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Friday, 20 February 2015

"Public consistently backs solar over shale."

The latest news nationally is that the three main party leaders have promised a joint effort to tackle climate change:
Futures Forum: Climate change: all three UK political party leaders "have pledged to work together to combat climate change, whatever the election result."

And the news locally is whether or not to accept an application to erect a solar farm:
Futures Forum: Is the proposed solar farm at Clyst St Mary to be built on 'prime agricultural land'?
14/2952/MFUL | Installation of ground mounted photovoltaic solar arrays together with power inverter systems; transformer stations; internal access tracks; landscaping; CCTV; security fencing and associated access gate. | Land Surrounding Walnut Cottages Oil Mill Lane Clyst St Mary

The fortnightly energy bulletin from the New Economics Foundation looks at both issues:
New Economics Foundation
 
Good morning,

In a rare moment of unity, the leaders of the UK’s three major parties last week agreed to work together on climate change. They promised a joint effort to limit temperature rises to 2°C with a legally binding global deal, agree carbon budgets and end the use of coal without carbon capture. This is significant, but with just 11 weeks until the general election it’s important climate change isn’t now simply pushed off the agenda.

The UK is also pushing a relatively positive agenda in relation to next week’s decision on fixing the broken EU Emissions Trading System. The reform is intended to make fossil fuels more expensive by removing surplus carbon allowances from the system and restoring a meaningful price for carbon. Reuters’ sources suggest a compromise date of December 2018 for the change is likely; the UK, however, is pushing to bring that date forward.

The pressure on the fossil fuel industry continues to build from another direction, with the divestment movement organising protests all around the world on Global Divestment Day last Saturday. The Fossil Free campaign estimates that $50 billion have been divested since the movement emerged, and it’s clearly starting to hit a nerve. In a speech to industry leaders Shell boss Ben van Beurden attacked “na├»ve” anti-fossil fuel campaigners, but warned delegates that they had a credibility issue on climate change, the issue which will most shape their industry in the coming decades. Meanwhile Malcolm Webb, chief executive of Oil and Gas UK, complained to Energy Secretary Ed Davey of conflicting government messages on oil and gas investment.
The government’s new Infrastructure Act mandates maximum economic recovery of petroleum (requiring more fossil fuel assets), yet Davey recently called for tougher rules of disclosure on “risky” fossil fuel assets. This basic conflict is obvious to the industry and its investors, but not, apparently, to the government.

And it’s not only oil fields where the government appears to be conflicted. Just a fortnight ago it committed to a ban on fracking for shale gas in National Parks, sites of special scientific interest and areas of outstanding natural beauty. Since then that commitment has been watered down by a series of amendments, including one that allows drilling underneath National Parks from outside their boundaries in the interest of not “unduly constraining the industry”. All this despite a consistent lack of public support for fracking (see our chart of the week).

So while we began this week with a pledge of unity, we end it with a broken promise. Let’s hope the party leaders’ agreement lasts longer than a fortnight.

Best wishes,
Simone Osborn
Co-editor, Energy Crunch

Three things you shouldn't miss this week

  1. Article: Party leaders make joint climate commitment - - Three main parties pledge to end coal burning for power generation in the UK - unless it uses new clean-up technology.
     
  2. Article: Fracking to be allowed beneath national parks despite ban pledge - Ministers accused of watering down commitment to ban controversial shale gas exploration in protected areas.
     
  3. Chart: Public consistently backs solar over shale.
  4. DECC Public Attitudes Tracker
    Source: DECC

Energy Transition

EU politicians edge towards 2018 start date for carbon reform - EU politicians are expected to agree on a compromise 2018 start date for reforms to the Emissions Trading System (ETS) to try to bridge divisions over efforts to prop up the world's biggest carbon market.
EU on track for green energy goal but UK, Dutch lagging - In Austria, Finland, Sweden and Latvia, renewable energy made up more than one third of energy consumption in 2013, while at the other extreme, Britain, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands got less than 5 percent from green sources.
India’s solar targets ‘ambitious but achievable’ – Michael Bloomberg, former New York mayor, hails opportunities created by falling cost of solar in India.
EU energy consumption level falls to 20-year low - Energy consumption in the European Union has fallen to levels last seen more than two decades ago, statistics published on Monday showed.

Climate

Fossil fuel lobby goes on the attack against divestment movement - The speed at which the fossil fuel divestment campaign is growing seems to have rattled its opponents in the coal and oil lobbies.
Shell boss calls fossil fuel critics 'naive' but admits Big Oil has 'credibility issue' - Ben van Beurden urges oil industry to be more assertive, arguing that debate is about balancing moral obligation of energy access for all with fighting climate change.
BP: huge rise in energy demand at odds with climate change fight - Annual outlook forecasts unsustainable rise in carbon emissions, fuelled by 40% rise in energy demand that it says can only be met by fossil fuels.
U.S. EPA chief hints at softening carbon rule interim timeline - The EPA said on Tuesday that it may ease an interim deadline for states to meet tougher carbon emission standards after regulators and electric utilities complained a lack of time may destabilize electricity supplies.

Oil & Gas

Discoveries of new oil and gas reserves drop to 20-year low - Discoveries of new oil and gas reserves dropped to their lowest level in at least two decades last year, pointing to tighter world supplies as energy demand increases in the future.
IEA's Birol says Middle East militancy poses "major challenge" for oil - "...if those investments are not made today we will not see that badly needed production growth around the 2020s," Birol said.
German government approves fracking - The German government has tabled a draft law permitting fracking in the country, with environmental associations criticising the draft as fragmented and risky...
BP's 2035 outlook sees OPEC oil gaining ground as U.S. shale slows - OPEC will regain ground and exceed its historic record production levels by 2030 as U.S. shale oil growth flattens out in the coming years, energy company BP said on Tuesday.

Nuclear

British Plans for Nuclear Power Spark European Fight - Austria’s pushback against British nuclear energy plans casts a shadow over the future of Hinkley Point -- and the common European energy market.
Cracks in nuclear reactors prompt call for worldwide inspections - The discovery of thousands of additional cracks in critical components of two Belgian nuclear reactors prompted Greenpeace to call for immediate checks of nuclear power plants worldwide.

UK

How significant is the UK party leaders' joint climate pledge? - There are three parts to the party leaders' pledge, published on Saturday after months of behind-the-scenes negotiations brokered by NGOs, including Green Alliance, Christian Aid and the Women's Institute.
Fossil fuel industry protests over 'risky' assets warning from energy secretary -Oil and gas industry expresses concern in a letter to Ed Davey about his comments on fossil fuel assets becoming unburnable to stop dangerous climate change.
UK unveils plans for vast new offshore wind farm - Dogger Bank off UK East Coast could host 400 turbines, powering up to 2 million homes, say developers.
Should the UK frack for gas? - The UK does need to re-think its energy supplies.
Energy investigation: 95pc of Big Six dual fuel customers 'pay too much' - Competition and Markets Authority expected to say that millions of households have paid between £158 and £234 a year too much for their energy by failing to switch supplier.
Fossil fuel industry must take stranded assets seriously, says Tim Yeo - Tory MP counters position of Shell’s boss, Ben van Beurden, that those who say fossil fuels should be left in the ground are misguided.

Related Reports and Commentary

Leaders Joint Climate Agreement – David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband
BP Energy Outlook 2035 (2015 edition)

Energy round-up: a rare moment of unity | New Economics Foundation
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