March 30, 2013 at 9:04 am
The energy secretary, Ed Davey, has given EDF permission to construct a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point. It will be the first new power station in a generation. The last power station to be opened was Sizewell B in 1995.
Two nuclear reactors will be built at the site, and the new power station will replace the current station, which will close in a decade. Davey said that it will “generate vast amounts of clean energy” and will “enhance our energy security” as well as benefiting the local economy.
The two reactors will each produce 1.6GW of power, making the power plant one of the largest in the UK. It is expected to provide power for up to five million homes. It could be the first of many nuclear power plants to be built over the next few years, as older coal and nuclear power plants are replaced.
However, an agreement on the amount of subsidies EDF will receive from the government is still being negotiated. EDF wants a guaranteed amount of money for every megawatt hour it produces during the lifetime of the plant, and the figure being negotiated is thought to be in the region of £100. Discussions are also continuing in relation to how much the company will have to pay for storing the nuclear waste that the plant produces.
As expected, the decision to give the go-ahead to a new generation of nuclear power has its critics. Many environmental groups want to see more focus on renewable energy, claiming that the cost of nuclear power keeps on rising.
However, others are seeing the announcement as a positive step in the UK’s attempts to reduce its carbon footprint and increase energy security.
March 27, 2013 at 9:06 am
Councils across the country have signed up for a scheme that could save you serious money on your energy bills. It’s super easy to get involved, simply sign up before 8 April at The Big Community Switch.
People across the UK are paying too much for their energy bills despite the competitive, privatised market in the UK. Reasons for not switching suppliers range from a basic lack of information to misplaced fears of interrupted services and a lack of trust in energy suppliers.
The Big Community Switch has managed to get over 50 Councils together for this one auction, the largest number to have ever participated in a collective switching scheme.
The auction will take place on 9 April and a single energy supplier will be chosen from among the leading British companies. Suppliers have been audited beforehand to check that they will be capable of handling so many new customers at once.
You will need to give your name, address, telephone number, email and current usage. Despite all the personal details, signing up is obligation-free. Once the auction has taken place you will be given the opportunity to review the offer before going ahead. If you decide not to proceed, there is no penalty.
Should you choose to go ahead with the switch, there will be no interruption of service and your new supplier will contact the old one to arrange everything.
Renting tenants can also take part in the scheme, as long as they or their partner are named on the energy bills.
February 7, 2013 at 10:05 am
With the average household’s energy bills having doubled since 2005, it is little wonder that more and more of our disposable income (i.e. income after paying tax) is going on paying our gas and electricity bills.
Recent research carried out by Saga, the over 50s group, showed that the proportion of disposable income spent on energy has increased since 2005 by 55% for the under 50s, 63% for the 50 to 64-year-old age group and 57.5% for the 65s and over.
Many of us are doing our best to save energy by switching off lights when we leave a room, turning the thermostat down, reducing our hot water consumption and using fewer electrical devices, but still we are having to tighten our belts.
If you feel that little is left after bills for a night out, a new outfit or a holiday you will not be surprised to learn that almost a quarter of our disposable income goes on all the boring stuff: utility bills, council tax, fuel and food. On top of this, of course, comes the cost of our mortgage or rent, estimated at around 25 to 30% of disposable income.
With wages failing to keep pace with inflation, many households are having to do without the luxuries and are also trying to cut back on items such as broadband and mobile phone costs.
The bad news is that, according to a report by the consumer group [http://www.which.co.uk/ Which?] published last year, the proportion of disposable income spent on bills will continue to increase for at least another 18 years.
November 2, 2012 at 10:00 am
Storing energy is one of the biggest challenges that the renewable energy industry faces. However, one potential solution has been highlighted by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and it comes in the form of liquid gas.
One of the problems with renewable energy sources like wind turbines is that energy is often produced when it is not needed, such as during the night. The challenge is to capture this energy, store it away, and then use it when it is needed without losing too much of the energy in the process.
A BBC article recently highlighted a potential solution being suggested by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers that involves the cooling of air to a liquid form as a way of storing energy.
The technology was originally developed by inventor Peter Dearman who lives in Hertfordshire. A company, Highview Power Storage, was later set up to trial a new system and it is funded in part by the government.
The process involves using electricity produced at the wrong time to gather air, from which the water vapour and CO2 are removed. It is then cooled to -190C, at which point it turns to liquid and can be stored. It is contained within a vacuum sack until it is required, when it is then warmed up. As the gas expands it drives the turbine, which produces the power.
Although it is only 25% efficient on its own, when the generator is placed next to an industrial plant where heat is produced, it can use this heat to make the process more efficient. Experts suggest that it could actually have an efficiency of 70% in the future.
Although this is not quite as efficient as current batteries, the benefits are that it is long lasting, is easy to maintain and only uses standard components, all of which make it a potentially attractive option that we may see more of in the future.
October 18, 2012 at 10:51 am
Wind power is being seen as one of the potential ways to help to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and enable the UK to reach its renewables target. However, it has been faced with a number of problems including the expense of producing offshore wind and complaints in rural areas due to unsightly wind turbines.
Now, however, another solution has been proposed: to outsource the production of electricity from wind turbines to Ireland.
The proposal has been made by the American company Element Power, which is calling the project ‘Greenwire’. The proposal is to build wind farms in the Bog of Allen in Ireland and transport the electricity back to the UK underneath the Irish Sea in two large cables.
The project would involve the construction of 700 wind turbines, which could lead to the production of 3GW of electricity (enough to power three million homes) and create thousands of jobs at the same time. If it goes ahead, it could begin to generate power by 2018.
The proposal has a budget of £5bn, but it could save £7bn over 15 years due to the cheaper costs of onshore wind power compared to offshore power.
Executives from Element Power have stated that the plan already has the support of the Irish government. However, it is far from being finalised and there are still reservations about the UK providing subsidies to a project outside the country.
Mike O’Neill is the president of Element Power and said that he thinks it will be easier to get planning permission for the wind farms in Ireland as long as it is done “in a sensible and sensitive way”.
It seems as if there is a long way to go before any decisions are made, but it is certainly an interesting option that could solve a number of issues for the government.
July 22, 2012 at 10:25 am
Ofgem has stated that it wants energy firms to invest £22 billion over the next eight years, to upgrade gas and electricity networks across the UK. The investment is going to be funded by increased energy bills, but National Grid has now said that the increases which have been proposed are not enough.
Hard-up energy customers will not like the sound of that, as some people are already struggling to pay their bills. But the improvements are essential and the only way to fund them is through increased bills.
At the moment, Ofgem has stated that bills will go up £7 in 2013 and £15 in 2021, but National Grid says this is 20% short of its estimates if the work on the networks is to be completed.
The essential investments are needed to improve the networks and to avoid failing to hit environmental targets. The chairman of Ofgem, Lord Mogg, said that “Britain faces an unprecedented need to invest to replace ageing infrastructure, meet environmental targets and deliver secure supplies.”
£15 billion of the £22 billion will go towards improving the electricity network in England and Wales and the gas network in the whole of the UK, and the remaining £7 billion will go towards the networks which transport gas to people’s homes.
However, energy companies wanted £21 billion for the electricity transmission system and £9 billion for the gas pipelines.
Ofgem says that the investment could lead to the creation of 7,000 new jobs, and it will also help to secure the energy supply of Britain.
July 18, 2012 at 10:21 am
Scotland failed to meet its own target for greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. Compared to emissions for 2009, the total emissions for the year rose by 1.9%, leading to dismay from environmental groups.
However, the climate change minister, Stewart Stevenson, said that the incredibly cold winter during that year was to blame for the failure to meet the targets.
The Scottish government has set its own targets for carbon reduction, which are some of the most ambitious of any country (a reduction of 42% by 2020).
Stevenson claimed that the “coldest winter temperatures in almost a century” led to people turning up their heating, but that the government remained “fully committed to delivering ambitious and world-leading climate change targets”.
He also confirmed that progress has been made since 2010, stating that:
- 62% of Scottish households had homes with a good energy efficiency rating in 2010, up from 55% in 2009.
- Tree planting went up nearly 50% in 2010/11 compared to the previous year.
- 2011 was a record year for output from renewables, with 35% of all electricity production coming from green sources.
However, many environmentalists and opposition politicians said the failure is not acceptable and that it threatens Scotland’s role as a world leader in fighting back against climate change.
Patrick Harvie from the Scottish Green Party said that the government “can’t get away” with using the fact that Scotland suffers from occasional cold winters as an excuse, especially when they have failed to implement proper insulation in the country’s homes.
However, the country is still on track to meet targets. It has seen a drop in emissions of 24.3% between 1990 and 2010, and its target of a reduction of 42% by 2020 is still within reach.
July 10, 2012 at 10:28 am
Green energy production rose by a third in the last year, with wind power, solar power and wave power leading the way.
Renewable energy made up 11% of total electricity production in the UK for the first three months of 2012, compared to 7.7% in the same period last year, according to figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Onshore wind farms saw large increases in energy production, as did bio-energy plants and hydroelectric plants.
It now seems that Britain is looking good to hit its target of generating 15% of its power from green energy by 2020, which is a legally binding target.
Gas is now accounting for just 27% of electricity production, the lowest it has been for 14 years, and high prices are being blamed for this. Coal was responsible for producing 42% of electricity, which has actually gone up. But energy from nuclear power has gone down from 19% to 17%.
Compare this to wind power which has gone up 50%, hydroelectricity (up 43%) and thermal renewables (up 20%) and it is clear to see that the green energy sector is experiencing something of a boom.
Joss Garman from Greenpeace welcomed the news, saying that Britain is “now in prime position to become the Saudi Arabia of the global offshore wind industry”.
However, it is not all good news. There is currently a lot of debate over planned cuts to green energy production in the government which could affect the growth of the industry.
Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change secretary, is planning to reduce subsidies for onshore wind by 10%. However, George Osborne wants to cut the subsidies by up to 25%, which could have a serious effect on the amount of green energy produced over the coming years.
June 22, 2012 at 10:34 am
By the end of the decade the cost of electricity produced from offshore wind farms could drop by 30%, according to the results of a couple of reports which have just come out.
If the building of offshore wind farms does go down so dramatically then this will mean that it can compete with other cheaper sources of power, such as onshore wind.
The problem with offshore wind is the high costs involved in building wind farms out at sea. Electricity from offshore sources currently costs between £149 and £191 per megawatt-hour, compared to £76 to £79 for power from gas power stations.
Last year an industry group, the Cost Reduction Task Force (CRTF), was set up to find out how to reduce this figure to £100 per megawatt-hour by 2020, and the new report has now suggested that this is possible.
The UK has invested heavily in this form of energy production in order to meet its carbon reduction targets set by the EU, but offshore wind farms are still proving to be very expensive.
By 2020, the UK government has set a target of generating 18GW of power from offshore wind farms. At the moment it is only generating 2GW of power, so it is still a long way off target. However, these latest findings will only serve to boost confidence that this form of power could be a lot more widespread in the future.
In addition to the CRTF report, another report published by the Crown Estate also came out saying the same thing, and suggested that the best way to bring the costs down with offshore wind is to produce turbines that are more efficient which could bring the price for building wind farms down by 39%.
May 30, 2012 at 10:24 am
EDF has been in talks with the nuclear regulator in the UK about extending the life of its existing nuclear power stations. The talks with the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) concern the possibilities of keeping seven out of EDF’s eight nuclear power stations running beyond the dates when they are set to be decommissioned.
The reactors of some of the nuclear power stations will start to decommission in 2016, and by 2023 seven of these stations will have come to the end of their lives.
This is going to leave a gap in the energy market, and there is now real concern that action needs to be taken to keep the lights on.
EDF wants to make a final decision on investment in the reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset at the end of 2012, and it is quoted in The Guardian as saying that it “makes absolute sense” to extend the lives of the power stations, and that it fills the “short-term energy need”.
The plan is to keep the plants open for an average period of seven more years, which has already gone up from five years, and this could go up even further. If EDF wants to continue to operate the reactors, it has to ensure strict safety standards set by the ONR, and these typically become more expensive as the plants age.
It could help the government to fill a short-term need whilst it focuses more on investing in low-carbon power, and many see this as a better option than building new reactors. However, EDF still says that it is committed to building new reactors as well.