Sizewell C nuclear plant confirmed by UK government with £700m public stake

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 29th Nov 2022) London, Uk – –

EDF’s Suffolk plant will create 10,000 highly skilled jobs and help secure UK energy security, ministers say

The government has confirmed the Sizewell C nuclear power plant in Suffolk will go ahead, backing the scheme with a £700m stake.

Ministers said the move, first announced in Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement, would create 10,000 highly skilled jobs, provide reliable low-carbon power to the equivalent of 6m homes for more than 50 years and would help secure UK energy security.


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The government also said it would set up an arm’s-length body, Great British Nuclear, which would develop a pipeline of nuclear projects beyond Sizewell C.

The plant in Suffolk, developed by the French energy company EDF, will be the second of a new generation of UK nuclear power reactors, after the delayed Hinkley Point C scheme in Somerset, which is under construction but has experienced delays and climbing costs since it was first given the go-ahead.

The EDF chief executive, Simone Rossi, said replicating Hinkley Point C’s design at Sizewell would provide more certainty over schedule and costs, adding: “It will deliver another big boost to jobs and skills in the nuclear industry and provide huge new opportunities for communities in Suffolk.”

However, opponents of the scheme criticised the approval decision on cost and environmental grounds. The Greenpeace UK policy director, Doug Parr, said: “The launch of Great British Nuclear is clearly ironic as new nuclear is neither great nor British. Projects have been plagued by massive delays and ballooning costs while the government is seeking to have Sizewell C – a French-designed and built reactor – funded by foreign investment funds.

“It’s hard to work out what drives the government’s enthusiasm for new nuclear. It‘s not cheap, or clean, or necessary as there are better, quicker and less expensive options to deliver electricity. Not to mention that technology is steadily becoming available to cover the periods when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. On top of all that, there’s no value-for-money assessment available for Sizewell C so UK taxpayers are essentially buying it sight unseen.”

A spokesperson for the Stop Sizewell C campaign said: “Sizewell C can neither lower energy bills nor give the UK energy independence. Despite the government’s paltry £700m, there is still a huge amount of money to find, and no one is prepared to come clean about what the ultimate cost will be.”

The Sizewell announcement comes after ministers also set out plans to reduce energy demand by 15% by 2030, with a new £1bn Eco+ energy efficiency scheme, and a public awareness campaign – previously blocked under Liz Truss’s administration as being too “nanny state” – to help save energy this winter.

It also comes as Rishi Sunak is facing pressure, including from some Tory MPs, to U-turn on plans to keep the ban on onshore windfarms in England – one of the cheapest forms of energy.

The business and energy secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “We need more clean, affordable power generated within our borders … today’s historic deal giving government backing to Sizewell C’s development is crucial to this, moving us towards greater energy independence.”

The Nuclear Industry Association chief executive, Tom Greatrex, hailed the announcement as “a defining moment for UK energy security”. He said: “Sizewell C will be one of the UK’s most important green energy projects ever, cutting fossil fuels, providing clean, affordable power for a very long time, and creating thousands of highly skilled jobs.


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“This investment, alongside the support for Great British Nuclear and the energy security bill, shows the government is serious about building new nuclear capacity alongside renewables and paves the way for the development of a pipeline of new nuclear projects, including small modular reactors, to strengthen energy independence.”

The chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, said: “Today’s investment in Sizewell C represents the biggest step on our journey to energy independence – the first state backing for a nuclear project in over 30 years.

“Once complete, this mega project will power millions of homes with clean, affordable, homegrown energy for decades to come.

By Guardian staff and agency

UK oil and gas sector faces $24 bln bill to plug old wells -report

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 22nd Nov 2022) London, UK —

British North Sea oil and gas producers will spend around 20 billion pounds ($24 billion) on dismantling over 2,000 unused wells and facilities in the ageing basin over the next decade, an industry group said on Tuesday.

The cost burden for plugging wells and removing platforms, in what is known as decommissioning, is set to rise sharply over the next three to four years as more fields stop production, Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) warned in a report.


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The growing bill coincides with British finance minister Jeremy Hunt's decision last week to increase a windfall tax on North Sea producers to 35% from 25%, bringing total taxes on the sector to 75%, among the highest in the world.

OEUK estimates around 2,100 North Sea wells will be decommissioned over the next decade at an average cost of 7.8 million pounds per well, for a total of 19.7 billion pounds.

The proportion of spending on decommissioning in companies' budgets is set to rise from 14% in 2022 to 19% by 2031.

Over 75% of total decommissioning spend will be within the central and northern North Sea.

Oil and gas production in the North Sea, a major deepwater production hub since the 1970s, has been in steady decline since peaking at around 4.4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in the 1990s.

Decommissioning costs can be offset against some taxes, but not against the latest windfall tax.

OEUK also warned the growing number of oil and gas workers turning to the fast-growing offshore wind industry in the region could create shortages of skilled workers for decommissioning.


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“The UK's decommissioning sector is snowballing and will continue growing for years to come,” OEUK Decommissioning Manager Ricky Thomson said in a statement.

“But this poses a challenge as well as an opportunity. The growth of renewables and demand for decommissioning services and expertise will create increasing pressure for resources.”

Reporting by Ron Bousso

National Grid creates £50m emergency fund for vulnerable households

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 1st  Nov 2022) London, Uk – –

UK electricity distributor warns of “exponential increase” in customers seeking help with their energy bills

The chief executive of National Grid has warned of an “exponential increase” in customers seeking help with their energy bills as the company created a £50m emergency support fund.


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John Pettigrew said the UK electricity network operator’s fund will be used this winter and next to make donations to bodies providing support for vulnerable households and advice on energy efficiency measures to lower bills long term.

The move comes amid fears that the cost of living crisis and high energy bills will push growing numbers of households into fuel poverty this winter.

National Grid pledged to donate £10m to the Fuel Bank Foundation, which offers emergency financial support and advice to struggling households with a prepayment meter. It will hand £10m to Citizens Advice and £1.5m to National Energy Action.

It will also donate £10m to Affordable Warmth Solutions, which provides home insulation and other energy efficiency measures to households who do not qualify for government programmes, and £1m to the National Energy Foundation, which works to help improve the energy efficiency of homes.

The former prime minister Liz Truss moved to slash all energy bills through her two-year energy price guarantee scheme. This was later cut to six months.

“We were pleased to see the government support, but we think it’s important that we play our part in supporting customers over the course of the winter,” Pettigrew said.

“Charities have said there’s been an exponential increase in the number of people wanting help and advice, so our focus is in those areas.”

The government is examining methods of making the price guarantee more targeted at vulnerable households. Pettigrew said a “social tariff”, which would see subsidised energy given to people in need, “might be something that makes a lot of sense”.

National Grid has launched a scheme to pay households to use energy outside of peak hours. It hopes to take strain off the power grid amid fears over potential power cuts this winter.

Pettigrew said the Grid’s “base case assumption is that there is sufficient generation to meet demand this winter, similarly there are plenty of sources of gas to meet demand”.

Earlier this year National Grid agreed to bring forward a £200m payment to customers generated from its electricity cables to Europe in an effort to “reduce consumer bills”.

Clare Moriarty, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Our frontline services are inundated with people struggling to afford their energy bills. In the face of this escalating crisis, it’s more important than ever that people can turn to us for advice on managing costs and keeping out the cold.”


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Jeremy Nesbitt, the managing director of Affordable Warmth Solutions, said the funds provided by National Grid would allow it to dispense advice on energy efficiency to 10,000 homes.

Pettigrew has faced criticism over his above-average £6.5m pay packet, which included a £1.1m pay rise during the energy crisis. “In terms of my remuneration, that’s something for the board of National Grid,” he said.

By Alex Lawson

 

Octopus Energy seals bid to take over 1.5 million Bulb customers

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 31st Oct 2022) London, Uk – –

Octopus said it is taking on Bulb's 1.5 million customers. Bulb's collapse in November 2021 was the most significant among dozens of energy supplier failures.

Octopus Energy has sealed its deal to buy Bulb, a collapsed energy rival that has been funded by billions of pounds in government support for nearly a year.

Octopus said it is taking on Bulb's 1.5 million customers “bringing an end to taxpayer losses and uncertainty for Bulb customers and employees”.


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It added: “Octopus is paying the government to take on Bulb's customer base – it is believed that this will represent a higher amount per customer than suppliers typically paid to take on any of the 29 suppliers who have failed since September 2021.

“Taxpayers will also benefit from a profit share agreement for a period of up to four years.”

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) confirmed an agreement had been reached between special administrators of Bulb and Octopus, saying the deal will “protect consumers and taxpayers” and “provides a stable new home for Bulb's customers and 650 employees”.

Octopus said it is paying the government “above market value” to take on Bulb's customers.

BEIS said the sale will be completed after a statutory process called an energy transfer scheme, which will move Bulb's relevant assets into a new separate entity that will “protect consumers during the transfer process”.

It is expected to take effect by the end of November.

No disruption for Bulb customers

The government will provide financial support to the new entity to purchase energy for Bulb customers over the winter but these costs will later be repaid, Octopus said.

A profit-share agreement will be put in place for the ringfenced business until agreed funding is repaid by Octopus.

This means payments to shareholders or the wider Octopus Energy Group from the ringfenced entity would be restricted until the Government is repaid, Octopus said.

Bulb customers will not experience any disruption to their energy supplies as part of the transfer, BEIS said.

It added there is no change to either firm's customers' supply arrangements, and credit balances are protected.

It comes after Ovo Energy launched an 11th-hour bid to prevent Octopus from swallowing the nationalised supplier.

Ovo submitted an offer for Bulb soon after it collapsed into insolvency a year ago but subsequently pulled out of the auction.

Taxpayers' rescue of Bulb is set to cost the government up to £4bn, Sky News revealed earlier.

A significant supply failure

Bulb's collapse in November 2021 was the most significant among dozens of supplier failures, with Ofgem, the industry regulator, facing heavy criticism for its approach to licensing new entrants to the market.

The government has already been forced to spend billions of pounds buying gas to supply Bulb customers because the company did not hedge its purchases in order to fix its cost base.


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Wholesale gas prices have soared over the last year, with Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine having a particularly pronounced impact on global energy markets.

That would allow the buyer to secure sufficient forward supplies of gas to steer the company through the winter months.

Octopus intends to repay the government funding over a period lasting a number of months, according to sources close to the situation.

By Megan Baynes

 

Shell post third-quarter profit of $9.45 billion, boosted by dividend plans

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 27th Oct, 2022) London, UK —

Shell (SHEL.L) on Thursday posted a third-quarter profit of $9.45 billion, easing from the previous quarter's record high due to weaker refining and gas trading, as it announced plans to sharply boost its dividend by year end when its CEO departs.

Shell also extended its share repurchasing programme, announcing plans to buy $4 billion of stock over the next three months after completing $6 billion in the previous quarter.


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The company said it intends to increase its dividend by 15% in the fourth quarter, when Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden will step down after nine years at the helm. The dividend will be paid in March.

Shell shares were up 2.5% after trading opened in London.

Van Beurden will be succeeded by Wael Sawan, the current head of Shell's natural gas and low-carbon division.

With a profit of $30.5 billion so far this year, Shell is well on track to exceed its record annual profit in 2008 of $31 billion.

The strong earnings were likely to intensify calls in Britain and the European Union to impose further windfall taxes on energy companies as governments struggle with soaring gas and power bills.

Shell's shares gained over 40% so far this year, lifted by soaring oil and gas prices in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February and amid tightening global oil and gas supplies.

Rival TotalEnergies posted a record profit in the third quarter.

The quarterly adjusted earnings of $9.45 billion, which slightly exceeded forecasts, were hit by a sharp 38% quarterly drop in the gas and renewables division, Shell's largest.

Earnings for the second quarter were a record $11.5 billion.

The world's largest trader of liquefied natural gas (LNG), produced 5% less LNG in the period compared with last year at 7.2 million tonnes mainly due to ongoing strikes at its Australian Prelude facility.

Its gas trading business was hit this quarter by “supply constraints, coupled with substantial differences between paper and physical realisations in a volatile and dislocated market.”

Earnings from the refining, chemicals and oil trading division also dropped sharply by 62% in the quarter due to weaker refining margins.

Shell said it would stick to its plans to spend $23-$27 billion this year.


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Shell's cashflow in the quarter dropped sharply to $12.5 billion from $18.6 billion in the previous quarter due to a large working capital outflow of $4.2 billion as a result of changes in the value of European gas inventories.

Shell's net debt rose by around $2 billion to $46.4 billion due to lower cashflow from operations and to pay for a recent acquisition. Its debt-to-capital ratio, known as gearing, also rose above 20%.

By Ron Bousso and Shadia Nasralla

U.S. could sell oil from emergency reserve this week – sources

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 18th Oct, 2022) London, UK —

The Biden administration plans to sell oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in a bid to dampen fuel prices before next month's congressional elections, three sources familiar with the matter said on Monday.

President Joe Biden's announcement is expected this week as part of the response to Russia's war on Ukraine, one of the sources said.


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The sale would market the remaining 14 million barrels from Biden's previously announced, and largest ever, release from the reserve of 180 million barrels that started in May.

The administration has also spoken with oil companies about selling an additional 26 million barrels from a congressionally mandated sale in fiscal year 2023, which began Oct. 1, a fourth source said.

The Department of Energy will also release further details on eventually buying the oil back, reflecting the White House's desire to combat rising pump prices while supporting domestic drillers.

Rising retail gasoline prices have helped boost inflation to the highest in decades, posing a risk to Biden and his fellow Democrats ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections, in which they are seeking to keep control of Congress.

Biden said last week gasoline prices are too high and that he would have more to say about lowering costs this week. David Turk, his deputy energy secretary, also said last week the administration can tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, or SPR, in coming weeks and months as necessary to stabilize oil.

The administration has spoken with energy companies about buying back oil through 2025 to replenish the SPR, the sources said, after Biden in March announced the biggest sale ever, 180 million barrels, from May to October.

The Energy Department still has about 14 million barrels of SPR oil left to sell from the historic release, because selling was slowed in July and August by holidays and hot weather.

Additionally, the administration is mandated by a law Congress years ago to sell another 26 million barrels of SPR oil in fiscal year 2023, which started Oct. 1, a sale likely to come soon, one of the sources said.

“The administration has a small window ahead of midterms to try to lower fuel prices, or at least demonstrate that they are trying,” said a source familiar with the White House deliberations. “The White House did not like $4 a gallon gas and it has signaled that it will take action to prevent that again.”

Average U.S. gasoline prices hit about $3.89 a gallon on Monday, up about 20 cents from a month ago and 56 cents higher than last year at this time, according to the AAA motor group. Gasoline prices hit a record average above $5.00 in June.

The DOE and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the sales.

In May, the DOE said it would launch bids late this year for a buy-back of about one third of the 180 million barrel sale. It suggested then that deliveries would be linked to lower oil prices and lower demand, likely after fiscal year 2023, which ends Sept. 30 next year. Two sources said the buy-backs could continue through 2025.


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Biden officials in recent months also urged oil refiners including Exxon Mobil (XOM.N), Chevron (CVX.N) and Valero (VLO.N) to not increase exports of fuel and warned them it could take action if plants do not build inventories.

The administration has not taken a potential ban of gasoline and diesel exports off the table although opponents of such a move say it could exacerbate Europe's energy crisis and raise fuel prices at home.

Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw, Timothy Gardner, Laura Sanicola and Andrea Shalal

British EV charging group auto supply has gone bust sparks by global automotive supply chain crisis

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 12th Oct  2022) London, Uk – –

A supplier of residential charging points for electric vehicles has gone bust after falling victim to the global automotive supply chain crisis.

Sky News understands that Muller EV, which trades under the name Andersen EV, called in Interpath Advisory as administrators earlier this week.

Launched in 2016, Andersen EV supplied and installed charging infrastructure to households across the UK.

City sources said that Interpath had run an urgent search for a buyer in recent weeks but that this process had been unsuccessful.

Information circulated to prospective buyers under the code name Project Kellock suggested that Andersen EV had strong long-term growth prospects through contracts with major carmakers such as Jaguar Land Rover and Porsche.

Last year, the company recorded revenues of just £6m.

Roughly 40 employees have been made redundant as a result of the insolvency.

Delays to supply chains across the car manufacturing industry have triggered widespread warnings about depressed sales of electric vehicles in recent months.

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Responding to an enquiry from Sky News, Will Wright, an Interpath Advisory executive, said: “Companies up and down the automotive supply chain have been experiencing a myriad of issues over the past 12 to 18 months, and Andersen EV was unfortunately no different.

“We will be providing assistance to those employees who have been impacted by redundancy, and will also be seeking purchasers for the Company's assets, including plant and machinery.”
By Mark Kleinman

Co-op supermarket to trial reduced lighting in stores

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 12th Oct 2022) London, Uk – –

Co-op is trialling reduced lighting in stores as a way of saving money as energy bills continue to soar.

The supermarket is rolling out dimmer lighting in around 500 of its 2,500 convenience stores across the UK.

It is understood the cost saving measures could reduce electricity bills by up to £4,000 a year for a single store.

It follows supermarket chains such as Sainsbury's and Morrisons making similar moves.


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Co-op could potentially cut its energy bills by as much as £10m if similar savings were made across all of its stores.

A spokesman for the company said it was trialling the initiative to reduce its environmental impact and help cut costs in the long run.

The company is reviewing how it can become a “more energy efficient business, without compromising safety and still achieving a positive store environment and shopping experience” for customers, the spokesman said.

Co-op is not the first retailer to cut back on the use of lighting in stores.

Sainsbury's lowers lighting when it is bright outside or during less busy hours.

This is part of its long-running environmental plans to save energy and meet its goal of being net zero in its operations by 2035.

Last year, it finished the roll out of LED lighting right across its supermarkets to cut energy consumption.

It also uses a system that automatically monitors and controls lighting in stores to ensure that its sites are only lit when required.

Morrisons also dims the lights for the first and last hour of trade in most of its stores, as well as its “quiet hour” on a Saturday. The supermarket has done this since the coronavirus pandemic and it helps to reduce its energy bill.

Costs jump

The UK faces “a significant risk” of gas shortages this winter, industry regulator Ofgem said last week, which could have an effect on electricity supplies.

Energy costs, which were already rising, have soared as the conflict in Ukraine reduces the availability of Russian gas.

Prices have also risen because demand for energy has rocketed since Covid restrictions ended.


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The National Grid has also announced it will launch a scheme from 1 November which incentivises businesses and households to reduce their electricity use at key times to help reduce pressure on the energy supply this winter.

The company said larger businesses will be paid for reducing demand, for example by shifting their times of energy use or switching to batteries or generators in peak times.

UK Government to proceed with North Sea oil and gas exploration despite spite criticism

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 7th 2022) London, Uk – –

The regulator NSTA is preparing to issue more than 100 new licences, in spite of criticism the move will do little to lower bills or improve security in the near term, and runs counter to efforts to curb global heating.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has insisted a new licensing round for oil and gas exploration will boost the UK's economy and energy security.

Speaking as the regulator began a new round of offshore licences, the business and energy secretary said Vladimir Putin‘s latest invasion of Ukraine makes it “more important than ever that we make the most of sovereign energy resources, strengthening our energy security now and into the future”.

Producing gas in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than importing from abroad, and will support jobs and boost the economy, he said.

Licences are being made available for sectors of the North Sea, known as blocks, with the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) estimating over 100 may be granted.

The decision defies warnings from the world's leading energy organisation, the International Energy Agency, that no new fossil fuel project is compatible with efforts to curb global heating, which is driven primarily by burning fossil fuels.

An analysis of the UK's untapped North Sea oil and gas fields by US-based Global Energy Monitor warned just yesterday that developing even one of them would run counter to the UK's climate goals.

The decision to plough on with new licensing has prompted significant backlash from environmentalists.

“Yet again this government's energy policy benefits fossil fuel companies and no one else,” said Philip Evans, energy transition campaigner for Greenpeace UK.

“Supporting the oil and gas giants profiteering from the energy and climate crises ignores the speedy solutions that are best for the economy, for lowering bills and for the climate,” he added. Mr Evans said energy-efficient homes and renewable power would lower bills and improve energy security faster, while also reducing emissions.

Experts say the new oil and gas would take at least five years to come on stream, but the government says its vital to explore all energy options, amid warnings the UK could face blackouts this winter.

Companies have been urged to apply for licences covering areas to the west of Shetland, in the northern North Sea, the central North Sea, southern North Sea and east Irish Sea.

A total of 898 blocks and part blocks are being made available, but in a bid to encourage production of new oil and gas supplies as quickly as possible the NSTA has identified four “priority cluster areas” in the southern North Sea.

Those areas, located off Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, are known to contain hydrocarbons, which are close to existing infrastructure, giving them the potential to be developed quickly. The NTSA said it will seek to license these areas ahead of others.

‘Security of supply and net zero should not be in conflict'

Dr Samuel said: “The UK is forecast to continue importing natural gas as we transition to a fully renewables system and our North Sea gas has less than half the footprint of imported LNG (Liquified Natural Gas).

“This licensing round includes gas discoveries in the Southern North Sea which can be rapidly tied back to existing infrastructure.”

The NSTA chief stressed all developments undergo environmental and emissions assessments and added: “Security of supply and net zero should not be in conflict.

“The industry has committed to halving upstream emissions by 2030 and investing heavily in electrification, carbon storage and hydrogen.”

On this, he added: “Signs are promising so far – our first carbon storage round closed last month with 26 applications from 19 companies across all the areas we offered.”

Mike Tholen, acting chief executive for industry body Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), said: “The UK gets 75% of its total energy from gas and oil so producing our own reduces our vulnerability to global shortages of the kind caused by the Ukraine conflict.”

Gas and oil are sold on international markets, although much of the gas extracted from British waters is burned in Britain, while oil, which is easier to transport, tends to be exported.


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Mr Tholen added: “Our industry is committed to net zero and also to helping build the low-carbon energy systems of the future. But this is a journey that will take decades during which we will still need gas and oil.

“Many existing UK oil and gas fields are in decline so the risk is that production will drop much faster than demand, leaving us more dependent on imports. That is why new licenses are so important.”

 

BP’s solar venture launches biggest UK project yet, as it ramps up renewable energy push

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 6th Oct 2022) London, Uk – –

From solar farms to floating arrays, from Australia to Bedfordshire, Lightsource BP is ramping up its renewable energy push

“He’s scaring me now,” laughs Mark Davis, as a menacing-looking ram takes a step towards him from underneath an angled solar panel. The burly operations manager is touring Manor Farm near Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, where sheep are using the solar arrays for shade and a remote-controlled cleaning robot with the appearance of a mini tank steadily sloshes water down the panels.

A persistent hairdryer-like hum comes from the huge boxy green inverter, which converts the direct current electricity that the panels generate to the alternating current used by the electrical grid. This is one of about 270 solar farms that have been developed by Lightsource BP in the UK.


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The company – a joint venture between its founder, Nick Boyle, and the oil supermajor BP – is, by some measures, the world’s largest solar developer. It is an industry in the spotlight amid a push for energy security, an increase in consumer demand and a row over the use of land. Against this backdrop, Lightsource BP is pursuing an aggressive global expansion plan – it will be present in 20 countries by the end of the year – and, the Guardian can reveal, has just pushed the button on its largest UK project to date.

Construction will begin at the vast Tiln Farm development in Nottinghamshire next month. When complete, it will have a maximum output of 61 megawatts of power. The development is part of plans to increase Lightsource’s near-6MW output to 25GW by 2025 – or enough to power 19m homes – revised up from an original target of 10GW by 2024. Its many projects include the sprawling Woolooga scheme in north-east Australia and Europe’s largest floating solar farm on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir south-west of London. In the long term, it has 55GW in its project pipeline. The firm also plans to expand its battery storage operations rapidly, typically sited alongside solar farms.

It is an ambitious vision devised by Boyle, who cut his teeth in financial services before founding Lightsource in 2010. Since then, the venture has grown from a tiny operation with six staff to a 900-strong workforce. At Manor Farm, a large group in orange hi-vis jackets studiously examine the site. Every six weeks, a trip is bussed in as the hundreds of new employees hired during the pandemic get a first-hand look at its operations.

“The big advantage with solar is its simplicity,” Boyle says, speaking on a videocall from the company’s London headquarters. “The sun comes up and then it’s simply a chemical reaction.” Boyle argues that soaring energy prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have underlined the case for the technology. “The price [to generate] solar is exactly the same today, and will be the same tomorrow because we have no feedstock; it’s free. It comes up every morning and goes down every night.”

These low costs have prompted calls for a windfall tax on generators, as wholesale electricity prices are tied to the soaring sums paid for gas. Boyle insists Lightsource BP has not seen any windfall gains. “We still sell out the electricity at the same price because ours tend to be on long-term power purchase agreements,” he says. This locked-in income offers security for future investments, which are also funded by selling older solar projects.

Lightsource’s last accounts, for 2020, show losses of £42m – flat on the previous year – on turnover up almost £8m at £62.6m. “We’re definitely in the growth stage, which is why the profit looks the way it does. We make no apology for that fact … you can’t reinvest and expect to make bumper profits, too.”

Last year Lightsource secured £1.3bn of extra financing from 10 global institutions and Boyle said there are no plans to tap BP for funds. The oil producer, valued at £79bn, paid about £150m for a 43% stake in the business in 2017 – after six years away from solar power. It increased its holding to a 50/50 joint venture two years later.

BP’s return to solar and its recent marketing drive for renewable energy investments have drawn accusations of greenwashing. Boyle spoke alongside the BP chief executive, Bernard Looney, when, in early 2020, he announced company targets to hit net zero by 2050 to great fanfare. Some believe the oil firm should be more ambitious, while others, notably certain City investors, were concerned for its profits before this year’s Ukraine-fuelled windfalls. Boyle argues that Looney has “grabbed the bull by the horns” on the energy switch.

“There’s a marriage between different forms of technology – there’s a transition from where we’ve been to where we’re ultimately going, it’s not flicking a switch,” Boyle says. “We were sort of expecting an arrogance [from BP] of ‘we’re 100 years old, and you’re this little minnow’ and it just never materialised at all. We’ve found them nothing but supportive … they’ve let us run our business.”

For households, demand for solar panels has boomed as the economics of the investment have made greater sense. Boyle says that, while he is not competing with smaller domestic suppliers, materials and shipping costs have risen. In the US, solar firms’ share prices have soared.


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On her campaign trail, Liz Truss reheated a long-running debate, suggesting: “What we shouldn’t be doing is putting solar panels on productive land.” Boyle rejects that argument. “Flicking a switch and a light coming on should be a priority,” he says. “I don’t believe that prime agricultural land needs to be used by any stretch of the imagination.” Since becoming prime minister, Truss appears to have softened her stance around some green technologies, notably relaxing the rules on onshore windfarms.

There are plenty of signs agriculture and solar are not mutually exclusive. Last week, the Spanish power giant Iberdrola began a pilot in a vineyard in central Spain where trackers are employed to move the solar panels to provide the right levels of shade to improve the quality of the grapes. Looking down at the stony, inhospitable ground at Manor Farm, it is easy to see why this field suits its unlikely bedfellows: hi-tech solar and sheltering sheep.

By Alex Lawson

 

Britain at ‘significant risk’ of gas shortages this winter, says regulator

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 4th Oct, 2022) London, UK —

 UK faces a “significant risk” of gas shortages this winter and a possible emergency due to the conflict in Ukraine and limited supplies in Europe, the energy regulator has said.

Although Russia only meets about 4% of Britain's gas needs, a disruption in supply to Europe has contributed to driving up British prices and makes it harder for Britain to secure gas from others.

In a letter to power company SSE (SSE.L), regulator Ofgem said Britain faced the possibility of a “gas supply emergency” in which gas supplies to some gas-fired power plants are curtailed, which can stop them from generating electricity.


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Responding to the publication of the letter, Ofgem said in an email: “This winter is likely to be more challenging than previous ones due to the Russian disruption of gas supplies to Europe.”

In the event of gas supply issues the regulator and Britain's National Grid could be forced to curb supply of gas to gas-fired power stations to make sure enough supply remains available to households.

“We need to be prepared for all scenarios this winter,” Ofgem said in the email.

“As a result, Ofgem is putting in place sensible contingency measures with National Grid ESO (Electricity System Operator) and GSO (Gas System Operator) as well as the government to ensure that the UK energy system is fully prepared for this winter,” Ofgem said.

SSE had contacted Ofgem for clarity over imbalance charges which could see power generators forced to pay for failing to produce promised electricity, if emergency measures meant they did not get the gas they needed.


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Gas-fired power plants were responsible for more than 40% of Britain's electricity production last year while the fossil fuel is also used to heat around 80% of British homes.

Britain's National Grid (NG.L) said in July there could be periods where electricity supply is tight this winter, given uncertainty over supplies of Russian gas to Europe, but that it expects to be able to meet demand.

National Grid is expected to announce its winter outlook on Thursday.

Reporting by Susanna Twidale and Sachin Ravikuma

 

EU agrees windfall tax on energy firms

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 30th Sept 2022) London, Uk – –

The European Union has agreed to impose emergency measures to charge energy firms on their record profits.

Ministers have agreed windfall taxes on certain energy companies as well as mandatory cuts in electricity use.


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The plan includes a levy on fossil fuel firms' surplus profits and a levy on excess revenues made from surging electricity costs.

The cash raised is expected to go to families and businesses.

But the bloc is divided on whether and how to cap the wholesale price of gas.

It comes as Europe braces itself for a difficult winter due to the cost of living crisis and squeeze on global energy supplies.

The bloc is largely trying to wean itself off Russia energy but it has left it scrambling for other alternative, expensive, sources.

A windfall tax is imposed by a government on a company to target firms that were lucky enough to benefit from something they were not responsible for – in other words, a windfall profit.

Energy firms are getting much more money for their oil and gas than they were last year, partly because demand has increased as the world emerges from the pandemic and more recently because of supply concerns due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier this week, 15 member states, including France and Italy, asked the EU to impose a price cap on gas bills to slow the soaring costs.


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A decision has not yet been announced on a price cap.

In the UK, former Chancellor Rishi Sunak introduced a similar tax to Friday's EU agreement in May, which he called the Energy Profits Levy.

It was applied to profits made by companies from extracting UK oil and gas, but not those that generate electricity from sources such as nuclear or wind power.

 

MPs warns: Energy bailout will benefit corporate giants who don’t need it

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 22nd Sept 2022) London, Uk – –

Business energy prices to be cut by half under huge government support package

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 21st Spet 2022) London, Uk – –

Energy bills for UK businesses will be cut by around half their expected level this winter under a huge government support package.

The scheme will fix gas and electricity prices for companies for six months from 1 October, in a bid to stop firms facing soaring costs from going bust.

Hospitals, schools and charities will also get help, the government said.

It comes after ministers announced a £150bn plan to help households with their soaring bills for two years.

Industry groups welcomed the package but warned further support may be needed after the winter.


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It is understood the scheme will be reviewed after three months with an option to extend support for “vulnerable businesses” – but it is not known what sectors come under the category.

Under scheme:

  • Wholesale prices are expected to be fixed for all non-domestic energy customers at £211 per MWh for electricity and £75 per MWh for gas.
  • Companies do not need to contact suppliers as the discount will automatically be applied to bills, with savings seen from October but received from November.
  • The scheme will apply to fixed contracts agreed on or after 1 April, and variable and flexible tariffs and contracts.

Prime Minister Liz Truss said the government understood the “huge pressure businesses, charities and public sector organisations are facing with their energy bills”.

“As we are doing for consumers, our new scheme will keep their energy bills down from October, providing certainty and peace of mind,” she said.

“At the same time, we are boosting Britain's homegrown energy supply so we fix the root cause of the issues we are facing and ensure greater energy security for us all.”

The support will apply to all non-domestic energy customers in England, Scotland and Wales. A parallel scheme, based on the same criteria and offering comparable support, will be established in Northern Ireland.

Officials have not said how much the package will cost the taxpayer, as it will depend on what happens to wholesale market prices between October and April, when the support expires.

Energy-intensive industries such as steel manufacturers have raised concerns about their energy costs, which have surged following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Unlike households, businesses are not covered by an energy price cap, which is the maximum amount a supplier can charge per unit of energy. It means non-domestic bills have soared even higher.

It is understood that developing a support package for business has been more complex than for households as there are a bigger variety of contracts across different sectors.

Analysis: Simon Jack

The big problem with this support is its shelf life. Few businesses plan with only a six-month time horizon and there will be some whose plans to cut production, close premises and let staff go will not change as a result of this intervention.

But many others – particularly those in retail and hospitality – may see this giving them a fighting chance over the commercially crucial Christmas trading period.

The government has thrown an emergency blanket over the economy this winter, but longer term, more fundamental reform to the energy supply market, its pricing and mechanics will be needed.

Developing more cheap renewables, securing foreign supplies of liquid gas, drilling for more domestic fossil fuels, breaking the link between gas prices and electricity and pushing ahead with hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and small and large scale nuclear have been part of the government's plan for nearly two years.

What's new is the pressure applied by Vladimir Putin to do it as fast as possible.

‘Welcome but more to be done'

Stephen Phipson of Make UK, which represents UK manufacturers, said businesses would “warmly welcome” the government support.

“Government has delivered a scheme which is simple to understand, giving reassurance to the business sector and making immediately available the much-needed help companies have been calling for across the board at a time energy costs were spiralling out of control.”

However, Mr Phipson warned that energy prices were likely to remain high for more than the six-month duration of the scheme and firms may need “support for a longer period if we are to protect jobs and remain competitive”.

Director General of UK Steel, Gareth Stace, said the price cap would give steel makers “the chance to get through the winter”. But he called on the government to “rapidly reform the energy market to ensure longer-term competitive prices beyond the current price”.

Smaller businesses have also been struggling with rising bills, with brewery bosses warning pubs and restaurants across the UK will be forced to close due to energy costs soaring by as much as 300%.


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A landlord of one pub in Essex told the BBC his energy bill had risen from about £13,000 a year to £35,000.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said the industry was “relieved” by the support ahead of the busy Christmas trading period.

“The inclusiveness of the support announced today – covering businesses small and large – will be extremely beneficial to the sector… A sector that provides a huge number of jobs, many of which are now more secure.”

By Michael Race