Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Iberdrola to lead field in race for Sellafield site

The Times
June 9, 2009

Robin Pagnamenta, Energy and Environment Editor

Sellafield, Europe's most heavily contaminated industrial site, went under the hammer yesterday.
Iberdrola, the Spanish energy giant that owns ScottishPower, is expected to be among the bidders for a 250-hectare parcel of land adjoining the main site in West Cumbria where Britain mastered the technology to build the atomic bomb in the 1950s and later built the world's first commercial nuclear power plant.
John Clarke, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's commercial director, said that the plot - which is expected to raise at least £100 million for the Treasury - had “outstanding potential” as a site for development of a new reactor, likely to cost at least £4 billion to build.
Some experts have criticised Sellafield's suitability for a new reactor because it is a sprawling landscape of chimneys, storage ponds filled with nuclear waste and radioactive buildings awaiting demolition. “It is a very complex site,” one industry insider said. “It is not necessarily the simplest place to build a new power station.”

About 10,000 people work at Sellafield, mostly on decommissioning contaminated buildings, many of which date back to the 1950s.
The sale of Sellafield, and farmland stretching around the northern perimeter of the main site, follows the auction in April of three other government-owned sites for new nuclear plants to European utilities for a total of £387 million. A consortium comprising RWE and E.ON, of Germany, bought sites at Wylfa, on Anglesey, and Oldbury, in Gloucestershire, while EDF, of France, bought another site at Bradwell in Essex.
However, it is unclear whether there will be sufficient interest in Sellafield to ensure a formal auction. The site could be sold directly to Iberdrola if it is the only party to express an interest.The NDA expects to conclude the sale this year.
EDF is planning to build four reactors on two sites owned by British Energy, the UK nuclear generator that it bought last year for £12.1 billion.
Yesterday, shareholders in Centrica, the owner of British Gas, voted overwhelmingly in favour of the company acquiring a 20 per cent stake in British Energy from EDF.
British Energy's eight operational nuclear plants supply about 17 per cent of the country's electricity.
However, all but one of those are due to be retired from service over the next 15 years.

Eco Solids to set up water treatment agency in China

Clive Rigden, executive chairman of Eco-Solids International, is setting up an agency arrangement in Shenyang, north east of Beijing, after being approached by a Chinese company.

By Richard Tyler Published: 4:01PM BST 08 Jun 2009
Using patented technologies first pioneered in the US, Eco-Solids has developed cutting edge systems for treating waste water and sewage – services in huge demand in China.
"We have been contacted by a company in China that wants to manufacture and market one of our technologies. We have been talking to them since November and done a lot of due diligence," he said.

While Eco-Solids has made progress in China and also the Philippines – its first export market – Mr Rigden would like the Government to do more to support small businesses trying to export. "For a small business, two of you need to go over to China and that's a third of your workforce gone. It's time and resources, but you have to go. I think the whole grant thing should be looked at more carefully."
He added: "The UKTI [UK Trade and Investment] talks a good talk but they are a little short on action. Some of the OMIS [Overseas Market Introduction Service] reports we have bought from them vary in quality."


The carbon credits group looked set to become the subject of a bidding war after it received its second takeover approach in four days. EDF Trading, the trading unit of the French energy group , said that it was considering making an offer of 75p per share. On Friday, Guanabara, a group fronted by Pedro Moura Costa, one of EcoSecurities founders, said that it was weighing up a 60p-a-share bid.

And the greenest car of the year is … a diesel-powered Volvo

Family car trumps futuristic hybrids in What Car? competition

Adam Vaughan
guardian.co.uk, Monday 8 June 2009 19.00 BST

It may not be a streamlined hybrid, a futuristic electric vehicle or a snazzy biofuel car, but a distinctly boxy diesel Volvo has won What Car? magazine's award for the year's greenest car.
A small family car with carbon emissions on a par with Toyota's Prius, the Volvo S40 DRIVe received the award today from London mayor Boris Johnson. Vauxhall's Ampera electric car and US electric car-maker Tesla also received awards.
Johnson said: "There are clear incentives for manufacturers to raise the bar higher and higher to design less gas guzzling cars that take hundreds of pounds off consumers' fuel bills. This is good for the planet, good for the economy and great for the driver."
What Car? editor Steve Fowler said of the winning Volvo: "It's not just about a low CO2 figure. The S40 is great to drive, safe, has enough space for the family and, crucially, is cheap to run, too."
Ford, the US motoring giant which owns Volvo, lost out to Toyota in the battle for trophies between major car manufacturers. Toyota's Avensis 2.0 D-4D (CO2 emissions of 135 grammes per kilometre) won the best family car award, while Toyota subsidary Lexus picked up the prize for the greenest 4x4 with a petrol hybrid SUV, the RX450h SE-L (148g/km).
The winner of the technical award, Vauxhall's electric Ampera, is expected to debut in its US model the GM Volt in 2010 and arrive in the UK by 2012. Vauxhall's parent company General Motors claims the Ampera will change the image of electric cars by combining a 100mph top speed with an electric motor capable of driving 40 miles and a petrol engine which can increase the car's range to several hundred miles. Most of today's production electric cars, such as the G-Wiz, have a range of less than 100 miles.
Two notable omissions from the winners' list were Honda's hybrid Insight — which is the same size as the Volvo S40 DRIVe but has lower emissions — and the next generation Prius, which is set to go on sale later this summer.
Fowler warned the recession had made cars' environmental credentials a low priority for consumers. "Green issues are still a hot topic, but it's fair to say that they are not right at the top of car buyers' priorities at the moment. It's just as well then, that green cars will save you plenty of cash at the fuel pumps and will likely be worth more than other cars when you come to sell."
The winners:
Fiat 500 Start&Stop £9,700, 113g/km, 58.9mpg
Small family car
Volvo S40 1.6D DRIVe S £17,495, 104g/km, 72.4mpg
Family car
Toyota Avensis 2.0 D-4D T2 £17,545, 135g/km, 55.4mpg
Executive car
BMW 318d ES £24,235, 123g/km, 60.1mpg
Citroën Grand C4 Picasso 1.6 HDi £19,095, 140g/km, 53.3mpg
Lexus RX450h SE-L £50,460, 148g/km, 44.8mpg
Sports car
Mini Cooper S £16,575, 149g/km, 45.6 mpg
Luxury car
Audi A8 2.8 V6 FSI SE £49,970, 199g/km, 34.0mpg
Vauxhall Ampera
Editor's award

Low Volvo leaves rival car firms green with envy

Published Date: 09 June 2009

THE new Volvo S40 DRIVe was last night named green car of the year in an environmental competition organised by What Car? magazine.
The Volvo beat 23 other contenders to take the top prize in the awards organised in association with Michelin and Warranty Direct.London Mayor Boris Johnson said: "There are clear incentives for manufacturers to raise the bar higher and higher to design less gas-guzzling cars that take hundreds of pounds off consumers' fuel bills. This is good for the planet, good for the economy and great for the driver."What Car? editor Steve Fowler said: "It's not just about a low figure, though. The S40 is great to drive, safe, has enough space for the family and, crucially, is cheap to run, too."

Hydro project steers around objections

By David O’Byrne
Published: June 8 2009 17:03

For many people the term “hydroelectric power” brings to mind a litany of evils ranging from the forced resettlement of towns and villages to the destruction of ancient and historic settlements and wildlife reserves.
But Turkey’s demand for power is expected to grow by an average 8 to 9 per cent every 12 months over the next 15 years, and in a worst-case scenario could outstrip generation in two to three years. Given these factors, the country’s energy strategy has long been to make best use of its domestic resources.
In particular, it has sought to exploit an abundant potential for hydroelectric power – despite criticism of the possible environmental and human cost. A prime example of this is the Ilisu dam, flagship of a project on the Tigris in Turkey’s south-east, which has run into a storm of protest.
But there is another side to the story, according to Hakan Kazanc, group coordinator of the engineering group BM Muhendislik. He argues that besides dams that damage the environment, there are also hydropower projects designed to minimise environmental impact, and even to improve on nature by allowing control over unwanted seasonal flooding.
One such project is the 290MW Kayraktepe hydro plant that BM Muhendislik is developing on the Göksu river in the mountains above Turkey’s east Mediterranean coast.
First developed in the 1970s by Turkey’s state water authority, the Devlet Su Isleri (DSI) planned a single 125m-high dam that would flood close to 5,000 hectares of valuable agricultural land and displace 10 villages.
With the reservoir and dam severely restricting the flow of water, the huge wetlands around the Göksu delta – one of Turkey’s most important wildlife sanctuaries – would dry out. Unsurprisingly, the project ran into legal problems.
After shelving the project for nearly 30 years, the DSI two years ago put it out to tender, inviting the private sector to come up with designs that could produce at least the same amount of electricity as the original plan and overcome the legal obstacles.
BM Muhendislik, which has been building dams and other hydropower projects for 40 years, won the tender and claims to have easily met the criteria on minimising environmental impact.
Mr Kazanc, with barely concealed pride, points out that his company’s new design for the Kayraktepe project has slashed the area of flooded land and will deliver about 5 per cent more power – 17m KWh as opposed to 16.3m KWh.
Key to achieving this is the replacement of the old design’s enormous dam with eight small cascade regulator units. Sitting directly in the river flow like a weir, the units contain turbines.
With no need for the huge reservoir required by a traditional dam-based project, river flow is maintained at normal levels with just some small areas of flooding.
“We’ve reduced the flooded area by around 90 per cent, meaning that no villages have to be evacuated and the wildlife sanctuary in the river delta will be completely unaffected,” Mr Kazanc explains.
He says the project also preserves the area’s valuable agricultural land and existing irrigation systems, and doubles as a flood regulation system.
At the same time the eight low-rise installations are less unsightly, and their visible impact can be reduced further by planned re-forestation.
Having won the right to build and operate the new plant for 49 years, BM has recently put in its final plan.
“We’ve submitted our design feasibility study and once that’s approved we can begin work on the detailed engineering for the project and on the finances,” explains Mr Kazanc.
Once the bureaucracy is in place BM Muhendislik expects to begin construction by mid 2010 and put the the plant into operation by the middle of 2012.
The heat is on
The recent announcement of improved guarantees to buy power from plants using renewable energy resources promises a surge in new projects. With potential wind power sites already subject to bids for more plants than they can sustain, interest will focus on Turkey’s unquantified geothermal power, and its huge solar power potential.
Engineering group BM Muhendislik, which already holds 142 geothermal exploration licences covering 7,000 sq km in Turkey’s Aegean region, is looking at both – and considering a pioneering hybrid geothermal-solar plant.
The company has already drilled seven wells and filed applications for preliminary operating rights to two resevoirs of superheated geothermal steam. It is working on a third while continuing its exploration and says it will make investment decisions on the three sites this year.
The geothermal-solar plant would use geothermal steam to power a first series of generators after which the hot water, now below 100 degrees centigrade, would be reheated in a ”solar tower” – a kind of vertical furnace heated by an array of large mirrors.
Although technology for both types of plant already exists, if it goes ahead this will be the first time the two have been combined and may serve as a model for future projects in other parts of the world.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

The Amazon is dying

The Brazilian government is legalising deforestation and western superbrands are benefiting from it. This needs to stop now

John Sauven
guardian.co.uk, Monday 8 June 2009 13.30 BST

Brazil's president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, writing in the Guardian in March, offered us these words of hope: "No country has a larger stake in reversing the impact of global warming than Brazil. That is why it is at the forefront of efforts to come up with solutions that preserve our common future." Lula's words are fine. But we are still waiting for real action.
For the last 10 years, Greenpeace has been working in the Amazon alongside communities to protect the rainforest. Last week, Greenpeace released a report which was the result of a three-year investigation into the role of the cattle industry in driving illegal deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. The report, Slaughtering the Amazon, reveals the devastating impacts cattle ranching is having on the climate, biodiversity and local communities.
Cattle ranching is the biggest cause of deforestation, not only in the Amazon, but worldwide. The report reveals that the Brazilian government is a silent partner in these crimes by providing loans to and holding shares in the three biggest players – Bertin, JBS and Marfrig – that are driving expansion into the Amazon rainforest.
Greenpeace is now about to enter into negotiations with many of the companies that have either found their supply chain and products contaminated with Amazon leather and beef or who are buying from companies implicated in Amazon deforestation – big brands such as Adidas, Clarks, Nike, Timberland and most of the major UK supermarkets. Meanwhile, back in Brazil, the federal prosecutor in Para state has announced legal action against farms and slaughterhouses that have acted outside of the law. It has sent warning letters to Brazilian companies buying and profiting from the destruction. Bertin and JBS are in the firing line – companies part-owned by the Brazilian government.
While this is a positive step, it's clear that we can't bring about real change and win an end to Amazon destruction for cattle without real action from the government and from big corporations in Europe and the US, who are providing the markets.
Another, worrying example of the widening chasm between rhetoric and reality is a new bill that has just passed through the Brazilian senate. If Lula gives his consent, it will legalise claims to at least 67m hectares of Amazonian land — an area the size of Norway and Germany put together – that is currently held illegally. A second bill, before the Brazilian congress, proposes to more than double the percentage of Amazon rainforest that can be cleared legally within a property. If passed, the effect of both these bills will be to legalise increased deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
Lula's decision to fund the cattle ranching industry with public money makes no sense when its expansion threatens the very deforestation reduction targets that Lula champions. The laws now waiting for his approval will represent a free ride for illegal loggers and cattle ranchers. It is clear that Brazil now faces a choice about what sort of world leader it wants to be – part of the problem or part of the solution.
Protecting Brazil's rainforest is a critical part of the battle to tackle climate change and must be part of a global deal to protect forests at the climate change talks in Copenhagen at the end of the year. But while world leaders are making speeches, we are losing vast tracts of rainforest. We must also tackle the dirty industries that are driving deforestation if we are to protect the Amazon and the climate for future generations.

Airlines reject new tax to fight global warming

International Air Transport Association chief objects to proposed $10bn levy to help developing countries fight climate change

Dan Milmo in Kuala Lumpur
guardian.co.uk, Monday 8 June 2009 13.33 BST

The airline industry has rejected calls for a compulsory tax on international flights to help the world's poorest countries fight global warming.
The chief executive of the International Air Transport Association, Giovanni Bisignani, said carriers were "absolutely against" another levy in a year that the industry is expected to lose $9bn (£5.65bn).
"We are absolutely against," he said. "We have seen so many taxes that we are fed up. We are serious about what we pay in emissions [taxes] going towards the environment in a serious way."
The world's 50 least developed countries have proposed a levy on all international fares that would raise $10bn a year, increasing the cost of tickets by about 1%. The idea has been raised as the second week in the latest round of UN climate talks gets under way in Bonn, where 192 countries are negotiating an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Speaking at the IATA annual general meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Bisignani said airlines were already heavily committed to tackling climate change. Iata today set a target of carbon-neutral growth in the airline industry by 2020, driven by 1.5% cuts in fuel consumption every year over the next decade. The industry's carbon footprint is also expected to shrink by 7% this year, largely because of the recession, although IATA credits two percentage points of that reduction to efficiency gains such as better air traffic control.
"We are giving the environment a very high priority with a very clear plan," Bisignani said. "We are serious about setting a target in this industry."
IHS Jane's aviation analyst Chris Yates said: "An annual increase in fuel efficiency of 1.5% is cautious and conservative – it's not a particularly fast improvement in efficiency."
Yates added that the 2050 target of a 50% absolute reduction in CO2 was "a goal that the industry would like collectively to aspire to, but much depends on advancements in new technology to achieve that level".
Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth, said: "There are massive environmental issues around growth in air travel. This announcement doesn't look like it'll do anything to address the problem."
The airline industry has been heavily criticised for its perceived intransigence over climate change, but carriers believe they have been singled out unfairly. Aviation accounts for less than 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions. However, it often finds itself at the forefront of the environmental debate because of totemic issues such as the expansion of Heathrow airport. It also features heavily in environmental debates because air travel has been one of the fastest-growing emitters of carbon dioxide in recent years.
In Kuala Lumpur, airline executives have been debating the perennially loss-making performance of the industry, with several senior figures arguing that environmental taxes further drain their financial resources and prevent carriers and manufacturers from investing in green technology.
"The airline industry is not being allowed to reinvent itself and make an impact on the environmental issue. We are trying to generate enough surplus to fund development," said Samer Majali, chief executive of Royal Jordanian Airlines, a member of the oneworld alliance whose members include British Airways, Qantas and American Airlines.
Bisignani also reiterated IATA's opposition to including airlines in the European Union's carbon trading scheme, which is due to embrace carriers from 2012 in a move that is expected to increase the cost of flights. The US has threatened to challenge the scheme in the international court of justice because it would breach international aviation agreements.
"Europe knows that this is not legal," said Bisignani, who continues to hold out for a global scheme that is being worked on by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a United Nations body. However, the pace of the ICAO negotiations has frustrated the British government and has been criticised by ministers.

How green are the airline industry's environmental promises?

Emissions growth will be carbon neutral by 2020, says airline trade body, but it rejected developing countries' call for a climate levy

Adam Vaughan
guardian.co.uk, Monday 8 June 2009 16.42 BST

As one of the most visible targets of environmental campaigning and activism, the aviation industry is keen to show that it is taking action to cut its carbon emissions.
Speaking at the annual general meeting of the industry's trade body, IATA, its chief executive, Giovanni Bisignani, today said that emissions growth from airlines would be carbon neutral by 2020. And he reiterated the industry's previous green ambitions to cut absolute emissions by 50% by 2050, and improve average fuel efficiency 1.5% annually between now and 2020.
But at the same meeting, he also said carriers were "absolutely against" a global tax on fares to raise money that would help developing countries adapt to climate change.
There is concern over how green the industry's environmental pledges really are. The 2020 carbon neutral growth goal, for example, only covers growth in airlines' emissions – not their existing emissions, which account for around 2% of global CO2 emissions. And it's unclear whether the carbon neutral growth from 2020 will be achieved through more efficient aircraft and operations, or carbon offsetting. If it proves to be the latter, it will leave airlines open to the criticisms levelled at offsetting, which range from doubts over its efficacy to concerns that it discourages direct CO2 cuts.
The goal of directly cutting airlines' greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 is also under scrutiny. Some industry experts believe the target is hopelessly ambitious, while environmentalists point out that the aviation sector is set to grow rapidly in the next few decades. "There are massive issues around growth in air travel," said Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth. "This announcement doesn't look like it'll do anything to address the problem."
IHS Jane's aviation analyst Chris Yates said the 2050 target would hinge on new technology breakthroughs: "The industry would like to collectively aspire to that goal [of 50% reductions], but much depends on advancements in new technology to drive that level of cuts." Yates added that IATA's goal of 1.5% annual improvements in fuel efficiency between 2009 and 2020 was conservative and slow.
Although Bisignani rejected today's call by developing countries for a climate levy, the airline industry wants to be part of the Copenhagen climate negotiations taking place this December. The airlines hope the Copenhagen summit will see global aviation emissions capped, rather than aviation emissions levels set on a country-by-country level.

French victories and Irish defeats mean mixed results for Greens

Green bloc takes up 10 more seats in European parliament after spectacular wins and disastrous defeats

John Vidal, environment editor
guardian.co.uk, Monday 8 June 2009 14.08 BST

European Green parties enjoyed wildly fluctuating fortunes in the European elections, ranging from winning a spectacular 16% in the French polls to being effectively wiped out in Ireland. In the UK, the party held its two English seats, and knocked Labour into fifth place in two regions.
While centre left and socialist parties were heavily hit by a general swing to the right, the Greens increased their overall share both of the European vote and the number of seats in the parliament. The party now has 54 seats compared with 44 in 2004, and, in alliance with Plaid Cymru and a Catalan group, is now now the fifth largest block in the European parliament.
Overall, the party gained seats in nine countries. The most spectacular results by far were in France where Europe Ecologie, led by the man who led the student riots in Paris in 1968, Daniel Cohn-Bendit and peasant leader José Bové, gained more than 16% of the vote and more than doubled its seats to 14. In Paris, the party took more than double the Socialist vote.
In England, the party won 8.7% of the overall vote, up from 6.2% in 2004, but did not increase its number of seats. It won nearly 100,000 extra votes in the south-east where it won more than 11% of the vote. There and in the south-west, the party beat Labour into fifth place.
"In the south-east we have increased our vote by 50% and we are disappointed it has not translated into a second seat," said Caroline Lucas, the Green party leader who was re-elected to Europe for the second time. "We have seen some spectacular results where we have targeted areas like Brighton and Hove and that bodes well for the next election."
The strong showing for green parties across Europe means legislation to fight climate change and promoting clean energy should remain high on the parliament's agenda. The success in France is certain to push the environment far higher up the French agenda but the wipe-out in Ireland, where the party shared power with Fianna Fáil, could prompt a general election.
"The rise of the Green party [in Europe] has been striking," said Thomas Klau, from the London-based thinktank Centre for European Reform. The Green party are the one political force in the EU that has (been) closest to creating a true European political party, a true European political movement ... with a political message that is strong and plausible, pro-European, that looks for European answers to the big problems the world and European society are facing, starting with climate change, of course."
Greens by country:
Europe's most spectacular and surprising success with the party winning 16.27%, of the vote, only just behind the Socialists on 16.48%. The French greens will now have the single biggest green block in the parliament with 14 MEPs.
The Green party was the biggest loser of the election winning no European seats and losing all its councillors in Dublin. It appeared that voters punished the Greens with their cooperation with Fianna Fáil. If the Greens now withdraw from government, a general election could be called.
The full Scottish result will not be known until later today but from votes now in it appears the party's vote has grown significantly.
Along with the Pirate party, the Greens were Sweden's big winner, becoming the country's third largest party.
The party was polling 8% in pre-election polls but only secured 3.49% of the vote, giving it a European seat for the first time.
The Greens slightly improved on their 2004 result gaining one MEP, for a total of 14, representing 12.1%.
The Greens doubled their seats to two with 12.4% of the vote.

More than 40 bids to exploit 'Saudi Arabia of renewables' off Scotland

Published Date: 09 June 2009

THE huge economic potential of a renewables powerhouse off the north of Scotland has been underlined with news that 42 applications have been made to develop wave and tidal energy projects.
The Crown Estate yesterday revealed it has received plans from 20 bidders for energy leases in the Pentland Firth, between Caithness and Orkney.These range from 10MW demonstration sites to 200-300MW commercial projects and come from small developers to multinational companies.The Pentland Firth is considered to be one of the best tidal energy hotspots in the world. Earlier this year, the Crown Estate announced it was opening up the seabed for applications for commercial-scale marine energy development. It is working with the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to generate more than 700MW of renewable power from the area by 2020.The Crown Estate said the number of applications showed a real drive to develop a strong marine energy sector in the UK. First Minister Alex Salmond – who has described the Pentland Firth as having the potential to become the "Saudi Arabia of marine power" – said renewable energy will deliver more investment, jobs and opportunities to communities in the area and benefit the whole of Scotland.He said: "Scotland boasts a quarter of Europe's wave and tidal resource, and we are leading the way in developing these technologies through the world's only accredited wave and tidal testing centre, the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, and the Scottish Government's £10 million Saltire Prize – one of the biggest international government innovation prizes in history."I am delighted that the Crown Estate has received a total of 42 applications from 20 bidders for wave and tidal energy leases for the Pentland Firth. The Scottish Government will be working to support the development of marine energy, to ensure we capitalise on our rich natural resources and to make Scotland a world leader in renewables."Rob Hastings, director of the marine estate at the Crown Estate, said the agency was delighted to support the growth of the wave and tidal energy industry and aimed to put the UK at the forefront of marine energy generation. However, the Crown Estate warned the success of the bids was heavily dependent on overcoming a number of issues, including grid connection, consenting processes, supply chains and economic support for the projects.Sandy Cumming, chief executive of HIE, said: "The level of developer interest in the Pentland Firth confirms both the potential of these waters and the confidence that companies have in the industry's development."A detailed and confidential evaluation process of the bids will now be carried out by the Crown Estate to identify the best bids.The organisations that have submitted tenders passed a pre-qualification, two-month assessment last year.