Daily Briefing |
TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES
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Every weekday morning, in time for your morning coffee, Carbon Brief sends out a free email known as the “Daily Briefing” to thousands of subscribers around the world. The email is a digest of the past 24 hours of media coverage related to climate change and energy, as well as our pick of the key studies published in peer-reviewed journals.
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Today's climate and energy headlines:
- UK: National Grid to pay households and businesses to cut electricity use again
- Ten of millions without power in Pakistan as national grid fails
- US energy chief says Biden would veto House Republican bill on oil reserve
- UK to propose carbon border tax as part of steel industry aid package
- China: Electricity consumption predicted to rise 6% in 2023, in line with GDP expansion projection
- Giant iceberg the size of Greater London breaks free from Antarctica
- Can the UK afford net-zero?
- National models of climate governance among major emitters
There is continuing media coverage of the “demand flexibility service” – a scheme overseen by National Grid that pays some UK households and businesses to cut their energy use at peak times. The Guardian reports that the operator is looking to save up to 341MW between 4.30pm-6pm this evening using the scheme. The first live use of the scheme was yesterday between 5pm-6pm, the paper says. It continues: “Under the initiative, a household’s power use will be compared with their normal usage for that time of day, and they will receive about £3 for every kilowatt hour saved. Consumers could receive up to £6 depending on their supplier, meaning a household that normally uses their oven during an hour-long session could save up to £12 for not doing so and changing their use to either before or after the period.” The Daily Mail reports that a total of 26 firms, including British Gas, E.on, OVO energy and Shell, are offering the service. It adds: “As many as one million are thought to have taken part in a mass electricity switch-off last night with a similar figure expected today. Demand to take part has been so high some energy companies are turning people away as trial schemes are ‘full’. It came as the National Grid said that the switch-off could become a feature of British life in winter.” The Guardian reports that the scheme was first trialled by Octopus Energy early last year through a pilot with about 100,000 customers. The Daily Telegraph covers the story under the headline: “Relying on wind power means Britons must get used to cutting energy use, says National Grid.” Meanwhile, MailOnline says “a ‘perfect storm’ of cold weather and low wind speeds is putting the UK at risk of blackouts”. [The risk is being significantly reduced by the demand flexibility scheme.] Other outlets including BBC News and the Daily Telegraph have also covered the scheme.
Elsewhere, Bloomberg reported yesterday morning that National Grid “called off its request for three coal-fired units to get ready to generate to help ease a power squeeze on Monday evening”. Similarly, the outlet reports that the units were told to prepare for use today.
Pakistan’s national grid “suffered a major breakdown” yesterday, leaving millions of people without electricity for the second time in three months, the Guardian reports. According to energy minister Khurram Dastgir, the outage was caused by a large voltage surge in the south of the grid, which affected the entire network, the newspaper says. It adds: “It took hours to restore power after the last major outage, in October. A senior ministry official blamed this outage, and the frequent blackouts that Pakistan’s 220 million people suffer, on its ageing…Like much of the national infrastructure, Pakistan’s grid needs an upgrade that the government says it can ill afford. Pakistan has enough installed power capacity to meet demand, but it lacks resources to run its oil-and-gas powered plants – and the sector is so heavily in debt that it cannot afford to invest in infrastructure and power lines.”
Reuters notes that Pakistan typically meets more than a third of its annual power demand using imported natural gas – which became expensive when Russia invaded Ukraine. “A recent delay in receiving funds under an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme has resulted in the country struggling to buy fuel from abroad,” it adds. Bloomberg reports that the nationwide blackout lasted up to 24 hours in some regions, but that power has been restored. “Parts of the country will continue to face power shortages for at least the next 48 hours as coal and nuclear plants are brought fully back online,” it adds. Reuters says that Dastgir blamed the power outage on a lack of investment in the network. And Sky News says that, according to officials, the blackout “started when electricity was turned off during low usage hours overnight to conserve fuel across the country, leaving technicians unable to reboot the system all at once after daybreak.”
US energy secretary Jennifer Granholm has announced that President Biden will veto a bill, which would “prohibit the energy secretary from tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) without producing a plan to increase oil and gas leasing on federal lands – unless the release is for a severe oil supply emergency”. According to the outlet, the bill was put forward by US House of Representatives Republicans. It adds: “In a letter last week, Granholm warned Republicans that limiting the Democratic president’s authority to tap the nation’s oil reserves would undermine national security, cause crude oil shortages, and raise gasoline prices.” The Hill notes that last year, in response to fuel price spikes following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Biden announced the largest-ever release of oil from the US’s strategic reserve – but the move faced backlash from Republicans.
In other US news, analysis from Politico says that Republicans are “reaping the benefits” of Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act. Since the law was signed, companies have announced tens of billions of dollars in renewable energy, battery and electric vehicle projects that will benefit, the outlet says, adding that “roughly two-thirds of the major projects are in districts whose Republican lawmakers opposed the Inflation Reduction Act”. The Wall Street Journal also covers the findings.
Elsewhere, the Financial Times reports that “economic officials from several US states have stepped up efforts to lure European clean energy businesses across the Atlantic, touting deep tax breaks available to foreign developers despite a bitter backlash from EU leaders”. The New York Times reports that the Environmental Protection Agency “is still reeling from the exodus of more than 1,200 scientists and policy experts during the Trump administration”. It continues: “The stressed-out, stretched-thin Environmental Protection Agency is scrambling to write about a half dozen highly complex rules and regulations that are central to President Biden’s climate goals. The new rules have to be enacted within the next 18 months — lightning speed in the regulatory world — or they could be overturned by a new Congress or administration.” And the Washington Post has profiled six GOP leaders who “largely oppose government action to address climate change, even as their districts confront serious floods, droughts, heat waves and other impacts”.
The Financial Times says that “the UK is to propose a carbon border tax that would place a levy on imported steel as part of a £600m support package to help Britain’s two biggest steelmakers invest in greener technologies and avert the loss of thousands of jobs”. It adds: “Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, has agreed to consult on ways to level the playing field for British Steel and Tata Steel UK against competitors based in regions with lower environmental standards or lower operating costs. One option will be the introduction of a carbon border adjustment mechanism, similar to the one agreed by the EU last year, that will force importers to cover the cost of the carbon emissions of the foreign steel, said two people familiar with the situation. The government had previously signalled that it would consult on the introduction of such a mechanism, but had not specifically linked this with taxpayer support for the industry.”
In other UK news, the UK energy regulator Ofgem will investigate suppliers who are forcibly switching vulnerable customers onto prepayment meters, the Financial Times reports. The paper says: “Energy providers can force people on to more expensive prepaid meters when they fall behind with regular payments. The number of people who have been moved on to prepayment tariffs has risen sharply as they grapple with soaring energy bills and the cost of living crisis.” The paper notes that, according to Jonathan Brearley – the chief executive of Ofgem – the regulator does not have legal powers to completely ban forced installations of prepayment meters. It adds: “Brearley’s comments came after Grant Shapps, the business secretary, told suppliers over the weekend that they should voluntarily end the practice of switching households to prepayment meters or face being ‘named and shamed’. Companies should be offering credit or debt advice, with pre-pay installations a last resort, he said.” Separately, the Times reports that according to Ofgem, “energy bills could fall below £3,000 a year within months but are likely to remain high and volatile, requiring continued subsidies for vulnerable households”. And New Scientist covers a scheme in Ireland that lets people in social housing use surplus power generated by renewable energy to heat water for free. Following a successful pilot in 2022, the scheme will be rolled out to 10,000 households in the Republic of Ireland this year, the paper says.
Elsewhere, the Financial Times reports that “an influential cross-party group of MPs has unanimously called on the UK government to stop peddling the ‘fiction’ that it intends to raise the duty on petrol and diesel in line with inflation every year”. Meanwhile, Reuters says that an area of the seabed in the North Sea is “double-booked”, as BP plans to build a carbon capture project there, while Orsted is planning an offshore windfarm. The Independent reports that “a rewilding charity has bought 460 acres of land in Somerset to create what it hopes will be the first of a series of nature reserves in every English county”.
China’s electricity consumption – a “barometer of economic activity” – will reach “9.15 terawatts-hours in 2023 in normal climate conditions”, up “6%”, the Global Times writes, citing a report issued by China Electricity Council, a non-profit group. The state-run newspaper adds that this is “fuelled by a full-fledged economic recovery that drives up electricity demand”. The growth rate is “in line with the predictions of economists and international organisations on Chinese economy”, the article highlights, adding that the energy consumption reading is “not only a gauge on the macro economic momentum, but also mirrors China’s energy structure which is at a stage of ongoing transformation”.
Meanwhile, China Energy News has an article which focuses on reports released by the Beijing Institute of Technology this month on the trends of China’s energy sector in the “post-pandemic era” and its national carbon market. Citing the report, the state-run industry newspaper writes that the country’s energy sector “follows a similar cyclical cycle to the macroeconomy, with the macroeconomy and energy sector development trending to the upside in 2023 and expected to return to 2019 levels”. The article quotes Wang Ke, the author who drafted the report on the national carbon market, saying that “the national carbon market will further expand its industry coverage”. It continues: “The next step will be to take the lead in including industries such as cement manufacturing, steel making and plate glass manufacturing.” The South China Morning Post reports that “many” Chinese companies are making disclosures about environment, social and governance (ESG) issues “without first performing crucial assessments that should precede any such disclosures to ensure their relevance”, citing a study by KPMG.
Elsewhere, the state broadcaster CGTN has a comment piece by Azhar Azam, a market and business analyst, who writes: “Beijing and Brussels share common interests and objectives on clean energy transition…Bilateral collaboration mechanisms – such as the EU-China Energy Cooperation Platform, funded by the EU Partnership Instrument that is designed to promote the bloc’s strategic interests – are there to forge innovative partnerships and create new models of sustainable growth to advance the global transition to net zero-goals and successfully implement the Paris Agreement.” Finally, Reuters reports that oil prices “rose by around 1% on Monday to a seven-week high, extending last week’s gains on the back of a stronger outlook thanks to an expected economic recovery in top oil importer China” this year.
An iceberg measuring nearly 600 square miles has calved from the Antarctic’s Brunt Ice Shelf on Sunday, the Independent reports. The paper says that, according to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the event was not linked to climate change. It continues: “It is the second mass to break off in the last two years, BAS said, after a crack known as ‘Chasm-1’ fully extended through the ice shelf. BAS describes Brunt as ‘probably the most closely monitored ice shelf on Earth’.” BBC News adds that the iceberg was close to the UK’s Halley research station – but adds that the 21 staff there are “not in any danger”. The outlet also says the event is not linked to climate change, adding that “the Brunt was at its biggest extent in at least 100 years before the calving”. Meanwhile, Inside Climate News covers new research on the Arctic, which finds that “climate change is affecting the timing of both the freezing of the ice and its melting in the spring”.
A 19-minute documentary for the BBC News channel by climate change editor Justin Rowlatt balances the priorities of tackling climate change with affordability in a “cost-of-living crisis” in the UK. Filmed last summer, Rowlatt interviews the climate-sceptic Brexiteer and ex-MEP Nigel Farage, who, at the time of recording, was promoting a “net-zero referendum” and says: “When it comes to energy, food, normal life – of which any type can’t continue – there’s an argument for self-sufficiency.” In contrast, Sepi Golzari-Munro, an energy and climate analyst, tells Rowlatt that “fossil fuels are driving our cost of living crisis and working against our national interest”. To exploit the North Sea for fossil reserves would be “hugely expensive, hugely disruptive and the public simply don’t want it,” she continues. In the Daily Telegraph, the climate-sceptic commentator Ross Clark attacks – and mischaracterises – the National Grid’s “demand flexibility service” (see above): “If you are going to try to build a grid based on wind and solar, and try to manage demand by paying people to switch their appliances off, you are going to have to chuck such enormous quantities of money at people that they are prepared to spend days on end shivering in the dark.” The Daily Telegraph also runs a news story under an alarmist and opinionated headline: “Net-zero Britain risks leaving households in near darkness.”
Meanwhile, the FT’s Lex column opines that “on the whole, the ban on Russian crude oil has worked well”. On the other hand “switching gears on oil is not the same”. The column continues: “Any disruption to the diesel market spells high prices for Europe, which is structurally short of the product.”
New research provides the first systematic comparison of national climate institutions across 21 of the world’s largest emitters. The authors categorise these institutions into one of four models of climate governance: Climate Technocracies, Climate Developmentalists, Carbon Fragmentists and Carbon Centralists. These models are “associated with policy ambition and performance”, the authors say. For example, Climate Technocracies – such as those in Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the UK – and Developmentalists – such as Brazil, India and China – “tend to score higher” than Carbon Fragmentists – such as South Africa, Canada and the US – and Centralists – such as Turkey, Russia and Saudi Arabia.