Sunday, 3 May 2009

Hotel scheme reduces energy use by up to 25%

The Sunday Times
May 3, 2009

IHG’s website offers tips on how to save money
Matthew Goodman

HOW important are a building’s green credentials in influencing travellers where they choose to stay? Increasingly so, according to the world’s biggest hotel operator.
Consumer interest, as well as a desire to save both energy and money, has prompted Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), the company behind brands such as Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, to introduce a new scheme it has dubbed Green Engage. It could lead to savings of some $200m (£135m).
The project provides practical advice to those running the company’s properties to help them cut energy usage, and allows them to compare their properties with those of rivals.
Early indications suggest that adopting Green Engage can allow hotels to cut energy consumption by up to 25%. Such a reduction clearly has an economic advantage as well as benefits to the environment.
The system is simple enough. IHG has created a website that can be accessed by the owners and general managers of its hotels. To date, 900 hotels – almost a quarter of the company’s estate – have signed up. It hopes to reach 1,000 hotels shortly.
Once they log in, managers must input details of their energy usage – the amount of gas, electricity and water that their property is consuming. This is then benchmarked against similar-sized properties in similar climes. From the data the hotel is able to gauge how well it performs and is offered guidance and practical advice on how it can improve its energy efficiency.
Tips proffered range from quick fixes that can be readily implemented, such as installing energy-efficient light bulbs, to longer-term or costlier solutions that may require more thought before they are introduced – installing solar panels, for example.
The important thing, said David Jerome, IHG’s head of corporate responsibility, is to make changes that do not affect guests’ enjoyment while at the same time helping to make buildings more environmentally friendly.
Improvements that can be made with the least amount of investment but with a high impact include window glazing and ensuring that pipes are properly insulated.
Introducing dual-flushes on toilets and installing shower heads that reduce water flow are also straightforward changes that can prove effective. Newer hotels are likely to have some of these features as standard anyway. According to Jerome, in aggregate, these changes can prove significant.
Trials of Green Engage have been held across all seven of IHG’s brands, and the group says it is being warmly received by managers. The key has been to make the website simple to use, to encourage take-up.
“Interest is very high,” said Jerome, who added that results had been fairly uniform across the different territories where it has so far been tested. This is likely to change as the scheme is taken up by more properties.
Holiday Inn, which is nicknamed Big Green in America, may soon have another reason, other than its corporate colour, to warrant the sobriquet.

Buildings face carbon clean-up

The Sunday Times
May 3, 2009

Homes and offices consume 40% of global energy and emit the same proportion of pollution
Danny Fortson

The internal combustion engine. The jumbo jet. The desktop computer. In the fight against climate change, they have all been targeted by lawmakers and eco-warriors alike.
Yet the biggest baddies of them all, buildings, have so far slipped under the radar. That could be about to change. According to research from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the world’s houses and office buildings consume 40% of global energy and emit the same proportion of gases, making them the single biggest source of pollution in the world. Transport, at 30%, is the next biggest culprit.
Yet unlike the motor sector, where stringent regulations dictate what comes out of the exhaust pipe, no similar system exists for buildings.
“Nobody realises this, but buildings have exhaust,” said John Curtis of the environmental consultancy ERM. That exhaust is why London, for example, is on average 2C warmer than the surrounding region.
As governments sign up to binding carbon-reduction targets, a growing number of companies and lawmakers are calling for a mandatory code to be placed on buildings.
George David, chairman of United Technologies, the American conglomerate that makes everything from lifts to air conditioners, said a more heavy-handed approach is needed to address “the largest single sink for energy on the planet”.
He said: “For 100 years we have had a life-safety code and structural codes for buildings because we value human life.
The same rationale should be applied to a building energy-efficiency code.”
According to the WBCSD study, a $400 billion (£268 billion) annual investment in building efficiency would lead to a 60% cut in building emissions globally by 2050. The savings achieved would mean a 5% to 10% annual return on that investment, the study found.
The most often talked about tactic is “sealing the envelope”. Heating and air conditioning accounts for more power consumption, about 40%, than anything else in a building. This is because much of the hot or cool air leaks out of poorly-sealed nooks and crannies. Proper insulation and exterior cladding means climate-control systems need to work less hard. “Leaking is the single-biggest problem so sealing the envelope is job one,” said Curtis.
At the other end of the spectrum, new buildings can be fitted with systems that use much less power than traditional boilers and chillers. Heat pumps, for example, are a big improvement on typical boilers. They act like a refrigerator in reverse – taking cool air and converting it into warmer air to heat a building – and use a fifth of the energy that a traditional boiler consumes.
The shape of the building is also important. The thinner it is, the more natural light reaches the interior space and the greater the air circulation, cutting heating and cooling bills. Amanda Sturgeon, senior partner at Perkins+Will, the architecture firm, said: “We’re starting to see a move away from the blocky, rectangular blobs toward thinner buildings. The ability to cross-ventilate is greater and you need less electric light,” she said.
Water use is also a concern. Low-flow toilets and even waterless urinals are becoming more common. Cardiff City football club, for example, has fitted its new £50m stadium with a handful of waterless urinals to see how they stand up to the rigours of a match day. They work with a special chemical that sits in the trough and acts like a natural seal, allowing the waste to pass through but trapping the odour. According to Armitage Shanks, one urinal can save up to 87,000 litres of water a year, the annual consumption of two people.
Much of the technology is available today, but policymakers and industry remain fascinated with more exotic solutions, like ringing the country with giant offshore wind turbines or burying power-plant emissions underground. The risk is that by focusing on the more eye-catching ideas we will miss larger opportunity.
David said: “The key is that most of this stuff is available now. It’s not decades away like fuel cells for cars. We can do so much of this today.”
Big gains can be made for little outlay
MAKING new buildings lean and green is a technical challenge, though fairly straightforward compared with rehabilitating our existing homes, office blocks and factories.
“Getting new construction right just slows the rate at which things are getting worse. We need to make what we already have better,” said Chris Jofeh, leader of the existing buildings consultancy at Arup, the engineering firm.
He and his colleagues are part of a new wave of businesses springing up to address the problems presented by making older properties – usually designed and built without any particular thought for energy use – more environmentally friendly.
Only 1% or 2% of a city is newly built each year, so most of our present buildings will be around for decades to come. The drive to clean them up has been given added impetus by a series of government requirements that are tightening the screw on landlords and homeowners. All buildings must now have an Energy Performance Certificate when sold, and in some cases when relet or modified. The introduction of the Carbon Reduction Commitment and the possible penalties on poorly-performing companies has made the investment by landlords financially more attractive.
There are other perks for property owners. A recent survey of large corporate tenants found that many would be prepared to pay a premium rent for a green property.
Landlords wanting to improve their estates should tread carefully, however. The first challenge, says Jofeh, is to assess what is the right thing to do for the business.
“We often have people coming to us with a preconceived idea that they will get some kind of green ‘bling’ – a piece of kit or new technology that will generate power – and think that is the solution. We try to get them to go back to first principles and ask what is the real question they are asking, and how that relates to the performance of their business.”
The first step in tackling an existing building is to track its present performance. The Building Research Establishment, a certification and consultancy body that publishes widely used codes and guidelines for construction, issued an assessment plan for building managers in February. It tracks a building’s energy use, and maps out ways of improving it. Alan Yates, technical director for sustainability at BRE Global, says dramatic improvements can be achieved from better building management.
“It might not be as visible as having a wind turbine outside your office to show how green you are, but it will probably be more cost-effective and more significant. There are examples of 50% to 60% savings,” he said.
“You get the first 20% for free,” said Jofeh. “Managing what you do better, and simply turning equipment off when it is not needed, can give you big gains.”
If landlords decide to invest in improving the building, better insulation normally provides the greatest gain. Lighting is also fairly straightforward. The Hammerson property group recently replaced 20,000 lightbulbs in the car parks at its various buildings with new fluorescent bulbs. The result was a 35% decrease in energy bills at those locations.
The other issue is education. For the past couple of years Hammerson has run an information campaign for its tenants. Paul Edwards, head of sustainability at Hammerson, said: “If you invest in energy efficiency, people seem to think it means you need to wear a hairshirt, when it’s really about cutting costs. We can’t insist that they change their lights, but we can provide them with the knowledge.”
Even the greenest building is only as efficient as those who use it. Peter Braithwaite, head of sustainability at CH2M Hill, the consultancy, said: “Most buildings run at 70% to 80% of design efficiency. When the tenants change, so does the energy profile.”

Big business attacks plan to cut carbon emissions

The Sunday Times
May 3, 2009
Tricia Holly-Davis

NEXT YEAR Tesco will be forced to pay £40m to the government to comply with a new – and little known – regulation designed to reduce carbon emissions through energy efficiency.
The supermarket is just one of 5,000 firms that will be subject to the government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), which takes effect from April 2010.
The scheme was announced in a 2007 energy white paper and is intended to reward companies that cut their greenhouse gas emissions and penalise those that don’t. It has infuriated business leaders, who say the proposals are unfair and badly thought out.
Any company that consumes more than 6,000 megawatt hours of electricity will be caught by the CRC. There are an estimated 5,000 such firms in the UK.
Firms must buy energy allowances from the government at a rate of £12 per tonne of carbon dioxide. The government will reimburse companies after six months, plus or minus a percentage of the initial amount paid, based on their energy performance. Firms that fail to comply or exceed their allowances will be subject to a series of penalties.
The £40m Tesco will pay is based on its own estimate that its emissions under the scheme will be 1.7m tonnes of carbon dioxide in each of the first two years (April 2010 and 2011) at £12 a tonne.
The amount represents about half of Tesco’s annual spending on energy-efficiency programmes in the UK, meaning it will have less money to make environmental improvements.
“Asking businesses for a £40m upfront payment and locking it up for six months doesn’t make sense and will mean there is less money for green investment,” said David North of Tesco.
Amisha Patel of EEF, a lobby group for manufacturing businesses, said: “The CRC will have a significant impact on cashflow.” It estimates a typical firm would pay £130,000 a year under the scheme. “It is unreasonable for government to keep this revenue for six months. If we are in the same economic situation we are in now when the CRC goes into effect, this could make or break a company,” said Patel.
The structure of the CRC could also discourage companies from buying and producing renewable energy, according to Jon Williams of the consultancy Price Waterhouse Coopers.
Many companies generate their own renewable energy and receive renewable obligation certificates. But the CRC stipulates that if a company then sells those certificates to utilities, the renewable energy it produced doesn’t count.
“The CRC makes no allowances for companies that have already switched to green energy or are generating their own renewable energy, so many firms will find that the carbon reduction they have already achieved is irrelevant,” said Williams.
After businesses buy their allowances, they will be eligible for a refund plus a bonus of up to 10% in the first year of the scheme, depending on how they score on the government’s league tables. The league tables, compiled by the Environment Agency, are based on three criteria: a change in absolute emissions; emissions compared with turnover; and the “early action metric”, which is based on whether companies have installed an energy meter and received energy-management certification from the Carbon Trust, a government-funded agency.
Critics say that the Carbon Trust certification will add yet another layer of costs for business.
The CRC also raises a host of administrative concerns for foreign companies with British operations, as well as companies that are majority owned by private-equity firms, because, under the proposed law, emissions-reporting responsibility falls to the parent company. There is a further issue for landlords, who generally have little control over how much energy their tenants consume, but who could be deemed responsible for their buildings’ emissions under the CRC.
The government argues that the scheme will encourage businesses to be even more efficient and says that the estimated £1.2 billion it will collect from businesses will cut 1.3m tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2013.
Emma Wild of the CBI said it was urging businesses to log their objections before the government’s final consultation period on the CRC closes on June 4. “Business needs to make its voice heard and the government needs to listen,” she said.
PENALTIES FOR FAILING TO COMPLY
Failure to register Penalty: £5,000 plus £500 a day
Failure to disclose information Penalty: £1,000
Failure to provide an annual report Penalty: £5,000 plus 5p per tonne of carbon dioxide a day for 40 days, and then doubled
Incorrect reporting Penalty: £40 per tonne of carbon dioxide for emissions incorrectly reported
Failure to keep adequate records Penalty: £5 per tonne of carbon dioxide

Renewables chief Ormiston joins Vattenfall




Published Date: 03 May 2009
By Rosemary Gallagher

GREEN energy trade body Scottish Renewables is searching for a chief executive after current boss Jason Ormiston was poached to join Swedish energy firm Vattenfall.
Ormiston, chief executive since October 2007, will leave at the end of June to take up his new post as communications manager of Vattenfall's wind business in the UK.The former business journalist will be based in Edinburgh, where the firm will establish a second UK base. It is Europe's fifth largest generator of electricity and already has operations in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Poland, Sweden and London.Ormiston said: "I'm a bit sad about leaving Scottish Renewables, but it's in really good shape and works hard across the sector." The organisation is now recruiting a replacement.Vattenfall Wind Power recently launched its Fresh Start UK campaign. It has acquired two companies in the wind power industry, signed a partnership with Scottish Power Renewables and bought the Thanet offshore wind project, just off England's south-east coast. Thanet will generate renewable household electricity for 240,000 homes once it starts operating in 2010. Anders Dahl, head of Vatenfall Wind Power, said: "Our ambition is to increase wind power production from 1.5 TWh as it stands today to 49 TWh by 2030. "Great Britain will be responsible for approximately one third of the 49 TWh. It's a tough challenge that we've accepted, but we will succeed in achieving our goal." The Scottish Government has set a target of 50% of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2020. MPUMinCharsCutOff:210 PageLength:1406MPUPositionFromStart:250 MPUPositionRange:1000hasVideoOrImage:False--->

An ill wind blows away renewables optimism


Published Date: 03 May 2009
By Nathalie Thomas

AS ENERGY minister Ed Miliband made his way to Whitehall Place last Monday, he was one of few Cabinet members who still had a spring in his step. Morale at the Department of Energy and Climate Change was high after the renewable energy measures Miliband lobbied hard to include in the Budget went down a storm with industry.
While colleagues at the Treasury were in damage control mode after a weekend of pessimistic headlines, Miliband's men were in celebratory mood.Measures which included an extra £525m for offshore wind projects were regarded among the Budget's few
highlights.But Miliband's bubble was burst on Tuesday morning, when an announcement issued from Aarhus on the east coast of Denmark reached his desk. Danish wind energy giant Vestas was about to deal a hefty blow to his vision of building thousands of jobs and new businesses around the "low carbon" economy. Vestas chief executive Ditlev Engel revealed the company was axing 625 jobs in Britain and planned to close its manufacturing plant on the Isle of Wight. Although the City has become almost blas̩ about such announcements during the recession, the surprise statement knocked policymakers sideways as it meant jobs were being lost in an industry which had been viewed as Britain's next great industrial hope.Engel said demand was already falling in the UK and unveiled plans to divert investment into the US and China. He echoed earlier concerns from Spanish firm Iberdrola, which is building Europe's biggest wind farm at Whitelee in Scotland, about the UK's bureaucratic planning system.The announcement sent both policymakers and energy analysts into a spin. Both Westminster and Holyrood have made a heavy political investment in the green energy sector. But with one major company already reducing capacity, questions are now being asked about whether the UK wind industry is doomed, barely after it has begun.Renewable energy lobby groups tried to dispel the pessimism, pointing out that most of the wind turbine blades manufactured by Vestas on the Isle of Wight were exported to the US and China. They said the decision to potentially close it did not therefore reflect on the health of the UK market. Chris Tomlinson, director of programmes strategy at the British Wind Energy Association, said: "They (Vestas] were making a strategic investment decision. The UK is still a very buoyant market for wind energy. We have got 12.5GW which is already operational, under construction or under planning consent. We have another 8GW in the planning system at the moment."The BWEA argues that onshore and offshore wind energy will meet the lion's share of the UK Government's target to source 20% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. With only around 3.5GW currently installed, it says there is still an "enormous" emerging market in wind.In Scotland, Alex Salmond's Government has set even more ambitious targets. It intends to source 50% of electricity from renewables by 2020 with an interim target of 31% by 2011. Organisations such as the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) estimate that wind farms in the Scottish Highlands will fulfil a large proportion of both the SNP's and Westminster's quotas. "We're still very bullish about the prospects for wind power here," said Niall Stuart, spokesman for the SCDI.But energy analysts are yet to be convinced. They argue that both the UK and Scotland are unlikely to meet their green energy targets because there is little incentive for companies to invest in the UK. Chris Davenport, an analyst with McKinnon & Clarke, says unpredictable planning laws render the UK a risky investment as it can often take more than double the time to secure permission for planning here compared with other countries Рif permission is granted at all.Although the Government has set up various schemes to encourage renewable energy generation, such as the Renewables Obligation Certificate (ROC), Davenport says they pale in comparison with incentives in countries such as Germany. For several decades, the German government has offered "feed-in tariffs", whereby companies that supply renewable energy to the grid receive above market-rates. The extra cost is met by the electricity user but is a "virtually unnoticeable" sum on individual bills. Davenport says: "If a similar system of feed-in tariffs was introduced then the UK could really advance its renewables generation and do so quite quickly. At the moment it is very difficult in the UK market to make wind energy a viable prospect. The problems come when the operators start to hit the bottlenecks of the planning system. That's the big thing that turns off potential investors. The financial payback can be lengthy any way but the problems with the planning system extend it even more."Analysts point out that Vestas is not the only company withdrawing from wind and other forms of renewable energy generation. In March, oil giant Shell also pulled the plug on wind, solar and hydro as it deemed them economically unviable.But industry insiders suggest that the withdrawal of some firms is simply a reflection of the market becoming more competitive. While some companies find they are unable to make a profit out of their particular brand of technology, others are experiencing a boom in orders.Insiders also point out that the recession has hampered growth as lenders are reluctant to back long-term projects which bear some degree of risk. "Given the credit crunch, some of the onshore developers were struggling to secure project finance," admits Tomlinson of the BWEA.REPower, the third largest wind turbine supplier in the UK, remains optimistic about the market's prospects. The German firm, whose UK headquarters are in Edinburgh, recently disclosed it has won four contracts worth ?160m. Henning von Barsewisch, managing director for REPower UK, argues there is plenty of growth left in the UK market as both Westminster and Holyrood strive to reach their targets. "We are confident we have the right turbines and the right technology and that we can do well here," he says. "To meet UK targets there are about 22GW to go. For one GW you need around 200 turbines. On average that means around 2,000 turbines a year."However, von Barsewisch admits there are major issues that need to be addressed if ministers want to accelerate growth. He says there are not only problems with planning but also with the National Grid. There is serious concern about how electricity generated in remote locations can be transported to households, and the Government has been slow to commit to grid upgrades. In Scotland, renewable energy groups are still awaiting a decision on the Beauly-Denny power line. Von Barsewisch says these problems must be sorted out as a matter of urgency if the industry can prosper here. "When you think of Beauly-Denny, it's absolutely outrageous how slow and difficult that process is," he says.MPUMinCharsCutOff:210 PageLength:6682MPUPositionFromStart:250 MPUPositionRange:1000hasVideoOrImage:False--->

Lawyer takes wind out of turbine sails

Richard Buxton wants justice for those affected by green energy plans, he tells Terry Macalister

Terry Macalister
The Observer, Sunday 3 May 2009

A small Victorian terraced house in the centre of Cambridge does not look like the headquarters of a well-oiled machine that is threatening to derail Britain's fight against climate change.
And it is hard to recognise a scourge of wind energy developers in the smiling, white-haired gentleman who opens the door with a black labrador at his feet.
But to a host of renewable power operators, Richard Buxton is the "nimby-in-chief" who earns up to £300 an hour using his legal practice to scupper wind schemes across the country.
Last week the pressure was turned up on those who oppose renewables, when the wind turbine manufacturer Vestas blamed the "not-in-my-backyard" merchants for forcing the closure of its manufacturing plant on the Isle of Wight. Meanwhile, energy minister Ed Miliband has accused wind opponents of being "antisocial".
Buxton, who has been involved in legal action against at least eight wind schemes, says he himself is not opposed to wind power, but he is happy to justify his work on behalf of clients who oppose particular wind schemes. "I am fighting on behalf of individuals but also sometimes local authorities and NGOs to ensure that the law is properly implemented. Wind may or may not help with the nation's needs, but we tend to find these things placed next door or too close to people's houses. They are disproportionately annoyed for the amount of electricity that is produced," he argues.
Last month the East Anglian lawyer sent Ecotricity back to the drawing board after his high court victory in a case to halt a planned wind farm development on a greenfield site at Shipdham in Norfolk.
Buxton is also providing legal advice to those opposed to other schemes, including one planned by RWE Npower at Romney Marsh in Kent, another involving MK Renewables near Milton Keynes and another in the north of Scotland.
He is incensed by the suggestion from Vestas boss Ditlev Engel that wind opponents are being selfish and unreasonable. "I think that the charges of nimbyism are unfair. People see other people making large amounts of money from having wind farms on their land while the neighbours have to put up with the consequences without compensation."
Buxton believes the government should introduce a national policy about where wind farms are placed and not leave all the decisions to private entrepreneurs and the local planning system. "If this is a national emergency and we need to put up 10,000 turbines, then let the government say it and act on it. Properties [close to wind farms] should be compulsorily purchased and the householders suitably compensated," he argues.
The British Wind Energy Association complains that dozens of schemes are stuck in planning inquiries or judicial reviews because of objectors and despite government attempts to speed up the process in order to meet its targets of generating 35% of the UK's electricity through renewables by 2020.
Nevertheless Buxton, who often works on a no-win, no-fee basis, says his sole motivation is to see justice done. "Overall, I think it is a good thing to have renewables but the government should do much more to compensate people, including the client of mine who was driven out of her home at Deeping St Nicholas [near Spalding, Lincolnshire]."
He has tended to issue legal challenges against wind developers on the basis that they have failed to properly assess the benefits and the environmental impact of particular schemes. As in the case at Shipdham, Buxton has concentrated particularly on the problems caused by noise from the turbines. He has also challenged schemes on the basis of the "flicker" produced by the turbines, saying it can be intolerable for local residents whose natural light is constantly distorted by the movement of the blades.
Buxton is no big supporter of wind power, questioning the size of the subsidies it receives and its efficiency, but it is hard to paint him as a threat to the wider environment.
He has fought on behalf of campaigners opposing night flights out of Heathrow and liquefied natural gas shipments into Milford Haven, and even worked for Buglife, a charity opposing a Royal Mail scheme to take over an old ash tip at West Thurrock in Essex, home to rare insects.
Buglife say Buxton has been good news for them, taking their case to the high court. A spokesman for the wildlife group said: "Ultimately, it is irrelevant what a lawyer thinks. The trouble is not lawyers - it's the UK law, which is based on the protection of property and the rights of individual owners rather than the common good."

Oilman blazes a trail in Iraq

The Sunday Times
May 3, 2009

Steve Remp runs the tiny Ramco but his big ambitions include UK wind farms
Danny Fortson

As second acts go, Steve Remp’s has followed an extraordinary script. Not long ago the Texan oilman faced the possibility that the company he founded three decades ago, Ramco Energy, would cease to exist.
The London-listed oil group had huge debts after a gas project collapsed. A $7m court judgment in America threatened to drain what little cash Ramco had left. But assets were sold, and the court judgement was overturned. Remp even injected some £50,000 from his pension fund to keep the company afloat.
Those dark days, he said, are now behind the company. “We survived by sheer perseverance,” he said. “This is a rebirthing story.”
This year Ramco became the first western company to sign a joint venture with the Iraqi government, beating the likes of BP and Exxon Mobil. EDP, the Portuguese energy group, has meanwhile agreed to partner Ramco to build some of the largest wind farms in the world off Britain’s coast.
The deals are part of a vision that Remp said will complete the rebirth. “Over the next 20 years, Iraq and offshore wind will be the two biggest energy stories in the world,” he said. “We wanted to take a meaningful position in both.”
Even so, it is hard to see why EDP, one of the largest renewable-energy producers, or Iraq, owner of the world’s third-largest oil reserves, would even go near Ramco.
To call it lean would be charitable. It has a staff of six who operate out of a modest office in Aberdeen. It used to own its headquarters but had to sell it to avoid going into administration. Ramco is still making losses and, after a fundraising last week, has about £2m in cash to keep it afloat.
Nonetheless, the Iraq oil minister chose these “six old dudes in Aberdeen”, as one source describes Ramco, as its first western partner when he signed a $400m joint venture in February. Under the deal, the Ramco subsidiary Mesopotamia Petroleum will buy 12 drilling rigs and begin boring wells around Basra by the end of the year. The agreement is part of Iraq’s ambition to increase daily production from 2.3m barrels to 4m by the end of next year.
The company set up to do the work is 51%-owned by the Iraq Drilling Company (IDC), while Mesopotomia owns the rest. Idriss Al-Yassiri, head of the IDC, said he chose Ramco because it was “the most persistent. And they were the most courageous, willing to come to Iraq while others are still hesitating”.
It is unclear whether either side will be able to keep its side of the bargain. Iraq’s oil policy is incredibly politicised and slow-moving; there have been several false starts before. For its part, Mesopotamia has virtually no resources of its own. It has hired JP Morgan Cazenove to raise the $200m it will need to fund its side of the deal.
“To partner with the big boys, you need something they want,” said the Ramco boss. So what do they want? Experience for one. Remp has done this before.
When the Soviet Union started to disintegrate in 1989, Remp had already spent several years travelling round the region. He had got to know many of the local politicians and a friendship with the head of Azerbaijan’s state oil company resulted in him gaining a small equity stake in a Caspian oilfield.
Ramco netted $150m when it sold the stake to a group led by Amerada Hess in 2000. Feeling plucky from that deal, Remp decided to transform Ramco into an oil producer in its own right by developing a promising gas field in the Celtic Sea.
The $150m, and more, quickly disappeared. The field was a failure and Ramco, which had recently scaled great heights, fell into life-support mode. Remp said: “We went from being a group of dealmakers to an exploration and production company. It was a disaster.”
In the meantime, an American court awarded a $7m judgment against the company after an investor sued over a failed oil project in Kazakhstan. Ramco warned investors it would go into administration if it had to pay. The decision was finally overturned in 2007.
That allowed Remp, for the first time in years, to look forward. The attractions of Iraq’s underdeveloped reserves were obvious. Remp created Mesopotamia with Peter Redman, an oil engineer who had helped to develop Iraq’s fields in the 1950s on secondment from BP.
“We are good at going in early, when you still need to wear a flak jacket,” said Remp. The deal took many in the industry by surprise.
Closer to home, the opportunity for offshore wind became apparent. The government envisions 25GW of offshore wind power by 2020, up from 0.5 GW today. To reach that will require at least £100 billion of investment and the government has introduced generous subsidies to help cover the building costs.
Offshore wind is still in its early days, though, and the number of experts in large offshore installations is small. So Remp poached the team that built the Beatrice deep-water farm off the Scottish coast for Talisman and Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and created Sea Energy Renewables as another Ramco subsidiary. It is the only group, he says, to have successfully designed and built a deep-water farm.
That expertise seems to have some value to industry. Sea Energy is a junior partner in two 900MW offshore farms proposed in Scotland by Npower and Airtricity, SSE’s wind arm. Each would cost about £2.7 billion. And EDP has chosen it as a bidding partner in a government auction for even bigger farms to be built further out at sea.
All these projects depend on years of environmental and planning approval. Their outcome will determine whether Remp’s second act will be a tragedy or a triumph.