Friday, April 29, 2016

Groundhog day in Ontario

The Globe and Mail was our paper of record this past week.

Adrian Morrow got the news out on a grandiose plan being hatched by the mind, such as it is, of Glenn Murray, the latest wrecking ball unleashed on the province of Ontario by the voters of Toronto Centre.

Morrow's initial article is here; the follow-up here, and some words from me on the two here.

Globe columnist Jeffrey Simpson had an outstanding column, Why a carbon tax is better than cap-and-trade, but it is behind the paywall. In the column Simpson wrote:
[government] keeps and spends it to encourage or subsidize activities that will reduce emissions. Fundamentally, governments that adopt this approach think they can do a better job than the market in driving change.
They prefer a cap-and-trade system among companies, rather than a carbon tax, because the carbon price is hidden, as opposed to being evident at the pump. Of course, consumers will eventually pay as companies pass along the costs of the cap-and-trade system, but consumers won’t find it easy to trace the price increase, which suits politicians.
In the emerging outlines of what the “spend the money” provinces have in mind, the shape of future troubles can be seen. For example, governments of all stripes, when given a large source of new revenue, will inevitably allow partisan considerations to influence how it’s spent. Ministers will listen to entreaties from their caucus, each member of which will want money spent locally. They will also want to spread the spending around geographically.

If the cartoon fits...

Sunday, April 24, 2016

David Keith on cheap solar - and other notable stories of the past week

I suspect this will be the hot energy post of the coming days.
An "only Nixon can go to China" moment could come from Keith's Cheap Solar Power: can now build systems in the world’s sunny locations and get very cheap power.  
What does this mean? 
Implication #1: In sunny places, solar will reshape commodity power markets.
  • Power prices will have a mid-day low. This is already happening in California, where it’s called the “duck curve.” It will soon be the norm in other high-sun demand centers, and the changing power price structure will shake utilities and industrial customers.
  • Wind suddenly looks less interesting. The capacity factors, global build rate, and costs for wind power have been nearly flat for five years.
  • Nuclear and CCS will have a harder time competing. For example, there are nuclear builds in the middle-east (e.g., UAE building Korean reactors), but with cheap solar it will be hard to compete against solar with gas backup.
  • Gas for load following and low-capex peaking looks ever more important. 
Implication #2: There will be opportunities to bring electrical demand to where power is cheap. 
One option is look for products that have very high energy cost and are easily transportable, and build solar farms and production together in high-insolation sites.
Four options are aluminum, ammonia, desalination, and transportation fuels.
Read the entire post at The Keith Group

Not sure northern, nighttime demand peak climates should rejoice over the implication power intensive industry should look for sunnier climates.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Wolfe Island turbines impact property value

In the summer of 2014, area Realtors told the Times that the value of waterfront homes in Cape Vincent slid steeply over the previous five years because of the eyesore of the Wolfe Island Wind Farm
The Watertown daily news has a story that I need to write about, having followed some other events on property values and Wolfe Island wind turbines in the past.
The study’s prediction model was developed by evaluating the impact of the 86-turbine Wolfe Island Wind Farm in Ontario, Canada, on property values in the town of Cape Vincent...
Researchers collected data on the sale of 5,631 residential parcels in Jefferson County from 2009 — when the Wolfe Island wind project became operational — through 2013. That, which served as a baseline, was then compared with 26 residential parcels with a view of turbines that were sold over the same period in Cape Vincent within a five-mile radius of the island. Clarkson students verified that all of those parcels had a view of one or more turbines, said Dr. Martin D. Heintzelman, associate professor of economics and financial studies at Clarkson’s School of Business.
“We compared the 26 transactions to the 5,000 and looked for changes in price across the data,” said Dr. Heintzelman, who led the property value analysis.
The study found that on average, Cape Vincent homes with a view of turbines sold for 15 percent less than homes without a view over the period...
Clear enough.

Now, let's hop in our little Ontario clown boat and sail over to Premier Wynne's Ontario, and the treatment of property values on the very same Wolfe Island.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Loss and legacy: the week that was

Sad news this past week as David MacKay died.
Mark Lynas provided a moving tribute in What David MacKay taught me, and taught us all
David MacKay had more personal and professional integrity than anyone I have ever known – and yet somehow he managed to combine it with a warmth that underlay everything he did. (I was privileged to attend his celebratory Symposium in Cambridge just a month ago – I don’t think I have ever been in a scientific meeting with so much love in the room.) He wore his super-intelligence – people use the word ‘genius’ rarely these days, but I’ve heard it used for David a number of times – lightly, and always interacted with humility and an enduring sense of fun.
David had a strong moral compass and sense of justice – his work was fundamentally driven by a desire to make a difference, and to help solve real problems, even intractably huge problems like climate change. His massive contribution was bring numeracy to a debate obscured by mudslinging and ideologically-motivated rhetoric (both of which I’m as guilty of as anyone). It was characteristic of this desire to see real change that he accepted the immense challenge of taking on the role of Chief Scientific Advisor at the UK government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, rather than staying in the ‘ivory tower’ of Cambridge, after the enormous success of his epochal book Sustainable Energy, without the hot air."
The 2050 Energy Calculator continues to have a home a the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change, where MacKay first developed it, and calculators have been replicated for many countries around the world.

It took me a while to get to Managing Flexibility Whilst Decarbonising the [Great Britain] Electricity System. It's as good a segue into other recent items I can come up with. (page, full report, slide deck). I want to hit a couple of points here that may alienate newcomers to the topic of generation supply mixes and emissions, so best I quote the background provided by the report's writers:

Friday, April 8, 2016

Blogs, solar, beef and social media

I used to blog here frequently.

I'm going to post some content tonight, but first I want to explain the lack of productivity on this blog which will also put this blog in the context of all the web avenues I am now communicating on.

When I started Cold Air Currents it was to post articles of interest that I didn't write. One early example of content was Donald Jones' More wind means more risk to the Ontario Electricity Grid. This proved to be a step on the path to the Donald Jones Articles site. Other prominent examples of posts that I did not write are Parker Gallant articles on the financing of MaRS Discovery District, which seemed out of place but needed a home - 2 years prior to the news entering the popular press.

As I became more knowledgeable on energy and tangentially related issues, I tried to add context to the articles I was citing here. This sometimes made it difficult to choose posting on my original Cold Air content blog, or this site.

Citations, without adding context, I have been actively doing on Twitter for some time, and more frequently on Facebook. For many, social media replaces blogging, but I find the experiences very different. Both Facebook and Twitter are social - which it took me quite some time to figure out.  On Facebook my crowd is probably more the anti-wind tribe, and on Twitter likely a little more pro-nuclear. A lot of what interests me doesn't necessarily fit those crowds, but often I don't have the time, or inclination, to put things in the context my tribes already know.

Which brings me to my latest use of social media - the little used Google Plus. I've started to use it as I first used this blog - to hold articles of interest that may end up on this site once I have time to collect a few related articles and create a context/narrative to present them together. If you followed this blog in the hopes of spotting interesting articles, and not for my insights into them, those are most likely to pop up on Twitter amidst a bunch of banter with others, and on Google Plus relatively uncluttered.

Relatively because I have other blogs, and new platforms.

One blog platform I find halfway between blogging and social media is tumblr - which I find particularly easy to create for from my laptop. It could be me ranting, or it could be one graph I've created I think deserves a quick commentary.

I was advised some time ago, to a person near and dear to me, that I am not funny on my blogs - but assured I am a funny guy. I said that was because I have a mean sense of humour and that would detract from my messaging - the unimpressed response was "yeah, well, you're not funny online." So I created a Wordpress blog to stay familiar with that platform (which is more social than Blogger, and the one I recommend for those entering the online content creation world). It is where I intend to be edgier. Having said that, a lot of my best original work has probably been there, on topics I felt hesitant to bring to the Cold Air site that is now associated with "energy blogging" distinct with a heavy data analysis emphasis.

That's most of what I do. If you care to keep track, I always hope I'll do more with but it now exists and points to all these different vehicles.

On to some of the topics in articles I pasted into Google Plus recently...

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ontario's Regulator exploring charges on behind-the-meter generation

Two of the best Ontario electricity commentators have written on an Ontario Energy Board (OEB) notice that it is is:
"initiating a policy review to address the question of how a commercial and industrial customer should be billed when they have a Load Displacement Generator (LDG) behind the meter."
It's an important, but obscure issue I feel best explained by looking at the situation in Germany - but let's start with Tom Adams' Selfie Power (With and Without Transmission Charges):
March 31 tweet on tour of, presumably, preferred consumer CHP site
The Ontario government has identified load-displacement generation as “conservation” and provided big businesses with massive incentives and even direct subsidies to expand investment in this type of behind-the-fence generation. A little brew-your-own power is looking like a lifeline for your business. Right?
Not so fast.
The Ontario government is instituting a rate change designed to punish those with behind-the-fence generators...
The rate change seeking to wipe out the incentive to invest in load-displacement generation but will only apply to non-preferred smaller customers.
Bruce Sharp's Linkedin post on the letter is Ontario CHP (Combined Heat and Power) at Risk ?
The primary purpose of the letter is to discuss the retail transmission treatment for CHP, with the possibility of aligning the treatment of LDC-served customers with transmission-connected customers or perhaps leaving LDC-served customers slightly worse off.
Much more ominous is the reference to the Global Adjustment (GA).
GA Class B customers with or contemplating CHP depend on avoiding this charge when they generate. Recently, the GA Class B charge has been near-stratospheric, clocking in at a simple average of $ 95/MWh for the period of Dec15 – Feb16. Meanwhile, the total net benefit of a base-loaded CHP (including the avoided GA Class B charge) ranges from approximately $ 70 - $ 85/MWh.

So, if all of a sudden the GA Class B is charged on a gross load (total load, i.e. net load + generated power) versus net load basis, CHP economics go poof. CHP as a Conservation and Demand Management (“CDM”) measure would be dead in the water
Most of the commodity charge for electricity in Ontario is now in the Global Adjustment charge.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Weekly roundup:ISO's, CSP, nuclear, at the Post,

Solar thermal troubles, no plans for new nuclear, big overbuild due to variable renewable electricity sources (vRES)...

Things from around the web that caught my attention this week included the article I co-wrote with Tom Adams being the first story at the top of the National Post home page for a couple of hours Thursday.

There's a lot I could ramble on about connected to the article, but the one I'll pick to emphasize is communication. It was terrific to collaborate with Tom Adams. Our histories are different, with me being perceived as pro-nuclear, and Tom not so much. My favourite comment received regarding this week's column was "Never thought I would "like" an article (co-)authored by Adams."

Well, there's reason to like most of the posts at

On the nuclear topic...

Saturday, March 12, 2016

holding errorists to account

The fifth anniversary of the the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami passed this week.

Stephen Aplin has an extraordinary post on authority - earned and fearmongered

Accurate and inaccurate predictions, garbage dumping, and death threats: an easy lesson about nuclear power, still not learned after 1,827 days
...While I am immensely pleased that nobody has died or even gone to the hospital because of the effects of ionizing radiation released because of the meltdowns (radiation has of course been released, but in amounts simply too small to cause harm to anybody or anything), I have found these past 1,827 days to be rather frustrating. I harbour this naive fantasy that those who were surprised to hear me tell anybody who would listen to expect few if any casualties might revisit their initial surprise.
I understand why they were surprised. I was one of very, very few people saying what I was saying. The vast majority of other commentators on the nuclear situation in Japan following the earthquake were saying just the opposite. They were telling everybody who would listen that there would be untold death and disease because of the release of radiation.
I also understand why these prophets, false prophets I should say, got on the air: from the point of view of a media vehicle locked in mortal hyper-competition with other media vehicles for readers/viewers/listeners, it is much much sexier to prophesy doom and destruction. Reassurance is boring, even if it is bang on. I get that.
What I find disappointing is that the prophets of doom, having been proved laughably wrong, are not being called to account. I mean, they said this stuff in public. You might think that having said things that prove they do not know what they are talking about, somebody might, you know, call them on it.
Apparently such correcting of the public record is not a priority in the current media universe.
It should be. There are real consequences to allowing alleged experts to utter falsehoods in the public sphere.
Please read the full post at Canadian Energy Issues.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The deteriorating era

I attended a concert the other night. Donovon Woods opened for Matt Anderson. I was surprised how few young people were there.

That struck me, particularly as I was with my son, and then today I received a link to the following article from my father - the writer of a post on an historically edgier blog I have, After the boom - what?

From the Guardian, Revealed: the 30-year economic betrayal dragging down Generation Y’s income:
A combination of debt, joblessness, globalisation, demographics and rising house prices is depressing the incomes and prospects of millions of young people across the developed world, resulting in unprecedented inequality between generations.
...Where 30 years ago young adults used to earn more than national averages, now in many countries they have slumped to earning as much as 20% below their average compatriot. Pensioners by comparison have seen income soar.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Dylan and the law and electricity and carbon pricing - in Ontario

Today Ontario is announcing its carbon pricing scheme.
Newspapers are writing on it.
Natural gas utilities have some relevant numbers on it.

Also, there is a new report out on electricity in Ontario from Energy Probe and the Consumer Policy Institute, and another from the C.D. Howe Institute.

I want to note the error being broadcast about Ontario protecting electricity consumers from price exempts in effectively exempting the sector from paying for CO2 emissions, and I want to write on less specific issues with Ontario's electricity sector culture.

Two days ago the New York Times wrote on the Supreme Court and Bob Dylan, featuring in the article:
“‘When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.’ Bob Dylan, Like a Rolling Stone, on Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia Records 1965).”
 The quote was introduced on the topic of "standing" - but it's relevant to Ontario's low emissions electricity sector too. Here's how Union Gas presented the impact of a $100/tonne carbon price:

Ontario's electricity sector doesn't emit much CO2, so there would be little lost in charging for what there is.

$42/year at $100/tonne said Union Gas - in 2025. Many Ontarians, using electricity for heat, will see increases of more than $42 in February 2016 over February 2015.

Keeping in mind $100/tonne would cost $42/year, and that's a dreamy /tCO2e figure given all current price schemes world-wide, here's how the Globe and Mail's Shawn McCarthy reported on news the electricity sector would be excluded:
The electricity sector will also be covered, though its allowances will be free and it will not face a declining cap in recognition of the huge costs to consumers from previous emissions-reduction policies.   -see addendum at bottom for clarification/correction
Not to imply Mr. McCarthy is responsible for misleading people, he's just sucked in on the disinformation campaign of Ontario's Premier. From Global news:
[Premier Kathleen Wynne] revealed economic impacts Wednesday, a day before her government introduces its budget, which is expected to include more details about carbon pricing.
However, revenue from the cap-and-trade auction set for next year will be used to “protect” consumers from an electricity rate hike and could even lead to rates going down, Wynne said.
All total nonsense, but the issues seem too confusing for the broad public.