Monday, 1 February 2010

Japan to focus on green technology

By Mure Dickie in Tokyo
Published: January 31 2010 22:43
Japan should focus its climate change efforts on developing new environmental technology rather than rushing to introduce mandatory emissions trading or other measures to meet ambitious targets for 2020, according to Tokyo’s industry and trade minister.
The Democratic Party of Japan pledged in its successful election campaign last year to cut carbon emissions by 25 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020. But Masayuki Naoshima, head of the powerful Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry, told the Financial Times the target was based on achieving of a global climate pact.
Mr Naoshima’s measured approach will cheer Japanese businesses concerned about the cost of strict carbon curbs on the world’s second largest economy.
“Major emitting countries such as China and the US need to properly participate in setting fair targets,” Mr Naoshima said. “There must be a framework for international co-operation, since it would be difficult for Japan to cut emissions on its own.”
The Democrats’ 25 per cent cut target won praise from climate campaigners around the world and has been formally registered with the United Nations under the non-binding Copenhagen accord.
Some of Mr Naoshima’s cabinet colleagues want to introduce a fuel tax directly linked to the environment to pave the way for a broader carbon reduction regime.
But he insisted that steps such as introducing a carbon tax or compulsory emissions trading should not be rushed, saying “one or two years” of debate might be needed to decide the main policy tools and to win public acceptance of higher energy prices.
“We need to have a good back-and-forth discussion with all levels of society and with the business world. It won’t work to just tell people we are imposing a new regime,” Mr Naoshima said, adding that in the meantime, Japan should emphasise innovation.
“In terms of sequence, I believe we need to first speed up technology development,” he said. “Since becoming minister last year, I have pushed people to accelerate such technology development, and for example to bring projects planned for two years ahead into the budget for next fiscal year instead.”
While Japan is widely seen as a vital source of the advanced technology needed to cut global emissions, climate activists have argued strongly that innovation alone will be far from enough to reduce the carbon footprint of the country’s highly energy efficient domestic economy.
Campaigners eager for quick action will be dismayed by Mr Naoshima playing down the importance of the 2020 target. The minister sees that year as just one “transit point” on the way to the more substantial global emissions cuts needed by 2050.
The Democrats’ 25 per cent reduction goal was much more aggressive than the interim target of an 8 per cent reduction announced last June by Taro Aso, then prime minister. However, unlike Mr Aso’s target, the Democrats’ goal includes possible “offsets” achieved by reducing emissions overseas, or through creation of “carbon sinks” such as new forests.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010

HgCapital highlights alternative energy attraction

By Martin Arnold, Private Equity Correspondent
Published: February 1 2010 02:00
Private equity's growing interest in renewable energy will be underlined today as HgCapital announces three investments in wind and solar power projects worth a total of €300m (£260m), including one of the UK's biggest onshore wind farms.
HgCapital Renewable Power Partners, the renewable energy fund raised by the group three years ago, has bought 50 per cent of Scout Moor, a wind farm near Manchester, from its developer Peel Energy.
Scout Moor, which opened in 2008, has 26 turbines producing 65MW of electricity, enough to power about 40,000 homes. It is the biggest onshore wind farm in England.
Tom Murley, head of HgCapital's renewable energy team, said Scout Moor could be the first of many investments by the private equity group in the UK in partnership with Peel Energy, one of the country's leading renewable energy developers.
"Peel Energy has a substantial pipeline of energy projects in development," said Mr Murley. "We are hoping there will be other projects where we could match their strong development expertise and our strong financing expertise."
Despite well-known difficulties in securing planning approval for onshore wind farms, Mr Murley said the UK was one of Europe's most attractive markets for investing in wind power, not least because of its gusty weather and market-based pricing.
"The UK provides a different risk-return profile, as you have to accept some market risk on a deal, but fundamentally it is a very good regime and a very good wind resource."
HgCapital has invested in 111MW of operational UK wind projects, 44MW fully consented and awaiting construction, and 150MW in development.
It has also added two more deals to its portfolio of seven Spanish solar power projects. It invested with its Madrid-based partner Plenium Partners in a 12MW project in Castilla La Mancha and an 8MW project being built in Murcia.
Mercurio Solar, the UK private equity group's Spanish solar photovoltaic power portfolio, generates 61MW in total, making it the third largest in Europe.
HgCapital invested €70m of equity in the three deals, taking its €300m renewable power fund - the biggest of its kind in Europe - close to being fully invested, forcing it to raise a new pool of money soon.
Meanwhile, Frog Capital, the UK venture capital group with funds of €100m, will today announce an investment in, one of Europe's largest biogas producers.
Frog, which specialises in cleantech, IT and digital media investments, paid €3m to an existing investor in, which is based in Germany and has 46 electricity production sites generating 29MW and three gas-to-grid sites producing 7MW.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010.

India Pledges to Cut Emissions

Associated Press
NEW DELHI--India committed Sunday to reduce the intensity of its carbon emissions by 20% to 25% by 2020 from 2005 levels, meeting a deadline for developing countries to set voluntary carbon-curbing actions.
In its statement announcing the target, the Environment and Forests Ministry didn't spell out what measures India, the world's fifth largest polluter, would take to meet the goal. The statement also said the targeted cuts won't be legally binding.
An accord agreed at the Copenhagen climate conference in December had set the Jan. 31 deadline for developing countries to present their nonbinding, voluntary carbon-curbing actions, and for rich nations to submit economy-wide emissions targets for 2020.
India's pledge, which it publicized earlier, means that it will adopt cleaner technologies to slow the rate at which emissions are growing--reducing the intensity of emissions per unit of gross domestic product. However, it doesn't cover the agriculture sector, a move aimed at ensuring food security for the country's growing population of 1.2 billion.
China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has pledged to cut carbon emissions intensity by 40% to 45% by 2020, compared with levels in 2005.
United Nations scientists warn of dire consequences for the planet if action isn't taken to fight climate change. They say any temperature rise above 3.6-degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) could lead to a catastrophic sea-level rise, threatening islands and coastal cities, the killing off of many species of animals and plants, and the alteration of agricultural economies of many countries.
Officials from India, China, Brazil and South Africa met in New Delhi last week where they urged developed countries to act on their pledge made in Copenhagen to contribute $10 billion to help poor countries deal with the effects of climate change.
Copyright 2010 Associated Press

Global deal on climate change in 2010 'all but impossible'

• Global deal at next summit in Mexico impossible, says Prescott• 'Disarray' cited over UN organisation assessing pledges
Damian Carrington, Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington, Juliette Jowit, Jonathan Watts in Beijing, Alok Jha, James Randerson, David Smith in Johannesburg, David Adam, Tom Hennigan in Sao Paolo
The Guardian, Monday 1 February 2010
A global deal to tackle climate change is all but impossible in 2010, leaving the scale and pace of action to slow global warming in coming decades uncertain, according to senior figures across the world involved in the negotiations.
"The forces trying to tackle climate change are in disarray, wandering in small groups around the battlefield like a beaten army," said a senior British diplomat.
An important factor cited is an impasse within the UN organisation charged with delivering a global deal, which today will start assessing the pledges made by individual countries by a deadline that passed last night.
Many of those contacted say only a legally binding deal setting "top-down" global limits on emissions can ultimately avoid the worst impacts of rising temperatures. But a global deal at the next major climate summit in Mexico is impossible, says the former deputy prime minister John Prescott, now the Council of Europe's rapporteur on climate change. "I don't care if it's government ministers or NGOs, if they think you can get a legal agreement all signed up by November in Mexico, I don't believe it."
Similar opinions are being expressed worldwide. "In 2010 perhaps we'll manage some success, but I think a definitive deal is very difficult," said Suzana Kahn, a key negotiator in Copenhagen and Brazil's national secretary for climate change.
The change in rhetoric compared with just weeks ago is stark. On the eve of the Copenhagen summit last year, Gordon Brown wrote in the Guardian: "Our aim is a comprehensive and global agreement which is then converted to an internationally legally binding treaty in no more than six months."
The British government says the 12-paragraph Copenhagen accord "noted" by the UN summit last month provides the basis for significant country-by-country carbon cuts. But even the climate secretary, Ed Miliband, acknowledges this "bottom-up" approach is unlikely to be sufficient. "Will they on their own be enough? Perhaps not, which is why we need to ratchet those targets up," he said.
One of the most senior British climate officials told the Guardian that a legally binding deal, while desirable, was now no longer the critical thing: "What people seem to forget is that an agreement does not reduce one molecule of carbon dioxide – it's national policies that do that."
The shift of emphasis from a global deal to national action stems directly from the problem that wrecked the Copenhagen summit, and which remains unresolved. The UN framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC), the secretariat for climate treaties, makes decisions by unanimous agreement of all 192 member countries, and was described as "fatally cumbersome" by one close observer.
The small group of countries that devised the Copenhagen accord, led by the US, China and India and including the UK, want 20-30 representative nations to be able to make decisions and other organisations such as the G20 and the Major Economies Forum to take a role. But this will be fiercely resisted by countries such as Bolivia and Sudan, which blocked agreement in Copenhagen, and Tuvalu and other threatened states which want to retain a veto on deals they see as weak.
Even western nations, including the UK and Spain, acknowledge the UN cannot be sidelined. Last night, Brown said the UNFCCC was the only body to deliver a treaty, whilst acknowledging its difficulties. "The process up to and at Copenhagen was clearly flawed. We all need to work to ensure that the UNFCCC is an institution that can bear the huge expectations we are putting on it. It remains the vehicle for an agreement."
The current UNFCCC impasse was described to the Guardian as "paralysis" and even its head, Yvo de Boer, has talked of a "cooling off period" after Copenhagen. Last night's deadline for nations to submit their domestic targets is expected to have attracted about 25-30 responses, though De Boer had already fudged it. "You can describe it as a soft deadline," he said.
Those pledges that have been made public reconfirm the Copenhagen offers, for example, a 17% cut from 2005 levels for the US, 20% from 1990 levels for the EU and 25% from the same base for Japan. A senior British official said: "For the first time we have all the major economies agreed to action covering over 80% of the world's emissions. That has never happened before."
But analysis from PricewaterhouseCoopers and others indicates the existing offers fall far short of that goal. "Unless there is a wave of commitments over the next 24 hours, the accord is a long way off achieving the low carbon pathway needed."
The UN is known to be pushing for a meeting in late February or early March to try to solve the problem of the UNFCCC negotiating structure. Getting that process started was crucial, said Jonathan Pershing, deputy US climate envoy. "Twelve paragraphs [in the Copenhagen accord] do not make for an adequate or comprehensive agreement. There is more work to be done … for a global agreement to be reached."
Many countries insist that the world's biggest cumulative polluter must enact real emissions cuts. "We need a legally binding commitment from the US. I think this is fundamental," said Suzana Kahn of Brazil. But even after a defiant state of the union speech from Barack Obama last week, most experts think economic fears and the shadow of mid-term elections will scare enough Capitol Hill politicians to make passing a strong – and therefore unpopular – bill near-impossible.
Engaging the world's current biggest polluter, China, is just as crucial. "Without the participation of the two biggest emitters a deal makes no sense and one will not make a deal without the other," said Kahn. But if the US difficulties are at least clear, China's position is not even that. "There is great deal of uncertainty," said David Kennedy, chief executive of the UK's committee on climate change.
The diplomatic traumas suffered by China in Copenhagen, where Beijing took much of the blame for the summit's failure, has hardened opinions, said Li Yan, Greenpeace China's climate campaigner: "Now there are stronger conservative voices and more concerns about the changed diplomatic circumstances and the economic downturn."
In the nervy run-up to Copenhagen, a senior British diplomat warned: "We can go into extra time, but we can't afford a replay." At the end of the chaotic summit, that replay, set for Mexico in November, was seen as a good result, given how close the entire show came to collapsing.
But six weeks since the summit reached its conclusion, senior figures around the world do not believe the rematch is even likely to be played.

Pentagon to rank global warming as destabilising force

US defence review says military planners should factor climate change into long-term strategy

Suzanne Goldenberg US environment correspondent, Sunday 31 January 2010 16.48 GMT
The Pentagon will for the first time rank global warming as a destabilising force, adding fuel to conflict and putting US troops at risk around the world, in a major strategy review to be presented to Congress tomorrow. The quadrennial defence review, prepared by the Pentagon to update Congress on its security vision, will direct military planners to keep track of the latest climate science, and to factor global warming into their long term strategic planning.
"While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden on civilian institutions and militaries around the world," said a draft of the review seen by the Guardian.
Heatwaves and freak storms could put increasing demand on the US military to respond to humanitarian crises or natural disaster. But troops could feel the effects of climate change even more directly, the draft says.
More than 30 US bases are threatened by rising sea levels. It ordered the Pentagon to review the risks posed to installations, and to combat troops by a potential increase in severe heatwaves and fires.
The review's release coincides with a sharpening focus in the American defence establishment about global warming – even though polls last week showed the public increasingly less concerned.
The CIA late last year established a centre to collect intelligence on climate change. Earlier this month, CIA officials sent emails to environmental experts in Washington seeking their views on climate change impacts around the world, and how the agency could keep tabs on what actions countries were taking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The CIA has also restarted a programme – scrapped by George Bush – that allowed scientists and spies to share satellite images of glaciers and Arctic sea ice.
That suggests climate change is here to stay as a topic of concern for the Pentagon.
The Pentagon, in acknowledging the threat of global warming, will now have to factor climate change into war game exercises and long-term security assessments of badly affected regions such as the Arctic, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia.
Military planners will have to factor climate change into war game exercises and long-term security assessments of badly affected regions such as the Arctic, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia.
"The leadership of the Pentagon has very strongly indicated that they do consider climate change to be a national security issue," said Christine Parthemore, an analyst at the Centre for a New American Security, who has been studying the Pentagon's evolving views on climate change. "They are considering climate change on a par with the political and economic factors as the key drivers that are shaping the world."
Awareness of climate change and its impact on threat levels and military capability had been slowly percolating through the ranks since 2008 when then Senators Hillary Clinton and John Warner pushed the Pentagon to look specifically at the impact of global warming in its next long-term review.
But the navy was already alive to the potential threat, with melting sea ice in the Arctic opening up a new security province. The changing chemistry of the oceans, because of global warming, is also playing havoc with submarine sonar, a report last year from the CNAS warned.
US soldiers and marines, meanwhile, were getting a hard lesson in the dangers of energy insecurity on the battlefield, where attacks on supply convoys in Afghanistan and Iraq inflicted heavy casualties.
"Our dependence on fuel adds significant cost and puts US soldiers and contractors at risk," said Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defence for the environment. "Energy can be a matter of life and death and we have seen dramatically in Iraq and Afghanistan the cost of heavy reliance on fossil fuels."
She told a conference call on Friday the Pentagon would seek to cut greenhouse gas emissions from non-combat operations by 34% from 2008 levels by 2020, in line with similar cuts by the rest of the federal government.
In addition to the threat of global warming, she said the Pentagon was concerned that US military bases in America were vulnerable because of their reliance on the electric grid to cyber attack and overload in case of a natural disaster.
The US air force, in response, has built up America's biggest solar battery array in Nevada, and is testing jet fighter engines on biofuels. The Marine Corps may soon start drilling its own wells to eliminate the need to truck in bottled water in response to recommendations from a taskforce on reducing energy use in a war zone.
But not all defence department officials have got on board, and Parthemore said she believes it could take some time to truly change the military mindset.
Parthemore writes of an exchange on a department of defence list-serv in December 2008 about whether global warming exists. It ends with one official writing: "This is increasingly shrill and pedantic. Moreover, it's becoming boring."

Pachauri fails to get UK support over 'unsubstantiated' climate report claims

Chair of IPCC facing allegations that claims made in key reports did not have required standard of scientific review

Damian Carrington, Monday 1 February 2010

Rajendra Pachauri, who has faced criticism as chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change following allegations of inaccurate statements in panel reports, suffered a fresh blow last night when he failed to get the backing of the British government.
A senior government official reiterated Pachauri's position but stopped short of expressing confidence in him. "The position is that he is the chair and he has indicated that mistakes were made," the climate change official said. "There is no vacancy at this stage, so there is no issue at this stage."
The IPCC is required by governments to assess the science and imapct of climate change and its thousands of scientists produce major reports and summaries for policymakers. Its last report in 2007 concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities were 90% certain to be causing observed global warming and was accepted by all governments.
"It is clearly unfortunate that individual problems with individual papers have been found," said the official. "But the scientific basis for climate change does not rest on a very small number of papers in which the [IPCC] review process has not been rigorous enough. It relies on thousands and thousands of papers that have been peer reviewed through scientific journals."
The government has told the IPCC through official channels that it must ensure review standards are robust and its communication effective. "They need to communicate that 99% of the science on which they base [their work] is peer reviewed," the official said.
The incident most damaging to the IPCC was the inclusion in the 2007 report of a claim that all Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035. The IPCC admitted last month that the claim was supported only by a quote given to journalists, blaming a failure to adhere to its own review procedures.
It was also alleged that the panel was told of the error as early as 2006. In November, Pachauri dismissed a report stating the 2035 claim was wrong as "voodoo science".
A claim made by the IPCC that climate change was melting glaciers in the European Alps, the Andes and Africa was reported by the Sunday Telegraph yesterday to be based on a student dissertation and a climbing magazine article, not scientific journal papers. Scientists remain convinced, however, that glaciers are melting rapidly. Last week, the World Glacier Monitoring Service's annual report indicated most glaciers were continuing to melt at historically high rates.
Other individual claims allegedly not supported by peer-reviewed scientific papers are that climate change has increased the severity of natural disasters such as hurricanes – an allegation denied by the IPCC — and that 40% of the Amazon rainforest "could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation" caused by global warming.
All the disputed claims appear in the second volume of the 2007 IPCC report, which deals with the impact of rising temperatures. Scientists acknowledge there are much greater uncertainties in this area than in the volume which sets out how much the planet is warming and why.
Yesterday, the climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, declared a "battle" against the "siren voices" who denied global warming was real or caused by humans, or that there was a need to cut carbon emissions to tackle it. It's right that there's rigour applied to all the reports about climate change, but I think it would be wrong that when a mistake is made it's somehow used to undermine the overwhelming picture that's there," he said.

Alan Titchmarsh: Climate scientists should stick to the facts and not use guesswork

We live on a volatile planet. The very term 'climate change' is tautological in that that is what climate does – change. It would be a great story indeed if there was no shift in the climate at all.

By Alan Titchmarsh Published: 9:30AM GMT 31 Jan 2010

But as anybody who's lived for more than 50 years knows, things seldom carry on happening at the same rate for very long.
If you look back, there have been times in the planet's distant past – long before any human intervention – during which it has been very warm indeed. But nowadays, if you say this kind of thing, you're immediately branded as a climate change denier, which I find frustrating, particularly when it comes from scientists, who should be prepared to put all the facts on the table.
There's probably no doubt that our activity on the planet, and our current population numbers, are exacerbating global warming. But this does not take into account the warming and cooling that has happened before. There's barely a mention of previous types of global warming. Whenever it is brought up, it's quickly knocked down with an "Oh yes, but it's never happened at this speed before." That phrase is used to suggest that if we carry on warming at the current rate, then such-and-such will happen in X years.
But the danger of conversations such as this is that scientists extrapolate more and more, rather than look at the facts. There's a danger when guesswork starts to take the place of science – which is how the confusion surrounding the melting of Himalayan glaciers came about.
Now, I'm no scientist and no expert on climate change; I'm just the man on the street – perhaps one with a slightly informed opinion from working with the environment for the past 45 years. But whenever scientists are badgered for pronouncements – about future changes in climate or even weather patterns – they employ a degree of clairvoyance.
I think that's dangerous as they're backed into a corner and forced to make pronouncements about which they cannot be 100 per cent certain. I've already heard predictions that this coming summer is going to be a wet one – presumably exactly as wet as last summer was a barbecue summer.
As the man on the street, I need a balanced view, an informed opinion, to help me to decide for myself. I'm not at all denying the fact that we shouldn't be much more careful about and cautious about our carbon emissions – all of that I'm entirely in accordance with – but I think they do themselves a disservice when they enter the realm of what you might call Old Moore's Almanack predictions. Scientists should have the integrity to refuse to make predictions that they cannot back up with accuracy.
Now, this is not a scientist talking, but a practical gardener. And I can tell you that the seasons have certainly shifted. When I was younger, they used to recommend sowing parsnips outdoors in February. Certainly in the past 20 to 30 years there has been no way that you could sow parsnips outdoors in February, because winters have been wetter rather than colder, and you don't sow seeds in cold, wet soil.
Our seasons seemed to have slid imperceptibly into one another, rather than there being a dramatic change. Autumn lasts longer than it used to, so I find it rather heartening that just suddenly out of the blue you get a proper winter. It's been nice that these past two years we've had proper winters.
I've been gardening on the box and on the radio since the mid 70s, so for 35 years, and every spring without fail I'll get a phone call from a newspaper saying that the daffodils are either terribly early or terribly late, and what's going to happen. And it happens every year. Daffodils have an enormous capacity for waiting.
It's the same with snowdrops this year. They sat quietly and waited until the snow went and now they're coming up – it's not going to affect them badly by coming up later than usual. In fact, they'll probably do better because they'll be flowering at a time when the weather's more conducive to pollination, meaning the bumblebees will feed better too.
Birds' migratory patterns are also in a constant state of flux. The lines where how far north migrating birds from the south come, and ditto how far south the northern ones come, are always on the move. The danger is that we read too much into this.
I've spent my working life being concerned for the environment, so I'm not saying it's all fine, changes don't matter. It's just that we need to be a bit less headless chicken about it and have a more considered opinion.
When people are constantly harangued about what they shouldn't be doing to improve the environment, that's wrong. They begin to feel powerless to make a difference and just switch off and they do nothing. Most people are aware of all the "don'ts" now – they know they should drive their car less, they know they should insulate their loft.
I'd far rather they got some joy out of what they did in a positive way and did something that can improve their environment for themselves – by planting a tree, starting an allotment, or just making use of parks and outdoor spaces. There's so much pleasure to be had in taking care of the environment, it's not just an onerous task.

Labour prepares to tear up 12 years of energy policy

Robin Pagnamenta, Energy Editor

The Government is drawing up plans for a wholesale reform of Britain’s energy markets that could wind back the clock on 12 years of deregulation.
In an interview with The Times, Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said that Britain’s existing, highly liberalised market regime, introduced under Labour in 1998, was failing to deliver the investment needed to cut UK carbon emissions by more than a third by 2020.
A market structure was being designed to boost long-term investment in low-carbon sources of electricity, including wind parks, nuclear reactors and fossil fuel stations equipped with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
Mr Miliband said: “We are going to need a more interventionist energy policy to deliver the low-carbon investment we need.”

Mr Miliband said that changes being considered included: reform of Ofgem, the energy regulator, to improve care for consumers; an overhaul of Britain’s existing new electricity trading arrangements (Neta), which have been in place for more than ten years; and the introduction of “capacity payments” to guarantee returns to developers of low-carbon sources of power.
Mr Miliband said that big reforms would be essential to deliver the estimated £170 billion of investment to meet its goals of huge carbon cuts. The Neta system, in which electricity is traded via contracts between buyers and sellers or power exchanges, does not give sufficient guarantees to developers of wind turbines and nuclear plants.
He said that one alternative would be a return to “capacity payments” — in which power station operators would be paid for the electricity they generate and also for capacity made available. The idea of such payments is to give greater certainty to investors in renewable and nuclear energy. They would help to bolster the reliability of a grid that was more heavily reliant on power generation from wind farms.
He said: “This is very different from the current system, where you get paid for the electricity you produce and are not given any guarantees in advance. In future you could say ‘We need a certain amount of low-carbon capacity’ and generators would say how much they can provide.”
Such a move would be one of the biggest changes in Britain’s energy market since the 1989 Electricity Act, which began deregulation. It would also represent a return to some of the principles of the system before 1998. The Electricity Pool, which Neta replaced, had capacity payments but was criticised for being too inflexible. Mr Miliband said that details of the reforms would be in a document to be published in April called Roadmap to 2050, published with the 2010 Budget. He said that the changes were essential to help Britain to prepare for a doubling of electricity demand by 2050, driven by other policy objectives such as a growth of electric cars and a move from gas to electricity for heating.
A huge expansion of wind power is expected to have a big impact on the reliability of the national grid, which capacity payments could help to offset. Wind energy is intermittent and heavily reliant on back-up power generation for use when it is not blowing.

How could a cow help to heat your home?

Robin Pagnamenta

Families will heat their homes using gas brewed from animal manure, food waste and sewage sludge, under plans to be unveiled by the Government today.
The plans include financial incentives to encourage utilities to build fermentation plants that process waste material into “biogas” for injection into the national gas network. National Grid, the network’s operator, has estimated that biogas could supply 18 per cent of total UK demand for gas, which is approximately 100 billion cubic metres a year.
The Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive will set a premium that energy companies will be paid for producing biogas from 2011, potentially flushing out a wave of investment in the industry.
Centrica, the owner of British Gas, is studying plans for a biogas plant. A spokesman for the group, which has 16 million British customers, said: “We potentially see production of biogas that can be injected into the grid as a very important form of renewable heat in future. The economics of building the plants will obviously depend on the incentives being set at the right level.”

E.ON and Scottish and Southern Energy are also understood to be exploring biogas projects. A company called Farmgen last month unveiled a £30 million investment programme to develop 1,000 small-scale biogas plants in the UK. Muirhall Energy has announced plans for a biogas plant in Edinburgh that will process 40,000 tonnes of the city’s food waste every year.
Biomethane produced from waste material is big business in Sweden and Germany. About 15,000 cars in Sweden are fuelled by biogas, which is available in filling stations. More than 3,700 biogas plants operate in Germany, employing 10,000 people.

France's Starck designs garden-friendly wind turbine

Relax News
Sunday, 31 January 2010
Italian energy component maker Pramac announced on Wednesday the launch of a mini-wind turbine called "Revolutionair" designed by Frenchman Philippe Starck.
The turbine, intended to be installed in people's gardens, comes in two models, rectangular and whisk-shaped.
The rectangular turbine, which measures 90 centimeters (three feet) without its support stand, will produce 400 watts and will have a price-tag of at least 2,500 euros (3,500 dollars) in Italy.
The whisk-shaped turbine measures 1.45 meters, will yield one kilowatt and will cost 3,500 euros.
Unlike larger turbines, Revolutionair turbines are "independent from the wind direction and can take advantage of turbulence, besides being extremely quiet," Pramac said.
They can be installed in gardens, on street furniture or on a boat, the company said.
Starck, a leader in the New Design style, presented a prototype of the mini-turbine in 2008 in Milan, Italy's northern industrial hub.
"I have always wanted to design an invisible turbine with the goal of making something everyone would want," Starck, 61, said in a statement.

DIY power creators eye up a nice earner

Businesses and households will find out on Monday how much money they will make from generating their own electricity under government plans to boost renewable power use.

By Richard TylerPublished: 7:16PM GMT 31 Jan 2010
Those buying and installing solar panels, wind turbines or biomass processing equipment from April will receive a set rate for the electricity they create that is almost three times the current market rate and is guaranteed for 20 years. Any excess electricity can be sold to the grid, again for a set price.
The level at which the tariffs are set is crucial to manufacturers and installers.

While solar, wind turbine, hydro and biomass energy generation companies know that their customers will receive incentives, British-based boiler businesses such as Baxi, Ceres Power and Worcester Bosch, are less certain.
Working through the Combined Heat and Power Association they have lobbied for their next generation boilers, which use gas but generate surplus electricity, to be included within the scheme.
Mark Kelly, Baxi's UK chief executive, has said: "Our plant in Preston is ready to produce 20,000 boilers a year, but without this tariff, they won't be accessible to private householders, because they won't be able to afford it."
The cost of the so-called feed-in tariffs will be shouldered by consumers. The Department for Energy and Climate Change estimates that they will add an average of £10 a year to household bills from 2011.
Campaigners have called for early adopters of the technology to receive double digit returns, echoing the level set in Germany. But the Government is likely to opt for a return within the 5pc to 8pc range, which it believes will be sufficient to meet its target of generating 2pc of the UK's electricity needs from smaller scale renewable power generation by 2020.

UK renewables industry on tenterhooks over tariff plan

The Government will reveal details of the subsidy for micro-generation today
By Sarah Arnott
Monday, 1 February 2010

The Government will today set out the details of the "feed-in tariff" scheme designed to encourage small-scale, green electricity generation, concluding years of intensive lobbying from the renewables industry.
Subsidies for home or community use of wind turbines or solar panels, for example, will start in April. But the details of how much they will be worth, and what will be eligible, have been the subject of much debate. The biggest concern is that the Government will set the subsidy too low for it to act as a significant stimulus to the market.
The renewable-energy industry has pushed hard for a tariff with a potential return on investment of 10 per cent over the 20 to 25-year life of the payment, rather than 5 to 8 per cent proposed by the Government.
Although the more modest figure reduces the overall cost of the scheme – which will be funded by a levy on electricity bills – it will also stunt investment, according to the Renewable Energy Association (REA). "The tariff level is key: if it is set generously enough, then all kinds of financial institutions will come forward with products and plans," Leonie Greene, at the REA, said.
The Government's calculations suggest that the lower level tariff will encourage small-scale generation to the tune of just 2 per cent of Britain's electricity by 2020 through fewer than 1 million new installations. By raising the return to 10 per cent, the size of the scheme will triple to nearer 3 million sites, claims the REA.
At the moment there are around only 15,000 micro-generation installations in Britain, a far cry from European rivals with long-standing feed-in schemes, such as Germany and Spain. As a result, more than 90 per cent of the UK renewable industry's business is overseas. But if the Government gets it right today, it could transform the British sector. "Feed-in tariffs open up the energy market to all kinds of suppliers and investors," Ms Greene said. "In the UK, the energy industry is incredibly consolidated so that is an important contribution."
Bob Bowden, a director at Durham-based Cleaner Air Solutions, which distributes and installs solar panels across Europe, says the economic impact of major micro-generation schemes should not be underestimated. Cleaner Air Solutions has just built one of Europe's largest solar farms in Spain, funded by private investment lured by a generous feed-in tariff. "That means a lot of employment, on both the manufacturing and installation side," Mr Bowden said.
The company has already spent £2m on an assembly and training facility in Durham, but it stands to grow exponentially if the UK micro-generation market gets off the ground. "In the next 12 months in the UK we could employ a further 500 people if the return on investment level can encourage investors," Mr Bowden said. "Without that it's dead in the water, and the Government will never achieve the 2020 commitment on carbon emissions."
Under the feed-in scheme, electricity of up to 5 megawatts generated on site will receive a payment for 20 years, or for 25 years for photovoltaic (solar) panels. Any electricity which is fed back to the grid will receive at least a floor price – expected to be around 5p per kilowatt hour – although major energy suppliers may bid to buy the surplus to meet their own green requirements. Today will also see the launch of the Government's proposals for a similar tariff mechanism to apply to renewable heat generation. The two subsidies are designed to dovetail, so a homeowner with solar panels on the roof and a ground-source heat pump is paid for all the energy produced, regardless of its form. With the advent of smart meters – the real-time, digital technology to be rolled out to all British homes by 2020 – heat will be measurable in the same way as electricity is now.
A renewable heat feed-in tariff would be the first in the world. And it could help drag Britain up from its woeful position on renewable heat generation. Against a European average of 10 per cent, just 0.6 per cent of our heat is from renewable sources.

Viridor plans £800m green investment

Published Date: 01 February 2010
WASTE and recycling firm Viridor yesterday unveiled plans to invest £800 million in "green" infrastructure in Scotland over the next five years.
The company, part of the London-listed Pennon Group, said it will appeal to Scottish ministers after plans for a £193m incinerator near Dunbar in East Lothian were rejected.Viridor said its plans for a road-to-rail waste transfer station at Portobello would be heard at a public enquiry, which is due to begin next week. The firm – whose clients include BAE systems, Coca Cola and Edinburgh, Glasgow and Highland councils – said it has already invested £30m in Scotland in the past five years