REVOLT News 154

26/11/2003

Text Version 

 REVOLT News 154

1. Passed on from Country Guardian (the wind-farm group) - the government is consulting on a revision of planning guidance PPG22 on renewable energy. Details can be obtained from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister < http://www.odpm.gov.uk/ >. There is some fear this will be to steamroller windfarm developments in remote and scenic areas, thereby exacerbating the economic and grid security problems of mislocated generation. All responses (deadline 30.1.04) and any questions should be directed to: Alison Morris, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Planning Policies Division, A Zone 4/H4 Eland House Bressenden Place London SW1E 5DU Tel 020 7944 3935 Fax 020 7944 3949 email: pps22consultation@odpm.gsi.gov.uk

2. Times on-line report developments for new kinds of clean coal technology backed by Scottish Power (APPENDIX 1).

3. The Ofgem consultation on the Distribution Price Control Review has produced some interesting documents this year. My short response to the October Update is at APPENDIX 2. Responses to Ofgem are due 19.11.03.

4. Rosalind Craven hasn't given up, despite her petition for her case to be reopened being rejected by Lord Justice Brookes on 14.10.03. She says the court required that submissions were not to be allowed before 1.10.03, and NG's solicitors faxed submissions on 1.10.03. She responded a few days later but by then it seems to her, from the date on his statement, that Lord Justice Brookes may have already made his mind up without seeing her submissions! Rosalind is seeking a judicial review of a number of decisions or actions in this unusual case.

5. Rosalind Craven also reports her tenants have recently received a long notice from NG seeking agreement to remove just one tree, and mentioning the tenants' entitlement to a hearing in the event of their objection. Yet some 60 metres of trees were removed in March without such notice, merely a short letter and no mention of a hearing. Rosalind claims a "paragraph 9 hearing" on trees should have taken place at the time of the original public inquiry. In any event she suspects most landowners and occupiers with trees to be cut will not have had the proper notice stating their entitlement to a hearing, and so the tree cutting will have been unlawful.

6. NG put its PR machine into action on 12.11.03 to announce the complete installation of the two new North Yorkshire 400 kV lines, i.e. both Lackenby - Picton and Picton - Shipton. They are now apparently working. The old 400 kV line, from Norton (north of Stockton) to Picton and from Picton to Osbaldwick near York, is still in operation of course. But the old 275 kV Teesside line from Lackenby via Crathorne to Norton is disconnected and carrying no current. Parts have been removed already, around Crathorne, where it interfered with the route of the new line. But most of that 275 kV line is still up, wires and all. Work on its removal is scheduled to start in January for completion by late summer 2004, say NG.

7. Latest news@all-energy newsletter has the usual range of snips and references. A few selections are at APPENDIX 3. Note the billion pound cost for grid reinforcements to cope with windfarms in Scotland!

8. Fuel cell news from Angela Ovenston is at APPENDIX 4.

9. Daily Telegraph article with the Adam Smith Institute's views on threats of blackouts, is passed on by Country Guardian at APPENDIX 5.

10. Interesting letter from Professor Peter Smith (Sheffield) in the Independent 8.11.03 claims the renewable resource which could provide consistent predictable power (unlike wind) on a gigawatt scale is estuary tidal energy. He also heralds improvements in photovoltaics (PV) as soon to be viable for home owners to make them independent of the grid, meaning no more power cuts and price shocks.

11. Darlington & Stockton Times 14.11.03 reports power lines act as snares for young racing pigeons, with reference to the Knayton / Borrowby area. Stewart Grant for NG said they were researching a bird diverter. DST 24.11.03 reports CPRE's worries about the potentially devastating impact on the countryside of an all-out development of wind turbines.

12. Guardian article on new mini wind-turbine for domestic use - see APPENDIX 6.

13. The American industry's Public Power Magazine Sep-Oct 2003 carries a summary of the state of EMF health concerns and legal aspects. See extract at APPENDIX 7 and <http://www.appanet.org/newsroom/magazine/2003/EMFNotAMootIssue.cfm>

14. NGT (the combined electricity National Grid and Transo gas grid) is back in large profits and sharp dividend increases after merger costs were absorbed in previous accounts. See APPENDIX 8.

*******************************************************************

APPENDIX 1. Times online November 10, 2003

ScotPower joins talks for US clean coal project By Angela Jameson SCOTTISHPOWER is in discussions with the US Department of Energy and rival power companies to develop a power station that runs on clean coal as a solution to the problems of global warming.

The Scottish company is one of nine electricity companies and coal mining groups working with the US Government on a $1 billion initiative launched by President Bush.

The aim of the programme is to develop a power station that does not emit harmful greenhouse gases that damage the environment. If successful, the plant will help to silence critics of the Republican Administration who are angry at President Bush?s refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol, designed to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions.

President Bush, when launching the programme known as FutureGen, said: ?This project will be undertaken with international partners to dramatically reduce air pollution and capture and store emissions of greenhouse gases.?

ScottishPower is one of nine companies that have signed up to the programme. Other participants include American Alectric Power, Southern Company, TXU and Kennecott Energy, a member of the Rio Tinto group.

Talks are continuing over the financial commitment each company will make to FutureGen but it is understood that by the time the project reaches an operational phase there is likely to be revenue from the sale and the companies stand to share in any yield gain with the government.

A deal over the financial commitment and likely return that each company will make is expected in the new year.

The partnership between the private sector companies and the US Government has been kicked off with several million dollars of government funding and is likely to span the next ten years. At present discussions have concentrated on the structure of the agreement but research and development work is expected to begin next year.

The priority of the project is to develop and construct a unique power station that runs off coal and is capable of producing electricity and hydrogen with almost no emissions. The power station will produce electricity for consumers as well as hydrogen to power a fuel cell-based transportation system. A critical part of the project will be finding a way to capture the carbon dioxide generated in the process and to store it underground.

Techniques used in the oil industry are likely to be adapted to store carbon dioxide permanently underground in appropriate geological strata. The underground locations would have to be constantly monitored and would probably only be appropriate in unpopulated areas of the US.

Washington?s decision to find a way of relying on coal comes as other Western economies are turning their back on the solid fuel as their main source of cheap electricity. In Europe, environmental legislation is making coal-fired power plants uneconomic. The UK in future is planning to supply 80 per cent of its energy needs from gas and 20 per cent from renewable sources.

The US, however, has coal deposits of more than 300 years, and the reward for discovering a way of burning the fossil fuel in a clean way would be far more advantageous than it is in other western economies.

********************************************************

APPENDIX 2 Response to Ofgem consultation on DPCR October Update.

With regard to distribution losses (3.28 - 3.38) and the related incentive, I would prefer to see the benchmark relate to PROGRESSIVE regional efficiency targets, for example reducing the benchmark loss by a quarter of a percent each year, in order to incentivise improved efficiency rather than a stagnant level of inefficiency.

After all, many public services have been incentivised by similar "efficiency gains".

A similar approach might assist incentives for distributed CHP. For DG more generally, especially where intermittent sources are concerned, the benchmarks should relate to zonal levels, so that excessive total generation in a zone would be discouraged, in favour of regional balance of generation and demand. The reasons for this lie with economy and security of the transmission system rather than with distribution, but "joined-up" thinking is needed to keep that in view.

Rather than having shallower connection charges (Innovation and RPZ discussion paper, July 2003, section 3.1), charges should in principle be cost-reflective. For example, remote intermittent wind-farm development implying high distribution and transmission costs should have deeper charges reflecting those costs. On the other hand, distributed continuous CHP in areas of net demand should have reduced charges (or negative charges, i.e. positive incentives) reflecting the implied savings in distribution and transmission costs.

*********************************************************

APPENDIX 3 Snips from news@all-energy issue 30 November 2003

3.GRID/TRANSMISSION/ROCs

3.1.Whitehall holds ROC steady

As Britain's first significant offshore wind farm begins to deliver electricity onshore today, the government indicates continuing commitment to the main scheme for promoting renewable energy www.guardia n.co.uk/business/story/0,3604,1089983,00.html

3.2.Impact on smaller generators

Ofgem/DTI have published initial findings into the impact on smaller generators of extending the English/Welsh electricity wholesale markets to Great Britain. The creation of GB arrangements based on those in England/Wales will benefit smaller generators in Scotland in a number of ways www.ofgem.gov.uk/temp/ofgem/cache/cmsattach/5126_r11203_20nov.pdf

3.3.1bn to connect windfarms

New investment of 1bn is needed to connect planned Highlands and Islands windfarms with the main electricity network, Scottish & Southern Energy warned. www.guardian.co.uk/renewable/Story/0,2763,1079820,00.html

5.8 Irish news

>Following a landslide, Hibernian Wind Power has suspended work on a planned 60m Euro windfarm project and moved heavy equipment into the area to build dams in an attempt to minimise the impact of the slide www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2095-886294,00.html

8.3.Flagship renewables scheme

A 5.1m flagship renewable energy scheme for Leicester has been announced by the Government - it will help fund a biomass-fuelled scheme for the whole city. The press release is not on the website but other information is. www.em-cri.com/index.html

**********************************************************

APPENDIX 4 Fuel cell news from Angela Ovenston

I think I will now only select installations above 250kW, suitable for supplying gridless power to homes and also will include anything of indirect interest such as the potential use of methane from coal mines included here. There are many applications smaller in nature (often associated with transport and military applications) covering a very wide range of uses world-wide.

FuelCell Energy Installs Fuel Cell at Sheraton, Caterpillar. FuelCell Energy, Inc. and its U.S. distribution partner, PPL Energy Plus have installed a Direct FuelCell(r) (DFC(r)) power plant at the Sheraton Parsippany Hotel in Parsippany, New Jersey. The DFC300A power plant provides about 25 percent of the hotel's electricity and hot water. Caterpillar, Inc. and FuelCell Energy, Inc. installed a 250-kW DFC300A power plant at the Caterpillar Technical Center near Peoria, Illinois. The power plant, which will be connected to the Peoria area energy grid, is expected to supply electricity to more than 250 average American homes. http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/031015/phw028_1.html http://www.energy-markets.com/headlines/10-28-2003/0002046003.htm

Coalmine Fuel Cell Dedicated. FuelCell Energy Inc. dedicated its Direct FuelCell(r) (DFC(r)) power plant, operating on coalmine methane gas, at a ceremony at the AEP Ohio Coal LLC Rose Valley Site in Hopedale, Ohio. The purpose of the project, which is co-funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory, is to demonstrate the feasibility and advantages of methane from coalmines to generate electricity cleanly and efficiently. http://energyinfosource.com/dg/news.cfm?id=20341

***************************************************************

APPENDIX 5 From the Daily Telegraph 17.11.03

Blackouts 'to be the norm' if power switch goes ahead

By Edmund Conway (Filed: 17/11/2003)

Britain faces the prospect of regular blackouts and more than triple its current electricity prices if the Government goes ahead with its latest plans for UK power stations, says the Adam Smith Institute.

Switching power generation from coal and nuclear to gas and renewable sources will leave the country too dependent on imported supplies and the unpredictable elements, says the report by Professor Michael Laughton, which is published by the think tank today.

Prof Laughton, an expert on alternative energy, said yesterday he is certain that if the Government's energy policy goes ahead the UK's electricity network will become prone to blackouts within 10 years. Recent rises in the price of gas will also be dwarfed in comparison with prices of renewable energy, which will be three and half times the price of the coal or nuclear alternative.

"Renewable sources are unreliable and need some kind of a back-up from coal or - preferably - nuclear plants," he said. "Over-dependence on gas will significantly raise the risk of supply interruption, price instability and economic damage."

Prof Laughton said that with the current generation of nuclear power stations nearing their shut-down dates, it was essential at least to plan building replacements to keep Britain's power systems independent.

"It will take at least 10 years to get a new nuclear power station up and running, by which time most of our current power stations will be out of action," he said.

*************************************************

APPENDIX 6 Guardian article 24.11.03

Mini-turbine brings 'green power for all' Company claims its domestic wind unit can provide 15% of average household's electricity needs John Vidal, environment editor Monday November 24, 2003

The winds of change will blow a little stronger this morning when a small Scottish company launches Britain's first wind power system designed to be fitted on almost any roof or wall to supplement electricity from the grid. Just two days after Britain's biggest offshore wind farm started generating electricity off the north Wales coast, the designers of the tiny domestic unit believe they can provide up to 15% of the annual electricity needs of an average house for a one-off cost of 750 - bringing green electricity into the price range of most families. The machine, a 3ft by 2ft sealed box with three blades which face into the prevailing wind, is backed by the energy minister, Brian Wilson, who is a paid consultant for Windsave, the company behind it. Unlike old-style domestic wind generators, which needed a lot of land, sat on top of poles and drove pumps and a few bulbs for farmers and backwoodsmen, the machine does not need batteries to store the electricity. Instead, it tops up the existing mains supply. Unlike bigger systems, it cannot sell excess power back into the grid. But the company believes it has cracked the holy grail of renewable energy - getting government subsidies and making the machines silent. In theory, there are handouts both for installation and for "Rocs" - renewable obligation charges - which currently pay green electricity providers about 6p per kilowatt-hour generated. The system, says the Scottish inventor David Gordon, who has pumped 1m into the idea, can generate up to 750 watts - enough to power lights but not high-energy items such as kettles or heaters. "Nobody has been able to take raw wind power and put it straight into the domestic electrical system at 240 volts," he said. "We will be able to bring green energy to the masses." Mr Wilson, who has declared his interest in the company on the House of Commons register and has no financial share in it, was enthusiastic. "I have looked at it upside down and sideways for a catch and I don't think there is one. The amazing thing is its affordability. "It will be a few hundred quid, you do your bit for the environment, and you get a cheque back once a year. What more can you want? It's been though all the standard checks and everyone who's seen it is of the same opinion." Mr Gordon admits that his invention is not as technically efficient as turbines sited on high poles to collect the optimum wind, but says that it is the annual supplementing of household electricity which makes it suitable for buildings. The machine starts working at a wind speed of 3mph and is said to be most efficient in a 20mph breeze - common for much of the year across large parts of Britain. Using the remote metering technology which made Mr Gordon's fortune after he sold his company to BT, each unit installed will be automatically phoned every quarter to see how much electricity it has generated. The company will then collect the subsidy from the government and distribute it back to owners according to how much they have generated. "We believe the payback period could be as little as 30 months," said Mr Gordon. The British Wind Energy Association, which represents large-scale windpower generators, professed itself amazed at the development. "If it works, it's fantastic," said spokeswoman Alison Hill. Yesterday it was provisionally backed by Country Guardian, the lobby group which has opposed almost every planning application submitted for windpower development in Britain in the past decade. "I think they are a good idea. I don't think they'll look very beautiful, but we always feel that it's the people in cities who use the power and that we in the country have to pay the price," said Ann Evans, a vice-president. Local planners may be divided about whether the innovations need planning permission. Technically, they do not, says Mr Gordon, if they are sited below the highest point of houses. But many local authorities and heritage groups objected strongly at first to satellite dishes, and may not want to see large boxes with spinning blades put up. The machines are to be made outside Edinburgh. Local authorities, government offices and light industry will be targeted first, followed by householders in about three months.

**************************************************************

APPENDIX 7 Extract from Public Power Magazine Sep-Oct 2003.

EMF: Not A Moot Issue

In the 1990s, claims of health risks from electric and magnetic fields (EMF) became a big issue for electric utilities-ominous media stories appeared regularly, customers fought construction of new transmission lines and substations claiming that EMF from these facilities would cause cancer and other health effects, and plaintiffs' lawyers filed EMF property damage and personal injury lawsuits against utilities. In the last few years media stories warning about EMF have been rare. The EMF litigation drum beaten by plaintiffs' lawyers fell silent after a jury in New Jersey found that EMF from transmission lines did not cause a man's terminal leukemia. In 1999, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) issued a report on EMF concluding that the "scientific evidence suggesting that extremely low frequency EMF exposures pose any health risk is weak." The report was the culmination of a $45 million U.S. national EMF research program and appeared to offer a final word on EMF. After the NIEHS director's report, many in the industry forgot about the EMF issue. The lack of media coverage of EMF studies left many with the impression that EMF research had ended. Since the publication of the director's report, however, more than 500 new EMF studies have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Two EMF developments in 2002 present potentially significant implications for the electric utility industry. In June 2002, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a 400-plus- page report formally classifying extremely low frequency magnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans based on studies of EMF and childhood leukemia. This is the first time a public health organization has formally classified EMF as a possible cause of human cancer. IARC found that, while selection bias in the childhood leukemia studies could not be ruled out, pooled analyses of data from a number of well-conducted studies showed a fairly consistent statistical association between childhood leukemia and power-frequency residential magnetic fields above four milliGauss (mG), with an approximately two-fold increase in risk that is unlikely to be due to chance. IARC is a branch of the World Health Organization. The IARC classification of EMF was made by a panel of scientists from the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.K. National Radiological Protection Board, the California Department of Health Services, the Electric Power Research Institute and other institutions around the world. In October 2002, scientists at the California Department of Health Services issued a 500-plus-page report concluding that power frequency magnetic fields are a possible cause of childhood leukemia. The California report also identifies EMF as a possible cause of adult leukemia and adult brain cancer, ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), and miscarriage. While there are good grounds for challenging both the methodology used and the substantive basis for the conclusions reached in the California report, the report is nevertheless used to oppose new electric power facilities. The IARC and California reports do not establish that magnetic fields cause childhood leukemia or any other disease. In the wake of these two reports, however, an increase in EMF activity is developing in the media and among local activists opposed to construction of new transmission lines and substations. Some recent examples include: CNN's Money Line described the California report as "the strongest warning yet" about EMF health risks. Similar adverse publicity appeared in the United Kingdom, Australian, and Canadian media. The U.K.'s Sunday Telegraph characterized the California report as "the largest [study] held into the effects of EMFs on health," and concluded that the report "suggests that hundreds of thousands of Britons, particularly children, are at risk from life-threatening illnesses linked to the emissions." The article also noted that, based on the California report, pregnant women exposed to electric and magnetic fields face a heightened risk of miscarrying.

Manhattan substation blocked by EMF fears

Local residents in New York City used EMF health risks and the IARC findings to help defeat a proposed substation in Manhattan. When the utility then purchased an alternate site for the substation in Manhattan, local residents in that area created a community association and sued in court to block the project. They filed statements from scientific experts and local residents claiming that EMF from the proposed substation would be a cancer risk to neighborhood children. The utility had voluntarily agreed that magnetic fields from the substation at the edge of the property would not exceed four mG. The utility filed rebuttal statements from scientific and medical experts and extensive legal briefs. The court subsequently dismissed the case, but the local resident group is considering an appeal. In Australia, construction of a proposed substation was denied due to concerns over EMF health risks. The utility pursued a legal appeal, but the case was resolved only when the utility agreed to ensure that magnetic fields from the substation's feeder lines would not exceed four mG on adjacent properties. The four-mG exposure level was identified as a possible threshold for health risks to children. A Georgia state court denied a utility's condemnation of a property for construction of a transmission line based in part on EMF health claims. The ruling concluded that "there is a higher incidence of childhood leukemia in relation to proximity of children to high power transmission lines" and "the science is no longer unsettled" with regard to the increased incidence of childhood leukemia relative to electromagnetic fields. That ruling is now being appealed.

U.N. agency probes EMF risks, policy options

This year, the World Health Organization is undertaking a comprehensive evaluation of EMF health risks and policy options. WHO is expected to issue its health findings and policy recommendations in 2004. They could be influential with state and national regulators in the United States and Europe. WHO is expected to adopt the IARC classification of magnetic fields as a possible cause of childhood leukemia. In addition, WHO is expected to issue health risk classifications for EMF and miscarriage, cardiovascular conditions, neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's and ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), and behavioral effects. WHO's evaluation of policy options will include consideration of how to apply the precautionary principle to EMF. The precautionary principle is a loosely defined public health policy that endorses taking preventative measures while there is a still a high degree of scientific uncertainty about the extent of possible health risks from an environmental exposure such as EMF. WHO has recently described the precautionary principle as "intended to prevent or limit the possible harm caused by agents or activities before it has been established that the activity or exposure constitutes a harm to health." As such, the precautionary principle may be used to try to justify regulatory requirements that go well beyond the prudent avoidance measures adopted by many U.S. utilities and regulators. Europeans impose tougher restrictions on sensitive-use locations In the context of electric utility operations, prudent avoidance generally has been interpreted to mean taking low-cost or no-cost measures to reduce EMF exposures from new facilities. In contrast, the precautionary principle has been invoked in recent years in some European countries to justify more extensive regulatory activity, such as adopting special EMF exposure limits for "sensitive use" locations (e.g., playgrounds, schools, and regularly occupied rooms in homes). For example, EMF regulations in Switzerland and Italy incorporate special exposure limits based on precautionary concerns. These precautionary limits are up to 100 times lower than the EMF exposure limits for the general public in these countries. Similarly, the U.K. National Radiological Protection Board recently concluded that the "exposure of children to power frequency magnetic fields is an issue requiring consideration for application of the precautionary principle," even though the available scientific evidence is "not strong enough to justify a firm conclusion" that EMF is a cause of childhood leukemia. The board recommended the U.K. government initiate a study to evaluate application of the precautionary principle to power-frequency EMF. In light of the IARC and California reports and the ongoing WHO evaluation of EMF health risks and policy options, it is reasonable to anticipate that U.S. utilities increasingly will be confronted with EMF issues when trying to site and construct new facilities and will face new inquiries from the public and the media. The rising profile of the EMF issue could raise regulatory concerns and encourage plaintiff's lawyers to bring personal injury and property damage litigation. Given these developments, this is a good time for utilities to: (1) evaluate the adequacy of EMF policies and practices in light of the IARC and California report findings, (2) revisit the legal liability issues raised by EMF, (3) re-evaluate EMF disclosure statements and other communications materials for the public and employees, and (4) plan how to address EMF issues effectively when proposing new facilities. Tom Watson and Curtis Renner are principals in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Watson & Renner. They have been assisting electric utilities and their legal counsel on EMF issues for more than 25 years. The authors recently prepared (link) for the American Public Power Association. APPA members may access the paper on the association's Web site.

********************************************************************

APPENDIX 8 NGT profits up

Telegraph Transco pledges to raise dividends until 2008 By Caroline Muspratt (Filed: 21/11/2003)

National Grid Transco, which owns the gas and electricity infrastructure in England and Wales, is to increase its dividend by 15pc this year and by a further 7pc each year until 2008.

The news accompanied first-half figures showing a 19pc rise in pre-tax profit and exceptional items to 405m. The improvement is despite a dip in turnover from 4.3billion to 4.2billion, as Transco exited non-core businesses and was hit by the dollar.

The group made a 451m profit pre-tax against a 39m loss last time, when it had 337m exceptional charges from merging with Lattice Group.

Sir John Parker, chairman, said the "excellent" results reflected "both the success of the merger integration process and the solid operational performance of the underlying business".

Transco hopes to sell off about three of the eight local gas- distribution networks it acquired with Lattice last year. The eight are valued at about 10billion. Ofgem, the gas regulator, has said it will decide by April whether it will allow the sale.

Sir John said: "With Ofgem providing clarity on its timetable and prospective buyers showing strong interest, we are commencing the sale process for one or more of our regional gas-distribution networks. But "we will only sell networks if it creates value for customers and shareholders alike".

And from the Times:

Times online November 21, 2003 Dividend rise cheers National Grid investors By Angela Jameson, Industrial Correspondent

NATIONAL Grid Transco cheered investors yesterday with a 15 per cent rise in its dividend and pledged to grow the dividend by 7 per cent a year for the next four years.

The step-change in payout came as Ofgem continues to investigate the company for its part in the blackout in London in August.

NGT said that it could easily afford the dividend increase, despite promising to invest 2 billion a year in its operations in the UK and the US for at least five more years.

(snipped)

*******************************************************

 

-- Mike O'Carroll

 

Text Version