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Sunday, February 22, 2009

British Telelcom blown away

Posted by AccGURU

British Telelcom blown away

Blown away
Jonathan Leake and Joseph Dunn, The Sunday Times, 15 Feb 2009
ONE of Britain's biggest privately funded eco-projects could be on the verge of collapse. British Telecom said last week that it was preparing to pull the plug on a £250m plan to build electricity-generating wind farms because of a rule change by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
BT, whose shares hit a record low in trading last week, planned to build 100 turbines on 20-30 sites in England and Scotland capable of generating 25% of its power needs. At a cost of £250m it represented the biggest investment in renewable energy by any British company apart from energy businesses.

But last week the scheme was in disarray, with BT and the government each blaming the other for the impending collapse. BT claims that new rules make the project unviable and that the government is now in effect discouraging companies from switching to renewable energy.

At the root of the dispute is a row over government-issued credits called Renewable Obligation Certificates (Rocs).

"Overall, we support what the government is trying to do to promote energy efficiency, but the ruling on Rocs means there is no sense in us building wind turbines," said Chris Tup-pen, BT's chief sustainability officer. "It is a perverse ruling that will also affect a number of other big businesses that are trying to act responsibly.

"We planned to build wind turbines that would generate a quarter of BT's electricity by 2016. Without the subsidy that will not go ahead."

A spokesman for the DECC blamed the problem on BT's plans to profit from the wind farms by selling electricity and reducing its CO2 footprint at the same time as claiming subsidies, thus "having its cake and eating it".

"It's an accounting thing but it's very important," a government spokesman said. "We have to be very tough on it. The Roc is not a subsidy. If you sell the energy to the National Grid it is used to offset the grid's emissions. You can't both claim the money and use it to offset the company's own emissions. That's double accounting."

Ed Miliband, the energy and climate change secretary, is expected to announce a consultation on its so-called carbon-reduction commitment (CRC) – the scheme that blocks BT from claiming credits at the same time as counting its green energy against its CO2 footprint – in late spring. BT and other firms are already lobbying to block it or change it.

Among them is Tesco, which is becoming increasingly interested in renewable-energy generation. David North, community and government director at Tesco, said: "I can see why the civil servants see this as double counting but the effect is to hold up renewable-energy initiatives. The government needs to find a way around this, perhaps by creating other incentives to help companies that are not power generators or other large fossil fuel users to switch to renewable energy."

So where did it all go wrong? Hailed as an example of how businesses and government could work together to reduce carbon emissions, BT's wind-power project was welcomed by the government when it was revealed two years ago. But the row now illustrates the fiendish complexity of the subsidy regimes devised to encourage the expansion of renewable-energy generation.

Rocs are issued by Ofgem, the energy regulator, to companies that produce green energy and can be sold on to third parties such as power generators, who have to prove – via the Rocs – that they gain a percentage of their power from renewable sources.

By selling the Roc, a company such as BT in effect gains a government subsidy on its green power. The government says BT is not entitled to that subsidy if it also exploits the fact that it produces renewable energy to reduce its overall carbon footprint.


UK's ex-science chief predicts century of 'resource' wars

Posted by AccGURU

UK's ex-science chief predicts century of 'resource' wars

UK's ex-science chief predicts century of 'resource' wars
James Randerson, The Guardian, 13 Feb 2009
The Iraq war was just the first of this century's "resource wars", in which powerful countries use force to secure valuable commodities, according to the UK government's former chief scientific adviser. Sir David King predicts that with population growth, natural resources dwindling, and seas rising due to climate change, the squeeze on the planet will lead to more conflict.
"Future historians might look back on our particular recent past and see the Iraq war as the first of the conflicts of this kind - the first of the resource wars," he told an audience of 400 in London as he delivered the British Humanist Association's Darwin Day lecture.

Implicitly rejecting the US and British governments' claim they went to war to remove Saddam Hussein and search for weapons of mass destruction, he said the US had in reality been very concerned about energy security and supply, because of its reliance on foreign oil from unstable states. "Casting its eye around the world - there was Iraq," he said.

This strategy could also be used to find and keep supplies of other essentials, such as minerals, water and fertile land, he added. "Unless we get to grips with this problem globally, we potentially are going to lead ourselves into a situation where large, powerful nations will secure resources for their own people at the expense of others."

King was the UK government's chief scientific adviser in the run-up to the start of Iraq war in March 2003, but said he did not express his view of its true motivation to Tony Blair. "It was certainly the view that I held at the time, and I think it is fair to say a view that quite a few people in government held," said King, who is now director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University.

However, before the war loomed he had made an effort to persuade the Bush administration to adopt more climate-friendly policies. "I went into the White House in 2001 to persuade them that de-carbonising their economy was the way forward. I didn't get much shrift at that time. What I can tell you is that, if I had managed to persuade the government of America that investing (instead of going into Iraq) in de-carbonising their economy with roughly a tenth of [the estimated $3 trillion the US spent on the war], they would have managed it."

Commenting on the idea of "resource wars", Alex Evans, of the Centre for International Co-operation at New York University, who last month wrote a report on food security for the Chatham House thinktank, said he believed King was right, but overly pessimistic. "You always get conflict over the allocation of scarce resources," he said. "The question is whether it is violent conflict ... If the political system can't cope, that's when it gets violent."

King's lecture - Can British Science Rise to the Challenges of the 21st Century? - also warned politicians not to allow the financial crisis to distract them from tackling climate change. "I would like to see [in] every speech Gordon Brown makes on the fiscal crisis, that he also includes the global warming crisis," he said, but added: "It's fine for the prime minister to make a good speech on climate change, but you need all members of the cabinet, because reducing carbon by 80% by 2050 will require every part of government to respond."

King summed up by saying that with growing population and dwindling resources, fundamental changes to the global economy and society were necessary. "Consumerism has been a wonderful model for growing up economies in the 20th century. Is that model fit for purpose in the 21st century, when resource shortage is our biggest challenge?"