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Good Energy’s Zero Carbon Britain

‘There are many pathways to a zero carbon Britain, but speaking as someone who has seen first-hand how vested interests can divert or hamper progress, there are more than a few among the solutions being touted today. We wanted to see what a route to zero carbon would look like if you stripped all of that away.’ So says Juliet Davenport at the front of Good Energy’s new  Zero Carbon Britain study.  She says she wanted to develop ‘a pathway built on what we know works today - renewables. Leading to an energy system designed to work for the customers of the future, move away from a centralised system, installed by the historic government and big business approach. By asking questions seldom asked, we set out to challenge the energy industry.’  Quite a challenge then. Good Energy says that, in addition to ‘limits in modelling technique or computing power’ they believe that ‘current energy modelling has two main biases which we wanted to correct for in our work. These are: 1. Lack of granu
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Nuclear looks to new roles- heat & hydrogen production

Nuclear power may not be very competitive as an electricity generation option, but a new UK National Nuclear Laboratory study looks at possible future roles for nuclear in providing not only electricity but also heat, hydrogen and synthetic fuels. On this basis, it says, the prospects look better. It has one net-zero carbon scenario with around 66GW of nuclear capacity installed by 2050, supplying a mix of heat, power and hydrogen. 13 GW of (light) water-cooled Small Modular Reactors (LWSMRs), run as co-gen/Combined Heat and Power units, supplies power and heat, for example feeding into local district heating (DH) networks, and 49 GW of Generation IV reactors supply power and hydrogen.  'Gen IV' is a catch-all category for all new large-scale nuclear designs, following on the from the various Gen III upgrades of standard large Pressurised Water /Boiling Water Reactors- the later all using conventional 'light' water, as opposed to the 'heavy' water isotropic vari

No room for nuclear

As noted in an article in Regional Life , a local conservation e-magazine linked to a local anti nuclear group, the flat landscape of the Dengie peninsula in Essex is punctuated by a line of tall wind turbines, slowly turning and the massive grey-blue hulk of the former Bradwell ‘A’ nuclear power station. These two features it says graphically express the contrast between rise of renewable energy and the demise of nuclear power, the past and the future of electricity generation.   Renewable energy, mainly wind and solar, is rising on the back of rapidly falling costs. So much so that the International Energy Agency, which has in the past been rather guarded about their potential, has switched over to seeing them as the main way ahead, supplying 90% of global electric power by 2050.  That is actually quite conservative compared to some projections for the UK: renewables are supplying over 43% of UK power at present and the Renewable Energy Association says that reaching 100% is possible

Choosing between energy options

As we try to respond to climate change we have to make choices amongst the various energy options. I looked at some of the basic high-level issues in my last post . In this post I look more at practical political issues and at how choices might be made, and then, as an example, at some specific choices and some wider cost implications.  Increasingly, the investment policy approach being taken at national and international government level involves exclusion of undesirable energy options, on the basis of ‘do no harm’ sustainability criteria. However, getting political agreement, even over ‘cancelling’ fossil fuel, can be a controversial process, as in the EUs still incomplete funding taxonomy exercise, with natural gas being a case in point. But it wasn’t just gas that was a problem, there were also issues with biomass . And also with nuclear . It was initially excluded but has been subject to a review , which came out in favour of inclusion, although that has been very controversial ,

Basic policies for energy technology choice

We are faced with a range of choices when it comes to energy technology. One basic one is between renewables and nuclear. On that, here’s is nice perspective that I came across recently. Photoelectric interactions occur trillions of times for each silicon atom over a PV cell’s lifetime. By comparison, with nuclear, there is just a one-off fission of each U-235 or Pu-238 atom. Bang and it’s done, some heat and radiation out and the fission fragments are just left as active waste. That’s a primary reason why solar PV energy is better than nuclear energy, cheaper and safer, as also are the other renewables.  Here’s another nice bit of high level thinking about what sort of energy to use from Amory Lovins, in relation to fossil fuels. He talks of ‘replacing fiery molecules with obedient electrons’. It can be argued that we should always go for using the simplest energy source and carrier, which, in atomic terms, is the electron, or failing that, hydrogen (one proton, one electron), and we

Fusion- next steps for the UK

Nuclear fusion is being talked up as the next big energy thing- although it remains some way off and there are many technical and economic question marks. But Boris Johnson is evidently a fan. The UK government, keen to maintain headway in this field after the UK’s exit from Euratom, has set aside £222m for the development of new fusion technology.  It has also asked local authorities to nominate potential sites for a prototype fusion plant, based on the MAST Tokamak developed at Culham in Oxfordshire. The Atomic Energy Authority will assess the sites before making recommendation to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Candidate sites for the ‘Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production’ ( STEP ) project include Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station, Nottinghamshire and Aberthaw Power Station, near Barry, in Wales. With there being concerns about local job as coal plants close, new projects like this are obviously attractive, but the STEP programme is fairly leis

Community Renewables

Some renewables energy systems are well suited to development at the small, local scale, with funding direct from and by the local community. Indeed, local community-owned wind projects initially dominated the expansion of wind energy in Denmark , with, by 2016, 67% of onshore wind energy being generated by citizen-owned projects. Local ownership, initially via wind co-ops/wind guilds, then spread elsewhere in Northern Europe, most notably in Germany , with the PV solar share expanding, and at one stage about half of the 100GW of renewable capacity in place being locally owned via energy co-ops or local farmers.  Clearly many people wanted to buy into local projects- a welcome indication that green energy options had local support. Indeed, providing an opportunity for local ownership has sometimes been see as a way to avoid any potential local opposition. As the Danes say ‘your own pigs don’t smell’. The positive economic benefits in terms of the income earned from the scheme can outwe