November 2018 Climate news

Here’s a roundup of climate change news from Yorkshire and further afield for the month:

Fracking

The government is coming under increasing pressure to cancel its plans to fast-track fracking through the planning system.

The plans, which would see exploration wells being granted permitted development rights and major fracking proposals being classed as national infrastructure, have been attacked as undermining local democracy by many including some of Yorkshire’s Conservative MPs.

Local representatives from across Yorkshire have also expressed their opposition joining over 850 councillors across England in a joint letter to ministers.

Meanwhile, Rathlin Energy secured planning permission by a narrow margin to delay the restoration of their wellsite at West Newton by a further three years. The company intend to drill a second well at the site in early 2019.

Energy

A new report from Aurora Energy Research has stated that the UK could be entirely powered from renewables during the summer without fossil fuels by 2050. It estimated that the share of power generation from low carbon sources would increase to 91% (from current levels of 50%).

More new research, commissioned by Drax and carried out by Imperial College, shows that renewable energy capacity in the UK has outstripped that of fossil fuels for the first time. The report shows 41.9GW of renewable energy capacity against 41.2GW of gas and coal with wind (20.2GW) and solar (13GW) being the leading renewable technologies.

However, fossil fuel generation could increase in the next few years as more gas-fired power stations are commissioned. Environmental law group, Client Earth, have objected to Drax’s plans for their 3.6GW power station stating that it would breach the government’s own recommendations. The application is currently being considered by the Planning Inspectorate.

Client Earth’s position appeared to be supported by the International Energy Authority which stated that the global carbon budget did not leave any room for “anything that emits CO2 emissions.”

Fossil fuel generators suffered a further setback when the European Court of Justice ruled that the UK’s Capacity Market constituted illegal state aid. The government halted all payments under the scheme, which is designed to subsidise power companies for providing back-up capacity, and have also been prevented from carrying out further auctions.

Northern Gas Networks, in partnership with Cadent and Equinor, launched the H21 North of England report which highlights how 3.7m homes and 40000 businesses in the north could be converted to hydrogen heating by 2034. This would reduce carbon emissions by over 250m tonnes a year by 2050, the report says.

The Committee for Climate Change has assessed the potential for hydrogen and called on the government to develop a low carbon heat strategy within the next three years.

Progress on increasing the use of renewable energy and improving energy efficiency is slowing across the European Union, putting at risk the EU’s ability to achieve its energy and emissions reduction targets. Rising energy consumption, particularly in the transport sector, is to blame for the slowdown, according to preliminary data in the European Environment Agency’s (EEA) annual analysis on the EU’s progress towards its targets on renewables and energy efficiency.

Significant developments on carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) in November as major oil and gas companies announced a partnership to develop a gas-fired CCUS power station on Teesside and Drax kickstarted a six-month trial in capturing carbon dioxide from its biomass burning to be used in the drinks industry.

Buildings

More landlords will be required to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties under changes to legislation. The changes increase the level at which landlords can claim a ‘high cost exemption’ to £3500 (from £2500) meaning that an additional 5000 homes will now have to be upgraded. Fuel poverty campaigners had been calling on the cap to be lifted to £5000 which would meant have over 40000 homes benefiting.

The National Audit Office recent report on the rollout of smart meters identified that only 75% of homes will be equipped by the target date of 2020 and that the cost will be £500m higher than projected. The report also identified that some 7 million homes have been equipped with meters which would lose their smart functionality should the consumer move suppliers.