Monday, 27 December 2010

Letter in Guardian calling for real feed-in tariffs

See for the text of a letter in the Guardian calling for real feed-in tariffs for renewables but not for nulcear power.

What to do now? Well, make sure that the Government's policy to subsidise nuclear power (instead of supporting more renewables) is challenged. Write, and urge others to write, to your own MPs asking for them to lobby, and vote, against measures to subsidise nuclear and to urge them to vote for policies to give the money to renewables instead. The Government say they want to set up a 'low carbon mechanism' to fund both nuclear power and renewables. But the money should be used to fund more renewables instead of nuclear power stations. Fund more onshore and offshore windfarms, solar power schemes, wave, tidal, small hydro and sustainable biomass energy projects.....instead of nuclear power.

It is vital to get the message to our MPs, otherwise they will be hoodwinked into thinking that the public will go along with the Government's greenwash about nuclear power.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

tax nuclear windfall profits and give it to renewables

See a letter (text below) I had published in the Guardian about how EDF will make billions a year for doing nothing extra out of the Government proposals for a floor price for carbon emission allowances (they already make a lot out of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme for producing no extra power than they would anyway):
  • The Guardian,

  • EDF's claim that they "have not asked for subsidy for new nuclear" is not all that it seems. The nuclear industry, owned by British Energy (in turn owned by EDF), will be receiving huge sums of windfall profits under government proposals for a floor price on carbon emission allowances. British Energy will greatly expand its profits for no increase in nuclear power production, all subsidised by electricity consumers.
    Based on Royal Academy of Engineering analysis (a pro-nuclear source) a carbon floor price of £30 per tonne is likely to lead to electricity price increases of around 2.5p/Kwh. Given that British Energy produces (according to their website) around 50 TWh per year, this would give them annual windfall profits of around £1.25bn a year. Many argue that the "floor price" would have to be higher than this to make new nuclear power stations profitable. A floor price of £50 per tonne would give EDF windfall profits (at 50 TWh a year) of over £2bn a year. Indeed British Energy and EDF are already receiving hundreds of millions of pounds a year of subsidy by another name through existing levels of carbon prices.
    Dr David Toke
    Senior lecturer in energy policy, University of Birmingham

    In Germany the Government is imposing a tax on these windfall profits and then spending the money on renewable energy. But then Germany wants to build an economy based on renewable energy whilst in the UK, contrary to the 'greenwash' that the Government is spreading, increasing quantities of consumer subsidies are being transferred to nuclear energy when there is plenty of renewable wind, solar etc resources around. WRITE TO YOUR MP DEMANDING A TAX ON NUCLEAR WINDFALL PROFITS TO BE SPENT ON RENEWABLE ENERGY INSTEAD. EDF is already bagging hundreds of millions a year from this, and under the Government proposals it will get much worse.

    See previous blogs about how nuclear is being given priority over renewables as the main non-fossil future energy source.

    Germany goes for renewables, UK for nuclear

    As you can read in a report in 'Renewable Energy World', Germany is now planning to increase the share of renewable energy as a proportion of generation from the present 16 per cent to 80 per cent in 2050. This is in sharp contrast to the UK, where the plans outlined in the National Policy Statement (and the documentation produced by the Climate Change Committee) suggests that nuclear will have a much bigger share than renewables by 2050. Indeed the UK plans seem to be a bizarre parody of public expectations. These may be that conventional fuels dominate the present prior to a renewable energy future (that's a consistent view from opinion polls which massively favour renewables). But under the plans presented by the country's energy establishment it seems that we shall have continued growth in renewables for a few years and then the nuclear programme will kick in and we sail off into a nuclear future! The implicit assumption in Government documents is that renewables will peak at providing little more than 20 per cent of electricity demand and that nuclear will supply an increasingly larger share of the rest. This is a key reason why I depart from others who think that the Government's 'electricity market reform' proposals are green (see previous two blogs). As my last blog said, nuclear ain't green.

    The Climate Change Committee assumes that there will be little decline in the costs of renewable fuels such as offshore wind power and solar photovoltaics in the future, while the (draft) National Policy Statement assumes that uranium supplies will always be available at low prices. On the one hand there is the point that people will be prepared to pay more for clean renewable sources than for nuclear anyway; but besides this the Climate Change Committee have made some decidedly pro-nuclear assumptions about future costs of renewable and nuclear energy sources. You might say, well, they have got to assume something. Indeed, but they happen to settle on numbers which justify a nuclear future. Companies such as EDF want to keep renewables down to below 25 per cent of electricity supply because they say anything more makes like more difficult for the operation of their nuclear power stations. I urge people to write to their MPs complaining about these priorities and about the use of subsidies from consumer electricity bills to support nuclear power rather than renewables.

    One contrast of how 'facts' are selected from nuclear and not renewable sources is how the National Policy statement takes the International Atomic Agency's word that uranium supplies will be plentiful in the future (if the world follows David McKay's suggestion of a nuclear dominated future for the UK?) and how there cannot be uranium supply crises. Yet the Climate Change Committee will not take any notice of the solar industry's projections of future cost reductions. In fact costs of both solar power and wind turbines are set to decline in the future as China increasingly supplies these technologies in ever increasing numbers.

    Sunday, 19 December 2010

    One very big reason why nuclear power ain't green

    It seems strange to have to explain why nuclear power isn't green, but it is all over the British press from the Government that it is, and that electricity consumers will be supporting 'green energy' with increased bills. Consumers may think that most or all of  this is going to renewable energy. But, under the Government's 'electricity market reform' proposals a lot will be diverted to support nuclear power - both old and new, through two ways. One is because fossil fuel prices are being increased to make non-fossil sources relatively cheaper, and another is through a new scheme called the 'low carbon mechanism'. This will be organised by government in what will be no doubt a rather opaque fashion to funnel an additional precept from consumer electricity bills to fund new nuclear. What is left will go to renewable energy through an 'auction' system that has long been discredited (see earlier blog).  In doing so, of course, it does not take a great deal of imagination to see that the renewable energy programme will not be anything like as big as if all the money was going to start new renewable energy schemes rather than support nuclear power. Quota auctions are being introduced to limit the amount of offshore and onshore windfarms that can get access to cross subsidies for consumers so that the rest can be reserved for the new nuclear power stations that companies like EDF and E.On want to build.

    According to the Government this is going to be a balanced way of distributing money to green energy sources. Nuclear Power - green? How is it going to solve the global environmental crisis? Evidently by creating another one - a nuclear proliferation crisis. If a lot of countries start using nuclear power to reduce carbon emissions there will quite quickly be a uranium crisis (oil crises with radioactivity) which according to the nuclear industry will be stopped by building 'fast breeder' reactors. Whilst ordinary nuclear power stations (just?) use fissile materials, fast breeder reactors (which have never been made to work properly) actually generate fissile materials. They are nuclear bomb factories. This was why the green movement turned against nuclear power 30 years ago. Let's stop this happening by demanding that all consumer subsidies for green energy go to renewable energy or energy efficiency with a system of German style feed-in tariffs used to support renewable energy.

    UK Government to subsidise nuclear power and limit renewables

    Government to shift resources from wind power to nuclear power…….by Dave Toke

    Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne is heralding  a move towards giving nuclear power  guaranteed subsidies from electricity consumers whilst going back to a
    1990s-style  approach of awarding contracts to supply wind power through contract auctions.  In doing so the wind power construction programme, on the basis of past performance, will be cut by at least a half. The current Renewables Obligation, though expensive, offers good terms for wind power developers. The auction system signaled by the Government will reduce costs but it will also greatly reduce the number of windfarms that will be developed. A (real) system of feed-in tariffs that has become the dominant and highly successful means of implementing renewable energy programmes around the world is now likely to be ignored once again by British policymakers. 

    The Government is worried that electricity prices will rise greatly if both the planned nuclear programme and existing targets for renewable energy are maintained. The Government’s solution to this is likely to be to limit renewable energy. If proof were needed about fears that nuclear power will crowd out renewables development, this new British policy will provide it. In effect the policy means a transfer of resources from renewable energy towards nuclear power.  This is directly in the face of public opinion which has been shown in all independent polls to prefer renewable energy to nuclear power by overwhelming majorities.

    Chris Huhne unveiled his thinking at a press conference on Dec 16th when he gave support to proposals, inspired by E.ON, for a ‘low carbon’ support mechanism. See report (see middle section mention of auctions in particular). Designs for auctioning supply contracts for various forms of low carbon sources are given great prominence in the Government’s consultation paper on Electricity Market Reform. See Chapter 6 in

    Whether directly or indirectly, renewable energy will be in competition with nuclear power for subsidies from electricity consumers. A return to a Tory 1990s (NFFO) style contract auctioning system is likely to emasculate the onshore wind power  programme and deliver less a lot less than half the previous (Labour) Government’s target of 33 GW of offshore wind by 2020. In the 1990s the auctions for renewable energy contracts took years to  organize. Half of the projects that made successful contract bids proved to be uneconomic and half of  the rest did not get planning consent - so only around one in four proposed  projects could be implemented.

    If the auction proposal is applied to Round 3 of the offshore wind power programme it will destroy the arrangements that The Crown  Estates have organised. Developers already given  leases in Round 3 would have to compete in this auction system in order to be given price support contracts. Obviously,  not all would get contracts. Moreover much of the contracted capacity will end up being uneconomic and thus undeveloped because the  auction system encourages developers to put in optimistically low bids. It is claimed that things  will be different this time, but the renewable auction system has been tried  several  times around the world for renewables (UK, Ireland, California, and Denmark under  the post 2001 right wing government) and low capacity out turns are always the result. Let us not lose ten years finding out it that it is the same yet again.
    Some are claiming that Government targets for renewable energy (currently 30 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2020) can still be met with ‘auction’ systems, but such targets are meaningless if the incentive mechanisms can only deliver less than half those targets.  

    The Renewables Obligation (RO) (although expensive) is much preferable to 
    the auction system being proposed because it at least allows companies a much greater opportunity to set up schemes with a good price for their electricity. Of course, what we need most is a REAL feed-in tariff system like they have in the bulk of EU  countries (led by Germany) which also leaves the choice about whether to set up a project to developers, but gives a more cost effective outcome for the electricity consumer. The German feed-in tariff is a highly transparent system which give 20 year contracts guaranteeing good standard prices to be paid for renewable energy generators that are tailored for different technologies. If there is a consistent campaign supported by the green NGOs and others on this there is a have a good  chance of success, although the problem will still remain of getting good feed-in tariff  prices set by the Government for the different renewable technologies.

    As Simon Hughes, acting as Lib Dem energy and climate change spokesperson said in April 2009:  "The best answer to Britain's needs is a massive expansion of renewable energy. If billions of pounds are wasted on new nuclear sites the money simply won't be available to do this." Could this issue turn out to be a radioactive equivalent of the Lib Dem u-turn on student tuition fees?
    Dr David Toke is Senior Lecturer in Energy Policy at the Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham

    NOTE: A campaign for REAL feed-in tariffs (renewable, not nuclear) will be organized shortly. Write to your MP supporting this campaign. Watch this website for further news!