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End of coal in sight as UK secures ambitious commitments at COP26 summit

Given this week is COP26 and we are all keen to know more about “Green Energy” we have been looking at what the plans for the future are.

The UK has secured a 190-strong coalition of countries and organisations at COP26, with countries such as Poland, Vietnam, Egypt, Chile and Morocco announcing commitments to phase out coal power.

The end of coal – the single biggest contributor to climate change – is in sight thanks to the UK securing a 190-strong coalition of countries and organisations at COP26, with countries such as Indonesia, South Korea, Poland, Vietnam, and Chile announcing clear commitments to phase out coal power.

Today’s commitments, brought together through UK-led efforts including the new ‘Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement’, encompass developed and developing countries, major coal users and climate vulnerable countries. This includes 23 countries committing for the first time to phase out and not build or invest in new coal power, including Indonesia, South Korea, Poland, Vietnam, and Chile, marking a milestone moment at COP26 in the global clean energy transition.

This statement, launched today, commits nations across the world to:

  • end all investment in new coal power generation domestically and internationally
  • rapidly scale up deployment of clean power generation
  • phase out coal power in economies in the 2030s for major economies and 2040s for the rest of the world
  • make a just transition away from coal power in a way that benefits workers and communities

This is on top of China, Japan and Korea, the 3 largest public financiers of coal, committing to end overseas finance for coal generation by the end of 2021, announced in the last year during the UK’s incoming COP26 Presidency. Agreements at the G7, G20 and OECD to end public international coal finance send a strong signal that the world economy is shifting to renewables. This could end over 40GW of coal across 20 countries, equivalent to over half of the UK’s electricity generating capacity.

Business & Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:

Today marks a milestone moment in our global efforts to tackle climate change as nations from all corners of the world unite in Glasgow to declare that coal has no part to play in our future power generation.

Spearheaded by the UK’s COP26 Presidency, today’s ambitious commitments made by our international partners demonstrate that the end of coal is in sight. The world is moving in the right direction, standing ready to seal coal’s fate and embrace the environmental and economic benefits of building a future that is powered by clean energy.

To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees, the global transition to clean power needs to progress 4 to 6 times faster than at present. With coal being the single largest contributor to climate change, phasing it out and delivering a rapid, inclusive transition to clean energy is essential if we are to keep 1.5 degrees alive.

Twenty-eight new members have today signed up to the world’s largest alliance on phasing out coal, the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) launched and co-chaired by the UK. Chile, Singapore and Durban have today joined over 150 countries, sub-nationals and businesses, including finance partners NatWest, Lloyds Banking, HSBC and Export Development Canada. This accounts for over $17 trillion assets now committed to PPCA coal phase out goals.

There has also been a 76% cut in the number of new coal plants planned globally over the last 6 years which means the cancellation of 1000GW of new coal plants since the Paris Agreement, roughly equivalent to around 10 times the UK’s total peak generating capacity.

Today’s global agreement to move away from coal to clean power has been made possible thanks to a number of other UK-convened initiatives, including:

No new coal power

The end of new coal power construction is in sight. The launch of the No New Coal Power compact by 6 countries at the UN High Level Dialogue in September, followed by the commitments in the Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement. This means that by the end of this year, all new public finance for unabated coal power plants will have stopped, with investments increasingly focused instead on accelerating the transition to clean energy sources such as wind and solar power, now cheaper than coal generation in most countries. This accelerates the growing global momentum to end new coal power, demonstrated by the 76% collapse in the global pipeline of proposed coal power plants since the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Supporting emerging economies

In addition, major emerging economies have announced plans to accelerate a just transition from coal to clean power. This includes a South Africa Just Energy Transition Partnership worth $8.5 billion, as well as Indonesia and the Philippines agreeing a ground breaking new partnership with the Asian Development Bank to support the early retirement of existing coal plants. Further financing announcements are expected today at COP26.

Supporting coal-intensive economies

Countries with significant coal power generation and mining face large social and financial challenges in the transition from coal. The UK’s COP26 Energy Transition Council (ETC) mobilises and coordinates the assistance required to enable coal intensive economies to equitably transition from coal, bringing together 20 governments and over 15 international institutions to accelerate the transition from coal to clean power as part of a green economic recovery. For example, the Energy Transition Council’s Rapid Response Facility delivers fast-acting technical, regulatory and commercial assistance to countries and has already responded to 24 requests in a range of areas, including energy efficiency in the Philippines and grid management in Egypt.

Ensuring a just transition

Today the UK government has also launched a new International Just Transition Declaration, ensuring the move away from coal high carbon industries results in a sustainable, green and fair future, and one that creates high quality new jobs and champions local social dialogue in developing and emerging economies. Coordinated by the UK government, so far, 13 countries have signed as well as the UK and EU Commission, covering a broad spectrum of the world’s donor funding, now driving towards a just transition for communities around the world.

Clean Growth, Energy and Climate Change Minster Greg Hands said:

As the host of COP26 and through committing to phasing out coal by 2024 and the UK’s global leadership has sent a clear signal across the world that clean energy is the way forward.

By continuing to drive forward clean, green innovations at home and abroad, I look forward to stepping into this new chapter, united with the rest of the world in our efforts to consign coal to the history books, as we build back greener.

FCDO Minister for Africa, Vicky Ford said:

A just and inclusive transition to clean energy is a win-win for the UK and Africa. Phasing out coal is a central objective of the UK’s COP Presidency and will support a cleaner, greener future for British people while creating hundreds of thousands of green jobs across the developing world.

This new funding will transform the support on offer for African countries transitioning to renewable energy. The Africa Regional Climate and Nature Programme will support green electricity networks across Africa, benefitting more than 4 million people, and the Transforming Energy Access platform will see 25 million more people across the developing world access clean energy.

The UK is already delivering many of the most ambitious clean power commitments among the world’s largest economies, committing to phase out coal power completely by 2024, driving forward renewable power generation with a decarbonised power system by 2035, and demonstrating that tackling climate change does not need to be at the expense of a growing economy.

Between 1990 and 2019, the UK’s economy grew by 78% while carbon emissions fell by 44%, the fastest reduction in the G7 – coal power makes up less than 2% of power generation compared to 40% almost a decade ago. These achievements follow the publication of the UK’s landmark Net Zero Strategy last month, which outlines measures to support businesses and consumers to transition to clean energy, while supporting hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs and leveraging up to £90 billion of private investment by 2030. 

Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and Co-Chair of UN-Energy, said:

Energy Day at COP 26 is an important milestone for building momentum on Sustainable Development Goal 7 and the just, equitable clean energy transitions it can support.

We are the architects of a sustainable future for all. Today I call on all governments to raise the level of ambition necessary to fill the financing gaps and to ensure an energy future that truly leaves no one behind.

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change in Canada and co-chair of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, said:

It is imperative that we phase out coal-fired electricity as a critical step to keep global temperatures from rising above 1.5ºC and prevent the most severe impacts of climate change. In four years, the Powering Past Coal Alliance has united a diverse and growing number of highly ambitious members, all committed to a clean energy transition that will make coal a relic of the past.

Whether sharing solutions or providing financial support to developing countries to help them succeed, Alliance members are driving change through this global collaboration.

Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack, said:

As one of the first countries to commit to ending coal power, the UK is leading the world in moving away from fossil fuels and it’s fantastic to see so many other countries making that commitment at COP26 in Glasgow.

Scotland has a massive part to play in the transition to clean, green energy. On offshore wind, for which Scotland has huge potential, our commitment is to quadruple capacity. Today’s news signals tremendous progress – we must continue to move forward.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said:

Before 2030 we need Just Transition plans in place in every country with decent and quality jobs at the heart. Workers and their unions are needed at the table through a genuine social dialogue process that ensures that transformative action moves our economies and societies to stabilise our climate and keep global warming under 1.5°C.

The union movement is keen to work with all the governments and institutions that sign this declaration to make this happen.

Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions and founder of Bloomberg L.P. and Bloomberg Philanthropies, said:

Success in the fight against climate change depends on ending coal-fired power – the largest driver of carbon emissions and the target of a major new initiative that Bloomberg Philanthropies expanded this week at COP26. Together with our international partners, we welcome the work of more allies dedicated to moving beyond coal and accelerating the clean energy transition we urgently need.

Minister Schulze, German Minister of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, said:

Phasing out coal is essential to reach our climate targets. In the near future, we will have left behind all fossil fuels and live in a new and sustainable energy world based on renewable energies. In order to get there, we need to actively shape the potential social impacts and support the affected regions in creating good sustainable new jobs. This means ensuring a just and inclusive transition together with all relevant stakeholders. Germany is willing to share its experiences with changing economic patterns and is thus supporting the Coal to Clean Statement and the Just Transition Declaration. Germany is underlining its commitment to further support the pathway towards a safe, sustainable and climate friendly energy future globally.

The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs said:

Striving to achieve universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all and in line with the objectives of the Paris agreement is a priority for France. In 2020, the French Development Agency Group committed 1.5 billion euros in the energy sectors to support developing countries for energy transition planning, access to electricity, energy efficiency and renewable energies. The partnership announced between South Africa, France, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union is a testament that France stands ready to support a just transition which is socially inclusive and creates local economic opportunities.

A 2500 mile long cable could bring solar power from Morocco to UK

The Xlinks Morocco-UK Power Project will be a new electricity generation facility entirely powered by solar and wind energy combined with a battery storage facility. Located in Morocco’s renewable energy rich region of Guelmim Oued Noun, it will cover an approximate area of 1,500km2 and will be connected exclusively to Great Britain via 3,800km HVDC sub-sea cables.

This “first of a kind” project will generate 10.5GW of zero carbon electricity from the sun and wind to deliver 3.6GW of reliable energy for an average of 20+ hours a day. This is enough to provide low-cost, clean power to over 7 million British homes by 2030. Once complete, the project will be capable of supplying 8 percent of Great Britain’s electricity needs.

Alongside the consistent output from its solar panels and wind turbines, an onsite 20GWh/5GW battery facility provide sufficient storage to reliably deliver each and every day, a dedicated, near-constant source of flexible and predictable clean energy for Britain, designed to complement the renewable energy already generated across the UK.

When domestic renewable energy generation in the United Kingdom drops due to low winds and short periods of sun, the project will harvest the benefits of long hours of sun in Morocco alongside the consistency of its convection Trade Winds, to provide a firm but flexible source of zero-carbon electricity.

The Xlinks Morocco-UK Power Project will provide “renewable energy that acts like baseload power”.

Four cables, each 3,800km long form the twin 1.8GW HVDC subsea cable systems that will follow the shallow water route from the Moroccan site to a grid location in Great Britain, passing Spain, Portugal, and France.

Agreement has been reached with National Grid for two 1.8GW connections at Alverdiscott in Devon. Voltage source convertor stations will enable the Xlinks project to secure high value balancing contracts with National Grid, and a HVDC Technical Feasibility study has been completed to validate reliability and cost.

The transmission system will use High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) cables to send the power from Morocco to Britain. HVDC technology is now well tried and tested as reliable and more cost competitive for a large volume of electron transfer across longer distances, than the High Voltage Alternating Current (HVAC) technology typically used for transmission systems within countries.

Converter stations will be used to change the HVAC power at the generation site in Morocco to HVDC, which is then sent through the subsea cable with very low losses before another converter station in Britain changes the HVDC power back to HVAC, ready to be injected into the British transmission network. While the Xlinks Morocco-UK Power Project subsea cable is significantly longer than existing interconnectors, the HVDC technology is the same proven technology used for connecting Britain and other European countries, or the technology proposed for the interconnector between Morocco and Portugal.

Health and Safety Executive issues safety notice regarding the lubrication of circuit breakers

The incorrect use and application of lubrication on HV and LV circuit breakers resulting in mal-operation and increased risk of catastrophic failure and downstream fire. Duty-holders and Specialist Electrical Contractors should ensure that their maintenance procedures associated with cleaning and lubrication of HV and LV circuit breakers meet with the requirements defined in HSG 230[3], BS 6423[4], BS 6626[5], BS 6867[6] and as prescribed in the manufacturer’s instructions. In particular, the maintenance procedure should ensure that the manufacturer instructions on cleaning and lubrication of the circuit breaker mechanism are followed at appropriate intervals, including the selection and application of the correctly specified lubricants (products) for the task.

Investigation into an explosion of a HV circuit breaker indicated that recently carried out maintenance may have been a causal factor. The incident resulted in catastrophic failure of the HV circuit breaker leading to fire / explosion and could have resulted in fatal injuries. Maintenance of HV and LV circuit breakers typically involves both the cleaning and lubricating of the operating mechanism. The HSE investigation found that the same physical product was used for both maintenance activities, but evidence shows the product was in fact only suitable for cleaning and NOT lubrication. This situation may have arisen because of the availability of different products, (for different purposes), within the same product range, or changes to the products composition over time whilst retaining the original name. It is essential that the correct product is used for each task.

Photograph of the HV oil circuit breaker taken after the catastrophic failure, which resulted in fire and explosion within the substation – Image via HSE

HV and LV circuit breaker mechanisms are required to operate at high speed to disconnect electrical faults with a high degree of reliability from the associated electrical system. To ensure the required performance is retained it is vital that the circuit breaker operating mechanisms are functionally checked and maintained periodically as per the requirements defined in relevant good practice HSG230[3], BS 6423[4], BS 6626[5] and, BS 6867[6] and as prescribed in the original manufacturer’s instructions.

If during functional testing (including circuit breaker timing tests) or during periodic planned preventative maintenance it is observed that the mechanism is slow to operate, it is good practice to relubricate the mechanism, adhering to the recommendations given in the manufacturer’s instructions. During the planning stage, this will involve identifying the correct type of lubrication to be applied to different parts of the mechanism and how it should be applied. In extreme cases, where the circuit breaker mechanisms are observed to be sticking due to old, congealed lubricant, it is common practice to apply a cleaning product to remove this prior to re-lubrication. Care should be taken to ensure that the cleaning products are compatible with the circuit breaker following the recommended procedure given in the manufacturer’s instructions before reapplying the manufacturer recommended lubricants.

It should be common knowledge in the switchgear industry that the incorrect use and application of lubrication has been a major cause of maloperation in switchgear and can lead to very serious consequences. However, observations made during several recent routine planned inspections relating to the maintenance of circuit breakers together with the findings from a recent HSE investigation – where an employee marginally escaped serious personal injury when an HV circuit catastrophically failed – has highlighted that this information may no longer be common knowledge. HSE routine inspections and investigation found evidence that some HV and LV specialist electrical maintenance contractors and end users commonly use aerosol based multi-purpose lubricants for BOTH cleaning and relubrication tasks.

The recent HSE investigation into the failed HV circuit breaker concluded that ‘stiction’ in the failed circuit breaker may have been a result of an incorrect aerosol based multipurpose lubricant being applied to the circuit breaker mechanism. This happened even though the circuit breaker had been maintained less than three months prior to the incident and was reported to be operating satisfactorily. Independent forensic analysis work conducted during the investigation showed that the multipurpose lubricant used during the maintenance of the failed circuit breaker prior to the incident, evaporated by 75% of its original weight within 2 weeks of application. The analysis concluded that for this reason, multipurpose lubricants containing solvents (e.g. white spirit) are unsuitable for use as a lubricant of this type of HV and LV switchgear.

In addition, historical research by other organisations recommended that hydrocarbon sprays or solvents should NOT be used on circuit breaker mechanisms.

You can read the full safety notice here – https://www.hse.gov.uk/safetybulletins/lubrication-circuit-breakers.htm

Wiring Matters – Issue 87 – September 2021

It’s that time again, here is what you can find in Issue 87 (September 2021) of the IET’s Wiring Matters magazine.

Evaluation and metrics

The design framework of IEC 60364-8-1 provides guidance on a more energy-efficient electrical installation through careful placement of electrical supplies, considered infrastructure design, controls and energy management. All of this is designed to minimise energy loss in the distribution of electricity and reduce energy consumption at the point of use in the electrical installation, whilst still maintaining a suitable and comfortable environment for the end-users.

Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector

The IET’s Technical Helpline continues to be inundated with queries relating to the practicalities of implementing the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 (ESSPRS). These place legal requirements on landlords to ensure that every electrical installation in a privately rented residential premise is inspected and tested at intervals of no more than 5 years, by an electrically qualified and competent person.

Myth Busters #7 – Out with the old, in with the new?

The introduction of the 18th Edition of the IET Wiring Regulations (BS 7671:2018) saw a new regulation buried in Section 536 Co-ordination of electrical equipment for protection, isolation, switching and control.

Back to the Forum – Current-carrying capacity of cables buried in the ground

A question that arises periodically on the IET Engineering Communities forum concerns the current-carrying capacity of cables buried in the ground, in particular, the data used to select the appropriate cross-sectional area (CSA) of live conductors.

TT earthing considerations

TT earthing facilities are installed when the distributor does not provide a TN earthing system or when circumstances dictate that a TN earthing system cannot be used. A look at the considerations and what you need to know.

You can take a look at the full edition via the link below –

https://electrical.theiet.org/wiring-matters/years/2021/87-september-2021/

Next phase of government project to map the UK’s underground pipes and cables launched

The Government launched the next phase in the building of a digital map of underground pipes and cables today, as the country moves a step closer to revolutionising construction and development in the UK.

The National Underground Asset Register (NUAR), is now entering the Build Phase of the project. Cabinet Office Minister, Lord True CBE, and Mayor of Tees Valley, Ben Houchen, visited industry representatives and asset owners in Darlington for the launch to discuss the current challenges that NUAR will help address.

Over four million holes are dug in the UK each year, many in the wrong place. The economic cost of accidental utility damage is around £2.4 billion each year. Unforeseen ground conditions are a major obstacle to all construction and housing projects, especially on previously developed land. The new digital map of underground pipes and cables will help improve efficiencies in construction and development, reduce disruption and improve workers’ safety.

NUAR forms part of the Government’s efforts to build back better and greener, with tangible benefits, and speed up the delivery of housing and infrastructure projects from design to build. Fast access to this data will save utilities companies and local authorities time and money, and reduce the disruption caused in trying to fix leaks and put in new infrastructure.

Lord True CBE, Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, said:

I am delighted to launch the build phase of the UK’s new National Underground Asset Register. This new digital map of the UK’s underground utilities assets demonstrates our commitment to putting innovation at the forefront of the UK’s economic recovery and ambition to Build Back Better.

The digital map will be built in partnership between industry and government over the next three years, starting in the North East of England, Wales and London. The platform will enable critical and local services, such as gas, water, electricity and telecommunications, to be efficiently maintained and delivered to homes and businesses via the web of cables, pipes and ducts currently beneath our streets.

As the UK government continues to work with local partners in the North East of England on a number of projects, it further demonstrates the integral role the region is playing in utilising the expertise available in all corners of the UK and building on the nation’s levelling up agenda.

Nigel Clifford, Deputy Chair of the Geospatial Commission, said:

Unlocking value from geospatial data is the heart of the UK’s Geospatial Strategy. Our National Underground Asset Register will be a momentous step towards providing the UK with a shared national data asset of significant value. I am proud of the collaboration with industry that we have so far established as part of our preparatory work and look forward to it continuing.

Ben Houchen, Mayor of Tees Valley, said:

I am absolutely delighted that this innovative new map of what lies beneath our feet is being launched and rolled out in Teesside. This new service will mean less mistakes are made when digging holes and less disruption to local people. Across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool we’re making huge strides; we are transforming northern Europe’s biggest brownfield at Teesworks creating thousands of jobs and transforming our economy to a greener future, and this new map will be incredibly helpful.

If you have any questions about the project, and in particular if you are an owner or operator of buried assets, please get in touch via [email protected]