The Solar Energy Society (UK-ISES)
Scottish Solar Energy Group
with the support of:
Greater Glasgow and Clyde Valley Tourist Board
Energy Centre for Sustainable Communities
Mori Poll favours renewables over nuclear option (Breakfast - Scotland, BBC1, 17/01/06)
Although 54% in this survey would tolerate nuclear provided it made a significant impact on carbon reduction, a much larger percentage favoured renewable technologies. It is perhaps worth restating that on a life-cycle basis nuclear generation will produce more CO2 than wind and much more than cogeneration. Scotland now has 473 wind turbines in use, 239 under construction and many more in the pipeline. We need them, and although there is a small but vociferous anti-wind lobby, they are generally proving very popular - even with those living next to them.
Madeleine Bunting does not mince words (The Guardian 16/01/06)
Apart from spelling out the urgency of radical action needed to address global warming and climate change, Madeleine cited Adam Werbach and Jonathon Porritt in challenging environmental groups to be more effective. We should take this on board at EuroSun2006.
‘Blair faces organized rebellion on nuclear issue’ (The Guardian 22/12/05)
Environment minister Elliot Morley is apparently backing a group of Labor MPs led by former minister Alan Whitehead are drafting a new manifesto to set out ‘the case for continued investment in renewable energy rather than taking a “dangerous leap with nuclear”’.
Between a Rock and a hard place
Now we are told that improving air quality by reducing aerosols could lead to a greater surge in global warming. (The Guardian 22/12/05) So we’ll have to work even harder at reducing greenhouse gases… hopefully without taking the retrograde step of launching a neo-nuclear age. And in spite of the USA trying to persuade folk at Montreal that their voluntary approach to cutting greenhouse gas emissions is working, we find that 2004 hit an all-time US high, about 25% of the world’s total. This year’s figures are not yet published, but are expected to be similar or greater.
Gas & Electricity prices - surge good for renewable energy?
The Guardian 14th Dec: “… gas and electricity prices surged at their fastest pace since 1983 as limited supplies of gas and fears of a cold winter pushed up energy prices.” Of course this can be seen as a blip or a trend, and in the latter case an opportunity for solar and other renewable energy applications. But we should not forget that for the fuel poor, rises in energy costs are very threatening. This is why energy efficiency for buildings, especially housing, is so important.
Montreal: Good news, but how good? Trade unionists would be very suspicious of just how far the USA’s reluctant offer to enter into dialogue will take us. Oil is still very much on Bush’s agenda, noting that in the post cold war world, Donald Evans, former US Commerce Secretary and close pal of George W, has now been appointed to head Russia’s leading state oil company.
Carbon-free nuclear option???
The hot news about ‘Energies in the Mix’ is Tony Blair’s backing for a new generation of nuclear power stations as his solution to global warming… just as well the theme of EuroSun 2006 is ‘’RENEWABLE ENERGIES IN THE MIX’! Of course it is common knowledge that a life cycle analysis of nuclear power generation reveals that it is not carbon free. In fact folk like Professors van Leeuwen and Smith at Groningen University examine the ratio between CO2 from a nuclear plant compared with a gas-burning one of equivalent capacity, and tell us that ‘as rich ores become exhausted this ratio increases until it becomes larger than one, making the use of nuclear energy unfavourable compared to simply burning the (remaining) fossil fuels directly.’ The Öko-Institut in Germany also tells us that if we must use a fossil fuel with a limited life such as gas, cogeneration will result in a small negative emission, circa 20 g/kWh, while woodgas-cogeneration will give a negative emission of nearly 300 g/kWh and biogas-cogeneration about 750 g/kWh.
So it seems that the case for nuclear is other than low carbon emissions. But if it is reliability, nuclear does not score well either… or on cost. So we are left with politics. Polly Toynbee (The Guardian 25/11/05) has summarized the debate well. Critically she argues that ‘the market is poised, waiting to decide which way to invest. If we go nuclear she claims that renewable technologies will be starved of investment. George Monbiot has attempted to rationalize with numbers (The Guardian 29/11/05). He admits that he does not have all the information, but he sees that for a renewable energy mix to stack up, we have to be more energy efficient. That means not only embracing forms of combined heat and power much more strongly, it means putting in place serious sticks and carrots to cut down on electrical and thermal demand. That includes much more significant efforts to allow daylight to displace electrical light, natural ventilation to displace artificial ventilation, diminishing cooling loads by good design, using solar thermal energy to preheat hot water etc. In other words the theme of EuroSun 2006 must be aimed at political action that acknowledges altruistic and sustainable scientific rationale rather than the latest Blair conviction (for the UK, but not for Iran of course).
Meanwhile, founder of the Scottish Solar Energy Group (SSEG), Kerr MacGregor has been visiting schools all over Scotland, and as far north as Caithness with SSEG’s demonstration vehicle Solar One (John O’Groat Journal 30/09/05). ‘Think local, act global’ comes to mind. Educating the young is an potent enabler for the future - hence a main topic for EuroSun 2006.
30th Nov to 1st Dec update: Jack McConnell, First Minister in the Scottish Parliament, announces that he is against new nuclear power stations until the issue of waste is resolved. Is this a fudge? His coalition partners the Lib-Dems seem more straightforwardly for renewable energies and energy efficiency and against nuclear. They say that the waste disposal would need to be proven to be permanent for them to reconsider this position. It should be noted that the Scottish Parliament has devolved powers with respect to energy and so can refuse to go with what the new ‘nuclear-neutral’ review recommends. Louise Bachelor, the BBC Environment Correspondent, interviews Kerr MacGregor with SSEG’s Solar One. He sees no problem with a totally renewable energy mix. Neither does Prof John Twidell (The Guardian 01/12/05), who posits some figures for plant capacity and proportion of total annual energy needs in response to those of George Monbiot:- ‘Plant with storage capability: medium-to-large hydro 2GW (2.5%), tidal range 30 GW (12%), combined heat and power biomass 2GW (4.2%), waste digestion gas 1.5 GW (4.4%). Other main: wind onshore 25 GW (31%), wind offshore (51%), tidal stream 1 GW (0.8%), wave 10 GW (10%). Microgeneration: small hydro 0.5 GW (0.6%), solar photovoltaic 5 GW (2.1%).’ This suggests a total comfortably above that needed.
People may argue over the validity of any set of figures, but a case can and should be made. EuroSun 2006 is one such forum. So far we have received xxx abstracts. There is still one day before the extended deadline expires on Dec 15th. We know that there are research units, companies and individuals out there who have not so far submitted abstracts. It is not too late. If you have submitted an abstract, please encourage a colleague who has not to do so. The solar community needs your knowledge and expertise.