Is the Swansea Tidal Lagoon Dead in the Water?

Swansea Tidal Lagoon

At an estimated cost of £1 billion, the tidal lagoon in Swansea was set to be one of the most ambitious renewable energy projects in the UK since the green agenda began.

Just 10 months ago, things were certainly looking bright. After the Conservative government got in without a coalition to hinder them, Amber Rudd pushed through planning permission pretty quickly and it was hoped that construction would commence in August at the earliest. For many in the renewable industry it was a sign of the bright future to come.

That was about as good as it got for the company in charge of the Swansea Tidal Lagoon. By the turn of last year, there were serious concerns on investment, the cost of the installation when compared to the amount of energy produced, and the need for substantial subsidies to support the venture.

It all seemed to gather momentum far too quickly, causing the Government to back track and call for a review, that time honoured particular way of throwing something into the long grass.

Subsidy Cuts for Renewables

As we know, the Government has been a little harsh on subsidies, cutting them for vital renewable sources such as solar. This change in support has not only sent shock waves through the industry but made investment by outside companies far less attractive.

With the current uncertainty, the tidal lagoon has found it increasingly difficult to bring the right investors on board. From full throated support that saw the project included in the Tory manifesto, the Government has taken a step back and is trying to decide whether the level of subsidy required is appropriate and deliverable.

This February the owners of the project said that a decision needed to be reached shortly if they were to avoid running into severe problems. There are a number of knock on effects from the delay too. The steel work at Porth Talbot was looking to the lagoon construction to save its industry and now faces laying off over nearly 700 staff if there are more delays.

Many outsiders agree that the expected subsidy for the tidal lagoon is too steep for the Government to seriously consider and that the project is doomed. The asking price was some £168 per MW produced over the next 35 years. Compare that to the £95 per MW for the much maligned Hinckley Nuclear Power Station and you begin to see the problem.

Environmental Impact

Despite the speed with which the project was pushed through last year, there have since been concerns raised about the environmental impact of building the tidal lagoon. This is a huge construction that is going to change the coastline of Swansea and Natural Resources Wales feel that the effects of the lagoon, including potential flooding and the damage to wild life, have not yet been adequately addressed.

Cornwall’s Super Quarry

The building materials for the tidal lagoon need to come from somewhere and the company were hoping to create a large quarry on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall which would have shipped  millions of tons of rock to the site in Swansea Bay. Unfortunately, a recent court case has put this at risk as locals have protested again at the lack of environmental assessment for such a project. The local council came in for damning criticism over their illegal attempt to push planning permission for the quarry when the proper procedures had not been followed.

This means in essence that the tidal lagoon doesn’t have the raw material to start construction even if it were granted permission to go ahead tomorrow.

It is unlikely that anything is going to happen anyway until the Government have finished their review and this is not due until August. There are serious concerns that the project may well fall into the sea before then. According to Liberal leader Tim Fallon:

“I said that the tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay is a litmus test of this government’s position on green energy, and the environmental and economic case for this project is clear. I am concerned that this review could just be used as a smokescreen to try and justify even more cuts to the green energy sector.”

Are Biomass Boilers the Renewable of the Future?

Biomass Boiler

There is an undeniable buzz around the renewables sector this year. We have seen positivity in renewables growth in recent years, and in particular, the growing use of biomass technology in homes and community projects. You’re probably thinking to yourself, ‘Biomass boilers are great for the environment’. We agree with you there – to an extent. By far they are the most energy efficient and low carbon boilers available on the domestic market, but there are a few drawbacks to large-scale usage.

Nevertheless, a biomass boiler installed in a home could potentially save up to 40% on standard oil/gas bills every year. It is a tantalising offer for any consumer, and when the added benefit of its renewable status is involved, can consumers afford not to invest? With government targets required to be met, there may be a revolutionary change in the way we produce heat in our homes.

Meeting Government Targets One Boiler at A Time

The UK Government has had a target of achieving an 80% carbon reduction by the year 2050 through the Pathways scheme. Since then, there have been positive movements for renewable companies and consumers as to the popularity of renewable means of energy production, with renewables seeing a 16.3% increase in use in the UK between 2013 – 2014. In Scotland alone, the Scottish Government has reported 13.1% of all energy in the country came from renewables, with 2.7% of heat energy created by renewable resources – increasing from 0.4% in 2008.[1]

Of all renewable heat energy, 90% came from biomass. With targets for 11% of all energy to be renewable, there is work to be done – but there is hope for a brighter future. Biomass’s use in heat production is undoubtedly starting to set alight the renewable industry. With the potential to create up to 4,800kWh of heat energy per tonne of wood pellets, there are opportunities for consumers and businesses to take real advantage of their carbon fuel emissions and promote renewables as the way forward.

Savings for The Environment and Consumers

When it comes to choosing the right renewable energy source, the amount of carbon reduction and energy generated are taken into account. A home looking for savings of both carbon and money will find that up to £580 per year could be saved on their energy bills. An attractive incentive to any consumer is also the fact that replacing a boiler with biomass can save up to 7.5tonnes of carbon dioxide production per year (Depending on size and scale of the heating system).

The promotion by the government of the Renewable Heat Incentive has also seen a positive trend towards renewables with monetary incentives for consumers and businesses. With the potential to earn back the majority of the installation costs over seven years while contributing to a cleaner environment, there is little stopping consumers today from changing – and that is something positive to take.

The Environmental Cost of Biomass

We cannot deny the positive impact on the environment our reductions in carbon production will have. Greenhouse gases are at an intolerably high level, and it is our responsibility to take action to prevent the worst natural disasters at bay. However, just because biomass reduces carbon emissions does not mean they are entirely clean. Far from it.

Biomass boilers are often using wood chips and pellets as suitable fuel. Organic material is renewable, with growth capable of new resources time and time again, and the ashes from production can be used as fertiliser. Yet, there is one thing people are missing. Consider how long it takes to grow a tree. Decades, maybe, before it is ready to be used in wood chip production. If demand is on the increase for biomass, what does this mean in terms of costs for wood?

Then we have to consider the amount of fuel that is used in the transportation of biomass fuels to and from locations. According to CarbonBrief, the UK is the “the world’s largest wood pellet importer, with a 28% share of the global market.” Considering the UK produces very little of its own wood pellets, the price on the environment from transportation could ultimately level the reduction in carbon that was meant to be saved and bring it straight back through burning fossil fuels such as petroleum. Are we truly saving, or just adding to the problem? We may have to wait for the answers to that question.

Taking Control of Carbon Emissions

It is no surprise that there is still a long way to go for the government to meet targets set for 2050. That being said, positive trends towards renewables are beginning, and the potential for biomass to be used on an industrial scale is one that has not gone unnoticed.

Looking to the future, there is nothing to suggest biomass boilers will not be the renewable of our future. Maybe in ten or twenty years we will see more use for biomass fuels across a range of industries and transportation to cut costs across all areas. Only time will tell, however, if our wood supplies can stand up to the pressure.

[1] http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0049/00494812.pdf

Investing in Solar Panels is Still a Good Option!

Solar panel

The beginning of 2016 has been bad for renewables, particularly solar which has seen subsidies through the Feed in Tariff cut by 65%. This has led to many in the industry to complain that there will be major job losses when fewer customers decide to have panels installed.

But are solar panels still a good investment for the ordinary man or woman in the street?

The simple answer is that solar panels don’t give as big a return as they did before the Feed in Tariff came down in January. This fell from a healthy 12.92 pence to 4.39 pence which means essentially that it will take much longer to pay off any loan or savings investment and the likelihood of making a clear profit out of the Feed in Tariff is pretty small. This was, no doubt, a huge driving force in people deciding to have solar PV installed in homes and small offices across the UK.

There are, however, a number of other matters to take into consideration when installing solar panels.

  • First of all, you are going to benefit from cheaper electricity bills and you will be protected from the increasing rise in prices that utilities may charge in the future (which unfortunately for us all, is a certainty).
  • Your investment will be amplified the more the price of electricity rises and this is expected to be around 2.6% each year for the next fifteen years.
  • The cost of installing solar panels has also come down dramatically, especially with the Feed in Tariff that was in operation. While this fall might not continue so dramatically in the future, the price of solar PV is still good value.

According to the Solar Trade Association, installing panels provide a good rate of return despite the recent cuts:

“The calculations suggest solar panels offer a higher return rate than most savings accounts. It added that a competitively priced system, costing around £6,400 could see the initial investment paid back in around 13 years.”

The Government has come under criticism for its axing of the subsidies and the impact that it may well have on the industry as a whole. Even before the cut went into effect on the 1st of January this year, a number of solar PV companies had gone to the wall.

Solar PV is not the only technology that is about to experience less than sunny times. Solar thermal, which has been helped by the Renewable Heat Incentive, is set to be taken off the list sometime next year, causing more consternation in the industry. This is another area where the Government believes that the technology can survive on its own and that people will continue to buy solar thermal even with no incentives in place. Many in the industry disagree and complain that they are being unfairly singled out.

According to the Guardian who broke the story recently:

“Discriminating against this globally important technology in the UK would send a terrible message to householders, and it would have very serious ramifications for the British solar thermal sector.”

While subsidies continue to be withdrawn, the installation of solar PV and solar thermal is still taking place but at a slower pace. 340 MW have been installed since the start of 2016 and in the UK we just passed the 10 GW capacity mark. There are some who believe that innovations such as storage batteries which could make the prospect of home energy production more viable will give the industry a further boost in the years to come. But the technology is still in the early stages and may come too late to save many companies.

The truth is that solar PV and solar thermal in the UK are both facing difficult times as they adjust to the new subsidy landscape. That doesn’t mean they are unattractive investments, though returns may be slower in coming.

Find out more about installing solar technologies here.

What Effect Does the Paris Deal Have on the UK?

Paris Deal

The recent Paris Deal that was agreed after the Paris climate change conference saw almost 200 countries agree to keep global temperatures to under 2 degrees Celsius and to aim for a warming of just 1.5 degrees.  So what does this mean for the UK and how should the government be changing its policies to comply with this?

Climate Change Act

Some within the government were quick to point out after the deal that the figures agreed were much the same as those already in place due to the Climate Change Act.  The 2008 Act set a long term target with regards to rising temperatures and instituted five year review periods to see how the progress was going.

As part of the Act, the UK committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 based on the levels in 1990.  However, forecasts are already showing that the target for the mid-2020s period isn’t going to be met.

Changes needed

According to one former advisor to Gordon Brown, now an advisor to New Climate Economy, the new international deal may force the government to look at toughening their targets.  Michael Jacobs thinks that the new advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) need to examine the impacts of the new agreement and the implications of a 1.5 degree scenario.

At the moment, the government says that changes aren’t needed as the UK’s carbon budgets are working well.  But the recent changes in policies with regards to renewables could have a negative effect on this.  Cut backs on subsidies paid for onshore wind farms is one area highlighted as well as recent changes to the payments made to homeowners who are generating power from solar panels.

Opposition figures are already calling for the Chancellor to roll back these and a number of other changes made to renewables that could have a negative impact on the industry.  Others say that the major governments around the world are putting policies in place quickly to start achieving what they agreed in Paris and the UK needs to follow suit or risk falling behind.

The CBI have also said that the government needs to provide a ‘stable environment’ that will allow the development of renewable sources of energy that are more affordable and secure.    It does also back plans for new gas plants that somewhat contrast with the overall approach required.

Responses

Energy Minister Lord Bourne defended the cuts to the subsidies for solar power by saying that subsidies are needed to ‘get things moving initially’ but that no-one wants to be paying them ‘forever and a day’.  He added that what was required was a level playing field and this was the position that the government was creating while gaining the ‘moral authority’ to talk about cutting emissions.

Pressure is strong to turn this moral authority into clear decarbonisation policies that will allow the UK to move forward in renewables and be able to fulfill what it agreed to in Paris.

UN Urges The World To Double Investment Into Green Energy

United Nations

The Paris climate talks in December have been hailed by most as a great breakthrough in reaching global agreement on reducing our reliance on energy produced from fossil fuels. The talks agreed to bring nations together to find ways of holding global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. Whilst this is undoubtedly good news now comes the hard part – to find ways of producing our energy needs from renewable and green sources to match the goal of the agreement.

The agreement on 2 degrees was reached by 196 governments but it also set an aspiration agreement of 1.5 degrees and to produce a net-zero carbon economy in the second half of the century.

However, it is widely recognised that even if all the governments involved in the Paris agreements met their pledges then this would not be enough to hit the agreement’s goal, only achieving a slow-down of global warming to 2.7 degrees.

In the light of this recognition the UN has upped the ante in the issue and called for global business leaders to double their investment into solar and wind energy to £400bn by the year 2020 in order to augment and support investment from governments.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said that there needs to be a drastic rethink of our reliance on fossil fuel-based energy production otherwise the agreement reached in Paris would quickly become meaningless. At a recent meeting of UN investors he said that

“I call on the investor community to build on the strong momentum from Paris and seize the opportunities for clean energy growth. I challenge investors to double – at a minimum – their clean energy investments by 2020.” To achieve this, he continues, would require investors to make the shift from “aspiration to action”.

Rachel Kyte, the UN special envoy for sustainable energy, backed Ki-moon by stating that “We had this extraordinary agreement in Paris, we have got points on the horizon. Now we have got to get down to the nitty gritty of long term development of the low carbon economy and that is a lot less sexy in some respects than things negotiated last year.”

It is estimated by the International Energy Agency that the cost of switching from high-polluting power plants to solar and wind electricity generation in order to meet the commitments made at the Paris agreement will cost approximately $16tr by 2030. However, it is argued by some, that this figure is based on the current costs of solar and wind generation infrastructure. These costs have been coming down rapidly for some time as a result of research and investment and look to continue to do so for the foreseeable future if investment is increased further. If this happens then the $16tr figure could well be an overestimation.

Mindy Lubber, President of Ceres, a non-profit organisation advocating for sustainability leadership, said that

“ultimately, global investment portfolios need to shift far more capital to low-carbon business activity and away from risky high-carbon sectors that may perform poorly in the years ahead.”

What is the Future of Renewables in the UK?

Houses Of Parlament

In the end the Government only slashed the Feed in Tariff for solar by 65% rather than the touted 87, something that is still going to cost the industry thousands of jobs and is seen as a backward step for those who believe passionately in the green agenda.

Despite the rest of the world getting enthusiastic about lowering carbon emissions and becoming less dependent on fossil fuels after the Climate Change Summit in Paris, many UK observers are sceptical about the future here.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, growth could see the sector thrive worldwide as a 24 million jobs are created by 2030. The change to a more active carbon free energy sector would not only help stop climate change but improve world economies across the board.

Particularly in Asia, this confidence has been boosted largely by the growth of the solar industry. It seems everyone but Britain is pushing forward with the race for a cleaner world. Here, the Government has put the brakes on wind and solar and are investing heavily in nuclear while also trying to get fracking off the ground despite the general population being against it.

According to the CEO of Regen SW, Merlin Hyman:

“The Paris agreements have fired the starting gun on the global race to clean energy and made the shift to a radically different decentralised energy system unstoppable. The UK clean energy sector is determined to play a leading role despite the UK Government’s attempts to prop up fossil fuel and nuclear power.”

There are some minor skirmishes going on in the renewable energy sector at the moment which are not necessarily making front page news. Two solar panel companies are taking the Government to court over their retrospective cut to subsidies for large scale developments two years ago. There are further clashes anticipated between energy secretary Amber Rudd and the Lords as she seeks to bring about the end for subsidies for onshore wind farms.

The truth is that many observers believe that the renewables industry is under fire in the UK and some areas will be hard pressed to survive Government back tracking.

The only good news is that the cost of installing solar is still coming down. When the first panels were installed in the late 1950s the cost was around £1,300 per watt in today’s money. That’s dropped to just 50 pence per watt on average in the UK in 2016. According to Oxford University researchers:

“Since the 1980s, panels to generate electricity from sunshine have got 10% cheaper each year. That is likely to continue, the study said, putting solar on course to meet 20% of global energy needs by 2027.”

The cry from the solar industry is not that they don’t want to exist without subsidies (as fossil fuels globally have failed to do) but that they don’t want the economic rug pulled from under their feet too quickly. There are still some major issues for solar to navigate over the coming years, not least the best way to store an energy supply that is more available at certain times of the day than others.

Research is continuing robustly, even with the current decline of governmental enthusiasm for all things green. Prospects of solar paints that can be used to cover buildings with thin, cheap coats of electricity producing material could be a major advance that comes in the next few years. Better storage and integration with other renewable technologies such as wind and hydro are on the cards also.

While a Western country like the UK is procrastinating, though, developing countries such as Costa Rica, Afghanistan and India are all working hard towards a future with full power from renewables. Costa Rica, strangely, is leading the way, professing to have provided 100% of their energy needs from renewable sources for a succession of 94 days.

The trouble is that the Government’s confused energy policy has had damaging knock on effects beyond solar and wind. Tidal constructions such as the lagoon in Swansea Bay are being put on hold as investors wonder where the Government are going to cut next. This wide ranging uncertainty is causing those with the money to help change our world to think twice. Unfortunately, the damage has been done and the length of time that it will take for confidence to be restored could set the UK a long way back in the development of renewables compared to the rest of the world.

A Government Ruled By Oil Companies Puts the Final Nail in the Solar Coffin

SOLAR PV UK DEAD

Say goodbye to the solar industry in the UK. After government cuts to valuable subsidies, the industry itself estimates that up-to  30,000 jobs could go in the first six months of 2016. In line with George Osbourne’s obsession for cutting everything that doesn’t matter to him, including ‘all that green crap’, we could be witnessing the end of renewable investment in this country for the foreseeable future.

It’s no longer good for businesses who, before the DECC became as confused about it’s policies as Bob Dudley at a wind turbine convention, were steadily coming round to the importance of getting on board the renewable gravy train. Wind has suffered, solar is set to be almost decimated, and major projects such as the tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay are set to be put on hold indefinitely.

Perhaps the only real conclusion to be drawn is that the Government is in bed with the oil companies and have private interests in promoting fracking and fossil fuel development. Strange that David Cameron had the cheek to stand at the recent COP21 Climate Change Summit and tell the world that “If something can be done, it must be done!”

We are also set to become the major laughing stock of the climate change agenda, with a government that says one thing to the television cameras and then does the opposite in reality. They may well say they are providing the framework for renewables to stand on their own, but they’re not. They’re decimating the future industry and the future of our children because they either don’t care or they are simply fulfilling a more sinister hidden agenda.

Let’s Play ‘Keep it in the Family’

Is the Government Criminal in its treatment of renewables? There are some that would say so. The Deputy Leader of the House of Lords and Tory Foreign Office Minister, David Howell, runs a lobbying group called the Windsor Energy Group. This is heavily sponsored by companies such as Shell, British Gas, BP, and Marathon Oil. George Osbourne is actually David Howell’s son-in-law (small world ain’t it?) and good old George has just announced a big tax cut to promote better fracking. This tax cut will benefit certain companies such as, you guessed it, Shell, British Gas, BP, and Marathon Oil.

The Ravaging of Renewables

Last September the UK dropped out of the top 10 renewable energy rankings for the first time and if things go on the way they are, we’ll likely end up down there at the bottom. Since winning a majority, the Conservatives have managed to destroy off-shore wind, cripple the solar industry, set back biomass uptake, kill off the green deal, sell of the green investment bank, and greatly reduce any incentive to even think about buying a green car. On top of that they’ve given up on the idea of zero carbon homes and decided to start fracking in sites of natural beauty, against a majority public opinion.

What does that leave? There are plenty of rumours that the flagship tidal lagoon in Swansea is going to get the axe sooner rather than later and we all know that billions are set to be spent on a spurious nuclear power plant that’s not even going to be owned by us.

Back in July, environmentalist Jonathon Porritt wrote about the ‘slow’ death of renewables in the UK. But most of this destruction has taken place in a pretty short space of time, since the election last May in fact. It’s strange when you consider the renewables industry were working hard to achieving life without subsidies, hopefully by 2020 when the real benefits would start to come through. All they asked was that they had those subsidies in place while they needed them. Pulling the carpet from beneath their feet in this way has not only been political stupidity it is going to take a long while to repair in order to make businesses confident enough to invest again.

So why would you cut subsidies so sharply and so quickly?

There’s no doubt that many in the industry are putting the blame for the demise of the renewables industry firmly at the feet of George Osborne, not simply because of his strong familial connection to the fossil fuels industry but also his iron control, it would seem, over all departments in government. It seems that once the Conservatives won outright power they decided to exercise their inalienable right to destroy everything they don’t believe in. They’ve been helped of course by a labour party that is perilously crippled by infighting, but the Chancellor seems to have a deeply ingrained hatred of green technologies anyway and he’s the guy holding the all-powerful purse strings.

Even the normally reliable and loyal Telegraph has had a pop at Renewable George in recent months, railing that every other energy sector has its fair share of subsidies:

“Nuclear power has absorbed far greater levels of support for decades without ever reaching anything like its potential, and the feather-bedding of fossil fuel companies to the tune of $5 trillion worldwide – in the IMF’s estimation – is little less than scandalous.”

The decimation of our green agenda made Cameron’s appearance at the climate talks in November a complete embarrassment.

Think on this: Each and every one of us in the UK currently subsidises the fossil fuel industry to the tune of £400 – a whopping seven times more than we support green industries and five hundred times that of solar subsidies by way of the FIT. This fact alone should set alarm bells ringing a plenty. We’re the only G7 country who is actively increasing fossil fuel subsidies.

There’s got to be something wrong, hasn’t there?

We should be marching in the streets. Banging on the doors of our MPs and getting them to act. Forcing George into a corner and making him back down, or at least making him cry like a kitten. But we’re not. What’s the point in fighting against powerful business interests such as the likes of BP and British Gas and the ignorance of a man like Osborne who no doubt in ten years or so will taking up his rightful place on the board of some multinational fossil fuel conglomerate?

Here’s one final thought: A number of companies like Drax who were taking part in renewable ventures and had the carpet pulled from under their feet are going to be suing the Government. This could well end up costing us, as the tax payers who foot the bill, far more than the cuts in renewable subsidies.

Maybe we should sue the Government ourselves. Actually that’s not a bad idea for us tax payers. The Dutch people sued their government over failure to act on climate change and won. Perhaps it’s time for the general public to give the Government a bloody nose over renewables. Who knows? It might even work.

By Steven M

Is the Climate Deal Worth the Paper?

COP21 Agreement

After two weeks of discussion, drafts, objections and tweaking, we finally ended up with what many were calling ‘an historic’ climate deal in Paris. With nearly 200 hundred countries involved and everyone from presidents and ageing action heroes putting their four pennies worth on the table, the fact that any agreement at all was reached is a miracle in itself.

Even Al Gore was nearly moved to tears.

But do these 40 odd pages of promises and wishes add up to much more than a hill of beans? While there has been a commitment to keeping global temperatures to well below 2° C and funding for poorer developing countries to help meet their obligations, much of what is in the agreement is voluntary and whether countries can keep to it has got some people worried.

There are some legally binding parts to the agreement such as each country submitting their emissions reductions targets and these being regularly reviewed, but how it is all going to operate in reality still remains to be seen.

Some, of course, have said that it is not an ideal solution but it’s a good start, something that can be worked on in years to come. The problem is that governments have had twenty years of talks and arguments to get this right and we are fast reaching the tipping point, when whatever we try to do will have no effect anyway. Many observers think we are past that stage already.

Others have been very vocal in their condemnation of the agreement. Nick Dearden from Global Justice said:

“It’s outrageous that the deal that’s on the table is being spun as a success when it undermines the rights of the world’s most vulnerable communities and has almost nothing binding to ensure a safe and liveable climate for future generations.”

The draft agreement in Paris was originally twice as long, containing as it did potential amends to the work. This included such time honoured words and phrases such as ‘well below’ and ‘pursue efforts’ in neat and seemingly unending brackets before and after various measures. Most of this wording gives everyone potential wiggle room, particularly if home circumstances change. For instance: One promise is stopping the rise of heat trapping greenhouse gas emissions which should be done ‘as soon as possible’.

Having said that, this agreement is something that all the countries present have felt they could sign, which was the main sticking point in the past. It’s better to have a working document everyone is happy with rather than one that half are not prepared to sign, even if there are reservations.

Key Points of the Paris Agreement

  • To ensure global warm stays well below 2°C and to work to limiting this to 1.5°C. The agreement says also that at some point after 2050 levels of manmade emissions should have reduced to a level that is easily absorbed by oceans and seas.
  • Countries have all agreed to set 5-yearly targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases though developing populations may well find this more difficult than developed ones. Most countries have already put forward their estimates for 2020 so we’ll soon see whether it works as a way of reducing global emissions.
  • Governments have committed to reviewing their targets though there isn’t much pressure on them to do so if they are lagging behind. It is ‘hoped’ that they will review and then make the necessary changes to improve performance.
  • If a country doesn’t meet its emission cutting target, there will be no penalty imposed but all governments have agreed to transparency. Again, there is more flexibility for developing countries (one of the sticking points that China wanted agreement to).
  • Developing countries will need finance to help them to meet their targets and richer governments have pledged some $100 billion annually to cover this but the exact amount for each country is not stated.
  • The main area that smaller countries and islands were concerned about was compensation for loss and damage due to climate change. It was a sticking point for the US who were worried about claims that could get out of control. The issue was addressed in the climate change document but removed the concept of liability or compensation on any particular country.

Whether all this makes a difference remains to be seen. We may all look back at the Paris Climate Change Agreement in a few years’ time and hail it as a truly remarkable document that helped change the world. It could lead to real changes in our emissions, how we approach developments such as renewables, and finally begin to drag back the effects of climate change.

Or we could be looking back and highlighting the last two weeks in Paris as another moment when world governments failed to fulfil their duty, failed human kind, and, more importantly, failed the planet. In all though, the preliminary response from most of the world is that this has been a pretty solid success for the 200 countries that took part. According to Al Gore it’s a monumental moment:

“Today, the nations of the world concluded a bold and historic agreement, clearly demonstrating that the global community is speaking with one voice to solve the climate crisis. Years from now, our grandchildren will reflect on humanity’s moral courage to solve the climate crisis and they will look to December 12, 2015, as the day when the community of nations finally made the decision to act.”

By Steve M

Climate Change, the Television Media and Mad Scientists

Climate Change

Some of you may know that this week has seen the big Climate Change Conference in Paris. For those who want to see a world that is not being destroyed by man’s follies there has been plenty of anticipation that the many disparate parties, who last time dismally failed to reach any valued agreement, will come up with a joint plan to save us all.

There were marches around the world on Sunday at the start of the conference as the leaders made their pleas for a climate change deal but many of these demonstrations seemed muted and less worthy of media airtime than usual. In Paris, because they were banned from holding a march for obvious reasons, demonstrators laid their shoes and boots on the ground in the Place de la Republique.

Many activists could be forgiven that the media, particularly the likes of Sky and the BBC, had no interest in the subject of climate change. It wasn’t entirely their fault. First of all, there was the debate on air strikes in Syria which, though it only involved a small change in military tactics, actually entailed a good deal of ministerial hand wringing, conscience pricking and the odd accusation of terrorist sympathising.

The media coverage took a slightly bizarre turn on the BBC on Thursday night as talks in Paris no doubt went on into the night. Caroline Lucas, famed Green advocate and the only in her party who seems to have a coherent thought, was on the panel and you would have naturally thought that the issue of climate change would be discussed.

Of course, proceedings were again hijacked by the question of the Syria vote and whether it was going to end with us all being blown to bits. Yes, it’s an important question but it was surprising the BBC QT producers decided to fill all but the last ten minutes with the issue. Even then, when the subject was changed it was a question about the NHS that sneaked in front of climate change, leaving Lucas, when time was finally called, to utter a strangled plea that perhaps next time the programme could start with the big green issues.

It was disappointing but the bizarre part was still to come. This Week follows Question Time on Thursday night and did indeed have Climate Change on their running order. No less than Mr Corbyn was on show to talk about the weather, the warming of the planet and the end of the world as we know it. This was not THE Mr Corbyn but his brother Piers who happens to be a meteorologist. Rather than debating what is happening at the talks, Mr Corbyn’s slightly dottier brother began a tirade against the 97% of scientists who believe that climate change actually exist.

No it doesn’t, said Mr Corbyn. And he should know – he’s looked at the evidence. There is absolutely no proof that the planet is warming up. In fact it’s cooling. His excuse for everyone else being wrong was that it was all down to money, people jumping on the climate change bandwagon, telling the world what it wants to hear and earning a boat load of cash in the process. Most of the CO2 increases we experience, said Corbyn, come from the sea and man is not responsible for that. In fact, man has very little to do with the rising CO2 emissions at all and trying to reduce them in our industrial processes is both pointless and wrong.

Brother Corbyn does come across as something of a cross between your demented granddad and someone who has spent too much time looking at data. Therein lies his problem.

While the UK government says it is committed to the climate change agenda 100%, it has been cutting subsidy and support for all sorts of green initiatives. Only last year, the Daily Mail wrote an article on Mr Corbyn’s views on the state of the climate change science, including his famed graph that showed temperatures cooling rather than meeting predicted targets set by the climate change supporters.

“The graph…blows apart the ‘scientific basis’ for Britain reshaping its entire economy and spending billions in taxes and subsidies in order to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. These moves have already added £100 a year to household energy bills.”

It’s curious that the BBC chose to raise this issue now when it was first reported back in 2014 by the Daily Mail and other broadsheets and disturbing when there were other issues to discuss that are more current on climate change issues. Like Corbyn’s planet, there has been some cooling in recent times and the rhetoric has become more cautious by the media and politicians.

The UK wasn’t the only place where media coverage was usurped by something more important. By Wednesday, when we in the UK were deeply enraptured by the Syria debate, American networks were following minute by minute accounts of a mass fatal shooting in California. The coverage continued right through Thursday and deep into Friday with hardly any other news covered as journalists fought to understand and analyse every small piece of information that came their way. Again, it’s not entirely their fault – people are more likely to tune into a gun and terrorist story than one about the weather.

It is supposedly one of the most important issues of our generation and solutions have to be agreed and kept to. If news of the conference has dropped off some of the front pages or been consigned to the newsroom archives because of other events it, unfortunately, gives the opportunity for reluctant politicians to brush the problem under the carpet. The Conservative slip that ‘we need to get rid of all this green crap’ could be more of a concrete policy than we think.

The drive for greener technologies, though, is much more important than a climate change conference that may or may not reach a useful accord. It is an opportunity for people and nations to be energy secure and independent, it’s a chance to reduce our impact on the environment and cut down on finite resources, it’s a chance for us to switch from fossil fuels to safer energy sources, and it’s a chance to make sure that we make the most of all our resources by recycling all that we can.

That’s not a climate change con, as Corbyn says and some Tories think, it’s just plain common sense.

Thankfully, though not for those involved, climate change found its way back into the TV media headlines in the second week of talks in Paris. We have the curiously named Storm Desmond to thank for that and the havoc it wreaked across parts of the UK including Cumbria. If climate change is such an important issue, then it shouldn’t take such a catastrophic event to bring it into the media’s eye line.

By Steve M

Submerged Hydro Systems: The Only Large Scale Renewable Energy Solution Left in the UK?

Submerged Hydro

With limited sun year round, coursing rivers, and land space, the United Kingdom is still an ideal country to explore and implement known renewable energy projects, such as solar power, power hydro systems, and wind turbines. However, its wide and long coastlines known for its powerful seas could provide a perfect testbed for submerged underwater hydro systems.

In early June, the government accepted a proposal for a £1 bn project to build the world’s first tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay that will house an underwater power station, generating enough energy to power 175,000 homes. This energy resource has the potential to last for up to 120 years, but its very existence is threatened by the current government’s waning energy policy.

The project will claim a 9.6 mile long seawall that will house huge hydro turbines underwater.

The UK has been trying for a long time to implement sustainable and green living, similar to what the United States is trying to undertake now. Currently, wind power in the UK provides the largest amount of renewable energy to UK homes and businesses, and has helped reduce carbon emissions considerably during the time the technology has been implemented.

Wales Office Minister Lord Bourne said in a speech that there is a great need to reduce the reliance on foreign fossil fuels. Apart from low carbon emissions, it brings other great benefits to the UK.

“Low carbon energy projects like the tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay could bring investment, support local jobs and help contribute to the Welsh economy and Swansea area,”

Bourne at the DECC (Department of Energy & Climate Change).

Despite the recent increase in adoption, it is still a long way from being universally accepted. According to Kyle Magee from Aberyswyth University, the UK is still ‘sluggish’ at implementing sustainable habits as well as adopting renewable energy.

The UK continues to exploit non-renewable oil and gas, making it almost impossible for these renewable energy projects to prosper. It is expected that energy bills will continue to be high until 2030, as extracted oil and gas lessens in the Middle East – based on demand and supply.

In addition, organisations such as the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) continue to create strong ties with various providers of industrial oil and gas. These companies have been active in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, wherein they provide workforce solutions locally, repair and maintenance, as well as engineering and construction solutions.

Magee suggests that the best way to implement renewable energy projects is for the government to inform the people of its advantages in the future, as well as having an immediate incentive to support it.

“Although mathematically local actions can add up to make a global impact, qualitative psychologists have identified that to be successful, campaigns not only have to inform people of the global and future benefits, they must also address the complexity of behavioural change; a factor largely controlled by people’s cognitive biases, immediate incentives, and social norms,”

Aberyswyth University student wrote in his LinkedIn post.

At the end of it all, even with promising sustainable energy at hand, it will all depend on the actions of the current & next government to keep their renewable energy goals in check. Their decisions and implementation will be crucial in deciding whether they can meet their target of at least 15% renewable source dependency by 2020.