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100MW Battery Plan

A start-up backed by M&G, the fund manager, is preparing to build one of Europe’s biggest battery storage projects near Chester. Zenobe Energy, chaired by Steve Holliday, a former National Grid boss, plans to begin construction of the 100-megawatt battery at Capenhurst on The Wirral by June. The project will cost tens of millions of pounds and should be completed by April 2022, when it will be capable of supplying enough electricity to meet the needs of more than 100,000 homes for an hour at peak demand. Zenobe said that the battery would help National Grid to deal with increased volatility in the frequency and voltage of the network caused by the shift to renewable energy. James Basden, its co-founder, said: “As more coal and gas power stations come off the network and we replace that power with solar and wind, it gets harder to manage the electricity power grids. It gets very hard to keep the voltage at the right level.” The company has secured a £3 million contract from National Grid to use the battery to help to address that issue and to keep the voltage of the transmission network in the Mersey area at safe levels. It also plans to make money by using the battery to offer National Grid services to help to balance the frequency of the network nationwide. Zenobe said that its project would be the biggest single battery connected to the grid in Europe. However, other 100MW projects exist that comprise two co-located 50MW units, such as the Minety project in Wiltshire, which is due to be extended to 150MW with the addition of a third unit this year. Intergen is planning to build a larger, 320MW battery in Essex, although it is not expected to be operating until 2024. SSE is drawing up plans to build more than 500 megawatts of battery storage projects around Britain.

Times 5th April 2021 read more »

News

Protest

How many local environment campaigns does it take for the issues they raise to be recognised as part of a national problem? Ten? Twenty, maybe? What about 100? Surely national media and politicians would have taken up the issues by then. As it turns out, there’s far more than 100 local environmental campaigns going on right now. In just two weeks, more than 280 different groups across the UK have registered on a new National Grassroots Campaigns Map. Rosie Pearson, one of the founders, is astonished: “When we set it up, it was really just to see what’s out there. But we quickly realised there’s a real hunger for sharing information, resources and support. We’re witnessing a huge number of local groups facing the same issues.” I got a sense of the scale of this problem following an article I wrote about the assault on the countryside. I was deluged by local campaigns: Save Ferriby 2020, Save Culham Green Belt, Save West Grinstead, Keep Rookwood Green, to name but a few. But to see the visuals of this new map is shocking. There are huge housing developments and damaging infrastructure projects everywhere. It’s clear that these are far from localised disputes. They are fighting the same battles: against huge unsustainable housing developments engulfing small towns; against the loss of greenbelt or protected wildlife areas; and against hypocritical councils who declare a climate emergency in one breath and order the destruction of carbon sequestering trees or marshland in another.

Guardian 4th April 2021 read more »

Extinction Rebellion is planning to step up its campaign against the banking system with a series of direct action protests and debt strikes in the coming weeks aimed at highlighting the financial sector’s role in the escalating climate crisis. Last week the group targeted Barclays Bank’s headquarters in London and the Bank of England as well as high street branches across the UK as part of its Money Rebellion protest.

Guardian 5th April 2021 read more »

News

Renewable Land-Use

Dave Elliott: Most renewable energy systems are less problematic and are fully zero carbon. Most (hydro apart) only have minimal land use requirements, and offshore wind none at all. With on-land wind farms, the only area taken is that covered by the tower bases and any access roads, so they can be very compatible with continued crop farming and animal grazing. Solar PV is less so, with critics complaining that solar farms often misuse valuable agricultural land, blocking it from use for crop cultivation. In response new array layouts are being adopted, with solar modules mounted on stands, so that crops can be grown underneath, and undue sun shading of the ground plants being avoided. In fact though, some sun-shading can be beneficial for plant growth is some locations: ‘the intermittent shade cast by the PV panels in agrivoltaic systems ..does not necessarily diminish agricultural yield’. So a mix and food and energy framing may actually be best in some cases, and what we may need is an optimal agro solar farming balance. Compatibility with animal grazing is part of that, sheep being an easy option, they can keep grass and weeds down. But, even without sheep, there can be an ecological gain: PV arrays can aid biodiversity, for example allowing wild flowers and wildlife to thrive under them. That can also be the case in extreme locations like deserts, which are well suited to large PV arrays, but also have some local wildlife that needs protecting. However, there may be albedo changing issues to consider with very large arrays of black solar solar cell, although some may be positive- improving local micro climates. In some other locations, floating solar is an option, with arrays floating on pontoons on water (lakes and reservoirs) and benefitting from cooling, a big issue for PV cell efficiency in hot climates. In such locations, floating arrays of reservoirs also help to reduce evaporation. Integration with fish farming, or perhaps algae growing, might also be possible. So it there may be a range of possible agro-solar mixes, depending on location, avoiding undue land use conflicts.

Renew Extra 3rd April 2021 read more »

News

Renewable Energy Tariffs

It’s time to switch to a renewable energy tariff. This is the well-meaning advice given to eco-conscious households across the country that are eager to play their part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. About 40% of the UK’s CO2 emissions are created in the home, so opting for a low-carbon source of electricity could be one of the simplest ways to help the UK move towards a carbon neutral future by 2050. But how “green” are our green energy tariffs? There are three ways an energy supplier can offer a renewable energy tariff even if they do not own any renewable projects. A supplier might pledge to use 100% of the income from their customers to invest in developing renewable energy, or strike a deal directly with an existing windfarm or solar array to buy the electricity they produce. It is the third option that has sparked accusations of “greenwashing” against some of the biggest energy suppliers in the market for offering renewable energy deals backed by certificates that appear to prove the origin of clean energy, but may only be green on paper. In recent weeks, Uswitch became the first comparison site to set standards for green tariffs – gold, silver or bronze – depending on whether the supplier generates its own renewable electricity or how it sources its electricity, to help separate the true green from “pale green” tariffs. The safe bet is to choose a gold standard deal. The four deals that make the grade are all from Good Energy, which sources clean electricity directly from 1,600 renewable energy projects across the UK, and runs its own solar and windfarms too.

Guardian 2nd April 2021 read more »

News

Renewable Policy – Scotland

Renewables can power economy of an independent Scotland – Lorna Slater. This week I had the opportunity to introduce myself to voters by taking part in the BBC leaders’ debate. Of course, Anas Sarwar and Douglas Ross have led their parties for a shorter time than I have, and for all three of us it was our first leader’s debate. As I made clear in the debate, the Scottish Greens will work with any party to make a difference for the people of Scotland. By negotiating with the SNP on their budgets we won free bus travel for everyone 21 and under from this year, free school dinners for all primary kids and pandemic relief payments for half a million households worst hit by the pandemic. What worries me is that although the other party leaders in the debate recognised the urgency of the climate crisis, none of them recognised what needs to be done as a result. Douglas Ross even tried to claim that investing more money in oil and gas exploration was investing in net-zero. That is a completely farcical position. It’s never been more urgent to leave fossil fuels in the ground. It was particularly frustrating that we ran out of time before I could refute the ridiculous allegation that the Greens want to let down those who work in the North East, or that we would repeat what happened to BiFab in Fife. Nothing could be further from the truth. That oil and gas are finite resources is a fact, and that it must stay in the ground is essential to our survival. Workers need certainty and alternative jobs, not to be left on a sinking ship. Scotland has seen too often how communities are left behind when Government’s don’t invest in their future – look at Ravenscraig, the Fife mining communities, Silicone Glen and most recently when Longannet coal power station shut down. A survey of oil and gas workers by Platform, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Greenpeace found that a transition is what they actually want, too, with as much as 82 per cent open to moving to a job outside of the oil and gas industry. This is the core weakness in the argument we’ve heard from the Tories, SNP, Lib Dems and Labour. They use the word transition without any willingness to transition the subsidies. It isn’t a ‘transition’ if you keep throwing money at a sunset industry until it closes. It doesn’t have to be like BiFab, where the SNP failed to keep jobs in Scotland. We need to see a government take a much greater stake in renewable energy, and invest directly in our future. While Nicola Sturgeon was right to point out in the debate that 97 per cent of our electricity came from renewables last year, Scotland’s potential is so much greater. Thanks in part to the sector I work in, tidal, Scotland has the potential to provide 25 per cent of Europe’s renewable energy. So it can do more than keep our lights on, it can be a major driver in the economy of an independent Scotland. This is what I mean by a triple win. We can recover from the pandemic by creating jobs, we can start the transition from oil and gas now to ensure we survive as a species, and we can create an economy that allows Scotland to flourish as an independent nation.

Scotsman 3rd April 2021 read more »

News

UK’s largest used books business targets carbon neutrality by 2022

World of Books Group, the UK’s largest retailer for used books, has committed to becoming a carbon-neutral business by 2022.

Pictured: World of Books' warehouse operations 

Pictured: World of Books’ warehouse operations 

The business had already pledged to reach net-zero by 2030 and has stated that the new pledge is “a huge step on that journey”.

World of Cooks Group met its 2020 pledge to reduce the carbon footprint of each book sold by 30% last year and claims the achievement was the result of years of hard work adapting operations. Focuses to date have included energy-efficient buildings and more efficient deliveries, in which books are better grouped. On the former, it has invested in LED lighting and automated meeting room technologies as well as lower-carbon boilers. On the latter, World of Books estimates that it has mitigated more than 866,600 miles of vehicle travel since 2017.

Carbon savings have also been realised through the use of less packaging and making the switch to recycled paper and card, which uses less energy and water in production.

To reach the new carbon neutrality commitment, World of Books will offset residual emissions from Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (power-related) sources as it works to baseline Scope 3 (indirect) emissions more fully. Scope 3 can then also be offset.

World of Books had already been offsetting any additional carbon relating to the purchase of new books. It first started offering new books in 2020, in cases where suitable used copies are out of stock. In 70% of cases, new book buyers also selected at least one used product. The new pledge will broaden this approach.

“As the world around us is changing, our sense of responsibility, purpose and drive to make a difference remains the same,” World of Books’ head of impact Amy Greenacre said.

“Climate change is a real and imminent threat to our planet, so we’re always taking action to reduce our carbon footprint and are now able to pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2022.”

World of Books has recognised that net-zero and carbon neutrality are different and that more in-house work will need to be done to meet its 2030 climate commitment. It has stated that its net-zero work will cover scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, prioritising reduction over offsetting. The firm will follow the Carbon Trust’s definitions and guidance.

Covid-19 challenges

The new climate commitments were announced as World of Books published its social and environmental impact report for financial year 2019/20.

According to the report, businesses across the UK’s used product retail space faced much disruption as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns. For World of Books specifically, the usual supply chain was disrupted as suppliers had to implement new measures on home working, PPE, social distancing and sanitation.

As the months went on, the business had to deal with the ways in which charity shop closures affected book donations across the UK. It also saw an increase in product sales online and had to couple this with the challenge of decreasing fleet miles travelled.

Despite these challenges, World of Books recorded more than 7,9 million direct customers in the UK in 2020. It also saw more than 167,000 people using its Ziffit platform, which operates in the UK, Ireland and the US, and lets users donate unwanted goods to raise money for charity. Ziffit is operated through a partnership between World of Books Group and Virgin Money Giving.

The report also outlines how World of Books took time during lockdown to retrofit its headquarters in Goring-by-Sea to improve resource and energy efficiency, add more green spaces and boost employee wellbeing. 

Sarah George

News

‘Green’ Tariffs

Warnings over energy greenwashing as households switch to eco tariffs en masse. 80 per cent of gas and electricity switchers picked green energy tariffs in 2020. But just how green are they? Few bill payers realise that an energy tariff can be labelled as green/renewable if an energy supplier purchases Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates for a small fee. The supplier, incredibly, is not required to purchase power directly from renewable generators. Around nine million households currently have a ‘green’ deal with their energy supplier, separate figures from Uswitch.com suggest. But over a quarter think a green tariff means that the energy directly provided to their home is 100 per cent renewable, and a further 42 per cent don’t know. Uswitch.com has this week launched a Green Accreditation for green tariffs, to help consumers understand the different approaches suppliers are taking on renewable energy tariffs.

Independent 31st March 2021 read more »

News

Gas Networks

SSE Plc plans to sell its 33% stake in local gas network company Scotland Gas Networks Plc as part of its plan to focus on renewable generation. SSE said in February it had appointed banks to review options for a sale and is “now progressing options for divestment of all its equity stake in SGN,” according to a statement on Tuesday. The disposal follows a deal by National Grid Plc to sell its majority stake in its gas grid business later this year, as the fossil fuel comes under increasing scrutiny from investors and activists.

Bloomberg 30th March 2021 read more »

News

British farmers ‘planning to ramp up net-zero investments as part of Covid-19 recovery’

A survey of hundreds of UK farmers has found that record proportions are planning to invest in measures to improve energy efficiency, increase renewable energy sourcing and boost carbon sequestration.

Pictured: A sheep farm in Scotland

Pictured: A sheep farm in Scotland

Conducted by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), the NFU Confidence Survey polled 662 farmers between November 2020 and January 2021, asking them about their short and mid-term business plans.

Respondents cited several ongoing and future challenges, relating to, among other things, Brexit, Covid-19, net-zero and related legislation changes. The Agriculture Bill will, for example, phase out the Basic Payment Scheme operated through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in a bid to better reward farmers for conserving and restoring nature.

Despite these challenges, the survey revealed a growing desire to increase investments in areas that will reduce the operational emissions of farms and help them sequester more carbon.

30% of respondents said they are planning to invest in energy efficiency in the short-term, up from 24% last year. A key focus area will be more efficient technology or technology that uses alternative fuels. On energy type, 37% of respondents said they are already self-generating or procuring renewable energy to meet all – or some – of their needs. Around one-third said that they are planning to increase renewable generation or procurement.

On nature, seven in ten farmers expressed a desire to improve soil health and carbon sequestration. One of the most popular activities was found to be tree-planting, which more than half of respondents are planning this year.

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said it is “fantastic to see so many farmers making plans to implement net-zero measures on their farms”, but that more policy support is likely needed to accelerate adoption and join up approaches across the sector.

“If more than half of farmers are already preparing to invest in planting trees and improving soil health, just think how much we could achieve if farmers are given more confidence, and crucially, more opportunities, to invest in their enterprises,” Roberts said.

“[The farming sector’s] potential will never be maximised if a lack of confidence, certainty and opportunity holds British farming back.”

Differing approaches

The farming sector is regarded as a key hurdle on the road to net-zero. Livestock and fertiliser are contributors to methane and other greenhouse gas emissions, while some technologies run on diesel and are hard-to-abate. Food waste is also a key climate challenge. All in all, agriculture accounts for about one-tenth of the UK’s total annual domestic emissions footprint.

The NFU outlined its roadmap to net-zero for the UK’s farming sector back in 2019. The roadmap would deliver net-zero by 2040, the Union claims. It centres heavily around offsetting and insetting emissions by growing biofuel crops on British farms, helping the power sector to move away from fossil fuels.

Other roadmaps have posed alternative approaches. For instance, the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission has come out in favour of measures to re-allocate space from livestock to crops, and to hedgerows and meadows that can act as carbon sinks and habitats for at-risk species.

The Climate Change Committee’s recommendations for aligning the sector with the 2050 net-zero target include tackling food waste at all levels; restoring peatland; reducing annual red meat consumption on a per-capita basis and incentivising low-carbon practices. The Agriculture Bill is seeking to deliver on this last aim post-Brexit but has been widely criticised.

Sarah George  

News

Global Emissions

Analysis from energy think tank Ember celebrates a record fall in coal-fired power generation through 2020, but warns the global energy system remains far from alignment with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Wind and solar soared to new generation heights during 2020, contributing to a record fall in global coal-fired power generation of over four per cent, new research released today reveals.

Business Green 29th March 2021 read more »

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