Wednesday, November 25, 2015

ON releasing stored energy

The IESO, officially the operator of Ontario's electricity system, has announced the contracting of nine energy storage projects.
"Storage technology remains one of the most innovative and exciting aspects of our energy policy, particularly because of the incredible potential it presents. It will help strengthen our system and improve service to electricity consumers," said Bob Chiarelli, Minister of Energy. "Our government is proud to see the leadership of these five Ontario companies as they move forward to create good jobs and invest in their local economies."
"The energy storage market is maturing," said Bruce Campbell, President and CEO of the IESO. "Now that we have completed our two-phase procurement process for a total of 50 MW of new energy storage in Ontario, we look forward to having these facilities up and running. These projects will help us better understand how energy storage technologies can support the operation of the grid by providing much needed quick response and operational flexibility."
There is a reason I no longer treat "IESO" as an acronym - there's functionally no "I" and whatever the "ESO" is, it isn't the body's original MO.

The IESO press release does provide a rationale for the contracts:
This latest set of contracts... is focused on the capacity value – the ability to be available to store energy and provide it back when called upon – and the arbitrage value – the ability to store energy during periods of lower prices and inject it back into the electricity system when prices rise – of energy storage.
Bruce Sharp, probably the province's best cost analyst, did some math in a comment on the IESO's Linkedin page:

Monday, November 23, 2015

Inconvenient truths, etc.

...we must not triple-count the energy promised by renewables: they cannot supplant existing fossil fuel use and replace decommissioned nuclear plants and meet the skyrocketing needs of the developing world.

The article I am seeing the most of today is Inconvenient truths for the environmental movement
...traditional greens have been distracted by their signature causes, and in doing so have themselves denied some inconvenient truths.
The first is that, until now, fossil fuels have been good for humanity. The industrial revolution doubled life expectancy in developed countries while multiplying prosperity twentyfold. As industrialization spreads to the developing world, billions of people are rising out of poverty in their turn — affording more food, living longer and healthier lives, becoming better educated, and having fewer babies — thanks to cheap fossil fuels. In poor countries like India, citizens want reliable electricity to power these improvements, and stand ready to vote out any government that fails to deliver it. When American environmentalists tell the world to stop burning fossil fuels, they need to give Indians an alternative that delivers the prosperity they demand and deserve.
That brings us to the second inconvenient truth: Nuclear power is the world’s most abundant and scalable carbon-free energy source. In today’s world, every nuclear plant that is not built is a fossil-fuel plant that does get built, which in most of the world means coal. Yet the use of nuclear power has been stagnant or even contracting. 
...A third truth is that climate change must transcend ideology.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ontario's regulator's playground a dangerous place for ratepayers

The Ontario Energy Board has a significant impact on what Ontario ratepayers are charged for energy. In recent years the cost of electricity has soared while the price of gas has not. Now the government whose intervention has cost Ontarians steeply is similarly threatening to micromanage the gas industry into escalating rates.

2 new stories:
  1. Union Gas Limited Application seeks approval of its proposed Community Expansion Program
  2. The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) released its Regulated Price Plan Roadmap
Let's start with electricity and the the ongoing quest for a holy grail of pricing structures. After a full implementation of smart meters over more than a decade at a cost of billions, the OEB has advanced to the stage of knowing it is structurally impossible for them to introduce a coherent pricing model:

TOU pricing is intended to incent consumers to change their pattern of consumption and enhance electricity system efficiency. The original RPP methodology and objectives outlined in the RPP Manual were designed to support those objectives. However...

Changes to Regulation 95/05 would be required to provide this kind of flexibility to develop options.
Misalignment of the Global Adjustment Recovery 
Changes to the current regulation are needed to address [the] lack of consistency in the approach to recovery of [Global Adjustment] among Class B consumers.
The document basically sets requirements that the OEB feels need to be met to allow it to experiment further on Ontario ratepayers.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Alarm Bells ringing over Ontario Government's move to abandon independent electricity sector regulation and planning

Regulatory issues are not a topic that attract much attention - but they should.

Tom Adams has been a critic of the deteriorating independence, and flippant regard for law, at the Ontario Energy Board. I follow Adams' work so I'm familiar with the concerns, including that there is something particularly unpleasant about the current legislative Bill 112 - and a recent tweet pointed me to a related column that astonished me.

George Vegh I understand to be a respected voice on Ontario Electricity matters and the laws related to them.
Canadian Energy Perpectives is a blog by legal firm McCarthy Tetrault.

This is not a post I'd expect somebody like Vegh to write on a blog that generally reads exactly like you'd expect a legal blog to read:
On October 28, 2015, the Government of Ontario tabled Bill 135, that will, if enacted, effectively remove independent electricity planning and procurement authority from the IESO and transmission approval from the OEB. Both of these types of authority will be transferred to the Minister of Energy. The Minister will produce long-term energy plans that will be binding on the Ontario Energy Board and the IESO, both of whom must issue implementation plans designed to achieve the objectives of the Government’s plan. The Government’s new planning authority is broader than the IESO’s. It includes both bulk system planning (as was in the IESO’s mandate), and also extends to distribution systems. The Government’s existing procurement authority will also be extended as Bill 135 gives the Government additional powers to direct the procurement of energy storage and transmission. The net result of Bill 135 is therefore to ensure that the main energy institutions – the IESO and the OEB – are focused almost exclusively on implementing Government plans and directives. The Government has always been steering the direction of energy policy. It is now rowing as well: it is in direct control of every policy instrument available. From a governance perspective, it could lead one to wonder whether there are any checks and balances left in the system at all.
Bill 135 raises a number of questions for both the agencies and the Government. Some of them are:
  • What is the residual independent authority of the agencies? ...
  • What is the criteria and process by which the Government will develop plans and directives? ...
  • What is the purpose of the new directive powers?...
Read The Bill 135 Governance Model: All Roads Lead to the Government at Canadian Energy Perspectives.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Closing of FitzPatrick nuclear power plant in New York not bad news for everybody

It's always disappointing to hear of people losing their jobs and particularly so for nuclear advocates when the shuttering of another plant is announced - which is the case this morning.

Entergy to close FitzPatrick nuclear plant in Oswego County
SCRIBA, N.Y. – Entergy Corp. plans to shut down its money-losing FitzPatrick nuclear power plant in Oswego County after the reactor runs out of fuel next year.
Entergy officials called a meeting of employees today to announce that the company will not install more enriched uranium fuel rods next September, which would be required to continue operating the facility.
Barring some unexpected intervention by state officials, the 850-megawatt facility will shut down in late 2016 or early 2017 and begin laying off its 615 employees.
continue reading at

I was reviewing some statistics from Canada's National Energy Board the other day, and the shuttering of generators in New England looked to be reflected in the value of exports out of Quebec.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

bullshit emissions targets and carbon pricing

Distinguishing a real solution from a false solution is actually very complicated

There are a couple of superb articles out involving the challenges, and economics, of addressing greenhouse gas emissions.

Some quotes from We Need an Energy Miracle in the Atlantic (an interview with Bill Gates):
  • Distinguishing a real solution from a false solution is actually very complicated.
  • ...everything that’s hard has been saved for post-2030—and even these 2030 commitments aren’t enough. And many of them won’t be achieved.
  • People think energy is more of a private-sector thing than it is.
  • ... there’s no fortune to be made. Even if you have a new energy source that costs the same as today’s and emits no CO2, it will be uncertain compared with what’s tried-and-true and already operating at unbelievable scale and has gotten through all the regulatory problems...
  • We will not deny India coal plants; we will run the scary experiment of heating up the atmosphere and see what happens.
  • The only reason I’m optimistic about this problem is because of innovation. And innovation is a very uncertain process.
Graphic from Nature

The second article is from Nature, written by David J. C. MacKay (writer of the highly regarded Climate Change Without the Hot Air).

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

ON bees and IWTs

Two things from the web - one sort of about bees, and one sort of about the financial benefits of Ontario's industrial wind turbine policies.

The National Post has an article by Mark Brock, Chairman of the Grain Farmers of Ontario, on the implication for his group of the MPP from Toronto Centre having studied up on the threat to bees from neonics by watching one entire TED talk.

Ontario’s neonics nightmare:
Following months of building anger, confusion and uncertainty in rural Ontario, farmers are now getting ready to place their initial seed orders for the 2016 planting season, without knowing what they will be able to plant. This is because of the Wynne government’s decision to side with special interest groups, who have a deeper issue with modern agriculture, by heavily restricting access to a critical crop management tool for corn and soybean farmers. 
Environment Minister Glen Murray has defended a truly unworkable regulation and provided a series of unhelpful and inflammatory comments to the debate, before punting the issue back to Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal, who responds to questions about corn and soybean seeds by discussing the importance of supply management for dairy and poultry products.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A hard look at universal child (and/or parent) care

What we're learning from Quebec is that just as some early education programs can improve on non-cognitive skills, others can do the opposite.

As my children aged my interest in the politics of childcare waned, but there's a couple of terrific articles out due to a U.S. study focused on Quebec's experience with cheap universal child care.
With Canada in the midst of an election campaign which interventionist Ontario Premier Wynne has pushed into, I'll note issues in Iglesias' column are also relevant to universal all-day kindergarten in Ontario.

Quebec gave all parents cheap day care — and their kids were worse off as a result, Matthew Iglesias, VOX:
Programs for young children — whether you call them day care or preschool or even third grade — serve two purposes. On the one hand, they are educational settings that are supposed to help foster the kids' long-term development. On the other hand, they are safe places where parents can put their children so they can go do other things during the day — things like work for a living. In an ideal world, of course, they do both. The best preschool programs have been shown to have significant lifelong benefits for their students, and they're doubtless a huge help to parents too. But a sobering new analysis by Michael Baker, Jonathan Gruber (yes, that Jonathan Gruber), and Kevin Milligan of Quebec's effort to expand access to child care on the cheap is a painful reminder that the two issues can come apart. 
Image from VOX article
The program was designed to increase mothers' labor force participation rate, and it worked. Lots of people used the system, lots of moms went to work, incomes and GDP rose, and the program was quite affordable to the taxpayer. Kids' test scores stayed flat.
But contrasting trends in Quebec kids with kids from other Canadian provinces, the authors find "a significant worsening in self-reported health and in life satisfaction among teens" who grew up exposed to the program* along with a "sharp and contemporaneous increase in criminal behavior among the cohorts exposed to the Quebec program, relative to their peers in other provinces."

Thursday, September 24, 2015

VW's NOx-toberfest/Schadenfraud

I first posted on VW, on my tumblr blog, as soon as I'd read a report - and added to that post a couple of times. Eventually my interest became in how it came to be such a large company figured that programming to a test while allowing actual emissions far higher than advertised was a thing that could be done.

Climate Politics and the Volkswagen Scandal
"...clean diesel" was a government-led initiative, brought to you courtesy of Europe's taxpayers. And, by the way, the policy had proved a massively expensive failure on its own terms even before the VW scandal broke.
It's this scandal that teaches the most important lessons. Beginning in the mid-1990s, mindful of their commitments to cut carbon emissions, Europe's governments embarked on a prolonged drive to convert their car fleets from gasoline to diesel. With generous use of tax preferences, they succeeded.
... the switch to diesel probably didn't cut greenhouse gases. Making diesel cheaper by taxing it at a preferential rate encouraged people to drive more. And emissions of GHGs higher up the fuel-supply chain are worse for diesel than for gasoline. (Increasing demand for diesel drew in more supplies from Russia; producing and moving those supplies caused more emissions.) Treating diesel to lower its sulfur content adds yet another carbon penalty.
At best, the clean-diesel strategy lowered carbon emissions much less than hoped, and at ridiculous cost; at worst, as one study concludes, the policy added to global warming.
image from Seeking Alpha
So VW may have been used to operating with the tacit acknowledgment the game was to pretend to lower emissions.

We've known for years European, and particularly German, air quality wasn't improving - certainly not to the extent nuclear Ontario and it's gasoline propelled cars has experienced: Luftmess: checking up on air and carbon pollution
The section below is primarily from my Tumblr post.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

When Radiation Isn’t the Real Risk

"We’re bad at balancing risks, we humans..."
George Johnson's most recent Raw Data column will be cheered by nuclear power advocates long exasperated by the widespread fear mongering about the health impacts of radiation.
Relatedly, there's sure to be some gnashing of teeth at a "data" column daring to use the "hormesis" term.

When Radiation Isn’t the Real Risk:
This spring, four years after the nuclear accident at Fukushima, a small group of scientists met in Tokyo to evaluate the deadly aftermath. 
image from NY Times article
No one has been killed or sickened by the radiation — a point confirmed last month by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Even among Fukushima workers, the number of additional cancer cases in coming yearsis expected to be so low as to be undetectable, a blip impossible to discern against the statistical background noise. 
But about 1,600 people died from the stress of the evacuation — one that some scientists believe was not justified by the relatively moderate radiation levels at the Japanese nuclear plant.