Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What is sustainable about this transport policy?

The sustainability of transport in the UK comes down to one thing - can we all maintain or improve our quality of life and tackle climate change in the way we move from A to B (or, indeed, decide not to).

The Government has just laid out its ideas on this in Towards a Sustainable Transport System: Supporting Economic Growth in a Low Carbon World. This is a consultation document that will lead to a new Transport White Paper in a year's time.

It is a brave document in that it dares to question whether new major infrastructure projects are a good idea, but still pledges support for airport expansion in southeast England.

It also wants to speed up motorways and rail links between London, Birmingham and Manchester.

Its attempt to be "sustainable" rests partly on a pledge to ensure that "every extra tonne of carbon from aviation growth above 2005 levels would need to be matched by a tonne saved somewhere else - a saving over and above existing targets".

This is code for emissions trading, and means we can carry on as usual, while investing in renewable energy in developing countries, but this does nothing to reduce the overall level of GHG entering the atmosphere.

We are back with Catch-23.

Basically economic growth and sustainability are incompatible. It's like trying to get cats and mice to get on with each other.

So in short, the Low Carbon Kid says there's not much sustainable about such a transport policy.

He will write another time about how saving money by energy efficiency doesn't result in saving nearly as much energy as you'd thnk because the money saved is usually spent on other things that also use energy.

Catch-23 again.

Meanwhle, the logic from all of this leads to the conclusion that only one thing will reduce our overall energy use: personal carbon trading with a yearly reduced overall cap.

This will be because there will no possible way to use more energy. No choice. Nada.

Like the spoilt child, we should be banned from playing with our dangerous toys, and learn to do more with less.

It's the only way.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Climate Change is too important to be left to a Committee

Hilary Benn, our Environment Minister, was at Kew Gardens yesterday announcing an independent Climate Change Committee, while the Environment Audit Committee was calling for a Climate Change Minister.

(Of course we already have such a minister, but she is not supra-departmental, she is safely contained within Defra where she can't cause much fuss.)

Benn has responded to a lot of criticism of the Climate Change Bill, which had 17,000 respoonses (that's a lot), and made some changes:
  • asking the Committee on Climate Change to report on whether the Government’s target to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 60 percent by 2050 should be strengthened further;
  • Asking the Committee to look at the implications of including other greenhouse gases and emissions from international aviation and shipping in the UK’s targets as part of this review;
  • Strengthening the role and responsibilities of the Committee on Climate Change, including by requiring the Government to seek the Committee’s advice before amending the 2020 or 2050 targets in the Bill;
  • Strengthening the Committee’s independence from Government, by confirming that it will appoint its own chief executive and staff, and increasing its analytical resources;
  • Increased transparency, by requiring the Committee to publish its analysis and advice to Government on setting five-yearly carbon budgets, which are designed to provide clarity on the UK’s route towards its reduction targets;
  • Strengthening Parliament’s ability to hold Government to account, by requiring the Government to explain its reasons to Parliament if it does not accept the Committee’s advice on the level of the carbon budget, or if it does not meet a budget or target;
  • Providing better information and streamlining reporting, including requiring the Government to report annually to Parliament on emissions from international aviation and shipping; and
  • Strengthening the country’s preparedness for climate change by requiring the Government regularly to assess the risks of climate change to the UK, and to report to Parliament on its proposals and policies for sustainable adaptation to climate change.
This is all good. But it's not fast enough. The changes should happen now - for example Scotland has just decided to have a 80% reduction by 2050, as a policy matter, because the science now demands it.

A Committee will not help join up Government and prevent different departments (such as Transport and BERR) from committing to projects that are bound to undermine our climate change targets.

Only two policies could do this: individual carbon trading (allowed for in the Bill) and a Minister for Climate Change or Sustainable Development who can make sure all departments keep to the Sustainable Development Plans drawn up two years ago and quietly buried.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Send all ministers on a sustainable development training camp

UK Energy Market Outlook - the document partially reviewed in my last blog - reveals the limitation of government thinking on energy and sustainable development.

It shares its limitation with many other government policy documents and implementations - the lack of strategic overview.

While it makes every effort to try to be strategic - looking at the price and availability of all the fuelstocks in the near and longer term, and fitting this in with selected quotes from the Commons Environment Committee, Energy White Paper, etc., to back up its arguments - by making only these selective quotes and omitting many other potential references it does not succeed in advancing the cause of truly sustainable development that is supposedly at the heart of government policy.

What sustainable government policy I hear you ask?

A cross-government 'greening Government' group of 'green ministers' was set up would you believe nine years ago with a "commitment to integrate sustainable development and environmental concerns into all that [Government] does".

It has the status of Cabinet level. Its shenanigans are, however, clouded in mystery.

On 1 February 2006 James Duddridge (MP Rochford & Southend East, Conservative) asked a simple question: "To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many times the Green Ministers' Group has met in the past 12 months."

Elliot Morley (then Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) replied: Following the general election in May 2005, the Cabinet Sub-Committee of Green Ministers (ENV(G)) was replaced by the Ministerial Sub-Committee on Sustainable Development in Government (EE(SD)) whose members are departmental Sustainable Development Ministers. It is established practice under exemption two of Part II of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information not to disclose information relating to the proceedings of Cabinet Committees.

That's strange, because apparently it still meets, as it was referred to only last week on Oct 18 by MP Norman Baker.

But it seems we are not allowed to know what it does or says.

Well whatever it's called, its mission is the same: "to improve the Government's contribution to sustainable development through the conduct of its business, including thorough consideration of departmental sustainable development action plans; and to report as necessary to the Cabinet Committee on Energy and the Environment."

That's all the sustainable-development web site says. It says it's to be updated shortly. That was on August 15 this year.

The 'sustainable development action plans' which every department was supposed to produce in 2005 are gathering dust.

I could go on. In a nutshell, the point is that to commit at the top level to sustainable development, you need to put on what the Low Carbon Kid calls 'sustainable development spectacles' so everything you see and do is filtered through this way of seeing, which is of necessity holistic - all-encompassing.

Every single act of government must filter through this lens to avoid inadvertently countering the overall aim.

Ministers can't do this without special training. Civil servants - who have been in post for years, or who have legal Oxbridge backgrounds - can't be expected to do it either.

The Sustainable Development Commission, the watchdog, was set up to keep an eye on all this, but the Government just ignores it when it wants to. As it does the committee of MPs set up to do the same thing on the environment, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).

That's why the Low Carbon Kid supports the conclusion in today's report from the EAC that "A powerful new body must be established to drive climate change policy after a decade of failure by the government".

And it calls for "a cross-departmental climate change minister who could attend Cabinet meetings". Perhaps this person could whip the so-called Green Ministers.

It agrees that "the frameworks in government for dealing with climate change are confused and do not promote effective action on reducing emissions".

Quite so. We are driving backwards. The Low Carbon Kid says - send all cabinet ministers on a sustainable development training camp over the holidays.

They'd learn all about carbon footprinting, new economics, renewable energy, organic growing, sustainable communities, education for change, and much more. And have a whole lot of fun singing 'This land is our land' round the camp fire. The Low Carbon Kid can just picture it.

He knows a lot of people who'd love to teach them a thing or five hundred.

Friday, October 26, 2007

How long is a long time?

Current government policy on energy technology is based on a curious mismatch of ideas about time

Ideas of 'a long time' vary according to context in the Low Carbon Kid's analysis of the government's Energy Market Outlook published two days ago.

There is enough uranium ore in the world to meet currently projected demand for up to 85 years, according to current estimates from the Euratom Supply Agency.
Where our nuclear fuel will come from
Renewable energy will, by contrast and by definition, last forever. Oh yes, and it's free.

Technologies which use renewable energies as a fuel source will therefore have application forever.

In other words, investing now in developing new renewable energy technologies would produce expertise that would provide a strong foundation for industries that could last for centuries, rather than, by contrast with nuclear technology, one century.

Technologies' lifetimes

Technologies have their lifetimes.

Steam power has lasted roughly 250 years. The internal combustion engine may last (it first appeared in 1850) 200 years.

Nuclear power looks set to last for 150 years at the most.

Water power (mechanical) has been around for at least 2000 years and will probably never go away.

Electricity as a clean means of conducting energy may also be around now as long as we are.

Renewable technologies generating electricity and heat will obviously improve and change with innovation, but they will be around also as long as we are, it's safe to assume.

What the government says

In the long-run we believe increased prices and global demand will help maintain reliable uranium supplies, thus not representing a constraint on any new nuclear build in the UK.
This is not a long run in my books. It is a medium term run as it is looking not 85 years but 15 years into the future.

The report begins by saying
In the short term, the main concern is the extent to which
we can be confident that energy can be delivered when and
where it is needed, i.e. reliability.

In the medium term, the focus is on the availability of
infrastructure, the planning process and supply chain issues
such as the availability, both within the UK and
internationally, of raw materials, machine components and
project management and engineering skills.

In the longer term, there is a wider range of options open to market participants, including significant capital investment and the development of new technology. Given this, the key concern in this time-frame is likely to be the availability of primary sources of energy.
In this discussion, short term is therefore about up to 12 years (2020); medium term seems to be the same actually, as over the same period the same concerns apply, but might extend a further 10 years as the Grid infrastructure is updated; and long term is any time beyond this.

Governments usually can't see beyond the electoral term of office. They are therefore bound by the need to balance the books - they can't spend too much public money.

Nuclear power stations in general take twice as long to build as coal power stations - ten as opposed to five years.

It's therefore curious that nuclear stations are being backed by ministers as they neither address the short term issues or the very long term issues.

New build nuclear power stations will be up and running around 2020. They would last until around 2095, then the fuel runs out. And anyway they will be worn out.

Before then, there is plenty of time to implement 15% of our generating needs from renewables that are currently proven - wind power, ground source heat pumps, solar thermal, and solar electric.

In the medium term government policy should signal to the markets that they should invest In the newer technologies - marine current turbines, wave power, tidal power and more advanced solar photovoltaic generation.

In particular the more predicatable sources - marine currents, tides, geothermal, heat pumps - should be prioritised.

So that after 2020 these are increasingly phased in.

in the medium
term the electricity generating industry faces a substantial
challenge in ensuring delivery of the new generating
capacity that will be needed if demand continues to rise. [p 37]

All the more reason for speeding up the planning process.

[And we haven't even mentioned the very very very very long time that nuclear waste poses a threat for]. If Stonehenge had nen a nuclear reactor it would be well glowing still.
> Energy Market Outlook

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thinking about installing solar electricity?

Thinking about installing solar electricity? Then learn from others' mistakes!

the result of a survey of users' feelings about their  PV installations!The results of field trials and lessons from 500 real-life systems in the UK over seven years are now available online from the Large-scale and Domestic PV Field Trials programme.

They have been grouped together for ease of use on aspects of design, installation, commissioning and operation.

The pie-diagram is the result of a survey of users' feelings about their PV installations!

Other useful Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR) technology sites

> Renewables website
> Sustainable Technologies
> Technology Programme
> Technology Strategy Board
[What a shame that Gordon and Malcolm don't pay any attention to them]

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Government set to break promise on renewables target

Britain would only aim to generate 10-15% of its electricity from renewables by 2020, Malcolm Wicks, the Energy Minister, said last night.

Gordon Brown repeated today on Prime Minister's Questions, that the target of getting 20 per cent renewable electricity was the target for the European Union as a whole.

Wicks denied the Government had ever committed itself to the 20 per cent figure.

This is a patent lie. The promise was made by David Miliband. He said in June "the UK is committed to generating 20 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020".

And Wicks is on record in Hansard's as saying:

The Government's aspiration is by 2020 to double renewable energy's share of electricity to 20 per cent.

Wicks also said last night "At the end of the day, renewables is a means to an end. The end is bringing down carbon emissions."

Not so - a further aim is energy security. Renewables are the only energy technologies that give us a fuel source that is on UK sovereign territory and will be forever.

Brown said today within the general EU target each member state sets its own target.

(Germany is ahead of its target and so currently compensates in Europe for those like Britain who are lagging behind).

Brown said under pressure from the LibDem spokesleader, that the UK will now set its own new target and when it does he will let the House know.

The Low Carbon Kid says the Government must not betray the climate, the world and its own promises but stick to the target it promised it would keep.

In the meantime Brown underscored the need for more offshore and onshore wind farms and a feasibility study for the Severn Barrage.

Government documents prepared for Brown, leaked in The Guardian on Monday, claimed there were “severe practical difficulties” with the 20% target.

Mr Wicks said last night that renewables were not the only way to fight climate change and that the Government was “doing many other things”.

Um, like expanding airports and roads, perhaps - or bringing in digital radio which uses seven times more carbon emissions than analogue radio?

Low Carbon Kid's links: Environmental Blog Roundup

A few random links

Hallowe'en Blackout
Low Carbon Kid's links: Environmental Blog Roundup

Special Halloween action from Climate Action - Blackout Britain (Lights Out for the Feast of Playful Darkness 31st October 2007 4pm - 5pm).

And for those who fancy targeting shops that leave their lights on all night - A letter to post through their doors.

I was contacted following my blog earlier this month on CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) to ask me to promote CSP Today - an information provider for the industry - their next event takes place in Sevilla, in November 5-6.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Don't let the Government water down renewables targets!

Today's story in the Guardian that the Treasury and Department Formerly Known as the DTI (BERR) are seeking to persuade Gordon Brown to scupper the European renewable energ targets is a brilliant piece of journalism.

We already know (from witnesses from the renewables/efficiency industry who have sat on the relevant committees and consultations such as Jeremy Leggett and Andrew Warren) that for the lifetime of this government the Treasury under Brown has blocked many attempts to back renewables.

We know that the government thinks nuclear power new build is a one-solution-fits-all option for addressing climate change.

We know the reason is that it believes that the nuclear costs won't be borne by the taxpayer but business.

Instead BERR believes that reaching Germany's current position of 9% renewable electricity by 2010 would cost the taxpayer £4bn.

We know that the off-balance sheet Treasury debt caused by PFI is in the tens of billions area (they won't reveal exactly how much).

In this context it seems to these antediluvian mandarins that despite the length of time it will take nuclear to get up and running and the urgency of the climate change crisis, it's better to wattewr down targets than attack the problem on all fronts.

This is a monumental act of cowardice. What is needed is strong leadership like that shown in Germnany, the world leader in renewables.

German industry is reaping the benefit of its R&D investment in wind and solar with bursting order books abroad.

Britain has missed the boat so many times.

We need a massive push to force the Climate Change Bill, EU targets and Energy Bill to enshrine positive long-sighted policies that will benefit Britain for the next hundred or more years.

Not policies that will saddle us with guilt, regret and a legacy of nuclear waste for thousands of years.

The Low Carbon Kid urges Greenpeace to take the government to court again for its smoke-and-mirrors second nuclear consultation.

The sad thing is the Tories also back nuclear power. Only the LibDems would go for the ambitious targets. But they have no power.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Aviation and climate change

Most of us know that flying's bad for climate change, and that we should really holiday closer to home, take the train and videoconference.

Aviation has by far the greatest climate impact of any transport mode, whether measured per passenger kilometre, per tonne kilometre, per € spent, or per hour spent. See the Transport and Environment report, 'Clearing the Air: the myth and reality of aviation and climate change'.

The opening of the St Pancras rail link to the continent on November 14 will allow you to travel in style from the centre of one city to the centre of another faster than ever, for a comparable price to flying in many cases (eg London to Berlin is more or less the same price on BA/tube/rail to/from airport). So what if it takes longer? It's sure going to be less hassle and you can take the sleeper.

But people will still fly - so should aviation be included in the EU emissions trading system (ETS)?


The EU thinks so, and so does the British government. The EU is pressing ahead despite a major rift within the UN body responsible for the sector.

The airlines don't like it. They are kicking and screaming.

The 2007 Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) - a body representing the airlines but also responsible, under the Kyoto Protocol, for reducing emissions from international aviation - passed a resolution earlier this month saying countries should sign separate agreements with all other countries operating in its airspace before applying emissions trading to their carrier airlines.

This was strongly backed by the United States.

To enter into separate agreements would be technically illegal under the Kyoto treaty and disables the whole point of the ETS.

Since 1997 the ICAO has failed to endorse, or issued negative statements on, every serious policy option for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the sector.

In retaliation EU member states, and member countries of the wider European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) which includes Norway, Switzerland and Turkey, made a 'reservation' against the resolution.

Though ICAO guidance is not legally-binding, the EU has until now acted within its framework. This 'reservation' signals the end of that commitment.

João Vieira, of the Brussels-based group Transport and Environment, called for this body to be disbanded. "After a shameful decade of obstruction and inaction, ICAO must now be stripped of its environmental responsibilities."

But will it make any difference?

But will bringing aviation into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in line with current proposals have any effect on burgeoning air travel?

Not according to a report by the University of Manchester's Tyndall Centre. Its research found that even if carbon dioxide permit prices rose up to €50 per tonne it will have little impact on the price of and demand for flights - and hence will barely dent the rise in emissions.

Current predictions of the carbon credit price are in the range of €15-35. For example consultancies Ideacarbon and Econ said in September that the price for the next five years could be around €15 because of imports of credits from developing countries.

At this price the ETS isn't going to make much difference to anything, let alone airline emissions.

The Low Carbon Kid says pressure must be kept up on governments to curtail flights - and make flying as unfashionable as owning a slave.

Friday, October 19, 2007

How influential are you?

So you care about climate change and take a few actions like turning the lights off. Great, but is there more you can do?

One thing's for sure, if we sit around waiting for governments to act, we'll be waiting a long time.

Are you any good at helping others around you to realise the problems and what they can do about it, say, by leading by example?

Here's a way to find out. Take this Green Beacon Test.

Energy Saving TrustIt's created for the Energy Saving Trust for Energy Saving Week (which starts on Monday) and measures your awareness of climate change and energy saving, and compares it with what you do about it.

The Trust is asking you to use your influence within whatever communities you're part of during Energy Saving Week, to encourage others to commit to save their 20%.

The week's theme is 'A Community a Day'. Each day a diifferent group will be targeted - faiths, women, men, internet communities, etc.

> Green Beacon Test.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The energy hierarchy

Last week the Low Carbon Kid attended a seminar at the Energy Saving Trust as he is one of about 30 'Green Ambassadors' for energy efficiency.

Its director Philip Sellwood (an unusual bloke, previously director of off-licence chains Threshers and Victoria Wine, and a Home Office advisor) was offloading all sorts of gripes about goverment attitudes to energy efficiency. Here are three titbits:

1. Does the EST support new nuclear power?

Not as such - but in practice it works out that it doesn't.

This is because the Trust argues that all means of both saving and generating energy should be looked at for cost-efficiency and ranked accordingly.

You then proceed up the hierarchy until you've met everyone's needs. They've worked out that everyone's needs would be met before there's a need for nuclear new build.

(This chimes with CAT's analysis - Zero Carbon Britain.)

the energy hierarchy diagram
So, given that investment in energy efficiency is always more cost-effective than building new generating capacity, this comes first.

Then comes microgeneration - solar water heating, heat pumps, water power, wind power, biofuels (wood boiler), solar electricity (in that order and if available).

Then we have combined heat and power - still on decentralised energy. Gas for electricity and heat supplied locally.

Then clean coal.

Then large scale renewables (wind farms), then tidal and other marine energies.

Finally nuclear power stations. The total life cycle costs - including looking after that waste for thousands of years - make this the least cost-effective.

Unsexy cavity filling

The most cost-effective energy efficiency measure if you have a cavity wall in your house is to fill it with insulation. It takes a day for a contractor and pays for itself in about nine months.

Despite this, millions of homes have yet to be treated and yet it would go a long way to reducing our carbon emissions.

Philip has tackled the Treasury several times on providing funds to support this.

Treasury bright boffins: "Obviously it's perfectly the rational and obvious thing to do, so people will do it."

Philip: "But people aren't rational. They prefer to spend money on sexier things."

Treasury: "Then they should be more rational. Sorry, we've got a military machine to support."

So lots of money and carbon continue to be wasted.

Non-eco schools

The government is committed to rebuilding every secondary school in the country. A massive undertaking.

Several schools are now eco schools and have solar panels and wind turbines to educate the pupils. This is, you would think, (rationally?) a perfect opportunity to make every school an eco-school.

Clearly, if we teach children energy efficiency, it's the best we can do for our energy future. And what better way than for the schools themselves to demonstrate what it means?

But Philip has found out that:

a) No energy-efficiency or renewable energy features are in the specifications for the buildings

b) He asked all government departments to cooperate with energy efficiency week next week - they all signed up to help out - except the Department for Education and Skills. It said it had too many messages already to get across to schools.

I wonder how Philip keeps from tearing down the walls with his fingernails. Perhaps he has a few bottles left over from Threshers to calm his nerves.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Your name on a paper plane

I had a nice letter from Asi Sharabi asking me to promote "the WWF (World Wildlife not the wrestling...)'s new campaign to strengthen the UK Climate Change Bill".

I agree with him when he describes the Climate Change Bill (which was hard fought for by grassroots groups) as "one of the most important pieces of legislation ever to go before the UK Parliament".

But surprise, surprise a funny thing's happened on the way to the statute book - it's been watered down. 

What's needed from you and me is pressure to include carbon emissions from international aviation and shipping – the fastest growing sources of emissions – in the bill's targets.

"Excluding them is  a bit like going on a diet but not counting the calories from chocolate!" he says.

So WWF plans to build a massive paper boat and paper plane, put all the names of the people who signed the petition on the boat/plan, and then deliver them to the Houses of Parliament. 

Your name could be on it, if you click here.!

He adds: "PS: Funnily enough my wife bought me Hybrids recently (she said I spend more time with my laptop then with her but thats just not true.... ) I didn't have the chance to read it yet but looking forward!"

While we're on the subject I've also been asked by the Energy Saving Trust to encourage people to pledge to commit to save their 20% of their energy use.

Currently only 106,000 have signed up, and they aim to reach one million by Christmas!

Energy Saving Week is next week, so I suppose I'll be banging on about this again then.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Darling, I fluffed my policies - Pre-Budget Report and Comprehensive Spending Review

Ken Livingstone explains basic economics to Gordon Brown at the launch of Crossrail

Ken Livingstone explains basic economics to Gordon Brown at the launch of Crossrail

Alistair Darling's first Pre-Budget Report and Comprehensive Spending Review missed so many opportunities to green the economy and carry out the recommendations of the Stern Report commissioned by his own Treasury that even Robin Hood with his bow and arrow, blindfolded, could have missed less.

And far from stealing from the rich to give to the poor (in the case of private equity raiders) or from the fossil fuel lobby to give to the sustainability lobby, his efforts are like a sailor furling a single sail when a hurricane is on the way.

The Low Carbon Kid agrees with the BBC's assessment of the measures announced, more or less, but presents below, as usual in the interests of objectivity, a summary of the relevant policy changes.

He wades through the verbiage so you don't have to.

Rail networks

The largest was already public news - £15 billion of Government funding in the rail network over five years, through a national target to increase the network's capacity, including provision for Crossrail.

A new Public Service Agreement is intended to improve the transport networks that support economic growth by managing urban traffic routes and the strategic road network and on the rail network.

Crossrail, a monumental engineering project that has been a dream for many for 15 years, will be financed one third each by businesses, taxpayers and passengers.

The Government's third is a DfT grant of over £5 billion during Crossrail’s construction.

The Crossrail Hybrid Bill is likely to receive Royal Assent in summer 2008 with construction underway during 2010 and trains running from 2017.

Flood prevention

Mr Darling also announced an increase in funding for flood and coastal erosion risk management from £600 million in 2007-08 to £800 million in 2010-11, which was criticised by insurance companies and local government chief executives as insufficient and too late.

But the Government said it would also spend around £10 million a year introducing a flood adaptation toolkit to help communities adapt to change where constructing defences is not the most appropriate means of managing flood and coastal erosion risk.


£2 billion of funding will be provided through the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to help local authorities invest in more sustainable waste management options.

PFI credits for local authority waste projects will rise from £280 million in 2007/08 to £700 million in 2010/11.

Fuel poverty

The Warm Front programme, which tackles fuel poverty and energy efficiency, will continue and the related Carbon Emissions Reduction Target obligations on energy suppliers will expand.

Environmental Transformation Fund

A £1.2bn Environmental Transformation Fund, first announced in June 2006, will support the deployment of new energy technologies in the UK and abroad.

An "£800 million international window" for the Fund was already proclaimed in March, "to finance overseas development projects" for "poverty reduction and environmental benefit".

To this has been added £400m from Defra, over three years, to "provide investment in new energy technologies here at home", Mr Darling said.

The idea of the domestic part of the EFT is to "provide the sector with the confidence it needs to invest in innovation," said John Hutton, BERR minister.

He said the EFT would work closely with the Technology Strategy Board and the new Energy Technologies Institute, which has a £1bn budget over ten years.

The latter are engaging in R&D in these technologies.

Promising ones emerging from this process will then be helped to become attractive in the marketplace by the ETF through the Carbon Trust, in programmes such as their work to accelerate cost-effective organic solar photovoltaic cells (see other news item).

The Fund will also finance interest-free energy efficiency loans for small and medium-sized businesses via the Carbon Trust, and through Salix Finance in public sector revolving loan schemes.

Reducing emissions from deforestation is also "a key aim" of the Fund and £50m of it will be used for this purpose in the Congo Basin, by promoting sustainable forestry.

The international side of the Fund is handled by the Department for International Development, and the World Bank will deliver this.

The fund may increase further in the future, for example to encompass support for the UK carbon capture and storage demonstration project, which is not currently included.

Air travel

Air Passenger Duty is to be replaced with a ‘per plane’ tax from 1 November 2009 toencourage airlines to make more efficient use of flights.

The Government will hold a consultation on this in the New Year.

Also, from 1 November 2008, passengers on ‘business class only’ flights will become liable for the standard rate of APD, correcting an anomally.

APD rates will remain at their current level for 2008-09.


Overseas aid as a share of national income (GDP) is to rise from 0.37% in 2007-08 to 0.56% in 2010-11, returning it to levels in earlier years and meeting promises made at the Gleneagles Summit.

A PSA aims to reduce poverty in poorer countries through quicker progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

Emissions Trading Scheme

Hilary Benn said that the Government will press the EU for a scarcity of allowances and an increase the use of auctioning for EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) permits for Phase III, post-2012, with a "significant" increase in that level for large electricity producers to "tackle windfall profits that have occurred in this sector".

Meanwhile just 7% of allowances in Phase II (2008-12) will be auctioned, plus any from closures or surplus from the New Entrants Reserve.

The European Commission is expected to publish its proposals on the future of the EU ETS post-2012 in December.


A disincentive for business to install solar panels and other renewable energy technologies has been removed.

Currently, this can trigger an increased liability for business rates.

However, the Government will no longer include microgeneration investments in ad hoc re-assessments of business rates liability from 2008.

These will only be taken into account at the five-year re-valuation of business rates, providing up to five years' worth of benefit to ratepayers.

Transport and biofuels

An earlier decision to seek state aid clearance for the inclusion of the cleanest biofuel plant in Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) has been reversed, because it's not seen as worth the trouble.

Instead, the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation will target production of the cleanest and most sustainable biofuels.

Biofuels producers can still seek financial assistance to ensure cleaner fuel production through investing in good quality CHP installations, which are eligible for ECAs.

Also, the current duty incentive for biofuels will be extended to biobutanol on a pilot basis.

Climate change agreements

Over 50 energy intensive sectors can now get an 80% discount on the Climate Change Levy in return for signing climate change agreements (CCAs) under which firms agree to improve energy efficiency and/or reduce emissions.

This scheme will now continue until 2017.


To help deliver the Government’s target of 2 million new homes by 2016, a new Housing and Planning Delivery Grant has been allocated £500m over three years.

Over the same period £1.7bn has been allocated for infrastructure such as schools and transport in Growth Areas, the Thames Gateway, New Growth Points and eco-towns.

The Government announced a new PSA to increase long-term housing supply and affordability, with increases in spending on housing from £8.8bn in 2007-08 to £10bn in 2010-11.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Concentrated Solar Power could power Europe, the Middle East and Africa

Harnessing the sun's energy on just 6,000km2 of desert in North Africa would supply energy equivalent to the entire oil production of the Middle East of nine billion barrels a year, according to the German Aerospace Centre.

It believes that solar thermal power plants could supply 68% of North Africa's as well as all of Europe's electricity by 2050.

One company that agrees is Flabeg, a German manufacturer of parabolic trough mirrors.

Its new mirror can concentrate 92% of the sun's rays onto an absorber tube with a diameter of 70mm or less.

It expects to sell these to CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) stations in Spain and North Africa and is already supplying 210,000 to the 50 megawatt solar thermal power plant, Andasol II, in Spain, the biggest in Europe.

Europe's first commercially operating solar thermal tower plant went into operation in April in Sevilla, Spain, generating 11 MW.

The German Aerospace Center has built an experimental solar thermal tower power plant in Julich, Germany, to be commissioned in 2008.

A European Commission-funded research programme report published in September also argued that CSP is "clean energy that can help the EU to meet its 20% target for renewable energies and its broader energy goals."

CSP technologies could make a "significant contribution to developing a more sustainable energy system" especially in southern Europe and North Africa.

Under FP5 and FP6 (5th and 6th EU Research Framework Programmes), the EU contributed €25 million to research projects to develop CSP technologies.

Solar research will be promoted within the FP7 that runs until 2013 with €50 billion in four main components.

> Report explaining the progress of numerous demonstration projects

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Peak oil begins here

The screw is tightening.

As the main oil supply countries' own consumption of oil is rising, so they are exporting less. Oil prices are starting to rise. New sources are hard to get at.

Read on....

Six of the largest oil suppliers to the US are poised to cut their global exports by nearly 2 million barrels a day by 2012, ramping up pressure on supply and price, and intensifying the focus on one of the last great deposits open to private investment: Canada's oil sands.

The projected cut, amounting to 7% by Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Algeria and Russia, reflects the growing struggle in these countries to grow production and manage their own soaring rates of oil consumption, says Jeff Rubin, chief market strategist and chief economist, at CIBC World Markets, who will discuss his latest findings at the firm's Industrials Conference in New York City.

The trend of oil producing countries becoming major oil consumers extends beyond the top US suppliers, says Mr. Rubin.

When similar conditions are factored in among the other major oil producers including OPEC, the supply crunch deepens to 3 million barrels a day, or an 8% cut in global exports.

"Soaring domestic demand is cannibalizing export capacity, and will increasingly do so as productions plateaus or declines in many of these countries."

Last year, OPEC members, along with independent producers Russia and Mexico, consumed over 12 million barrels of oil a day, roughly 60% more than China and slightly more than all of Western Europe says Mr. Rubin.

As a group, they now are second only to the U.S. in terms of market size.

Much of the demand in these countries is driven by heavily subsidized prices that keep a barrel of oil down to a cost of between US$10 and US$20.

"The cheap supply is fuelling some of the fastest growth in domestic demand anywhere in the world," says Mr. Rubin.

Russia, now the world's largest oil producer, has filled the oil supply gap in recent years. However, internal demand there is growing at about twice the pace of production, and is claiming all of the country's production gains.

Mexico faces even great obstacles in maintaining its export levels.

Production in the giant Cantarell field, home to half of the country's 3.5 million barrels per day of crude production, is already in the throes of rapid depletion. With production diminishing and internal demand growing, the country's export capacity looks to be lethally challenged.

Mexico's crude exports have already been falling since 2004 and could well become insignificant by 2012 - a loss of some 1.5 million barrels per day to world markets.

Mr. Rubin says diminished global supplies and resulting higher prices will lead the markets to rely more on higher cost unconventional deposits, like the Canadian oil sands which he believes will surpass deep water wells as the single largest source of new oil exports by decade end.

"Canada's oil sands will become increasingly coveted as they represent one of the last great reserves of supply open to private investment," says Mr. Rubin.

He estimates they represent anywhere from 50-70% of the world's oil reserves open to private investment, depending on one's view of the investment climate in Nigeria and Kazakhstan.

"For multinational oil firms, the world is rapidly shrinking," say Mr. Rubin.

"Increasingly they are shut out of the backyards of all the state-owned oil patches and then have to bid against those state firms in places still open for investment.

"Canada remains one of those few places where governments have been content to take their share of economic rents through royalties and not be concerned about the ownership per se."

Mr. Rubin's remarks were made at today's CIBC World Markets Industrial Conference where more than 50 big oil addicts - firms spanning the aerospace, defense, industrial services, chemicals, building products, steel, industrial multi-industry and industrial diversified sectors - are gathered to try and borrow more dosh from institutional investors.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Tide turns for sea power

Using tidal stream (ocean current) and tidal range technology the UK could supply at least 10% of its electricity (around 5% from each).

The Sustainable Development Commission has just published its long-awaited report on tidal power and this is its conclusion.

It says: "Such a substantial prize deserves very close attention as part of much wider action aimed at tackling the twin challenges of climate change and energy security", the goals of the Energy White Paper.

It says a barrage in the Severn Estuary could supply 4.4% of the above total (17TWh), generating electricity for over 120 years.

This is certainly four times longer than a nuclear power station.

But to mitigate its efects on the environment, they say it should:

• be publicly led as a project and publicly owned as an asset to avoid short-termist decisions and ensure the long-term public interest

• be fully compliant with European Directives on habitats and birds and with a long-term commitment to creating compensatory habitats on an unprecedented scale

• investigate a habitat creation that addresses the impacts of climate change over the long term.

The best tidal stream sites are in the north of Scotland, with significant potential also around north Wales (Anglesey where it could replace the power lost by the closure of Wylfa nuclear power station with marine current turbines), Northern Ireland, and the Channel Islands.

The tidal range resource is concentrated in the estuaries off the west coast of Britain, including the Severn, the Mersey and the Humber.

The UK is leading the world in the development of a wide range of tidal stream devices, several of which are at the testing stage. The UK must ‘stay the course’ in developing these technologies, as the export and climate change benefits are potentially very large.

Despite the encouraging progress made so far, Government could do more to assist these emerging technologies, particularly through flexible financial support, and by providing additional resources to the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney.

On tidal lagoons, the SDC found that there is a lack of available evidence on the costs and environmental impacts, mainly due to the absence of any practical experience. We have called on Government to support the development of one or more demonstration project, which would help provide real-life data on their economic and environmental viability.

> Tidal Power report