Three decades after nuclear disaster, Chernobyl goes solar

Solar panels are seen in front of the New Safe Confinement arch covering the damaged fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, at a newly built solar power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine October 5, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 06 October 2018
0

Three decades after nuclear disaster, Chernobyl goes solar

  • Built in a contaminated area, 3,800 panels produce energy to power 2,000 apartments
  • The 1-megawatt solar plant is a joint project by a Ukrainian and German company, costing around $1.2 mn

CHERNOBYL: Ukraine unveiled a solar plant in Chernobyl on Friday, just across from where a power station, now encased in a giant sarcophagus, caused the world's worst nuclear disaster three decades ago.
Built in a contaminated area, which remains largely uninhabitable and where visitors are accompanied by guides carrying radiation meters, 3,800 panels produce energy to power 2,000 apartments.
In April 1986, a botched test at reactor number 4 at the Soviet plant sent clouds of nuclear material billowing across Europe and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate.
Thirty-one plant workers and firemen died in the immediate aftermath of the accident, mostly from acute radiation sickness.
Thousands more later succumbed to radiation-related illnesses such as cancer, although the total death toll and long-term health effects remain a subject of intense debate.
"It's not just another solar power plant," Evhen Variagin, the chief executive of Solar Chernobyl LLC, told reporters. "It's really hard to underestimate the symbolism of this particular project."
The one-megawatt solar plant is a joint project by Ukrainian company Rodina and Germany's Enerparc AG, costing around 1 million euros ($1.2 million) and benefiting from feed-in tariffs that guarantee a certain price for power.
It is the first time the site has produced power since 2000, when the nuclear plant was finally shut down. Valery Seyda, head of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, said it had looked like the site would never produce energy again.
"But now we are seeing a new sprout, still small, weak, producing power on this site and this is very joyful," he said.
Two years ago, a giant arch weighing 36,000 tonnes was pulled over the nuclear power station to create a casement to block radiation and allow the remains of the reactor to be dismantled safely.
It comes at a time of sharply increasing investment in renewables in Ukraine. Between January and September, more than 500 MW of renewable power capacity was added in the country, more than twice as much as in 2017, the government says.
Yulia Kovaliv, who heads the Office of the National Investment Council of Ukraine, said investors want to reap the benefits from a generous subsidy scheme before parliament is due to vote on scrapping it in July next year.
"Investors expect that in the renewable energy sector facilities launched before 2019 will operate on the current (beneficial) system of green tariffs," she told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Odessa in September.
"And that is why investors want to buy ready-to-build projects in order to complete construction before that time."


Energy giants spent $1bn on climate lobbying, PR since Paris: watchdog

Updated 23 March 2019
0

Energy giants spent $1bn on climate lobbying, PR since Paris: watchdog

  • Firms under pressure to explain how greener laws will hit business models

PARIS: The five largest publicly listed oil and gas majors have spent $1 billion since the 2015 Paris climate deal on public relations or lobbying that is “overwhelmingly in conflict” with the landmark accord’s goals, a watchdog said Friday.
Despite outwardly committing to support the Paris agreement and its aim to limit global temperature rises, ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP and Total spend a total of $200 million a year on efforts “to operate and expand fossil fuel operations,” according to InfluenceMap, a pro-transparency monitor.
Two of the companies — Shell and Chevron — said they rejected the watchdog’s findings.
“The fossil fuel sector has ramped up a quite strategic program of influencing the climate agenda,” InfluenceMap Executive Director Dylan Tanner told AFP.
“It’s a continuum of activity from their lobby trade groups attacking the details of regulations, controlling them all the way up, to controlling the way the media thinks about the oil majors and climate.”
The report comes as oil and gas giants are under increasing pressure from shareholders to come clean over how greener lawmaking will impact their business models.
As planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions hit their highest levels in human history in 2018, the five companies wracked up total profits of $55 billion.
At the same time, the International Panel on Climate Change — composed of the world’s leading climate scientists — issued a call for a radical drawdown in fossil fuel use in order to hit the 1.5C (2.7 Fahrenheit) cap laid out in the Paris accord.
InfluenceMap looked at accounts, lobbying registers and communications releases since 2015, and alleged a large gap between the climate commitments companies make and the action they take.

 

It said all five engaged in lobbying and “narrative capture” through direct contact with lawmakers and officials, spending millions on climate branding, and by employing trade associations to represent the sector’s interests in policy discussions.
“The research reveals a trend of carefully devised campaigns of positive messaging combined with negative policy lobbying on climate change,” it said.
It added that of the more than $110 billion the five had earmarked for capital investment in 2019, just $3.6bn was given over to low-carbon schemes.
The report came one day after the European Parliament was urged to strip ExxonMobil lobbyists of their access, after the US giant failed to attend a hearing where expert witnesses said the oil giant has knowingly misled the public over climate change.
“How can we accept that companies spending hundreds of millions on lobbying against the EU’s goal of reaching the Paris agreement are still granted privileged access to decision makers?” said Pascoe Sabido, Corporate Europe Observatory’s climate policy researcher, who was not involved in the InfluenceMap report.
The report said Exxon alone spent $56 million a year on “climate branding” and $41 million annually on lobbying efforts.
In 2017 the company’s shareholders voted to push it to disclose what tougher emissions policies in the wake of Paris would mean for its portfolio.
With the exception of France’s Total, each oil major had largely focused climate lobbying expenditure in the US, the report said.
Chevron alone has spent more than $28 million in US political donations since 1990, according to the report.
AFP contacted all five oil and gas companies mentioned in the report for comment.
“We disagree with the assertion that Chevron has engaged in ‘climate-related branding and lobbying’ that is ‘overwhelmingly in conflict’ with the Paris Agreement,” said a Chevron spokesman.
“We are taking action to address potential climate change risks to our business and investing in technology and low carbon business opportunities that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
A spokeswoman for Shell — which the report said spends $49 million annually on climate lobbying — said it “firmly rejected” the findings.
“We are very clear about our support for the Paris Agreement, and the steps that we are taking to help meet society’s needs for more and cleaner energy,” they told AFP.
BP, ExxonMobil and Total did not provide comment to AFP.

FACTOID

$ 28m

Chevron alone has spent more than $28 million in US political donations since 1990, according to the report.