Wednesday, February 08, 2012

U.K. emissions rise for second year; CCS remains a pipe dream; new energy efficiency unit in government

UK 2012-11 carbon emissions chart

The U.K.'s net carbon dioxide emissions rose in 2010/11 by 3.8% on the 2009 figure of 477.8 Mt., even more than earlier provisional figures had suggested.

Much of this increase was due to the residential sector, which was 15.8% (11.8 Mt) up, while the energy supply sector was up 3.1% (5.8 Mt)

The blame is being put on the cold period at the beginning of last winter and the downtime of some nuclear plants, which caused "a rise in residential gas use", and the burning of more coal in power stations.

But in fact it is a new trend: the previous years' figures also show an increase in net carbon dioxide emissions of 3.8%, and follow a period when they were sharply falling.

In 2010 there were technical problems at some nuclear power stations. In particular, Sizewell B, the largest nuclear power station, was offline for six months, which DECC says contributed to an increase of around 4% in emissions from electricity generation between 2009 and 2010.

Emissions from international aviation fuel use are not included in these figures, but the report does estimate them for 2010, at 31.8 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent.

This is assessed to be 4.4% lower than the 2009 figure of 33.3 million tonnes, but is still more than double the 1990 level. High altitude aviation has a greenhouse effect over and above that of carbon dioxide alone, but this is not reflected in these estimates.

International shipping emissions, also kept out of the headline figure, were estimated at 8.8 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent, a 13.3% drop on the 2009 figure of 10.1 million tonnes.

They are now at the same level as in 1990. The figures are estimated from the state of UK shipping bunkers, but DECC observes that "UK operators purchase most of their fuel outside the UK". Therefore the figure cannot provide a true picture of emissions.

The next report on progress towards meeting the UK's carbon budgets, as required under section 16 of the Climate Change Act, will be made by the end of March and detail exactly how well the country is doing in trying to meet its reduction targets, but, DECC's current estimate is that UK greenhouse gas emissions were 23% lower in 2010 than in 1990, and that we are therefore on target.

However, once the official Defra "consumption emissions" are factored in (up 20% since 1990), then it reveals a drop of just 3% in the overall greenhouse gas emissions for which the UK is responsible since 1990 (and this does not include the above emissions from shipping and aviation).

€1 billion for carbon capture and storage

If burning coal, and to a lesser extent gas, is one principle reason for this, then a solution sought by some is carbon capture and storage (CCS).

The 2050 Energy Roadmap, adopted by the European Commission in December, expects CCS to be responsible for between 19% and 32% of total European Union emission cuts by 2050.

Further funding for the development of this presently unproven and uncommercial technology is expected to come from the European Union's energy infrastructure package, which is currently being drafted.

António Correia de Campos, a rapporteur whose job it is to steer the package through the European Parliament, said yesterday that about €1 billion, or “around 10%-15%” of the €9.1 billion funding in the legislation is likely to be allocated to pilot programmes for CCS.

The cash from the infrastructure fund “will be fundamental for it,” said de Campos.

Twelve demonstration plants were supposed to be running by 2015, but due to cancellations, “the programme will deliver four to six projects, tops, and some say that’s optimistic,” according to Eric Drosin, a spokesman for Zero Emissions Platform, a group of private and public partners lobbying for CCS.

Most European countries lack enthusiasm for CCS, because of its huge cost.

For example, a Spanish project, Ciuden, was given €180 million euros in 2009 to develop a means of collecting waste carbon dioxide from coal burning, cooling it to a liquid and pumping it for indefinite storage into underground rock formations.

It was meant to be completed by 2015, but is now "unofficially mothballed" due to a lack of match funding.

At this rate of development, Arthouros Zervos, president of the European Renewable Energy Council, believes "it won’t be commercially viable until 2030, and if you give the money to CCS you subtract it from other electricity infrastructure projects which Europe needs urgently”.

Zervas says that “even the people building CCS say this".

The draft report of the European Parliament on the energy infrastructure package is due on 28 February, just before publication of the ENTSO-E (European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity) 10-year network development plan, which will be the blueprint for Europe's interconnected grid.

And without that transmission grid, new renewable energy generation capacity will have no way of getting power to the homes and businesses that will need it.

Meanwhile, it seems, without more action on using energy more efficiently, we must keep on burning coal and letting the emissions rise.

New energy efficiency team

Therefore it is good news that Ed Davey, the new Energy and Climate Change Secretary has just announced details of a new 50-strong Energy Efficiency Deployment Office (EEDO) in DECC.

In his first speech as Secretary of State, Mr Davey he is “hugely enthusiastic about energy efficiency. It’s the cheapest way of cutting carbon – and cutting bills for consumers. It has to be right at the heart of what we do.

“EEDO will be a centre of expertise, challenging our work and making energy efficiency real and relevant to people’s everyday lives. Two out of three consumers think their home is wasting energy, but only one in three is going to do anything about it. That has to change. We need to get out there and show people what energy efficiency can really do for them.

“The Green Deal will play a huge part in this work and will also support jobs in the insulation and construction industries– as many as 65,000 right across the country by 2015. It can help us deliver a fairer, greener economy. And help us get young people back into work – or into work for the first time."

The team, which will be based at DECC’s headquarters in London, will pull together expertise from across the Department. EEDO staff will continue to support the delivery of the Green Deal, the rollout of smart meters and the increase in renewable heat as well as developing a new energy efficiency strategy to identify the potential for further energy efficiency across the economy.

As well as having its own expertise, EEDO will work with leading industry experts to ensure we have the best possible evidence, analysis and policy response to this challenging agenda.

Mr. Davey said that today DECC is launching a call for evidence to help underpin the energy efficiency strategy.

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