Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Impact of Wind Power on European Gas Markets

The International Energy Agency recently released a working paper titled "The Impact of Wind Power on European Natural Gas Markets." The themes explored don't appear, from my initial review of only the Executive Summary, to differ from either the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies' "“The Impact of Import Dependency and Wind Generation on UK Gas Demand and Security of Supply to 2025,” nor my own analysis of Ontario's situation clumsily built on the framework of the Oxford study.

Selected quotes, with my own emphasis in bold formatting, from "The Impact of Wind Power on European Natural Gas Markets:"

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wind turbines bring in 'risk-free' millions for rich landowners

There is talk in Ontario of 'community power.'  I haven't reflected on that much, but it always seemed strange that withing one and a half decades of a push to turn away from 'public' power we'd talk about 'community power'
I joked that I felt about communities like Groucho Marx felt about clubs.
Well, the Guardian has a column today that makes sense of 'community power' - I doubt it is an argument that is applicable in Ontario, but ...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Location, Location, Location, 700 Million Times -

The NY Times is reporting on a new study, sponsored by EPRI, that shows potential space for plenty of nuclear capacity, but surprisingly little for concentrated solar thermal plants:

Location, Location, Location, 700 Million Times -
"Many arguments lie ahead on what kind of power-generating equipment should be built next. If the choice is nuclear, coal or some types of renewable energy, space will not be a problem, according to a new study sponsored by the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit utility consortium. There are also lots of places to put plants that will store energy in the form of compressed air, researchers report.
The study, carried out by the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, found locations for 515 gigawatts’ worth of new nuclear plants — nearly five times what exists now"
But potential locations for solar thermal plants, which use the sun’s heat to make steam and then electricity, are far more limited; if the plants are cooled by water, there is space for only about 18 gigawatts, the study said.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Merkel's Switch to Renewables: Rising Energy Prices Endanger German Industry

According to der Spiegel, Grid problems are already starting to hit German business as soaring electricity pricing leads to idle factories.
Merkel's Switch to Renewables: Rising Energy Prices Endanger German Industry - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International:
The operators of the major power grids have been in a state of alarm for weeks. Operator TenneT has had to draw on reserve capacity. Nevertheless, there have already been some serious problems caused by split-second power outages, which ordinary consumers don't even notice, but that create difficulties for industry, with its highly complex production processes. Since Merkel's new energy policy was introduced, aluminum manufacturer Norsk Hydro has registered half a million euros in losses at its German plants because of power fluctuations. Even minimal power outages can cause the company's sensitive rollers to seize up.
The entire article can be read at Spiegel Online International

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Green Germany: Half A Million Families Sitting In The Dark

Perhaps the reasons for Germany's accelerated reductions in feed-in tariffs isn't entirely due to the sudden ability to account for future liabilities and recognize the basic realities of economics

Green Germany: Half A Million Families Sitting In The Dark:
"Many households in Germany are no longer able to pay their electricity bills. As a result, around half a million households are sitting in the dark.

The sharp price increases for electricity and gas is leading to serious payment problems for more and more consumers – even to dark apartments. Because of unpaid bills an estimated 600,000 households in Germany had their power cut off in 2010, said the consumer watch dog Verbraucherzentrale Nordrhein-Westfalen which is based in Düsseldorf. This estimate is based on a survey of local energy providers in Germany’s most populous state.

"Price increases of around 15 percent for electricity and gas in the past two years have made energy for many households unaffordable", said CEO Klaus Mueller. The increasing fuel poverty is alarming. What is more, ever tighter household budgets and regularly lacking competence in keeping personal finances in check are turning claims arising from unpaid energy bills quickly into an insurmountable cost trap."
Read more at the Global Warming Policy Foundation site

Germany unveils plans to slash solar FIT three months early

It's the feed-in tariff mechanism that needs to go - Germany fiddles faster while avoiding acknowledging the economic error.
Germany unveils plans to slash solar FIT three months early - Solar - Renewable energy news - Recharge - wind, solar, biomass, wave/tidal/hydro and geothermal:
"Germany’s environment and economy ministries have agreed a plan to slash the solar feed-in tariff (FIT) and kill support altogether for projects larger than 10MW, after being forced into dramatic action by yet another record year for installations in 2011."
In addition to lowering the support levels by between 20% and 30% (depending on the system size), the government intends to bring the changes forward to 9 March – nearly three months before the 1 July deadline when the next FIT adjustments were expected.
The government also confirms it will start adjusting the FIT on a monthly basis, a decision that may be copied by other countries as they struggle to reconcile their support for PV with the rapidly falling price of modules.
Only three categories for PV installations would exist under the new system, if – as expected – it is approved by Germany’s parliament:
Projects smaller than 10kW would receive €0.195 ($0.26) per kWh; those between 10kW-1MW would receive €0.165/kW; and those between 1MW-10MW would receive €0.135/kWh.
Projects larger than 10MW would no longer be eligible for any FIT support, effectively stopping the ground-mounted segment in its tracks – or at least putting it on ice for a few years, until the price of PV has fallen even further.
By comparison, the smallest projects were eligible for €0.49 per kWh as recently as 2007.
Read the full article at

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Making the Wrong Case for Renewable Energy: Severin Borenstein - Bloomberg

It's hard to pick a quote from this piece by Severin Borenstein, as there are multiple messages of importance:
Making the Wrong Case for Renewable Energy: Severin Borenstein - Bloomberg:
"While it’s tempting to roll all our energy challenges into one, the problems and the solutions are numerous and distinct. If your goal is just to maintain moderate energy costs or achieve greater energy security, your friendly neighborhood fossil-fuel producers have the answers."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Health Expert Attacks 'Macabre Accounting' of Anti-nuclear crusaders

An article from Europe where the argument for nuclear comes from a health expert.

Nuclear industry seen emerging from Fukushima shock | EurActiv:
"In a vibrant plea for the nuclear sector, Jean de Kervasdoué, a health expert who teaches at the French Centre National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM), spoke at length about the misperception of the dangers of radiation.
The speaker puzzled the audience by denouncing the "macabre accountancy" surrounding nuclear incidents, suggesting that the health dangers have been grossly exaggerated."
...20,000 people have died in coal mines in 2011 alone, and up to 800,000 died from the pollution ceated by coal mining and burning. Regarding the Fukushima nuclear accident, he said that only seven people were contaminated, and not a single death had been caused by radiation so far.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Investigation Into Electricity Trading During Recent European Cold Spell

This report out of Germany sheds some light on questions I've had relating to Europe's electricity sector during the recent cold snap.
France was importing through the cold spell ( showed this) - which isn't surprising giving the less flexible nature of nuclear supply.
Germany was exporting.  Paul Gipe posted 'Renewables Helped France Avoid Freezing in the Dark,' implying renewables were the saviour of Europe,  although German wind's capacity factors didn't look very high in the post, while a report out of the UK showed some very low wind levels, and separately I noted a new argument from a UK wind proponent claiming wind was a back-up for gas, and not the other way around.

I expected we'd need to wait 4-6 months until Germany updated it's monthly generation figures, but this is an early indication that they were running everything they had, including all reserves.

Looks like maybe coal saved France ... and everybody else.

BNetzA Reported to Investigate Electricity Trading During Recent Cold Spell « German Energy Blog:
"Due to the severe cold of the last weeks, electricity prices at the exchanges temporarily soared. Traders that wanted to avoid paying such high prices deliberately lowered forecasts regarding the demand of their customers and delivered only the incorrectly predicted amount of energy, Frankfurter Rundschau reported based on industry sources. To avoid a blackout, transmission system operators had to revert to operating reserves. While the price of this energy is normally higher than prices at the energy exchange, this was not the case at the time.
Allegedly the back-up power plants in Mannheim and Austria that are meant to be the operating reserve after Germany’s accelerated phase-out of nuclear energy had to be activated during the cold spell "
The full blog entry is on the German Energy Blog

Thursday, February 16, 2012

In the News: Bentley's Time of the Month

It's that time of the month where the Ministry of Energy bleeds propaganda onto the province's web site.
Ontarians Benefit from Electricity Market:
February 16, 2012 4:00 PM
Ontario's electricity market generated over $22 million in January by exporting electricity to other states and provinces.
This revenue helps Ontario:
  • Keep costs down for families
  • Build and maintain a clean, reliable and modern electricity system
The $22 million is mentioned, but the volume isn't specifically noted.  Exports were approximately 1,098,317MWh and Imports about 240,534MWh.

Do the math and $22 million net revenue on net export works out to having an associated average price of about 2.56cents/kWh.
Ontario's government kept costs down for Ontario families by selling electricity to external markets at nearly a third the price they sell it to Ontario families.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Canadians should embrace higher energy prices

Canadians should embrace higher energy prices:

A bizarre title to an article written by John Manley, former federal Minister of a many things during the Chretien era, and current head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.
"The most effective means of promoting energy conservation is to allow energy prices to rise. It seems clear that higher prices will influence Canadians' behaviour in a way that public exhortation and appeals to the greater good have not.
That is why the Canadian Council of Chief Executives has previously stated its support for a broad-based carbon pricing scheme in Canada. Canadians need to see the everyday cost of inefficient use of energy and be motivated to change their energy consumption patterns and investment decisions. To be sure, carbon pricing would have to be introduced gradually, both to allow businesses and consumers time to adjust and to avoid any disproportionate impact on Canada's competitive position.
The bottom line is that governments must resist the temptation to shield Canadians from higher energy prices."

The overall theme is fine, but let's be clear: the approach of governments such McGuinty's in Ontario, is to deliberately increase the cost of energy.  It's a fallacy that energy always goes up in price, and it is not a fallacy that energy is closely related to wealth and health.
Still, Manley hits the right notes on urban design, regulation at the time of production(/purchase), and the carbon tax argument has merits - although the point of a carbon tax isn't to make energy more expensive, but to facilitate the development of less carbon-intensive alternatives.  Still, when the wealthy elite is encouraging a tax, it is likely to fund something to increase their wealth- and the article does coincide with another Conference Board of Canada opinion targeting the electricity sector.

Monday, February 13, 2012

National Trust comes out against 'public menace' of wind farms

4 million members strong (more members than the political parties combined), the UK's National Trust is increasingly opposing industrial wind projects, while maintaining it's goals on emissions reductions.
National Trust comes out against 'public menace' of wind farms - Telegraph:
The official position is to support renewable energy, including wind, although only in places where the turbine will produce the maximum amount of energy and “with regard to the full range of environmental considerations”.
The landowner already has 140 renewable energy projects installed on castles and farmland around the country, including a few small individual turbines.
The Trust’s climate change target to cut energy use by 50 per cent by 2020 will go beyond national targets and could save more than 14,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of taking 4,500 cars off the road.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

PM announces agreement with China on Canadian uranium exports

PM announces agreement with China on Canadian uranium exports - Prime Minister of Canada:
"Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced the successful completion of negotiations between Canada and China on an agreement that will facilitate increased exports of Canadian uranium to China.
The agreement is a Protocol which supplements the Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the People’s Republic of China for Co-operation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy of 1994.
“This agreement will help Canadian uranium companies to substantially increase exports to China, the world’s fastest growing market for these products,” said Prime Minister Harper. “It will generate jobs here at home while contributing to the use of clean reliable energy in China."
The full release can be read at The Prime Minister's website 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Census shows Ontario no longer a place to grow

Ontario is dying. It's a slow dissolution, rather than a precipitous or cataclysmic decline. It has taken years to set in and will continue to unfold for years to come. But the pattern in the 2011 census data is unmistakable and, it would seem, irreversible.

Not that the entire country isn't cheering for Ontario to halt its collapse, but the above quote, from the Montreal Gazette is simply the caption for a picture of Toronto's waterfront!

Bad News For Renewables, Globally

Vestas has sent packing its DFO packing after announcing a 166 million Euro loss - management and the market are blamed
Not far away, Nowegian PV group REC posted it's worst full-year loss in its 15-year history.  The $1.6 billion loss dwarfs the loss at Vestas, and left REC noting, in its annual report, the chance that the company may "participate in the expected industry consolidation."  - see report here

Monday, February 6, 2012

Great Tool for Viewing Energy Consumption in New York City Area

From  Columbia University

"The map represents the total annual building energy consumption at the block level (zoom levels 11-15) and at the taxlot level (zoom levels 16-18) for New York City, and is expressed in kilowatt hours (k Wh) per square meter of land area. The data comes from a mathematical model based on statistics, not private information from utilities, to estimate the annual energy consumption values of buildings throughout the five boroughs. To see the break down of the type of energy being used, for which purpose and in what quantity, hover over or click on a block or taxlot."

Ontario’s power glut means possible nuclear plant shutdowns

An article in The Ottawa Citizen today facilitates the German nuclear-elimination method in Ontario:
Ontario’s power glut means possible nuclear plant shutdowns:
"OTTAWA — For at least eight hours Monday, Ontario is once again forecast to produce more electricity than it consumes, and the recurring glut has one top energy executive warning of temporary nuclear power plant shutdowns.
“We have largely been able to avoid nuclear shutdowns to deal with the (surplus) conditions but this may not be the case in the near future,” Paul Murphy, head of the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), recently told an industry gathering.
His comment is raising questions about Ontario’s plans to boost nuclear power as the province’s chief source of energy."
Here are links to the powerpoint presentation from the IESO, presumably related to Murphy's speech

My comments attached to the Ottawa Citizen article:
A couple of things. The first is the 'crises' on June 8th was entirely manufactured. At 2 pm, when imports peaked, only 1 coal unit was running at any capacity (and it was reduced). Secondly, Ontario redirects hydro output from sites directly into Quebec's grid, presumably to secure peak imports already. This article also twists the point of Murphy's presentation, which was the need to curtail wind supply during SBG periods. There's little point picking Herr Winfield for a quote - why not go directly to German Greens for comment, as the ploy of dumping nuclear behind a barrage of unreliables is there invention:

Read more:

Saturday, February 4, 2012

China’s carbon tax is very real

There appears to be a real chance of a carbon tax being introduced in China ...
I think there is a genuine argument to be made in favour of carbon taxes; and I think that is absolutely not the case for cap-and-trade, or feed-in tariff, mechanisms.
China is suddenly the best hope for the introduction of economic intelligence into carbon abatement programs.

China’s carbon tax is very real: response to John Lee’s Wall Street Journal article accusing Beijing’s environmental policymakers of political theatre | chinadialogue:
"The news that China may very soon introduce a carbon tax has caused a stir. Of the many articles to address the topic, John Lee’s Wall Street Journal commentary “China’s Fake Carbon Tax”, published earlier this month, is particularly striking. In this confusing diatribe, Lee puts forward his personal theories about China’s motives. But these have no foundation in reality.
Why is China preparing to introduce a carbon tax? Taxing carbon is an effective market-based method for cutting carbon-dioxide emissions and tackling climate change. Many countries, both developed and developing, are considering a carbon tax, while some have already introduced one. The details of the tax differ from place to place, but the essential aim is the same: reducing carbon emissions; speeding up economic transition; promoting energy conservation and renewable-energy development; and mobilising industry enthusiasm for green measures. "

Friday, February 3, 2012

Report Says Wind Turbine Orders Down 13% in 2011

The report, from Make Consulting, blames a decline in orders primarily on China:
China experienced a 40% slowdown year-over-year due to an increased focus on grid-connecting existing wind power capacity.
Ahhhh -- it would make sense for them to hook up the ones they built already.

A Great Gift From Statistics Canada

This notice at Statistics Canada went up recently:
Notice: Self-serve standard products available on the Statistics Canada website ― including CANSIM and census data products ― are now free of charge.

It is very exciting to have such a data warehouse available.
Unfortunately, it still requires knowledge to understand the data.

For instance how is one to interpret the Unemployment Rate data since Ontario's Premier McGuinty was first elected?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Monbiot on Wasting Fuel:

The integral fast reactor (IFR) continues to be touted as a solution to both closing the nuclear fuel cycle, and producing electricity.  George Monbiot addresses the issue is a post today.
Duncan Clark's article in the Guardian today should cause even the most determined anti-nuclear campaigner to think long and hard about the choices that confront us. He reveals that Prof David MacKay, chief scientific adviser to the UK government's energy department and author ofSustainable Energy: Without the Hot Air, has endorsed a remarkable estimate. The UK's stockpile of nuclear waste could be used to generate enough low-carbon energy to run this country for 500 years.
If the material we have seen until now as waste is instead seen as fuel, it has the potential to solve three problems at once: the UK's contribution to climate change, possible future energy shortfalls and a significant component of the massive bill - and massive headache - associated with cleaning up the current nuclear mess.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Most Important Resource for Our Future

Gail Tverberg's "Our Finite World" tackles the question, "What is the most important resource for our future?”
The Most Important Resource for Our Future: Inexpensive Oil | Our Finite World:
"A great deal has been said about decoupling economic growth from natural resource use. It is not clear to what extent this really is possible. We can move manufacturing to the Far East, and pretend that the resource use isn’t ours, but on a world basis, during the past decade, energy use has been rising as fast as world real GDP. This has happened largely because Asian growth in energy use has offset savings elsewhere.
Theoretically, if world oil supply is inadequate, we should be able to make substitutions that would work—either find a different liquid fuel to substitute for oil, or create new vehicles or machines that use a different source of energy than petroleum products. The problem is that making these substitutions is a slow, expensive process."
Read the full article at Our Finite World