Dr. Stefan Bouzarovski from the University of Birmingham, UK: Energy poverty is on the rise across Europe
It’s nothing new when we say that energy resources have shaped world geopolitics even more than political tensions and physical conflicts. Since we will eventually be forced to move towards a sustainable energy future, those boundaries will eventually change and adapt to the new energy systems and n… more Dr. Stefan Bouzarovski from the University of Birmingham, UK: Energy.
Since we are highly dependent on energy to accomplish our everyday needs, it is almost impossible to imagine the energy shortage, no matter what.
After Fukushima effect wakened the question can we feel safe using the current energy sources available and can we met our energy needs without nuclear?
For some time we are trying to abandon coal and it seems that more and more counties are realising that the nuclear power is not delivering a sustainable energy future to.
According to a recent poll by the global research agency GlobeScan, most counties believe that boosting efficiency and renewables can meet their needs.
The Agency polled 23,231 people in 23 countries from July to September this year and the results published by BBC News show that just 22% agreed that “nuclear power is relatively safe and an important source of electricity, and we should build more nuclear power plants”, with 71% which said their country “could almost entirely replace coal and nuclear energy within 20 years by becoming highly energy-efficient and focusing on generating energy from the Sun and wind”.
From the counties having nuclear programmes, comparing with 2005 survey there are significantly increased opposition to nuclear, with only the UK and US supporting the programme. In the UK, support for building new reactors has risen from 33% to 37%.
From the countries which already use nuclear continuing role for existing nuclear power stations while not building new ones was strongest in France and Japan (58% and 57%), however Spaniards and Germans (55% and 52%) were the strongest to shut down nuclear plants straightaway.
Tackling the greenhouse gas emissions and growing energy demand are challenges which favour nuclear power in the UK and according to the British Science Association-commissioned poll published in September 41% of respondents agreed that the benefits of nuclear power outweighed the risks, up to 38% in 2010 from 32% in 2005.
In the interview for the Guardian newspaper climate advisor to the German government, Jochen Flasbarth, said that building a new nuclear power stations, will make it harder for UK to switch to renewables.
In March, Germany announced its decision to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022. According to Jochen Flasbarth who is advising German government on its nuclear phase-out, it is unlikely for Germany to experience an energy shortage because their energy plan is based on fostering growth of green energies, more than any other industrialised nation. Their calculated cost is no more than 5% increase in the energy bills for the next ten years.
How well is UK prepared for the nuclear future?
The UK energy strategy includes new nuclear reactors which will generate around 16 gigawatts by 2025, and nuclear future that would secure up to 40% of our electricity needs by 2050.
But the recent report from the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee, which has considered how well we are prepared on the future development of nuclear power, concluded that we are not.
The problem, the committee claims, is that successive governments have lacked the necessary vision to invest in the research and development infrastructure needed to keep us at the forefront of nuclear technology. The expertise we’ve built up over previous decades is in danger of being lost as the current generation of nuclear scientists, engineers and regulators reaches retirement, – BBC News published on 22 November.
Since the UK is committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050, according to the Government nuclear technology is vital to achieve this target as well to secure energy supply and jobs.
The committee says lack of investments and research in the industry could create a skills gap and threatens long-term electricity plans.
A government spokesman said that they are already investing £540m in energy research through the research councils including money to be spent on research and training in nuclear fission.
Controversial ‘fracking’ technique linked to resent earthquakes near Blackpool, where UK Company Cuadrilla Resources is working on shale gas extraction.
To access shale gas, drilling must be downwards into the gas-bearing rock, ten thousand feet below the surface, and then horizontally for thousands of feet more when a mixture of water, chemicals and sand is plumed to fracture the rock, under high pressure.
According to the report, commissioned by Cuadrilla, it is “highly probable” that shale gas test drilling triggered earthquakes, one of magnitude 2.3 hit the Fylde coast on 1 April, followed by a second of magnitude 1.4 on 27 May.
Following protests against shale gas drilling Cuadrilla suspended its operations in June and commissioned a report.
But the report, also said the quakes were due to an “unusual combination of geology at the well site” and conditions which caused the minor earthquakes were “unlikely to occur again”.
Cuadrilla’s chief executive officer Mark Millerchief said for BBC news: “There are procedures we can put in place to practise earthquake prevention”.
Some environmentalists are not conversed in the safety of fracking and they suspect that potentially carcinogenic chemicals could escape during the process and contaminate drinking water sources. Therefore they are they are calling for a moratorium on fracking.
In the Statement Charles Hendry, Energy Minister said: “We are committed to the highest standards of safety and environmental protection in all UK oil and gas activities, and we will look at Cuadrilla’s report carefully with the assistance of our independent experts and regulators, before deciding whether hydraulic fracturing operations should resume. This is a potentially important addition to our energy resources, but its development must be done in a way that carries public confidence.”
The Government believes that the potential for unconventional gas is worth exploring as additional energy security and economic benefits; although it’s commercial viability at this stage is still unknown.
In September Cuadrilla announced this week that its tests showed there could be as much as 5.6 trillion cubic metres (200tn cubic ft) of gas in the Bowland shale under Lancashire .
But according to Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace fracking is a “distraction from the real challenges” and the real energy solutions would be found in using renewable sources, the BBC news published on 02 November.
Cuadrilla’s report can be found on the Cuadrilla website [External link]:
Investing in techniques of utilising CO2 is nothing new and converting CO2 into commercially viable products such as bio-oils, chemicals, fertilisers and fuels could offer economic sense and possibility for reducing carbon emissions.
Carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) includes using waste CO2 as a chemical feedstock for the synthetics of other chemicals, as a chemical source of carbon for mineral carbonisation reactions to produce construction materials, and as a nutrient and CO2 source to make algae grow and supply fuels and chemicals.
Unlike US which is spending $1bn on CCU research, including a project at Sandia Laboratories to make synthetic diesel from carbon dioxide, and the German government is putting €118m into a project with Bayer to research the use of carbon dioxide as a raw material; Australia is seeking to manufacture cement using the carbon dioxide from power plants, and in several places around the world, algae is being cultivated that would absorb the gas and used as biofuels, UK currently has no plans for investment in demonstration scale of CCU technologies.
According to a report published by Centre for Low Carbon Futures, Carbon Capture and Utilisation in the Green Economy , CCU can be profitable with short payback times on investment, but UK is lagging behind most developed countries in terms of investment and focus on the technology with the majority of the research funding directed to towards Carbon Capture and storage (CCS).
Peter Styring, a professor at the University of Sheffield, one of the authors of the report said: “The UK government needs to invest in R&D for carbon capture and utilisation and investors need to be made aware of the potential benefits of the technology so that barriers can be brought down. Our report shows that all CCU options could be relevant to the UK and given its business-oriented academic community, the UK could benefit from the commercialisation of the technologies involved.”
He believes that there are real possibilities in CCU, although some of the technology has been developed, some is in the early stage and there are cases where a new chemistry needs to be developed.
In most conversion processes predicted for CCU is expected a high energy input but the report says that this could be provided by renewable energy, especially when wind or solar plants are producing energy at times of low demand.
However, the re-use of CO2 will probably take years to adopt and suitable cost efficient technology to be developed, knowing that CO2 could be other than waste is worth to be investigated.
From 1st August, green grants up to £1,250 will be available for the householders across Britain¸ to help towards the cost of installing renewable heating systems such as biomass boilers, air and ground source heat pumps and solar thermal panels.
The ‘Renewable Heat Premium Payment’ £15 million scheme will provide funding for 25,000 homes, targeting around 4 million households not heated by mains gas, who have to rely on higher carbon forms of heating which also tend to be more expensive than gas, such as heating oil and electric fires to keep warm.
The Guardian published that Northern Ireland where 70% of households use heating oil is not included in the plans.
Applicants will need to deliver detailed feedback on their experience through a set of surveys which the Government could use to better understand renewable heat technologies. Manufacturers and installers’ information about performance will be monitored with additional meter heating equipment which will be provided for a significant sample of participants.
The grants will be set at £1,250 for a ground source heat pump grant (for homes without mains gas heating); Biomass boiler – £950 grant (for homes without mains gas heating); Air source heat pump – £850 grant (for homes without mains gas heating); Solar thermal hot water panels – £300 grant (available to all households regardless of the type of heating system used) and £3 million will be available for registered social landlords to improve their housing stock.
Energy Saving Trust will run applications and provide all the necessary information, but householders will need to ensure they have basic energy efficiency measures in place before applying.
People who have installed kit under the Premium Payment scheme, until March next year could receive additional funding through the Renewable Heat Incentive, which will be introduced from 30th September and offer financial assistance for industry and business, too.
Energy and Climate Change Minister, Greg Barker said:
“Today starts a new era in home heating because we’re making it more economical for people to go green by providing discounts off the cost of eco heaters. This should be great news for people who are reliant on expensive oil or electric heating as the Premium Payment scheme is really aimed at them.
“Getting money off an eco heater will not just cut carbon emissions, it will also help create a market in developing, selling and installing kit like solar thermal panels or heat pumps.”
According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) currently half of the UK’s carbon emissions come from the energy used to generate heat. The scheme could provide average savings between now and 2020 of 4.4 million tonnes of carbon per year. That’s equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of 2 typical new gas power stations.
The journal Solar Energy recently published a study that shows additional benefits of having a solar panel roof.
According to a team of researchers led by Jan Kleissl, a professor of environmental engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, a solar photovoltaic panels not only provide clean power, they are cooling too.
Measurements of the thermal conditions throughout a roof on a building partially covered by solar photovoltaic (PV) panels were conducted in San Diego in April, and thermal infrared imagery on a clear demonstrated that daytime ceiling temperatures under the PV arrays were up to 2.5 K cooler than under the exposed roof.
Heat flux modelling showed a significant reduction in daytime roof heat flux under the PV array. At night the conditions reversed and the ceiling under the PV arrays was warmer than for the exposed roof indicating insulating properties of PV.
Simulations showed a 38 percent reduction in annual cooling load.
The team believes that much of the heat is removed by wind blowing between the panels and the roof and the benefits could be larger if there is an opening where air can circulate between the building and the solar panel, therefore tilted panels will provide more cooling.
Also, the more efficient the solar panels, the bigger the cooling effect, said Kleissl.
Since the use solar panels are growing it is important to know about their positive side effects and their impact on buildings’ total energy costs, according to Kleissl.
Although he thinks that there are more efficient ways to passively cool buildings, such as reflective roof membranes, he believes that depending on roof thermal properties installing PVs could increase reduction in the amount of used energy to cool your residence or business.
It was estimated that savings in cooling costs amounted to selling 5 percent more solar energy to the grid than the panels are actually producing.
Chris Huhne, Energy and Climate Change Secretary has written about why the Coalition Government has set an ambitious fourth carbon budget. The article appeared in the Germany newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 4 July and the French newspaper Les Echos on 5 July.
In fifteen years’ time, the UK’s net carbon emissions will have halved.
This is no idle ambition: it is law. The Coalition Government has just committed the United Kingdom to the most ambitious act of environmental business planning in our history.
We have just set our fourth Carbon Budget, for 2023-2027. By the time it is complete, we will be responsible for 50% less greenhouse gas emissions than we were in 1990.
It was not an easy decision. No other country has binding legal targets into the mid-2020s. Environmentalists and sceptics alike have lobbied hard – for more ambition, or for less.
But amidst the noise, a simple truth has gone unnoticed: the path we have chosen leads toward growth. The fourth Carbon Budget sends a clear and cogent signal to investors: the
UK is now sure ground on which to build a sustainable business.
Why? Because we have established a clear line of sight to 2027.
The downward carbon trend is now written in law. Businesses can plan for the future. Nascent industries can grow; established ones can adapt. Our economy will be better balanced – and our consumers will benefit from clean, secure energy at the least cost.
Yet pervasive myths about controlling carbon persist, in the UK and throughout Europe.
It is uneconomic, say the doubters. It will curtail growth and ruin industry. Now is not the right time.
This is simply wrong. Decarbonisation need not mean deindustrialisation for the EU, or putting planet before profit. For us, it is about looking to the next global growth sector.
Let us take the arguments in turn – and put the tired myths to bed.
First, some claim ambitious emissions targets will make Europe less attractive to inward investment – damaging growth and risking jobs. Going too far too fast threatens our competitive advantage.
History suggests otherwise.
In the 1980s, billions of pounds – and hundreds of thousands of jobs – were invested in chlorofluorocarbons.
CFCs were used in thousands of products and processes; the alternatives were thought unworkable or wildly expensive. Industry lobbyists fought to maintain the status quo.
Yet before the decade was out, a treaty banning CFCs was in place, and the global economy was prosperous still.
Environmental regulation drove innovation; new products came to market that rendered the harmful gases economically irrelevant.
Many of the arguments deployed against the ban on CFCs are now being given a second hearing. Yes, change brings risk; and yes, some sectors are more exposed than others.
For energy intensive industries, the low-carbon transition must be managed carefully. Rising electricity costs pose a key risk to these sectors which are critical to our growth agenda. Known risks can be planned for, and government can help. We are drawing up measures to support those industries that face competition and fear ‘carbon leakage’. We will, by the end of the year, take steps to reduce the impact of government policy on the cost of electricity for these businesses, thereby allowing them to continue to play their part in delivering our green industrial transformation.
Longer-term, the picture is not one of destruction, but change. We see it on our own trading floors; many of the companies listed on the FTSE100 today did not exist twenty years ago. This natural churn is what drives the economy, not what threatens it.
The industries of the future are coming on strong. Globally, the low-carbon sector is worth over £3 trillion; it has been growing faster than world GDP.
In the UK, we believe that we can become a global hub for green investment – in wind, wave and tidal power – as well as carbon capture and storage. By investing in energy efficiency for our buildings and supply chains for low-carbon goods like electric vehicles, we can gain early-mover advantage.
The second line argument concerns not principle but timing: we cannot cut emissions now, the recovery is too fragile. It cannot bear the weight of another percentage point or two. We should act later, and trust in technology to save us.
But if not now, then when?
People have a tendency to discount the future: dividends today are more alluring than the promise of profits tomorrow. At this stage of the business cycle, it is natural to wonder where the growth will come from.
We cannot simply rely on old industries to pull us out of recession. It will be emerging industries that lead the way – just as it was in the 1930s, when new electrical goods and cars brought Britain back from the Great Depression.
In fact, now is the perfect time to set Europe’s economy on a more sustainable path.
That’s the approach we’re following in the UK. With a quarter of our existing power stations set to close before the fourth Carbon Budget begins, investment in clean energy and energy efficiency is as essential for energy security as it is for cutting emissions.
We want our economy to be less reliant on imported energy, less reliant on any single technology – and more resilient against fossil fuel price spikes.
By setting a long term target, we are giving business the time and space it needs to adjust to the changes the country needs. By showing ambition, we can delink carbon emissions from economic growth. Together with our neighbours and partners in Europe and the world, we can make the low-carbon transition an irresistible force.
The decisions the EU takes over the next few years will be central to determining how other major powers act. That’s why the carbon budget encourages the EU to raise its sights, and its emissions reduction target – to 30 per cent by 2020, rather than 20 per cent.
When the UN meets to talk about climate change solutions, we can show through our actions that the low-carbon transition is not just affordable, but desirable.
This is not an altruistic gesture; nor one designed to give us a little extra muscle at the negotiating table. Instead, it is in our own naked economic self-interest.
For promise of the green economy is real and growing. From renewable energy to home insulation, dynamic new markets are emerging. The third Industrial Revolution is underway; we each stand to gain from it.
Fifteen years from now, we want the UK to have a vibrant, low-carbon economy – with more electric vehicles, more renewable energy, and more efficient buildings.
Some countries are further down the low-carbon path than us. But the fourth Carbon Budget is a statement of intent. It supports people, profits – and the planet. So forget the myths, and see it for what it is: a budget for growt.
Source: Department Of Energy and Climate Change
The question on what our energy future should be based on is complex.
Currently one of the biggest environmental concern is global warming and therefore investing in renewables and sustainable energy sources is reasonable, but could we meet our energy needs without nuclear?
German MPs recently voted 513-79 in favour of renewables, approving plans to shut down the country’s nuclear plants by 2022.
After Fukushima disaster Germany shut down instantly eight of the older reactors but remaining nine reactors will be shut down in stages by the end of 2022.
Their ambition is to double the share of energy stemming from water, wind, sun or biogas to at least 35%.
Some argue that that if we back up from nuclear, it would be in favour of the coal, which will directly affect with more CO2 emissions and more global warming.
According to the latest figures published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), a growth trend of renewables is not strong as it would need to be but unfortunately the use of coal increased for 7%.
With eight new nuclear sites revealed, Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Programme updated and consultation document on the way on how potential sites for geological nuclear disposal will be identified and assessed, it is more than obvious that Britain is pushing ahead its nuclear plans.
The Chinese National Academy’s ultimate target is to develop a wholly new nuclear system that will be the future of advanced nuclear fission energy – a nuclear energy, thorium-based molten salt reactor system – Future nuclear technology with thorium?
India is presently further ahead than any other country in the development of the thorium fuel cycle, but even so the R&D has only progressed on a relatively small scale.
As with India, Norway’s interest in thorium is because of the indigenous reserves and it is therefore clear why the level of investment and recent interest has been shown.
For a country such as the UK, with neither thorium or uranium reserves, the incentive for thorium is much reduced, as in both cases it would remain dependent on overseas suppliers.
The thorium fuel cycle presents an alternative option to the usual uranium plutonium fuel cycle that has long been advocated and researched, but which has yet to be adopted on a commercial scale.
The thorium fuel cycle is claimed to be advantageous in several respects, one of which is that it generates very low quantities of transuranic materials, including plutonium.
Although it is thought that radioactivity reduction could be significant, still more realistic studies which take account of the effect of U-235 or Pu-239 seed fuels required to breed the U-233 suggest the benefits are more modest.
Based on National Nuclear Laboratory’s (NNL) knowledge and experience of introducing new fuels into modern reactors, it is estimated that this is likely to take 10 to 15 years even with a concerted R&D effort and investment before the thorium fuel cycle could be established in current reactors and much longer for any future reactor systems.
While the thorium fuel cycle is theoretically capable of being self-sustainable, this is only achievable with full recycle.
According to the NNL economic benefits are theoretically achievable by using thorium fuels, in current market conditions the position is marginal and insufficient to justify major investment.
The conclusion of the NNL’s paper is that the thorium fuel cycle does not currently have a role to play in the UK context, other than its potential application for plutonium management in the medium to long term.
With the world’s population due to hit nine billion by 2050, it is unlikely that the pressure to reduce energy consumption is possible therefore we have to highlight every potential energy source.
On the other hand I can see a good point in the Jean McSorley’s, statement, senior consultant for Greenpeace’s nuclear campaign.
“Even if thorium technology does progress to the point where it might be commercially viable, it will face the same problems as conventional nuclear: it is not renewable or sustainable and cannot effectively connect to smart grids. The technology is not tried and tested, and none of the main players is interested. Thorium reactors are no more than a distraction”.
You can see the report here: 2010 National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) report (PDF)
The researchers at the Fermilab’s Tevatron formally announced a discovery that, according to physicists, could transform all of high energy physics.
The team noticed a pick in their data, an excess of a certain pattern that was not expected, which could be evidence of a new particle. The unknown particle could signal a new fundamental force of nature and the most radical change in the world of physics in our time.
The peak is an excess of particle collision events that produce a W boson accompanied by two hadronic jets. It was in these jets that the unexpected “bump” in the team’s data occurred, showing a particle that the current understanding the Standard Model does not include.
According to the scientists this means that there is less than a 1 in 1375 chance that the effect is mimicked by a statistical variation.
The present analysis is based on 4.3 inverse femtobarns of data. The CDF collaboration will repeat the analysis with at least twice as much data to see whether the bump gets more or less pronounced. Other experiments, including DZero and the LHC experiments, will look for a particle of about 140 GeV/c2 in their data as well. Their results will either refute or confirm our result, scientists say.
Beside the explanation of a new particle, unknown to the standard theory of the fundamental laws of physics, alternative explanation would be that we need to reconsider the theory that is used to predict the background spectrum, which is based on standard particle physics processes.
The number of on-going tests should confirm whether the particle is real or not.
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