Tag Archives: Climate Change

Government to invest £1bn in carbon capture and storage technology

By David Bicknell

The government is to commit more than £1bn of public funds to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology with the prospect of generating an industry with 100,000 jobs.

It follows  the publication of plans yesterday to create a government-sponsored competition to design the first workable demonstration project.

CCS uses technology to capture carbon dioxide from power plants and store it permanently underground. Such a move, it is said, will help meet climate change targets.

The government has also published the first UK CCS Roadmap which it says sets out the steps that the Government is taking to develop a new world-leading CCS industry in the 2020s. The Roadmap includes:

  • The competition, the ‘CCS Commercialisation Programme’, to drive down costs by supporting practical experience in the design, construction and operation of commercial scale CCS with £1bn capital funding, and additional support, subject to affordability, through low carbon Contracts for Difference;
  • £125m funding for Research and Development, including a new £13m UK CCS Research Centre;
  • Planned long term Contracts for Difference through Electricity Market Reforms to drive investment in commercial scale CCS in the 2020s and beyond;
  • Commitments to working with industry to address other important areas including developing skills and the supply chain, storage and assisting the development of CCS infrastructure

Here is the Guardian’s view on the story

UK CCS Commercialisation Programmme

Data centre temperatures go up to cut costs and reduce carbon footprints

It’s only a few weeks since the United Nations summit on climate change in Durban at the back end of last year and  I came across this story.

The piece argues that IT managers can save money and reduce their carbon footprint by increasing the temperature in their data centres.

Intel, for example, is reportedly advising its customers to increase the temperature in data centres, arguing that companies can actually save four percent in energy costs for every one degree in centigrade they turn up the heat.

That is because most data centres in Europe run at a temperature of between 19 and 21 degrees centigrade to avoid creating hot spots that might cause equipment to malfunction. The cooling equipment required to maintain that temperature costs around $27 billion a year to run and consumes 1.5 percent of total world power, according to Intel.

Many companies worldwide are now looking at increasing the temperature of their data centres up to 27ºC (80.6ºF), in a move that could help them save costs and reduce their carbon footprint. Facebook has saved over $200,000 a year in energy bills by reprogramming its cooling to run at 81ºF. Microsoft too has saved $250,000 a year by increasing the temperature by just 2-4ºC.

Interesting story – I think there is more to come on this as the year develops though I’d venture to suggest that rightly or wrongly, in today’s austere times, the driver is more likely to be saving costs than reducing the carbon footprint i.e. talk green, mean lean.

IT and Climate Change: out of sight, but not out of mind?

By David Bicknell

There isn’t a much bigger example of fundamental change than climate change. And there aren’t any bigger examples of breaking down the barriers to change than trying to get some meaningful action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. At a time of economic autumn, there is a risk of climate change and sustainability heading down the business/government ‘must-do’ pecking order.

So it’s good that the United Nations conference on Climate Change has come round this week to concentrate minds. This year, it’s in South Africa, in Durban.

I liked this blog written by Colin Curtis, director of sustainability at Dimemsion Data, who sums up some of the issues and discusses how the company’s own IT department has performed in reducing the organisation’s carbon footprint, notably through virtualisation.

I suspect with the travails of the Euro, we may hear less about the UN conference this week than we did a couple of years ago in Copenhagen. But out of sight needn’t mean out of mind.

Letter to No 10 opens up energy prices and climate change policy discussion

By David Bicknell

It seems as if with the party conference season not far off, discussions are taking place around the edge of government over energy policy, which may have some implications down the line as far as business energy costs and climate change legislation are concerned.

It follows a leak to the Daily Telegraph of a note to David Cameron  discussing the impact of energy and climate change policies on energy prices, Although the focus of the letter is on consumer energy prices, it is possible that a wider review may also need to examine the effect of government policies in the form of climate change legislation on businesses.

The letter suggests that four policies stand out as having the most significant impact on household energy bills: carbon pricing (both the carbon price floor and the EU emissions trading scheme), the new Energy Company Obligation, the Electricity Market Reform package and the Renewables Obligation.

The letter goes on to ask whether policies can be opened up, particularly support for relatively high-cost technologies such as offshore wind, in a way that minimises cost and disruption to investment.

It’s possible that, as the Guardian suggests, the leaked letter is part of a sabre-rattling exercise ahead of the conference season. On the other hand, with consumers strapped for cash, energy prices on an ever upwards spiral, and businesses struggling in a stagnant economy, a healthy debate over energy policy is  perhaps not a bad idea, though, as the Guardian headline puts it, that risks pitting fossil fuels against renewable energy.

There is some more background to the story here:

http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/james-blog/2106683/10s-criticism-decc-lacks-credibility-energy-ideas

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2011/sep/05/greenpolitics-energy

UK to cut emissions targets by 50% by 2025

By David Bicknell

Here are the details of the Government’s statement on carbon emissions, made by Energy & Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne, taken from the Department of Energy & Climate Change website:

“The Climate Change Act 2008 sets a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the UK by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. The Act also requires Government to set carbon budgets, which are limits on greenhouse gas emissions in the UK for consecutive five year periods. These carbon budgets must be set at least three budget periods in advance. They are designed to put emission reductions on an appropriate and cost-effective pathway to our 2050 target.

“The first three carbon budgets were set in 2009, following advice from the independent Committee on Climate Change. The Fourth Carbon Budget – the limit on emissions for the five year period from 2023 to 2027 – has to be set in law by the end of June 2011.

“As advised by the Committee on Climate Change, the level we propose setting in law would mean that net emissions over the Fourth Carbon Budget period should not exceed 1950 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. – a 50% reduction from 1990 levels.

“As required by the Climate Change Act, once the Fourth Carbon Budget has been set in law, we will publish a report setting out the policies and proposals required in the medium-long term to meet the budget, building on the strong foundation provided by our existing policies. This will take the form of the revised government carbon plan later this year, following the publication of the interim version in March.

“..the Committee on Climate Change advised that we should aim to meet the Budget through emissions reductions in the UK rather than relying on carbon trading, such as under the EU Emissions Trading System or the purchase of international credits from projects abroad. We will aim to reduce emissions domestically as far as is practical and affordable. But we also intend to keep our carbon trading options open – to maintain maximum flexibility, and minimise costs in the medium-long term. Given the uncertainty of looking so far ahead, this is a pragmatic approach.

“Under the Climate Change Act, emissions reductions by the UK’s industrial and power sectors are determined by the UK’s share of the EU Emissions Trading System cap. This protects UK industrial and power sectors from exceeding EU requirements. However if the EU ETS cap is insufficiently ambitious, this could mean placing disproportionate strain on other sectors outside the EU ETS such as transport.‪

“To overcome this and to provide clearer signals for businesses and investors, government will review progress towards the EU emissions goal in early 2014. If at that point our domestic commitments place us on a different emissions trajectory than the Emissions Trading System trajectory agreed by the EU, we will, as appropriate, revise up our budget to align it with the actual EU trajectory.

“In line with the Coalition Agreement, Government will continue to argue for an EU move to a 30% target for 2020, and ambitious action in the 2020s.

“As part of the transition to a low carbon economy, we need to ensure that energy intensive industries remain competitive and that we send a clear message that the UK is open for business. Before the end of the year we will be announcing a package of measures for energy intensive businesses whose international competitiveness is most affected by our energy and climate change policies. Rising electricity costs pose a key risk to these sectors which are critical to our growth agenda. We will, therefore, take steps to reduce the impact of government policy on the cost of electricity for these businesses, thereby allowing them to continue to play their part in delivering our green industrial transformation. In this way, we will ensure that that these sectors remain internationally competitive and we send a clear message that the UK is open for business.”

There’s Always an Alternative View on Climate Change…..

I suppose that on the day the Government outlines new targets for addressing climate change, it’s inevitable that there would be an alternative view – and there is: from Lord Turnbull in the Daily Telegraph today.

We’ve heard many of these arguments before, but Lord Turnbull discusses them like this:

“First, the science is nowhere near as conclusive as it is presented. Though there is no disagreement that CO₂ is a greenhouse gas, there is no consensus on the relationship between CO2 and temperature. Many scientists also challenge the dominant role assigned to man-made CO2, arguing that other variables such as the sun, cosmic rays, oceans and clouds have been underplayed. Given this, it is unwise of the Government to have placed such heavy bets on just one interpretation of the evidence

Second, there have been failings in the governance of science. Senior figures in our scientific establishment, rather than promoting challenge, have sought to close the debate down and tell us the science is settled. The gap between the IPCC’s huge responsibilities to advise on one of the biggest issues of the day, and its competence to do so, is now so vast that it should be scrapped and replaced.

Third, the framework provided by the Climate Change Act takes no account of what other nations are doing. For a country like the UK, which produces only 2-3 per cent of global man-made emissions, this makes no sense. If we push too hard on decarbonisation, we will suffer double jeopardy: our energy-using industries will migrate and we may still need to invest heavily in adapting our infrastructure.

Fourth, the way in which the policy responses are being prioritised makes no sense. In a logical world, one would start with those technologies that are most effective in terms of cost per ton of CO₂ abated. But the EU renewables policy denies this logic. One set of technologies – in particular, wind – is guaranteed a market share and an indexed price regardless of how competitive it really is. Taking account of wind’s intermittency, its cost per kilowatt hour (kwh) exceeds that of other low carbon sources. Wind capacity should not be confused with output.

Fifth, current policies are hugely unfair. Those with large properties or landholdings on which to install solar panels or wind turbines can earn 30p-40p per kwh, which is retailed at around 11p. The loss is paid for by a levy on all households and businesses. If you live in a tower block in Lambeth, you don’t have much opportunity to share in this.

Finally, policies are failing to adapt to change, notably the impact of shale gas, which can make a huge contribution to carbon reduction with little extra cost.”

Lord Turnbull suggests that “in responding to the advice from the Committee on Climate Change on the next set of targets, the Government has an opportunity for a rethink. Instead, it seems likely that the requirements of keeping the Coalition together will take precedence.”

I don’t agree with Lord Turnbull’s analysis on climate change, though I do agree that there are probably some Coalition politics involved in today’s announcement. It will be interesting to see how the Coalition puts its argument later today.

Cabinet agrees Climate Change ‘Green Deal’ – UK ‘world leader’ in cutting carbon emissions

By David Bicknell

The Coalition is expected to announce this week that it has agreed a far-reaching, legally binding “green deal” that will commit the UK to two decades of drastic cuts in carbon emissions. The package, reported last weekend in The Observer, will, it is claimed, place Britain at the forefront of the global battle against climate change.

Huhne is now expected to tell parliament that the government will accept the recommendations of the independent committee on climate change for a new carbon budget. The deal puts the UK ahead of any other state in terms of the legal commitments it is making in the battle to curb greenhouse gases.

The new budget puts the government on target to meet a reduction by 2050 of 80% of carbon emissions compared with 1990 levels. The committee has said that to reach this carbon emissions should be cut by 60% by 2030.

The article says ministers believe that major companies involved in developing offshore wind technology – such as Siemens, Vestas and General Electric – will now be keener to invest in Britain, knowing it is committed to a huge expansion in renewable energy. It is also hoped that the commitment to renewable energy – the committee says 40% of the UK’s power should come from wind, wave and tide sources by 2030 – will stimulate new industries.

These would include the development of tidal power plants, wave generators and carbon capture and storage technology – which would extract carbon dioxide from coal and oil plants and pump it into underground chambers. All three technologies, if developed in Britain, could be major currency earners.

The committee’s report says the new carbon deal will require that heat pumps will have had to be installed in 2.6m homes by 2025. It also says that by the same date 31% of new cars, and 14% of those on the road overall, will be electric. Experts say a total of £16bn of investment will be needed every year to meet the commitment. Some of this money will be raised through increases in electricity prices.

It is interesting to see that there is a mention of electric cars. No one, however, seems to have yet spotted the potential of electric bikes. One newly announced scheme, ComOOt, which would help London-based companies reduce their mushrooming subsidised travel bills for their commuting employees, has so far failed to make it onto the radar screen of a Transport Department blinkered by electric cars, and with a fanciful notion that the infrastructure will one day be in place to support them.

Coalition Draft Carbon Plan is released

By David Bicknell

As mentioned yesterday, the Coalition said it would be unveiling a Carbon Plan this week, effectively a Government-wide plan of action on climate change, including domestic and international activity, which sets out department by department, actions and deadlines for the next 5 years.

It has now released the Plan, which is available here.  The Carbon Plan presents ongoing and planned cross-Government action on climate change with specific deadlines providing for both internal accountability and public transparency. Quarterly updates on progress against actions within the Plan will be published on the No.10 website.

The Plan sets out what has to happen and by when if the Government is to live up to its green ambitions, meet tough domestic carbon targets and encourage greater action internationally. It is focused on the jobs and economic opportunities of the low carbon economy and on policies that will help insulate Britain from future energy price shocks.