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Renewable Energy

  • New research has revealed the public’s attitude towards newer forms of power generation and energy security. According to the latest statistics, support for the renewable energy sector continues to grow, while attitudes towards fracking and energy security were mixed.

    Renewable Energy

    The government figures, which were published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, showed that support for the renewable energy industry has risen to 81%.

    The Public Attitudes Tracking survey also highlighted how the vast majority of people felt that renewable energy projects should deliver benefits to their local communities and how renewable energy was aiding the economy.

    RenewableUK’s Chief Executive, Hugh McNeal, said:

    “It’s great that the British public sees how renewable energy is helping to grow the UK economy. Renewables are delivering investment and jobs throughout our country”.

    The same survey demonstrated continued public support for offshore wind power, and with numerous wind farm schemes underway, including the ambitious Hornsea Project One, this form of energy is set to play a much greater part in the UK’s future energy production.

    Nuclear Energy

    The government survey showed that support for nuclear energy remained consistent with 38% in favour of it, and almost 50% of people viewed nuclear energy as a reliable form of power.

    If EDF’s plans for the Hinkley Point plant, goes ahead, and with proposals for mini nuclear power stations advancing, nuclear power is likely provide a key role in reducing the UK’s carbon emissions in the future.


    The extraction of shale gas from the ground – or fracking – has always been a controversial issue, and the government figures highlighted mixed views on shale gas extraction. However, the majority of people who stated they were against it said so because they didn’t know enough about the practice.

    Despite public concern, the government has stated it is committed to fracking. There are numerous projects in place around the UK already, and further support is being offered to increase investment in shale gas.

    The future of energy security

    With a need to find affordable, cleaner sources of power generation, the future of energy security has never been far from the news, and these concerns were also reflected in the government survey. The research showed the majority of people felt there isn’t enough money being invested in finding alternative means of energy and many were concerned over our reliance on gas and oil exports.

    Low reserves in the North Sea means more than half of the UK’s gas and electricity is now imported and this has led to calls from industry bosses to do more to encourage exploration in the UK.

  • There are concerns over the future of the UK’s nuclear energy industry after the government announced its plans to leave the European Atomic Power Treaty, or Euratom, as part of Brexit. The UK will formally leave in 2019, and this could mean that some of Britain’s nuclear power stations could face closure if alternatives safeguards aren’t put in place.

    The warning comes from Rupert Cowen of Prospect Law, who was appearing before the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee along with other key representatives from the nuclear industry.

    The UK will be on course to leave Euratom when it signs article 50 in March. Cowen warned that this could cause significant problems for research and development. However, if it also leaves the UK unable to comply with international safeguards, then as explained in the Guardian, nuclear trade would need to be discontinued and nuclear power stations could face possible closure.

    Decision to leave Euratom

    Brexit Secretary David Davis first confirmed the UK would be leaving Euratom in announcement earlier in 2017. The decision shocked researchers and scientists, and it has left a question mark over the future of projects like the Joint European Torus (JET) project and the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.

    However, in a statement regarding the future of the JET project, Professor Donné, EUROfusion programme manager, has pledged the team will do all they can to continue working together and extend the work until at least 2020.

    Professor Donné added:

    “We also will do our best to find smooth and adequate solutions for the people that are affected by the UK withdrawing from Euratom.”

    UK Government’s commitment to Nuclear Energy

    Despite the UK’s decision to exit from Euratom, Secretary of State for International Trade, Dr Liam Fox, has been keen to voice the government’s commitment to nuclear energy. Speaking at the recent Civil Nuclear Showcase 2017, Dr Fox stated that the UK’s withdrawal from Euratom will in no way diminish the country’s nuclear ambitions.

    Prime Minister Theresa May recently gave the go ahead for the Hinkley C power plant, which is being built in collaboration with China, and there are plans for more nuclear power plants in the UK.

    By the mid-2020s there will be up to 16 gigawatts of new nuclear energy coming online, according to Nuclear AMRC. Companies currently exploring nuclear energy in the UK include Areva and Hitachi GE. 

  • The chief executive of EDF has urged Theresa May to give the green light to the Hinkley point C nuclear power station. In an interview with the Telegraph, Vincent de Rivaz stressed the positive aspects of the proposed project and issued assurances regarding the plant.

    It’s thought the government has concerns over potential security issues and the possibility of a cyberattack, but in the Telegraph interview, de Rivaz told the newspaper that all staff would be vetted and control rooms kept separate.

    Hinkley C received final funding approval in the summer and it was expected that the government would give the project the go-ahead. However, it was announced that there was to be a delay; the government won’t make a final decision over approval until the autumn.

    If the plant does get the final go-ahead, it’s expected to be commissioned by 2025. It will cost £18 billion to build, have the capacity to fuel more than 5 million homes, and create thousands of jobs.

    EDF states that the plant will lead to a £4 billion investment in the South West during the lifetime of Hinkley C, including more than £1 billion during the construction phase.

    Government tensions        

    The delay in the decision has led to tensions between the UK and its partners in China. Chinese investment is crucial to the completion of the project, and they have committed a third of the financing for it. The Chinese government are keen for the deal to go ahead and the delay in the decision has caused a strain on diplomatic relationships between the two countries.

    Unions file legal Challenge

    While Hinkley C has the support of several major unions in the UK, in France a legal challenge has been launched. Hinkley C has also been subject to a past legal challenge by unions in France, who attempted to block the decision.

    Low carbon future

    Supporters say Hinkley C is an essential part of the UK’s low carbon future and the UK must find ways to produce greener former of power in order to provide greater energy security. The bid to find cleaner methods of energy production has led to a greater drive towards nuclear power, which has the support of the government.

    However, environmental campaigners are calling for greater use of renewable energy, energy savings and energy storage as solutions for the UK’s future fuel needs.

  • The UK Government has signed an historic agreement with the French-owned energy firm EDF, which paves the way for a new generation of nuclear power. After an unexpected delay to further review the Hinkley Point C proposals the government finally gave the go ahead for the two new nuclear reactors in mid-September 2016.

    The Current secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark, Jean Bernard Levy, CEO of EDF and He Yu, chairman of the China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) came together to sign the Contract for Difference and Secretary of State Investor agreement in late September.

    Commenting on the development, Greg Clark stated:

    “Signing the Contract for Difference for Hinkley Point C is a crucial moment in the UK’s first new nuclear power station for a generation and follows new measures put in place by Government to strengthen security and ownership.

    Britain needs to upgrade its supplies of energy, and we have always been clear that nuclear power stations like Hinkley play an important part in ensuring our future low-carbon energy security.”

    Building and Funding of Hinkley Point C

    The £18 billion plant is being partly funded by the CGN group, who have invested £6 billion; the government has also pledged funding towards the new plant.

    Hinkley Point C will be the UK’s first nuclear power plant for twenty years and Vincent de Rivaz, CEO of EDF Energy in the UK, said it will “kick start Britain’s nuclear revival”.

    Once built, the Somerset-based plant will produce 7 per cent of the UK’s fuel needs, and the signing of the agreement will also allow the development of Sizewell C and Bradwell B.

    Hinkley Point C Plans

    Hinkley Point C is due to start producing electricity in 2025 and it will provide power for 6 million homes. 

    Decommissioning of the plant will begin in 2083 and will cost more than £7 billion; the operators of the Hinkley Point C have been made responsible for the decommissioning and site clearance costs under new measures brought in by the government.

    Importance of nuclear energy to UK

    Nuclear power is part of the government’s plans to provide energy security for the UK and to help fill the need for low carbon energy sources. There are eight potential sites that could be commissioned by 2025, and Horizon Ltd and NuGeneration are just two companies who plan to build nuclear reactors in the UK.

  • Manufacturing grew in September, according to the latest statistics from the Office of National Statistics. The pharmaceutical sector showed a strong performance, but the gas and oil sectors unperformed, causing an 0.4 per cent drop in total industrial production, the BBC reports.

    Moreover, there were further challenges for the manufacturing sector in September in the form of inflation, leading to a rise in prices for materials and the cost of fuels.  Manufacturers have also had to contend with the low value of the pound, which has made imports more expensive, but sterling is now on the rise.

    Manufacturers adjusting spending plans

    The immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote has not had the impact on the manufacturing sector that many had feared. However, manufacturers are adjusting their investment plans following the referendum result, according to research from the EEF.

    The EEF/Santander Monitor 2016 report indicates that manufacturing firms will slow down their investment into capital equipment for the near future. 60 per cent of the manufacturers surveyed stated they will be spending either the same or less on equipment in the next two years.

    Lee Hopley, Chief Economist at the EEF said:                    

    “Fears of an immediate collapse in business investment appear to be unfounded for now. UK manufacturers have been investing at a healthy pace in recent years and while that rate of increase wasn’t going to continue forever, keeping up with customer needs and the competition is ensuring that investment stays on track for many.

    EEF attribute this slowdown in spending to order book uncertainty. In addition, some manufacturers are already faced with ‘soft demand’, with a third of manufactures already having spare capacity, meaning they are reluctant to invest in equipment that could go under used.

    The EEF also stressed the need for policies that would assist the manufacturing industry. Ms Hopley stated:

    “…It’s over to the Autumn statement now to press ahead with policies that further enhance the UK business environment for spending on modern machinery and increasingly important intangible investment.”

    Change in investment strategy

    Manufacturers are also changing the way they invest. EEF say manufacturers would rather invest in innovation to help them stand out from the competition, allowing them to enhance productivity and to improve future demand for their products. 60 per cent of manufacturers say that investing in ‘intangibles’ rather than equipment is now more important to their businesses.

    Despite the concerns prior to the referendum, the report shows that Brexit has had little impact on the manufacturing sector’s plans for future investment. There is also more optimism over exports due the fall in the value of pound.

  • The European offshore wind industry has attracted more than €14 billion worth of investment in the past six months, with the UK being one of the biggest winners, a new report says. The record level of investment comes from 7 projects that have all reached the Final Investment Decision during the first months of 2016.

    The report from WindEurope also indicates energy companies continued commitment to renewable forms of power generation, with companies such as Dong Energy and Siemens continuing to invest.

    According to the report, there are now 82 wind farms across 11 countries with the capacity to produce 11,538 megawatts of power. 114 wind turbines have been grid connected in Europe in the first six months of the year, and work has been carried out on 13 windfarms, including four in the United Kingdom.

    Commenting on the new figures, CEO of WindEurope, Giles Dickson, said:

    “The record investment numbers show a clear industry commitment to offshore wind. We expect installations will pick up significantly in 2017 but there are a lot of challenges out there still on offshore wind. Not least the uncertainty over future volumes and regulation in many key markets for the period after 2020. We’re a long way from being able to say job done on offshore wind.”

    Ministerial Support

    The move toward wind power also has the backing of ministers. Recently, energy ministers from nine European countries met together to discuss what they could do to further enhance cooperation when it comes to offshore wind, and they also made commitments to reduce the costs involved in producing it.

    Hornsea Project One

    One of the biggest projects to receive a Final Investment Decision is the Hornsea Project One offshore wind farm, which is planned for Yorkshire. The site will have the ability to produce 1.2 gigawatts and will power more than 1 million homes, making it the world’s largest wind farm. DONG Energy also has the rights to a further two projects.

    Government Subsidies

    The record investments figures are good news for the UK, especially as the government announced in 2015 that it was to end subsidies for wind farms. This led to some fears that companies would be less willing to invest in this renewable form of energy, but the plans for many more projects show this might not be the case.

    Instead, some energy producers are looking to alternative means of funding wind farms. Earlier this year, Good Energy announced plans for a wind farm in Cornwall, which will give members of the local community the opportunity to invest.

  • A new report shows how competitiveness in the oil and gas industry is improving, The Oil and Gas UK economic report also highlights how the cost of extracting oil and gas have fallen dramatically and how productivity has increased by 10%. However, it also details the importance of new investment into the sector.

    Lack of capital investment and exploration

    Another factor highlighted in the report is the declining capital investment for the industry: £9 billion was invested in 2015, compared with over £14 billion in 2014. In addition, job losses are a continuing concern for the sector, as well as declining revenues for the supply chain, which fell by 30 per cent.

    The report goes on to explain how the lack of exploration continues to be a concern. It states that there are low levels of exploration, with only ten wells subject to exploration and appraisal activity in 2015.  In addition, only one new field received approval, and brownfield investment was also on the decline with just five projects given the go ahead in 2016.

    Commenting on the report, Oil & Gas UK’s chief executive, Deidre Michie said:

    “The UKCS is in urgent need of fresh investment to boost exploration and drive activity, particularly for the supply chain.

     “Exploration has fallen to record lows and little new investment has been approved in 2016 and 2017 looks no better.  Increased asset trading is one area that could free up new investment by facilitating the trading of late-life assets.”

    Calls for government action and recognition

    As a result of the report’s findings, Michie is urging the government to “champion the UK’s oil and gas industry”. One of the measures Michie specifically called for was ‘encouragement’ for new entrants into the sector.

    Although Oil and Gas UK remain focused on increasing productivity and efficiency, while reducing costs in the sector, it’s still asking that the Oil and Gas authority, the Department of Business Energy and Industrial strategy and HM Treasury offer further support for the industry.

    One of the steps Oil and Gas UK have requested is for the government to reaffirm its commitment to the Driving Investment Strategy, which was first published in 2014. The Strategy detailed the need for reform in the industry; reforms already introduced were aimed at increasing exploration and aiding the UCKS to compete for investment, however, despite these efforts, exploration is now at an all-time low.

    Oil and Gas UK also ask industry and government bodies to “work together to create a low tax, high activity province which can continue to support the important supply chain based here and position our sector in the best place to take advantage of any potential upturn.”

  • The Oil and Gas Authority has announced the appointment of a steering group that will look at opportunities to maximise the remaining gas reserves in the Southern Northern Sea (SNS). The SNS Rejuvenation Special Interest Group is a joint initiative with Oil and Gas UK and the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) and it consists of operators, supply chain organisations, service businesses and duty holders.

    Members of the steering group include high-profile oil companies such as Shell, Centrica and Premier Oil.

    Eric Marston, Southern North Sea and Morecambe Bay manager for the Oil and Gas Authority, launched the event. He stated that he expects the SNS to be a ‘key contributor’ to help fuel the UK into the foreseeable future. However, Marston also explained the challenges facing exploration in the SNS due to limited accessibility, the costs involved and the commercial risks.

    Simon Gray, chief executive of EEEGR, described the steering group as a vital piece of work that could help secure the future of the industry for the East region of the UK.

    SIG’s Remit

    SIG has set itself a vast remit, which aims to “maximise economic recovery (MER) of gas reserves for at least another 20 years by identifying new opportunities, including examining the potential for carboniferous gas reserves”.

    Another ambition of the newly-formed steering group is to develop deeper collaborations with its current operators and with offshore wind developers. It also aims to drive down costs by examining standardisation to streamline processes and equipment use.

    Commenting on the launch, Deirdre Mickie, chief executive of Oil and Gas UK, said:

    “Oil and Gas UK recognises the key role that the SNS gas fields play for UKPLC and we are keen to ensure that our members play a major part in ensuring the future role of these important assets for the nation for generations to come

    The inaugural meeting is due to be held in December.

    The need for exploration and investment

    Figures released by Oil and Gas UK earlier in 2016 illustrated the significant reductions in exploration, especially in the North Sea, and there were also concerns over the limited funding made available for new projects. While new initiatives have been launched, they haven’t made a significant impact on the downward trend in exploration yet.

    Oil and Gas UK have previously called for more investment into the sector and a report released in 2016 noted the decline in capital investment, which had fallen to 9 billion in 2015.

  • A recently-released study has detailed the potential of offshore wind in the United Kingdom. Wind power usage in the country has already reached record levels, and the research has concluded that its use is likely to increase considerably in the years ahead.

    The report is titled Unleashing Europe’s Offshore Wind Potential and it was published by BVG Associates. It estimates that by 2030, offshore wind capacity could be providing a total of 25 gigawatts and powering over 20 million UK homes.

    Commenting on the study, RenewableUK’s Executive Director, Emma Pinchbeck, said:

    “This report shows what our innovative offshore wind industry can deliver in the years ahead, securing economic growth and cheaper electricity. The Government can help us by continuing to hold fiercely competitive auctions for financial support, as well as putting offshore wind at the heart of its upcoming Industrial Strategy. Clear, bold, modern energy policy will attract billions of pounds of investment”.  

    UK among those leading the way

    Although the surge in wind power usage has been relatively recent, it has been used in the United Kingdom for a quarter of a century, when the first ten wind turbines were launched in Delabole, Cornwall.

    Currently, the United Kingdom is among the world’s top ten generators of wind power, and the UK is set for a dramatic increase in wind power due to the investment from companies like Dong Energy.

    Construction is currently underway on the world’s biggest wind farm, which is scheduled to be commissioned in 2020; this is just one of the projects that are being planned as the UK’s energy industry and government ministers seek alternatives to fossil fuels.

    Wind power in the winter

    Further research indicates how wind power could be an effective means of energy production in the winter season too.

    The team concluded that wind power could help provide power during the coldest times of the winter, and assist in meeting the higher power demands during those periods.

    The research also indicates that if there was a ‘widespread’ of turbines throughout Great Britain, it would be possible to optimise power supply by taking advantage of the mixed wind patterns that are experienced in the winter.

    The approach could also help to allay some of the worries over energy sustainability as it was found offshore wind power provided a ‘more secure supply’ than onshore power.

    The study was conducted by scientists from the Met Office, the Imperial College London and the University of Reading and it was published in the Environmental Research Letters journal.

  • The CEO of DONG Energy, Henrik Poulsen, has stated that wind power could supply the majority of the UK’s energy supply in the future. In an article published in the Guardian, Poulsen noted the falling costs of renewable energy and new developments in technology, and says that offshore wind power could create more than half of the UK’s energy.

    DONG Energy has also issued a statement regarding the future of its gas and oil division. The company confirms that it is ‘reviewing strategic options’ regarding its £1.5 billion-pound gas and oil arm.

    The company released the statement following media speculation that the company was making plans to sell its gas and oil business. DONG Energy say that JP Morgan has been ‘engaged’ to carry out a ‘preliminary market assessment’ but the Danish-owned company makes it clear it has not yet decided if it will divest its gas and oil division.

    Support for Renewable Energy

    The comments come at a time when the use of renewable energy is growing from strength to strength. DONG Energy, who are a leader in renewable energy had a record breaking IPO this year, and In 2015, 11 per cent of the UK’s energy supply was produced through wind power, which is the highest figures yet according to Businessgreen.com

    In addition, public support for wind energy continues to grow. Figures from the Department for
    Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy indicate that record levels of people (71 per cent) are now in favour of wind power.

    RenewableUK’s Chief Executive, Hugh McNeal, said:

    “It’s great to see public support for onshore wind has reached its highest ever level, at an overwhelming 71%. Onshore wind is the cheapest form of new power generation available in Britain, so it makes sense to use it to keep people’s electricity bills as low as possible”.

    The Government continues to show its support for renewable energy with the announcement of the new Contracts for Difference auction, which will allow companies to bid for £290 million in renewable electricity contracts.

    Business and Energy Secretary Dick Clark also gave more details of government plans to phase out unabated coal-fired power stations over the next decade and replace them with greener forms of energy.

    The government says the investment in green energy is necessary to secure energy supply and reduce carbon emissions. It has pledged £730 million towards renewable energy projects over the next decade.

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