Friday, May 12, 2023

Canadian experts recommend 3 bat species be listed as endangered

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada is recommending the three species of bat be listed as endangered: hoary, silver-haired and eastern red bats. 

The Globe and Mail reports:
“There’s lots of indication that all three have been precipitously declining,” said Stephen Petersen, director of conservation and research at Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo, who co-chairs the committee’s work on terrestrial mammals.

Among the causes that the committee identified as contributors to the bats’ decreasing numbers, “the mortality at wind farms seems to be the top threat,” he said.

One of these three species was cited when the Ontario government led by Premier Doug Ford attempted to cancel the Nation Rise Wind Farm - along with little and bit brown bats. Judges, far from batty, overturned the government. It seems only a matter of time until the brown bats will follow the others into endangered status.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Nuclear bros and environmentalists

I'm Scott. 

You may know me as a nuclear bro' as I'm male and staunchly support nuclear energy. I need to preface the following as I'm publishing it now, slightly edited with some extra paragraphs to compensate for me not having written down the terrific conclusion I had in mind last summer. The motivation to put it out in the wild now comes from things that impacted me in the past couple of days. On a positive note the federal government has shifted to include nuclear in programs aimed at eliminating emissions - perhaps it needs a push to reconstruct the Ministry of the Environment to align it with the new government position and this will provide it. 

Ignobly the greater motivation really comes from reading this interesting Twitter thread from the Patrick Brown associated with the Breakthrough Institute, and the invasion of my Twitter thread with formerly curious and interesting climate commentators/academics who stagnated intellectually a decade ago and now come out mainly to bless the words of other old stale 'environmentalist'.


One benefit I’ve gotten from social media is learning I am hated by some people I’ve never met - or even heard of. It comes when I enter arcane discussions on obscure topics and some viciousness enters from the periphery. I recognize the emotion in the irrational histrionics as I’m not immune to behaving similarly when losing my composure. I empathize with my haters. After viewing profiles to learn something about them I realize they have reason for animosity as they draw income from some pursuit I’ve attacked, repeatedly, in the past. This has worried me - I do know and like some people in fields I am not keen on (such as solar and efficiency), and I think in recent years I’ve worked at remaining civil. Unfortunately, this is now problematic. The same institutions, and people, I railed against over a decade ago in fighting the assault on the Ontario electricity consumers launched by the Green Energy Act, and related feed-in tariffs, are being manipulated in the same way by many of the same people with the same playbook as they perceive a political environment receptive to their same manipulation. If there’s hating to be done, I’m damn well going to be doing it!

What is an environmentalist?

I suggest an environmentalist is somebody considered an environmentalist by others marketed as environmentalists. There’s some requirements for that group to emerge: money, influence/access to media, communication and social skills… cinematographers.

What there hasn’t been is any requirement for accomplishment.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Hybrids before ev's?

 I've read claims from Toyota that hybrids can reduce emissions much quicker than electric vehicles, but this is the best explanation I've yet encountered:

drivers who use their cars for short trips may be overcapitalising on electric cars with enormous battery packs responsible for significant carbon emissions throughout their life cycle...

... Hybrids were more affordable than battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and would reduce “more emissions, sooner, than BEVs alone”...

“According to our calculations, those 240,000 hybrids have had the same impact on reducing CO2 as approximately 72,000 BEVs...”

“Yet the volume of batteries we’ve used to produce these hybrid-electric vehicles is the same as we’d need for just 3500 BEVs.

“In other words, we can say that the batteries needed for 3500 BEVs have been used to achieve the CO2 emissions reduction effect of 72,000 BEVs.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Social isolation and food destruction

I've been surprised to see articles on farmers destroying food in recent days.

It seemed strange to me at first, but I found the following articles informative as to why.

Yes, farmers are dumping milk. Here's why
Figures out of the U.S. (Canadian numbers should come soon) show increases through retail of 53% in milk, 84% in cheese, 127% for butter. All while food service demand collapsed. Keep in mind food service wants buckets of sour cream, not tubs, or 10 pound bags of shredded cheese, not packets. Tim Hortons uses a big bag of cream through a SureShot machine, while you want 500 ml at a time. Those processing lines can’t change overnight. It takes millions in new equipment and packaging to convert those. So you’ve got retail lines that can’t keep up while food service lines are completely backed up or shut down.
The article is, in some ways, specific to Ontario and Canada as milk marketing board decisions were involved - but the situation is the same for other farmers south of the border.

Monday, March 2, 2020

A Frequency Control Ancillary Services story

Frequency Control Ancillary Services (FCAS) has not been the hot topic in public discussions of the electricity sector, but recent events in South Australia made "Don't Forget About FCAS!", by Allan O'Neil at WattClarity, the most interesting article I've read in some time.

The grid in South Australia has one major interconnector to another grid, which was taken out of service by a storm on January 31st, 2020, essentially "islanding" the state's system. I first noticed discussion on events from a tweet listing generators (mostly wind) that would be "ramped down and constrained to zero" when "operational demand in South Australia falls below 800 MW". Operational would mean demand from the grid, which in South Australia is lessened significantly during the day as 1 in 3 houses are reported to have solar panels. For perspective, average consumption in the state is less than 1400 MW; demand following below 800 MW has been rare but occurences are growing (now 200+ a year).

The state was better prepared for the loss of transmission the year than it had been in 2016, when it suffered a full blackout. In part driven by changes made after the 2016 blackout the state has become a net exporter. Operational system peaks have been around 3,000 MW (now occurring after solar's productive hours), and the state's gas capacity  (~2700 MW) is capable of meeting about 90% of that. The state also has about 2,700 MW of wind capacity, so stories coming out claiming the state survived the loss of the interconnector include phrases like "renewables saved the day" - although we know many wind generators were constrained off, natural gas climbed to 60% of production (it's usually about 50%), and demand wasn't high (averaging ~1,250 MW).

All sorts of interesting aspects to be explored, but for me the most interesting was this: during the loss of the interconnector FCAS became more valuable in South Australia than "energy" (the production from generators).

There's something in the Watt Clarity article for many different audiences - including battery performances from both the large grid-connected units and the appearance of FCAS being provided by aggregators of residential units.


Friday, February 28, 2020

California utility changes efficiency metric to "avoided carbon"

From the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD):
The new metric expected to encourage building electrification
The SMUD board voted to change the metric by which it measures the progress of its energy efficiency investments, switching from energy savings to avoided carbon emissions, making it the first entity in the United States to do so. The change will enable SMUD’s energy efficiency programs to focus investments on those that reduce carbon emissions at the lowest possible cost to customers and clear the way for expanded investments in building electrification alongside traditional efficiency approaches. 
“With carbon as our new measuring stick, helping our customers go all-electric will be as important as helping them use less energy,” said Rachel Huang, director of Energy Strategy, Research and Development. “Additionally, because this change encourages electrification, our customers will benefit from improved indoor air quality and reduced monthly energy bills.”
Under SMUD’s recently-adopted Integrated Resource Plan, building and transportation electrification are key strategies to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040. Switching to avoided carbon as a metric for energy efficiency investments aligns SMUD’s energy efficiency program with its net zero-carbon emissions goal...
 Good to see a utility focus on selling their product with the intent of it being a net good.

For my opinion on traditional conservation, or efficiency, programs, see "f in efficiency: Free-riders of the soft path"

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

an avoidably big bad picture

There's a think tank associated with Simon Fraser University (SFA) called Clean Energy Canada. The people there released a report last week called, "Missing the Bigger Picture." The content of the actual report, based on a quick look-over, is fine. The promotion/spin of the report has not been fine - it's been deliberately deceptive, and it seems to me that's because of Merram Smith.

The report is currently downloadable from a page currently headlined, Missing the Bigger Picture: Tracking the Energy Revolution 2019. There is also a technical report available there, which is where I found my expectations confirmed.
Not only is Canada’s clean energy sector growing faster than the rest of the country’s economy (4.8% versus 3.6% annually between 2010 and 2017), it’s also attracting tens of billions of dollars in investment every year. And perhaps most importantly for the average Canadian, it’s a huge, and growing, employer.
...[The clean energy sector is] made up of companies and jobs that help to reduce carbon pollution - whether by creating clean energy, helping move it, reducing energy consumption, or making low-carbon technologies.
The jobs in the clean energy sector are in many industries and in every province. They include the Canadians who manufacture solar panels and wind turbines ...
And there, in Merran Smith's introduction to the report, is spin.

The technical report confirms what readers of this blog already know: additions of solar and wind capacity slowed years ago (wind peaked in 2014 and solar in 2015).
Figure from the technical report.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The nuclear reactor decommissioning business

One of the most prominent nuclear generating stations in the United States is changing owners after it ceases generating electricity.
Tuesday 16th April 2019 [SNC Lavalin]
Comprehensive Decommissioning International, LLC (CDI), a joint venture company of SNC-Lavalin (TSX: SNC) and Holtec International, has agreed to enter into a Decommissioning General Contractor Agreement for another US nuclear decommissioning contract, expected to exceed CAD $1 billion.
Entergy Corp. (NYSE: ETR) has agreed to sell the subsidiaries that own Indian Point Units 1, 2, and 3, located in Buchanan, N.Y., to a Holtec International subsidiary for decommissioning.
CDI, the joint venture, may be the best news for SNC Lavalin in some time. The pending purchase of Entergy's Indian Point reactors follows within a year of its agreement to purchase Exelon's Oyster Creek nuclear power plant and Entergy's Pilgrim and Palisades sites (once the reactors are shutdown permanently).

Most articles on the sales note CDI intends on decommissioning the sites much quicker than expected, but I thought it worth following up on the size of the decommissioning funds - which are part of the purchase. There are references in many articles to the size of the funds, but I'll use only one source: the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) 2017 Fund Status Reports.

Keep in mind the funds are as at the end of 2016 and the NRC's cost estimate is in 2016 dollars.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Strange wind, and nuclear goes to solar for new leadership

Sometimes my time served battling the enormous waste on wind in Ontario comes flooding back - such as this weekend reading an article on the promise of renewables in Canada's most tell-you-what-to-think publication It's paywalled, boring and one-sided so I'm not going to link to it, but it did incent me to pull some figures, from the Canadian Wind Industry Association.

I tried to colour Quebec and Ontario as silver and gold in graphing the increase in annual installed capacity through 2014, and subsequent decline, for reasons I hope become clear during a short review of the current situation for industrial wind in provinces across the country.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Higher ROE and lower debt ratings: California's "precarious state"

Articles from this past week on California's utilities include one on utilities seeking rate hikes with rather large Return-on-Equity (ROE) figures, one on a bond agency downgrading the same utilities, and another on the rookie governor's effort to address the issues driving these actions.

Southern California Edison requests higher ROE, citing wildfire risks (Utility Dive)

  • ...Southern California Edison (SCE) on Thursday asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to significantly raise its return on equity (ROE) due to "dramatic, material changes" to its regulatory and financial conditions.
  • SCE is requesting an overall ROE of 17.12%, plus incentives...
"We do not believe a higher return on equity is a long-term solution to the urgent situation utilities in California are facing," Caroline Choi, senior vice president of corporate affairs for SCE and Edison International, said in a statement. "However, this is what is needed in the near term in order to attract the capital required to provide safe, reliable electricity."
 The request come following months of warnings from debt rating agencies.