Checking five claims in The Sun’s ‘vision’ of Britain’s energy sector

  • 31 Jul 2013, 15:30
  • Mat Hope

Credit: The Sun

The Sun has  a vision of Britain - and it wants to share it with you. The paper today set out where it stands "on the issues vital to us, to you our readers and to Britain" - including energy. Its manifesto contains a number of claims about the country's energy sector, but is it a vision we recognise?

1:"Just when Britain is relying more and more on technology, we're facing an energy crisis."

We assume the first part of the claim is referring to the fact that more people are plugging in smartphones, TVs and computers than ever before. But, perhaps counterintuitively, domestic  electricity consumption has actually fallen slightly. And when temperatures differences each year are taken into account, so has overall  energy consumption.

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Newslinks - 31st July • North East fracking, anti-wind ads & global coal use

  • 31 Jul 2013, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Sourced under creative commons

Peer Lord Howell apologises over 'desolate' North East remark 
Conservative peer Lord Howell apologised yesterday after saying fracking should be concentrated in the North East because it contains "large, desolate and uninhabited areas". The Telegraph puts the story on its front page and says in an editorial "for all the awkwardness of Lord Howell's phrasing, fracking can indeed help those parts of Britain that have been hit hardest by the downturn, and by the death of old industries". In the Mirror, Kevin Maguire offers to take Lord Howell on a trip to the north-east. 
BBC News 

Climate & energy news:

EPA chief: preventing climate change the opportunity of a lifetime 
In her first speech as the head of EPA, Gina McCarthy told an audience gathered at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that curbing climate-altering pollution will spark business innovation, grow jobs and strengthen the economy. 
The Guardian 

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Burn now, pay later - today’s emissions lock in long term sea level rise

  • 30 Jul 2013, 17:30
  • Freya Roberts

City dwellers in the distant future could be squeezed out of the United States' biggest coastal cities by sea level rise, if new research is right. Miami, Boston and Sacramento are just some of the cities that could be locked in to serious levels of flooding by 2100 if high emissions scenarios are realised, it says.

That's not to say these cities would be entirely underwater by 2100 - a mistake made but quickly corrected by  the Guardian. But the emissions released over this century could mean these cities are unable to escape flooding from sea level rise at some point over the coming centuries or millennia. Here are the finer details of the study.

Lock in

The idea of long term sea level rise caught media attention earlier this month when research in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) estimated that for each degree Celsius of global warming, sea levels would rise by  2.3 metres.

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Newslinks - 30th July • Windfarm rules, watery futures and messing with nature

  • 30 Jul 2013, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Source: JanetMCK

Government spells out renewable energy rules in new planning guide 
Planning guidance issued yesterday emphasized that renewable energy projects should not be built without first considering the concerns of local communities' and other environmental issues. 

Climate and energy news

Climate study predicts a watery future for New York, Boston and Miami 

By 2100, large areas of the United States' biggest coastal cities are likely to be "locked in" to flooding from sea level rise, a new study suggests. Sea level rise continues long after emissions peak because the oceans respond slowly to rising temperatures, the scientists involved explained.

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Fuel poverty policy is ‘frozen’, says parliamentary committee. Can the government fix it?

  • 29 Jul 2013, 16:30
  • Robin Webster

Credit: Valerie Everett

Energy is increasingly unaffordable for households on low incomes due to rising energy prices and poorly insulated homes, according to a  report from a committee of MPs, out today. It calls on the government to stop the rot by ploughing money into energy efficiency measures.

Until recently, the government identified a household as being in fuel poverty  if it spent more than a tenth of its income on energy. It set itself a  target of as "as far as reasonably practical" eliminating fuel poverty by 2016. But energy prices are projected to keep rising, while government strategy on on fuel poverty isn't due to be published until the end of the year.

Without action, it looks like the situation could worsen. Government consumer body Consumer Futures  suggested in a committee evidence session that 6.2 million, or more than a quarter of the country's households could be in fuel poverty by 2016.

Using energy efficiency to tackle fuel poverty

The Energy and Climate Change (ECC) Committee says the best way to tackle fuel poverty is to make target households more energy efficient. But it's not convinced current efforts to achieve this goal are up to the task.

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Scientists mull slow carbon loss from Arctic permafrost

  • 29 Jul 2013, 11:35
  • Guest post by Tim Radford, originally on Climate News Network

Credit: Bo Elberling

To the surprise of a team of international scientists, the 'active' layer of frozen ground in the Arctic is not releasing the carbon it contains nearly as fast as expected.

Good news?

Think of permafrost as a slush fund of so-far uncertain value. The levels of Arctic permafrost that thaw each year and freeze again are growing at depths of 1cm a year, but the carbon locked away in the soils is - so far - not being released at an accelerating rate.

This is good news for climate change worriers, but only for the time being. Bo Elberling of the Centre for Permafrost at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and colleagues report in  Nature Climate Change  that the soggy summer soils of Greenland, Svalbard and Canada where they have taken samples are not releasing carbon dioxide at the rate some had feared.

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Newslinks - 29th July • Energy bills, Arctic drilling & undersea earthquakes

  • 29 Jul 2013, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

Green levies on energy bills hit poor hardest, say MPs 
An Energy and Climate Change Committee report raises concerns some government 'green' policies could be worsening fuel poverty, the Telegraph says. The Guardian highlights the report's calls for more energy industry transparency. The BBC's Today programme focused on its criticism of energy regulator, OFGEM. 

Climate & energy news

UK failing to protect the Arctic from drilling, warn MPs 
The Environmental Audit committee says ministers have been complacent when considering proposals to drill in the Arctic, overlooking major safety concerns.

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The Energiewende and energy prices: Public support and Germany’s long term vision

  • 26 Jul 2013, 09:30
  • Mat Hope

Credit: fdecomite

Germany has committed itself to an ambitious long-term policy agenda to decarbonise the energy sector. The Energiewende - or energy transformation - policies aren't cheap, but the German government says it's a price worth paying for long term energy security and a low carbon economy.

In 2010, the government outlined the Energiewende's  goals: To reduce emissions by 80 per cent compared to 1990, and provide for 80 per cent of the country's electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2050 compared to 2008. If that wasn't ambitious enough, it made the task even more complicated by deciding to phase out all nuclear generation by 2022. The government pledged to achieve this in the most cost-effective way possible, while maintaining economic growth and high standards of living.

So far, the public have bought into the government's long term vision and are backing the plans, despite rising energy bills. But the media is increasingly concerned the Energiewende's policies will  drive up energy costs, leaving consumers to  foot the bill.

Wholesale energy prices

At the centre of the scheme is the government's pledge to increase the amount of renewables in  Germany's energy mix without harming the economy. But not everyone is convinced the Energiewende will deliver on its promise.

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Government en route to failure on fuel poverty targets and energy efficiency

  • 25 Jul 2013, 17:30
  • Robin Webster

Can the government really reduce greenhouse gas emissions by four fifths, while maintaining energy security and keeping prices down? The government's latest  energy statistics, out today, give some grounds for optimism about whether it can be done - but the news on energy efficiency - and fuel poverty - doesn't look good. 

The UK's 2008 Climate Change Act requires an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 1990 levels, by 2050. To mark the way, the government has set itself a series of  five year carbon budgets which currently run up to 2027. 

So where do the government's statistics suggest it's going - and what's the prognosis for the future?

Greenhouse gas emissions

First, greenhouse gas emissions as a whole. According to the government's figures, emissions across the economy fell by 30 per cent between 1990 and 2011: 

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The Energiewende: Transforming Germany’s energy sector

  • 25 Jul 2013, 14:05
  • Mat Hope

Credit: Joachim Köhler

Germany's energy transformation, or Energiewende, has become a national obsession. If it succeeds, Germany's model could become a blueprint for other industrialised nations seeking to decarbonise their economies.

In 2010, the German government set ambitious targets as part of its  Energiewende programme: to reduce emissions by 80 per cent and provide for 80 per cent of the country's electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2050. The government's decision to  phase out nuclear generation by 2022 has complicated matters, putting renewables at the centre of the energy revolution.

Germany has long supported renewable generation and the energy sector is starting to see the effects - and challenges - such commitments bring. Booming solar, curtailing coal, and upgrading the country's transmission grid are all part of the Energiewende story.

More of the same: Germany ramps up renewables

The Energiewende's  targets mean Germany must significantly ramp up the the amount of renewable power connected to the grid. But this isn't a completely new ambition.


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