Thursday, 21 August 2008

Sanitation: Creating a stink about the world's wastewater

Britain's sanitary revolution took place 150 years ago, but what is preventing so much of the developing world from catching up?
Maggie Black
The Guardian,
Wednesday August 20 2008

Exactly 150 years ago, an exceptionally hot spell of summer weather reduced the Thames flowing through London to a scandalous condition known as The Great Stink. Queen Victoria, travelling down the river to Millwall docks, had to contain her nausea by clamping a bouquet to her nose. The fumes were not only foul but terrifying, since they were thought to be pestilential - the source of cholera.
The Great Stink, with its power of concentrating MPs' faculties, led to the introduction of legislation for the transformation of sewerage in London. An unprecedented sum for a domestic purpose, £3m, was voted for intercepting sewers to be tunnelled along the riverside by Sir Joseph Bazalgette. The act, rushed through by August 1858 was to lead to revolutions in local government and public health engineering throughout the world.
If only such action was expressed today. Great Stinks are still routinely emanated by rivers swollen with raw sewage and reduced to a trickle in the hot season in parts of Asia, Africa and Central America. But the stench does not instil the same degree of terror.
Equivalent attention and massive public investment are desperately needed today on behalf of the 40% of the world's population - 2.6 billion people - without a means of dealing with the personal waste evacuation process that everyone on the planet has to manage on a daily basis.
To try to change this, the UN declared 2008 the International Year of Sanitation. But for go-getting sanitary publicists, despite the annual death toll of 1.5 million children from diarrhoeal disease, the life-threatening menace of "feculent corruption" does not carry the edge it once did.
Nor do great figures and celebrities rally to their cause. They are happy to lend their names to campaigns for clean water. But do they ever mention the reason why "dirty" water poses a threat to child health, the lack of toilets to contain detritus and consequent faecal contamination? Programmes for "water and sanitation" conveniently forget the "S" word too. They spend the lion's share of their resources on water: 95% in Madagascar, for example, leaving just 3p per head a year to spend on sanitation.
Madagascar is typical. Sanitation has rock-bottom political priority in country after country. Privatisation of municipal utilities - at the bidding of the World Bank and others - has compounded the problem, since any profits to be made are all in water supply, which people need to survive. But sanitation is a public good and, as the Victorians discovered, needs to be subsidised from the public purse.
Faced with the Great Stink and its consequences, Victorian celebrities lost their squeamishness. When Bazalgette's southern intercepting sewer was opened in 1865, the Prince of Wales, the Lord Mayor of London, the Archbishop of Canterbury and 500 dignitaries dined on salmon while the city's excreta gushed forth beneath them. During the International Year of Sanitation, an international photo opportunity with a religious, royal or senior political personage on a lavatorial throne has so far failed to materialise.
Unless more attention, and less embarrassment, can be garnered by sanitation's international exponents, there will be little prospect of achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) in sanitation, declared in 2002. After intense lobbying at the Johannesburg Earth summit, a goal to reduce by half by 2015 the numbers of people without access to sanitation in 1990, was added to an identical goal for water. But of all the MDGs, this one lags furthest behind. On current progress, it will take until 2076 to reach the goal in Africa.
Safe and convenient
One of the excuses offered by politicians and planners for the resounding lack of attention to sanitation is that there is no popular demand for toilets - unlike water. But the reason why demand is not expressed is because the subject is taboo, not because people don't feel it. Women, especially in urban areas of the developing world, desperately need somewhere to "go" that is safe and convenient. The night-time expedition to the bush or open ditch can lead to sexual harassment and attack. Reputation is also at stake. In urban South Africa, a woman seen cleaning a public latrine is unmarriageable. Such topics are unlikely to surface in a meeting with the local MP.
Handled carefully, demand for sanitation can and does emerge. The current lodestar in sanitation is an approach called community-led total sanitation (CLTS), pioneered in Bangladesh. The shock tactic of the strategy is to point out that members of the community are eating each other's detritus.
The accumulated evidence and disgust prompts conversion to the doctrine of "open defecation-free" behaviour and mass commitment to the building of household toilets. This strategy is surprisingly effective - and not just in Bangladesh. In a recent CLTS pilot in southern Zambia, the local chief became so engaged that he took it upon himself to chivy his subjects into toilet construction.
It is not surprising that those who venerate their ancestors - as in Madagascar - might object to burying faeces in their underground resting-place. Nor that those used to the open air might feel claustrophobic in a hot, dark, and often smelly toilet house. However, in an increasingly crowded rural landscape, and in slums and townships where people are living almost on top of each other, the days of open defecation ought speedily to come to an end.
The question, then, is how to meet demand among poorer citizens for whom such a significant home improvement represents a huge financial output.
The International Year of Sanitation has managed to galvanise the international community - the Department for International Development, schools of hygiene and tropical medicine, WaterAid, Unicef and the World Health Organisation - to undertake new ventures on the excretory frontier. Gradually, more resources are being found. But current policy seems to expect that many of these will be spent on re-training public health engineers and turning experts with spigots and ball-cocks into experts in lavatorial spin.
The public health revolution that followed London's Great Stink required large investments of public funds on infrastructure. The sanitary revolution needed for the 21st century requires investment not in vast tunnels for sewerage, but in helping to create an intermediary sanitary economy with cheap, attractive, good quality products ready to meet the emerging demand for simple, decent facilities. Such an economy would have the attraction of providing local people with jobs - not as miserable muck-shovellers, but in respectable skilled occupations.
There is still almost half of the International Year of Sanitation left in which to bring about a new sanitary revolution. What is needed is new openness, and the same political push committed 150 years ago to solving London's crisis. Who with celebrity status could help in the UK to put pressure on our government and on the international community? Or will we have to rely on a 21st century rash of epidemics and dying rivers to put this most basic of problems on the popular and political agenda?
· Maggie Black is the author with Ben Fawcett of The Last Taboo: Opening the Door on the Global Sanitation Crisis, published by Earthscan, £16.99.

Gas-liquids get visibility in global energy markets


LONDON -- When energy forecasters try to divine what will satisfy the world's rising appetite for fuel far into the future, they see not only crude oil but also a lesser-known fossil fuel: gas-liquids derived from raw natural gas.
The world's growing reliance on natural-gas liquids, known in the industry as NGLs, accounting for less than 10% of world daily oil demand a decade ago to about 12% today, has gone unnoted by many industry players during this year's record spike in oil prices.
But their increasing supply illustrates both the promise of NGLs and the shaky state of the oil market. NGL supplies have grown 36% this decade and may meet as much as 15% of world oil demand by 2013, according to the International Energy Agency in Paris.
Even as crude prices soared to record highs the past few years, conventional oil production has basically held steady because fields are becoming less productive and political and technical issues have hurt output.
NGLs have played a significant role filling the gap. Some analysts argue this may signal the decline of the age of conventional oil, the stuff that's relatively easy to extract, because oil fields tend to yield more liquid gases as they age.
But others say natural gas availability has its own problems in parts of the world, raising questions about whether future NGL supply growth could also be stalled.
With the world's biggest proven natural-gas reserves, the Persian Gulf is a major NGL producing region, but top producers like Qatar and Saudi Arabia are facing geological problems and becoming big energy consumers themselves.
"Many of these countries are being forced to think hard about how much gas and oil they can export as their own demand grows," says Paul Tossetti, director of oil market analysis at PFC Energy, adding he's still optimistic about gas-liquids' growth prospects.
Egypt, a growing gas exporter, also recently put a freeze on new export deals for at least two years as debate grows inside the North African nation about how much gas should be exported or kept for domestic use.
NGLs beef up the oil supply base because, similar to refined crude products, they can be used for things like transport fuels or as feedstock in industrial processes, allowing more oil to be refined for transport fuels.
With the technology and know-how of companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Qatar and other traditional oil producers are using their gas reserves to industrialize and gain another revenue source.
But Qatar has been forced to reassess future projects because of fears its giant North Field, the world's single largest gas structure, may have been overworked the past decade.
Qatar has been doing extensive studies on the field since putting a moratorium in place in 2005 on all new gas projects. Qatar isn't expected to make a decision on whether to lift the ban until 2010 -- though that decision could be extended by a few years.
Qatar Deputy Prime Minister and Oil Minister Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah said in a recent interview that he expects the country to remain a top gas exporter despite the current ban on new projects because of all the projects already in operation or close to starting.
Qatar's NGL production is about 600,000 barrels a day, up fivefold from a decade ago, according to consultants at PFC Energy.
Without those NGLs and others from nations like Saudi Arabia and the U.S. -- the world's biggest NGL producer -- oil prices would be even higher, says David Fyfe, a supply analyst at the Paris-based IEA, the energy watchdog.
"It's quite clear that NGLs are having a very positive impact on overall oil supply," Mr. Fyfe said. U.S. crude prices traded at $112.92 a barrel midday Wednesday, up around 60% from a year ago.
Many analysts are optimistic about NGL supplies, with expected growth rates of at least 4% a year over the next five years.
The world has about 60 years worth of natural gas, about a third more than oil based on current production levels and proven reserves, according to the BP 2008 Statistical Review, and companies like Exxon are working closely with state energy firms to tap those reserves.
Write to Spencer Swartz at

Barnet tests 'nudge' economics

Allegra Stratton, political correspondent
The Guardian,
Thursday August 21 2008

Barnet will next month become the first local council to receive government funds to test "nudge" economics. The Tory-run council has been given £100,000 by the Department for Communities and Local Government to experiment with ways of encouraging people to reduce litter, recycle and lower carbon emissions.
The pilot is the first sign of fresh government interest in the ideas of behavioural economics since the Conservatives claimed Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein's "nudge" philosophy as their own. Thaler and Sunstein argue that social change is best brought about by working with human nature. The Tory leader, David Cameron, placed their book, Nudge, on his party's summer reading list.
Ed Gillespie, of communications firm Futerra which is designing the pilots, said: "One way of boosting recycling might be to offer top recyclers smaller bins to demonstrate they have reduced their waste. It gives people an aspiration to throw less away." It also suggested handing out free energy meters to show people their exact usage. He said: "It can make people slightly obsessive about turning things off."
The government has developed policies based on behavioural economics before: the new pension system requires people to opt out rather than opt in.

The rain's in Spain: but don't forget the drought

As the Spaniards found out this year, lack of water is terrifying. But as soon as it rains, we act as though nothing happened

Peter Preston,
Wednesday August 20 2008 12:00 BST

The difficulty with droughts is that they can turn to floods overnight. The difficulty with rain, or acute lack of it, when tied into the prophesies of global warming, is that the short-term can turn from arid to soggy in a trice. Which is part, but not all, of the Spanish story.
Remember Britain in the summer of 2006? It was hot and dry, after a dry winter and dry spring – and the water began to run out. The spectre of standpipes stalked the streets of the south again. Thames Water, as usual, took a mighty leakage drubbing: and we were copiously advised that there would be worse to come as climates inexorably changed. But then 2007 was a sodden ordeal and the aquifers filled up again. Now, in 2008, we're wailing about the lousiest August any of us can remember.
Now turn to Catalonia this spring. There'd been precious little snow on the Pyrenees, so rivers like the Ter were low. When I went to see my Spanish grandchildren near La Bisbal, the river bed was absolutely dry. In Barcelona the mayor was signalling water rationing and calling for tankers to bring relief into port. It couldn't have looked more threatening. And then it rained.
Now the apples are ripening in the Baix Emporda and the yellow fields of sunflowers stretch endlessly. The Ter is half full, the land is surprisingly green, the champion golf courses lush and tended. All it takes is a couple of weeks of downpours to move us from crisis to complacency. But complacency, here, is a fatal state of mind.
Catalonia, with its high plateaux and mountain ranges, ought to be one of the wetter regions of Spain (as well as the richest). Andalucia ought to be one of the driest, most over-populated and over-farmed regions: and is. Andalucia is concrete and tourists and fruit and poverty. It has plunged, often heedlessly, into acute water shortage. But when water and regionalism and politics mix, everything grows toxic. Now Catalonia, which might have helped send water to the arid south, knows it has problems of its own. The rest of Spain, some of it wet like Galicia, some of it desert like the area just north of Almeria, knows that water is a most vital resource. Watch that factor into the separatist pressures in Catalonia, the Basque country and (more mildly) in Galicia. Watch water put more acute strain on the Spanish state.
In Britain, we said two years ago, there should be a national grid, moving water from the wet north-west to the dry south-east. But that is damnable expensive, slow to build – and easy to deride if you're laying it whilst the rain pours down. (Cue Daily Mail editorial). And Spain is in much the same sort of bind – with Basque and Catalan nationalism dropped in the mix. (It's Scotland's oil and the Basque country's water!).
We should be clear that whole areas of Europe are becoming fatally dry. We should set about either limiting water use or transporting water in from wetter areas. We should be constructing the infrastructure that can cope with crisis. But then it starts raining again: then the flood alerts start, then long-term trends turn into a heavy shower, and we forget (as Catalonia has forgotten once more this summer). But at least the Spanish have water meters as standard. At least they have some control when the skies are incessantly blue. In Britain, we haven't even got that far yet. In Britain, the arguments about climate change and threat fade fast before a looming recession; and we still don't realise that life – everything that is precious – begins and ends with the need for water.

Japan to launch carbon footprint labelling scheme

· Government approved labels will appear on food and drink· Major companies sign up voluntarily

Justin McCurry in Tokyo,
Wednesday August 20 2008 13:59 BST

Beer on tap in Japan ... Sapporo, a brewer, has said it will label cans of beer with an individual carbon footprint. Photograph: Jonathan Watts
Japan is to carry carbon footprint labels on food packaging and other products in an ambitious scheme to persuade companies and consumers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
The labels, to appear on dozens of items including food and drink, detergents and electrical appliances from next spring, will go further than similar labels already in use elsewhere.
They will provide detailed breakdowns of each product's carbon footprint under a government-approved calculation and labeling system now being discussed by the trade ministry and around 30 firms.
The labels will show how much carbon dioxide is emitted during the manufacture, distribution and disposal of each product, the ministry said.The Japanese campaign is loosely modeled on a British pilot scheme involving Tesco and several other firms, though that scheme has yet to gain official approval.
Furthermore, the trade ministry's Takuma Inamura told the Guardian: "We believe our labeling will be even more detailed, to allow consumers to make the best possible choice."
Officials decided to draw up a uniform method of labeling carbon emissions to allay fears among some firms that their competitors may use in-house calculations to produce the lowest possible emissions data.
"Unless all of the companies use the same method, there's little point to the exercise," Inamura said.
To promote the scheme, the ministry has released details of the carbon footprint left by a packet of crisps. A single bag emits 75 grams of carbon dioxide, 44% of which comes from growing potatoes, with another 30% emitted during the production stage. The packaging accounts for a further 15%, while the delivery and disposal of the bag account for 9% and 2%, respectively.
About 30 companies will display their labeled items at an eco-products fair in Tokyo in December, and the first batches are expected to appear in shops at the beginning of April 2009.
Sapporo, a leading Japanese brewery, has already said it will carry the labels on cans of its popular Black Label beer. Shoppers will be told how much CO2 is emitted by the machinery used to plant barley and hops, during production and transportation, and when the empty can is recycled.
Although the labeling scheme is voluntary, few firms want to be seen to be lagging behind rivals in the rush to corner the growing market in eco-friendly products. The supermarket firm Aeon, as well as the convenience store chains Lawson and Seven-Eleven and the electronics maker Matsushita are among the firms taking part.
As host of the groundbreaking Kyoto conference on greenhouse gas emissions in 1997, Japan is under mounting pressure to use it technological prowess and educated consumer base to promote a low-carbon society. But it has so far struggled to reach its Kyoto protocol commitment to slash CO2 emissions by 6% below 1990 levels by 2012.
In July, the government vowed to reduce total carbon emissions by up to 80% by 2050 with the prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, calling on consumers to lead a global "CO2 reduction revolution".
Under Fukuda's Cool Earth Initiative, Japan believes it can lower emissions from current levels by 14% by 2020, although UN scientists say cuts as high as 40% will be needed to avoid environmental catastrophe.
Later this year Japanese firms will experiment with a carbon trading system modeled on the one used by the European Union. The government plans to put carbon-capture technology - the storage of CO2 emitted by power plants and factories - in place by 2020.
But it remains to be seen whether consumers can be persuaded to consider a product's carbon footprint as well as its price tag. In a recent survey almost 80% of shoppers said they would be willing to spend no more than an extra 2,000 yen (£10) a month on energy-saving vehicles and other eco-friendly products.
"Most people don't know what the term carbon footprint really means," Inamura said. "But we hope this will be a launch pad for other companies to take part and increase public awareness."
· This article was amended on Thursday August 21 2008. We referred to Japan struggling to reach its Kyoto protocol commitment by 1012 - of course we meant 2012. This has been corrected.

Cars with a green conscience

A technology that uses hydrogen to reduce emissions from petrol-burning cars could be on the market in three years

Michael Fitzpatrick
The Guardian,
Thursday August 21 2008

Photograph: Mark Thomas/Getty Images
It's taken decades for the message to get through, but at last we are turning to greener motoring. The demand for hybrid cars in the UK is at an all-time high and waiting lists for the proven technology are long.
In Japan, drivers have been shaken so seriously by the oil shocks that they became the first in the developed world to experience declining car ownership. They are also poised to benefit from the biggest experiment with electric cars since the milk float.
This is all terribly green and worthy, but these solutions mean forking out for another car. Wouldn't it be better to adapt our existing vehicles? And while giving up our gas-guzzlers is one thing, what should we do with the billions of old-tech cars already on the road? After all, simply to scrap them means building new cars. As Conor Faughnan of the AA points out: "Most of the pollution associated with cars actually relates to their construction."
In first gear
A Japanese start-up company says it might have the answer. It is proposing to retrofit our existing cars with tiny hydrogen generators that work off the car exhaust and supplement existing combustion.
Makoto Okuda, director of Hrein Energy, says: "Adding about 3% of hydrogen to the intake air results in a lean burn, which has never been made possible with gasoline alone." His company, based in Hokkaido, develops systems to make, store and supply hydrogen. He says "We have improved fuel efficiency by 30% and reduced CO2 emissions by 30% in recent tests." Now working with Japanese carmakers, Okuda says he hopes to have a system on the market in two to three years.
The beauty of the new system is that it employs the otherwise wasted heat generated by car engines - up to 40% in some cases - to convert an easily transportable liquid organic hydride (a hydrogen-storing chemical) into a gaseous state. This hydrogen is then added to the intake air resulting, says Okuda, in reduced emissions.
The emissions are so low, claims the company, that they will conform to the new EU regulations expected on CO2 emissions in 2012. Hrein suggests retro-fitting all cars with the system.
Scientists agree that transporting hydrogen in a liquid state makes more sense than filling up from service stations equipped to handle frozen hydrogen.
"Hydrogen does have fantastic potential, says Faye Sunderland of "Retail network distribution is always a problem with new alternative fuels. A UK company called ITM recently announced they had developed a home refuelling unit for hydrogen cars. So a solution is forming."
Says Sunderland: "The key problem with hydrogen technology so far has been retail distribution of hydrogen and economic and environmental viability of the technology. So far hydrogen has been held back because the easiest way to produce hydrogen was to burn fossil fuels which meant the well-to-wheel CO2 emissions were actually higher than if you just put the fossil fuels directly into the car. As a result, it was a bit of an expensive non-starter."
Hrein says all its hydrogen production comes from wind-generated sources on Hokkaido, Japan's most northerly island. But although Japan is the home of the hybrid and host to more electric plug-in cars than the rest of the planet put together, as well as being a leader in the number of hydrogen outlets for vehicles, renewable energy is not something Japan has been strong on so far. There are doubts about whether it would be possible to scale up renewable operations to meet the demand necessary for all this hydrogen needed to be mixed with petro-fuel at service stations.
Hydrogen storing technology, however, does have potential, according to papers published on the technology since the 1970s. The system, they generally conclude, "appears feasible".
"Organic hydrides are a high-efficiency high-density storage media for hydrogen," says Masaru Ichikawa of Hokkaido University, who worked with Hrein on the formula. "The end product can be transported alongside petrol in fuel delivery lorries and deposited at petrol stations just like today's conventional fuels."
But if the technology has been available since the 1970s, asks John Turner, a research fellow at the US's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, why didn't the automakers turn to it to provide themselves with an edge over competitors?
Dirty work
"Conspiracy theories aside, the automakers have some very smart engineers and if they see something that will easily give them a 30% boost in fuel economy then they are going to take a hard look at it," he says. "Modifying an existing technology, unless it is mandated by some government agency, will not likely go anywhere."
Hrein, with its take on delivering a little hydrogen to clean up the dirty work of gasoline, may be about to do that, according to the company's representative in the UK. Hrein is talking to the UK government to discuss bringing the technology to the UK. Should Downing Street give the system a green light, it could provide a stopgap in the march towards the zero emission car. It would certainly provide many of us who can only afford second-hand bangers with a cleaner conscience, if not a cleaner engine.

Climate resolutions ‘having big impact’

By Jonathan Birchall in New York
Published: August 20 2008 19:15

A coalition of investors and environmental groups claimed on Wednesday that climate change-related shareholder resolutions filed in the US this year had achieved breakthrough results, reflecting growing investor concerns over global warming.
Of 57 resolutions filed by a range of socially concerned investors, almost half were withdrawn after companies ranging from Continental Airlines to El Paso made commitments on setting targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other issues.

According to Ceres, a group that co-ordinates environmental initiatives by investors and activist groups, the 24 resolutions that went to a vote secured a record high average of voting support of 23 per cent, up from just over 17 per cent for the resolution votes two years ago.
While activist resolutions are always defeated in a vote, they have frequently contributed to US companies adopting policies that they initially resist – with Wal-Mart’s new embrace of environmental and social sustainability targets the most high-profile example.
This year’s tally included four climate-range related resolutions presented to ExxonMobil that were supported by the Rockefeller family, the company’s longest continuous shareholders, causing significant embarrassment to its management.
In reviewing this season’s effort, Ceres highlighted new commitments made this year on energy-efficient building from two leading US homebuilders, KB Home and Centex, which have both been targeted by resolutions calling for clearer reporting of their policies on energy-efficient building.
A resolution calling on KB Home to set targets for reducing CO2 emissions was withdrawn after it said it was publishing a sustainability report that included a commitment to new energy-efficiency standards from next year.
Centex opposed a similar resolution at its annual meeting, but subsequently also announced new standards for the energy efficiency of its homes.
Laura Shaffer, of the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the investor that filed with the two homebuilders, said it was “difficult to draw a direct line” between resolutions and company actions. “But the resolutions are a very valuable tool for getting an issue before the board of directors and shareholders.”
In a sign of changing attitudes towards climate change, all the resolutions filed with US homebuilders this year had the support of Risk Metrics and Proxy Governance, two of the big three US proxy vote advisory firms.
Three years ago, neither firm supported similar resolutions at the companies.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Areva reactor project given all-clear

By Peggy Hollinger and Robert Anderson
Published: August 20 2008 22:50

Areva’s troublesome EPR reactor project in Finland on Wednesday received a clean bill of health after welding work overseen by Bouygues, the French nuclear group’s subcontractor, was last week called into question.
Petteri Tiippana, assistant director of STUK, the Finnish nuclear safety authority, said that a government-commissioned inquiry into quality and safety allegations made by the environmental lobby group Greenpeace had found no evidence of transgressions.

On the 35 load-bearing welded joints inspected by STUK, “the welding procedures, the qualification of the welders, the welds themselves are well done”, he said.
On the thousands of non-load bearing joints which are not inspected by STUK, “the welds were made by qualified welders and systematic inspections were made”, he went on to point out.
Mr Tiippana also refuted allegations made in a television documentary broadcast last week that Bouygues employees had been banned from discussing safety concerns.
The inquiry found no such rules and STUK inspectors had not had any problems discussing safety with them. However, workers had to seek approval before talking to anyone off-site, such as journalists.
STUK said it had been convinced by the Bouygues project manager “that all employees are obliged to report ... any safety-related deviances.
“Deviances are documented and fixed according to the quality system.”
STUK said it would check this documentation.
Bouygues said on Wednesday that the issue was now closed and it would not comment further.
Nonetheless, the controversy was taken seriously by the French construction group, which this summer was criticised along with power utility EDF for organisation of work on concrete reinforcement in a EPR reactor which is being built in Normandy.
Areva said it was delighted with STUK’s public statement as “delivering a safe EPR reactor is an absolute priority for us”.
Finland’s Olkiluoto3 EPR reactor is being built by a consortium led by Areva.
It is the world’s first so-called third-generation nuclear reactor, an Areva design and the group’s first turnkey project, has been fraught with problems and is currently running two years late and at least €1bn ($1.47bn) over budget.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Clegg reveals his grand vision on renewable energy

By Ben Russell, Political Correspondent
Thursday, 21 August 2008

Nick Clegg will today unveil plans to make Britain an exporter of green energy by 2050, as he called for a programme "on the scale of the Apollo moon landings" to transform Britain's dependence on foreign oil, gas and coal supplies.
In an interview with The Independent, the Liberal Democrat leader demanded the scrapping of new nuclear and coal-fired power stations, instead proposing the establishment of a renewables delivery authority to oversee a massive expansion of wind, solar and wave energy, funded by guaranteed premium prices for green energy.
He said: "Renewable energy is no longer a pipe dream. It is realistic and achievable. All it requires is the leadership and vision that has been lacking under years of tired Labour thinking.
"That's why I will set out Liberal Democrat proposals to become energy independent by 2050. This will require the kind of ambition and political will that succeeded in putting man on the Moon."
During a visit to a wind farm in the North Sea Mr Clegg will lay out theoretical plans for all new homes to be built to world-leading standards of insulation, and for energy companies to be forced to spend £500m a year insulating the existing housing stock and installing energy-saving smart meters that measure how much power individual appliances use.
He will also outline the proposals for new green and wealth taxes to fund a 4p cut in the basic rate of income tax. It is the start of an autumn offensive to lay out the Liberal Democrats' tax-cutting credentials. Mr Clegg said he would outline in the coming weeks the first of a series of savings aimed at cutting £20bn from government spending, aimed at fulfilling his ambition of reducing the tax burden still further.
"I hardly drive a car any more," said Mr Clegg. "I bought an electric moped which I think is the technology of the future. I got rid of the leader's car shortly after I got in."
Mr Clegg repeated his pledge to double the party's current 63 seats in two general elections, dismissing Labour under Gordon Brown as having "run out of road" and attacking the "arrogance" of David Cameron.
Mr Clegg insisted his party was the true home for progressive voters and said that Labour's decline made him hopeful of major urban gains at the next general election. He insisted that the party's average poll rating of 18 per cent was a better springboard than at the same point in the previous two electoral cycles.
"Something very big is going on, particularly in urban Britain," he said. "Out of the 30 British cities, we now lead 12. That has been going on for years. That is where the great battlegrounds will be between ourselves and Labour at the next general election. There are a lot of seats up for grabs in those areas."
Mr Clegg dismissed suggestions that the Conservative resurgence could cut his number of MPs down to 35. He said he would target a "handful" of Conservative seats and said he was "working extremely hard" to hold seats where the Tories are challengers.
"[The Conservatives] think they deserve the keys to No 10 without having the decency to tell the voters what they would do if they got there," he said. "They have started to talk down to [Britain], telling voters the vote's in the bag.
"Millions of voters will start asking hard-headed questions about where's the substance, where's the beef, where's the consistency behind all the photo opportunities." He added: "On every single major issue facing us we have called it right, called it earlier than the other two parties and been on the side of the British people."

Green energy from hot rock technology gets double boost says enhanced geothermal technology could be the 'killer app of energy' as it announces $10m investment
Alok Jha, green technology correspondent,
Wednesday August 20 2008 12:32 BST

Hopes of unlocking the vast amounts of renewable energy trapped deep underground in hot rocks have received a double boost, with and, separately, the Australian government putting significant funds into the technology.
The web search company's philanthropic arm announced that it will invest more than $10m (£5.4m) into ways to tap geothermal energy in locations where the technology has traditionally not been applied. The money is part the organisation's wider mission to find renewable energy sources that could replace coal in the future.
Geothermal energy is seen by many experts as a vast potential source of clean, carbon-free energy if it can be tapped efficiently. Google's money will be used specifically to develop enhanced geothermal systems (EGS).
Traditional geothermal technology harnesses naturally-occurring pockets of steam or hot water that rise from deep underground, bringing with them the energy stored by the rocks there. EGS allows those traditional techniques to be applied almost anywhere. By drilling deep into the Earth and pumping water into the hole, the underground hot rocks fracture, allowing the water to circulate and be heated. The hot water comes back the surface and is then used to drive turbines and produce electricity (watch EGS explainer video).
"EGS could be the killer app of the energy world," said Dan Reicher, director of climate and energy initiatives for "One of the attractive aspects is that it's baseload, it's 24-hour power and that's a nice complement to solar and wind, which are intermittent sources.
"If you can put all three of these technologies together, we're going to have a much more attractive green electricity mix."
A recent report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimated that tapping just 2% of the EGS resource between 3km and 10km below the surface of the continental USA could supply more than 2,500 times the country's total annual energy use. Around the world, geothermal projects in countries from Australia to Iceland and Germany already generate thousands of megawatts of electricity.
The Australian government announced on Wednesday that it would invest A$50m (£23.4m) in developing ways to convert geothermal energy into baseload electricity. Experts there believe that tapping just 1% of the potential geothermal energy in the country could provide 26,000 years of energy supplies.
Funding's funding will provide cash for three projects in the US. The first is $6.25m for AltaRock Energy, a company based in Sausalito, California, that is researching ways to improve the efficiency of EGS projects. Potter Drilling of Redwood City, California, will receive $4m to develop ways to make drilling deep holes in hard rock less expensive. And the Southern Methodist university's geothermal laboratory, based in Dallas, Texas, will receive almost $500,000 to produce updated geothermal maps of North America.
Larry Brilliant, executive director of, said that innovation would be the "path to massive quantities of cleaner, cheaper energy. The people we're funding today have a real shot at lowering the cost of EGS, and bringing us closer to our goal."
The investment is part of's Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal initiative, which is primarily focusing on solar thermal power, wind and EGS. The organisation has set itself a goal to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity, enough to power a city the size of San Francisco, within a few years.
"EGS is critical to the clean electricity revolution we need to solve the climate crisis, but EGS hasn't received the attention it merits. That's why we're pressing for expanded support from government and increased investment from the private sector," said Reicher.
He criticised the US government for ignoring the EGS potential on its doorstep. "We have a new president and congress starting in November and we're optimistic that whoever is elected president is going to seize the opportunity here and we expect support."
Mike Crocker, a spokesperson for Greenpeace USA, said geothermal energy was one of several renewable sources that could help the US wean itself from fossil fuels. "Geothermal power plants produce electricity about 90% of the time, compared to 65%-75% for fossil-fuel power plants and causes virtually no greenhouse gas emissions. Today, it is technically feasible to access enough geothermal power to meet all the world's energy demands."
He added: "While Google is investing in 21st century energy solutions, Congress continues to be hung up on 19th century technologies like oil and coal."
Reicher noted that, though the cost of generating electricity from EGS today sits somewhere between solar photovoltaics at the high end and normal coal-fired power at the low end, the costs could be quickly brought down.

Plan to turn New York into the Windy City

Ed Pilkington in New York
The Guardian,
Thursday August 21 2008

Within 10 years New Yorkers may be walking over the Brooklyn Bridge beneath gently whirring turbines, and gazing up at the Empire State Building topped by a giant windmill.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is calling for the city to become a major generator of renewable energy. He wants to see New York wean itself from dependency on the conventional power grid by massive investment in wind, solar and wave energy and opened the prospect of wind turbines being placed on bridges and skyscrapers, in a way that could transform the city's skyline.
As a symbol of the change he had in mind, he conjured up the vision of the Statue of Liberty "powered by an ocean wind farm". That would be a "thing of beauty", he said.
Bloomberg unveiled his radical plans at an alternative energy conference in Las Vegas. His ambition is to use a combination of renewable power sources, focusing on the natural qualities of the city.
The high-rise nature of Manhattan made wind turbines atop skyscrapers an obvious thought, though Bloomberg conceded there would be aesthetic concerns: "There's a lot of logistical as well as aesthetic considerations. If there is a large ape that starts climbing the Empire State Building, it might get in his way."
The plans also focus on the possibility of turbines scattered along the windy coastlines of Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island that could generate 10% of the city's power needs within a decade.
Wind farms are also mooted far out to sea, possibly up to 25 miles offshore where they would rest beyond sight, as well as solar panels across public and private rooftops.
The mayor has invited private companies to submit innovative ideas and designs that would meet his brief. As part of his search for new thinking he has met with T. Boone Pickens, the oil tycoon who is building the world's largest wind farm in the Texan panhandle.
The plans form part of Bloomberg's ambition to keep New York's energy consumption at today's levels despite projections of substantial population growth. He has set a target to cut the city's emissions of greenhouse gases by athird by 2030.
However, the mayor is in a race against the clock and has only until January 2010, when his term ends, to turn his dreams into a reality. "When it comes to producing clean power, we're determined to make New York the No 1 city in the nation," Bloomberg said

NY mayor envisages city powered by wind

By Daniel Pimlott in New York
Published: August 21 2008 03:00

Michael Bloomberg, New York mayor, hopes to put windmills on top of Manhattan's skyscrapers and bridges and build windfarms in the Atlantic as part of an effort to cut the city's greenhouse gas emissions.
"I think it would be a thing of beauty if, when [the Statue of Liberty] looks out on the horizon, she not only welcomes new immigrants but lights their way with a torch powered by an ocean windfarm," said Mr Bloomberg at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
Building offshore windfarms far out in the Atlantic Ocean could generate as much as 10 per cent of the city's energy needs within a decade, the mayor said.
The city is now asking companies to come forward with proposals to build on public and private property.
Mr Bloomberg said he had spoken to the oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens - a prominent wind evangelist - about his plan.
Mr Pickens and others have been touting the potential of wind power in the US as energy prices have risen to record highs. In a report published earlier this year the Department of Energy found wind could provide 20 per cent of the country's electricity by the year 2030.
Mr Bloomberg also lambasted presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain for their energy policies, attacking Mr Obama's recent support for offshore oil drilling and Mr McCain's advocacy of giving taxes on petrol a summer holiday. "We ought to be getting a real debate on our energy future from our major presidential candidates," he said. "Instead, sadly, they're treating us to a political silly season."
It is doubtful that the Empire State building's spire will have a windmill affixed to it any time soon - even Mr Bloomberg called turbines on skyscrapers "relatively unlikely".
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Wind-Power Sector Faces Delay of Key U.S. Support

By SELINA WILLIAMSAugust 20, 2008;

Global demand for wind energy will continue to soar despite short-term issues such as delays renewing a financial support mechanism in the U.S., and economic slowdowns in Europe and the U.S., the chief executive of the world's largest wind-turbine maker said.
"The key here is the long-term view -- there will always be ups and downs, but the global fundamentals are in place," Vestas Wind Systems A/S CEO Ditlev Engel said in an interview.
High oil, gas and coal prices, energy-security concerns, environmental worries and growing electricity consumption throughout the world are keeping demand for wind power strong, Mr. Engel added.
European Union, U.S. and China targets on expanding renewable energy use are also supporting continued investment in the sector, he said.
The sector remains dependent on government regulation and subsidies and investors have been keeping a watchful eye on a U.S. production tax credit for wind that is set to expire at the end of this year.
Although the U.S. Senate passed the tax credit in April, it is now being held up in a divided Congress and it isn't clear the measure will be renewed before a December deadline.
The wind industry is expected to grind to a halt until the issue is resolved.
Mr. Engel said Vestas, is making investments in new manufacturing facilities in the U.S. on the premise that demand for wind energy will continue to grow.
"If the PTC was already in place, then we would have already seen other European companies coming to the U.S., but someone has to take the lead in the industry to pave the way," Mr. Engel said.
Vestas, which Friday posted a 27% rise in net profit in the second quarter, is investing €620 million ($918.1 million) in manufacturing facilities in the U.S., China, Spain, Denmark and the U.K.
The investments come on top of €1.3 billion spent in the past three years as the Danish company aims to double capacity to 10,000 megawatts by 2010, when the projects are scheduled to be completed, from 5,000 MW at the end of 2007, Mr. Engel said.
"The Chinese government keeps raising their target for wind power and we'll be ramping up to meet that demand as the market there has the highest growth rate in the sector," Mr. Engel said.
Overall, the wind-power market is expected to more than double to 240 gigawatts of installed capacity by 2012 from 100 gigawatts this year, the council said.
Write to Selina Williams at