Sunday, 2 March 2014

Energy round-up: a new political consensus on climate change?

From the New Economics Foundation from last week:

NEF is the UK's leading think tank promoting social, economic and environmental justice. Our purpose is to bring about a Great Transition – to transform the economy so that it works for people and the planet.
The UK and most of the world's economies are increasingly unsustainable, unfair and unstable. It is not even making us any happier – many of the richest countries in the world do not have the highest well-being.

Energy round-up: a new political consensus on climate change?

Photo credit:   The Prime Minister's Office

Three things you shouldn't miss this week

  1. Climate change is world's 'most fearsome' weapon of mass destruction - US secretary of state compares climate change sceptics to people who believe the Earth is flat.
  2. Mapping the UK's extreme weather

    Source: Recent Storms Briefing - The Met Office
  3. Public concern over the environment overtakes crime and education

    Source: YouGov

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"The science is unequivocal…When I think about the array of...global threats...terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction...climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them.”
Those were the words of US Secretary of State John Kerry in a speech this week in Indonesia. Climate change is back in the headlines in the US and also in the UK, where the Met Office linked recent flooding events to climate change, and senior politicians including Defence Secretary Phil Hammond and Labour leader Ed Miliband acknowledged the link.
If it weren’t for the awkward fact that Britain’s Environment Secretary Owen Patterson is widely regarded as a climate sceptic, we might even dare to hope the increasingly obvious effects of a changing climate are rebuilding the political consensus. If so, not before time, as a quick look at this week’s energy news demonstrates.
The idea that natural gas might serve as a bridge fuel to renewables was undermined by a review of 200 studies on the subject. This new report found that US methane emissions are considerably higher than official estimates, and that the gas industry is an important part of the problem. Fracking is just one technology opening up new sources of emissions.
Also in the news this week are plans to develop coal gasification in the US and China, and harvesting methane hydrates in Japan. Any future global agreement will need to decide how much of these resources to leave in the ground, or at the bottom of the ocean. The necessary answer: most of it.
In the UK, with much of country still dressed in waders, the focus has turned to adaptation to the effects of climate change. On the energy front, around a million homes were affected by power cuts following the recent high winds and floods. Meanwhile a forthcoming report warns of the potential impacts of drought on UK power plants as more extremes of weather become the norm. The recent storms have shown the extreme vulnerability of UK homes, business, agriculture and infrastructure.
The Prime Minister says “money is no object” in dealing with the crisis, but with fossil fuels the driving force behind climate change, it begs the question - what’s the real cost of cheap energy?


Met Office: Evidence 'suggests climate change link to storms' – Climate change is likely to be a factor in the extreme weather that has hit much of the UK in recent months...
UK storms: Hammond says climate change 'clearly a factor' - Earlier, Labour leader Ed Miliband said global climate change was an issue of national security for Britain.
Church of England vows to fight 'great demon' of climate change - General Synod says it is willing to disinvest from companies that do not live up to its theological, moral and social priorities.

Renewables & Community Energy

The local energy co-operative revitalising London estates - Agamemnon Otero is coming: the entrepreneur is behind a wave of community initiatives empowering ordinary Londoners.
The German couple trying to buy the Berlin electricity grid - Arwen Colell and Luise Neumann-Cosel have set up a co-operative to buy the grid and move Berlin towards a sustainable energy strategy.
Citizen energy in Germany - Ursula Sladek, the head of a German energy co-op, has made her principles pay in standing up for the environment…

Oil, Gas & Coal

Oil Inventories Declined Most Since 1999 in IEA Estimate - ‘‘Far from drowning in oil, markets have had to dig deeply into inventories to meet unexpectedly strong demand,” the agency said.
China's oil demand is growing, US agency says – The independent statistical agency…said it expects China to import more than 66 percent of its total oil by 2012 and 72 percent by 2040...
Fracking is depleting water supplies in America's driest areas, report shows - From Texas to California, drilling for oil and gas is using billions of gallons of water...
Shale gas pioneer plans world’s first offshore wells in Irish Sea - The founder of shale gas firm Cuadrilla is planning a venture to frack in the Irish Sea...
France explores 'clean' shale gas extraction technique - France is looking into a new technique of shale gas extraction with non-flammable propane, which has yet to be proven safe and efficient.
Fire in the hole: After fracking comes coal - If you thought shale gas was a nightmare, you ain't seen nothing yet. A subterranean world of previously ignored reserves is about to be opened up.
Is 'burning ice' the solution to Japan's energy crisis? - Mitsui aims to tap the vast quantities of methane hydrate that are believed to be trapped beneath the seas around Japan


Nearly a third less electricity used to light homes than in 1997 - Energy prices may be rising in the UK, but…people use nearly a third less electricity to light their homes than they did 16 years ago.
Swiss Vote Claims First Victim as EU Suspends Electricity Talks - First international consequences of anti-immigration referendum as European Union suspended talks on tying Swiss utilities into the EU.
Crisis-hit European utilities square up to technological revolution - Faced with a grim present and an even grimmer future, Europe’s utilities are being forced to reinvent.
EU states try to bury energy state aid guidelines - A proposal to limit the state aid that EU governments can offer their energy sectors would do “massive harm” to industry…
Water shortages could disrupt Britain's electricity supply, researchers warn - Team of academics say climate change could force coal and gas-fired power stations to shut down during droughts.


EDF to extend nuclear plant’s life by 10 years - Big-six utility company says it expects to be able to extend the life of the Dungeness B nuclear power station.
UK lawmakers criticise management of Sellafield nuclear site - The management of Britain's nuclear site at Sellafield in northern England is spending too much money…

UK Policy

Energy companies make concessions after 800,000 customers leave 'big six' - Concessions include – in one instance – price cutting and giving back money that does not belong to them…
Green Deal energy efficiency cashback scheme extended - Payments to householders fitting solid wall insulation could reach £4,000, government announces.
Energy companies split over reforms to support renewable energy generation - Energy market regulator Ofgem wants to reform how the UK's electrical grid…

Related Reports and Commentary

Are we underestimating natural gas emissions? - A new study threatens the conventional wisdom that natural gas emits half the greenhouse gases that coal does.
How the UK Can Unlock the Community Benefits of Renewable Energy – With “sufficient financial rigour, affordable expansion [of local energy schemes] is achievable,”… “We can build the Big Sixty Thousand.”
Community Energy Strategy: Full Report – DECC
"Peak is dead" and the future of oil supply - I use the ATM analogy: it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got in your account, you’re still limited by the daily withdrawal limit.

Energy round-up: a new political consensus on climate change? | new economics foundation
Energy Crunch: A new political consensus on climate change?

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