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

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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  • @ Good article about how capacity market might work. Risk of overburdening consumers with cap payments poyry.co.uk/news/future-ou…
  • @ Early CCGTs would prob run baseload but business case weakens with each new plant. Can't all run baseload with wind/nukes.
  • Capacity payments and demand-side response payments not subject to Levy Control Framework. DECC would prefer to pay for latter to cut costs
  • DECC's Jonathan Brearley: 37 GW of new gas unlikely to be compatible with 100g CO2/KWh. Higher level of carbon in target would be needed
  • DECC's Jonathan Brearley: 26 GW of new unabated gas by 2030 compatible with decarb target of 100g of CO2/KWh