Tuesday, July 28, 2015

and you get a solar panel, and you get a solar panel, and you...

Potential Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pledged to install half a billion solar panels if elected President in a video that I think misguided, but I'll leave arguing that for a Cold Air post. [1]
The number of pledged panels, and historical reality of the solar incentives being regressive, made me think the fairest, and most educational, way to distribute hundreds of millions of solar panels would be to give each American a solar panel.
An Oprah distribution - but with PV instead of cars because, ya' know, green.

What would people do with their panel commodity?
My guess is most wouldn't want to become generators, but to sell the equipment.

In Ontario, the IESO recently put out a 2016 Price Review questionnaire asking special interests (a.k.a. stakeholders) question about adjustments to what has been, for consumers, an utterly disastrous Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program. This caught my eye in relation to Hillary's PV dreams and the valuation of panels following an Oprah distribution:
There have been stakeholder requests to increase the FIT DC/AC overbuild ratio beyond 120%. Please provide information about the additional generation which can be achieved by building projects that exceed the 120% limit. How should an increased overbuild limit impact the price? If there were no overbuild limit, what would the ideal overbuild ratio be? What would the percentage increase in generation be for this ratio vs 120%?
It appears power purchase agreements (in this case FIT) have value, but it's not clear that solar panels themselves do. [2]

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Ontario's rank Green

ranting on recent Ontario energy news

Ontario's IESO announced the publication of a document from The Smart Grid Forum this past week. I've been critical of the Forum's past work (April 2012, December 2012 and October 2013) which in hindsight may have been too harsh, because it was better than this new nonsense. Here's the highlights from the IESO news scroll:
  • How should smart grid innovation be funded? 
  • What are the different funding models? 
  • What can be done to ensure that innovation remains customer-focused? 
  • Who should bear the risks? 
  • And what can be done to facilitate the commercialization and adoption of smart grid technologies? 
These are just a few of the questions raised in the latest discussion paper from the Ontario Smart Grid Forum, entitled "Smart grid-related innovation: the emerging debate."
I'll paraphrase: "How can WE extract more money from THEM without an expectation that WE provide value?"

Graphic from most recent Long Term Energy PlanThere are some ugly entities from Ontario's past re-emerging, re-energized. Note between 2011 and 2013 the government claims a reduction of about $3 billion a year from moving away from the nonsense they are now moving back towards.

Monday, June 29, 2015

U.S. Surpeme Court decision goes against EPA mercury rule - inefficiently.

Much attention is being given to a U.S. Supreme court ruling which likely won't mean much - because it avoids attempts at being substanive.

Here's the brief overview from Brad Plumer:
The Supreme Court just threw a wrench into the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to regulate mercury pollution from coal plants — one of the most sweeping environmental policies of President Obama's first term.
In a 5-4 majority opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court ruled that the EPA didn't properly consider costs when crafting its mercury rule, which was finalized back in 2012 and would require coal-fired power plants to spend an estimated $9.6 billion per year cleaning up mercury and other toxic air pollutants.
The mercury rule will remain in effect for now, but the EPA will have to review and reconsider it in the months ahead. A final decision on how to proceed will be left to the DC Circuit Court, which has to follow this guidance from Scalia: "EPA must consider cost—including cost of compliance—before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary. It will be up to the Agency to decide (as always, within the limits of reasonable interpretation) how to account for cost."
Image from the Fraser Institute
Let me be clearer.
The EPA's accounting of benefits came after the regulation was planned and, since the expensive regulation is considered to be about mercury, and mercury abatement isn't seen to have much benefit at all, any cost benefit analysis based on only mercury would kill the regulation.

Britain, Canada to strengthen cooperation on nuclear energy

Some CANDU news that might indicate steps towards "solving the UK's plutonium challenge"

Britain, Canada to strengthen cooperation on nuclear energy | Reuters:
image from Candu Energy
Britain and Canada signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Monday to strengthen ties between the two countries' nuclear energy industries.

The MoU was signed in London by Canada's High Commissioner Gordon Campbell and Lee McDonough, director of the Office of Nuclear Development for the UK Department of Climate Change.

It is aimed at enhancing cooperation on uranium supply; reactor design, construction, operation and decommissioning; alternative and advanced fuel cycle design; research and development and workforce skills.

Canadian reactor maker Candu Energy and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Canada are exploring solutions for the reuse of Britain's civil plutonium and recovered uranium stockpiles in its heavy-water reactors."
Candu Energy is owned by SNC-Lavalin, who made the news recently in leading a consortium announced as the preferred candidate to run another segment surviving AECL, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Energy Policy in the Age of Wishful Thinking

Matthew L. Wald movd from the New York Times to th Nuclear Energy Institute earlier this year - a move I should have paid more attention if this one piece I came across is any indicator.

Energy Policy in the Age of Wishful Thinking | Matthw L. Wald | Nuclear Energy Institute:

...as wind has become a star performer, it’s turned the rest of the grid into Ginger Rogers. You remember Ginger Rogers? She wasn’t the star. Fred Astaire was the star. But Ginger Rogers had to do everything that Fred did, except backwards and in high heels. The rest of the grid has to march forward and backwards as wind leads, compensating for wind’s intermittency. Eventually that’s going to cause problems.

And revolutions cause casualties. Some nuclear plants are a casualty of cheap gas. And wind. So we’ve got low-carbon generation killing off zero-carbon generation. Wind is an odd situation too; we’ve got zero carbon wind driving prices down on the grid, sometimes below zero, and threatening zero-carbon nuclear.

I’m not a scientist, but this is not the way to solve the carbon problem.
Continue reading at th Nuclear Energy Institute:

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Profitability and transit costs

As Ontario is selling off it's profitable electricity company claiming the money is to be "invested" in transit, I thought I'd post a link to a view of transit as a public investment in another North American country.

The graphic is from How Much Money U.S. Transit Systems Lose Per Trip, in 1 Chart - despite the title it's an article more informative than the 1 chart:

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Ontario moves clumsily to exit public power

Writing frequently on Ontario's electricity escapades I feel obliged to put something together on the moves at Hydro One, which today hit a new stage as legislation passes to hide the operations at the company.

Ontario Liberals set to remove Hydro One oversight ahead of sell-off
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is poised to pull the iron curtain over Hydro One, ensuring one of the largest privatizations in the province’s history will unfold in secret.
The Liberals’ omnibus budget bill is expected to pass a final vote in the legislature Wednesday. The legislation, which will allow the government to start selling off the Crown corporation on the stock market later this year, contains a raft of clauses that remove public oversight of the company.
The bill strips the provincial auditor-general, financial accountability officer, ombudsman and several other independent watchdogs of their right to investigate Hydro One and resolve customer complaints. It also bars freedom-of-information requests and shields Hydro One employees’ salaries from the Sunshine List...
Given the movements to hide what's going on, perhaps it's not surprising Ontario's Minister Of Energy chose to respond to one specific article on the sale - by a convicted fraudster -claiming:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Reductio ad absurdum: A call to stop the porn subsidies

One recent story I should post on is on a report on energy subsidies produced for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - a report produced with, I suspect, a political intent I haven't seen noted elsewhere.
First, to the nature of some ridiculous premises in the report prepared for the IMF

It's time to end the federal porn subsidy.
You might be asking, What federal porn subsidy? Fair question. Technically, there isn't a federal porn subsidy. However, if we borrow some of the logic commonly used by politically driven economists, we can redefine the word subsidy to mean whatever we want.
Pornography is enjoyed by many people, but it comes with a very real social cost: it can break up families and perhaps even become an addiction, which are profound losses of productivity. Economists refer to these as negative externalities -- i.e., bad side effects that affect people other than the person making the decision. One way to deal with such decisions is to tax them. This should, in theory, reduce the negative side effects, while simultaneously forcing the decision maker to bear the "true cost" of his actions. Clearly, if anyone should have to pay for this societal cost, it should be porn watchers, in the form of a porn tax. If they don't pay such a tax, they are getting an indirect subsidy.
As it turns out, we don't have a federal porn tax. Thus, we could say that the American government has issued a federal porn subsidy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

2014 a record production year for the world's CANDU reactors

I saw this information posted by Morgan Brown of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories.
Data definitions move around from source to source, with different treatments of unit capacity and output. Brown has a preference for gross output and original gross capacity, which are not the metrics commonly seen by non-technical observers.

The conclusion, based on 2014 performance data for 19 operating CANDUs in Canada, and 12 international units, is a record for production from CANada Deuterium Uranium reactors (CANDU).

Here's how Ontario got down to 7 Mt CO2e in 2014 (see pg 8) from 154 TWh of generation.
2014 CANDU performance 
Only net output data is available from Bruce Power, so it was converted to gross power by an estimated net:gross conversion ration of 94.3%. All data below is gross TWhe, and the capacity factors are based on as-built capacity. 
An earlier graphic from Morgan Brown (data to 2013)
2014 saw an increase in the total output from Canadian power reactors, to the second-highest annual production of 104.6 TWhe, from 18 reactors operating in Ontario and one in New Brunswick. 
The 12 CANDUs at Bruce B, Darlington and Pickering B produced 70.54 TWhe in 2014, equivalent to a capacity factor (based on the original non-derated ratings) of 84.2%, down from the record high of 74.06 TWhe in 2012 (88.2%). These 12 reactors have been in operation together since June 1993, when the last Darlington unit was declared commercial. To Dec 31 2014 they are an average of 27.3 years old (21.5 to 31.6 years in commercial service); Bruce 5 is the top ranked CANDU for total commercial output, at 193.7 TWhe in its 28.7 year life. The total Ont generation was 99.52 TWhe, up from 95.79 TWhe in 2013. This is the highest ever Ontario generation (99.29 TWhe was the previous record, set in 1994).

Thursday, May 21, 2015

sunset on solar?

"Guidance for Q1, coupled with past performance indicates the Company may have entered a death spiral."
I don't want to be an alarmist, but I don't mind being a non-conformist and it's hard not to notice stories on producers of solar panels coming in clumps, so...

Yingli Solar Drops A Bombshell | Seeking Alpha | May 17, 2015:
...given the size of Yingli's debt, the Company is likely to spend all of 2015 in whittling down its debt to more manageable levels. Due to this reason, we find it unlikely that the Company can keep up with its peer group in terms of cost reductions, sales growth or project build out.
Also, more significantly, the Company will be unable to invest in new off-China manufacturing capacity to avoid U.S. tariffs. With JinkoSolar, Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL), and JA Solar (NASDAQ:JASO) set to embark on new tariff-free capacity, we believe that there is a high chance that the Company will be routed from the U.S. market in the second half of the year.
All of these developments look grimmer now in the context of the 20-F filing...
Given, the weak situation that the Company is already in, Yingli, in its current form, seems to have entered a death spiral. The Company may survive for the benefits of debt holders and controlling shareholders, but the most common stockholders and ADS holders will likely be wiped out soon.
In December Forbes showed Yingli as the #2 solar equipment maker in the world.
These things happens in competitive industries, but Yingli's is not the only solar valuation story in the news lately.