Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Get Ready for the New England Power Shortage

...during the first four months of last winter, New England spent $5.1 billion on electricity. In the whole of 2012, it had spent only $5.2 billion.

If you only read one energy article this week, it should probably be this one, by William Tucker.

Get Ready for the New England Power Shortage | The American Spectator:
In 1980, under the first administration of Governor Jerry Brown, California decided it wasn’t going to build any more power plants but would follow Amory Lovins’ “soft path,” opting instead for conservation and renewable energy. By 2000, with the new digital economy sucking up electricity, a drought in the Pacific Northwest cut hydropower output and the state found itself facing the Great California Electrical Shortage."
You know what happened next. For weeks the Golden State struggled to find enough electricity to power its traffic lights. Brownouts and blackouts cascaded across the state while businesses fired up smoke-belching diesel generators to keep the lights on. Governor Gray Davis finally got booted out of office but the state didn’t rescue itself until it threw up 12,000 megawatts of new natural gas plants.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Anti" Kennedy's big times

Robert Kennedy Jr. has been influential, directly and indirectly, in a number of stories lately

Directly in the Washington Post's Robert Kennedy Jr.’s belief in autism-vaccine connection, and its political peril:
Sen. Barbara Mikulski listened impassively as Robert Kennedy Jr. made his case. He had to talk over the din in the marbled hallway just outside the Senate chambers, where he was huddled with Mikulski, two of her aides and three allies of his who had come to Washington for this April meeting.
Kennedy, a longtime environmental activist and an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council [NRDC], had thought Mikulski would be receptive to an issue that has consumed him for a decade, even as friends and associates have told him repeatedly that it’s a lost cause. But she grew visibly impatient the longer he talked. 
...As the meeting broke up, Mikulski’s brusque disposition toward Kennedy softened. “We miss your uncle here every day,” she said, referring to Sen. Edward Kennedy...
Keith Kloor's entire article is worth a read (he has also written a related Deliberating Over Kennedy’s Thimerosal Book)

The WP article does mention that this Kennedy, along with his work for NRDC, "sits on the boards of several green tech companies and is heavily involved in solar and wind power construction projects."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

the next Polar Vortex might not be so nice

Judah Rose has an article which provides a nice summary of issues causing concerns about adequate electricity supply in winter.

Waiting for the Next Polar Vortex | Fortnightly
...the disturbances of the Polar Vortex might become the new normal in coming winters.
What the Polar Vortex brought to light is that we have had a distorted view of system capacity due to market rules and regulatory assumptions from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that have failed to properly value (or consider) reliability. In spite of several FERC decisions since the Polar Vortex to correct these problems, five on-going trends belie assumptions that the grid has sufficient capacity to meet winter peak demands without emergency actions. These trends belie the ability of grid operators to respond to severe winter weather events and thereby raise overall market risks and price volatility:
  • Coal Plants. Continuing retirements...
  • Natural Gas Delivery. Most gas-fired power plants in deregulated markets lack long-term firm gas supplies...
  • Back-up Fuel Requirements. Not defined, even for gas-fueled power plants receiving capacity payments...
  • Demand Response. Overly optimistic expectations for winter capacity contributions from interruptible load programs, and 
  • Renewables. Overly optimistic expectations for winter capacity contributions from renewable generation.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Busy dying: aged new NIMBY's and poor kids

...the people who are most vocal in their protests are ones who just want to be left in peace for the last 10 to 20 years of their lives."

I'm connecting these stories: from Germany Spiegel on NIMBYism as the entitlement of the aged, and from the U.K., the Financial Times on "the fastest growing type of inequality over the past five years has been between the young and the old."

Angry Germans: 'Big Projects Face Growing Resistance' - SPIEGEL ONLINE:  
Granmothers opposing electricity: from The Toronto Star:
Residents rally against Mississauga Power Plant
...Wherever ambitious construction ventures loom on the horizon in Germany -- from the cities to the countryside, from the coastlines in the north to the Black Forest in the south -- opponents are taking to the streets.

More often than not, the demonstrators are protesting against projects that stand for change: extensions to airports, railways, new wind farms or power lines. Not even new subways or sports stadiums are exempt.
"Infrastructure developments have always been society's flagship projects, a symbol of progress," says Torsten Albig, governor of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein. But as the public's enthusiasm for constant innovation has lessened, so has the appeal of these sorts of projects, and, as a result, they now inevitably come accompanied by picketers.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Raising Radiation Limit Will Save Lives and Dollars

The challenging topic of radiation impacts is being addressed by a growing number of people.
It's nice to see Jerry Cutler cited in an article on the promise of a saner approach, in the United States, to setting limits.

The EPA is raising the radiation threat level by a factor of 350. That may sound unbelievable but it is assuredly a good thing: The previous limits were far lower than science justified and caused hundreds of billions of dollars of economic loss to America and the world.
...After the catastrophic meltdown at the Japanese nuclear power plant in 2011, some 130,000 people were forcibly removed from their homes in accordance with strict radiation standards. This resulted in the unnecessary and unfortunate deaths of some 1600 elderly and ill persons. Yet no residents died—or even became ill—from the radiation. Even so, Japan closed down48 nuclear plants and Germany announced it would close all of its plants. The cost to their citizenry in higher electricity prices—and higher carbon emissions—is staggering.
...the EPA is making changes that acknowledge the shortcomings of ultra-low radiation limits. The EPA has now asked for public comment on changing its standards for nuclear power plants. The deadline was June 4.

New England faces major spike in cost of energy

"The problemIt begins and ends with natural gas."
Region faces major spike in cost of energy | SeacoastOnline.com:

According to ISO-New England spokesperson Lacey Girard, the shift to natural gas in recent years throughout the region has been meteoric. With the advent of new fracking technology, eastern natural gas reserves — such as the Marcellus Shale Field in New York and Pennsylvania — are being increasingly tapped, she said.
As a result, natural gas is becoming more plentiful and cheap. For this reason, more and more New Englanders are tapping natural gas to heat their homes and natural gas power plants in the region are working to meet electricity demands.
To illustrate the point, she said, natural gas power plants produced 46 percent of the region's power in 2013, up from 15 percent in 2000. At the same time, power from oil-fired plants dropped from 22 percent in 2000 to 1 percent last year, and power from coal went from 18 percent to 6 percent.
The problem arises during the worst of the cold days of winter — particularly a winter like 2013-14. The natural gas pipeline coming into New England is insufficient to meet the growing demand for both heating and electricity. According to Girard, heating customers have first priority because gas utilities contract ahead of time for what they will need.
Natural gas electricity generators will purchase any "spare capacity" from these utilities when they need more power. But there comes a point, as there was on many days last winter, when there's just no more gas to be had for power plants, she said.
The entire article may be read at SeacoastOnline.com

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The epic hypocrisy of Tom Steyer: NY Times edition

This story is likely to get significant play as it's in the NY Times, but a blog did the work exposing where the story was, so I've referenced the NY Times article through that blog

The epic hypocrisy of Tom Steyer: NY Times edition | Power Line:
This past April, with the help of a knowledgeable reader, we took a deep dive into the fossil fuel investments of Democratic money man and environmental poseur Tom Steyer in “The epic hypocrisy of Tom Steyer.” Introducing our reader’s report, John wrote regarding Steyer: “Today, he is a bitter opponent of fossil fuels, especially coal. That fits with his current economic interests: banning coal-fired power plants will boost the value of his solar projects. But it was not always thus. In fact, Steyer owes his fortune in large part to the fact that he has been one of the world’s largest financers of coal projects. Tom Steyer was for coal before he was against it.”
You read it here first, and in something like a definitive form (taking account of Steyer’s current financial interests), but we now welcome Michael Barbaro and Coral Davenport reporting in the New York Times: “Aims of donor are shadowed by past in coal.” Barbaro and Davenport may induce serious cognitive dissonance among alert Times readers with this, at the top of page A1 today:
Mr. Steyer, a billionaire former hedge fund manager, emerged this election season as the green-minded answer to Charles G. and David H. Koch, the patrons of conservative Republican politics, after vowing that he would sell off his investments in companies that generate fossil fuels like coal.
But an examination of those investments shows that even after his highly public divestment, the coal-related projects his firm bankrolled will generate tens of millions of tons of carbon pollution for years, if not decades, to come.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Memo to Anti-Coal Warriors: Make Nuclear Peace

As close to a must-read for pro-nuclear environmentalists as anything I've seen

William Tucker: Memo to Anti-Coal Warriors: Make Nuclear Peace - WSJ:

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a 645-page ruling whose basic aim is to cut coal plants out of the mix in producing the nation's electricity. States will supposedly be given a choice, but the only real way to meet the agency's demands for carbon-dioxide reductions will be to cut back on coal. All this will be a devastating blow to the Midwestern economy, driving up energy prices for everyone, while having only the slightest impact on global warming. 
There is a great irony to this. In the early 1970s, coal was being phased out as the nation's principal source of electricity. The initial concerns about air pollution had focused on coal, and environmental groups such as the Sierra Club were campaigning to lift the 20-year-old ban on imported oil so we could replace coal with low-sulfur oil from Libya and Indonesia. 
All this came to a halt with the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74...
Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal:

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Think fast - reactors set to enter service in Russia and India

Russia celebrated two stand-out achievements for the world's nuclear industry today - the launch of the most powerful fast reactor and the 60th anniversary of the first civilian nuclear power plant.

Rosenergoatom engineers brought to criticality Beloyarsk 4 - a 789 MWe fast-neutron reactor of the BN-800 design...
Beloyarsk 4 is fuelled by a mix of uranium and plutonium oxides arranged to produce new fuel material as it burns. Its capacity exceeds that of the world's second most powerful fast reactor - 560 Mwe Beloyarsk 3. Russia plans to build a BN-1200 fast reactor power unit at Beloyarsk to start up by 2020.
Rosenergoatom said on 23 June that it was preparing for first criticality of its BN-800 and Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that controlled nuclear fission had been started on 27 June.

Russia's BN-800 looks as if it will just beat India's Prototype Fast Breeding Reactor (PFBR)

Friday, June 27, 2014

German Lawmakers Vote to Reduce Renewable-Energy Subsidies

“Excessive” power-price gains are making the expansion of renewables unsustainable"
German Lawmakers Vote to Reduce Renewable-Energy Subsidies - Bloomberg:
German lawmakers backed an extensive revision of the country’s EEG clean-energy law to curb subsidies and slow gains in power prices that are the second-costliest in the European Union. The legislation, which introduces limits on how much onshore wind and biomass capacity qualifies for the full subsidies and lowers existing targets for solar and offshore wind, pulls energy policy “out of the quicksand,” Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters after the vote in the lower house. “We have to expand renewables with more planning security.” Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking to curb subsidies in Europe’s biggest renewables market even as she pushes through an “energy switch” from nuclear power."
...Owners of clean-energy plants that consume their own power will have to pay 30 percent of the EEG-Umlage, a fee to finance the subsidies, starting next year. That share will rise to 35 percent in 2016 and 40 percent in 2017.
Read the entire article at Bloomberg

My favourite source of information on Germany's electricity sector, the German Energy Blog, is indicating it might take some time before the changes in the new legislation are understood.

From EEG 2.0 – Something to Run Away From?
The EEG 2.0 reform package is a difficult piece of legislation. Anecdotal evidence is starting to suggest that the new version will be difficult to master. So difficult that one of our energy sector group student interns has already decided to end his internship. He is now considering a military career.