Saturday, 8 August 2009

Vestas UK chief says Britain must speed up windfarm construction

Rob Sauven, managing director of Vestas Technology UK, says turbine manufacturers are at disadvantage compared with those in China and Spain
Tim Webb, Friday 7 August 2009 14.25 BST
Wind turbine manufacturing will not return to the Isle of Wight before 2015 because the UK is not building windfarms quickly enough to justify it, according to a senior Vestas executive.
Speaking exclusively to the Guardian, the executive, from a UK division of the Danish-based turbine manufacturer, pointed out that other countries, such as China and Spain, require windfarms built there to use locally made components. Had such rules existed in the UK, Vestas's Isle of Wight factory – the only turbine plant in England – would have been saved from closure.
Workers were evicted from the factory today after a protest sit-in. The decision by Vestas to close its factory on the island, with the loss of more than 600 jobs, has become symbolic of the UK's failure to develop a renewable energy industry, despite the government's much-vaunted low-carbon industrial strategy.
Vestas has said it could restart manufacturing there in the future depending on how many windfarms are built in the UK. But Rob Sauven, managing director of Vestas Technology UK, said that this was unlikely to happen before 2015.
He explained that to be economically viable, a factory making components for windfarms typically needs to have annual orders for 1 gigawatt's worth of wind capacity, enough to supply 1m homes when the wind is blowing. If Vestas had a quarter of the market to supply wind turbines in Britain, the country would need to be adding 4GW of wind capacity every year to justify the company having a manufacturing base here.
But the UK has installed fewer windfarms than most other European countries, and is not expected to be building enough until 2015 at the earliest. Last year, just 0.5GW of capacity was built.
"In the UK, the industry is expecting to add 3GW a year by 2015. That is enough to be a very interesting marketplace, as long as it continues beyond 2020," Sauven said. "But the UK market is not currently mature enough."
The Isle of Wight factory, at Newport, had been making blades for the US market. As recently as last year, Vestas had planned to switch to manufacturing for the British market. But the credit crunch, which has delayed sustainable energy projects globally, and continuing problems in getting planning permission for windfarms in the UK, scuppered the plan.
Sauven also said that UK turbine manufacturers were at a disadvantage compared with those in countries that insist that their windfarms use locally made components. In China, for example, at least 80% of components used must be made locally. In Spain and Portugal, windfarm developers must show how many jobs they will create by sourcing supplies locally in order to get planning approval for their projects.
"There is a strong political will in most countries to favour local manufacturers," he said. "There may be global fair trade laws but China gets away with it."
A few windfarm developers in the UK have offered to source their turbines domestically in an unsuccessful attempt to secure planning approval. The Guardian has learnt that, two years ago, the German turbine manufacturer REpower offered to build a factory in Scotland to supply a proposed wind project in the hope that this would win round the planning authorities.
But they took no account of the offer and REpower dropped its plan when it became clear that the developers could not guarantee the work for the factory until they received planning approval. If REpower had waited until it had secured planning permission for the windfarms before it began building the turbine factory, permission would have lapsed before it had had time to supply the turbines.
Gordon Edge, director of economics and markets at the British Wind Energy Association, said that the UK's planning regime – and the fact that most land proposed for onshore windfarms is privately, not municipally, owned (unlike sites in Portugal and Spain) – made it difficult to make the creation of jobs locally a factor in giving a project the go-ahead.
The Crown Estate, the government body that is drawing up the licences for huge offshore wind projects, has dismissed pleas from the industry to require developers to use domestically made components.
Despite the closure of the Isle of Wight factory, Sauven is optimistic about the future and is overseeing Vestas's investment in a new £50m research and development centre on the island. The company has outgrown its present R&D centre, which employs 110 people. At least 50 more engineers will be hired for the new facility, which will be built by 2011 and has received a £6m government grant to find ways of lowering the cost of producing offshore wind energy.
Sauven said that the Newport factory would still be used to "stress-test" turbines developed at the new R&D centre. The tests put turbines through the equivalent of 20 years of the strain they would typically undergo in operation.
However, the relatively small scale of the centre is in stark contrast to the grand ambitions of Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, who last month announced plans to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in Britain from the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Lawmakers' Global-Warming Trip Hit Tourist Hot Spots

Penguins, a Rocket-Propelled Airplane (and Tax Dollars) Also Involved
WASHINGTON -- When 10 members of Congress wanted to study climate change, they did more than just dip their toes into the subject: They went diving and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. They also rode a cable car through the Australian rain forest, visited a penguin rookery and flew to the South Pole.
The 11-day trip -- with six spouses traveling along as well -- took place over New Year's 2008. Details are only now coming to light as part of a Wall Street Journal analysis piecing together the specifics of the excursion.
It's tough to calculate the travel bills racked up by members of Congress, but one thing's for sure: They use a lot of airplanes. In recent days, House of Representatives members allocated $550 million to upgrade the fleet of luxury Air Force jets used for trips like these -- even though the Defense Department says it doesn't need all the planes.
The South Pole trip, led by Rep. Brian Baird (D., Wash.), ranks among the priciest. The lawmakers reported a cost to taxpayers of $103,000.
That figure, however, doesn't include the actual flying, because the trip used the Air Force planes, not commercial carriers. Flight costs would lift the total tab to more than $500,000, based on Defense Department figures for aircraft per-hour operating costs.
Lawmakers say the trip offered them a valuable chance to learn about global warming and to monitor how federal funds are spent. "The trip we made was more valuable than 100 hearings," said Rep. Baird, its leader. "Are there members of Congress who take trips somewhat recreationally? Perhaps. Is this what this trip was about? Absolutely not."
The knowledge gained is "profoundly important to how I do this job," added Mr. Baird, who at the time headed the House Science Committee's subcommittee on research and science education.
Associated Press
Brian Baird (D., Wash.)
Other legislators agree it wasn't all fun and games. "There are a lot more glamorous things to do than hang out on the South Pole," said Rep. Frank Lucas, an Oklahoma Republican who traveled as well. "I never want to wear that many clothes again."
Taxpayer-funded travel for Congress is booming. Legislators and aides reported spending about $13 million on overseas trips last year, a Journal analysis has shown, a nearly 10-fold jump since 1995.
For Mr. Baird, the trip was one of two such excursions in six months. Last summer, he went to the Galapagos Islands with several lawmakers, also to gain expertise in climate change.
Other lawmakers have taken big-ticket trips. In June 2007, Ted Stevens, then a Republican senator from Alaska, and four other senators went to the Paris Air Show, costing the government $121,000 for hotels, meals and other expenses. Information needed to estimate their flight costs wasn't available.
Mr. Stevens said the purpose was to learn more about developments in aviation. "My state is very dependent on the industry" because many cities can be reached only by air, he said.
Associated Press
Frank Lucas (R., Okla.)
The 10 members of Congress gathered at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on the morning of Dec. 29, 2007, along with several of their staff. Those who brought spouses were four Democrats (Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, Rep. Russ Carnahan of Missouri, Rep. Charlie Melancon of Louisiana and Rep. John Tanner of Tennessee) and two Republicans (Rep. Randy Neugebauer of Texas and Mr. Lucas of Oklahoma). Spouses must pay for their own meals, but they don't have to pay for lodging and travel.
Asked about his wife's participation, Mr. Lucas cited a busy congressional schedule that often keeps families separated, even on weekends. If spouses couldn't go along on trips abroad, "then you couldn't travel -- simple as that," he said.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Melancon said the representative's wife of 37 years, Peachy Melancon, added "insight and perspective" that "only amplified the educational benefit he gained as a lawmaker."
Representatives for the other four who brought spouses declined to comment on doing so. Lawmakers said the trip offered them a valuable chance to learn about global warming and to monitor how federal funds are spent on scientific projects.

The party boarded a C-40, the military's business-class version of a Boeing 737. It is designed to be an "office in the sky" for government leaders, according to the Air Force Web site.
The lawmakers touched down at their first destination, Christchurch, New Zealand, a few hours before sunset on New Year's Eve. Mr. Baird watched the town's fireworks at midnight, his spokesman said.
The next day, Jan. 1, 2008, preparing for their South Pole trip, the lawmakers were provided clothing for extreme cold weather, including thermal underwear, according to the National Science Foundation.

Only lawmakers and staff were allowed to visit Antarctica; spouses stayed in New Zealand. The government doesn't pay for spouses' accommodations when the lawmakers aren't present.
On Jan. 2, the lawmakers and four aides flew to McMurdo Station in Antarctica on a supply flight, about 800 miles from the South Pole. "Take your camera to dinner," the itinerary reminded the travelers, for a post-meal tour of Discovery Hut, an outpost that was the launching pad for early South Pole expeditions.
The next day, the group left for the South Pole itself aboard a C-130 Hercules making a previously scheduled supply run. The aircraft was specially equipped with takeoff-boosting rockets and also skis for use on ice runways. The lawmakers toured the South Pole Station, including its post office. "Pre-address and pre-stamp any mail you wish to send from the South Pole," the itinerary reminded them. Scientists briefed them on research projects including a $271 million telescope buried in the ice that detects elementary particles passing through the Earth.
After flying back to McMurdo, they visited a penguin rookery to see the "threats to the wildlife," said a spokeswoman for the National Science Foundation.
They also spoke with National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists there who hope to use the South Pole's frigid and hostile environment to test inflatable moon dwellings. "Some of the most important science in the world is being done down there," Mr. Baird said.
Next stop: Australia. The group took a boat trip to the Great Barrier Reef, where lawmakers spoke with scientists about research showing its vulnerability to climate change, according to the Science Committee's report.
Mr. Baird, a certified scuba diver, said he went on two shallow reef dives with scientists. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a California Democrat, said she preferred to snorkel. Mr. Lucas said he didn't enjoy the boat trip because he hasn't spent much time on the water. The reef is one of the world's premier diving destinations.

Later, Mr. Baird made a third reef dive at his own expense to see first-hand the damage to coral reefs caused by tourism. Mr. Baird said he wanted to see evidence of coral bleaching, which some scientists say is caused by higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Mr. Baird blames increased carbon levels for a decline of shellfish in the Pacific Ocean near his district.
The tab for two days in Australia was more than $50,000, according to the travel-disclosure form. According to the document, the lawmakers spent $32,000 on hotels and meals, $7,000 on transportation and $10,000 for "other purposes." As on all such oversees trips, each lawmaker gets a daily stipend of $350 for incidentals, according to the form.
Mr. Baird said the travel report for Australia was inaccurate. His spokesman didn't respond to requests for details.
The trip ended with a layover in Hawaii to refuel the Air Force plane. There, lawmakers visited troops based at Hickman Air Force Base.
On the last night of their 11-day trip, the lawmakers stayed at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki. The spokesman for Mr. Baird said he would have been "every bit as happy camping as staying in a hotel."
Write to Brody Mullins at and T.W. Farnam at

Scottish climate policy is hypocritical, contradictory and counter-productive

The Scottish government boasts of stringent targets to cuts emissions while squeezing North Sea oil reserves and approving new opencast coal mines. No wonder people are taking into their own hands to highlight this hypocrisy
George Monbiot, Friday 7 August 2009 14.25 BST

It's the same everywhere. Governments are simultaneously seeking to minimise the demand for fossil fuels and maximise the supply.
In its Low Carbon Transition paper, for example, the UK government makes elaborate plans for cutting the consumption of oil, gas and coal. It then reveals that "[We will] maximise the economic production of oil and gas from the North Sea".
The 2007 energy white paper says it intends to "maximise economic recovery of the oil and gas from the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) and from remaining coal reserves".
The contradiction is shocking and ridiculous. But nowhere is it starker than in Scotland.
The Scottish government boasts of setting the world's most stringent target for greenhouse gas reductions: 42% by 2020.
This beats the Westminster target (34%) and leaves all other administrations standing. If you knew nothing more about Scotland, you would conclude that it had become the rich world's greenest nation.
But at the same time the Scottish government has been trying to squeeze every last drop out of both the North Sea oil reserves and its substantial coal seams. Take a look at the opencast mining stats here.
As you can see, Scotland accounts for the great majority of all opencast coal produced in the UK (which is another way of saying all coal, as deep-mining is more or less dead here) and for the majority of the permitted reserves waiting to be dug. More importantly, as it reflects current Scottish government policy, it also accounts for almost all the new coal workings that were granted planning permission in the UK in 2008. Out of 6.29m tonnes of new production, Scotland will account for 5.75m tonnes, or 91%. The new workings will dig up 1,200 hectares of land. Seven new pits were given planning permission last year and none were refused.
So if you were to describe Scottish government policy as hypocritical, contradictory and counter-productive, you wouldn't be stating the half of it.
But while the government undermines its own targets, some people in Scotland are putting its climate change policy into effect. The Scottish camp for climate action has declared war on opencast coalmining. Yesterday people associated with it did what the government should have done years ago, and cut the conveyor belt used to carry coal from the Glentaggart pit in Lanarkshire to the local rail terminal.
Now they propose to take on other pits, as well as Scotland's biggest coal-burning power stations.
They have chosen the right targets. Coal is the dirty word that threatens to destroy attempts at Copenhagen in December to prevent climate breakdown. If governments won't take it on, we must.

UN climate change deal needs more sacrifices by West, John Prescott warns

Patrick Wintour, political editor
The Guardian, Saturday 8 August 2009
Vital UN climate change talks in Copenhagen are likely to collapse unless rich nations agree a "social justice deal" built around equalising emissions per head in each country, according to the former deputy prime minister John Prescott.
Speaking to the Guardian, Prescott admitted that the formula would require far greater sacrifices by rich nations, especially the US. Prescott, one of three politicians to broker the original UN climate change deal in December 1997, is to become deeply involved in trying to ensure there is a successor to Kyoto.
He met leaders of Barack Obama's climate change team in Washington a fortnight ago, and is due to travel to China on 8 September at the same time as Lord Mandelson, the business secretary. He will be given an honorary professorship at Xiamen University for his work on climate change.
Prescott will also stage an international conference from 28 September on the principles of a deal for Copenhagen, to be opened by Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and addressed by Al Gore. The conference, organised by the Council of Europe, will have 65 states present.
Prescott is also going to lead a Gore-style campaign in schools in October showing the film The Age of Stupid, starring Pete Postlethwaite, portraying a devastated planet in 2050 owing to world leaders' failure to act on climate change.
Prescott says: "What I fear is that Copenhagen is a much more difficult nut to crack than Kyoto, far more countries are involved, and we nearly did not succeed at Kyoto. It took a last-minute fix. There are going to be real difficulties, even among the rich countries themselves."
He is doubtful that the EU member states will even stick to the commitments they make. "For a deal to work it has to have a formula that has an element of equity and social justice in it that reflects the state of each country's industrial development and its emissions per capita."
China now emits more carbon than America in absolute terms, owing to the size of its population, but in per capita terms the US emits four or five times as much. Prescott warns: "Rich countries are showing great reluctance to face up to the reality of what rationing carbon means for levels of growth and prosperity in their countries. It is going to be a fundamental change."
The EU has committed itself to an 80% cut by 2050 and a 20% cut by 2020. The US Senate is due to pass a cap-and-trade bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions by only 17% from 2005 levels by 2020. But even this proposal, regarded as far too little by China and India, is meeting fierce resistance from the US coal industry, which is pouring cash into a lobbying campaign to weaken the resolve of Democrat senators. Prescott says: "From speaking to the Americans I can already see it is clear that they are going to have difficulties even meeting the European target. The steel and coal companies are financing the same kind of campaigns against Copenhagen as they financed against Kyoto.
"What is vital is that America and China come to an agreement, and at the heart of that will be an arrangement on the coal industry. China depends for 70% of its energy on coal, and the US still has a massive coal industry. Coal is still going to remain at the heart of global energy. A realistic agreement will have to recognise coal. You cannot shut it down.
"The west is going to come up with big money on how to finance alternative energy in the developing countries, including clean coal. We have got to crack clean coal technology. China and India are going to want to know how many billions the rich countries are going to put aside to help them make their carbon contributions. That will be one of the big tests at Copenhagen. The fact is that the west has poisoned the world and left continents like Africa in poverty. The west will have up to stump up the cash for clean technology."
Both Chinese and Indian climate negotiators have recently again refused to offer any targets to cut their emissions. They are insisting that the EU and the US commit themselves to 40% cuts in emissions by 2020 against 1990 baselines. Neither the US nor the EU are anywhere near this position.
Prescott says any agreement cannot be based on 1990 levels for developing countries. "They did not have industrial development at that stage, so we are fighting for the principle of an objective based on carbon tonnes per capita. That is the fairest way forward."
Copenhagen, he argues, will represent a major infringement on free market economies, even though it will use market mechanisms such as cap and trade to set a price for carbon through rationing.
"What we are beginning to witness is a whole new set of rules for economics, based on rationing resources."

Ceres Power launches its bill-cutting boiler

Suzy Jagger
Ceres Power, an alternative energy company set up by scientists at Imperial College London, has launched a scheme to roll out its new fuel-cell boilers, which claim to cut household energy bills by 80 per cent a year (Suzy Jagger writes).
Ceres, in which British Gas holds a 10 per cent stake, for which it paid £20 million, has developed a boiler that uses ceramic inks to turn gas into electricity. The boilers, similar to models widely used in Germany and Japan, generate electricity that is either used within the home or fed into the grid.
Ed Miliband, the Energy Secretary, and Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, are pushing through plans that will provide cash incentives to homeowners to buy the boilers. It is hoped the “feed-in tariffs” will be launched in April 2010. British Gas plans to roll out green boilers among ten million domestic and one million business customers in 2011.

When recycling is worth its weight in tin foil

Global supplies of metals are running out – it’s a cast-iron reason to recycle
Anjana Ahuja
Being a cheapskate — I bought charity shop clothes before they were “vintage”, and have been known to haggle in a restaurant — I sometimes bring my own sandwiches to work. There is always a ready supply of fillings that require immediate consumption, ranging from hardened cheddar wedges through to ham slices that are beginning to fold themselves and jars of pickle purchased in the previous millennium. Tightly wrapped in foil, these squishy bundles of frugality are a homely snub to all those inferior, overpriced examples in the local sandwich shop. Except that I am not being frugal at all. In a century’s time, according to Geoscientist, the magazine of the Geological Society of London, using aluminium as a disposable lunchbox will be as wasteful as binning gold.
While everyone has heard of peak oil (when the rate of oil extraction reaches its peak, followed by a decline), the magazine has unearthed academics who worry about peak metal. Among them is Harald Sverdrup, Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Lund in Sweden. He says that “the 20 most important metals will move into scarcity in the next 100 years”. Thieves have already deduced this, which is why they are nicking copper wires, aluminium tubing and lead from church roofs, and selling them for record prices as scrap.
The professor has done a bit of numerical jiggery pokery to see how much more tin foil, among other things, is squirrelled away in terrestrial rocks. He added up known metal deposits, calculated the rate that these are being plundered, and took into account such factors as hoarding (as an asset when prices are low, in preparation for selling when prices rise). He bunged them all into a mathematical model partly based on the Hubbert curve, an ominous little bell curve that simulates how our oil reserves will dry up. Sverdrup found that helium, silver, gold, zinc, tin and indium will dwindle in about 30 years’ time. This is obviously bad news for small children, who regard a helium balloon as a de rigueur birthday accessory. It is more alarming for the electronics industry, which uses indium to make semiconductors and in liquid crystal displays. Given the amount of stuff that has tin in it, a shortage is much feared. Three other metals that underpin the electronics industry — platinum (electrodes and fine wires), lithium (batteries) and gallium (semiconductors) — are predicted to reach their peak in 200 years.
Sverdrup wants us to recycle more of the metal we use. At present, old electronics goods are likely to be abandoned as landfill. The answer might be to manufacture metal-rich goods, such as washing machines, in a way that makes the parts easier to recycle. “You don’t throw gold or platinum or silver away,” Sverdrup says. “That same logic applies to other metals. Once nickel, say, gets to £80 or £100 a kilo ... that’s throwing away money.”
The Swede is not the only doomsayer. Two years ago, scholars at Yale looked at how the numbers stacked up for copper, which is vital for electricity supply. They calculated that each American uses the equivalent of 170kg copper. If the world population reached 10 billion by 2100, we would need 1.7 billion tonnes of the stuff. The academics estimate that the Earth holds 1.6 billion tonnes that can be dug out. That’s a far more optimistic forecast than that issued by the US Geological Survey, which reckons that there is less than 1 billion tonnes available.
Are their figures realistic? “Certainly every square metre of earth hasn’t been dug up, but there aren’t many places that haven’t been investigated pretty thoroughly,” the Yale researchers told Scientific American.
So, is there any good news? Yes, if you’re China. Not only does it have the world’s largest tin reserves, but the country’s State Reserves Bureau went on a mammoth buying spree for other metals when prices fell last year. You could call it a copper-bottomed, golden opportunity — with a silver lining.

Dairy industry gets pat on the back for green initiative

Farmers team up with Carbon Trust to develop new carbon footprinting guidelines. From, part of the Guardian Environment Network, Friday 7 August 2009 12.34 BST

Dairy UK, the trade group for the dairy industry, has today announced that it is to team up with the Carbon Trust to develop a new guide for measuring and reporting on the carbon footprint of dairy products.
The project, which could pave the way for carbon labels appearing on a bottle of milk or block of cheese, will see dairy farmers, processors and retailers work with the Carbon Trust to develop a single set of guidelines for measuring the industry's carbon emissions.
Dairy UK environment manager Fergus McReynolds hailed the project as "a real stride forward" for the industry. "Businesses from farmers to major processors will finally have access to a single set of carbon footprinting guidelines," he said. "With full Carbon Trust accreditation, this will become the standard for the sector, allowing true comparisons between different businesses and winning the confidence of the retailers."
The announcement came on the same day as Dairy UK released a new report suggesting that it was on track to meet, and in many cases exceed, several environmental targets set for 2010.
The survey found that more than 45 per cent of dairy producers now have farmland in official environmental schemes, putting the industry on track to reach its 50 per cent target for 2010.
Moreover, nearly half of dairy farmers now have a nutrient management plan designed to help limit methane emissions from cattle in place, while milk processors are on track to meet a target of incorporating 10 per cent recycled plastic in milk bottles by the end of 2010.
The performance was welcomed by farming minister Jim Fitzpatrick, who praised the industry for taking a leading role in the development of low-carbon production methods and issued a thinly veiled warning to other parts of the food industry that they would soon have to follow suit.
"In the future, all our food industries are going to need to do more to meet the challenges of climate change and conserving and preserving our natural resources," he said. "The dairy industry has shown what can be done in a short time, and has set a clear benchmark for other food businesses."
He added that the government was putting the finishing touches to a new assessment of the UK's food security, which will include a consultation on the development of new food sustainability indicators.
• This article was shared by our content partner, part of the Guardian Environment Network