Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Government policy to blame for rising British energy bills
Green policies will drive a £240 rise in energy bills by 2020 unless households cut their power consumption, npower has warned.
The energy giant says it wants to tackle the “myth” that suppliers are to blame for rising bills, after finding consumers believed they made far higher profits than they actually did.
A household’s energy bill will rise from £1,247 today to £1,487 by 2020 in real terms - not taking into account inflationary increases - if usage remains static, npower warns in a report. Costs caused by government policies such as subsidies for new wind farms and energy efficiency schemes will be the main driver, adding £144, it claims.
Paul Massara, npower chief executive, said a “blame game” between suppliers and the government had led to “confusion, mistrust and misinformation”.
Consumers believed energy firms made a 40pc profit margin and were to blame for rising bills when “in fact, our profits are more like 5pc and the main factor behind rising costs is government policy and regulation”, he said.
Mr Massara said he actually supported the government’s policies but wanted consumers to know their true cost and to understand that “if people don’t take action to reduce energy consumption, their bills are going to rise”.
The report finds that the costs of upgrading Britain’s ageing gas and electricity networks would be the next biggest driver of bills, adding £114, while the costs of the nationwide roll-out of “smart meters” that send automatic meter readings back to suppliers will add £24.
Profits will account for £71, or just under 5pc, of the bill by 2020, up £12 from today, but a significant jump from £18 in 2007.
While ministers and energy companies have both blamed rising commodity costs of gas and electricity for price increases to date, the report suggests they have been only a modest influence on bills, adding £51 since 2007, while government policies have added £110 over the same period.
Controversially, npower also predicts that commodity prices will actually fall back to 2007 levels by 2020. The company says its analysis is based on the Government’s own figures but strips out the impact of the Treasury’s carbon tax, which will push up power prices and which npower counts as a policy cost.
Ministers insist their drive for nuclear plants, wind farms and energy efficiency schemes will save consumers £166 by 2020 compared with the costs of doing nothing. But critics have pointed out that relies not only on the carbon tax inflating the costs for gas-fired power but also on households spending thousands of pounds on energy efficiency measures.
Greg Barker, the energy minister, said: “Global gas prices not green policies have been primarily pushing up energy bills. That is why it is vital we crack on with securing investment in a diverse energy mix that includes renewables and new nuclear, as well as gas.”
Ice cap melting data is too weak to suggest alarming decrease is permanent or caused by humans, study claims
New long-term data on the melting of Earth’s polar ice is not the ecological death knell some might expect.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Bert Wouters at the University of Bristol compared nine years of satellite measurements of glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica in an attempt to determine if the melt-off is part of an accelerating trend in ice loss and sea-level rise.
While the study showed a loss of about 300 billion tonnes of ice per year from the arctic and Antarctic regions, it concluded that natural processes cannot be ruled out as the force behind the receding ice sheets and thus that future sea-level rise cannot currently be accurately predicted.
The ice covering Antarctica and Greenland contains about 99.5 per cent of the Earth's glacier ice and would raise global sea levels by around 206 feet if they somehow melted completely.
As such, the two ice sheets are the biggest potential sources of sea level rise and are of particular interest to scientists studying changes in sea level and polar ice mass.
In order to measure changes in ice sheets on Antarctica and Greenland, the researchers used satellites to detect tiny variations in Earth’s magnetic field that are indicative of a change in the distribution of mass, in this case the movement of ice into the ocean.
Beginning in 2002, researchers looking at sea level rise led by Dr. Burt Wouters used satellites to take monthly measurements of Greenland and Antarctica's glaciers--the largest potential sources of rising tides--in an effort dubbed Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE).
The study found that the two land masses lost about 300 tonnes of ice to the ocean each year of the study.
However, the 9-year length of the research was insufficient to determine if the melt-off was part of an accelerating trend (ie caused by humans) or part of an ebb and flow of natural processes.
The study found it had almost enough data to conclude Antarctica's ice sheets are melting as part of an increasing trend with a 'reasonable level of confidence.'
However, Wouters' team said another decade of data is needed before the same is true for Greenland.
Since current ice melt data could indicate variable climate trends and aren't necessarily part of an accelerating trend, the study warned that predictions of future sea-level rise should not be based on measurements of glacial loss.
Beginning in 2002, the study dubbed Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) took monthly measurements of the two ice sheets over the course of nine years.
Published in the journal Nature Geoscience this week, the results of GRACE did show a rapid loss of ice.
‘In the course of the mission,’ said Dr. Wouters, who is currently a visiting researcher at the University of Colorado, ‘it has become apparent that ice sheets are losing substantial amounts of ice about 300 billion tonnes each year and that the rate at which these losses occurs is increasing.’
However, the study stopped short of pointing a finger at why the loss is occurring and could not determine if the melt is indicative of an accelerating trend caused by human activity.
Non-human factors also play a role in glacier melt. Shifting North Atlantic pressure systems like El Nino and slow changes in ocean currents can also cause the ice sheets to recede.
‘So,’ Dr. Wouters said in a release, ‘if observations span only a few years, such 'ice sheet weather' may show up as an apparent speed-up of ice loss which would cancel out once more observations become available.’
The duration of the GRACE study, the researchers say, is nearly enough to show an acceleration of ice melt in Antarctica with a ‘reasonable level of confidence.’
However, it will take another decade of satellite measurements to conclude whether or not Greenland’s ice is melting at an increasing clip.
Perhaps the most important conclusion from the study is that more long-term satellite measurements are vital in the effort to measure and predict future sea-level rise.
Data on sea level rise, much of it extrapolated from glacial melt numbers, has led coastal countries and municipalities worldwide to undertake costly infrastructure modifications ahead of the rising sea.
Just last month, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg painted a grim picture of his city's future in the face of rising tides and, he said, the increased likelihood of more events like 2012's devastating Hurricane Sandy.
In a news conference in which he called the efforts 'urgent,' Bloomberg announced a $20 billion climate change readiness plan that includes moveable flood walls and levees designed to save the island city from the wrath of rising oceans.
Meanwhile, Dr. Wouters and his team warn that a lack of sufficient long-term measurements should preclude the use of current ice loss numbers as predictors of future sea-level rise.
'Therefore,' the researchers said, 'climate variability adds uncertainty to extrapolations of future mass loss and sea-level rise, underscoring the need for continuous long-term satellite monitoring.'
Peak oilers give up
For years, we've been pointing out that Peak Oil is a dominant social theme, a scarcity meme used by the powers-that-be to reinforce the US petrodollar and generally to control economic and sociopolitical elements of society.
And now comes word via various news reports including a story at MarketWatch that a main Internet proponent of the Peak Oil myth – The Oil Drum – is shutting its doors.
Here's how MarketWatch describes it:
... A website created and frequented by advocates of "peak oil," is closing its doors July 31 after an eight-year run. The site will be kept as a repository of old articles, but will no longer offer new ones, according to a post on the site dated July 3.
The decision was reached thanks to "scarcity of new content caused by a dwindling number of contributors" and the cost of running the site, the post said. The post garnered more than 700 comments from readers mourning the site's virtual death. Commenters suggested "donate" buttons and other ideas to raise money.
With news of record-breaking North American oil and gas production seemingly every day, maybe it just got too hard to maintain a site devoted to the notion that the world's oil production was at or near a peak ... Detractors gleefully pointed out that the theory did not take into consideration technological advances, while defenders retort that, inevitably, demand for oil will outstrip supply, leading to higher oil prices and shortages.
German Energy Companies Threaten Shutdown Of Power Plants
German operators of coal and gas power plants are sounding the alarm: the operation of many power plants is no longer profitable as a result of the green energy transition. Dozens of plants could be closed down, the industry warns.
Numerous coal and gas power plants apparently are threatened by a shutdown. According to a report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), many companies and municipal utilities are assessing the cost of dozens of power plants. As a result, the security of supply is at risk because many of the plants could be shut down. Of approximately 90,000 megawatt of conventional power capacity in Germany up to 20 percent could be shut down, the newspaper quoted the CEO of a utility. In the worst case scenario, Germany would face blackouts.
Nuclear power plants, too, could be taken off the grid ahead of time, according to industry sources. The problem for the energy sector is that their power plants are less and less supplying power to the grid because of the ongoing boom in green energy. The growing supply of electricity reduces the market price for electricity so strongly that their operation is no longer economic.
With their warning, the companies are increasing the pressure on the Federal Government. Only last week, the Stadtwerke Alliance Trianel had sounded the alarm. The subsidies for green electricity must be reformed urgently, said Trianel manager Sven Becker. Although green power already has a share of 25% of electricity consumption, the subsidies continue unabated. ”Fossil power plants must also be able to be profitable”, demanded Becker.
So far, the Federal Network Agency has received 15 applications to close down power plants, the SZ reports. E.ON, the largest energy company in Germany, has decided to close down eleven power plants in Europe by 2015. The profitability of other plants is under consideration. Its competitor RWE announced similar shut down plans.
The initial response by the Ministry of Economy was brief. The ministry said that any decision about the operation or shutdown of power plants was one for the owners to make. However, the government could pass a law to keep power plants on the grid if the supply security were in danger.
Requiem For Spanish Wind?
The pain in Spain cannot be sustained. That’s the conclusion of the Spanish government, which is slashing its subsidies for wind power and other renewable energy as part of a deficit-fighting move. Spain is the latest European country to cut subsidies for clean energy — following similar moves in the U.K., Germany and Italy — because they’re driving up costs for consumers.
Power companies decried the elimination of the subsidies, which will cost them an estimated $3.5 billion. The government will absorb another $1.2 billion or so.
It’s a sad end for a program once heralded as a model by the Obama administration for its own renewables initiative. Yet it’s also not a surprising one. Despite its promise, wind energy has struggled to overcome economic barriers. Without government subsidies, it simply isn’t a viable business.
Alternative Energy And Big Oil: Poor Returns Versus `Lies' Loren Steffy Loren Steffy Contributor
Would you be willing to pay more for wind power, and if so how much? Chances are, you wouldn’t be interested in paying enough to offset the amounts that are being underwritten by the government.
What we’re seeing in Spain is part of a cycle that has long dogged alternative energy. When oil prices rise, there’s a flow of money into alternatives, but at some point, taxpayers tire of underwriting businesses that aren’t self-sufficient. Having taken a step forward on renewables, Europe now taking a step back.
GREENIE ROUNDUP FROM AUSTRALIA
Three current articles below
Prime Miister's priority protecting his party not the planet
LET'S be very plain, as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd would put it: The great Labor crusade against climate change has been abandoned for the sake of short-term electoral gain.
What once had been the "the great moral question of our generation" has been reduced to an election bribe.
Mr Rudd's policy revisionism today was about making a neutered version of the climate change crusade an election positive by promising it would deliver further help to household finances.
The priority was switched from protecting future Australian generations from disastrous global warming to protecting Labor from an electoral roasting.
The climate change crusade was ended in the most brutal way. It was "terminated," in Mr Rudd's word.
This will annoy the Greens but will hearten most Labor MPs struggling to justify a scheme which the Labor Government itself called - for almost three years - a carbon tax.
Those Labor MPs will not regret shucking off the electorally damaging carbon price scheme forced on it by the Greens during creation of the minority government.
Mostly it will annoy the Tony Abbott Opposition which has seen it's "great big tax" line taken from it and used against it. It's now the Opposition which is being accused of a "great big tax" to fund its Direct Action scheme for subsidised carbon emissions reduction by business.
That wasn't the only political purloining.
Mr Rudd has effectively acknowledged carbon pricing has been a burden on household and business budgets, much as Mr Abbott has been saying.
The Prime Minister today said extra assistance was needed "at a time of economic transition and structural change in the global economy". Which is pretty well what Mr Abbott has been saying.
The Rudd version of an early, floating price on carbon would help households by around $380 a year, while the Opposition's direction would cost $1200 in taxes. Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey has called those calculations "lies" but clearly the debate has shifted substantially.
Newman Government explores establishing shale gas industry in Queensland
QUEENSLAND could have its own shale gas industry within two years, the State Government says. Government briefing notes for Environment Minister Andrew Powell show there are 16 shale gas exploration programs in the state.
But it warns any development would need numerous wells and an extensive expansion of the gas pipeline network to be viable. It would also use the controversial process known as fracking, which will put the fledgling industry on course for a battle with environmentalists.
The departmental briefing said the extraction of gas "can mobilise naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORMs) into water extracted from the well".
It said NORMs were limited in Australian geology but the issue would need monitoring by the companies involved.
The main areas for exploration are the Cooper, Galilee, Eromanga and Maryborough basins. The Cooper Basin is already well developed and is considered the most likely to have the infrastructure to handle the development.
The Maryborough Basin may be the most difficult, with a growing concern among the community to coal and gas development. Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer are exploring for coal in the district.
"Operators have advised that up-scale and production (of shale gas) will likely commence in 2015," the ministerial briefing note said.
It said the process used would drill as deep as 2000m, which "significantly reduces risks of interconnectivity with aquifers".
It said up to 16 million litres would be needed for one well, compared with the 1 million used by CSG. However, most shale gas wells are dry and do not harvest the levels of groundwater CSG wells do.
An APPEA spokesman said similar to the production of natural gas from coal, any water sourced could potentially be re-injected underground or used to drought-proof regional Queensland properties. But, according to the State Government, exploration "is occurring in basins where water availability is limited".
Anti-CSG activist Drew Hutton said the American experience showed there were strong community concerns with shale gas, especially with the impact of fracking.
He said his organisation, Lock the Gate, had the same concerns with shale gas as it did with CSG, including its potential health impacts and possible water contamination.
"We are concerned about shale gas activities along the Cooper River, in western Queensland, because of its potential effects on the Lake Eyre Basin and in the Maryborough-Bundaberg area, which is good farm land," Mr Hutton said.
Conservative leader pours scorn on the concept of an ETS
TONY Abbott has dismissed emissions trading schemes as markets for the "non-delivery of an invisible substance".
The Coalition Leader's criticism of the widely accepted, market-based method of trying to curb carbon emissions came as Labor prepares to switch from a carbon tax to an ETS one year earlier than originally planned.
Treasurer Chris Bowen said today the Rudd government's decision to move early from a fixed to a floating carbon price was a response to changes in the Australian economy and a concession families could do with hip-pocket relief.
But Mr Abbott, who has campaigned against a carbon tax, said the change meant nothing.
“It's more fake change from Kevin Rudd. The one thing he has done is he has admitted that what the Coalition was saying about the carbon tax was right all along,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“This is not a true market, just ask yourself what an ETS is all about, it's a so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no-one.”
Under an ETS, companies trade permits allowing the right to discharge emissions. Permit buyers effectively pay a charge for polluting, providing an economic incentive for reducing emissions.
Mr Bowen today conceded the costs of switching to an ETS next year will be “significant”, as he again refused to rule out a cut to industry assistance programs.
However the Treasurer rejected opposition claims the hole punched in the budget by fast-tracking to an ETS would be in the order of $6 billion.
“We are responding to two things, we are responding to the change in the Australian economy, the rapid transition away from the mining boom and the need to stimulate non-mining investment,” Mr Bowen told ABC radio.
“And we are responding to people's concerns about cost of living - it is an acknowledgement families can do with cost of living relief,” he said.
The Treasurer said the cost of making the move to an internationally-linked ETS sooner was “significant”, but rejected Coalition claims of a revenue shortfall $6 billion.
“The opposition doesn't know what it's talking about, we'll be putting out the Treasury figures, the Treasury figures make it very clear what the cost is and how it is going to be paid for,” he said.
“It's obviously a significant cost but it's not what the opposition are suggesting.”
Mr Bowen said the household compensation would remain, but refused to rule out changes to the industry assistance package.
“Yes there are industry assistance measures that are predicated on a certain price, but I am not pre-empting what are going to do in the package,” Mr Bowen told Sky News.
He warned the government had made “tough choices” to find savings to offset the revenue shortfall, but stressed Labor was committed to the schoolkids bonus.
“The schoolkids bonus is a very important measure, it's very important to the government and it will remain very important to the government,” he said.
Mr Abbott said the ETS was “still a tax”.
“He won't admit it but you will keep the carbon tax under Kevin Rudd. If you vote for the Coalition, the carbon tax is gone, lock stock and barrel. Not rebadged, not renamed but abolished,” the Opposition Leader told the Nine Network.
“The best thing to do is to get rid of it altogether. Mr Rudd vindicated everything we have been saying about the carbon tax,” Mr Abbott said.
Greens leader Christine Milne, who negotiated the original carbon pricing package with the Gillard government, warned the Prime Minister against taking the axe to green schemes.
“I am really concerned with where the government is going to get the money it's a $4 billion to $5 billion hit on the budget,” Senator Milne said.
“I want to see the clean technology fund maintained, the biodiversity fund maintained, low carbon communities - enabling people who live in those communities to be more energy efficient - I want to make sure the Climate Change Authority stays,” she said.
“I am really concerned Labor will slash them, they've already taken the knife to the biodiversity fund this year,” Senator Milne said.
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Posted by JR at 12:31 PM