Articles from the Silver Shemmings Ash Team on contractual matters, recent case law changes and items of interest in the construction and property world

Taking Stock – Renewable Fuels

February 20, 2020 | Silver Shemmings

Given that the UK is currently celebrating its greenest year ever, with renewable energy usage surpassing fossil fuel for over 130 days of 2019, it seemed an apt time for an article on this subject.

By way of a recap – renewable fuels are those made from renewable sources. Examples of these would include biofuels, hydrogen fuel and also any fuel synthesised via renewable power such as tidal or wind. Non-renewable fuels comprise natural gas and other fossil fuels and, notably, nuclear energy. Nuclear power does quality as “low carbon” generation, however.

Our traditional reliance upon oil and exploring solutions for the inevitable exhaustion of its supply is already something of a hot topic. As the global population (in most areas) soars, we must explore solutions to this quandary which satisfy both environmental and economic interests. Your average person may well now be more “sustainably minded”, but whether they are prepared to pay a premium for such products or services remains to be seen.

While the fact that low carbon electricity accounted for over 50% of our energy last year should be celebrated, it is not good news across the board. The UK’s beleaguered network of nuclear plants suffered a series of outages in the last decade, significantly impacting progress in this area; any temporary shortfalls in nuclear electricity generation are likely to be replaced by traditional fossil fuel powered stations.

What is more, the eight plants which normally provide around 20% of our electricity supply are unlikely to be replaced any time soon. This time last year, Hitatchi pulled out of two sites, hot on the heels of Toshiba’s departure from the proposed 3GW plant at Moorside. This is deeply concerning for two reasons: firstly, these abandoned sites would have accounted for 15% of the UK’s electricity demand and secondly, all bar one of our current plants are due to go offline by 2030. We are therefore looking at a substantial energy deficit in the years to come.

There is a crumb of comfort however. Scientists have discovered how to convert waste barley from brewing into activated carbon and carbon nanotubes. Given that the industry discards millions of tonnes of unused grain each year, this represents a very welcome finding. The two stage chemical process required to facilitate this transformation is inexpensive and demand for fuel remains, as ever, high. This is an excellent example of the circular economy, whereby waste is turned into a product of value. The ramifications of this cycle are wider still, addressing both the global waste and energy crises. It is therefore hoped that this recent discovery will inspire others to innovate and widen the uptake of the circular economy, especially where our nuclear infrastructure is not being renewed.

If you would like to know more about the above topic, or want to know how we can help you with an energy project or dispute, please contact Laughlan Steer. Laughlan will also be presenting the first in series of Seminars on this topic on 16th April, for more details or to book a place contact

Author Laughlan Steer is a Solicitor specialising in Construction and Real Estate law, his experience spans non-contentious as well as contentious matters. He has led a number of adjudications and is well-versed in both Part 7 and Part 8 litigation proceedings and Mediation. Having commenced his professional life on the client side of energy and rail projects, Laughlan’ s advice benefits from this insight. He enjoys servicing a diverse client-base, from sub-contractors, to architects and high net worth individuals and he regularly presents seminars and lectures to the public, local authorities, consultancies and construction companies of all sizes

At Silver Shemmings Ash, we provide seminars and training alongside our core activities in contentious and non-contentious matters. The purpose of these is to facilitate a greater knowledge and understanding of construction and property law. There remains a considerable lack of training in such areas for companies and this is an issue which we are looking to address

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