Scotland’s renewable fuel

The results of recent analysis into the new SSE and Beatrice Offshore wind farm has shown that the £2.6 billion 84 turbine project will add £530 million to the Scottish economy. The Outer Moray Firth development was consented in March 2014 and research on the social return on the investment (SROI) shoes the £2.6bn investment is expected to add £1.13bn to UK GDP and support full-time employment in the UK.

Paul Cooley, SSE head of generation development, said: “As a UK-based energy company we strongly believe that our investment in much-needed energy infrastructure can benefit the wider society.

“The findings of the report show that our spending on the project will not just benefit the wider UK supply chain, but also the Scottish supply chain and the local communities near the wind farm.

“This research offered SSE their first chance to understand the social return on investment of the community fund, and we were thrilled to see that the fund should help create more value for the community.

” The foundations are being put into place for the project, which will be fully operational in 2019 SSE says the farm’s 84 wind turbine being assembled at Nigg Energy Park will be able to generate enough energy to power up to 450,000 homes.

Scottish Government Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse said: “On a national scale, the Beatrice project is set to inject £530 million into the Scottish economy, as well as providing clean energy to thousands of homes.

“The significant benefits to the Highland and Moray regions will be felt for a long time to come, as those areas are set to benefit from over £6 million in community projects, as well as the creation of over 800 jobs during the construction phase, including assembly work at Nigg Energy Park, and around 90 long-term jobs during the operations and maintenance phase, which will produce a particular boost to employment at Wick harbour.”

There was more good news this week for Scottish wind power as new data from WWF Scotland showed another new record for the renewable source for the six months of 2017. The analysis showed that wind turbines generated 1,039,001MWh of electricity in June, enough to supply the electrical needs equivalent to 118 per cent of Scottish households.

In the first six months of 2017 enough power was generated to supply more than all of Scotland’s national demand for six days. Turbines generated 6,634,585MWh of electricity which analysts say could on average supply the electrical needs of 124% (approximately 3 million) of Scottish households. The figures for the first six months this year show an increase of 24% compared to 2015.

Scotland’s total electricity consumption including homes, business and industry for first six months was 11,689,385MWh meaning wind generated the equivalent of 57 per cent of Scotland’s entire electricity needs.

Dr Sam Gardner, acting director of WWF Scotland, said: “The first six months of 2017 have certainly been incredible for renewables, with wind turbines alone helping to ensure millions of tonnes of climate-damaging carbon emissions were avoided.

“Scotland is continuing to break records on renewable electricity, attracting investment, creating jobs and tackling climate change.

“If we want to reap the same rewards in the transport and heating sectors, we need the Scottish government to put in place strong policies on energy efficiency and transport in the forthcoming Climate Change Bill.

“That’s why we’re calling on people to act for our future and tell the First Minister they want a strong climate bill that will deliver a fairer and healthier low carbon Scotland.”

Karen Robinson, of WeatherEnergy, said: “It’s great to see this data confirm that Scotland is knocking it out of the park on wind power with total output for June in particular up on the same period compared to the past two years.

“There’s no doubt renewables are helping households increasingly avoid fossil fuels for their electricity needs.”

Scotland’s energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “It’s great to hear renewable electricity generation in Scotland has reached a new record high. In the first quarter of this year, generation was up by 13 per cent compared to the same period last year, there was also a 16 per cent increase in capacity, and more than half of all gross electricity consumption in Scotland continues to come from renewables.

“Scotland’s total installed renewable capacity, that’s the amount of renewable electricity we are capable of producing, now stands at 9.3 GW – four times what it was only a decade ago. These statistics reinforce our country’s reputation as a renewable energy powerhouse and are a vindication of the Scottish government’s energy policy.”

The new offshore venture mentioned above along with the last of the new onshore wind projects should bring Scotland’s renewable capacity up to 10Gw in 2017. For a small country this a great achievement and places us above many other European countries of a similar size. However when you compare us to the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden we lag behind  – in the cases of Norway and Sweden by multiple factors.

Both Norway and Sweden have considerable hydro-power networks compared to Scotland which does offer some explanation however Denmark comfortably beats us on wind power capacity as does Sweden. Considering Scotland is officially the windiest country in Europe this simply is not good enough.

A lack of government subsidies has meant the onshore wind capacity is unlikely to make any great gains in the future unless a change in policy is brought about. With new evidence suggesting that the cost of wind power is now low enough to maintain a new lower level of subsidy we hope that a shift in policy to support new developments is not too far away.

Geothermal Energy in the UK

The first geothermal plant in the UK could be a reality as soon as 2020 if a multimillion-pound fundraising drive for a pioneering project to produce power from hot rocks several kilometres under the ground in Cornwall succeeds.

The £18million United Downs Deep Geothermal Power project near Redruth has already secured £13m in public funding, £10.6m from the European Regional Development Fund and £2.4m from Cornwall county council.

A £5million bond has therefore been set up to raise the remainder via a crowdfunding platform.

Ryan Law, managing director of Geothermal Engineering Ltd, the UK company behind the project, said: “The big problem is because nothing has been done in the UK before, it’s quite high risk. Finding funding for that risk is extremely difficult.”

Investors can expect a 12 per cent return on the bond, which has an 18-month term, and will have their capital returned to them if the geothermal plan does not go ahead.

Geothermal plants involve deep holes drilled to reach underground hot rocks. Water is then pumped down, heated and returned to the surface to generate electricity or provide heating. Cornwall’s extensive granite means it has long been seen as the most promising part of the UK for the technology.

Drilling should begin in the first quarter of 2018 and take around five months as Geothermal Engineering Ltd drill a well 2.5km down, followed by a second deeper one of 4.5km, creating a circuit for water to be pumped down the shorter well and return up the other. If all goes as planned, the Redruth operation could be operational in 2020.

The amount of power the wells are expected to produce will be small, at a capacity of 1-3 megawatts (enough to power 1,500-4,500 homes), similar to a single onshore wind turbine, however geothermal has the advantage of being able to provide constant power if needed.

Chris Goodall, an energy expert and author, said “Energy independence for Cornwall is a realistic, cost-effective objective for the county council. This is a first-rate project.”

Tony Batchelor, known as the grandfather of geothermal in Cornwall for his test research and drilling in the county during the 1970s and 1980s, told the Guardian: “This £18m is basically our chip in the game. Then we look at delivering bigger and better projects.”

Ultimately, geothermal could provide as much as 1,000 megawatts of capacity, said Batchelor, an adviser to Geothermal Engineering Ltd and chairman of Earth sciences consultancy Geoscience. While not a huge amount nationally, it would be significant for Cornwall.

However, Goodall cautioned that this latest effort at making geothermal work in Cornwall was by no means guaranteed.

“Pretty much everyone agrees there is a lot of heat down there. But one of the reasons projects have struggled to get funding is that it’s highly fractured and it’s not a given [that it will work]. No one has yet been prepared to put in the highly risky capital to do this,” he said.

Bob Egerton, a Cornwall councillor, said he was sceptical about how big the resource actually was but that it was important to try to exploit it.

“It is a bit of a gamble, but ultimately we hope it will pay off,” he said. “The more we can produce from these sorts of resources rather than hydrocarbons has got to be a good thing.”

Active Geothermal plants would be a wonderful addition to our energy mix providing clean energy and in particular heat energy to local communities. Although the initial cost is quite high for the energy return the path this could set us on is worth the risk.

As the aim to move further away from energy via hydrocarbons and actively seek to reduce our carbon emissions projects such as these play an important part in expanding our energy mix. No one source would be able to completely replace hydrocarbons and it would be folly to pursue such an ideal even if we could.

We require a range of clean renewable sources as well as suitable storage to ensure we all can benefit from a secure energy future.

More corporations commit to a greener future

With the American government recently stating it was withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement it is reassuring to know that many large corporations are still committed to helping create a greener future.

The RE100 initiative from international non-profit The Climate Group, in partnership with not-for-profit charity CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) announced this week that AkzoNobel, AXA, Burberry and the Carlsberg Group had joined its ranks, taking the number of companies committed to 100% renewable power to 100.

Dutch paints and coatings business AkzoNobel has set itself the target of being carbon neutral and using 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, while insurance giant AXA has targeted 100 percent renewable electricity by 2025.

Meanwhile, fashion business Burberry wants to procure 100 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2022. Brewing powerhouse the Carlsberg Group will turn to 100 percent renewable electricity at its breweries by 2022, and aims to be carbon neutral by the year 2030.

Helen Clarkson, CEO of the Climate Group, welcomed the new members. “By championing the compelling case for business action, we have reached 100 members three years earlier than expected,” she said. “Changes in the market such as the falling cost of renewables have also worked in our favour.”

Andre Veneman, AkzoNobel’s corporate director of sustainability, said the company had put, “considerable effort into learning how to source renewable energy in a cost competitive way and the opportunities for our business are huge.”

“We’re convinced that embracing renewable energy is an excellent way to create both short- and long-term value that will enable a true business transition,” Veneman added.

While these corporations act towards making positive environmental decisions Turkey recently through further doubt onto the Paris Climate Agreement with President Erdogan stating that the U.S. decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement meant they are less inclined to ratify the deal because the U.S. move jeopardizes compensation promised to developing countries.

Erdogan was speaking at the G20 summit in Germany where leaders from the world’s leading economies broke with U.S. President Donald Trump over climate policy, following his announcement last month that he was withdrawing from the accord.

Erdogan said that when Turkey signed the accord France had promised that Turkey would be eligible for compensation for some of the financial costs of compliance.

“So we said if this would happen, the agreement would pass through parliament. But otherwise it won’t pass,” Erdogan told a news conference, adding that parliament had not yet approved it. “Therefore, after this step taken by the United States, our position steers a course towards not passing this from the parliament.”

The importance of the Paris Climate Agreement cannot be understated and the U. S, decision to pull out looks to have started a negative domino effect. While we at ILI Energy are not at the doom and gloom levels like those reported in the recent New York Magazine article we believe that urgent action is required to reduce our carbon emissions substantially before we reach the point of no return.

All that we have done before has helped put us the correct path, and recent evidence has shown that we are making a positive difference, albeit slowly, but we all need to be in this together and pulling in the same direction to make it work. Losing a huge contributor like the USA from the Paris Agreement not only damages our overall changes, it can, as shown above send out the wrong message and have others wondering if it is worth the effort.

This week an iceberg with a land mass of approximately 6,000 square km broke off from Antarctica. It wasn’t unexpected but is a good indicator of the damage we have already done. Only by working together to reduce our carbon emissions can we ensure that such an event does not happen again.

 

 

2017 shaping up to be another good year for UK renewables

In the first three months of 2017 renewables set another new record by generating a quarter of all electricity used in the UK according to official records published last week

New data from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) revealed that renewables powered 26.6 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs between January and March 2017, a one per cent rise on last year’s figures and the highest ever level for quarterly production.

Onshore wind led the charge, with production up an impressive 20% on last year thanks to increased capacity, although offshore wind saw production dip by two per cent due to lower wind speeds. Hydro production fell 15 per cent due to low rainfall levels, but solar soared 16% to 1.7TWh which like onshore wind has seen an increase in capacity in the last year.

Understandably the renewable energy industry was buoyant when the news of another record broken was circulated.

“Renewable energy is a mainstream technology, which is cheaper and more advanced than ever,” RenewableUK’s executive director Emma Pinchbeck said in a statement. “Our innovative industries have matured to the point where we now reliably provide over 25 per cent of the UK with clean, sustainable power.”

Scotland in particular boasted a strong performance. Generation rose 13 per cent compared to the same period last year to hit record levels, while capacity soared 16 per cent.

“Scotland’s total installed renewable capacity – that’s the amount of renewable electricity we are capable of producing – now stands at 9.3GW – four times what it was only a decade ago,” Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish government’s Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, said in a statement. “These statistics reinforce our country’s reputation as a renewable energy powerhouse and are a vindication of the Scottish government’s energy policy.”

The increase in capacity for traditional renewable technologies will start to plateau now due to reductions in subsidies so these records are likely to hold for longer than they have been over the past few years.

There are very few new developments in the pipeline so although 2018 may see more increases due to 2017 new installations after that we can expect stagnation at best. At present alternative technologies do not yet boast the large scale capacity increases that onshore wind and solar can, nor has the costs seen the reduction those two more mature technologies have.

Without a plan to combat this we are facing a period of uncertainty as we are obliged to reduce our carbon emissions but without further growth in renewables meeting such targets will be very difficult.

The most obvious answer is to stimulate the onshore wind and solar industries but even at today’s lower costs that will require new subsidies. With that unlikely other projects, policies and ideas must be implemented as quickly as possible so we can achieve our targets and more importantly create a safer environment for all of us to live in.