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December 2020

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New Year’s Honours List

The work of a number of the UK’s leading scientists has been recognised in this year’s New Year Honours. Prof Dieter Helm, chairman of the government’s advisory Natural Capital Committee, has received a knighthood. Marcus Agius, former chairman of the board of trustees at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, becomes a CBE. Meanwhile, Dr Hermoine Ferguson, scientific director of Dynamic Earth, is appointed OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire). Prof Helm received his knighthood in recognition for his services to “the environment, to energy and utilities policy”.

BBC 30th Dec 2020 read more »

News

Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries plans to invest in green technologies beyond solar and wind as one of the biggest participants in fossil fuel power generation tries to reinvent itself in clean energy. Kentaro Hosomi, head of the Japanese conglomerate’s mainstay energy business, told the Financial Times that hydrogen, ammonia, carbon capture and nuclear power would all be needed to meet the global goal of zero emissions. MHI’s green drive illustrates how even companies that have built their business around fossil fuels feel the need for heavy investment in green energy to secure their survival. “Solar and batteries . . . can facilitate the use of green energy, but from my point of view that means everything goes to China.” Japan’s government is betting heavily on the possibility of importing hydrogen from friendly countries such as Australia, but Mr Hosomi said it would be too costly to build a new supply chain for liquefied hydrogen in the short term.

FT 28th Dec 2020 read more »

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Renewable Futures

Any lingering doubt that the UK’s wind turbines and solar farms can provide a backbone for the electricity system were cast aside during the pandemic as renewable energy set new records through the year. The collapse in energy demand following the lockdown of office blocks, schools and restaurants – combined with the UK’s bright, breezy weather – helped renewable energy make up almost half of all electricity in the early months of the year. New records for solar power and wind generation followed in June and December respectively. Stephen Stead, a director at energy provider SSE, said the low electricity demand levels in 2020 “gave us an unprecedented peek at a future electricity market dominated by renewables – and we learned that we can do it”. Wind and solar power will be able to play an even greater role in the future as investment in battery storage and flexible energy use becomes the norm. But in 2020 renewables proved they are already prepared to exceed expectations.

Guardian 26th Dec 2020 read more »

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Community Action

A community group in North Yorkshire that launched a campaign to stop a road being built never expected to succeed. Yet it has not only blocked the bypass but also raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to create a wood on land the road would have passed through. Nidd Gorge Community Action spent three years protesting against the road, gathering about 12,000 petition signatures and lodging objections with North Yorkshire county council. Just when the group learnt it had won, committee members heard that a farmer wanted to sell some of his fields but had not found a buyer because of the proposed road — and they seized their chance. They formed a community benefit society and sold shares to raise the £250,000.

Times 27th Dec 2020 read more »

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Brexit – OEP

The Environment Secretary George Eustice has appointed Dame Glenys Stacey as the Chair of the new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP). The appointment follows a pre-appointment scrutiny hearing by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Environment Audit Committees and Dame Glenys will take up the role in February 2021 working with the Interim Environmental Governance Secretariat before the OEP is established.

DEFRA 23rd Dec 2020 read more »

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Emergency Planning

The House of Lords Committee on Risk Assessment and Risk Planning publishes its call for evidence, inviting the public to provide their views on how we can ensure that the UK is as resilient to extreme risks and emergencies as possible. The deadline for submissions is 4pm Friday 28 January 2021. The Risk Assessment and Risk Planning Committee will be looking at hazard-related risks to the United Kingdom which have the potential to cause significant human, economic, environmental and infrastructure damage. These include events such as flooding, heatwaves and global pandemics.

UK Parliament 23rd Dec 2020 read more »

News

Hydrogen – Scotland

Tom Baxter: Energy Voice, and numerous other media outlets, covered the Scottish Government’s Hydrogen Policy Statement issued on the 21st December. The policy statement was informed by the Scottish hydrogen: assessment report issued on the same day. Reviewing the assessment report it is clear that the policy has yet to be verified by evidence in some very important areas. Hence it is a policy in progress. The hydrogen assessment accepts that battery electric passenger cars and light vans is the preferred option. Hence hydrogen is tackling the smaller, but important, area of heavy haulage and shipping. Trains are only 1% of UK GHG emissions and the unelectrified part of the Scottish rail network is very minor with respect to emissions and could be served by drop-in bio-fuels. The assessment makes no recognition of future battery developments. Solid state and other advances will see battery energy density greatly improve thereby making inroads into heavy haulage. Indeed, it is already happening as evidenced by Scania. Clearly the Scottish Government is not yet convinced that hydrogen is a natural gas network replacement for heating. The UK’s Climate Change Committee has already made that decision in its Balanced Net Zero Pathway. Their recent report states that ‘By 2050 all heat demand is met by low-carbon sources of which 52% is heat pumps, 42% is district heat, 5% is hydrogen boilers and around 1% new direct electric.’ Hence, little place for hydrogen for space heating. I’m convinced the Scottish Government will come round to that same conclusion when it complete its evidence base. Steam is used extensively in industry as a heating medium with the steam generated by burning natural gas. Compared to hydrogen combustion, steam can be generated much more efficiently using industrial heat pumps as is concluded by the US Department of Energy. Very high temperatures may be an application for hydrogen, or when a reducing agent is required, but these are limited uses. Clearly there remain significant uncertainties in key areas. That begs the question why issue a policy statement when there is so much remaining to be decided?

Energy Voice 24th Dec 2020 read more »

News

Wind

Blustery winter weather has pushed Great Britain to a new electricity generation record, with the country’s fleet of wind turbines generating a record 17.3GW of electricity at its peak last Friday afternoon. According to Great Britain’s Electricity System Operator National Grid (National Grid ESO), between 1pm and 1:30pm on Friday, wind power produced an average 17.278GW of electricity, accounting for 43.2% of the power mix at the time. While the record for wind’s share of British electricity wasn’t broken – which stands at 59.9% recorded in August – the new record highlights the importance of Great Britain’s increasing number of onshore and offshore wind farms.

Renew Economy 23rd Dec 2020 read more »

News

Five EU countries object to bloc’s latest hydrogen ‘manifesto’

Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain have issued a joint letter calling on the EU to clearly prioritise renewable energies under an EU-led project aiming to accelerate hydrogen deployment, research and infrastructure.

Environment ministers want more done to guarantee renewable production and to support local businesses in the hydrogen supply chain

Environment ministers want more done to guarantee renewable production and to support local businesses in the hydrogen supply chain

The European Union launched on Thursday (17 December) a hydrogen “important project of common European interest”, or IPCEI, with 23 European countries signing a manifesto paving the way for a cleaner hydrogen value chain.

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier chaired the launch event, which saw Norway and 22 other European countries signing a declaration of intent, or manifesto, in support of the initiative.

However, the five EU countries see the move with scepticism, warning the initiative must not be used as a backdoor to finance fossil gas infrastructure.

“Spain bets exclusively on renewable hydrogen, and considers that EU funds and regulatory support to renewable hydrogen should be prioritised before low-carbon hydrogen, produced with natural gas (blue hydrogen) or nuclear,” an EU source told EURACTIV.

The European Commission sees hydrogen as “a vital missing piece of the puzzle” to achieve deeper decarbonisation in industries like steelmaking and chemicals, which cannot be electrified entirely.

“Clean hydrogen will help our European industries decarbonise, be resilient and stay globally competitive,” said Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market Commissioner, who was present at the launch event.

Hydrogen: “renewable” or “low-carbon”?

EU member states have squabbled over the past weeks about which type of hydrogen to support, with two opposing camps facing off: those backing green hydrogen produced exclusively from renewable electricity, and those in favour of a broader “low-carbon” definition, which also includes nuclear power and decarbonised gases.

Supporters of “blue” hydrogen say natural gas will be needed in the short term to ramp up production volumes and grow the EU’s hydrogen market, which is currently tiny.

EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager sought to clarify the Commission’s approach, saying regulatory support will be targeted only for projects that can make a significant contribution to the EU’s long-term climate goals.

“Developing technologies for low-carbon and, in particular, green hydrogen, and building the necessary infrastructure for its deployment, will take us one step closer to making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050,” she said in a speech at the launch event.

IPCEIs were set up in 2014 and allow EU member states to subsidise high-risk cross-border research and innovation, as well as infrastructure projects, without having to observe the EU’s normally strict state aid rules.

“No member state or business can do this alone,” Vestager stressed. “That’s why it makes sense for European governments to come together to support such important projects of common European interest if the market alone would not take the risk. And it is why we have put special state aid rules in place to smooth the way.”

But the five EU countries are worried that the new hydrogen IPCEI will be used to support “low-carbon” hydrogen made from natural gas or nuclear power.

They say they signed up to the manifesto – but only “with the understanding that this initiative should exclusively refer to hydrogen from renewable energy sources since we consider this technology as the only long-term sustainable solution to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.”

“Projects within an IPCEI must respect the principle of the phasing out of environmentally harmful subsidies,” the signatories of the letter wrote. “Therefore, an IPCEI on hydrogen must only be eligible when produced from renewable sources, where a clear market gap is identified,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by the environment ministers of Austria (Leonore Gewessler), Denmark (Dan Jørgensen), Luxembourg (Claude Turmes), Portugal (João Pedro Matos Fernandes) and Spain (Teresa Ribera Rodríguez).

They were supported in their move by environmental groups, which have expressed doubts about the EU’s hydrogen manifesto.

“This initiative must not become a cover to throw public money into fossil fuels,” said Rita Tedesco from ECOS, a pressure group specialised in green standards.

“Any public support must only be directed to hydrogen produced 100% from renewable sources. The Commission needs to watch this closely, making sure that the renewable origin of publicly-backed hydrogen is certified through a credible certification system.”

“All other types of hydrogen must be excluded from public support, including so-called ‘low-carbon hydrogen’, which increases the risk of greenwashing and would only bring fossil fuels through the backdoor’,” Tedesco said.

Frederic Simon, EurActiv.com

This article first appeared on EurActiv.com, an edie content partner

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