Jun 27, 2014

INDUSTRY INSIGHT: Renewable Energy Generation in the UK Reaches Record High

3 min
One fifth of all electricity in Britain was generated by wind farms and renewable sources in the first three months of 2014, according to new statist...

One fifth of all electricity in Britain was generated by wind farms and renewable sources in the first three months of 2014, according to new statistics released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

New wind farms and strong winds coupled with a good winter for hydropower plants sent renewable energy surging to 19.4 percent of all electricity from January to March – an increase of 12 percent from the same period last year. According to the report, the overall power produced was enough to sustain 15 million homes during the quarter.

This report has been hailed as somewhat of a breakthrough for the wind industry, which along provided 12 percent of the overall power produced, as well as a rebuff to critics who said that renewables would never account for such a large portion of energy generation.

Controversial Renewable Subsidies

Despite good news regarding renewables, the DECC report could catalyze a price row between energy suppliers. The data shows that gas prices to domestic customers rose in the first quarter while prices for businesses declined.

The cost of gas to householders, including VAT, rose by 4.8 percent in real terms between the first quarter of 2013 and the same period of this year, while average gas prices to business customers, including the climate change levy, were 5.2 percent lower.

The statistics underline the significant strides being taken by the industry to meet a government drive to reduce Britain's carbon emissions, although the scale of renewable energy subsidies remains controversial.

What’s more, the data also shows that in 2013 only 5.2 percent of final energy consumption, including heat and transport, came from renewable sources – well short of the a target of 15 percent by 2020 set by EU directives.

According to the lobby group Renewable Energy Association (REA), the UK is still lagging behind most other EU states and needs to do more, especially in the field of green heat and transport biofuels.

Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the REA said, “Every percentage point increase in homegrown renewable energy makes us that much more energy secure. The progress in electricity is encouraging, but growth is not yet strong enough in renewable heat and transport to meet the government's objectives.”

The UK Still Reliant on Coal

The UK may be lagging behind other EU states because of its reliance on coal for its power. According to government statistics released on Thursday 26th June, about 37 percent of the UK’s electricity came from coal in Q1. While this is down from 44 percent during the same quarter in 2012, the amount is still substantial.

Demand for Gas Falling

Interestingly, less electricity was generated in the UK from gas in the early part of 2014 than anytime in the last 16 years. Reportedly, demand for gas fell by about 8 percent, and gas represented about 23 percent of electricity generation.

The DECC data reports the total amount of electricity generated by all forms of renewable power reached 18.1 terrawatt hours in the first three months of this year, up 43 percent on the same period last year.

Across the whole of 2013, the amount of electricity generated from renewable energy sources, including solar, hydro and biomass, was up by 30 percent on 2012. Offshore wind raised the most – by 52 percent – but solar was also up by 51 percent, while hydro generation fell by 11 percent, reflecting lower rainfall.

The DECC data reveals that the price of electricity for domestic customers was up by 5.9 percent in real terms quarter on quarter – the same figure as recorded for industrial electricity prices.

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Jul 29, 2021

Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030

Dominic Ellis
4 min
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades says the UK's National Infrastructure Commission

Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission

Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.

The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.

The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture. 

It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.  

The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020. 

Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.

The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.

While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.

Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.

Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse. 

"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.

“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.” 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets. 

Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.  

Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."

McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:

  • Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
  • Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
  • Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
  • Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
  • The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere

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