Two significant news items from the UK this week: the increase in frequency in CfD auctions and the proposals to reform the Solvency II rules which could allow insurance companies to roll out considerably more clean infrastructure investment.

Company news

SSE ramps up Net Zero Acceleration Programme with new carbon targets
SSE has today announced an update to its sustainability strategy, setting four core goals for 2030 that would see the company slash its carbon intensity by 80 per cent and deliver a five-fold increase in renewables generation by the end of the decade.
The energy giant said its new targets are in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and have been “upweighted to drive faster decarbonisation across the next decade”.
Specifically, the company said it would now aim to reduce the carbon intensity of its direct emissions by 80 per cent by 2030, compared to 2017/18 levels, representing a sharp increase on its previous target to cut carbon intensity by 60 per cent.
Similarly, SSE said it is now planning to deliver a five-fold increase its renewable energy generation to at least 50TWh of renewable electricity a year by 2030, up from a previous target of 30TWh.
It also pledged to enable at least 20GW of renewable generation and facilitate around two million electric vehicles and one million heat pumps on its electricity networks by 2030, while taking fresh steps to “champion a fair and just energy transition”. (businessgreen)

UK news

Government to rollout CfD auctions annually
The UK Government has announced that the funding auctions through the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme will occur annually, rather than every two years, in a bid to boost the nation’s clean energy supply chain.
The announcement took place on Wednesday (9 February) with Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng claiming that the reform to the CfD scheme would “boost energy security, attract private investment and create jobs in our industrial heartlands”.
The CfD auctions have been critical in bringing down the costs of clean energy in the UK. Taking place every two years, CfD schemes have seen the per unit price of offshore wind fall by around 65% since the first auctions were held, which in turn has spurred the UK to become one of the leading markets for that technology.
Amidst the energy crisis, the Government will make these auctions annual from March 2023. The Government believes it will help fast-track renewables deployment in the UK by building a bigger and more efficient supply chain for a host of low-carbon sources. (edie)

Dogger Bank C First Offshore Wind Farm to Support Network Stabilisation
Dogger Bank C will become the first UK offshore wind farm to use the functionality of its transmission assets to help stabilise voltage on the grid and support multi-million-pound consumer savings, according to National Grid ESO, which selected Dogger Bank C following a competitive tender process.
The 1.2 GW project, which is the third phase of what will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm, will provide 200 megavolt amperes of reactive power (MVAr) in the North East of England between 2024 and 2034 after the Hartlepool nuclear power station closes in March 2024.
National Grid ESO awarded the contract to Dogger Bank C through the Pennines Voltage Pathfinder competitive process, together with National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) which will provide 500 MVAr in the West Yorkshire area.
The two solutions are worth GBP 22.5 million and will bring multi-million-pound savings for the end consumer, according to National Grid ESO. (offshorewind)

Fracking firm Cuadrilla to permanently abandon controversial UK sites
The owner of shale fracking firm Cuadrilla will permanently plug and abandon its two shale wells in Lancashire, drawing a line on Britain’s failed fracking industry.
Cuadrilla set out plans to permanently seal the two shale gas wells drilled at the Preston New Road (PNR) Lancashire shale exploration site a little over two years after the government brought an end to fracking in England. (guardian)

Thousands of plumbers needed to install heat pumps
Training plumbers would ease Britain’s dependence on foreign gas and drive down the cost of bills, experts say.
Heat pumps are pricier but they may start becoming much more cost effective due to the soaring price of gas.
Top think-tank the Social Market Foundation found the country is far short of the number of skilled workers needed to replace millions of gas boilers by 2050.
Senior researcher Amy Norman said: “Energy bills are rising because we’re too reliant on imported gas.
Taking the gas out of home heating will reduce that demand and protect households from this volatility, so plumbers and heating installers are going to be vital to this huge national effort.
“We need government to call up a generation of climate heroes. The message is clear: your country needs you to get trained to fit the heat pumps that will help make homes cleaner, greener and less dependent on imported gas.” (thesun)

EV of the week

Smart relaunches and introduces Smart #1 electric crossover
Smart is entering a new chapter this year with the launch of its first model developed under the shared ownership of Mercedes-Benz Group and Geely.
Now named Smart Automobile Co Ltd, the joint-venture company has announced the name of its first new generation model, the #1 electric crossover. The combination of the “#” symbol and a number will be adopted by future models as well.
Designed by Mercedes-Benz and engineered by Geely, the new model underwent a series of tests at the China Automotive Engineering Research Institute in Chongqing, with one of them revealing a drag coefficient of 0.29, a good value for subcompact SUVs.
The #1 has also undergone extensive cold weather testing in China with, reportedly, excellent results. (insideevs)

photo: Smart

photo: Smart


Large-scale storage options for compressed hydrogen
A Swedish-Finnish research group has conducted a comprehensive analysis of all storage options for large-scale compressed hydrogen, including storage vessels, geological storage, and other underground options.
They complemented their qualitative review with an assessment that considered a broad spectrum of technological advances for storing compressed gaseous hydrogen.
The scientists grouped storage vessels into four categories: pressure vessels made of metals like carbon steel and low-alloy steel, thick load-bearing metal liners based on steel or aluminum, thin metal liners with fiber resin composites, ultra-thin metal liners fully wrapped with fiber resin composites, and linerless fully composite pressure vessels based on fiber-reinforced shells.
The scientists noted the importance of different components such as valves, sensors, and storage containers for this kind of hydrogen storage. They also considered the most common fiber-reinforced composites used for hydrogen storage tanks, including carbon fibers, glass fibers, and glass fibers. They also looked at polyester, phenol, and epoxy resins for manufacturing pressure vessels. They said the latter are the best candidates due to their high mechanical properties and resistance to temperature and corrosion.
The Swedish-Finnish group assessed several options for geological hydrogen storage, including depleted oil and gas reservoirs, aquifers, salt caverns, abandoned mines, and rock caverns.In addition, they assessed the viability of blending hydrogen into natural gas pipelines and underground methanation reactors.They see the methanation reactors as a potentially good alternative, but they still have concerns about the methane production rate. (pvmagazine)
See the report HERE

Macron Pledges New Nuclear Reactors
President Emmanuel Macron wants French utility company Electricite de France SA to build up to 14 new nuclear reactors, pledging tens of billions of state support over the next three decades to revamp the country’s struggling atomic industry.
Macron said the government will push for massive growth in solar and offshore wind power alongside nuclear as the transition away from fossil fuels will boost the use of electric cars, heat pumps and other equipment and plants running on power. New capacity will be needed to secure supply as a number of EDF’s 56 reactors are already showing signs of aging, and will progressively be retired by the middle of the century.  
France should plan for the construction of six new large reactors — with the first one coming online around 2035 — and studies for another eight should also be launched. The new program could represent 25 gigawatts of capacity by 2050, Macron said. Tens of billions of euros of public financing will be committed to fund these projects, allowing to preserve the financial situation of EDF, he said.
The French government could invest in the new nuclear power stations alongside EDF, an aide of the French president (Bloomberg)

Focus on: BP and the energy transition

We spend a lot of time talking about the “Energy Transition”, but maybe less on the actual transition part. BP’s bumper results should probably help suggest a question as to who to entrust to drive that transition. BP laid out a strategy whereby they will massively increase investment in zero carbon solutions whilst managing the steady withdrawal from fossil fuels, a transformation that they expect to complete by 2050.
This is a classic case of asking the poacher to take on the role of gamekeeper. Should we entrust this vaste investment to those who have, until now spent a lot of time obstruction the progress of the transition? Commentators such as the Guardian, below and Greenpeace have used these results to renew calls for a windfall tax. However I am minded to believe that this leopard is changing its spots and should be one of those encouraged to deliver the needed investment. They have that skillset, they have the cash and if you listen to this excellent interview with Laura Kingholm, VP for Europe at BP on Aurora’s Energy Unplugged Podcast HERE
it is clear that the culture within BP is changing dramatically.

BP has ambitious plans to move beyond fossil fuels – but are they enough?
The oil firm revealed the four-fold profit increase to $12.8bn alongside a promise to spend more on low-carbon energy alternatives, and invest more than £2 for every £1 it made in Britain this decade.
Bernard Looney, BP’s chief executive, told investors that by 2025 the company plans to dedicate 40% of its spending budget to parts of the business which aid the energy transition, rising to 50% of the budget by the end of the decade.
A large proportion would be earmarked for UK projects such as giant offshore windfarms, hydrogen projects and electric vehicle charging networks. A useful counter-argument to calls for a windfall tax? (guardian)

Crowdfunding of the week

Investment round opens for plantation of new species of CO2-cutting trees
Crowdfunding platform Abundance Investments has opened up an investment round for Carbon Plantations, a business that is aiming to develop plantations of fast-growing broadleaf trees which can absorb carbon dioxide up to seven times faster than newly planted native woodland.Carbon Plantations’ first project, which received approval from the Forestry Commission in December, will see a non-invasive variety of Paulownia tree called Phoenix 1 planted across 195 hectares of land on the Euston Estate in Suffolk. The project is expected to absorb 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the first 10 years of its lifetime, according to the company. (businessgreen)
Join the Abundance crowd HERE

Global stuff

Israeli Startup to test Electric Highway in Motor City
The dream of wireless EV charging on-the-go has popped up randomly on the radar over the years. The technology for embedding EV charging in pavement is a tough nut to crack, but wireless EV charging is on the verge of becoming a real thing, and road-based EV charging technology is not far behind.
Detroit’s new electric highway began to take shape last September, when Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced plans for the nation’s first wireless charging infrastructure on a public road.
Michigan already provides the mobility industry with a large suite of testing infrastructure. If all goes according to plan, the new electric highway will attract and keep more business within the state.
The Michigan Department of Transportation issued a request for proposals last fall. In an update on the new electric road system last week, Governor Whitmer’s office announced that the Israeli startup Electreon beat out the competition.Specifically, the new electric highway will be located in Michigan Central, an innovation district in Detroit that partners the City of Detroit with electrification influencers, including DTE Energy and Google, as well as Ford. (cleantechnica)

Tracking Methane Emissions Better
The Biden administration has released a new set of actions for tackling super-polluting methane emissions. Their plan includes the formation of an interagency working group to coordinate greenhouse gas (GHG) measurement, monitoring, reporting, and verification (MMRV). From the White House’s statement, the Greenhouse Gas Monitoring and Measurement Interagency Working Group will identify and deploy the best tools to measure and verify emissions. It will also develop a comprehensive national GHG MMRV system that can be used by federal agencies; local, state, and Tribal governments; the private sector; and the public. Establishing a government center to decipher and disseminate data will be critical, since we cannot manage what we don’t measure. (cleantechnica)

This map by Kayrros inc plus Garmin and others gives a good impression of the global network of gas pipelines and hotspots of methane leakage

Techie corner

Landmark experiment moves fusion energy ‘huge’ step closer
On Wednesday the UKAEA announced the Joint European Torus (JET), the largest and most powerful operational reactor called a tokamak, had produced a world record total of 59 megajoules of heat energy from fusion over a five second period – the duration of the experiment.
During this experiment, JET averaged a fusion power of around 11 megawatts (megajoules per second).
The previous energy record from a fusion experiment, achieved by JET in 1997, was 22 megajoules of heat energy. (independent)

photo: JET