A look at smart cities around the world

(Intelligent Utility, Spring 2015)


The smart city is a somewhat nebulous concept. There is no absolute definition, but rather a process or series of steps by which cities become more livable, resilient and able to respond quicker to new challenges.

Poland: Set fair for change

(Energo, January 2015)


Widely seen as one of the most pro-market of Central & Eastern European states, Poland has changed its tune and will see ever-increasing state intervention in its energy sector.

A burning desire to reduce NOx emissions

(Gas Turbine World, November/December 2014)


Are virtual power plants the future of European utilities?

(Intelligent Utility, November/December 2014)

Everyone knows the future is decentralized, right? The top-down energy system is as dead as the dodo, isn’t it? Well, yes and no. In Germany, where renewable energy accounts for around one-quarter of national power output, the big power generation utilities like RWE, EnBW, E.ON et al are certainly look to be an increasingly endangered species. But grid companies? No, sir.

Eyes on the prize

(Estates Gazette, November 2014)


Cranes loom large over Leeds city centre centre and this time they are for office development, as confidence returns to the market.

Does Project Gemini point to the future of financing?

(ReNews Global Offshore Wind Report 2014)


The 600MW Project Gemini was the standout deal of 2014. Does it point to the future of offshore wind financing, asks Tim Probert?

Out with the grandiose

Estates Gazette, October 2014


Swansea council’s more hands-on, holistic approach could deliver meaningful regeneration of its city centre at last.

Britain’s nuclear renaissance – a progress report

(Energy World, October 2014)


Tim Probert rounds up the various projects, from Hinkley Point C to a possible Chinese-built reactor at Bradwell, that make up Britain’s nuclear revival

Clog on the Tyne: Is the North East losing out on infrastructure development?

(Estates Gazette, October 2014)


Businesses in the North East can be forgiven for thinking the rest of the country sees the region as on the edge of the universe. According to the IPPR North think-tank, transport spend per head is £2,700 in London, but only £5 in the North East.

From H to HA and beyond


(Gas Turbine World, September/October 2014)

Order for 7HA.02 gas turbines is a milestone in the evolutionary shift of GE’s H-class machines from steam to air cooled units that will operate at over 61% combined cycle efficiency.


Europe’s big three: so near, but so far apart

(Intelligent Utility, September/October 2014)


Europe’s three largest economies—Germany, Britain and France—are geographically close, but their electricity markets are worlds apart. France is dominated by a single utility, while Germany has thousands. Somewhere in the middle between these two almost diametrically opposed markets, sits Britain

Small nuclear reactors: Going round in circles

(Materials World, September 2014)

my spe 2014

The days of large nuclear power plants could be numbered, especially in countries with a market-focused approach to energy. Tim Probert explores the development of small nuclear reactors, including Urenco’s efforts in the UK.

What role can big data play for European DSOs?

(Intelligent Utility, July/August 2014)


More than most European nations, the Republic of Ireland needs to get familiar with big data and remote operation of the grid. With four times the EU average of overhead networks per capita, an extremely high variable renewable penetration—two GW of wind (half on the distribution network) out of a five GW system peak—and stormy conditions at the extremity of Europe, Ireland needs to know if it can cope with the changing landscape.

Racing pulse, clogged arteries

(Estates Gazette, June 2014)


It is ironic that a city known for its booming oil industry might see its growth plans slowed by gas-guzzling cars.

Funding in short supply for smart meters in Africa

(Intelligent Utility, May/June 2014)


One of Africa’s most pressing challenges is to provide access to electricity. Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where energy consumption per capita is falling.

Siemens in Hull: Industrial renaissance?

(Estates Gazette, May 2014)


In March, German engineering giant Siemens announced it is to build a £310m offshore wind production facility in Hull. Tim Probert explores whether this is the start of something big for the region.

Time capsules – decommissioning Magnox nuclear power stations

(Energy World, May 2014)


As the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority announces Cavendish Fluor Partnership as preferred bidder for the contract to manage decommissioning work at ten Magnox nuclear power stations, Tim Probert looks at the work being undertaken.

Advanced Automotive Battery Conference: Running out of road?

(Batteries & Energy Storage Technology, Spring 2014)


The Editor bring a fresh pair of ears and eyes to the 14th Advanced Automotive Battery Conference. Is the industry sticking to the roadmap or has it taken a detour?

Medium wind: In for a tough time

(ReNews Medium Wind Special Report, April 2014)


If the intention of the UK government is for the medium wind industry to be pessimistic about the years ahead then it has been highly successful.

Utility customer psychology is bad for you

(Intelligent Utility, March/April 2014)


There are some pertinent universal truths for the utility industry. Customers don’t like you. It’s true.

Energy from waste generates cash

(The Times/Raconteur, March 2014)

the_times masthead





Harnessing energy from waste enables companies to cut costs as well as carbon emissions, but there is potential for greater progress, as Tim Probert discovers

European Onshore Wind Report 2014

(reNews, February 2014)






Germany/Austria/Czech Republic/Slovakia: Success comes at a price

Netherlands/Belgium/Luxembourg: Dutch get it together

UK/Ireland: Competition on the horizon

Denmark/Norway/Finland/Sweden: Danes going above and beyond

Romania/Bulgaria/Hungary/Slovenia: Backsliding in Bucharest

What can Sizewell C deliver for Suffolk’s property market?

(Estates Gazette, February 2014)


On 21st October the small Somerset town of Hinkley learnt they were going nuclear -again. Nearly 300 miles away a small cheer went up in the sleepy Suffolk town of Leiston. With the first nuclear power station commissioned in a generation would it trigger action closer to home?

Europe’s electricity market towards 2020

(Intelligent Utility, January/February 2014)








Europe’s electricity market is a mess. The clash between the European Commission’s desire for a single European market and national considerations of renewables targets, carbon emission reductions, price regulation and “keeping the lights on” is profound and getting harsher.

The death spiral: Australia’s changing grid

(Intelligent Utility, November/December 2013)









By now most will be aware of the dreaded utility “declining demand death spiral”: As solar PV grows, utilities’ demand drops. Utilities respond by raising prices and/or network charges—either for solar or non-solar customers—further incentivizing solar (and battery storage), thus further reducing demand. Few places are more likely to experience the death spiral than Australia.

Blade runner: improving gas turbine coatings

(Materials World, November 2013)


Materials World explores the changing nature of gas turbine operating  regimes and the impact this has on materials selection, in particular the ceramic thermal barrier coatings applied to turbine blades.

Perennial question of risk for pension funds after income

(reNews Global Offshore Wind Report 2013, November 2013)

Pension funds are expected to become more active on the debt side of offshore wind finance in the coming years, attracted by inflation-linked feed-in tariffs at a time when yields on bonds are low. Whether institutions will become comfortable with construction risks remains to be seen, however.

Balance sheets at breaking point

(reNews Global Offshore Wind Report 2013, November 2013)


Capex at latest projects too much even develop alliances with pension finance is in a state of for biggest utilities, writes Tim Probert

‘Blackout’ Britain?

(Energy World, November 2013)


From National Grid to distribution network operators and energy suppliers, demand-side response is seen as having great potential for tackling Britain’s growing problem of how to keep the lights on. Tim Probert surveys the demand-side scene.

How do you solve a problem like West Cumbria?

(Energy World, October 2013)


Tim Probert examines two dilemmas for the government – what to do with the plutonium stockpile at Sellafield, and the long-running saga of developing an underground depository for nuclear waste

The UK wakes up to demand-side response

(Intelligent Utility, September/October 2013)

SeptOct13IU cover

The UK is in a spot of bother. Having sweated its power generation assets for the best part of a quarter of a century post-privatization, the country finds itself in a panic about “keeping the lights on,” as an increasing volume of decrepit coal generation is decommissioned

Fracking – the battle of Balcombe and beyond

(Sussex Life, September 2013)

sussex life sep 2103

It is arguably the most significant event in the history of Balcombe since the coming of the railway. Having been granted permission to start exploratory drilling for oil, but not hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at Balcombe’s Lower Stumble Farm on 25 July, Lichfield-based oil and gas firm Cuadrilla immediately began to commence operations.

A DC breaker breakthrough – a cost effective solution?

(Materials World, September 2013)


Tim Probert explores the steps being taken by the world’s leading power  grid equipment manufacturers to create a cost-effective, efficient high voltage DC circuit  breaker.

Thorium: big hopes, small steps – nuclear fuel

(Materials World, September 2013)


Boosted by the recent establishment of the Weinberg Foundation, thorium  nuclear power is enjoying an increasingly high profile as a green nuclear energy panacea. The reality, as Tim Probert discovers, is not  nearly so simple.

France’s GDF-Suez gets smart

(Intelligent Utility, July/August 2013)

IU_July-Aug_CoverWhen looking for examples of utility customer acquisition best practice in Europe, France does not usually leap to mind. Home to vast national power behemoth Électricité de France (EDF), still 85% owned by the state, France is perhaps one of the last places in European Union to expect a bold attempt by a utility to transform its customer acquisition and retention capability.

Onshore wind farm planning change proposals – who benefits?

(Renewable Energy Monitor, July 2013)


To great fanfare, the UK government has unveiled proposals to give communities a greater say over wind farm developments in tandem with increased payments from developers. Tim Probert struggles to find how the proposals will make any discernible difference.

Levelling the playing field for offshore wind

(Renewable Energy Monitor, June 2013)


The UK offshore wind industry has been tasked with reducing the levelised cost of power generation, but claims of major cost savings by operators may be overstated.

NER300 Second Round Funding Preview

(Datamonitor Energy, June 2013)


This brief focuses on the second call of the NER300, a flagship European Commission fund that monetizes carbon allowances to support carbon capture and storage (CCS) and renewable energy system (RES) demonstration projects. It provides insight into how the first call fared, the often complex administrative process involved, and the potential funding outcomes of the second call.

Reforming the reforms: Russia’s power problems

(Energo, 5 June 2013)

EnergoThe reforms of the Russian power market have ground to a halt, with the new capacity market and higher tariffs unable to provide the funding to renew the country’s generation fleet. Consumers are turning to autoproduction to avoid tariff rises and to achieve a level of guaranteed supply that the state-owned grid system cannot offer.

Going Underground

(Savills Energy – Aspects of EnergySpring 2013)


The obstacles facing onshore energy production mean our oil and gas reserves remain largely untapped. But is it time to reconsider the options?

An eye on Germany’s microgrid future

(Intelligent Utility, May/June 2013)

MayJunIUCoverThere is no alternative but for German utilities to change if they are to survive and thrive in the brave new world of renewable energy. The question is: What kind of change? The answer could be less about power generation and more about services related to energy management, such as microgrids and the integration of renewables.

Hinkley Point C: The saga continues

(New PowerMay 2013)

Tim Probert surveys the road ahead for the UK’s struggling nuclear new build

UK set to give geothermal energy a big boost

(Renewable Energy Monitor, 30 May 2013)

REMThe UK Department of Energy & Climate Change is set to announce a package of measures aimed at giving the UK’s shamefully underutilised geothermal energy resources a much-needed shot in the arm. Will it work?

Thorium nuclear power – forever the bridesmaid?

(Energy World, May 2013)


To the surprise of the established nuclear industry, thorium and molten salt reactors could be on the verge of making a comeback. Tim Probert cuts through the growing hype to explore whether good ideas can ever become good business.

UK’s nuclear future: look East?

(The Times, 1 May 2013)

The wheels could be falling off the UK’s plans to build 16 gigawatts of new nuclear generation capacity by 2025 and, as Tim Probert discovers, the country’s best hope for a nuclear future may now lie in East Asia. To read this article, click here

A perfect storm: Is offshore wind in a tailspin?

(New Power, April 2013)

Offshore wind is a central plank of the UK’s green policies but high and rising costs are jeopardizing the long-term viability of the industry, as Tim Probert explores.

Polish wind sector strong despite expected subsidy cuts

(Energo, April 2013)


While Poland is expected to implement cuts to its renewable incentives regime this year, it remains the prime destination for green investment in eastern Europe, writes Tim Probert

Caution to the wind – storing wind power as hydrogen for the grid

(Materials World, April 2013)


Some of Germany’s leading power companies are making strides to effectively store wind power by turning it into hydrogen for the gas grid. But can this hydrogen be used to generate power as well?

Npower – The only way is up

(Intelligent Utility, March/April 2013)


Npower is among the least popular organizations in Britain. For the fifth year in a row, the British utility has been voted the country’s worst energy supplier in terms of customer satisfaction. This article explores how Npower aims to achieve its goal of leading the customer satisfaction charts by 2015.

Subsea saviour

(Process Engineering, March/April 2013)

process engineering

Much of the low-hanging fruit has already been picked. In future, offshore natural gas fields will be located ever further from land in deeper, colder and harsher environments.

EU ETS on life support

(Energo, February 2013)


The European Union’s flagship carbon market is on life support and an effective, long-term solution will be hard to achieve.

Abolishing Ofgem: Time for a change?

(New Power, February 2013)

Labour has pledged to abolish Ofgem. Tim Probert explores how the UK has arrived at a situation where the Opposition, bookies’ favourite to win the 2015 General Election, wants to scrap the energy regulator and how it intends to replace it.

UK gives backing for fracking – shale gas go ahead

(Materials World, February 2013)


With hydraulic fracturing back on the agenda in the UK, Tim Probert explores the next steps towards Britain’s ambition to create a shale gas revolution.

Making dumb European rollouts smart – Three golden rules of consumer engagement

(Intelligent Utility, January/February 2013)

intelliegent utility jan feb 2013

Europe aims to install smart meters to 80 per cent of consumers by 2020 but progress has stalled over doubts about consumer benefits. At every level, educating consumers is vital to smart meter programmes. Tim Probert looks at how utilities are implementing three basic lessons of consumer engagement.

Comment from Vaasa ETT, E.ON, the UK Department of Energy, PG&E, Opower and Enexis. To read this article, click here

Does Short Term Operating Reserve have a long-term future?

(New Power, January 2013)

DECC is minded to introduce a Capacity Mechanism under Electricity Market Reform. While separate from National Grid’s Balancing Mechanism, capacity payments would almost certainly impact reserve services, in particular Short Term Operating Reserve, as Tim Probert explores.

Shale gas: Evolution not revolution

(New Power, January 2013)

DECC has given the green light to resume shale gas exploratory ‘fracking’. While the UK’s ambition to replicate the US shale gas revolution looks unlikely to succeed, that is not going to stop it trying, writes Tim Probert.

Biomass Industry Outlook 2013: Dogged by Regulatory Uncertainty

(RenewableEnergyWorld.com, December 2012)


One word will suffice to summarize the outlook for the biomass industry: uncertainty. Concerns are fourfold: the EPA’s Boiler (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) MACT, Non-Hazardous Secondary Material (NHSM) and Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rules, and the Federal Production Tax Credit.

To read this article click here

Biomass Industry 2012 Review: A Mixed Bag

(RenewableEnergyWorld.com, December 2012)


The U.S. biomass industry suffered a frustrating year in 2012, with EPA regulatory uncertainty the dominant theme. To read this article click here

Driving down the cost of marine energy

(New Power, November 2012)

According to the Carbon Trust, marine energy could generate 11% of current UK power generation by 2050. To get there, costs will have to be driven down by up to 75% by the middle of the next decade. Tim Probert explores how the industry is progressing.

‘Don’t let barriers block wind farms and windfalls’

(The Times, 30 October 2012)

The UK’s wind industry is growing in strength, but steady progress cannot be taken for granted, writes Tim Probert. To read this article, click here

Industry focuses on forthcoming government policy proposals

(The Times, 30 October 2012)

The energy industry awaits details of reform measures with a sense of keen anticipation, as Tim Probert discovers. To read this article, click here

Critical Power Issue 3

(Energy Storage Publishing, Autumn 2012)

Feature topics include: Emissions reduction, demand response, genset engine technology, energy storage, voltage optimization, data centre UPS and UPS management.

To view this magazine, click here

Powered up

(Materials World, October 2012)

Superconducting power cables can carry up to 100 times more electricity than copper, but costs can be prohibitive. Tim Probert explores whether this radical technology can ever gain market traction in what is a very conservative industry.

Big and small: Bringing marine energy to market

(Materials World, October 2012)

The British city of Bristol is arguably the spiritual home of marine energy.  Tim Probert visits two companies at differing stages of development: Marine Current Turbines, recently acquired by Siemens and Offshore Wave Energy, a start-up struggling to raise finance, to find out how marine energy will be brought to market.

In Europe, Poland is Old King Coal

(Turbomachinery International, September/October 2012)

The European Commission’s decision in July to give free carbon permits to Polish utilities has given new build coal power generation a stay of execution.

Post-incentive timeshifting: Solar PV, energy storage and the grid

(Large Scale Solar, September/October 2012)

As the industry moves rapidly towards a ‘post-incentive’ solar PV world, self-consumption and energy storage will be of increasing importance. Tim Probert reveals the results from a flagship EU residential energy storage project expected to have positive implications for storage from large-scale solar.

Comment from Saft, GE, Alstom, Siemens, UK Power Networks.

Cutting costs for offshore wind farms

(Energy World, September 2012)

With an eye on its ambitious Round 3 offshore wind programme, the UK Department of
Energy and Climate Change is targeting a 50% technology cost reduction
by 2020. Tim Probert reports.

Comment from Alstom, Siemens, Atkins, KPMG, Narec Capital, DONG, UK Green Investments (Department of Business, Innovation and Skills).

Whatever happened to the nuclear renaissance?

(New Power, August 2012)

The UK’s record of building nuclear plants is dismal. Yet, as Tim Probert explores, previous exercises may seem like a walk in the park compared to building a new fleet of reactors in a liberalized power market. Are the Department of Energy’s electricity reforms workable? Can the Chinese and Russians really build nuclear reactors in the UK? And will the British nuclear industry once again find itself in state ownership?

Comment from Societe Generale, the World Nuclear Association, Professor Steve Thomas and the legal and power utility community.

Building liquid markets for solid biofuel

(Renewable Energy World, July/August 2012)

Power utilities are used to purchasing commodities towards the end of the supply chain, i.e. at the port of loading or discharge, on a long-term basis. At present this is simply not possible on a viable scale for biomass wood pellets, demand for which is expected to rise by 500% by the end of the decade. Tim Probert explores how the power industry will be able to source sufficient sustainable biomass in order to hit renewable energy targets.

Comment from E.ON, RWE, Weyerhaeuser, APX-ENDEX, Ecofin, European Pellet Council, EnBW and the UK Department of Energy.

Critical Power Issue 2

(Energy Storage Publishing, Summer 2012)

Feature topics include: Backing up the Olympic Games; interview with CEO of APR Energy John Campion; UPS for datacentres; fuel cells; ultrabatteries; energy storage.

To view this magazine, click here

Meeting European demand for biomass wood pellets

(The Energy Industry Times, July 2012)

Driven by European Union renewables targets, demand for biomass wood pellets is set to soar over the next decade as utilities displace coal in thermal power plants. Tim Probert explores how the industry will manage to procure sufficient sustainable biomass.

Collective switching: Power to the people?

(New Power, June 2012)

Collective switching, whereby consumers club together to seek lower energy bills, has grabbed a great deal of attention in recent months. Energy secretary Ed Davey MP is a big fan, but many in the industry are yet to be convinced. Tim Probert explores the lessons learned from Which?’s Big Switch and asks if collective switching is flavour of the month, or is it here to stay?

Comment from Which?, Ovo Energy, Good Energy and Baroness Bryony Worthington.

Green Investment Bank could be white knight

(The Times, 30 May 2012)

Finance: The core of any business model is a predictable return on investment, but uncertainty surrounds the cost of next-generation wind turbines, writes Tim Probert. Comment from UK Green Investments (BIS), KPMG and Narec Capital.

To read this article, click here

Offshore wind plans: Bigger, better, stronger

(The Times, 30 May 2012)

Technology: As the industry scales up, turbines will get bigger, more efficient and further out to sea in deeper water, writes Tim Probert. Comment from Alstom, Siemens and Mott MacDonald.

To read this article, click here

Will the Retail Market Review improve the state of the market?

(New Power, May 2012)

The state of the energy retail market has been contentious for many years. Although there are now new entrants in the market the dominance of the Big Six suppliers remains. The latter’s ability to be able to help the government achieve its green ambitions means that the answer to the lamentable state of competition is not straightforward. The obvious answer – breaking up the Big Six – might fix the retail market but cripple the chances of greening the UK. Ofgem has tried to address the state of the market with its Retail Market Review (RMR). Tim Probert explores the possible impact of Ofgem’s proposals. Comment from Scottish Power, Haven Power (Drax), Ofgem, First Utility and Good Energy.

Shale gas in Sussex: The Battle of Balcombe

(Materials World, May 2012)

As shale gas exploration turns its attention to the riches beneath the  Home Counties, Tim Probert asks will the growing environmental  opposition to hydraulic fracturing cause shale gas to go the way of GM  foods?

Fracking in Sussex: The Battle of Balcombe

(Sussex Life, May 2012)

To some, shale gas is potentially the best thing for energy development in Britain since North Sea oil. To others, shale gas is a potential environmental catastrophe. Will the growing oppositon to hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, stop shale gas in Sussex in its tracks?

To read this article, click here

Shale gas fracking: Water lessons from the US to Europe

(Water and Wastewater International, April/May 2012)

Water and energy have always had a close relationship, but shale gas and water are particularly intimate. Water is integral to shale gas drilling and there is a growing market, estimated to be worth potentially up to $100 billion in the United States, for wastewater treatment. Tim Probert explores the opportunities and challenges in Europe.

To read this article, click here

Lithium-ion battery backup: Making inroads in remote locations

(Critical Power, Spring 2012)

A year after its official launch, French battery manufacturer Saft’s Evolion lithium-ion system, developed specifically for telecom applications, is beginning to gain market traction. Editor Tim Probert visits Saft’s Paris HQ to find out more.

To read this article, click here

CHP in the UK: Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella?

(New Power, March 2012)

The UK lags far behind most European nations in generating power from CHP (combined heat and power) plants. This article explores why a UK ‘heat revolution’ is likely to remain on the back burner despite notable recent progress by utilities in supplying CHP to homes and businesses.

Features comment from RWE Npower Renewables, E.ON, National Grid and the Combined Heat and Power Association.

Much ado about crushing

(Mining Magazine, March 2012)

Anglo Platinum’s Mogalakwena North mine in South Africa is home to the world’s largest single-stream platinum concentrator. This is the first time a high-pressure grinding roll has been used in platinum mining. Tim Probert visited the site to find out more.

To read this article, click here

Progress with Namibian power

(African Review of Business and Technology, March 2012)

NamPower is a tightly-run ship: profitable and efficient – no wonder Namibia is the only country in sub-Saharan Africa not to suffer load shedding.

To read this article, click here

The EU ETS is broke, is the Commission going to fix it?

(New Power, February 2012)

The European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme is in the doldrums. There is a huge oversupply in the market and analysts say prices will fall close to zero without political action. Tim Probert looks at the options which the Commission are exploring, including a potential set-aside of up to 1.4 billion EUAs, and what will be the likely impact on prices.

An insight into platinum mining

(African Review of Business and Technology, February 2012)

How Anglo American has improved output at the largest single stream platinum concentrator in the world at the Mogalakwena North platinum mine in South Africa.

To read this article, click here

Big hopes, small steps: Whither carbon capture and storage?

(New Power, January 2012)

While renewables continue to receive generous subsidy, carbon capture and storage (CCS) is in danger of becoming the forgotten weapon in the war on carbon, the rusty spanner in the climate change toolbox. Tim Probert looks at why the economics do not yet stack up for CCS and how that could change.

Comment from Alstom, Intergen and the UK Crown Estate.

Converting to Bioenergy: Benefits and Challenges

(Renewable Energy World, January/February 2012)

With legislation increasingly tough on coal-burning plants, many are switching to renewable fuels to ensure longevity. But supply chain issues may prevent some plants from undertaking the conversion process. Tim Probert profiles the UK’s Tilbury power station, a 1960s coal plant which has become the world’s largest biomass plant, and talks to Drax about the potential to convert its 4 GW coal plant.

To read this article, click here

The Caprivi Link – Namibia’s Power Lifeline

(Modern Power Systems, January 2012)

With rising demand and capacity nearly 20% short of maximum load, Namibia faces a serious short term power crisis. The 300 MW Caprivi Link offers it a quick way out of trouble.

Europe will have to dig deep for the shale gas dream

(The Energy Industry Times, December 2011)

There is no question that shale gas has been a ‘game-changer’ in the United States. From virtually nothing ten years ago, shale gas now accounts for one-third of domestic natural gas production. US energy policy has been turned completely upside down by shale gas. Will the same happen in Europe? Well, the short answer is possibly, but it will take some time for the industry to get up to speed. Here’s why.

To read this article, click here

Shedding some light on Namibia

(The Energy Industry Times, December 2011)

Namibia’s state utility NamPower is desperate to build a baseload, fossil fuel plant to enhance power generation self-sufficiency but progress has been slow. In need of a quick fix, NamPower turned to ABB to construct the Caprivi Link, a 950km overhead HVDC Light connection which runs along the narrow, tropical Caprivi Strip in extreme northeast Namibia close to the Zambian border. Tim Probert takes a first-hand look.

To read this article, click here

Drilling through the spin about shale gas

(Materials World, December 2011)

2011 will go down in history as a year of revolution. Tunisia. Egypt. Libya. Blackpool. Blackpool? If Cuadrilla Resources’ claim that there is enough methane in Britain’s Bowland Shale to supply national gas demand for at least 50 years is to be believed, this may not seem so brash.

To read this article, click here

CCS pipe dreams?

(Gas Turbine World, November/December 2011)

High capital costs make carbon capture and storage uneconomic for the foreseeable future, especially on combined-cycle plants. Nevertheless, plant owners still have the task of making plants ‘carbon capture ready’ (CCR) in the eventuality that the economics might one day stack up. Tim Probert speaks to plant developer Intergen, carbon capture OEM Alstom, engineering group Foster Wheeler and the UK Crown Estate to find what CCR entails, and whether ‘ready’ will ever become ‘retrofit’.

To read this article, click here

Drilling through the shale gas spin

(New Power, November 2011)

Cuadrilla Resources, Britain’s first shale gas exploration license holder, claims the Bowland Shale contains enough methane to supply national gas demand for at least 50 years and create thousands of jobs. Proponents say Cuadrilla’s resource is revolutionary, opponents say shale gas is unnecessary. Who’s right?

Comment from the British Geological Survey, Palladian Energy, Douglas-Westwood, RGS Energy and former UK energy secretary Chris Huhne MP.

The charge of the grid-connected battery storage brigade

(Batteries & Energy Storage Technology, Autumn 2011)

Grid-connected, battery-based energy storage systems have many benefits, including renewable energy integration, enhanced grid capacity and improved power quality. Recognizing these advantages, some of the world’s largest power grid OEMs are developing turnkey energy storage products. Tim Probert explores what GE, Alstom and ABB are planning to bring to market and to bring down costs.

To read this article, click here

Germany’s giant utilities are in trouble – is the traditional European business model doomed?

(New Power, October 2011)

German utility E.ON recently posted its first ever quarterly loss and is laying off around 10,000 workers. Compatriot RWE is up the creek following Frau Merkel’s decision to abandon nuclear power. And investors are no longer deeming these utilities a ‘safe haven’ in turbulent financial times. The need to move away from their traditional thermal businesses into clean energy, not only in Germany but across Europe, will be challenging but necessary. But it is also clear that given the size of these companies and the businesses they need to support, European utilities have to look at new markets outside their slow-growth, highly-regulated continent to thrive. Otherwise they may not survive.

Comment from Deutsche Bank, Societe Generale, Citigroup, Mott MacDonald, Greenpeace and energy policy professor Stephen Thomas.

Shuweihat – an oasis of power in the Abu Dhabi desert

(Gas Turbine World, September 2011)

The Shuweihat S2 IWPP, a greenfield development project in the remote coastal peninsula of Jebel Dana region 250 kilometres west of Abu Dhabi, will produce 1510 MW of power and 100 MIGD of water when fully operational in the second half of September 2011.

Is the Committee on Climate Change’s influence on the wane?

(New Power, September 2011)

The foundation of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), established as part of the UK’s landmark Climate Change Act 2008, was a bold move. In climate change policy terms, it was not dissimilar to the UK government making the Bank of England independent in 1997. The CCC is widely respected by business and environmental groups alike as a powerful force, but realpolitik may be seeing its influence diminish.

Contracts for difference: A financier’s view

(New Power, August 2011)

The central pillar in the UK’s Electricity Market Reform is to replace the Renewables Obligation with a feed-in tariff with contracts for difference (FiT CfD) for low-carbon power generation.

In theory, the FiT CfD will de-risk renewables projects, thus reducing the cost of capital and lowering barriers to potential investors. Nicholas Sinden, HSBC’s Associate Director for Project Finance, is not so sure it will. At least, not yet.

Contracts for difference: An energy trader’s view

(New Power, August 2011)

The UK’s Renewables Obligation (RO) has been fairly successful in delivering new renewable energy capacity but it has one major flaw: if one wants to buy a RO Certificate (ROC), then one must be a supply company in order to monetise it. This situation has limited the number of players willing to offer long-term power purchase agreements to wind farm operators and is largely why investment in wind farms in the UK tends to be centred on the incumbent vertically-integrated utilities.

Could the transition from the RO to the FiT CfD change that? According to Robert Groves, CEO of London-based Smartest Energy, it most certainly will.

A two-speed nuclear world?

(The Energy Industry Times, August 2011)

There is a general consensus that new nuclear build has been delayed rather than derailed by the Fukushima crisis in Japan. But Fukushima may have accelerated a trend already present before the accident – a two-speed nuclear world split into liberalised and state-directed power markets.

To read this article, click here

Contracts for Difference: Confusion and complexity

(New Power, July 2011)

The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) decision to opt for a feed-in tariff with contracts for difference (FiT CfD) to incentivise low-carbon power has not gone down well in the industry. Tim Probert attended a recent conference run by the Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group (Praseg) and found that many thought that DECC has come up with the wrong answer to the wrong question and will disrupt investment in renewables.

This article features comment from RenewableUK, the Committee on Climate Change, National Grid, RWE npower, Scottish & Southern Energy, E3G and Rothschild.

Fast starts and flexibility: Let the gas turbine battle commence

(Power Engineering International, June 2011)

The ‘big four’ combined-cycle gas turbine manufacturers – Alstom, GE Energy, MHI and Siemens – have launched their latest packages. While all promise greater thermal efficiency, the current buzzword is ‘flexibility’.

To read this article, click here

More features:

Attending class at the Centre for Alternative Technology (Masters degree in Renewable Energy)

The burgeoning tidal power industry in Orkney

Power project investment in the UK

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