Carbon capture has failed – so here’s what we should do instead


For years, optimists have talked up carbon capture and storage (CCS) as an essential part of taking emissions out of electricity generation. Yes, build wind and solar farms, they have said, but they can’t be relied on to produce enough power all the time. So we’ll still need our fleet of fossil-fuel-burning power stations; we just need to stop them pumping carbon dioxide (CO₂) into the atmosphere.

Most of their emphasis has been on post-combustion capture. This involves removing CO₂ from power station flue gases by absorbing them into an aqueous solution containing chemicals known as amines.

You then extract the CO₂, compress it into a liquid and pump it into a storage facility – the vision in the UK being to use depleted offshore oil and gas fields. One of the big attractions with such a system is it could be retrofitted to existing power stations.

The big let-down

But ten years after the UK government first announced a £1 billion competition to design CCS, we’re not much further forward.

The reason is summed up by the geologist Lord Oxburgh in his contribution to the government-commissioned report on CCS published last year:

There is no serious commercial incentive and it will stay that way unless the state demonstrates there is a business there.

The problem is that the process is costly and energy intensive. For a gas-fired power station, you typically have to burn 16% more gas to provide the capture power. Not only this, you end up with a 16% increase in emissions of other serious air pollutants like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

Concerns have also been expressed about the potential health effects of the amine solvent used in the carbon capture.

You then have to contend with the extra emissions from processing and transporting 16% more gas. And all this before you factor in the pipeline costs of the CO₂ storage and the uncertainties around whether it might escape once you’ve got it in the ground. Around the world, the only places CCS looks viable are where there are heavy state subsidies or substantial additional revenue streams, such as from enhanced oil recovery from oilfields where the CO₂ is being pumped in.

Well, say the carbon capture advocates, maybe another technology is the answer. They point to oxy-combustion, a system which is close tor eaching fruition at a plant in Texas, USA.

First proposed many years ago by British engineer Rodney Allam, this involves separating oxygen from air, burning the oxygen with the fossil fuel, and using the combustion products – water and CO₂ – to drive a high-pressure turbine and produce electricity.

The hot CO₂ is pressurised and recycled back into the burners, which improves thermal efficiency. It has the additional advantage that CO₂ is also available at pressures suitable for pipeline transportation.

It is, according to some enthusiasts, the “holy grail” of CCS. Admittedly it looks promising, but I wouldn’t go that far. It’s not suitable for retrofitting existing power stations. With many existing stations viable for several decades, this will do little for immediate emissions. And you are still obtaining and moving fossil fuels in large quantities, with the resultant emissions along the way. Finally, my experience would indicate that there is always very significant cost growth with new technology scaled up to industry.

Number crunching

One UK post-combustion CCS project that was cancelled earlier this year was the joint-venture between SSE and Shell at the Peterhead gas-fired ation in northeast Scotland. It aimed to capture 10m tonnes of CO₂ over a 10-year period and store it 2km under the North Sea.

Let’s put this saving into context. The diagram below summarises the amount of power produced and used in the UK. It shows that the country uses 108 terawatt hours (TWhrs) of domestic electricity per annum.


UK electricity generation/consumption

Of this domestic usage, 16% goes to cooking. Boiling kettles makes up 34% – that’s 5.9TWhrs per annum, the equivalent of a 670MW power station. Domestic kettle use is particularly inefficient as we regularly overfill our kettles. We could save at least half the energy if we boiled only what we need to make tea and coffee.

That would negate the need for 335MW of power. Now compare that to what CCS would have saved from Peterhead – 85% of a 400MW gas turbine, or 340MW. Simply by not overfilling our kettles, we could remove about the same amount of CO₂. Unlike CCS, let alone oxy-combustion, we could do this immediately, for free, and cut our electricity bills and remove various air pollutants at the same time.

Of course, being kettle smart will only deliver a fraction of the UK’s required carbon reduction goals. It’s only about 3TWhrs out of the approximately 170TWhrs produced by gas-fired power in the UK each year. But it hopefully illustrates why energy efficiency is a much smarter way of reducing carbon and other harmful air emissions than CCS.

If we took the same approach to lighting, computer monitors, TVs on stand-by, running water and everything else, it becomes a very different proposition. If we could achieve the aim of a carbon-neutral house, we could shut down half the UK’s existing gas-fired power stations. And if industry and other non-domestic consumers made energy savings of the order of 20%, that would bring down the gas-fired power requirement by a corresponding percentage.

Is 20% realistic? As a chemical engineer with a 40-year industrial career, I am confident it is. Key areas to be considered would be pump and compressor efficiency, energy use in separation processes, combined heat and power, furnace fuel management, green concrete and energy integration.

Together with the government giving greater priority to renewable energy like offshore wind and solar, you have a viable plan for delivering the UK’s carbon goals. CCS may still have its place, but as a means of removing carbon emissions from burning things like wood and rubbish as opposed to fossil fuels. Suffice to say it looks more promising on that front.

But in short, it is time for governments to stop wasting time and money on technologies like CCS that aren’t working.

They need to finally get serious about leading a major drive for energy efficiency instead.

Tom Baxter is Senior Lecturer in Chemical Engineering at Aberdeen University.

 Copyright © 2010–2015 The Conversation Trust (UK)

Scots Energy Minister accepts call from Scotland’s Renewable Forum for ‘system-wide approach’ to de-carbonising heat and transport in new Scottish Energy Strategy

SRF logo for SENThe new Scottish Energy Minister has  accepted one the ‘big wishes’ from Scotland’s Renewable Future forum – to embed a ‘systems-wide’ approach de-carbonising the heat and transport sectors (see graphic, below)

In a speech at a renewable energy conference today in Perth, Paul Wheelhouse is likely to flag up a clear direction of ‘system wide’ travel for the Scot-Govt’s new Scottish Energy Strategy.

He is expected to say: “Our approach to heat in particular offers many exciting opportunities – not only helping us to deliver on our climate change ambitions, but also contributing to our efforts to promote growth and tackle inequalities – particularly fuel poverty.

Scottish Energy News 6 Jun 2016
Scottish Energy News 6 Jun 2016

“We are developing a new, overarching Energy Strategy for Scotland, which means developing a ‘whole systems approach’ considering Scotland’s energy supply and consumption as equal priorities, and building a genuinely integrated approach to power, transport and heat.

See:  Scotland’s Renewable Future’s draft new Scottish Energy Strategy

Paul Wheelhouse, MSP
Paul Wheelhouse, MSP

“Scotland is already a world-leader in tackling climate change, with among the most ambitious statutory targets in the world and strong progress to date, with a 38% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since 1990.

“However, we have to achieve more and, as the First Minister announced last month, we will establish a new and more testing target for 2020 of reducing actual Scottish emissions by at least 50%.”

Replacing fossil fuels with lower carbon alternatives requires radical change of entire UK energy system

Energy Systems Catapult general imageBy PHILIP NEW

One of the greatest achievements of the past century has been the democratisation of comfort and mobility – to the extent that here in the UK we now treat them as something that we enjoy by right, like education and healthcare.

Underpinning all this has been cheap, reliable and plentiful energy. Our energy works.

Global warming confronts us with the need to change the sources of energy we use – and how we use them. More recently other trends have added to the push for change:

  • Growth of the digital economy
  • Desire of communities to take more control of their energy
  • Emergence of local energy generating technologies

Managing this without compromising the reliability and affordability that we have come to depend on is a massive challenge, and a massive opportunity.

We have been primarily focussed on how we replace fossil fuels with lower carbon alternatives – which isn’t straightforward.

Even though wind and solar are becoming much cheaper, they are intermittent (they only work when the wind blows and the sun shines, which isn’t necessarily when it suits us), while big nuclear projects are proving challenging to finance.

Replacing natural gas in heating, and oil in transport, adds another layer of complexity – and yet if we are to meet our 2050 carbon targets we will need to do this.

Traditional energy use has been segregated

We have traditionally used energy in a fairly segregated fashion. Energy would be produced at central points – power stations, refineries, gas terminals – and distributed to consumers – ie

  • Electricity to keep the lights on
  • Gas to keep us warm
  • Oil to keep us moving

An elegant, vertically integrated array of discrete systems has grown around each of these “vectors”

  • Market structures
  • Regulations, and
  • Operational expertise

Different “vectors” are now becoming intertwined

We now face the prospect of the “vectors” becoming intertwined and interdependent – as we use electricity for cars, or heat, for example.

Further, we can now generate electricity locally – down to an individual rooftop. We can use the surplus heat from a hospital boiler to provide warmth to a neighbourhood.

Local energy networks

This opens the possibility of local energy networks, and possibly local energy markets, developing/challenging the traditional, centralised, top-down structures that have managed and balanced our energy system in the past.

The whole energy system

The whole energy system – the physical, economic and institutional networks that connect the sources and uses of energy – is facing radical change.

Change can be difficult, but it also provides great opportunities for new ideas, new ways of working, new technologies, new markets and new skills.

Energy Systems Catapult

This is the backdrop for the Energy Systems Catapult. Our job is to help make sense of the transformation our energy system faces – eg; –

  • Building investor confidence
  • Supporting new technologies
  • Enabling new markets
  • Growing new companies
  • Opening export opportunities..

While also making sure that we continue to enjoy affordable, reliable, and ever cleaner energy.

We will do this by building a picture of the whole system that people, whether policy makers or entrepreneurs, can use to make choices, and by developing the tools that innovators and market makers can use to experiment, test and scale up the new ways of operating that this energy revolution will need.

Philip New, Chief Exec, Energy Systems CatapultPHILIP NEW (left) is Chief Executive of Energy Catapult Systems, one of several such ‘catapults’ set up by the UK government to drive through innovation in energy. It reports to the Dept for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) but also liaises with the Dept for Energy (DECC).

How to save UK electricity consumers £ 720 million per year for 35 years by low cost, low carbon, reliable baseload power

Niels Kroninger


New nuclear power in the UK comes at a high price. Is it justified to pay such a high premium for low carbon electricity which is reliable and does not depend on the weather?

Hinkley Point C, the first new nuclear power plant for decades which would generate 3,200 MW throughout the year (7% of the UK’s demand), requires a price guarantee from the UK government for 35 years at £100.68/MWh in today’s money (£92.50/MWh in 2012 money).

The wholesale price for electricity is currently below £35/MWh.

Supporters of Hinkley Point C correctly argue that wind and solar produce variable amount of electricity whereas Hinkley Point would produce a steady baseload. Their argument for Hinkley Point C is that despite the higher cost, it is needed because cheaper forms of low carbon electricity generation are less reliable, and that other forms of baseload power (such as gas or coal) are less green.

We analyse whether one could replicate the electricity generation of Hinkley Point C with a cheaper, equally low carbon combination of a) solar farms, b) wind farms, c) energy storage and d) backup gas generation at costs that would allow their deployment today.

Our analysis shows it is possible at a price of only £75/MWh, 25% less than for Hinkley Point C. This would save Britain’s consumers £720 million per year (or £25 billion in today’s money over the 35 year contract term).

Transforming weather-dependent solar and wind into a stable generator is possible because the weather variations between wind turbines and solar panels largely cancel each other out.

Any remaining variation is managed with energy storage (charging batteries when generation exceeds demand and vice versa) and with backup natural gas generators. Gas generators are the only technology emitting carbon dioxide, but as they are rarely used, the average carbon intensity is still 80% lower than today’s average of electricity from the grid.

At a carbon intensity of only 100gCO2/kWh our “renewable Hinkley Point” would meet the UK’s 2030 target already today. We also show a cost effective way to reduce the carbon intensity further.

This essay is not a diatribe against new nuclear in the UK. We look only at the economics and climate change aspect and leave out a number of other considerations, positives (job creation, industrial policy, attracting Chinese investments) as well as negatives (delivery risks, risks of radioactive contamination, uncertain end storage).

We merely argue that the case for new nuclear cannot rest on costs and security of supply alone as there are cheaper alternatives available already today. As 35 GW of power plants will be shut down permanently in the coming decade, we may have to install both new nuclear and new renewable energy with storage.

The analysis shows that politicians and civil servants should not pick winners but rather create a level playing field between all different technologies. This will stimulate innovation and bring forward substantial cost savings to consumers.

We encourage the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to negotiate with Green Hedge and other low carbon firms to put in place the contracts to deliver the same results as Hinkley Point but faster and cheaper. 


NIELS KRONINGER is Joint Managing Director of Green Hedge Energy.

Green HedgeGreen Hedge develops and operates low carbon electricity generation and storage projects. The group’s developer arm has realised over 200 megawatts of renewable energy projects to date, with a focus on large-scale grid connected and private wire solar PV systems (solar farms). The group’s  O&M business provides operation and maintenance services for ground mounted solar farms. With over 150 megawatts under contract in the UK, it is one of the country’s top independent O&M providers

UK must act now to ensure shale gas can fill the energy gap

DECC graphic on shale well depthBy TIM KNOX and DANIEL MAHONEY                                                

While low oil and gas prices will make many extraction sites uneconomic and reduce supply in medium term, UK shale investors are concerned about prices in 2020s, not the current price

However, the current low oil price has led some to question whether UK shale development is economically viable.

This concern would appear unjustified, considering investment decisions will be based on gas prices in the 2020s – by which time prices are likely to rise.

Moreover, the cost of transporting gas by LNG tanker can add up to 50% to the cost, offering a further reason for promoting UK shale gas development.

The Government must continue to prepare the ground for UK shale development in the 2020s by ensuring that exploratory drilling takes place by the end of this year.

More than 80% of UK homes are heated by gas and modelling by the Department for Energy and Climate Change suggests that the UK will need 26GW of new gas capacity by 2030.

Without indigenous shale production, around 75% of the UK’s gas will need to be imported. 

The global oil market has been likened to ‘a sponge that cannot absorb anymore’. UK consumers have benefitted from the resulting fall in petrol prices, which has acted like a cut of more than 1 percentage point on the basic rate of income tax.

Since 2014 the price of oil has fallen by around 75%, dropping from $115 a barrel to around $27 currently.

This has been driven by supply consistently outperforming demand. Forecasts from the International Energy Agency suggest that average worldwide oil demand for 2016 is nearly 96 million barrels per day with production at around 97 million barrels, leading to a margin of just over 1 per cent. Although the margin is modest, each day around 1.8m barrels go into storage tanks. The capacity to store oil is now said to be becoming increasingly strained.  

The oversupply of oil is primarily being driven by Saudi Arabia’s aggressive geopolitical strategy against US shale producers and Russia. Saudi Arabia has been consistently pumping around 10 million barrels a day for the past few years, and this shows little sign of abating in the immediate future.

Saudi Arabia’s aggressive strategy has been accompanied by a marked increase in US oil production. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the US shale revolution has boosted US oil production by 73% since 2010, tipping the balance on global markets as the US begins exporting. The lifting of sanctions on Iran will probably further increase production.

While oil production has increased, global demand for oil has been stagnant, growing by just 1.6% over the past year. China’s demand for oil has increased by 3.5% this year despite a broader slowdown in economic growth across emerging economies. This slight increase in demand has, however, failed to keep up with the growing oil supply on global markets. 

Medium term oil price: politics as important as economic equations
The current low oil price will begin to make many oil extractions uneconomical. There is already evidence of this occurring.

For example, according to the Financial Times, the number of UK North Sea conventional oil rigs has fallen from 57 to 27, and is likely to fall to just 19 by the summer.

Furthermore, the current price of oil is not sustainable for the major producers, who rely heavily on income from oil and gas. The Russian Federation is highly dependent on hydrocarbons, with oil and natural gas revenues accounting for more than 50% of the federal budget revenues.

Saudi Arabia’s aggressive geopolitical strategy is also having a detrimental impact on its budget. The Saudi Government ran a record budget deficit of $98 billion,amounting to 15% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Saudi Arabia’s government spending as a percentage of GDP leapt from 40.8 per cent to 50.4 per cent from 2014 to 2015, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Paradoxically, those countries that need the oil price to gain in price are those which are most responsible for its current low price: because of the low price, producers such as Saudi, Russia, Nigeria and Venezuela have increased production to make up for their falling revenue. How long this will last is uncertain – and is likely to be as much a political decision as a simple supply and demand equation.  

It’s gas prices that matter for the UK
The British Geological Survey estimates that the UK’s potential lies in its unconventional gas reserves, which are mostly located in the North of England’s Bowland region.

It is estimated that extracting 10% of the shale could supply the UK with over 40 years of gas supply – although the lack of exploratory drilling means that recovery rates have yet to be determined. The UK’s potential for shale gas mean that gas prices are a key consideration of the UK’s shale industry.
Gas prices are linked to oil prices. However, it is notable that gas prices have not observed an equivalent decline. In Europe, for example, the EU’s natural gas import price has fallen from a peak of $11.59 per MMbtu in 2014 to $6.24 per MMbtu, which is a fall of 46% compared to oil’s 75%.
The EU’s natural import gas price is high compared to US prices. This is mostly accounted for by the fact that transportation, liquefaction and regasification of gas can add up to 50% to the wholesale price, according to UKOOG, the onshore oil and gas industry association in the UK.

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee has therefore concluded that, although price cuts are not likely to be as great as those observed in the US, indigenous production of shale is likely to be cheaper than imports of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).
The need to prepare ground for UK shale
Investment decisions relating to UK shale gas will be based on estimates of future prices as much as today’s gas price.

It is expected that large scale UK shale gas production will only emerge in the 2020s. As marginally efficient gas supply comes off stream, global gas prices can be expected to rise by this time.

Reducing the UK’s reliance on gas imports would also be beneficial in terms of security of supply. In 2003, the UK was a net exporter of gas – exporting 8m tonnes of oil equivalent – but in 2015 the UK imported 29 million tonnes of oil equivalent, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

It is estimated that without any UK shale development, 75% of the UK’s gas will need to be imported by 2030. Data shows that around 25% of the UK’s gas is currently imported from Qatar – a figure that is likely to increase without indigenous shale production.  
The UK will need to make major investments in gas for the 2020s. The UK’s residential heating market is dominated by gas – over 80% of UK homes are connected to the gas grid, according to the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council.

Furthermore, the Government is committed to phasing out coal fired power stations, meaning that a substantial increase in gas plant is essential to ensure reliable baseload capacity. Modelling by the Department for Energy and Climate Change suggests that 26 GW of new gas plant will be required by 2030. 

Current low oil and gas prices should not be used as an excuse to delay preparations for a growing UK shale gas industry in the 2020s. As outlined above, investment decisions will be based on future prices rather than current ones.

To date, there has been a lack of exploratory drilling and hydraulic fracturing to assess the true potential of shale gas in the UK.

The Government must ensure that such exploratory drilling can take place in a timely fashion, so the UK can realise the full benefits of shale.

The Government has already made a number of important steps to help ensure that the planning system – a key barrier to the industry – works more smoothly. In August 2015, the Government pledged to:

  • Identify councils that repeatedly fail to determine oil and gas applications within the 16 week statutory timeframe requirement, with applications in those areas determined by the Communities Secretary (in England). In Scotland, there is a moratorium on any planning applications for shale gas exploration.
  • Consider calling-in shale gas applications on a case-by-case basis;
  • Consider recovering shale gas appeals.

In the Autumn, the Government confirmed that it would recover Cuadrilla’s appeal in Lancashire, meaning that the Secretary of State, rather than the Planning Inspector, will make the final decision over the appeal.  It is also welcome that the Infrastructure Act 2015, which permits shale gas exploration to access private land below 300m, with hydraulic fracturing allowed below 1,000m, has been passed.

This means that landowners are now unable to block shale gas development from taking place deep underground (although operators will still need permission for their surface site from the landowner.) Furthermore, the successful 14th onshore round licensing has shown the Government is taking the right steps to promote the industry.

Exploratory drilling at various sites should begin to take place towards the end of this year and early 2017. It is vital that this drilling takes place so that a true assessment of the UK’s shale can be realised.

The Government must ensure that there is no slippage from this timetable. 

This article is reproduced from the E-Bulletin published by the Centre for Policy Studies.

Centre for Policy Studies think tank logo

University experts forecast 20-year ‘reign’ of $40-barrel N. Sea oil to 2035 as US shale oil revolution goes global

Oil barrel symbolTwo independent university energy academics have issued a new 20-year forecast for the future price of crude oil – at $40-barrel in 2035

Oil price rises over the past 40 years have been truly spectacular, but the recent fall is probably here to stay, thanks to increasing production.

Roberto Aguilera and Marian Radetzki discuss these trends in their new bookThe Price of Oil ** They write:

In constant money, prices rose by almost 900% between 1970-72 and 2011-13. This can be compared with a 68% real increase for a metals and minerals price index, comprising a commodity group that, like oil, is exhaustible.

In our view, it is political rather than economic forces that have shaped the inadequate growth of upstream oil production capacity, the dominant factor behind the sustained upward price push.

But we believe the period of excessively high oil prices has now come to an end. The international spread of two revolutions will assure much more ample oil supplies, and will deliver prices far below those experienced over the past decade.

The new oil revolutions

Beginning less than a decade ago, the shale oil revolution has turned the long-run declining oil production trends in the United States into rises of 73% between 2008 and 2014.

An exceedingly high rate of productivity improvements in this relatively new industry promises to strengthen the competitiveness of shale output even further.

A series of environmental problems related to shale exploitation have been identified, most of which are likely to be successfully handled as the infant, “wild west” industry matures and as environmental regulation is introduced and sharpened.

Geologically, the United States does not stand out in terms of shale resources. A very incomplete global mapping suggests a US shale oil share of no more than 17% of a huge geological wealth, widely geographically spread.

Given the mainly non-proprietary shale technology and the many advantages accruing to the producing nations, it is inevitable that the revolution will spread beyond the United States.

We have assessed the prospects of non-US shale oil output in 2035, positing that the rest of the world will by then exploit its shale resources as successfully as the United States has done in the revolution’s first 10 years.

This would yield rest of world an output of 19.5 million barrels per day in 2035, which is similar to the global rise of all oil production in the preceding 20 years – a stunning increase with far-reaching implications in many fields.

Another related revolution is beginning to see the light of the day, but news about it has barely reached the consumer-media.

It is being gradually realised that the advancements in horizontal drilling and fracking can also be applied to conventional oil extraction.

If the rest of the world applies these techniques to conventional oil, as the United State has done, this would yield a further addition of conventional oil amounting to 19.7 million barrels per day by 2035.

The oil output increases are bound put downward pressure on prices, either by preventing price rises from the first-half 2015 levels, averaging some US$57 per barrel (Brent spot), or by pushing them back to these levels if an early upward reaction takes place.

Our optimistic scenario, which appears increasingly likely, sees a price of $40-barrel by 2035.

Global implications

The global spread of these revolutions and the ensuing price weakness that we envisage for the coming two decades will, on balance, provide a great advantage both to the oil industry and to the world economy at large.

Not surprisingly, public income from oil in producing nations may fall if they fail to compensate for falling prices by expanding output. We also suspect that the effects of the resource curse – where, paradoxically, nations with large resources don’t experience economic growth – will ease as prices decline.

The two revolutions will apparently cement and prolong the global oil dependence, with implications for climate policy.

The efforts to develop renewables for the purpose of climate stabilisation will become more costly, requiring greater subsidies, in consequence of lower oil prices.

The abundance caused by the revolutions will lead to hard to fathom changes in international political relations. Much of the oil importers’ urge for political intervention and control will dissipate as access to oil becomes less urgent.

For instance, the heavy diplomatic and military presence of the United States in the Middle East is likely to be questioned when the country’s dependence on oil from the region is further reduced.

The growth and geographical diversification of supply would not only suppress prices, but would also promote competition among suppliers and make it more difficult for producers to use energy sales in pursuit of political ends.

**The Price of Oil (Cambridge University Press) by


(Adjunct Research Fellow, Energy Economics, Curtin University of Perth, Western Australia) and

MARIAN RADETZKI (Professor of Economics, Lulea University of Technology, Sweden).

Copyright © 2010–2015, The Conversation Trust (UK)


How you can give a little something back to help Scotland light up Malawi this Christmas

Children study by solar light in Malawi
Children study by solar light in Malawi

It is 10 years since the historic 2005 Cooperation Agreement was signed at Bute House between the Governments of Scotland and Malawi. It outlines the key areas in which Scotland and Malawi will work together for the mutual benefit of the two countries, with a focus on sharing experiences and skills.

Hosting a reception to mark the anniversary, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The links between Scotland and Malawi are more than 150 years old, going back to the time of Dr David Livingstone and early Scottish missionaries. Our modern day relationship remains based on those people to people links, with a key focus on partnership.

“Since the signing of the formal Cooperation Agreement, the Scottish Government has invested over £55 million in Malawi over the last decade.

“It provides an opportunity for both countries to learn from each other. More than 300,000 Scots and two million Malawians benefit from this relationship each year, in areas including education, health, agriculture and renewable energy.

“We’ve also brought new energy access to almost 80,000 people in the most rural parts of Malawi, through a £2.3 million renewable energy project.”

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, is it an act of justice” Nelson Mandela.

Yet, in Malawi, only 9% of the 15.9 million people have electricity, leaving the other 91% relying on ‘high risk’ light sources, such as a Kerosene lamp– a lamp which provides only poor light at best, while omitting a toxic black smoke.

The poor light significantly limits the length of the working day and ability for children to study.

Overall it is hazardous to the health and well-being, not to mention the expense – which is up to 15% of a family’s income, prohibiting some of the most basic human needs being met and placing progression out of this vicious cycle, out of reach.

Malawi3Initiated by the Scotland 2020 Climate Group, the Scotland Lights Up Malawi campaign is raising funds (initially £400k) in order to address climate justice by investing in solar lights in Malawi, undertaking research into climate justice and educating children both here in Scotland and in Malawi.

The Malawi and Scotland partnership is grounded upon its historic, cultural and political links, but also because Malawi is one of those worst effected by poverty, now classified as the poorest country in Africa and in the top 10 in the world.

We are the beneficiaries whilst far too many fellow human beings still face living in poverty.

“Scotland has a rich heritage in both energy and technology and it is time we put these advantages to work for those who will be most affected by Climate Change. Solar light, as a proven technology, has the power to be a disruptive force for good in countries like Malawi…” – Ian Marchant, Former Chair, Scotland’s 2020 Climate Group.

The delivery partners working with Scotland Lights Up Malawi are Keep Scotland Beautiful (KSB), Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) and SolarAid – in collaboration with the Scottish Government.


Scotland Lights up Malawi addresses three key areas:

EDUCATING Scottish society on the related issues of climate change and poverty through the development of educational material, which will then be piloted in a sample of schools, building on the Eco-Schools Scotland Programme.

MEASURING the impact of this approach on climate change and poverty using a climate justice framework.

DELIVERING over 100,000 solar lights to the most disadvantaged communities in Malawi through SunnyMoney social enterprise (via SolarAid).



The impact so far, is a significant legacy and movement to have accomplished; however it doesn’t stop here, with £65,000 of the initial amount still to be raised the opportunity remains to achieve further substantial transformation to the welfare of many more Malawian lives.

When something so simple and basic as energy (that we in the west very much take for granted) is so lacking and is also the subject that potentially makes the majority of you tick – brings a challenge to us and our understanding as millions of people remain in that place of energy poverty.

However Scotland Lights up Malawi encourages us to step up the table so that we can help millions with a simple solution – solar light.

Yet in its very simplicity – it provides a gift of clean, affordable and sustainable energy that in turn provides a step up for people as they strive for a future, equality and hope – climate justice.

Solar lights offer huge benefits to Malawians. They need no further fuel source, so are far cheaper than kerosene and far safer as there is no risk of burns. And they offer a reduction in heavy and immediate carbon emissions that come from kerosene.

The benefits to schoolchildren mean that they can study into the evening, increasing their educational opportunities. This is of particular importance to girls, who often have household chores to complete during daylight hours before they can start their studies at night.

On Tuesday 1 December 2015, the UK hosts its second year of ‘Giving Tuesday’ – a movement which encourages people to give a little something back.

Can you give a little something back to help Scotland Light Up Malawi?

Ruth Milliken

Fund-raising coordinator


You can make  donation either through the website (above) or by text: 
Scot20 £?? to 70070

Food waste generates strong growth in Scots anaerobic-digestion (AD-)power sector

The BioGask AD-power plant near Turriff, Aberdeenshire. Photo BioGask
The BioGask AD-power plant near Turriff, Aberdeenshire. Photo BioGask

Scotland’s anaerobic digestion industry – which turns rotting food and farm waste into electricity – has mushroomed by more than two thirds in a year.

Twenty seven AD projects are up and running in Scotland, up 69% (from 16) in 12 months ago, while a further 43 have planning approval.

With a dozen more plants waiting for permission to go ahead, the sector could grow by more than 200% in the next two years –  according to figures from the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA).

The AD process involves farm slurry, vegetable peelings, paper and other organic material decomposing inside a closed chamber to produce gas, which is then used to generate electricity.

The amount of food thrown away in Scotland each year has fallen by 8% since 2009, while less than half of Scotland’s household waste was sent to landfill in 2014 – the first time that figure has ever dipped below the 50 per cent mark, and a sign that technology like AD can help reduce demand on landfill space.

Increased numbers of household food waste collections under by the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 mean more will become available to fuel Scotland’s ongoing AD boom.

Charlotte Morton, ADBA Chief Executive, said: “Scotland is leading the way in demonstrating how anaerobic digestion extracts value from our waste, while supporting farming resilience, reducing billions in carbon abatement costs, improving food security and production and generating employment and investment opportunities for rural economies. 

“We are particularly excited to see AD plants working in partnership with local authorities to collect residents’ food waste and to distribute in its place heat and electricity for local homes. 

“Developments in Scotland are now being used to showcase the excellent return on investment that bill payers gain from the continued deployment of AD capacity.

“With a commitment from government to support the technology to scale – a commitment which currently does not exist – AD can deliver baseload energy that is cheaper than new nuclear by the time Hinkley Point C is built, and that can help de-carbonise UK heat, farming and transport.” 



Bio-Gask business turns organic waste into electricity

The Bio-Gask anaerobic digestion business –  based at Gask Farm, near Turriff in Aberdeenshire – uses the process to dispose of food waste and slurries for commercial customers.

Currently, pig slurry and meat processing waste are fed into a 2,500 cubic metre tank where, under in the absence of oxygen, bacteria will breakdown the material and produce a methane-rich gas which can be used to make electricity.

The AD plant at BioGask also has the potential to use chicken feathers, maize silage and fish processing wastes to produce power.

Owner Andrew Rennie said: “Our AD plant allows local businesses to dispose of their waste in a safe and controlled way, and in a way which not only produces electricity which can be sold to the grid, but also a fertiliser which can be used on the land.”

Europe’s ocean renewable energy industry set to generate 10% of EU demand  

Ocean Energy Europe - an Alstom 1MW aqua-turbine being lifted into water. The worker (bottom right) gives an indication of scale.
Ocean Energy Europe – an Alstom 1MW aqua-turbine being lifted into water. The worker (bottom right) gives an indication of scale.

Ocean energies are the next generation of renewable energy technologies. Being very predictable, they will help integrate even higher levels of wind and solar energy into the grid, and at a lower system cost.

For this reason, the Ocean Energy Forum, a stakeholder group set-up by the European Commission, stepped up its activities this year.

The main output of this Forum, a strategic road map outlining technology priorities, financing options and consenting barriers will be presented by the European Commission to Member States’ energy ministers at a political summit in Dublin this October, on the fringes of the Ocean Energy Europe 2015 conference.

Its message to EU states will be clear: “Here’s what we can do, and here’s what we need to do it”, with a view to turning the roadmap into a public-private partnership to develop the sector in the following years

Getting the support framework right over the next decade, could see ocean energy covering 10% of EU electricity demand by 2050, a highly attractive prospect for the EU.

Over the next few years, the ocean renewable energy industry will deploy pilot farms, with Scotland leading the way.

These early projects will set a path for the industrial roll-out of up to 100GW of deployed capacity around Europe by 2050.

The EU is now moving to support ocean energy in a meaningful way, adding further momentum to sector’s steady march towards commercialisation.

The European industry will converge on Dublin this October to hammer out a development strategy and forge partnerships that will take progress to next level. Why is this happening now?


Securing Europe’s energy supply  


Ocean Energy Europe 2015 DublinThe EU’s precarious energy position, of which the on-going Ukraine situation is a worrying reminder, is quite dismal.

The bloc continues to rely on imports for its energy needs to the tune of €400 billion a year and, as the EU’s anti-trust charges against Gazprom show, dependence on a handful of exporting countries is becoming increasingly problematic. With gas production in the UK, Netherlands and Norway in decline, action is needed.

Relying on indigenous resources for energy production is without doubt the most straight forward way to secure Europe’s energy supply.

Renewables are the only long-term, viable fuel source which can power Europe in the coming decades.

Brussels is becoming increasingly interested in ocean energy because it has the potential to generate gigawatt hours of electricity, covering up to 10% of European demand by 2050.


Grid integration – more renewables at a lower cost

The idea that electricity grids cannot handle high levels of renewables is repeatedly being proven to be a myth. German wind and solar energy covers 60% of electricity demand on peak days.

The German grid only experiences 15 minutes of outages a year, compared with four hours per year in Poland’s coal-fueled grid. Increasing the range of different technologies supplying to the grid only makes this process easier.


Staying ahead of the game – turning technology advantage into a new industry

Today, 45% of wave energy companies, and 50% of tidal energy companies are based in Europe.

The knowledge and IP built up around these companies means that Europe enjoys a considerable technological advantage today.

This is already baring economic fruits: the Canadian west coast has the best tidal stream resource in the world, yet deployments there are being dominated by European player.

Today, EU companies are in prime position to dominate a global market estimated at €108bn annually by 2050.

The world is moving forward on renewables and they have become the cornerstone of any low-carbon economy today, not just in the future. The US is targeting a 32% cut in power sector emissions by 2030, and China is investing heavily in renewable energy: the transition to a low-carbon energy system is well under way.

To stay ahead of the game, Europe needs to continue to invest and support renewable energies, and particularly in the areas where it already enjoys an advantage. The EU is in dire need of industrial success stories, and ocean energy can be one of those.


Regional development – real opportunities in coastal areas

By nature of its resource, ocean energy is developed in coastal areas, many of which have been hard-hit by economic restructuring in recent decades. Putting ocean energy farms in the water will complement Europe’s regional growth agenda by generating well-paid jobs and sustainable economic.

Ocean energy developments provide under-used ports and harbours with an opportunity to innovate and specialise as hubs for blue growth.

European governments, such as in Scotland and West Normandy, have clearly recognised this, and are amongst the leading supporters of the sector.

Furthermore, a parallel route to market is emerging in the ocean energy industry. Projects are underway in islands, where strong ocean energy resources are an alternative to costly imports for oil-powered generators. The high local electricity price makes the economics of these projects work.

Ocean Energy Europe OCT-16-01 Mobilisation

What is the EU doing?

Given the head start that EU technology companies enjoy in ocean energy, the sector has the potential to become a truly European success story.

Brussels has recognised this and support for the sector has never been stronger, with very real consequences: funding for ocean energy under EU programmes such as Horizon 2020, NER300 and structural funding has increased significantly in the past years. The European Investment Bank is, for the first time, looking at the ocean energy sector in a serious manner with a view to providing access to risk finance.

Securing the support needed to get the ocean energy sector off the ground cannot be garnered in Brussels alone. The bulk of the support will need to come from those EU countries who have the most to gain.

Bringing this public support together, in a coordinated manner so that it leverages a maximum of private investment is now vital.

For booking details:Ocean Energy Europe’s annual conference & exhibition


Implementing the new EU Offshore Safety Directive in the N. Sea oil and gas industry

offshore survival suits BPThe single biggest change to affect domestic offshore health, safety and environmental management in many years came into force on 1 August 2015

Here Robert Paterson, Oil & Gas UK’s health and safety director, explains the key implications of the EU Offshore Safety Directive.

 Why did we have to change what is commonly regarded as a world-class safety regime in the UK?

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 refocused attention on the potential for major accidents and, in particular, major environmental accidents. The European Commission (EC) decided that consistent standards were required for offshore operations across the European Union (EU).

The EC could see that existing regimes had developed in a piecemeal fashion – in the UK after the Piper Alpha incident in 1988 and in Norway after the 1980 capsize of the Alexander Kielland platform. It recognised that many other European countries, like Romania and Cyprus, were at the early stages of offshore development and that there was merit in everyone having a similar approach.

Originally, the proposal was for an EU Regulation, but Oil & Gas UK, in collaboration with others, strongly objected to this – a Regulation would have swept away our entire post-Piper legal framework, which is world-class.

Following considerable discussion, the EU decided to adopt a Directive, which enables more flexibility to implement and align the new European requirements with existing UK provisions. The Directive aligns the different major accident hazard regulatory frameworks across Europe with one rigorous regime aimed at further minimising the risks of offshore operations.


What are the key changes?

There is much in the Directive that the UK industry is familiar with, but there are also a number of important changes. One of the key changes is the creation of a new Competent Authority (CA) – an independent body that provides regulatory oversight of the management of major accident, safety and environmental risks. It is also responsible for implementing the EU Directive.

Other changes include a requirement for each duty holder to have a Safety and Environmental Management System (see box-out right for definition of key terms), a Corporate Major Accident Prevention Policy and for environmental major accident information to be included in the revised installation safety case. Other important measures are to identify safety and environmental critical elements (SECE) and to implement a verification scheme for these.

There are also new stipulations about the liability for environmental damage (see box-out right) and that operators must report a range of new incidents and dangerous occurrences to the CA. For example, any loss or non-availability of a SECE, requiring immediate remedial action, is reportable, or a vessel on a collision course with an installation where operators have to take immediate measures.


Who will form the Competent Authority?

The Department of Energy & Climate Change’s (DECC) Offshore Oil and Gas Environment and Decommissioning Team and the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Energy Division will work in partnership to deliver the CA and its functions as required under the Directive. The CA will be known as the Offshore Safety Directive Regulator (OSDR).


What has changed in the reporting of major incidents?

As a result of the Directive, the EC has brought in separate legislation – the EU Implementing Regulation – which requires specific major accident related incidents to be reported. The aim is to ensure consistent reporting across the EU and to enable comparisons to be made between the various Member States. To minimise the reporting burden, the HSE is working to align this requirement with existing measures so that there is a single route for reporting offshore incidents. A subcommittee of the EC – the EU Offshore Authorities Group – is developing guidance.


Does the Directive mean heavier regulation of industry?

The HSE and DECC have laid out the standards and benchmarks for industry to evaluate compliance with the Directive through a new series of safety case and oil pollution emergency plan (OPEP) guidance templates. We don’t see significant differences in the standards from what companies are already familiar with, and the existing documents have been refined to account for changed regulatory expectations. As the standards by which the CA makes its compliance judgements are similar, we do not expect more heavy handed regulatory oversight.


Do you think implementation of the Directive in the UK will improve standards?

A major safety hazard can often have environmental implications so we welcome the integration of safety and environmental risk management. The new incident reporting requirements should also lead to more sharing of information, which can only be positive.


How are the changes viewed by industry?

Industry has worked hard with the HSE and DECC to minimise the bureaucracy and facilitate smooth and efficient regulatory change. All parties have been fully engaged to maintain the momentum in developing various regulations and supporting interpretative guidance.


Where are we now?

We continue to engage with HSE and DECC on the UK legislative package due to come into force in July. The focus now is to work with the HSE and DECC on preparing the supporting guidance documents and to refine the CA’s administrative arrangements for receiving and assessing safety cases, OPEPs, etc.


What should I be doing next?

The CA has sent all operating companies a letter setting out the timescale for resubmitting safety cases. All safety cases and accompanying OPEP(s) must be resubmitted and re-accepted by the CA by 2016 for existing non-production installations and by 2018 for existing production installations (those that have accepted safety cases on or prior to 18 July 2013).


Definitions and Terms Safety and Environmental Management System

Each duty holder must have a Safety and Environmental Management System (SEMS) that must be clearly described in an associated document. SEMS’ requirements are detailed in Schedule 3 of the Safety Case Regulations 2015.

Whether a duty holder operates its SEMS as separate or integrated, the document should clearly describe the contents of these systems – how they work together and how they integrate into the corporate management system.


Corporate Major Accident Prevention Policy

The Corporate Major Accident Prevention Policy (CMAPP) must be included in a safety case submission. Existing policies will likely need updating to meet the specific requirements of the Safety Case Regulations 2015.

The duty to prepare the CMAPP falls on the legal entity that is the operator or owner in the UK. If the legal entity in the UK is part of a group corporate structure, it is for the operator or owner to decide if they submit a UK company group, or international group, CMAPP. Either is acceptable as long as it meets the requirements of this Regulation and associated Schedules.


Environmental Liability Directive

The Environmental Liability Directive requires the damage caused by a major environmental incident to be remediated and paid for by the company responsible. It previously applied to coastal waters and European Protected Sites, but the EU Offshore Safety Directive extends its application to the whole of the marine environment.

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