Brent crude oil, coal and carbon prices returned to downward trends in March, impacting GB commercial electricity and gas contracts. Oil prices dropped 2% to average $57.4/bl as concerns increased that US storage levels were reaching full capacity.
The falls fed into coal prices, which dropped 4.9% over March and hit a five-year low of $56.9/t. The coal market was also affected by falling global demand levels, which have increased oversupply in the market.
The carbon market was also bearish, with priced dropping 7% to average €6.8/t as talks on proposed market reforms slowed. Prices hit a five-month low of €6.3/t in the month.
A UK law has quietly passed through Parliament which allows for radioactive waste dumps to bypass the planning system, local authorities or public opinion. The new legislation is opposed by anti-nuclear activists.
Under the new law, Britain’s radioactive waste from medical use, weapons and power stations which has been stockpiled for 50 years may be dumped, circumventing local requirements.
Sites will be chosen by the secretary of state for energy and climate change. As of last week they are considered “nationally significant infrastructure projects.” While the planning inspectorate could recommend sites for the nuclear waste piles, the secretary does not necessarily need to follow the advice. Local communities and councils can dispute the details, but can’t stop the process.
The law was passed in the Parliament’s last working hours before it was prorogued for the general election and was noticed only by anti-nuclear activists and local opponents.
Solar panels costs have plunged though, so the government revised its numbers. Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey made some key remarks about what the UK’s solar future might look like: “He said he expected up to 14 GW of solar by 2020 – up from 5 GW at the end of 2014. That equates roughly to 1.5% of total UK annual electricity to just under 4%. He said he expected it to grow further in the next decade.”
However, the government will no longer subsidize large-scale solar farms. These are facilities with 5 MW of solar or more. Of course, we all know that national economies are emerging from the worst recession in decades. Supporting a fledgling industry like solar power seems to be both reasonable and future-forward, especially considering that new solar installations create jobs that are skilled and generally pay decently.
Both solar and wind power need support at the policy level, but politics too often has a way of interfering with the development of renewable energy. Conservative politicians frequently have ties to the fossil fuel industry, and some of them work strenuously to hold back anything that could hurt it.
Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford Univ. have developed a new kind of solar cell that combines two different layers of sunlight-absorbing material in order to harvest a broader range of the sun’s energy. The development could lead to photovoltaic cells that are more efficient than those currently used in solar-power installations, the researchers say.
The new cell uses a layer of silicon—which forms the basis for most of today’s solar panels—but adds a semi-transparent layer of a material called perovskite, which can absorb higher-energy particles of light. Unlike an earlier “tandem” solar cell reported by members of the same team earlier this year—in which the two layers were physically stacked, but each had its own separate electrical connections—the new version has both layers connected together as a single device that needs only one control circuit.
The new findings are reported in the journal Applied Physics Letters by MIT graduate student Jonathan Mailoa; associate professor of mechanical engineering Tonio Buonassisi; Colin Bailie and Michael McGehee at Stanford; and four others.
As part of a high profile renovation project, one of the most iconic sites in the world has become the latest venue to embrace renewable energy as two vertical axis wind turbines are installed on the Eiffel tower.
US-based renewables specialist Urban Green Energy (UGE) announced that it has fitted the two turbines and that they can deliver 10,000kWh of commercial electricity annually. This effectively offsets the power used by the commercial areas on the tower’s first floor.
The company added that the two turbines are “virtually silent” and have been painted to resemble the rest of the tower.
The height of the turbines, 400 feet above the ground, was specially chosen to maximise the energy production of the devices, allowing them to take advantage of relatively steady winds.
Brent crude oil saw its first month-on-month increases in eight months in February as a number of US oil rigs were taken offline, and prices hovered around the production costs of US shale oil. New commercial crude reserve regulations were introduced in China, which boosted short-term import demand. The gains throughout February sent long-term UK gas and power prices higher.
Over the past few years the negative effects of CO2 in the atmosphere and global warming have become common topics of discussion, and so has the technology that plays a role in reducing emissions, such as electric vehicles and smart devices in homes and offices that reduce energy consumption.
Computer giant Microsoft has recently been revealed to be number 2 in the Environmental Protection Agency’s top 100 leading green energy purchasers in the United States. According to the EPA, Microsoft purchases nearly 2.5 billion kilowatt-hours of renewable energy per year, which is enough to power the entirety of the company’s operations in the US.
The sources of this green energy range from biogas and biomass, to small-hydro, solar, and wind. This energy is either purchased from companies like Sterling Planet and PNM, or produced on-site, for example, with the company’s own solar panels.
A wind of change is blowing through the UK’s power stations. Renewable sources of energy like wind turbines could soon generate more electricity than nuclear power stations.The contribution of renewables towards keeping the lights on more than doubled from 6.8 per cent in 2010 to 14.9 per cent in 2013, according to the Office of National Statistics. Nuclear power, at 19 per cent, is in slow decline – no new power stations have been built since 1995, when it contributed more than 25 per cent of the UK’s electricity.Onshore wind turbines delivered a third of the country’s renewable electricity in 2013, with offshore wind rising fast and accounting for 21 per cent. A plan approved last week for the world’s largest offshore wind farm – 400 turbines covering more than 1100 square kilometres of the shallow waters of the Dogger Bank in the North Sea – would add almost two-thirds to existing offshore generating capacity of 4000 megawatts.The UK has invested £14.5bn in wind turbines since 2010, supporting 35,400 jobs, says Ed Davey, secretary of state for energy and climate change. Renewables are also reducing our reliance on foreign imports of fuel, he adds.
Creating biofuels from waste produced by industry, farms, and households could generate 36,000 jobs in the UK and save around 37m tonnes of oil use annually by 2030, according to a new report.
Across Europe, hundreds of thousands of new jobs could be created by using these ‘advanced biofuels’, which could replace 16% of the continent’s road transport fuel by the same year, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) study said. But the gains will not come without ambitious policy to promote advanced biofuels, it warned.
“Alternative fuels from wastes and residues offer real and substantial carbon savings, even when taking account of possible indirect emissions,” said Chris Malins who led the analysis for ICCT . “The resource is available, and the technology exists – the challenge now is for Europe to put a policy framework in place that allows rapid investment.”
However, a key vote in the European Parliament’s environment committee next week could stop this potential being realised, as a centre-right grouping of MEPs has signalled that it will oppose a biofuels reform package considered crucial to the fledgling industry.
The committee will vote next Tuesday on a compromise biofuels reform bill that would mandate a goal of advanced biofuels providing 1.25% of Europe’s transport fuel by 2020.