Today, the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) spells out what the political agreement made at the COP21 climate talks in Paris means for UK climate policy, including energy, industry and transport. At those talks, 195 nations pledged to keep global warming to less than 2°C, and to aspire to keep global warming to less than 1.5°C. This means that today’s net release of fossil and biomass carbon into the atmosphere must decline rapidly. So that, by 2050, every tonne of carbon released or used in fuels, manufacturing, products, and services has to be either eliminated – by substituting different energy sources and production methods – or has to be captured and stored securely for the long-term in deep geology, in soil or in weathered minerals. Reductions of present day emissions must decrease by at least 2% year-on-year from now until 2050.
The UK Conservative Government came to power in May 2015 using a manifesto alluding to the “greenest government ever” and promising £1 billion for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). This government’s legacy from its first 8 months has been a systematic and unprecedented pull-back from financial incentives for all types of low-carbon electricity production, energy efficiency, and financing of “green” commercialisation.
Of particular note was the cancellation on 25 November, separate from the Chancellor’s Autumn Spending Review speech, of the 10-year, multi-government, cross-party support for constructing Europe’s first CCS projects. These projects had been 40 months in detailed development. The Peterhead project led by Shell and SSE would be the first CCS project on gas power in the world. This is of particular relevance to the UK because of the government’s ambition to construct multiple gas-fuelled power plant as replacements for about 30% of UK electricity generation from coal and nuclear (which will be retired during the 2020s).
When attempting to explain the cancellation of CCS, unsubstantiated reasons were stated by different government ministers, from “not working yet”, and “only a long-term need” to “costs £170 per Megawatt hour compared to gas at half that” – all have been shown to be untrue by expert witnesses to the Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECCC).
Fundamental problems are that the first projects of any new technology are deliberately more expensive so that they will work; and the Prime Minister and others in government are choosing to quote CCS numbers that include costs of pipes and boreholes, which are not included in the costs quoted for gas or nuclear – because these are national infrastructure asset costs.
The CCC letter today recommends that their proposed budget to 2032 is a minimum, and suggests that government must be prepared to do more, not less, in order to reduce total UK domestic carbon emissions in line with the Paris agreement objectives. The committee also notes that increased decarbonisation ambition will be needed by the European Union. In short, we need to make more reductions. For that, CCS is essential and an urgent plan is needed for a minimum of 7GW clean power by 2030, and support for industry decarbonisation.
The CCC also appears to bear out what expert witnesses told the ECC – that the first CCS projects will deliver at a strike price of £170 / MW hr but then drop to £110/MW hr.
The CCC letter today makes clear that rapid delivery of CCS is part of the least-cost package of techniques and technologies to achieve UK carbon budgets. And that failure to deliver CCS will have wide and costly consequences across the UK economy. To achieve that, the UK needs at least two CCS projects operating by 2020, and a development of five more following on from those.
Professor Stuart Haszeldine, SCCS Director, said: “To stay on track in the ‘high ambition coalition’ of leading nations agreed in Paris climate talks, the UK needs to do a lot more on UK electricity, and a lot more on UK low-carbon industry and low-carbon heat. But now this government is doing a lot less. There is no sign yet that facts, unbiased scientific evidence and rationality are regarded as more important than lobbying by corporations and colleagues wishing to take the UK back to the 1960s energy mix. It’s a choice between spending £40 per household in 2016 or spending £200 per household each year from 2050. We can afford it.”
Through delaying CCS development for at least 10 years, the UK will fail to demonstrate the commercial-scale operation of CCS on gas power plant and, additionally, will fail to demonstrate the collaboration of different types of companies in the UK’s uniquely disaggregated electricity market. It will also fail to build the first geographic centres of pipeline infrastructure essential to transport CO2, and will fail to demonstrate the secure integrity of UK geological storage of CO2. This means that, even if the UK attempts a future “buy in” of CCS capture equipment from the US, China or Canada, there will be many years of recovery time, rebuilding and re-skilling of people and infrastructure, which are right now being lost through decommissioning of the North Sea offshore industries.
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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