Monday, 29 September 2008

UK firm harnesses power of the sea ... in Portugal

Lisbon is keener on the sea-snake than the country in which it was invented
Alok Jha, green technology correspondent
The Guardian,
Thursday September 25 2008

The world's first commercial-scale wave-power station has gone live off the coast of Portugal. This footage shows how the 140m-long snake-like devices work
From a distance, they look like nothing more than thin red lines on the horizon, easily lost amid the tumbling blue of the Atlantic Ocean. But get closer and the significance of the 140m-long tubes - 10 years in the making by a British company and now floating in the sea off the coast of Portugal - becomes apparent: they are the beginning of an entirely new industry in the hunt for clean power.
This week the red snake-like devices were inaugurated as part of the world's first commercial-scale wave power station, three miles from the coast of the northern Portuguese town of Aguçadoura. The project, which will generate clean electricity for more than 1,000 family homes in its first phase, marks the latest step in Portugal's moves to become a leader in developing renewable energy sources, using technology developed in Britain.
At the heart of the Aguçadoura power station are three cylindrical wave-energy converters, designed and built by the Edinburgh-based company Pelamis Wave Power. Moving up and down on the endless waves of the open sea, they convert motion into electricity, without emitting any of the carbon dioxide that is warming the planet.
"The future of wave energy starts today," said Manuel Pinho, Portugal's minister of economy and innovation. "Finland is very good in mobile phones; Portugal wants to be good in renewable energy. We are among the top five in the world, and we are just in the beginning of the process.
"Renewable energy is the source of energy for the future and we think this can create an industrial revolution and a lot of opportunities for jobs and research," he said, "and we want to be ahead of the curve."
Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK's chief scientist, said the British government's energy secretary, John Hutton, should take urgent note of the developments in Portugal. "Wave technology invented in Scotland is powering Portuguese homes and making money for Portuguese suppliers, because our government has consistently neglected the renewables industry here in the UK."
At peak output, the Pelamis wave machines near Aguçadoura will generate 2.25 megawatts, enough for the annual needs of about 1,500 family homes. Eventually, the station will be expanded with a further 25 Pelamis machines so it can generate up to 21MW of power. That will save 60,000 tonnes of CO2 a year compared with a fossil fuel plant. If you compare it to wind energy, wave is more predictable and is more sustained, typically," said Ian Sharp of Babcock & Brown, which commissioned and built the Aguçadoura wave farm.
Each of the semi-submerged Pelamis devices is 142m long, has a diameter of 3.5m and is made from 700 tonnes of carbon steel. A single wave converter is composed of four articulated sections that move up and down as the waves pass along it. At each of the hinges between the sections, hydraulic rams use the wave motion to drive generators to produce up to 750KW of power at peak output. The electricity generated by the three Pelamis devices will be carried by undersea cable to a substation in Aguçadoura, which will then feed the power into the Portuguese national grid.
The Portuguese are also investing heavily in other renewable technologies. They are already spending £250m on more than 2,500 solar photovoltaic panels to build the world's largest solar farm near the small town of Moura in eastern Portugal. It will have twice the collecting area of London's Hyde Park and supply 45MW of electricity each year, enough to power 30,000 homes.
In the past three years, Portugal has also trebled its hydroelectric capacity and quadrupled its wind power sources - northern Portugal has the world's biggest wind farm, with more than 130 turbines and a factory that builds the 40-metre-long blades.
Pinho wants the country to rival Denmark or Japan in its commitment to developing renewables industries and predicts his country will generate 31% of all its primary energy from clean sources by 2020, compared with Britain's target of 15%. The Portuguese target means increasing the generation of electricity from renewable sources from 42% in 2005 to 60% in 2020.
The €9m (£7m) first phase of the Aguçadoura project, which involves the energy firms Enersis and Energias de Portugal, has been helped partly by the Portuguese government agreeing to guarantee a premium for the electricity the station will generate via a feed-in tariff of 25 cents per kWh. The project has also been given a €1.25m grant from the Portuguese Agência de Inovação.
"The Portuguese government has moved forward on wave energy more quickly than has happened in the UK," said Sharp. "[In Portugal] we have a feed-in tariff arrangement so we had a guaranteed price for the power that was produced and you don't have that in the UK. The environment here was better to stimulate development."
In Britain, Pelamis is also involved in the South West Regional Development Agency's project to build a wave-power station off the north coast of Cornwall, called Wave Hub. This will be the country's first offshore facility for demonstrating a commercial-scale wave-power plant - but it is not expected to be operational until at least 2010. The South-West RDA estimates the project could create 1,800 jobs and inject £560m into the British economy.
Parr warned that there could be dire consequences for the UK unless the government got its act together in developing renewable industries: "There is a danger that jobs, investment and clean energy will go overseas because of Hutton's obsession with old technologies like coal and nuclear power. It's time we stopped the rot before our performance on renewables becomes a national disgrace."
Friends of the Earth's renewable energy campaigner, Nick Rau, said that wave and tidal power could play a significant role in tackling climate change and reducing the UK's dependency on fossil fuels. "The potential for this technology in the UK is enormous but the government is not doing enough to develop it."
· This article was amended on Thursday September 25. Manuel Pinho predicts his country will generate 31% of all its primary energy from clean sources by 2020, not of all its power as we said. The Portuguese target means increasing the generation of electricity from renewable sources from 42% in 2005 (not 20%) to 60% in 2020. This has been corrected.

Hundreds of methane 'plumes' discovered

British scientists find more evidence of climate threat
By Steve Connor, Science EditorThursday, 25 September 2008

British scientists have discovered hundreds more methane "plumes" bubbling up from the Arctic seabed, in an area to the west of the Norwegian island of Svalbard. It is the second time in a week that scientists have reported methane emissions from the Arctic.
Methane is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and the latest findings from two separate teams of scientists suggest it is being released in significant amounts from within the Arctic Circle.
On Tuesday, The Independent revealed that scientists on board a Russian research ship had detected vast quantities of methane breaking through the melting permafrost under the seabed of the shallow continental shelf off the Siberian coast.
Yesterday, researchers on board the British research ship the James Clark Ross said they had counted about 250 methane plumes bubbling from the seabed in an area of about 30 square miles in water less than 400 metres (1,300 feet) deep off the west coast of Svalbard. They have also discovered a set of deeper plumes at depths of about 1,200 metres at a second site near by. Analysis of sediments and seawater has confirmed the rising gas is methane, said Professor Graham Westbrook of Birmingham University, the study's principal investigator.
"The discovery of this system is important as its presence provides evidence that methane, which is a greenhouse gas, has been released in this climactically sensitive region since the last ice age," Professor Westbrook said. An analysis of sediments taken from the seabed show that the gas is coming from methane hydrates – ice-like crystals where molecules of the gas are captured in "cages" made of water molecules, which become unstable as water pressures fall or temperatures rise.
Professor Westbrook said the area surveyed off the west coast of Svalbard was very different to the area being studied by the Russian vessel because the water was much deeper and does not have a layer of permafrost sealing the methane under the seabed.
It is likely that methane emissions off Svalbard have been continuous for about 15,000 years – since the last ice age – but as yet no one knows whether recent climactic shifts in the Arctic have begun to accelerate them to a point where they could in themselves exacerbate climate change, he said.
"We were very excited when we found these plumes because it was the first evidence there was an active gas system in this part of the world," Professor Westbrook said after disembarking from the ship, which arrived back in Britain yesterday. "Now we know it's there we know we have to very seriously consider its effect."

RWE buys unbuilt Helius biomass plant

By Fiona Harvey
Published: September 25 2008 20:02

Helius Energy has sold its unbuilt biomass power plant to RWE Innogy, the German utility group, for about £28m.
RWE will invest a further €260m (£206m) to complete the plant at Stallingborough in north-east Lincolnshire.

The 65MW plant, for which Helius has planning permission and construction contracts in place, will run mainly on waste wood and is due to be completed in 2011.
Helius said it had spent £5m – raised on its Aim flotation in February 2007 and a subsequent placing – and about £2.5m in debt on the plant over the past two years.
The company expects to make a total profit of about £20m on the plant, which will be used to pay down the debt and to fund other planned plants. Helius is also working on a 7MW combined heat and power plant in Scotland, which would use waste from distilleries as its feedstock.
John Seed, managing director, said the company was also working on a biomass plant in the west of England and had two more possible proposals under consideration.
He said: “This is exactly what we said we would do when we floated.”
Under the deal with RWE, Helius will also receive 13 per cent of the yearly earnings from the plant for the first 24 years of its operation.
Mr Seed said that the UK produced enough wood each year – in the form of offcuts from construction and other industries, forestry waste, tree clippings and waste wood that is normally sent to landfill – to power many more biomass plants.
He estimated that the Stallingborough plant would use about 400,000 tonnes of waste wood a year, while the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs estimates that the UK produces between 5m and 10m tonnes of waste wood a year, most of which is currently landfilled.
However, Mr Seed said Helius’s power plants were near ports in case imports of wood were needed.
The shares fell 5½p to 30½p on profit-taking.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

'Ban dirty coal' says government environment watchdog

The Environment Agency has told the government that all new power stations must be built with the CO2-capturing technology
Alok Jha, green technology correspondent,
Thursday September 25 2008 00:01 BST

The UK government's own environmental watchdog has called for a halt to the construction of a new generation of coal-fired power stations unless they are built with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology installed from the outset.
The comments, made as part of the Environment Agency's official response to the government's consultation on CCS, also urged faster progress in proving that the technology was commercially viable.
"Building a new generation of coal fired power stations without capturing the carbon emissions would lock the UK into using high carbon technology for decades to come," said Chris Smith, a former Labour cabinet minister and the newly-appointed chairman of the Environment Agency.
"This is not an environmentally sustainable way of generating power given the challenges we face with climate change."
Earlier this year, the Environment Agency wrote to energy secretary John Hutton, warning that any coal plants built before CCS was available must not be allowed to "undermine future carbon budgets and targets". It added, "This is likely to mean that the station is forced to fit CCS in the future or close."
Carbon capture
CCS is a range of technologies that can trap carbon dioxide from power stations and industrial sites, then transport and store them in geological formations deep underground.
It has the potential to make a big impact in reducing global carbon emissions - at its best, CCS could prevent 90% of the CO2 emitted by power stations from getting into the atmosphere.
The UK government launched a competition last year to fund a commercial-scale demonstration CCS project but this is unlikely to be built before 2013 at the earliest.
Meanwhile, last month, the Swedish power company Vatenfall inaugurated the world's first demonstration project where CCS was attached to a power station - its Schwarze Pumpe power plant in north Germany will store 100,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
"Although carbon capture and storage technology has been demonstrated on a small scale, there is now an urgent need for it to be demonstrated on a commercial scale," said Smith.
"Any new coal power station to be built should have a consent that requires that it helps demonstrate the technology. Such a consent should be strictly time limited and only renewed if carbon capture and storage is fully deployed."
'Clear rebuke'
Greenpeace climate campaigner Jim Footner said: "This carefully timed intervention is a clear rebuke to business secretary John Hutton and his plans for a conventional, coal fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent.
"As head of the environment agency, Lord Smith knows more than most about the devastating impacts that climate change could have on Britain's coastlines and vulnerable communities.
"By objecting to new coal projects unless they use carbon capture technology from the outset, he is simply aligning himself with the views of the world's top climate scientists."
He added: "Instead of going back to coal, we need a revolution in the renewables industry and a step change in our approach to energy efficiency.
"This country has the best renewable resources in Europe, now all we need is for Gordon Brown to step in and show some real leadership on this issue."
In its submission to the government's CCS consultation, which closed for submissions on Monday, the Environment Agency added that merely being "carbon capture ready", where a plant is built ready to install CCS equipment after it begins operations, was not good enough.
"Coal-fired power stations will for a considerable time continue to be a significant part of global energy supply," said Smith.
"However, we need to ensure that they are part of a solution to the challenges of climate change, not a problem.
"This is only possible by ensuring carbon capture and storage is quickly proven in line with the prime minister's recent commitment to clean coal technology. A funding mechanism will be urgently needed to support this development."

Car lobby loses fight to ease emission rules

• Surprise as MEPs vote for tough CO2 targets • Committee spurns move by Merkel and Sarkozy
Ian Traynor in Brussels
The Guardian,
Friday September 26 2008

MEPs yesterday put the European parliament on a collision course with Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, and its powerful car lobby by rejecting Berlin's campaign to water down European proposals for slashing greenhouse gases from road traffic.
In a move that stunned the car industry and green campaigners, the parliament's environment committee voted by a sweeping majority to force car manufacturers to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of new vehicles by 2012 and to maintain stringent fines on those that fail to do so.
The MEPs threw out amendments that the car lobby had introduced which would have eased the costs to industry and delayed the measures. By voting them down, the MEPs rejected a Franco-German pact hatched by Merkel and France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, in June.
As part of its drive to lead the world in tackling climate change, the European commission last year proposed that all new cars would have to cut their CO2 emissions to 130 grammes per kilometre by 2012, roughly a 17% reduction on average emission levels. The German auto industry, a world leader in the large car sector, cried foul and mounted ferocious lobbying to dilute the proposals.
Merkel has fought energetically for months to get the proposed regime weakened. At a summit in June with Sarkozy (who is currently chairing the EU and responsible for steering the climate- change package into law by the end of the year), both leaders agreed that the original commission proposals should be weakened by staggering the cuts until 2015, and halving the proposed fines levied on car firms for each offending vehicle they produced from €95 (£75) per excess gramme/kilometre to €50.
The environment committee yesterday rejected both compromise measures, backing the commission's initial proposals and stipulating that CO2 emissions should come down further, to 95g/km by 2020. The parliament's industry committee had already caved in to pressure and supported the diluted proposals.
"The parliament appears to have stood up to the demands of the car industry and four or five car-producing member states, and has sent a strong signal that Europeans need fuel-efficient cars now, not in five or 10 years," said Jos Tings, of the Transport and Environment pressure group.
"The lobby from the car industry lost," said Chris Davies, the Liberal Democrats' environment spokesman. "MEPs today stood up for tougher measures to combat global warming and sent a strong message to corporate lobbyists to back off. A good day for democracy."
The result was all the more surprising since, under intense car industry pressure, the two biggest caucuses in the parliament, the centre-right European People's party and the socialists, had tabled amendments in line with the Merkel-Sarkozy deal. But in the end the committee's vote was 46-19.
The CO2 emissions of cars make up about 14% of such emissions in Europe. The commission proposals are a key part of the overall climate-change package to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 - proposals that need to be turned into law by the end of the year if the EU is to maintain its credibility as a world leader in the fight against global warming. The overall package has to be agreed by the commission, the parliament and the 27 EU governments, meaning there is now likely to be a showdown between Berlin and the parliament before Christmas.
"This was a big surprise," said the German Green MEP Rebecca Harms. "There was a big fight with industry and governments, and the Germans and French were adding a lot of pressure."
European leaders have endorsed the broad aims of the commission proposals and proclaimed themselves world leaders in tackling global warming, but the real battles - about dividing the burden between nations and sectors of industry - are now breaking out.
A summit of European leaders agreed in March last year to cut greenhouse gases by a minimum of 20% by 2020. A month earlier the commission had proposed to compel the car industry to cut CO2 emissions from new cars and vans to 130g/km. The commission refined its proposals last December. But Merkel, a former environment minister who presided over the March summit and was hailed as a hero, railed against the costs to industry. In March this year she broached the topic with Sarkozy, who was preparing to assume the EU presidency and steer the climate change package into law. At a bilateral summit in June, the two agreed to water down the proposals.

UK accused of 'sabotaging' Europe's green energy plans

Leaked documents show strong pressure being exerted to 'kill the essence' of the EU's renewable energy targets·
John Vidal, environment editor,
Friday September 26 2008 10:16 BST

Britain has been accused of trying to wreck Europe's plan to tackle climate change by lobbying to remove aviation from renewable energy targets. Leaked documents from the council of the European Union show that the UK is exerting strong pressure on other EU governments. The argument being used is that biofuels made from plants or algae will not be ready for use as commercial aviation fuel until after 2020.
EU leaders pledged last year to generate 20% of all energy from renewable sources but if aviation, which contributes up to 9% of all greenhouse emissions in Europe, is omitted from the EU calculations at a meeting of energy ministers next week, it will significantly reduce the overall target and make it harder to tackle climate change.
Last night, in an unusual move, an adviser to the EU Industry Committee openly stated that British civil servants were leading the attempt by several countries including Cyprus, Italy and Malta to undermine the EU's renewable energy commitments.
Luxembourg MEP Claude Turmes, who denied that the leaked documents came from his office, said: "Britain is leading the attempt to undermine the climate change directive. Gordon Brown promised that the UK would not attempt to cut the EU 20% renewables target.
"Now UK civil servants from the Department of Business, enterprise and regulatory reform have a different strategy and are pushing for cuts. A government that is supposedly committed to tackle climate change must not try to kill the essence of this directive."
The document, seen by the Guardian, states that "member states want the aviation sector to be excluded from the denominator used to calculate the overall target. They consider that in the present state of technology we cannot expect it to be possible for biofuels that can replace kerosene to be certified for commercial aviation by 2020".
This was disputed by Virgin Atlantic. "We expect to run 5% of our fleet on biofuels, and 10% by 2020," said a spokesman. On Thursday, other aviation companies joined Virgin in committing to a similar shift to biofuels by 2020.
Britain has the largest aviation industry in Europe. If it succeeds in having it exempted, it stands to reduce by nearly 12% the amount of renewable energy it will need to generate by 2020.
Earlier this year the government set out what is considered to be an ambitious but achievable £100 billion commitment to renewables by 2020. An energy white paper, now passing through parliament, seeks to make Britain the first country in the world committed to 60% cuts in emissions.
Environment groups said that if Britain removed aviation from Europe's commitments it would open the door for other countries to plead special cases for their most polluting industries and render the directive nearly meaningless.
Robin Webster, Friends of the Earth's energy campaigner accused business minister John Hutton of trying to wreck the EU renewables deal: "His special pleading for the aviation industry could unravel this priceless agreement. It's time Brown stepped in and saved Britain's reputation in Brussels."
He added: "The government is working behind the scenes to sabotage Europe's renewable energy plans. This short sighted approach will leave families facing spiralling fuel prices and saddle the country with a multi-billion pound bill for dealing with the consequences of climate change."
This is the third time that Dberr officials have been exposed by the Guardian trying to undermine EU renewables energy targets. Last year Gordon Brown reacted angrily to other leaked documents showing that Britain was trying to persuade EU countries to set lower renewable targets.
The latest papers seen by the Guardian also show Britain trying to water down a series of renewable energy proposals in other areas. DBerr officials want to change a pledge that all new and refurbished buildings should be fitted with renewable energy sources like solar or wind power. Instead, countries would only have to increase "gradually" the minimum level of energy from renewable sources.
In addition, the UK is pressing for countries to be allowed to choose the speed at which they introduce renewable energy and is eager to allow large projects started before 2020 to be included.
These proposals would allow governments pass on the necessity to switch to renewables to future administrations and could allow them to start major projects as late as 2019 and claim credit for them even if they were not finished for a decade or more.
It further wants to change the rules that would give renewable electricity projects priority access to national grids.
Last week other leaked papers showed that Britain wanted Brussels to offset more domestic carbon savings through investment in clean projects in the developing world.
The move would let firms and countries import more carbon credits to count against their pollution targets. It would allow Europe to make less effort to cut its pollution, while keeping it on course to meet its target of reducing carbon emissions by 20% by 2020.

GAO Faults 'Credibility' Of CO2-Offset Market


WASHINGTON -- The growing U.S. market for carbon offsets -- vouchers that let companies and individuals project an environmentally friendly image by paying others to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions -- is so opaque and loosely regulated that it offers consumers "limited assurance of credibility," according to a federal audit.
The report, expected to be published on Friday, stops short of recommending new regulations. But it suggests members of Congress think carefully before letting companies use offsets as a means of complying with legislation to control carbon-dioxide emissions, which are not currently regulated by the U.S. government.
Estimates vary on the size of the U.S. offset market, with some analysts putting the value of U.S. carbon offsets traded in 2006 at $91.6 million, an amount expected to grow sharply as more companies and individuals seek to lighten their impact on the atmosphere, or at least appear to be trying. Some companies are also betting the offsets they buy now will count toward their obligations under a future mandatory U.S. emissions-reduction system.
As purchases of voluntary offsets have soared in recent years, so have questions about whether money being spent on them funds real emissions cuts. Such offsets, which are often bought by consumers from online sellers, are supposed to represent emissions avoided through projects such as installing wind turbines or planting trees. Skeptics -- including some members of Congress -- have questioned how consumers can know in the absence of federal regulation whether such cuts are actually being implemented, or would have happened anyway.
While the findings of the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, are generally consistent with those criticisms and don't break new ground, they could help influence the design of whatever mandatory program for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions emerges from Washington.
The report says that in purchasing offsets from 33 retail providers, the GAO "did not always obtain sufficient information to understand exactly what we received as a result of the transaction." Because there is no single registry for keeping track of offset projects -- and ensuring that projects are not counted multiple times -- "it is difficult for consumers to determine the quality of the offsets they purchase," the report says.
Some kinds of offsets also are more credible than others, the auditors added. Planting trees, for example, "may not be permanent, because disturbances such as insect outbreaks and fire can return stored carbon to the atmosphere."
The report doesn't call for specific new regulations for the voluntary U.S. market. Instead, it suggests that if lawmakers decide to allow offsets in a mandatory scheme for reducing carbon emissions, they should consider setting clear rules on the types of projects that companies can use and a registry for tracking the creation and ownership of offsets.
Some of the GAO's other findings are likely to add fuel to a long-simmering conflict between Democrats and Republicans over the way that House Democratic leaders have gone about trying to make the Capitol's operations more environmentally friendly. The report finds that because of an error, the House chief administrative officer, Daniel Beard, last year bought $24,447 more offsets than were needed under a broad effort by Democrats to reduce the House's carbon footprint.
"In our rush to demonstrate our green bona fides, we failed to remember our No. 1 mission -- to safeguard the public's money," said Rep. Tom Davis (R., Va.). A spokesman for Mr. Beard acknowledged the error but said the additional credits are in an account with the Chicago Climate Exchange, a voluntary greenhouse-gas reduction and trading system whose members commit to cutting their emissions. The extra credits, the spokesman added, will be used to reduce the House's carbon footprint in 2009.
"We regard the over-purchase as an investment in future attempts to offset our emissions," the spokesman added.
Write to Stephen Power at

Mark Lynas: the green heretic persecuted for his nuclear conversion

The climate change expert Mark Lynas has been scorned by eco-colleagues for daring to speak up for atomic power

I know I should be furious. The EDF takeover of British Energy means that four nuclear power stations could now be built around the UK, the first nuclear new build in a generation. As a long-standing Green party member, one who chops his own wood, grows his own leeks, keeps chickens and puts the kids in washable nappies, antinuclear indignation should spring easily to my lips.
After all, energy is something I care about. The last time I checked my carbon budget, I came in at a fifth of the national average. I rarely fly, even when booked to address faraway audiences about my personal obsession, climate change – a subject I’ve covered in three books. Whenever the word “nuclear” comes up at my talks, a shudder runs through the room. Because everyone knows that real environmentalists loathe nuclear power. It is just evil. Full stop.
Except, well, I don’t believe that any more. Just a month ago I had a Damascene conversion: the Green case against nuclear power is based largely on myth and dogma. My tipping point came when I discovered just how much nuclear power has changed since I first set my mind against it. Prescription for the Planet, a new book by the American writer Tom Blees, opened my eyes to fourth-generation “fast-breeder” reactors, which use fuel much more efficiently than the old-style reactors, produce shorter-lived waste and can also be designed to be “walk-away safe”.
Best of all, these new reactors – prototypes of which have already been tested – can produce power by burning up existing stocks of nuclear waste. As Blees puts it: “Thus we have a prodigious supply of free fuel that is actually even better than free, for it is material that we are quite desperate to get rid of.” Who could object to that?
Just about everyone on the eco-scene, it turned out. I began to receive e-mails from friends and colleagues warning me off the topic. Did I really want to risk my entire reputation by alienating the green movement? The backlash to my first magazine article on the subject prompted my inbox to collapse, the blogs to drip with venom, the dirty looks to multiply.
A former Greenpeace campaigner posted on my website that I needed to show “a bit of humility” and “less arrogance”. On Greenpeace’s blog my views were mocked as “wishful thinking of the day”. On Radio 4’s Today programme, Green party leader Caroline Lucas accused me of having “lost the plot”. When I argued back, she accused me of “just being silly”. I was a traitor.
This was a moment I had been dreading for nearly three years, ever since I first suspected that much of what I had been brought up to believe about nuclear power – that it is, without exception, dirty, dangerous and unnecessary – was untrue. Science has moved on. The old figures just don’t stack up any more.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nuclear is just as low-carbon a power source as wind and solar: the world’s 439 operating nuclear reactors save the planet from 2 billion extra tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, which would have been emitted had coal been used instead.
And those dangers? They’re still there but we need to discuss them truthfully. Take Chernobyl. We all know it was a disaster: the Greenpeace website states a death toll of 60,000 already and predicts another 140,000 deaths in the future. But these statistics fly in the face of mainstream science: according to the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, 28 people died in the initial phase and several thousand more have suffered from nonfatal thyroid cancer because of the accident. The UN report concludes that “there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure 20 years after the accident” – so the real death toll from the world’s worst nuclear accident is tiny. On a deaths per gigawatt-year basis, nuclear is safer than coal and oil.
Curiosity whetted, I searched the scientific literature for evidence to support the other great green charge levelled at nuclear power: it kills its neighbours. I sifted through piles of rigorous epidemiological studies from all over the world, searching for proof that people who live near nuclear sites are more prone to cancer and leukaemia. None of the reputable journals turned up a link.
These are just two examples of eco-myths: there are many more. If only we were allowed to discuss them without being flayed for heresy.
When I e-mailed a senior ecological scientist with my conclusions, he agreed, but only privately. “Do not cite me as promoting nuclear,” he begged. I am still shocked that people of his stature are too intimidated to speak out. The result of this fear is that the public is dangerously misinformed about nuclear power.
I have finally thought of something useful that I can do with my Green party membership card: I’ll auction it on eBay and send the money to EDF – with a suggestion that it beefs up its marketing department. Any bids?

Carbon clean-up in Stinky Town

A new German coal-fired power station buries its own CO2. Now Europe must decide whether to spend €12bn subsidising more. Nick Mathiason reports
Nick Mathiason
The Observer,
Sunday September 28 2008

It used to be called Stinky Town - a smoke-belching, coal-burning industrial powerhouse in what was once the heart of East Germany. But the old folk of Spremberg no longer have to check which way the wind is blowing before venturing outside.
Earlier this month, Spremberg, or 'Stink-Stadt', made history. It is now host to the world's first power plant that collects emissions from coal burning and pipes them deep underground. Built by Swedish power firm Vattenfall, it emits up to 90 per cent less carbon dioxide than a conventional facility. The process it employs, known as carbon capture and storage (CCS), is seen by a growing coalition of power companies, financiers, academics - and even campaign groups including Greenpeace and WWF - as the silver bullet in the fight against climate change.
Regarded as the best the way to secure affordable electricity without polluting the atmosphere, CCS could also facilitate the return in the UK of a new era for coal, a 'dirty' fossil fuel whose fate had seemed sealed.
The next 10 days will determine if CCS, which is expensive and still unproven, has a future. A vote in the European parliament will decide whether the first 12 demonstration projects receive a €12bn (£9.5bn) subsidy. Failure to reach agreement - and Europe is split over the proposal - will mean a delay of at least two years while the search goes on for alternative funding mechanisms.
On Tuesday of next week, members of the European environment committee will consider an amendment by Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies, who is seen as the champion of the CCS movement in Europe. Davies's powerful lobbying has successfully short-circuited the legislative process. If his amendment is passed, he has been given permission to take it directly to EU president José Manuel Barroso and the Council of Ministers - the environment ministers of the 27 European member states - for rubber-stamping early next year.
The Davies amendment is part of legislation aiming to reconfigure Europe's emissions trading scheme. Davies has inserted a clause that would allow firms building CCS power plants to sell carbon allowances via the scheme, on condition that the new plants actually work and succeed in burying CO2
Power firms would be paid the €12bn subsidy retrospectively. The first wave of CCS plants will cost about €1bn more than equivalent conventional power stations. Davies argues, however, that CCS will ultimately be cost-effective, although only once the knowledge gleaned from the demonstration projects is shared and refined to allow economies of scale to kick in. Supporters are encouraged by a report published last week by management consultants McKinsey that backed his case.
More than 60 coal-fired power stations could be built across Europe if CCS takes off, and a number are planned for the UK. John Hutton, Labour's Business Secretary, told the party conference in Manchester last Monday that he would take on critics of new coal and nuclear power stations, arguing that their construction was vital to securing Britain's long-term energy needs.
But last week the influential UK Environment Agency warned that on no account should coal-fired stations get the go-ahead until CCS is a proven technology, because otherwise the increased CO2 they produce would be devastating. It is understood that the cabinet is split on allowing Eon to build a coal-fired station at Kingsnorth in Kent that will be 'CCS-ready', but which is not conceived from the start as a CCS facility.
Davies acknowledges this concern and has inserted another amendment in the legislation that will mean the closure of 'dirty' power stations across Europe, with only those emitting less than 500g of CO2 every kilowatt hour being allowed. Really dirty stations emit almost three times that figure.
Until recently, Davies's plan appeared to have little chance of passing through the European parliament: opposition from accession countries led by Poland looked to have defeated the measures. But in recent weeks the tide has turned. There is now a chance the 60 members of the committee will approve the package, seeing it as a way of meeting medium-term emissions targets. Europe has set itself a CO2 reduction target of 20 per cent by 2020 and 60 to 80 per cent by 2050. Successful CCS could slash European CO2 emission by 20 per cent.
There are global implications for the MEPs' decision. If Europe cannot reach agreement, it will enter international climate change talks in Copenhagen designed to replace the Kyoto Protocol with no sign that it is taking a lead on the issue. Without a European CCS funding commitment, it has been suggested that it will prove difficult to persuade China to act on climate change and other countries to act on deforestation.
In addition, European parliamentary elections next year will slow down any EU agreements on new CCS projects.
Ian Temperton of investment firm Climate Change Capital, says: 'Money is absolutely needed. These programmes won't happen without support. We are effectively already in the middle of the next decade in terms of the lead time for getting these plants up and running. If we don't modify existing legislation we will miss the opportunity. If we want to demonstrate that Europe is able to show the world leadership in the most difficult energy area, this is something we have to do.'
Developing CCS has created a Europe-wide alliance of power firms. A new body in Brussels known as the Zero Emissions Platform is attempting to secure next week's vote. Members of the ZEP include BP, Shell, WWF and a range of European firms. Leading the organisation is Dr Graeme Sweeney, who heads Shell's future fuels division.
BP and Shell have invested heavily in the controversial Canadian oil sands, which require a more energy-intensive process than conventional oil extraction because hot air and steam are needed to make 'heavy' oil flow into reservoirs. Some suggest that oil sands require double the energy usually needed for production. Shell disputes that, putting the figure at just 15 per cent more. Whatever the truth, the oil giants need to capture their emissions via CCS to offset the higher energy use required for oil-sands exploitation. The same argument applies to many of their natural gas finds.
Keith Allott, WWF's climate change adviser, says: 'Potentially, CCS can play a significant role in moving away from a disastrous high-carbon future. We're seeing new proposals for new coal-fired power stations in the UK and Europe. Europe needs to show leadership and this is why we need to fund well-focused demonstration projects.'
Next week, we will know whether his wish has been granted.
Fossils still alive
The International Energy Agency says that global electricity production will nearly double by 2030. Even with increased reliance on renewables and investment in energy efficiency, fossil fuels are likely to remain at around 65 per cent of the total energy mix for decades.
The world is returning to coal as demand for electricity increases. In China, a new coal-fired power station opens every other week. Today, 40 per cent of the world's electricity comes from coal, with a fair chance of that share increasing. Unless CCS can be successfully deployed, many experts regard this as a nightmare scenario.

Market for eco heating keeps warming up

Liz Loxton

FOR Mark Henderson, earning a living from an eco-business all began with a green roof. In a previous career as a marketing consultant, he found himself investigating the viability of roof-top planting for a construction client. “I got such a huge buzz out of researching it and bringing it to market, because it made such sense and had a lot of merit from an environmental point of view,” he explains.
Visits to his wife’s home country of Sweden, where triple-glazing and ground-source heat pumps are common, further aroused his interest. He began researching environmentally friendly heating systems in earnest and, after long conversations with two former clients who were to become his business partners, Ecoliving was born in 2004.
Today the company, which has a £3m turnover, distributes energy-efficient ground- and air-source heat pumps and other green heating systems for residential and commercial premises. In its early days, Ecoliving won distribution agreements with two of the largest heat pump manufacturers in Sweden. It has evolved by developing a network of installers: companies already involved in newer technologies, such as underfloor heating. Henderson and his co-directors have also forged links with housing associations and developers.
The company still looks to Sweden for technological leads: 80% of new housing in Sweden has energy efficient heating systems. Henderson reckons Sweden is 30 years ahead of the UK in terms of product development and willingness to embrace the technology.

Getting people in the UK to adopt such systems has proved something of an education process, Henderson says. Take-up was slow initially and principally came from “Grand Designs types” - people building their own homes. Interest is now spreading.
“We work primarily with installers but we also talk to housing associations, developers, consultants and architects, and pass on any work to our installers,” he explains. Ecoliving provides training in installation techniques and also continuing professional development from its base in Glasgow.
Political, economic and social factors are all working in the company’s favour, says Henderson. Changes to building regulations since 2006 have stipulated improved energy performance in homes, and there is a UK-wide target of all new homes being zero-carbon from 2016. “There is now a political will to turn to sustainable sources of energy; economically, fuel is costing more than ever; and socially, it helps us to fight against fuel poverty,” he says.
“Heat pumps are designed to deliver a much higher level of control as well as a cost saving. That makes them more attractive to the elderly and other people who spend a lot of time in the home.”
Henderson says Scotland has led the way in take-up of the technology, with the help of more generous grants than the rest of the UK. “The market is very young and there is high potential but we are constantly looking at new solutions, such as ground pumps, exhaust air and outside air source systems.” The domestic heating market has a big part to play in reducing the carbon footprint because it is by far the biggest energy user in the home. In a house that uses 30,000kW hours annually, 5,000kW will go on appliances and lighting, 5,000kW on hot water and 20,000kW on heating, Henderson says. For Ecoliving that means rapid growth: it is aiming for £10m turnover by 2012, despite the property market slowdown.
Heat pumps can represent a big capital outlay for homeowners, costing £10,000-£12,000 to buy and install a ground source pump and £7,000-£8,000 for an air source. But this technology does have the potential to cut energy bills by two-thirds, Henderson claims.
He needs to use his powers of persuasion - on the industry as well as homeowners. “Some people would rather work with what they know, and there is scepticism about cost savings. We spend a lot of time on education. We’re not just about flogging washers.”

Anger at Devil's Beef Tub wind farm plan

Proposal would ruin Scottish beauty spot, say environmentalists

Plans to erect a wind farm on an iconic Scottish landmark have been labelled “corporate vandalism” by environmentalists.
The hills around the Devil’s Beef Tub, a 500ft hollow near Moffat in Dumfries and Galloway, have been targeted by developers who want to build 36 400ft-high turbines there.
Campaigners say the turbines will be a blot on the landscape. Moffat residents have formed a committee to fight plans by Scottish Power for an electrical substation and overhead cables linked to the farm.
Dennis Canavan, a former independent MSP who is patron of Save Our Scenery, a campaign group, said: “ Such a negative visual impact would adversely affect tourism, which is a vital part of the Scottish economy. Scotland is blessed with some of the finest countryside in the world. We have a duty to conserve it for future generations.”

The Edinburgh-based company behind the proposal, Wind Energy (Earlshaugh), has stated that the site benefits from “excellent wind resource” and will only be visible from some angles.

The man keeping Britain's lights on

After long negotiations, utility British Energy has been sold to French giant EDF. Boss Vincent de Rivaz tells Tim Webb why we should stop whingeing and prepare to lead the nuclear field
Tim Webb
The Observer,
Sunday September 28 2008

Last Tuesday, at 6pm French time, Vincent de Rivaz gathered with his fellow executives at the striking, elliptical EDF Tower in La Défense, the business district west of Paris. The UK head of the French energy giant was attending his fifth board meeting to discuss the takeover of nuclear power generator British Energy. The deal would hand the keys of the British nuclear industry to EDF, allowing it to invest billions more into building new reactors. The mood in the boardroom was upbeat and one of relief. Adrian Montague, the chairman of British Energy, had given the nod. This time - finally - the deal was going ahead and nothing was going to stop it.
The next morning, de Rivaz was back in London to address his 80 senior employees personally at the Millennium Hotel near Victoria, a stone's throw from EDF's London headquarters. Congratulations were in order. The £12.4bn offer had been announced at 7am to the Stock Exchange. John Hutton, the Business Secretary, had thrown the weight of the government, owner of a 35 per cent stake in British Energy, behind the deal. More importantly, Neil Woodford - the rebel fund manager from Invesco with 15 per cent of the shares, who had scuppered a deal in August - was also on board.
By last Friday afternoon, when he met The Observer, de Rivaz had almost lost his voice and was nursing a heavy cold. You can't blame him. It's been a long slog. He cancelled his holidays in February, April and August, when he was also supposed to attend the Beijing Olympics, to get the deal done. He complains he has not taken a break this year. 'I'm not my normal sparkling self,' he grins.
But he hasn't lost his bite. To some, the deal to sell British Energy, whose power stations produce a fifth of the UK's electricity, represents a worrying dependence on a company backed by a foreign government to keep the lights on. Some consumer groups also worry that the disappearance of another independent British utility company will weaken competition and could result in higher bills. 'To be honest, you have to realistic and stop your whingeing about the UK,' he counters. 'Your country - I should say our country - has made a very clear decision to go for nuclear. The UK will take the lead. Stop whingeing.'
Ouch. No matter that in France, the government has resisted European Union laws to liberalise energy markets. EDF, which is 85 per cent owned by the French government, remains the dominant supplier in its home market and is protected from competition. The French government remains opposed to the type of foreign takeover just pulled off by EDF in the UK. Last year, Paris even engineered a merger between French utilities GDF and Suez, to scupper a planned foreign takeover of Suez.
De Rivaz admits that the UK's open-arms welcome to foreign energy firms is unique. 'But you should not complain about it,' he adds. When asked which is better, open energy markets such as in the UK, or closed markets as in France, there is a long pause. His answer requires diplomacy for his audiences in both Whitehall and Paris. 'In all the countries, what we are seeing is that energy is not something about which any government can say, "it's not my business". It's the business of any government to ensure that there is the framework to deliver security of supply and climate change objectives.'
But the big difference with the UK's more laissez-faire approach is that, rather than rely on our own government to keep the nation illuminated, we're counting on the French.
In fact, all this talk of Britishness and Frenchness seems to exasperate the irrepressible de Rivaz. What if there's an energy crisis with power cuts in the UK and France? Will power from British Energy's nukes be exported via the interconnector grid under the English Channel, to keep the lights on in France, at the expense of the UK?
'No, no,' grimaces de Rivaz, who at this question throws his head onto his outstretched arms on the boardroom table. 'The interconnector is very small. Do you think the French government is not supportive of a large company which is successful? It's not like a gas producer turning off the taps. It [electricity] is going to be produced in the UK for UK customers.' To underline the point, he says that the UK is EDF's 'second home market'.
Besides, he says, EDF isn't controlled by the French government, which is looking for a successor to take over from current group boss Pierre Gadonneix. 'Controlled is not the right word. It will be supported, boosted, enhanced, and will benefit from [the government's involvement].' He also thinks EDF's existing 16 million domestic customers don't care whether British Energy is foreign-owned or not.
Bankers and advisers involved on both sides say it has been one of the most tortuous and complex takeovers they have been involved in. One British Energy shareholder called the saga an 'unsightly quadrille', involving the four principals: EDF, British Energy, the government and Centrica, which hopes to take a stake in the UK company.
De Rivaz has long had British Energy in his sights. Soon after its current chief executive, the amiable American Bill Coley, took over British Energy in 2005, the Frenchman met him to discuss how the pair could revive the UK's flagging nuclear industry. So when British Energy began looking for potential joint-venture partners to help it build new reactors late last year, de Rivaz met Montague, the British Energy chairman, and told him he wanted to do a deal. A formal auction was launched soon afterwards.
Despite the best efforts of the UK company's adviser, Rothschild, to drum up interest, no other credible bidder materialised. EDF thought it had British Energy in the bag in early August, arranging a press conference to announce the deal. But Invesco, with 15 per cent of British Energy's shares, unexpectedly rejected the proposal the night before, leading to bitter recriminations from both sides. De Rivaz, heading up the bid team for the French giant, cancelled his August holiday to hammer out an improved offer. When Montague came back from his own holiday, de Rivaz phoned him with the news: 'We can do it.' With cabinet minister Hutton also leaning on British Energy, and Invesco won round, the deal was finally done.
Some analysts remain convinced that EDF has got British Energy on the cheap. Lakis Athanasiou, from Evolution Securities Research, reckons £10 a share, rather than the 774p agreed, represents a better price. But other observers also point out that EDF has the necessary financial firepower and technical expertise to build a new fleet of reactors, something which British Energy was not capable of doing on its own.
Yet the British government - and the taxpayer - remain on the hook for British Energy's £5.5bn decommissioning liabilities from its existing reactors. Under the terms of the offer outlined last week, EDF and its UK subsidiaries are also not liable for redundancy and employment costs for its 6,000 workers - or liabilities arising from any breach in its operational licences - if British Energy were to go bust.
Unions are harbouring concerns that the government, once it has sold its stake, will no longer guarantee workers' final salary pensions, despite assurances from the French company. They are meeting the UK company's management tomorrow.
Another concern is that the combined EDF and British Energy operation will generate a quarter of the UK's electricity. While the British company was an independent generator, selling its power onto the market, its new owners will retain much of it for its own customers.
De Rivaz seems to suggest that competition for its own sake is not the be-all and end-all. 'At the end of the day, we should not be idealistic about these things,' he says in his heavy French accent. 'Does it benefit the customer to have people investing massive amounts of money for security of supply? I like competition when it's for the benefit of customers.'
For a moment, de Rivaz looks anxious. 'Do I still need to convince you? Why are you worried?' he asks. 'I am the delivery man. You don't let down your own market, do you?'
Let's hope he's right.
The CV
Name Vincent de Rivaz
Born October 1953
Education Graduated as an engineer from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Hydraulique de Grenoble
Career 1977, joined EDF as a hydro-electric engineer, working for various international divisions of the company; 2000, promoted to head of strategy and finance and given group-wide responsibility for financial strategy and operations for EDF Group; 2002 to date: chief executive of London Electricity Group (subsequently renamed EDF Energy)

U.S., Russia Push U.N. Pact Against Iran's Nuclear Effort


WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration and Russia agreed Friday to push forward a new United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Iran's pursuit of nuclear technologies, but without any new economic sanctions.
This agreement, said diplomats involved in the process, reflected a compromise between Washington and Moscow, whose relations have soured since Russian troops entered Georgia last month.
The Bush administration initially hoped to use the annual U.N. General Assembly this month to increase the financial pressure on Iran for its efforts to develop a nuclear fuel cycle. The U.N.'s atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently warned that Tehran is significantly increasing its production of nuclear fuel while failing to address questions about its suspected pursuit of nuclear warheads.
Moscow, however, rebuffed a U.S. call last week for an emergency meeting of the Security Council, plus Germany, to address Iran's action, citing a lack of urgency. Russian diplomats publicly complained that the Kremlin didn't see the need to cooperate with the White House at a time when U.S. officials were condemning Moscow's actions in Georgia.
On Friday, Russian and European officials said the decision to ultimately move ahead with a new Security Council resolution against Tehran reflected the recognition that pressure needed to be maintained against Tehran. Iranian officials have repeatedly declined offers from the U.S. and its negotiating partners that would see the West drop any new sanctions against Iran in exchange for Tehran freezing the expansion of its nuclear program.
The draft resolution reflects "our unity of purpose as far as the problem of the Iranian nuclear program is concerned," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters in New York. He stressed, however, that "this is a resolution in the absence of the sanctions resolution. ... No new sanctions have been discussed."
Western diplomats said they hoped the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council could pass the new censure of Iran this week. The draft resolution reaffirms existing U.N. actions against Tehran and "does not rule out" the possibility of new sanctions down the line, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at the U.N.
Write to Jay Solomon at

Scottish Power to lead the charge towards tidal power

By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
Published: September 28 2008 16:12

Scotland is to become a pioneer in generating electricity from the sea, Scottish Power will say on Monday when it unveils plans for the world’s biggest tidal power project and a factory to make tidal turbines.
Three sites around the coasts of Scotland and Northern Ireland have been chosen, at each of which up to 20 undersea power-generating turbines will be installed from next year.

Scottish Power Renewables also plans to build the tidal power turbines in Scotland, proposing to set up a manufacturing facility to export the turbines to other electricity utilities around the world.
“This is a historic day for the development of marine energy,” said Keith Anderson, director of Scottish Power Renewables, a unit of Iberdrola acquired under the £11.6bn takeover of the utility company by the Spanish group in 2006.
The investment is likely to total more than £100m in the first phase of the project. Each turbine will have a generating capacity of 1 megawatt, and if 60 are put in place the combined output would be enough to power more than 40,000 homes.
Tidal power is viewed as one of the most promising forms of renewable energy, because unlike wind and solar energy, it is reliable and predictable. The flow of tides can be used to turn turbines for 23 hours a day, with a small lull when the tides are changing from ebb to flow. The strength of the tide, and therefore the electricity produced, varies through the day, but in a predictable fashion.
The government has recently discovered an enthusiasm for tidal power, ordering a consultation on a possible tidal scheme in the Severn estuary which could produce as much as 5 per cent of the UK’s electricity.
But although a handful of tidal schemes have been generating electricity on a small scale, the technology has been slow to take off.
ScottishPower acknowledged that if the schemes were to be successful, grid connections would have to be built “as a matter of urgency”.
The Scottish executive recently said it would increase subsidies for tidal power. Under this proposal, for every megawatt of electricity produced by tidal power, the generator would receive about four times what a fossil fuel generator would receive.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Glasgow firm signs US wind turbine deal

Published Date: 23 September 2008

A SCOTS firm has secured a £1 million order to supply wind turbine technology to the United States over two years.
Glasgow-based Macom Technologies builds sensors to monitor the performance of turbines and has already shipped some of the 750 components on order.The deal was signed with Clipper Windpower, which is building turbines across the US. An agreement between Clipper and BP could bring further investment to Macom in future.Macom's device fits into turbines to monitor lubricants for metal particles, which indicate wear. The company, formed in 1999, has ten employees and plans to take on a further two.Ashraf Mabrouk, a Macom director, said: "The deal helps establish Macom as a prime player in the wind energy sector as suppliers of specialised but critically important wear debris condition monitoring equipment."Jim Dehlsen, of Clipper Windpower, said deals with other Scottish companies could follow. He praised "Scotland's leadership in driving forward technologies in support of wind energy's global expansion".

Welsh biomass plant proposed

By Fiona Harvey
Published: September 23 2008 03:00

Plans for a biomass-burning power plant that could provide electricity for 50,000 homes in Wales were submitted yesterday by Welsh Power's subsidiary, CEC Generation. If given the go-ahead, the £140m plant near Newport, running on woodchip and energy crops, would be one of a handful of such power stations in the UK.
The government wants to encourage more such plants as an alternative to fossil fuels, but difficulties with finding sustainable and cheap sources of fuel, and worries over government subsidies, have held back their development. The 50MW plant would take about two years to build, the company said. The site was chosen for the ease of delivery of biomass through the nearby port.
Fiona Harvey
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Jetion eyes North America

By David Blackwell
Published: September 23 2008 03:00

The addition of two production lines following flotation on Aim in the summer of last year helped Jetion, which makes solar cells in China's Jiangsu province, lift first-half turnover from $38.6m to $100.7m (£55m).
The company, which exports more than 80 per cent of its output to Europe, hopes to start selling in North America next year.
Pre-tax profits for the six months to June 30 were $12.1m, up from $2.8m.
The shares - pitched at 151p for the IPO, which raised £30m - closed up 1p at 79p. The company said it was considering further expansion .David Blackwell
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Chrysler May Use Batteries by A123


Chrysler LLC, in a rush to develop new, fuel-efficient vehicles, is in advanced talks about using batteries made by A123 Systems Inc. in an electric car due to be launched by 2011, people familiar with the matter said.

Chrysler, which now depends on trucks, sport-utility vehicles and minivans for 75% of its sales, is scheduled to demonstrate its battery-powered car for the first time in public Tuesday.
A123, Watertown, Mass., is a seven-year-old company vying to break into the nascent market for lithium-ion battery packs for automobiles. A123 is in the running to supply batteries for the Chevrolet Volt, the electric car General Motors Corp. is developing.
A deal to supply Chrysler would give a boost to A123's business ahead of a planned initial public stock offering. It registered for the offering in August.
A spokeswoman for Chrysler said the company "has nothing to announce at this time" about suppliers for its electric car. An A123 spokesman declined to comment, noting the company is in a quiet period because of its registration for an IPO.
Chrysler has been keeping its work on electric cars under tight wraps. But in recent weeks, as GM's Volt drew heavy media attention, Chrysler management became concerned that the company was being left out of the increasing buzz about electric vehicles, people familiar with the matter said.
GM has poured millions of dollars into its Volt project and has hyped the car in television commercials, although it is still uncertain whether the batteries for the car will be available on time. The Volt is set for launch in late 2010.
Tuesday, Chrysler will also demonstrate the electric car in a presentation that will be broadcast to dealers across the country. The company is hoping to energize dealers who have been hit hard by the downturn in auto sales this year.
Chrysler, which was acquired a year ago by private-equity group Cerberus Capital Management LP, has been searching for partners to help it keep pace with GM and others in the race to launch high-tech cars that cut fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions.
The company had originally thought it might be able to have a working electric car by the spring, people familiar with the matter said. But with Chrysler burning cash and its sales falling, Cerberus has pushed the company to focus on cutting expenses, they said. The auto maker's sales have sagged this year as high gas prices spooked American consumers away from large vehicles like trucks and SUVs. Although Chief Executive Robert Nardelli has slashed costs and sold off assets, Chrysler is still on track to lose money this year.
Chrysler's push to develop electric vehicles began before Cerberus took an 80.1% stake in the company in August 2007, people familiar with the matter said.
Write to Neal E. Boudette at

Hutton makes case for coal and nuclear power

Business secretary tells Labour conference that the two controversial sources of energy are crucial for Britain's future
Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent,
Monday September 22 2008 09:17 BST

Britain needs to undergo a "renaissance in nuclear power", and coal will continue to be a "critically important fuel" for the country, the business secretary, John Hutton, said today.
In an outspoken speech, designed to put pressure on the Tories as they outline restrictions on coal-fired power stations, Hutton said that the two controversial sources of energy are crucial to ensure Britain retains a secure supply of energy.
Hutton said the international battle for energy security poses a threat to Britain's competitiveness and its "sovereignty as a nation".
In his speech to the Labour conference in Manchester, he added: "It means a renaissance in nuclear power. Low carbon, reliable, secure... And because energy security is a first thought, not an afterthought, I will not turn my back on another critical source of energy security for the UK: coal."
The business secretary said he understood that people felt passionate about coal. But he took a swipe at David Cameron, who has said he will ensure that a new generation of "unabated coal power plants" cannot be built by imposing a California-style emissions performance standard.
Hutton said: "I understand that people feel passionate about this issue. Others, like the Tories, see an opportunity for pandering. But coal is critically important for the UK. Flexible. Available. Reducing our reliance on imported gas."
Hutton's remarks show that Labour believes that Cameron could be vulnerable on energy as high oil prices and the wider global economic downturn make people wary of restrictions on fuel even if they are designed to help the environment.
Tony Blair believes he scored one of his greatest hits on Cameron on energy after the Tory leader described nuclear power as an "option of last resort". Blair said that government was about taking tough decisions and was not a multiple choice exam.
Cameron has since indicated that he would be prepared to allow a new generation of nuclear power stations, though he warns that he would not provide any "blank cheques".
Hutton said the Britain had to look beyond weathering the current economic storm to make changes — "emerging stronger and fitter to seize the new manufacturing opportunities in the green economy and global markets of tomorrow".

Nuclear and coal plants 'vital' to UK energy future

Robin Pagnamenta, Energy and Environment Editor

John Hutton, the Business Secretary, vowed yesterday to take on critics of new coal and nuclear power stations, arguing that their construction was vital to securing Britain's long-term energy needs.
Addressing the Labour Party Conference in Manchester, he said that an international battle for energy security was emerging as one of the most significant threats to both Britain's competitiveness and its sovereignty. He said that the country's growing reliance on imported gas from some of the world's most unstable regions was unacceptable and he called for a renaissance of nuclear power.
Mr Hutton, speaking before the expected announcement of a £12.4 billion takeover of British Energy by EDF tomorrow, said that he was
“determined to press all the buttons to get nuclear built in this country at the earliest opportunity ... And because energy security is a first thought, not an afterthought, I will not turn my back on another critical source of energy security for the UK - coal.”

He lambasted opponents of both fuels, including environmental campaigners and other political parties, which he said were “posturing” over energy policy. “Tories say ‘no' to new coal and send mixed messages on nuclear; Lib Dems say ‘no' to new coal and nuclear. No coal plus no nuclear equals no lights. No power. No future.”
The Business Secretary accepted that people had concerns about the contribution that new coal-fired power stations would make to climate change, but he argued that British emissions were capped by European Union legislation and that building new coal plants would make no difference overall.
“Additional emissions will have to be offset by reductions elsewhere,” he said, “so stopping the building of new coal-fired power stations would make no difference to the UK's total carbon emissions - but I think it would damage our energy security. So there is no sense in our turning our backs on coal. Let's keep cleaning it up, not ruling it out.”
Mr Hutton's remarks were condemned by John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace, who said that new coal-fired power stations could not be an option because of their huge contribution to climate change.
Mr Hutton's speech came as Westinghouse, the Japanese-owned nuclear reactor maker, published research claiming the British economy could receive a £30billion boost from the construction of new stations, including the creation of thousands of skilled engineering jobs.
David Powell, Westinghouse's UK vice-president, said that half of the total would come through the construction of new sites, a third from operating the plants and the rest from servicing.
The EDF takeover of British Energy will mean that the bulk of Britain's nuclear industry will pass into the hands of the French state-controlled utility giant. EDF has lifted its initial offer of 765p a share to 774p. It wants to use its acquisition of British Energy to oversee construction of four nuclear plants on existing UK sites.

Electric Range Rover with zero emissions to be unveiled

A prototype Range Rover capable of going 200 miles on a single electric charge is to be unveiled this week.

By David Millward, Transport Editor Last Updated: 8:58PM BST 22 Sep 2008

According to the company, this car will offer swift acceleration and a high top speed, while costing 80 per cent less to run than a petrol equivalent
It has been designed by a team working in Oxford and could be on sale next year.
The bill for driving an environmentally friendly Range Rover will be a hefty one, with the prices ranging from £95,000 to £125,000.
However, unlike the car's conventional equivalents, the tax bill for running the car will be minimal.
Electric cars on the market, such as the G-Wizz have a range of around 50-60 miles - but are also on sale at a fraction of the proposed price for the Liberty Electric Range Rover.
It is the latest in a series of alternative powered cars being designed by the motor industry which has come under intense pressure to reduce emissions.
The European Union has told car makers that they must bring their average CO2 output down to 130 grams per kilometre by 2012.
According to the company, this car will offer swift acceleration and a high top speed, while costing 80 per cent less to run than a petrol equivalent.
Other innovations include roof mounted solar panels, which will provide additional charge for the batteries as well as powering some of the car's electrics while it is stopped.
Some versions will also have technology designed to extend the car's range even further.
The company behind the project has pledged to invest £30 million and said it will create 250 new manufacturing jobs - although where the jobs will be located has not been disclosed.
Its backers include Ian Taylor, a former science minister, and a number of motor design experts.

Crisis must be turned to green benefit, scientist says

· Climate technology needs help, government told· Latest market intervention 'shows what can be done'
Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Tuesday September 23 2008

Governments need to show the same boldness to intervene in the markets to kickstart a move to a low-carbon economy as they did when they helped the banks stave off financial crisis last week, a leading academic has demanded.
"Both require strong regulation for efficient economic outcomes," said Terry Barker, a climate change expert at Cambridge University, who fears the Lehman Brothers and HBOS problems foreshadow a global economic downturn.
Barker's concerns were backed up by one of the government's scientific advisers, who fears that a downturn could lead to a lack of investment in vital new sectors such as developing carbon capture and storage plants.
"When you have a downturn of this kind, it does lead to a disinvestment in this kind of technology," said Robert Watson, a former World Bank adviser who is now at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
There were marked similarities between the lack of transparency and action on complex lending risks that had wreaked havoc in the banking community and the kinds of dangers being stored up by corporate and political inaction over global warming, said Barker, the director of the centre for climate change mitigation research at Cambridge.
"Both threaten the economy with catastrophic collapse," added the economist, who has worked with the UN's Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, and was speaking with Watson at the Entrepreneurship for a Zero Carbon Society conference at Cambridge University.
Barker believes the problems on Wall Street will take potential investment money out of the system. But he says a determined response by ministers could encourage the channelling of that cash into vital work on climate change.
He fears that governments and business leaders have massively underestimated the risks posed by rising sea levels and changing weather patterns - any costs associated with moving to a low-carbon economy were, he said, "negligible" compared with the costs of doing nothing.
The banking crisis meant the rules of engagement by governments had changed completely, said Barker. The same system of "force majeure" was needed to tackle climate change through new eco-taxes, and help to supplement carbon trading.
In the past, cost-benefit analyses had been applied to justify inaction on global warming, but this was inappropriate given the enormous scale of the social, environmental and other threats being faced. "The Amazon rainforest and coral reefs cannot be substituted by money. It's obvious, but it needs repeating," said Barker.
The Cambridge academic said EU carbon reduction targets were far too low and would have to be raised if the world was to stand a chance of tackling the problem. There needed to be a 40% reduction in carbon output by 2020, not the 20% target that was currently in place.
Watson said action was needed on all fronts if the world was to avert disaster - and Britain should be forging ahead with nuclear, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and renewables such as wind, to ensure energy supplies were retained while carbon emissions fell.
With regard to CCS, he said the world needed an equivalent of the Apollo space programme of the 1960s and 70s aimed at putting a man on the Moon. There should be 20 CCS prototypes developed at the same time - the possible $1bn (£500m) cost for each facility was tiny compared with the $300bn worth of fossil fuel subsidies or the trillions of pounds' worth of economic activity that the Stern Review had indicated would be endangered every year by inaction on climate change.

Number of firms reporting on emissions targets falls

Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Tuesday September 23 2008

The number of top 500 global firms reporting their carbon emissions reduction targets to the investment community has fallen, but climate change is still rising fast up the corporate agenda, a new report claims.
The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a scheme developed by 385 of the world's biggest investors holding assets worth $57tn (£31tn), says only 74% of leading companies have reported their strategy for reducing emissions this year, down from 76% a year earlier.
And while more than 80% of firms in the Standard & Poor's leading 500 listed US firms accept that climate change is a risk, only a third of them have plans to reduce pollution. The project's organisers believe the fall in the number of firms reporting on emissions cuts can be put down to a changing world economic order that has pitched more Asian companies into the top 500.
Chinese, Indian and other businesses are traditionally less aware of greenhouse gas issues because many of these countries are not obliged to make reductions in carbon under the Kyoto Protocol as they are in Europe.
Overall, more companies responded to the carbon disclosure project - 1,550 of the world's biggest corporations this time compared with the 1,217 that replied in 2007.
Paul Dickinson, chief executive of the CDP - which was developed to help investors understand their financial exposure to global warming - said: "With increased regulation on the horizon, investors are requiring this information to better understand the creditworthiness of companies in their portfolio and how climate change might affect their profitability."
Global corporations view climate change as a clear risk as well as an opportunity. But they are anxious about the lack of clarity around government regulation, which they admit is holding back investment, Dickinson added.
The only British companies in the top 12 rankings for a carbon disclosure index are Scottish and Southern, the gas and electricity utility, and the banking group Barclays. Others in the list include Japanese carmaker Nissan and the German chemicals group Bayer.

Carbon capture viable by 2030 but needs £8bn to begin now

David Gow in Brussels
The Guardian,
Tuesday September 23 2008

One of Gordon Brown's pet energy projects - to build up to a dozen pilot plants to capture and store carbon dioxide as power stations burn coal to generate electricity - would require EU subsidies of as much as €10bn (£7.9bn) over the next few years, it emerged yesterday.
A study by the consultancy McKinsey into carbon capture and storage (CCS) showed that such plants could be economically viable by 2030 at the latest. But it would require substantial public subsidies to get 10-12 plants running by the EU target date of 2015.
They cost twice or three times as much as conventional coal plants: about €2bn for the 300 megawatt plants planned by the industry, which is refusing to go ahead without public subsidies.
CCS is highly controversial, with green campaigners split down the middle over the issue. It involves capturing and compressing the CO2, transporting it to sites such as disused oil and gas fields or deep saline aquifers, and permanently storing it there.
But McKinsey said that, with coal still likely to make up 60% of EU power generation by 2030, CCS could be a vital solution to ensuring security of energy supply and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
It could reduce emissions by 400m tonnes a year by 2030, or a fifth of planned European savings. The consultants' report, published yesterday, showed that with an aggressive commercial push from the middle of the next decade, CCS costs could come down from as much as €90 for a tonne of CO2 initially, to about €30-45 in 2030 - or in line with expected carbon prices then.
At the report's launch, Chris Davies, a Liberal Democrat MEP and the European parliament's rapporteur on CCS, said a deal could be struck soon to supply the public subsidies needed to kickstart the demonstration plants.
His solution is to take the billions from a strategic reserve - worth up to €18bn - set aside under the EU's emissions trading scheme for the creation of new, "green" plants. He claimed a majority of MEPs on the environment committee would endorse his scheme early next month.
Davies said: "We need to put this financing mechanism in place very quickly, deliver it to developers, and do it at a European level. If we leave it to national capitals, I'm not confident the projects will go ahead, and time is already running out."
But he said the subsidies would have to be monitored; through the European Investment Bank, for example, which would run tenders for the pilot plants and ensure that the public was not being "fleeced".
Andris Piebalgs, EU energy commissioner, said he personally favoured the Davies scheme, but could not commit the entire European commission. "The technology could compete with nuclear, solar, wind and gas, and help combat climate change not only in Europe but China, India and the US," he said.
Senior French officials said the EU council of ministers, which so far has opposed Davies's scheme, was considering alternative funding, such as revenues from the auctioning of pollution permits under the emissions trading scheme or from national or EU budgets.
Lars Josefsson, the chief executive of the Swedish power producer Vattenfall - which is promoting a small pilot plant with the German gases group Linde - said a swift financing solution was vital: "The boards of companies are not allowed to use shareholders' money recklessly and rack up billions of losses. We will invest in CCS if the funding gap is bridged."

Climate sceptics have their head in the sand, says the Met Office

An apparent cooling trend is exaggerated by a record high temperature in 1998 caused by El Niño, experts say
David Adam, environment correspondent,
Monday September 22 2008 17:40 BST

Global average temperature anomaly from 1975-2007, relative to the 1961-1990 average. The black line shows the annual figure. The red line shows the trend over the full 23 years. The blue lines show the varying rate of the trend over 10 year periods. Source: The Met Office
Climate sceptics such as Nigel Lawson who argue that global warming has stopped have their "heads in the sand", according to the UK's Met Office.
A recent dip in global temperatures is down to natural changes in weather systems, a new analysis shows, and does not alter the long-term warming trend.
The office says average temperatures have continued their rising trend over the last decade, and that humans are to blame.
In a statement published on its website, it says: "Anyone who thinks global warming has stopped has their head in the sand.
"The evidence is clear, the long-term trend in global temperatures is rising, and humans are largely responsible for this rise. Global warming does not mean that each year will be warmer than the last."
The new research confirms that the world has cooled slightly since 2005, but says this is down to a weather phenomena called La Niña, when cold water rises to the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Despite this effect, the office says, 11 of the last 13 years are the warmest ever recorded.
Vicky Pope of the Met Office said the new research was in response to high-profile claims made by Lawson the former chancellor, and others that the recent cooling showed that fears of climate change are overblown, and that temperatures are unlikely to rise as high as predicted.
She said: "I think it has confused people. We got a lot of emails asking whether global warming had stopped and it prompted us to look at the data again and try and understand the situation better."
The apparent cooling trend is exaggerated by a record high temperature in 1998 caused by a separate weather event, El Niño, she said. "You could look at what happened in 1998 and say that global warming accelerated and that's not true either.
"Any statistician will tell you that you can't just draw a straight line between two points, you need to look at the underlying trend."
Despite the recent cooling, average temperatures are still rising at 0.09C per decade, the office says - down from the record 0.33C per decade measured during the 1990s.

Met Office says climate change deniers deluded

David Adam, environment correspondent
The Guardian,
Tuesday September 23 2008

Climate change sceptics such as Nigel Lawson who argue that global warming has stopped have their "heads in the sand", according to the Met Office.
A recent dip in global temperatures is down to natural changes in weather systems, a new analysis shows, and does not alter the long-term warming trend.
The office says average temperatures have continued to rise in the last decade, and that humans are to blame.
In a statement published on its website, it says: "Anyone who thinks global warming has stopped has their head in the sand. The evidence is clear, the long-term trend in global temperatures is rising, and humans are largely responsible for this rise. Global warming does not mean that each year will be warmer than the last."
The new research confirms that the world has cooled slightly since 2005, but says this is down to a weather phenomena called La Niña, when cold water rises to the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Despite this effect, the office says, 11 of the last 13 years were the warmest ever recorded.
Vicky Pope, of the Met Office, said the research was a response to claims made by Lawson, a former chancellor, and others that the recent cooling showed fears of climate change were overblown, and temperatures were unlikely to rise as high as predicted. She said: "It has confused people. We got a lot of emails asking whether global warming had stopped and it prompted us to look at the data again."
The apparent cooling trend was exaggerated by a record high in 1998 caused by a separate weather event, El Niño, she said. "You could look at what happened in 1998 and say that global warming accelerated, and that's not true either."

Climate change fears after German opt-out

By Chris Bryant in Berlin, Fiona Harvey in London and Tony Barber in Brussels
Published: September 22 2008 16:43

A German government decision to back an almost total exemption for industry from new rules that would force companies to pay for the carbon dioxide they emit threatens to undermine a key tenet of European Union climate policy, climate campaigners warn.
The decision is a victory for German industry, which feared European Commission proposals for an auction of carbon emission permits would cost billions of euros and restrict its ability to compete internationally.
Sigmar Gabriel: seeks establishment of special rules

Angela Merkel, chancellor, warned recently that although she supported the need to tackle climate change, she “could not support the destruction of German jobs through an ill-advised climate policy”.
Climate campaigners said the move would open the door to a slew of objections from other states seeking to protect their own key industries during the next phase of the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS).
“There are a lot of countries that want to protect their own industries without the economic arguments to back this up,” said Joris den Blanken, senior policy advisor at Greenpeace.
The European parliament’s industry committee last week voted to replace the current free distribution of carbon-dioxide permits with a mandatory auction between 2013 and 2020 in a bid to help cut European greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent from 1990 levels.
The proposals are likely to face a vote at a plenary session of the parliament later this year but must then be ratified by the heads of member states.
The German government is not alone in seeking opt- outs. Poland is anxious that auctioning could severely affect its power companies while Italy is pushing for free carbon permits for specific sectors.
After months of internal wrangling, Germany has accepted that from 2013, power companies, including those that construct new power plants, should take part in the auction process.
However, because this is expected to lead to higher electricity costs, the government is to insist that energy-intensive industries like aluminium producers should be compensated with free carbon permits.
Germany will also push for an exemption for large emitters like the steel industry, subject to these companies using the best available emission control technology.
Remaining companies would have their purchase of certificates capped at 20 per cent of total emissions.
The German government defends its stance by claiming there is a risk of carbon-emitting industries relocating to countries where they would be free to pollute.
“As long as European companies are governed by stricter climate protection regulations than their competitors in countries like China, we have to seek to establish special rules,” said Sigmar Gabriel, environment minister.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Report boosts European policy on CO2

By Tony Barber in Brussels
Published: September 22 2008 16:59

European advocates of trapping and storing carbon dioxide as a means of curbing power-plant emissions received a boost on Monday when an experts’ report said the technology could become commercially viable in less than 25 years.
The study by the McKinsey consultancy estimated that for new coal-fired plants, carbon capture and storage (CCS) costs would average €30-€45 (£24-£38, $44-$66) by 2030 for every ton of CO2 prevented from entering the atmosphere.

The report was a pioneering effort to calculate the economics of CCS, a still fledgling technology that aims to capture CO2 emitted from power plants and industrial sites, compress it and transport it to permanent storage sites deep underground or underwater.
Early European demonstration projects using CCS technology are forecast to cost €60-€90 per ton of CO2 saved, making them too expensive for private companies to operate commercially, the report said.
However, with analysts at Deutsche Bank, UBS and other institutions forecasting a carbon trading right price of €30-€48 per ton by 2030, CCS would at that time become a viable proposition in Europe, the report said.
In March 2007 European Union leaders committed to building up to 12 demonstration power plants that would incorporate CCS. They took the view that CCS, though untested, was almost certain to be a vital component of the EU’s battle against carbon-driven climate change.
Eighteen months later, EU governments, the European Commission and the European parliament have still not agreed on how to pay for the demonstration plants, which are supposed to be up and running by 2015.
A vote is due in the European parliament next month that could kick-start the funding process. Chris Davies, the MEP responsible for steering CCS legislation, said that about €10bn in EU funds would be needed for the plants.
Andris Piebalgs, the EU’s energy commissioner, said: “We must make fast progress on the financing of the demonstration projects.”
Warren Campbell, the McKinsey expert who wrote the report, said it would be important to get the demonstration plants going as soon as possible if the target date of 2030 were to be met, because it takes about six years to acquire permission and build a new coal power plant in Europe.
“CCS can be economically viable by 2030, with a sufficiently aggressive roll-out,” said Tomas Nauclér, another McKinsey expert.
The report cautioned that there were several potential obstacles to widespread use of CCS technology, such as a lack of certainty about how to transport and store CO2 under existing EU legislation. Moreover, some environmentalists have raised concerns about whether stored CO2 will remain isolated from the atmosphere in the long term.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008