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Britains future energy in disarray PDF Print E-mail
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Behind the fog of official spin, it becomes ever more obvious that the schemes devised to meet the EU target of generating nearly a third of our energy from renewable sources by 2020 – six times more than at present – are a massive self-delusion.

Even though they will cost us hundreds of billions of pounds, paid largely through soaring electricity bills, the energy they produce will be derisory – certainly nowhere near enough to plug the looming 40 per cent shortfall in our supplies, as many of our older power stations are forced to close.  

Take the Government’s proposed Renewable Heat Incentive, the costs of which could, by 2030, outweigh its benefits by as much as £13 billion. The hope is that by 2020, Britain will have installed two million “heat pumps” to extract warmth from the air and soil. But a taxpayer-funded study by the Energy Saving Trust found that, of 83 air-sourced systems already installed at up to £20,000 each, only one was efficient enough to qualify as “renewable energy”.

This was so embarrassing that many of the higher figures have been given as estimates to provide a more reassuring picture. Equally questionable is our enthusiasm for solar panels. Ignoring the costly disaster of similar schemes in Spain and Germany, we have now copied them by offering absurdly inflated subsidies (“feed-in tariffs”) that force us all to pay their owners between three and eight times the going rate for the tiny amount of power they produce.

Last year, solar’s contribution to the grid averaged 2.3 megawatts – so minuscule that it was barely a 1,000th of the output of one large coal-fired power station. Then there is the generation of power and heat from burning biomass, such as wood and straw. Drax, the giant 3.9-gigawatt coal-fired power station in Yorkshire, has the largest facility in the world for co-firing one of its six boilers with biomass.

But so rigged against biomass is the subsidy structure that Drax cannot afford to use much of it, because its cost is a third higher than that of coal, under a system not due to be reviewed until 2013. Drax’s plan to spend £2 billion on three dedicated biomass plants, generating more than 800 megawatts, has now been stalled for the same reason.

Next, there is the farce of those electric cars, which make no economic or environmental sense. Only a few thousand have been sold and, even with a £5,000 public subsidy, the forthcoming Nissan Leaf will cost £23,000 and be able to travel only 100 miles before its battery needs an eight-hour recharge, with electricity derived from fossil fuels, reducing any supposed saving on CO2.

At least the Government has dropped the idea of spending £30 billion on the Severn tidal barrage, which would produce little more electricity than a CO2-free nuclear power station, at 10 times the cost. But it has ruled that permission will be given to build four of the new coal-fired power stations we desperately need only if we pay £14 billion to fit them with “carbon capture and storage”, piping off their CO2 to bury it in holes under the North Sea.

This would double the cost of their electricity – and recent studies show it to be no more than a fantasy anyway, because the required injection rates would soon shatter the rock structure. The Government’s flagship “renewables” policy is to spend £100 billion on 10,000 onshore and offshore wind turbines, adding to the 3,000 we already have (which are so inefficient that their combined output last year was equivalent to one modest coal-fired plant).

Apart from the colossal cost (suppliers must buy electricity from wind at double or treble the price of conventional power, passed on through our energy bills), there is no way that more than a fraction of the 6,000 offshore turbines the Government dreams of could be built by 2020, since this would require erecting two such huge structures every day for 10 years, when installing just one can take weeks.

Even so, the more turbines we have, the more we will need new gas-fired power plants to provide back-up for when the wind drops – emitting as much CO2 as the turbines nominally save. If all this sounds like pure lunacy, we must recall that two years ago, our MPs voted all but unanimously for the Climate Change Act.

This commits Britain, uniquely in the world, to cutting its CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, at a cost of up to £18 billion a year, or £734 billion in total. This is what our politicians have made the law of the land, although in practice it could only be achieved by closing down virtually all our economy.

Now, no doubt, we have to add in the cost of building all our hospitals on hilltops, to prevent them vanishing under those Noah-like inundations that our Environment Secretary is fixated on. But, of course, none of this will have any impact on reducing overall CO2 emissions. We contribute less than 2 per cent to the global total, while China’s emissions alone increase by more than that every year.

Dutch green post code lottery PDF Print E-mail
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Amsterdam, 7 September 2010 – Five sustainability entrepreneurs will compete as finalists for the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2010 grand prize. The preliminary jury today selected the business plans of Arian Khamooshian and Teun Wagenaar, both of the Netherlands, Scot Frank and Jason Aramburu of the United States, and Gunawan Kusuma of Indonesia out of hundreds of entries from around the world. All five plans combine a market-focused approach with the goal of reducing CO2 emissions. On 23 September, one finalist will win € 500,000 to bring his product or service to market. Alongside the grand prize, the jury will award a total of € 200,000 to one or two runners-up.

Five ideas that bring a sustainable world closer
The Green Challenge preliminary jury chose the following finalists:
- Dutchman Arian Khamooshian’s system for generating electricity using ocean wave movements;
- American Scot Frank’s portable, affordable solar device that can be used to cook, heat and generate power;
- Indonesian Gunawan Kusuma’s foldable maritime container, which takes up a quarter of the space of a conventional container;
- Dutchman Teun Wagenaar’s window system that adjusts the intensity of incoming light and converts it to electricity;
- American Jason Aramburu’s small, affordable kiln for producing charcoal from agricultural and animal waste.

Green Challenge finals
The finalists will present their ideas before a jury of renowned experts and an audience during the Deciding Round on 22 September. Following these presentations and a series of one-on-one interviews, the jury will choose a winner, whose name will be revealed at the Award Ceremony on 23 September. The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2010 Deciding Round and Award Ceremony will take place at the cross-media event PICNIC at the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam.

Prestigious Jury
H.R.H. Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau is the honorary jury chair of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2010. The other jurors are chair Liesbeth van Tongeren (GroenLinks), Sigrid van Aken (Dutch Postcode Lottery), Jim Walker (The Climate Group), Ian Marchant (Scottish and Southern Energy), Marty Pickett (Rocky Mountain Institute) and Kofi Nketsia-Tabiri (E+Co).

About the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge
The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge is a contest designed to encourage creative, innovative people working to bring sustainable products and services to market. The Dutch Postcode Lottery is hosting this global competition for the fourth time this year.

Engineering rejected by students PDF Print E-mail
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Energy giants including Centrica, National Grid, E.ON and EDF Energy are becoming increasingly "frustrated" that too few young people want to become engineers or scientists, which they say will stifle the UK's chances of capitalising on the growth of alternative energy sources, such as wind or solar power.

A survey of 2,000 A level and university students by Centrica, revealed that 55pc would not consider a career in science, technology or energy. Media and entertainment jobs were more desirable, the study showed.  Centrica said the results were a "huge concern" because an estimated 70pc of the UK's current nuclear workforce could be retired by 2025.

Sam Laidlaw, chief executive, said: "The Government plans for 400,000 jobs to be created in UK green industries by 2015. Yet, unless we convince young people of the exciting and rewarding careers available in energy today, the UK will lack the skills to take advantage of the green agenda."

He added: "Ensuring we have the expertise and skills needed to meet the challenges it brings is the responsibility of the industry, the education sector and parents. Working together, we must act urgently to address this impending skills gap as we seek to lead the transition to a low-carbon future."

National Grid agreed the Government should step up efforts to tackle skills shortages in science, technology, engineering and maths. Jon Butterworth, operations director, said: "I am personally worried about the quality and quantity of young people studying … engineering." He added: "National Grid would like to see industry and Government working consistently on a campaign to inspire people to acquire the skills needed to be part of a low-carbon future.

We need to counter stereotypical images that engineering is boring or geeky. We need young people to want to get involved." A number of energy companies contacted agreed. An EDF Energy spokesman said: "It's crucial that we make science, technology and engineering appealing again so the future workforce has the skills needed.

A large part of EDF Energy's recruitment challenge will be in the search for a wide range of engineering, nuclear science and technology skills." Dave Newborough, head of HR at E.ON, said: "We have a huge engineering skills challenge over the coming years." A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "We need to keep pace with businesses' demands so qualifications remain strong and we equip young people with the skills the economy needs."

Sobering humour from the US PDF Print E-mail
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All of you out there in America and across the globe who have fought so hard to tackle the hideous enemy of our planet, namely carbon emissions, you know ....that bogus god you worship of "Climate Change" or "global warming" .....well, I feel it is necessary to inform you of some bad news. It really does pain me to have to bring you this disappointing information. 
Are you sitting down? 
Okay, here's the bombshell. The current volcanic eruption going on in Iceland, since its first spewing of volcanic ash this past week, has, to this point, NEGATED EVERY SINGLE EFFORT you have made in the past five years to control CO2 emissions on our planet. 
I know, I know.... (group hug)...it's very disheartening to realize that all of the carbon emission savings you have accomplished while suffering the inconvenience and expense of: driving Prius hybrids, buying fabric grocery bags, sitting up till midnight to finish your kid's "The Green Revolution" science project, throwing out all of your non-green cleaning supplies, using only two squares of toilet paper, putting a brick in your toilet tank reservoir, selling your SUV and speedboat, going on vacation to a city park instead of Yosemite, nearly getting hit every day on your bicycle, replacing all of your $1 light bulbs with $10 light bulbs ....well, all of those things you have done have all gone down the tubes in just the past four days.
The volcanic ash emitted into the Earth's atmosphere in the past four days has totally erased every single effort you have made to reduce the evil beast, carbon.  And, those hundreds of thousands of American jobs you helped move to Asia with expensive emissions demands on businesses... you know, the ones that are creating even more emissions than when they were creating American jobs, well I just know that seems worthwhile now.
I'm so sorry. And I do wish I had a silver lining to this volcanic ash cloud but the fact of the matter is that the brush fire season across the western U.S.A. will start in about two months and those fires will negate your efforts to reduce carbon in our world for the next two years.

Britains new eco policies PDF Print E-mail
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The UK's new coalition government has cancelled controversial plans to build a third runway at London Heathrow airport. It will also refuse extra runways at London's other two main airports, Gatwick and Stansted.

The leaders of the new government pledged that they would work together to build a new low-carbon economy. And they have agreed a deal to allow a new generation of nuclear power stations to be built. But this will be subject to certain conditions being met.

Campaigners responded with joy to the airport news. Ben Stewart of Greenpeace said: "This is fantastic news that will be met with great relief. "A third runway at Heathrow was always a bizarre proposal that made no sense to anybody who understood the impact aviation has on our climate. "The politicians who promised they would do this have been good to their word."

The policy may send birds in the Thames Estuary flapping for cover, though. If demand for flying in the South-East continues to increase, operators may look eastwards for a new airport. Today's announcement reveals that air passenger duty will be scrapped and replaced by a tax on the plane, not passenger. This is likely to mean that full flights (often budget airlines) will get cheaper and poorly-used flights more expensive.

There are several ramifications to this policy, which will play out in time. The pressure on South-East airports will be eased if the new government keeps its word to build a high speed rail network. But some Tories have been worrying about the cost of this at the current time, and that will surely be a factor in the timing of any plans.

On nuclear, the parties have agreed a deal which is supposed to allow the Conservative majority to push through new nuclear stations through the energy department which will be run by Chris Huhne from the Liberal Democrats who have an historic opposition to nuclear. It is likely the Tories will frame policy and the Liberal Democrats will be allowed to abstain on the nuclear vote, although they may speak against.

Labour will support nuclear, though, so the stations will get built - if conditions are met. This is a key proviso. The Conservative leadership is not so quite so firmly wedded to nuclear as Labour (The nuclear industry had direct access to Gordon Brown through his brother, head of media for the French firm EDF.)

Today's agreement says there will be no public subsidy, and Liberal Democrats will be inside government offices to ensure that no hidden inducements are sneaked through. It is by no means certain that firms will want to go ahead with nuclear stations unless they are offered better incentives.

The Liberal Democrats will have to tread carefully with their own supporters on this issue. The Green Party has already been angling for disaffected Liberal Democrat environmentalists for the next election. For Mr Cameron, the coalition is something of an environmental God-send.

The Liberal Democrats were judged by far the greenest of the main parties by Friends of the Earth, and their presence in government gives weight to Mr Cameron's Vote Blue, Go Green slogan. The Liberal Democrat cohort also buffers the Prime Minister from his own back-benchers, many of whom are sceptical about man-made climate change. Mark Kenber, international policy director for The Climate Group said: "It is good news that this new coalition government will reinforce the UK's bold international leadership on climate change.

"Today's commitments will accelerate a clean industrial revolution, creating green jobs and a prosperous low carbon economy for Britain." In their first press conference Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg both pledged a low-carbon economy, but there will be doubts about whether low-carbon energy targets will be met and whether Conservatives will be prepared at this time to continue to underpin low-carbon jobs.

Before the election, they indicated a determination to cut funds to the North-East, for instance, a major low-carbon hub. This may be a source of future tension. On broad energy policy there is, though, wide agreement on policy. Ministers will commit to a "huge" increase in energy from waste digestion by bacteria and the roll-out of "smart" interactive local electricity grids.

They will mandate a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, though it is not clear what "mandating" means and who is to be mandated. No new coal power stations will be built unless they pass a carbon emissions standard, though the standard is still to be decided. This will mean any power stations will have to have at least partial carbon capture and storage.

The government will continue Labour plans for four carbon capture and storage demonstrations in which power station emissions will be pumped into underground rocks. Finally, a measure that might affect many people's lives - if it is implemented.

The government will adopt measures to promote green corridors and wildlife, although there are no more details and it is hard to imagine this policy will be a priority in the short term. And what of the Liberal Democrat manifesto promise of a broader right for people to roam in the countryside in the Scandinavian fashion? There is no mention of that in the joint statement and it may be that Conservative landowners have barred the gate.

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