Sunday, 26 April 2009

Call for 20-year fishing ban in a third of oceans

Andrew Purvis
The Observer, Sunday 26 April 2009

One third of the world's oceans must be closed to fishing for 20 years if depleted stocks are to recover, scientists and conservation groups have warned.
Callum Roberts, professor of marine conservation at the University of York, has reviewed 100 scientific papers identifying the scale of closure needed. "All are leaning in a similar direction," he said, "which is that 20-40% of the sea should be protected."
Friends of the Earth, the Marine Conservation Society and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds all support the idea of a 30% closure.
The proposal comes in the wake of a green paper calling for radical reform of the common fisheries policy, which EU ministers admit has failed. It reveals that 88% of European Union stocks are overfished (against a global average of 25%), while 30% are "outside safe biological limits", meaning they cannot reproduce as normal because the parenting population is too depleted.
The European Commission suggests a reduction in fleet size and a dramatic cut in fishing among its series of measures, but Roberts believes these will not work without the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs).
"If we are ever going to have sustainable fisheries, MPA networks are essential," he said. In Iceland, Canada and the US, MPAs have "brought real increases in fish populations and real recovery of seabed habitats", he added.
The most convincing example is New England, where stocks, said Roberts, were "in a dreadful state" in the 1990s. Off Georges Bank, nearly 20,000 sq km - a quarter of the fishing grounds - was closed to vessels and fishing was reduced by "a draconian 50%". In the last 10 years, Roberts said, there had been a "spectacular recovery". Off Lundy Island in Devon, one of only three no-take zones (similar to MPAs) in British waters, the lobster population is eight times higher within the reserve. "We have already seen benefits in the lobster fishery immediately outside it," said Giles Bartlett, fisheries policy officer at WWF.
But the fishing industry says that pressure on stocks just outside a protected area can "mitigate against the impact" of the MPA. "It almost creates a bull's-eye for fishermen, who know the area on the periphery isn't protected," said Tom Rossiter, research and development manager at Seafish, the UK seafood industry body. "If you shut off an MPA, it will move the fishing effort elsewhere."
There are currently 4,000 MPAs covering just 0.8% of the world's oceans.

Can profits be made on eco investments?

The Sunday Times
April 26, 2009

Tricia Holly-Davis

SCEPTICS rolled their eyes two years ago when Sir Stuart Rose, chief executive of Marks & Spencer, announced its Plan A environmental scheme. Some thought it was greenwash, while others teased him by asking if he had a Plan B.
Today, Rose’s plan has translated into huge savings that have made the initial £200m investment pay for itself.
Marks & Spencer is in the minority. Most firms have yet to realise that there is a link between spending on green initiatives and profits. As a result, investment in environmentally friendly products and services has suffered as the recession has deepened. The only exception is energy efficiency.
There may be some sound reasons for the scepticism about green initiatives. A report on the telecoms industry by the research firm Frost & Sullivan, to be published next month, will show there is no measurable link between a company’s share price and investment in green initiatives. “Investing in green initiatives improves companies’ brand value and helps them to attract employees interested in working for a company with an environmental focus, but there is no correlation to higher share prices,” said Sharifah Amirah, its author.
Most financial analysts who track high-polluting industries, such as energy, telecoms and manufacturing, say climate change-related products and services do not factor into the value of a company. Only 8% and 6% of analysts, respectively, have upgraded profit forecasts after a firm’s pledge to reduce carbon emissions and buy renewable energy, said the environmental consultancy Verdantix.
“Stock-market analysts are divided into believers, sceptics and cynics,” said David Metcalfe, Verdantix’s director. “The believers – those who already link climate change and profitability – represent a small proportion of the analyst community and tend to be those who track energy companies, which are subject to emissions caps and financial penalties for exceeding their limits. Mostly, analysts have a wait-and-see approach to climate change’s impact on profitability. Half of stock-market analysts don’t believe climate change will affect company profitability for at least five years.”
The clearest link between profitability and climate-change investments is the savings that can realised through energy efficiency. For instance, the mobile-phone operator O2 invested £1.4m in smart metering last year and shaved £700,000 from its annual energy bill. It is now forecasting additional savings of £1m a year, so the project will pay for itself within two years.
The return on investment from broader initiatives, such as committing to carbon neutrality, is more difficult to quantify. However, preparing businesses for the impact of climate change is part of protecting profit margins and increasing future performance, said Steve Burt at EQ2, an environmental risk-management firm.
Robin Cohen, a partner in Deloitte’s Economic consulting practice, said: “Market risk has deterred green investment, but the carbon measures announced in last week’s budget make it clear the government will stick to its plan and provide stability in the investment environment, so we will see more companies increasing investment on green products and services.”

Toyota brings fun to its hybrid cars

The Sunday Times
April 26, 2009
The Prius led a revolution in green vehicles. Can Toyota’s new car keep it out in front?
Ray Hutton

How we laughed at the Japanese. We ridiculed their humourless engineers, with white coats and polyester trousers. We scoffed at their boring little cars with fake-wood dashboards and engines that sounded as if they were made of plastic. Well, we interrupt history – and the recession – to bring you the man who is shaping the future of motoring. He’s Japanese. And he likes a laugh.
“My dream car is a Lamborghini. If I won the lottery, I’d buy one,” said Yutaka Matsumoto. The tall, 50-year-old general manager of strategy at Toyota is driving around his firm’s headquarters in down-town Tokyo in a supercar for the 21st century. It’s not a sporty Italian, but an affordable four-door saloon that offers emission-free – and conscience-free – motoring.
“If I use this car for commuting in Tokyo, I can travel at up to 60mph but there are no emissions whatsoever,” he said.
Matsumoto is behind the wheel of Toyota’s first plug-in hybrid car. It has an electric and a petrol engine but differs from the Prius – the popular hybrid Matsumoto’s team also developed – because its battery can be recharged from a normal socket in less than two hours.
This means the new model travels twice as fast as the Prius and at least 10 times as far on electric power alone.
If the new plug-in hybrid is anything like as big a hit as the Prius – more than 1m have been sold since its launch in 1997 – it will not only boost Toyota’s sales and share price but will set a new green standard for other manufacturers to reach.
The prototype plug-in car that Matsumoto is driving has a meagre seven-mile electric range before the petrol engine kicks in. But by the time the car is released, it will have a 15-mile EV – electric vehicle – range.
Fifteen miles might not sound much to American commuters, but in Japanese and European cities most journeys are less than that. With recharging costs of just a few pence, the plug-in hybrid, therefore, creates the prospect of totally green and almost free driving in town, while retaining the option of taking a family of four 1,000 miles or more on a single tank. “You can use it just like your old car,” said Matsumoto.
By 2020, he said every Toyota model will be available as a hybrid, and perhaps a plug-in. This is a remarkable goal when you consider that some firms, notably Jaguar Land Rover, do not have a single hybrid model for sale and have had to ask the government for funds to develop one.
However, making the new plug-in hybrid a global hit will be tough – especially for Toyota. Consumers like the Prius precisely because it is not a plug-in. They fear plug-in cars will run out of juice and say they are about as stylish and fun to drive as a pedalo.
To make matters worse, for the first time the Prius is jostling for space on the road. Honda has just launched its new hybrid, the Insight, in Japan and America, selling 18,000 in Japan in its first three weeks. General Motors will launch its electric Volt early next year, which it claims will travel 40 miles on a single charge, and electric or electric hybrid models from BMW, Mercedes, Renault/Nissan, Mitsubishi and Ford will soon hit the road.
Matsumoto points out that the petrol engine means the plug-in cannot run out of puff. And to help attract more than just granola-crunching greens, the new plug-in will boast many of the frills to be found in the third-generation Prius that goes on sale in Britain this summer, including a bigger engine, automatic braking, cruise control, automated parking and solar-powered climate control and air conditioning.
Customers may even be able to order “engine noise”. One of the complaints about the Prius – from drivers as well as pedestrians and cyclists – is that it is too quiet. “We are working on an artificial noise,” said Matsumuto. A Lamborghini noise? “No,” he laughs. “A Toyota noise.”
Making the plug-in car look, handle and sound like a “normal” car, just one with vastly better fuel consumption, will, he believes, ensure it “appeals to a much broader range of customers . . . If a car is not attractive or fun, people will not buy it, no matter how green it is”.
Critics say that since it still burns fossil fuels, the plug-in is not a long-term answer to cutting carbon-dioxide emissions. Matsumoto concedes that the criticism is valid while the car uses petrol but the new model could soon run on clean biofuels or even hydrogen fuel cells. Toyota is testing a hydrogen fuel cell powered 4x4. “The beauty of the hybrid platform is that it can work with any fuel.”
Detractors also point out that while plug-in electric cars may sound clean, they are not, because most of the electricity used to charge the batteries is generated by coal-fired power stations that spew millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Electric cars, they argue, “run on coal”.
Matsumoto is in talks with Japanese electricity suppliers and European generators, such as France’s EDF which supplies power to millions of homes in Britain, to help develop green electricity generation programmes. EDF is currently testing the plug-in hybrid in Britain and France.
“I talk to so many people about things other than cars that sometimes I wonder whether I am even a car guy any more,” he jokes. But then he remembers the Lamborghini. “When I was a kid I used to read comics. My favourite character was called Wolf. He used to drive supercars on the freeways at midnight. That’s why I wanted a Lamborghini. Maybe I could still have one. I would keep it in the garage and polish it.”
Surely, he would turn the engine on every now and again? He grins, raising a single eyebrow. He may be saving the world one volt at a time but there’s still oil running through the jolly green giant’s veins.

Winds of change blow for offshore power operators

Tim Webb
The Observer, Sunday 26 April 2009

It's official: it's getting windier down south. This unexpected quirk of climate change has given a much needed boost to offshore wind-farm developers.
For those struggling to make the economics of hugely expensive wind farms work, more wind equals more money.
Experts said that the waters off the coast of East Anglia and Essex could host many more wind farms as a result.
The research, from Atmos Consulting, has found that wind speeds in these areas have been rising so much that wind farms could generate 50% more electricity than envisaged a decade ago.
More than 10GW of offshore wind projects - enough to power 10m homes - being planned for the southern part of the North Sea could benefit.
Based on information taken from Nasa satellite images, the research found that average annual wind speed in the southern part of the North Sea had increased from about 7.5 metres per second in 1990 to 8.5 metres in 2008. In contrast, wind speeds in the northern part of the North Sea, off the coast of Scotland, have remained constant during this period.
If these trends continue, in a decade the south could be windier all year round than northern areas and double the power generated by wind farms off the coast of East Anglia and Essex.
The news could rescue the £3bn London Array wind-farm project planned in the Thames estuary. Project developer E.ON has warned that the economics of the project are on a "knife edge" and will make a final decision this summer.
Atmos Consulting has developed software to process 22 years of satellite images from space agency Nasa. These images measure the size of small, capillary waves on the ocean surface, which indicate the strength of the wind.
Until now, developers have relied on wind-speed levels taken on oil and gas installations or have used meteorological masts planted offshore. The Met Office has only limited satellite data to track offshore wind speeds in the North Sea but is working with wind-farm developers to produce a comprehensive set of data of the last 30 years. A spokeswoman admitted it would take two years to develop.
Duncan Ayling, head of offshore renewables at the British Wind Energy Association, said: "There have been wind-speed measurements on oil and gas installations that give some localised historic data, but a lot of the rest of it is extrapolation. If this technology provides an accurate measurement, it would be very exciting. More wind equals more money for projects. It would enable wind-farm developers to more accurately forecast revenues and have more certainty about the expected return on their investment."

A Government still addicted to petrol

By David Strahan
Sunday, 26 April 2009

"All targets and no trousers" seemed to be the gist of the reaction from environmentalists to last week's Budget. Greens welcomed the introduction of new, legally binding, carbon-reduction goals but attacked the lack of a clear road map showing how they could be achieved.

Some applauded policies such as the extra subsidy for offshore wind and investment in building efficiency, but attacked overall funding of £1.4bn as miserly in comparison to the enormity of the climate crisis and recent financial bailouts.
But for those who are more worried about oil depletion, the Budget was utterly hollow. The car scrappage scheme came without efficiency conditions attached, the return to inflation-plus fuel duty increases was welcome but timid compared to the escalator that was killed off by the petrol protests of 2000, and tax breaks for North Sea operators will do little to stem the decline in output. Production has halved since its peak in 1999, and is now dropping at 7 per cent a year, dragging Britain ever deeper into import dependency.
Still less will the Budget improve the global oil outlook. The International Energy Agency forecasts a "supply crunch" early in the next decade, Shell predicts a production plateau from 2015, and the head of the Libyan National Oil Company sees peak oil looming.
In contrast, the big energy announcement of the week looked far bolder. The Energy Secretary, Ed Miliband, said new coal-fired power stations would only be approved if they included a demonstration plant for carbon capture and storage (CCS) from day one, and a commitment by the energy company to retrofit the entire power station once the Environment Agency judged CCS to be technically and commercially proven. This came beside plans to fund four of the new pilot plants through a 2 per cent levy on customers' bills.
The move was welcomed by environmental groups and is an advance on the Government's previous dither in this area. But it is also a spectacular gamble and has three obvious risks.
One, pilot plants will capture only a quarter of new power station emissions .
Two, the technology may not be viable, at least not in time, posing a dilemma in the mid-2020s: whether to close the power stations or sacrifice the climate.
Three, coal may be less abundant than the Government assumes. In 2000, the global coal supply was expected to last 277 years, but by 2006 that had plunged to 140 years as consumption rose and estimates of reserves were revised downwards. One forecasting group predicts peak coal as early as 2025, Mr Miliband's deadline for retrofitting CCS.
The Government seems too timid to confront peak oil publicly, but reckless enough to gamble on potentially unabated coal emissions and the coal supply.
Why not bet on true sustainability: get serious about energy efficiency, renewables, electrification of transport and a European supergrid, and commit the sort of money they have recently been throwing at the banking industry? The stakes are even higher.
The writer is author of The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum man

Miliband calls for populist push in battle against climate change

Gaby Hinsliff and John Vidal
The Observer, Sunday 26 April 2009

Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, warns today that he is "fearful" that the world may miss the opportunity to halt global warming and is calling for a Make Poverty History-style popular movement to push for a breakthrough at this year's Copenhagen summit.
He will travel to Washington this week for preliminary talks, amid concerns that Barack Obama's ability to back genuinely ambitious cuts in carbon emissions could be hindered by domestic political opposition.
"We do need to be pushed. Political change doesn't happen simply because leaders want it to happen, but because people make it happen," Miliband told the Observer. "I don't think it's just about protesting, although people are welcome to protest against me.
"We live in a world where this kind of campaigning can spread across the world - Susan Boyle appears on Britain's Got Talent and a week later 50 million people have watched it on YouTube."
Miliband, who worked for the Treasury during Make Poverty History, said climate change needed a similarly passionate figurehead. "I remember Bob Geldof ringing me up - I think he thought I was Ed Balls - and saying, 'We have got to cancel 100% of debt'. At the time, 100% seemed like utopia; it wasn't going to happen. But it partly moved - even if he got the wrong Ed - because of people like him."
Miliband hopes to build on last week's budget, which saw a U-turn on clean coal production and a surprise hike in petrol duty, to help to re-energise green campaigners ahead of the Copenhagen summit in December. He will shortly publish a climate change manifesto, revealing British negotiating positions, including an expectation that the west should bear the brunt of the pain of reducing carbon. "I am very fearful if we don't get the framework we need in December, because I think we will miss a historic opportunity," he added.
The manifesto will be backed by new climate change projections forecasting what could happen to the UK if global warming continues, amid concerns that too many Britons still do not perceive climate change as a threat to them.
"I would say that the debate on science is being won: we are moving in the right direction. The debate on 'will it happen to us?' is not a debate that is won. People think it's going to happen to someone else," Miliband said.
Asked why ministers did not move to force change, for example by restricting car use, he said that most people were not unwilling to go green, but needed help and information to do so.
However, he admitted that saving the planet would ultimately come at a price, adding: "Something which is quite technical, like putting a price on aviation emissions through the emissions trading scheme, means that airline prices will be higher than they would otherwise be. That's a necessity ...
"But we also have to make an argument that if you can shift to this greener Britain it would be better in many ways - a better quality of life. If it's only doom avoidance, I don't actually think you are going to bring people with you."

Scots innovations make others green with envy

Published Date: 26 April 2009
By Martin Hannan

FOR several centuries now, almost from the start of the industrial revolution, Scotland has been a world leader in developing new technologies, and as many a souvenir tea towel shows, the list of Scottish inventions is impressive.
Yet Scotland has not always benefited fully from its culture of innovation. Jim Watt famously had to go to England to make an impact with his steam engine; Alexander Graham Bell only hit the jackpot after he emigrated to Canada and the US; while many medical breakthroughs such as penicillin, beta-blockers and ultrasound and MRI scanners, which were pioneered by Scots or developed in Scotland, have made many companies rich, few of them Scottish-based. Now Scotland is once again at the forefront of a new technology in which the race to develop inventions is literally a matter of global importance. Scots and Scottish companies are working round the clock to develop the machines and techniques to make renewable energy more workable as an alternative to fossil fuels, and in such fields as tidal and wave power and carbon capture, Scotland really does have a world lead – the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, for example, was the first test facility of its kind and has developed accreditation standards that are now internationally recognised.In the past decade or so, the Scottish renewables industry has grown significantly, and the Scottish Government has recognised its importance for job creation as well as meeting climate-change targets. In the longer term, this thriving sector has a real opportunity to exploit its intellectual properties (IP) in global markets, on the back of ground-breaking technologies in several areas.A raft of IP lawyers are working with the industry to ensure that Scotland does not surrender valuable assets in this developing field. Carina Healy, partner specialising in IP with Dundas & Wilson, emphasises how important it is for innovators to take steps to protect their ideas: "Most new developments in green technology must be protected by patents, just as in other industries."If you are developing new blades for turbines or working on smarter grids or carbon capture, or just about anything in the industry, these developments can be protected by patent applications and patents, and sometimes design rights."Scotland is at the forefront of renewable technology and a lot of it is driven by universities and small companies, perhaps spending a lot of money from investors, so it is important to take the steps to safeguard intellectual property to protect your own investment and reassure investors that their investment is protected, too."Healy adds that the point of protecting IP applies even in areas where small developing companies are working in conjunction with bigger partners – "otherwise the bigger company will just swallow the smaller's IP assets."John MacKenzie, partner with Pinsent Masons, points out the importance of constant innovation in the industry to Scotland, emphasising that the recent Government announcement of the commitment to reduce emissions by 34% by 2020 can only be achieved by technology that is still in the pipeline or planning stage."The only way that target can be reached is by new technologies to make our current processes more efficient," he says. "That goes for televisions and kettles as well as the turbines on wind farms – they will all have to be more efficient."Each of these improvements will be capable of protection by way of patent, so there is a real opportunity for Scotland with its existing strength in renewables to capture the intellectual property of these new technologies and export that to countries which are going to have problems, such as China and India."Fortunately the umbrella group for the renewable industry in Scotland appears to be on the IP case. The Scottish Renewables organisation was founded in 1996 to act as a forum for all those developing renewable energy technologies across Scotland. For some time now it has been working with the Intellectual Assets Centre (IAC) in Glasgow on a comprehensive programme to ensure that its own staff and member organisations and companies understand the importance of protecting and developing their intellectual property. In particular, the IAC carried out an audit that involved Scottish Renewables' staff in understanding its key intellectual assets and identifying what actions it needed to take in order to secure them.Jason Ormiston, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, says: "As a result of our interactions with the Intellectual Assets Centre, we have developed a good understanding of what comprises our intellectual assets and their importance to us as we progress our business strategy. The audit helped us to identify areas for immediate improvement and we have taken action that we believe will protect and enhance our brand value."It appears that the lessons of history have been learned by the organisations, firms and inventors working in the renewables industry in Scotland. Surely this time, a Scottish industrial lead will not be lost.

Geoffrey Lean: We are one step closer to clean coal

The Government's decision to fit carbon-removing equipment will have a knock-on effect on all over the world
Sunday, 26 April 2009

There is, no doubt, particular joy in the atmosphere over a polluter who repents. And, indeed, the Government's abrupt, if belated, conversion last week to slashing the amount of carbon dioxide that new coal-fired power stations pump into the sky does provide cause for celebration.

Ed Miliband's announcement on Thursday that, in future, such plants must be fitted with equipment to remove the gas, has laid down a whole avenue of milestones. It is the single most important green measure yet by this Government. It is the first time that a Secretary of State for Energy has overridden the irredeemably pro-pollution position of his department. And, by establishing what can, and cannot, be built, it marks the end of laissez-faire energy policy in Britain.
Not bad for one short lunchtime parliamentary statement. But there is more. The new measures are likely to trigger a rapid increase in the use of the technology – cumbersomely entitled "carbon capture and storage" (CCS) – in the United States and worldwide. They could give Britain a share of a lucrative market that it seemed determined to forfeit. And they make it much less likely that the energy company E.ON will build its controversial new power station at Kingsnorth in Kent.
They certainly represent a tyre-screeching U-turn worthy of a boy racer. Not long ago John Hutton, Mr Miliband's predecessor as energy secretary, came within days of giving Kingsnorth the go-ahead as the first of six coal-fired stations in Britain. There was no question of fitting the technology – leaked emails showed the then Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform colluding with E.ON to exclude it – and the plant would have emitted three times as much CO2 a year as the whole of Rwanda.
Worse, Mr Hutton and his predecessor, Alistair Darling, killed off a bid by BP and Southern and Scottish Energy to build Britain's first CCS plant in Peterhead. The Government was only prepared to consult on whether new power stations should be required to be "CCS-ready", so that the technology could be bolted on later – effectively setting aside room for it in the car park. Environmentalists protested that Britain was setting an appalling example to countries such as China and India whose coal burning threatens to send global warming spiralling out of control.
This all began to change at the last Labour Party conference, when Mr Hutton made such a pro-coal speech that he antagonised the hitherto dithering Prime Minister. He was moved to the Department for Defence to make way for Mr Miliband who – even more importantly – was also given responsibility for combating climate change, ensuring that it could no longer be disregarded when drawing up energy policy.
Thursday's announcement means at first, while the technology is still being fully developed, all new coal-fired power stations will be required to remove carbon from about a quarter of their emissions. But once the Environment Agency decides CCS is proven, which ministers expect by 2020, they – and all future stations – will have to use it completely.
In practice, up to four plants are to be given the go-ahead to try out the technology. Those chosen are likely to be along the east coast, so that the extracted CO2 can be pumped out to be buried in disused oil wells under the North Sea. Kingsnorth, say top government sources, has been reduced from a near certainty to an outsider.
Formally, the new policy is to go out to consultation, but it is virtually certain to happen, because, extraordinarily, it has been almost universally welcomed, with Greenpeace vying with E.ON, the CBI with the TUC to embrace it. And Conservative and Liberal Democrat policies are still tougher.
Even the radical Campaign against Climate Change hailed it as "a big move in a green direction", although it wants all plants to be fully fitted with CCS from the start. But then electricity generators would not have built any on grounds of expense, and paradoxically, the world needs them.
This is because China and India are likely to burn their coal – as their cheapest, if dirtiest, source of energy – whatever happens. So CCS, which removes 90 per cent of the CO2 from the fuel, must be got going as soon as possible.
Britain's decision is also likely to have the unexpected side-effect of boosting the uptake of the technology in the United States. A Bill now working its way through Congress would require US power stations to be fitted with full CCS, once it was installed widely enough worldwide. And the four plants now to be built in Britain, together with others planned overseas, would take it over the threshold.
Mr Miliband could, and should, have gone further. The Government's official Climate Change Committee wants CSS to be retrofitted to all existing power stations as well, and Scottish Power wants to prove this can be done at its plant at Longannet on the Firth of Forth. Only then will Britain get emissions from coal – mined here since Roman times – under control. But there must be a limit to the repentence to be expected on a single occasion from so unapologetic a government as this one.

Carbon capture and storage: A victory for green thinking

The Observer, Sunday 26 April 2009

Last week, the government gave a rare demonstration of environmental leadership. It pledged that no new coal-fired power stations will be built in Britain unless they are fitted with technology to capture and store the carbon emissions. The announcement lacked detail about funding this technology, but the move is welcome none the less. In recent years, ministers have been happy to talk about reducing the nation's carbon emissions, but vague about how to achieve this.
On this occasion - by promoting devices that will take carbon dioxide from power plants and pump it deep into old North Sea oil fields - they have demonstrated a real appreciation of how serious we have to be in our fight against global warming. Carbon capture and storage is a technology with the potential to make a major difference in the fight against climate change.
It shows that power has shifted in government. Only last year, the cabinet was poised to approve new coal-powered generating plants that would have been able to operate without these devices and that would have pumped millions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. That power shift favours Ed Miliband, who has convinced cabinet and civil servants that this cause is a vital one. Green groups who risked jail to champion a once unfashionable cause have scored a major victory. We're all a little safer because of it.

What's the greenest way to recharge my gadgets?

As our gizmo intake grows, more eco-friendly recharging options are emerging. Check them out, says Adam Vaughan

Adam Vaughan
The Observer, Sunday 26 April 2009

By 2010 our addiction to everything from iPhones to PSPs is set to make gadgets the biggest consumers of electricity in our homes ( Much of that energy demand - and CO2 emissions - will come from portable gizmos. Mobile phones in the UK already outnumber the population, while last year laptop sales overtook desktop computer sales globally for the first time ( This love affair with electronica results in huge waste as well as electricity guzzling: in the UK alone, we chuck 600m batteries in landfill each year.
So what's to be done to reduce the environmental impact? Start by changing your phone-recharging habits. The savings from switching off a phone charger when it's not in use are tiny, but still worth considering when you're buying a new phone. Before you buy, check how the phone's charger ranks on an energy rating table ( There are also a bunch of universal "eco chargers", but because the energy savings from them are so miniscule they're only worth buying if your existing charger dies. Buying an eco charger when you've got a usable but profligate charger will emit more carbon than it saves.
Laptops are trickier. As Jim Tulley, chief of research at Gartner, points out, the widespread switch from nickel-cadmium batteries to modern lithium-ion ones means there's no benefit in running a battery flat before recharging it. One option is to look for a laptop with a long-lasting battery, like HP-compatible Sonata batteries, which are guaranteed to last three years.
Mobile and laptop batteries should be recycled once they're exhausted. Contrary to popular myth, the rechargeable batteries in our Nokias and MacBooks can be easily recycled. For other gadgets, such as digital cameras, switching from conventional AAs to rechargeable AAs makes both financial and eco sense. If you're a heavy computer user, UBSCell batteries ( recharge from a PC's USB port, meaning you can even ditch the battery charger module (and the carbon used to manufacture it).
Thanks to renewable energy, we're almost on the cusp of being able to ditch mains sockets entirely. While hand-held solar chargers such as the Solio and Freeloader don't have large enough solar panels to act as a reliable power source for your phone even in the UK's sunniest months, newer and more expensive solar chargers such as the Solar Monkey are getting close to being viable for daily charging.
Beyond solar, wind-up chargers are already on sale, prototype refillable fuel cells are doing the rounds and a new generation of silver zinc laptop batteries promise increased recycled rates. While betting on a techno fix to greenify our charging habits is risky, it's probably still a more attractive wager than waiting for an end to our love affair with gadgets.
• Lucy Siegle is back next week

Nimbys 'thwart plans' for cheap green energy

Protesters are going against majority Scottish opinion, says expert
Paul Kelbie
The Observer, Sunday 26 April 2009

Scotland risks being left behind in the race for green technology by an epidemic of nimbyism holding up planning applications and threatening to derail government targets for renewable energy.
While the UK and Scottish governments argue over the need for nuclear power, experts claim that numerous multi-million-pound projects which could create thousands of jobs and provide cheap and efficient power to millions of homes are being thwarted by a highly vocal opposition.
While 48 per cent of the population believe Scotland's energy should only come from renewable sources, the number of groups objecting to plans for wind farms, wave turbines and waste-to-energy plants tells a different story.
There are more than 12 separate pressure groups protesting against the development of renewable energy sources across Scotland and that number rises to over 100 throughout the UK.
Opposition groups claim potential developments on their doorstep will detract from the natural beauty of the landscape and harm local economies driven by tourism.
"I don't believe nimbyism has anything to do with it," said Gillian Bishop, a spokesperson for pressure group Views of Scotland. "Opposition to wind power comes from the feeling that it doesn't provide enough electricity and doesn't stop enough emissions from coal-fired power stations to justify damaging the environment. Getting 50 per cent of power from renewable sources is a ludicrous target - real pie-in-the-sky stuff."
Despite landfill taxes rising by £8 a tonne per year to encourage alternative solutions, numerous groups have sprung up against the burning of waste to create cheap energy.
"Opposition to wind farms and waste-to-energy plants is in danger of undermining what are ambitious government targets for renewable energy," said Professor Andrew Wheatley, of Loughborough University. "If we were to rely on wind power alone something like three new windfarms a day would have to be built. Waste-to-energy plants definitely have their part to play in the provision of renewable energy, but there's a lot of education to be done in terms of letting the public know how they operate."
Later this year proposals for a state-of-the-art recycling village, incorporating the latest waste-to-energy technology, are to be unveiled for a new development south of Glasgow in East Renfrewshire.
The developers claim the site would be among the most modern and efficient in Europe, create numerous jobs and could provide enough cheap power for thousands of surrounding homes and businesses. Although full details have yet to be released, opponents have already started attacking the idea.
The Westminster government is so concerned about the scale of opposition to renewable energy developments that, in the wake of The Energy White Paper and the Energy Review of 2006 which pledged to increase the development of renewable energy technologies to provide 20 per cent of total electricity supply by 2020, they have started a major national programme to examine the fears of objectors.
The Beyond Nimbyism project is funded by the Government's Economic and Social Research Council and is a multi-disciplinary investigation into the public's views. "Generally, objectors would say they were all for renewable energy but that 'this is the wrong place'. It might sound like a nimby response but there are often genuine concerns about viability. They honestly didn't think it was the best place," said Judith Parks, research associate with the Sustainable Cities Institute of Northumbria University, who has studied several protests.
And Green MSP Patrick Harvie said waste-to-energy plants, along with wave and solar power, had a key role to play in the future. "We should be thinking about waste material as a resource rather than a problem to be got rid of," he said. "No matter how you dispose of it there will be some sort of environmental impact so the key to the argument is about reducing the amount of material that goes through the product chain.
"What can be recycled should be recycled and we should try and extract the maximum benefit from what's left."

Darling powers up clean energy

The Sunday Times
April 26, 2009
Extra subsidies will secure the future of key projects such as offshore wind farms
Danny Fortson

The firms behind the world’s largest wind farm, the London Array, are poised to approve the long-delayed project after Alistair Darling announced an aid package for the industry.
Green projects like the London Array were the big winners in last week’s budget, with the chancellor backing a range of environmental schemes. His help varies from subsidies for new coal-fired power stations and offshore wind farms to assistance for homeowners to fit insulation.
Businesses in the sector were among the few to give the budget unalloyed praise. The companies behind the London Array said the government’s new incentives “boost the economics of the scheme and so its commercial viability”.
A final investment decision on the £3 billion project will be made soon and construction is expected to begin later this year. If all goes to plan, the first phase will be completed in time to provide power to London for the Olympic Games in 2012.
If any of the government’s projects were deemed “too big to fail” this was it. Comprising 341 giant turbines spread over 90 square miles of seabed off the Kent coast, the Array has long been held up by Whitehall as a trophy project that embodied its ambition to convert Britain to a low-carbon economy.
Yet for nearly a year, it has been on the ropes. Construction costs have soared. Royal Dutch Shell pulled out last year, calling its economics “questionable”. The firms still backing the scheme – Germany’s Eon, Denmark’s Dong Energy and the Gulf investment fund Mas-dar – warned that without immediate aid, they would scrap it.
Cue Darling’s “green budget”. The chancellor unveiled a slew of incentives last week, most of them aimed at getting the offshore wind industry back on track. The measures included £525m in increased subsidies and up to £4 billion in European Investment Bank (EIB) loans for projects stalled by the credit crunch.
Other low-carbon support includes £375m for energy-efficiency schemes, such as household loft insulation, and £405m in new cash to support low-carbon manufacturing. The government also gave the green light to a new generation of clean coal power stations and committed Britain to a binding carbon budget (see panel below), the first country to do so.
Some environmental campaigners carped that the measures fall well short of Barack Obama’s $150 billion (£103 billion) “green new deal” for America. Within industry, however, there was a general feeling that it had received a disproportionately large piece of the Treasury’s dwindling pie. Philip Wolfe, director-general of the Renewable Energy Association, said: “We had three main areas of concern and in difficult circumstances they addressed all of them to a degree. This is a big step forward.”
Angus McCrone of New Energy Finance called it “a much better package for clean energy than other recent attempts”.
The government has hitched the country’s future to offshore wind, even though the technology is still in its infancy. Around the world today, there is less than 1GW of offshore wind capacity. That is equal to the power output of a typical gas-fired station. The government has set a target of generating 33GW of power from wind, most of it offshore, by 2020.
Analysts say the new measures should lead to the start of construction on offshore projects that will generate 3GW of power. These include Npower’s 750MW Gwint y Môr farm on the Welsh coast and three large projects from Centrica. Within hours of Darling’s announcement, Dong said it would begin construction of its Walney farm project in the Irish Sea.
The government has given assistance in a few key areas. One was a 50% increase to the per-megawatt subsidy for power generated from offshore wind, on top of a previous 50% hike that came into effect this month. Valid only between 2011 and 2014, it is targeted at farms that have yet to be built.
Another key measure was a one-year increase from 20% to 40% for the capital allowances for projects given consent this year. For large sites that is a big bonus.
“The government has very clearly created a window for a lot of these projects that have been stuck on the cusp. We should see a lot of them get consent pretty quickly,” said one power-company executive.
The BWEA, the wind-energy trade body, said the EIB loans could help 5GW of new onshore wind projects that were otherwise facing prohibitive borrowing terms.
The complications, however, are many. Today only one company, Siemens, makes offshore turbines. These have to be resilient to perform in the harsh conditions at sea. Vestas, the world’s largest turbine maker, pulled out of the market after its disastrous project at Horns Rev on the Danish coast, where it had to bring all 80 of the turbines it had installed back onshore to fit new gearboxes.
“There is much larger operational risk offshore. You need to have people and boats ready on short notice to go out there and fix it if there is a problem. Horns Rev nearly broke Vestas’s back,” said Jens Thomassen at HG Capital, an investor in renewable projects.
The cost of building offshore wind farms is roughly double that of onshore farms. The added expense is offset, in theory, by the greater power generated from higher winds and the larger size of the farms offshore.
Some experts think this argument may not always hold. In an analysis of four of Britain’s offshore sites, HG found that the amount of time a scheme is generating full power is virtually identical to onshore farms, at 27% to 29%, rather than the 35% to 40% typically cited.
And because of the treacherous sea environment, offshore farms spend about 20% of the time out of commission for maintenance or repairs, as opposed to 2% to 5% for a typical onshore farm. “Offshore will definitely be important, but you really have to question if this is the best way to spend our money right now,” said Thomassen. The cost of building the miles of undersea cable to connect to the mainland is estimated to be at least another £10 billion.
They are daunting figures, but the government also focused on the smaller end of the green industry. It set aside £45m for developers who fit low-carbon technologies such as rooftop wind turbines and ground-source heat pumps on warehouses and office blocks. Another £25m was earmarked to pay for community-level heating projects.
Darling did make one glaring omission – the national electricity grid. It was built in the 1950s to transport the electricity generated by a handful of large plants. The new energy network, made up of far-flung wind farms, new nuclear stations and possibly thousands of household generators, will be far more disparate and technologically demanding.
Indeed, next week the government will unveil its £7 billion plan to roll out smart gas and electricity meters to every home in the country. Its silence about the inevitable overhaul the grid will require worries some. David Smith, head of the Energy Networks Association, said: “Ignore energy networks and nothing will happen on delivery.”
New carbon budgets tie UK into legal limits on CO2
THE first three “carbon budgets” introduced by the government last week set a binding target for Britain to cut carbon-dioxide emissions to 34% below 1990 levels by 2020,writes Tricia Holly-Davis.
The budgets put Britain on track to meet an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050, and pave the way for investment in the development of new low-carbon energy sources and technologies.
The targets are legally binding, though the Climate Change Act, which established the concept of carbon budgets, gives the government an escape clause by allowing it to meet its targets through the purchase of carbon credits. Alistair Darling said the government would aim to meet the first three carbon budgets without buying these credits, but would keep them as a “fallback option”.
On the surface, the 34% reduction seems optimistic, given Britain’s reliance on fossil fuels to produce electricity. However, in reality, Britain only has to reduce emissions by about half the target outlined in the budgets, because our emissions are already 16% lower than 1990 levels. “It works out to a marginal year-on-year reduction of about 3%, which is much more realistic,” said Daniel Waller, a carbon management expert at AEA, a climate-change and energy consultancy.
The provisional estimates of carbon-dioxide emissions for last year were 532m tonnes, a 10.5% decrease on 1990 levels and 2% lower than in 2007. The Department of Energy and Climate Change said the fall was due to the switch to natural gas from coal, particularly for electricity generation, and energy efficiency.
Nevertheless, growing demand for energy means that to keep reducing emissions by at least 2% a year and meet the targets of the carbon budgets “will require a transformation in the way the UK meets its energy needs”, according to the government. Ministers will publish an energy and climate-change strategy this summer outlining specific policies to meet their emissions targets.
Britain banks on burying power-station carbon dioxide
BRITAIN could lead the world in an ambitious – some think over ambitious – scheme to make coal a clean fuel, writes Dominic O’Connell. In the budget, Alistair Darling confirmed the government would invest in four trial projects to demonstrate that carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, can be removed from the exhaust gases of coal-fired power plants.
Coal is an important fuel for Britain. Coal-fired stations account for 37% of our electricity generating capacity, and last year provided 31% of the electricity we used. But coal – in greenhouse gas terms – is a dirty fuel, and the stations’ continued operation is at odds with government plans to cut carbon-dioxide emissions (see adjoining panel). The answer, the government hopes, is in technology that promises to take the carbon dioxide out of coal – known as Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS).
There are two types: pre-combustion, which captures the carbon dioxide before the coal is burnt, and post-combustion, which takes the gas out of the smoke afterwards. In each case, the carbon dioxide is then cooled until it is liquid and piped or shipped away for injection into underground stores, typically old oil or gas fields.
While the technologies for both methods are well understood – the Swedish power company Vattenfall already has a small plant running in Germany – they are not yet proved on a large scale.
The biggest problem is cost and wastefulness. Taking out carbon dioxide consumes at least 25% of the power plant’s energy production, meaning much more fuel needs to be burnt to produce the same amount of electricity. Critics also say that the long-term effects of storing carbon underground – with the possibility of escape into the atmosphere – need to be more fully explored.
In fleshing out the details of the scheme, Ed Miliband, the environment secretary, said that new coal plants would not be approved in Britain unless they were fitted with CCS.

How I made it: Doug Stewart, founder of Green Energy UK

The Sunday Times
April 26, 2009

Rachel Bridge

CARS were always a passion for Doug Stewart. As a child growing up in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, and then High Wycombe, his favourite pastime was playing with his Dinky and Corgi cars, which he still has stored in his loft. When he left Southampton university, where he studied economics and law, he joined Ford as a graduate trainee and spent seven years there. Then, after a spell of working for a recruitment exhibition company, he bought a Volkswagen Audi dealership and became a full-time car salesman.
So it was a big surprise to his friends and family when Stewart decided to set up a company supplying electricity created by green sources such as solar and wind power.
Stewart was at a child’s birthday party when he had a conversation that changed his life. He started talking to a man who was doing a PhD in photovoltaic physics. “I talked to him about solar energy for three hours and was absolutely fascinated,” said Stewart.
As soon as he got home he turned on the computer and tried to find out all he could about solar energy. He quickly decided it was something he wanted to get involved in.
“I wanted to do something that made a difference. I had spent 20 years polluting the planet but now I had a young family and I was sitting there thinking, what do I want to do?”
The big question was how to go about turning his enthusiasm into a viable business. “All the research I did said that in 10 years solar energy might be a viable proposition but for now it was for philanthropists.”
His first thought was to become a roofer so he could specialise in attaching solar panels to roofs. His second thought was to start up a green electricity company.
“I mentioned it to someone who said that electricity was a big boy’s business and I would never be able to do that. That was like a red rag to a bull.”
Stewart discovered that it was possible to buy electricity through another electricity provider that already held a licence. So with a start-up fund of £50,000, of which £25,000 came from the sale of his car dealership and the rest he borrowed from his family, he set up a website and opened for business. He began by supplying electricity to friends and former colleagues and grew the business from there.
All the electricity he supplies is provided by the National Grid so that for every unit he takes out to supply customers, he must immediately put in an equal amount of generated electricity. The units that Stewart’s customers take out are not necessarily “green”, but the units he replaces them with are. He said: “What we are trying to do is green up the grid.”
The idea took hold and his company thrived. Four years ago, though, he made a mistake that nearly derailed the business. Faced with the prospect of a big order, Stewart broke his own golden rule and accepted the order without backing it up with a contract to buy the same amount of electricity, thinking that he could simply buy the electricity he needed on the open market.
“We sat down and said, what could possibly go wrong?” Unfortunately, the deal was struck just days before Russia cut off gas supplies to the Ukraine. Overnight, the price of electricity shot up sixfold and Stewart’s business, which was committed to providing electricity at a set price, lost £500,000, pushing it to the brink of collapse.
Stewart said: “We were spectacularly unlucky. But it was one of my biggest mistakes in not adhering to the risk strategy that we had set ourselves.” Fortunately the business survived and this year will have a turnover of £5m.
Green Energy UK now buys electricity from 30 small-scale generators across the country who use a variety of green technologies, as well as from some households. It supplies electricity to Waitrose, Neal’s Yard Remedies, and the Duchy of Cornwall, among others.
One unusual feature of the business is that every customer is given free shares in the company and will ultimately receive dividends. As a result, Stewart’s stake in the business is gradually dwindling from 50% to 25%, the lower limit he has set.
“When I said I wanted to give half the business to the customers our financial advisers said I must be mad. But I wanted them to feel part of what I was trying to do and to share the vision.”
Now 52 and married with three children, Stewart has this advice for budding entrepreneurs. “Always listen to the advice you are given, but remember that you don’t have to actually take it. People are happy to offer advice if they think you are listening but they will stop if they think you are not.” As to the secret of his success, Stewart said: “Just do what you are going to do, on time and at the price you say you are going to do it, and you will probably exceed every customer’s expectation because most of the time customers are used to people promising one thing and delivering another.
“And if you make a mistake, own up, say sorry and offer a solution. I have usually found this rarely costs me anything and I tend to win a customer and a lot of loyalty from them.”
The updated paperback edition of Rachel Bridge's book, 'How I Made It – 40 successful entrepreneurs reveal how they made millions', published by Kogan Page, is out now, and is available from The Sunday Times Books First at £9.99 (including postage and packaging) on 0845 271 2135 or at