Hottest April on record globally

Global temperature records show that April was the hottest on record – this follows March breaking the same record. Furthermore, it is the seventh month in a row to break global temperature records, this all but guarantees that 2016 will be the hottest year on record.

April’s temperature smashed the previous record by 0.24°C and was 0.87°C above the average baseline. Scientists are now becoming worried that it may be impossible to meet the 1.5°C temperature cap agreed at the Paris summit with doubt even being raised on a 2°C cap. This worrying trend of smashing temperature records shows the need for immediate action to reduce our carbon emissions.

UK national grid uses no coal for first time in over 100 years

The UK’s national grid has been producing electricity without any assistance from coal fired power plants for the first time since 1882. This historic event occurred late Monday 10th May and spanned into the early hours of Tuesday morning. This was again repeated over the weekend.

The government has stated its plans to phase out coal power by 2025 as it is has a significantly higher ‘carbon intensity’ compared to gas (and of course energy from renewables and nuclear has zero carbon intensity). The reduced reliance on coal is excellent news for heat pump owners as reduced grid carbon intensity will see the carbon efficiency of heat pumps improve even further.

UK Grid Carbon Intensity on 14/05/2016

UK’s Solar Power Generation

The UK’s solar panels generated more electricity than coal for the first time. On Saturday 9 April, solar generated 29 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity, 4% of the total power used that day and more than the 21GWh output from coal (3% of demand). This pattern was repeated on Sunday, with solar (6%) outpacing coal (3%). In reality, the coal consumption was unusually low – but this does demonstrate some of the major changes and improvements being made to the UK’s power supply.

Feasibility assessment of a large water-source heat pump for Nottinghamshire County Council

Carbon Zero Consulting completed the Stage 1 feasibility and options assessment for a potential renewable heating system to replace gas boilers at Nottingham County Hall on the river Trent.

An assessment of river flow and temperature confirms the Trent is certainly capable of providing sufficient water for an open-loop water source heat pump (WSHP) to replace the majority of heat currently provided by gas boilers.

Our detailed report on the viability of this system covered initial aspects of the existing heating and heat distribution system, water intake and discharge works in the river and regulatory issues.

Our findings were presented and well received by Councillors and the engineering team. We have now been asked to make proposals for the 2 Stage feasibility assessment.

UK Renewable Power Generation and Grid Carbon Intensity

Since 2nd June 2015 we have been monitoring the contribution of renewable power generation and carbon intensity of the UK National Grid. A ‘spot’ reading is taken at midday each day.

The addition of wind, solar and hydro-power to existing power generation (gas, coal and nuclear) is starting to make real inroads into the average carbon intensity of the national grid (the amount of CO2 emitted for each unit of electricity generated).

Coal power stations are to be phased out of the UK by 2023 meaning that it is likely that more gas power stations will have to be constructed (new nuclear power installations will take a minimum of 10 years to come on line). The current UK government has put a stop to further onshore wind installations, but there are likely to be more constructed offshore. Likewise, the rate of installation of solar PV, ground source and biomass systems will slow radically with the planned major reduction of tariff payments.

Wind, solar, hydro and nuclear power do not emit CO2 to the atmosphere, while coal and gas emit CO2 with coal being significantly worse than gas.

Graph of UK Grid Carbon Intensity (Nov 4)

As stated in the last article the Carbon Trust states that in all calculations 500 gCO2/kWh is to be used for computation of carbon emissions for heat pumps. However, the value found over the past 4 months is significantly lower than that with an average closer to 385 gCO2/kWh. The result of this is that Ground Source Heats Pumps provide significantly greater environmental benefit than the data published by the Carbon Trust would suggest.

UK Turns To Diesel For Power

At the same time as destroying the UK renewable power industry and removing many energy saving initiatives, the UK is turning to diesel to meet an impending power supply crunch. You really couldn’t make it up if you tried. This Tory government is surely the most short-sighted and bone-headed ever. They have entirely lost the plot!

The UK is set to grant subsidies worth hundreds of millions to highly polluting diesel electricity generators (reports the Financial Times). The support, through the government’s capacity market auction, is designed to ensure the lights stay on. Yet in meeting this aim up to 1.5 gigawatts of polluting small diesel could receive up to £436m in grants. The plant would be only slightly less CO2-intensive than coal and emit several million tonnes of CO2 a year.

Is the future of Renewable Energy Investment in danger?

The recent major fall in the price of oil, and to a lesser extent gas, has made headlines suggesting that this might spell the end of the need for renewables. However, it was only one year ago that ‘experts’ predicted oil at $200 per barrel. Nobody forecast today’s sub- $50 barrel. It would seem that Saudi has sufficient funds and a stable political landscape that will aim to continue to produce oil at the $50 level in order to put pressure on other producers.

John Findlay, Managing Director of Carbon Zero Consulting, believes this will also greatly impact on the enthusiasm for investment in domestic shale gas.  Mr Findlay says, “This all amply demonstrates the volatility of the fossil fuel market. Although many businesses will welcome a temporary reduction in fuel costs, Carbon Zero Consulting would not recommend building a long term strategy around an endless supply of cheap fossil fuel!

John Findlay continues, “Although heat pumps need electricity to operate, the price of electricity does not suffer from the same degree of volatility as the fossil fuel market. The power generators can use a range of sources, including renewables to hedge their costs. Heat pump technologies maximise the delivery of heat (and cool) for a given amount of input electrical power.”

Although flying in the face of government policy to pursue a massive increase in the electrification of the nation’s heating; installation of biomass technologies has far outstripped heat pump numbers.  The number of projects considering Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) technology is now starting to rise due in part to degression of biomass tariffs, the advent of the domestic RHI and upward correction of the non-domestic RHI (although there remain some anomalies in the provision of RHI for heat pumps compared to biomass).

John Findlay of Carbon Zero Consulting is of the opinion that, “A well-designed low temperature GSHP scheme provides the most efficient means to obtain renewable heating – and cooling. Add to this the benefits of no requirement for fuel delivery or storage, no flue or on-site emissions and the ability to combine with solar technologies; the benefits and returns from GSHP installations look very inviting.”

As we have seen, the price of oil can change radically in a matter of weeks. A Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) is designed to operate for 20 years or more. The major ‘fuel’ source for a GSHP is, of course, the ground. A well-constructed borehole or trenched ground array would still operate in 100 years.

John goes on to question, “What other technology could claim this? In fact, the UK’s first ‘modern’ closed loop borehole GSHP installation has recently turned 20 years of age with heat pump and borehole still going strong. Some systems in Sweden are much older than this. Power stations producing low-carbon electricity to drive heat pumps in every home and business is how we should see the future in the UK – not hopeful gambling on the price of oil!”

Don’t gamble on the price of oil!

Don't gamble on the price of oil.

Don’t gamble on the price of oil.

Recent major falls in the price of oil, and to a lesser extent gas, has made headlines suggesting that this might spell the end of the need for renewables. However, it was only one year ago that ‘experts’ predicted oil at $200 per barrel. Nobody forecast today’s $60 barrel. This amply demonstrates the volatility of the fossil fuel market. Although many businesses will welcome a temporary reduction in fuel costs, Carbon Zero Consulting would not recommend building your long term strategy around an endless supply of cheap fossil fuel!

The number of projects considering Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) technology is on the rise. There is no doubt that a well-designed GSHP scheme provides the most efficient means to obtain renewable heating and cooling. With RHI payments for Biomass (of 199kW and less) reducing again in January; the returns from GSHP installations looks very inviting. Heat pump technologies maximise the delivery of heat (and cool) for a given amount of input power. Power stations producing low-carbon electricity to drive heat pumps in every home and business is how we should see the future in the UK – not hopeful gambling on the price of oil!

 

To Frac or not to Frac?

As a Renewable Energy consultancy, we should probably be firmly opposed to Shale gas exploration in the UK.

At Carbon Zero Consulting, we believe that for the next 30 – 40 years, while renewable and nuclear power technology capacity is expanded, there will be a major gap in readily available power generation capacity as old, dirty coal power generation is phased out.

Gas is the best option to provide instant cover for renewable energy generation during those times when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine!

It is surely a better option for the UK to develop its own shale gas resources rather than shipping-in gas from Qatar, Russia or from USA shale gas?

Shale gas exploration should only proceed IF there is a thorough program of environmental baseline assessment and real-time monitoring of groundwater quality during exploration and production of shale gas.

Carbon Zero Consulting has a strong background in groundwater monitoring issues (as well as experience of the oil and gas sector). We aim to provide expertise in monitoring groundwater and shale gas activity in addition to water supply and treatment – provided the government has not entirely disbanded relevant sections of the Environment Agency and other means of regulation in the meantime!!