By 2030 solar power is expected to be the cheapest form of energy (not just electricity) across the globe.
Yet the UK Government and the French nuclear industry continue to struggle on with failed nuclear technology. The Stop Hinkley Campaign says it’s a real story of good versus evil for the pantomime season.
“Good solar and renewable energy will triumph in the end. (oh yes it will!) All and sundry – from investment bankers to energy experts – keep telling the Government that for nuclear power ‘it’s behind you!’Unfortunately, if Government doesn’t come to its senses soon, electricity consumers could be left with rather a large bill”, according to Stop Hinkley spokesperson, Roy Pumfrey.
Good solar and renewable energy will triumph in the end
Vincent de Rivaz, the chief executive of EDF Energy has assured Parliament that Hinkley Point C will be built by 2025 on time and within budget (oh no it won’t!). But then EDF predicted in 2008 that electricity from Hinkley Point C would cost just £45/MWh – less than half the £92.50 consumers are going to have to pay for it. And de Rivaz himself predicted in 2007 that Hinkley electricity would be cooking our turkeys by Christmas 2017 (oh no it won’t!). At the same time, FOI requests have revealed that just one Government Department has blown over £20million of taxpayers’ money (oh yes it has!) on pointless consultancy on the shockingly bad deal struck with EDF.
The French nuclear industry is in a state of chaos (oh yes it is!), and no-one is quite sure where it will end up. Last week EDF’s offices in Paris were raided by French competition authorities amid allegations that it was exploiting its position as a former state monopoly to keep rivals out of the market in France. The day before Greenpeace filed a lawsuit against the Company, alleging that it was guilty of false accounting deliberately underestimating the cost of its nuclear reactors.
Meanwhile the problem, first discovered in 2014 at Flamanville (the reactor being built in Normandy which is the same type as the two proposed for Hinkley Point – the EPR) has escalated beyond EDF’s worst fears. The discovery that the steel used for the cap on the reactor pressure vessel had carbon levels above permitted limits led to an internal investigation at Le Creusot – the French reactor builder, Areva’s metal forge. This in turn led to the discovery of yet more anomalies. Areva is now reported to be reviewing all 9,000 manufacturing records at the forge dating back as far as 1943, including files from more than 6,000 nuclear components. It has also been discovered that some components forged in Japan by JCFC, a subcontractor for Areva have the same problem.
As a result, 12 of France’s 58 nuclear reactors have been shut-down, but potentially more than half of them could be affected by the “carbon segregation” problem. Excessive levels of carbon in steel could make safety critical components more brittle and subject to sudden fracture or tearing under sustained high pressure, which is obviously unacceptable in a nuclear reactor. In addition, some quality control reports about these safety critical components have been falsified or are incomplete.
From Hinkley Point’s perspective, the main impact of all this will be on the financial viability of EDF. It has already been forced to reduce its 2016 generation targets and lower estimates for nuclear output in 2017. The Company already faces a seemingly impossible financial equation. It has a colossal debt of €37 billion; it must deal with the complex €2.5 billion takeover of Areva; and it has to find the money to extend the life of its 58 reactors at an estimated cost of between €60 and €100 billion by 2030.
Added to these woes, EDF has been accused by Greenpeace France of failing to disclose the true cost of running its fleet of reactors in France while financing two new ones in the UK. If it disclosed the true figures, the Company would be declared bankrupt. Greenpeace commissioned an audit by AlphaValue, the equity research company. The report said that EDF would need to find a further €165 billion during the next decade to finance projects such as Hinkley Point and to fix its ailing reactors in France.
Stop Hinkley spokesperson Roy Pumfrey said: “It seems that the French nuclear fleet is getting very close to its sell-by date and it has deficient safety-critical components spread throughout. At the same time, the finances of EDF are in such a deplorable state that the company could soon be joining Areva in bankruptcy. The idea that we should pay £92.50 per MWh to these pantomime villains to build two of its failed reactors in Somerset is completely crazy.”
Meanwhile, as researchers at global investment banks discuss the possibility that paying for energy could soon become a thing of the past, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the future is renewable. Cheap solar panels and advances in storage technology are about to transform the world. By 2030 or 2040 solar will be the cheapest way to generate electricity, indeed any form of energy EVERYWHERE. At the rate of growth that we are seeing at the moment of 35-45% per year solar will grow from providing 2% of global electricity to at least 50% by 2030. We can see the cost of batteries coming down in price dramatically. Turning surplus solar electricity generating during the summer into something we can put into natural gas networks is what we should be looking at in the UK. Generating hydrogen from water and, using microbes, combining it with carbon dioxide to form methane is the simplest way to do this.
Swedish utility Vattenfall has agreed to build a giant offshore wind farm in Denmark that would sell power for €49.50 per MWh. Vattenfall has broken its own previous record of €60 per MWh. Once the cost of transmission is included this works out at around £75.50/MWh compared with £100.50/MWh for Hinkley Point C (once inflation has been added to the £92.50 at 2012 prices).
“The Government knows that solar and wind will be cheaper by the time Hinkley is generating” says Roy Pumfrey. “It is blindingly obvious that solar and wind will win through in the end, but if the Government doesn’t come to its senses soon electricity consumers will be paying EDF through their noses for nuclear electricity we don’t need.”
Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?
The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?
The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.
Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.
The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.
Introducing New Technology
The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.
- To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
- Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
- Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.
How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy
Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.
The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.
The Internet of Things
Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.
Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.
It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.
“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”
Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)
The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.
4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy
Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.
However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?
A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.
1. Boulder Nissan
When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:
- Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
- They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
- Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.
This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.
2. Valley Electric Association
In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.
“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”
The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.
This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.
3. Las Vegas Casinos
A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.
“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”
There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.
4. Boston College
Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.
Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.
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