Daily Briefing | Energy price riggers face jail time

  • 06 Aug 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

CC 2.0: Marine Perez

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Energy price riggers to face jail under new proposals 
At the moment people can be fined for artificially fixing energy prices but now energy Secretary Ed Davey wants it to be a criminal offence worthy of jail time. Davey said the proposals - which come as the profits of the Big Six energy firms are being investigated - would provide a "much stronger deterrent - more in line with the approach taken in the financial markets", reports the Financial Times. Under the new rules, it would also be a criminal offence to use insider information to buy or sell energy on the wholesale market, says The Telegraph. Energy regulator Ofgem welcomed the move. If approved by parliament, the new criminal sanctions could come into force in spring, says Reuters
BBC News 

Climate and energy news

Reindeer invade Arctic road tunnel in Norway to escape heat 
With temperatures currently topping 22 degrees Celsius, Norway is experiencing one of its warmest summers on record. Arctic reindeers are seeking refuge underground in road tunnels, causing havoc for local traffic, reports Reuters. The heat-shy ungulates have forced the closure of a major highway, forcing drivers to take a detour to reach Hammerfest, home to Europe's only LNG liquefaction facility.

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Government data hints at future challenges for curbing natural gas emissions

  • 05 Aug 2014, 16:30
  • Mat Hope

CC 2.0

Gas plays an essential role in the UK's energy mix, providing heat for homes and electricity to sockets. While that's not likely to change in the short term, the fuel will need to be increasingly phased out as the government seeks to  decarbonise the energy sector.

A trawl through new government  data shows how far the UK's come in recent years, and hints at challenges to come.

Gas trends

The UK currently uses three trillion cubic feet of gas each year. That demand may need to fall by as much as  20 per cent over the next two decades if the UK is going to hit its  climate targets.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change's  Digest of UK Energy Statistics, released last week, shows how much would need to change for that to happen.

DECC's data shows gas demand has fallen 17 per cent in the last five years. But while demand has fallen significantly from 2011's high, its plateaued in recent years. Demand was only one per cent lower in 2013 compared to a year before.

Gas is mainly used for two things, as the blue and purple sections of the graph below show: generating electricity, and heating people's homes.

DUKES 2014 UK gas consumptionDECC's data shows gas is being used increasingly sparingly to generate electricity. The amount of gas used in electricity generation fell by 13 per cent last year. But that doesn't necessarily spell good news for the UK's emissions.  

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Daily Briefing | UK solar companies to challenge early end to subsidies

  • 05 Aug 2014, 09:15
  • Carbon Brief staff

World's top PR companies rule out working with climate deniers 
The Guardian and Washington-based Climate Investigations Centre has surveyed the world's 25 largest PR firms, asking for their views on climate change. All ten firms that responded said they would not work with campaigns seeking to block climate regulations. The remaining 15 did not respond. 
The Guardian 

Climate and energy news

Chinese capital to ban coal use to curb pollution 
Beijing will ban coal use in its six main districts by the end of 2020, according to reports in state media covered by Reuters. The move is part of efforts to tackle the capital's terrible air pollution. Chinese's climate diplomacy is purely self-interested according to an article in The Conversation. Any benefit to the world is purely incidental, the piece argues. 

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Christopher Booker's curiously distorted views on wind power

  • 04 Aug 2014, 14:45
  • Simon Evans

Climate sceptic columnist Christopher Booker has launched his latest attack on wind power, but the picture he presents of the technology is curiously distorted.

In an  article for the Daily Mail he says the UK is suffering "a bout of collective insanity over renewable energy, for which it is hard to think of any historical parallel".

We've gone through Booker's piece, and noted some things you probably wouldn't know after reading it.

1) UK windfarms produce more power than Drax

Booker's dislike of windfarms seems to verge on the evangelical. But in his latest piece he sticks to the numbers in explaining his "crucial objection" to the technology. Unfortunately, the numbers are inaccurate or misleading.

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Climate scientists dub this year’s El Niño “a real enigma”

  • 04 Aug 2014, 14:40
  • Roz Pidcock

Last month, forecasters were predicting with  90 per cent certainty we'd see an El Niño by the end of the year, driving severe weather patterns worldwide. But with little sign so far of the ocean and atmospheric changes scientists expected, those odds have dropped off quite a bit.

We'll probably still see an El Niño before the year's out but it's unlikely to be a strong one, scientists are saying.  

What is an El Niño?

Every five years or so, a change in the winds causes a shift to warmer than normal ocean temperatures in the  equatorial Pacific Ocean - a phenomena known as El Niño.

Together, El Niño and its cooler counterpart La Niña are known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Between them, they're responsible for most of the fluctuations in global weather we see from one year to the next.


Sea surface temperature during El Niño (left) and La Niña (right). Red and blue show warmer and cooler temperatures than the long term average. [Credit: Steve Albers, NOAA]


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Daily Briefing | European power companies hope for capacity markets

  • 04 Aug 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief staff

CC: Mitch Rue

Rise of renewables adds to need for gas power 
Growth in renewables at a European level means there's less demand for gas power to produce electricity, says the FT's Pilita Clark. European utilities are worried, but have been complaining less about subsidies to renewables, which "may reflect their successful lobbying for cuts to [them]". Now EU countries are drawing up plans for capacity markets - ways of subsidising conventional generation like gas plant so it can be used to balance the power system's needs. The Financial Times 

Climate and energy news

Ed Davey accused of 'green tax avoidance' after switching to small energy supplier 
Energy secretary Ed Davey has shifted his own energy supplier to a smaller company - one that doesn't have to get its customers to pay to support the government's green levies. Peter Lilley MP accuses Mr Davey of "a form of tax avoidance" in this Telegraph article. The Telegraph

Tuna follow global warming to Arctic 
The habitat range of Bluefin Tuna appears to be shifting north as oceans warm - a "clear sign of rising ocean temperatures", reports the Sunday Times. The Tuna have been found within a hundred miles of the Arctic circle - their normal habitats are in the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico. The Sunday Times

Energy competition probe 'will fail unless it looks at gas markets', warns Yeo 
The Competition and Markets Authority is planning an investigation into the energy sector. Chair of the Energy and Climate select committee Tim Yeo has warned regulators that unless the investigation examines the effect of wholesale gas markets on pushing energy bills up, it will fail in its aim to restore consumer trust. Gas company Centrica, which owns British Gas, has a dominant position in the UK gas market, and the Telegraph reports on questions about the business practices of such dominant companies. The Telegraph 

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From exploding cows to climate security: Ros's time at Carbon Brief

  • 01 Aug 2014, 15:30
  • Ros Donald

The man walking up the stairs ahead of me was wearing Ugg boots. 

This was a building full of young startups having breakout sessions in sky blue communal space. It was my first day at Carbon Brief and I wasn't quite expecting this. Maybe, like Google, we would have a slide.

There was no slide. But there was coffee, and biscuits, and a crash-course in understanding the climate debate. I dug into  Boris Johnson's weather-related musings and low-key lobbying by oil and gas companies. I helped conduct  polling, interviewed  scientific, economic and sociological researchers and, very importantly, investigated whether wind turbines make cows explode

It's been a brilliantly varied job. Thanks to the expertise of the people I work with, I've learned a lot. I feel like I'm beginning to be able to write about climate science. I am starting to learn what makes a good infographic. And I hope I might understand contracts for difference one day. 

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Daily Briefing | Green electricity up, but decarbonisation requires more

  • 01 Aug 2014, 09:00
  • Carbon Brief Staff

Six charts that show how challenging decarbonising the UK really is 
Despite a surge in renewables and plummeting energy use the UK remains a long way from its long-term climate goals. We've plotted six charts to help explain why, using annual UK energy statistics from the department for energy and climate change (DECC). Simon Evans, Carbon Brief

Climate and energy news

Who does Russian energy giant Gazprom sell gas to in the UK? 
Russian gas firm Gazprom has claimed a 15 per cent share of the UK's gas market selling to clients including the NHS and Oxford University, according to analysis from Greenpeace EnergyDesk. The firm is Russian but the gas isn't necessarily. Yesterday BBC Radio 4's Today programme heard that less than 5 per cent of UK gas comes from Russia, according to Sam Laidlaw, boss of British Gas owner Centrica. Europe is already receiving a trickle of oil from the Arctic, Greenpeace campaigner Ben Ayliffe said in a Q&A with Road to Paris. Damian Kahya and Christine Ottery, EnergyDesk 

India and US pledge "active cooperation" on climate change 
Two of the most important participants in any future global climate deal have promised to work together actively on that goal, reports RTCC. A high-level US delegation is currently visiting India where new prime minister Narendra Modi is said to be "much committed" to the climate change debate. Sophie Yeo, RTCC 

Energy firms to 'double' profit margins, predicts Ofgem 
The row over home energy bills is in the news again following a report from energy regulator Ofgem that predicts firms' profit margins will double over the next year. But Ofgem's figures are inaccurate saysBritish Gas owner Centrica, which has just reported a slump in profits because a warmer winter meant it did not sell as much gas. BBC Business, BBC 

Turning a slate quarry green: 40 years of Centre for Alternative Technology 
Welsh hippies ushered in an era of sustainable living well before the world had woken up to climate change says Roger Harrabin, in a retrospective on the Centre for Alternative Technology in mid Wales. The centre's latest report, Zero Carbon Britain, argues that a zero-emissions UK is possible using current technology. Roger Harrabin, The Guardian 

IMF: Hike fossil fuel taxes and reap benefits now 
Fossil fuels are "widely and substantially underpriced" according to a new study from the International Monetary Fund, reports RTCC. The IMF says national governments should not wait for a global climate deal before they start to address this because the case for action does not rest on climate concern alone. Traffic and air pollution would be cut too, the IMF points out. Megan Darby, RTCC 

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Six charts that show how challenging decarbonising the UK really is

  • 31 Jul 2014, 14:20
  • Simon Evans

CC2.0 Keith Laverack

Despite a surge in renewables and plummeting energy use the UK remains a long way from the green energy champion it must become if we are to reach our ambitious climate targets, new data from the department for energy and climate change (DECC) shows.

Today DECC published the 2013 version of its annual energy data bible DUKES, the digest of UK energy statistics. It's a veritable gold mine of fascinating stories about who's using the most energy and where it comes from.

We already took a sneak peak at provisional data back in February that showed electricity from wind on the up, but coal and gas still dominating. Now with the help of the final stats, here are six charts that give you the big picture of the UK's progress towards a greener energy future.

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Three White House charts showing why the world needs to take immediate action on climate change

  • 30 Jul 2014, 13:40
  • Mat Hope

CC2.0 Intel Photos

President Obama has taken significant, if limited, steps to try and curb the US's emissions and tackle climate change. A new White House report explains why he appears to be acting with a sense of urgency: "delay is costly".

Yesterday, the White House's Council of Economic Advisers released a  report suggesting a 10 year delay could increase the cost of taking climate action by 40 per cent, as the world would have to take larger steps to curb emissions down the line. Furthermore, each degree of warming could lead to billions of dollars worth of additional damage, it says.

Here's three charts from the report showing why the council says policymakers need to act now.

Additional damage

The more the world warms, the more damaging the  impacts of climate change are likely to be - from more intense weather events, to diminishing crop yields and species migration and extinction. All these things have an economic cost, even if it's sometimes  hard to define.

And the council's study says the costs will rise as the world warms - as the blue bars on this graph show:

Additional Costs Chart

The White House report uses a model by Yale economist Bill Nordhaus to put a number on the potential impact of additional warming.

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