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This is the February 2007 issue of the
Cambridge Energy Forum members' newsletter

Since our last newsletter in December,.....

UK and World Tidal Energy Resource massively underestimated   more...

Palm Oil develops a bad taste   more...

Russia delivering nuclear fuel to Iran   more...

BP $500m Energy Biosciences Institute to go to Berkeley in California: more...

Low Carbon East of England   more...

UK 500m Energy Technologies Institute progress announced more...

Hitachi/GE Nuclear Company announced  more...

MIT finds more geothermal energy   more...

Algacultured Biodiesel may rescue biofuel production more...

UK Solar Thermal deployments more...


Cambridge Energy Forum next meeting February more...

Cambridge Energy Forum meeting "Sustainable Energy" more...

An online copy of this newsletter can be read at:
The previous newsletter can be read at:

Many of the online articles and websites used in the writing of this newsletter are now indexed using FURL. If you wish to follow up a specific item, search the Cambridge Energy Forum FURL index, e.g. to look for "biofuel algae" you just need to do this search to find the 15 or so articles we used to write the item.

Much More Tidal Energy than we thought is the result of two different new analyses. Prof.Salter (Univ. Edinburgh) told the DTI in the June 2006 Energy Review that about 100 GW was dissipated in friction in just the Pentland Firth, which is 30x the Carbon Trust's previous estimate of the tidal resource for the entire UK. Prof.MacKay (Cavendish Lab., Cambridge) has also reanalysed tidal waves and suggests (in a draft report, not yet published or peer-reviewed) that the UK's tidal resource may be 20x to 40x as large as previously thought. This means that many more locations in the world will be suitable for correctly designed tidal systems, and that a substantial export market for UK tide power engineers may exist. It also suggests that optimum locations for future aluminium refining plants may be in different locations than previously thought.

In an unrelated project, Peter Guthrie, Professor of Engineering for Sustainable Development at Cambridge, announced in December interim findings on a tidal energy study for the Mersey Basin where there can be a tidal range of 10m. Full results from this study are due in April.

New Palm Oil projects destroy rain forest and emit more GHG than they save as biofuels, said a report in December. Forested tropical peatlands in SE Asia store at least 42 gigatonnes of soil carbon. The Dutch study estimated that the draining of peat in Indonesia releases 0.6 gigatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere a year and that fires contributed an additional 1.4 gigatonnes tons annually. The total is equivalent to 8 percent of all global emissions caused annually by burning fossil fuels. Friends of the Earth also estimates that 87 percent of the deforestation in Malaysia from 1985 to 2000 was caused by new palm oil plantations.

Holland is the largest importer of palm oil for fuel in Europe: on 14th Dec. Dutch energy company Essent announced that it was stopping using palm oil and the Dutch government openly regretted the hundreds of millions of subsidies spent on palm oil.

In January, local governments in Kalimantan on Borneo island and West Papua provided about one million hectares of land (presumably virgin forest) to support a $5.5b China National Offshore Oil Corporation project to grow palm oil. A further $2.77b worth of loans from mainly Indonesian state banks is being earmarked for farmers to expand or build new plantations.

Russia is delivering nuclear fuel to Iran's first power plant six months early in March 2007. This is the Bushehr plant on the south west coast of Iran which will open in October 2007. This 1000MW VVER-1000 light-water reactor is Russian designed and monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Spent fuel will be returned to Russia for reprocessing or disposal. Originally intended (in 1975) to be two plants built to a Siemens design, this reactor has been subject to many delays since Russian work started in 1995. A further 3 to 5 reactors are planned, at least one to be also at the Bushehr site.

In January, when Putin visited Delhi, he agreed that Russia would help India build 4 new reactors at Kudankulam and elsewhere. India now has nuclear technology agreements with both the USA and Russia, despite never having signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). The NPT is effectively dead; but there are no proposals yet for its replacement.

BP Energy Biosciences Institute competition was won by Berkeley and announced on Feb. 1st. 2007. This is a "strategic partnership" between British Petroleum, U. C. Berkeley, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory . The Energy Biosciences Institute will perform research aimed at the production of new and cleaner energy, initially focusing on renewable biofuels for road transport. The EBI will also pursue bioscience-based research in three other key areas; the conversion of heavy hydrocarbons to clean fuels, improved recovery from existing oil and gas reservoirs, and carbon sequestration. 'The proposal from UC Berkeley and its partners was selected in large part because these institutions have excellent track records of delivering "Big Science" large and complex developments predicated on both scientific breakthroughs and engineering applications that can be deployed in the real world,' said BP Group Chief Executive John Browne.

Low carbon - Hinxton Hall Conference is on Thursday 15th March 2007. This one-day meeting is for builders, planners, architects etc. involved in designing and building new homes in the East of England. This meeting costs 85 per person, and is organised by Renewables East, an Advisory Member of the Cambridge Energy Forum. Email for further details.

UK 500 million Energy Technologies Institute: The competition between UK universities and research institutes is still open. A letter was sent to interested parties in January and a copy is posted at The Director of the ETI is due to be appointed this month, and the "hub organisation" identified by Easter 2007.

Hitachi and GE agreed a joint alliance to build and maintain nuclear power plants in Japan and the US, with Hitachi dominating the venture. Hitachi estimates that 100 more nuclear power plants will be built in the next 20 years. A final contract is due to be signed within the next month or so. This follows an agreement between Mitsubishi and the French nuclear company Areva a few days before the Hitachi/GE deal was announced. Toshiba, the third Japanese nuclear company, already owns Westinghouse.

USA Geothermal Energy Resource is much greater than previously thought, said an MIT study published last month. However, this study describes an uncosted and relatively untried process of tapping the heat several kilometers underground. "We're looking for a fundamental way to change the technology that would [...]allow us to drill deeper in a much more cost-effective manner" said Jefferson Tester. So this energy may be infeasibly expensive for many decades yet. However, conventional plants at a few particularly favourable sites are economic today, and a new 13 MW (i.e. very small) plant is currently being constructed in Idaho.

Algacultured Biodiesel is potentially 30x as productive as conventional biofuel crops in terms of litres of oily fuel per hectare - in tropically bright sunshine. This is an active research area, where the aim is to find algal strains that combine several different desirable features. There are already well-established USA start-ups that are at work commercializing algae bioreactors but this is a long term programme. In principle, there is a continuum over two orders of magnitude in both capital cost and solar energy collection efficiency per hectare between PV solar and biomass. Open-air and closed-tube algae culture are just two technologies in this continuum. Finding more space-efficient technologies is important: for illustration, if 100% of the USA's 2005 maize and soy-bean crops had been converted to ethanol and biodiesel, this would have reduced the USA's demand for these fuels by only 2.4% and 2.9% respectively.

250 of Viridian's Solar Thermal panels will be in installed by Places for People, the UK's housing group, in new homes in 2007. The team behind Viridian Solar are Cambridge-based. The solar panel units will cost below 1,000 per household around a quarter the cost of traditional solar panel systems and are specifically designed to be cheap to manufacture and easy to install in new houses. .

Next Forum Meetings will be on 8th February 2006
We will be holding a  speaker meeting on Energy in Transport. Details and registration on this webpage.

Our Recent one day meeting "Sustainable Energy" on 1st December 2006
Our meeting was very well attended by over 200 people for all of the day. Presentations and reports are available for download at

Please recommend us
Please tell your colleagues and friends about the benefits of membership. Please also ask your organisation if it would like to become a Advisory Member or a Principal Backer of the forum with associated benefits in promotion for what your organisation is trying to do:

Philip Sargent
Hugh Parnell
Tim Jervis
Mark Haslett

Cambridge Energy Forum

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