Author Archives: Dustin Benton

How can Britain keep the lights on without subsidising fossil fuels?

London nightBritain has an extraordinarily reliable power system. The lights flicker so rarely that it is easy to forget that the power system is actually a finely tuned and, in some ways, fragile machine, which breaks if electricity demand and supply are not in balance. Perturbations, such as the up-tick in demand after the FA Cup final, or the sudden outage of a coal plant, must be steadied within seconds. Read more

The nuclear option: what Hinkley Point says about UK energy policy

19020034765_a6f2962cca_bEDF’s battle for Hinkley C, a project first put forward a decade ago, has been won. It is a triumph for the political equivalent of siege warfare. Back in 2006, the European Pressurised Reactor was shiny and new, and nuclear power seemed like the cheapest route to a secure, low carbon power system. In 2016, the decision to back Hinkley feels more like an inevitability than a choice: the EPR is a dated design with some big flaws, and innovation in renewables and smart technology makes EDF’s version of nuclear look expensive and hard to deliver. Read more

Yesterday’s EU ruling on products is a triumph for British consumer rights

Macro photo of an cell phone with broken display screen isolatedHave you ever shattered your mobile phone screen? Or maybe your washing machine has packed up, and the repair costs so much you might as well buy a new one? Yesterday, national governments of the EU’s 28 member states, including the UK, have endorsed your right to repair these goods, by pledging to make manufacturers design more durable and repairable products. Read more

What would Brexit mean for the UK’s power system?

electricity pylonThis article was first published on BusinessGreen.

The UK’s electricity system is increasingly connected to our European neighbours. In the past half decade, we’ve built two new electricity interconnectors, linking us to the Netherlands and Ireland. Earlier this year, the Treasury’s own National Infrastructure Commission endorsed a plan to roughly triple our capacity to import power, mainly from our EU neighbours. In 2014, we imported 21 TWh to the UK, nearly as much power as Hinkley C will provide per year, should it ever be built. In five years’ time, we could be importing a quarter of our power from our European friends: more than the UK’s whole coal fleet provided in 2015. This is a faster change than even the famed ‘dash for gas’ in the 1990s. Read more

What does the budget mean for UK renewables?

Boat in offshore windfarmThe chancellor described his budget as taking bold decisions to “act now so we don’t pay later.” Osborne announced £730 million of funding for “less established” renewables and endorsed storage, demand response and interconnection. Half an hour before the Budget, the prime minister had said the UK would cut power sector emissions by 85 per cent by 2030, which is consistent with the Committee on Climate Change’s fifth carbon budget. Read more

The EU’s circular economy package is about a lot more than just recycling

Unemployment and circular economy graphic for homepageA version of this post first appeared on BusinessGreen.

The European Commission this week fired the starting gun on its circular economy programme, and the panoply of documents released shows that it will be a marathon, not a sprint. As you’d expect for a programme designed to usher in a “profound transformation of the way our entire economy works,” it contains 54 separate actions, with deadlines stretching from the end of this month to the end of 2018.
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5 things you should know about government and your energy bill

Energy bills are back in the news, with the Office of Budget Responsibility calculating new figures for the cost of low carbon power, the Competition and Markets Authority investigating energy companies, and both IPPR and Policy Exchange releasing reports in the past few weeks. With so much to debate, and a lot of seemingly conflicting numbers to grasp, here are five things you should know:

1. The levy control framework (LCF) makes up three per cent of the average energy bill.
The claim that government controls a large proportion your energy bill rests mainly on the costs of electricity and gas networks, which make up around 22 per cent of bills. In contrast, efficiency policies, which reduce consumption, and therefore lower bills, make up around three per cent. Low carbon power, covered by the levy control framework, also makes up just under three per cent of the bill. So called ‘policy costs’ are, therefore, mostly due to networks, not low carbon power. Read more

Building a circular economy, one smartphone at a time

smartphone - highways EnglandSmartphones, tablets and laptops are ubiquitous in the wealthy world, and the makers of these devices have their eyes set on selling to the next five billion consumers in emerging markets. And why not? Access to the internet is a good thing, and digital technologies can enable better resource productivity, smarter conservation, and lower waste. The fact that smart devices have been selling like hotcakes for the past decade might lead business executives to think more growth is practically inevitable. Read more

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