NFLA Seminar on just transition

On Friday 10th May I attended the Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) Scotland Spring Seminar in Dundee on behalf of Scot.E3. The subject of the seminar was ‘Dealing With Climate Change, Just Transition and Divestment Issues’.

The four presentations grappled with issues of just transition and sustainability from a local authority perspective:

You can use the hyperlinks to access the presentations. NFLA have also produced a useful briefing on some of these issues – ‘Climate Emergency’ Declarations and the practicalities in Local Authority Action to go ‘Carbon Neutral’

Eileen Cook

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Energy from Waste

The UK’s Green Investment Bank had a short and inglorious history; founded in 2012 it was privatised in 2017.  The private company is now called the Green Investment Group – a wholly owned financial arm of the Australian development company Macquarie. The company also owns the formerly US owned incineration company Wheelabrator.  The group is playing a role in energy from waste schemes.  In Scotland the Green Investment GroupIG has taken an equity risk of 50% capital in the Earl’s Gate EfW CHP project at Grangemouth. Wheelabrator incineration is at the heart of the project.  Earl’s Gate boasts the capacity to ‘treat’ more than 20% of Scotland’s municipal waste.  Local authorities are being drawn into long-term and dubious ‘green’ capital projects with virtually no public debate.

The evolution of the Green Investment Bank is a salutary lesson in what happens when policy initiatives are based on market ideology.

geograph-5887688-by-Derek-HarperImage by Derek Harper CC BY SA 2.0 https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5887688

A SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM

An Energy Policy Consultation paper – A shock to the system – the case for a publicly owned and democratically accountable Scottish energy company

In 2014 the Scottish government initiated an energy policy review. The purpose of this review was to examine the present state of Scotland’s energy economy and consider future options in the light of both a looming climate crisis and also the optimum strategy for replacing ageing fossil fuel and nuclear generating capacity with a range of renewable technologies.

In 2017 in order to ensure employment and fuel poverty issues were taken into account in this review, an infant SCOT.E3 decided to submit its own paper in an attempt to ensure that a full spectrum of related energy and environmental issues were incorporated into a memorandum of evidence.

Yet five years on and despite an almost universal acknowledgement of an accelerating climate crisis, little has been done- in practical terms- to address an impending environmental disaster and its related social and economic consequences. Also, within the intervening period, we have seen the commercial collapse of the BiFab renewable power technology company at Burntisland as well as the continued interest of the petro-chemical company Ineos in activating its shale gas fracking options to the point that it will feel confident to test the validity of the current Scottish governments ‘anti-fracking’ moratorium.

So it is against this present uncertainty that SCOT.E3 is now initiating another energy policy review to which it invites all interested parties to participate. The aim of this exercise is to re-examine the range of issues needed to be addressed; a renewable energy economy and the availability of appropriate technologies, the issue of fuel poverty and affordability of energy, energy efficiency, energy related employment and just transition possibilities regarding current energy and defence related employment, improvement of housing stock and carbon neutral public transport systems- to name but a few.

And as can be seen from the attached paper, SCOT.E3 have made a start in outlining the historical record of electricity generation and supply in Scotland in order to reinforce the case for a major stage in meeting Scotland’s forthcoming energy and environmental needs- a long promised Scottish state owned energy company.

We are therefore inviting you to participate in this exercise by adding your comments and/or contributions under the section headings so far left blank. This is to ensure that any report fully takes into account the range of opinions that truly reflect the technical and scientific know-how- as well as the concerns of environmental, community and trade union campaigns and interests engaged in these vital and urgent issues.

In order to ensure that this exercise is properly democratic, it is our intention to hold a consultative meeting for all consultees in the near future, as well as a major workshop type conference in the autumn.

We hope that you find the introductory notes both useful and of interest and we look forward to hearing from you in the near future. For any further information please contact:

SCOT.E3 at www.scote3.wordpress.com, email triple.e.scot@gmail.com 

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Notes and actions from the April organising meeting

Notes from Scot.E3 Edinburgh organising meeting180419

  • Attending PS, ZT, CM, PC, EC, BP – apologies from KW, WB, SB, MD
  • Agreed to rewrite the preamble to the article that responds to criticisms of Just Transition in the light of the new STUC statement on climate action and publish it on the blog.
  • The leaflet we distributed on the first day of the STUC in Dundee was well received.Thanks to SCND for hosting the fringe meeting on jobs, divestment and sustainability that we spoke at – about 30 people attended.  We also joined a discussion organised by the STUC with young people from recent climate action.
  • Throughout the meetingideas for further briefings/resources/blog posts came up in discussion. These included:
  • The case for taking INEOS into public ownership
  • Sustainable housing
  • Divestment, nuclear decommissioning and a sustainable future
  • Why nuclear shouldn’t be part of a just transition
  • A critical look at energy from waste schemes

If you are interested in contributing to any of these please let us know.

  • There will be a climate bloc on Edinburgh May Day (4thMay) – we are working with Friends of the Earth Scotland to build this. PC will check whether we can organise a meeting for people on it to attend afterwards possibly at the May Day Bookfair at the Leith Community Centre, Sunday 5th
  • We still need to find a couple of people who can take the Scot.E3 banner through to the Glasgow May Day march (5thMay). The banner will be on the Edinburgh march on the 4th, can anyone take the banner through to Glasgow for this given that we also have to cover the Leith event.
  • We’ve been invited to speak at the Edinburgh Green Party meeting, 7.30pm at the Augustine Church on 25thApril – PC to speak.
  • Edinburgh City Council Climate emergency meeting 25thApril, 6pm at the City Chambers Scot.E3 have been asked to host a table – WB taking responsibility for this but others welcome – you’ll need to register at this Eventbrite link https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/climate-emergency-action-needed-6pm-thur-25-apr-edinburgh-city-chambers-tickets-59567249246
  • Nuclear Free Local Authorities Scotland seminar on climate change, just transition and divestment issues, Dundee City Chambers, 10th May – EC going to this
  • State Energy Company

American Climate Rebels

A post from REEL News

In 2018, Reel News went on a 14 week tour of North America to look at grassroots struggles around climate change, particularly struggles around a “just transition” from fossil fuels to renewable energy, where workers and communities control the process so that they benefit from the transition, and around “just recovery” – recovery from extreme weather events which do not exascerbate current inequalities.

What we found were inspiring and visionary struggles all over the continent, led by working class communities of colour, with people organising just transitions and just recoveries themselves. Now, we’ll be presenting what we found in the form of a weekly online 11 episode series starting on Sunday April 14th – 7pm UK time, 3pm New York City time, Midday California time.

Episode 1 is about Alberta, Canada, where the long oil sands boom  has come to an end. Falling oil prices are leading to thousands of job losses – which has started a serious conversation in the labour movement about transitioning away from oil to renewables. The need is becoming more urgent as the big oil sands companies look to maximise profits and slash even more jobs through automation. This film looks at a number of initiatives, the history of oppression of First Nations people to get the resources in the first place, and a rare chance to hear from oil sands workers themselves, including women and First Nations workers.

With the current growing uprising over climate change giving renewed hope, we’re hoping that this will not only inspire you further – but will also help a little in putting the idea of just transition at the forefront of the movement.

‘Unlocking the job potential of zero carbon’

‘Unlocking the job potential of zero carbon’ from the Green European Foundation is a valuable addition to the evidence base that a socially just transition to a zero carbon economy is practical and possible.   The authors model the impact on jobs, short-term (during the transition) and long term, of moving to zero carbon by 2030. The estimates they provide are conservative – they don’t consider the additional employment that would be created by the additional economic activity – they don’t consider jobs in the supply chain and they don’t include activity for which rigorous data is unavailable.

The new report’s approach is not identical to the work done by the Campaign Against Climate Change published in the Million Climate Jobs Pamphlet. However, their forecasts for the whole of the UK are very similar.   They expect 980,000 additional jobs will be required during the transition reducing to 710,000 after zero carbon is reached. New jobs are calculated on a regional basis with a full breakdown available in the report’s appendix. The number of new jobs during the transition is estimates as 60,946 falling to 26,905 in the long-term.

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Fuel Poverty, Energy and the fight for Climate Jobs

Stage one of the Scottish Government’s Fuel Poverty Bill was completed on 20th February 2019. In our view the bill is not ambitious enough. We risk missing an important opportunity to reduce carbon emissions, create new climate jobs and strike a blow for social justice. Ending Fuel Poverty could and should be part of the Just Transition to a zero carbon economy that we need. We will publish more on this in the coming weeks – contributions are welcome.

Here are Marlyn Tweedie’s thoughts on the subject.

On Feb 15th, school children, all over Europe, came out on strike in protest at the catastrophic future they face because of climate change.

We need to make big changes re. our energy sources if we are to slow down climate change.

What if we could use sustainable energy sources to reverse climate change damage and provide cheaper fuel? Wouldn’t this be a win- win solution?

Fuel Poverty In Scotland

Over 25% of households live in fuel poverty – defined as spending 10% or more of your income on fuel bills, or, if, after paying for fuel, your income is below the poverty line.

In rural Scotland, the extent of fuel poverty is higher. A 2016 report states that in accessible rural areas, there is 35% fuel poverty and in remote areas, the figure is 45%.

Regarding extreme fuel poverty, the comparable figures are 7% for Scotland, as a region; 12% in accessible rural areas and 28% in remote areas.

Low income, high energy costs and poorly insulated homes result in this appalling situation where families, young people, elderly, disabled and many working people cannot afford adequate warmth.

A situation, which, it is estimated, contributes to 5,500 deaths a year.

What Can Be Done?

Fuel poverty would be best approached as part of a radical change in energy policy.

Scotland has an abundance of renewable energies – in the form of wave, wind and tidal energy.

The costs are cheaper. Current gas and oil costs are between 4p and 12p per kilowatt hour. Renewables are between 2p and 7p.

If, alongside a switch to renewables. A mass insulation campaign was implemented, carbon emissions could be cut by 95%.

The Campaign against Climate Change notes Three quarters of emissions from houses and flats are caused by heating air and water. To reduce this we need to insulate and draught- proof buildings and replace inefficient boilers. This can cut the amount of energy used by about 40% and delivers the double whammy of reducing energy costs and helping mitigate the scourge of fuel poverty.

It is estimated that a campaign to insulate all homes in Scotland would employ 20,000 construction workers for the next 20 years.

Further reading – the ScotE3 briefing on Fuel Poverty

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Image by climatejusticecollective CC BY 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/cj_collective/6992454230

More on Hunterston

On 10 January we wrote a short blog post on the dire state of the Hunterston B nuclear reactors and reported on a meeting where environmental radiologist Ian Fairlie spoke about the risk this poses to the population of central Scotland and beyond.

Ian Fairlie was back in Edinburgh on February 5th to provide an update on developments. Along with a colleague he had presented a technical report to the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) – the regulatory body that has to give EDF permission to resume operations at Hunterston. The ONR agreed with the substance of his report. Apparently the inspection of the reactor core suggests that a small number of the graphite blocks have double cracks but more than expected have multiple cracks.   It also transpires that Hunterston in fact has only one safety back up system rather than two – as became the norm in the later Advanced Gas Cooled Reactors (AGRs). Overall the ONR’s view of the current state of the reactors is even bleaker than Ian Fairlie had suggested in January. And in the face of this EDF are lobbying for reducing the accepted risk factor for the reactors by a factor of a 1000.

There is almost no chance that the reactors will be restarted in March and April as EDF have stated. This gives more time to continue to raise awareness of the safety threat they pose and to get the Scottish Government onside in a campaign to ensure the reactors are never restarted. There is no immediate threat to jobs because it takes some years for the reactors to get to a state where decommissioning can begin. This is a test case for Just Transition, however, and we need to campaign that over time the workforce is supported to move into sustainable jobs.

As we mentioned in January EDF are hugely in debt. They are desperate to restart production – not least because they have problems with their other AGRs. So they will fight the closure of Hunterston. Adding to their problems though is that, unreported and unmarked in the mainstream media, the Tories at Westminster are in the midst of a U-turn on nuclear. Although for the moment they cling on to idea that Hinkley C can still be built.

To find out more about why Hunterston is so dangerous read our latest Briefing 9.

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Briefing #8: Just Transition

The latest Scot.E3 briefing looks at what we mean by Just Transition and how a focus on climate jobs, workers rights and social justice can be core the the transition to a zero carbon economy.  Please download, use in your workplace and community group.  These briefings are produced under an open license so do feel free to adapt – although we’d appreciate if you include attribution to the existing material and if you can send a copy for further sharing/development.

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The case for closing Hunterston

In June 2018 we published a briefing on the perilous state of the nuclear reactors at Hunterston and Torness.   The reactors at Hunterston have been offline since then while inspection of the graphite cylinders in the reactor core takes place. With around 28% of the core inspected the Ferret has now revealed that 370 major cracks have been found in the graphite core of reactor three and 200 cracks in the core of reactor four. To put this in context there are 3000 graphite blocks in each reactor.

EDF Energy who run the reactors intend to apply for permission to reopen production in March or April this year. In the view of environmental radiologist Ian Fairlie, who spoke at the Scottish Parliament and at meetings in Edinburgh and Glasgow this week such a move is fraught with risk. The level of damage to the reactor cores is such that they should be permanently shut down.

At the Edinburgh talk Ian noted that Hunterston is now probably the oldest operating nuclear reactor in the world. It first generated electricity in 1976 and was designed to run for 30 years. Currently it’s scheduled for closure in 2023. EDF have previously applied for five-year extensions and there is every likelihood they plan to do so again.

The cylindrical graphite blocks are critical to the stability and safety of the reactors. The cracks form in pairs, running the full length of the cylinders and splitting them apart. Under normal conditions the others around them hold the cracked blocks in place. However, a sudden outage, steam surge or earth tremor could result in a serious accident and a large release of radioactive gas. If other safety systems were to fail – and they are untested – there is a possibility of a catastrophic accident on the scale of Chernobyl.   The direction of the prevailing wind would take the radioactive plume across Glasgow, Edinburgh and most of the central belt.

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EDF are under political and economic pressure to keep the reactors operating. The political pressure comes from Westminster and a strong emphasis on nuclear. The economic pressure is arguably more acute. EDF are in a financial crisis, €37 billion in debt and needing more than €200 billion to bankroll commitments in construction, refurbishment and decommissioning. Hunterston and Torness, when operational, are a significant source of income to the firm.

The continued operation of these aging power stations is a real threat to the lives and well being of the Scottish population. Permanent closure and a focus on renewables is the safe and sustainable alternative.