The GREBE Project visits Iceland

geothermal

The GREBE project partners will hold their fourth partner meeting in Reykjavik and Isafjordur in Iceland this week.  We have a busy schedule planned with the Western Development Commission (www.wdc.ie) and Innovation Center Iceland (http://www.nmi.is/english) working to co-ordinate the programme to fit in as much as possible.

On Tuesday morning, we’ll hold a Policy Workshop at Innovation Center Icelands offices in Reykjavik, this will be followed by a meeting with XRG Energy http://www.xrgpower.com/, the first part of our partner meeting and a Steering Committee meeting.   Then on Wednesday we have a packed day, with site visits to Auðlindagarður Svartsengi (http://www.resourcepark.is/) and the IDDP project (http://www.landsvirkjun.com/researchdevelopment/research/iddpproject/) as we travel to Isafjordur.

On Thursday and Friday, we will continue our project meeting at the Innovation Center Icelands offices in Isafjordur.

Higher Level Apprenticeships at the CREST centre in Northern Ireland

CREST 2

GREBEs Northern Ireland partner, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council are privileged to have within the region, South West Colleges flagship Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technologies (CREST).  An associate partner of the GREBE project, the CREST centre has been established to help small businesses in NI, the border counties of ROI and Western Scotland to develop and adopt renewable energy and sustainable technologies. South West College lead a network of educational institutions including Cavan Innovation and Technology Centre, Sligo IT and Dumfries and Galloway College in Scotland.

South West College have introduced Higher Level Apprenticeships (HLA) which are fast becoming an attractive alternative to attendance at university for a traditional 3 or 4 year programme, as the employee can gain a third level qualification – a Foundation Degree and develop industry related skills that benefit both their employer and their career.

One of the most exciting HLAs which the college is offering through CREST is the Foundation Degree in Renewable and Sustainable Technologies.  Offered in conjunction with Queens University and Ulster University, there is a range of areas of specialisms including Building Services and Renewable Energy, Energy Environment and Sustainability and Engineering (Wind Turbine Technology).

Noreen McGirr HLA Coordinator with the College says that “These courses are highly sought after and the College are offering 10-15 apprentices (per specialism) the opportunity to embark on their careers through this new route, embracing the opportunity to earn and learn in a real business setting.  Due to the increase in fees that is likely to be faced by full time third level students and the increased level of debt this will create, it is encouraging that there are alternatives available which offer real possibilities to our brightest young people to remain at home whilst still progressing their careers and learning.

HLAs are also a wonderful opportunity for employers to ‘recruit smart’ by addressing the urgent gap in high-level skills shortages increasingly evident across the region”.

For further information on the HLA opportunities available please follow the link below

http://www.swc.ac.uk/engage/business-engagement/Higher-Level-Apprenticeships.aspx

Uncertainty harming growth in the Scottish renewable industry

ERI 29-07-2016
Image from Dorli Photography

The Scottish Affairs Committee (a cross party body which is appointed by the UK parliament to examine the expenditure, administration, and policy in Scotland) found that policy changes from the central UK Government is putting at risk future growth in Scotland’s renewable industry.

In the report published by the group these changes are listed as the early closure of the Renewables Obligation for solar and onshore wind, cutting Feed-in-Tariff support rates, and delaying the next round of Contracts for Difference (CfD). The removal of subsidy for onshore wind was identified as being a particular area of concern. The decision was considered to be troubling, as it was taken without consultation with the industry or Scottish Government.

The report also found lack of clarity about renewables policy has exacerbated long-standing concerns of transmission costs in Scotland. Renewable development, and the largest renewable resources, are often located in the NPA region of Scotland and made up of rural areas or islands. These areas face inadequate grid connections and high transmission charges to reach the urban areas where electricity is most needed. In response to these issues the Committee has called on Ofgem (the government regulator for electricity) to look into levelling connection costs across the UK. In addition it has also called on the UK Government to take action to support the improvement of infrastructure between the Scottish Islands and the mainland.

Since the production of the report the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has been abolished. Among other things DECC was in control of the subsidy schemes for renewable energy. As a result KPMG suggest further delays in the announcement of next the CfD auction round, or announcements about plans for “greater separation” of the System Operator. Of course this will not assist with investor confidence. However, perhaps more worrying is the ideological change the abolition of DECC implies. These concerns are communicated by the chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, Pete Wishart, who described the decision as showing “a troubling shift in the Government’s priorities”.

A short summary of the report can be found at:

https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/scottish-affairs-committee/news-parliament-2015/renewable-energy-scotland-report-published-16-17/

With the full report being available at:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmscotaf/83/8302.htm

Action Renewables Energy Association (AREA)

Action Renewables launched Action Renewables Energy Association (AREA) in April 2016.  AREA is the catalyst for transition to a renewable future, and is the sole body representing the entire renewable energy sector in Northern Ireland across all technologies.

Following the re-election of the Conservative Government in May 2015, a series of damaging policy changes, financial restrictions and ongoing budget issues has sent Northern Irelands renewable energy sector into rapid decline.  With the removal of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) along with cuts to Northern Irelands Renewable Obligation (NIRO), it is clear the newly formed Department for Economy (DfE) will have great difficulty financing and implementing replacement incentives post 2017.  The reduction and withdrawal of renewable energy subsidies along with the general lack of support for the renewables sector has placed Northern Ireland’s renewable energy sector in jeopardy.

Action Renewables has responded to this threat with AREA, as a means to support the renewables sector via focused lobbying activities.  Our core aims are to establish a secure renewable energy policy framework in light of the increasing policy vacuum; to protect existing renewable energy investments and support the development of the renewable energy sector.  AREA wants to organise the renewables sector, establish a collective voice and use it to influence policy.

For more information please click here.

Innovation in the energy sector in Iceland

Þorsteinn Ingi Sigfússon, Professor in Physics, Laureate of the Global Energy Prize and Director of ICI (Innovation Center Iceland) wrote an article on research and Innovation in the energy sector in Iceland and how ICI has been a strong partner in that area. Here you can read a summary from his article.

Iceland is in a unique position in the world due to its variety of renewable energy resources. Large amounts of renewable energy in Iceland is in the form of electricity sold to aluminum factories which therefore leave a relatively low carbon footprint. The demand today is through further innovation in that category.

ICI has for years now been alerted to innovation in the energy utilization sector.  Regarding minimizing carbon footprints, a large chapter was written on analysis leading to the fact that energy spending is extremely high in fisheries.  The carbon footprint reaches 1000 kg for each 1000 kg fish landed. That problem has led to new solutions and licenses in using light instead of nets by trawlers. This solution has resulted in lower use of energy, lower carbon dioxide emissions and less damage to the sea bed. ICI has formed a co-operation around this project with the Marine Research Institute and companies in fish-net production and fisheries.  This co-operation has trusted the foundation of this research even more. Furthermore a company called Optitog Ltd. has been founded around this innovation.

ICI has also been focusing on minimizing multiple kinds of excreta from aluminum industry here in Iceland including ideas and realization on using rest material in mortar, rock wool and related products. The company Gerosion Ltd. run by Sunna Wallevík was founded around this project alongside the SER (Start-Up Energy Reykjavik) project.

Another project that ICI has been working on is how to produce electricity from low temperature-heat that otherwise is lost (waste heat), mainly from power plants.  The source of this waste heat has its physical explanation as a result of the efficiency in producing electricity from geothermal heat.  This is very low and becomes even lower as the heat of the geothermal plant gets higher. In 2015 in the accelerator program Startup Energy, a project around low heat electricity production was developed. The challenge lies mainly in the small size of the power generator which is only 1 Kw but can produce electricity from heat as low as 70 up to 135 °C.

The company XRG Power was founded around this exciting project and is managed by Mjöll Waldorff. Among the owners is VHE in Hafnarfjörður and a Startup Energy group which is led by Landsvirkjun and Arion Bank.

As can be read above various inventions and innovations in the renewable energy sector are in process which is in line with the urgency of minimizing various carbon footprints and other waste.

The new GREBE website is live !

GREBE website 2

The new GREBE project website www.grebeproject.eu has been created by Future Analytics Consulting Ltd. (http://futureanalytics.ie/). The website builds on the branding theme created with the logo, which takes inspiration from the NPA programme and the priority (entrepreneurship) under which GREBE is funded.  The three hexagons in our logo reflect the entrepreneurs networking and sharing ideas, the renewable energy technologies, and the importance of renewable energy in everyday life.

Our website has information about the GREBE project, its aims and objectives, project deliverables, project partners and the NPA Programme.   We also have a section on our project activities and some information about renewable energy.   As the GREBE project progress, we will add more areas to the website and upload reports and guidelines to our ‘Publications’ page.

Visit the site to register your interest in the GREBE project.  If you would like more information on the GREBE project, please contact us at info@grebeproject.eu

BREXIT – A brief view of some of the energy implications of the UK voting to leave the European Union

BREXIT

The result of the UK referendum over EU membership has potentially huge implications for renewable energy. Perhaps the most significant of these is the UK may no longer be in the EU Internal Energy Market (IEM).

Completion of the EU’s internal market requires the removal of obstacles and trade barriers; the approximation of tax and pricing policies and measures in respect of norms and standards; and environmental and safety regulations. The objective of these is to help create a functioning market with fair access and a high level of consumer protection as well as adequate levels of interconnection and generation capacity. The IEM has led to the development of interconnections, to help reduce isolation of Member States from the European gas and electricity grids. Being part of energy union would have provided a huge market for UK renewables, such as its growing offshore wind fleet. Furthermore, it would have benefited energy security as renewable generation increases its overall share in the grid, through smoothing of generation variability.

The National Grid are certainly fearful of an exit from the IEM, with a spokeswoman saying: “It is vital the UK retains access to the IEM, which provides stability for energy companies and helps keep household bills down…UK energy security depends on gas and electricity from the IEM and it is essential therefore that we take no risks with that. The issue of energy needs to be treated with the highest importance by the government as the negotiations on Britain’s exit begin.”

Key players and commenters in the sector are almost unanimously giving a negative outlook as a result of the leave vote. These include factors such as higher costs, consumer impacts and a likely reduction in funding of scientific research; but the result is perhaps best summed up by Professor Rob Gross, of Imperial College, who said: “victory for leave creates uncertainty, risks instability, weakens the UK’s negotiating position and, at least in the short term, discourages investment.”  The lack of stability and certainty will not only impact renewables but other low carbon energy projects; for example, the scraping of the controversial proposed nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point (which was to be built by the French company EDF) seems a likely outcome of the referendum.

It is clear that energy policy needs to be a priority for the new government, to give reassurance to the industry. However, even if it does become a priority it would seem optimistic not to view the vote to leave the EU as negative for the UK energy system and low carbon energy in particular.

Sources:

Quotes are taken from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/28/leave-vote-makes-uks-transition-to-clean-energy-harder-say-experts

For background information on the IEM http://www.europarl.europa.eu/ftu/pdf/en/FTU_5.7.2.pdf