Posts Tagged renewables

Advanced nuclear can support wind and solar

Posted by Stephen Tindale on March 9th, 2017

Last week I went to Amsterdam to speak at a seminar on ‘nuclear: the elephant in the room’. The Netherlands has only one operating nuclear power station, Borssele, providing about 4% of the power generated in the country. The Netherlands is very flat (and much of it below sea level) so hydro is not an option. This explains why the Netherlands currently gets only around 6.5% of its energy from renewables. The Dutch target under the EU Renewable Energy Directive is to get 14% of total energy from renewables by 2020. Major expansions of on- and offshore wind are underway. But where should the other 86% come from?

The Netherlands has substantial gas resources, so a lot of gas power stations. Gas is less bad for the climate than coal is, and an effective way to back up intermittent renewables such as wind. But gas without carbon capture and storage is not low carbon enough to be regarded as clean (as we argued in http://www.the-weinberg-foundation.org/2017/01/23/new-report-the-case-for-a-clean-energy-alliance/).

The Dutch go to the polls on 15 March. None of the 28 parties standing in the general election is proposing a new nuclear power station. So the reference to the elephant in the room was appropriate.

The role that nuclear could play was well set out by Pier Stapersma of Clingendael, the Netherlands Institute for International Relations (https://www.clingendael.nl/). Pier pointed out that it is possible for nuclear reactors to ‘load follow’ – operate as back up to intermittent wind – and that smaller reactors can do this more efficiently than large reactors can.

Despite the lack of political engagement with nuclear issues, there is some important nuclear research underway in the Netherlands, notably into thorium molten salt reactors at the Delft University of Technology. The website states that “Sun and wind are intermittent energy sources, that require backup. Thorium MSR’s are excellent for providing this. MSR’s can ‘load follow’ automatically, by laws of nature. This means that if demand goes up, they produce more, if it goes down, they produce less.” (http://thmsr.nl/#/)

There is also research into thorium MSRs being done in Denmark, by Copenhagen Atomics (http://www.copenhagenatomics.com/). I met staff from Copenhagen Atomics at the seminar. Denmark has traditionally been anti-nuclear: the smiling sun Nuclear Power: no thanks logo was created in Denmark in 1975 (http://www.smilingsun.org/), and the country has no nuclear power stations.

Copenhagen Atomics aim to build a “waste burner”, using the legacy of past nuclear activities. Weinberg Next Nuclear’s next report will be on this subject. Advanced nuclear technology, including Molten Salt Reactors, have potential to engage previously anti-nuclear audiences. Alongside their energy security and cost reduction potential, this makes them worth investing in.

Our response to Scottish Government consultation on draft Climate Plan

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on February 10th, 2017

The Scottish Government released in January a Draft Climate Change Plan along with a consultation on their suggested policies. Weinberg Next Nuclear has responded and our submission is available below. Scotland is leading the UK in decarbonisation and we believe their targets for negative power emissions and overall decarbonisation timescales should be celebrated for their ambition. Continued support for renewables, and significant hope in the potential for Carbon Capture and Storage form the basis of their policy. However nuclear power, which currently supplies a third of Scotland’s electricity, is neglected. Weinberg Next Nuclear believes that nuclear power is an essential element of a a diverse decarbonisation energy mix. Scotland’s nuclear power plants are ageing and even with life extensions, will be unlikely to operate past 2030. Thus without plans for new nuclear power, Scotland risks missing its decarbonisation targets. Instead, Scotland should look at the potential for advanced nuclear power, which can offer low-carbon, reliable electricity, whilst also securing other benefits for Scotland.

 

Written evidence to the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee submitted by Weinberg Next Nuclear

  1. Summary
  • Progress, targets and timescales are all good. A net zero target is recommended.
  • Power sector is already driving decarbonisation; however policy to decarbonize power relies too heavily on CCS and neglects nuclear, undermining the Scottish Government’s commitment to decarbonisation.
  • Without a significant policy shift in the power sector Scotland risks no longer meeting its targets.
  • Considerable benefits for Scotland, within e.g. air quality and landscape, can be derived from a new nuclear build programme and should therefore be pursued.
  1. Introduction

Weinberg Next Nuclear is a UK charity promoting safe, secure and sustainable nuclear power as a solution to the energy challenges of today. Weinberg focuses on all aspects of the nuclear power industry as well as the wider energy sector and decarbonisation.

Weinberg Next Nuclear welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Scottish Governments call for Evidence on the Draft Climate Plan. As a charity that works across the energy space, we will be directing our response to the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee as the energy sector falls within their remit.

  1. Progress, targets and timescales good

As the Committee on Climate Change reported, Scotland is leading the UK in greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Previous targets have been successfully met with a cut of adjusted emissions by 45.8% between 1990 and 2014, exceeding the 2020 target of a 42% cut six years early. These impressive emissions reductions were achieved whilst the Scottish economy grew. This success has made Scotland a leader in the decarbonisation space, second only to Sweden among Western European countries in cutting emissions over this period.

Future targets as set by The Climate Change Act 2009 show good ambition, with an 80% cut by 2050, though a net zero target should soon be discussed. The power sector has previously been the most successful at decarbonising, and future emissions savings may rely on progress in power whilst other sectors are more challenging. The policy for zero, or even negative emissions from power by 2030 is an ambitious target on an ambitious timeline. This level of ambition is needed but it needs policies to match that are currently lacking. Without more comprehensive, diverse power policy, this target is at risk of being missed.

  1. Meeting the Targets: a role for nuclear

The Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee focuses on the following areas, Electricity generation, Reducing energy demand, Renewable energy (renewable electricity and renewable heat), Interconnection, Grid issues and Fuel poverty. These are all key areas of the power sector, and focusing on demand side issues such as interconnection and efficiency as well as the underemphasised renewable heat are vital to overall decarbonisation. But focusing on renewable energy, rather than low carbon energy, is limited. To give the best chance of decarbonisation, Scotland should encourage an all of the above approach including CCS and nuclear.

There is no current CCS in Scotland or anywhere else in the UK. With the cancellation of the CCS competition by Former Chancellor George Osborne the likelihood of imminent CCS commercialisation in the UK is low. Nuclear power on the other hand as point 7.1.5 states supplied,

“just over a third of Scotland’s electricity in 2015. This represents an increase from 2007, when nuclear energy represented 25.7% of Scotland’s electricity supply.”

Additionally 2.2.4 states:

Electricity will be increasingly important as a power source for heat and transport. As a result, the total volume of electricity supplied within Scotland will increase to 2032. System security will be ensured through diverse generation technologies, increased storage, smart grid technologies and improved interconnection.”

Nuclear power is already making up a significant proportion of the low carbon power required to meet the negative emissions electricity generation target by 2030. If unabated fossil fuels are to continue to be replaced whilst electricity demand grows, Scotland will need a reliable form of power.

Pursuing CCS is wise, especially with the potential to combine with bioenergy for negative emissions; on which we welcome the proposal of a whole system bioenergy action plan and suggest it has a large emphasis on sustainability criteria. However with CCS still a significant way from commercialisation, Scotland should not rule out options that are already delivering carbon savings, such as nuclear power.

We recommend Scotland replaces Hunterston nuclear power station with a new nuclear station. Hunterston is due to close in 2023 and though the owner EDF may extend its life, it has been generating since 1976 so will not be able to continue for much of the foreseeable future. When it does close the gap will need to be filled and if renewables are not expanding quickly enough there is a risk of a relapse on emission savings. Torness nuclear power stations’ life has already been extended, but only until 2030. Thus even if the Scottish government met it’s 2030 target, emissions would likely rise again when Torness closes.

With a third of Scotland’s low carbon power due to close down, there is a need for replacement to compliment the expansion of renewables. This will be necessary whether CCS is delivered or not. Advanced nuclear power, with simpler, more secure and more sustainable reactors, can fill this gap, contribute to emissions savings and also generate new opportunities for Scotland (see below section 5).

Though Weinberg Next Nuclear accept the limits to Scotland’s options due to the policy demands of Westminster, the Scottish government now has an opportunity to channel the pro-nuclear sentiment set out by Westminster in the Industrial Strategy into a decarbonisation narrative.

Though Weinberg Next Nuclear recommends a diverse energy supply based on an “all of the above” strategy, there are obvious environmental concerns to take into account. All technologies have their limitations, including nuclear, but these are often overstated. One technology that can cause more damage than others is pumped storage hydropower, which is supported in the draft climate plan. Though hydro provides reliable power, the construction of dams is often fraught with environmental compromises, and the location should be considered, especially in areas of natural beauty such as the Scottish highlands. Nuclear could provide the same power, with additional skills benefits, without the environmental compromises.

  1. Opportunities to secure wider benefits

In line with the UK’s industrial strategy, a renewed nuclear focus could give the opportunity for building a strong nuclear skills and innovation base in Scotland, drawing upon the wealth of experience and expertise that exists. Continuous failure to preserve this expertise is regrettable and could lead to a further ‘brain drain’. Similarly, focusing on building a skills and innovation based economy in Scotland, led by a dual commitment to nuclear and renewables, could see Scotland becoming a leading nation in the world on successful and sustainable decarbonisation.

There are social opportunities to consider to expanding nuclear power. Nuclear power stations are expensive to build but, given their very long lifespans, most of the power produced will be cheap. Fuel prices will not play any significant role as the price of uranium remains low, as well as the fact that uranium is almost 71 000 times more energy dense than natural gas. This has a dual benefit. Firstly, modern nuclear power stations can play a significant role in addressing fuel poverty by reducing the costs of electricity. Secondly, by opting for nuclear power, issues around landscape (e.g. windfarms, commercial solar farms) are less of an issue. This is highlighted in table 1, showing the vast amounts of space required to replace merely one nuclear reactor.

Table 1: Landscape impact

Technology Capacity factor (%) Sq. miles needed to produce 1000 MW
Nuclear 90 1
Wind 32-47 260-360
Solar 17-28 45-75

 

Further social opportunities stemming from a nuclear-led decarbonisation are found within air quality. By opting for a rapid decarbonisation by using long-proved technologies, nuclear power can replace fossil fuel-based electricity generation within timescales that renewables cannot match. If this is coupled with a serious commitment to decarbonise the transport (non-aviation) fleet, the air quality in Scotland could derive considerable benefits. This, in turn, would allow many serious health issues connected with poor air quality in many of Scotland’s cities to be addressed in an adequate manner.

  1. Recommendations
  • Set a net zero decarbonisation target.
  • Acknowledge the urgency of decarbonisation of the energy sector, by changing focus to low carbon energy focus to encompass nuclear and CCS
  • Establishing a nuclear skills and innovation programme in Scotland.
  • Remove the Memorandum on New Nuclear in Scotland, thus allowing for modern nuclear power stations to be built in Scotland.
  • Establish a programme of nuclear new build in Scotland, coupled with a commitment to decarbonise the non-aviation transport sector.

February, 2017

New Report: The Case for a Clean Energy Alliance

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on January 23rd, 2017

23 January 2017: Clean energy sectors should set up an alliance to shape a supportive industrial strategy.

The British government is today publishing a consultative green paper on a new industrial strategy. It proposes to offer ‘Sector Deals’ to address sector-specific challenges and opportunities. These would “offer a range of support”, including supporting innovation.

The Government highlights that Britain has strengths in research and development of smart energy technologies. And one of the ten” strategic pillars” will be:

“Delivering affordable energy and clean growth. We need to keep costs down for businesses, and secure the economic benefits of the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

In response to the green paper, the Alvin Weinberg Foundation think tank has published a report on The Case for a Clean Energy Alliance. The report argues that:

 

“An Alliance would bring together like-minded organisations – those concerned with energy security, fuel poverty, economic competitiveness, environment, air quality and climate change – to work towards a common goal of decarbonisation. The renewables, CCS and nuclear sectors do already work together on specific issues, through their trade associations. An Alliance would add value by taking a strategic approach, to complement, not duplicate, the tactical co-operation that takes place between sectors already. The Alliance should not be an alternative public voice for clean energy, but rather unite existing voices.”

“The energy industry needs to offer strategic advice to governments on how best to facilitate clean energy. Some competition between sectors is inevitable: public money is limited. Nevertheless, there are significant questions on which competition is neither necessary nor helpful.”[i]

The criteria for judging what is low-carbon should include the full life-cycle of the technology, including land use change. Full members should be trade associations: companies and civil society organisations could become associate members.

Stephen Tindale, Weinberg director, said:

“An active industrial strategy offers a great opportunity for clean energy. To take advantage, different clean energy sectors should work together more strategically. With all the energy challenges of today, now is not the time for sectoral technology tribalism: it is the time for a Clean Energy Alliance.”

Contact: Stephen Tindale

stephen.tindale@the-weinberg-foundation.org

07941 433780

[i] Strategic questions that an Alliance could address include:

  • Should low-carbon energy technologies continue to receive public financial support into the 2020s?
  • If so, how should such support be delivered – through guaranteed tariffs or through grants?
  • Should public money to support clean energy be raised through taxation or through energy bills?
  • How can the operation of the Levy Control Framework be improved in order to increase investor confidence?
  • Is the Contract-for-Difference approach efficient and fair: should it be reformed or would the resulting regulatory instability undermine any potential benefits?”

Evidence to Lord’s Committee by Director Stephen Tindale

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on December 9th, 2016

Our Director Stephen Tindale gave oral evidence on the economics of UK energy policy to the House of Lord’s Economic Affairs Committee on 15 November. He argued for a more diverse energy mix, more consistent policy and more rapid decision making on key issues.

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement said little about energy. The spring 2017 Budget therefore becomes a crucial event: for advanced nuclear, tidal lagoons, energy efficiency, CCS and several other climate and energy issues. In our work for Weinberg Next Nuclear we will continue to urge the UK government to make the necessary public investment to move beyond research, at which the UK is very good, to demonstration and deployment, at which the UK is much less good.

 

Lord Tugendhat: A completely straight-up question: can you please explain the work you are doing and how it fits into the UK energy system?

Stephen Tindale: I work for two days a week running the Alvin Weinberg Foundation, which is the only pro-nuclear charity in the UK. Specifically we are pro-advanced nuclear generation for nuclear—fast reactors. We have tried fast breeder reactors in the UK at Dounreay, and that did not work economically. We now need to look at fast burner reactors, because there is no shortage of plutonium and so on. That is one form of advanced nuclear. The other is molten salt reactors, one of which Alvin Weinberg, the US physicist after whom we are named, was building in the 1960s and early 1970s until President Nixon shut it down. It is an advanced technology—it is not just a paper reactor—but it has not been implemented or built more recently, so there is much work to be done there. The rest of the week I am a consultant, and I work particularly for Tidal Lagoon Power. You have just had a discussion about possible new forms of renewable energy. I would say that tidal lagoons are a very good example of that, and I am very happy to talk about that.

Lord Sharkey: Can I ask you two more questions about technology? First, what impact do you expect your own technologies to make over the next 10 years? Secondly, which other technologies will have the most transformative or disruptive effect on the energy sector and which areas should be priorities for research, apart from your own technologies of course?

Stephen Tindale: Over the next 10 years, advanced nuclear will not be a major player in energy systems. Commercialisation is possible over the next 10 years, but there will not be many advanced nuclear reactors operating in 10 years’ time. That does not mean that we should go slow on it, because over the following 10 or 20 years they could become major players, but a decade is too short a period. One of the companies I am working with, Terrestrial Energy, a Canadian-based company, has said that it aims to commercialise by the mid-2020s, so it is possible, at least in its view. That is why further generation 3 existing reactor designs are necessary as a kind of bridge technology to get us to advanced nuclear, which will be a major player not only in electricity but in heat. Industrial heating cannot be delivered by electricity, as I understand it, so some other form of heating is necessary. Bioenergy is possible, but that has lots of downsides relating to land use and biodiversity, so advanced nuclear for industrial heating seems a sensible way forward.

The other company I mentioned, Tidal Lagoon Power, could be a major player in the next 10 years. I very much hope that following the Hendry review the Government will authorise and support the pathfinder proposal for Swansea financially through a CFD. That is necessary, learning by doing and so on, but the company says that it will then build a 3 gigawatt lagoon off Cardiff, and the Welsh Government are very supportive; they have given it a commercial loan. It is therefore possible that by 2026 more than 3 gigawatts will be generated by the Severn.

Lord Layard: I wanted to ask you about Britain’s record in clean energy research compared with other countries’, and in particular about the implications of the Government’s announcement in the spending review that they would double public expenditure on clean energy research by 2020. How would that money be best spent? What kind of co-ordination is needed to produce value for money from that kind of expenditure?

Stephen Tindale: In the nuclear field, the UK remains quite good on research but not good on research and development, or at least not on the development bit, because we have built no nuclear power stations since the early 1990s. What is needed now is to co-operate with the US, depending on what happens there; certainly the Obama Administration was allocating money and giving it out to research and development for advanced nuclear, and the Trudeau Government in Canada are doing likewise. It would be good to talk to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, for 25 example, to learn how to make progress on delivering advanced nuclear in a way that not only helps with energy security and climate protection but is a major economic opportunity.

Baroness Wheatcroft: One of the reasons why we have not developed any nuclear power stations over the last decades is presumably because there was a perception that the public were not in favour. We are told in your biography that you spent two decades campaigning against nuclear. Can you tell us where the change of heart came from?

Stephen Tindale: That is a perfectly fair question. Indeed, I spent two decades campaigning against nuclear and drafted the Labour Party’s environment policy in 1994, which said, “No new nuclear”. It took Tony Blair in No. 10 and Gordon Brown some time to shift away from that. I then went to work for Greenpeace. I was always worried primarily about the weapons proliferation risk of nuclear rather than radioactive discharges or waste. At least the nuclear industry is required to look after its waste, whereas the fossil fuel industry just puts it out into the atmosphere. I remained concerned about weapons proliferation. My change of heart occurred in August 2006, when the permafrost in Siberia had a massive melt and released vast quantities of methane, at which point I thought, “Oh dear”—to put it politely—“What can we do about this?”. I then concluded over several months, during which I ended up leaving Greenpeace, that we needed to stop arguing only for “the best”, which in terms of energy supply would be renewables, but we need the good as well. Nuclear, because it is low carbon, is in this sense good.

Baroness Wheatcroft: Climate change trumps nuclear arms.

Stephen Tindale: Correct

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: An easy question: should the Government treat investment in energy technology as part of their so-called industrial strategy? If you think they should, do you really think that government is well placed to start picking winners and deciding where that money should best be deployed? I just wonder whether the experience to date with the very generous subsidies for renewables may have deterred some of the work that should have been done on new technologies.

Stephen Tindale: I agree that energy has to be a central part of the industrial strategy. That is why I welcomed the creation of BEIS. Many of my colleagues in the climate movement were very unhappy that DECC was abolished, but in my view the name of the department is less important than its clout in Whitehall. BEIS has the potential to be a significant player in Whitehall, which I am afraid DECC never was. Industrial strategy should cover not only the job creation potential of energy, or how to promote energy security, but, crucially, innovation. On innovation, as well as the issues I have talked about, carbon capture and storage should be restarted. George Osborne’s cancellation of that competition not only was bad in content but sent appalling signals to the potential investors—actual investors in that case—that there was no regulatory stability in the UK. This is one of our major challenges and obstacles: that energy policy changes too often, even when there is no change of Government. To reinsert carbon capture and storage, maybe not for coal but certainly for gas, would be very good not only to protect the climate and keep up with other countries that are developing CCS but to reassure potential investors. On picking winners, if the market was working well, it would not be necessary for the Government to pick winners. By “working well” I mean if all relevant externalities had been internalised—so not only a carbon price but toxic pollutants, such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. We are nowhere near that. The carbon price floor in the UK can be argued many ways, but it is about a third of the external costs of greenhouse gas emissions. The EU ETS is about a tenth of the cost, so it is a complete waste of time. So we are doing better than continental Europe but not nearly well enough. In my view, the major achievement of the coalition was the emissions performance standard—the regulation to prevent new coalfired power stations without carbon capture and storage. It is not low enough in that it allows unabated gas to be built or to continue, and it does not use a regulatory system to shut coal down quickly, but the market appears to be doing that for other reasons. The role of the Government, given the lack of sufficient carbon prices and other green taxes, is to set the framework, which is what Greg Clark said in his speech to Energy UK earlier this week.

The Chairman:. Can I bring this session to a close by asking you what steps you think the Government need to take to encourage private investment in your particular businesses and in the sector generally?

Stephen Tindale: On nuclear, the Government have started on the right course with their promise of £250 million over five years on nuclear R&D innovation funding. That is part of the mission innovation commitment which the UK has made in the international climate agreement context. It has made a start and it is now running two competitions, but the experience of potential investments in carbon capture and storage competition, as I said, was not great. The Government need to set out a timetable and make some awards as soon as possible—give some money. That will encourage investor confidence. There is no lack of potential investors, but there is too much regulatory uncertainty and instability at the moment. The Government definitely need to counter that. The other thing the Government could do on nuclear is encourage the Office for Nuclear Regulation to assess some of these generation 4 designs. Clearly, the Government cannot tell it to say yes, but they can indicate that they are priorities for UK energy policy: that some of these generation 4 reactor designs should be assessed by the Office for Nuclear Regulation.

The Chairman: It seemed that there was a lack of enthusiasm to invest in what turned out to be Hinkley C. The Government have ended up paying a very high price for it.

Stephen Tindale: Indeed. My view of the European pressurised reactor—the design that might be built at Hinkley, and now that the decision has been made I hope it is built—is that it does not have a great track record. It is quite an old-fashioned design and very complicated. More and more safety features were added to it, rather than a more holistic approach of starting from scratch and building safety intrinsically into the design.

The Chairman: So we are paying a high price for yesterday’s model?

Stephen Tindale: Yes.

Lord Burns: What prices are you expecting for the Swansea lagoon?

Stephen Tindale: Are you asking about the strike price?

Lord Burns: Yes.

Stephen Tindale: It is roughly £120. Okay, that is higher than Hinkley, but it is a global first of its kind. I know that the Treasury does not like talk of global firsts of a kind, but La Rance, the barrage in France that uses broadly the same turbines, was built 50 years ago. Turbine technology has advanced somewhat. We need to test it. That is why the argument that we should go first for a three gigawatt one, to invest in an undemonstrated technological approach, is asking investors to be a bit too brave. If the Government wanted to do three gigawatts, they would probably have to provide all the capital themselves. That is not, apparently, on offer.

 

Switzerland reject rapid nuclear phase out

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on November 29th, 2016

On Sunday the people of Switzerland were offered a choice in a referendum as to whether to accelerate the shut-down of their nuclear power stations. With a result of 55% to 45%, the public showed a clear support for maintaining their nuclear fleet.

Following the Fukushima incident, the Swiss government committed to a nuclear phase out leading to a 100% renewable economy, but the timescales were vague. The proposal to accelerate nuclear closures, put forward by the Green Party, would have resulted in three of their five plants being shut next year, the fourth in 2024 and the last in 2029. However with nuclear providing almost 40% of Switzerland’s power, the risks of compromised energy security, consequential pressures to bills and the economy, and the potential increasing reliance on fossil fuels to meet shortages were more important to voters than the Green’s concerns over ageing plants.  

The results of the referendum mean the current Swiss nuclear plants should continue to operate for approximately 60 years, with the first plant closing as previously planned during the 2030s. Other country’s reactions to Fukushima have been more extreme, with Germany closing all reactors and pushing their energiewende program. Although this has increased renewables, it has also increased coal and thus compromised Germany’s decarbonisation leadership. 

Switzerland also gets a large proportion of its power from renewables with approximately 60% coming from hydroelectric power. Combined with low-carbon nuclear power this means it has a very clean power sector. Swiss nuclear is not just used for power, but also for heat, an example that other reactors should follow. The BBC reported that, “Environmentalists have said no nuclear reactors should be allowed to operate for longer than 45 years”. However it is incorrect to argue all environmentalists, in Switzerland or elsewhere, are anti nuclear power. Hydropower has some severe consequences to biodiversity and also can have significant methane emissions and other renewables also have their impacts. Nuclear may not be renewable but pragmatic environmentalists would argue it is low-carbon, reliable power with no impact on air quality and little impact on biodiversity. Keeping existing plants is a good first step for nuclear and it is encouraging to see that in some areas the technology has public support. But a continued commitment to phase out nuclear could risk the environmental and economic benefits that nuclear provides Switzerland. Reuters have reported that the entire phase out plan is now being questioned, with the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the largest in parliament, aiming to challenge it with a separate referendum on the grounds it is too expensive. Hopefully this referendum could represent a turning point for nuclear power in Switzerland and around the world, a very timely one considering the accelerating imperative of decarbonisation. 

IEA chief says we can’t be picky about energy technology

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on October 27th, 2016

The Executive director of the International Energy Association, Fatih Birol, has spoken out on the need for a diverse solution to the decarbonisation challenge, including nuclear. With the climate and energy crises worsening, the solutions are growing more urgent. At the annual Singapore International Energy Week, Birol argued;

“we don’t have the luxury to pick just one technology”

At an event dominated by renewables, he championed the importance of also pursuing energy efficiency and nuclear power, saying:

“for me, the number one is improving energy efficiency. All countries have different resources, but they can all take action on energy efficiency. And in some countries nuclear power, which can generate without creating emission problems, will be part of the solution”.

The future of nuclear was questioned at the event, with public opinion cited as an issue that could prevent progress. However as Birol continued, 2015 had been a kind of “golden year” for nuclear with 10 new reactors, the highest number in almost three decades. Weinberg has reported that progress in China and India as well as new initiatives for nuclear in Canada, the US and the UK is keeping the industry moving. It is vital that new technologies continue to be pursued. As Birol said,

“we have to accelerate innovation because the current technologies will not be enough.”

A diverse, holistic and innovative approach to energy and decarbonisation, based on an “all of the above” strategy, is very much needed. This will need to include renewables, but as Birol said, efficiency and nuclear too, as well as other technologies like carbon capture and storage and interconnection. It is through diversity that we are most likely to achieve energy security and climate protection.

 

 

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/EE-Implementing-the-transition-to-clean-energy-24101601.html

Industrial Strategy Consultation – Weinberg’s submission to BEIS

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on October 17th, 2016

 

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee launched an inquiry this summer to which Weinberg Next Nuclear submitted a response. Our recommendations have now been published and can be found below or at this link:

http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/business-innovation-and-skills-committee/industrial-strategy/written/38936.html

 

A commitment to industrial strategy is welcome, and must include sustainable development, decarbonisation and energy security at its core.

The debate on the extent of state involvement, in reference to climate change and sustainable development, is a valid one. However, the market is far from free. It would only be free if all externalities were included, but they are not. If there was a strong carbon price the government would be able to be less involved, but there will always be a need for some government intervention. Examples of this include research and development for industrial innovation that often requires initial government support.

The government must ensure that the Climate Change Act remains central. It has now been proven that the costs of action on climate change are far less than the costs of inaction (Stern review), with key industry and market leaders in agreement. The CBI says:

Ensuring that we maintain a secure, affordable and low-carbon supply is vital to British business. Additionally, we must continue to use energy more efficiently. The CBI is lobbying for government to provide a long-term, stable policy framework to enable continued business innovation and investment in the UK’s low-carbon transition.[1]

The Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney said:

The combination of the weight of scientific evidence and the dynamics of the financial system suggest that, in the fullness of time, climate change will threaten financial resilience and longer-term prosperity. While there is still time to act, the window of opportunity is finite and shrinking. [2]

Christine Laggard, of the International Monetary Fund, agreed saying:

If climate change issues are not adequately addressed—if we keep running those nice energy subsidies, if the price on carbon is not adequately set, if policymakers dont have it on their radar screens—then financial stability in the medium and long-term is clearly at stake.[3]

It is thus essential that this significant threat to industries, markets, and the environment is mitigated.

The government also needs to accompany the targets on climate change with action by investing in future solutions. Research and development must continue to nurture infant industries that not only have the potential to benefit the UK’s energy and environmental security, but could also offer exciting new export potential. Initiatives like the Swansea tidal lagoon (a world first), advanced nuclear power including the SMR competition, floating offshore wind farms, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and advanced bioenergy from algae are all great opportunities for the UK to pursue. Until externalities are internalised, low carbon energy industries will often require public financial support. The UK Government should provide this, where necessary, from taxes not consumer bills, and should also stop subsidies to unnecessary high carbon energy, including coal-fired power stations

An industrial strategy should be about developing new industries, whilst providing what existing industries need. Developing sustainable energy options not only consolidates the UK’s position in the growing green economy but also contributes to achieving affordable, sustainable and secure energy that is essential for existing industries. Some options, such as CCS, could give new life to declining existing heavy industry as a new report suggests[4] and development at already approved nuclear sites could help improve the rural economy in those areas. Combining heat and power provision through systems like district heating, also offer promising mutual benefits once the initial investment and development is made.

Industry needs security, but in the uncertainty wrought by the Brexit vote it also needs consistency. Blocking low cost, green solutions such as onshore wind, is unwise. A consistent approach should be used between energy sources. For example, if local communities are not allowed a veto vote over shale gas developments, they should also not be allowed a veto on wind farms. Whatever is decided on veto policy, it should be consistency across technologies.

Similarly, industry needs consistency over time. Regulatory stability and long-term agendas help investor confidence. One of the key mechanisms for delivering regulatory stability was EU membership. In the Brexit scenario that the UK now finds itself in, it is essential that a stable, consistent and long-term approach to policy is developed, to maintain confidence and ensure industrial progress.

The UK must also ensure it stays competitive and open to EU and global markets, whilst also maintaining its leadership in certain fields. One of these fields is emissions. The Industrial Emissions Directive, is a key policy that keep relationships with Europe strong whilst protecting our local and global environment. It is essential that that this, and other environmental initiatives are maintained and strengthened to allow the UK to continue to be a key part of Europe’s sustainable industrial future.

Finally, the UK should take inspiration from around the world. In the USA, Obama’s “all of the above” strategy allows security in energy to be achieved through variety of supply. Germany became a world leader in wind and solar development largely due to its Stromeinspeisungsgesetz law, ensuring a very attractive feed in tariff for renewables. This policy was so successful they now need to invest in storage and interconnection to integrate the renewables into a wider energy system. Sweden’s NUTEK created demand for new technologies with greater energy efficiency by technology procurement and government guarantees for market demands. By keeping abreast of these policy developments elsewhere, and future-proofing industry by investing in sustainability, the UK can ensure it continues to prosper.

A well-designed industrial strategy can propel the UK into a leading role in a number of policy areas, including energy, as well as provide some much needed clarity in the post-Brexit environment.

 

[1] http://www.cbi.org.uk/business-issues/energy/

[2] http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Pages/speeches/2015/844.aspx

[3] http://www.wri.org/blog/2013/04/lord-nicholas-stern-identifies-3-obstacles-international-climate-action

[4] http://www.ccsassociation.org/news-and-events/reports-and-publications/parliamentary-advisory-group-on-ccs-report/

Weinberg’s response to the Industrial Strategy Consultation

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on September 29th, 2016

A commitment to industrial strategy is welcome, and must include sustainable development, decarbonisation and energy security at its core.

The debate on the extent of state involvement, in reference to climate change and sustainable development, is a valid one. However, the market is far from free. It would only be free if all externalities were included, but they are not. If there was a strong carbon price the government would be able to be less involved, but there will always be a need for some government intervention. Examples of this include research and development for industrial innovation that often requires initial government support.

The government must ensure that the Climate Change Act remains central. It has now been proven that the costs of action on climate change are far less than the costs of inaction (Stern review), with key industry and market leaders in agreement. The CBI says:

Ensuring that we maintain a secure, affordable and low-carbon supply is vital to British business. Additionally, we must continue to use energy more efficiently. The CBI is lobbying for government to provide a long-term, stable policy framework to enable continued business innovation and investment in the UK’s low-carbon transition.[1]

The Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney said:

The combination of the weight of scientific evidence and the dynamics of the financial system suggest that, in the fullness of time, climate change will threaten financial resilience and longer-term prosperity. While there is still time to act, the window of opportunity is finite and shrinking. [2]

Christine Laggard, of the International Monetary Fund, agreed saying:

If climate change issues are not adequately addressed—if we keep running those nice energy subsidies, if the price on carbon is not adequately set, if policymakers dont have it on their radar screens—then financial stability in the medium and long-term is clearly at stake.[3]

It is thus essential that this significant threat to industries, markets, and the environment is mitigated.

The government also needs to accompany the targets on climate change with action by investing in future solutions. Research and development must continue to nurture infant industries that not only have the potential to benefit the UK’s energy and environmental security, but could also offer exciting new export potential. Initiatives like the Swansea tidal lagoon (a world first), advanced nuclear power including the SMR competition, floating offshore wind farms, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and advanced bioenergy from algae are all great opportunities for the UK to pursue. Until externalities are internalised, low carbon energy industries will often require public financial support. The UK Government should provide this, where necessary, from taxes not consumer bills, and should also stop subsidies to unnecessary high carbon energy, including coal-fired power stations

An industrial strategy should be about developing new industries, whilst providing what existing industries need. Developing sustainable energy options not only consolidates the UK’s position in the growing green economy but also contributes to achieving affordable, sustainable and secure energy that is essential for existing industries. Some options, such as CCS, could give new life to declining existing heavy industry as a new report suggests[4] and development at already approved nuclear sites could help improve the rural economy in those areas. Combining heat and power provision through systems like district heating, also offer promising mutual benefits once the initial investment and development is made.

Industry needs security, but in the uncertainty wrought by the Brexit vote it also needs consistency. Blocking low cost, green solutions such as onshore wind, is unwise. A consistent approach should be used between energy sources. For example, if local communities are not allowed a veto vote over shale gas developments, they should also not be allowed a veto on wind farms. Whatever is decided on veto policy, it should be consistency across technologies.

Similarly, industry needs consistency over time. Regulatory stability and long-term agendas help investor confidence. One of the key mechanisms for delivering regulatory stability was EU membership. In the Brexit scenario that the UK now finds itself in, it is essential that a stable, consistent and long-term approach to policy is developed, to maintain confidence and ensure industrial progress.

The UK must also ensure it stays competitive and open to EU and global markets, whilst also maintaining its leadership in certain fields. One of these fields is emissions. The Industrial Emissions Directive, is a key policy that keep relationships with Europe strong whilst protecting our local and global environment. It is essential that that this, and other environmental initiatives are maintained and strengthened to allow the UK to continue to be a key part of Europe’s sustainable industrial future.

Finally, the UK should take inspiration from around the world. In the USA, Obama’s “all of the above” strategy allows security in energy to be achieved through variety of supply. Germany became a world leader in wind and solar development largely due to its Stromeinspeisungsgesetz law, ensuring a very attractive feed in tariff for renewables. This policy was so successful they now need to invest in storage and interconnection to integrate the renewables into a wider energy system. Sweden’s NUTEK created demand for new technologies with greater energy efficiency by technology procurement and government guarantees for market demands. By keeping abreast of these policy developments elsewhere, and future-proofing industry by investing in sustainability, the UK can ensure it continues to prosper.

A well-designed industrial strategy can propel the UK into a leading role in a number of policy areas, including energy, as well as provide some much needed clarity in the post-Brexit environment.

[1] http://www.cbi.org.uk/business-issues/energy/

[2] http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Pages/speeches/2015/844.aspx

[3] http://www.wri.org/blog/2013/04/lord-nicholas-stern-identifies-3-obstacles-international-climate-action

[4] http://www.ccsassociation.org/news-and-events/reports-and-publications/parliamentary-advisory-group-on-ccs-report/

Being pro-nuclear does not undermine climate and energy goals

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on August 26th, 2016

By Stephen Tindale and Suzanna Hinson

“EU member states with pro-nuclear policies risk undermining Europe’s 2020 Strategy on climate and energy goals, an academic study has found.”

Maxine Perella: “Pro-nuclear EU countries ‘slower to tackle GHGs or boost renewables’ – study.” ENDS Europe, 24 August 2016

The study referred to is “Nuclear energy and path dependence in Europe’s ‘Energy union’: coherence or continued divergence?” by Andrew Lawrence, Benjamin Sovacool and Andrew Stirling, from the University of Sussex and the Vienna School of International Relations.[1]

The authors consider data from all European countries. They divide them into three main categories: always anti-nuclear (13 countries); now anti-nuclear (7); pro-nuclear (8). The headline conclusions are that:

– The always-anti countries have reduced their emissions by an average of 6% since 2005, and had increased renewable energy sources to 26%.

– The now-anti countries reduced emissions on average by 11% while expanding renewables to 19%.

– In pro-nuclear countries, greenhouse gas emissions have increased since 2005 by an average of 3%, and only 16% of energy is from renewables.

– On the basis of these figures, the authors conclude:”[The] intensities of national commitment to nuclear power tend to be inversely related to degrees of success in achieving EU climate policy goals.”

The study was published in the journal Climate Policy, so will have been peer reviewed. It deserves to be taken seriously – and has already been widely discussed. However, the authors’ conclusions are, in our view, based on two significant mistakes:

– The categories of pro- and anti-nuclear are too broad and do not compare like with like;

– Reduction of greenhouse gases and promotion of renewable energy are presented together as a single objective. They are not.

The authors group countries together into always anti-nuclear, now anti-nuclear and pro-nuclear. To be in the ‘now anti-‘ category, a country’s government must have a policy to decommission existing nuclear power stations and not allow replacements. Germany clearly belongs in this category. Does Sweden, which the authors also place there? In 1980 Swedes voted in a referendum to phase out nuclear power, though no timetable was set. Since then Swedish policy on nuclear has been, to use the diplomatic word used by the World Nuclear Association, “ambivalent”.[2] In 2010, at the behest of a centre-right government, the Swedish parliament lifted the ban on new nuclear construction. In 2014 the Green Party entered a centre-left coalition, so new nuclear was off the political agenda for a while. But on 10 June this year (so shortly after the publication of the Climate Policy article) the government lifted its moratorium on nuclear new build, and also reduced the tax on nuclear. Sweden is not, therefore, an anti-nuclear country.

The countries which the authors do place in their pro-nuclear category are Finland, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the UK: countries with very different economic and political circumstances. We do not believe that it makes analytical sense to compare western European countries – established democracies with strong economies – with ex-communist central and eastern European ones. And the existing energy mix is also a determining factor in a country’s attitude to climate action. The reason the Polish government opposes strong greenhouse gas reduction targets is not because it wants to build a nuclear power station; it is because Polish society and economy are currently so dependent on coal.

If one narrows the category to western European countries, how do pro-and anti-nuclear countries compare? In terms of greenhouse gas reductions since 2005, the figures given in the Climate Policy article are:

Country Authors’ category Greenhouse gas reduction since 2005
Denmark Always anti -20%
Ireland Always anti -20%
Austria Always anti -16%
Finland Pro -16%
Netherlands Now anti -16%
Belgium Now anti -15%
France Pro -14%
Germany Now anti -14%
UK Pro -14%
Italy Always anti -13%
Spain Now anti -10%
Sweden Now anti -10%

 

Denmark and Ireland, the countries that have reduced emissions most since 2005, have always been anti-nuclear. But two examples do not constitute a proven link. Beyond these two, the figures do not establish correlation, let alone causation. In joint second on -16% are one country from each of the three categories. Anti-nuclear Germany and pro-nuclear Britain and France have each reduced emissions by 14% since 2005.

Performance on renewable energy

The authors then consider how well countries are performing on renewable energy. They mention the drawbacks of some renewable energy technologies, including large hydro and bioenergy, but nevertheless present single figures, covering all renewables, for each country. Bioenergy and nuclear can be used anywhere, but other renewables, especially hydro, are geographically dependent.

The figures for western European countries are given below. Again, there is no correlation between attitude to nuclear and performance on renewables.

Country Category Percentage of energy from renewables (2013)
Sweden Now anti (according to authors) 52%
Finland Pro 37%
Austria Always anti 33%
Denmark Always anti 27%
France Pro 14%
Germany Now anti 12.5%
UK Pro 5%
Netherlands Now anti 4.5%

 

Sweden get about 40% of its electricity from hydro; Finland 18%. Finland got 16% of electricity from bioenergy in 2013, Sweden 6%. Both countries also use bioenergy extensively for heating.[3] They have strong criteria for minimising the biodiversity impact of biomass, but not for assessing the carbon footprint. EU rules on the carbon footprint of bioenergy apply only to biofuels, not to biomass. Bioenergy is necessary, particularly for heating and for transport. But not all bioenergy expansion is desirable. Being renewable is not the same as being good for the climate. Similarly, large-scale hydro, has some severe consequences to habitats, erosion and hydrology meaning though it is good for the climate, it is not necessarily good for the environment.

Are renewables better than nuclear?

Does it matter whether greenhouse gas reductions are achieved through expansion of renewables, or through other measures? It does not matter to the global climate. In our view, the scale of the climate crisis is such that we need rapidly to move beyond arguments about which low-carbon technology to support and accepted that all are required. (Our next report will be on this issue.) But the way in which emissions are reduced appears to matter to the Climate Policy authors. Professor Andy Stirling, said about his report: “By suppressing better ways to meet climate goals, evidence suggests entrenched commitments to nuclear power may actually be counterproductive.”[4]

Academics should always define their terms. So we have a question for Professor Sterling: better in what sense?

 

[1] http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14693062.2016.1179616

[2] http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-o-s/sweden.aspx

[3] https://www.iea.org/countries/membercountries/

[4] http://www.sussex.ac.uk/broadcast/read/36547

New York goes pro Nuclear

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on August 2nd, 2016

In March we were happy to report that nuclear power was gaining acceptance as a clean energy source, specifically in New York. Now there is more good news as the New York State’s Public Service Commission voted yesterday to adopt the New York State Clean Energy Standard, advocating both renewables and nuclear. The overall aim is to increase renewables to provide 50-percent of electricity by 2030, whilst also retaining the state’s six nuclear plants which currently produce 30-percent of electricity.

The plan involves paying subsidies to the upstate nuclear power plants to ensure they keep operating. Nuclear power is struggling at a time of low prices for power and gas but is essential to meet decarbonisation targets and improve air quality. A statement from Governor Cuomo’s office said, “a growing number of climate scientists have warned that if these nuclear plants were to abruptly close, carbon emissions in New York will increase by more than 31 million metric tons during the next two years, resulting in public health and other societal costs of at least $1.4 billion.”

These clear benefits of retaining nuclear were argued by Rob DiFrancesco, director of New York AREA who said “New Yorkers win because they keep abundant, clean sources of power that generate billions of dollars in annual economic activity in the state, while preserving emission free nuclear power plants that help the state meet its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions”. Although this controversial plan has received much opposition, Eric Meyer, organizing director for Environmental Progress said it appears there are far more in favour than against.

An all of the above energy strategy, combining both renewables and nuclear, as well as storage, interconnection, CCS and efficiency investments, is the best way forward not just for New York, but for everyone. Our next report will be advocating a Clean Energy Consortium in the UK and hopefully many more will soon be following in New York’s progressive footsteps.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/08/01/why-new-york-state-just-delivered-extremely-good-news-to-the-nuclear-industry/?utm_term=.7c8204d55522

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