Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hawthorn: Nuclear power is clean and affordable

"Ontario will end 2014 with nuclear power providing about 60% of our electricity at 30% below the average cost of power in the province. That’s a fact."

Duncan Hawthorne, president and CEO of Bruce Power, currently the largest operational nuclear power station in the world, has a commentary in the Toronto Sun today.

Nuclear power is clean and affordable | Opinion | Toronto Sun:
Ontario will end 2014 with nuclear power providing about 60% of our electricity at 30% below the average cost of power in the province. That’s a fact. 
Graphic created for post on Ontario's electricity supply costs
In a year where there has been a wide-ranging discussion about and attention paid to so many issues when it comes to energy, nuclear power has again been a topic that is largely absent from this discussion, both in terms of its importance and role. 
While this is often a disappointment to me, I accept that.
Our job is to be there every day when people need us, in the cold winter and hot summer days, 365 days a year.
This is a role we have played for decades and, I believe, should and will continue to play.
We do this safely and have done so for decades.
Our safety record in Canada speaks for itself. 
Canada is respected internationally with a strong, independent federal regulator with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). 
It’s only when we don’t have enough power that the discussion shifts to talk about the importance of nuclear. 
In recent weeks we have seen many examples in the U.S. when nuclear plants were not life extended and now there is a significant power crunch. 
The problem is, by then it’s too late."
Continue reading at the Toronto Sun:

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Green policies to add up to 40 percent to cost of household electricity

A ...spokesman said a decision had been taken to withhold the tables because it was “thought to be confusing”.
I can write about the Ontario Energy Minister condescending remarks about complicated issues and people not understanding - and I can do so by quoting the exact same approach to obfuscation from across the pond!

Green policies to add up to 40pc to cost of household electricity - Telegraph:

...the tables showing the actual cost of green policies on future electricity prices for households and businesses in 2020 and 2030 were kept secret because they were “thought to be confusing”. 
Their release now will embarrass ministers, who are accused of presiding over an expensive consumer subsidy system. 
The Government’s climate change policies include complex consumer subsidies for wind and solar farms, as well as grants for energy efficiency measures such as loft and wall insulation, available to certain households.
The introduction of smart meters, which it is hoped will encourage lower consumption, also helped contribute to rising electricity prices.
Dr John Constable, director of Renewable Energy Foundation, the think tank whose Freedom of Information request was responsible for forcing DECC to release the price impact tables, said: “The striking scale and increasing trend of the climate policy energy price impacts are bad enough in themselves, but DECC’s attempt to conceal these vitally important figures is breathtaking.”
Dr Constable said he had been told by informed sources that pressure had been put on DECC to withhold the tables.
“This is a very unsatisfactory situation," he said, "Energy price impact data is so intrinsically important, and policy transparency so crucial to public trust in government, that very firm intervention is needed to clear the air and ensure that it will not happen again...”
Read the entire article at the Telegraph:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ontario's inexplicable Vacuum Building Outages

I was away for some of the week and missed a particularly poor report on a particularly lackadaisical scheduling of outages at Ontario nuclear generators.

Planned shutdowns of nuclear plants could mean higher prices for consumers | CTV
The planned shutdowns of two of Ontario's biggest nuclear plants during normally high peak times could mean soaring prices for consumers next year.
The Bruce Power and Darlington Nuclear Generating Stations will be shut down at the same time next spring and summer for 16 weeks for planned repairs.
Paul Bliss is usually a better reporter; this statement is wrong or misleading. The outage at Bruce Power is likely to be around 4 weeks, as Bruce Power explains:
There has been some recent interest in planned outages within Ontario’s nuclear fleet in 2015, specifically the Bruce B Vacuum Building Outage (VBO).
This interest is not surprising given the importance of Bruce Power’s nuclear output to meet the needs of the province; however, additional context is important.
The Bruce B VBO will be approximately a month in duration and commence in mid-April. Bruce Power works closely with the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) to ensure the timing of these outages can be accommodated to meet the needs of the system. These outages are approved just before they begin and discussions with the IESO will continue to ensure the system needs of the province are maintained.
There are 4 reactors, so perhaps Bliss misinterpreted 16 reactor weeks as 16 weeks (not four weeks at each of 4 reactors).

It would be interesting to know if the IESO is orchestrating this, or if Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) just didn't co-ordinate their outages.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Auditor General of Ontario annual report, and what we already knew

The Auditor General's 2014 Annual report is now out. It'll take some time to digest the full report, but in the interim, here are portions of the main news release, augmented with links to past articles by myself or Parker Gallant.

Key Issues of Value for Money and Service Delivery Highlighted in Auditor General’s 2014 Annual Report

(TORONTO) Ontario government programs that we examined didn’t always provide value for money or deliver services as effectively as the public has the right to expect, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk said following the release today of her 2014 Annual Report.

“Both of these two issues were at the heart of the 12 value-for-money audit reports we prepared this year,” she said after tabling the 600-page Annual Report, her second since becoming Auditor General in 2013.

In some areas, taxpayers did not get value for money from the large amounts of public money spent. In other cases, services were not delivered as effectively as Ontarians have a right to expect.”

Among the findings in this year’s Annual Report:

• Although nearly $2 billion was spent to install new “smart” electricity meters across the province, the government’s stated objectives of reducing power demand at peak times and eliminating the need for new sources of power are not being met.
Parker Gallant, July 2010: Ontario’s Power Trip: Is this ‘smart’? 
Scott Luft, January 2011: Smartiness: Smart Meters and Smart Grids Without Smarts

Universities and Climate Change

Posts from Berkeley's Severin Borenstein usually interest me; the latest particularly so as it relates to a couple of issues I write on.
The first is implementing carbon pricing where it's possible to do so - and the point is made that universities make great candidates.

What’s a University to do about Climate Change? | Energy at Haus: action against climate change should start at home, with a campus carbon tax. All expenditures by campus units would be assessed a tax based on the GHG emissions associated with whatever they are buying or activity they are supporting. Of course, that raises issues like how large the tax should be and who should get the money, which I return to below."
The idea is brilliant. First, it avoids the hypocritical appearance of the divestment movement, marking fossil fuel producers as evil polluters while happily continuing to consume their product. Second, it puts real incentives in place to reduce GHG emissions and sets a price against which reduction strategies can be compared. Third, and probably most valuable, it makes the campus grapple with all the difficult real-world issues that come with trying to implement cost-effective national or global policy for carbon reduction. In doing so, it creates teachable moments that could fill many courses and inter-disciplinary research projects.
Read the entire article at Energy at Haus

I've written on one area where carbon pricing can be introduced easily - Ontario's electricity system.

From my Ontario perspective, "hypocritical" is something our largest universities are doing well, and "grabbling" with issues of higher energy costs something they are avoiding neatly.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Nuclear power isn't 'economically feasible' in Australia, but ...

Hopefully this is repetition to readers of this blog - but in a very readable presentation from Barry Brook and Ben Heard.

Nuclear power isn't 'economically feasible' in Australia, but ... | The Conversation:
According to the updated Australian Energy Technology Assessment 2013, the five lowest-cost electricity-generating technologies, based on dollars per kilowatt hour, are, in ascending order:
  • Wind, on-shore
  • Fixed solar photo-voltaic (no tracking of the sun’s movement)
  • Gigawatt-scale nuclear light-water reactor
  • Other biomass waste power plant (wood)
  • Single axis tracking solar photo-voltaic (tracking the sun in one axis).
These costs are projected for 2020, based on recent trends in electricity costs using the metric “levelised cost of electricity” (LCOE). All of these technologies produce zero carbon emissions at the point of generation, and we would expect all of them would do well under a policy that sought a major increase in zero-carbon electricity.
The problem of supply
But these very different technologies also come with a range of economic advantages and disadvantages.
For instance, solar panels and wind turbines have the advantage of incremental expenditure (you add relatively small amounts of new generation at a time) which is easier to finance.
But the electricity they generate is at the whim of climate: without storage, they depend on the sun shining and the wind blowing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

New Study reveals Ontario's wind subsidies benefit a select few

A joint study by "Toronto-based think tanks Energy Probe and Consumer Policy Institute" was released today; Corporate Welfare Goes Green in Ontario

The study is written by economist Brady Yauch, and I think it's excellent.  There's an introduction to the study on the Energy Probe site, and an equally strong Background to Corporate Welfare Goes Green in Ontario. I can pick out some quotes and graphics, but both papers are more accessible than I usually make the topic. If you're interested in the topic, read Brady Yauch's work.

What I will do is prove I read it by picking up on the section that most angered me, which is a footnote ending page 10 of the background report:
17 The government on September 30, 2014 raised the FIT rate to 12.8 cents per KWh. 
Let me explain why this set me off, and perhaps that will emphasize the work's claim that, "the benefits from [the province's renewable energy policy] have accrued to a small group of companies."

September 30th struck me as about the time a deal was done between the Korean Consortium and the Ontario government for a 100MW wind project in Ontario - and it was, in fact, exactly the day. I checked today because of what I'd found when checking into Ontario's contract with the Koreans on, or shortly after, September 30th, 2014.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ontario and Quebec sign memorandum to share electricity generation capacity seasonally

Friday November 21st, Ontario and Quebec signed a "Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to exchange electricity capacity."

The deal is important in a couple of ways

  1. Formalized the existing supply relationship should contribute to both province's ability to meet reserve requirements as defined by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) 
  2. The increased ability for Ontario to utilize Quebec's generation resources to provide capacity reserve
I can write much more on this, and may do so, but after providing a harsh rebuttal to the first of a number of dishonest and ignorant media reports on the agreement, I think it's now appropriate to note what content there is in the agreement is positive, if only understandable to the public service that achieved the MOU.

Agreements Reached at Québec-Ontario Joint Meeting of Cabinet Ministers
November 21, 2014 3:00 P.M. | Office of the Premier
At a joint meeting of ministers today in Toronto, the Ontario and Québec cabinets reached several agreements that will strengthen Ontario and Québec's partnership to build up Central Canada's economy, create jobs and make a difference in people's lives.
The governments signed agreements in the following areas: 
Electricity Trade 
Ontario Ministry of Energy Graphic
Ontario and Québec have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to exchange electricity capacity to help make power more affordable and reliable in each province.
The Seasonal Capacity Exchange -- the first agreement of its kind between the two provinces -- takes advantage of the fact that electricity demand peaks in the winter in Québec and in the summer in Ontario. Starting in late 2015, Ontario will make 500 megawatts (MW) of electricity capacity available to Québec in the winter, and Québec will make 500 MW available to Ontario in the summer. This agreement comes at no additional cost to Ontario and Québec electricity ratepayers. It will help Ontario reduce future costs, by reducing the need to build new electricity generating stations after 2020, and it will help Québec meet its seasonal capacity needs.

Friday, November 21, 2014


"An indispensable element of sustainable human development is access to energy."

In August T. Nitheanandan and M.J. Brown, of Atomic Energy Of Canada Ltd. , delivered a paper to the The 19th Pacific Basin Nuclear Conference (PBNC 2014). [1]

I have received permission to share that paper here. It seems appropriate now as Ontario's emissions hit record lows, but that appears likely to be short-lived as the province's electricity system operator gears up to acquire more natural gas capacity as the government continues to contract wind and solar generation.

A review of Ontario’s electricity mix over the past two decades provides lessons for future electricity supply planning. To sustain the level of well-being in a community and plan for the future, a historical perspective of electricity generation capacity is useful. The electricity generation mix requires a balance of generating technologies for stable and controllable amounts of continuous electricity generation. Historical records over forty years reveal nuclear energy to be a reliable baseload producer in a sea of changing supply mix and policy emphasis. As intermittent sources of generation in the electricity mix increase, the need for backup generation capacity also increases, in conjunction with maintaining a stable grid. In the electricity mix, flexible despatchable power generation capacity comes from gas and hydro, which can be brought online at short notice to meet variations in demand and generation. 
Within the past decade, the non-hydro renewable contribution to the electricity mix has increased in Ontario. This review determined that replacing coal-fired generation with nuclear and renewable electricity sources reduced the carbon intensity significantly. The energy (including electricity) use of a community is closely linked to the health of the economy - significant reductions in energy use occur due to global economic factors like a recession.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What It Would Really Take to Reverse Climate Change

In 2007, when Google unveiled its initiative to make renewable energy competitive with coal, called RE<C, it represented a major breakthrough for the industry.
...Then, in 2011, Google stopped its R&D efforts prematurely.
...Two Google engineers who worked on the RE<C initiative have finally opened up about why the team halted their efforts.   - quoted from Stephen Lacey article
The article, by Ross Koningstein and David Fork, is fascinating.
What It Would Really Take to Reverse Climate Change| IEEE Spectrum:
...calculations cast our work at Google’s RE<C program in a sobering new light. Suppose for a moment that it had achieved the most extraordinary success possible, and that we had found cheap renewable energy technologies that could gradually replace all the world’s coal plants—a situation roughly equivalent to the energy innovation study’s best-case scenario. Even if that dream had come to pass, it still wouldn’t have solved climate change. This realization was frankly shocking: Not only had RE<C failed to reach its goal of creating energy cheaper than coal, but that goal had not been ambitious enough to reverse climate change. 
Image from IEEE Spectrum article
That realization prompted us to reconsider the economics of energy. What’s needed, we concluded, are reliable zero-carbon energy sources so cheap that the operators of power plants and industrial facilities alike have an economic rationale for switching over soon—say, within the next 40 years. Let’s face it, businesses won’t make sacrifices and pay more for clean energy based on altruism alone. Instead, we need solutions that appeal to their profit motives. RE<C’s stated goal was to make renewable energy cheaper than coal, but clearly that wouldn’t have been sufficient to spur a complete infrastructure changeover. So what price should we be aiming for?