twilight-532720_1280

New York Approves Its Own Green Deal as Trump Turns ‘Blind Eye’

New York State’s version of the Green New Deal is heading to the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is expected to sign it into law.

The legislation, approved early Thursday by the state Assembly and Wednesday by the Senate, will set the most aggressive clean-energy targets in the country, calling for huge additions of solar power and massive wind farms off the coast.

“As Washington turns a blind eye and rolls back decades of environmental protections, New York turns to a future of net zero emissions,” Cuomo said in a statement heralding the bill’s passage.

The measure codifies New York’s goal of getting all of its electricity from emission-free sources by 2040, putting the state ahead of all others that have set clean-energy standards — even progressive California, which has targeted 100% clean power by 2045. It also calls for an 85% reduction in economy-wide emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. In promoting the plan during a recent radio program, Cuomo called it “the most aggressive in the country.”

“It’s definitely the most progressive bill that we’ve seen anywhere,’’ Miles Farmer, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview.

Exactly how New York will pull off such an ambitious plan remains to be seen. Utility executives across the U.S. have warned that a 100% green grid is impossible using current technologies.

The bill would boost the amount of solar power in New York to 6 gigawatts by 2025 from about 1.7 gigawatts currently. It also calls for 9 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2035. None of the state’s electricity currently comes from offshore wind.

Comparing New York’s plan to those of other states “is beside the point,” said Ethan Zindler, head of Americas research for BloombergNEF. “The question is can it be done and will there be follow through?”

wind-power-1628671_1280

Renewables offer UK ‘nuclear gap’ insurance

Increasing renewable energy capacity would provide an insurance policy against a possible ‘nuclear gap’ in the UK’s low-carbon power pipeline caused by early closure of ageing reactors, according to a new report by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.

The report – ‘Cracks in the System’ – examines the effects of the UK’s existing nuclear power stations closing earlier than government expects.

It concluded that expanding renewable energy capacity would fill the gap more cheaply than expanding gas generation.

Expansion could either be through increasing the development of offshore wind or via a combination of on- and offshore wind and solar, the report said.

Accelerating renewables rollout in this way alongside enhanced power system flexibility such as storage would be a ‘no-regrets’ option,” ECIU said.

ECIU head of analysis and the report author Jonathan Marshall said: “Although government has reduced forecasts for the amount of nuclear capacity Britain needs in recent years, no assessment has yet considered the potential impact of the early closure of the country’s ageing fleet of reactors.

“If this happens it is unlikely that the lights will go out, but it could make hitting our carbon targets more challenging.

“Ministers need to decide how to prepare for this potential clean power gap therefore, and soon; accelerating renewables deployment is probably the best no-regrets short-term option, with consideration given to how to support new nuclear projects over the longer term.”

ECIU added that recent decisions by Hitachi and Toshiba to halt new nuclear projects at Wylfa in Wales and Moorside in Cumbria, respectively, have created a shortfall between official projections of nuclear generating capacity and what the market appears set to deliver.

The ECIU analysis considers this alongside the prospect of further shortfalls – prospects raised by the discovery of cracking in the graphite bricks around the core of nuclear reactors such as that which has closed Hunterston B Power Station in Ayrshire.

If cracks affect Britain’s other advanced gas-cooled reactors, these plants may be forced into decommissioning early, the report said.

The impact of such early closures could have important implications for the UK’s carbon targets, said ECIU director Richard Black.

“Britain is already off-track on meeting the Fourth and Fifth Carbon Budgets, covering the periods 2023-27 and 2028-32 respectively, and the loss of another chunk of low-carbon power would make meeting these targets even more difficult,” Black said.

He added: “Cleaning up the power sector has done the bulk of the heavy lifting in Britain’s recent decarbonisation and, if the government does sign a target for net zero emissions by 2050 into law, it will have to do more.

“With that in mind, it would be economically pragmatic to accelerate decarbonisation in the near-term by building up capacity in low-cost renewables and flexibility mechanisms.

“If it turns out they’re not needed, all ministers will have done is to accelerate decarbonisation which they say they need to do anyway; so this really is a no-regrets pathway. But it’s one where decisions are needed soon.”

chernobyl-2471003_1280

Chernobyl 2.0 fears as nuclear expert warns against re-opening cracked UK reactor

Nuclear experts have warned against re-opening a 43-year-old Scottish nuclear reactor riddled with cracks over fears of a meltdown.

Hunterston B nuclear power plant was shut down last year after it was found that Reactor 3 had almost 400 cracks in it – exceeding the operational limit.

EDF, which own the plant in Ardrossan, Ayrshire, are pushing to return the reactor to service at the end of June and July and want to extend the operational limit of crack allowed from 350 to 700.

However, the plans to reopen the plant have sparked fears it could lead to a nuclear meltdown similar to the 1986 Chernoybl disaster .

Experts have warned that in the very worst case the hot graphite core could become exposed to air and ignite leading to radioactive contamination and evacuation of a large area of Scotland’s central belt – including Glasgow and Edinburgh.

According to Dr Ian Fairlie, an independent consultant on radioactivity in the environment, and Dr David Toke, Reader in Energy Policy at the University of Aberdeen, the two reactors definitely should not be restarted.

Speaking about the cracks in the barrels, they warned: “This is a serious matter because if an untoward incident were to occur – for example an earth tremor, gas excursion, steam surge, sudden outage, or sudden depressurisation, the barrels could become dislodged and/or misaligned.

“These events could in turn lead to large emissions of radioactive gases.

“Further, if hot spots were to occur and if nuclear fuel were to react with the graphite moderator they could lead to explosions inside the reactor core.

“In the very worst case the hot graphite core could become exposed to air and ignite leading to radioactive contamination of large areas of central Scotland, including the metropolitan areas of Glasgow and Edinburgh.”

A planned inspection of the graphite bricks that make up the core of reactor three in March last year uncovered new “keyway root cracks”.

Around 370 hairline fractures were found, which the BBC reports equates to about one in every 10 bricks in the reactor core.

EDF Energy said these have now grown to an average of 2mm wide.

The operational limit was 350 cracks but the inspection found this had been exceeded.

Cracks to the graphite blocks is known to occur but legislation is in place to ensure they do not threaten the structural integrity of the reactor.

EDF is now hoping to prove it is safe to use and would stand up to the most stringent tests and wants the ONR to increase the upper operational limit to 700  cracks.

The reactors have been closed since October 2018, but EDF Energy said yesterday it was confident its Hunterston B nuclear plant would eventually reopen.

Station Director Colin Weir said: “Nuclear safety is our overriding priority and reactor three has been off for the year so that we can do further inspections.

1200px-Électricité_de_France.svg

EDF Energy expects UK nuclear plant where cracks found will reopen

LONDON (Reuters) – EDF Energy said on Friday it was confident its Hunterston B nuclear plant in Scotland would eventually reopen, having been offline since last year after cracks were discovered in the reactor’s graphite core.

The plant, which is more than 40 years old, can generate enough electricity to power more than 1.7 million homes, and is one of Britain’s eight nuclear plants which provide around 20 percent of the country’s electricity.

“Hunterston B will operate until 2023,” said a spokeswoman for EDF Energy, the British arm of French utility EDF.

The two Hunterston reactors have suffered several restart delays and are currently scheduled to return to service at the end of June and July.

EDF Energy said a 100 million pound, 5-year research process had been undertaken into issues surrounding the lifetime of its plants.

“Market rules mean we would immediately have to announce if this extensive research had altered our expectations about the closure of our power stations,” the spokeswoman said.

She was responding to a report by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a non-profit organisation, published on Friday, which said Britain’s climate target could be in jeopardy if the plant does not re-open and if the six other nuclear plants in Britain, with the same Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) design, were also forced to close early.

“If this happens it is unlikely that the lights will go out, but it could make hitting our carbon targets more challenging,” said Jonathan Marshall author of the ECIU report.

The ECIU report said the government should launch fresh support for new renewable projects, to ensure any gap in nuclear generation is filled by low-carbon sources instead of gas plants.

EDF Energy said the scenario outlined in the report was unrealistic.

“The extensive work we have carried out at Hunterston B has given us a greater understanding of how graphite ages and for that reason we don’t expect other AGRs to have to undergo the same lengthy outages,” she said.

The ultimate decision on reopening Hunterston lies with Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation which must be satisfied the reactors would be safe even in an extreme and unlikely earthquake scenario.

Business-utilities-UK -with-background

Thames Water chief Steve Robertson steps down after regulator criticises leak record

Thames Water’s chief executive has stepped down amid harsh criticism over its failure to tackle leaks.

The country’s biggest water supplier announced Steve Robertson was being replaced in the top job by chairman Ian Marchant while a permanent successor was found.

Mr Robertson, who had been in the role less than three years, will leave the company at the end of June, Thames Water said.

In the last six months, the firm has been criticised by the industry regulator over leaks, its response to the Beast from the East and its business plans.

Mr Marchant said Thames Water had seen “significant change” and Mr Robertson had put “building blocks” in place for the company’s long-term success.

“We need to continue to ensure that Thames Water is an organisation that both customers and staff feel proud of,” he said.

“We remain fully committed to our proposed business plan focused on providing industry-leading customer service through a substantial investment programme which we are determined to deliver.”

Mr Marchant said Thames Water’s executive team had to meet its “vital” responsibilities to its millions of users “each day”.

Mr Robertson said he was “proud of what we have achieved over the last two and a half years” but admitted “challenges remain”.

Thames Water is the UK’s biggest water and wastewater services provider, with more than 15 million customers across London, the Thames Valley and surrounding areas.

Earlier this year, it was among 14 firms to fail a business review by industry regulator Ofwat, which ordered Thames Water to “substantially rework and resubmit” its five-year plan.

The watchdog placed the firm under “significant scrutiny” and said it had the most to do in order to deliver lower bills and better service for customers.

Thames Water submitted new plans, which included aims to reduce combined bills by 1.3% and set more ambitious targets on reducing pollution, supply interruptions and flooding.

In January, water companies were criticised for their response to winter weather in early 2018 that caused supply interruptions to more than 200,000 customers across England and Wales.

 

Business-utilities-UK -with-background

Biomass can help deliver much-needed UK heat decarbonisation

Biomass could play a pivotal role in heat decarbonisation and help the UK meet its renewable heat targets, AMP Clean Energy said today.

Around 6% of heat in the UK currently comes from renewable sources, but EU targets require it to double to 12% by 2020.

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) report ‘Bioenergy in the UK – vision to 2032 and beyond’ has found that the UK could almost triple the use of bioenergy as a source of heat – from 6% to 16% by 2032 – with biomass a major contributor.

The report found that wood fuels could make a substantially larger contribution to meeting heating needs for buildings and industry, playing a particular role in providing low carbon heating in off gas-grid properties and those where heating via heat pumps is more challenging.

It concluded that bioenergy, which uses sustainable biomass and biofuels produced from wood, crops and food wastes, is the lowest cost route to heat decarbonisation, while also providing a pathway to the development and commercial deployment of future technologies.

Richard Burrell, CEO of AMP Clean Energy, said: “Biomass is a proven, world -renowned technology which can continue to make a significant contribution to the decarbonisation of heat in the UK.

Under the RHI, 87% of renewable heat to date has come from biomass, which has been particularly successful in decarbonising community buildings, schools, hotels and agricultural processes. We now need off-gas grid industrial processes to convert from fossil fuels to biomass and we can help with the financing, fuel and operation and maintenance.

“With the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) coming to an end in 2021, there is an opportunity to install new systems before that date as well as to look at new and innovative ways of financing the decarbonisation of heat. We need to find a way to deliver the much-needed transition to renewable heat generation to build on some of the positive steps that have already been taken and to avoid a cliff-edge for new renewable heat installations after 2021. At AMP Clean Energy we are considering what mechanisms could be deployed to achieve this and look forward to discussing our thoughts with Government.”

In January 2019 the REA launched an industry-led review of bioenergy ‘s potential and the policies needed to maximise this to 2032. AMP Clean Energy is one of the industry partners contributing to the review.

You can read the REA report here.

park-wind-farm-3854092_1280

Renewable energy jobs in UK plunge by a third

The number of jobs in renewable energy in the UK has plunged by nearly a third in recent years, and the amount of new green generating capacity by a similar amount, causing havoc among companies in the sector, a new report has found.

Prospect, the union which covers much of the sector, has found a 30% drop in renewable energy jobs between 2014 and 2017, as government cuts to incentives and support schemes started to bite. It also found investment in renewables in the UK more than halved between 2015 and 2017.

The union compared the situation to the devastation caused to coalmining communities in the 1980s and demanded instead a “just transition” to clean energy.

The Prospect report analysed and collated data taken from various sources, including the government, surveys and industry.

Sue Ferns, the senior deputy secretary general at Prospect, told the Guardian: “The government’s market-led approach has failed, and resulted on offshoring green jobs while UK workers are left behind. Without a proper industrial strategy from government that promotes low-carbon generation like renewables and new nuclear, we will be unable to secure the future of our energy supply, which is under threat in the coming decade.”

The focus on Brexit had not helped, she added. “The government’s tunnel vision on Brexit means the real challenges facing our country have been neglected for too long. We need a sensible deliverable strategy that provides a stable long-term pathway to decarbonisation.”

The drastic fall in jobs came as the government effectively shut down schemes that rewarded consumers for buying solar panels, withdrew subsidies for onshore wind and reduced incentives for low-carbon energy. Ministers have argued that as the costs of renewable energy have fallen sharply in recent years, the industries should no longer rely on public subsidy, but multiple redrawings of government schemes in recent years have helped to create turmoil and a lack of certainty for companies.

Government support has taken the form of various schemes across the last decade, including feed-in tariffs for consumers with solar panels, a renewables obligation forcing the big energy suppliers to invest in renewables, and most recently, contracts for difference. The latter were meant to overhaul the whole energy sector by setting up auctions by which companies would bid for generation contracts favouring low-carbon energy, but early troubles meant dirty energy such as diesel generators were often the inadvertent winners, and while the scheme still operates it has enjoyed little support from successive chancellors.

Between 2016 and 2017, there was a sharp fall in investment in UK renewables, which fell 56% to the lowest level since 2008, according to the as-yet-unpublished Prospect report that has been seen by the Guardian. Last year, the annual rate of addition of renewables capacity fell to its lowest level since 2012, which the union said was driven by the collapse in solar and onshore wind deployment. Without the significant rise in bioenergy capacity that took place in 2018, the fall in new renewables would have been much greater, the union said.

While some sectors have remained buoyant, such as offshore wind, new capacity in onshore wind in England slowed markedly after the government withdrew financial support and changed planning laws to make the construction of windfarms more difficult.

Luke Clark, head of external affairs at the trade body RenewableUK, said: “We’re expecting the number of direct jobs in offshore wind to treble to 27,000 by 2030, as part of the landmark offshore wind sector deal we’ve agreed with government, as this provides long-term certainty for the industry. However, as onshore wind remains excluded from government-backed auctions for contracts to generate power, the UK is missing out on employment and investment opportunities offered by this technology. The auction process has also failed to bring forward new technologies like tidal energy projects, so there is huge potential to ramp up employment in renewables as we move to net zero emissions.”

The trade union said the dismal picture for jobs in much of the sector contrasted with government rhetoric on issues such as moving to a net zerocarbon target and parliament declaring a climate emergency.

Ferns told the Guardian: “Successive governments have promised us a green jobs revolution, but after an initial upsurge we have now started going backwards. This is deeply worrying for the future of the energy sector and for low-carbon jobs in the UK.”

She added: “The Committee on Climate Change has recommended zero carbon by 2050 and others are pushing for even more ambitious timescales. We need a just transition for all the workers affected and this means we need to work proactively to ensure that the damage inflicted on coal communities in the 1980s is not repeated.”

A spokesperson for BEIS told the Guardian: “We’ve seen the number of green collar jobs soar to approximately 400,000, with clean growth at the heart of this government’s modern industrial strategy. This figure could more than quadrupled to 2m by 2030. We’ve injected £2.5bn into low-carbon innovation and [the] deal with the offshore wind industry will see up to £40bn infrastructure investment.”

Green collar jobs are defined by BEIS as those in clean growth, which means activity that increases the national income while reducing emissions. The number of people working in green jobs in the UK was estimated at 1m in 2012, by the UN.

power-plant-815799_1280 (1)

Britain’s energy bosses back UK bid to host key 2020 climate talks

Bosses at the UK’s leading energy firms are urging the Government to ensure the UK is picked as the venue for key international climate talks in 2020.

Britain is bidding to host the UN climate change conference next year, the biggest since the Paris agreement was signed in 2015

EDF, which own the plant in Ardrossan, Ayrshire, are pushing to return the reactor to service at the end of June and July and want to extend the operational limit of crack allowed from 350 to 700.

However, the plans to reopen the plant have sparked fears it could lead to a nuclear meltdown similar to the 1986 Chernoybl disaster .

Experts have warned that in the very worst case the hot graphite core could become exposed to air and ignite leading to radioactive contamination and evacuation of a large area of Scotland’s central belt – including Glasgow and Edinburgh.

According to Dr Ian Fairlie, an independent consultant on radioactivity in the environment, and Dr David Toke, Reader in Energy Policy at the University of Aberdeen, the two reactors definitely should not be restarted.

Speaking about the cracks in the barrels, they warned: “This is a serious matter because if an untoward incident were to occur – for example an earth tremor, gas excursion, steam surge, sudden outage, or sudden depressurisation, the barrels could become dislodged and/or misaligned.

“These events could in turn lead to large emissions of radioactive gases.

“Further, if hot spots were to occur and if nuclear fuel were to react with the graphite moderator they could lead to explosions inside the reactor core.

“In the very worst case the hot graphite core could become exposed to air and ignite leading to radioactive contamination of large areas of central Scotland, including the metropolitan areas of Glasgow and Edinburgh.”

A planned inspection of the graphite bricks that make up the core of reactor three in March last year uncovered new “keyway root cracks”.

Around 370 hairline fractures were found, which the BBC reports equates to about one in every 10 bricks in the reactor core.

EDF Energy said these have now grown to an average of 2mm wide.

The operational limit was 350 cracks but the inspection found this had been exceeded.

Cracks to the graphite blocks is known to occur but legislation is in place to ensure they do not threaten the structural integrity of the reactor.

EDF is now hoping to prove it is safe to use and would stand up to the most stringent tests and wants the ONR to increase the upper operational limit to 700  cracks.

The reactors have been closed since October 2018, but EDF Energy said yesterday it was confident its Hunterston B nuclear plant would eventually reopen.

Station Director Colin Weir said: “Nuclear safety is our overriding priority and reactor three has been off for the year so that we can do further inspections.

1200px-Électricité_de_France.svg

EDF Energy expects UK nuclear plant where cracks found will reopen

LONDON (Reuters) – EDF Energy said on Friday it was confident its Hunterston B nuclear plant in Scotland would eventually reopen, having been offline since last year after cracks were discovered in the reactor’s graphite core.

The plant, which is more than 40 years old, can generate enough electricity to power more than 1.7 million homes, and is one of Britain’s eight nuclear plants which provide around 20 percent of the country’s electricity.

“Hunterston B will operate until 2023,” said a spokeswoman for EDF Energy, the British arm of French utility EDF.

The two Hunterston reactors have suffered several restart delays and are currently scheduled to return to service at the end of June and July.

EDF Energy said a 100 million pound, 5-year research process had been undertaken into issues surrounding the lifetime of its plants.

“Market rules mean we would immediately have to announce if this extensive research had altered our expectations about the closure of our power stations,” the spokeswoman said.

She was responding to a report by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a non-profit organisation, published on Friday, which said Britain’s climate target could be in jeopardy if the plant does not re-open and if the six other nuclear plants in Britain, with the same Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) design, were also forced to close early.

“If this happens it is unlikely that the lights will go out, but it could make hitting our carbon targets more challenging,” said Jonathan Marshall author of the ECIU report.

The ECIU report said the government should launch fresh support for new renewable projects, to ensure any gap in nuclear generation is filled by low-carbon sources instead of gas plants.

EDF Energy said the scenario outlined in the report was unrealistic.

“The extensive work we have carried out at Hunterston B has given us a greater understanding of how graphite ages and for that reason we don’t expect other AGRs to have to undergo the same lengthy outages,” she said.

The ultimate decision on reopening Hunterston lies with Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation which must be satisfied the reactors would be safe even in an extreme and unlikely earthquake scenario.

Business-utilities-UK -with-background

Thames Water chief Steve Robertson steps down after regulator criticises leak record

Thames Water’s chief executive has stepped down amid harsh criticism over its failure to tackle leaks.

The country’s biggest water supplier announced Steve Robertson was being replaced in the top job by chairman Ian Marchant while a permanent successor was found.

Mr Robertson, who had been in the role less than three years, will leave the company at the end of June, Thames Water said.

In the last six months, the firm has been criticised by the industry regulator over leaks, its response to the Beast from the East and its business plans.

Mr Marchant said Thames Water had seen “significant change” and Mr Robertson had put “building blocks” in place for the company’s long-term success.

“We need to continue to ensure that Thames Water is an organisation that both customers and staff feel proud of,” he said.

“We remain fully committed to our proposed business plan focused on providing industry-leading customer service through a substantial investment programme which we are determined to deliver.”

Mr Marchant said Thames Water’s executive team had to meet its “vital” responsibilities to its millions of users “each day”.

Mr Robertson said he was “proud of what we have achieved over the last two and a half years” but admitted “challenges remain”.

Thames Water is the UK’s biggest water and wastewater services provider, with more than 15 million customers across London, the Thames Valley and surrounding areas.

Earlier this year, it was among 14 firms to fail a business review by industry regulator Ofwat, which ordered Thames Water to “substantially rework and resubmit” its five-year plan.

The watchdog placed the firm under “significant scrutiny” and said it had the most to do in order to deliver lower bills and better service for customers.

Thames Water submitted new plans, which included aims to reduce combined bills by 1.3% and set more ambitious targets on reducing pollution, supply interruptions and flooding.

In January, water companies were criticised for their response to winter weather in early 2018 that caused supply interruptions to more than 200,000 customers across England and Wales.

 

Business-utilities-UK -with-background

Biomass can help deliver much-needed UK heat decarbonisation

Biomass could play a pivotal role in heat decarbonisation and help the UK meet its renewable heat targets, AMP Clean Energy said today.

Around 6% of heat in the UK currently comes from renewable sources, but EU targets require it to double to 12% by 2020.

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) report ‘Bioenergy in the UK – vision to 2032 and beyond’ has found that the UK could almost triple the use of bioenergy as a source of heat – from 6% to 16% by 2032 – with biomass a major contributor.

The report found that wood fuels could make a substantially larger contribution to meeting heating needs for buildings and industry, playing a particular role in providing low carbon heating in off gas-grid properties and those where heating via heat pumps is more challenging.

It concluded that bioenergy, which uses sustainable biomass and biofuels produced from wood, crops and food wastes, is the lowest cost route to heat decarbonisation, while also providing a pathway to the development and commercial deployment of future technologies.

Richard Burrell, CEO of AMP Clean Energy, said: “Biomass is a proven, world -renowned technology which can continue to make a significant contribution to the decarbonisation of heat in the UK.

Under the RHI, 87% of renewable heat to date has come from biomass, which has been particularly successful in decarbonising community buildings, schools, hotels and agricultural processes. We now need off-gas grid industrial processes to convert from fossil fuels to biomass and we can help with the financing, fuel and operation and maintenance.

“With the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) coming to an end in 2021, there is an opportunity to install new systems before that date as well as to look at new and innovative ways of financing the decarbonisation of heat. We need to find a way to deliver the much-needed transition to renewable heat generation to build on some of the positive steps that have already been taken and to avoid a cliff-edge for new renewable heat installations after 2021. At AMP Clean Energy we are considering what mechanisms could be deployed to achieve this and look forward to discussing our thoughts with Government.”

In January 2019 the REA launched an industry-led review of bioenergy ‘s potential and the policies needed to maximise this to 2032. AMP Clean Energy is one of the industry partners contributing to the review.

You can read the REA report here.

park-wind-farm-3854092_1280

Renewable energy jobs in UK plunge by a third

The number of jobs in renewable energy in the UK has plunged by nearly a third in recent years, and the amount of new green generating capacity by a similar amount, causing havoc among companies in the sector, a new report has found.

Prospect, the union which covers much of the sector, has found a 30% drop in renewable energy jobs between 2014 and 2017, as government cuts to incentives and support schemes started to bite. It also found investment in renewables in the UK more than halved between 2015 and 2017.

The union compared the situation to the devastation caused to coalmining communities in the 1980s and demanded instead a “just transition” to clean energy.

The Prospect report analysed and collated data taken from various sources, including the government, surveys and industry.

Sue Ferns, the senior deputy secretary general at Prospect, told the Guardian: “The government’s market-led approach has failed, and resulted on offshoring green jobs while UK workers are left behind. Without a proper industrial strategy from government that promotes low-carbon generation like renewables and new nuclear, we will be unable to secure the future of our energy supply, which is under threat in the coming decade.”

The focus on Brexit had not helped, she added. “The government’s tunnel vision on Brexit means the real challenges facing our country have been neglected for too long. We need a sensible deliverable strategy that provides a stable long-term pathway to decarbonisation.”

The drastic fall in jobs came as the government effectively shut down schemes that rewarded consumers for buying solar panels, withdrew subsidies for onshore wind and reduced incentives for low-carbon energy. Ministers have argued that as the costs of renewable energy have fallen sharply in recent years, the industries should no longer rely on public subsidy, but multiple redrawings of government schemes in recent years have helped to create turmoil and a lack of certainty for companies.

Government support has taken the form of various schemes across the last decade, including feed-in tariffs for consumers with solar panels, a renewables obligation forcing the big energy suppliers to invest in renewables, and most recently, contracts for difference. The latter were meant to overhaul the whole energy sector by setting up auctions by which companies would bid for generation contracts favouring low-carbon energy, but early troubles meant dirty energy such as diesel generators were often the inadvertent winners, and while the scheme still operates it has enjoyed little support from successive chancellors.

Between 2016 and 2017, there was a sharp fall in investment in UK renewables, which fell 56% to the lowest level since 2008, according to the as-yet-unpublished Prospect report that has been seen by the Guardian. Last year, the annual rate of addition of renewables capacity fell to its lowest level since 2012, which the union said was driven by the collapse in solar and onshore wind deployment. Without the significant rise in bioenergy capacity that took place in 2018, the fall in new renewables would have been much greater, the union said.

While some sectors have remained buoyant, such as offshore wind, new capacity in onshore wind in England slowed markedly after the government withdrew financial support and changed planning laws to make the construction of windfarms more difficult.

Luke Clark, head of external affairs at the trade body RenewableUK, said: “We’re expecting the number of direct jobs in offshore wind to treble to 27,000 by 2030, as part of the landmark offshore wind sector deal we’ve agreed with government, as this provides long-term certainty for the industry. However, as onshore wind remains excluded from government-backed auctions for contracts to generate power, the UK is missing out on employment and investment opportunities offered by this technology. The auction process has also failed to bring forward new technologies like tidal energy projects, so there is huge potential to ramp up employment in renewables as we move to net zero emissions.”

The trade union said the dismal picture for jobs in much of the sector contrasted with government rhetoric on issues such as moving to a net zerocarbon target and parliament declaring a climate emergency.

Ferns told the Guardian: “Successive governments have promised us a green jobs revolution, but after an initial upsurge we have now started going backwards. This is deeply worrying for the future of the energy sector and for low-carbon jobs in the UK.”

She added: “The Committee on Climate Change has recommended zero carbon by 2050 and others are pushing for even more ambitious timescales. We need a just transition for all the workers affected and this means we need to work proactively to ensure that the damage inflicted on coal communities in the 1980s is not repeated.”

A spokesperson for BEIS told the Guardian: “We’ve seen the number of green collar jobs soar to approximately 400,000, with clean growth at the heart of this government’s modern industrial strategy. This figure could more than quadrupled to 2m by 2030. We’ve injected £2.5bn into low-carbon innovation and [the] deal with the offshore wind industry will see up to £40bn infrastructure investment.”

Green collar jobs are defined by BEIS as those in clean growth, which means activity that increases the national income while reducing emissions. The number of people working in green jobs in the UK was estimated at 1m in 2012, by the UN.

power-plant-815799_1280 (1)

Britain’s energy bosses back UK bid to host key 2020 climate talks

Bosses at the UK’s leading energy firms are urging the Government to ensure the UK is picked as the venue for key international climate talks in 2020.

Britain is bidding to host the UN climate change conference next year, the biggest since the Paris agreement was signed in 2015

Under UN rules the COP (Conference of the Parties) next year should be hosted by a European nation and take place in the first year the Paris agreement would come into full effect.

The conference will mark a crucial deadline for countries to comply with their commitments in Paris on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and move on to tougher targets for the decade to 2030.

If successful, the move would be a strong signal of the UK government’s determination to retain its role on the world stage after Brexit.

‘Strong record of leadership’

In a letter to ministers and opposition leaders, the bosses of companies including Centrica, ScottishPower, National Grid, Drax, BP and Shell said hosting the UN meeting would give the UK an opportunity to be seen as a green leader.

In addition 162 MPs have signed a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, saying the country’s “strong record of leadership and ongoing commitment on climate change” makes it the ideal place to hold them.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry revealed last December that she had officially written to express the UK Government’s interest in hosting the talks in 2020.

A decision on where in Europe to hold the “Cop26” talks at the end of next year is expected in June.

‘Maximise the opportunities’

The UN awards the hosting of the COP usually by alternating among developed and developing countries, and different continents, though the rules can be flexible

In the letter from the energy giants – which also include Affinity Water, Anglian Water, Capita, GKN Automotive, Heathrow Airport and Innogy Renewables UK, business bosses back the British bid to host the talks.

“Hosting Cop26 would provide the UK with a platform to further develop and maximise the opportunities of the global shift to clean growth and showcase to the world the best of the UK economy.

“It would be the country’s moment to build further support for an ambitious clean growth trajectory, underscore ambitions for a net-zero economy in line with the Paris Agreement, and set out the opportunity of economic renewal and enhancement through climate action.”

One of the signatories, John Pettigrew, chief executive of National Grid, said hosting the talks would let the UK send a message to the world that “we are proud to take the lead in the fight against climate change”.

“Our progress on clean energy has seen this country make international headlines; for example, when we recently went over a week without any coal generation for the first time since the 19th century. But we all need to do much more.

“This summit represents an opportunity to get the world to unite behind one of the most important challenges we all face and we look forward to working with the Government to bring COP to our shores,” he said.

Lead signatory of the letter from MPs, Labour and Co-operative MP Alex Sobel said: “Having just announced a climate emergency, MPs from across all parties in the UK Parliament are keen to see bold action taken on climate change.

“Cop26 is a key moment when the countries of the world will also be looking to cross divides to come together and build on their climate change pledges.

“With its diplomatic weight and having passed the World’s first Climate Change Act over 10 years ago, the UK is ideally placed to play this role, guiding even those less ambitious countries towards strong commitments.”

D5ZIvUZXkAAdvJj

Developing a framework for assessing whether conditions are in place for effective competition in domestic supply contracts

We are seeking views from stakeholders on our proposed framework for assessing whether conditions are in place for effective competition in the domestic energy retail market. This is for the purpose of recommending to the Secretary of State whether or not the cap on default and standard variable tariffs should remain in place, as required under the Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Act 2018.

The cap was introduced because the retail energy market was not working well for all consumers. Consumers on default and standard variable tariffs were paying substantially more than those who shopped around for fixed tariff deals. To protect these consumers, the government passed legislation in 2018 for a temporary cap on default and standard variable tariffs. This cap was introduced by Ofgem in January 2019. Alongside this, the government and Ofgem are working towards structural reforms to improve the competitive process in the domestic retail market and outcomes for energy consumers.

With the cap on default tariffs now in place, the Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Act 2018 requires Ofgem to review whether conditions are in place for effective competition for domestic supply contracts. This review must be published by 31 August 2020 and include a recommendation on whether the cap should remain in place for 2021 or be removed. The Secretary of State will consider this review and make a decision by 31 October 2020. If the default tariff cap is extended into 2021, the process will be repeated in 2021; if the cap is extended into 2022 the exercise will be repeated for a final time in 2022 as the cap will cease to have effect at the end of 2023.

This paper proposes a framework for making that assessment. We would welcome your views on it.

We plan to hold a workshop while the consultation is open, and details will be made available here shortly.

wind-power-1628671_1280

UK power prices turn negative for nine hours, balancing costs spike during ‘extraordinary’ weekend

UK power prices turned negative for nine consecutive hours on Sunday in what’s been billed as an “extraordinary turn of events” for the country’s electricity system.

Unusually low demand, some 2GW below forecasts, combined with high wind generation to send prices spiralling, and National Grid was even forced into instructing onshore and offshore wind farms to turn down their generation.

Between the hours of 12:00pm and 9:00pm on Sunday 26 May, the UK endured an extended period of negative pricing, with wholesale power prices falling to as low as -£71.26/MWh.

National Grid Electricity System Operator’s daily balancing report for 26 May 2019 reveals that the SO paid more than £6.6 million on balancing costs, having spent just £300,000 the day before, providing an indication as to the scale of the volatility experienced on the system throughout the day.

At nine hours long, it amounts to the longest consecutive period of negative pricing the UK has encountered and has been described as “unprecedented” by energy tech company Limejump, which acts within the balancing mechanism.

In addition, after a slight recovery, the market dipped back into negative pricing between 11:45pm on Sunday and 1:45am on the morning of Monday 27 May, meaning that negative prices were in action for around 11 hours within a 24 hour period.

The instances of negative pricing left the average system price for power on Sunday 26 May at -£12.16/MWh.

Those prices were essentially created by low demand. The average power demand on Sunday was just 25.4GW, while the minimum demand in that period was 19.8GW, recorded between 3:45am and 4:15am, right towards the lower end of minimum demand forecasts within National Grid’s 2019 Summer Outlook.

The event comes just two months after the previous long run of negative system prices, a period of six hours which occurred on Sunday 24 March that witnessed system prices fall to similar lows.

Limejump said in a trading note issued to customers: “The question traders have been asking themselves earlier this year – ‘Are negative system prices an anomaly or are they here to stay?’ – has now been answered without a doubt by these an a number of other observed similar scenarios.”

Speaking to Current±, a Limejump spokesperson said that those operating battery storage plants over the weekend were obvious winners.

“Smart trading strategies deliver great revenue especially those with accurate forecasting. Batteries that were charging during these negative prices time frame, including Limejump’s, were definitely happy recipient.”

It was also a significant weekend for the carbon intensity of the grid, which at times dipped well below the 100g CO2/kWh threshold required to comply with the Fifth Carbon Budget. Sunday afternoon saw carbon intensity dip to just 69g CO2/kWh on the back of surging wind and solar activity.

Coal meanwhile is in the midst of yet another record breaking absence from the UK’s power mix, having not generated for more than 250 hours, equivalent to almost 11 days. Only earlier this month Britain celebrated its first coal-free month since the Industrial Revolution, and coal has now experienced more than 1,500 hours off the grid in 2019.

Wind meanwhile spent large portions of Sunday afternoon providing more than 11GW of power, equivalent to 37-39% of total demand.