Aug 24, 2016

Who are the world’s nuclear powerhouses?

3 min
A new study of European countries, published in the journal Climate Policy, has shown that the most significant carbon reduction progress ha...

A new study of European countries, published in the journal Climate Policy, has shown that the most significant carbon reduction progress has been made by nations without nuclear energy, or with plans to reduce it.

According to the report, pro-nuclear countries have been slower to tackle carbon emissions and put renewable forms of generation in place. However, it’s difficult to determine if there’s a causal link between nuclear power and the slow uptake of renewables.

The study presents a dilemma for those who believe nuclear energy is the future of no-carbon energy generation. So, who are the countries most reliant on nuclear reactors to keep their lights on? And how realistic is the prospect of decommissioning this capacity?

United States
By all accounts, the USA is the most nuclear-friendly nation on Earth. As of 2016, it had 99 reactors operating in 30 states — producing 19 percent of the country’s electricity — and five nuclear facilities under construction. Following a three-decade lull in reactor-building, it’s thought that the new units will come online by 2021.

While the World Nuclear Association says that the public opinion of nuclear energy in the USA has grown more favourable in recent decades, the issue of the disposal of nuclear waste is still of concern to environmentalists.

France derives 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear energy, the largest share of any country in the world. It is also the world’s largest net exporter of electricity thanks to its low cost of generation — and it pockets an extra €3 billion from these sales annually.

However, the country will reportedly cut its share of nuclear power generation to 50 percent by 2025, as the government aims to diversify its energy mix and further incorporate renewables.  

A government decree published earlier this month has indicated that Russia intends to construct 11 new nuclear power reactors by 2030. As of 2015, the country was already operating 35 reactors with a combined capacity of 25,264 MWe.

Russia isn’t merely content to expand its own nuclear programme — it is looking to enhance its reputation as a global provider of nuclear knowledge. At present, the world’s largest nation is building a nuclear power station, called Kudankulam, in India. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently announced plans to further collaborate with Russia to build a handful of 1,000MW nuclear plants.

Mainland China currently has 20 nuclear power plants under construction — the largest number of any nation on Earth. As it seeks to phase out infamously unclean coal-fired capacity, the country is aiming to have 150GWe of nuclear installed by 2030.

According to reports published earlier this year, China will build 40 new nuclear plants by 2021. Like Russia, China is also keen to take an interest in nuclear power abroad, with the issue of Chinese investment proving contentious in the UK government’s pending Hinkley Point C decision.

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Jul 26, 2021

Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April

Dominic Ellis
3 min
Ofwat confirms levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue

Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.

The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.

Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.  

In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue. 

Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”  

There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:   

  1. Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps. 
  2. Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold. 
  3. Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice. 

Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.

Anita Dougall, CEO and Founding Partner at Sagacity, said Ofwat’s decision comes hot on the heels of Ofgem’s price cap rise in April.

"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.

"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."

United Utilities picks up pipeline award

A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.

The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.

“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.

Camus Energy secures $16m funding

Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent VenturesWave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.

As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.

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