Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Can Wind and Solar be significant contributors to a low emission electricity system?

...there is a substantial body of evidence that variable renewable integration costs are hugely dependent on the flexibility of the system to which they are being added.
So claims a new report from a UK Energy Research Centre, which lists many studies after opining on them in The costs and impacts of intermittency – 2016 update. Integration costs are important and I'll write on some of the content of the UK paper in paragraphs below, but first I want to discuss the bias of the work, and a great accomplishment in Ontario.
Taken together, the full range of impacts add weight to the message that electricity systems and markets need to adapt and be reorganised to incorporate large proportions of variable renewable generation most efficiently. 
systems and markets may not be what "need" to adapt.
The key challenge facing policymakers, regulators and markets is how to ensure delivery of a flexible, low carbon system that makes maximum use of variable renewable generation whilst minimising overall cost and enhancing security and reliability. 
It is wrong to state a low carbon system maximizes "use of variable renewable generation."

My estimates indicate in January - usually one of the highest demand months of a year - Ontario generated less electricity with fossil fuels than in any month since at least 1973. Probably the least of any month in my life (I was born the day Dylan shocked Newport with an electric performance).



Thursday, February 9, 2017

"I believe we have market failure"

South Australia has been a vocal point for watchers of the renewables experiment - this story struck me as extraordinary in exposing the themes of a final tale everywhere low capacity credit supply is prioritized.

SA heatwave: Blame game begins as state faces further power cuts
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill promised to "intervene dramatically in the electricity market"...
Mr Weatherill's promise followed comments from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this morning, placing the blame for South Australia's blackouts entirely on the State Government.
"It has created a situation where that state has the most expensive and least reliable electricity in Australia," Mr Turnbull said.
"That is a fact. Of course they want to blame it on everybody else.
"When they have the biggest heatwave there is no wind and when there is no wind, all of their windmills are not generating electricity.
"They haven't planned for that."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Ontario's IESO steps off the gas

On New Year's Day, 2017, Ontario saw lower total generation from natural-gas fired facilities that it likely has on any day in over two decades.

Over the first 20 days of the year electricity produced from natural gas is down 48%, leaving electricity generation producing about 1/3rd of the emissions it did during the first 20 days of 2014, following the end of coal-fired generation at Lambton and Nanticoke (as 2013 ended). The year-to-date average I estimate at 21 grams CO2 equivalent emissions per kilowatt-hour (CPIK).

Judged only on emissions, this is an impressive accomplishment. Those concerned with Ontario's electricity sector may wonder what it cost, and if there are negatives associated with the changes. I will explain why emissions are dropping, and although it's not possible for me to cost out the changes, or specify the negatives, I'll demonstrate why the IESO should reveal these.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Nuclear Ontario - and giving electricity away

Since I posted Reliable Electricity Generation Capacity declining in Ontario the IESO's NPCC 2016 Ontario Interim Review Of Resource Adequacy was published.
It's exciting stuff:
The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) submits this assessment of resource adequacy for the Ontario Area in accordance with the NPCC Regional Reliability Reference Directory #1, “Design and Operation of the Bulk Power System.” 
Spoiler alert!
The report concludes Ontario's system can meet Loss of Load Expectation (LOLE) criteria for the 2017 to 2020 planning period once Emergency Operating Procedures (EOP) are assumed. EOPs are indicated to be essentially 1/3rd public appeals to reduce consumption, and 2/3rds voltage reductions.

Phewff.

I wrote "With the exception of 2013 the capability at peak has declined every year since 2010, despite IESO-connected generator capacity being greater now than it was six and a half years ago," so I thought it only fair I offer a brief analysis of how the IESO is meeting the reporting requirements for resource adequacy - and the repercussions of how they are doing so.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Straight Talk on economic issues: No Wisdom without courage

...reluctance to be honest about trade has cost economists their credibility with the public.
 I've seen multiple references to Dani Rodrik's Straight Talk on Trade, which deserves the notice.

Commentary on Brexit often revisited Michael Gove's "people... have had enough of experts." Before getting too nasty with my own thoughts, some of Rodrick's work:
It has long been an unspoken rule of public engagement for economists that they should champion trade and not dwell too much on the fine print. This has produced a curious situation. The standard models of trade with which economists work typically yield sharp distributional effects: income losses by certain groups of producers or worker categories are the flip side of the “gains from trade.” And economists have long known that market failures – including poorly functioning labor markets, credit market imperfections, knowledge or environmental externalities, and monopolies – can interfere with reaping those gains.
They have also known that the economic benefits of trade agreements that reach beyond borders to shape domestic regulations – as with the tightening of patent rules or the harmonization of health and safety requirements – are fundamentally ambiguous.
Nonetheless, economists can be counted on to parrot the wonders of comparative advantage and free trade whenever trade agreements come up... They have endorsed the propaganda portraying today’s trade deals as “free trade agreements,” even though Adam Smith and David Ricardo would turn over in their graves if they read the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
This reluctance to be honest about trade has cost economists their credibility with the public. Worse still, it has fed their opponents’ narrative. Economists’ failure to provide the full picture on trade, with all of the necessary distinctions and caveats, has made it easier to tar trade, often wrongly, with all sorts of ill effects.
This is not the only topic where academia's economists lack the respect for their audience to be candid, or the diligence to develop and defend an opinion of their own.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

President Elect Trump, energy and climate

The elites can only run things with the American people’s permission. Trump is the people’s way of withdrawing their permission. - Salena Zito
I'd been waiting for the American election to be over figuring it limited other serious discussions as it sucked all the oxygen from the blogosphere. Given the outcome, I suspect it will be a low oxygen world for the rest of us for a while yet. Here I'll reference columns from sources I consider relevant on energy, economics and climate change - and then let loose with my own opinions on likely impacts of President Elect Trump for Canada, the Paris agreement, and nuclear energy.

Prospects for the Environment, and Environmentalism, Under President Trump | Andrew C. Revkin | Dot Earth (NY Times)
Is this end times for environmental progress or, more specifically, climate progress?
No.
The bad news about climate change is, in a way, the good news:
The main forces determining emission levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide will be just as much out of President Trump’s hands as they were out of President Obama’s. The decline in the United States has mainly been due to market forces shifting electricity generation from coal to abundant and cheaper natural gas, along with environmental regulations built around the traditional basket of pollutants that even conservatives agreed were worth restricting. (Efficiency and gas-mileage standards and other factors have helped, too, of course.)
There’s no way around it: Donald Trump is going to be a disaster for the planet | Brad Plumer, Vox
... 
Okay, now for the deep breath.
Even under Trump, there will still be reason for hope. Political change unfolds in unexpected ways, and not everything on Earth revolves around the machinations of the US federal government. So here are a few reasons to think the fight against climate change is not yet lost:

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Carbon communication cowardice

Some annoyances from the communication on policies I could be supportive of, if not for...

From Ontario's Premier:
Premier Kathleen Wynne is defending the Liberal government’s decision to introduce a cap-and-trade program next year to combat climate change, calling Ontarians “very bad actors” when it comes to creating greenhouse gases.
...
“Even though we’re a small percentage overall of the global greenhouse gas emissions, we’re very bad actors in terms of our per capita creation of emissions,”
Well, if that's true, perhaps we should go conquer lands with more moderate climates.

The latest reporting on emissions for Ontario shows 170,000 kt CO2 eq. in 2014 - exactly 170, 000 kilotonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions.
Statistics Canada shows the population for 2014 as 13,685,171.
Therefore, the per capita emissions were about 12.4 tonnes (thousand kilgrams) per Ontarian.
That's not particularly high for a northern climate, and it's about the OECD average, according to the OECD.


Perhaps if the Premier didn't measure Ontario against 1990, ignoring the province's 32% population growth (1990-2014), and listen to comparisons - in absolute reductions - to stagnant population countries such as Germany, she'd be a little more up on per capita emission trends.
________

Meanwhile, at the often excellent Energy at Haas blog, Meredith Fowlie asks Is Cap and Trade Failing Low Income and Minority Communities?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ontario suspends procurement of renewable electricity generation

Ontario's suspension of procurement programs for more renewable energy is big news. I'll cite various views on it here, but also editorialize after quoting from the government's press release - with some emphasis added.
Ontario will immediately suspend the second round of its Large Renewable Procurement (LRP II) process and the Energy-from-Waste Standard Offer Program, halting procurement of over 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar, wind, hydroelectric, bioenergy and energy from waste projects.
This decision is expected to save up to $3.8 billion in electricity system costs relative to Ontario’s 2013 Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) forecast. This would save the typical residential electricity consumer an average of approximately $2.45 per month on their electricity bill, relative to previous forecasts. No additional greenhouse gas emissions are being added to the electricity grid.
On September 1, 2016, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) provided the Minister of Energy with the Ontario Planning Outlook, an independent report analyzing a variety of planning scenarios for the future of Ontario’s energy system. The IESO has advised that Ontario will benefit from a robust supply of electricity over the coming decade to meet projected demand.
Before listing mainstream media articles of interest covering the announcement, I'll emphasize this "Cold Air Currents" blog was created to post articles I found interesting - while my "Cold Air" blog was entirely my original work. On this topic, I am an expert, so I'll be both editorialize more than usual, and probably be a little scattered as this announcement touches on many broad themes that deserve (and mostly have) independent articles.
I wrote the last procurement would add $100 million to Ontario ratepayers bills each year, for 20 years - which makes the government's new $3.8 billion savings claim seem reasonable. I was more generous than the government's new press release in attributing minor carbon reductions, with an implied cost of $446/tCO2e.

Following is a summary of press coverage - ordering the sources from most reputable on the topic, to least.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Agreement signed for Joint Venture to build Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor

About the AFCR™
The Advanced Fuel CANDU reactor (AFCR™) is a 700MW Class Generation III reactor based on the highly successful CANDU 6® and Enhanced CANDU 6® (EC6®) reactors with a number of adaptations to meet the latest Canadian and international standards. Its fuel flexibility allows it to use recycled uranium or thorium as fuel. It has a heavy-water moderator and heavy-water coolant in a pressure tube design. CANDU reactors can be refuelled on power and have one of the highest lifetime capacity factors among the world’s reactors.
News release from SNC-Lavalin 
MONTREAL, Sept. 22, 2016 /CNW Telbec/ - SNC-Lavalin (TSX: SNC) is pleased to announce it signed an agreement in principle for a new Joint Venture with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and Shanghai Electric Group Company Ltd. The new company would develop, market and build the Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor (AFCR™). The creation of the joint venture in principle follows the signing of a framework agreement in 2014, and is subject to all government and regulatory approvals. 
The new company is expected to be registered in mid-2017, and would be followed by the formation of two design centres - one in Canada and another in China - to complete the AFCR™ technology. This could lead to construction of the world's first two AFCR™ in China, and possibly subsequent builds in China and around the world. 
Graphic from Candu: Advanced Fuel CANDU reactor (.pdf)
"This is a game changer in the nuclear industry, and a great endorsement of our expertise and CANDU nuclear technology from the largest nuclear market in the world," said Sandy Taylor, President, Power, SNC-Lavalin. "Each new build in China, and anywhere in the world, will benefit Canada in terms of job creation, innovation and nuclear research & development, environmental stewardship, and will contribute to reduce global carbon emissions." Canada's nuclear sector directly contributes to over $6 billion to the economy annually, employs more than 30,000 highly trained and specialized people, and creates an additional 30,000 jobs indirectly through contracting.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

U.S. politicians act to speed licensing of new generation of nuclear power

You don't often see "unanimously passed a bipartisan bill", but...
US House unanimously passes advanced nuclear development bill
The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bipartisan bill Sept. 12 to facilitate development of advanced nuclear reactors.
The bill, H.R. 4979, or the Advanced Nuclear Technology Development Act of 2016, would require the NRC to form a framework for reviewing advanced reactor applications. The legislation comes as several older nuclear plants have shuttered or announced plans to close amid market pressures.
"The next generation of the nuclear industry needs to start now, with Congress ensuring that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is able to provide the certainty that the private sector needs to invest in innovative technologies," said Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, who introduced the bill along with Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif.
The bill would require the NRC to submit a plan to Congress for creating a regulatory framework for advanced reactor licensing, including ways to expedite and streamline the licensing process.
continue reading at SNL 

For a better understanding of the issue, I highly recommend you read Jay Faison's NUCLEAR INNOVATION ISN’T WELCOME HERE: