Ferrybridge power station
Ferrybridge power station

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UK coal and energy security

As Ferrybridge officially closes its doors today, another of a number of UK coal plants expected to go offline – Fiddler’s Ferry – has wrangled a further year of operating. Fiddler’s Ferry owner SSE, who announced the intended closure last month following substantial losses, has negotiated a deal for the plant to provide “ancillary service” to the National Grid until 2017.

This is the second surprise reprieve for a UK coal plant this year, with Eggborough securing an extension last month.

Carbon Pulse notes that Fiddler’s Ferry was the eighth biggest emitter in 2014, pumping out some 6.86 million tonnes of CO2, and that SSE have confirmed that the plant will now be participating in the UK’s capacity auctions for 2017-18.

Last month, Energydesk took stock of the UK’s rapid-fire coal-fired plant phaseout, and what it means for UK energy security.

Meanwhile, a new report slams the UK’s capacity market auction as ‘unfit for purpose’, that purpose being to keep the lights on. The Institute for Public Policy Research accuses the CMA of making consumers pay conflicting subsidies for highly polluting plants, reports the Guardian.

Nuclear security, uranium trade and Hinkley vote

Speaking ahead of a nuclear security summit in Washington on Friday, David Cameron is expected to announce today a series of measures to increase security in the nuclear industry and counter threats to nuclear plants around the world. The UK is planning to invest £10 million in making sure nuclear material overseas is kept securely.

The Telegraph reports that a Harvard study has linked the rise of Isil to increased threat of nuclear terrorism, including attacks on nuclear facilities.

Also to be announced today: a US-UK nuclear waste deal, whereby 700kg of highly enriched uranium will be shipped from Scotland to the US for processing. The UK will receive uranium in the form of cancer-fighting medical isotopes in return. The deal has been described by one UK official as a ‘win-win’.

And in Hinkley news, a union-backed board member of EDF has announced that he intends to vote against the £18bn nuclear power plant.

Energy giants under investigation

Massachusetts has now entered the ‘did Exxon know?’ fray, becoming the latest state to investigate whether the US energy giant misled investors on climate change.

This comes after Tuesday’s announcement by the New York Attorney General of a new Justice League-esque coalition of 17 states and territories whose purpose will be to investigate the climate change disclosure practices of oil and gas companies.

Meanwhile, Italian anti-corruption investigators have dragged Shell into their investigation of a £755 million oil block in Nigeria, which is jointly owned by Italian oil giant Eni, who have been under investigation over this matter since 2014. Money paid by Shell and Eni for the highly-prized oil block should have gone solely to the Nigerian government, but it has been alleged that Dan Etete, who was oil minister in Nigeria under the military dictator general Sani Abacha, was the ultimate beneficiary of the deal.

Renewables struggling

Bloomberg reports on how SunEdison, ‘Wall Street’s favourite solar company’, has ended up on the brink of bankruptcy thanks to a meteoric ascent powered by financial engineering and cheap debt.

Grist has this chart on the massive renewable energy potential in the US, whilst across the pond, Europe’s solar market is struggling, and appears to have been propped up by the UK last year, according to newly released industry figures.

China is also having teething problems in its renewable energy system, with the grid blaming poor planning for congestion in its network, which is forcing renewable energy generators to limit their output.

In other news

Old coal plants keep closing, but new ones just keep cropping up

EU pledges to help India realise its clean energy aspirations

This year Coal India produced 46 million tonnes more coal than the previous year

IEA is optimistic about China’s 15% renewables by 2020 target