and subsidies have only been cut where they are not needed any more.
Davey said he had to constantly battle with some of the top bosses from the big six energy suppliers. A couple of them were happy to lobby the Conservatives against him, He has major fears about Osborne becoming prime minister. “I am not convinced he is a climate change sceptic but he is driven by [short-term] economics and I think if he became leader of the Conservative party he would want to scrap the Climate Change Act. Someone ought to ask him that question.”
But Davey’s main complaint is that the government is happy to build roads or rail with taxpayer money – but will attack subsidies for renewables. “This is another thing I don’t get about Osborne’s economics. They are really bonkers. The vast majority of this investment is private sector. Compare that with roads or railways or flood defences where it’s always the taxpayer. Forget climate change, this is disastrous economics. This is not statesmanship. This is not a good chancellor; this is an ideological, ill-advised chancellor.” http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/03/george-osborne-accused-of-disastrous-assault-on-green-agenda