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:

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Tol: The Structure of the Climate Debate

I can't recommend a paper from Richard Tol highly enough - I think on content, but communication style might be part of the appeal.
Abstract: First-best climate policy is a uniform carbon tax which gradually rises over time. Civil servants have complicated climate policy to expand bureaucracies, politicians to create rents. Environmentalists have exaggerated climate change to gain influence, other activists have joined the climate bandwagon. Opponents to climate policy have attacked the weaknesses in climate research. The climate debate is convoluted and polarized as a result, and climate policy complex. Climate policy should become easier and more rational as the Paris Agreement has shifted climate policy back towards national governments. Changing political priorities, austerity, and a maturing bureaucracy should lead to a more constructive climate debate.
The full paper (.pdf) is worth the full read. Some of my favourite sections (stripped of those clumsy references academics clutter papers with):
Economists have been reluctant, however, to write much about the climate debate itself and apply their tools of analysis to the question why participants in this debate behave the way they do. This paper makes a first attempt.
...
A number of things stand in the way of a reasonable debate on international climate policy

First, the presentation of climate change is often a discourse of fear... There is a demand for an explanation of the world in terms of Sin and a Final Reckoning... Although many Europeans are nominally secular, fewer are in practice. The story of climate change is often a religious one...: emissions (sin) lead to climate change (eternal doom); we must reduce our emissions (atone for our sins). This has led to an environmental movement (a priesthood) that thrives on preaching climate alarmism, often separated from its factual basis. Environmentalism further offers an identity..., a tribe to belong to, and an opportunity to feel better than outsiders. In order to maximize their membership and income, environmental NGOs meet the demand for scaremongering and moral superiority...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bird deaths and ignorance

The big story of the day contains, as it so often does, nonsense from the Canadian Wind Industry - which I'd like to address, so...

Study calls for 18-km turbine setback | John Miner, London Free Press
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a standard that wind farms not be located within five kilometres of the shoreline. The Nature Conservancy recommends eight kilometres. The new evidence points to an 18-kilometre zone as appropriate, Hutchins said.
“These birds don’t just belong to Canada and the United States, they are a shared resource and they are worth billions of dollars,” Hutchins said, pointing to their role in controlling pests, pollinating crops and dispersing seed. “We can’t afford to lose these animals,” he said.
Ontario doesn’t restrict the proximity of wind turbines in relation to the Great Lakes, but does require wind farm developers to monitor bird and bat deaths for three years. For bats the acceptable mortality level is 10 per wind turbine each year, while the limit for birds is 14 birds annually per turbine.
Beyond those levels, the wind farm company may be required to take mitigating action.
Data released last month indicated wind turbines in Ontario in 2015 killed 14,140 birds, mainly songbirds, and 42,656 bats, including several species on Ontario’s endangered species list.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife radar study found that migrating birds concentrate along the shorelines to refuel and rest before crossing the lakes. The researchers also found the birds make broad-scale flights along the shorelines to explore wind conditions and orient themselves for migration.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Renewables and gas and Hinkley Point

I'd been thinking the discussion around the new May government's delay of a decision on EPR reactors at Hinkley Point was featuring well known voices tossing off half-cooked ideas as alternatives to the project, and am now inspired to say so by...

“All other things equal, a 1% percent increase in the share of fast reacting fossil technologies is associated with a 0.88% percent increase in renewable generation capacity in the long term,” the study reports. Again, this is over 26 separate countries, and more than two decades.“Our paper calls attention to the fact that renewables and fast-reacting fossil technologies appear as highly complementary and that they should be jointly installed to meet the goals of cutting emissions and ensuring a stable supply,” the paper adds.
...
“When people assume that we can switch from fossil fuels to renewables they assume we can completely switch out of one path, to another path,” says Verdolini. But, she adds, the study suggests otherwise.
Verdolini emphasized this merely describes the past — not necessarily the future. That’s a critical distinction, because the study also notes that if we reach a time when fast-responding energy storage is prevalent — when, say, large-scale grid batteries store solar or wind-generated energy and can discharge it instantaneously when there’s a need — then the reliance on gas may no longer be so prevalent.
Ah the future - a country unknown to all but zealots.

The study seems to find what I'd expect. Renewables in much of the world (certainly Ontario) lack meaningful capacity value, so they are always additional generation. They do not replace other generators.
Thinking through the eternal promise of storage, I argue wind and solar should be viewed as fuels for the batteries (or other storage) which would be the generators.

It seems to me these issues have been around long enough, they should be obvious, and yet it remains common to see renewables presented as alternatives to actual generators - such as the proposed Hinkley C.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

New York, South Australia, and U.K. messages on nuclear, and wind

The New York State Department of Public Service (NYSDPS) took a small, but significant step forward yesterday. By a vote of three yeses and one concur, the commissioners decided to implement a clean energy standard that includes zero emission credits for nuclear plants that are struggling in a market where the wholesale prices are too low to cover their fixed costs. - Rod Adams, Atomic Insights
It was nice to see my American pro-nuclear online acquaintances get something of a win yesterday with the passage of a plan I wrote on in New York bringing hope back to US nuclear operator. Now that I can't jinx it passing, I want to discuss issues revealed over the past 3 weeks by events including New York's Zero Emissions Credit (ZEC) initiative, an electricity supply crisis in South Australia, and a new government in the U.K. delaying signing off on a new reactor agreement.

Starting in New York...
Brad Plumer has a story at VOX that seems well regarded, so I'll recommend that while noting the title is highly questionable and the following section both important, and misleading (at best):
From Nuclear power and renewables don’t have to be enemies. New York just showed how:
Right now these reactors aren’t fully compensated for this climate benefit. So, the commission decided, let’s start with that $50 a ton and then subtract out what these reactors already receive from power markets, capacity markets, and RGGI, the Northeast’s cap-and-trade system. Then we’ll pay the reactors for the difference — call it a “zero-emission credit” (ZEC):

Friday, July 29, 2016

Ontario energy week: rural poverty and OEB ignorance

"The public policy objective of the Cap and Trade Program is to reduce GHG emissions"
I try to keep these posts dispassionate summaries of recent articles that interested me, but with requisite editorializing to connect the articles.

Let me start this post with what a statement that may be be more subjective than objective - and then I'll connect news and the reader can decide:
Rosemarie LeClair should be terminated, with cause, from employment at the Ontario Energy Board.
An example of the damage done by many entities, including the OEB, came this week from the United Way of Bruce Grey:

July 1 2015 – June 30 2016 Close to ¾ of a million dollars was spent by area social service agencies and charities helping people stay connected to their utilities as well as providing heat in the past 12 months. For the 2015-2016 winter (July 1-June 30) the United Way has gathered data from social services agencies and other charities who have provided support to people experiencing energy poverty...

The report notes monthly "delivery" charges associated with baseboard heating are $66/month.
The report also notes the impact of the global adjustment, without noting pricing has been so complex the system operator can't provide a coherent answer on the average rate they pay to generators. If they noted their third listed contributor to high costs in rural Ontario, conservation, would make more sense - if the IESO understood what was driving costs, and the "I" belonged in their name, they wouldn't be spending so much on conservation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Killing Nuclear, ignoring emissions and avoiding carbon pricing

In Germany, where renewables have mostly replaced nuclear power, carbon emissions are rising, even as Germans pay the most expensive electricity rates in Europe. In South Australia, the all-wind strategy is taking its toll. And in California, the costs of renewables are also apparent. - Eduardo Porter - New York Times
Recently a multitude of exceptional articles have been written on the challenges facing nuclear power plants in the United States, mostly without mentioning an alternative to competing subsidies.

  • A $30/tonne CO2 equivalent price would equate to adding $12-$15 per megawatt-hour on the most efficient natural gas-fired generators. $30 is a familiar figure thrown about in Canada.
  • The United States Government's Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Carbon has a complex methodology of working out values: using a 4% discount rate they provide a 2016 value of $38/metric ton CO2, but that's in 2007 dollars - it's about $44/t CO2e in 2016 dollars, putting the social cost  per megawatt-hour of natural gas-fired generation at $17.5-$22.5/megawatt hour.
now... to the news

A very educational read is Will Boisvert's Renewables Subsidies Are Killing Nuclear and Threatening Climate Progress, Bloomberg New Energy Finance Study Shows:
Why are nuclear plants going broke? The immediate reason is cheap gas. The plunge in natural gas prices caused a collapse in the price of natural gas-fueled electricity, which has slumped below the production costs of nuclear plants. Bloomberg predicts that in the sprawling PJM grid wholesale prices will be $28.50 per megawatt-hour in 2017, lower than average nuclear production costs of $35.50 per megawatt-hour. Facing losses like that, nuclear utilities are closing up shop.
But the impact of market forces has been worsened by public policy that neglects nuclear power and adds to the pressure it faces. Federal, state and local governments have massively intervened in energy markets to support renewable power with subsidies and mandates, but given virtually no support to existing nuclear plants. These biases tilt the playing field for commercial competitors of nuclear plants.
The $23 per megawatt-hour federal Production Tax Credit for wind farms, for example, can be larger than the total wholesale price nuclear plants get for their power in some regions, according to Bloomberg data. (It’s also larger than the $5-15 per megawatt-hour subsidies Bloomberg reckons nuclear plants need to break even.)
I'll read most anything by Will Boisvert -in English- but I don't see a link to the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Study (nor could I locate it), and there's no mention of carbon pricing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

New York bringing hope back to US nuclear operator

New York state is acting to keep existing nuclear generators operational in an important power play that's interesting for a number of reasons.

July 8th (Friday afternoon, as policy announced) NY regulators propose generous Upstate nuclear subsidies | Syracuse.com
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – State utility regulators today released a proposal to subsidize Upstate nuclear plants with annual payments totaling an estimated $482 million a year.
The proposal from the Public Service Commission staff seems likely to please nuclear plant operators, who say their facilities deserve subsidies for providing carbon-free power, and to infuriate anti-nuclear advocates who want more resources devoted to wind and solar.
The public has a brief opportunity to comment -- until July 18 – an indication that the PSC is likely to rule on the proposal at its Aug. 1 meeting.
Exelon Corp., which owns three of the four Upstate nuclear reactors, recently told the commission that the oldest two facilities might close unless subsidies were approved by September.
Exelon had said similar things about a proposal put to the Illinois legislature to incent existing nuclear units there by guaranteeing a $42/MWh rate for the generators. Illinois' legislature didn't act, and Exelon announced the closure of Illinois units.

The initial Syracuse.com story embedded Public Service Commission staff's recommendation - knows at POLITICO as Cuomo's nuclear subsidy plan. From the recommendation:
Replacement of the zero-emission attributes with equivalent amounts of fossil-fueled attributes would result in an increase of approximately 31 million metric tons of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere over the next two years, according to a report issued by The Brattle Group.
...
Staff is proposing to subsidize zero-emissions attributes from Zero Carbon Electric Generating Facilities when there is a public necessity to encourage their preservation. Payments for zero-emissions attributes would be based upon the U.S. Interagency Working Group’s (USIWG) projected social cost of carbon (SCC). This approach is consistent with the Commission’s approach in setting guidelines for Benefit-Cost Analysis. 
This may be the first payment scheme designed to price energy by the social cost of carbon. The formula is:
RGGI is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative - so if it was trading carbon at what the USIWG considers the social cost of carbon the ZEC would be zero. If the combination of the RGGI credit costs, expected market pricing and capacity payments (in the "rest of state", or ROS zone) was equal to, or greater than, the USIWG's social cost of carbon, the price would be zero.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Diablo and the end of California nuclear

This morning Forbes posted Rod Adams' NRDC Announces PG&E Has Agreed To Kill Diablo Canyon:
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has just issued a press release stating that they have signed a deal with [Pacific Gas and Electric Company], IBEW local 1245, the Coalition of California Utility Employees, Friends of the Earth, Environment California, and the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.
There is an implied quid pro quo. The groups will support PG&E’s request for an extension from the California Lands Commission of its land use permit that allows access to ocean cooling water at the Commission’s June 28 meeting. In return, PG&E will agree to withdraw its 20-year license extension application at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission . Instead, it will aim to retire the two-unit site when its current licenses expire in 2024 and 2025.
The involvement of the NRDC is noteworthy as it is the same special interest group that the New York Times credited with writing the Clean Power Plan - which I do not credit with being a plan for particularly clean power.
Outsourced government seems to be reality, as the agreement is basically opponents of nuclear power waving their ability to bring the power of government to bear upon the nuclear operator if the nuclear operation promises to disappear by 2025.

The President of the NRDC, Rhea Suh, formerly of the Department of the Interior within the Obama administration, wrote some strange things on the agreement in California’s Last Nuclear Power Plant:
For years, some have claimed that we can’t fight climate change without nuclear power, because shutting down nuclear plants would mean burning more fossil fuels to generate replacement electricity.
That’s wrong, of course, and now we have the proof.
Today, California’s Pacific Gas and Electric became the first power company toannounce plans to replace an aging nuclear reactor with sound investments that make us more energy efficient and help us get more clean power from the wind and sun.
 That's batshit crazy right there.

Economists opine on tools to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

I've noted a flurry of opining on pricing emissions, perhaps because I'm Canadian and the small, homogenous eco-econo group heard a blast that disturbed the herd, but two recent works from south of the border also caught my attention.

Carbon pricing under binding political constraints, by Jesse Jenkins and Valerie Karplus, provides an explanation of why a straight carbon tax is rarely implemented - and when it is, generally at very low levels.
...persistent political economy constraints motivate a search for climate policies that are politically feasible, environmentally effective, and economically efficient. As in many other domains of economic regulation, second best (and third and fourth best) climate policy mechanisms abound. By paying close attention to the distributional impacts of different climate policy instruments and their interaction with potentially-binding political constraints, economists, political scientists, and policy makers can help design climate policy responses that are both palatable enough to be implemented today and economically superior to alternative second-best instruments.
... we implement constraints of varying severity on:
  1. the maximum feasible CO2 price itself; 
  2. the maximum tolerable increase in final energy prices; 
  3. a maximum tolerable decline in energy consumer surplus; and 
  4. a maximum decline in fossil energy producer surplus.
The full paper contains many, many equations. The stated "main objective of this exercise was to put an analytical framework around," and I think that's achieved more in noting the contraints than in the attempts to measure them. The authors' conclusion invokes scenarios where public opinion could be moved towards increasing the price of CO2, as the first best option, but...

Meredith Fowlie delivers a warning that policies taken outside of pricing carbon have been to the detriment of carbon prices, in Time to Unleash the Carbon Market?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Huron water level threatened again - by Toronto's Premier and its Environment (and Climate Change) Minister

The government of Toronto politician Kathleen Wynne issue a press release yesterday. I'll attempt to list the issue that caught my attention dispassionately.

Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers Release First-Ever Regional Maritime Strategy:
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne met today to discuss their ongoing partnership to grow the economy and create jobs. On behalf of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers, they released the first-ever regional strategy to jumpstart the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence maritime transportation system. The strategy's objectives are to double maritime trade, shrink the environmental footprint of the region's transportation network, and support the region's industrial core. Once fully implemented, the strategy will help grow the region's maritime sector, which already contributes more than US$30 billion to the U.S. and Canadian economies and accounts for more than 220,000 jobs.
...
The strategy includes a blend of policies, programs and projects to rejuvenate the regional maritime system. Ten-year implementation of the strategy is estimated at US$3.8 billion based on preliminary analysis. The states and provinces will work with other levels of government, industry and other stakeholders to advance implementation of the recommendations over the longer term. Specific recommendations include:
  • Constructing a second "Poe Class" Lock in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, to ensure the movement of vital raw materials like iron ore and coal. The feasibility of a second hydropower plant should be examined, including the potential of using revenue for future lock maintenance and construction.
  • Clearing the system's dredging backlog to ensure transit for fully loaded vessels. 
  • Dredging the system's critical chokepoint--the St. Marys River--to its authorized depth of 27 feet, while a longer-term, system-wide analysis of bottlenecks is completed to make sure dredging dollars are used most efficiently.
Sounds wonderful - especially the shipping more coal part - but for the real environmentalists of Lake Huron (and particularly Georgian Bay), it seems likely to undermine decades of work getting the negative impacts of dredging the St. Clair river - to 27 feet - recognized.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

2 new nuclear studies: on remote SMRs, and options for fuel recycling

Yesterday Ontario switched it's Energy Minister, along with the rest of the cabinet. The new Energy Minister, Glenn Thibeault, comes from being the Parliamentary Assistant to Glen Murray - and therefore from the culture my previous post covered.

Minister Thibeault arrives without any apparent background in science, engineering or technology, but he has some hefty reports he could deal with - maybe even read - as indicated in this Canadian Nuclear Association press release:
The Canadian Nuclear Association is pleased with the release of two new independent studies commissioned by the Ontario government on the benefits of advanced nuclear technologies.
The first study, "Feasibility of the Potential Deployment of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) inOntario", assesses SMR siting requirements, technological maturity, and economics. The second study, "A Feasibility Study on the Recycling of Used CANDU Fuel", explores the prospects to reuse and recycle used CANDU fuel - determining their feasibility, and potential implications for policies.
"The government of Ontario's initiation of these studies is a further sign that it sees the potential of nuclear to help meet environmental and economic goals," said CNA President John Barrett.
...Natural Resources Canada co-funded the two independent studies, initiated by the Ontario Ministry of Energy (MOE).
Here are links:

Saturday, June 11, 2016

in Ontario, a climate circle

My province has been very active with the introduction of a cap-and-trade plan, both in creating revenue tools and planning the dispensation of the revenues.

A chronology of some events that brought about the current status - according to heresay I've encountered on social media, and subsequent research:
  • 2008, October - Dave Sawyer (of Enviroeconomics) and Nic Rivers (for M.K. Jaccard and Associates) prepare pricing carbon: saving green written for the David Suzuki foundation. A main finding of the report is "A substantial portion of the government revenue from a carbon price should be invested in a large-scale increase in renewable energy, home energy efficiency improvements, and public transportation."
  • 2009 - The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) releases ACHIIEVING 2050: A CARBON PRICING POLICY FOR CANADA. The work's "three principal policy elements" are cap-and-trade, regulations in various sectors including buildings and transportation, and using international carbon abatement trading (partially to mitigate costs). Like the earlier report for the David Suzuki foundation, the recommendations for disbursing revenues from cap-and trade include, "to invest in the required technologies and innovation needed to meet the Canadian environmental goal of reduced GHG emissions."
  • 2015, March - The government  appoints a Climate Action Group. David McLaughlin, NRTEE President and CEO in 2009, tweets, "More evidence ON moving to cap-and-trade carbon pricing regime...Climate change advisors experts in field"
  • 2015, November The government's draft Cap and Trade Program Design Options included, "From 2008 to 2010, Ontario collaborated on and co-authored Western Climate Initiative (WCI) design recommendations..." Ontario decides to join that.
  • 2016, May 13The Wall Street Journal carried an article, When All Economics is Political (subscription), on Russ Roberts of  EconTalk, which is a favourite podcast I found since being gifted, pointedly, a treadmill. Roberts jokes in the article,“How do you know macroeconomists have a sense of humor? They use decimal points.”
  • 2016, May 17 - following a Globe and Mail story based on a leaked draft of the climate change plan, the government spreads the message"The average energy costs to households for building energy and transport could rise in the order (of) $13 per month in 2017." The message originates from Dave Sawyer of Enviroeconomics, in a presentation that begins, "Our analysis indicates that the provincial GDP impact in 2020 would be equivalent to a drop in growth of 0.03%". Decimal pointsEconomists chuckle.
  • 2016, May 18government passes Landmark Climate Change Legislation facilitating actions by the government
  • 2106, June 8 - government has media launch of the Climate Change Action Plan. The media includes a commercial with an audience of children listening to David Suzuki.
Suzuki's re-appearance closes that circle.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

EV, or not EV? and how

Incentives to purchase electric vehicles were a focus of Ontario's Climate Action Plan, but they didn't come from the automotive expert on the Climate Action Group appointed last March.

What would it take to make you buy an EV?
Industry consultant Dennis DeRosiers is blunt: “An incentive means a product has failed. The fundamental issue is that internal combustion engine cars are better.” He shakes his head that programs that have failed in virtually every jurisdiction where they’ve been introduced have not delivered a fraction of the anticipated results, and yet Ontario believes it will change the course. “Scrapper programs fail unless you’re prepared to force cars off the road. Governments won’t do that.”
DeRosiers was part of the provincial Climate Action Committee, and says in 100 hours of meetings less than half an hour was devoted to the auto sector. And despite the transportation sector making up 35 percent of all greenhouse gases in Ontario, he claims that none of his suggestions or advice was taken during these meetings. I asked about the popular projections that by 2050 our roads will be dominated by electric vehicles; he points to Germany, where the goal was 1 million EVs by 2020, and it currently sits at 70,000. “The greenest country in the world, and they don’t want them,” he says.
“Despite rebates and incentives, 96 per cent of drivers choose gas cars. And this is not the manufacturer’s fault. They are consistently making cars that are 20 percent more fuel efficient year over year.
“This is about drivers not wanting the new technology. It is still overwhelmingly for people who can afford two cars, so we’re talking not about buying one car, but two, and all the costs associated with that. And don’t forget the brutal depreciation on the electrics.”

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Wind driving extreme pricing in Ontario's electricity market

"There were wind shortfalls in all but one of the 28 High HOEPs during the Current Reporting Period"

Industrial wind turbines are driving extreme prices in the Ontario market according to the latest report from The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) Market Surveillance Panel (MSP).

And the past week's market performance.

  • On Sunday May 22, during hour 8, the system operator's (IESO) 5 minute Market Control Price (MCP) bottomed out at it's minimum of -$2,000 per megawatt-hour (MWh)
  • On Tuesday May 24, during hour 20, the 5 minute MCP hit the maximum $2000/MWh

Both spikes appeared to be due to renewable and demand forecasts being poor predictors of actual market conditions. The OEB's new report is therefore very relevant today, despite being for the period from November 1, 2014 to April 30, 2015.
In the Current Reporting Period there were 28 hours in which the HOEP exceeded $200/MWh (High HOEPs). This Period also had the highest HOEP since market opening, reaching $1402/MWh in hour ending 8 on February 20, 2015. The High HOEPs were primarily caused by under-forecasts of demand and short-notice losses of supply (curtailing of imports and under-generation of wind facilities relative to their forecast production).
...
Relevance: 
Identifying the factors that lead to deviations between the PD-1 MCP and the HOEP provides insight into the root causes of price risks that participants, particularly importers and exporters, face as they enter offers and bids into the market.
This is the complicated data explanation of the simple mechanism through which forecasts can cause price spikes (for the reported period almost the exclusive cause of high priced hours). "Demand" to the MSP is demand from  IESO grid-connected generators. If the forecast for wind, and solar, is light the demand for grid-connected supply would be greater as embedded wind, and/or solar, would be less productive than expected too.
2.1.2  Wind Shortfalls, Demand Under-forecasting and High HOEPs 
A ‘wind shortfall’ occurs when real-time wind output is less than the hour-ahead (PD-1) forecast. Conversely, under-forecasting of demand occurs when real-time demand is greater than the PD- 1 forecast. Both of these conditions result in a greater need for supply in real-time than was contemplated in PD-1. There were wind shortfalls in all but one of the 28 High HOEPs during the Current Reporting Period, and an under-forecasting of demand in 22 of the 28 High HOEPs. Figure 2-3 maps the HOEP against wind and demand forecasts, and shows a data point for each hour during the Current Reporting Period. The coordinates represent the degree of demand forecast error (on the y-axis) and wind forecast error (on the x-axis). If a data point lies above the x-axis, then real-time demand was higher than forecast (the forecast underestimated real-time demand). If a data point lies to the right of the y-axis, then real-time wind production was less than was expected in the PD-1 timeframe (real-time wind production fell short of expectations). 
Figure 2-3: HOEP Map Against Ontario Demand Under-Forecasting and Wind Shortfall November 2014 – April 2015 (MW)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

California cap-and-trade auction predictably fails.

An article in the Los Angeles Times notes the poor results of California's latest auction of greenhouse gas credits.
Buyers at the auction took just 785,000 of the 43 million allowances offered, each of which allow the emission of one metric ton of carbon dioxide. All the permits were bought at the floor price of $12.73.
But there is a secondary market, where the private parties who own the credits trade them daily. Those credits were recently priced at $12.34, well below the state floor in the auctions. It means that any company needing a credit could buy it more cheaply on the secondary market than in the auction.
There are a lot of very poor, and mainstream, economists who have a great zeal for pricing carbon and no interest in attending to detail.  Most are professors. They are represented in the article by:
...a serious possibility is that emitters of carbon dioxide are making better-than-expected progress at cutting their gas output. That would mean the program is more successful than expected...
Another serious possibility is there is a flood of credits on a secondary market - credits  attained without any real reduction in emissions, which I've learned from following Aldyen Donnelly are known as "hot air" credits.
These are the credits that depress the carbon price. My province of Ontario may have chosen to join California in cap-and-trade precisely because it will be cheaper to purchase "hot air" credits from California than to attain actual carbon reductions at home.

From Twitter:

Friday, May 13, 2016

NRDC/EPA Clean Power Plan retiring Nebraska nuclear power plant

Omaha Public Power District's chief executive has recommended closing the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant.

OPPD President Tim Burke looked distressed in the television report the begins stating the utility is crunching the numbers on complying with the Clean Power Plan.

OPPD's Fort Calhoun nuclear plant has become too expensive to run, company says:
In an interview, Burke told The World-Herald on Wednesday that regulatory pressure to reduce carbon emissions, a goal to make rates more competitive and depressed prices on the wholesale electricity market influenced management’s recommendation to shut down the plant.
That's not entirely honest. As a smaller unit, the 478 megawatt Fort Calhoun is more expensive, per megawatt-hour than much larger nuclear power plants, and it's correct to note downward market price pressures due to cheap gas and heavily subsidized wind, but for Nebraska the challenge of meeting the Clean Power Plan's targets is entirely detached from a goal of reducing emissions.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Net job impacts of expensive spasmodic electricity procurement

I continue to hear silly claims about employment benefits from paying extraordinary amounts for power in Ontario, inspiring me to post some references I collected years ago.

...no comprehensive evaluation was done on the impact of the billion-dollar commitment to renewable energy on such things as future electricity prices, net job creation or losses across the province, and greenhouse gas emissions.
...
The [report by the Task Force on Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Progress of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto] further noted that even if 50,000 new jobs were created, the higher energy costs attributable to renewable energy might result in job losses elsewhere in the economy, particularly in industries that use large quantities of energy.

Studies

Verso Economics, March 2011
The report’s key finding is that for every job created in the UK in renewable energy, 3.7 jobs are lost. In Scotland there is no net benefit from government support for the sector, and probably a small net loss of jobs.

Luciano Lavecchia and Carlo Stagnaro, Istituto Bruno Leoni, May 2010

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:
..one can now build systems in the world’s sunny locations and get very cheap power.  
Implication 
What does this mean? 
Implication #1: In sunny places, solar will reshape commodity power markets.
Examples
  • 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 luftonline.net 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 tomadamsenergy.com

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.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Toronto is a nuclear city - and a media centre

While the Toronto Star was beating up on the National Post, and vice versa, the Globe and Mail's Marcus Gee wrote Like it or not, Toronto is a nuclear city. Gee's column is that rare write in Toronto that gets facts right.

Such as:
Wind, solar and bioenergy still account for just 9 per cent of Ontario’s electricity output despite the provincial government’s bungled, vastly expensive effort to promote them.
I hope all read Like it or not, Toronto is a nuclear city, but the rest of this column is going to be about media in Toronto's steady production of poorly researched material - just using the 9 % figure.

To start... here's a graphic from a segment of The Agenda with Steve Paikin interviewing newcomer head of Ontario Power Generation Jeffrey Lyash:


I happened to enjoy this interview, but I've been critical of Steve Paikin in the recent past and the graphic shows why. The graphic says, "Source: Ontario Energy Report, July-September 2015" - but that wouldn't be notable on the television during the program. The ontarioenergyreport.ca website does currently show prominently, on its home page, these percentages for 2015's third quarter "Transmission Grid-Connected Generation Output" - which is only a subset of "Ontario's Electricity Supply", and only for the quarter of the year when industrial wind turbines are least productive. If The Agenda's researchers went a step further, to the full supply report linked to following the percentages., they's have found the source table for the full year's data (2015), where wind was 5.8% of the annual "Transmission Grid-Connected Generation Output" subset, and solar and biofuel another 0.5%.

That one step further is how far the Toronto Star's assembled team went in January while assembling Q & A for Ontario’s hydro system.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Too much, or not too much

Too much, or not too much, that is a question for electricity system operators leading to other question

2 stories on electricity generation capacity, both from February 11th:
NY faces power shortage, but not enough to save FitzPatrick nuclear plant
SCRIBA, N.Y. – New York power grid operators say there will be a 325-megawatt shortage of generating capacity after theFitzPatrick nuclear plant and seven other major power plants close. But the report offers no grounds for state regulators to require FitzPatrick to stay open.
Instead, the New York Independent System Operator announced it will solicit proposals for projects to fill the anticipated 325-megawatt gap. Solutions could include new power plants, transmission upgrades or demand reduction programs. The new capacity needs to be in place by 2019, the NYISO said in a report released today.
SO-NE Capacity Auction Secures Sufficient Power System Resources, At a Lower Price, for Grid Reliability in 2019-2020:
Holyoke, MA—February 11, 2016—New England’s annual capacity auction concluded Monday with sufficient resources to meet demand in 2019-2020, at a lower price, and with more than 1,400 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity that will help replace recently retired and retiring generators. The auction is run by ISO New England Inc. to procure the resources that will be needed to meet projected demand three years in the future.
... “Developers were drawn to the New England marketplace because the price of capacity supports construction of new resources,” continued van Welie. “It’s important to have a capacity market that places an appropriate value on the product to maintain an adequate supply. This auction procured the resources needed to keep the lights on in New England at a price lower than last year’s auction and, in fact, lower than the estimated cost of building a new power plant. More than 850 megawatts of new generating capacity cleared in the Greater Boston, Southeast Massachusetts and Rhode Island zone where the resources are needed most.”
...
1,450 MW of imports from New York and Canada
•The auction closed for resources within New England after four rounds of competitive bidding at $7.03/kWmonth, at the point on the demand curve where there were still sufficient resources to meet demand. The clearing price will be paid to all resources in both capacity zones in the region. [Clarification] Imports from Quebec over Phase II and Highgate also cleared at $7.03/kW-month.
...
• The auction continued for a fifth round for 181 MW of New Brunswick imports, which will receive $4.00/kWmonth. New York imports totaling 1,044 MW, which cleared in the fourth round, will receive a price of $6.26/kW-month.
sooo... 72% of the “1,450 MW of imports from New York and Canada” were bid in from New York, at a price I believe is about 1/2 the non-fuel cost of a simple cycle gas generation plant - and is clearly less than other capacity resources bid into the New England market - yet New York state is looking around for resources for the same period.

How is Ontario not in this game?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The imperceptible impact of carbon pricing

The editorial board of the New York Times has declared Proof That a Price on Carbon Works:
Lawmakers who oppose taking action to lower greenhouse gas emissions by putting a price on carbon often argue that doing so would hurt businesses and consumers. But the energy policies adopted by some American states and Canadian provinces demonstrate that those arguments are simply unfounded.
Around the world, nearly 40 nations, including the 28-member European Union, and many smaller jurisdictions are engaged in some form of carbon pricing. In this hemisphere, British Columbia, Quebec, California and nine Northeastern states have raised the cost of burning fossil fuels without damaging the economy. Alberta, Canada’s biggest oil and gas producer, and Ontario have said they will adopt similar policies.
...British Columbia, which is home to 4.7 million people, has placed the highest price on emissions in North America, taxing a ton of carbon emitted at 30 Canadian dollars, or about $21. By comparison, emission permits in California and Quebec are trading at about $13 a ton. And permits sold for $7.50 a ton in a December auction in the Northeastern trading system known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. That system covers emissions from power plants in nine states that include Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts.
These actions deserve applause. But their real value may lie in providing a template for the rest of the world.
The New York Times editorial board is, with one exception, citing actions that have not taken place yet as evidence contrary arguments "are simply unfounded." Is there a topic outside of global warming/greenhouse gas emissions that inspires such intellectual laziness? [1]