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April 2022

UK Government's energy strategy disappoints


Boris Johnson is to put nuclear energy at the heart of the UK’s new energy strategy, but ministers have refused to set targets for onshore wind and vowed to continue the exploitation of North Sea oil and gas.

Amid deep divisions among senior Conservatives, the strategy will enrage environmentalists, who say the government’s plans are in defiance of its own net-zero targets and neglect alternative measures that experts say would provide much quicker relief from high energy bills.
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Opposition parties were scathing about the strategy. Two former energy secretaries from Labour and the Liberal Democrats branded it “ludicrous” and “hopeless” for failing to expand onshore wind power or tackle energy efficiency.
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Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader and another former energy secretary, added: “The Conservatives’ failure to help people cut their bills with an urgent energy insulation programme, the failure to back super-cheap onshore wind and the failure to back properly new technologies like tidal power and hydrogen is a total betrayal of families and pensioners across the UK.”

The Guardian  Rob Davies and Rowena Mason  6 April 2022
Read the full article

Government press release

‘Major misjudgment’: how the Tories got their energy strategy so wrong
The Guardian  Damian Carrington  6 April 2022

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October 2021

Is the Energy Saving Trust in the Government's pocket?

In contrast to the almost unanimous criticism by environmental organisations and the intelligent press of the UK Government's recently announced Net Zero strategy as being too little too slowly, the verdict of the Energy Saving Trust is almost wholly favourable.

"Energy Saving Trust welcomes the publication of the UK Government’s Net Zero Strategy that sets out a roadmap to address the climate emergency and support the UK achieving a net zero society by 2050.

"As the UK prepares to host COP26, this strategy shows how the UK will meet its decarbonisation targets through ambitious policies for action in the coming years."

One assumes that insulating existing buildings and introducing - and enforcing - adequate insulation standards for new buildings would be of particular concern for the Trust; yet they say

"Alongside the Heat and Buildings Strategy, we welcome the government’s commitment to supporting society’s most vulnerable through energy bill discounts and insulation upgrades." 

The Trust's web page commenting on the Heat and Buildings strategy has a lot about replacing fossil fuels with heat pumps, but only a passing reference to "mak[ing] our homes more energy efficient".

On standards for new buildings The Heat and Buildings strategy itself refers to a 'Future Homes Standard' for England to be introduced by 2025; but why should house builders be allowed to go on building shoddy houses for another four years?  Would it be too cynical to wonder if some of the big house building companies are donors to Conservative Party funds?

On insulating existing buildings, The Heat and Buildings strategy itself is amost unbelievably vague

"Of the UK’s 28 million households, there are approximately 17 million properties below EPC band C.  To cost-effectively decarbonise heat, most or all these buildings will need to be treated between now and 2050.  In 2017, the government set out the aspiration in the Clean Growth Strategy for as many homes in England as possible to be upgraded to EPC band C by 2035."   (my emphasis).

A recent Guardian editorial noted that in September the government was strongly criticised by the National Audit Office for the shambolic handling of a £1.5bn green homes scheme introduced in September 2020 and scrapped in March this year; and that the net zero strategy does not make it clear how such mistakes are to be put right.  The strategy contains no proposals for any replacement programme, and insulating older buildings remains no more than a vague aspiration.

By way of contrast, the 'think and do tank' Common Weal, sets out a detailed programme for insulating older homes in its 'Our Common Home' plan for Scotland published in 2019.  This considers the kind of work likely to be required (mainly loft insulation and draughtproofing); the labour force which would be required (a target of 60,000 installations a year with a workforce of approximately 6,000 people); the materials required (primarily wood-based, manufactured in Scotland); and the probable cost (an estimated average of about £15,000 per property, giving a total for Scotland of around £35bn - £40bn).  They conclude

"This cannot be dealt with on a market-pricing basis and 
so must be centrally funded, planned and delivered, and it must 
be coordinated very closely with the installation of zero-carbon 
heating. . . A National Housing Company must be set 
up to undertake this work.  Supply of skilled labour will be a major 
issue in the early years, and extensive training of a new skilled 
workforce must also be a priority."

This is the kind of detail and commitment the UK Government's Net Zero strategy should have contained if it is to have any credibility as a serious attempt to get to grips with the measures needed to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions.  In this and other areas the strategy amounts to a near-criminal dereliction of duty, not to mention the arrogance of claiming to lead the world in the mitigation of climate change.

As far as what it actually says can be extracted from the morass of officialese verbiage, the Scottish Government's policy is little better.

UK Government  Net Zero Strategy: Build  Back Greener  (367pp PDF)

UK Government  Heat and Buildings Strategy  (202pp PDF)

Energy Saving Trust on Net Zero Strategy

Energy Saving Trust on Heat and Buildings Strategy

Scottish Government  Heat in Buildings Strategy

Community Energy Scotland  on the Scottish Government strategy

Common Weal 'Our Common Home' plan on Buildings

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January 2022

Prospect of 25 GW more renewable energy from auction of offshore wind licenses

The Scottish government has awarded 25 gigawatts of offshore wind project development rights, more than double the UK’s existing offshore wind capacity, in one of the biggest auctions of its kind in the world.

More than half the projects, with a total capacity of 13GW, will use “floating” wind turbines, the first time that this technology, which is tethered to the seabed, will be deployed commercially at a large scale.

Financial Times  17 January    Nathalie Thomas and Leslie Hook 
Read the full article

First Minister hails “truly historic” opportunity

Details of the bids  from Crown Estate Scotland

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> Cambo oilfield approval likely despite COP26

April 2022

Energy firm’s $1.5billion takeover paves way for Cambo oilfield development

The Cambo oilfield could be set for development after a $1.5billion takeover was agreed.  Ithaca Energy’s acquisition of Siccar Point Energy includes the controversial oilfield, along with Rosebank, which are both near Shetland.  

Cambo has faced local and national protests from campaigners who claim the climate change impact would be devastating.  It has also been at the centre of a political row, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claiming it should not go ahead, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson has backed its development. 

The Shetland Times  Andrew Hirst  8 April 2022

Cambo: Ithaca Energy pledges to develop controversial oil field

BBC News  8 April 2022

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December 2021

Shell pulls out of Cambo oilfield

The Guardian  2 December 2021   
Fiona Harvey  Environment correspondent

Shell has pulled out of a controversial new oilfield off the Shetland Islands, plunging the future of oil exploration in the area into doubt.

Shell, which was planning to exploit the field along with the private equity-backed fossil fuel explorer Siccar Point, cited a weak economic case as its reason for deciding not to go ahead with the project.

“After comprehensive screening of the proposed Cambo development, we have concluded the economic case for investment in this project is not strong enough at this time, as well as having the potential for delays,” Shell said.

Climate campaigners said the move by Shell was a “deathblow” for the controversial project, which was fiercely opposed by activists across the UK.

Read the full article

More on this story
The Guardian 10 December 2021  Matthew Taylor and Jillian Ambrose

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October 2021    Big Solar Co-op

The Big Solar Co-op is a new approach to subsidy-free community solar, supported by Sharenergy. We’re working across the UK to:

  • Make solar viable on a huge range of sites – without subsidy
  • Empower and support volunteers to work together to get it built
  • Fight the climate crisis through large-scale, grassroots community action

Learn more about how you can get involved or read about the Big Solar Co-op vision and the need for the project.

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July 2021     From Skye Climate Action July newsletter

Modular and micro nuclear reactors

by Thomas Prentice

Nuclear power is the source of many controversies. Many people oppose its use due to accidents such as the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters. These tragic events caused many repercussions in the years that followed. One of the largest effects of these tragedies was that many countries began phasing out or scaling back the use of nuclear power. However, the rapid phase-out of nuclear power was quite detrimental overall in many countries.

For example, after these incidents Germany moved to close many of its nuclear plants, a consequence of this was instead of using nuclear power for electricity, Germany moved to coal power. This was because nuclear provides a steady base-load power to keep the  electricity grid stable, so when this was removed the most viable alternative for the baseload power were coal power plants. In the years following the nuclear plant closures, Germany's carbon emissions increased by 5% while there were thousands of more deaths due to air pollution caused by burning coal in these new power plants. Nuclear may have had a chequered past, but many think we should move past the old way of doing nuclear power, with many now suggesting that nuclear power is vital to us tackling climate change and reaching net-zero carbon emissions.

Traditional nuclear power plants produce a large amount of low-carbon electricity. However they are large, expensive, take a lot of materials to build and produce radioactive waste that must be properly managed and contained. Once they are built they produce low carbon power consistently for many years, helping to stabilize the electricity grid by providing baseload power, allowing other baseload power plants such as coal and rarely gas plants to be closed. Due to the low carbon emissions of nuclear power, many people are trying to find ways of maximising the benefits while mitigating the issues to help reduce carbon emissions of electricity and also reduce emissions in industrial sectors. This is where modular nuclear reactors come in. 

As the name suggests modular nuclear reactors are smaller than regular power plants being designed to be scalable to the application they are being used for. They're also cheaper, easier, and quicker to produce. They produce less power than regular power plants with current designs producing around 45% of the power of small nuclear power plants.   Many designs also claim to be much safer in regards to nuclear meltdowns and passive safety features while also making waste management easier, as all the fuel and waste is contained within the transportable reactor, sometimes for the whole lifetime of the reactor.

Rolls-Royce, backed by the UK government, along with many other groups and companies have been working on bringing these modular nuclear reactors to life. So far they have designed modules that could power a million homes and last for sixty years. Some modular reactors could be small enough to transport by lorry to where they are needed, providing a way to decarbonise industrial sites through electricity and heat generation; they could also be deployed in areas affected by natural disasters to provide easily scalable backup power for communities.It's clear that nuclear power has its problems but these new developments in modular technology could help to power a low carbon future if they manage to avoid the issues and setbacks faced by traditional nuclear power plants. If you wish to learn more about modular and micro nuclear reactors there are fantastic videos covering the topic here and here. A future article will look at covering issues of nuclear waste and production of armaments in regards to nuclear power plants, both standard and modular.

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June 2021

Oilfield approval likely despite COP26

It seems likely that the UK government will approve oil drilling and extraction in the Cambo field off Shetland.  Environmental groups have attacked the approval as sending the wrong signals in the run up to the COP26 climate conference, and reducing the possibility of persuading other countries to reduce emissions sufficiently to limit global warming to 1.5C and reach “global” net zero by the middle of this century.

The Times  Wednesday June 23 2021
Oliver Wright, Policy Editor 

Ministers are set to approve a new North Sea oil and gas project months before Britain hosts a global climate change conference in Glasgow.

Under proposals submitted to the government, developers behind the Cambo heavy crude field off the coast of the Shetland Islands expect to extract 150 million barrels of oil — roughly equivalent to operating 16 coal-fired power stations for a year.  Setting up and powering the oil rig will emit more than three million tonnes of carbon over the project’s lifetime.

Read a document transcript  of the website article.

The comments made on the article are notable for their almost exclusively negative tone.

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April 2021

UK Government to allow more North Sea oil and gas exploration

Apparently undeterred by the stushie over the Cumbria coal mine, and contrary to the suggestion in mid March on the Offshore-energy.biz website'UK considering ban on new North Sea oil and gas exploration' - The UK government is preparing to issue a new round of oil and gas exploration licences for the North Sea.  Instead of following the lead of Denmark and France in banning new exploration licences,

the government plans to introduce a new “climate compatibility checkpoint” to determine whether each application is “compatible with the UK’s climate change objectives”.  

The checkpoint will use the latest evidence for the UK’s domestic demand for oil and gas, the North Sea’s projected production levels, the availability of clean energy, and the sector’s progress against its emissions reduction targets ahead of each planned licensing round.

If the checkpoint – to be designed later this year – suggests that future oil and gas exploration would undermine the UK’s climate goals, the licensing round would not go ahead.

 - Gillian Andrews      The Guardian     24 March 2021

Understandably

The decision has angered environmental campaigners, who say the government should refuse new licences.  Ministers say permission to drill will be granted as part of a careful transition away from fossil fuels, safeguarding jobs and the economy.  

But the environmentalists say that enough fossil fuels to ruin the climate have already been found.  In light of this, they say, the government should have refused the new licences.  They add that the decision undermines the UK position as leader of the vital UN climate conference in November, known as COP26.

 - Roger  Harrabin       BBC News      24 March 2021

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April 2021

The latest newsletter from Changeworks / Home Energy Scotland

includes news of 

'a brand-new partnership with the Social Enterprise Academy that will see us working together to support young people to fulfil their potential in the environmental sector'

and a link to  Scotland’s Green Recovery and Climate Emergency Response: final assessment of progress, published by the Climate Emergency Response Group (CERG), April 2021.

Read the newsletter

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March 2021

Government reverses stance on coal mine

Following widespread protests from climate scientists and environmental groups, the UK government has reversed its decision not to call in the planning application for the West Cumbria mine, originally approved by Cumbria County Council last October, which will now be the subject of a public enquiry.

BBC News   15 March 2021

‘Compelling reasons’ not to open Cumbrian coal mine -

Statement by Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is the clearest indication yet of opposition within the government 

The Guardian    17 March  2021

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January 2021

New coal mine in Cumbria approved

The government has refused to call in a planning application for a new coal mine in Cumbria Which was approved by Cumbria County Council last October.  Robert Jenrick, the minister  for Housing, Communities and Local Government, said the issue should be decided locally, a decision which has angered MPs and environmental groups.

Financial Times  6 January 2021

Environmental campaigners have attacked a UK government decision to permit the country’s first new deep coal mine for 30 years, despite its pledge to eliminate net carbon emissions by 2050.  The pit in Cumbria, north-west England, would create 500 jobs in an area reliant on the nuclear industry and seasonal tourism.

But the decision by housing secretary Robert Jenrick to leave the local council to grant the approval, rather than assess the plan himself, is seen by environmentalists as a sign that the Conservative party will prioritise economic growth over climate change as it seeks to cement its electoral gains in former industrial areas of England.

Read more

Greenpeace petition  against the approval

Greenpeace  background  and  other links

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February 2021

New bulletin from Community Energy Scotland

CES' February Bulletin contains lots of interesting and useful information on: various aspects of Scottish Government energy policy; a range of community energy projects from the Western sles to Orkney (an Orkney group won a Best Community Project award); funding sources; and a CES video presentation prepared at short notice for Scotland's Climate Assembly. 

Read the bulletin

 

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January 2021

Home Energy Scotland Covid-19 advice and help leaflet

We’re Home Energy Scotland, the Scottish Government’s free energy advice service. We provide impartial advice and support to help people stay warm, make the best use of energy and save money on their bills.

Lots of people have seen their energy costs rise since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. If you’re worried about this, we can offer support.

Call  0808 808 2282      or  download the leaflet

And there's a quiz with the chance to win £500!

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September 2020

Changeworks Autumn reminder


From Changeworks /Home Energy Scotland  September 2019 newsletter

 

Changeworks continues to deliver low carbon living across Scotland. Despite the ongoing challenging circumstances, it is vital we still do what we can to support our fragile environment.

To help you get ahead of the autumn chill, we’ve pulled together useful resources to ensure you have a warm home this winter. Download our advice sheet on draught proofing, watch our video on applying draughtproofing measures and read our blog with four easy tips to make your home more energy efficient.

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May 2020

Covid19-related news from the Greener Energy Group

The Greener Energy Group are a business engaged in advising on all kinds of renewable energy for the home, and supplying and installing appropriate systems.  Trading somewhat on the Covid-19 crisis, they have circulated an email pointing to the reduction in air pollution resulting from the reduced use of fossil fuels by transport and industry, and highlight this as a reason for installing greener home heating systems such as air source heat pumps.

Read the heat pumps email

Greener Energy Group website

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January 2020  Changeworks/Home Energy Scotland  news

Now that 2020 is here, what will you do this year to tackle the climate emergency in your everyday life?  Yes, we need Governments and corporations to do their part, but we all have a role to play in reducing the amount of carbon that we use.  To inspire you, we’ve created blog posts full of practical advice.

  • Four easy tips to make your home energy efficient
  • Top tips to reduce how much food you waste
  • How climate-friendly shopping habits help the planet
  • Going green when getting around
  • A little less meat goes a long way
  • Greening your workplace – it’s easier than you think!

Read the full newsletter  for these blogs and lots of other useful information and links.

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From Changeworks /Home Energy Scotland  July 2019 newsletter

Making a house an energy efficient home

Who among us hasn’t fantasised about building our dream house, overlooking the beach, and cutting our carbon footprint at the same time? Well for Changeworks’ Jo Hobbett, Change Works in Burntisland Senior Project Officer, she and her partner Alan made that a reality.

Over the past three and a half years, Jo and Alan have been pouring all their spare time into a new home. Built in the garden of their previous house, an old Victorian tearoom, their new home is an energy-efficient oasis of calm down by the beach on the Fife riviera.

Read the full story

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Smart Meters

Smart meter and manualWith funding from the Climate Challenge Fund, we have bought a number of electric “Smart Meters” which are available to lend to householders wanting to use them to reduce their electricity consumption. The meters are loaned out for three month periods, and participants encouraged to share experiences. Participants have found these helped them reduce their electricity consumption by up to 50%. They are currently available for loan at the community markets.
We have also linked up with schools such as Tarradale Primary, who are using the 32 meters we obtained for schools and specially designed work cards to monitor their home energy use as part of their science curriculum – this means many local households each year are using one of the meters to investigate their electricity usage.

Anemometer
We have an anemometer available for anyone thinking of installing a small wind turbine. Contact food@transitionblackisle.org if interested.

Other ideas

There are any number of the other possible projects, it would be great to hear from anyone with a new idea and some time to help put it into action.

 

Latest News...

Forthcoming Events…

Monday 26 September
NA      Scotland's Climate Week to 2 October
Wednesday 28 September
09:00 Landworkers Alliance - Building better food systems
Thursday 29 September
09:00 Landworkers Alliance - Building better food systems
Friday 30 September
10:00 Trellis Green Health seminar and AGM
Saturday 1 October
10:00 Postponed MOO Food Harvest Festival
Sunday 2 October
14:00 Black Isle Food Festival CANCELLED
Wednesday 5 October
09:00 Cycling Scotland conference 2022
Thursday 6 October
19:00 Lairg Learning Centre film screening 'The Dreaming Bog'

Events to add to calendar? Contact Us.

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