This post first appeared as a Huffington Post Blog.
It was George Osborne who, festooned with hard hat and high vis, proclaimed that ‘we are the builders.’ He looked a bit silly, but his message was serious. Building things is what real people do; it’s where real economic growth happens; and it’s a real investment in our shared future. Osborne invented the line, but it is Theresa May who is doing the building. As the BBC’s business editor put it, “from beating ourselves up for not being able to build anything, the UK is suddenly building everything.” Well, almost everything. Read more
John Steinbeck described the California I grew up in as ‘a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.’ The golden state has always loomed large in the imagination but, in my early years, much of the stink and quality of light was literal: my dad, a Los Angeles native, used to joke that he didn’t trust air he couldn’t see. That’s how bad the air pollution was.
Britain 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
EDF’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
Have 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
This 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
The 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
A 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.
Forget the cuts to the RHI. Ignore halving ECO. The biggest change to the UK’s energy strategy didn’t appear in yesterday’s autumn statement. Instead, a two line note snuck out an hour or so after George Osborne finished his speech confirmed that carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the UK is effectively dead. Read more
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