Thursday, September 29, 2011

Exposed: The Renewable Energy Foundation is a front for biofuel and energy-intensive industries, and anti-wind campaigners

The Renewable Energy Foundation sounds like a nice green charity that serves the cause of green energy. But it is in fact a front for the interests of biofuels companies, energy-intensive industries and even oil and gas companies.

It put out a scare story last week, claiming that Britain would lose 10,000 jobs due to the Government's current green policies and 30,000 jobs if those policies are accelerated.

Together with Civitas, the right wing think tank, REF's policy director John Constable argued that "the more green technologies are subsidised by the EU, the greater the predicted net loss for British workers".

But not just any green jobs. It found figures which led it to compare the average cost of a wind power job with the wage of a public worker (not the same thing at all) as £54,000 versus £29,000. What this fails to do is show the comparable cost of that public sector job.

But what of the financial benefit of the wind power job? The report is unable to say, instead admitting "it is not yet possible to estimate the net employment impacts of such costs" but insinuating "they seem unlikely to be positive".

There have been many criticisms of the REF over the years, particularly from the rest of the renewable energy sector, such as Renewable UK and Good Energy.

Juliet Davenport, CEO of Good Energy, has said, "The problem with the Renewable Energy Foundation is that their name is misleading. It suggests they are in favour of renewables when actually the opposite is true."

The Charity Commission even investigated and cautioned them on the grounds that they were engaging in political lobbying.

The REF doesn't see it like that; they claim that they are merely providing educational data sets. Nevertheless these sets are almost exclusively biased against wind power and in favour of biofuels.

Who are the REF?

The REF is registered as a charity at the Charity Commission, which means it can claim charitable tax status. Its website lists a chairman and three trustees, all of whom have strong links to either the biofuels and/or oil and gas industries.

Links to biofuel industries

Mike Starkie

REF's secretary is Mike Starkie, formerly Group Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer of oil company BP Plc, but now he is a Non-Executive Chairman of biofuel company Clenergy.

Clenergy, its website says, has been set up to build plants to generate "500MW/h" (sic) of electricity from imported, cultivated biofuels.

It envisages importing the fuels from countries where there are serious questions about the sustainability of the forests.

It announced this month that it aims to become nothing less than the worldwide supplier of biomass feedstock through licensing agreements and joint ventures through the cultivation of energy crop plantations throughout the developing world.

These will produce not just timber but pyrolysis oil and wood pellets.

The European Union is now under severe pressure to change its policy on biofuels and biomass after evidence has emerged that their use can actually increase carbon emissions.

ActionAid, Birdlife, ClientEarth, European Environmental Bureau, Oxfam, Transport and Environment and Wetlands International all signed a letter last week addressed to the European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, asking for the policy to be reviewed in the light of five scientific studies on the topic including one on land use by the EU's own scientific advisors.

The Renewable Energy Foundation has published no comment on this news.

If this evidence is accepted and policy changed, then support for biomass in the Renewables Obligation Order will undoubtedly have to be removed.

This is the policy shift for which Biofuelwatch, the campaign organisation that challenges the sustainability and carbon-neutral value of biofuels, is actively campaigning: for Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) to be withdrawn for both biofuels and biomass.

Yet another REF trustee, Colin Davies told the House of Lords in May this year that he does not want support for renewables but instead wants a change in the Renewable Obligation banding so that biomass, not wind power is favoured.

Under present ROC support, palm oil, imported timber and other biomass energy crops used as a source of electricity earns two ROCS per megawatt-hour (MWh) - currently worth around £90.

This has led to a large number of planning applications, many of which are approved already, for biofuel and biomass (mainly wood) power stations across the UK.

One was recently approved at Anglesey. Other companies wanting to build such plants include MGT Power, Prenergy, Helius Energy and Forth Energy.

Almost all plan to import the wood fuel from industrial plantations at the expense of tropical forests, grasslands and communities in countries such as Brazil, the Republic of Congo or Ghana, according to Biofuelwatch.

With the REF lobbying for an increase in support for biomass in the RO, and scientific evidence pulling in the other direction, there is speculation that this dilemma may be a factor in the delay in publication of the Government's review of Renewables Obligation Certificate banding.

Cambell Dunford

There is a further link to biofuels companies. REF's company address, 21 John Adam Street in London, is alongside Charing Cross Station. Also registered at the address is a limited company called REF Ventures Ltd., which sounds like it could be the trading arm of the charity.

However, this is listed as 'dormant' or 'ceasing to trade' at Companies House, where the name was registered in 2006.

REF Ventures has three listed officers. One of these is Cambell Dunford.

Dunford is a director of W4B, a company with two projects that involve burning imported palm oil to generate electricity; one in Portland, Dorset, and another in Avonmouth, Bristol - despite strong local and national opposition which questioned the sustainability of the source of the oil.

One of these plants alone, when or if operational, would double the amount of imported palm oil into this country.

Palm oil is strongly implicated in the destruction of natural rainforests in countries like Indonesia, and thus actually increasing climate change and flooding, and decreasing biodiversity.

Greenpeace Canada senior campaigner Stephanie Goodwin says four percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to come from the destruction of the Indonesian rainforests alone.

Links to energy-intensive industries

REF's chairman, Guy de Selliers, has little to do with renewable energy and much to do with energy-intensive industry.

He is listed by Forbes as a Director of a Russian Food company, Wimm Bill Dann Foods, which is a leader in dairy products and children’s food of which Pepsico recently bought a 66% controlling interest.

He is a member of the board of directors of Solvay S.A., a global group of pharmaceutical and chemical companies that makes, amongst other things, plastics and cellulose acetate fibre as used in cigarette filters. It has a new energy arm, founded last year - which is involved, at least partly, in biofuels – specifically, sugar cane operations in Brazil.

He's also been a director of an energy-intensive nickel processing company.

Colin Davies

REF Trustee Colin Davies is also the President of the Aluminium Foundation. He recently complained to the House of Lords about the "the huge costs facing energy-intensive industries" like his from the "introduction of Carbon Price Support and Phase 3 of the European Union's Emissions Trading scheme".

Davies is also director of aluminium company Alcoa and in both roles frequently can be heard complaining about the risk to his company and the aluminium industry, especially the upstream, energy-intensive side of the business, of ‘carbon leakage’, and asking for Government support, and appropriate compensation, i.e., against the burden of the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Links to the oil and gas industry

Besides REF's secretary, Mike Starkie, having been Group Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer of BP, another Trustee, Dr Carol Bell, is heavily involved in the oil and gas industry.

She is a board member of Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS), which helps oil companies find oil and gas reserves offshore worldwide.

Her company profile says she has over 25 years' experience in the oil and gas sector, particularly its investment and finance and also acts as Senior Advisor on Oil & Gas to Europa Partners, a corporate finance advisory firm; non-executive director of Hardy Oil and Gas plc.; a member of the Investment Advisory Committee of Gemini Oil and Gas (a private investment fund).

None of this has anything to do with renewable energy.

Anti-windfarm activity

REF's anti-wind stance is well known. The author of the report on renewable energy and jobs, John Constable, is frequently quoted by the likes of anti-windfarm group The Countryside Alliance.

Also well known is the involvement of the DJ and TV personality Noel Edmonds. The celebrity was a founder of the REF and is listed as an officer of REF Ventures.

Edmonds is also a director of motor, helicopter and aviation companies - all of no merit in terms of sustainability, let alone renewable energy - and 38 others, none of which are anything to do with renewable energy either.

Although he resigned from the REF itself a year ago, Noel Edmonds' involvement is explained by the fact that he is a vociferous opponent of windfarms. He told the Guardian in 2004 that he helped found he REF "because of the threat near his home in Devon".

In 2008 he told Daily Mirror readers that "Politicians are promoting the wind industry as a green icon, but they are misleading the public into believing the propaganda of the wind industry. The reality is that wind power is too costly and can never meet our energy needs; but it will destroy the countryside."

Edmonds is also on record (News of the World, 14th Sept 2008) as believing that there should be a total ban on migrants coming into Britain because its energy resources are stretched.

Other donors to the charity are known anti-windfarm campaigners, including Sigrid Rausing, heiress to the Tetrapak fortune (the family is among the richest in the country and owns an estate in Sussex and another in Scotland).

The REF doesn't disclose the identities of all of its donors, but of those it does, many are clearly influential and wealthy, For the rest, we can only speculate on the interests they have in trying to discredit windpower and lobby for biofuels and the oil and gas industry.


All of the above represents clear evidence that the Renewable Energy Foundation has an industrial agenda aimed at skewing Government policy in favour of the industries for which it is a front.

Its pronouncements on renewable energy, jobs, and especially windpower, must therefore be taken with several pinches of salt.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Engineers say "Yes We Can!" and blame governments for inaction in run up to Durban climate talks

wind turbines reflected in a car mirror
The technology needed to cut the world’s greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050 already exists, according to a joint statement by eleven of the world’s largest engineering organisations, including the UK's Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

The problem lies with politicians and the consequent lack of legislation and finance needed to ramp up efforts.

The professional bodies, together representing 1.2 million engineers, submitted their opinion last Friday to the South African Deputy High Commissioner as part of preparations for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which is to be held in Durban from November 28 to December 9, (COP 17).

They unanimously agree that not only is climate change real, and a danger, but that we can fight it by "generating electricity from wind, waves and the sun, growing biofuels sustainably, zero emissions transport, low carbon buildings and energy efficiency technologies" which have already "all been demonstrated".

The reason why we are not doing so on a sufficient scale to match the problem, their letter says, is "a desperate need for financial and legislative support from governments around the world".

“While the world’s politicians have been locked in talks with no output, engineers across the globe have been busy developing technologies that can bring down emissions and help create a more stable future for the planet," said Dr Colin Brown, Director of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Expressing hope that the December talks will achieve what those in Cancun last year and Copenhagen the year before failed to, he said, “We are now overdue for government commitment, with ambitious, concrete emissions targets that give the right signals to industry, so they can be rolled out on a global scale”.

The statement calls for agreements at Durban to:
  • let greenhouse gas emissions peak by 2020, then substantially reduce

  • make sure that policies do not unfairly impact on one particular industry or country

  • emphasise energy efficiency first - "the best available measure to bring down emissions in the short and medium term".

  • begin an intensive training programme in deploying environmental technologies

Pessimism for Durban talks

The Durban summit will focus on the future of the Kyoto Protocol, still the world's only treaty that mandates emission cuts. Its obligations expire at the end of 2012 and its future is uncertain because China and the United States, the world's top two polluters, are not subject to its constraints.

COP17 is seen as the last chance to make new commitments before then.

But with Japan, Canada and Russia having rejected a new round of carbon-cutting commitments, and the United States and the European Union having already said there is no chance of reaching a binding emissions deal in Durban, the problem is clearly a political, not an engineering one.

Maesela John Kekana, a senior policy adviser at South Africa's national Environmental Affairs department, told a parliamentary workshop on climate change this week that instead of a binding deal, "a second scenario" might be approved in Durban.

"This would involve the provisional application of a second commitment period for nations signed up to the Kyoto Protocol to reduce their emissions – due to come into effect in January 2013, after the first commitment period now in effect expires – while non-protocol nations like the US would agree to 'comparable obligations'”.

There would then be a transitional period until a new regime had been agreed after a review in 2015.

“That to me seems to be the more realistic scenario of what can happen,” Kekana said.

South Africa's environment minister has also called on rich countries to help poor countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ahead of the UN climate talks.

Edna Molewa said during the meeting on Monday, "We want to come out of the COP 17 saying that we have demonstrated our commitment, the will and capacity of our country and our people, as well as corporates, to lead a change revolution against climate change".

The stakes are perilously high, but pessimism is the order of the day.

A failure to make progress at the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) talks could result in a "collapse of the system", said NJ Mxakato-Diseko, ambassador at Large for COP 17/CMP 7, Department of International Relations & Cooperation South Africa, speaking last week at a Business for the Environment Climate Summit (B4E) in London.

This summit again beseeched political leaders to act, with over 250 high-level business, NGO and civil society leaders from 26 countries signing a document containing plans for industry commitments and political demands to speed up the change to a green economy.

The document will be communicated through to the Durban summit, to demonstrate, alongside the engineers' positive view, clear industry support for change to the climate negotiators.

The engineers' joint statement came out of The Future Climate 2 conference, also held in London last week, which saw international speakers from government, academia and engineering institutions discussing the technologies needed to combat climate change. The eleven engineering institutions that signed up to the joint statement are:
  • The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) (UK)

  • Institution of Engineers (India)

  • Association of German Engineers (VDI) (Germany)

  • Japanese Society of Mechanical Engineers (JSME) (Japan)

  • Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers (APESMA) (Australia)

  • Danish Society of Engineers (IDA) (Denmark)

  • Civil Engineer Organisation of Honduras (CICH) (Honduras)

  • Swedish Association of Graduate Engineers (Sweden)

  • Norwegian Society of Engineers (NITO) (Norway)

  • Finnish Association of Graduate Engineers (TEK) (Finland)

  • Union of Professional Engineers (UIL) (Finland)

The IMechE sees the 'green revolution' as "the lifeblood of UK manufacturing growth" and is organising a one day UK Energy Summit on Tuesday 1 November.

Thames Water makes electricity from dried poo. Is this good?

Poo granules - dried sewage
The above picture is not coffee granules. Do not add water. Do not attempt to drink.

It is dried poo, and Thames Water is using it to generate electricity.

The sewage company has installed a £1.5m sewage sludge dryer at its treatment plant in Slough and estimates that the resulting renewable fuel will be worth £300,000 and reduce its carbon emissions by over 500 tonnes a year.

Rupert Kruger, Thames Water’s head of innovation, said: “This is the first time in Britain that a waste dryer has been used to create ready-to-burn fuel from sewage sludge, rather than simply being used as a waste-reducer."

The dryer will process five tonnes of sewage sludge a day, which represents a fifth of the solid remains of the treatment process, heating it to about 180oC and stirring it with heated rotating paddles.

The fuel, which then has a calorific value similar to that of brown coal (8–10 MJ/kg), is transported to Thames Water's Crossness sewage works in Bexley, East London, and fed into a combined heat and power generator to generate renewable electricity.

The CHP plant has so far burnt 160 tonnes of ‘sludge cake’ a day. This unsavoury name refers to de-watered solids from sewage - the conventional form of post-treatment waste.

However, sludge cake is still 75% water. In order to burn this wet fuel, the generator also has to burn non-renewable gas from the grid.

But the new dried poo granules only contain 5% water, so this will help to reduce the amount of gas required, which is where the carbon savings come in.

The Slough sludge dryer is also eligible for additional Government ROC (Rewewable Obligation Certificate) support, providing extra revenue.

A further saving is achieved from a reduction in the number of truck journeys required to transport the sludge to where it was previously spread on agricultural land as fertiliser.

However, the process does mean that the nutrient value of the material is lost, leaving farmers to have to source alternative fertiliser elsewhere.

Sewage is a vital source of nutrients that have been removed from the soil in the form of food in the first place.

Traditionally, 'night soil' was always composted and used as a soil conditioner - for example in nineteenth century Paris, which was able to feed itself from the market gardens which surrounded it and which were fertilised this way.

The nutrients have to be found somewhere, and if they are burnt, where is that to be? From slurry from intensive pig farms and anaerobic digestion?

I hope so. Thames Water does not say.

The dryer at the Slough sewage works, developed by US firm Komline-Sanderson, is 98% thermally efficient, which means all but 2% of the energy used to heat the system is used.

However, the fuel created with this method is not entirely renewable because the drying process consumes 800kWh per tonne of dehydration water, which is typically supplied by fossil fuels.

A cheaper and more eco-friendly solution is practised in a plant that came online in May this year, at a sewage treatment facility in Strass, Styria. This dries the sludge using solar thermal power.

Run by the regional wastewater association of Leibnitzerfeld Süd and using a patented Wendewolf® process, this drying method requires just 30kWh of electricity for each tonne of dehydration water - a reduction of 98%.

At 126.3 metres, the solar dryer at Strass is currently the world’s longest solar sludge drying unit, and treats 1,700 tonnes of sludge a year, turning it into 460 tonnes of granules.

Back at Thames Water, Rupert Kruger insists that their new plant is part of the company's ongoing transition to turn more of its product into revenue-generating renewable fuels.

“For decades we have generated £15m a year of electricity by burning biomethane from sewage," he says, pointing out also that last year the company was the first in the UK to feed renewable gas, from sewage at a plant in Didcot, Oxfordshire, into the gas supply network.

It has also agreed plans to build Europe’s first reactor to produce phosphate-based fertiliser from sewage, also at Slough.

"The new sludge dryer is the next chapter in our quest unlock the full energy potential of waste,” he said.

Crossness is one of two Thames Water sites with sludge-powered generators. A further twenty, including the one at Slough, generate electricity and heat by burning biomethane gas from sewage, to help power the company's works.

The company claims this saves an average of £15m a year on energy bills.

Monday, September 26, 2011

An opencast mine could come to your back yard - and there is little you can do about it

Ffos-y-Fran open cast cola mine
Wales is still mourning the death of the four coal miners who were killed ten days ago at the Gleision Colliery near Cilybebyll, Swansea Valley. It's another reminder of just how dangerous this energy source is.

Welsh people puzzled over why the next Saturday's English newspapers led with the story of English rugby centre Mike Tindall, his wife Zara Phillips, and a certain blonde, rather than this tragedy, thinking that if the loss of four lives in a mining disaster had happened in England it would have received front page attention.

Be that as it may, the accident also served to highlight that coal has become more economic to mine in this country - and that opencast mining, while carrying more environmental risk, carries less risk to human life.

In terms of the number of people killed per unit of energy provided, coal mining certainly beats nuclear power, as this rather dissembling comparison made by pro-nuclear commentators established earlier this year.

So one might, then, welcome the fact that of 28 mines recently approved nationally, 14 are opencast; but the impetus for opencast mining has less to do with respect for life (health and safety regulations notwithstanding) and more to do with the economics of opencast vs. deep mines.

14 - the number that received planning permission in 2009, the last year for which statistics are available – is a lot when you consider that there were but 35 mines in production that year. Only six applications were refused, and they will probably be resubmitted, if they haven't been already.

In terms of area, these permitted developments total 367 hectares in England, 51 in Wales, topped by 623 in Scotland - a total of 1041 hectares - or about the same number of rugby pitches.

Coal is back. In England, production from opencast coal mining has started to increase again, following a peak in 1989 of over 12 million tonnes to a low of under one million in 2006.

Scottish production has never been below five million a year, while that in Wales has also increased over the last decade, now standing at over 1.5 million tonnes.

Residents who live near these mines experience terrible effects. Coal dust quickly dirties paintwork and washing, the noise of the huge trucks is constant and wearing, and the environment is devastated by being ripped up.

At Ffos-y-Fran, near Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, homes lie as near as 36 metres from the pit, which is a huge scar on the countryside 200 metres deep and three kilometres wide.

Local residents are currently locked in a legal dispute, trying to obtain compensation from the pit's owner, Miller-Argent (South Wales) Ltd.

Undaunted, Miller-Argent is now planning another opencast mine at Nant Llesg next to Ffos-y-Fran.

Exploratory work began last month and will continue for six months in preparation for a potential planning application in Spring 2012. Work could start in 2014 and last for over 15 years.

Climate activists - like the Coal Action Network - argue that the best form of carbon sequestration is to leave the coal in the ground - and they have an excellent point.

With Drax, formerly the UK's largest coal-burning power station, converting increasingly to combustion of biomass, and no more coal-burning power stations in the planning pipeline, at least until or unless carbon capture and storage becomes realistic and economically feasible, demand for coal will one day tail off.

But until the UK is able to rely much more on low carbon generation, its part in the electricity generation mix is set to continue.

Wales and Scotland have laws requiring a 500-metre buffer zone between opencast mines and homes. The situation at Ffos-y-Fron (developed before this law was passed) could not be repeated in Wales.

But, astonishingly to some, English homes currently have no such protection.

However, a Private Members' Bill is slowly winding its way through Parliament that could require the Secretary of State to publish guidance on opencast mining policy in England and give residents living near proposed opencast mines the same protection as that enjoyed in Wales and Scotland.

Brought by North West Leicestershire Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, the Planning (Opencast Mining Separation Zones) Bill would bring England into line with its neighbours in this respect, "unless the circumstances are exceptional".

New, opencast mines are planned right across England - in the counties of Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. Is there one near you? You might want to check.

Bridgen's Bill passed its first reading way back in June 2010 and was due to be have its second in February this year, but only received a partial discussion. It was scheduled again for 28 October – next month - but once more has been squeezed out for lack of Parliamentary time.

This is bad news for anyone living near the sites threatened by the new pits or an expansion of existing ones, like the mother of one of Bridgen's constituents from whom he received a letter which contained the following:

“They have just started an opencast mine in the field behind my mother’s house in Shropshire" (where protestors were evicted from a camp last month). "In weeks we expect her view of fields and The Wrekin to be replaced by a 9 metre high mound of earth 6 metres from her property. She is 84 years old and until the Shropshire Star did an article on her, the opencast company had not even bothered to visit her or contact her.

"With an opencast mine and then a landfill site she will no longer be able to open her windows or sit in her garden. What a way to spend the final years of your life. She would now like to move but this is now impossible. Nobody would buy it and the opencast company is not interested even though they own the property on either side of her.”

Surely the Localism Bill will help such people? I'm afraid not; it specifically excludes mineral policy, and will give no protection for local communities against developments such as this.

I repeat: if you hear of a mine – of any type - planned near your home, there is little you can do about it.

In Scotland, despite the exclusion zone, there is plenty of opposition to opencast mining, which shows that although a buffer zone provides some protection, it does not mean that residents living near to such mines are happy about them.

Despite the Coalition Government's localism agenda, planning law, now and into the future, allows developers to bulldoze their way through the wishes of local people.

The fact that such mines are opposed by MPs of every hue when one threatens their constituency shows that no one really wants them. And yet, presumably, we want the benefits they yield.

What can we do? At the very least, communities should be able to express an opinion on the way Mineral Planning Policy for their area could impact on their local Neighbourhood Plan, and obtain information from and petition their local Mineral Planning Authority.

There is still time to inscribe this in legislation, before the Localism Bill becomes law and the National Planning Policy Framework is adopted. But those wishing to do so must act fast.

You could also contact your MP and ask them to support Bridgen's Buffer Zone Bill by finding the time to take it further.

It's not just coal, but any mineral which is affected by this policy. You never know - some may be discovered in your back yard - as it has this month in the case of shale gas to the communities between Preston and Blackpool, Lancashire.

Friday, September 23, 2011

What's wrong with businesses that don't save money when it's so easy?

Richard Rugg, the Director of Carbon Trust Programmes,
Richard Rugg, the Director of Carbon Trust Programmes, really can't understand why more organisations are not taking advantage of the free advice available from the Trust.

Because at relatively low cost a wide range of industrial, commercial and public sector organisations can cut their energy bills by up to 25% if only they took energy management seriously. Payback periods can be as low as two months - and then it's into the profit zone.

Richard is full of examples of success stories, such as a famous confectionary company who, within two weeks of developing an energy plan, had taken action and was seeing noticeable improvements.

It had set up a team that met on a monthly basis. The end result was a reduction in the energy bill of £22,000 - plus a 22% improvement in production output.

The total cost of the projects implemented was £58,790 giving a simple payback of 2.8 years. The company was also easily able to achieve its Climate Change Agreement targets.

The Trust is reminding businesses and organisations once again that it has a free Advice Line (0800 085 2005) as a first port of call.

But it has also published a new, user-friendly guide to managing energy and is running a free webinar on 28th September, which anyone can sign up to.

“Cutting overheads is rightly high on the agenda at the moment," says Richard. But he is still observing that energy costs don't receive the attention they deserve.

"When it comes to managing energy, ignorance certainly isn't bliss," he continues. "If you don't know where to start, download our new guide, and call our advice line for your free Energy Saving Plan, to see how your organisation could start cutting its energy bills."

Energy management is the systematic use of management and technology to improve an organisation’s energy performance.

But to be fully effective, it needs to be integrated, proactive, and incorporate energy procurement, energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The new guide, Energy management – a comprehensive guide to controlling energy use, is part of the Carbon Trust's Expert in Energy series, and contrasts poor practice with good practice.

Examples of poor practice include: treating energy costs as an unquestioned overhead; having no clear or consistent chain of responsibility for energy management; a lack of awareness of energy issues; and procuring energy from the same supplier year-on-year, without a cost comparison.

Good practice would involve treating energy as a strategic issue and its management as an opportunity, with strong guidance from board level permeating through to rewarded action throughout the workforce, with adequate resources and business planning attached to it.

The guide includes an Energy Management Assessment for an organisation to test itself on how energy-aware it already is and where there is room for improvement.

It can then chart its way through a handily-designed 'energy management matrix' of options.

The guide also points readers to other sources of help from the Carbon Trust, such as a document on how to make the business case for a carbon reduction project and get senior decision-makers on board.

Many companies have already taken advantage of the Carbon Trust's support, from household names like Sainsbury's - who used appointed 'energy champions' to save 5% on energy consumption - to small companies like Guala, a manufacturer of bottle closures for the spirits industry, which was able to make energy costs savings of £117,000 per year based on annual electricity savings of 2,000 Mwh, at their plant in Kirkintilloch, Scotland.

Some measures had ridiculously short payback times, and resulted from getting a fresh eye in to examine habitual behaviour patterns and point up ways to change them that meant money wasn't being unnecessarily wasted.

For Guala, this included increasing the temperature of cooling water, which cost £500 but yielded savings of £3,800 per year - a payback period of less than two months.

The same payback period came from an outlay of £2,500 for advanced ultrasonic leak detection equipment plus £8,000 for new nozzles and valves, which eased the load on the air compressors, saving over £58,000 per year.

Many energy efficient technologies qualify under the Enhanced Capital Allowances scheme, and may be written down in the year of purchase.

Furthermore, the Carbon Trust can provide Small and Medium Enterprises or businesses that do not qualify for participation in the Carbon Reduction Commitment, with an interest free loan of up to £400,000, repayable over up to four years, for investment in energy efficiency measures.

Don't let the shale gas found in Lancashire ever be fracked

Cuadrilla's drilling operation for shale gas near Blackpool, Lancashire, UK
Enough gas has been discovered beneath the soils of Lancashire to power the UK for 66 years, according to Cuadrilla Resources, but will it ever be exploited?

Not if campaigners at a new camp have their say.

The mining company's survey claims to have found up to 5.66 trillion cubic metres of gas in the Bowland Shale area near Blackpool, the extraction of which could directly generate 1,700 jobs in the area, with more ancillary jobs resulting.

The company's chief executive Mark Miller said that between 400 and 800 wells could be dug.

This amount of gas is considerably larger than the British Geological Survey's previous estimate of the UK's total onshore shale gas resources - up to 150 billion cubic metres.

Whatever the true amount, which has yet to be independently verified, much of this gas may not be feasibly recoverable, and environmentalists have been quick to point out the problems associated with the technology used to extract it.

This is a process known as a hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which huge amounts of water, sand and chemicals must be injected at high pressure into deep wells to force the gas out.

In Lancashire, Cuadrilla had to suspend fracking operations pending the results of investigations to find whether it caused two earthquakes in June.

The research is being conducted by looking specifically at the geological and seismic properties of the rock strata and shale in and around Poulton-le-Fylde, and any linkages between the recent seismic tremors and hydraulic fracturing operations in the area.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change is due to receive the results of the study shortly, but the British Geological Society says that it is well known that injection of water or other fluids during processes such as oil extraction, geothermal engineering and shale gas production can result in earthquake activity.

Typically, the earthquakes are too small to be felt; however, there are a number of examples of larger earthquakes occurring.

The Hot Dry Rock Geothermal energy research project at Rosemanowes, Cornwall resulted in many thousands of induced earthquakes. However, only one, the largest with a magnitude of 2.0, was felt.

Environmental cost of fracking

Climate camp protestors began a camp last week at Hesketh Banks near Preston, one of three sites where exploratory drilling is continuing, and cite several environmental concerns that led France to become the first country to ban the process, back in July.

Local residents are anxious that drilling will not result in episodes like that which occurred in June 2010 in June 3 in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, when a geyser of natural salt water, mud and chemicals shot out of a well called Punxsutawney Hunting Club 36, 75 feet into the air for a period of 16 hours.

In North Texas, fracking is resulting in a shortage of sand, which has to be mined and transported to the site by the gas producer EOG Resources. This has attracted local opposition because of the air and noise pollution.

Throughout North America, the increase in fracking has driven up demand and prices for the sand. "There's been a sand shortage in the U.S.," according to Mark Papa, the Chief Executive Officer of oil and gas producer EOG Resources. "And so those who have sand or have access to sand can pretty much charge what they want for that sand."

In 2009 in the U.S., the process used 6.5 million tons, a figure expected to have doubled in 2010, when statistics become available.

Elsewhere, aquifer water has been contaminated, and in New York methane has entered domestic water supplies.

Substantial amounts of water are required. Evidence given by the Tyndall Centre to the Energy and Climate Change Committee suggests that "to sustain production levels [of shale gas] equivalent to 10% of UK gas consumption in 2008 would require around 2,500-3,000 horizontal wells spread over some 140-400km2 and some 27 to 113 million tonnes of water".

For all of these reasons WWF-UK and Greenpeace are opposed to the production of shale gas in the UK.

Shale gas and climate change

There is also concern about the climate impact of fracking. This, although yet unclear, is certainly higher than that for natural gas which, when extracted conventionally, has between two-thirds and one half the global warming potential of coal.

Non-peer-reviewed reports from the U.S. quoted by the Tyndall Centre in the above paper put the extra amount of CO2 at 0.14-1.63tonnes CO2/TJ of gas energy extracted.

A more recent study by Cornell University has found that shale gas can have the same or greater impact as coal, especially when the impact is measured over two decades.

The paper concludes: "Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20% greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon and is comparable when compared over 100 years."

The paper looks at the impact of fact that between 3.6% and 7.9% of the methane from shale-gas production escapes to the atmosphere in venting and leaks over the well's lifetime.

The researchers add that "the GHG footprint of shale gas approaches or exceeds coal even when used to generate electricity".

This conclusion has been disputed, especially by the industry itself, which claims the results are seriously exaggerated.

The paper does not include in its life cycle analysis the global warming impact of the mining and transportation of the sand, chemicals and water used in the fracking process, and so the overall impact may in fact be greater. But no study has yet been undertaken that does this.

The position of Connie Hedegaard, the European Commissioner for Climate Action, given in July, is that "it is too early to draw any firm conclusions regarding the climate and environmental impacts of possible future shale gas exploitation in Europe".

She said that the environmental and commercial viabilities of potential shale gas sources still need to be established, and that the Commission is monitoring the situation in order to minimise potential environmental and climate impacts of shale gas exploration and production.

The Government's wait-and-see approach

The British Government is also adopting a neutral position. In answer to a Parliamentary Question in July from Green MP Caroline Lucas, Charles Hendry, Minister for Energy and Climate Change, said that he had "made no assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions of shale gas related extraction: emissions from shale gas extraction processes will be determined by the design and conditions of a particular development and no development has been proposed for the UK."

Answering another question from Conservative MP Laurence Robertson, Mr. Hendry said the Government will "continue to encourage the energy industry to maximise indigenous oil and gas production and infrastructure opportunities".

In a separate debate on energy, Hendry's opinion was that the fracking fluid "is 99% water and the majority of the remainder is an inert soapy-type compound", and that he was satisfied with the environmental controls that were in place to cover the methane's extraction.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee issued the results of their investigations into shale gas in May.

MPs said that the technique does not pose a direct risk to underground water aquifers, provided that the well to be hydraulically fractured is constructed properly.

Their report also expressed satisfaction that existing environmental regulations and enforcement would prevent leaks of methane from wells or pipelines, based on advice from the Environment Agency.

But MPs did express concern that a concentration on shale gas could "divert investment away from renewable technologies like solar, wind, wave or tidal power".

They concluded that although it has less global warming impact than coal, shale gas "will not be sufficient to meet long term emissions reductions targets and avoid the worst effects of global climate disruption".

Given that Chris Huhne signalled this week that he wants to minimise the construction of more gas-burning power stations unless they also include carbon capture and storage, then this may, at least, limit the domestic market for shale gas, even if Cuadrilla overcomes local opposition and receives planning and environmental consents for further drilling.

Which locals and those campers are not going to let happen if they can help it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

899MW of newly approved biomass plants could increase carbon emissions

Last week DECC approved construction of a new 299MW biomass-burning plant owned by Anglesey Aluminium Metal Renewables. But new opinion from the Scientific Committee of the European Environment Agency (EEA) says plants like this will not be carbon-neutral and may even result in increased carbon emissions.

The proposed plant will employ up to 600 people during construction and around 100 full-time personnel when operational, and the company says its feedstock will be sourced from both imported and local sources - perhaps forests in Wales - with imports coming in through the Port of Holyhead.

This approach for sourcing fuel is identical to that being followed by Drax, which was given consent for 580MW of biomass-fuelled plant in the north-east six weeks ago.

Both are awaiting final go-ahead for construction when the results of the Government's review of the Renewable Obligation Certification (ROC) incentive scheme are announced, expected next month.

The EEA's report, however, says that biomass - fuels of plant origin like trees - should not be considered carbon neutral because this "fails to recognize that if bioenergy were not produced, land would typically grow plants anyway, and those plants would continue to absorb carbon and help to reduce carbon in the air".

The report calls it "double-counting to credit bioenergy for reducing carbon in the atmosphere through plant growth" because "plants would grow and absorb that carbon anyway".

The opinion derives from peer-reviewed articles published in Science magazine by a Princeton University researcher, Tim Searchinger.

The explanation for the opinion is given by a thought experiment: "imagine a hectare of cropland just abandoned and allowed to reforest. These growing plants would absorb carbon from the atmosphere into plant biomass." Some of that would be consumed and the carbon released by organisms into the atmosphere.

"Other carbon would be stored in vegetation and soils as the forest grows, and that ... would have the effect of offsetting some of the emissions of carbon by burning fossil fuels."

"However, if, instead of allowing the forest to grow, the land were used to grow energy crops which were burned in an electric power plant, their use would displace fossil fuel emissions, but the actual CO2 emitted by the power plant chimneys would not be reduced.

"Per unit of energy, the CO2 emissions would typically even be higher than those of a fossil fuel-burning power plant because biomass contains less energy per unit of carbon than petroleum products or natural gas and because biomass is usually burned with a lower efficiency than fossil fuels," the paper concludes.

In other words, using land to grow bioenergy crops sacrifices the use of the land to absorb and sequester carbon.

The CO2 released from the plant could only be counted as carbon-neutral if or when the carbon absorbed by the energy crops and burned in the power plant exceeded that which would otherwise be absorbed and sequestered by the growing forest.

This opinion has been questioned by Marlene Holzner, spokeswoman for EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, who cited another report compiled by Econometrica which says Searchinger did not compare CO2 emissions from biofuels to those from petrol.

The scientist himself has disagreed, saying,"The whole point of the analysis was to make that comparison – detail for detail. Biofuels will not reduce emissions, and may increase them."

Recent reports by the EU's Joint Research Centre JRC and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) have also concluded that the burning of biofuels can increase CO2 output.

The EEA's opinion document does give examples of three scenarios where biofuels may reduce carbon emissions and not displace food crops:
  1. when bioenergy crops are planted on lands once covered with tropical forests that have been overrun by invasive grasses that frequently burn

  2. wastes that would otherwise be disposed of and allowed to decompose, emitting methane

  3. crop residues that would otherwise be burned. However, care must be taken to ensure that this loss of residues does not lead to reduced productivity and therefore reduced plant growth or reduced carbon sequestration in soils.

Furthermore, the document says that accounting must reflect any increases in GHG emission from fertiliser production required to replace the nutrients from the residues.

How does this affect the approved new UK biomass burning stations?

DECC's consenting letter says the plant may burn “biomass fuel feedstocks” that are defined as "fuel, excluding material which is, or is derived directly or indirectly from animal matter, which qualifies as 'biomass' under Article 4 of the Renewables Obligation Order 2009 (S.I. 2009 No. 785)".

This Article only defines biomass as material of which "at least 90 per cent of its energy content is derived...directly or indirectly from plant matter, animal matter, fungi or algae)".

This definition is incredibly broad. Therefore, in the absence of any other conditions, it is likely that timber from managed forests will be used as one of very few feedstocks that can be reliably and consistently sourced at the volume required by such large plants.

In this case, if Searchinger is right, overall carbon emissions resulting from the plants could well actually increase.

Anglesey Aluminium Metal Renewables is owned by Anglesey Aluminium Metal Ltd, which itself is jointly owned by Rio Tinto (51%) and Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation (49%).

No one from Anglesey Aluminium Metal Ltd was able to comment at this stage over the exact sources for the fuel for the proposed plants.

Anglesey Aluminium Metal used to run an aluminium smelting operation. This obtained its energy needs from the neighbouring old Wylfa Magnox nuclear power plants - two 490 MW reactors - Wales' only nuclear power plants, which are due for closure next near.

The smelting plant closed down itself on 30 September 2009 with the loss of many jobs.

But Wylfa is one of eight sites the Government considers suitable for future nuclear power stations. Horizon Nuclear Power, an E.ON and RWE joint venture, has said it intends to build about 3,000 MWe of new nuclear plant next to the old plants.

Floating turbines and car-rally suspension are part of the offshore windfarm future

As the UK announces new proposals for maintaining offshore windfarms in rough seas that could save up to £3bn, Japan is planning a floating windfarm off the coast of Fukushima to help replace its lost nuclear power generation.

The Carbon Trust has published a shortlist of 13 designs picked from 450 submissions of ideas that would help transfer engineers and equipment from boats to turbines in ocean swells of up to three metres.

Among them are a boat that uses a giant robotic arm to make the transfers to the turbine base, one with suspension inspired by Paris Dakar-winning rally cars that keeps it stable, and another which, like a seahorse, has a deep keel to provide balance.

Meanwhile, according to a government official, Japan is going one step further by looking at wind farm designs which, instead of being fixed to the seabed, are anchored to it and float on the surface.

Its energy agency is looking at siting some of these off the Pacific coast of Fukushima prefecture, where the nuclear reactors that went into meltdown six months ago are located.

The country is expecting to move towards a non-nuclear, renewables-powered future by not replacing nuclear power stations as they become redundant.

The Japanese energy agency has assigned up to 20 billion yen (£166 million) to the project, using cash intended to finance the rebuilding of the disaster-hit area, the official said.

The windfarm would consist of six floating 2MW wind turbines, and would be operational by 2015.

Britain's future 'round three' offshore windfarms will utilise much larger turbines - 10MW or more - and may be located up to 300km away from land and in deeper seas than at present - up to 80m - consisting of up to 2,500 turbines.

Maintaining them in harsh weather conditions will be a tough job, but it has economic consequences - increasing access time by just 4% could save up to £3bn.

Through its Offshore Wind Accelerator programme, the Carbon Trust is therefore coordinating eight UK wind farm developers - E.ON, DONG Energy, Mainstream Renewable Power, RWE Innogy, ScottishPower Renewables, SSE Renewables, Statkraft and Statoil – to sponsor a competition to find solutions.

The winning technologies are expected to increase the access time from the current average of 210 days a year to 300, and to help reduce the levelised cost of offshore wind by saving an extra 1.3Mt CO2 per year.

Climate Change Minister Greg Barker called the projects "some of the best ideas to overcome the challenges of working in deeper water.”

The new generation of turbines will also be specifically designed for use in these windier situations by having much larger and better adapted blades.

Each successful applicant to the competition will get up to £100,000 to support the design and development of their concept, as well as technical support from the eight developers in the Offshore Wind Accelerator.

The Trust says that the shortlisted designers include a university student as well as established offshore wind maintenance vessel operators, and come from the UK, Norway, Germany, Netherlands, Canada and Australia.

The systems, together with the shortlisted winners, include:

• Transfer systems – to transfer personnel and equipment from vessel to turbine, potentially with motion-compensation:
o Autobrow, South Boats
o MOTS, Momac GmBH
o Wind Bridge, Knud Hansen
o TAS2, BMT Nigel Gee / Houlder

• Vessels – for transporting personnel and equipment from permanent bases or mother ships to turbines, incorporating a transfer system:
o Pivoting Deck Vessel, North Sea Logistics
o Nauti-Craft, Nauti-Craft
o Fjellstrand Vessel, Fjellstrand
o SES Vessel, Umoe Mandal
o SolidSea, University of Strathclyde
o TranSPAR, Extreme Ocean Innovation

• Launch and recovery systems – fitted to the permanent bases or mother ships for launching and recovering daughter craft from the sea:
o Launch & Recovery, Offshore Kinetics
o Z Port, Z Technologies
o Launch And Recovery System, Divex.

The Carbon Trust says that the global offshore wind sector is set to grow by up to 10% per year with the UK expected to capture around a 10% share of this market, estimated to be worth up to £170bn/year by 2050, making these solutions potential future export money-spinners.

Back in Japan, the six reactors at the damaged Daiichi (number two) plant where reactors went into meltdown following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. will be taken out of operation.

In addition, it has been announced that the four damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daini plant that have been brought to a stable state of "cold shutdown", are also unlikely to ever start up again.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Green Deal will fail under current arrangements

The Green Deal, flagship of the Government's Energy Bill and intended to help the housing sector contribute to cutting UK carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, is likely to be underfinanced and will fail by not attracting enough support from residents.

That was the message from MPs as the House of Commons debated the Energy Bill again on Wednesday, before it moves back for the final time to the Lords.

But they were unable to obtain any guarantees from Energy Minster Charles Hendry, of the value or interest charged on loans to residents or the degree of support that may come from the Green Investment Bank, factors that will have a massive effect on the degree of take-up of the scheme.

The green deal is the “pay as you save” scheme for retrofitting energy efficiency measures to every one of the 28m homes in the country.

A new amendment was passed to force the Secretary of State submit proposals on the ways in which the Green Investment Bank could maximise its take-up and to enable the consumer to compare recommendations and estimated costs and savings.

This is in effect limited by the 'golden rule' that the cumulative cost of the rate of interest and the cost of the installation should not exceed the amount that people are currently paying on their energy bills.

The percentage game

It's the interest rate of the loan repayments that is one of the crucial factors.

The Great British Refurb campaign's survey of about 2,000 people found that whereas 56% saw the green deal as attractive, only 7% said that they would be prepared to take it up if a 6% interest rate applied; if it were set at 2% per annum, they would be “very” or “fairly” likely to take it up.

MPs said they wanted the scheme to have a single interest rate in order to provide clarity, fairness, stimulate mass demand and, crucially, force green deal providers to "compete for customers on the cost and quality of the energy efficiency measures and installation, rather than on the headline interest rate of the finance".

Green MP Caroline Lucas (this week voted MP of the Year in the Scottish Widows & Dods Women in Public Life Awards) wanted the Green Investment Bank to be able to ensure a common and low interest rate - below 2% if possible - pointing out that a (very) different scheme in Germany offers publicly subsidised interest rates of 2.65% and has achieved 100,000 residential retrofits in a year - and the Government must achieve 145,000 every month to have a hope of meeting the required targets.

But Barker said the legislation will not place restrictions on the level of interest charged, instead relying on the market to decide.

Nor could he guarantee that the Green Investment Bank could support the interest rate, although its priorities are to address market failure.

Barker said that it is up to the market to set the interest rate, however, although there will be some protection for the fuel poor, and in order to prevent subsequent owners of a property being penalised for the fact that the previous residents were not considered credit-worthy.

The Government has yet to undertake consultation on the secondary legislation that will bring in the regulations, and this is what will determine the degree of willingness of financial backers to climb on board.

Barker added that the Government's own consumer research showed that the biggest factor in their taking up the green deal would be "a desire to make their home nicer".

The Energy Company Obligation and fuel poverty

The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) for energy companies is supposed to target the needs of vulnerable consumers, and the green deal is supposed to tackle the issue of fuel poverty, but with an unprecedented 1.9 million people in arrears with their energy bills in this country and 5.5 million living in fuel poverty - both numbers rising by the day - it is unclear whether any financier is going to want to touch them.

Barker admitted as much, saying "I cannot give a universal commitment" that they will all have access to the deal.

Barker tried to provide reassurance by saying "Many of the families and individuals [in arrears or fuel poverty] will be captured by community roll-out and street-by-street roll-out of energy efficiency improvement schemes."

ECO is expected to offer insulation and home improvements to whole streets, regardless of income, to ensure improvements are made at scale - which is far more cost-effective than house-to-house, especially where external insulation is required.

But the crucial question is how much finance it will have available.

Lucas certainly doesn't believe that as things stand there will be enough cash available to make the green deal work.

"Yes, we have the ECO £1 - 2bn," she said, "but this is a small proportion of what will be required".

In fact, as MP Barry Gardiner pointed out, the Committee on Climate Change estimates that up to £17 billion of support will be required through the ECO to insulate 2.3 million solid walls alone by 2022.

Similarly, he said "we cannot keep pushing up the ECO" because of its impact on every energy bill payer.

In addition, it is unclear whether the Treasury levy cap on DECC's spending will cover the ECO, and limit the support it can give to tackle fuel poverty still further. The two departments are still locked in negotiations over that one.

All Barker would say at this point is that DECC will publish in the autumn its expectations of how DECC policies, taken together, will impact on consumers through to 2020.


The green deal, as MP Andrea Leadsom pointed out is, essentially, a financial services product. As such it is regulated by the Office of Fair Trading, which will be expected to ensure that any mis-selling is stamped out at the outset and full compensation is paid to any victims.

However, MPs raised concerns over whether the OFT will have sufficient resources to undertake this extra work, which could be considerable.

Market research has shown that customers would welcome and are therefore more likely to trust the involvement of local authorities, community groups and third sector organisations when thinking about entering into a green deal.

The legislation will allow for this and contain "a clear enforceable framework within the green deal code of practice" to ensure impartiality of advice and prohibit high-pressure sales tactics, as used infamously by energy companies recently.

Greg Barker said, "one of the most exciting things about the green deal is its potential to give rise to new third sector involvement in delivering energy efficiency services."

DECC is now setting up a new workshop to look specifically at how the provisions can best work with older buildings and for service family accommodation, particularly older historic buildings.

Contrary to MPs demands that it makes more sense for repayments of the loans to come from a gas bill (used more for heating than electricity), Barker said it will not be possible to specify whether the instalments will be paid via the customer's electricity bill or gas bill, as this would double the cost of administering the scheme.

He also said that liability for green deal payments should sit on the balance sheet not of energy companies, but of the green deal provider, such as B & Q, Marks & Spencer or John Lewis.

The amendments include one, brought by Luciana Berger, Lab/Co-op MP for Wavertree, Liverpool, to clarify and encourage green deal installation apprenticeships to create the necessary skilled workforce.

However, there was no discussion of standards of insulation and energy efficiency that will be required. That, too, will have to wait until the secondary legislation.

With the implementation date 12 months away for the green deal, there is still plenty of work to do before stakeholders will even be able to estimate how effective it may turn out to be, but there is certainly much concern that it will not be as attractive as it needs to be.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It pays to measure & report your greenhouse gas emissions

Firms which disclose greenhouse gas emissions perform better financially

Companies which regularly measure, report and reduce their carbon emissions are much more likely to outperform their competitors financially too, according to a new survey from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).

Moreover, the best way to achieve success in this field is to reward employees financially.

The CDP says the link between success in reporting emissions and profit is "because these companies clearly disclose the potential investment implications which climate change may have" on them.

The 2011 Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index (CDLI) and the Carbon Performance Leadership Index (CPLI) cover Global 500 firms - Fortune magazine's annual list of the top 500 global companies, ranked by revenues.

Each year, company responses are reviewed, analysed and scored for the quality of disclosure and performance on actions taken to mitigate climate change. This results in a disclosure score and, where sufficient disclosure exists, a performance score.

This year, 404 firms joined the Project and 68% of these have now embedded climate change into the centre of their business strategies, compared with 48% in 2010, indicating a fast-moving, positive trend.

The results of the survey show that companies included in the CDLI in 2011 had a higher total return - interest, capital gains, dividends and distributions - from January 2005 to May 2011 than non-disclosing Global 500 companies, outperforming them by 40% over these six years and by over 60% over the last three years.

Furthermore, those companies included in the CPLI - which contains the elite of those in the CDLI - outperformed Global 500 companies by a total of 40% over a six year period and by over 50% over the last two years.

This indicates that companies which have an integrated climate change strategy and are successfully managing their greenhouse gas emissions achieve higher financial performance too.

This does not necessarily mean that one causes the other, the report's authors add; both will be influenced by a range of factors, such as the quality of the companies’ management or the companies’ broader approach to identifying and capitalizing on opportunities or managing risks.

Nevertheless, it indicates that investors will look favourably on companies which disclose their emissions management when choosing where to invest, and sends a powerful signal that other companies who are not currently doing so should follow suit.

Money talks

Boards can choose from a well-established menu of strategies for achieving emission reduction targets, but it is clear from the report that financially rewarding employees works best.

Just as bonuses in the banking industry stimulate winning behaviour in terms of making money, so they do everywhere in terms of saving energy.

The use of monetary incentives is a key factor helping CPLI companies outperform others in the Global 500. All of them use monetary incentives compared to just 65% (259) of the Global 500.

The report says, "linking employee incentives to climate change strategy demonstrates a clear drive towards low carbon growth".

Telefonica is one such company. "Since 2010, it was established that its energy managers should include energy efficiency targets in their performance bonus. They will receive 100% of their annual bonus if they have achieved and justified the targets,” says their disclosure record.

The high achievers

The highest disclosure score in 2011 is 99 out of 100; four companies achieved this impressive result (Philips Electronics, Bayer, Deutsche Post and UPS).

Cisco Systems scored 98, and Siemens, Tesco, Fortum Oyj and Bank of America all scored 97. In 2010, the highest disclosure score was 98 and only one company, Siemens, achieved this.

Criteria for success include the extent to which a company has measured its carbon emissions, and the extent of the internal data management practices for understanding GHG emissions, including energy use.

CDLI companies are more likely to set emissions reduction targets. In 2011, 96% (50) of the CDLI stated that they have emissions reduction targets versus 70% (242) of non-CDLI respondents.

The Carbon Performance Leadership Index (CPLI) includes the companies in the highest performance band and provides a valuable perspective on the range and quality of activities being performed by the Global 500 in response to climate change.

Of the 404 Global 500 companies who responded to the CDP, 29 attained Global 500 Performance Leader status and distinguish themselves through demonstrated integration of their climate-related risks and opportunities into their overall business strategy.

They all reported significant emissions reduction in the past year compared to 45% (178) of the overall Global 500.

Europe and Australia are the strongest performing regions and Europe has the most companies in the CPLI (16, 55% of CPLI) despite only representing 34% of the responding population.

The best performing country was Germany, which made up 14% of the CPLI.

The top performing companies are: BMW, Fiat, Honda Motor Company, Philips Electronics, Tesco;, Bank of America, National Australia Bank, Swiss Re, UBS, Westpac Banking, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Schneider Electric, Cisco Systems, Samsung, SAP, Sony Corporation, Air Products & Chemicals, BASF.

In terms of sectors, Utilities is the best performing sector. The Financial sector has the most companies in the CPLI. There was only one company, BG Group, in the Energy sector and one, ENEL in the Utilities sector.

There were none in the IT and Telecommunications sector. This sector is widely acknowledged as being the most recalcitrant in attempting to reduce its growing impact on climate change, especially in its use of energy-guzzling data centres.

Managing supply chains

Managing the impacts of supply chains on overall emissions is an important step in minimising emissions, and the Carbon Disclosure Project has a separate programme to support companies doing this.

Its latest report on the subject says that whereas the ambition of suppliers to reduce carbon emissions "still does not meet global carbon reduction requirements to limit the rise of global surface temperature, there is hope" since companies are "increasingly using their influence and power to drive change."

The National Grid is one company that is a member of this programme. Its Chief Procurement Officer, Ray Schlaff, is on record as saying that National Grid is "working towards incorporating carbon management into our supplier selection criteria in the future."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Auto-makers vie to wow public with the coolest eco-cars

Fisker Surf hybrid car
It's back to the future with the coolest electric cars at the Frankfurt Car Show, which is showcasing a fleet of revolutionary, green, efficient, and quiet vehicles – as virtually every automaker is pushing out a low-carbon model or three to fit every type of market.

The first cars were electric. A hundred years ago a bus company in America ran intercity services, lifting spent batteries out and replacing them with charged ones in double quick time at depots at each terminus.

Internal combustion engines took over because they were easier to use and because of the independence they gave their owners. Now, it's back to the future, as personal mobility is the key.

Electric two-wheeled vehicles actually outsell cars in some cities, for example in China. And in Europe, sales of electric motorcycles and scooters outstrip electric cars.

And although petrol heads (should we start calling them 'battery-heads'?) want to know which is the fastest electric car (try the Tesla Roadster - 0-60mph in 3.7 seconds with 288bhp), the latest Frankfurt Car Show showcases 'green' vehicles of every type - all in a Hall to themselves for the first time.

Germans are flocking to see them – not least because their country has a goal of one million electric vehicles on the road by 2020.

The Tesla is being followed up soon with a 'Model S' 7-seater with a range of 300 miles on a single charge. But, since the vast majority of journeys are short, it's not range but low running costs that are going to persuade more and more people to shell out the extra £1000s for an electric or hybrid model.

City-based two-seaters are emerging along the lines of the successful Smart car, such as Audi's futuristically-shaped Urban Concept electric car. This gets to 37mph in six seconds, with a top speed of 65mph, and is half the weight of your average city car due to its carbon fibre, plastic and aluminium body.

Smart is not resting on its laurels and is launching the Forvision, which promises to increase range by 20% and has PV cells powering low-energy light-emitting diodes, infrared reflective films and high performance insulating foams.

Volkswagen - currently resisting a Greenpeace campaign to get them to make more low-carbon vehicles - is responding with a low-cost single-seater called NILS with a top speed of 80mph and a range of 40 miles.

Vauxhall is also launching a two-seater called the RAK e which it says has a 60 mile range and reaches a top speed of 75mph. It does 0-60mph in under 13 seconds and weighs just 380kg.

Renault, already turning out four electric cars – the Fluence, Kangoo EV, Twizy and Zoe – is launching a fifth, called the Frendzy (who thinks up these names?), at Frankfurt. This half-van, half-car obtains 59bhp using a lithium-ion battery pack and has a side with doors and side windows for the family to climb in; and on the other side a sliding door with an integrated 37-inch widescreen display at the rear, which can display work messages or advertising, linked to a BlackBerry PlayBook tablet computer.

In van mode it can store 2250-litres of cargo of many shapes due to a flexible fabric roof, or morph into a family car with seats folding out of the floor and the colour scheme changing.

BMW has two models on show - the i3, a small, electric, city-style 4-seater, and the i8, a fast, electric-petrol hybrid that features in the next Mission Impossible film starring Tom Cruise. Both will leave the production lines in 2013.

They, like other modern cars, are being built using light-weight carbon fibre composite material borrowed from space vehicles.

Forced by legislation to improve their efficiency in terms of miles per unit of fuel, making their cars weigh less is one way that manufacturers are meeting these targets.

The 3-litre barrier

Over its whole range, the German auto-maker has cut its 2006 average of 186 grams of CO2 per km to 148 grams by 2010. Other tricks to achieve this 20% improvement include changes to the engine, aerodynamics, components, a new stop-start button, turbo air vent control and regenerative braking.

Its goal is to break the '3 litre' barrier - travel 100km on 3 litres of fuel. It's almost there: its 2012 116d model with 116 PS needs 3.8 litres per 100 km and emits 99 grams of CO2, a big improvement on its 2011 model with 4.5 litres and 118 grams.

Turbo-chargers increase the air entering engines, which Alex Ismail, CEO of Honeywell Transportation Systems, says can boost fuel economy by 20% for petrol cars and an incredible 40% for diesel.

He says that this technology is going to mean fossil-fuel cars will be around for a long time yet, as it will help manufacturers meet the ever-tougher emissions-regulations that legislators around the world are setting.

"Despite the buzz around electric vehicles, it's clear that automakers are looking primarily at turbo charged engines to help quickly green their fleets and meet the regulatory targets," he says.

Globally, vehicles are responsible for about 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Hybrids proliferate

More and more electric-petrol hybrids are set to hit the roads, hot on the exhaust trail of the Chevrolet Volt, which emerged in 2010. Toyota has a Prius-based plug-in hybrid scheduled for 2012 and Ford's C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid follows in 2013, with other models due from Daimler and BMW.

In fact Toyota is extending the Prius brand into a family, with a seven-seater too, known as the Prius+. The plug-in version is claimed to have CO2 emissions as low as 49g/km.

For the top-end American family market, Henrik Fiskar is launching an incredibly sleek hybrid 5-seater, due for production in 2013, that can do 300 miles, with 981 lb-ft of torque, and acceleration of 5.9 seconds to 60 mph, with a top speed of 125 mph.

Even Jaguar is going green, with a two-seat hybrid known as the C-X16 Concept that uses a Formula 1 style hybrid boost which lets it do 0-62mph in a blistering 4.4seconds, reach a top speed of 186mph, on a CO2 emission rating of just 165g/km.

Ford is not to be out-done and is touting a 4-seat fastback with a plug-in hybrid called the EVOS Concept, which is taking connectivity to the next stage on the way to the car we saw Tom Cruise driving in Minority Report. It includes a cloud-computing-optimised powertrain that knows when to save energy and switch modes, based on the predicted travel route, weather conditions and emission zone restrictions.

One thing is sure – manufacturers are falling over themselves to make these next generation low-carbon vehicles seem cool, and that is a sure-fire way to capturing the public's imagination.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Renewable energy now yields irresistible returns on investment for all businesses

Whatever kind of business you are running, you would be crazy not to take a serious look at using renewable energy - not just to satisfy your own power needs but as a sound financial investment. But you need to get the best, expert advice and think strategically.

The return on a sensible investment in renewable technology would average 11-12%, with the potential for returns of over 20%, according to a report from Carbon Trust Advisory released this week.

With much of the rest of the economy in the doldrums, and energy prices set to rise considerably, where else are you going to get a return like this?

The financial landscape is improving due to Government initiatives such as the Feed-in-Tariffs (FiT) for generating renewable electricity and the similar Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) - which covers technologies such as solar water heating, heat pumps and biomass boilers.

This is due to kick in at the end of this month for businesses (a similar scheme for homes will follow next summer).

The big names are already leading the way. ASDA, IKEA, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer have all set a target of moving to 100% renewable energy. IKEA now obtains 80% of its total energy use from renewables and has invested in a mix of ground source heat pumps, biomass, solar panels and wind power.

In the US. Google has invested heavily in solar plants, with a 1.65 megawatt photovoltaic power array installed in 2007. But it has learnt that you can't just buy a renewable energy plant and then forget about it.

At the beginning, it failed to put in monitoring and maintenance facilities for each array that would clean the panels regularly and tell it when failures had occurred. A couple of years later it took a look and discovered in this survey that at any one time, the plant may be only generating 70%, and sometimes as little as half, of its potential.

Factors such as accidents, power and frequency matching, shading, potential annual degradation of cells by .5% to 9.5% a year can all affect a photovoltaic system's output.

Similar technical complications arise from all energy technologies, and few can simply be plugged in, switched on and forgotten about in the way that we rely upon the grid.

While The Carbon Trust is right to push the fact that "anaerobic digestion (AD), wind power, biomass heating systems and ground source heat pumps are some of the most attractive and practical renewable energy technologies for UK businesses", businesses need expert help, not just in choosing the right technology for their location but in designing an entire energy management approach that finds the most cost-effective interventions they can make for their particular circumstance.

Investing in demand reduction, energy efficiency, or voltage optimisation, for example, might create just as profitable returns and improvements to the bottom line.

The Carbon Trust can also advise whether a company should purchase or directly generate its own renewable energy, whether to do so on or offsite, where to find the expertise and the implications for an organisation’s supply chain.

UK’s largest renewable gas project

The Carbon Trust suggests that AD (selling the biomethane produced to the gas network) and biomass boilers, typically will offer the highest average internal rate of return.

Biomethane from anaerobic digestion is going to be in hot demand - it may comprise at least 15% of the domestic gas supply by 2020, according to a study by British Gas and the National Grid.

This week British Gas and AD plant manufacturer Bio Group led the way in this area with a joint project to build a £5m anaerobic digestion plant in Stockport to take advantage of the RHI. It will produce organic fertiliser and biomethane which, once upgraded to match the quality of natural gas, will be fed into the gas network.

The feedstock will include food waste from local hotels, restaurants and British Gas’ own offices. It will be constructed on an old landfill site in Stockport, Greater Manchester and will open in April 2012 when it will be capable of supplying 1,400 homes each year.

British Gas and Bio Group, with the Renewable Energy Association, helped to launch a scheme earlier this year called the Green Gas Certification Scheme (GGCS), that provides assurance to customers of British Gas' renewable gas tariff of the biomethane's authenticity as a renewable energy source.

Although complex, the renewable energy field is rapidly becoming easier to enter and more and more mainstream. And with energy prices set to grow by up to 37% by 2020, the opportunity to reduce bills is a strong incentive for all businesses to investigate renewable energy options.

Any business wishing to enquire about the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) should phone the accreditation enquiries line 0845 200 2122 between 8:30am until 5pm Monday to Thursday, and 8:30am until 4:30pm on Fridays or email

Friday, September 09, 2011

It's six months since the Fukushima nuclear disaster and Japan is charting a renewable energy future

schoolchildren being tested for radioactivity from the Fukushima nuclear accident in Koriyama
This Sunday will be the six month anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, which is now emerging as being far worse than officials originally admitted. But in many parts of the world, including the UK, it has already slipped into distant memory, even as we remember the terrible events of 9/11/2001.

While the mainstream media has moved on - even in Tokyo itself - and there has been little reportage of developments in the area around the disaster, it is apparent that secrecy and cover-up continues to be endemic in the industry, and anger is widespread among survivors of the March 11 quake and tsunami disaster.

Almost six months after the catastrophe, tens of thousands of people still live in crowded shelters and temporary homes, many mourning loved ones, fearful of radiation, lacking information they can trust, and without jobs, homes or a clear idea about their future. 100,000 Fukushima Prefecture residents are still not able to return to their homes.

Some locations near the nuclear power plant are estimated to be contaminated with accumulated radiation doses of over 500 millisieverts a year, meaning return for residents is not likely to be imminent.

Shinji Sakuma, a farmer whose cows were slaughtered due to fears of radioactive contamination, is furious with the politicians he sees as "distant and disconnected from the reality of the disaster zone".

There is a 20-30km "stay indoors" zone around the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, and schoolchildren are not allowed to play outside.

Within 50km, in a school in Koriyama, students are monitoring levels of radiation in the grounds, and finding pockets of high radiation where contaminated surface soil on the school premises was removed and buried.

Readings in the wider affected area of the level of radioactivity in the soil and sea show that three times as much iodine-131 and cesium-137 - 4,720 terabecquerels - was emitted than that formerly estimated by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant operator.

Cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years, meaning that its radioactive emissions will decline only by half after 30 years and will affect the environment over several generations.

A soil expert from Tokyo university estimates that cancer or illness from Fukushima radiation will begin to show in 5-10 years. “This is a disaster affecting all residents of Japan”, he says.

A group of researchers from the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Kyoto University and other institutes say that a total of 15,000 terabecquerels of radioactive substances is estimated to have been released from the Daiichi nuclear plant into the sea, affecting fish and other sea-life.

Moreover the Japanese education ministry has released the first comprehensive survey of soil contamination within a 62-mile radius, showing that more than 30 locations spread over a wide area have been contaminated with cesium-137.

The survey of 2,200 locations - conducted in June and July - found that 33 had cesium-137 in excess of 1.48 million becquerels per square meter, the level set by the Soviet Union for forced resettlement after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, Japanese authorities said.

This prompted Mamoru Fujiwara, assistant professor of nuclear physics at Osaka University, to say that residents from these locations "need to be relocated permanently", but no decision has yet been taken.

Meanwhile, technicians are still struggling to bring the crippled reactors to a state of cold shutdown by January.

Japan's clean energy future

In the light of all this, Japan is likely to have no nuclear plants in the future, Japanese Industry Minister Yoshio Hachiro said this week, basing his statement on Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's policy of not building new nuclear power plants and decommissioning old ones.

Noda has just replaced Naoto Kan, who stepped down following criticism of the way he handled the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

"Public opinion is generally united in reducing (nuclear plants), instead of increasing them," Noda said.

Prior to the Fukushima disaster, Japan had a target of meeting half of its electricity needs from nuclear power by 2030, up from one third. Only 12 of Japan's 54 commercial power plant reactors are now in operation.

Just before resigning, Kan also advocated a zero-nuclear future for Japan, and passed a feed-in tariff creating incentives for large-scale renewable energy projects. "When I think of safety not being outweighed by risk, the answer is not to rely on nuclear," he said in an interview a week ago.

Renewables, including hydropower, currently supply about 10 percent of Japan's energy mix but this will now rapidly increase.

With the indomitable spirit that allowed the country to rebuild itself after its defeat and the nuclear horror of the Second World War, the country is set to turn its worst crisis since Hiroshima and Nagasaki into an opportunity.

Its new foreign minister Koichiro Gemba, whose own constituency is Fukushima, has announced a national drive for clean energy that will focus not just on satisfying national demand but on exports to help fuel the country's economic recovery.

"We have bullet trains and water. From now on, there will be environmental technology," said Gemba on Monday. He said these would include state-of-the-art solar batteries.

"I'm sure it will be Japan's strong field. We will promote it through economic diplomacy," he said.

It's no immediate consolation for those innocent victims of Fukushima's own Ground Zero, but it should serve as a lesson and inspiration for the rest of the world.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Proposed changes to Climate Change Agreements could increase carbon emissions

Firms which are eligible for Climate Change Agreements (CCAs) should find it easier to comply and some will save money under new Government proposals. However, the Government has not presented any estimates of the impact it will have on emissions.

The changes are intended to simplify the structure of the CCAs, making them easier to operate, and, the Government says, maintain their effectiveness in cutting carbon emissions.

But in the absence of any calculations on emissions, the fact that the Treasury will be better off as a result makes me suspicious that this is the real reason for the changes - and they don't care about the impact on emissions.

Read on to see what the changes are and how the Government benefits...

Current arrangements

CCAs apply to all energy intensive firms or sites that have to pay the Climate Change Levy, and cover a wide range of sectors, from steel, chemicals and cement, to agricultural businesses, such as intensive pig and poultry rearing.

Sites that are smaller than the size thresholds of the Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Regulations, but which would otherwise would qualify, are also eligible for a CCA.

This is rated at 47p per kWh for electricity, 16.4p per kWh for mains gas and 1.05p per kg for LPG. But 65% discounts (reduced from 80% last April) are available for signatories of a CCA. Part of the revenue from the CCL is used to fund energy efficiency initiatives, including The Carbon Trust (which is having its budget cut by 40%).

The current Climate Change Agreements are due to expire in March 2013. However, the Government announced in the 2011 Budget that CCAs will be extended to 2023 and that the Climate Change Levy discount on electricity will be increased from 65% to 80% from April 2013.

Under the current arrangements, if a sector meets its target for reducing carbon emissions, then the whole sector becomes eligible for a discount on the Climate Change Levy. If individual sites fail, the whole sector fails.

This approach has been criticised by the Environmental Audit Committee both on economic grounds (poor value for money for the taxpayer) and because it is unfair.

The proposals

So the Government is now proposing that all sites will instead be required to meet their targets on an individual basis. However, the downside is that this will mean an increase in cost to industry of £0.3m.

Furthermore, sites will have to report on their energy consumption every year, instead of every two years as now - resulting in another £0.2m cost increase. This will affect 2,384 participants.

However, Greg Barker claims in his foreword to the consultation document that overall the measures will cut the costs to business by £2.4 - £3.4m during the life of the scheme.

Savings will be made by removing the need to duplicate trading and verification with the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, by aligning reporting periods with the EU ETS, and by modifying certain other rules.

Most savings will result from industry no longer incurring costs in trading allowances at the end of their target period.

Treasury wins

The Treasury will also see a benefit. Savings will come to the administration of the scheme from amalgamating the current 54 sectors into 49 sectors and preventing further sectors from joining CCAs.

These sectors will, however, then lack the stimulus to save energy that the scheme provides, and miss out on the discounts on the CCL that would result from meeting their targets - which the Treasury will, of course, keep.

The Treasury will also benefit from the fact that the get-out clause for those missing their targets is no longer carbon trading - nor will firms be any more able to appeal for their targets to be amended in cases where legislative changes resulted in an increase of energy use or carbon emissions.

Instead, the proposed Buy-out Mechanism means that firms will pay the Treasury a fixed amount for each tonne of carbon dioxide a site underachieves against its target. Further fees wlll also be payable as penalties for other misdemeanours.

In addition, some 24 sectors will find their costs will increase because they will have to spend more time negotiating in what's called a 'bottom-up' way with others in their sector in order to meet their target. their costs could be up to an extra £165,000 per negotiation.

The changes would come in at the beginning of 2013. The first new certification period will commence on 1 April 2013 with the subsequent ones on 1 June 2015, 1 June 2017, 1 June 2019 and 1 June 2021.

The effect on carbon emissions

The Government is arguing that the changes will mean that participants will have less challenging emission reduction targets to meet, but that more targets will be met than at present, leading to overall higher savings and less reliance on purchasing allowances in order to meet targets.

This is because the cost of compliance will no longer be able to be spread between organisations within a sector, as has been done in the past.

Currently, the cost of complying with targets for those sectors that had missed them is very small, as the typical UK ETS allowance price has fluctuated between 50 pence to £4 per tonne of CO2.

By switching from using allowances, to make up the difference between a site's performance and its target, to a buy-out mechanism with a pre-determined price, DECC believes this is likely to lead to a greater willingness to accept challenging targets.

However, the Government has not actually calculated the effect on emissions that switching to the new system will have.

The Impact Assessment accompanying the consultation document admits that it "is unclear whether emissions and the incidence of non-compliance will be higher or lower after these administrative changes have taken place. But as they are likely to have positive and negative impacts to the level of target setting and compliance, they are assumed to be negligible."

The level of energy-intensive energy use of a site at which site becomes eligible for discounts is to reduced from the current 90% or more of the total energy use of the site to 70%. The Government claims that this will result in a small increase in energy efficiency.

But the removal of the need to independently verify claims of exceeding the target could result in some false claims.

Before the consultation is over on 28 October, it is vital we have a better idea whether these proposed changes will mean fewer, or more, carbon emissions.