Bishopstone Tidemills and Port Expansion

Sunday, Sept 18.  I walked with a friend to Bishopstone Tidemills where there is much evidence of the archaeological dig being carried out to unearth the remains of the now ‘lost’ village.  I found the evidence of William Catt’s huge greenhouse intriguing with what I assume are heating pipes beneath the structure?

I was also made aware of local opposition to the proposed expansion of Newhaven Port on to land designated several decades ago as ‘the port development area’ which will see most of the East Pier demolished to make way for an increased deep-water channel and the construction of a new 300 metre long quay and an adjacent ‘lay-down’ or working area.  The main thrust behind all this is to establish a base from which to service E-ON’s Rampion Offshore Wind Farm currently under construction off Brighton.  I am all for green energy and this development would make the appearance of the port look like a working port again, rather than the semi-derelict one Newhaven appears to travellers entering the port at the moment.  The new quay would also attract larger cargo ships and cargoes.

I have since spent some hours reading through a number of documents freely available at     http://padocs.lewes.gov.uk/AniteIM.WebSearch/Results.aspx    The downsides of this development are in my view from three directions. 1) There would be the commercial activity and associated sounds creeping even closer to the already compromised solace that people derive from visiting the tranquillity of the Tidemills site.  2) The loss of several hectares of the East Beach with much of it an expanse of vegetated shingle – a threatened habitat nowadays in our busy world and, the loss of an extensive areas of sand at low water.  3) The construction of a large and by what appears to be a fairly high road bridge traversing both the railway line to Seaford and the Mill Creek.  I believe these three issues are cause of quite some concern but sadly, they are not sufficiently significant to stop or amend this development – especially with this Tory governments obsession with development over nearly everything else.

I do feel though that as a further mitigation the owners of the port, the French-owned Newhaven Port & Properties Ltd, could at no additional cost extend eastwards the proposed local nature reserve for Tidemills, to include the large triangle of vegetated shingle stretching towards Seaford (part of the former millpond) and the grassed floodbank (the Cinder Path), unless they have ‘plans’ for this too?  I have forwarded this impassioned proposal to both Mr. Francois Jean of Newhaven Port & Properties Ltd. and to Nazeya Hussain of Lewes District Council.

Offshore Wind Power Cheaper Than New Nuclear

Status

Great news!  I see the Rampion Field offshore from Brighton is progressing – from Brighton Clock Tower looking down West Street, a rig and towers visible on horizon and full extent surprised me recently as it came into view whilst driving along A259 from Eastbourne.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-41220948#_=_

Offshore wind power cheaper than new nuclear.  [ABRIDGED]

By Roger Harrabin,BBC environment analyst.  September 11 2017.

Burbo Bank Offshore Wind Farm, Liverpool.  copyright GETTY IMAGES

Energy from offshore wind in the UK will be cheaper than electricity from new nuclear power for the first time.  The development, revealed in figures from the government, has been seen as a milestone in the advance of renewable energy.

The plummeting cost of offshore wind energy has caught even its most optimistic supporters by surprise.  Nuclear firms said the UK still needed a mix of low-carbon energy, especially for when wind power was not possible.  The figures, from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, for offshore wind were revealed as the result of an auction for subsidies, in which the lowest bidder wins.

Two firms said they were willing to build offshore wind farms for a subsidy of £57.50 per megawatt hour. That compares with new nuclear plants at a subsidy of £92.50 per megawatt hour for 2022-23.

Emma Pinchbeck from the wind energy trade body Renewable UK told the BBC: “These figures are truly astonishing.  “We still think nuclear can be part of the mix – but our industry has shown how to drive costs down, and now they need to do the same.”

‘Energy revolution.’

Onshore wind power and solar energy are already both cost-competitive with gas in some places in the UK.  And the price of energy from offshore wind has now halved in less than five years.

Energy analysts said UK government policy helped to lower the costs by nurturing the fledgling industry, then incentivising it to expand – and then demanding firms should bid in auction for their subsidies.

Michael Grubb, professor of energy policy at University College London, called the cost reduction “a huge step forward in the energy revolution”.  “It shows that Britain’s biggest renewable resource – and least politically problematic – is available at reasonable cost.  It’ll be like the North Sea oil and gas industry: it started off expensive, then as the industry expanded, costs fell. We can expect offshore wind costs to fall more, too,” he said.

The subsidies, paid from a levy on consumer bills, will run for 15 years – unlike nuclear subsidies which run for 35 years.  This adds to the cost advantage offshore wind has now established over new nuclear.  Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, said: “This massive price drop for offshore wind is a huge boost for the renewables industry and should be the nail in the coffin for new nuclear.  “The government’s undying commitment to new nuclear risks locking us into sky high prices for years to come. Put simply, this news should be the death knell for Hinkley C nuclear station.”

Nuclear ‘still needed.’

However, the nuclear industry said that because wind power is intermittent, nuclear energy would still be needed.  Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “It doesn’t matter how low the price of offshore wind is. On last year’s figures it only produced electricity for 36% of the time.”

EDF, which is building the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, said the UK still needed a “diverse, well-balanced” mix of low-carbon energy.  “New nuclear remains competitive for consumers who face extra costs in providing back-up power when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine,” the French firm said.  “There are also costs of dealing with excess electricity when there is too much wind or sun.”

Construction of the Hinkley Point plant is under way after gaining government approval last year.  EDF added that energy from new nuclear plants would become cheaper as the market matures, as has happened with offshore wind.  Eyes will be raised at this suggestion, as nuclear power has already received subsidies since the 1950s but storage of surplus energy from offshore wind is still a challenge.

Prof Grubb estimated the new offshore wind farms would supply about 2% of UK electricity demand, with a net cost to consumers of under £5 per year.

Experts warn that in order to meet the UK’s long term climate goals, additional sources of low-carbon energy will still be needed.

Agriculture Emissions Stay the Same

https://www.desmog.uk/2017/08/23/lack-progress-agricultural-emission-reductions-shows-need-green-brexit

[Extract from a lightly longer article; go to above link for full version].

The UK has failed to make any cuts to emissions from agriculture. Again.

New government statistics released 22 August show UK farming emitted 49.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2015, the exact same amount as a year before and remaining at about the same level since 2008.Overall, agriculture accounted for about 10 percent of the UK’s greenhouse gas

While the sector only contributed one percent of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions, it was responsible for 53 percent of the UK’s methane emissions. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and – pound for pound – can trap much more heat in the atmosphere over the course of a couple of decades.

Agricultural emissions come from a variety of sources. The production of animal feed is the main driver, while generating power to keep the industry going also creates a lot of emissions. Livestock such as cows, sheep and pigs also emit a lot of methane.

A recent study suggested converting land for farming has led to the release of 133 billion tons of carbon dioxide globally over the last 12,000 years. That’s the equivalent of 13 years of global emissions from all sectors at their current levels, the Washington Post pointed out.

Since 2008, the UK has failed to cut its agricultural emissions, with reductions stalling at about 17 percent below 1990 levels. There is no specific climate target for the agriculture sector, instead the industry is captured under the UK Climate Change Act’s general 80 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, from 1990 levels, by 2050.    continues…

Green Groups and MPs Calling for Amendments to the Repeal Bill

http://www.ciwem.org/green-groups-and-mps-are-calling-for-an-amendment-to-the-repeal-bill/

July 7 2017.  The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management,  (CIWEM).

 

Green Groups and MPs are calling For an Amendment To the Repeal Bill.

Thirteen major environmental charities in the Greener UK coalition have begun working with a cross-party group of MPs to ensure the Repeal Bill does not “dilute” the force of environmental law in the UK

The MPs that back the amendment so far include Ed Miliband, former Labour Party leader and secretary of state for energy and climate change, and Caroline Lucas, Green Party co-leader.

The government has said that existing UK mechanisms, primarily judicial review and the role of parliament, are enough to replace all the functions currently carried out by EU agencies and the European Court of Justice (ECJ).  But these UK mechanisms do not compare to current EU arrangements, the groups say.

Currently, EU agencies play important roles in monitoring the state of the environment, checking governments comply with environmental law and, where necessary, enforcing the law by initiating investigations into possible breaches, including in response to complaints from citizens and civil society organisations. If breaches of the law are identified, remedies and sanctions can be applied, including fines.

Shaun Spiers, chair of Greener UK and executive director at Green Alliance, said: “No one voted for dirtier beaches or worse air quality. The government has promised to bring all environmental protections into domestic law, but laws are only effective when there are strong institutions to enforce them.

“The ultimate risk of fines imposed by the European Court has led the UK government to clean up its act several times – for example, when it stopped pumping raw sewage into oceans on a regular basis and, more recently, being ordered by the courts to publish stronger air quality plans.

“To secure the high level of environmental protection that the public overwhelmingly wants and needs, UK governance institutions must be sufficiently resourced, independent and expert. Otherwise, environmental law will fail.

“The government will protest its good intentions, but it should be establishing systems that are proof against any future government that may want to weaken environmental and other protections.”

The Greener UK coalition formed in response to the EU referendum, united in the belief that leaving the EU is a pivotal moment to restore and enhance the UK’s environment. It brings together 13 major environmental organisations, including the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, and WWF.

The Great Repeal Bill will end the supremacy of EU law and return power to the UK.

Amendments.  The text of Repeal Bill amendment the groups are recommending the following:

(1) The relevant Ministers must, before the UK’s exit from the EU, make provision that all powers and functions relating to the UK that were carried out by an EU institution before the date of the UK leaving the EU will—

(a) continue to be carried out by an EU institution; or

(b) be carried out by an appropriate existing or newly created domestic body; or

(c) be carried out by an appropriate international body.

(2) For the purposes of this section, powers and functions relating to the UK exercised by an EU institution may include, but are not limited to—

(a) monitoring and measuring compliance with legal requirements,

(b) reviewing and reporting on compliance with legal requirements,

(c) enforcement of legal requirements,

(d) setting standards or targets,

(e) co-ordinating action,

(f) publicising information including regarding compliance with environmental standards.

(3) Within 12 months of the UK’s exit from the EU, the Government shall consult and bring forward proposals for domestic governance arrangements to ensure equivalent provision of the regulatory, monitoring, oversight, accountability, enforcement and other functions relating to the UK currently provided by EU institutions, by providing for the establishment by primary legislation of—

(a) a new independent body or bodies with powers and functions equivalent to those of the relevant EU institutions in relation to the environment; and

(b) a new domestic framework for environmental protection and improvement.

(4) For the purposes of this section ‘EU institution’ includes but is not limited to—

(a) the European Commission;

(b) the European Environment Agency;

(c) the European Chemicals Agency; and

(d) the European Court of Auditors.

(5) Responsibility for any functions or obligations arising from EU-derived UK law for which no specific provision has been made immediately after commencement of this Act will belong to the relevant Minister until such a time as specific provision for those functions or obligations has been made.

 

This article was originally posted on CIWM Journal Online.

July Sightings

July 4.  Flock of about 20 oystercatchers perched on one of the reefs that run out here and there along the beach at St.Leonards this afternoon.

July 8.  Trained to Brighton…  Beautiful show of hollyhocks at Berwick station, real cottage flowers!  Scrub is still being allowed to increase in area at a number of locations along the Firle Escarpment Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  This is one of SE England’s major landscape features and if attitudes, government grants, and funding for Natural England staff do not change before too long, this majestic view will be lost to future generations.    In a field near Firle, saw windrows of straw from an early combined crop of cereal.    People who criticise on aesthetic grounds the Rampion wind farm some 10 miles seaward of Brighton, should turn their gaze 90 degrees and consider the factory chimney (aka i-360 attraction), parked on Brighton’s promenade!    Evening withdrawal of some evening train services meant I was stuck on Lewes station for about an hour from 8-45pm but I was rewarded by one of Nature’s spectacles.  I became aware of lots of jackdaw chatter emanating some 200m away in trees in Southover Road.  Over the next hour, wave upon wave of jackdaws came in low over the station from the south-east, many beginning to chatter on their final approach to their companions already settled amongst the crowns of the tall trees. I was left wondering how they all managed to fit into the the available space. Home at 22-45!

July 9.  Sensible dogs, and Englishmen go out in the midday sun!  Why sit on baking-hot pebbles when you can lay on cool, damp ones or even better, in the water!

July 14.  Buff-tailed bumble bees bottoms-up on artichokes on my allotment.

July 19.  during the evening, I counted some 20-24 swifts over the centre of St.Leonards.  Another couple of weeks and I guess they’ll have largely departed south.

First Floating Windfarm to Take Shape Off Coast of Scotland

Why couldn’t the UK have led this research and we built them?  Instead, a Norwegian state-owned company is leading in this great new technology!

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jun/27/hywind-project-scotland-worlds-first-floating-windfarm-norway?CMP=twt_a-environment_b-gdneco

World’s first floating windfarm to take shape off coast of Scotland.  [Abridged]

Adam Vaughan in Stord, Norway.  Tuesday 27 June 2017.

Two of the floating turbines are readied off the coast of Norway for the trip to Scotland. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty

The world’s first floating windfarm has taken to the seas in a sign that a technology once confined to research and development drawing boards is finally ready to unlock expanses of ocean for generating renewable power.

After two turbines were floated this week, five now bob gently in the deep waters of a fjord on the western coast of Norway ready to be tugged across the North Sea to their final destination off north-east Scotland.

The £200m Hywind project is unusual not just because of the pioneering technology involved, which uses a 78-metre-tall underwater ballast and three mooring lines that will be attached to the seabed to keep the turbines upright. It is also notable because the developer is not a renewable energy firm but Norway’s Statoil, which is looking to diversify away from carbon-based fuels.

Irene Rummelhoff, head of the oil firm’s low-carbon division, said the technology opened up an enormous new resource of wind power.  “It’s almost unlimited. Currently we are saying [floating windfarms will work in] water depths of between 100 and 700 metres, but I think we can go deeper than that. It opens up ocean that was unavailable,” she said.

Offshore windfarms are springing up across the North Sea for a reason – its waters are uniquely shallow enough to allow turbines to be mounted atop steel poles fixed to the seabed.  However, such fixed-bottom turbines can only be installed at water depths down to 40 metres, making them little use for the steeply shelved coastlines of the US west coast or Japan.

“If you look at coastlines around the world, there’s few that have sufficient area at depths down to 40 metres so if they want to deploy offshore wind, they need to introduce floating wind,” said Rummelhoff.

As well as opening up new frontiers such as the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, floating windfarms could be placed farther out to sea to avoid the sort of aesthetic objections that scuppered a £3.5b windfarm off the Dorset coast.

While Hywind is a minnow among modern offshore wind projects – it will power just 20,000 homes compared with the 800,000 by one being built off the Yorkshire coast – proponents say floating turbines could eclipse fixed-bottom ones in the long run.

Bruno Geschier, chief marketing officer at Ideol, a French company hoping to build floating windfarms in Japan, France and elsewhere, said he expected floating farms to begin to take off in the next decade, “reaching cruising altitude in the mid-2020s and a big boom in 2030-35. Floating wind is an opportunity for France to step on to the podium.”

The commercialisation also means a chance for new countries to emerge as renewable energy leaders. The UK has the most offshore wind capacity in the world, with Germany not far behind, but France, which has none, wants to become a market leader.

For Statoil, the ambitions go well beyond Peterhead in Scotland, where Hywind will be moored and providing power from October at the latest.

Rummelhoff said floating windfarms will come of age in the areas where conventional ones have been established, as countries such as the UK run out of suitable sites in shallower waters.  It is also talking with state governments in Hawaii and California about projects, and eyeing Japan and the new, pro-renewables government in Seoul.

Like many new technologies, the biggest challenge will be cost. Behind the turbines at the deepwater port of Stord in Norway sits a huge lifting vessel usually used in the oil and gas industry. It is the second biggest of its kind, very expensive to hire – and, for now, essential in the process of lifting the turbines off the quayside and floating them.  A generous subsidy deal from the Scottish government made the project viable.

Trump Pulls Out of Climate Deal

Trump yesterday has confirmed what most sensible people feared.  This man is arrogant, selfish and shows himself to be ignorant and stupid!  He is putting mankind and this beautiful planet in serious jeopardy.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-40128266#

June 1 2017.  [Abridged]

Trump climate deal pullout: The global reaction.  President Donald Trump’s announcement that the US is withdrawing from the 2015 Paris climate agreement has drawn strong reaction from supporters and opponents inside America and from around the world…

Former President Barack Obama, who negotiated the deal for Paris the US:

“The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created. I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack. But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect I’m confident for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”

French President Emmanuel Macron:

“I tell you firmly tonight: We will not renegotiate a less ambitious accord. There is no way. Don’t be mistaken on climate; there is no plan B because there is no planet B.”

Elon Musk, entrepreneur and Tesla Inc CEO who had served on a White House advisory council:

“Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world,”

US Senator Bernie Sanders, former Democratic presidential candidate:

“At this moment, when climate change is already causing devastating harm around the world, we do not have the moral right to turn our backs on efforts to preserve this planet for future generations.”

Democratic Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio:

“President Trump can turn his back on the world, but the world cannot ignore the very real threat of climate change. This decision is an immoral assault on the public health, safety and security of everyone on this planet. On behalf of the people of New York City, and alongside mayors across the country, I am committing to honour the goals of the Paris agreement with an executive order in the coming days, so our city can remain a home for generations to come.”

Democratic former US Secretary of State John Kerry:

“The president who promised “America First” has taken a self-destructive step that puts our nation last. This is an unprecedented forfeiture of American leadership which will cost us influence, cost us jobs, and invite other countries to walk away from solving humanity’s most existential crisis. It isolates the United States after we had united the world.”

Republican US House Speaker Paul Ryan:

“The Paris climate agreement was simply a raw deal for America. Signed by President Obama without Senate ratification, it would have driven up the cost of energy, hitting middle-class and low-income Americans the hardest. I commend President Trump for fulfilling his commitment to the American people and withdrawing from this bad deal.”

US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer:

“President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement is a devastating failure of historic proportions. Future generations will look back on President Trump’s decision as one of the worst policy moves made in the 21st century because of the huge damage to our economy, our environment and our geopolitical standing.”

Peabody Energy, largest coal mining firm in the US:

“Peabody supports the administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. We believe that abiding by the accord, without significant changes, would have substantially impacted the US economy, increased electricity costs and required the power sector to rely on less diverse and more intermittent energy. Peabody continues to advocate for greater use of technology to meet the world’s need for energy security, economic growth and energy solutions through high efficiency low emissions coal-fuelled power plants and research and development funding for carbon capture.”

UK Prime Minister Theresa May – a Downing Street statement:

“The Prime Minister expressed her disappointment with the decision and stressed that the UK remained committed to the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement provides the right global framework for protecting the prosperity and security of future generations, while keeping energy affordable and secure for our citizens and businesses.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (via spokesman Stephane Dujarric):

“The decision by the United States to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change is a major disappointment for global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote global security. It is crucial that the United States remains a leader on environmental issues.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

“We are deeply disappointed that the United States federal government has decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Canada is unwavering in our commitment to fight climate change and support clean economic growth.”

European Commission climate action commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete:

“Today is a sad day for the global community, as a key partner turns its back on the fight against climate change. The EU deeply regrets the unilateral decision by the Trump administration to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement.”

President Frank Bainimarama of Fiji, which is organising the next UN annual climate meeting, COP23:

“The decision by the Trump Administration to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change is deeply disappointing, especially for the citizens of vulnerable nations throughout the world. As incoming President of COP23, I did what I could – along with many leaders around the world – to try to persuade President Trump to remain standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us as, together, we tackle the greatest challenge our planet has ever faced. While the loss of America’s leadership is unfortunate, this is a struggle that is far from over.”

Wind Turbine Manufacture

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/dec/01/hull-siemens-factory-wind-turbine-blades

Hull’s Siemens factory produces first batch of wind turbine blades

turbine-bladeEach wind turbine blade weighs 28 tonnes and is made of balsa wood and fibreglass. Photograph: Paul Langrock/Agentur Zenit/Siemens AG

Adam Vaughan, Thursday 1 December 2016.

A new £310m factory in Hull that makes wind turbine blades has been hailed by ministers as proof that manufacturing has a “glittering” future in the UK.  The first batch of 75-metre blades have emerged from the plant, part of a vast “green port” built by Siemens and partners at docks that used to export Yorkshire coal.  The facility, which started operating in September, is due to employ 1,000 by the new year, up from 700.

The investment is considered a huge boost for a port area that had declined into a wasteland and a city with one of the UK’s highest unemployment rates.  Stephen Brady, the city council’s leader, said the plant, combined with Hull being named city of culture for 2017, was a positive “perfect storm”.

“This place is proof that manufacturing in this country and in this great city has a glittering, hi-tech future,” said the business and energy secretary, Greg Clark, at the site’s inauguration on Thursday.

Siemens’ £310m Hull plant will take windfarm technology to new level.  Everything about Alexandra Docks is big, from the 90-metre turbine towers that stand waiting to be floated out in January to a windfarm off the coast of Cromer, Norfolk, to the blade factory itself, which spans an area the size of seven football pitches.

Inside its cavernous halls sit the 28-tonne blades under construction, made of balsa wood and fibreglass. Hundreds will be built there each year, destined for bigger, more powerful offshore windfarms in deeper waters up and down the UK’s coast.

Iminent Deal on Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)

https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-why-a-un-climate-deal-on-hfcs-matters?utm_content=bufferc3ba5&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Carbon Brief article.  10 October 2016 .

Why a UN climate deal on HFCs matters.  [Abridged]

This week, countries will gather in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, to tackle a small but potent cause of climate change: hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).  The conference is the second in a trio of important UN climate meetings this year. Earlier in October, nations worked on a new aviation deal. In November, they will convene again in Marrakech to build on the Paris Agreement.

HFCs are synthetic chemicals used mainly in fridges and air conditioning, but also in fire extinguishers and as solvents.

HFCs, like aviation and shipping, were omitted from the Paris Agreement, despite being a potent greenhouse gas. Countries have agreed to tackle them them through the Montreal Protocol instead — a UN treaty better known for tackling the hole in the ozone layer by phasing out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Why are HFCs important?

The Montreal Protocol is recognised as one of the UN’s most successful environmental treaties to date. It called for a total phase out of CFCs by 1995 for developed countries and 2010 for developing countries.

However, these CFCs had to be replaced by something. At first, this was hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) — a group of chemicals that deplete the ozone layer 10 to 50 times less than CFCs, which were considered “transitional substitutes” under the Protocol until ozone-safe replacements could be commercialised.  Later, HFCs started to be used instead. The graph below illustrates the rise and fall in the use of these three chemicals.

Scientists estimate that HFCs in the atmosphere account for 1% of the warming caused by all greenhouse gases, but their usage is on the rise. Consumption is growing at a rate of 10-15% a year, as demand grows for fridges and aircon. One study estimates that, in a business-as-usual scenario, HFCs could rise to 9-19% of projected global emissions by 2050.

This is problematic because of their impact on the climate. While emissions are dwarfed against global CO2 emissions, their capacity to warm the atmosphere is stronger.

There are several different types of HFCs. The most persistent ones can be several thousand times better at absorbing heat than CO2. Based on the current mix of HFCs being used, their impact is 1,600 times stronger than CO2 per tonne emitted.

 

One study has argued that phasing out HFCs could help to avoid up to 0.5C of warming by the end of the century. Since the Paris Agreement has an aspirational but difficult goal of limiting warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, such a boost could prove vital.

What are the options for replacing them?

There are already alternatives to HFCs available. These include natural refrigerants, such as hydrocarbons, ammonia and carbon dioxide (which would have a negligible impact in the small quantities released by cooling systems, since it is thousands of times weaker than some of the HFCs currently used).

There is also the option to replace the current HFC mix with different HFCs that trap much less heat over their lifespan. There is another group of chemicals available called “unsaturated HFCs”, or HFOs, which are less potent greenhouse gases than the current mix of HFCs.

A 2014 study undertaken for the European Commission found that, in developing countries, approximately 90% of HCFCs and highly potent HFCs could be replaced with substances that have a low or moderate warming impact.

Nancy Sherman, who works on HFCs at the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, tells Carbon Brief: “Businesses are working hard to bring alternatives to market, as they will have a business advantage as HCFCs and high-GWP HFCs are phased out. Availability of alternatives also varies by region and country, although some of the largest suppliers of alternatives are multinational corporations with a broad global reach.”

What’s happened so far?

The idea to tackle HFCs through the Montreal Protocol has existed since at least 2009. However, persuading India and some of the Gulf States to take this approach initially proved difficult. They argued that the issue should be discussed instead at the UN’s climate change body (UNFCCC).

For a while, it was a subject of heavy diplomacy. In September 2014, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and US president Barack Obama agreed on the need to take urgent action on HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. Obama made similar agreements with the Brazilian president and Pakistani prime minister in 2015. Also in 2015, the EU and China agreed to work with other countries to agree on a solution to tackle HFCs.

The effort paid off. On 6 November 2015, nations accepted the Dubai Pathway on Hydrofluorocarbons. This was an agreement to work towards an HFCs amendment of the Montreal Protocol in 2016.

This was further discussed at a number of meetings throughout 2016. Now, in Kigali this week, countries are expected to decide upon a final deal.

What could happen in Kigali?

Countries have inched ever closer towards an HFCs deal over the past years, but there are still a number of important issues to be resolved before the meeting concludes on 14 October, which will determine the overall ambition and impact of the final amendment.

For instance, the North American proposal is that developed countries should reduce HFCs to 90% of the 2011-2013 average by 2019, and that developing countries should peak HFCs in 2021. All countries would then have to phase down in steps from their starting points.

India’s proposal is the outlier in terms of ambition. It suggests that developing countries should only peak HFCs from 2031, with unrestrained growth permitted until this point. In comparison, the island states have proposed cutting developing country emissions to 85% of the 2015-2017 average by 2020.

For developing countries, it is important that the freeze date is early, as this will prevent the rapid growth projected in coming years. Since many are currently in the stage of phasing out HCFCs, it would enable them to take advantage of a narrow window of opportunity to leapfrog HFCs altogether, and go straight to a sustainable alternative.

The Montreal Protocol also has its own pot of money called the Multilateral Fund, contributed by developed countries, that is used to advance actions in developing countries. Between 2015 and 2017, the fund has a budget of $507.5m.

Nations eager to seal the deal have also added their own sweeteners. In September, a group of countries including the US, UK, Germany and the Netherlands pledged an additional $27m to the Multilateral Fund designed to support early action, on the condition that the deal agreed in Kigali actually warrants it.

A group of 19 philanthropists simultaneously agreed to provide another $53m to developing countries to support improvements on energy efficiency.

Energy First as UK Successfully Transmits Data via National Electricity Grid

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/11/energy-first-as-uk-successfully-transmits-data-via-national-electricity-grid?CMP=share_btn_tw

An energy first as UK successfully transmits data via national electricity grid. [Abridged]national-gridPhotograph: Ben Cawthra/REX

Damian Carrington, The Guardian, Tuesday 11 October 2016.

Data has been transmitted across a national electricity grid for the first time, in what could be a significant step towards the creation of virtual power stations, where many thousands of homes and businesses combine to manage electricity use more smartly.

The new technology could lead to lower energy bills for consumers who allow small variations in the energy consumption of their appliances, such as water heaters or freezers.

The flexibility provided by thousands of appliances combined could reduce peaks in energy use and remove the need for some large new gas or nuclear power stations or polluting diesel generator farms that are started up in times of short supply.

The new data system, created using telecoms technology by Reactive Technologies (RT) and now successfully tested on the UK’s National Grid, could also allow the optimum use of intermittent renewable energy, an important feature given the fast-rising proportion of green energy on the grid.

The system uses new technology to send messages through national electricity cables to any appliances with a smart plug connected to the mains, asking it to adjust its energy use. In the home, this could mean allowing the temperature of a freezer to increase by 0.5C to cut demand or turning up a water heater at 1am to utilise spare renewable energy.

The development is part of a wholesale change taking place in the energy industry, in which large, centralised fossil-fuel power stations are being replaced by decentralised renewable energy and smart grids. The government’s own National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), the National Grid and industry group Energy UK have all said an energy “revolution” is taking place, delivering a low-carbon system that is more secure, cheaper and faster to build.

The NIC recently estimated that UK consumers could save £8bn a year by 2030 by adopting smart power technology, while also helping the nation meet its climate change targets. Numerous companies are working on smart grid concepts.

“The old mindset would be, we need to build more power stations,” said Jens Madrian, at RT and former CFO at “big six” utility RWE npower. “We disagree with that. There are other ways of managing electricity, one of which is carrying knowledge from the telecommunications and software engineering side into the energy sector.”

Marc Borrett, RT’s CEO said: “What is better? Building a Hinkley, which if it goes down you have lost 7% of the national electricity generation, or building up capacity from many hundreds of thousands of smaller devices around the UK? It needs quite a cultural shift: smaller is better, distributed is better.”

A spokesman for big six energy company SSE, which was also involved in the trial, said: “Innovation milestones, such as this, will help keep the lights on and offer significant cost savings.”

Electricity wires have previously been used to transmit information within homes and local networks, such as rows of street lights, by sending very high frequency data alongside the standard 50Hz signal. But sending messages across the country means going through sub-station transformers, which contain an air gap that cannot pass on the high-frequency data. Instead, using technology developed by former Nokia engineers in Finland, the RT system inserts the data as small changes in the 50Hz signal itself, which does jump the air gap.

When electricity demand needs to be ramped up or down, the system broadcasts a message through the grid which is received by the connected appliances. One advantage of the system over the internet and mobile phone networks is that the grid already reaches all electrical devices, even those in remote locations.