Friday, 7 September 2018

Plans for breakthrough wave power device to be unveiled in Aberdeen this week

Hot on the heels of the opening of the new offshore windfarm in Aberdeen, cutting edge renewable energy activity continues at a meeting at the University of Aberdeen this Thursday, 13th September.

As the promotion says on the Aberdeen Renewable Group diary says:

The University of Aberdeen is set to host a speaker meeting with Per Resen Steenstrup from Resen Waves, the wave energy engineering firm. The event, which will be held at the University’s Old Aberdeen campus in Room KCS15 on Thursday September 13th at 4pm, will give delegates the opportunity to hear about some of the challenges facing the wave industry. Resen will also showcase its innovative Wave Power Buoy which could replace conventional diesel generators in the oil and gas and renewables industries. If you are interested in attending the event, please contact Dr David Toke at

This is an exciting new  'bottom-up' approach to wave power. You can read more about this on a previous blog post at:

I hope to see you at the meeting!

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Why rooftop solar pv will be failed by the Government's so called market based approach

It's rubbish for anybody to claim that rooftop solar pv arrays  will be given a decent reward for the sale of electricity that they send onto to electricity distribution system through the competition existing, or likely to exist, on electricity markets.

Yet that would appear to be the direction in which the Government are heading, under an argument that the market will reward the small generators for the power they supply - Under the feed-in tariff regime small generators have been guaranteed around £35 per MWh for this 'excess' generation - on top of the feed-in tariff payments for all of the generation. But. it seems, this guarantee is  to be removed.

Feed-in tariffs are over for new schemes, and, so, barring a successful pushback by the solar lobby - will be guaranteed payments for excess (to home consumption) sent to the grid.

As the Government gets down to considering the response to its consultation about arrangements to follow its ending of feed-in tariffs for solar pv and other renewables, we need to call out the so-called market competition nonsense rolled out by the Government to justify its apparent wish to end all guaranteed payments for excess power sold to the grid.

For a start even £35 per MWh is a low price compared to the £45 per MWh or more that we have seen in recent times as the price of power on the wholesale power trading market. Even accounting for the costs of the variability of solar power this remains the case as the cost of such intermittency for the system is estimated to be less than £5 per MWh even in (hopefully) in the future when there is a dramatic expansion of solar pv. See the analysis at

Under the way the grid is organised generation onto the grid by solar pv is counted as reduced consumption and worth nothing on power markets. Only if there is an arrangement whereby it is metered or 'deemed' - and then for the generation to be given the status of a tradeable commodity (which it would have to be if any electricity supplier could make money out of it) would the exported solar generation have market value.

 But even if electricity  suppliers could trade electricity generated by rooftop solar pv panels, there is no reason to think that they will give small solar pv generators much (if anything at all) for it. That's because the solar pv producer is also beholden to the electricity supplier's tariffs.

 It might just happen that an electricity supplier (let's call them 'Green Energy') might offer a tariff for solar pv exports, but the solar pv generator will also be an electricity consumer. It will be very difficult to tell whether the tariff that they are put on for their electricity consumption (when they are not using the solar pv generation) is inflated so that the suppliers claws back any money they get paid for their own generation.

Quite possibly, even if electricity suppliers claim to be green by offering tariffs to solar generators to sell electricity to the grid, the home-based solar pv owners will probably have no clear way of knowing whether they are actually getting paid much for that power - That is because the electricity supplier may well in effect charge the solar pv generator a higher bill for the privilege of being given the impression that they are being paid for the power they sell to the grid. The rules simply favour the electricity suppliers. If they can, the electricity suppliers will use a bit of greenwash to get the generation for free - and the system is opaque enough for them easily to do this.

The electricity suppliers won't pay out to anybody unless they have to. They don't have to in this case, so they won't.

The competitivity of the market depends on the rules, and their transparency, and there is little chance of the rules being effective in giving solar pv payments for their exports that reward their value to the electricity system - that's because the rules are designed for the big players, not the little ones. That wouldn't matter much if it wasn't for the principle - which the Government is supposed to buy into - that clean energy should be favoured - or at least be given an even break under the rules.

Hence the only way of giving solar pv generators a reward that reflects their value to the market is for the Government to continue the current system whereby solar pv generators are guaranteed a payment for power sent to the grid. That is the system employed by other Western states to reward solar pv generators.

Now the official consultation on this subject has (just) closed, the best way to argue on this subject is to write to your MP about it asking for a reasonable guaranteed sum to be paid for energy generated by rooftop pv producers

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

New nuclear plan means that consumers will foot bill for unlimited spending by nuclear contractors

So finally the Government has, after I feared so long it would, chosen the doomsday option to fund new nuclear power stations - one that will be disastrous for the consumers and taxpayers. After years of swearing that they would not offer subsidies to nuclear power, and saying that in the future the terrible drain of (historical) over-spending on nuclear power would stop, the Government has gone back to square zero. Essentially, under the Government's proposals for so-called 'Regulated Asset Base' (RAB) of funding nuclear power (described in a recent article in 'Unearthed', a Greenpeace publication), the nuclear developers will have no real limit on what they can spend to build the power stations. It is a recipe for national disaster.

No private developer is willing to take the construction risks of funding nuclear power in the UK, whatever 'strike price' is offered for the electricity that might be generated in future. Doesn't that tell you something? So EDF stepped up to the mark. EDF, the French state-owned company, may be starting the real part of the construction of Hinkley C in 2019/2020. The French state will pay for the inevitable cost overruns that come along with building the plant, combined quite probably, with an out-of-contract bailout by the British Government when the going gets tough.

But now the Government is casting around for another nuclear power plant to be built, - Wylfa or Sizewell C - but neither developer (Hitachi or now EDF) wants to take the risk of paying the almost inevitable losses on the project.

So enter the Government's new proposals which will no doubt be promoted as a simple accountancy trick to lower costs, but hide the fact that the state will take the losses, to be divided up between us as taxpayers (loss of guaranteed loans and construction risk guarantees) and electricity consumers (advance payments on top of electricity bills). And, note this, whatever ministers may say, the exposure by taxpayers and consumers in UNLIMITED.

Under the RAB arrangements electricity consumers will start paying extra on their bills from when construction starts, which could be anything from 7-10+ years ahead of any energy being generated.

This system has a lot of similarities with what has happened in South Carolina and Georgia where  nuclear power plant (around 2.2GWe each case) began construction in 2009 and have been subject to mounting delays and problems - so much so that in South Carolina the project was cancelled, part built. But consumers in South Carolina have been paying around $250 a year on average for the nuclear power plant. In Georgia consumers are paying around $100 a year.

Now remember, this is without a single KWh of electricity being generated.

In Georgia the project to build two reactors has only been saved because the Federal Government has agreed to lend $12 billion in loans to the project to build two 1100 MW reactors.

This looks like the shape of things to come in the UK.

Now how much renewable energy could you get online from the sort of spending the Government will end up ploughing in to the nuclear black hole for one nuclear scheme? Probably enough to supply most of UK electricity with plenty of any back up needed thrown in!

The recent Greenpeace research was well done - I must add however that I remember commenting to Doug Parr (of Greenpeace) several years ago that consumers could end up with a system like in the USA where consumers where locked into paying for the nuclear build in advance. The end result will very likely be the debacle we are witnessing in the USA right now! - Or, perhaps, what has happened at Sellafield with decommissioning contracts organised on a cost-plus basis. What's to stop people just chalking up whatever bills for the work they like? Well, under the RAB/cost plus system, not very much!


Tuesday, 31 July 2018

New report: How Scotland’s new energy company could revive renewable energy in Scotland

New report:  How Scotland’s new energy company could revive renewable energy in Scotland
In a new report published by Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Dr David Toke of the University of Aberdeen argues that the best business strategy for the Scottish Government’s proposed Energy Company will be to enable new renewable energy schemes to be established. To do this, the Scottish Government needs to offer long term guarantees of minimum electricity prices for electricity from new renewable energy schemes.
Dr Toke said “The Scottish Government has a great opportunity to become the UK leader in the supply of green energy. It can achieve this if its proposed Energy Company is able to offer long term power purchase agreements for new onshore wind and solar projects. But if the SG’s new Energy Company relies on the common practice of electricity companies of sourcing renewable energy from projects that have already been established on the back of Westminster based incentives then it will fail to impress – and also miss out on a great opportunity to steal a march on its energy supply competitors. The Scottish Government needs to offer guaranteed long term pries for electricity generated from new renewable energy schemes”
Executive summary
The Scottish Government’s commitment to start an energy company could re-energise renewable energy in Scotland and deliver electricity at competitive prices for the consumer. The key objective for a new Scottish Energy Company (SEC) must be, in marketing terms, to demonstrate how it can offer a superior product compared to its competitors at a price that is no higher than that offered by its competitors. The SEC could out-sell rival competitors by giving long term power purchase agreements to new renewable energy schemes. This will achieve a ‘quality’ selling point that will be unmatched by other electricity suppliers. Although various electricity suppliers boast that their supplies come from renewable energy, usually they only offer PPAs to renewable energy schemes that have been given support on Westminster incentive schemes, the Renewables Obligation and feed-in tariff - and which thus already exist.  The Energy Company initiative should be backed by activities of the Scottish National Investment Bank to offer loans to new renewable energy projects. There are a number of potential renewable energy projects that can be implemented for prices at or below recent levels in wholesale power prices meaning that the Scottish Energy Company could give PPAs to such companies and deliver electricity to consumers at the same or lower prices than other electricity suppliers.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Renewables generated close to 30 per of UK electricity in 2017: set to top 50 per cent by 2025

Today's UK energy statistics reveal that renewable electricity generation increased by around 20 per cent in just one year so that 29.3 per cent of electricity consumed came from renewable energy in 2017. If at least 80 per cent of the offshore windfarms now in different stages of planning (let alone other renewable energy sources) come online, as could be expected, in the next 7 years, then renewable energy will comprise half of total UK electricity generation by 2025.

In 2017 renewable energy's proportion of electricity consumed increased from 24.5 per cent in 2016 to 29.3 per cent in 2017. Making up the 29.3 per cent figure around 15 per cent came from wind power, 4 per cent from solar pv, 2 per cent from natural flow hydro and 8 per cent from various biomass sources. All other major categories fell, with natural gas supplying around 40 per cent, nuclear 21 per cent, and coal just 7 per cent.

As if the massive and continuing increase of renewable electricity (up from around 3 per cent in the year 2000) wasn't enough of a slap in the face for the industrial establishment's earlier sneering at green energy projections, electricity consumption fell once again in the year 2017 compared to 2016. Electricity consumption is now 9 per cent less than it was in 2010.

Meanwhile over 20 GWe of offshore wind are in various stages of planning and construction. In total these would generate around 25 per cent of UK electricity. Since the Government are saying they will hold auctions for offshore wind and some other renewables in 2019 and 2021 this means that a lot of them will be built by 2025. Of course we are going to have substantially more onshore wind and solar by 2025 to buttress these figures (although the Government are doing very little to help) meaning that electricity generated from renewable energy will top 50 per cent of total consumption in 2025/6.


Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Wave power - new bottom up development?

One of the new designs for wave power is looking to enter the energy market via small scale scale applications - as such it is a different approach to the stand-alone mode often proposed for wave power devices - a strategy that seems to have faltered in recent times.

The new approach is about developing the technology in a bottom up fashion by finding 'local' markets rather than sending power into the grid. That means the technology can start off small, and then grow, which is how innovation usually develops

The technology company is called 'Resen Waves'. The device is designed to be a small device (initially 300W) that could provide power for sensors and other small power applications in the offshore oil and gas market - well, that's one way that the oil industry could give renewable energy a break! But its still needs some partners and demonstrations schemes to get it going.

Per Resen Steenstrup, the founder of the Resen Waves company which is now active in Aberdeen, tells me that it is in the Danish renewable energy tradition of incrementally building up from small beginnings. That's right of course - the wind power industry started in Denmark in its modern form at the end of the 1970s and early 1980s using small machines. The concept behind Resen Waves is that it can build up from small beginnings by finding and developing niche markets.The company behind the technology says that it is 'the first company in the World to provide continuous power and real-time data connectivity to autonomous instruments and machinery in the sea, as a plug and play solution'.

You can read more about Resen Waves at

Friday, 22 June 2018

How the Committee on Climate Change gave the Government dud advice

The Climate Change Act has been celebrating its 10th anniversary, but there is surprisingly little to celebrate in the earlier advice of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). The CCC is the body created to advise the Government on the achievement of the carbon reduction commitments (80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050). You would expect the advice of the CCC to speed the Government's low carbon programme, but in the crucial aspect of electricity supply policy it has (in the past) actually damaged it!

Looking back on its past, it looks like the Committee gave completely the wrong advice to the Government, advice which, alas, they still seem to be following now. 

In particular, in the 'Renewable Energy Review' issued in 2011 (1) (which I criticised at the time), the CCC, urged the Government to cut back the targets for offshore wind and instead focus on nuclear power. They told the Government not to be put off by the Fukushima disaster that had happened earlier that year. According to the Times Report on May 9th 2011 ''The Committee on Climate Change says heavy reliance on offshore wind could result in unacceptable increases in fuel bills.' (2) David Kennedy, the then Chief Executive of CCC said that 'Nuclear looks like it will be the lowest cost for the next decade or two'. Indeed the Review stated that nuclear power was currently 'the most cost effective of the low carbon technologies' (1). That conclusion, given the cost of onshore wind, was highly challengable at the time, especially as given the existing record of nuclear power plant that had been built in the UK and the roll-out of onshore wind. Whereas the deployment of renewable energy has soared ahead, despite the best efforts of many in the Conservatives to block it, nuclear power plans set out in 2010 have proved to be fantasy. And, of course, offshore wind costs have tumbled rapidly making the CCC's earlier pronouncements looking especially silly.

As the Times report of May 9th 2011 stated ''Before the Fukushima disaster the Government had been planning to build 12 new reactors on seven sites by 2025'.  Of course there is no chance that there will be even one reactor by then, let alone 12. The only deal signed so far, Hinkley C, has been achieved at great cost to the British electricity consumer. The scheme only survives because the French taxpayer already has stumped up several billions to subsidise the deal. No doubt more will be needed further down the line more as cost overruns escalating as they always do (and no doubt British taxpayers ending up with further commitments to finish the job). A deal is being discussed for the Wylfa project with Hitachi that will see British taxpayers 'invest' in the project (as well as paying high premium prices for the power in their electricity bills) that will make them liable for a large chunk of the almost inevitable costs overruns.

Yet onshore wind and solar pv projects that can be delivered at no extra cost to the consumer are being denied  contracts for differences that would deliver the power much, much more cheaply for taxpayers and electricity consumers than nuclear power. The Government seems in no hurry either to prepare for new offshore windfarms which are now much cheaper to deliver than new nuclear power.

The UK has been relatively successful in reducing its carbon emissions. Indeed, according to Carbon Brief (3) the UK has reduced its emissions by 38 per cent compared to 1990. That is due to a reduction in electricity use this century (partly a result of energy efficiency policies), more energy efficient buildings, and a switch away from coal to gas and renewable energy. Renewable energy has grown, as a proportion of electricity supply, from 1 per cent in 1990 to around 30 per cent today. By 2020 this will be close to 35 per cent. Most of this increase has occurred this century having being kickstarted by the last Labour Government, especially under Ed Miliband who set out some ambitious plans for offshore wind which were later cutback in the context of the disastrous advice from the CCC.  

In more recent times, at least, the CCC, has been a bit more positive for renewables, and indeed Lord Deben, the Chair, has recently chided the Government on its lack of incentives for onshore wind. The CCC has a new CEO in the shape of Chris Stark whose previous job was Director of Climate Policy for the Scottish Government. At least we shouldn't get any disastrous advice from him!

(1) Committee on Climate Change (2011) 'Renewable Energy Review',

(2), Webster, B., (2011) 'Set Aside fears and build reactors not wind turbines says climate watchdog', Times, May 9th 

(3) Carbon Brief (2018) 'Analysis: How UK carbon emissions fell to their lowest levels since 1890',