Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hitachi confirms £700m Horizon nuclear deal

Multiple articles on the purchase of nuclear project sites in the UK by what is being cited as Hitachi - the offer included a number of partners, and GE is/was a co-owner of the nuclear business.

Hitachi confirms £700m Horizon nuclear deal - 30 Oct 2012 - News from BusinessGreen:

From GE Hitachi Fact Sheet
Hitachi has this morning confirmed it will buy the Horizon nuclear venture from E.ON and RWE in a £696m deal that could see the Japanese conglomerate build between four and six new reactors in the UK.
The widely trailed purchase is a much-needed shot in the arm for the government's plans to build 16GW of new nuclear capacity by the mid-2020s, which had looked in jeopardy after the two German utilities put Horizon up for sale earlier in the year.
Hitachi said it intends to progress with plans to build between two and three new nuclear plants at Wylfa on Anglesey and the same number at Oldbury in Gloucestershire, which could generate enough clean power to supply up to 14 million homes over 60 years.
The first plant could be up and running in the first half of the 2020s, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said in a statement this morning...

Hurricane Could Prompt Review of New York's Preparedness

Prior to last night's massive flooding, the NY Times had an article on steps that could be taken to prevent flooding.  I recall Dutch experts commenting after Hurricane Katrina that design should be for the 1000 year event - not the 100 year event often planned for.  

Hurricane Could Prompt Review of New York's Preparedness - NYTimes.com:
One proposal, from the Storm Surge Research Group at Stony Brook University, recommends installing movable barriers at the upper end of the East River near the Throgs Neck Bridge, under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and at the mouth of the Arthur Kill between Staten Island and New Jersey.
According to this thinking, the barriers would prevent a huge tide from flooding Manhattan and parts of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and New Jersey.But such barriers could cost nearly $10 billion.
Other experts are calling for less expensive land-based measures like increasing pumping capacity at subway stations and designing floodgates to
block water from entering both the stations and highway tunnels.
Read the Entire article at NYTimes.com:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Japan’s Tepco to tap more coal suppliers to cut costs

Europe is not the only region burning a lot more coal, with Japan more starkly illustrating a big reason for the increase that somehow today's Guardian article omitted.

Big plans for coal in Japan - including coal to run as baseload supply.  Some quotes from Japan’s Tepco to tap more coal suppliers to cut costs | GulfNews.com:
“We’ll do anything we can to cut fuel costs,” Susumu Kose, a senior manager of Tepco’s coal group, told Reuters in an interview, adding that the company would step up purchases of the sub-bituminous coal...
... will boost the ratio of its coal-power generation to around 17 per cent by 2021, compared to 8 per cent in 2011.
More coal, less oil
For Tepco, increasing low-cost coal power generation will help offset a fall in nuclear power generation and cut ballooning fuel costs of 2.29 trillion yen ($28.57 billion) that eat up nearly half its revenue.
Japan’s new energy policy, announced in September, aims to boost use of coal-fired plants for baseload power generation to reduce reliance on nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster.

Coal resurgence threatens climate change targets

An unsatisfactory overview of the increasing consumption of coal from the Guardian; interviewing the nouveau Luddites at Greenpeace is not helpful.
If you make other forms of electricity expensive (which Greenpeace attempts to do every day), the cheap forms will be utilized.

Coal resurgence threatens climate change targets | Environment | The Guardian:

Graphic from source article
In the UK, between the second quarter of 2011 and the second quarter of 2012, coal consumption rose by nearly a quarter. Europe overall has burned more coal in the past year than any time since it pledged steep emissions cuts, and China and India have also been burning more. Cheap coal, caused by weakening demand in the US where power stations have switched fuels to use gas, has been the biggest factor.

Read the entire article at The Guardian:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Trust and Policy: George Herbert Walker Obama

A fascinating article from Andrew Ferguson, who took part in the unsuccessful campaign to re-elect George H. Bush.  He sees parallels between a President's campaign 20 years ago, and the current one's campaign.
I was looking at polling on the US presidential election yesterday and the data trends are not very promising for President Obama, who leads in two educational demographics - the least educated (high school or less) and the most educated (post graduate).  The most educated are the least numerous, ant the least educated are also the least likely to vote. 
My expectation is that the President will fail to collect as many votes as Mitt Romney.  
My guess his Romney will also win the electoral College.

George Herbert Walker Obama | The Weekly Standard:
Any veteran of the ’92 presidential campaign has learned to identify marks of intellectual exhaustion. The déjà vu this year is especially creepy. President Bush went to a Waffle House to illustrate Bill Clinton’s “waffling” on the issues. He took to calling Al Gore “Ozone Man,” and surrogates warned darkly of Clinton’s unexamined past, just as the president today dwells on Big Bird and “Romnesia,” and his surrogates raise half-baked questions about foreign bank accounts. Both presidents are dignified men, yet their campaigns have felt compelled to abase themselves in the same way for the same reason. They couldn’t think of anything else to say.
I see you can buy Agenda on Amazon for $141. It’s a ridiculous price, but I briefly thought of buying a copy anyway, for old time’s sake. Then I realized I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I had it—like an incumbent with a second term.
Read the entire article at The Weekly Standard:

Friday, October 26, 2012

EON, RWE Said to Sell Nuclear Site to SNC-Lavilin's consortium partner, Hitachi

Bloomberg is reporting the buyer of the Horizon site for a potential nuclear reactor in the UK will be Hitachi, while the Financial Times is reporting they are the front-runner with an announcement pending next week.
The FT report repeats news from earlier last month that Hitachi "is in a consortium with SNC-Lavalin, Canada’s largest engineering group."   Earlier this year SNC-Lavalin's CANDU's were promoted as a solution for disposing plutonium, along with the GE-Hitachi PRISM.  Since that time GE has not sounded interested in pursuing it's nuclear business.

EON, RWE Said to Sell Nuclear JV for About $967 Million - Bloomberg:
EON AG (EOAN) and RWE AG (RWE), Germany’s two largest utilities, are set to sell their U.K. venture Horizon Nuclear Power to Japan’s Hitachi Ltd. (6501) for about 600 million pounds ($967 million), people familiar with the matter said.
The sale for the venture with government backing to build plants in Wales and western England may be signed in the next few days, according to two people, who asked not to be identified because the negotiations are private. An announcement may come on Oct. 30, one of the people said.
Continue Reading at Bloomberg

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In the Ottawa Citizen: Ontario Electricity Costs 48 Times greater than in 2006

I know it's a letter to the editor from a Charlatan, but I'm still amazed at the combination of fake environmentalism and declining mainstream media standards
Clean electricity:
The addition of renewable energy sources is not to blame for increases to electricity prices in Ontario. According to a recent Ontario Energy Board report, 45 per cent of the increase in Ontario's electricity generation costs since 2006 is associated with nuclear power, while only six per cent of the increase is due to renewable energy.
The OEB's Market Surveillance panel reported that the obscure global adjustment pool was 45% due to nuclear since 2006, but they did not say that was responsible for the increase in Ontario's electricity supply costs because that would be an ignorant thing to say - or a lie if one did understand it.

The global adjustment over the past 12 months is $6, 320 million.
In 2006 it was $130 million.

For the global adjustment to equate with the increase in generation costs, bills would need to have increased to 48.6 times 2006 levels.

They have not.

Point Lepreau synchronizes to grid: 3rd CANDU Reactor to do so this fall

Bruce Unit 1 in early September, Bruce Unit 2 this month, and now Point Lepreau are returning to service after mid-life refurbishments.
Bruce Power issued a press release yesterday noting Unit 1 achieving commercial operation - 4 1/2 weeks after announcing synchronization to the grid

New Brunswick Generating Station Update: Station sends electricity to New Brunswick grid, begins final commissioning

On October 23, 2012, the Point Lepreau Generating Station successfully synchronized to the New Brunswick electrical grid for the first time since 2008, producing electricity for New Brunswick homes and businesses. The station passed a significant test and is now in the final stages of commissioning to  make the station available for commercial dispatch. Final stages include increasing and decreasing  reactor power, and disconnecting the reactor from the grid and reconnecting it...
Once returned to service, the station will contribute to the provincial goal of having as much as 75 per cent of the electricity used in New Brunswick coming from clean, renewable or non-emitting sources by 2020. The 660 megawatt station will be a baseload contributor to the New Brunswick grid, producing enough electricity to power more than 333,000 homes per year for the next 25 to 30 years.
Read the full NB Power update

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

EU looks to reform emissions trading scheme with price at 8 euros/tonne as Ontario plans for $300/tonne

The European Union remains convinced low pricing for emissions (~8 euros a tonne) is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Australia recently bailed on implementing its own, expensive, carbon tax by joining the cheap EU ETS scheme.
In a recent original content article, I calculated the emissions cost of Ontario's feed-in-tariff for renewables combined with Net Revenue Requirement at ~$300 a tonne.
Perhaps we too should join the EU ETS

UPDATE 3-EU needs to decide carbon reform 'without delay'-draft | Reuters: 
BRUSSELS, Oct 23 (Reuters) - A rapid rise in surplus EU carbon credits is expected to slow from 2014 onwards, but to tackle a short-term glut member states need to decide before the end of the year on a temporary fix, a European Commission draft document said.
The draft report on the carbon market also called on the member states to discuss and explore options for more lasting changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) after allowance prices hit a record low in April.
It urged the Climate Change Committee "to decide on the proposed amendment to the auctioning regulation before the end of the year in order to provide certainty for market participants".
Read the full article at Reuters: 

How Wind And Solar Power Are Polluting The Commons

This is superb.

How Wind And Solar Power Are Polluting The Commons - Seeking Alpha:
I have no quarrel with those who argue that green-electrons are more valuable than conventional electrons because of reduced CO2 emissions. I do believe, however, that the price premium paid for green electrons must be offset by the fully loaded cost of providing standby generating and storage for times when the weather is uncooperative and the green electrons are not available.
Every industry in the world is expected to pay the costs of abating the pollution it creates. Why should renewable power producers be treated differently as they pollute a critical commons?
Over the last year it's become increasingly clear that something has to give and companies and individuals who sell or operate renewable power generating systems will be compelled to accept responsibility for their unavoidable intermittency. Some will choose to sacrifice their curtailment priorities. Others will contract with standby capacity providers. The third, and in my opinion the most interesting, class will incorporate enough energy storage in their project specifications to firm their power delivery commitments.
At this point it's not entirely clear what the minimum required level of capacity firming will be, although I tend to believe a minimum of 15 minutes will be required to leave enough time for a reasonable ramp of standby systems.

The Case for Near-term Commercial Demonstration of the Integral Fast Reactor

Barry Brook has posted a white paper arguing for an international effort to produce a working Integral Fast Reactor .  I could quibble with focusing on a technology owned by a company disinterested in it (and the omission of word on the Russian IFR (here), related China IFR builds (here), and India (here).
Regardless of the merits of putting the PRISM design into to suggestion, the concept for international efforts in developing energy solutions is encouraging.

The Case for Near-term Commercial Demonstration of the Integral Fast Reactor « BraveNewClimate:
Picture from source article
Demonstrating a credible and acceptable way to safely recycle used nuclear fuel will clear a socially acceptable pathway for nuclear fission to be a major low-carbon energy source for this century. We advocate a hastened timetable for commercial demonstration of Generation IV nuclear technology, via construction of a prototype reactor (the PRISM design, based on the Integral Fast Reactor project) and a 100t/year pyroprocessing facility to convert and recycle fuel. 
1. Synopsis

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dominion says Kewaunee nuclear plant will shut down for good

Here's a story which is likely incomplete.
The probably story is that the operator cannot secure power purchase agreements for Kewaunee Power Station's baseload output because of the increase in intermittent renewable generation.  The price of gas and the growth of wind and related mandated renewable energy quotas, is driving down the price of electricity, making it difficult for all operators - but especially operators who need markets at all times (baseload).

Dominion says Kewaunee nuclear plant will shut down for good - JSOnline:
Dominion Resources Inc. will shut down the Kewaunee Power Station by the middle of next year, the company announced Monday, saying it was unable to find a buyer for the nuclear plant east of Green Bay.
The Kewaunee reactor is one of three operating reactors in the state, with the other two located five miles from the plant at the Point Beach Nuclear Plant.
The Virginia-based company said the low price of natural gas, which sets prices for the wholesale power market, was a key factor in the decision. The company’s agreements to sell power to two Wisconsin utilities expire next year.
Late last year, Alliant Energy Corp. said it had ended negotiations with Dominion about a power purchase deal. The remainder of the power is sold to Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service Corp.
Continue Reading at the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel:

Related: A Day in the Life of the Grid,

Why Are Environmentalists Taking Anti-Science Positions? by Fred Pearce: Yale Environment 360

On environmentalists " hectoring and bullying."

Why Are Environmentalists Taking Anti-Science Positions? by Fred Pearce: Yale Environment 360:
From Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring to James Hansen’s modern-day tales of climate apocalypse, environmentalists have long looked to good science and good scientists and embraced their findings. Often we have had to run hard to keep up with the crescendo of warnings coming out of academia about the perils facing the world. A generation ago, biologist Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb and systems analysts Dennis and Donella Meadows’ The Limits to Growth shocked us with their stark visions of where the world was headed. No wide-eyed greenie had predicted the opening of an ozone hole before the pipe-smoking boffins of the British Antarctic Survey spotted it when looking skyward back in 1985. On issues ranging from ocean acidification and tipping points in the Arctic to the dangers of nanotechnology, the scientists have always gotten there first — and the environmentalists have followed.
And yet, recently, the environment movement seems to have been turning up on the wrong side of the scientific argument. We have been making claims that simply do not stand up. We are accused of being anti-science — and not without reason. A few, even close friends, have begun to compare this casual contempt for science with the tactics of climate contrarians.
That should hurt.

Siemens to exit solar, looks for buyers

Solar energy news - Technology giant Siemens to exit solar, looks for buyers
German technology giant Siemens is planning to exit the solar sector and focus its renewable energy division on wind power.
The company said it is already in discussions with potential buyers of its solar operations.
It will continue to produce solar thermal and photovoltaic (PV) equipment, until a deal is reached, to ensure existing contractual obligations are satisfied.
Siemens said the move was a reflection of changed framework conditions, lower growth and strong price pressure in the market, all meaning the company’s solar objectives have not been achieved.
Michael Süß, member of the management board and CEO of Siemens’ energy division, said, ‘The global market for concentrated solar power has shrunk from four gigawatts to slightly more than one gigawatt today.
Continue Reading at New Energy World Network

Friday, October 19, 2012

Power Hogs Targeted by France in Big Brother Legislation - Bloomberg

In more promising news for all of those wishing bureaucracies were much larger, France's socialist are now going to establish rations of power  - at first for the purposes of pricing.
With smart meters that should be able to set the rationing system to specific times, and for specific weather conditions.
As Grégoire Wallenborn suggests in another article I've cited today, we can anticipate these complex changes to have very little impact on consumption.

Power Hogs Targeted by France in Big Brother Legislation - Bloomberg:
The law as it stands would create an incentive system for energy use. Households would be granted a base volume of power or gas considered appropriate for the dwelling. This volume would be determined by fiscal and social security authorities from tax returns and other documents such as income statements, studies of local weather and medical records.
Households meeting certain criteria could be among 4 million -- a fourfold increase under the planned law -- that will be eligible for reduced “social” rates for energy. The rest will have their prices adjusted according to volumes consumed.
Incentives, Penalties
The government and regulator will set the reward and penalty incentives under which households using less than their allotted base volume of energy get rebates while those surpassing the limits pay higher rates. The difference could be as much as 60 euros a megawatt-hour, according to the draft.
Read the full article at Bloomberg:

Get Smart Meters: European Version

Ontario has smart meters - named as an homage to the classic "Get Smart" television show created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry.
The European version has the same plot - expanded bureaucracy, universal requirement for a smart meter, massive capital spending by utilities with regulators allowing rich returns on the bloated subsequent equity valuation.  
All with no particular idea of how to accomplish anything with all the new hardware.
Promises to be just as funny in Europe as it has been here.

Picture from source article
It was a brief, but fascinating contest between two rather formidable opponents. Philip Lewis, founder and CEO of the prestigious VaasaETT Global Energy Think-Tank and Director of the Smart Energy Demand Coalition, widely considered a world authority on utility consumer psychology, told the audience at the smart energy conference in Amsterdam that consumers will enthusiastically participate in smart meter programs if they can make use of smart pricing systems and receive feedback through inhome displays. 

Figures on Costs of Power from Refurbished Point Lepreau

I won't do the math myself - at least until the unit achieves full power again, but this article contains enough figures to provide a decent estimate: 
lifetime capacity factor before refurbishment of ~84% (many, many nuclear units have seem improved annual capacity factor as focus moved from new builds to better operations);
Costs $2.4 billion
Capacity 660 MW
I'd assume the non-capital cost at 3-5 cents/kWh.
Without grabbing discount rates, etc., my guess is 9 cents/kWh would be in the ballpark.

NB Power questioned over Point Lepreau's lifespan - New Brunswick - CBC News:
NB Power has filed evidence with the regulatory board showing that it expects Point Lepreau to operate for 210,000 "effective full power hours" over 27 years.
That's virtually the same estimate it gave for the brand new Point Lepreau when it went into service in 1983.
However, the plant suffered numerous design, maintenance and operational problems and fell more than 26,000 hours short of its budgeted output before being shut for refurbishment.
That forced NB Power to absorb $450 million in debt the plant couldn't repay which still burdens the utility's balance sheet.
The utility is required to respond to all written questions about Point Lepreau next week.
Read the entire article at CBC News

Nuclear power must for low carbon economy: Jeffrey Sachs

Nuclear power must for low carbon economy: Jeffrey Sachs - The Economic Times:
New Delhi: Making a strong case for nuclear power, UN Secretary General's special advisor Jeffrey Sachs today said it is a must that the world economy is transformed to a low-carbon producer and held that it was a safer source of energy than coal.

"Nuclear energy provides about 20 per cent of the world's electricity supply right now and I personally find it hard to believe that we can have a transition to a low-carbon economy without nuclear power," Sachs said at an OECD conference here.

Sachs, who is also the Director of Earth Sciences in the Columbia University, said that while the damage of lives caused by nuclear power is "very small", the casualty caused by coal-fired thermal power is "vast". 
Continue Reading at The Economic Times:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Energy capacity: Fast, cheap and out of control | The Economist

Energy capacity: Fast, cheap and out of control | The Economist:
A new energy bill is designed to stimulate some £110 billion ($176 billion) in new investment, largely by guaranteeing energy prices for different technologies, from wind to nuclear. This is meant to ensure a secure and less carbon-intensive electricity supply, as part of a pledge to obtain 15% of Britain’s total energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020. Yet the policy has left many questions unanswered, such as what these energy prices will be, how long contracts will last and how much energy will be needed.
Complicating matters, a fixed price for renewables—which are costly and intermittent—encourages companies to lobby for similar safeguards for more traditional sources of power, such as gas. This is because the market for all generators is being distorted. “Once you start meddling, you have to fix everything,” says Dieter Helm, an energy economist at Oxford University.
The entire article can be read at The Economist:

Economic uncertainty puts the brakes on Northwest wind power industry

I have a very negative opinion of wind energy, but my opinion on green protectionism is lower again.  The cited article from the state of Washington notes California now withing to burden it's residents with higher cost power due to using it's inferior wind resources (not well matched to reservoir hydro) by preventing the import of electricity from higher wind resource regions.
The situation is also bad in Illinois, where the Invenergy fortune is being politically protected at the expense of ratepayers due to attempts to prevent the import of electricity from higher wind resource, lower cost areas.
These are wind-on-wind wars.  
The most damaging protectionist measures, in terms of carbon emissions, are probably those designed to keep Quebec's hydro from qualifying as green in several states (accomplished by claiming hydro projects over 100MW capacity are not green).

Economic uncertainty puts the brakes on Northwest wind power industry | Yakima Herald-Republic:
After a decade of whirlwind growth, Central Washington’s wind industry has put all new construction on hold after being confronted by a mix of national and regional issues.
At least seven permitted projects are up in the air in Kittitas and Klickitat counties.
It’s a matter of economic uncertainty.
Nationally, wind energy producers face competition from falling natural gas prices. Plus, it’s unclear whether a much-relied-upon federal tax credit for wind energy producers will be renewed after it expires Dec. 31.
Regionally, transmission lines are at capacity in some places. Markets are getting tougher. New wind farms will encounter problems selling to California utilities, which under new rules must now buy more power produced in that state. Also, wind farm operators complain that property taxes have risen steeply under a new state formula.
Continue Reading in the Yakima Herald-Republic:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bruce Power’s Unit 2 sends electricity to Ontario grid for first time in 17 years

Congratulations to Bruce Power as unit 2 has again sent power to the grid.  

Bruce Power’s Unit 2 sends electricity to Ontario grid for first time in 17 years | Bruce Power:
TIVERTON, ON – October 16, 2012 – Bruce Power’s Unit 2 sent power to Ontario’s electricity grid, for the first time in 17 years earlier today marking a major milestone in the Bruce Power revitalization program.
“This gets us one step closer to the finish line and for the first time in nearly two decades we’re in the midst of returning the site to its full operational capacity,” said Duncan Hawthorne, President and CEO. “With this project in the final stages we can see a period of stable, steady operations ahead where Bruce Power plays a key role in keeping electricity costs low, the lights on and the air we breathe clean.”
With first synchronization now complete, final planned commissioning activities will be carried-out on Unit 2 including safety system shutdown testing. Once the units are at high power, they will produce enough electricity to power cities the size of Ottawa and London, ON, combined.
Read the full news release at Bruce Power:

Idiot Wind: News from CanWEA

North American Windpower: CanWEA: Ontario Wind Energy 'Can Never Assume Community Support':
Ontario's wind energy capacity has grown dramatically over the past five years. Despite this success, the province's wind power market has been plagued by myths and misperceptions, which, if left unchallenged, will prevent the further growth of wind energy in the province, Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA)
Point #1, from the North American Windpower Article:
1. Stay well-informed. "Opponents say wind energy is costly," Hornung noted. However, according to a report from the Ontario Energy Board, 45% of the rise in Ontario electricity prices can be tied to the building of nuclear units, while only 6% of the increased cost can be attributed to wind energy. "Nonetheless, the perception persists,” Hornung said.
No; the OEB's Market Surveillance Panel didn't say that.

Battery Maker A123 Files For Bankruptcy, Sells Business to Johnson Controls

This is an interesting story for reasons other than those which we'll receive the press.  A123 Systems a company that was a beneficiary of government grants both before bankruptcy and even in being bought out by a company that is a recipient of government grants, and President Obama signaled this one out in promoting his initiatives.

Battery Maker A123 Files For Bankruptcy, Sells Auto Business - Corporate Intelligence - WSJ:
After last night’s announcement of a debt default, here’s the news from electric vehicle battery maker A123 Systems Inc.
“On October 16, 2012, A123 Systems, Inc. announced that it has entered into an asset purchase agreement with Johnson Controls, Inc. , which plans to acquire A123’s automotive business assets, including all of its automotive technology, products and customer contracts, its facilities in Livonia and Romulus, Mich., its cathode powder manufacturing facilities in China, and A123′s equity interest in Shanghai Advanced Traction Battery Systems Co., Alpha’s joint venture with Shanghai Automotive. The asset purchase agreement also includes provisions through which Johnson Controls intends to license back to A123 certain technology for its grid, commercial and government businesses. A123 also continues to engage in active discussions regarding strategic alternatives for its grid, commercial, government and other operations, and has received several indications of interest for these businesses.
Continue Reading at the Wall Street Journal Blog:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tom Adams Calls for Electricity Project Moratorium Now

I second that e-motion

All major electricity projects in Ontario that can be delayed without severe penalty must be stopped immediately.
Moratorium now.
If McGuinty has a shred of concern about the future of our province left in him, he will use the vast executive powers he has granted himself, using those power to bring down a sweeping moratorium on the spending of any more money or entering into any more commitments."
Ontario’s official electricity cover-ups have been so deep and pervasive, that we do not know where we stand. Consider that we don’t have an official forecast for what we will pay for electricity next year or the year after that. We don’t know how much we must pay for big, big commitments already carved in stone — like the Oakville and Mississauga gas plants. With McGuinty’s decision to prorogue, the only investigation in town is Gas Busters
Those plants had potential value to consumers located in the Western GTA. Located on the periphery of the grid, those plants have almost zero value to consumers, yet they will impose billions of dollars of cost over time. If we knew how many billions, we wouldn’t need the Gas Busters series.
Moratorium now.

Interim WTO Ruling Finds Canadian Renewable Energy Scheme Discriminatory

Another report on the leaded finding that Ontario's feed-in-tariff scheme is in violation of trade rules notes why - and why not.  
The report is from the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development; the emphasis added (in bold) is mine.

ICTSD • Interim WTO Ruling Finds Canadian Renewable Energy Scheme Discriminatory:
Provisions of the programme, however, also require that to be eligible for such incentives, renewable energy projects include a minimum quota of goods and services deriving from Ontario - in the case of wind, 25 percent, and for solar projects, 60 percent.
Such a, “discriminatory measure,” said Japan in its statement before the panel in March this year, “is designed to promote the production of renewable energy generation equipment in Ontario rather than to promote the generation of renewable energy.”
Canada, on behalf of Ontario, instead portrayed the measure as government procurement necessary to facilitate a move toward green energy production. If the argument was accepted, the measure would not have been subject to WTO provisions on non-discrimination.
In addition to their arguments that the measures were discriminatory, the EU and Japan also argued that the provisions constituted a prohibited subsidy inconsistent with the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM Agreement).
It is understood that both arguments have now failed, with the Panel ultimately condemning the Ontario rules on the grounds they are discriminatory against foreign suppliers of equipment and components for renewable energy generation facilities.

The entire article can be read at the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development trade site:

Global warming stopped 16 years ago, reveals Met Office report quietly released... and here is the chart to prove it | Mail Online

This article caught my attention primarily because of the reporting on how the release of data that doesn't fit with a popular narrative is not communicated.

Global warming stopped 16 years ago, reveals Met Office report quietly released... and here is the chart to prove it | Mail Online:
Graphic from source article
The world stopped getting warmer almost 16 years ago, according to new data released last week.
The figures, which have triggered debate among climate scientists, reveal that from the beginning of 1997 until August 2012, there was no discernible rise in aggregate global temperatures.
This means that the ‘plateau’ or ‘pause’ in global warming has now lasted for about the same time as the previous period when temperatures rose, 1980 to 1996. Before that, temperatures had been stable or declining for about 40 years.
Continue article at Mail Online:
Judith Curry has commented on this article on her 'Climate Etc.' blog
The Met Office responded on their blog

German Renewable Surcharge for 2013 Rises by Almost 47% to 5.277 ct/kWh

The increase in Germany's EEG surcharg was announced today, and is, as expected very significant.

Renewable Surcharge for 2013 Rises by Almost 47% to 5.277 ct/kWh « German Energy Blog:
Today the four German transmission system operators (TSOs) officially announced the surcharge for renewable energy pursuant to the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) for 2013, the so-called EEG surcharge (EEG Umlage). As widely expected it will rise from  3.592 ct/kWh in 2012 to 5,277 ct/kWh in 2013, constituting an increase of 46.9%. Consumers that cannot reclaim the (additional) 19% VAT will pay 6.28 ct/kWh in total.
Continue Reading at the German Energy Blog

Note: At the current exchange rate, 6.28 Euro cents equate to roughly 8 Canadian cents (which is the full residential rate for the electricity commodity in Ontario)

Trade ruling could hurt green jobs - or could not

The Canadian Auto Workers and Council of Canadians are circulating an article implying the government should ignore international trade obligations to protect local content requirements in Ontario's renewable policies.

Trade ruling could hurt green jobs:
The embattled Green Energy Act is about to be pummelled once more, this time by the World Trade Organization. The big loser will not be the McGuinty government, but the thousands of workers who have found jobs in Ontario's newest industry, and the very concept of sustainable development.
How the Ontario and federal governments respond to this WTO loss will be a key test of their seriousness about creating good Canadian green jobs for the future.
A preliminary WTO panel ruling in the challenge by Japan and the European Union against local content rules ("buy local" provisions) in Ontario's landmark renewable energy policy has leaked out a month before anyone expected it. According to reports, the WTO has ruled these buy-local requirements in violation of global trade laws that forbid governments from treating imported goods less favourably than domestic goods
article continues at the Windsor Star:

I disagree with the column for a number of reasons.
Here's one:  Most of the jobs on the solar side would be unaffected by the ruling.  Where the content requirements don't exist in Feed-in Tariff regimes, the far cheaper solar creates more service sector/installation work.   
And more solar capacity

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Offshore wind prospects hit by grid costs

Grid operators would love the additional costs, because their rates are generally regulated to provide a set percentage return on equity.
Higher cost transmission builds = higher profits.

Offshore wind prospects hit by grid costs | Renewable energy:
Never mind the cash needed to build wind turbines out at sea, new British data shows that merely connecting them to the grid costs more per megawatt than building new gas fired power plants.

This raises serious questions about the near-term economic viability of the low-carbon technology in which Germany and Britain, among others, are setting such store.

Problems have also emerged in Germany over who foots the bill for grid connection delays, while there are additional concerns about the cost of the wind turbines themselves, their installation and servicing.

Offshore wind may be entering a critical phase, where countries can choose either to ramp up ever larger projects further offshore - to seek better winds and economies of scale - or else drop the technology as uncompetitive.
Continue Reading at West Australia today:

UK Power shortage risks by 2015, Ofgem warns

The British regulator is warning of shortage risks (very real in my opinion), and steep rate hikes (less real I believe).  Like many jurisdictions, the UK is struggling to find a formula where dispatchable generation gets constructed despite intermittent non-dispatchable renewables being awarded top priority on the grid.

Britain risks running out of energy generating capacity in the winter of 2015-16, according to the energy regulator Ofgem.
Its report predicted that the amount of spare capacity could fall from 14% now to only 4% in three years.
Ofgem said this would leave Britain relying more on imported gas, which would make price rises more likely.
The government said that its forthcoming Energy Bill would ensure that there was secure supply.
Ofgem blames the risk on coal-fired power stations being closed sooner than expected and EU environmental legislation.
Continue Reading at BBC News:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Reuters Reports German renewable surcharge to rise by 47 percent

German renewable surcharge to rise by 47 percent: source | Reuters:
(Reuters) - Germany's surcharge for renewable energy will rise by almost half next year, a government source told Reuters on Wednesday, intensifying the burden for consumers from the country's shift away from nuclear power.
The 47 percent increase reflects the fact that renewable sources are providing increasing amounts of electricity, which is bought from producers at guaranteed prices above market rates.
Coming a year ahead of a federal election in which Chancellor Angela Merkel will seek a third term, the sharp rise in the surcharge is politically charged.
The so-called 'Umlage' -- charges levied on German consumers to support renewable power -- will rise to 5.3 euro cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) in 2013 from 3.6 cents in 2012, the source said.
The four leading high voltage network operators (TSOs) are scheduled to officially release the increase on October 15, based on their forecast of renewable power production in 2013.
Continue reading at Reuters:

Beyond FIT 2.0: What’s in store for wind in Ontario

The National Wind Watch website has noted an article from North American Windpower magazine.
Written by Andrew Chant and Ka-Ming Lin of ORTECH Power - it's an interesting article with some valid points.  Personally I wince at statements such as, regarding the spot price (HOEP), "In 2008, they averaged about C$30/MWh, and in 2011, they were closer to C$20/MWh."
They were $51.67 in 2008, and $31.46 in 2011(3.15 cents/kwh), and the global adjustment value, over the past 12 months is ~$6.3 billion (the article states it will increase to ~C$5.7 billion in 2015)

But there are some interesting ideas appearing in this North American Windpower magazine article.

I've emphasized, with a red bold font, the ones I felt most 'interesting'

Beyond FIT 2.0: What’s in store for wind in Ontario | Wind Watch:
Graphic from Source article
Electricity in Ontario is a sensitive political issue, not only because the transmission system is provincially owned, but also because 60% of the generation supply is controlled by the province. The rapid rise in power prices caused by the projected increase in the global adjustment could have an adverse effect on the wind industry. With the Dalton McGuinty government in power in Ontario and the major opposition party calling for a moratorium on wind, the situation may be precarious for the FIT program and, by extension, the wind energy sector.
... There are about 60,000 micro FIT applications in the system. These will have a minimal effect on the global adjustment, but at an estimated two voters per household, this translates into 120,000 or more votes in favor of retaining the FIT program. Community projects should also increase the popularity of wind energy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How the Liberals drove electricity prices up 100%

Two hits of "Ontario's Power Trip" in one day, as Parker Gallant has an article, providing an excellent overview of recent electricity sector planning history, at the Financial Post site today (in addition to Bruce Sharp's article I noted earlier).
I wrote a little over a year ago that "The Green Energy Act essentially ended the electricity planning in Ontario being done by Ontario’s civil servants."

Ontario’s Power Trip: How the Liberals drove electricity prices up 100% — by Parker Gallant | FP Comment | Financial Post:
Back on March 31, 2004, Energy Minister Dwight Duncan uttered these words in the Ontario Legislature in response to a question on the Liberals energy policy;
“If we address energy policy in a responsible way, our economy will prosper and our families will have a stronger Ontario in which to grow. Our initiatives include aggressive conservation, new supply and accountability at our Crown corporations. Bill 15 will help us meet our goals on accountability and transparency.”
At that point in Ontario’s history the unemployment rate sat at 6.6% (February 2004) and today (September 2012) the unemployment rate is 7.9%.
It is important to take a look at how that “energy policy” has emerged over the last eight years to determine if the initiatives Minister Duncan talked about actually accomplished the goals he mentioned."
By March 24, 2005 Minister Duncan had created the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) and issued the first of his many “directives” telling the OPA exactly what to do. In all, Minister Duncan issued 19 directives during his time in the energy chair, ordering the OPA to do various things in respect to conservation, contracting for renewable energy, etc. The directive he issued on June 13, 2006 was the one that instructed the OPA to develop an Integrated Power System Plan (IPSP).
Continue reading at the Financial Post:

The $733-million gas boondoggle

The Financial Post has an article up written by Bruce Sharp that tallies the cost of moving a generating station procured to service a local area hundreds of kilometers from that area.
Bruce is, I argue, the most knowledgeable voice in the province on electricity pricing forecasts.

The $733-million gas boondoggle | FP Comment | Financial Post:
It’s hard for one to choose the lesser of two evils from the saga of additional costs arising from moving the site of TransCanada Energy’s 900-megawatt natural gas-fired generation station from Oakville, Ont., to the site of Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) Lennox Generating Station: whether ignorance or intentional distortions are at play.

In that Ontario electricity ratepayer dollars — and a lot of them – are involved, the process deserves transparency, investigation and explanation of a number of complex issues and calculations to check assertions made and to determine costs not documented.  I assert that additional costs to move the plant will exceed $733-million – much, much more than the $40-million presented by the Ontario government.
Continue Reading at the Financial Post:

World Wildlife Fund wants to protect endangered German coal plants

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) commissioned a study that reportedly calls for capacity markets to maintain, and add, coal and gas capacity in Germany.  Capacity markets are an economic tool often described as a subsidy ... although far less of a subsidy than Ontario's Net Revenue Requirement contracts

WWF wants to protect German coal plants - 100% renewable - Renewables International:
The debate about capacity markets in Germany has taken another interesting turn. Because so many gas turbines and coal plants are increasingly unprofitable, the WWF is concerned that this capacity will be removed.
A study (only in German) conducted for the WWF by Germany's Institute of Applied Ecology and consulting firms LBD and Raue LLP and released yesterday finds that Germany's energy transition will not only lead some 20 gigawatts of nuclear capacity to be shut down, but also that "endangers" more than 10 gigawatts of current conventional capacity. The study finds, however, that five gigawatts of dispatchable power plants will have to be added by 2020 and an additional ten by 2030 to support the switch to renewables over the interim.
Continue reading at Renewables International:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Power market headed for potential oversupply

The European Energy Review has an article written by Twan Vallebregt, the CEO of Energy Fundamentals, noting the stagnation, and decline, of demand in European jurisdictions.
Interesting to me as the first blog post I wrote, nearly 2 years ago, touched on the same themes for Ontario.

Power market headed for potential oversupply:
Graphic from source article
Putting all of this into perspective is the 'trend' growth, which depending on the type of economy would be expected to range between 1 and 2 per cent per year. Had that growth trajectory been followed since 2007, at 1.5 per cent average annual growth the cumulative European growth would have been at eight percent in 2011, rather than minus two per cent. This gap of 1000 basis points has had huge consequences for investment in the sector, leading to capacity margins that are much larger than anticipated and upsetting investment plans that had assumed ongoing growth. Add to this the large volumes of renewable energy generation that have entered the market - despite strong economic signals to the contrary - and the result is a market that is headed for oversupply.
Read the entire article at the European Energy Review:

Friday, October 5, 2012

California Refiners Ration Gasoline as Prices Near Record

As crude prices pull pack in New York, prices at the pump are surging in California.
There's a lesson here that warns against maverick regulation.

California Refiners Ration Gasoline as Prices Near Record - Bloomberg:
Spot gasoline in California, with its own blending requirements to reduce smog and difficulty importing supplies from other states, surged to record highs this week. California- blend, or Carbob, in Los Angeles jumped 30 cents to $1.82 a gallon over New York Mercantile Exchange futures yesterday, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s the highest level since at least November 2007, when Bloomberg began publishing the prices.
“The Rockies, the Midwest, Gulf Coast, East Coast are all very connected by pipelines,” said Tim Hess, a petroleum analyst for the Energy Information Administration in Washington, D.C. “The West Coast is not connected to that system at all. It’s quite a bit dependent on its own refinery production.”
Refiners outside California are generally not equipped to supply the cleaner-burning gasoline required in the state, Hess said by telephone.
“That adds another level of complexity when there’s an outage and they have to import gasoline,” he said. “They still need to figure out how to blend that.”
Read the entire article at Bloomberg:

The most environmentally friendly car: Your Car

Leo Hickman has initiated a discussion at the Guardian regarding a Norwegian study indicating the environmental benefits of electric cars can be absent - in some situations.
The findings reminded me of a controversial 2007 study,  "Dust to Dust: The Energy Cost of New Vehicles From Concept to Disposal ."  Both studies have catchy hooks, but I think both also note the environmental impact of your car depends on the utilization of your car.  The message I recall taking from the hated "Dust to Dust" study was that people drove big vehicles a lot, but the claim was small hybrids seldom got driven - so the LCA was based on one car used for 100,000km vs. a bigger one vs 400,000km.  
This new study states that if you are only going to drive a car for 100,000km the electric car is no better than a small efficient traditional vehicle.  It's hard for me to picture how a car requiring tethering to a supply source every 100-150 km is likely to get a lot over 100,000km, so it seems like a valid criticism.
But ... if you are in that situation it is likely urban, and immediate airshed quality is likely better with electric.
Similarly, for global warming it is almost certain that putting more mileage on your car is more AGW friendly than any new vehicle. and a good mechanic far greener than an electric car.
Again, this may not be true of the impact on the immediate airshed.   I have no particular air quality concerns where I live - so it's a tank of premium gas with a bottle  of 'Guaranteed to Pass' added to burn off for a couple of hours before getting an emissions test on old clunkers when the engine is hot.
It's the earth friendly thing to do.

Summary of Comparative Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Conventional and Electric Vehicles - Hawkins - 2012 - Journal of Industrial Ecology - Wiley Online Library:
Electric vehicles (EVs) coupled with low-carbon electricity sources offer the potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and exposure to tailpipe emissions from personal transportation. In considering these benefits, it is important to address concerns of problem-shifting. In addition, while many studies have focused on the use phase in comparing transportation options, vehicle production is also significant when comparing conventional and EVs. We develop and provide a transparent life cycle inventory of conventional and electric vehicles and apply our inventory to assess conventional and EVs over a range of impact categories. We find that EVs powered by the present European electricity mix offer a 10% to 24% decrease in global warming potential (GWP) relative to conventional diesel or gasoline vehicles assuming lifetimes of 150,000 km. However, EVs exhibit the potential for significant increases in human toxicity, freshwater eco-toxicity, freshwater eutrophication, and metal depletion impacts, largely emanating from the vehicle supply chain. Results are sensitive to assumptions regarding electricity source, use phase energy consumption, vehicle lifetime, and battery replacement schedules. Because production impacts are more significant for EVs than conventional vehicles, assuming a vehicle lifetime of 200,000 km exaggerates the GWP benefits of EVs to 27% to 29% relative to gasoline vehicles or 17% to 20% relative to diesel. An assumption of 100,000 km decreases the benefit of EVs to 9% to 14% with respect to gasoline vehicles and results in impacts indistinguishable from those of a diesel vehicle. Improving the environmental profile of EVs requires engagement around reducing vehicle production supply chain impacts and promoting clean electricity sources in decision making regarding electricity infrastructure.
The study can be read here:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Utilities could face 'triple whammy' in years ahead, S&P director tells APPA conference

Utilities in markets outside of Ontario (where all the private generators seemingly operate without risk) are being warned of the risks from heavy reliance on currently cheap natural gas generation accompanied by locked-in expensive power purchase agreements for all types of generation.

Utilities could face 'triple whammy' in years ahead, S&P director tells APPA conference:
Utilities generally are finding it cheaper these days to buy power from others than to build generation, he said. A growing share of the electricity available for sale in the open market is produced by burning natural gas, and when utilities do decide to build, their choice is usually a combined-cycle natural gas-fired plant, he said. All this adds up to a heavy reliance on gas.
When meeting with a credit analyst, any utility that relies on natural gas should be ready to discuss its fuel procurement strategies and hedging options, exposure to fuel cost volatility, and its risk management policies, Panger said.

"It used to be that keeping prices low and keeping the power on was what running a public power utility was all about," he said. Today, long-range planning is complicated by environmental regulations, the risk of rising natural gas prices and the weak economy.
Utilities face the potential for a "triple whammy," Panger said:  higher gas prices, high purchased power costs and higher regulatory costs.
The entire article can be read at Public Power Weekly:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

George Monbiot – Plutocracy’s Boot Boys


George Monbiot – Plutocracy’s Boot Boys:
I see these people as rightwing vanguardists, mobilising first to break and then to capture a political system that is meant to belong to all of us. Like Marxist insurrectionaries, they often talk about smashing things(20), about “creative destruction”, about the breaking of chains and the slipping of leashes. But in this case they appear to be trying to free the rich from the constraints of democracy. And at the moment they are winning.
Please read the entire article at George Monbiot's blog:

On Twitter, Monbiot has referenced this 2004 article if people are asking "what about state funding of left-wing thinktanks?"