Friday, August 31, 2012

Germany's Junior Coalition Partner Looks to Moratorium, and Charges on existing renewables

Reports about that the coalition partner of Angela Merkel's CDU, the FDP,  is considering a moratorium on wind and solar in Germany.

FDP party whip Rainer Brüderle is the source cited for plans that appear comparable to the newly elected, right-wing, government in Spain - which has abandoned feed-in tariffs, and is being lobbied heavily (and it appears successfully) to abandon plans to tax generators that require redundant complimentary generators, as well as additional grid expense - meaning wind and solar (background on the reign in Spain here).

I see 3 possibilities regarding Brüderle's statements
The most likely is that the FDP is stepping up it's campaign to abandon the feed-in tariff (FIT) programs that will add about 5 Euro cents/kWh to each voter's electricity bills when the election takes place next year - the desire has been to replace these with market-based Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), demanding utilities to purchase a percentage of supply from cleaner sourrces.
The leading FDP politician is Economy Minister, and Vice Chancellor, Philipp Rösler

The second possibility is the FDP is developing it's platform for next year's election, and sending out a trial balloon (Germany has representation by population aspects to it's electoral system - so appealing strongly to 15% of the population could garner very significant representation).

The third possibility is Rainer Brüderle spoke out without the blessing, or support, of the entire party.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Premier McGuinty Opines on consolidation of Local Distribution Companies

If it's not a small world, it's certainly a small politician ...
Dalton McGuinty is picking up on Australian PM Gillard's strategy of shifting of the blame for rising electricity prices onto utilities - particularly publicly owned utilities (some background here).
She seems to have noted that wasn't going too well, as the view of Australia joining the EU ETS is Gillard capitulated on the carbon tax (the public's perceived culprit in driving pricing) in the best face-saving way (more here)

TheRecord - Premier sparks debate on merging electric utilities:
WATERLOO REGION — City-owned electric utilities hiked administrative costs three times faster than inflation while increasing rates over a five-year period, delivering less electricity and pouring millions into city hall coffers.
That’s got Ontario thinking about merging Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro, Waterloo North Hydro and Cambridge and North Dumfries Hydro, to deliver administrative savings to ratepayers.
“There are some states in the U.S. that have one or two public utilities compared to I forget how many dozens we have in Ontario,” Premier Dalton McGuinty told The Record in a recent interview. “So I’m convinced that there is room for efficiencies to be had.”
Continue reading at the Waterloo Record

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Norway promotes renewable ... and extends offshore drilling further north

Renewables and Modern Hypnosis 
Norway in the news

Renewables a priority says Norway as IEA gives update

Norway’s energy minister Ola Borten Moe has called for an end to the “false antagonism” between renewable energy and fossil fuels, claiming gas will become an important “back-up fuel” to renewables.
Norway's oil minister intends to drill to the North Pole
Ola Borten Moe disagrees this is a problem.
“It seems some think that you have to choose between drilling in the Arctic and the environment. The first well was drilled in this area more than 100 years ago. It is not a new phenomenon. We have an oil company that has a lot of experience and they have a partnership that stretches up to the High North,”
Statoil upgrades triple Arctic research budget
Statoil will start drilling in Nunatak in the Skrugard area in december. It will drill and complete four wells in this area over a six month period. The campaign will then continue with the drilling of two-to-three wells in the hoop frontier exploration area further north in the Barents sea in summer 2013. Statoil said these will be the northernmost wells ever drilled in Norway.

In addition to increasing drilling activities, Statoil has also created a technology road map to prepare for activities in even harsher arctic areas...

Coal Greens Love Buoyed by Shale Gas Hydraulic Fracking

A Bloomberg article is another hit against the idea we will soon run out of affordable energy sources.
The current pricing levels of natural gas, in North America, would need to triple, but that is still not expensive by historical standards ... and then the same type of technological advances that made natural gas abundant would be seen in the coal industry.

Coal Greens Love Buoyed by Shale Gas Hydraulic Fracking - Bloomberg:
The world’s most abundant fossil fuel could be tapped without moving mountains, delivered without trucks or trains and burned without greenhouse-gas emissions.
The technology to make this possible has been around for decades. Underground coal gasification was pioneered by Sir William Siemens in the 1860s to light London’s streets. Vladimir Lenin hailed the method in a 1913 article in Pravda for its potential to rescue Russians from hazards of underground mines.
Despite its early boosters, the technology never caught on in the U.S., mostly for cost reasons. Now the improvements in seismic mapping and drilling that lit a fire under the U.S. fracking boom may also spur development of a domestic coal gas industry, proponents said.
Coal Greens Love Buoyed by Shale Gas Hydraulic Fracking - Bloomberg:

Are there still 'greens' mad at George Monbiot for noting the problem was not a decline in fossil fuels, but the abundance of fuels?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New German study claims Replacing FITs with RPS would save 52 Billion Euros

Germany's policy  of guaranteeing prices through feed-in tariff (FIT) contracts is once again being questioned, and this time there are rumours the German government is more attentive to the argument.  Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS, or RES) are superior to FITs from the consumers standpoint as they share risks among suppliers and purchasers - a FIT contract being more like winning a lottery win than a market mechanism.

RWI: Market-Oriented Renewable Funding Scheme Would Save EUR 52 Billion « German Energy Blog:
... a new study by the economic research institute Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (RWI) on the most cost-effective support scheme for renewable energies can be summed up. RWI proposes to replace the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) that currently promotes renewable energy through fixed feed-in tariffs by a “Wettbewerbsmodell Erneuerbare Energien” (WEE) that would oblige utilities to buy certain quota of renewable energy. This would lead to savings of up to EUR 52 billion over the next eight years, RWI claims.

Continue reading at the German Energy Blog:

Australia to join EU's emissions trading system

I suspect this is a move to a cheaper Emissions Trading Scheme, as the article notes the current low EU ETS rates are far below the future base price that had been legislated for Australia, but I'm not sure the rationale for the decision are as important as a broader carbon market, which I see as positive.

Australia to join EU's emissions trading system | EurActiv:
Australia will scrap its planned floor price for carbon emissions and will link directly with the European Union's emissions trading system by 2018, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said today (28 August).
Australia, one of the world's highest per capita emitters of pollutants blamed for causing climate change, imposed a fixed €19.08 per tonne carbon tax on around 300 of its biggest polluting companies in July, covering around 60% of emissions.
The €12.45 floor price was due to underpin the scheme when it moved to a floating emissions trading scheme in July 2015.
The floor price adjustment is the first major change to Australia's controversial plan to price carbon following concerns from businesses facing higher costs than in Europe.
Read the entire article at EurActiv:

Monday, August 27, 2012

American Meteorological Society Issues New Statement on Climate Change

Quoting from the summary section of the lead item currently on the American Meteorological Society (AMS) website.

2012 AMS Information Statement on Climate Change:
There is unequivocal evidence that Earth’s lower atmosphere, ocean, and land surface are warming; sea level is rising; and snow cover, mountain glaciers, and Arctic sea ice are shrinking. The dominant cause of the warming since the 1950s is human activities. This scientific finding is based on a large and persuasive body of research. The observed warming will be irreversible for many years into the future, and even larger temperature increases will occur as greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere. Avoiding this future warming will require a large and rapid reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions. The ongoing warming will increase risks and stresses to human societies, economies, ecosystems, and wildlife through the 21st century and beyond, making it imperative that society respond to a changing climate. 
Continue reading at the AMS site:

The second item currently on their homepage:
Make us laugh, and you could win a free AMS Book! Submit a meteorology joke to jokes@jonmalay.com for inclusion in our forthcoming meteorologist's joke book

Ontario's Solar Future: Uncensored/Parker Gallant's GEGEA review

An advertisement/article on a solar industry event promises that the Minister of Energy when Ontario introduced it's Green Energy And Green Economy Act will call for an end to nuclear energy.
The Green Energy & Economy Act - Examining it's Creators is Parker Gallant's latest, which I posted on WCO's blog earlier today.  It notes the glory days of the Green Energy Clique that passed the GEA 3 years ago.  Since that time Ontario's use of fossil fuels in electricity generation has not declined (the first 8 months of 2012 are higher, on similar demand); Germany's use of fossil fuels has increased over 6% since that time.
Perhaps Mr. Smitherman will try to relate subsidizing a small cabal of friends with hard goals in reducing greenhouse gases, but another entry I posted on WCO's site this morning indicates that is unlikely:  European Governments Required to Justify Wind Claims 

Ontario's Solar Future: Uncensored - Why you should come to Toronto's SSX ONTARIO on September 6-7, 2012. | JacobTravis
... [George Smitheman will] elaborate on his stance that “FIT 2.0 is the end … there will not be a FIT 3.0.” As we say around here, this is where the “FIT Hits the SHan.”

George will not hold back, spelling out that solar’s only chance in Ontario is to get the OPA’s “Long-Term Energy Plan” radically updated. Only an LTEP 2.0 that knocks out the need for more Nuclear will create the next opportunity. But, who will champion that cause? Can the sector get it together to build upon all of the sacrifice, fight for its survival, and –even more— reach its potential to become a global leader?
Read the entire advertorial at Renewable Energy World

Crowdfunding for renewables - Lessons from Germany's solar experience.

A study released last week (.pdf here) indicated Germany's latest solar installations were much more likely to be very large arrays.
The article I cite here indicates that new financing models are accompanying that change.
Some time ago I noted the pricing quoted in a NY Times article, for the second quarter of 2011: "residential installations cost $6.42 per watt; nonresidential installations cost $5.20 per watt and installations done by the utilities themselves cost $3.75 per watt."
It would seem in Germany the lowering of the FiT offers has changed the dynamic from rich people installing their own panels based on a high rate of return for their greenness, to collectives (probably of rich people) acquiring far more efficient solar installations as a group.

Crowdfunding for renewables - News - Renewables International:
Although the average PV array size in Germany is growing, arrays that might be considered commercial or utility-scale in other countries are generally still owned by citizens in Germany. Now, a Berlin-based startup has launched an Internet platform for community-owned solar arrays to facilitate not only financing, but also the sharing of technical, legal, and business expertise. A recent 9.7 MW array shows how community ownership works even on a large scale....
Continue reading at Renewables International

Friday, August 24, 2012

Nuclear's Dilemma: Few Jobs, Just Energy

An incredible article - in my opinion - admittedly as somebody who spent much of his childhood living within a km of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.

The American Spectator : Nuclear's Dilemma: Few Jobs, Just Energy
The only way in which nuclear really "creates job" is in providing clean, cheap electricity to make other manufacturing operations profitable. Tennessee has refashioned itself into a major auto manufacturing state, hosting both Nissan and Volkswagen's U.S. headquarters and creating 100,000 ancillary jobs, partly by capitalizing on nuclear electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority. IBM, Vermont's largest employer, has threatened to leave the state if it loses the cheap power of Vermont Yankee.
No, when it comes to marshaling the votes of thousands of coal miners or railroad employees or windmill manufacturers, nuclear definitely fails the test. All it produces is lots of clean, cheap energy.
Read the Entire article at The American Spectator

Swiss utilities are the latest neighbours complaining about subsidized German exports

The dumping of subsidized power is something I was noting some time ago - now another European nation is looking at the impact of German exports during peak renewable periods.
This article is a little different in that it is hydro projects being curtailed by the price uncertainty created by the German subsidies, and there is mention that increasing grid connectivity with Germany is  no longer desirable.

Add Switzerland to the list of Germany's neighbors (Poland and the Czech Republic) that are complaining about uncontrolled power surges from Germany. Last week, Kurt Rohrbach, spokesperson for Swiss power providers, stated on Swiss television that power surges from Germany brought about by solar power are bringing down power prices "throughout Europe" and leading to losses totaling "a hundred millions francs" (the Swiss franc is currently worth roughly 1 dollar) for Swiss firms this year alone. The news moderator on Swiss TV station SF1 did not beat around the bush: "The German solar sector is ruining business for Swiss power companies."
Read the entire article at Renewables International

OPG 2nd Quarter Results indicate the Impact of declining HOEP on public hydro

OPG's results are as expected given the state of the markets in the 2nd quarter (OPG's profitability being heavily influenced by the performance of it's many billions in the nuclear decommissioning/waste funds), and the continued hits on the non-regulated hydro segment due to the depressed Hourly Ontario Energy Price.
I will soon be posting an article on my original content blog connecting the current government's enormous subsidies of natural gas-fired generation plants to the declining revenues from the public generator's unregulated hydro business.
The results display a quarterly loss of $9 million in the Unregulated hydro business, on prices of 2 cents/kWh

Ontario Power Generation Reports 2012 second quarter Financial Results (.pdf) 
[Toronto]: Ontario Power Generation Inc. (“OPG” or the “Company”) today reported its financial and operating results for the three and six months ended June 30, 2012. Net income for the second quarter of 2012 was $43 million compared to $109 million for the same period in 2011. Net income for the six months ended June 30, 2012 was $197 million compared to $262 million for the same period in 2011.
... 
OPG’s net income in the second quarter of 2012 decreased by $66 million compared to the second quarter of 2011. The decrease was primarily due to lower earnings from the Nuclear Fixed Assets Removal and Nuclear Waste Management Funds (“Nuclear Funds”) and lower electricity spot market prices that significantly affected revenues from OPG’s unregulated hydroelectric stations.
 Read OPG's 2012 Q2 Financial Results (.pdf) 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

German Energy Agency: Fossil-fueled Power Plants Needed to Provide 60% of Secure Capacity in 2050

The German Energy Agency, Dena, has issued as report concluding "integration of wind and solar power requires long-term restructuring of the electricity system."
That quote is from the google translation of Dena's web page on the report (here)

Dena Study on Integration of Renewables: Fossil-fueled Power Plants Needed to Provide 60% of Secure Capacity in 2050 « German Energy Blog:
The German Energy Agency (dena) presented a new study examining the consequences of the German energy policy shift of 2011 and the challenges lying ahead. The agency predicts that electricity prices will considerably rise until 2050 and conventional power plants will still be needed to a large extent to ensure the security of supply and balance the increasing amount of fluctuating renewable energy input.
The study was carried out in light of Germany’s target to increase the share of renewables energy sources in the electricity supply to at least 80% until 2050.
Continue Reading at the German Energy Blog

I had a green job: "we needed Disasters to compete"

Fox News is not a source I look to - but this article is noteworthy in light of other recent citations I've made on this blog.

I had a green job | Fox News:
I wish I could say people work in Green energy because they sincerely believe in catastrophic global warming. But most also reject nuclear power, the only scalable form of CO2-free energy, hating it as a competitor while celebrating Fukushima for creating anti-nuclear sentiment. “Nuclear is dead!” proclaimed my boss at a staff meeting just days after the disaster. “This will be good for us!” he continued, in the wake of 20,000 deaths, not one caused by nuclear radiation.
He was right--we needed disasters to compete.
...
This is the kind of polluted cultural environment some of our nation’s most talented engineers are developing in--because the government is creating every incentive to bring it about.
The article, available in full at Fox News, I found interesting in light of an article I cited last month on Pascal Bruckner; "Scorning the Propaganda of Fear."

Germany's Environmental Agency Rejecting Capacity Market, suggests strategic reserve instead

Germany's Environmental Agency is rejecting the concept of a capacity market in favour of a 'strategic reserve'

Capacity market or strategic reserve? - 100% renewable - Renewables International:
Renewable electricity – and solar power in particular – are cutting so much into the medium load that gas turbines increasingly do not run for enough hours to make them profitable. Renewables International has discussed the option of a capacity market, but last month the UBA spoke out against the concept, which it feels will provide too few incentives for demand management. Furthermore, the study believes that the creation of a capacity market would be "irreversible." UBA also warns that the discussion about capacity markets could "delay investments in new power plants."
Instead, the UBA proposes the creation of a strategic reserve "comparable with the strategic reserve for petroleum." 
Continue reading at Renewables International

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Demise of the Car

It's often been mentioned that electrification will need to replace liquid fuels to reduce carbon emissions at levels desired, but this is the strongest piece I've seen suggesting the limits on liquid fuels are already fueling the decline of the car.

The Demise of the Car | Peak Prosperity:
In the same way that Western economies have shed enormous tranches of oil demand so that emerging markets could increase their oil consumption, automobile transport is now either stagnating or in outright decline outside of China. You cannot have a growing automobile industry in the United States when American oil demand is down over 12% since 2005. And you cannot have a growing auto industry in Europe when EU oil demand has shed over a million and half barrels a day – another 10% decline.
Europe’s declining oil demand is particularly significant, given that coming into the last decade, the EU was already a highly efficient user of oil. To have taken off even more demand in the past 5 years shows just how tough high oil prices have become in Europe. The result is nothing less than a devastation of Europe’s auto industry, which has already lost 800,000 jobs and looks ready to lose another 500,000 more according to recent forecasts, as reported by Bloomberg.
Continue reading at Peak Prosperity:

Altmaier's 10 Point Plan - 100% renewable - Renewables International

Germany is moving towards changes in their renewables support, including setting limits on the quantity of new generation procured, and the altering the EEG mechanism in which the cost of the subsidies is recovered outside of the market.

Altmaier's 10 Point Plan - 100% renewable - Renewables International:
...the proposal does not include any specifics, which Altmaier says he plans to present by this fall, including a "proposal for a fundamental revision of the Renewable Energy Act (EEG)," which specifies the country's feed-in tariffs.

Altmaier says he is not ruling out a switch to a quota system in order to slow down the growth of renewables. Over the midterm, the goal would be to "make renewables market-ready and competitive without feed-in tariffs."
...
Energy efficiency also plays a role in the first item, and Altmaier plans to offer households energy audits for free. The goal is to help people reduce their energy consumption in order to compensate for the rising retail power rates resulting from the energy transition; Altmaier believes consumers could cut power consumption by 30 percent. Ulrich Kelber, deputy whip of the SPD, points out, however, that Altmaier's proposal for energy efficiency is limited to private households, though there is considerable potential for improvement in industry and businesses. He also points out that consumer advocate groups already offer such audits with funding from the federal government. Kelber criticizes Altmaier's proposals for failing to address one of the main issues: the retail power rate is rising even as prices on the power exchange drop, so the market needs to be redesigned.
Emphasis added - in Ontario, the opposite has also been seen to be true: the higher the market price, the lower the actual rate for the vast majority of consumers (see my article here)

The Entire article can be read at Renewables International:
Almaier's 10-points are also the topic of an article on the German Energy Blog

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Court strikes down EPA pollution rule - latimes.com

This LA Times looks more than a little partisan in this piece.
The states threatening air quality in Mid-Atlantic and New England states are not likely to be "Texas, Mississippi, Florida and Kansas" 
I'm confidant the story is considerably more nuanced than President W appointed two judges to ensure the skies of the eastern seaboard are poisoned.

Court strikes down EPA pollution rule - latimes.com:
WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court Tuesday struck down a key Obama administration air pollution rule meant to protect Eastern residents from polluters in neighboring states, saying that the Environmental Protection Agency must grant states more time to implement protections.
The ruling by twoGeorge W. Bush appointees covers the "good neighbor rule" issued by the EPA in mid-2011 to regulate emissions of pollutants, including sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides, the main ingredients in soot and smog.
The rule is one of several federal efforts to arbitrate a long-standing regional dispute between coal-powered, lightly regulated states mainly in the South and Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic and New England states where the toxic emissions wind up on account of prevailing winds.
Even cities in the Midwest and the South are affected by their neighbors' pollution, including Chicago, Knoxville, Tenn., and Charlotte, N.C., said Vickie Patton, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, which had intervened in the case on behalf of the EPA.
Continue reading at latimes.com:
For a less entertaining but still slightly political take, try Bloomberg's "Obama Curbs on Coal Pollution Rejected by U.S. Court"

Australia's reverse solar auction delivers 'remarkable' results

Australia's reverse solar auction delivers 'remarkable' results
The ACT government will not be releasing results of its first auction for large-scale solar for another couple of weeks, Corbell tells the Australian Solar Energy Society’s East Solar conference in Melbourne.
“But what I can tell you today is that Canberra’s Big Solar auction is already delivering some remarkable results,” he says.
Under the scheme, the price to be paid for electricity generated from successful projects will be set by a competitive bidding process.
From a total of 49 proposals from 27 proponents, 10 projects from six qualified for the initial “fast- track” auction for 20MW.
The Entire Article Can be read at Recharge News

Bill Gates to Develop New Nuclear Reactor with Korea

Last December TerraPower was rumoured to have a deal with China, but Gates noted discussions were preliminary and talks continued with other nations (here). 

The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition): Daily News from Korea - Bill Gates to Develop New Nuclear Reactor with Korea:
Microsoft founder Bill Gates has pledged to develop with Korea a revolutionary nuclear reactor that will leave far less radioactive waste than existing ones.

Gates, who retired from managing Microsoft in 2008, invested US$35 million to establish a nuclear-power venture company called TerraPower in 2010.

Gates met with the head of the Korean Nuclear Society, Chang Soon-heung, in Seattle on Thursday and agreed to cooperate in the development of a sodium-cooled fast reactor, the KNS said Sunday. SFRs are next-generation nuclear technology that can use spent nuclear fuel rods from conventional reactors.
"

Monday, August 20, 2012

Merkel’s Green Shift Forces Germany to Burn More Coal

An article putting the opening of Germany's latest generating plant, a 2200MW capacity lignite-fired one, in a broader perspective of Germany's energy transition - apparently a transition to more open pit mining and lignite (29% more CO2 emssions than hard coal).

Merkel’s Green Shift Forces Germany to Burn More Coal - Bloomberg:
Germany’s largest utilities RWE and EON AG (EOAN) are shunning cleaner-burning natural gas because it’s more costly, while the collapsing cost of carbon permits means there’s little penalty for burning coal. Wind and solar projects, central to Germany’s plans to reduce nuclear energy and cut the release of heat- trapping gases, can’t produce electricity around the clock.
“Angela Merkel’s policy has created an incentive structure which has the effect of partially replacing nuclear with coal, the dirtiest fuel that’s responsible for much of the growth in the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions since 1990,” Dieter Helm, an energy policy professor at the University of Oxford, said by phone Aug. 17. Building new coal stations means “locking them in for the next 30 years” as a type of generation, Helm said.
Germany’s increasing coal consumption is part of a global return to the fossil fuel that’s cheaper than most alternatives. The amount of coal burned worldwide rose 5.4 percent to account for 30 percent of total energy use last year, the highest proportion since 1969, according to BP Plc (BP/) data...
EON generated 10 percent more electricity from burning coal in the first half than in the same period a year ago. RWE’s coal-fired power output in Germany rose by 12 percent in the same period.
Read the entire article at Bloomberg:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Instability in Power Grid Comes at High Cost for German Industry

Instability in Power Grid Comes at High Cost for German Industry - SPIEGEL ONLINE:
Graphic from source article
It was 3 a.m. on a Wednesday when the machines suddenly ground to a halt at Hydro Aluminium in Hamburg. The rolling mill's highly sensitive monitor stopped production so abruptly that the aluminum belts snagged. They hit the machines and destroyed a piece of the mill. The reason: The voltage off the electricity grid weakened for just a millisecond.
Workers had to free half-finished aluminum rolls from the machines, and several hours passed before they could be restarted. The damage to the machines cost some €10,000 ($12,300).
In the following three weeks, the voltage weakened at the Hamburg factory two more times, each time for a fraction of second. Since the machines were on a production break both times, there was no damage. Still, the company invested €150,000 to set up its own emergency power supply, using batteries, to protect itself from future damages.
"It could have affected us again in the middle of production and even led to a fire," said plant manager Axel Brand. "That would have been really expensive."
Read the entire article at SPIEGEL ONLINE

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wind power: The dirty secret of the energy revolution | FTD.de

Another economic perspective of the wealth distribution from feed-in-tariffs.
The article is German (the translation is simply using Google's translate function)

Wind power: The dirty secret of the energy revolution | FTD.de:
What sucks is that representatives of the industry act as if they were traveling on behalf of a higher mission. Sure, the energy transition is a gigantic project for the future, with the reverses of our economy. A project that inspires.
But it is also one of the largest redistribution programs from bottom to top, which Germany has seen for a long time. It divides the society into those who produce (at 20 years guaranteed), and those who consume. Someone who really cares in the SPD or the Greens, who otherwise always combine top-down redistribution or want?
Even industry representatives unofficially admit that these transfers are a "huge issue" and the high rents are insane. But there are notoriously tricky topics giants, they would rather not talk loudly...
So if you see the next time a wind turbine, do not think: This is beautiful or ugly. Or clean or disturbing. Just think: Congratulations! Someone's been damn rich.
The article can be read in full, in German, at the Financial Times Deutschland site:

Ontario note: microFIT contracts require separate metering for the solar panels - and I suspect most profiting handsomely off of solar panels here are consuming as much, or more, energy than they produce.
They pay 7-8 cents for what they consume, and sell production for 60-83.

Call and Answer on BC's Carbon Tax

I noticed the name Aldyen Donnelly the other day, attached to an article Carbon Taxes: They just don't work, responding to a another report by Mark Jaccard on carbon taxation, one which the Pembina Institute also has some level of participation in.

Image from Source article
Earlier this week, we learned that the Pembina Institute joined forces with Mark Jaccard at Simon Fraser University to present yet another faulty carbon tax advocacy piece, promoting it as “research.” The deficiencies in the study’s research method are too numerous to document in a 1,000-word article, so I will focus on just a few.
The authors say a primary objective of their study was to “document evidence of any positive and negative environmental and economic impacts of the carbon tax to date.” Interestingly, 67 per cent of their survey respondents reported they are not aware that the tax has had any impact on energy demand or emissions, but they like the tax anyway.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Conversation: The problem in the grid

I spend a lot of time on the costs of the electricity commodity itself, but in Ontario the big price mover over the past 7 years has not been the cost of the commodity, but the other cost associated with consuming it (distribution).
That is also being sold as the case in Australia, where the Prime Minister is seemingly desperate to move the blame for rising prices away for the carbon tax she introduced 


The Conversation: the problem in the grid:
...reducing pressures on electricity price rises is a key objective of the government’s offensive. In emphasizing the “pole and wires” the Prime Minister is pointing the finger at the grid as a key driver of recent price rises. It is the way we distribute electricity, rather than generate it, that dominates retail prices, so the argument goes.
In particular, the Prime Minister and others have begun to highlight policies that have encouraged over-investment in, or gold-plating, the electricity grid. With utilities receiving a guaranteed rate of return, grid investment has been something of a “no-brainer” for them, even if demand hasn’t fully justified it.
Read the entire article at The Conversation:

The Naked Cost of Energy -- Stripping Away Financing and Subsidies

The pricing dominating the start of this article I found questionable, but the meat of the article is an important overview of the forces at play in determining the future energy mix.

The Naked Cost of Energy -- Stripping Away Financing and Subsidies - Forbes:

Graphic from Source Article at Forbes
Almost all of the nuclear plant fiascos of the 1970s and 1980s were actually financing and planning debacles, not a fault of the technology. And taxpayers were made to foot the bill on many of those poorly-financed and poorly-planned projects, thus souring much of the public on big projects like these.

So can we get our financing act together in time to avoid becoming a natural gas nation?

At present, financing is decided primarily on short-term goals and profits, and not on long-term needs for energy and economic security. This is true for the United States, and progressively less so for other countries whose energy production is either nationalized, part of a close government-private relationship, or merely heavily subsidized. Free market forces may be excellent for short-term profits and innovation but cannot address long-term non-market requirements for stability, security and environmental sustainability. To confront this void, the U.S. should develop financial mechanisms that provide long-term strategies while allowing market forces to function as desired

Read the entire article at Forbes:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

AP IMPACT: CO2 EMISSIONS IN US DROP TO 20-YEAR LOW

Related, closely, to my previous post: in most of the world coal is the cheapest source ...

AP IMPACT: CO2 EMISSIONS IN US DROP TO 20-YEAR LOW
"Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, said the shift away from coal is reason for "cautious optimism" about potential ways to deal with climate change. He said it demonstrates that "ultimately people follow their wallets" on global warming.
"There's a very clear lesson here. What it shows is that if you make a cleaner energy source cheaper, you will displace dirtier sources," said Roger Pielke Jr., a climate expert at the University of Colorado."
Read the entire, informative, article at the Associated Press site

US Exports of coal and fuels on track to set record

As the US electricity generation uses less coal, the coal finds new export markets to travel to.
This is why some are now saying the only way to avoid the use of an asset, such as coal, is to buy the right to keep it in the ground - it's also why expensive energy probably cannot eliminate dirty energy, but only displace it to places that would rather have dirty energy than no energy.

Exports of coal and fuels on track to set record - Businessweek:
On Thursday Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear announced a 25-year, $7 billion agreement between India's Abhijeet Group and Kentucky-based Booth Energy Group and River Trading Co. that could send 9 million tons of coal a year to India from West Virginia and Kentucky. That would represent 8 percent of last year's record 107 million tons...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

RWE's 2,200 MW coal-fired power station officially begins operations in Germany

My skepticism about intermittent renewables being more suited to a match with natural gas than coal is not diminished by this story on Germany's latest power plant.

RWE's 2,200 MW coal-fired power station officially begins operations in Germany:
Ever since the early design phase of these units, RWE has placed great emphasis on the rapid responsiveness of the plant. Each unit can modify its output by a good 500 MW in just 15 minutes; with a total capacity of 1,000 MW at its disposal, it produces more than 400 wind turbines can, and at a speed that rivals the very latest gas-fired power plants. 
Read the entire article at Penn Energy:

EERE Report on the State of the Wind Industry in the US

The US Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy department (EERE) has released a 2011 Wind Technologies Market Report.

One quick takeaway from the report was that 6 states "are estimated to exceed 10% wind energy penetration."  They are South Dakota, Iowa (both over 20%), Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado and Oregon.
Wind is not Reducing Emissions is an article I posted in March on my original content blog.  I looked at different metrics to determine top wind states, but only Colorado, from this EERE list, was not in my post examining US Energy Information Administration data to show that between 2005 and 2010, as these states grew their wind portfolios:

  • only Minnesota decreased CO2 significantly quicker than the US average (North Dakota was at the average, while Oregon and Iowa's CO2 emissions went up).
  • only North Dakota and Iowa decreased SO2 more than the US average
  • only Minnesota reduced NOx more than the US average
Overall the group performed well below the US average in addressing emissions.

The EERE demonstrates, extensively, the increase in wind capacity, and investigates the costs of that, but it doesn't attempt to attach any significance to the expansion of wind capacity in terms of emissions.

Encouragingly, it does note "...the Western Wind and Solar Integration Study Phase II and the PJM wind integration study, both due to be completed within the next year, will include an assessment of cycling costs."


Off-Shore Wind Powers Confrontations, Lawsuits

News from Germany's push for offshore wind on the day Germany's Environment Minister opens it's latest "lignite"-fired plant.

Norway's Kvaerner is saying alvederzane to working on Merkel's farm no more (recharge):
A spokeswoman for Kvaerner, which was part of Aker Solutions until a 2010 demerger, tells Recharge that the decision mostly comes down to the Oslo-based company’s desire to focus on the “booming” business of building jackets for oil and gas clients.
However, she acknowledges that Kvaerner’s views on offshore wind have not been brightened by its ongoing disagreement with German utility RWE over who should shoulder the burden of cost overruns at Nordsee Ost. The matter is presently in arbitration.
Not Germany's fault - at least that's the rationale behind  the German Grid regulator initiating a case against Dutch firm TenneT on behalf of a German company after "TenneT took no action after it requested a branch line be run from an existing North Sea cable to its Deutsche Bucht wind park." (Scientific American).

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Green movement needs to embrace nuclear energy - The Irish Times - Tue, Aug 14, 2012

This article in the Irish Times is as a thorough, but not overly long, argument for nuclear power.
-by David Robert Grimes, a doctor of medical physics at Oxford University.

Green movement needs to embrace nuclear energy - The Irish Times - Tue, Aug 14, 2012:
The ideological bias against nuclear power is hard to overcome but it is clean and cheap and has tiny emissions
NUCLEAR POWER has long been a contentious issue, and debate about it has intensified following the second worst nuclear accident in history, at Fukushima in Japan — an accident that has claimed no lives, and in all likelihood never will.
In Ireland, opposition to nuclear energy is nothing new; almost four decades ago, in the wake of the 1973 energy crisis, the ESB planned to build a nuclear plant at Carnsore Point. A public backlash resulted in the nuclear option being dropped and instead a coal plant was built at Moneypoint. This was and still is heralded as a victory by Green activists. But if this was a victory, it was a deeply pyrrhic one. Coal is undoubtedly the most hazardous and polluting fuel there is. The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 1.3 million people a year die from respiratory problems caused by solid fuel.
Continue Reading at The Irish Times

Monday, August 13, 2012

The price of conversion: Negotiating the cost of Frivolity in Thunder Bay

The pointless plan to convert Thunder Bay's coal-fired generating units to natural gas has hit a snag.  It appears the public generator is demanding compensation to convert the units.
Trouble is not surprising as the units have operated at approximately 3% of capacity over the past couple of years - the premise, that it would be cleaner to build something cleaner not to run, instead of not running coal, is suspect.  
The size of the units would also indicate they are far better candidates for running on some blend inclusive of biomass - more so than the larger Atikokan unit, which also is rarely utilized but being converted to not run on biomass (it currently doesn't run on coal)

The price of conversion | The Chronicle-Journal:
ONTARIO’S plan to close all of its coal-fired power plants by 2014 has suffered another setback and a Thunder Bay city councillor wants to make sure it doesn’t last long. Larry Hebert, a former city hydro official, has revealed that conversion of the Thunder Bay Generating Station from coal to natural gas is on hold because two branches of Ontario’s energy kingdom can’t agree on price.
Read the Entire article at The Chronicle-Journal

EON's recipe for success – Work Government Subsidies

An article on E. ON notes their strategy to lock up Russian gas supplies as they structure their 'business' to rely on subsidies for non-hydro renewables (they article notes the negative impact on hydro assets), and counting on future subsidies for fossil fuel plant capacity.
Predictably, in an environment where business decisions are driven entirely by subsidy, market pricing continues to collapse across much of Europe (unlike their unemployment rates - or debts).

EON's recipe for success – renewables plus Russian gas - Finance - Renewable energy news - Recharge - wind, solar, biomass, wave/tidal/hydro and geothermal:
Electricity prices continue to drop or stagnate across Europe. E.ON says forward prices for 2013 delivery are about €70/MWh in Italy, €60/MWh in the UK, €50/MWh in Spain, €48/MWh in Germany and €38/MWh in hydro-rich Scandinavia.
The sharpest drop has come in Germany, due in large part to the rampant addition of new wind and PV capacity.
E.ON acknowledges that many of its future investment decisions will be determined by the German government – such as who will pay for the expansion of Germany’s offshore grids, and whether to pay utilities to maintain ageing fossil plants in order to complement the country’s growing renewables portfolio.
Read the entire article at Renewable energy news - Recharge

Friday, August 10, 2012

The $4.6 million green job

Going to Vegas! ... for this editorial

Green summit: And never is heard a discouraging word - Opinion - ReviewJournal.com:
Exaggerated scare tactics about the Earth's destruction may make for gripping sound bites, but they don't form a very sturdy base upon which to build sound policy. Nor is this about national security. The development of huge reserves of previously inaccessible domestic shale oil and natural gas have taken that argument off the table. As for economic development, green power supporters who promised millions of high-paying jobs as part of the renewable revolution have little so far to show for their expenditures.
On Tuesday, the Nevada Journal - the newsmagazine of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a local think tank - released its examination of green energy subsidies and their effect on "green-collar" employment here. The Journal found that more than $1.3 billion in federal funds for geothermal, solar and wind projects since 2009 "has yielded and is projected to yield just 288 permanent, full-time jobs. That's an initial cost of over $4.6 million per job."
Read the entire article at the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bruce Power statement on OPA Granting of Force Majeure claim

The background: 4 units are at Bruce A, 2 of which have not operated since the 1990's.  Those were to have refurbishments completed by July 1st 2012, or rates for all Bruce A units were to revert to the market rate - which since July 1st has been about half of the contracted rate.

Bruce Power statement on Force Majeure claim | Bruce Power:
August 9, 2012 – Bruce Power has received confirmation from the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) that a Force Majeure (FM) claim under the Bruce Power Refurbishment Implementation Agreement (BPRIA), related to Unit 2, has been accepted...

August 2012 Ontario Electricity Exports Bulletin - Rebuttal

Net exports are down 2.5-3%, for the month and on a year-to-date basis, while net revenues are down 33.5% year-to-date, and 41% for July.

August 2012 Ontario Electricity Exports Bulletin:
Ontario's electricity market generated over $17 million in July by exporting electricity to other states and provinces, bringing total net export revenues to more than $127 million this year.
One Year Earlier: 
August 2011: Electricity Exports Continue To Benefit Ontarians:
Ontario's electricity market generated over $29 million in July by exporting electricity to other states and provinces, bringing total net export revenues to over $191 million this year.
The Ministry figures indicate the average price/MWh received on net exports in 2012 is ~$21.80/MWh.
The lowest rate residential and small business customers pay in Ontario is $65/MWh, with the average price paid over $80/MWh.

So for July...
volumes equal
revenues down
disparity to Ontario rates up.

Same as it ever was ...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monbiot's Weekly Column: Putting a price on the rivers and rain diminishes us all

George Monbiot has a philosophical column this week dealing with Ostrander Point, and Ontario's tendency to allow developers to do whatever they wish as long as they promise to recreate the environment they are destroying somewhere else.
I may be projecting ...

Putting a price on the rivers and rain diminishes us all | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian:
Like other aspects of neoliberalism, the commodification of nature forestalls democratic choice. No longer will we be able to argue that an ecosystem or a landscape should be protected because it affords us wonder and delight; we'll be told that its intrinsic value has already been calculated and, doubtless, that it turns out to be worth less than the other uses to which the land could be put. The market has spoken: end of debate.
All those messy, subjective matters, the motivating forces of democracy, will be resolved in a column of figures. Governments won't need to regulate; the market will make the decisions that politicians have ducked. But trade is a fickle master, and unresponsive to anyone except those with the money. The costing and sale of nature represents another transfer of power to corporations and the very rich.
It diminishes us, it diminishes nature."
Read the Entire article at The Guardian
...and after you do - or while you do, consider listening to Clay Shirky's Ted talk

A Slowdown in Growth, an Increase in Income Inequality

A Slowdown in Growth, an Increase in Income Inequality - NYTimes.com:
Graphic from articlegraphic from article
The income stagnation of the last decade stems, in the simplest terms, from two factors: a slowdown in economic growth and a rise in inequality, which has concentrated the economy’s modest gains among a small share of the population...
Since 1980, a household at the cutoff for the top 1/1,000th of earners — making about $1.5 million in 2010 — has received a pay increase of more than 100 percent, after adjusting for inflation. A household in the middle of the income distribution has received an inflation-adjusted raise of only 11 percent.
Read the full article at the NYTimes Economix blog:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Wind Subsidies Impacting the Viability of Generators in the US

There are a number of interesting items from the US media lately, bringing the structural economic problems of subsidies for intermittent generation into focus.

Exelon Corporation, long an advocate of carbon taxation, is now fighting for an end the the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for industrial wind turbines (Exelon Pushes to scrap wind subsidy).  While Exelon does own some wind capacity, it's half nuclear, and the remainder is largely natural gas (I believe mostly CCGT) - coal is not a factor at Exelon:
Wind power provides a fraction of power in the U.S., but once the turbines are running, they depress electric prices because wind as a fuel is free. At certain times, such as the middle of the night, wind power can help drive electricity prices to below zero

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bruce Power site achieves key operational milestone

Bruce Power's latest news release contains a lot of information which, taken together, indicate all Bruce A units should reach into the next decade, with units 3 and 4 looking aligned for possible refurbishment at that time.

Bruce Power site achieves key operational milestone | Bruce Power:
TIVERTON, ON – Aug. 3, 2012 – Bruce Power continues to make progress with the return to service of Bruce A Units 1 and 2, while making ongoing investments in Units 3 and 4.
Unit 1 is now ‘critical’, meaning the nuclear reactor is operating as it progresses through the final stages of commissioning and testing, in preparation of raising power and synchronizing to Ontario’s electricity grid. Unit 1 continues to be on track to achieve commercial operation in the third quarter of this year...
...On the nuclear side of the plant, Unit 2 is also critical...
Bruce Power will also execute an expanded outage investment program on Unit 4 starting immediately,... This planned maintenance outage will align the lifespan of Unit 4 to that of Unit 3...
The operational alignment of Units 3 and 4 is also an important component of future refurbishment planning on the Bruce Power site.
Read the entire release at Bruce Power's site

Are Fast-Breeder Reactors A Nuclear Power Panacea?

The Breakthrough Institute: Are Fast-Breeder Reactors A Nuclear Power Panacea?:
Plutonium is the nuclear nightmare. A by-product of conventional power-station reactors, it is the key ingredient in nuclear weapons. And even when not made into bombs, it is a million-year radioactive waste legacy that is already costing the world billions of dollars a year to contain.
And yet, some scientists say, we have the technology to burn plutonium in a new generation of "fast" reactors. That could dispose of the waste problem, reducing the threat of radiation and nuclear proliferation, and at the same time generate vast amounts of low-carbon energy. It sounds too good to be true. So are the techno-optimists right -- or should the conventional environmental revulsion at all things nuclear still hold?
Fast-breeder technology is almost as old as nuclear power. But after almost two decades in the wilderness, it could be poised to take off.
Continue reading at The Breakthrough Institute:

Friday, August 3, 2012

China in talks to build UK nuclear power plants

Uranium Stocks - Uranium Stocks - China in talks to build UK nuclear power plants:
"China is poised to make a dramatic intervention in Britain's energy future by offering to invest billions of pounds in building a series of new nuclear power stations.
Officials from China's nuclear industry have been in high-level talks with ministers and officials at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) this week about a plan that could eventually involve up to five different reactors being built at a total cost of £35bn.
Greenpeace described the move as desperate, while others warned of security fears, but the government has been courting China as the UK atomic programme has been hit by rows over subsidies and worries that EDF – the French company with the most advanced plans to build new reactors in the UK – could be hampered by the change of government in Paris.
China has operated its own atomic plants since 1994. It is awash with cash from its hugely successful industrial expansion and sees the UK as a potential shop window for exporting its atomic technology and expertise worldwide."
Continue reading at 'Uranium Stocks ':

Thursday, August 2, 2012

U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in early 2012 lowest since 1992 - EIA

The accomplishment would be more impressive if it came in the context of global cooling. 
The middle part of the year will be a better test, yet clearly the move to natural gas and reduction in gasoline consumption is having an impact on emissions.

U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in early 2012 lowest since 1992 - Today in Energy - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA):
U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions resulting from energy use during the first quarter of 2012 were the lowest in two decades for any January-March period. Normally, CO2 emissions during the year are highest in the first quarter because of strong demand for heat produced by fossil fuels. However, CO2 emissions during January-March 2012 were low due to a combination of three factors:
  • A mild winter that reduced household heating demand and therefore energy use
  • A decline in coal-fired electricity generation, due largely to historically low natural gas prices
  • Reduced gasoline demand
Continue reading at the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

Study that downplayed fracking risks was led by gas industry insider

Study that downplayed fracking risks was led by gas industry insider | The Institute for Southern Studies:
Earlier this year, the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin released a study of fracking with great fanfare, promoting the research as peer-reviewed science independent of industry and issuing a press release that claimed "New Study Shows No Evidence of Groundwater Contamination from Hydraulic Fracturing."
While those claims were widely reported in the media at the time, it turns out that none of them was true.
Continue reading at the The Institute for Southern Studies:

DIW Wants to Combine the Energy Turnaround and Rescue of Banks

A report that the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) wants to make funding renewables projects a prerequisite of government support for financial entities.
DIW
I just met you,
and this is crazy...

DIW Wants to Combine the Energy Turnaround and Rescue of Banks « German Energy Blog:
...the availability of private capital is becoming a decisive factor in the successful transformation of the German energy system. According to DWI there have been more and more indications that banks are reluctant to extend credit and are focusing on the potential risks of financing the switch to renewable energy. Hence DWI suggested that the government should call for appropriate involvement of the major banks in financing the transformation of the energy system in return for implicit guarantees for those banks.
Read the full article at the German Energy Blog - the previous post at that blog was indicative of the debate about whether using biomass in energy production should be encouraged (as green), or not (as not green).