Tuesday, September 11, 2018

how to sell an industrial wind turbine

The lovely thing about policies such as 60% renewables by 2030, and 100% carbon-free by 2045, is they provide easy messages to broadcast.

In my previous post I quoted David Roberts', "in what is effectively a climate Dark Ages in the US, California is carrying a torch." I've argued the state hasn't accomplished much to date, its additions of variable renewable energy resources (vRES) had been chunky and the rapid addition of solar over the past 5 years is unlikely to be sustained. My intent with the post was to show the path to 60% is not clear, but it's a lot narrower without broadening the connections with other states. Cost concerns are better addressed in this twitter thread, within which Cody Hill neatly summarizes the looming issues:
1. In-state wind is essentially built out already, leaving practically nothing but solar to build locally, which leads to major value deflation 
2. The fossil fleet is already struggling to stay solvent, and it is unclear what the best option is to maintain resource adequacy
California's goal is simple, but problematic.

Australia's former Prime Minister tried to sell a National Energy Guarantee (NEG) that was not simple - and that was a problem for him. I liked it a lot more than policies like 60% renewable, but The Australian noted, "Malcolm Turnbull risks all with NEG policy"

And then he was gone. Replaced by Scott Morrison (seen in "This is Coal").
New Prime Minister Morrison appointed Angus Taylor as energy minister (seen here addressing a sparse crowd at a 2013 National Wind Power Fraud Rally).

I find this astounding. I've been raising the alarm on the impact of industrial wind policy on Ontario rates for many years (ie.), and ran a blog for Wind Concerns Ontario for about 18 months. I understood the general population's support for renewables which appeared in poll after pool, but it appears that support may be a mile wide but less than an inch deep.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

wishing winds: California's SB 100

I wanted to tie together some articles of interest I've read in a single post - but I instead I'll deliver two blog posts and spare myself the effort of convincing the reader of the connections between:
For those not closely following the electricity scene, Stop These Things and VOX are dissimilar in the extreme. Those that are following are likely lined up with one or the other may have already abandoned reading this post - but don't worry VOX followers, this one only deals with California.
SB 100, the bill sponsored by state Sen. Kevin de León, would set a target of 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045. It passed the California Senate last year, passed the state Assembly on Tuesday, and was reconciled by the Senate on Thursday...
...there’s enormous power and symbolism in “100 percent.”
But it’s also important to understand that SB 100 is not some big leap for California...California’s transition to clean energy has been careful and deliberate.
SB 100 is a big deal, in my opinion, specifically because 2045 is not far away in planning electricity generation - and therefore it won't be just another symbolic step. According the Energy Information Administration (EIA), "The capacity-weighted average age of U.S. natural gas power plants is 22 years, which is less than hydro (64 years), coal (39), and nuclear (36)." A building boom in natural gas power plants for 6 years at the start of the century drops that average age to 22 years, otherwise it would similarly show 2045 would be early years for a traditional power plant just being planned today. SB 100 is not binding, but I think it clearly increases the risk for any investor that would plan a generating source with significant greenhouse gas emissions in that state.

Roberts alludes to a possibility the bill won't be signed into law; "Gov. Brown is threatening to veto SB 100 if legislators don’t also pass AB 813, a bill that would set California on the path to joining a larger regional Western power market." He doesn't take the possibility seriously, perhaps because of his belief that, "in what is effectively a climate Dark Ages in the US, California is carrying a torch."

I'm in Ontario - if Americans are looking for a torch, they should look up here.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Bad books: whither professional behaviour

Today's Globe and Mail has an article by Mattew McClearn I hope those who follow me will read - but it is work and if you're not that invested in the Sousification of Ontario's accounting at least take a couple of minutes to watch the video embedded in Bad books: How Ontario’s new hydro accounting could cost taxpayers billions.
The IESO changed its accounting policies in March 2017 and said the shortfall was an "asset".
The government said this "asset" represented the IESO's right to recover the shortfall -plus interest charges and other expenses -  from future ratepayers years from now.
The Auditor-General says this "asset" does not exist.

Image from Globe and Mail showing Bay Street's seals of approval
I don't wish to dwell on the article beyond recommending you read it, but I will expand on some topics I've touched on before to demonstrate why the article should be read as illustrative of a greater rot.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

base load to base cost - and back again?

This week the government of my province, Ontario, released its latest Long-Term Energy Plan. There's not much in it that I haven't commented on before, rather specifically, so in this post I'll discuss some international energy events of the past month to try and put Ontario's decisions in a broader context - not for the benefit on Ontario, but for the jurisdictions copying mistakes made in the past decade around the world.

The Cost of Energy Review produced by Dieter Helm notes the 2008 CCA "commits the UK to reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2050."
The review will provide recommendations as to how best to minimise the costs of energy consistent with the overarching objectives, taking account of the costs and benefits of the recommendations. It will set out options for developing and enhancing energy policy.
The very meaty meat of the lengthy report's digestible Executive Summary:
The measures necessary to reduce the costs include: the unification of the capacity and FiTs [feed-in tariffs] and CfDs [contract for difference] auctions on the basis of equivalent firm power (EFP); the gradual reforms of the structure of FiTs and CfDs in the transition to their eventual abolition; and further enhancements to competition in the wholesale and balancing markets. There should be significant reforms of the regulation of transmission and distribution focused on the role of system operators at the national and local levels, and the replacement of the specific licences for distribution, supply and decentralised generation with a general licence. A default supply tariff should be required and the margins published. Finally, carbon prices and energy taxes should be harmonised. 
19. This package of measures is a major shift from the original market design and regulation model at privatisation, and moves on from EMR. It would create a simpler, more competitive structure fit for the new purposes. Instead of low-carbon technologies being grafted onto the fossil fuel-based system, the new world is radically different, backed up by new smart technologies, data and smart energy networks and services. A common carbon price would significantly lower the cost of decarbonisation and greatly enhance incentives.
The bombshell there is "equivalent firm power" being valued.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Transcanada sell-off of Ontario solar assets an ugly reminder of FIT debacle

TransCanada had issues a press release announcing it's disposal of solar generation assets in Ontario:
TransCanada Corporation (TSX:TRP)(NYSE:TRP) (TransCanada) today announced that it has entered into an agreement to sell its Ontario solar portfolio comprised of eight facilities with a total generating capacity of 76 megawatts to Axium Infinity Solar LP, a subsidiary of Axium Infrastructure Canada II Limited Partnership, for approximately $540 million. The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2017 subject to certain regulatory and other approvals as well as customary closing adjustments.
It's not uncommon to read of really low prices for solar somewhere in the world (an example), so I thought maybe displaying the price for specific projects in Ontario might be an interesting contrast.

The 76 megawatts of solar capacity being sold are:

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

regarding flexibility

There is a lot being written electricity storage these days, and capacity markets, and the integration of variable renewable energy resources. Most of the material originates with lawyers, philosophers, sales people, consultants, politicians and other economists. I invite you to listen to a professional engineer and system operator, very carefully, for 10 minutes.

The system operator is Leonard Kula P. Eng.,Vice-President, Market & System Operations and Chief Operating Officer of Ontario's IESO. If low greenhouse gas emissions are a genuine goal, the messages are pertinent far beyond Ontario. Over the first 7 months of 2017 the IESO shows ~2.8 terawatt-hours (TWh) generated by natural gas-fueled suppliers, which is only about 3.5% of all generation. The output from gas is down over 60% from the same period in 2016, which should push the greenhouse gas intensity of IESO grid generation down to around 15 kilograms CO2e per megawatt-hour - superb for grids that aren't entirely in jurisdictions blessed with plentiful hydro-electric generation sites. From a low emissions standpoint Ontario's system operator might be considered THE system operator.

Lower gas use is one characteristic of Ontario's electricity system of late.

A less positive characteristic is rising curtailment of contracted supply - notably from wind.

While most curtailment looks to be due to surplus generation, either globally or in particular regions of the grid, there is another operational aspect of curtailment closely linked to the decline in gas generation.

Earlier this year I ended a post, Can Wind and Solar be significant contributors to a low emission electricity system, with:
...many commentators...have been skeptical about the ability to operate the grid with little of the gas generation (and previously coal) online, and ready for ramping. I believe Ontario's actual operators of the system - the ones who do it on a daily basis - have a story to tell. That story would likely include improved forecasting, revised wind turbine (and perhaps solar panel) regulation to provide a programmed reactive power element, and rationalized market bid rules forcing the curtailment of wind and solar output prior to impacting nuclear units.
It is variable renewable energy systems that need to be flexible.
Kula indicates the way to make variable renewable energy systems flexible is by curtailing their output.
We added the ability to dispatch the variable generation facilities that are connected to the grid in 2013, and they are very fast acting resources. At times we have to reduce the output of these facilities to go ahead and manage congestions and/or surplus conditions, and once they dispatched down they are very quick and flexible to be dispatched back up.
The IESO's Kula spoke at the 2017 Stakeholder Summit. The IESO requires you register before viewing the recordings (it's a painless process). The section I am addressing is the panel on "Building Flexibility into the Electricity System". While I highly recommend the 10 minutes at the start of the panel in which Kula delivers his presentation , Rob Coulbeck is also worth listening to, as is the Q & A session.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Diesel and coal; standards and bans

Alberta's coal-fired power plant operators are planning to cheaply convert plants to burn natural gas. National emissions standards should not be relaxed to extend the life of what will still be high-emission power plants.

Europe votes for stricter pollution laws on power plants | Power Engineering
Power plants in the EU will have to cut the amount of toxic pollutants such as nitrogen oxides they emit under new rules approved by a majority of member states.
Friday’s decision imposes stricter limits on emissions of pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, mercury and particulate matter from large combustion plants in Europe.
The European Power Plant Suppliers Association (EPPSA) said they welcomed the move by the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) Article 75 Committee members on the Best Available Techniques Reference Document for Large Combustion Plants (LCP BREF).
Several countries which are heavily reliant on coal, such as Poland, Bulgaria, Germany and the Czech Republic, were opposed to the changes.
National authorities will be able to use a derogation, or form of exemption, when costs would be disproportionate compared with the environmental benefits, while respecting environmental safeguards
...EPPSA also said it believes that for most of the existing LCPs, the implementation of the conclusions are economically and technically feasible through the state-of-the-art technologies currently available in the market.
Some history from the United States indicates the saving of some emissions reductions, such as mercury, may not justify the costs, whereas the reduction of others do - often in conjunction with reducing mercury. Courts ruled the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had not properly considered compliance costs, in 2015, but did not require the rule rescinded and subsequently rejected attempts to nullify the standard. Meanwhile, most plants had complied with the rule - or closed.

The new EU power plant emissions regulations appear to borrow wisely from the American experience.
For an example of negative outcome due to policies designed solely to encourage one fuel/outcome, one might look to Europe's experience with diesel in automobiles - as Maximilian Auffhammer has done in Save the California Waiver! How a “little” California vehicle standard prevented an urban “airmaggedon”:

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

California politicians propose new emissions pricing regime for 2020

Making sure the climate transition benefits low-income neighborhoods and communities of color isn’t just the right way to pursue climate policy. In California, where policies to price carbon require a two-thirds vote before becoming law, it may turn out to be the only way.
The quote is from Danny Cullenward, which is a name I found in the first article I saw on a new proposal that would replace California's current cap and trade carbon pricing program (to which Ontario is linking). From the Wahington Post's As Trump reverses climate actions, California considers a bold new step:
...a new proposal, announced Monday, would replace California’s current cap and trade carbon pricing program, its flagship effort to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, with an updated — and, according to supporters, more socially progressive — scheme. 
“The state and the federal government were until recently working hand in hand on these issues,” said Danny Cullenward, an energy economist, lawyer and research associate with environmental research organization Near Zero, who helped advise the development of the new proposal. “In an era of the Trump administration, carbon pricing is one of the few tools that the state has to whatever the federal government does.”
The new proposal establishes another cap-and-trade program — which will extend either until 2030 or until the state meets its 40 percent emissions reduction goal, whichever comes first — with some notable updates intended to make it more effective and more socially responsible.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

News from Ontario's electricity bureaucracies, and more

A news day at Ontario's Electricity System Operator (IESO) and its nominal sector regulator, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB). 

The most anticipated news came from the OEB's announcement of rates to be introduced for May 1st. From the Regulated Price Plan Price Report | May 1, 2017 to April 30, 2018
...the OEB has historically included a portion of significant price changes that may occur in the forecast period because of the smoothing benefits for customers. [emphasis added]
In keeping with this practice, the OEB has considered it appropriate in this price setting to take into account a portion of the estimated impact of the government’s proposed Fair Hydro Plan. The OEB has done this by way of a reduction in the forecast amount of the Global Adjustment of approximately $1B, which represents 50% of RPP consumers’ estimated portion of the proposed refinancing of the Global Adjustment.
There's a lot of questionable assumption, some conflicting with other OEB practices, in this paragraph - but jumping to what will be of immediate concern to those only interested in immediate concerns...

The forecast average price prior to the OEB considering new government interference is $114.90 per megawatt-hour (MWh), or 11.49 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is up about 3% from a year earlier (roughly the inflation rate). For sketchy reasons the OEB has reduced that average rate to $97.62/MWh (15%), reflecting their anticipation of what could comprise the government's boot the cost down the road (BCDR) plan  - also known by the government's spin as the Fair Hydro Plan.

The 1.7 cent/kWh reduction the OEB is making is half the cut in bill mock-ups by big new local distribution company Alectra from the very day the government announced the BCDR policy. It was as if they knew what was coming. Coincidentally the IESO today announced Peter Gregg as its new President and Chief Executive Officer, noting "recently he was President of Alectra Energy Solutions."

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Tribes and Sustainability Assessments

There is a lot of news to note regarding energy, environment and politics. This blog attempts to note such things on the assumption knowledge was important. Today it's probably more important to note that assumption is highly questionable. Hopefully I can write entertainingly so as to get readers through to the ridiculous conclusion of this post on sustainability science -ishness, and disposal of nuclear waste.

Some very quick background before discussing the fall-out from two reports put out over the past week from bodies attached to the federal Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

Canada's second Prime Minister Trudeau reportedly hand-picked Marlo Raynolds, a former head of the Pembina Institute (an industrial wind lobbying organization that has historically marketed itself as an environment organization), to be the head of staff for the lawyer, Catherine McKenna, appointed Minister on Environment and Climate Change. It would be hard to find two individuals to better characterize the stereotypical image of an "environmentalist" imagined by the all-important affluent, urban voter.

In August 2016 the Minister appointed a panel composed of bureaucrats and lawyers "to review and restore confidence in Canada's environmental and regulatory processes.The "Expert Panel" was headed by Johanne Gélinas, a former Canadian Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. In 2007 The Toronto Star referred to her as "Environment Czar" in writing of her firing by a Conservative government. The article included, "John Bennett of the Climate Action Network said it was a sad day for the environment."

Knowing the personalities is really all one needs to know the conclusions, but since the rejection of expertise is, it seems to me, generally a malady attributed to those on the right skeptical of most apocalyptic claims, it may prove antidotal to review this other tribe's tripping.

This past week the Gélinas panel provided the report everybody expected them to - criticizing the processes of the previous government and suggesting more study and consultation, etc. The objects of those processes were pipelines and nuclear projects, making the bodies being judged the National Energy Board (NEB) and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

The report's first priority is the need for a new acronym:
...We believe that Canadians deserve better and that it is entirely possible to deliver better.

... in our view, assessment processes must move beyond the bio-physical environment to encompass all impacts likely to result from a project, both positive and negative. Therefore, what is now “environmental assessment” should become “impact assessment” (IA). Changing the name of the federal process to impact assessment underscores the shift in thinking necessary to enable practitioners and Canadians to understand the substantive changes being proposed in our Report.
I can think of some barriers beyond the admittedly huge "EA" acronym/obstacle preventing practitioners, and Canadians, from understanding the substantive changes being proposed. Chief among them, a process discussion not being considered a vehicle for substantiation:
We also outline that, as we listened to presenters and read the many submissions presented to us, we came to understand that any new effective assessment process must be governed by four fundamental principles. IA processes must be transparent, inclusive, informed, and meaningful.
The current processes are transparent and inclusive - which is a problem in having them perceived as informed and meaningful. Professional agitators are participating specifically to avoid meaning being found through the process. Politics means this review existed solely because the existing process was introduced by a Conservative government, and therefore opposed by the Liberal party that later defeated it.

The major problem with the old EA process was it had outcomes the Liberal's allies (tribe) disliked.