Roundup of the news for the week ending Friday 14 July.

  1. In UK news this week, Citizens Advice issued a report accusing companies operating energy networks for making £7.5bn in "unjustified" profits, and criticising the regulator Ofgem for failing to control costs. Elsewhere, a report by National Grid on Future Energy Scenarios said that a sharp increase in the number of electric vehicles (EVs) in the UK could see a dramatic increase in energy demand; separately, the Government also announced plans to fund a trial of vehicle-to-grid technology whereby EVs are used as a means of balancing the power grid. And it was reported that Oxford University economist Dieter Helm has been chosen to head a Government review of the costs of energy; Helm, described as a ‘vocal critic of the price of renewable power’ by the Guardian, heads a team including industry representatives which will report to ministers in the autumn.
  2. Nuclear was also in the news again this week, as a row over the Government’s proposal to leave the Euratom treaty, which governs the use and movement of nuclear materials, blew up in the media and Parliament; UK regulator the Office for Nuclear Regulation also warned of post-Brexit skills shortage that quitting Euratom would exacerbate. Ministers sought to calm fears over the issue, although it remains unresolved; a position paper on nuclear, published this week alongside the Repeal Bill, did not change the Government’s position, although Brexit Secretary David Davis said that the UK could have an "association agreement" with the EU over nuclear issues. Separately, plutonium facilities at the Sellafield nuclear plant were found not to meet safety standards, and in France, new Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot suggested that a significant proportion of the country’s reactor fleet could be closed.
  3. International news, and the close of the G20 meeting last weekend again saw the US isolated on climate change, as President Trump refused to back a joint statement on support for the Paris Agreement. On a visit to France at the end of the week, however, Trump appeared to raise the possibility that the US may reverse its position, saying that ‘something may happen’ with the Paris Agreement. In America meanwhile, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown launched ‘America’s Pledge’, a coalition of cities and states backing climate action under the Paris Agreement. Elsewhere, a report by the InternationalEnergy Agency (IEA) this week showed global energy investment falling for the second year in a row.
  4. Renewables news, and are report this week from the Royal Academy of Engineering said that waste products like cooking oil and agricultural waste should be used for the production of biofuels, and the use of food crops restricted; Sheffield University is to lead a £7.6m research project into offshore wind power in the UK; and Charles Hendry, who lead an independent review into the planned Swansea Bay tidal lagoon scheme, said that he was hopeful that the Government would back the plans.
  5. Oil and gas news, and the head of Saudi Aramco said that petroleum products would remain central to the world’s energy mix for decades, despite growing interest in renewable forms of energy; Opec producers were said to be increasing oil supplies, pushing prices down, despite an agreement to cup production; and on coal, power stations using the fuel were said by the EU to be the biggest sources of pollution in Europe. In business news, an investor group lead by the Church of England said that it would pressurise coal groups to demonstrate action on cutting emissions, and banks said that they would look to address the financial risks of climate change, as the Asian Development Bank said that countries in the region would be some of the worst affected by climate change.
  6. In other news on climate change, a study saying that species globally are facing mass extinction listed the changing climate as one amongst multiple threats. Climate change was also linked to threats to fish supplies and the open ocean; to US crop yields; wine production; air travel; and Pacific island wildlife. There were also warnings this week that Antarctic ice loss could raise sea levels, and a study examined the impact of individual actions to tackle climate change.
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