Wednesday, July 19, 2006

China's Renewable Energy Boom

For the full article, see Planet Ark.

China is set to spend US$200 billion on renewable energy over the next 15 years. That amount would buy an oil firm the size of Chevron and leave change to fund the current renewables programmes of all Europe's top oil firms for 25 years.

Beijing wants a tenth of its energy to come from environmentally friendly sources by 2010 - a desire driven by soaring air pollution and chronic environmental degradation that is swelling medical bills and provoking discontent.

China's new renewable energy policy, unveiled in January, aims to create a system of financial and policy support for the use of renewable energy, including preferential tariffs for fuels such as biomass. Beyond 2010, China wants renewable sources to supply a fifth of its total energy needs by 2020, up from 7% last year, to slash reliance on imported oil.

Renewable energy will likely become China's next boom sector, with oil at historical high prices and more energy needed to support the country's GDP growth, hovering at around 10%. The compound annual growth rate of China's wind power capacity is estimated to be 39% in 2004-10 and 20% in 2010-20. This presents remarkable growth potential for manufacturers of wind turbines, but competition may force down prices and profit margins.

China - which claims already to be the world's top investor in renewable energy - could leverage the highest wind-power capacity potential on Earth. She aims to have 30 gigawatts of installed wind power capacity by 2020, up from just 1 GW last year, powering between 13 and 30 million households at full capacity.

The country's top economic planning agency expects that up to US$188 billion will need to be invested to reach the 2020 goal. Renewable energy projects will need intensive and long term government support. Beijing appears to have the resolve - and the need - to push ahead, but a proper system of tax or policy incentives could take years. (As we know in the UK.)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

UK Energy Review is launched

The full text of the UK government review of its energy policy has just been launched. The full text can be found on the DTI website.

Monday, July 10, 2006

That Energy Review and (mainly) nukes

Some views from the UK newspapers over the weekend about the nuclear options for the country, likely to be proposed by the Energy Review (to be announced tomorrow, Tuesday 11 July)

In the on-line Guardian Unlimited, reporting an article in Sunday's Observer newspaper. A reasonably balanced article mentioning a variety of views: 'Energy review 'a sham' to back Blair on nuclear'

From short articles focussing on the funding of nuclear new build and the likelihood that the 'energy gap' to about 2015 will have to be plugged by more gas-fired generation. Interesting views but predictably anti-Blair - Sunday business comment, by Sylvia Pfeifer, Deputy City Editor: 'Blair's nuclear spin needs hard cash' and 'Power generation gap'.

Guardian Unlimited has a Special Report on the nuclear industry, majoring on articles from the Grauniad's stablemate, The Observer's, claimed sneak preview of the final draft of the Energy Review . 'Revealed: Blair's energy blueprint - Long-awaited government review stresses need for more renewables but critics blast nuclear plans'

This article is by Stephen Hale, Director of Green Alliance. 'Obsession with nuclear power is wrong for Britain, Mr Blair - The Energy Review will back the PM's push for atomic energy, but, says Stephen Hale, it won't deal with the challenge of global climate change

This article in the Independent reports a publication by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) saying the Government's energy review, to be published next week, should set a clear target of doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency, rather than go for nuclear new build.

Two articles from the Times Online:

'Standby buttons face axe to curb energy waste'. A good, if short, report on the issues, with plenty of statistics.

'Foreign groups to team up on nuclear power plants'. FRANCE’s EDF, Germany’s Eon and British Energy are considering teaming up to bid for multi-billion-pound contracts to build the UK’s next generation of nuclear power stations.

Hope these were useful. We will all know for certain tomorrow what the Review says.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Energy technology scenarios and strategies for a more secure and sustainable energy future

On 22 June the International Energy Agency (IEA) presented the key findings of a new publication: 'Energy Technology Perspectives: Scenarios and Strategies to 2050'. “A sustainable energy future is possible, but only if we act urgently and decisively to promote, develop and deploy a full mix of energy technologies – including improved energy efficiency, CO2 capture and storage (CCS), renewables and -- where acceptable -- nuclear energy. We have the means, now we need the will”, Mr Mandil, IEA Executive Director, said.

G8 leaders at the Summit in Gleneagles in July 2005 asked the IEA to advise on alternative scenarios and strategies aimed at a 'clean, clever and competitive energy future' and 'Energy Technology Perspectives' is part of this advice. The study presents a series of scenarios demonstrating the role that energy technologies, already available or under development, can play in future energy markets. Mr Mandil went on to say “We find that clean and more efficient technologies can return soaring energy-related CO2 emissions to today’s levels by 2050 and halve the expected growth in both oil and electricity demand”.

The IEA publication takes a detailed look at status and prospects for key energy technologies in power generation, buildings, industry and transport and puts forward strategies for attaining scenarios unimaginable under current trends. Energy efficiency is seen as essential to mitigate growth in energy demand and CO2 emissions and can be achieved using technologies that exist now. Accelerating energy efficiency improvements alone can reduce the world’s energy demand in 2050 by an amount equivalent to almost half of today’s global energy consumption. To achieve this, however, governments, in both OECD and non-OECD countries, must be willing to implement measures to encourage investment in energy-efficient technologies.

An important technology will be the capture and storage of CO2 (CCS) emitted from power-generation or industrial processes. The study says that the early demonstration of CCS in full-scale power plants should be a high priority. Deploying CCS, along with more renewables, more nuclear and more efficient use of natural gas and coal, can significantly decarbonise global electricity generation by 2050. “With the right policy incentives we think there is scope for renewables to quadruple by 2050 and for nuclear to gain a more important role in countries where it is acceptable”, Mr. Mandil stated.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Energy Blog

This is another high quality blog presenting a wide range of good-quality energy news from around (but with a US bias). I've added it to the links bar on the left.

New UK power station to be built

Energy company Centrica is to start construction of Britain's first major new power station in almost five years. The UK firm, which owns British Gas, said it would invest £400m ($741m) to develop the gas-fired power station in Langage, near Plymouth in Devon. The new plant will provide electricity to more than one million homes

The new combined cycle gas turbine plant will be one of the country's most efficient power stations, beginning commercial operations as early as winter 2008.

Planning permission for the power station was first granted six years ago, despite objections from local residents. French company Alstom will build and maintain the Langage power station, which would provide electricity for about 11% of the energy company's forecast peak residential demand.

Centrica raised its gas and electricity prices by 22% at the beginning of March, and has recently warned that further price rises could be on the way.

For more information, see the BBC.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Multi million pound investment in 'green' energy

A £20 million investment is to be provided to back the Executive's Clean Energy Startegy which aims to make Scotland the renewable energy powerhouse of Europe, a special conference in Aberdeen was told today.

Deputy First Minister Nicol Stephen announced details of:
  • an allocated £20 million of renewable energy funding to be spent over the next two years
  • an environmental study to help the development of off-shore wind projects
  • specific financial support for biomass, hydrogen, marine and microrenewables
The Minister said that investing in a diverse range of renewables would not only help tackle climate change, but would have a positive effect on Scotland's economic potential.

For more details see the Scottish Executive web site.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Fusion reactor work gets go-ahead

Seven international parties involved in an experimental nuclear fusion reactor project have initialled a 10bn-euro (£6.8bn) agreement. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) will be the most expensive joint scientific project after the International Space Station. Wednesday's agreement in Brussels gives the go-ahead for practical work on the project to start.

Generatingnonap energy from reactions like those that power the Sun, fusion will lead to a cheaper, safer, cleaner and endless energy resource in the years ahead, says the the seven-party consortium, including the European Union, the US, Japan, China, Russia and others. They agreed last year to build ITER in Cadarache, in the southern French region of Provence.

The experimental reactor will produce the first sustained fusion reactions, the last stage to be proved before a full prototype commercial reactor is built. Construction will start in 2007 and building will take about eight years to build. If all goes well, officials hope to set up a demonstration power plant at Cadarache by 2040.

In a fusion reaction, energy is produced when light atoms - the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium - are fused together to form heavier atoms. To use controlled fusion reactions on Earth as an energy source, it is necessary to heat a gas to temperatures exceeding 100 million Celsius - many times hotter than the centre of the Sun. The technical obstacles to this, which scientists have spent decades overcoming, are immense; but the rewards, if ITER can be made to work successfully, are extremely attractive. One kilogram of fusion fuel would produce the same amount of energy as 10,000,000kg of fossil fuel.

Fusion does produce radioactive waste but not the volumes of long-term high-level radiotoxic materials that have so burdened nuclear fission. Officials project that 10-20% of the world's energy could come from fusion by the end of the century, but environmental groups have criticised the project, saying there was no guarantee that the billions of euros would result in a commercially viable energy source.

The Cadarache site lies about 60km (37 miles) inland from Marseille, and has been a nuclear research centre ever since President Charles de Gaulle launched France's atomic energy programme in 1959.

See full report in story from BBC NEWS

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All views expressed here, unless otherwise stated, are my own.

John Cockaday