Government views David Reid, chairman of the Scottish Government’s inward investment agency Scottish Development International, explained that the offer of five ROCs for wave and three ROCs for tidal power was based on the support seen in the Marine Supply Obligation system, which is being replaced by the new banded ROC subsidy system: ‘This is a consultation exercise- the offer from the Scottish Government is there, although they wanted to offer more. Three is on the table.’ Scottish Energy Minister Jim Mather said the move was part of his government’s attempts to make Scotland a “world leader” in new marine energy technologies: ‘Banding the Renewables Obligation will allow us to stimulate increased investment and create new jobs in these embryonic energy technologies. The changes we propose gives Scotland a lead over other parts of the UK- we are taking every opportunity to make Scotland the place to develop, test and generate electricity from our huge natural resources.’ Under the Energy Bill currently going through the UK Parliament, the powers to set their own RO banding is being transferred to Scottish ministers.
Problems The fact that projects in Scotland would get more ROC’s than projects in the rest of the UK could lead to unbalenced development, but Gaynor Hartnell, deputy director of the Renewable Energy Association, pointed out that the Scottish Government’s offer of increased ROC levels would only be for wave and tidal projects that do not receive any other government funding, and while projects can only get two ROCs in England and Wales, in addition ‘they can benefit from the Marine Renewables Deployment Fund. In Scotland, it’s not with any other government support.’ Even so BERR was evidently not too happy. Trevor Raggett, BERR’s deputy director of bioenergy and marine energy technologies, commented: ‘The idea of five ROCs for a wave project if it happens to be a mile north of the border, or two ROCs if it is south of the border, is in no way a good situation to be in. We have to make it work. I don’t know how we are going to make it work, but we have to make it work.’ Sources: NewEnergy Focus.com/ www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/917/0065773.pdf e-Tidal A large, new off-grid computer data centre in Scotland, is to be powered by tidal energy- directly linked via private cable to avoid problems with getting grid links. The data centre would require about 150 MWh p.a. US investment bank Morgan Stanley, working with Atlantis Resources Corp, a Singapore-based developer of tidal current turbines, proposes to install an array of tidal turbines in the Pentland Firth. They say the first series of turbines could be operational in 2011. The project’s estimated cost is between £250m-£300m.
6. Biofuels Algal Power -ABC The Carbon Trust has launched an Algae Biofuels Challenge (ABC) which aims to speed up the development of algae biofuel as an alternative to fossil fuels, with a view to full commercialisation by 2020. The total programme cost is expected to be £20m-30m, with up to £10m-16m of Carbon Trust funding. As part of the first phase, funding of up to £6m will be granted to successful bidders for research across a number of areas, including the selection of suitable microalgae strains for open pond production, maximising algae oil content and biomass yield, maximising solar conversion efficiency, sustained algae cultivation, and design engineering of mass-culture systems. The second phase of the project is expected to involve construction of an open pond and commercial scale demonstration plant. The Trust say that to avoid delays in commercialisation, the plant is likely to be constructed overseas- since the majority of commercial production of algae biofuels is likely to take place in tropical and sub-tropical climates.
Transport minister Andrew Adonis said: ‘This project demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that second generation biofuels are truly sustainable- and will further our understanding of the potential for microalgae to be refined for use in renewable transport fuel development, to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions’. According to the Trust, algae- based biofuels could replace 12% of annual jet fuel consumption and around 6% of road transport diesel worldwide by 2030.
UKERC’s John Loughhead said: ‘Algae are potentially attractive means to harvest solar energy: they reproduce themselves, so there’s no manufacturing cost for the solar converter, they can live in areas not useful for food or similar productive use, they don't need clean or even fresh water so don’t add to global water stress, and can give oils, biomass, or even hydrogen as a product. Perhaps they’ll be the stem cells of the energy world.’
Although, as the Guardian noted, there have been major efforts in the past to develop biofuels from algae, e.g. in the US in the 1980’s, ‘no one found a way to make it commercially competitive with the low oil prices of that era’. But the Carbon Trust believes that interest in algae has been renewed thanks to the recent oil price rises and climate change fears.
The governments consultation on revision to the biofuels targets, in response to the Gallagher Review, which recommended a more cautious approach because of concerns about their social and environmental side-effects, suggests slowing the annual increase in renewable transport fuel targets to 0.5% each year. This would see the target under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation rising to 5% in 2013/14, rather than in 2010/11 as in current RTFO plans.
Planning OK’s have been given for an 40 MW straw burning plant at Sleaford, and a 5.5MW biomass plant near Glenrothes- using by-products from Whisky production
7. CCS- slow progress Although the government has launched a competition to encourage the construction of a demonstration coal-fired plant with carbon capture and storage (CCS) with a generation capacity of at least 300MW, it is a slow process. The winner will not be chosen until later in the year and the winning design will not be built until at least 2014. But it has already been trumped by the 30MW pilot project CCS plant at Spremberg, in eastern Germany, built by Vattenfall, the Swedish power company, which opened last September. It captures about ten tonnes of CO2 each hour for storage in an old gasfield. So we seem to be way behind.
Friends of the Earth welcomed the German project ‘as a genuine attempt to demonstrate that CCS will work’, but noted that it was small, and they were concerned that that the UK seemed to be ‘dragging its heels’.
A spokeswoman for the BERR insisted however that Britain remained “in the vanguard” of attempts to get the technology started. She said: ‘The UK has an ambitious approach to demonstrating CCS and we are among only a few countries in the world that have made a firm commitment to support commercial-scale demonstration projects. We remain on course for our project to be operational by 2014.’ The power company E.ON has been researching oxyfuel CCS, the system used in Germany, at its test facility in Nottinghamshire for 18 months, but concedes that it has fallen behind Vattenfall. ‘They are ahead of the UK’, Emily Highmore, of E.ON, told the Times (9/9/08). They are nevertheless clearly keen to press ahead. Bob Taylor, managing director for E.ON commented: ‘There is a desperate need to solve CCS but we do have to be realistic about what can be achieved in the next 10 years. It needs to be commercially available by 2020, with guarantees it’ll work and the right frameworks to rewards its use.’ E.ON are the company behind the controversial Kingsnorth plant proposed in Kent, which E.ON have said could be ‘CCS ready’, but may not actually have the system installed- although it is a candidate for the government CCS competition, in which case, if it was chosen, then presumably it would have CCS.
However, some environmental groups are unhappy with the whole CCS idea. John Sauven, executive director for Greenpeace UK, said: ‘The drive to push through coal is very much at the expense of the energy and investment needed to back renewables to meet targets. We can’t afford 10, 20, 30 years of carbon emissions while we develop CCS, we can’t afford to wait for the future possibility of potential new technology.’
But the then Energy minister Malcolm Wicks seemed very gungho on clean coal. He told the ‘Climate Clinic: Renewables vs. Coal- a moral choice?’ fringe event at the Labour Party Sept. conference in Manchester that ‘Unless we find a way of burning fossil fuels cleanly, all is lost for the environment. The ethical, sensible, moral choice is for us to get behind clean coal. The world is going to be burning loads and loads of coal over the next 100 years; you’re not going to persuade the Chinese to stop burning coal. The challenge is that countries like Britain need to lead the debate on carbon capture and storage and that’s what we’re doing. We’re doing it because of China.’ And the then Business secretary John Hutton was even more gungho, arguing the case for a new generation of coal-fired power stations at the Labour Party Conference as follows. ‘Some people claim that consenting new coal fired power stations would make our climate change targets unachievable. But the inconvenient truth is that our carbon emissions are capped by EU agreements. Additional emissions have to be offset by reductions elsewhere. So stopping the building of new coal fire power stations would make no difference to the UK’s total carbon emissions, but it would, I believe, damage our energy security. So there is no sense in our turning our backs on coal. Let’s keep cleaning it up, not ruling it out.’ CCS Technology
The Oxyfuel technology used in the German plant involves the injection of pure oxygen into the combustion process, which makes it easier to capture the carbon dioxide from the emissions. In addition to E.ON’s experiments in Nottingham, RWE npower has revealed that it was very close to completing a new test facility at Didcot Power Station in south Oxfordshire, which will allow npower to test the capture of carbon dioxide emissions from an existing coal power station, using an oxyfuel system. But RWE npower has not been shortlisted for the governments CCS competition- which it has limited just to conventional post-combustion systems, on the basis that these can be developed more rapidly and are more easily retrofitted.
To confuse matters, RWE npower has also revealed that it is aiming to begin a carbon capture system in its Aberthaw power station in South Wales this year, which would be the first system to capture carbon emissions from the flue gas of a commercially operational power station. And over in Germany, npower's parent company RWE has announced that it is planning a 450MW carbon capture and storage demonstration project at Heurth, near Cologne. This 450MW project would look into a pre-combustion technology known as Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC).
* Pre-combustion systems like the IGCC involve the preliminary heating of the fuel in limited oxygen in the presence of water, to produce (mainly) hydrogen and carbon dioxide, with the CO2 being captured and stored and the hydrogen element then being burned to generate power
* A study by consultants McKinsey has found that CCS will cost 2 or 3 times more than conventional plants- about Euro 2bn for the 300 MW units current planned. But it says that CCS could be economic by 2030 at the latest, although it would require substantial public subsidies to get 10-12 plants running by the EU target date of 2015.
* Coal-fired power stations must not be built unless they can capture and store CO2, the Environment Agency has warned. Plants like that proposed at Kingsnorth in Kent could ‘lock’ the UK into high carbon technology, says the agency, whose remit covers England and Wales. Even if stations can be fitted with CCS at a later stage, that by itself is ‘insufficient’ for them to be approved now. The chair of the Agency commented: ‘Building a new generation of coal-fired power stations without capturing the carbon emissions would lock the UK into using high carbon technology for decades to come. This is not an environmentally sustainable way of generating power given the challenges we face with climate change. Although carbon capture and storage technology has been demonstrated on a small scale, there is now an urgent need for it to be demonstrated on a commercial scale. Any new coal power station to be built should have a consent that requires that it helps demonstrate the technology. Such a consent should be strictly time-limited and only renewed if carbon capture and storage is fully deployed.’ The EU recently allocated major funding for CCS, so the Government, and E.ON, surely no longer have the excuse that it can’t be afforded. But BP has pulled out of the UK CCS competition... and we are still waiting for a decision on Kingsnorth.
LCPD delay? The UK is, it seems, seeking to extend the deadline for implementation the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive on pollution emissions, which would otherwise require about 15% of UK coal generation capacity to be shut by 2015.
For SPRU’s CCS overview see: www.sussex.ac.uk/sussexenergygroup/documents/ccs_briefing_nov2008web.pdf
8. Global news Climate Crisis Later this year sees what many depict as the final crunch meeting in the long process of seeking global agreement on limiting climate change- the UNFCC Copenhagen summit in December, which has to come up with agreement on a replacement for the Kyoto protocol, which runs out in 2012. In the run up to that, the G8 and many other organisations have been producing reports and proposals.
Tony Blair working with the Climate Group, submitted a report to the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit last June. It said that ‘the evidence shows that if we are to have a reasonable chance of achieving the goal enshrined in the UNFCCC’s founding document of avoiding the dangerous effects of climate change, this firm target needs to be that: Global GHG emissions are cut by at least 50% by 2050. While the specific base year used has implications for how national caps would be calculated, what matters for the global target is that whichever base year and percentage are used, annual emissions in 2050 are no higher than 20 bn tonnes of CO2e.’ The report adds that it is technically possible without major economic strains, but needs the political commitment of all countries, including developing countries. Well yes, that’s the key thing. Will China and India accept tough emission targets. But there’s also an even more worrying issue- is 50% enough? See the Editorial in Renew 177.
However at least the G8 gathering- including for the first time the USA- did sign up to ‘at least 50% by 2050’, which is progress, even if later China, India, Brazil and Mexico seemed to reneg calling on the industrial countries to go to 80%.
Just before the G8 meeting, DEFRA noted that although UK national CO2 emissions fell by 5% between 1992 and 2004, they actually rose by 18% over the same period if emissions linked to imported goods are included. DEFRA’s Hilary Benn commented ‘That’s why we are working to secure a comprehensive, long-term global climate deal that involves all the world’s major economies, that puts us on track to cut global emissions in half by 2050’.
See http://kn.theiet.org/news/jul08/CO2-emissions-%20up.cfm For the Blair report see: www.theclimategroup.org/assets/resources/BTCDJune08Report-lores.pdf2
For a view of climate issues from CSE in India see: www.downtoearth.org.in/cover_nl.asp?mode=1 ‘Green gold rush’ ‘Clean energy in one of the strongest sectors in the world in terms of investment activity,’ according to New Energy Finance CEO Michael Liebreich one of the authors of a new UNEP report. Investment in clean energy from sources like wind, solar and biofuels rose three times faster in 2007 then predicted by the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP)- rising 60% to $148 billion.
UNEP’s Global Trends in Sustainable Energy Investment 2008 report noted that wind power attracted the most capital in 2007 at $50.2 bn, or a third of all clean energy investment. Investment in solar energy soared by 254% to $28.6bn, while the biofuel sector foundered with funds falling nearly one third to $2.1bn. Overall, clean energy accounted for 23% of all new installed capacity in 2007. Public investment in renewable energy via the markets more than doubled to $23.4 bn, up from $10.6 bn in 2006.
Most new money flowed into renewable energy leaders the EU and the US, though China, India and Brazil attracted $26 bn last year, up 14 times from $1.8 bn in 2004. These three developing countries now account for 22% of all new renewables investment, but investment in Africa’s clean energy sector grew fivefold to $1.3 bn in 2007, reversing a gradual decline that started in 2004 ‘Sub-Saharan Africa, arguably the region that has the most to gain from renewable energy, remains largely unexploited’. Overall, the renewable energy sector is expected to grow to $450 bn in 2012, and up to $600 bn by 2020, UNEP said.
Source: UNEP and Reuters coverage
China needs FIT China aims to increase the use of renewables to 15% of its primary energy by 2020- up from 7.7% in 2005- with 10% targeted for 2010. Much of this is from hydro, large and small, but, apart from hydro, by 2020 renewables must account for more than 8% of total generating capacity owned by power producers, according to a blueprint published in 2007 by the National Development & Reform Commission. The potential is certainly there. China’s wind target has been set at 30GW by 2020 and even this is being reviewed, with talk of expanding it to 100GW. Success in reaching these targets would reduce China’s reliance on coal and crude oil, which account for 90% of the energy mix at present. But China operates a competitive bidding system for concession wind farms of 200 MW or more. Critics say this has resulted in low bids and unprofitable projects that contribute to insecurity of investment and concern over market credibility.
Alberto Mendez, vice-chair of the European Chamber’s Energy Working Group, noted that: ‘We have been recommending the establishment of a feed-in tariff. This fixed- price tariff so far has been the most successful mechanism in the most successful renewable energy markets.’ Source: Dow Jones Newswire.
For a review of FITs globally see: www.energias-renovables.com/ imagen_art/ER_PDF/TarifasFVEuropa.pdf
World solar roundup During a recent visit to Israel former US vice president Al Gore asked: “How is it here, in the land of the sun, there is no widespread use of solar energy?” It does seem odd, but evidently attempts are now being made to get solar going seriously there, with a commitment to increase the share of renewables to 20% of Israel’s total energy use by 2020. Lets hope they don’t replay the UK’s recent experience of launching a solar support grant scheme and then cutting it off when demand grew too much.
Tragically that seems to be repeating itself in the USA- in New Jersey, where regulators are considering cutting off solar rebates after a flood of applications overwhelmed the programme. But thankfully Australia decided to accept an overspend on it’s oversubscribed A$8000 solar rebate programme. And Japan is to resurrect its solar subsidies, which ended in 2005. And the continuation of the US federal solar credit scheme is now resolved.
But as we report in Technology (Renew177), Spain’s PV Feed-In Tariff (FIT) cap level has been reduced, and Germany’s PV solar FIT has been lowered. But optimistically, these changes might be seen as sign of success rather than as a problem- the technology and market is developing rapidly.
PV solar booms The giant 52,000 cell Moura PV solar array in Portugal, consisting of 2520 sun tracking panels (see Renew 175), now has a rival as the worlds largest system. The first 24MW phase of the 40MW Waldpolenz Solar PV plant at the site of a former East German air base, east of Leipzig, now on line, uses 350,000 thin film PV modules. And 550,000 will be installed by 2009 when its fully developed, covering a surface area equivalent to 200 soccer fields. A 944kw PV power plant also recently opened in Greece.
Concentrating Solar Power- focussed solar arrays- are also moving ahead. Pacific Gas & Electric has agreed to buy up to 900MW from five new solar thermal CSP plants to be built by Bright Source Energy over the next 10 years in the Majave Desert at a cost of around $3bn. The first 100MW phase is due to be completed by 2011- using the federal solar investment tax subsidy, which would cover 30% of the cost.
But we also need wind - and wave The US National Renewable Energy Labs claim to have set a world record in solar cell efficiency with a PV device that converts 40.8% of the light that hits it into electricity. It’s a meta-morphic triple-junction gallium indium phosphide/ arsenide cell. But the
University of Delaware claim 42.8% from their focussed Si system-see Renew 17
Solar enthusiasts say that solar PV- and CSP- will soon be competitive with grid power. However, E.On’s Green energy spokesman, Dr Frank Mastiaux, was more cautious. He told the Daily Telegraph (23/6/08): ‘Everybody loves solar, but in fact solar and wind technology are miles apart. The cost of wind power is € 50 to 100 a megawatt hour, while for solar it is still more than € 450.’ But that should fall as volume production builds up. Of course, the other options should also get cheaper, so its wise to spread across the full range. That’s what many countries are doing. For example, Portugal. In addition to PV, with its major Atlantic coastline, it is also pressing ahead with wave power (using the UK’s Pelamis), as well as wind farms- it has one of the worlds largest with 130 turbines. Portugals economics minister Manuel Pinho told Guardian ‘When you have a program like this there is no need for nuclear power. Wind and water are our nuclear power.’ Sources: Daily Galaxy, DW-World.de
For a good global round up of energy policies see: www.worldchanging.com/archives/008192.html
9. EU roundup 300GW of EU wind by 2030
The EU’s Strategic Research Agenda (SRA), the European Wind Energy Technology
Platform, says wind could provide 12-14% of EU electricity by 2020, 22-28% by 2030
www.windplatform.eu/fileadmin/ewetp_docs/Bibliography/Executive_summary.pdf Germany goes offshore Germany is planning to build up to 30 offshore wind farms in the North Sea and Baltic Sea, with a total of up to 25GW capacity, by 2030, at a cost of 1billion euros each. So far Germany, which does not have a vast coast line even after reunification, has concentrated on land based machines- it has nearly 20,000 with a total of 23 GW capacity. But the recent revision to the Feed-in Tariff system now include an upgrade from 9 cents per kilowatt to 15 cents for offshore wind energy until 2011. Although it will then be reduced to 13 ct/kWh for new projects, and then cut every year by 5%, it still provides an attractive new incentive- especially as space for on land machine is no doubt getting harder to find. The German programme faces some new challenges. Whereas existing offshore wind farms in Denmark, the Netherlands and Britain are sited a few kilometers from the shore, Germany’s will be located in deep water up to 40-80 km from the shoreline. The UK is of course now developing deep sea options, and it has a lot of experience with offshore system, but Germany could do well given its prowess with wind technology. One problem though is that there may be environmental issues. For example, the aptly named Watt region in the North sea is home to a protected unique and fragile ecosystem.
There are stringent siting rules to ensure that projects do not disrupt fragile marine ecosystems, and one of the reasons for the large distance to the coast is to protect the islands of Ruegen and Helgoland, much used by tourists. However the stringent environmental standards make it more difficult to transport and install the bulky equipment needed for the wind farms- including the massive five megawatt turbines, as already tested on land, that weigh more than a 100 tons each and are almost 200 meters tall. The long distances, deep waters and a lack of sufficient nearby electricity network links, also add to the costs.
But Germany clearly intends to persevere. Its first offshore wind farm is being built off the island of Borkum in the North Sea, by Eon, EWE and Vattenfall- six turbines 45 kilometers away from the island’s shore, to be followed later this year by another six. And Blackstone Group LP says it will invest over 1 bn euro in a joint venture ‘Meerwind’ with Germany’s Windland Energieerzeugungs GmbH for a 400 MW project over an area of 40 square km about 80 km north of Germany.
For more see: www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,3478173,00.html