Sunday, 7 December 2008

Firms offered free loans to save on energy bills

Paul Kelbie
The Observer, Sunday December 7 2008

Small businesses will be eligible for interest-free loans of up to £100,000 for energy-efficiency measures that will help cut fuel bills, the Scottish government will announce tomorrow. Jim Mather, the Enterprise Minister, will introduce the initiative in a bid to boost the economy.
Private landlords, agriculture and transport businesses will all be able to join manufacturing and catering firms in applying for the loans for energy-saving measures or the installation of small-scale renewables schemes, such as solar panels or ground-source heating.
'A waste of energy is a waste of money. In a global economic downturn, we will take every step we can to keep the Scottish economy moving,' said Mather, who claimed that businesses which took loans last year saved an average of £5,500 on fuel bills. 'One of the easiest ways to save money is to save energy. In line with our economic recovery plan, more small businesses will now get the best advice and access to interest-free loans for energy-efficiency measures,' he added.
'As part of the roll-out of energy performance certificates, landlords will need to provide a certificate for new tenants from January. They can now access interest-free loans to reduce tenants' bills and improve the energy performance of our housing. Better energy efficiency is crucial if we are to achieve our ambitious emissions reduction targets. Extending the scheme to include small-scale renewables gives an incentive to generate clean, green energy and contribute to a sustainable energy future. I would urge landlords and small businesses to apply for this support to cut costs and reduce emissions.'
However, many business leaders claim the scheme, run by the Energy Saving Trust, will benefit fewer than 10 per cent of businesses and won't make any difference to most firms struggling with the downturn.
'While this is a welcome initiative it's not going to help them sell more or to grow their business in the short term,' said Gordon Mowat of Aspire Management Services.
'What needs to be done to help businesses in the short term is getting banks to lower their interest rates. The government has just lowered its rate to 2 per cent, but banks are lending at far higher than that and not passing on these reductions in full, and that is the major problem for smaller businesses right now. Businesses have got to be able to survive in the short term to be able to afford loans over the long term.
'Unfortunately it is the short term that people are very worried about and an interest-free loan for energy saving measures, which probably won't yield anything for a number of years, won't be a top priority for the majority of hard-pressed firms.'
Garry Clark, of the Scottish Chamber of Commerce, said the move was 'a step in the right direction'.

Scottish Water turbines to supply all its energy

Published Date: 07 December 2008
By Nathalie Thomas and Terry Murden

SCOTTISH Water is to build a series of wind turbines in a deal with the utility company Scottish & Southern Energy as it aims to generate all its power from renewable sources.
Under the plans, Scottish Water Horizons, a commercial subsidiary, will trial the turbines at five water and waste water treatment sites over the next two years to help meet its energy requirements from renewable sources. Scottish Water is the country's biggest consumer of power, with an annual bill of between £40m and £50m, and Scottish Water Horizons says many water and waste water treatment sites are situated in rural locations ideally suited to wind turbines. It says 60 three-megawatt turbines around the country would be enough to satisfy all of Scottish Water's power needs, while cutting costs.Scottish Water Horizons is planning to work with Scottish & Southern Energy to develop the idea although it insists the project is still at an "early stage". Pilot site details have not yet been released.Chris Banks, commercial director at Scottish Water and chairman of Scottish Water Horizons, said: "Scotland has fantastic potential for wind energy generation and Scottish Water has thousands of sites across the country, many of which would be ideal for capturing this potential."Generating power from renewables on our land will help reduce our bill, our dependency on volatile prices and, importantly, help reduce our carbon footprint."The firms involved insist they will comply with all appropriate planning permissions and consultations.Richard Chandler, director of community and commercial wind at Scottish and Southern Energy, said: "Securing future supplies and tackling climate change are driving major changes in the production and consumption of energy."

Chemicals boss warns of exodus

The Sunday Times
December 7, 2008
Prime minister is urged to change EU climate change rules to prevent mass exit
Danny Fortson

JIM RATCLIFFE, the reclusive billionaire behind Ineos, Britain’s largest private company, has warned Gordon Brown that hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost if the prime minister commits Britain to tougher EU curbs on carbon emissions.
Ratcliffe issued the warning in a letter last week that was also signed by Paul Thompson, chief executive of GrowHow, the UK’s last remaining fertiliser manufacturer, and Steve Elliott, head of the Chemical Industries Association.
It is part of a feverish, last-ditch effort by the chemicals industry and other big energy users to force changes to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) ahead of a summit of EU leaders this week in Brussels, where they are expected to sign off on a bloc-wide climate-change package.
The industry argues that the next phase of the ETS — which proposes to incorporate industries now excluded from the programme such as chemicals, cement and glassmakers from 2013 – will lead to “carbon leakage” as companies relocate to countries where they are not forced to pay to pollute.

The chemical industry employs, directly and indirectly, 600,000 people in the UK.
In its current form, the ETS will impose carbon-emissions caps on industrial polluters from 2013 and force them to pay for 100% of their permits by 2020. Ratcliffe said that doing so would be “truly horrendous” for the industry and make it uncompetitive.
Instead, he says that chemicals manufacturers should be allocated permits for free and agree on less stringent pollution caps because they compete against rivals in countries not subject to such rules.
Ratcliffe, who has been locked in crisis talks with banks after a sharp downturn in business put his company in danger of breaching covenants, said: “We believe there is a significant danger to our £60 billion industry if phase three of EU ETS becomes law in its current form.
“Chemical businesses situated throughout the UK, especially in the north of England and central Scotland, with 80% of them foreign-owned, will be ‘decimated’, putting almost 200,000 jobs at risk,” he added.
Emissions permits go for €15.49 (£13.40) per tonne, but are expected to roughly triple when phase three of the ETS begins in 2013.
The energy industry, one of the largest polluters, has already accepted that it will have to pay for 100% of its permits from 2013.
It is thought that EU leaders may have been persuaded by the industry’s arguments and will soften their stance. An increase in free allocations to polluting sectors will bring howls from environmentalists who claim that the industry is overdramatising the threat posed by the ETS.
Ed Miliband, the energy and climate change secretary who met European ministers in Poznan, Poland, for talks on climate change last week, said: “The [climate] package must retain its environmental integrity. This means a commitment to reducing our emissions by 30% following a global deal.
“It means a tough and declining cap in the ETS and an ambitious increase in the auctioning of ETS allowances. It means addressing competitiveness, but only on the basis of firm evidence of sectors at genuine risk of carbon leakage.”

£12bn cost of Scottish energy network update

The Sunday Times
December 7, 2008
Government may face calls to abandon opposition to new nuclear plants
John Penmanand Iain Dey

Scotland needs to invest £1 billion a year until 2020 to bring its ageing electricity generation and distribution network up to date, according to a key study.
The research, published by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) this week is expected to show an extra £10 billion in electricity generation is needed in addition to the planned £2 billion investment in the national grid north of the border to make progress towards the Scottish government’s aim of an 80% cut in CO2 emissions by 2050.
The government revealed the ambitious target in its Climate Change (Scotland) Bill last week.
The report, compiled by energy consultants Wood Mackenzie, found that £10 billion is needed to replace ageing generators with newer low-carbon alternatives.
Cockenzie and Hunterston power stations are likely to be decommissioned in the next 10 years.
The findings are likely to increase calls for the Scottish government to abandon its opposition to new nuclear plants. Some experts have questioned whether Scotland can achieve its ambitious targets without nuclear power.
The report found that the other challenge is to connect the growth in renewable energy installed in remote and rural Scotland to the main centres of population in the central belt and south of the border.
The energy regulator Ofgem has estimated that some £2 billion of new or strengthened connections are necessary to deliver renewable energy from the north and west of Scotland.
Lesley Sawers, the SCDI chief executive, said: “The report shows the scale of the challenge we have to deliver clean, affordable and reliable electricity. The level of investment in energy is unprecedented in recent times, but it is absolutely vital to replace existing plants and meet our climate change commitments.”
The report comes as businessman Maitland Mackie revealed that his plan for a rural wind farm company has already attracted about £2.5m in funding commitments.
Mackie, the man behind Mackie’s ice cream, recently unveiled plans for a rural wind power company Windgen, which would be owned by individuals and communities in the rural sector.
There are currently over 450 registrants, indicating 600 potential sites around the UK. Mackie he was delighted that £2.5m had been committed already but to launch Windgen would require £10m.
“We need to meet that figure by spring next year but I am confident we can do it,” said Mackie.
“I am starting on a UK-wide roadshow to explain the financial benefits.”
The 71-year-old said research had shown that an average site could generate as much as £500,000 profit per year.
“This an opportunity to pour funding back into rural communities,” he said.

Rural groups offered cream of wind power

Published Date: 07 December 2008
By Rosemary Gallagher

ICE CREAM mogul Maitland Mackie is to appoint a chief executive and board early next year for his new venture, a renewable power company, to develop his dream of generating billions of pounds for the rural economy.
Mackie, chairman of family business Mackie's of Scotland, said he is on the way to raising £10m from small investors willing to put between £1,000 and £20,000 into the company, Rural Sector Wingen. He has placed an upper limit on the amount an individual can invest to ensure nobody has too much control over how the company is run.Mackie plans to build 30,000 three-megawatt wind turbines across the UK to power a large area of the country and generate £15bn in annual profits. The company will be run as a collective commercial initiative owned by individuals and communities in the rural sector.Around 500 small investors, including many farmers, have registered and could put around £1.5m into Wingen. A January 31 deadline has been set to reach £10m to allow the project to continue. Mackie is meeting with the Scottish Government to promote the benefits of the scheme for the economy and environment. He will name a selection of investors as company ambassadors in January to sell the concept to rural sector associations, such as the Forestry Commission, and major landowners.Mackie said he knows how effective wind-generated power can be as he already has three turbines on his Aberdeenshire farm which supply energy to his ice-cream business. He has invested more than £2m in the turbines. Mackie's uses about 40% of the output and sells the excess to Good Energy, a renewable power supplier. He has named the turbines Margaret, Matilda and Mirabel and plans to give every turbine established by Wingen a woman's name, just as he names the cows on his farm.He said corporates, including ScottishPower, are trying to buy up farmland for their turbines, which means the rural economy is handing over potential long-term income. He has calculated that each investor in Wingen can make annual profits of £523,600 at current prices after maintenance, interest payments and depreciation.Mackie said: "There are big potential returns to be made on wind power and it is being taken away from the rural sector which owns the land by corporates and national firms which are hoovering up. Wingen will be majority-owned by small investors and will operate in a similar way to John Lewis's share scheme."He admitted that planning permission and limited grid capacity would be the two key stumbling blocks, but expected to gain more community support than corporates received.

Wind power targets unrealistic, say critics

Claims in a Government-commissioned report that wind power can supply a third of Britain's electricity have been condemned as wildly optimistic by leading experts.

By Patrick Sawer Last Updated: 10:21AM GMT 07 Dec 2008

Researchers and parliamentarians warned that a heavy reliance on wind energy would place Britain's energy supplies at risk.
A report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), published last week, maintained that wind farms could play a major role in helping Britain cut its harmful carbon emissions by 34 per cent in 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050.
It stated: "Despite the inherent intermittency of wind power supply, wind generation could make a significant contribution to total global electricity generation and be a major source of electricity in the UK (eg 30 per cent by 2020 and more beyond)."
The CCC, chaired by Lord Turner, the former director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said that new techniques of energy storage would overcome the problem of maintaining a regular supply when the wind is not blowing.
But sceptics say this is far too ambitious because experts have not yet been able to devise effective ways of capturing and storing electricity generated by wind. That means a backup system, in the form of nuclear or coal- or gas-fired power stations, would always be needed.
John Constable, director of policy and research at the Renewable Energy Foundation, a think tank, said: "To generate 30 or 40 per cent of our electrical energy from wind power would present unmanageable and unaffordable difficulties at the present.
"The CCC's assertion to the contrary is simply out of step with the state of theoretical and empirical knowledge in the field. Betting on very heavy commitment to wind for carbon reduction is irrational and will result in the inevitable failure of our climate change policy. Wind has a role, but this role will be modest in scale."
A report by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, published last month, also cast doubt on the merits of wind turbines.
The committee, headed by Lord Vallance of Tummel, said the Government was relying too heavily on wind to help it meet an EU target for the UK to generate 15 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The peers' report states: "An over-reliance on intermittent power generation, in pursuit of the target, could prove both costly and risky."
Instead, the report favoured the expansion of nuclear power and the development of carbon capture technology to allow "clean" coal fired power stations.
Lord Vallance said: "The UK is most likely to adopt wind power as its main means of producing more renewable electricity. This has an inherent weakness in that it cannot be relied upon to generate electricity at the time it is needed.
"Current policies would take the UK into uncharted territory, with a dependence on intermittent supply unprecedented elsewhere in Europe. To guard against power shortages, wind turbines would need to be backed up with conventional generation.
"We are concerned that the dash to meet the EU's 2020 targets may draw attention and investment away from cheaper and more reliable low-carbon electricity generation – such as nuclear and potentially fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage."
Ian Fells, emeritus professor of energy conversion at Newcastle University and founding chairman of the New and Renewable Energy Centre, criticised the CCC report as a wish list, lacking a basis in sound engineering principles.
"To say its ambitious is to put it mildly," said Professor Fells. "I just don't see how it can be achieved."
He said that to meet the targets for the reduction in carbon emissions would require an "extraordinary change in lifestyle" for most people.
Professor Fells said using wind power to generate electricity is almost twice as expensive as coal or gas and could never be achieved without huge taxpayers' subsidies. Instead, the professor said, the Government should give the immediate go-ahead for the construction of the proposed Severn Barrage, which could provide 5 per cent of Britain's electricity needs from regular, uninterrupted tidal power.
"To emphasise offshore wind power as the mainstay of renewable energy is to ignore the potential of marine technology and tidal stream systems," he said.
The CCC recommends a major programme of renewable energy production to replace fossil fuels; increased energy efficiency at home and in the workplace; and cutting transport emissions through the use of electric cars, biofuels and more use of public transport.
Lord Turner, who was appointed to his post this year by Hilary Benn, the environment secretary, said: "Climate change poses a grave threat to human welfare, the environment and the economy. We need to act now, in the UK and as part of a global agreement, to significantly reduce our emissions.
"The reductions required can be achieved at a very low cost to our economy. The cost of not achieving the reductions will be far greater."

Wind farm 'would wreck Lake District views'

Plans to build a wind farm on the edge of the Lake District would have a devastating impact on one of the country's most dramatic landscapes, Sir Chris Bonington, the legendary mountaineer, has claimed.

By Patrick Sawer Last Updated: 5:30PM GMT 06 Dec 2008
The siting of nine turbines less than a mile from the edge of the Lake District National Park would "pollute" views of Blencathra, which climbs 2,848 feet (868 metres) above the northern fells, he said.
A proposal by West Coast Energy, a wind energy developer, to erect the 335-foot-tall turbines at Berrier Farm, as part of the Government's drive for renewable energy, has met with a chorus of local opposition.
Sir Chris, who has scaled some of the world's toughest mountains, including the Eiger, Annapurna and Everest said: "I'm absolutely appalled by these proposals to put these giant wind farms so close to the Lake District and only just outside the actual National Park. They would be very visible from the park and the Lake District and by anyone approaching the Lake District.
"A lot of scientific authorities have questioned just how effective a lot of these wind farms are going to be. It's a windy place, the Lake District, but it's not that windy.
"You might end up polluting one of the most beautiful parts of Britain for very little benefit."
He has been joined in his condemnation of the scheme by Melvyn Bragg, the broadcaster, as well as residents and politicians, who say views of the area would be ruined, with no economic or environmental benefit for locals.
They say a wind farm at Berrier Hill would be visible for miles and have a damaging impact on tourism, on which many small businesses in the Lake District depend. Critics claim the turbines would be visible from the M6 and the A66, which provide sweeping views of the National Park.
Sir Christopher Audland, former director general for energy at the European Commission, who lives in the Lake District, said: "The visual impact of these wind turbines on vast areas of the National Park and its surroundings would be enormous. There would be clear damage to the county's natural heritage and to its biggest creator of employment – tourism."
Lord Bragg said: "Blencathra is one of the great fortress mountains of the northern Lake District. It is majestic and wonderfully wild. This will be ruined should the proposed wind turbines at Berrier be supported."
But West Coast Energy said the wind farm would bring economic and environmental benefits to the area, generating 59,000 MW of clean and sustainable electricity a year – enough to meet the annual needs of over 12,500 homes. It said the wind farm would contribute to the fight against climate change and even attract tourists.
West Coast Energy's proposal states: "There will be a change to the landscape, but if Government and regional targets on renewable energy from onshore wind are to be met it must be accepted that wind turbines do have a place within the landscape and countryside. The environmental, social and economic benefits of the proposed development outweigh its relatively low impact on the local environment."
Eden district council is consulting on the Berrier Hill proposal and is due to discuss West Coast Energy's planning application in February.
Meanwhile plans for the second biggest offshore windfarm in the world, eight miles off a holiday coast, are to be challenged in a judicial review after it was given the go-ahead by the Department of Energy last week without a public inquiry.
Opponents of the 250 turbine scheme claim it would be clearly visible between Llandudno and Prestatyn and could damage the North Wales tourist industry. They would provide, with adjoining windfarms, enough electricity to power 680,000 homes.
John Reay, chairman of Save our Scenery said : “The government has been heavy-handed and ignored the democratic objections of Conwy county council and community councils.”
He added: "What has happened is a disgrace because there has been no regard to local wishes. People come here to enjoy peace and glorious views – not to be confronted by an industrial seascape."
Energy Secretary Ed Milliband said the development, by Npower Renables Ltd, will mean "a powerhouse for renewable energy" and help to combat climate change. The go-ahead was described as "fantastic news" by The British Wind Energy Association.

Shell to quit wind projects

The Sunday Times
December 7, 2008
Danny Fortson

ROYAL DUTCH SHELL has become the second big energy company to abandon the UK wind-energy sector in the last month.
Shell, Danish firm Dong Energy and Scottish Power have cancelled the £800m Cirrus Array project off the northwest coast after five years and millions of pounds in investment.
The consortium blamed Ministry of Defence concerns over radar interference from turbines.
Less than a month ago, Shell denied a Sunday Times report that it had exited the project. However, on Friday the company confirmed that it had no plans for further investment in the UK wind sector.

Shell said: “The focus for new projects will be in North America where we can benefit from the availability of undeveloped wind resources to deliver wind energy at what we expect to be a competitive cost.”
Last month BP also moved its wind-energy focus to America, citing generous subsidies and a less-onerous planning process.