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 UK Wind Energy Records Set

Last week it was announced by industry trade body RenewableUK that the month of December 2013 had seen several wind power records being broken. The announcement followed the publication of electricity generation statistics for December by the National Grid. Despite the high-winds experienced in the UK over the course of December it should be noted that the setting of new records does not simply represent a particularly blustery month but rather the continuation of an upwards trend.

The first record which was broken was the amount of wind power generated in a single month. December saw 2,481,080 MWh (Megawatt hours) of electricity being generated from wind power. This level of generation is enough to power 5.7 million British homes at a time of year which traditionally sees an increase in power usage and demand. The previous record was set in October 2013 when 1,956,437 MWh of electricity was generated from the wind. Crucially, however, this increase in generation led to an increase in the use of wind power by the UK. In December 2013 10% of the UK’s total power demand was sourced from wind power. In comparison, October 2013 saw 8% of the UK’s total energy demand being sourced from wind.

Records were also broken for the amount of electricity generated from wind power over the course of a single week and a single day. The week beginning Monday the 16th of December saw 783,886 MWh of electricity being produced from wind power. This level of power generation represented 13% of the weeks total electricity demand. The 21st of December was the day on which the single day generation record was broken. 132,812 MWh of electricty was generated from wind power representing a notable 17% of the days total electricity demand. The single day generation record had set as recently as the 29th of November. The regularity with which new records are being set reveals the progress that the UK’s wind industry is making in increasing capacity and reducing the country’s dependence upon fossil fuel imports. Indeed around 500 Megawatts of new wind capacity was installed and connected into the National Grid between June and November 2013.

Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of RenewableUK made the following statement whilst announcing the new records:

“This is a towering achievement for the British wind energy industry. It provides cast-iron proof that the direction of travel away from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable sources is unstoppable.

“In December, we generated more electricity from wind for British homes and businesses than during any other month on record – and we also hit weekly and daily highs.

“This gives us a great sense of confidence for the year ahead, when we will continue to increase the amount of clean power we generate from wind, onshore and offshore.

“As we do so, we are lessening our dependence on excruciatingly expensive imports of fossil fuels which have driven people’s fuel bills up. British wind energy is providing a better alternative – a stable, secure, cost-effective supply of home-grown power”.

Of course it should be remembered that the figures released by the National Grid do not represent the full amount of wind energy being generated in the UK. There are a large amount of wind turbines in the UK, particularly within the small to medium scale (the scale at which we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) specialise in) which do not feed power into the National Grid. Such turbines will be supplying power locally or on-site. The owners of such developments are not required to supply real time output data to the National Grid and as such will not have been included in their figures.

It should be noted that UK wind power breaking such records as this is set to become a regular occurrence in the near future as more turbines are consented, constructed and begin to supply power into the National Grid. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are looking forward to playing our part in this process as more of our developments are completed in the very near future.

In other news, figures released by Spain’s national grid operator have revealed that wind power has become the country’s dominant electricty source in 2013. Red Electrica de Espana (REE) published a report which revealed that for the very first time wind power contributed more to meeting electricty demand within the country than any other source. Over the course of 2013 wind met 21.1% of Spanish electricity demand. This was enough to produce more than Spain’s fleet of nuclear plants which met 21%. In total 53,926 GWh (Gigawatt hours) of electricity was produced from wind power in 2013. This represents an increase of 12% over 2012.

It should be noted that other forms of renewable energy also saw an increase in their output. Hydropower generation soared to 32,205 GWh; a 16% increase on the historic average helped by high levels of rainfall. Solar energy also contributed more due an increase in capacity. In 2013 173 MW of  new wind power capacity was introduced into the grid, 140 MW of solar PV and 300 MW of solar thermal capacity were also added to the system. These increases mean that renewable technologies now account for 49.1% of installed Spanish capacity.

The success of the Spanish embrace of renewable power can also be seen in the reduced output of more traditional forms of electricity generation. Output from traditional gas fired power plants dropped a dramatic 34.2%. Output from coal fired plants dropped 27.3% and even nuclear output dropped  by 8.3%. These reductions combined with a 2.1% drop in total power demand and increased use of renewable power has meant that the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the Spanish power sector are estimated to have dropped an incredible 23.1% last year to 61.4 million tonnes. These figures demonstrate that an electricity supply system based upon renewables not only works for end users but also serves to increase energy security and reduce carbon emissions.

We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are delighted to have played a part in setting new wind generation records. We also look forward to helping set new records with our already installed turbines and also those of our developments which will have completed construction in the near future.

Majority of UK Public Support Renewables

A survey published last weekend in the Sunday Times has revealed that public support for renewable energy remains strong across the political spectrum. Support for renewable energy continues to outstrip support for shale gas developments despite a concentrated and sustained media campaign by shale gas companies.

The survey, carried out by YouGov, polled 1,952 people, establishing their political preferences and asked them if they were in favour of financial support for a variety of energy generation technologies. The poll revealed that a majority of all four political parties supporters were in favour of continued funding for renewable technologies such as wind and tidal power.

Regardless of political opinion, a majority of 65% were in favour of continuing support for the wind industry. This was a strong result given the continuing campaign against the industry in some parts of the media. 76% of those polled were in favour of financial support for the embryonic tidal power industry and 79% were favourable to continued support for solar power. These poll results seem to indicate that a consensus exists among the public in regards to renewable energy generation. Nearly two-thirds of those polled are of the opinion that renewable energy is the solution both to rising energy prices and climate change. This is reflected in the poll results for fossil fuel use. Only 40% of those polled were in favour of financial support for shale gas despite the optimistic estimates made in some parts of the media about it’s potential impact upon the domestic energy market. This belief in renewable energy was also seen in the fact that only 49% of those polled were in favour of financial support for nuclear support. This is despite the fact that new nuclear power generation will not be able to go ahead in this country without very heavy financial support from the government.

Shale gas has rapidly become a concern for many people within the UK; as demonstrated by the anti-fracking protest groups which are springing up across the country. Such concerns are reflected in the polling data. For example, 47% of those polled considered shale gas extraction (fracking) to be damaging to the environment. Only 31% believed that this was not the case. Furthermore, 43% of people felt that shale gas development would be harmful to their local area. Only 25% of people would be happy to see fracking proceed in their locality.

The fact that UKIP were included as one of the political party preferences demonstrates their growth; particularly in England. The party has often been perceived as an extremist (in some regards) offshoot of the Conservative party. One would expect therefore their supporters to be strongly anti-renewables. However, 51% of polled UKIP supporters were in favour of financial support for wind power and 76% in favour of support for marine energy. These results correlate with an earlier survey which found that voters favour politicians who actively support wind power. Public support for wind energy generation continues to be strong.

RenewableUK‘s Director of External Affairs, Jennifer Webber released the following statement about the poll results:

“Poll after poll shows that voters value low carbon technologies such as wind and tidal power. This latest poll shows that there’s not a single age group or voting demographic where a majority of people don’t want financial support for wind. It’s clear that for politicians, whether they’re UKIP, Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Labour that further development of our natural wind and marine resources is the way to go.

“With a recent study from Cardiff University showing that over 80% of people are worried about becoming overly dependent on energy from other countries, it’s important that confidence is retained for domestic low carbon producers. Wind provided enough power for the equivalent of 4.5 million homes last year and needs to play an increasing role in our electricity provision. If we press strongly on, as supporters of all political parties are urging, we can also build on our offshore and marine supply chain to create tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade”.

In other news, several major turbine manufacturers are collaborating together on solutions to reduce bird fatalities caused by turbine blades. The project is being led by Energy Norway, includes contributions from Statoil, Vatenfall, Trønder Energi Kraft, NVE and NINA, and is supported by the Research Council of Norway. Although research has demonstrated that turbines have no long term impact on bird populations and indeed cause less fatalities than traffic or domestic cats bird deaths remains an issue for some members of the public. This new pilot scheme will test whether painting some parts of wind turbines black (for instance one of the turbine blades or part of the tower) can increase their visibility to bird species and reduce collisions. The use of ultraviolet paint (which is invisible to the human eye) is also being explored. Trials are to be carried out at the 68 turbine Smøla wind farm in Northern Norway. Whilst any step which can be taken to reduce collisions is welcome it should be remembered that the most significant steps taken to avoid harming bird populations are carried out at the planning stage. Stringent planning requirements exist in Scotland (and the wider UK) to ensure that turbines are placed in areas in which they will have a minimal impact on protected species, large populations and migratory routes. However, if such schemes can further minimise bird deaths then they be welcomed by both the wind industry and the public.

Wind power continues to receive the support of the British public. But the result of this fact must not be complacency.The wind power industry must continue to get it’s message across. And programs such as that being trailed in Norway can only help to do so.

Electricity Market Reform White Paper – Reactions

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Chris Huhne unveiled a new white paper, titled Electricity Market Reform (EMR), this week. The paper outlined the Westminster Parliaments plans for the much delayed and even more necessary reforms and infrastructure investments in the UK Energy Grid. It outlined the technologies earmarked as being cost-effective and high in potential both now and post 2020. These technologies are onshore wind, offshore wind, marine energy, biomass electricity, biomass heat and ground and air source heat pumps. As well as this there was also a big role given to nuclear power with some declaring some of the reforms as nothing more than hidden subsidies for the industry. The white paper is also notable for its shift in rhetoric. Previously the Department of Energy and Climate Change had spoken of achieving Government targets for carbon emission reduction but with energy bills steadily rising and public disquiet on the issue increasing the talk had shifted to “keeping the lights on”.

Huhne at the paper’s unveiling said: “The idea that somehow we’ve been massively investing in renewables is absolute nonsense. We are catching up from a very low base. We’ve had 25 years of dithering on energy investment. We’ve got to stop dithering, because decision time is coming. You can have investment or you can have blackouts.”

The EMR paper predicted at least a four-fold increase in renewable energy consumption by 2020. Huhne spoke of why this was vital: “Growth on that kind of scale will be challenging, but will be necessary if we are to make the UK more energy secure, help protect consumers from fossil fuel price fluctuations, drive investment in new jobs and businesses, and keep us on track to meet our carbon reduction objectives for the coming decades.

“It will require industry to carry on making the case for renewables and Government and the Developed Administrations to break through the barriers that are stopping new schemes being built.”

Energy Minister Charles Hendry told journalists that the government expected the technologies outlined in the EMR paper to achieve 90% of their target with other technologies, such as solar, having a “marginal role”.

Reaction to the paper was as could be expected, from the large number of different interests involved, mixed.  Scottish Renewables chief executive Niall Stuart issued the following statement: “The statement confirms that renewables are a major part of our future energy mix and the sector will be a significant driver of investment and employment over the coming decades as we replace ageing and polluting power stations with cleaner alternatives.

“Nobody should underestimate the importance of these reforms, which will make or break progress towards the UK’s and Scotland’s renewable energy and climate change targets.

“There is still a huge amount of detail to be developed, but this broad package of measures should allow us to meet the twin aims of increasing investment in renewables and minimising energy costs for consumers.

“Despite recent media reports, these reforms will actually mean reduced financial support for renewable electricity in exchange for long term certainty over revenues, with generators potentially having to pay back income if market prices reach a certain level.

“As the Secretary of State highlighted, the growth of renewables will not just clean upo our energy supply, it will also protect consumers form price rises due to the massive and growing volatility in international gas markets, meaning lower bills for consumers over the longer term.

“We will be working with DECC to ensure that the reforms are implemented in a way that supports Scotland’s ambitious 100 per cent renewable electricity target, and encourages investment in our key sectors such as our world-leading wave and tidal industry as it seeks to develop the first commercial wave and tidal farms between now and 2020.

“Scotland can lead the the UK’s efforts to cut emissions from the power sector and increase renewables, but only with the right support from Government. Massive growth in offshore wind will bring particular opportunities for Scotland’s existing offshore engineering sector and emerging offshore wind supply chain.

“But it is not just about investment in generation – ministers must also ensure that we get the necessary investment in new grid connections, onshore and offshore, to ensure that we can get power from where it is generated to where it will be going.”

5 of the ‘Big 6′ Energy Companies that dominate the UK’s Energy Market were also quick to release statements.

British Gas parent firm Centrica Energy managing director Mark Hanafin had this to say: “There remains much detail to resolve so that investors can have confidence that the tax and regulatory environment makes the UK energy sector a good place to invest.

“These measures come at a cost and it is vital that all of us – Government, regulators and the industry – are open and transparent with the public about the impact of these changes.”

David Cockshott, Director of Industrial and Commercial Markets for Npower commented: “We found many major energy users in the UK are concerned about the legislation outlined in the EMR and the impact it will have on their operations in the UK.

“While the EMR white paper provides some clarity on the future of the UK energy market, it may not provide the reassurance intensive energy users are seeking.

“Our experience with talking to industry about the EMR suggests that they will be eagerly awaiting further detail on each of the EMR proposals so they can start to make key low carbon investment decisions.”

EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz: “It encourages investment in generation which is both low carbon and not dependent on fossil fuel prices.

“Trust is the essence of a healthy market, therefore it is important to continue to have a dialogue about energy costs.

“Consumer bodies, the regulator, industry and Government need to work together to build understanding. Renewing Britain’s ageing energy infrastructure will have a cost. Electricity Market Reform means that cost will be kept to a minimum.”

Ian Merchant, Scottish and Southern Energy chief executive stated: ” Any changes to the electricity market arrangements have to be carefully thought through, in a way which avoids unintended consequences and is supportive of the investment that is needed now and in the next few years.

“It is on this basis that we will ultimately judge the white paper as a whole and to ensure this is achieved we will continue to work with the UK Government and other bodies.”

E. ON chief executive Dr Paul Golby: “We cannot be complacent, it’s important this is driven froward to ensure a cleaner energy future for everyone.

“And, while the onus on the energy companies is to produce, transport and supply energy as efficiently as possible, we must also remember that this is not just about companies like E. ON and the Government, this is also about helping our customers who have a vital role to play in all of this.

“By becoming more energy fit – by insulating their homes, moderating their energy usage and by generating their own power – our customers can do their bit to reduce both their bills and also their carbon emissions, dual aims that we can all get behind.”

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, long an advocate of renewable energy issued the following statement: “Electricity Market Reform can help realise Scotland’s huge potential for clean energy generation and ensure security of supply across these islands.

“The UK White Paper makes clear that household electricity bills will rise over the coming decades and that increases are likely to be 25% higher if the market is not reformed. Investment in low carbon energy generation that harnesses our own natural resources will reduce both our reliance on fossil fuels and exposure to volatile global prices.

“Scotland is leading the development of renewable energy generation and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. EMR provides an opportunity to accelerate that, to help tackle climate change, to deliver greater energy security and to help limit rises that consumers are expected to face in the coming decades. The multi-billion pound investments required will create tens of thousands of jobs, leading to the re-industrialisation  of Scotland as we drive forwards the renewables revolution and development of CCS.

“While we support the principles underpinning EMR we have concerns about some of the detailed proposals. For example the move from the Renewable Obligation certificate regime to a Contract for Difference (CfD) mechanism must not create an investment hiatus, given the considerable progress already made and our ambitious plans up to 2020.

“We are also fundamentally opposed to the support for new nuclear plants because every pound spent subsidising this expensive and unpredictable technology of the last century is one  pound less available for investment in future growth of renewable generation. The EMR side steps the fact that the future costs of nuclear remain unquantifiable. An energy policy that relies on nuclear is an energy policy with a black hole at its heart.

“While newer renewable sources such as offshore wind have relatively high capital costs to begin with, theses will continue to reduce and be fuelled by nature indefinitely with no dirty clean up costs. Given the windfall that nuclear generators are likely to receive under the Carbon Floor Price mechanism, there should be no additional  subsidy for nuclear through the proposed CfD.

“The White Paper also pays insufficient attention to initiatives to protect consumers’ interests and I’ve stressed to (UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change) Chris Huhne that this is an area that must be strengthened. EMR must support consumers by making the network smarter and more responsive, through better demand side response, storage and interconnection. A more flexible and adaptive grid can provide both energy suppliers and households with better information on energy use and cost, alongside support for energy efficiency.

“Recent investments in Scotland’s offshore renewables sector from leading companies including Mitsubishi, Gamesa, Doosan, ABB and Alstom, are testament to our great natural and human resources and supportive environment for renewable energy investment and job creation. At the same time, Longannet remains the lead candidate for the UK’s first CCS demonstration project and Scotland also has an excellent base in science and engineering to ensure that we exploit the immense potential of CCS.

“We will continue working with DECC to ensure that a coherent, effective and seamless package of reforms are delivered which will fully reflect the respective powers of the Scottish and UK Parliament. In doing so, we remain committed to maintaining Scotland’s position as ‘destination of choice’ for investment in the development, deployment and generation of clean energy.

“Scotland is estimated to have as much of a quarter of Europe’s wind and tidal power resource and around one tenth of it’s potential wave energy capacity, as well as a wealth of expertise in offshore engineering, which can position us as a massive exporter of clean energy. The UK Renewables Roadmap includes Scotland’s target for renewables to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of annual electricity demand by 2020…

“The Roadmap recognises the huge contribution that Scotland can make to the achievement of UK and European green energy targets and this must be reflected in the final reforms to the electricity market which follow the consultation on today’s White Paper. At the same time, in order to fully harness Scotland’s massive renewables resource, fundamental change to the transmission charging regime is also required to end the discrimination against generation in those areas of Scotland with the greatest resource and to deliver the low carbon objectives of both the Scottish and UK Governments.”

Perhaps it is best to let Chris Huhne have the last word: “None of these challenges can be met for free. We will have to pay for secure, reliable, clean electricity generation including nuclear, renewable energy, and carbon capture and storage. Increases in wholesale costs and the carbon price are likely to lead to higher bills in the future, even without factoring in the huge investment needed in new infrastructure.

“So it is vital we put in place market arrangements that deliver the investment as cost-effectively as possible. The current electricity market is simply not up to the job.”

European Drought – Another Nuclear Disaster?

A drought in Europe this summer could expose the Nuclear Industry to yet more bad publicity following the disaster at Fukushima. The driest spring for a century has hit France particularly hard, leaving French agriculture facing a reduction of 11.5% from their average wheat harvest and could lead to blackouts across mainland Europe.

With water urgently needed by French farmers and river levels rapidly dropping the French nuclear power industry is preparing for a potential worst case scenario. France produces 75% of its electricity from nuclear power and traditionally exports some of this power across Europe. However if river levels drop further then many nuclear plants in France will no longer be able to cool their reactors, forcing them to reduce power output or even to shut down completely. Thomas Hondre, head of nuclear reactors at ASN (the French nuclear watchdog), commented that “we are in a drought situation that could prolong – and in case of a severe drought, if water levels go below set limits, power output has to be cut or completely stopped.” Indeed such situations have already come to pass; in the heat waves of 2003 and 2006.

The problem is further exacerbated by the dramatic change that German energy policy has undergone in recent months. 7 of the country’s nuclear power plants have been shut down this year and are not expected to go back online. Indeed, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that by 2022 Germany will have shut down all of its nuclear reactors. This shortfall was expected to be bridged in the short term by importation of French nuclear power.

The French energy grid is not just under pressure from possible nuclear shutdown and increased export demands. French hydro-electric plants are also rapidly coming under pressure from reduced water availability. It has been estimated that 2.1 terawatt-hours of hydro-electric power have been lost over the past three months due to increasingly low water levels. 20% of French power capacity is generated through hydro-electricity. French coal power is also under strain as further reductions in river levels could mean that it would become increasingly difficult to transport coal to the plants.

With the threat of blackouts across Europe beginning to become a possibility the Nuclear power industry claims of reliable, dependable, safe power look set to take a further battering. What are your thoughts?