Draft Energy Bill: keeping the lights on for now, and for decades to come

Over the next decade, around a fifth of existing power plants are due to close, against a background of projected increased energy demand and increasing energy prices. We need new investment simply to keep the lights on and avoid blackouts becoming a feature of daily life. But we also need investment in electricity generation for our climate change goals. We must decarbonise Britain’s electricity generation, to meet our Carbon Budgets as we transition to a low carbon economy.

We need an estimated £110 billion investment in electricity generation and transmission this decade alone. So we need electricity market reforms to incentivise this investment efficiently. The draft Energy Bill introduced in the House of Commons today is designed to achieve this, by giving greater certainty to allow investment to flow.

Why is it a draft Bill? Because I have never believed that government knows all the answers. We have seen many examples in the past of bills introduced in haste and repented at leisure! So I am keen to give the opportunity for MPs, NGOs and members of the public to scrutinise the bill and make suggestions. This is I believe a much more sensible and mature way to go about legislation.

There are three potential low carbon electricity generation sources – Renewables, Fossil Fuels if abated by Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and new Nuclear. All could play a role in our future energy mix, even though they each present their own challenges and have their own uncertainties. That is why a balanced approached is necessary.

I am very clear that renewables – solar, wind and tidal – will have a critical and growing importance in our energy mix. Gas generation also has a role, in the short and medium terms, as a reliable and flexible electricity source to meet baseload demands replacing the much higher emitting coal generators now and balancing demands in the future. However it will only have a role to play in providing baseload demand in the longer term if run alongside carbon capture and storage technology.

So how are we dealing with nuclear power? The coalition agreement makes clear that new nuclear will only be built if it is without public subsidy. I have been very clear since taking over as Secretary of State that that is a non-negotiable. If nuclear reactors are not cost competitive with other forms of low carbon power generation they will not be built.

But our existing electricity market makes it more difficult for such low carbon technologies to develop and deploy, because they all have much higher upfront capital costs than unabated fossil fuel competitors like gas. Raising the carbon floor price, introduced as part of our green tax switch policies, will help but by itself will be insufficient. We need electricity market reform to reduce the risk and cost of capital for all these low carbon technologies. The challenge is to move from where we are now, to where we want to be by the middle of the next decade. Our reforms are ambitious and far-reaching and cannot be done in a “big bang”. Yet we need to give investors the strongest possible signals now, locking into law the transparency, predictability and stability they seek. That is why we are proposing a phased approach.

Yet as we all focus on the UK’s wider economy, this investment challenge for energy infrastructure, due to security and climate change, is a historic growth opportunity. It offers the prospect of investment and jobs. The United Kingdom is already establishing itself as a hub for renewables expertise, attracting investment from around the globe into our world beating offshore wind industry. With our competition announced this April, we are leading the way for a new UK Carbon Capture and Storage Industry. This industry alone could be worth £6.5 billion a year to the UK by late in the next decade as we export UK expertise and products.

So the energy bill will give us the opportunity to implement longstanding Liberal Democrat policies to decarbonise our economy, at an affordable price for consumers and at the same time to boost investment, jobs and growth.

* Ed Davey is the MP for Kingston & Surbiton and Acting co-Leader of the Liberal Democrats

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46 Comments

  • Wot, no micro generation? Given the 30% ish transmission losses, it surely makes sense to put as much generation locally as possible.

    Changing building regs to enforce Scandinavian levels of heat loss PLUS mandatory solar and/or GSH could go an enormous way towards removing the missing nuclear

  • John Sturman 22nd May '12 - 12:10pm

    The best way to reduce the cost of wind energy developments i.e. the price of the CFD certificates needed to attract the required level of investment, is to reduce the planning risk. Investors spend many millions of pounds on planning applications that end up being refused on non technical issues (e.g. £250,000 per application). Higher CFD certificate prices are currently necessary to enable investors to bear these costs. If this wasted cost and effort was dealt with then a lower CFD certificate price will be possible, saving millions of pounds for the consumer. At the moment, the consumer is paying for wasted effort.
    The development of wind energy should be classed as being in the national interest and therefore if it meets certain criteria set by national government should be classed as permitted development.
    It is certainly possible to deal with all the potential issues i.e. designating exclusion areas, maximum limits of turbine concentrations, acceptable/unacceptable ecological impacts etc. Most applications are turned down purely on very subjective visual impact. A national policy decision is needed on whether we either accept them in the landscape or we don’t. All sensitive areas can easily be identified e.g. National Parks, AONB’s, historic sites and exclusion zones be placed around them, with permitted development from a visual perspective, granted in all other areas.
    Wind farm developments should not be dictated by whether or not the local council like the look of them or the planning inspectors subjective opinion on visual impact. This investment risk is the biggest barrier to investment and the biggest factor in higher costs.

  • @Ed Davey
    “The United Kingdom is already establishing itself as a hub for renewables expertise, attracting investment from around the globe into our world beating offshore wind industry.”
    Please explain, as far as I’m aware we have a wind farm construction industry that is attracting investment, but where is the native UK wind/renewables manufacturing industry?

    @Redndead
    Microgeneration, agree this should be part of the mix, however such ‘local’ based-solutions don’t fit well with politician’s who much prefer the legacy of grand schemes.

    Also given the transmission losses, it makes sense to locate power stations nearer to major centre’s of consumption. For example, I see no reason why there shouldn’t be fully functioning (gas or nuclear) power station at Battersea.

  • One point missing in all of this is what we do with existing nuclear power plants which are reaching the end of their lives. Current news reports indicate that extensions for these are being planned.

    In terms of safety, this is the worst solution. As a resident of Japan at the time of the tsunami and Fukushima disaster, it is noticeable that few people seem to have learnt the real lesson of that disaster. Namely, that it was a horrendous error to extend the life of Fukushima 1 as the Japanese government did rather than shutting it down at the end of its design life. (An even lesser known fact is that the more modern Fukushima 2 plant located 10km up the coast basically shut down safely).

    I am a sceptic on new nuclear but I would rather have some new nuclear plants rather than old nuclear plants (however attractive that option might be in austerity).

  • Severn Scheme – get on and do it! 5% of UK energy generated cleanly for the cost of a few minutes of a London – Birmingham train journey.

    There might be something wrong with the email to members – it says bills will rise by £200 without reforms, or 4% meaning we are typically paying 5K a year on energy. Does that include fuel for our transport. If so, maybe its right, if not, I don’t spend 5K p.a. on electricity and gas and I doubt many other householders do either…

  • Roland makes a good point about politicians liking to leave grand legacies. They are also prone to be lured into high-tech visions of the future which often never materialise. One of the participants in ’56-Up’ last night had spent the best years of his life working on nuclear fusion (which promises energy that is so cheap it won’t be worth metering, if I remember my 1950’s propaganda correctly), and is now hoping that maybe the students he is teaching might help bring it to fruition in their lifetimes. The safe storage of nuclear waste by ‘glassification’ was a technological dream of the 1960’s and 70’s: I remember arguing about it with our parliamentary candidate in 1978. He claimed it was a fully-functioning solution to the problem of waste; I said it wasn’t. I think I was right. And now Carbon Capture and Storage is touted as the solution to our energy problems, with hundreds of millions being thrown at the idea and the prospect of a mega industry being created. Perhaps, but probably not.

  • Richard Dean 22nd May '12 - 5:46pm

    The email seems to say “Without reforming the energy market bills will rise by around £200 in the coming years. Our reforms will mean bills are around 4% lower than they otherwise would have been”. The way I interpret this is that a household now paying £1000 would expect to pay £1200 without reform. Reforms will knock 4% of this off, equivalent to £48, so with reforms the household bill would only rise to £1152. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like one of those very complicated messages – your bills will go up but by less than they would have done if we had not acted.

  • Paul E G Cope 22nd May '12 - 6:02pm

    Redndead et al: Please do realise that the big saving with microgeneration is not the transmission loss but the 1500W that goes uselessly up the Drax cooling towers for every 1000W put into the grid. With microgeneration that heat is used, not lost and it represents about 30% of the national total, much more than nuclear now. To do it you need a car engine and a boiler, as it were, in each house and it gives each household instant immunity from power cuts as well as FIT earning power. This will give us 20 years breathing space to do the Bristol barrage , geothermal &c. whilst saving masses of fossil fuel by using fossil fuel fully efficiently.

  • jenny barnes 22nd May '12 - 7:25pm

    paul cope “1500W that goes uselessly up the Drax cooling towers for every 1000W put into the grid. With microgeneration that heat is used, not lost”

    The heat isn’t lost. Conservation of heat, first law of thermodynamics. What is actually happening is that Drax converts thermal into mechanical energy (to spin turbines). It is a “heat engine” and therefore subject to the second law of thermodynamics…(which always, always wins) that entropy increases whatever you do. The useless low temp heat in the cooling towers is the outcome of the extremely useful conversion of the high temp heat in the hot end into nice mechanical energy and electricity. Carnot worked out what the best possible efficiency of a heat engine was.
    Coal fired power stations are about 40%. Car engines (your alternative form of heat engine) are about 25% – which is partly why the back end heat is at a higher temperature.

  • Solar energy is great if they aren’t despoiling a green field and aren’t built from imported panels made in China using coal fired power stations to produce the energy to make them. I hope there is something in this bill to stop farmland being industrialised by paying tax incentives to rich people – which is what is happening currently.

  • Richard Dean 22nd May '12 - 7:32pm

    If the heat going up the cooling towers is hot, why can’t it be used to generate more energy? Or even just to heat something?

  • The Severn Barrage may be an excellent job creation scheme for the construction industry, and (@ Roland) a prime legacy for politicians good at banking and maybe not ecology, but I would suggest that the idea that a sustainable solution consists of quarrying and transporting all that stone from the Mendip hills and pouring millions of tons of concrete into the Bristol Channel needs a little more deliberation.

    IMHO large scale energy projects are twentieth century ideas; if we are going to invest in solutions that will be seen by future generations as more than short term panic (at the sudden realisation that man made climate change might actually be the problem suggested by serious scientists and rejected by bean-counters twenty odd years ago), we need to stand back and support better thinking, not just what looks like a good business plan. There are, after all, other ways to capture energy from the tides than blocking the whole estuary.

    As far as UK energy security is concerned, I personally would like to see a UK adaptation of ‘Reinventing Fire’ – Amory Lovens’ solution to the US energy supply problem,’ but (even though Ed Davey is fighting hard for the green solution we were promised by the coalition), I suspect we would need to be less reliant for votes on MPs that have a different, less green, agenda.

  • Andrew Suffield 22nd May '12 - 7:53pm

    Given the 30% ish transmission losses, it surely makes sense to put as much generation locally as possible.

    In a dense population like the UK, this is massively outweighed by the economies of scale in building large power plants – at least with today’s technology.

    Things are different in sparsely populated countries, where transmission costs are much higher.

  • I was against nuclear power in the 1970s, mainly on the grounds of cost rather than safety. Now I am in favour of it because I think we have left it too late to develop a lifestyle that can survive without it. In the UK we do not have huge earthquakes and tsunamis, but we do have a rapidly growing population and rapidly diminishing fossil fuel supplies. Nuclear power could fill the gap for the next 50 years or so while we adapt to a lower energy lifestyle. I would quickly build replicas of tried and tested nuclear power stations, even if they are not the most efficient that are technically possible. An added benefit of nuclear power is that Uranium is consumed and so is never again available for nuclear weapons.

  • What about Nuclear Fusion?

    The research funding seems paltry compared with city bonuses.
    There are 2 main hurdles to overcome- ignition and containment. Both are merely engineering problems- the fusion process works, it is clean and there is plenty of cheap fuel.

    With investment on the Scale of the Apollo moonshot or the Manhattan A-bomb projects – scaled up internationally and at today’s rates, surely this can be cracked with 5 years of serious effort and funding and commercialised within 10 ?

    If we have to have more fission reactors as a stop gap- then build these on existing sites and keep the waste in the reactor when it is done- a lot of fuel is reprocessed but is still capable of energy production?

    And what about Thorium reactors, reportedly safer all round and producing waste that can not be used for weapons?

  • Richard Dean 22nd May '12 - 10:40pm

    Mark. I think you mean 35,000 rather than 35 million. 35,000 is an awful lot, but feasible . But correct me if I am wrong… The National grid Electricity deman in the last 24 hours was about 35,500 MW. see http://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/Electricity/Data/Realtime/Demand/demand24.htm. Offshore wind turbines are now at 5MW. So the demand now could have been provided by about 7000 of these turbines all working at peak efficiency. Assuming various inefficiencies and peaks/troughs and seasonaility of demand, 35,000 sounds about right.

  • Joined up thinking:
    Additionally, the government could reduce the growth demand for electricity (and other fuels) by practicing joined up thinking and bring the building regulations right up-to-date, before we start building all those new homes that politicians keep on saying are needed. It is an irritation to me that many energy (and water) saving features are cheaper and easier to incorporate at time of construction than when retro-fitted later.

    Heat waste:
    The problem with building large power plants away from centre’s of population is that there is no local demand for all that low grade heat so it ends up going up the cooling towers. Build closer to population and then that heat can be used for local heating, fish farming, spa’s (eg. Iceland’s Blue Lagoon) etc.

    Nuclear:
    A query I have is that the new generation of nuclear power plants seem to also only have a relatively short life. I would of thought that with the massive advances in materials science since the 1950’s (when our existing nuclear reactors where largely designed) that the new generation should have significantly longer working lives – or is this just engineers being cautious?

  • @richard dean The answer to your cooling tower question lies in the rankine cycle which requires maximum expansion tof steam to produce energy. The steam you see is from coolant. The steam from the Turbine has been condensed at a vacuum to maximise energy extraction.
    The nuclear waste disposal problem has yet to be solved sufficiently to satisfy fears. Perhaps those fears need to be considered alongside the probability of the occurrence and the consequences. Once the presumed consequences are sufficiently frightening a proportional consideration of probability disapears out of the window. Of one thing there is little resudual doubt: the planet is certainly warming

  • Johnston, spot on!!.. If Alistair, Sarah Brown and other will please just go into your search engine with ‘Severn Barrage’ and ‘Stop Severn Barrage’, read all of what is there. Listen to the voices from the Bay of Fundy and the Rhine-Scheldt Delta, pleaces where they have built barrages and have had all that hard learning for our benefit.(have a look on Google earth!) Ed must proceed with investment in renewables, emerging technologies and tidal stream turbines.. the energy is there for us to exploit without the destruction of our estuary.

  • Peter – technically I wouldn’t build a barrage but a set of tidal lagoons. These would generate less peak power, but more continuous controllable power and wouldn’t destroy the estuary.

  • Stuart Veitch 23rd May '12 - 11:48am

    I would like to see far more focus on local generation at the point of use. Far better incentives to house owners and businesses to install efficient solar panels, whose economy sees a 5 year pay back, as that will give say a further 5 years of profit before replacement with new and improved technology at say 10 years . Solar farms too are I imagine environmentally friendly and often quite inconspicuous and could be located on the edge of towns and villages. All these would only contribute towards the solution but should be a high profile part of it.

  • “an estimated £110 billion investment in electricity generation and transmission this decade alone” is a lot of money, particularly as much of it , given the current market, will be spent on imported equipment.

    I therefore think we need (urgently) to give greater consideration as to how we can ensure that the majority of this necessary spend is with UK companies (ie. stays in the UK), many of which probably don’t exist today, thereby helping to provide an economic legacy that gives a reason for having the lights on.

  • We can certainly generate as much electricity as we use from renewable sources alone for example
    several companies are now working on 10Mw wind turbines for the offshore market. Ten thousand of these 10Mw turbines in the seas around UK running at 40% capacity factor will produce 350Tw hours per year, pretty close to our annual electricity consumption.
    These new generation turbines are likely to have direct drive to remove the need for the high maintenance gearboxes. One problem with these direct drive turbines is the need for a very powerful permanent magnet involving large amounts of the Rare Earth Neodymium supplied largely by China. However American Superconductor is developing the Sea Titan replacing the permanent magnet with a high temperature superconducting magnet which uses a far smaller amount of the much more common Rare Earth Yttrium. They expect the Sea Titan to go into mass production in mid decade.
    These giant turbines can run economically much further offshore where the wind is stronger and steadier and opening up a much larger are of sea for the installation of turbines. Another possibility for even further offshore is the floating turbine, Statoil has developed one at present under test off the coast of Norway.
    To make use of our renewable sources of energy we need links to other countries to balance variations in demand and generation. Norway has very extensive hydroelectric plants which work very well with wind generation as pumped hydroelectric can be used to store surplus wind power for use later. Iceland has extensive geothermal generation which could also work well in balancing our renewable generation.
    High voltage DC cables are very efficient at carrying power over long distances and can be laid under ground or in the sea, they typically lose 3% of their power for every 1000Km and 1.5% at each end. However each cable typically transports about 1.2Gw so we either need many such cables or we need something with high capacity.
    One possibility may be high temperature superconductors, which can carry 5Gw, kept cool with liquid nitrogen or liquid hydrogen inside an insulated pipe. This is a new technology but companies are now proposing a coast to coast superconducting grid across USA. However they may need cooling plants every 20Km or so which could limit their use across open water such as the 500Km from Scotland to Norway.

  • andrew purches 23rd May '12 - 2:39pm

    The energy supply industry has been a largely stock market funded cash cow for more than thirty years now. Why,all of a sudden,is it looking to the government to underwrite and guarantee its switchover to renewables, that are intrinsically innefficient, expensive and presumably unprofitable. No mention in this draft bill of “fracked” gas supplies, which could be considerable, and no real indication that carbon capture – particularly from coal is being given too much attention. We should be insisting on making every new home built should meet a basic standard whereby no additional heat is required once a basic temperature level has been met from an outside energy source, as is the standard required in Sweden. Make the suppliers work for their living for once.

  • Phil Abbott 23rd May '12 - 4:53pm

    Why are we so besotted with windmills, they’re very expensive to make. Can we please do something about clean coal. We have hundreds of years of coal deposits in this country we are not making use of. Instead we are using coal from eastern europe and south east asia to fuel coal fired power stations. This takes us back to the tragic mistake made by Margaret Thatcher to shut down our coal industry. Can we not re-invent it in a low carbon way. This could boost jobs as well as meeting our energy needs. If we don’t do this we will have to have more nuclear plants otherwise the lights will go off. We need to be somewhat more pragmatist and less idealist to find the most appropriate solution.

  • jenny barnes 23rd May '12 - 6:47pm

    “clean” coal. The techniques available at the moment for carbon capture and storage have not, as yet, been made to work at industrial scale. They take 25% of the electricity generated to extract, and liquefy the CO2. So for every 3 power stations you thought you needed, you need an extra one to power the CCS. Then we have to hope that the resulting Co2 will stay in the reservoir for thousands of years – it’s as bad as nuclear for that.
    Ferrybridge, for example is a 2Gw coal fired power station and it burns 800 tonnes of coal an hour on full belt. Which produces about 2,200 tonnes of hot CO2 to be dealt with every hour. It’s not easy to deal with.

    And- the only reason we have hundreds of years of coal is because we aren’t extracting it. It’s far too expensive to dig out of deep mines, when it can be lifted out of open cast mines in Colombia and Australia with big yellow earth movers.

  • Governments need to make a proper assessment of the risks of supporting a particular policy. When it comes to energy they need to assess all the risks of supporting nuclear power. Clearly the risk of a accident of the severity of Chernobyl or Fukushima power stations or the Mayak nuclear waste storage facility occurring in the UK are low, even very low but not zero.
    It has been said that the UK is not subject to any earthquakes or tsunamis similar to the ones that caused the Fukushima disaster and certainly the worst earthquake on record for the British Isles was the 1931 magnitude 6.1 quake, however the British Isles have experienced tsunamis significantly greater than the one that caused the Fukushima disaster so it can’t be ruled out.

    No insurance company will cover the third party risk of a nuclear accident and with good reason as the cost could be far greater than any insurance company could pay out.
    Just consider the possible cost of a Fukushima accident with winds carrying radioactive fallout across South East England. It could result in the abandonment of £Trillions of infrastructure and require the rehousing of up to ten million people. Could the Government or the Nation afford the compensation for an accident of that magnitude, if not then it is surely irresponsible to take the risk?
    It is akin to taking out the maximum possible mortgage to buy a house and then refuse to take out insurance. The chance of the house burning down is very low but the cost if it did would bankrupt you and take decades to pay off.
    We have no need to build new nuclear power stations when renewable sources can clearly supply all the electricity we need.

  • Richard Dean 23rd May '12 - 7:37pm

    Nothing is without risk. It’s very unlikely that the entire British Isles will fall into the sea, but a bit of land comparable in size to Scotland fell off the side of Norway and into the sea 8200 years ago (http://www.ig.uit.no/geo3128/02-Bryn_etal_MPG_2005.pdf). It gives a whole new meaning to devolution! Even so, we don’t worry too much about a physical landslide of this size happening to the UK, and we still live here.

    We accept risks which involve very low chances of something very bad happening. But this does not mean we are complacent – if we can reduce the risk we do. So although the damage caused by a tsunami may be huge, we might still as a population accept the tiny risk that it might happen, particularly if the technical people reduce the risk still further by researching, designing and building the facility to withstand the worst imaginable tsunami or earthquake.

    That won’t reduce the risk to nil, of course – there will still be a residual risk – but if the reward in terms of enrgy to support us and our industry is great, or of the alternative is some other disaster such as extreme poverty everywhere, then as a population we might accept the residual risk..

  • If you really care about global CO2 emissions, replacing coal with gas gives you the largest CO2 reduction per £. It would be cheaper to pay other countries to convert to gas. But hey, who cares?

  • John Ballard 23rd May '12 - 8:56pm

    It really is impractical to consider wind (or wave) power for base load generation. What for instance do we do when a large anticyclone sits over Europe? Carbon capture has a very long way to go as some current systems reduce the overall efficiency of a thermal plant to less than 20%….a very expensive way of generating electricity at the moment.
    Tidal clearly works if predictably intermittent…But would it fill in for all the base load we need at present?
    I think you know by now that I believe that nuclear is the only practical low carbon base load solution at present.
    Why promise to not build any new nuclear stations if they need subsidy whilst forcing the electricity consumer to pouring millions into wind farms via payments for electricity when its not needed?

  • “the only reason we have hundreds of years of coal is because we aren’t extracting it. It’s far too expensive to dig out of deep mines”

    Particularly when the mines were closed in the 80’s they were allowed to flood etc. etc.

  • John Laurie 24th May '12 - 8:12pm

    I would like to see the UK invest to become a leader in the research and development of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LFTR) as the best mid term strategy for development of new nuclear. This type of reactor :
    – Can never have a melt down, because the fuel is in LIQUID form already
    – Can be used to burn up existing nuclear waste to produce electricity
    – Uses abundant and cheap THORIUM as a fuel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium)
    – Has a much higher efficiency than existing solid fuel reactors due to its higher operating temperatures
    – Is walk away safe
    – Has a smaller land use than existing reactors
    – Does not need to be sited close to water for cooling
    – Produces far less volumes of waste
    – Produces fission products that are safe after around 300 years, instead of around 10,000 years
    – Operates at atmospheric pressure
    – Would produce energy cheaper than from coal due to reduced fuel cycle, investment and waste treatment costs
    – Includes in-line reprocessing of the liquid fuel

    To find out more :
    http://www.the-weinberg-foundation.org/

  • I must say that there have been some extremely interesting, informative and erudite comments – some of which deserve a green star. My non technical two pen-orth consists of 1) nuclear – by the time they are built they could be white elephants within a short time as supplies of accessible fuel dry up. I believe we have already reached peak uranium (no-one talks about that) and this means it is all down hill from now on – especially since most of it comes from places where supply is far from guaranteed. The cradle to grave carbon footprint of nuclear is also never taken into account
    2) a barrage – I agree wih the poster who asked us to look long and hard at other countries now reaping the unpleasant results of their barrages. There are far less problematical (and cheaper) ways of utilising tidal power
    without dumping half of Somerset into the Severn.
    3) It makes such good sense to create power close to where it is needed and I agree that all measure should be taken to help householders to create their own, or perhaps for a village or group of houses to have their own generation.
    4) All this talk about CO2 and all the efforts to deal with it may be useless if no-one takes methane seriously. The fact that hundreds of plumes of methane are now escaping into our atmosphere has barely made the news at all. Perhaps we should be encouraging those who want to accelarate the pollution and ruin of our planet home by drilling in the Arctic, to use their skills to capture all this methane and pipe it for fuel.

  • Paul Chaplin 30th May '12 - 11:23am

    I agree with John Laurie above we should push ahead with developing this type of nuclear reactor – also know as liquid salt reactor. Developed in the 1950s and abandoned because it it not produce weponds grade secondary products!

    Carbon capture and storage is still a dream – but the liquid salt reactor has been tried even if it was 55 years ago.

  • John Charlton 30th May '12 - 2:08pm

    Of the renewbales, I feel that tidal power, paticularily seabed turbines, has the highest potential, in the long term, for reliable, continuous electricity generation. From the PR point of view, therefore, much more emphasis should be placed in coming public announcements, on how much investment is going into, and who’s paying, for this and for CCS, which I consider to be the other “big-hitter” for the intermediate future .

  • Bill Powell 30th May '12 - 3:11pm

    THINK GAS! It is the quickest and lowest cost way to reduce the carbon footprint of power stations for despatchable power to stabilise sun, sea and wind ‘renewables’ as well as provide base load. ‘Associated gas’ is flared off at oil wells. Some say as much as the EU imports from Russia! Use it. Shale gas? It looks safer and lower carbon than coal.
    Tax the unsustainable content of fuels. Include GAS. Then, when there is excess wind, suppliers will electrolyse it and blend this hydrogen into natural gas to power stations and homes. They will also collect gas from rural anaerobic digesters. They will develop thermochemical gasifiers that produce a gas similar to ‘town gas’ from biomass. (e.g. the high temperature ‘BG-Lurgi slagging gasfier’ should be able to take a 50% mix of municipal waste entombing all the solid ‘nasties’ in vitrified clinker. We just sold the know-how to the Chinese). Operating at more like 850C a gasifier can produce ash and charcoal from clean agricultural waste and biomass. Use as a soil improver. That actually removes CO2 from the atmosphere! See ‘Terra Preta’ in the Amazon. ‘Won’t we starve’? No. We eat only the grain of maize. Gasifiy the rest.
    Micro-CHP could halve the power and fuel we need. Japan is already installing 60,000 domestic fuel cells p.a. VW offered Hamburg a motor generator to put in every basement in town. With enough of either we wouldn’t need power stations!
    The average UK house emits 3,300 kWh x 499 = 1,647 kg CO2 p.a. from its use of electricity. It emits nearly double this from gas: 16,500 kWh x 184 = 3,036 kg CO2. Going ‘green’ gas reduce BOTH these emissions.
    Gas power stations beat coal on efficiency. Micro-CHP using green gas will replace power stations and halve our fuel needs. Declare war on climate change by putting these two gas technologies on a war-time footing.
    We don’t need reseach to do it. Just do it. Then improve it. That’s how technology is developed.

  • Howard Ratledge 5th Jun '12 - 7:53pm

    Having sent Vinnce Cable details of what was the cleanest coal fired power station inthe world some 3 years ago. I have now found out that they are constructing an even cleaner power station in Saskatchewan. which I do not have details of at the moment but I believe that by recurculating the exhaust gasses and other means they wll reduce carbon emmisions to eradicate 90% of Carbon and most if not all Sulphur. Also I think that by using waste heat ro heat greenhouses and circulating Carbon dioxide from the remainder of emmisions fruit and vegetables could be grown to feed an ever increasing population. Another thought Ihave had is that there may be mothballed coke ovens in disused steelworks which could provide town gas and heating fuel. This would not only provide much needed energy but also employment.
    Regards Howard Ratledge Lib Dem Torridge District Council.

  • George Kershaw 14th Jun '12 - 11:11am

    A simple way to reduce the emissions from electrical generation is to increase the overhaul thermal efficiency of the total system. By doubling the overhaul thermal efficiency of the total system, you can reduce the energy input by half; hence this will reduce emissions by 50% for the same output.

    Question: Is it possible to achieve such an improvement over the present systems that we have used traditionally in the UK? The answer to this is a resounding yes.

    For example, a lot of Hospitals have standby generators running all the time just in-case the supply from the national grid goes down, an automatic switch over will then occur to maintain a supply. This is also the case for some large out of town supermarkets and shopping centres. The energy used in running these generators is normally 100% wasted, as no output is normally consumed. At the same time Hospitals and other facilities have a large demand for space heating and domestic hot water that is provided by converting energy into heat from separate systems.

    Just one simple solution is to make the onsite/local electrical generation the principle form of supply, and then rely on the grid as a backup. Combined Heat and Power (CHP) is the name given to the generation of electricity and where the waste heat from the generating process, about 65% of input energy is then used as the source of energy for providing space heating and domestic hot water. Such combined systems have overhaul thermal efficiencies in the range of 70 to 90%. So yes it is possible with combined systems to reduce emissions by 50%. CHP systems are readily available today, and are available in a range of sizes suitable for a domestic house up to that required for a large Hospital complex, and in other countries they supply towns.

    By design each of the individual CHP systems to provide in excess of 100% of their onsite/local electrical demand, the excess is then exported into the grid. With a concerted push towards the take up of CHP, the need for large scale electrical generating power stations is reduced. When sufficient CHP’s have been installed, along with a drive to expand the amount of electricity generated from renewable energy, a point will come when the UK will only need a very small number of clean technology electrical generating power stations to provide a small and reducing base load. This approach represents a fundamental switch towards the local generation and distribution of electricity, and away from the large scale inefficient power stations that we have today.

    Heat Pumps: these are highly efficient devices that convert low grade heat energy into high grade useful heat energy. Typically for 1 unit of energy to run the heat pump they have an output of 3 to 4 units of high grade useful heat energy, this is stated as their coefficient of performance CoP. Heat Pumps work by extracting heat from the environment that is the source of the low grade heat energy, resulting in a cooling of that environment.

    By using Heat Pumps to up grade the waste heat from a CHP system it can be seen that the total overhaul thermal efficiency of the system will be greater than 100%. This is achieved in essence by extracting heat energy from the air that is part of the combustion process, and passes through the system. This means the exhaust gasses are then cooler than the air that enters a CHP system that also has a Heat Pump added to capture the waste heat.

    The technology is out there to bring about a radical change, but this is frustrated by the vested interests of those that control the large scale inefficient electrical power stations. Political will is needed to offer a much better deal to the people of the UK; will our politicians act in the people’s interests, or those with powerful vested interests?

    George Kershaw From Oxford

  • Howard Ratledge 14th Jun '12 - 9:17pm

    If we are to maintain our position as one of the major trading nations in the world we need dependable energy sources. We have enough coal to last us well into the future and I believe that if everyone in the country was encouraged to invest if they were able in providing clean coal fired power stations they would not only be securing their own future but that of generations to come. Let us work together as a nation and harness God given resources providing not only employment but pride in what we can achieve and an energy source that is not dependant on other countries who can increase prices when they want to.

  • Bill Powell 17th Jun '12 - 4:36pm

    @Howard
    Underground Coal Gasification (UGC) is being trialled by Linc. Super heated steam ‘H2O’ reacts with coal (Carbon ‘C’) so that the ‘O’ atom combines with the ‘C’ instead of the ‘H’ leaving a mix of ‘H2’ and ‘CO’ which is known as ‘syngas’. This is similar to ‘town gas’.
    The syngas can be piped to a sutiable plant for separation of the ‘C’ content by reacting further with ‘H2O’ so that the ‘CO’ becomes ‘CO2’. This H2 & CO2 mixture can be piped to a plant that separates the CO2 and sends it underground, (i.e. CCS)
    We are left with H2 which can be sent into a turbine, internal combution engine or fuel cell.
    We’ve still got lots of coal, and UCG can ‘mine’ seams that are uneconomic to reach in any other way. NB: No one goes underground!
    @George
    Agree about CHP and distributed generation reducing energy needs by 50%.
    Start with big the facilities you list, e.g. hospitals and then move to smaller ones, e.g. primary schools; then residences. CHP from power stations is expensive as it means digging up the roads. With H2 or a mix of CH4 and H2 it can be by small turbine, large modified diesel, or fuel cell at the end user. In Korea there is already extensive use of large fuel cells, and Bloom in US has caught Silicon Valley excitement, while here our own Alkaline Fuel Cells Ltd have a trial modular size H2 fuel cell for medium to large end users. Japan is ramping up installation of residential FCs from 20,000 last year to 60,000 this year intending exponential growth to drive down their price.

    @Both
    Gas is not an intermediate fossil fuel to be phased out.
    It is the end point as it becomes devoid of carbon at which point we need an electric grid only for back up to our local on-site generation.
    There are many many sources of gas as I indicated above. Now make them carbon neutral. Go for it!

    Bill Powell S Cambs

  • Richard Dean 17th Jun '12 - 9:08pm

    Is the conversion from CO to CO2 exothermic, ie can it be used to produce energy? And is the overall process more efficient than simply burning the coal to produce electricity?

  • Geoff Cardnell 12th Jul '12 - 5:33am

    I am in complete agreement with John Laurie in so far that Thorium fuelled nuclear reactors appear to offer all the advantages of nuclear derived energy without the disadvantages cited by the anti nuclear brigade. Whilst cost is important don’t be mislead into believing that we should opt for short term savings at the expense of long term viability. It is certain that secure long term energy supplies, even if the cost is high, will be critical to the prosperity of our country and failure to take decisive action now will condemn us to a very uncomfortable future.

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