Today the Government opens its Energy Red Tape Challenge initiative, encouraging businesses to supply their views on energy legislation. Businesses are being asked to share their views on whether current regulations are creating administrative burdens, and what could be done to implement more effective policy. The initiative covers roughly 300 regulations which relate to all aspect of UK energy, from extraction and generation, to safety, supply and consumption. Energy firm npower have already sought the views of almost 100 major energy users as part of its own “Red Tape Challenge – Have Your Say” campaign, which was designed to provide businesses with a less time-consuming way to air their views on the UK energy market. Their research asked businesses about energy legislation they would keep, simplify or scrap. Results show that 51% of respondents thought the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme should be scrapped, and 43% thought Renewables Obligation and Feed-in-Tariffs should be simplified.
A new report released by the Technology and Policy Assessment function of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), which addresses key controversies in the energy field, suggests that up to one fifth of global energy could be provided by biomass (plants) without damaging food production. The report reviews more than 90 global studies.
A debate has been raging about the role biomass could play in the future energy system: some say it could play a major role in fueling the planet, others argue that it risks an environmental disaster. To get to the heart of the controversy, UKERC scientists at Imperial College London have undertaken a systematic review of the evidence base.
The report finds that the main reason scientists disagree is that they make different assumptions about population, diet, and land use. A particularly important bone of contention is the speed with which productivity improvements in food and energy crop production can be rolled out.
“If we make the best use of agricultural residues, energy crops and waste materials then getting one fifth of current global energy supply from biomass is a reasonable ambition,” says Dr. Raphael Slade, the report’s lead author and a Research Fellow at Imperial College London. The report finds that getting more than this is technically possible but requires assumptions about food production and changes in diets that look increasingly challenging, especially as people in Asia and Latin America begin to adopt a high meat western diet as incomes rise.
Business Interest will overrule Environmental Goals says George Osborne.
The Chancellor who introduced the green investment bank and the carbon floor price has just sent a clear message during the Autumn Statement 2011 yesterday: “where green goals are in conflict with economic concerns, business interests will win”. Which means energy intensive industries will get their carbon taxes reliefs.
More than 5,000 documents have been leaked online purporting to be the correspondence of climate scientists at the University of East Anglia who were previously accused of ‘massaging’ evidence of man-made climate change.
Following on from the original ‘climategate’ emails of 2009, the new package appears to show systematic suppression of evidence, and even publication of reports that scientists knew to to be based on flawed approaches.
And not only do the emails paint a picture of scientists manipulating data, government employees at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are also implicated.
One message appeared to show a member of Defra staff telling colleagues working on climate science to give the government a ‘strong message’.
The emails paint a clear picture of scientists selectively using data, and colluding with politicians to misuse scientific information.
‘Humphrey’, said to work at Defra, writes: ‘I cannot overstate the HUGE amount of political interest in the project as a message that the government can give on climate change to help them tell their story.
‘They want their story to be a very strong one and don’t want to be made to look foolish.’
Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the centre of the affair, said the group findings did stand up to scrutiny.
Yet one of the newly released emails, written by Prof. Jones – who is working with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – said: ‘Any work we have done in the past is done on the back of the research grants we get – and has to be well hidden.
‘I’ve discussed this with the main funder (U.S. Dept of Energy) in the past and they are happy about not releasing the original station data.’
During today’s Autumn Statement the Chancellor George Osborne is expected to inject hope into the British economy to halt the feared double-dip recession. One of these measures will benefit intensive business energy users with a relief on their carbon taxes which could represent savings of up to 10% on their business electricity bills.
If confirmed these carbon taxes rebates will help British companies become more competitively internationally. Intensive business electricity users have complained that right now the carbon taxes harm their international competitiveness.
Germany offers carbon tax rebates worth more than €5 billion a year and high energy users only pay €0.5 of a €35 tax. Estimates are that the British rebate will be worth a total of ￡212 million for the period 2012-2016 for those affected by the EU-ETS tax or the CCL (Climate Chance Levy). Another ￡250 million will also be available for companies affected by the upcoming carbon price floor.
The renewable energy industry has welcomed the government’s scheme to subsidise renewable heat production, which opens today.
The world’s first Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) provides payments for heat generated from renewable technologies, including biomass boilers, solar thermal equipment and heat pumps installed since 15 July 2009.
‘This is excellent and very long-awaited news,’ said Gaynor Hartnell, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association. ‘It’s high time UK started benefiting from a major roll-out of some of the cheapest forms of renewable energy.
Hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash is to be poured into Africa to help it cope with the impact of climate change.
The £330million handout will be spent over the next four years on schemes to install solar power plants and encouraging investment in low-carbon transport.
One of the main beneficiaries will be South Africa, a country which is prosperous enough to have its own space agency.
Chris Huhne, the Lib Dem energy secretary, will unveil the foreign aid package at a United Nations summit on climate change which opens today.
The largesse will fuel criticism from Tory backbenchers over David Cameron’s promise to increase UK spending on aid at a time when public services in Britain are facing swingeing cuts.
Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, said: ‘It is completely unjustifiable to spend so much money at a time when we’re reducing the number of police officers in this country.’
Fellow Tory MP Peter Bone said: ‘What makes it worse is that much of the aid budget is spent on things that are not really benefiting developing countries. The answer is trade, not aid.’
Irish and United Kingdom ministers have pledged to work together to unlock the potential of ocean power around the coastlines and called on the European Union (EU) to back the technology.
Ministers last week called on the EU to give its full backing to the development of massive ocean energy resources available in the UK and Ireland. The governments spoke out jointly as they supported to a Member State Position Paper on Ocean Energy, issued jointly by them and the leaders of Norway, Spain, Portugal, France and Denmark. The paper sets out the potential for the Ocean Energy sector to fill 15% of European Union energy demand and create around 314,000 new jobs across the continent by 2050. UK energy sectary, Charles Hendry, said: “There is an abundant energy resource in European waters and there is a clear appetite from individual states to make the most of it.
Britain has some big decisions to make on energy, and environmentalists say the answers that politicians come up with in the next few months will determine whether the country follows through on its promises of strong action against global warming.
A series of important questions about investment in renewable energy, efficiency and nuclear generation are up for discussion as the government and energy companies plan how to replace a generation of power plants that are nearing retirement.
Britain put itself out in front of the effort to slow climate change by legally binding itself to strict carbon reduction targets in the Climate Change Act, passed in 2008 with support from all three major political parties.
Prime Minister David Cameron took office last year promising to lead the “greenest government ever.” Still, with the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition giving priority to budget cuts and the economy flat-lining, the powerful Treasury department appears unenthusiastic. George Osborne, who as chancellor of the Exchequer, or finance minister, controls the country’s purse strings, has hinted that he sees aggressive carbon-cutting as a luxury that Britain may not now be able to afford.
There was some positive news at last this week from the energy companies. First the mighty British Gas agreed to simplify its charging structure to just two tariffs. Surprisingly they won’t be giving customers the choice of – as one wag put it – freezing or going bankrupt.
Instead the firm is cutting back its tariffs to a simple choice between variable and fixed. It also promised to provide customers with a breakdown of all the costs that make up their bills.
It’s about time the firm – which remains Britain’s biggest energy supplier – started to think about the way it treats customers. This summer alone it increased gas prices by 18 per cent and electricity prices by 16 per cent. That move cost its customers an average of an extra £200 a year.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that more than 70 new tariffs have been launched this year by energy firms. That leaves us being confronted with a choice of 400 different tariffs. I know we should welcome choice, but not when it becomes too complex and difficult to choose.