Monthly Archives: November 2013

Food-based biofuels allowance to rise by 50% under EU plans

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The use of food crops to make biofuel for cars, the impact of which campaigners warn can be worse than fossil fuels, is set to increase by as much as 50% under EU proposals on Friday.

European nations have been negotiating a cap on the amount of biofuels produced from food crops that can contribute to renewable fuel targets because of concerns they may indirectly lead to deforestation and hunger.

The EU had proposed capping the use of such biofuels at 5% of total transport energy consumption – close to the current 4.7% share – later lifting that to 6% under lobbying from biofuel and agricultural sectors. But it will now be lifted even further to 7%.

A draft of a European council directive to be released today says: “The share of energy from biofuels produced from cereal and other starch rich crops, sugars and oil crops shall be no more than 7% of the final consumption of energy in transport in 2020.”

In 2009 the EU mandated a target of 10% of European fuels to come from renewable sources. Biofuels are the main way of reaching the target, and have been blended with conventional diesel fuel over the last few years.

Advocates for biofuels say they produce less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than fossil fuels. But environmental campaigners and many EU parliamentarians have raised concerns about the additional carbon contribution of indirect land use change (iLuc) caused by biofuels that come from food crops, known as “first-generation biofuels”.

The EU places regulations on the type of land that can be used to grow biofuels. This is designed to prevent the destruction of rainforests, peatlands and other important areas for biodiversity and carbon capture. But regulations fail to prevent the knock-on effects of the estimated €8.4bn in EU subsidies that drive demand for agricultural land and cause farmers to clear new landscapes in order to meet demand for food. Campaigners say iLuc could produce as much CO2 as between 14 and 19 million cars between 2011 and 2020.

Today’s proposals also water down the way in which iLuc factors are reported, and drop a target to mandate a target for the use of “advanced biofuels”, produced from waste and algae, which have a lower carbon footprint.

via Food-based biofuels allowance to rise by 50% under EU plans | Environment | theguardian.com.

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Green levies face being watered down as ministers move to cut consumer bills

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Energy bills could be cut by £50 a year in next week’s autumn statement by watering down “green levies” and moving them on to general taxation, under plans being discussed by ministers.

The changes will mean that energy companies’ spending on homes in fuel poverty in England will fall by 62% over this parliament, from £626m in 2010/11 to £237m in 2014/15. That would leave spending to help people insulate their homes at the lowest level in over a decade.

David Cameron has promised to “get rid of the green crap” on bills, according to newspaper reports, but the Guardian understands that ministers’ decisions will see green schemes diluted and funded by other means rather than axed entirely.

However, uncertainty over one scheme funded by the levies has already led to the scrapping of a £500,000 project to insulate 100 homes.

The only scheme that requires the big six energy firms to reduce customers’ energy bills, the £1.4bn-a-year energy companies obligation (ECO), will be watered-down by delaying the deadline for the companies’ targets.

In documents sent to the energy companies and seen by the Guardian, the government proposes extending the deadline from 2015 to 2017, without increasing the number of homes that companies must fit with insulation and new boilers.

Fears that the ECO would be scrapped entirely were unfounded, a Whitehall source told the Guardian. “Scaremongering about the ECO being scrapped is wide of the mark,” the source said.

via Green levies face being watered down as ministers move to cut consumer bills | Environment | The Guardian.

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Lord Browne: fracking will not reduce UK gas prices

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Fracking is not going to reduce gas prices in the UK, according to the chairman of the UK’s leading shale gas company.

The statement by Lord Browne, one of the most powerful energy figures in Britain, contradicts claims by David Cameron and George Osborne that shale gas exploration could help curb soaring energy bills.

Browne added to the government’s ongoing troubles over energy policy by labelling nuclear power as “very, very expensive indeed” and describing the fact that more state subsidies are given to oil and gas than to renewable energy as “like running both the heating and the air conditioning at the same time”.

The former chief executive of BP, who now holds a senior government position as lead non-executive director, told an audience at the London School of Economics that climate change was “existentially important”, but that without gas the transition to a zero-carbon energy system would never happen.

However, Browne, who is the chairman of fracking company Cuadrilla, said: “I don’t know what the contribution of shale gas will be to the energy mix of the UK. We need to drill probably 10-12 wells and test them and it needs to be done as quickly as possible.”

“We are part of a well-connected European gas market and, unless it is a gigantic amount of gas, it is not going to have material impact on price,” he said.

via Lord Browne: fracking will not reduce UK gas prices | Environment | The Guardian.

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MPs say Big Six energy firms ‘disconnecting people by the back door’ using pre-payment meter

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The poor and elderly are going without heating after being pushed onto pre-payment meters, MPs said today.

They claim the Big Six energy firms are forcing people onto expensive meters as an alternative to disconnection.

But many customers are having to “self disconnect” because they cannot afford the rocketing gas and electricity bills, the Commons Energy and Climate Change committee has said.

The organisation Consumer Futures said that in 2011 the energy companies installed 384,835 in homes so it could recover unpaid bills.

But under the new tariff system consumers now have to pay annual standing charge of around £100 a year just to be stay connected even if they use very little gas.

Representatives from the Big Six firms – British Gas, EDF Energy, E.on, Scottish Power, SSE and Npower – told the committee they did not cut off residential customers over winter.

Instead they placed people on pre-payment meters.

Labour MP John Robertson, a member of the Energy and Climate Change select committee, said this often resulted in people being disconnected “by the back door”.

He told the Mirror: “When the Big Six were grilled in Parliament last month, they pledged not to pull the plug on vulnerable or elderly people struggling to pay their energy bills this winter.

“Since then we have heard that although energy suppliers are not disconnecting people directly, they do put hundreds of thousands of hard-up customers on pre-payment meters every year – so that they disconnect themselves.

via MPs say Big Six energy firms ‘disconnecting people by the back door’ using pre-payment meters – Mirror Online.

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Blow for UK Renewables as Wind Farm is Axed

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A £4bn off-shore wind farm project has been axed by German ‘big six’ energy company RWE npower dealing an untimely blow to Britian’s renewable energy plans. The Atlantic Array of off-shore turbines was set to create thousands of jobs in the business electricity sector and provide power to around 1 million homes.RWE npower has said the economics of the project aren’t what they were made to be when the plan was initially drawn up – criticism that seems particularly pertinent given the German company’s claim that the Coalition Government treats environmental subsidies as a “political football”.

via Blow for UK Renewables as Wind Farm is Axed.

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Hydrogen fuel cell developer wins grant from UK government

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Ceres Power, a developer of residential hydrogen fuel cell systems, has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the United Kingdom’s Department of Energy and Climate Change. The agency has been working to establish the United Kingdom as a world leader in low-carbon technologies and has put a strong focus on fuel cells and other such clean energy systems. While fuel cells remain quite popular in the transportation sector, these energy systems are beginning to gain more attention for their uses in the residential sector.

via Hydrogen fuel cell developer wins grant from UK government | Hydrogen Fuel News.

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Ofgem gains new powers to protect businesses from mis-selling energy brokers

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Energy regulator Ofgem announced yesterday (November 20) that it can now take direct action against ‘rogue’ brokers and other organisations that are marketing energy products or services to business customers, after being granted powers by Government under the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations (BPMMR).

Ofgem can seek undertakings from brokers and other organisations to stop misleading marketing activity or apply to court for an injunction to ensure that they are complying with the legislation. At present, Ofgem and the Office of Fair Trading have concurrent powers to enforce the regulations in the energy sector, after Ofgem made its case at the start of 2013 to BIS for it to have the power to enforce the BPMMRs.

Ofgem has also been developing an industry-wide code of practice for brokers that market energy to business, which will set out that brokers have to behave in a fair and transparent way to give businesses confidence when using their services. Ofgem will publish the code for consultation in December 2013.

A recent Ofgem survey found that around one third of businesses who had been approached by brokers did not consider that the broker had been upfront about the costs of their services, while previous Ofgem research has shown that businesses are concerned about cold calling, high-pressure sales tactics and the unprofessional behaviour of some brokers.

via E2B / Thursday 21 November 2013 / Ofgem gains new powers to protect businesses from mis-selling energy brokers.

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Ofgem’s new powers to protect businesses from ‘rogue’ brokers

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Energy regulator Ofgem can now take direct action against brokers that mis-sell energy to business customers.

It has gained new powers to clamp down on ‘rogue’ brokers and other organisations that market products or services to business customers in a misleading way.

The energy regulator can stop brokers from using misleading marketing tactics and apply to court for an injunction to ensure they are complying with the legislation.

The new powers come after Ofgem’s latest research found around one third of small businesses in the UK didn’t believe brokers were upfront about the costs of their services. Previous research has also shown firms are concerned about cold calling, high pressure sales tactics and “unprofessional behaviour” of some brokers.

Philip Cullum, Consumer Partner, Ofgem said: “It’s crucial for our economy that Britain’s small businesses get a fair deal in the energy market. Getting help from a broker can assist in keeping bills down but business consumers need to feel confident that they know – and get – what they’re paying their broker for.

via Ofgem’s new powers to protect businesses from ‘rogue’ brokers | Energy Live News.

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Ikea produces enough clean energy to match a third of its global energy use

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Ikea is now producing enough sustainable energy to supply a third of its global energy use and they will continue to produce more until they reach their impressive commitment of being carbon neutral by 2020.

To put their commitment into perspective; per wiki, as of October 2011, IKEA owns and operates 332 stores in 38 countries. If you’re planning a visit to one of their stores, wear your walking shoes because, yes, they are that huge. In fiscal year 2010, US$23.1 billion worth of goods were sold, a total that represented a 7.7 percent increase over 2009.

via Daily Kos: Ikea produces enough clean energy to match a third of its global energy use.

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Google Invest $80m into US Solar Project

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Search Engine giants Google are once again expanding their portfolio of renewable energy projects with news of a $80m investment into six solar energy facilities in the United States.Set to be located in California and Arizona, the commercial-scale solar sites will be developed with Recurrent Energy, a Stateside developer of photovoltaic cells and facilities and backed further by investment firm KKR.

Expected to be operational early in 2014, the combined output of the six sites is expected to total 106 megawatts – which Google says is enough to provide 17,000 homes and businesses with electricity.

via Google Invest $80m into US Solar Project.

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