Wind energy save EU €2.4 billion worth of water a year

A report published last week by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has highlighted the cost to the union of non-renewable forms of electricity generation.

The report, entitled ‘Saving Water with Wind Energy’, has revealed both the amount of water which is used for energy generation within the European Union each year and the amount of money which this costing taxpayers and consumers across the continent.

It should first be noted that wind energy generation is saving Europe around €2.4 billion every year. This figure represents the cost of the water which would have been incurred had the electricity generated from wind power had been generated in more traditional ways. This figure was for the year for 2012. Given the strides that wind power has made across Europe it can be concluded that this figure has risen since then and shall continue to do so.

Startlingly, 44% of the water used within the European Union is used in power generation. It should be noted that the vast majority of this 44% is used in traditional power plants. For example nuclear and coal plants which require vast amounts of water for cooling. Energy production is by far the biggest use of water within the European Union. In comparison agriculture only represents 34% of water demand, the public water supply only 21% and industry accounts for only 11%. In total 4.5 billion cubic meters of water are used by nuclear, coal and gas firing plants every year.

Given that demand for water is increasing due to population growth and density increase as well as pressures placed upon the environment by climate change water efficiency will become an increasingly important issue in the coming years. Already at least 11% of European Union citizens are affected by water scarcity – for example in the South East of England were droughts and hose-pipe bans are now an annual occurrence. Using huge amounts of water to produce electricity only exacerbates these issues.

Renewable forms of energy generation require far less water to operate than more traditional and large scale technologies. Nuclear power uses the most water to produce power; on average 2.7 cubic meters of water are needed to produce a single megawatt hour. Coal is slightly less intensive requiring 1.9 cubic meters of water for every megawatt hour and gas is further less intensive requiring 0.7 cubic meters per megawatt hour. However in comparison the amount of water required to produce a megawatt hour of wind power is minimal. Wind turbines only require water for infrequent blade cleanage and generator cooling.

Indeed the EWEA report estimated that usage of wind turbines in 2012 reduced the EU’s energy industry’s water usage by 1.2 billion cubic meters – the annual water usage of 4% of the EU’s population. Again these figures will have increased given the increase in wind capacity seen throughout the EU’s member states. 1.2 billion cubic meters saved represents €2.4 billion saved. Furthermore given the consensus existing among many economists that water is heavily undervalued the true savings could be far higher.

The EWEA’s head of policy analysis Ivan Pineda commented at the publication of the report:

“Water equivalent to over three Olympic size swimming pools is consumed every minute of every day of the year to cool Europe’s nuclear, coal and gas plants. Increasing our use of wind energy will help preserve this precious resource far more effectively than any ban on watering the garden– while saving us money”.

The report projected that by 2030 wind energy will save the EU between 4.3 and 6.4 billion cubic meters of water per year. This would represent a financial saving of between €11.8 and €17.4 billion per year. Given the expectation that water usage and efficiency will become an increasingly part of resource management governments across the European Union are being urged to factor such considerations into energy policy. Industry trade body RenewableUK’s Director of External Affairs Jennifer Webber commented:

“Water is a very precious resource – water restrictions were imposed in the UK in the summer of 2012 in areas hit by drought. One of the many benefits of wind energy is that it requires hardly any water to keep generating. This report is a timely reminder of the environmental impact of other technologies which use vast amounts of water for cooling. When Governments set energy policy, they should take this into account – it’s not just the carbon footprint that matters, but also the water swallowed up by these other thirsty generators”

In other news, this week SSE exported power from it’s offshore wind testing facility to the National Grid for the first time. The facility, sited on the North Ayrshire coast is the UK’s first, and currently only, onshore test site for offshore turbines. The site was established with support from both the UK Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change and Scottish Enterprise.The Ayrshire site has similar wind conditions to those found offshore. The currently operational turbine is a 6MW Siemens 154 direct drive machine, some 177 meters high. Work has already begun to install the site’s second turbine; a 7MW Mitsubishi model. This is expected to be operational by the autumn.

The commencement of power exportation has been enthusiastically greeted. Clark MacFarlane, Managing Director, Siemens Wind Power Offshore UK&I said:

“We are delighted with the news of first power for our 6MW turbine at Hunterston. This is another important milestone for our next generation wind turbine technology. The SSE and Siemens team has worked extremely hard to get to this point and should feel proud of their achievement in delivering this important clean energy project.”

Ian Flannagan, SSE’s Project Construction Manager, said:

“It’s great to see the Siemens wind turbine generating electricity for the first time which is testament to the hard work and commitment shown by everyone involved in the project.

“We are busy preparing the site ahead of the second turbine, a Mitsubishi SeaAngel 7MW offshore wind model, arriving in a few months time.”

UK Energy and Climate Minister, Greg Barker said:

“SSE Renewable’s test site for offshore wind turbines is an exciting and innovative project. It will help the country take another step towards delivering £110 billion investment into our energy sector while helping to support local jobs.”

The success of the offshore turbine testing site is good news for the UK’s wind industry ensuring that it’s world leading position is maintained.

The report published by the EWEA serves to underline the many benefits which wind energy generation has; increasing both energy and water security, reducing CO2 emissions and combating climate change and helping to keep energy bills down by reducing reliance upon fossil fuel imports. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are proud to be doing our part to increase the UK’s wind energy generation capacity.

New poll reveals support for renewables

Yesterday the Department of Energy and Climate Change published it’s eight quarterly public attitudes survey.

The survey is carried out every three months to monitor the public’s attitudes to the government’s energy policies. Face to face interviews were carried out at 2,110 households in mid December. The published results confirm that the public’s support for renewable energy remains widespread.

77% of those polled stated that they supported or strongly supported the continuing use and expanding development of the UK’s vast renewable energy resources.

This represents a 1% increase on the level of public support recorded in the previous survey. This is despite the long running campaign against renewable energy being carried out by several mass media publications. Not to mention the campaign for shale gas extraction being carried out by several of the same publications. Despite this more than three quarters of the Great British public support the continued and further use of renewable energy technologies.

51% of those people polled signaled that they “support” the use of renewable energy technologies. A further 26% of those polled responded that they “strongly support” the use of renewable energy technologies. In dramatic comparison only 4% of those polled gave the opinion that they opposed the exploitation of renewable energy resources. A further 1% “strongly opposed” the use of renewable energy. This comparison demonstrates that in reality anti-renewable energy sentiments are very much a minority, if not fringe, concern. This contrasts sharply with the picture presented in some avenues of the mainstream press which seek to portray such opinions as being held by the majority of people in this country.

The survey broke down support levels for individual forms of renewable energy generation: 81% stated their support for solar energy, 71% for wave and tidal energy, 72% for offshore wind generation, 64% for onshore wind generation and 60% for biomass. Additionally the levels of “strong support” given for each technology type stands consistently between one quarter and one third of respondents. It has been suggested that the reason  wave and tidal and offshore wind have polled so highly is due their relatively low visual impact as opposed to their cost effectiveness; a standard in which other technologies such as onshore wind rank far higher.

The survey also demonstrated that public awareness of shale gas and shale gas extraction has increased significantly in the last few years. When these quarterly surveys were first carried out two years ago 58% of respondents were unaware of shale gas. As of now this figure has decreased to 30% of respondents. Over the same time scale respondents “who know something” about shale gas have increased from 32% to 52%.

However increased awareness has not translated into increased support. This quarterly survey was the first to gauge public support for shale gas. Despite much coverage in the media and strong messages of support from some senior political figures only 27% of respondents stated that they would support shale gas development. 21% stated that they would not support shale gas development. It is also worth making the point that despite much lobbying in those parts of the UK which have been proposed as areas suitable for shale gas exploration, or fracking, have seen widespread and organised protests against the proposals.

Also this week it was announced that Glasgow City Council is to become the first local authority in the UK to switch to low energy LED (light-emitting diode) street lighting after securing a loan from the Green Investment Bank.

Glasgow City Council intends to convert over 70,000 street lights to LEDs in an effort to reduce costs, energy consumption and light pollution. Street lighting costs Local Authorities in the UK  £300 million a year and produces 1.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually. For some Local Authorities street lighting can account for up to 40% of their energy usage. The Green Investment Bank has voiced it’s hopes that other Local Authorities will follow Glasgow City Council in participating in such schemes.

Indeed to that end the Bank is offering similar loan packages to that given to Glasgow City Council to other Local Authorities. To fund LED street lighting conversion schemes the Bank is offering low, fixed rate loans over a period of up to 20 years. Repayments will be taken from energy bill savings. The Bank is advising Local Authorities that LED switching delivers pay-back within 5 to 15 years. Following this Local Authorities can expect bills to drop by up to 80%.

The securing of the loan was announced with enthusiasm from all parties. UK Green Investment Bank chief executive, Shaun Kingsbury, stated:

“Bad lighting does not come cheap, it carries an electricity bill which can be cut by up to 80 per cent with a move to low energy, LED lighting.  Making the switch saves councils money, increases community safety and dramatically reduces the UK’s carbon footprint.”

“The GIB Green Loan is essentially a corporate loan facility that covers the set-up, capital investment and installation costs of lighting upgrades to LED, with repayments being made from within forecast savings.  Put more simply, local authorities borrow money from the Green Investment Bank, but repay the loan entirely through the money they save by changing their lighting.”

Business Secretary, Vince Cable said:

“Once again the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) is leading the way in the green revolution. Street lighting across Britain tends to be very costly and energy inefficient, emitting the same amount of carbon dioxide each year as a quarter of a million cars on the road. This investment by GIB into new LED technology could make big strides in saving money for local councils and reducing our carbon footprint. I urge councils across the country to follow Glasgow City Council’s lead and GIB’s new Green Loan can help speed up the take up of this streetlighting.

“So far through the Green Investment Bank – the first of its kind in the world – we have invested more than £750 million in energy projects which are driving innovation and our plans for green growth. For every £1 the bank has invested, £3 has been raised from the private sector for projects in areas ranging from offshore wind to waste to energy efficiency products.”

Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council, said:

“My vision is to make Glasgow one of Europe’s most sustainable cities. It is our goal to improve energy efficiency, cut carbon emissions and generate savings for the public purse. Glasgow City Council is not only creating a digital and low carbon route out of recession with social justice at its heart, but also ensuring Glasgow is one of Europe’s most sustainable cities.

“Glasgow is leading the way in meeting existing challenges head on to become a smarter, more intelligent city. One of our current measures is set to see us become the first local authority to receive a Green Investment Bank loan as we work towards further embracing low energy streetlighting.”

Support for renewable energy and energy-saving schemes such as that announced in Glasgow yesterday remains widespread in the UK. It is our hope that we at ILI (Renewable Energy) can do our part to increase it.

 

Google continues move to 100% renewables

This week it was announced by Google that they had taken another step towards their aim of deriving all of their power from renewable sources. The tech giant has just announced the purchase of four onshore wind farms in Sweden. Power from these wind farms is to be used by the company’s data centres located within the country.

Each of the four wind farms is located in a different Sedish municipality. This lowers any risk to Google- ensuring that for instance if one wind farm were to go offline (for example due to dangerously high wind speeds) the wind farms in other areas would remain unaffected.

Google’s data centres have significant power requirements. Just one of the four wind farms purchased by the company is composed of 29 turbines and has a total installed capacity of 59 megawatts.

The Swedish purchase follows the $75 million investment Google made into an onshore wind farm located in Carson County, Texas at the close of last year. The 182 MW wind farm is expected to be fully constructed and operational by the end of the year.

Google’s director of global infrastructure Francois Sterin made the following comment after the completion of the purchase:

“We’re always looking for ways to increase the amount of renewable energy we use. Long term power purchase agreements enable wind farm developers to add new generation capacity to the grid – which is good for the environment – but they also make great financial sense for companies like Google.”

Google is of course not the only company aiming to derive 100% of it’s power from renewable sources. IKEA aims to achieve this by the end of 2020. In August last year the company purchase a wind farm in Northern Ireland to provide power stores in Belfast and Dublin. The company also already owns onshore wind farms in the  mainland UK, France, Germany, Poland, Sweden and Denmark and it is also common for solar PV arrays to be installed onto the roof’s of their stores. In contrast to Google IKEA aims to own all of the renewable generation developments necessary to hit the 100% target rather than simply agree to purchase power from specific sites.  Sky also has as a 100% renewable energy target: emblemised by the wind turbine installed at their headquarters.

Of course it should be remembered that on site power generation is not just the domain of large multinational companies such as Google and IKEA. Nor is it something which can only be achieved using large scale renewable energy developments such as those discussed above.  There are many examples of smaller companies providing their own on site power using smaller scale renewable energy developments such as small and medium scale wind turbines. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have been involved in several such developments and feel it is definitely an avenue worth exploring for many companies.

In other news this week saw the launch of the UK Government’s ‘Community Energy Strategy’. The strategy is designed to increase community engagement in energy schemes and help people to reduce their power costs. The strategy was designed following a survey carried out by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to determine public interest in community schemes.

The survey revealed that over 50% of those questioned as part of the survey stated that saving money on energy bills would be the ‘major motivation’  for them to get involved in community energy projects. Additionally 40% of respondants revealed that they were already interested in joining a community energy group, participating in collective energy provider switching schemes and participating in collective energy purchasing schemes.

The ‘Community Energy Strategy’ was produced as a response to such opinions. The following plans have already been revealed to fall under the umbrella of the strategy. Firstly, the launch of the £10 million Urban Community Energy Fund designed to kick start community energy projects in England. Secondly, the £1 million Big Energy Saving Fund designed to help support the work of volunteers helping vulnerable members of society to reduce their energy costs. Thirdly, the launch of the community energy saving competition which offers £100,000 to communities to develop innovative approaches to saving energy and money. And lastly, the creation of a ‘one-stop shop’ information resource to help people interested in developing community energy projects.

Speaking at the launch of the strategy Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey stated:

“We’re at the turning point in developing true community energy.

“The cost of energy is now a major consideration for household budgets, and I want to encourage groups of people across the country to participate in a community energy movement and take real control of their energy bills.

“Community led action, such as collective switching, gives people the power to bring down bills and encourage competition within the energy market.”

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker also commented:

“The Community Energy Strategy marks a change in the way we approach powering our homes and businesses – bringing communities together and helping them save money – and make money too.

“The Coalition is determined to unleash this potential, assist communities to achieve their ambitions and drive forward the decentralised energy revolution. We want to help more consumers of energy to become producers of energy and in doing so help to break the grip of the dominant big energy companies.”

Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of industry trade body RenewableUK also commented on the strategy launch:

“RenewableUK is committed to helping communities engage in renewable energy, and sponsored a report from Respublica on this last year. We look forward to working with Government, communities and our members on addressing some of the barriers that currently exist to the development of further community ownership.

“With wind power already enjoying massive levels of popularity with communities around the country, the industry is eager to do what it can help find ways of maximising local participation in the future energy supply”.

It should be stated that the onshore wind industry is leading the way in community engagement with renewable energy developments. Last year the industry created a new protocol for onshore wind developers  increasing the level of community benefit taken from wind turbine revenue. Indeed we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have included a community contribution as a part of all of our developments whether required to or not.

New surveys reveals continuing support for renewable energy

The Department of Energy and Climate Change published it’s sixth quarterly tracker survey yesterday.

The survey is carried out every three months to monitor the public’s attitudes to the government’s energy policies. Face to face interviews were carried out at 2,124 households in early July. The published results confirm that the public’s support for renewable energy remains widespread.

76% of those polled stated that they supported or strongly supported the continuing use and expanding development of the UK’s vast renewable energy resources.

Whilst this represents a very slight decline from previous survey results it should be pointed out that the poll was conducted at the height of the shale gas industry’s media blitz, particularly within the right wing press.

This media campaign does not appear to have had the desired affect. There was no change in the level of people who oppose or strongly oppose renewable energy. Only 5% of those polled gave this opinion; demonstrating that this view remains the preserve of an extremist minority. It is also worth making the point that despite much lobbying those parts of the UK which have been proposed as areas suitable for shale gas exploration, or fracking, have seen widespread and organised protests against the proposals.

18% of those surveyed commented that they had no opinion on renewable energy development. This equals the highest level recorded since the surveys were first carried out. Again this suggests that the campaign against renewables in some parts of the media is failing to have the desired affect.

The poll also revealed further positive news for the renewable energy industry. 71% of the people polled gave the opinion that they believe renewable energy to be economically beneficial to the UK. This is a 2% increase from the 69% of people who gave this opinion in the previous survey. Furthermore, 56% revealed that they would be happy to have a large scale renewable development in their local area. Again this was an increase from the previous poll in which 55% gave this opinion. The upwards trend of these opinions can perhaps be attributed to the fact that more renewable energy developments have came online in the time between the two surveys. More people have had a chance to see the economic benefits of renewable energy development in terms of community contributions and job creation. As the positive impacts of renewable energy are felt more widely one can expect the upwards trend of such opinions to continue.

The survey broke down support levels for individual forms of renewable energy generation: 81% stated their support for solar energy, 72% for wave and tidal energy, 71% for offshore wind generation, 65% for onshore wind generation and 60% for biomass. It has been suggested that the reason  wave and tidal and offshore wind have polled so highly is due their relatively low visual impact as opposed to their cost effectiveness; a standard in which other technologies such as onshore wind rank far higher.

In contrast to the continuing support for renewable energy nuclear power saw its support amongst the public continue to decline. Only 37% of those involved in the poll gave their support to its use in the UK. The level of support for nuclear has declined of several quarterly surveys and one can perhaps expect this trend to continue given the continued presence of the Fukushima disaster in the news. 25% of those polled opposed the use of nuclear power (contrasted with the 5% who did not support nuclear) and 35% had no opinion. The decline in support for nuclear as well as the uncertainty surrounding the prospects of new nuclear plants being built indicates that renewables will very much remain key to UK government energy policy.

DECC has long maintained that it regards the future of UK energy generation to be the use of a variety of different energy sources; what is often referred as the ‘mixed portfolio’. This stance continues to have a strong level of support from the UK public with 81% of those polled giving their backing to this policy.

The poll has revealed some of the issues which DECC is facing in terms of public awareness. 74% of people polled commented that they had thought ‘a fair amount’ or indeed a lot about home energy efficiency. Despite this and the launch of the Green Deal this year 47% revealed that they had never heard of smart meters. More will need to be done in this area but it should be noted that this figure represents an improvement on the 53% who gave the same answer in the previous quarter. Additionally the widespread roll out of smart meters (all homes and businesses are expected to have smart meters installed by 2020) is not scheduled to begin until 2015.

The fact that there exists a majority consensus on climate change is also good news for the renewable industry with 66% of the public fairly or very concerned about the issue. 38% of those polled attributed climate change mainly or entirely to human causes. 42% felt that it was being caused by a combination of human and natural causes and only 12% giving the opinion that it was being caused mainly or solely due to natural developments. These results indicate that the debate on the widespread use of renewable energy is far better placed in the UK than it is in a country such as the United States where the climate change debate is far more divisive both publicly and politically. A consensus existing on climate change means that the debate can move forward to how best to address it; which renewable energy generation can play an extremely major part in doing.

Support for renewable energy remains widespread in the UK. It is our hope that we at ILI (Renewable Energy) can do our part to increase it.

 

UK’s first large-scale grid battery connected in Orkney

Last week a new type of storage battery was connected to the local electricity distribution network on the Isle of Orkney.

The new battery has the potential to be hugely important to the UK’s renewable energy ambitions as it could allow for far easier management of energy demand and would address the issue of power intermittency in renewables.

The battery was installed by Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD). The two megawatt lithium ion battery was installed at Kirkwall Power Station and represents the first use of a large scale storage battery anywhere in the UK. The battery was provided by Mitusbishi Power Systems Europe and Mitsubishi Heavy Industry after extensive trials in Japan. A similar piece of technology has been in constant use in Nagasaki for the last two years. Additionally similar battery technology, on a smaller scale, has been taken up by the electric car industry and has begun to enter the UK market. The battery will be operated by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE). The level of cooperation involved in this trial is worth noting. Domestic energy companies, overseas developers and manufacturers, government and regulators have all been involved in this project. This demonstrates the importance with which storage and smart grid technology is being taken. Such technologies could be key to Scotland and the wider UK achieving their renewable energy targets and are being pushed hard at all levels.

The battery has been integrated with Orkney’s Active Network Management scheme. This network, or smart grid, has been in place since 2009 and was also delivered by SHEPD. Indeed, it was a world first. The Active Network Management scheme was implemented due to the relatively high level of intermittent renewable energy generation which existed on Orkney. Of course the level of renewable energy developments on the isle has only increased since then. The scheme allows the grid operators greater flexibility in managing and balancing loads and grants quicker access to back up power. This scheme has also proven highly beneficial to renewable energy developers as it has allowed them cheaper and quicker access to the grid following the completed development of a renewable energy project.

Reaction to the installation was universally positive. SHEPD’s Head of Commercial Mark Rough commented:

“This exciting trial will provide valuable research into the viability of using batteries for electricity storage. This is likely to become increasingly important to help balance the variable output from renewable forms of generation as we move to a largely decarbonised electricity generation mix.

“Although the installation of the battery will not provide an immediate solution to the current constraints on the Orkney distribution network, it is hoped that in the long term the result of the studies will help demonstrate that batteries could provide a cost effective way of freeing up capacity on the network to help facilitate new connections of low carbon generation.”

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth John Swinney remarked:

“Today’s announcement by SSE reinforces that Scotland is leading the way when it comes to developing and testing new ideas that may help us meet the electricity and energy needs of the future.  Smart grid technologies such as these being pioneered in Orkney are increasingly important as we move to a low-carbon economy.

“Scotland has an incredible wealth of energy resources from a range of generating technologies, capable of both meeting our energy needs and significant exports to parts of the UK and Europe.  We have a responsibility to make sure our nation seizes this opportunity.”

MSP for Orkney Liam McArthur stated:

““This is an exciting initiative and I am delighted to see Orkney leading the way in the development of energy storage options.  “Our islands have huge potential for generating renewable energy, but a lack of sufficient grid capacity is a growing problem. The active network management system has freed up capacity to allow many local projects to be connected to the grid in recent years, but new solutions now need to be found if Orkney is to realise its full potential in renewables. “I am certain that battery storage has an important role to play in ensuring we make best use of the resources at our disposal. While it is not a short term solution, the work being undertaken as part of this initiative could deliver significant and long-lasting benefits to Orkney and more widely.”

Peter Clusky, Senior Manager Renewables and Head of Government Relations for Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe said:

“We are delighted to be working with our strategic partners SSE to bring this globally significant R&D project to Orkney. We are confident that this Orkney-based project will make a significant contribution to the further development of Lithium-ion battery technology. Mitsubishi is grateful for the ongoing support of SSE, NEDO, and Ofgem.”

The battery project was funded by industry regulator Ofgem through their Low Carbon Network’s fund. Through this vehicle Ofgem has provided funding for several storage and smart grid projects across the UK. Again, it is worth re-emphasising the level of cooperation that has been involved in this scheme. It gives a very strong indication that the UK continues to view renewable energy as the future. Smart grid and other storage technologies will be key to realizing it.

This can also be seen in two other pieces of recent news. Firstly, UK Power Networks has announced it’s intention to trial a six megawatt battery system at  the Leighton Buzzard substation in Bedfordshire. When completed, which is expected to occur in 2016, this will be the largest battery system in Europe. Secondly, last week, UK Business Secretary Vince Cable announced the creation of a new Catapult Centre (centre for technology and innovation).The Energy Systems Catapult is expected to begin operation in 2015/16 and is intended to help accelerate the commercialization of smart grid and storage technologies, serving to reduce costs. Mr Cable gave the following comment:

” By committing to investment in new technologies now, we are laying the foundations for the high-growth businesses of the future. This will allow them to grow, take on more employees and keep the UK at the forefront of global innovation.”

The various developments which have occurred in this field over the last few weeks have demonstrated the commitment that the UK and Scottish Governments have to renewable energy technologies. Smart grid and storage technologies, such as the battery system currently being trialed in Orkney, will be key to unlocking the full potential of the UK’s renewable energy resource. The more energy which can be stored the more renewable energy developments can be utilized and less baseload backup will be required. Recent research produced by Imperial College London has estimated that large scale use of energy storage technologies could save the country £3 billion a year in the 2020s.

 

Reactions to Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2013

Government figures were released last week which show that the amount of electricity being produced from renewable sources is continuing to soar. The annual Digest of UK Energy Statistics revealed that the amount of electricity generated from renewables increased by 19% in 2012 compared to the previous year. Indeed in 2012 renewable sources provided 11.3% of the total electricity generated in the UK in 2012.

A spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) described the statistical data as “very encouraging” and emphasised that the UK was well on track to meet the agreed EU target of 15% of energy to be generated from renewables by 2015.The majority of the increase in renewable generation came from the wind industry: 46% more energy was generated from offshore wind in 2012 than in 2011 and 17% more from onshore wind. The huge leap in offshore wind generation can be attributed to falling development costs and long planned developments being connected to the grid. The more mature onshore sector still saw impressive growth as more and more people have sought to develop land; whether for large scale wind farms or small and medium turbine developments. That the UK’s wind industry has contributed so much to these impressive and headline making figures underlines the importance of the industry to the country and the scale of the opportunity that Europe’s largest wind resource has presented.

The data also revealed that the UK’s total energy consumption increased by 1.7% in 2012. While this information may initially raise questions about the energy efficiency programmes being pursued in the UK: a closer reading reveals that these programmes are beginning to bear fruit. The increase in energy consumption has been attributed to the cold weather experienced in 2012. When this is factored into the figures it is revealed that energy consumption was down 0.7% compared to 2011.

The publication of that data was greeted enthusiastically by the UK’s renewables industry. Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive at industry trade body RenewableUK released the following statement:

“These figures confirm the recent trends we have seen that show renewables, and especially wind, playing an ever-increasing role in our electricity generation. They come at the end of a busy period for wind, which has seen the largest offshore wind farm in the world opened at London Array, as well as number of major onshore sites going live. We have made some remarkable progress over recent years, and this is another shot in the arm for the renewables sector. With wind generating around half of electricity from renewables we are leading the charge in the race to decarbonise our electricity market.

“These figures also show that as a country we are becoming increasingly dependent on expensive imported fossil fuels, with a rise to over 40% in the amount we depend on fossil fuels brought in from abroad. This yet again shows the need to continue to build on the success we have seen in renewables as a way of helping us achieve energy independence.”

In other industry news the first section of Scottish and Southern Energy’s (SSE) new power line, which will run from Beauly in Invernesshire to Denny in Stirlingshire, has been energised. The long-planned line is intended to link up renewable developments in the north of the country with energy-demand centres in the central belt. This first section runs from Beauly to Fort Augustus. The entire project is scheduled to be completed in 2015 and will have capacity for 1.2 Gigawatts of renewable energy.

SSE’s Managing Director of Networks, Mark Mathieson, stated:

“This is a proud moment for SSE. Our progress is testament to the teamwork which identified the need for the line, guided it through planning and has now delivered the first section of the UK’s longest transmission line through some of its most challenging terrain.

“Over the past two years, the project has generated around £86 million in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the Scottish economy and created around 1,500 jobs. We hope to replicate the positive benefits from this project with the other grid upgrades that SHE [Scottish Hydro Electric] Transmission is progressing as part of a multi billion pound investment programme which will help increase security of supply, decarbonise electricity supplies and promote sustainable economic growth.”

Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of trade body Scottish Renewables, greeted the news with much enthusiasm:

“This newly upgraded line will help support many renewable energy projects in the north of Scotland, providing thousands of homes and businesses across the country with clean renewable electricity.

“Upgrading grid infrastructure is one of our biggest challenges in reaching the 2020 target of generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of our electricity needs from renewables and its major investment projects like the Beauly-Denny transmission line which will help us achieve this.”

These two pieces of news demonstrate the present and future success of the UK’s renewable industry. Developers, such as ourselves at Intelligent Land Invesments (Renewable Energy), are already delivering renewable energy in large quantities to UK energy consumers, counteracting rising gas prices and increasing the country’s energy security, but there is more to be achieved. Investment and projects such as the Beauly-Denny line and the Kintyre-Hunterston line (discussed in last week’s blog) will allow more renewable energy developments to progress and help ensure that UK and Scottish renewable generation targets are met. Such ambitions require progress to be made in a variety of fields; progress which is being made.

Scotland achieves Europe’s biggest carbon reduction

Last week new figures were published by the Scottish Government which have revealed the strides the country is taking in reducing carbon emissions. Ambitious targets were set by the current administration; as with renewable energy generation.

The released statistics show that carbon emissions went down by 9.9% in 2011 compared to 2010. This is the largest reduction on record. In 2010, Scotland was responsible for 56.9MtCO2e (metric tonnes of carbon emissions) being released into the atmosphere. 2011 saw 51.3MtCO2e being released into the atmosphere – a reduction of 5.6MtCO2e. These results ensured that Scotland retained its position as the most successful EU-15 member state (the EU-15 is composed of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the countries of the United Kingdom) in reducing its level of carbon emissions. Over the period 1990-2011 Scotland has successfully reduced carbon emissions by 29.6%.

Unfortunately, despite the record breaking nature of these emission reductions Scotland was unable to meet the revised target for 2011 by a narrow margin of 0.8MtCO2e. The Scottish Government attributed this to a revision of the historical data which was used to set carbon emission reduction targets in 2009. Spokespeople for the Government stressed that the country has been successful in meeting the reduction target for the year in percentage terms. The failure to meet the target in terms of carbon emissions themselves was wholly attributed to the revised and thusly increased levels of carbon emissions between 1990 and 2009. Had these figures been un-revised the 2011 target would have been exceeded.  It was emphasised that the 2020 carbon emission target is still absolutely achievable and as of this point in time the country will have to reduce its level of carbon emissions by 44% over the next seven years. Scotland is over halfway there.

Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Government Minister for Environment and Climate Change announced the release of the data with the following statement:

‪“Latest statistics published show that Scotland is on course to meet our climate change targets.

“In 2011 unadjusted emissions fell by 9.9 per cent – the largest year-on-year drop since records began. They also show large decreases in greenhouse gas emissions in the energy supply, residential and public sectors.

“The long term trend shows we will achieve our world-leading target of a 42 per cent emissions reduction if we continue on the course we have set. I also welcome that Scotland continues to lead the EU15 on emissions reductions.

“Despite changes to the historical data on emissions, making this year’s target harder to achieve, we have come within touching distance of it, and the revised targets mean we will all need to focus our efforts in the future to stay on course.

“Whilst I am disappointed we have not achieved our climate change reduction goal for 2011 in carbon terms, we have met it in percentage terms – with a 25.7 per cent reduction between 1990 and 2011. If the baseline had not changed the target would also have been met in carbon terms.”

Responses to the information were perhaps somewhat muted but optimistic for the future. Dr Sam Gardner of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland commented:

“We recognise that this is due in part to complicated changes in how we count our emissions, but the headline of another missed target strongly underlines the need for the much tougher climate action plan – expected out later this month – that will drive down emissions year on year and give confidence that future targets can be met.”

There was further good news in other aspects of the countries long term energy strategy. For instance, nearly two thirds (65%) of homes in Scotland were ranked ‘good’ in terms of energy efficiency. This represents an increase of 15% since such data was last collated in 2007.

Additionally, Scotland is ahead of schedule in meeting the 2020 target for 100% of the country’s electricity needs to be generated from renewable sources. Provisional data indicates that in 2012 38.7% of Scotland’s electricity needs were generated using renewable sources. Given that the first marine and tidal tubine farms will begin feeding electricity into the national grid over the course of the next few years and the increasing prevalence and popularity of onshore wind then one one would expect the 2015 interim target of 50% of electricity needs to be generated from renewables to be exceeded as well.

Responding to these comments Scottish Government Energy Minister Fergus Ewing (who was involved in a round-table discussion with our Chief Executive Mark Wilson last week) commented:

“2012 was another record year for renewables in Scotland.  Scotland also contributed more than a third of the entire UK’s renewables output, demonstrating just how important a role our renewable resource is playing in terms of helping the UK meet its binding EU renewable energy targets.

“We remain firmly on course to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs from renewables by 2020 – with renewables generating more than enough electricity to supply every Scottish home.”

With the Scottish Government also announcing increased support for wind power it is clear that the country is committed to carbon emission reduction and renewable energy. ILI (Renewable Energy) will continue to do it’s part in contributing to the fulfillment of these targets and keeping energy bills down for consumers by reducing dependence upon fossil fuel imports

Launch of Tory Pro-Renewables Group

Earlier this week, an influential group of Conservative MP’s , self described as ‘Progressive’, called on their party to fully embrace green policies and make them a cornerstone of the electoral campaign in 2015. The 2020 Group published a strategy document calling for the embracement of green ideas and the expansion of the green economy.

The 2020 Group has over 60 members including several high profile and influentiual figures such as the Energy Minister Greg Barker, Transport Secretary Justine Greening and the Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin. The strategy document, entitled ‘2020 Vision: An Agenda for Transformation‘ was written by MP’s Laura Sandys and Claire Perry and outlines several policy proposals as well as emphasising the increasing importance of renewable energy sources such as wind, wave and tidal in protecting consumers from spiralling bills and price shocks.

The case has been made before but is worth repeating: increased renewable energy generation protects consumers by making the UK far less dependant upon imports of oil and gas. This in turn insulates the UK energy market and UK consumers from seemingly inexorable price rises on international markets.

The document continues to urge the UK Government to not fall down on the wrong side of history:

“In 2020 a new industrial revolution will be underway, accepted as the new paradigm for modern business practise. Business model terminology will have changed significantly by 2020. No longer will people describe companies as ‘green’ or ‘ethical’ – quite the reverse. Companies will be specifically described as fossil fuel companies and will be regarded as having archaic business models, greater insecurity in financial returns due to exposure to a widely fluctuating global market, and unethical in terms of values and philosophy.

“We will drop the word ‘renewable’ because renewable will be the norm. Ultimately, sustainable energy sources will be as much about economic efficiencies, resilience, and a modern economic model as it is about  reducing our carbon emissions in the face of climate change…

“Never before has an economic re-alignment been supported by so many less than usual bedfellows. Organisations ranging from the CBI to the largest corporations such as Unilever, BAT, Siemens, Alstom and Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and church groups have all been supporting the need for very clear messages from government on decarbonisation… greening the economy is not ‘nice to have’, but a total necessity.”

The 2020 Group has been quoted as saying that the document will be the basis of further and expanded policies in the run up to 2015.

The launch of the paper has been enthusiastically greeted by the renewables industry. Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of the trade-body RenewableUK released the following comment:

“This forward looking group of Conservative MPs has clearly articulated a vision which many of us share. Opinion polls show that they’re in tune with the majority of public opinion on the growing importance of renewable energy.

“We can build an escape route for consumers from the uncontrollable rise of fossil fuel prices by de-carbonising our energy supply and generating clean electricity from our own natural resources. It’s great to see an influential group of progressive  Tory MPs going public in their support for this.

“The business is compelling not just in terms of reducing the long term cost of energy, but also in securing economic growth, as nearly 90,000 of us will be working in the wind, wave and tidal energy industries by 2020.”

It will be interesting to see exactly what further policies the 2020 group will be proposing but the very fact that a high profile collection of Conservative MPs is pushing for more renewable energy will surely serve to reassure investors and the UK’s growing renewable energy industries.

Scottish Government publishes Electricity Generation Policy Statement

This week the Scottish Government launched the latest draft of its Electricity Generation Policy Statement which aims to outline how the ambitious 100% renewable energy target for 2020 will be achieved. The document contains a large amount of information including a projected breakdown of Scotland’s future energy mix, outlined aims for the countries energy network in 2020, carbon reduction targets, energy efficiency measures, planned grid connections with other countries, and the expected economic benefits in terms of investment levels and job creation. The complete document can be found here. Scottish Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing stated:

“This report shows that the Scottish Government’s target to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of our electricity needs from renewables, as well as more from other sources, is achievable.

“We know there is doubt and scepticism about our 100 per cent renewables target, and the financial and engineering challenges required to meet it.

“But we will meet these challenges. I want to debate, engage and co-operate with every knowledgeable, interested and concerned party to ensure we achieve our goals.

“We know our target is technically achievable. Scotland already leads the world in renewable energy, and we have the natural resources and the expertise to achieve so much more.

“The prize at stake for the people of Scotland is huge, in terms of jobs, economic opportunities and lower electricity bills for all.”

The Electricity Generation Policy Statement initially outlines what the government hopes to achieve, long term, with the countries energy network.

It states that Scotland’s generation mix should deliver; a secure electricity supply, at an affordable cost to consumers, which can achieve large scale de-carbonisation by 2030, and brings the greatest possible economic benefit to Scotland.

A number of individual targets have been set with these aims in mind. For example, total Scottish energy consumption should be lowered by 12% by 2020. Energy efficiency is internationally regarded as one of the most affordable ways in which energy demand and carbon emissions can be reduced and controlled. Steps are already being taken to meet this target; there was a 7.4% drop in year on year energy demand from 2008 to 2009.

No new nuclear power plants are to be constructed in Scotland although extending the lifespan of the countries two existing nuclear plants for  a further 5 years is being considered. Such a move would serve to ease the transition to a grid more heavily reliant upon renewables.

Carbon Capture and Storage technology is expected to play an important role. Allowing baseload power to be maintained whilst still reducing carbon emissions. A minimum of 2.5 GW of thermal generation fitted with CCS technology is expected to be operational by 2020. CCS technology, if successfully demonstrated at commercial scale, could create up to 5,000 jobs and be worth £3.5 billion to the Scottish economy.

14-16 Gigawatts of renewable capacity will be required to achieve the 100% renewable target by 2020. Currently there are 12 Gigawatts of renewable capacity in various stages of planning, development and deployment. This figure includes 3 Gigawatts of mainly onshore wind projects currently consented or in construction. Whilst it should be remembered that not all of the 12 Gigawatts worth of projects will make it to construction it demonstrates the interest the Scottish renewables sector is already attracting from investors.

To achieve the 2020 target installed renewable generation capacity will have to almost double over the next ten years.Wind (both onshore and offshore) will play a major part in this expansion. 13 Gigawatts of wind energy is expected to be installed by 2020. This will mean that wind power will be providing around 55% of Scotland’s electricity output by this time. The Policy Statement identifies this target as a “major challenge” but argues that it is “consistent” with the projections made in a variety of different reports. Given Scotland’s huge potential for wind energy, strong backing from both the UK and Scottish Goverment’s, and the falling costs of both onshore and offshore wind it seems an achievable, if ambitious, target.

The Scottish Government has outlined a number of economic benefits that a strong and committed drive for increased renewable generation can bring. Firstly, it will serve to insulate consumers from the rising international prices of fossil fuels. The Policy Statement states that from 2013 increased renewable energy capacity will begin to halt the ever increasing cost to consumers from their energy bills.

Secondly, over the next ten years the renewable energy industry alone could be providing up to 40,000 jobs and £30 billion worth of investments into the Scottish economy. This is not including the economic benefits of CCS and increased usage of energy storage technologies. Additionally, the Scottish Government has targeted that 500MW should be owned by local communities by 2020. This level of communal ownership would see up £2.4 billion in Feed in-Tariff revenues over the next 20 years being held by local communities.

Thirdly, the necessary investment in and upgrading of Scotland’s electricity grid would pump £7 billion into the country’s economy and create 1,500 new jobs. The benefits of such investment are already being seen with both ScottishPower and Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) announcing the creation of new training and apprenticeship schemes.

Reactions to the publication of the Electricity Generation Policy Statement have been largely positive.

Ian Marchant, Chief Executive of SSE commented:

“SSE welcomes the Scottish Government’s electricity generation policy statement. With energy supply now a global issue, it is vital that the policy objectives adopted at Scottish, UK and EU level are consistent. With its focus on energy security, affordability and de-carbonisation, this policy statement underlines the extent to which policy objectives are consistent, and it is very encouraging that this should be the case.”

Keith Anderson, ScottishPower’s Chief Corporate Officer and CEO of ScottishPower Renewables remarked:

“ScottishPower supports the commitment to increase low carbon electricity generation in Scotland and we welcome the clarity outlined in the Scottish Government’s policy statement. We are making significant investments in large scale renewable energy projects including new wind, wave and tidal power. This investment is critical in order to help Scotland achieve its renewable energy targets and will be a catalyst for economic growth and job creation.”

Alison Kay, Commercial Director for National Grid observed:

“Scotland already has the highest proportion of clean power generation across Great Britain, which plays a vital role in keeping the lights on and meeting demand. The future energy mix is uncertain and this statement sets out a clear vision for the future of energy in Scotland. It will further enable National Grid and other industry participants to effectively plan the networks of the future.”

The 2020 target is described in the Policy Statement as “both a statement of intent and a rallying call”. It has been demonstrated to be both feasible and achievable, with wind energy playing a massive part. It is hoped that the outlining of a long term plan to help achieve the 100% aim will provide investors with confidence.

 

Government Launches Green Deal

The Government’s new Green Deal has been launched this week.

The scheme aims to reduce fuel poverty by making energy efficiency measures such as insulation more affordable to householders. This will be achieved by allowing people to take out loans of up to £10,000 to make their homes more energy efficient. The loans will be paid back over a 25 year period through ‘small additions’ to household energy bills. These loan repayments are intended to be lower than the amount of money that has been saved on energy; this has been referred to as the Green Deal‘s ‘golden rule’. The Green Deal is intended to be taken up by up to 14 million homes. The government estimates that the Green Deal could lead to the creation of 65,000 jobs.The Green Deal may also offer households that take up the scheme £150 cash-back. Estimates place savings on energy bills at around £94 annually by 2020. It was also announced that Energy companies must contribute £1.4 billion to the scheme annually until 2020.

At the launch of the Green Deal Chris Huhne stated:

“The Green Deal is about putting energy consumers back in control of their bills and banishing Britain’s draughty homes to the history books. By stimulating billions of pounds of private sector investment, the Green Deal will revolutionise the way that we keep our homes warm, making them cosier, more efficient – and all at no upfront cost.

“The Green Deal is also a massive business opportunity for firms up and down Britain, helping to power the economy and creating jobs. From one-man bands and local authorities, to the big supermarket and DIY stores, we want as many providers getting involved as possible because that’s what will give consumers the best deal.

“I want to insulate Britain’s homes not just from the cold weather, but also from the chill winds of global fossil fuel prices. It’s these that are pushing up consumer energy prices, and it’s why our balanced package of policies aimed at achieving energy savings and shifting to more home grown alternatives is the right one for the economy and all of us who pay energy bills.

“There are certainly costs to replacing our ageing energy infrastructure with modern clean power stations, and we take very seriously any impact of our policies on what consumers and businesses pay. we’ve repeatedly taken steps to reduce this – by removing some planned levies on bills and making others more cost effective and within budget.

“But a crucial – and too often ignored -priority of our whole strategy is to reduce the amount of energy we use in our homes.”

Initial reactions to the launch of the Green Deal have been somewhat mixed.

Brian Berry, director of external affairs at the Federation of Master Builders released the following statement:

“With rising energy prices the market for retrofit work is certainly there and is worth at least £3.5 billion every year, but consumers will need to be convinced that the Green Deal makes financial sense to them. It’s pleasing therefore to see the proposed cash back incentive in the consultation, but a reduced rate of VAT for Green Deal approved measures is needed in addition to boost demand and create much needed jobs in the building industry.”

Richard Lloyd, executive director at the consumer group Which?:

“It’s difficult to see how hard-pressed homeowners will have confidence in how the ‘green deal’ might work for them if the suggested savings are initially based on averages rather than on their personal energy use.

“The ‘golden rule’ was supposed to reassure people that green deal repayments would not exceed the savings made on energy bills. But if this is based on average figures then it could be meaningless for many.

“The government estimates that average household energy bills will be 7% lower than they would have been by 2020 because of new energy and climate policies. But this is based on the big assumption that schemes like the Green Deal will appeal to consumers. If take-up is lower than expected, energy bills will be pushed up even further.

Steps have already been taken to reassure those that have raised concerns about the Green Deal.

The treasury announced shortly after the scheme was launched that £200 million had been set aside to fund incentives to those who take up the scheme in it’s early stage. Although it has yet to be determined quite what form these incentives will take, further cash-back offers, discounts on council tax and cuts to stamp duty have all been suggested.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said:

“I can announce today that as part of the Autumn Statement we will provide £200m of funding for new and additional support to enable a special time-limited ‘introductory offer’ for the Green Deal.

“An offer that could save early adopters hundreds of pounds.

“A fund to get the Green Deal off to a flying start.

“One that will work with the Green Deal mechanism and the ECO to motivate thousands of more consumers to take up energy efficiency measures, over the next two years.”

The almost immediate announcement of this incentive fund indicates the strength of will within the government to make the Green Deal a success.