Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The value of concentrated solar power is underestimated

I'm taking the trouble to direct readers to n article by ProEnviro on this topic. I've mentioned it several times before and it keeps being ignored.

Nuclear power costs anywhere between 5p and 8p per kWh, with new power station under construction in the United States expected to deliver at half that price.

However in 2003 The National Academy of Sciences, through research from the engineering and analyst firms Sargent and Lundy, showed CSP, with a free, renewal and infinite supply to be viable with costs of 4-6 cents (US) per kWh for solar troughs.

Needless to say Bush vetoed the idea when he came to power.

Read more on ProEnviro's web site

Monday, February 19, 2007

Nuclear new build costs: prepare for fraud and deceit

I am revisiting the news that Dr. Tim Stone, chairman of KPMG's Global Infrastructure and Projects Group, has been appointed by Alistair Darling at the DTI to lead the development of arrangements for the costs associated with any decommissioning and waste management.

His brief is "to ensure that participants in nuclear new build deal with these costs". How effective will he be? Perhaps looking at his past might give us an idea.


KPMG is an accountancy firm relied upon heavily by New Labour especially in connection with PPP/PFI schemes.

These are well documented (eg, in Private Eye) as being bad for public finances as they appear to be 'off the balance sheet' for the Treasury, yet commit taxpayers to decades of funding for what by then will be old infrastructure, eventually costing far more than they would have otherwise.

Stone's past

KPMG partner Dr Tim Stone was the Ministry of Defence’s adviser on the ‘Future Strategic Tanker’ PFI scheme, which is estimated to have a value in excess of £13billion. Under the scheme aerial tankers that enable planes from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to bomb targets in distant Iraq by refuelling them mid-air were supplied and partly staffed by private firms.

Stone is also a lead advisor on the £20billion Military Flying Training Services deal.

Stone advised the Department of Health on the PFI, while his company acts at the same time for firms bidding for hospital privatisation. KPMG advised on the first ever hospital PFI, at Dartford. The firm’s fees soared from an original £152,000 to £960,000.

The National Audit Office (NAO) found the scheme made no financial savings, but did reduce bed numbers.

In 2001, KPMG handled the figures on the PFI contract for the West Middlesex University Hospital in Isleworth. The NAO found that when KPMG worked out privatisation would be disproportionately expensive the accountancy practice discovered £12.5m of imaginary public-sector ‘risks’ so the sell-off could go ahead.

Stone has been heavily involved in many major acute hospital transactions, road and IT PFI deals, including the NHS' infamously wasteful and inefficient £3.2bn national IT programme and the similarly disastrous Department for Work & Pensions Accord deal which is the largest non-military IT procurement in Western Europe.

Involvement in fraud

In 2001 Xerox paid the US' Securities and Exchange Commission (Sec) $10m after admitting it had inflated its accounts by £3.9 billion between 1997 and 2000. Guess who passed the fraudulent books? Yep, KPMG, which was then also subject to a Sec investigation and in 2005 was ordered to pay $22m to settle the litigation.

In April 2002 a new auditor took over from KPMG at its client German software firm Comroad. It found that 97 per cent of Comroad's reported 2000 sales came from a non-existent company.

Also in 2002 KPMG paid $45m to creditors of German drilling firm FlowTex. A KPMG audit had approved the firm's books even though they were padded with pretend business.

Par for the course in the nuclear industry

Is this how the nuclear industry is going to appear to be dealing with all the costs of decommissioning?

It has a long and noble tradition of deceit and fraud, cover-up and evasion, not to mention cooking the accounts.

Darling evidently has found the perfect man to continue the tradition.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Nuclear energy continues to rise

Here's the global new nuclear picture:

Globally, nuclear power supplies are projected to grow 30% over the next 20 years with some two dozen power plants scheduled to be built or refurbished during the next five years.

China: eight new nuclear power stations under construction in 2006.

US & Russia: Presidents Bush and Putin announced significant new nuclear build programmes at recent G8 meetings.

These three countries will account for almost 38% of global nuclear output in 2010. By 2030, this is predicted to rise to over 45%. America’s share of total atomic production will slip to 26% during this period. China’s will increase from three percent to nine percent.

India: nine power plants under construction, including a fast-breeder reactor that generates its own fuel.

Pakistan: China is building its second of four power plants.

Canada: Last December, the Ontario Power Authority proposed plans to build 12 new nuclear plants. Bruce Power is to rebuild two other reactors.

Europe: New 1600-MW European PWRs are being built, one in Finland and one in France, with respective power-up dates of 2008 and 2012.

The failure of climate change initiatives will drive new nuclear power build, says Datamonitor.

The sham of a consultation

The Low Carbon Kid said from the start of the Energy Review 'consultation' that it was a sham and a foregone conclusion.

The Review was the reason for starting this blog. Now Greenpeace's courageous action in challenging the result has been vindicated by the High Court.

Greenpeace's Emma Gibson told the BBC: "The government's so-called consultation was a sham and we are very pleased the judge has agreed with us on that."

Mr Justice Sullivan said "something has gone clearly and radically wrong".

LibDem environment spokesman Chris Huhne said: "It's a real slap in the face for prime minister's sofa style of government."

Shadow trade and industry secretary Alan Duncan said: "The government has been shown up as fundamentally deceitful."

The government should immediately channel the money devoted to laying policy foundations and R&D in new nuclear power to the most promising emerging renewable technologies, in particular local power and marine energies.

There is no safe solution to nuclear waste.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Can I claim my £12m please Mr Branson?

The Low Carbon Kid has two ideas for reclaiming carbon from the atmosphere and locking it away - the subject of Richard Branson's technology challenge.

I'm afraid they're both fairly lo-tech, but hey, as long as they work, who cares? It makes them all the more easily implementable.

Here they are:
  1. Grow trees, harvest the wood, turn it into charcoal, which is an inert form of carbon and won't decompose, and sell the charcoal as a soil conditioner to farmers and everyone with a garden. This solution is the subject of an article in the Jan/Feb issue of Renew, the publication of the Open University's NATTA, the independent national UK 'Network for Alternative Technology and Technology Assessment' (Though maybe not the online version). The solution is basd on research conducted in the Amazon rainforest where charcoal hundreds of years old has been discovered and analysed, and its usefulness as a soil stabiliser revealed. The charcoal, as I say, is a permanent lock-up for the carbon, and by selling the charcoal the scheme becomes self-financing.
  2. Grow hemp and use it as a building material, mixed with lime to form 'hempcrete'. Hemp is fast growing and a very good absorber of atmospheric carbon. Once secure in the lime concrete, it gives the material great strength, and locks the carbon up for as long as the house exists. A conference is being held in April to discuss the technology at the Centre for Alternative Technology.

Can I have my money please Mr Branson?

Friday, February 09, 2007

One day, will it be an offence to exhale CO2?

The EC want to make environmental offences criminal and Gore and Branson want to reward someone for a wheeze for taking carbon out of the atmosphere.

Soon it will be an offence to exhale!

Not to mention fart.

I jest perhaps. But animals breathe and fart, and there are two climate change questions associated with this:
  1. Methane from animals for human consumption contributes 5-10% of GHG globally (source: FAO.
  2. Land use - it takes about two to four times as much land area to support a meat diet as opposed to a vegetarian diet. [Different sources give different estimates depending on the type of meat, its feed, the alternative possible land uses, not to mention the amount of meat in the diet.]
With increasing pressure on land for biofuels, we should be encouraged to eat less meat, regardless of whether it is organic.

Branson - Green?

Finally, can the man who runs an airline and founded a space tourism company really be green? £10m of his own money is poultry feed (sorry) and, for him, an investment to continue his carbon-profligate Catch-23 lifestyle and businesses.

He thinks if someoone can take the carbon out of the atmosphere that he puts in, it lets him off the eco-hook.

Wil he succeed?

Don't hold your breath. (But on the other hand, if we ALL held our breath...]

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

America still has way to go with investment in renewables

A lot of fuss is being made over the fact that Bush is allocating in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Fiscal 2008 budget, approximately $1.2 billion to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy - up $60 million or 5 percent from 2007.

But that's chicken feed to what Germany is spending. Germans invested more than $10 billion in new sources of renewable energy last year, using the country's pioneering electricity feed law.

Given the huge difference in populations between these two countries, Germany spent $122 per head compared to $3.36 - more than 36 times more.

The new Declaration of Energy Independence sponsored by Southern States Energy Board (and the so-called 'American Energy Security Partnership') is full of ironies. That the 'Project for an American Century' should so soon turn into for a project for independence from the world (most American wars have been fought over oil), is wonderful.

But if it means mass exploitation of American oil fields that's not good for the environment - although at least it's American biodiversity that will suffer, not that in victimised countries like Iraq and Nigeria.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Local energy, especially renewable heat, needs more support - Gov Committee

The government should do more to support local energy, according to the House of Commons Trade and Industry Committee.

Preferring the term "local energy" to “microgeneration” because it "is easier to understand and less restrictive", it argues that "there is too much emphasis on electricity production and not enough on local heating schemes - household or community-based." Roughly 1.3 million homes replace gas boilers each year, and Centrica estimates that micro-CHP systems could displace as many as 30% by 2015. It suggests that new housing schemes be fitted with CHP district heating. Furthermore it complains that Government payback figures, particularly for solar water heating panels, are far too pessimistic.

It urges energy suppliers to offer local energy systems with energy efficiency measures as part of a package of services to customers. Planning restrictions on rooftop wind turbines and solar panels should be removed, incentives streamlined, and the electricity distribution firms must pay a proper market rate for any surplus produced by such systems.

It acknowledges thast most forms of local energy are not suitable for all locations or uses. Micro-wind power's potential is "in danger of being oversold", according to one witness, so the government must ensure adequate information is available to consumers.

It says smart metering will be an excellent tool for promoting energy efficiency and export measuring, and calls for a deadline of 1 July 2008 for establishing standards and interoperability and a national roll-out scheme as in Italy.

However, local energy "cannot make a significant contribution in the next decade to closing the capacity gap created by the decommissioning of coal-fired and nuclear power stations—local energy is not a panacea that will 'keep the lights on'."

> Download the report