Friday, April 10, 2020

Social isolation and food destruction

I've been surprised to see articles on farmers destroying food in recent days.

It seemed strange to me at first, but I found the following articles informative as to why.

Yes, farmers are dumping milk. Here's why
Figures out of the U.S. (Canadian numbers should come soon) show increases through retail of 53% in milk, 84% in cheese, 127% for butter. All while food service demand collapsed. Keep in mind food service wants buckets of sour cream, not tubs, or 10 pound bags of shredded cheese, not packets. Tim Hortons uses a big bag of cream through a SureShot machine, while you want 500 ml at a time. Those processing lines can’t change overnight. It takes millions in new equipment and packaging to convert those. So you’ve got retail lines that can’t keep up while food service lines are completely backed up or shut down.
The article is, in some ways, specific to Ontario and Canada as milk marketing board decisions were involved - but the situation is the same for other farmers south of the border.

Monday, March 2, 2020

A Frequency Control Ancillary Services story

Frequency Control Ancillary Services (FCAS) has not been the hot topic in public discussions of the electricity sector, but recent events in South Australia made "Don't Forget About FCAS!", by Allan O'Neil at WattClarity, the most interesting article I've read in some time.

The grid in South Australia has one major interconnector to another grid, which was taken out of service by a storm on January 31st, 2020, essentially "islanding" the state's system. I first noticed discussion on events from a tweet listing generators (mostly wind) that would be "ramped down and constrained to zero" when "operational demand in South Australia falls below 800 MW". Operational would mean demand from the grid, which in South Australia is lessened significantly during the day as 1 in 3 houses are reported to have solar panels. For perspective, average consumption in the state is less than 1400 MW; demand following below 800 MW has been rare but occurences are growing (now 200+ a year).

The state was better prepared for the loss of transmission the year than it had been in 2016, when it suffered a full blackout. In part driven by changes made after the 2016 blackout the state has become a net exporter. Operational system peaks have been around 3,000 MW (now occurring after solar's productive hours), and the state's gas capacity  (~2700 MW) is capable of meeting about 90% of that. The state also has about 2,700 MW of wind capacity, so stories coming out claiming the state survived the loss of the interconnector include phrases like "renewables saved the day" - although we know many wind generators were constrained off, natural gas climbed to 60% of production (it's usually about 50%), and demand wasn't high (averaging ~1,250 MW).

All sorts of interesting aspects to be explored, but for me the most interesting was this: during the loss of the interconnector FCAS became more valuable in South Australia than "energy" (the production from generators).

There's something in the Watt Clarity article for many different audiences - including battery performances from both the large grid-connected units and the appearance of FCAS being provided by aggregators of residential units.





spreadsheet

Friday, February 28, 2020

California utility changes efficiency metric to "avoided carbon"

From the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD):
The new metric expected to encourage building electrification
The SMUD board voted to change the metric by which it measures the progress of its energy efficiency investments, switching from energy savings to avoided carbon emissions, making it the first entity in the United States to do so. The change will enable SMUD’s energy efficiency programs to focus investments on those that reduce carbon emissions at the lowest possible cost to customers and clear the way for expanded investments in building electrification alongside traditional efficiency approaches. 
“With carbon as our new measuring stick, helping our customers go all-electric will be as important as helping them use less energy,” said Rachel Huang, director of Energy Strategy, Research and Development. “Additionally, because this change encourages electrification, our customers will benefit from improved indoor air quality and reduced monthly energy bills.”
Under SMUD’s recently-adopted Integrated Resource Plan, building and transportation electrification are key strategies to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040. Switching to avoided carbon as a metric for energy efficiency investments aligns SMUD’s energy efficiency program with its net zero-carbon emissions goal...
 Good to see a utility focus on selling their product with the intent of it being a net good.

For my opinion on traditional conservation, or efficiency, programs, see "f in efficiency: Free-riders of the soft path"



Tuesday, May 28, 2019

an avoidably big bad picture

There's a think tank associated with Simon Fraser University (SFA) called Clean Energy Canada. The people there released a report last week called, "Missing the Bigger Picture." The content of the actual report, based on a quick look-over, is fine. The promotion/spin of the report has not been fine - it's been deliberately deceptive, and it seems to me that's because of Merram Smith.

The report is currently downloadable from a page currently headlined, Missing the Bigger Picture: Tracking the Energy Revolution 2019. There is also a technical report available there, which is where I found my expectations confirmed.
Not only is Canada’s clean energy sector growing faster than the rest of the country’s economy (4.8% versus 3.6% annually between 2010 and 2017), it’s also attracting tens of billions of dollars in investment every year. And perhaps most importantly for the average Canadian, it’s a huge, and growing, employer.
...[The clean energy sector is] made up of companies and jobs that help to reduce carbon pollution - whether by creating clean energy, helping move it, reducing energy consumption, or making low-carbon technologies.
The jobs in the clean energy sector are in many industries and in every province. They include the Canadians who manufacture solar panels and wind turbines ...
And there, in Merran Smith's introduction to the report, is spin.

The technical report confirms what readers of this blog already know: additions of solar and wind capacity slowed years ago (wind peaked in 2014 and solar in 2015).
Figure from the technical report.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The nuclear reactor decommissioning business

One of the most prominent nuclear generating stations in the United States is changing owners after it ceases generating electricity.
Tuesday 16th April 2019 [SNC Lavalin]
Comprehensive Decommissioning International, LLC (CDI), a joint venture company of SNC-Lavalin (TSX: SNC) and Holtec International, has agreed to enter into a Decommissioning General Contractor Agreement for another US nuclear decommissioning contract, expected to exceed CAD $1 billion.
Entergy Corp. (NYSE: ETR) has agreed to sell the subsidiaries that own Indian Point Units 1, 2, and 3, located in Buchanan, N.Y., to a Holtec International subsidiary for decommissioning.
CDI, the joint venture, may be the best news for SNC Lavalin in some time. The pending purchase of Entergy's Indian Point reactors follows within a year of its agreement to purchase Exelon's Oyster Creek nuclear power plant and Entergy's Pilgrim and Palisades sites (once the reactors are shutdown permanently).

Most articles on the sales note CDI intends on decommissioning the sites much quicker than expected, but I thought it worth following up on the size of the decommissioning funds - which are part of the purchase. There are references in many articles to the size of the funds, but I'll use only one source: the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) 2017 Fund Status Reports.

Keep in mind the funds are as at the end of 2016 and the NRC's cost estimate is in 2016 dollars.


Monday, April 15, 2019

Strange wind, and nuclear goes to solar for new leadership

Sometimes my time served battling the enormous waste on wind in Ontario comes flooding back - such as this weekend reading an article on the promise of renewables in Canada's most tell-you-what-to-think publication It's paywalled, boring and one-sided so I'm not going to link to it, but it did incent me to pull some figures, from the Canadian Wind Industry Association.

I tried to colour Quebec and Ontario as silver and gold in graphing the increase in annual installed capacity through 2014, and subsequent decline, for reasons I hope become clear during a short review of the current situation for industrial wind in provinces across the country.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Higher ROE and lower debt ratings: California's "precarious state"

Articles from this past week on California's utilities include one on utilities seeking rate hikes with rather large Return-on-Equity (ROE) figures, one on a bond agency downgrading the same utilities, and another on the rookie governor's effort to address the issues driving these actions.

Southern California Edison requests higher ROE, citing wildfire risks (Utility Dive)

  • ...Southern California Edison (SCE) on Thursday asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to significantly raise its return on equity (ROE) due to "dramatic, material changes" to its regulatory and financial conditions.
  • SCE is requesting an overall ROE of 17.12%, plus incentives...
...
"We do not believe a higher return on equity is a long-term solution to the urgent situation utilities in California are facing," Caroline Choi, senior vice president of corporate affairs for SCE and Edison International, said in a statement. "However, this is what is needed in the near term in order to attract the capital required to provide safe, reliable electricity."
 The request come following months of warnings from debt rating agencies.

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.