Friday, November 30, 2012

David Cameron takes a swipe in energy war

The Financial Times' Nick Butler writes on political interference in public service appointments in a column concluding the UK energy bill is policy only until it isn't ...

David Cameron takes a swipe in energy war | Nick Butler:
What are we to make of the bizarre events in Whitehall where the prime minister has personally intervened to block the appointment of David Kennedy, the highly respected head of the Committee on Climate Change who had been chosen by a formal civil service process as permanent secretary of the troubled Department of Energy Climate Change.
I feel very sorry for the civil servants involved. Mr Kennedy has had a lucky escape but they have to continue to try to do professional jobs in an institution ridiculed by the rest of Whitehall, untrusted to appoint its own staff and destabilised by the atmosphere of distrust between its own ministers.
For the energy industry, the bigger message is that the energy department is still a very volatile and political place. The measures announced in the energy bill will be reviewed again after the election – with the clear implication that they are likely to be changed if the political complexion of the government changes. The department has no permanent secretary and no permanent policy.
Read the entire article at

The Kyoto Protocol: Hot air : Nature News & Comment

Aside from submitting to the tendency to cheer every failed emissions policy as a noble and necessary misstep taken on the proper path, this is an excellent article on surging emissions after the Kyoto protocol was signed.

The Kyoto Protocol: Hot air : Nature News & Comment:
...reductions made under the treaty were dwarfed by the rise in emissions not covered by the accord, especially in Asia. Since 2000, CO2 emissions in China have nearly tripled to almost 10 billion tonnes, and those in India have doubled to around 2 billion tonnes.
The rise in Asian emissions is partly a result of the migration of heavy industry from developed nations to developing countries, which make products that then get shipped back to wealthy nations. Between 1990 and 2010, the emissions embodied in such products grew by an average of 10% per year — to an annual total of 1.4 billion tonnes — surpassing the total emissions reductions achieved under Kyoto, says Glen Peters, a climate-policy researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research — Oslo. The gains made by the treaty were therefore deceptive, says David Victor, an energy-policy researcher at the University of California, San Diego. The treaty, he adds, was based on “dubious economic assumptions and flawed accounting systems”.
Read the entire article at Nature News & Comment:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hope is not enough: Inspiring better energy policy

The Council for Clean & Reliable Electricity has a guest commentary by Steven Lightfoot; "Hope is not enough - Inspiring better energy policy"
Hope-driven energy policy is all around us. The governments of Ontario, Germany, Spain, California and countless others have provided large financial incentives to develop their green energy industries and increase their use of intermittent renewable energy, despite mounting evidence that these initiatives are ineffective from a cost, operational and even emissions point of view.
For residents of the Greater Toronto Area, a monument to hope has become part of the Toronto skyline. The WindShare Ex Place wind turbine, on the Exhibition Place grounds near Lake Ontario, will never produce any meaningful amount of electricity. What it does do, for better, and likely worse, is to remind the general public that wind turbines exist. Citizens who “want to believe” will be continually encouraged by its presence. Jack Layton, a master of hopeful rhetoric and a disciple of Lovins, was one its key proponents.

UK Energy bill published – reaction to live reaction from the Guardian

The Guardian has breaking analysis of the freshly introduced, and much anticipated, UK energy bill.

I'd expect a bill that locked a government into high renewables targets would also lock the country into much higher emissions intensities than necessary (as demonstrated in France ... and Ontario).  
As a bonus, it comes with the added cost of a capacity market to ensure fossil plants remain available

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

German Electricity and Gas Monitoring Report 2012

The number of issues packed into this brief quote from the German Energy Blog is exceptional.

BNetzA and German Cartel Office Present Joint Electricity and Gas Monitoring Report 2012 « German Energy Blog:
Germany saw another strong expansion of volatile renewable power plant capacity, in particular solar power plant capacity. The growing share of renewable power has to be purchased and transmitted with priority by the grid operators, and is remunerated with fixed feed-in tariffs pursuant Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG). This has rendered the construction of new conventional power plants that can balance the fluctuating input of green electricity less and less attractive, as the operating times for these plants are continually decreasing.
Renewable power plant capacity not subject to competition meanwhile amounts to 68 GW, compared to over 105 GW of conventional capacity that has to compete for  market share. 
Continue Reading at German Energy Blog:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Canada Called Out On Climate action, and commended on leading role in carbon capture technology

From The New York Times' Green Blog "Climate researchers ... say the conservative government pays lip service to climate change’s dangers while gutting the programs that try to observe and mitigate its effects."  The link is to a very lengthy article at Inside Climate News, Outcry Grows Over Canadian Govt's Undermining of Climate Science:
Harper has weakened some environmental regulations, including fast-tracking permit reviews of oil sands pipelines and mines. He has also pulled Canada from the Kyoto Protocol, the global treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and appointed climate skeptics to head scientific agencies, including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, whose work benefits industry.
Canada's natural resources expansion plans are "driving absolutely everything in the country right now," said Tom Duck, an atmospheric scientist at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. "Our capacity to do environmental science is being rapidly destroyed. We're hemorrhaging scientists here."
The Entire article can be read at InsideClimate News

Canada has an highly educated, or at least highly credentialed, workforce, and average research & development spending.  The concern has been in translating these characteristics to better connect R&D with industry.

Another fresh item on my Google Reader screen this afternoon came from IEEE Spectrum's Energywise Blog: Carbon Capture Is Dead, Long Live Carbon Capture.  That article begins:

Fuel-Efficiency Standards Have Costs of Their Own... but lower costs than alternatives do

An article in the New York Times is, I suspect, entirely wrong about fuel efficiency standards as opposed to gas taxes.
They use an example of increasing fuel standards on cars in the 1970's resulting in people driving trucks instead.  The argument being the people will spend much, much more on fuel if you regulate some vehicles to be fuel efficient - so making fuel more expensive would be smarter.
It would not.

Fuel-Efficiency Standards Have Costs of Their Own -
The original standards for fuel economy in the 1970s exempted light trucks, which were a small share of the market. That decision was critical to the explosive growth of the S.U.V. In 1973, light trucks amounted to 3 percent of new vehicle sales. Today they account for half.
Who knows what distortions the new rules will bring? The standards vary according to the footprint of the car — the length between the axles multiplied by the width. So maybe cars will be boxier in the future.
Automakers will make the most efficient cars they can that customers will buy. A gas tax that goads drivers to choose gas-sippers takes advantage of this fact. A mileage standard does not.
The Entire Article can be read at the

Monday, November 26, 2012

Has the Kyoto protocol made any difference to carbon emissions?

Bizarre conclusions on the Kyoto protocol from the Guardian's Duncan Clark

Global Emissions' Growth has escalated since Kyoto (source)
Has the Kyoto protocol made any difference to carbon emissions? | Environment |
Overall, the result is that global emissions have showed no sign of slowing down, as the chart below shows. In that sense, the Kyoto protocol has been a failure. But it was unquestionably an important first step in global climate diplomacy. The question is whether a more ambitious second step
You could, theoretically, view more at

Since Kyoto has signed there has also been a more advanced understanding, albeit a largely ignored advanced understanding, that the accord penalized energy exporters, and generally favoured consuming economies over producing economies.

Why we should pull the plug on privatising electricity

This is a provocative 'conversation' piece from Australia:

Why we should pull the plug on privatising electricity:
The electricity industry has been purposely reshaped via neoliberal ideology from a system of public subsidy, public profit into public subsidy, private profit where risks and costs are socialised but profits and power are privatised. Industry today is like a restaurant menu: there are multiple retailers, offering a variety of plans and prices that appears to offer consumer choice.
Unfortunately, none of the options available include inexpensive electricity. Citizens and customers have no influence over how the menu is constructed; instead, they are offered the illusion of choice. The business model that retailers operate under is inefficient and does not serve consumers well. Also, industry works to silence those who speak out against it.
Much like the privatisation and deregulation of the financial sector that promised choice and efficiency according to pseudo-scientific economic models, it has instead resulted in endless financial disasters, coming after a period of apparent tranquillity. The costs to governments vastly exceed all the costs and problems of public ownership.
Read the entire column at "the conversation":

Saturday, November 24, 2012

New Brunswick nuclear reactor returns to service

Global News | New Brunswick nuclear reactor returns to service after costly delays to overhaul:
FREDERICTON - Atlantic Canada's only nuclear power plant returned to commercial operation Friday for the first time since March 2008, when it began a major refurbishment that was plagued by repeated delays and massive cost overruns.
The Point Lepreau reactor in New Brunswick resumed generating power following an overhaul that was scheduled to last 18 months and cost $1.4 billion. Instead, the project took three years longer than expected and cost the province's Crown-owned utility an extra $1 billion.
Continue reading at Global News

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Shutting down nuclear power stations is madness

Graph From 'Our Finite World'
The tireless campaign against nuclear energy that the Greens have waged for decades is finally achieving its goal, at least in the developed countries. Their behaviour cannot be logically reconciled with their concern for the environment, given that abandoning nuclear will lead to a big rise in fossil fuel use, but they have never managed to make a clear distinction between the nuclear weapons they feared and the peaceful use of nuclear power.
The Greens prattle about replacing nuclear power with renewables, which might come to pass in some distant future. But the brutal truth for now is that closing down the nuclear plants will lead to a sharp rise in greenhouse gas emissions, in precisely the period when the race to cut emissions and avoid a rise in average global temperature of more than two degrees C will be won or lost.
Fortunately, their superstitious fears are largely absent in more sophisticated parts of the world. Only four new nuclear reactors are under construction in the European Union, and only one in the United States, but there are 61 being built elsewhere. Over two-thirds of them are being built in the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), where economies are growing fast and governments are increasingly concerned about both pollution and climate change.
More people die from coal pollution each day than have been killed by 50 years of nuclear power operations—and that’s just from lung disease. If you include future deaths from global warming due to burning fossil fuels, closing down nuclear power stations is sheer madness. Welcome to the Middle Ages.
Read Gwynne Dyer's entire article at

Former Japanese PM Back On the Soap Box With No Nukes Message

OK, the title is inaccurate.
It's a beer crate

Ahead of election, hard times for DPJ grandee Kan: The Asahi Shimbun
From source Article
As the ruling Democratic Party of Japan comes to terms with the departure of Yukio Hatoyama, a former prime minister who is retiring from politics, another former leader is looking sidelined by the party on account of his absolutist no-nuclear agenda.
Naoto Kan, who, like Hatoyama, is a DPJ co-founder, has been calling for the abolition of nuclear power as he campaigns ahead of the Dec. 16 Lower House election.
But he has been forced to fight that battle alone after the DPJ leadership denied him permission to speak on the party's behalf.
Kan was prime minister when reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant went into meltdown following last year's earthquake and tsunami disaster.
Early on Nov. 21, Kan was seen addressing commuters from a beer crate with a banner reading "Zero nuclear power," in front of the JR Mitaka Station in Tokyo's Musashino city.
He spoke for 90 minutes, but few few passers-by bothered to stop and listen to what he had to say.

The DPJ is expected to lose the next election to the Liberal Democratic Party, which dominated the lower house of government for most of the past half century.
The LDP reportedly "advocates further debate before setting a new nuclear energy policy for Japan."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Carbon revenues spat poses new threat for Polish renewables

Op-ed introduction to citation:
Polish Minister PillowTalkski demonstrates why carbon taxes are opposed - with the revenues not being used to reduce emissions in the most efficient manner, but to fund a renewables industry high on promises and low on accomplishments.

Carbon revenues spat poses new threat for Polish renewables - Politics - Renewable energy news:
"Poland's ministries of finance and economy are at war over where to direct funds raised from fees paid by greenhouse gas emitters, marking a fresh hurdle in the country's efforts to pass controversial new renewables legislation."
The ministry of economy wrote the draft renewables law so that revenue from emissions would flow towards green investment, via the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management. The payment amounted to around 700m zlotys ($217 million) in 2011.
But the finance ministry has made it known that wants to divert the carbon revenues into the central budget, according to Janusz Pilitowski, head of the renewables department at the economy ministry.
The clash is the latest conflict between ministries, local utilities and the wind energy lobby as the coal-dependent nation seeks to optimise the stream of renewables investment.
"The finance ministry's demand for the money is unacceptable, because these are funds that are in a sense dedicated to renewable energy," Pilitowski told a wind sector seminar. "I appeal to you to support the economy ministry in this case, irrespective of the earlier wave of criticism."

Pro-Nuclear Hudak: "Wind Down the Green Energy Act"

The PC Party has posted a press release overview of a speech delivered yesterday to the Annual General Meeting of the Organization of CANDU Industries - as well as the text of the speech.

AJAX: It’s time for a new approach to Ontario’s power sector – one that recognizes that affordable energy, and nuclear power in particular, is an economic fundamental to create jobs, PC Leader Tim Hudak said today.

  • Creating a reliable long-term plan for energy supply.
  • Winding down the Green Energy Act."
From the  text of the speech:

On Climate Change, the U.S. Is Doing Better Than Europe -

A November 11th op-ed by Dieter Helm, professor of energy policy at Oxford, laid out arguments for a carbon tax, and investment in 'new technologies"- arguments that have been re-broadcasts by many this month.

On Climate Change, the U.S. Is Doing Better Than Europe -
Putting a price on carbon is fundamental. If consumers and businesses do not bear the cost of their carbon pollution, they won’t do much about it. This carbon price should not discriminate between locations: global warming is global. If China does not put a price on carbon, and Europe does, then China will effectively receive a huge export subsidy.
The good news is that many new energy technologies are coming down the track: next-generation solar, geothermal and even nuclear technologies, and methods to harness the energy of gravity via the ocean’s tides. There have been major breakthroughs in solar. Work is also under way to develop better energy-storing batteries, smart grids and electric cars. All of those advancements will need public support.
What is missing across Europe, the United States and China is a global agreement on a proper carbon price. More than any other measure, a tax on carbon consumption is what’s needed to slow the warming of the planet.
Continue Reading at

I posted some of my thoughts on a carbon tax on my original content blog - I did not address the idea of taxing carbon at the point of consumption, which would be a logistical nightmare.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

U.S. to fund small, modular nuclear reactors

U.S. to fund small, modular nuclear reactors:
6:31PM EST November 20. 2012 - To develop a new generation of nuclear power, the Obama administration announced Tuesday that it will fund up to half the cost of a five-year project to design and commercialize small, modular reactors for the United States.
The Department of Energy said it aims to have these reactors, which have attracted private funding from investors including Bill Gates, in operation by 2022. It said it will negotiate the project's total cost with Babcock & Wilcox, an energy technology company based in Charlotte, that will lead the project in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel International.
"Low-carbon nuclear energy has an important role to play in America's energy future," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in announcing the award, citing President Obama's push for an all-of-the-above energy strategy that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. He said DOE will accept funding requests from other companies developing such technology.
Continue Reading at USA Today:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Germany abandons Nuclear: Bloomberg abandons reporting

Bloomberg Businessweek has reproduced an Inside Climate News article - the quality is poor.

Germany Abandons Nuclear Power and Lives to Talk About It - Businessweek:
Some analysts suggested that Germany's carbon emissions—which declined by 2 percent in 2011—could have dropped even further if Merkel hadn't acted so precipitously. Even with the Merkel shutdown, however, Germany's old coal plants are being decommissioned faster than new ones—which were ordered years before the Fukushima disaster—are coming online.
Planned additions/removals of capacity (BNetzA .xls)
Aside from the emissions reduction not being in the electricity generation sector, and one mild year not being a test, more coal plants are planned to come online than go offline.

Urgently Needed: A Dumber, Tougher Grid

Nasty editorial introduction to an important article:  The article shows that a clever politician never wastes a good disaster as a chance to introduce his own agenda ... and neither does the dopey politician son of a clever politician.

Urgently Needed: A Dumber, Tougher Grid - IEEE Spectrum:
Since the hurricane and “nor’easter” that devastated the New Jersey and New York " coasts two weeks ago, leaving millions without heat, gasoline and electricity, there has been a lot of loose talk about how a smarter grid might moderate the effects of such catastrophes in the future.
The smart grid will indeed have a role to play—especially in speeding recovery. As Massoud Amin of the University of Minnesota recently put it, “a more resilient, secure and smarter infrastructure…would localize impacts and enable a speedier restoration of the services.”
However, what we need even more urgently than a more agile and interactive grid incorporating advanced computing and communications in all dimensions is a grid that’s basically old-fashioned, stupid and really, really tough.
Continue Reading at IEEE Spectrum:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

German Energy Expert Argues Against Subsidies for Solar Power

Spiegel Online has an interview with the head of the German Energy Agency Dena.  

German Energy Expert Argues Against Subsidies for Solar Power - SPIEGEL ONLINE:
ENTSO-E shows fossil fuel use growing as nuclear levels off
Kohler: According to the generally accepted opinion, the transition to renewable energy sources means that we will give up nuclear power and rely on wind and solar instead. The reality is that we'll need conventional power plants until at least 2050, even if we do create massive renewable energy sources. Many people dispute this. They say that we could replace power plants operated with fossil fuels by adding more renewable energy sources. My response to them is: It won't work.
SPIEGEL: What's the problem?
Kohler: When a new wind farm is opened and we're told how many thousands of households it can supply with electricity, that number applies to only a quarter of our demand. In Germany, 75 percent of electricity goes to industry, for which a secure supply -- that is, at every second, and with constant voltage -- is indispensable. Neither solar nor wind power are suitable for that purpose today. Both fluctuate and provide either no secure supply or only a small fraction of a secure supply. Solar energy has a load factor of about 1,000 hours a year. But there are 8,670 hours in a year."
Continue Reading at Spiegel Online:

I had previously commented on an article noting a study by Dena indicating Germany would continue to have a need for significant traditional (fossil fuel) capacity even in 2050.

On my original content blog I had written on the argument that nuclear is incompatible in an energy mix heavy on intermittent renewables:

Medical Check-ups: The Unexpected, and the expected?

The Globe and Mail report on an agreement between the Ontario government and the province's doctors includes a report that annual check-ups can do more harm than good.

So they'll be done annually, but less thoroughly, in Ontario going forward.

Annual physicals will be shorter, Ontario says in new deal with doctors
A recent Danish study concluded doctors should stop offering annual physicals because they don’t appear to reduce deaths from cancer or heart disease but can add to stress levels.
Researchers at the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen pooled data from 14 studies that included more than 180,000 people who were randomly assigned to a group that was asked to get regular checkups or one that saw a doctor only as needed.
“With the large number of participants and deaths included, the long follow-up periods used, and considering that cardiovascular and cancer mortality were not reduced, general health checks are unlikely to be beneficial,” concluded the authors.
The OMA is expected to help find $100-million worth of savings in the health care system to offset an increase in the total compensation package for the 25,000 doctors it represents.
The entire article may be read at the Globe and Mail

The Globe expects the doctors will find $100 million a year in savings, and the Globe's Queen's Park columnist opines this is a great move towards 'sustainability' .

Coincidentally, I had just written on people who justify all sorts of things with the 'sustainability' term. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gas Prices Doomed: Canadians Appalled Collusion Isn't Occurring

Bloomberg has an extensive article on natural gas supplies/pricing today.
My summary: 
-supply is plentiful but extraction costs vary 
- low prices caused wells to be taken out of production and price soared from very, very low way up to very low
-price increase brought wells back into production
-inventories again soar and price looks set to drop again.

Embarrassingly, Canadian analyst don't understand why companies would keep producing instead of colluding to drive up prices.
Interestingly, the report indicates that in the Bakken field, the capacity doesn't exist to capture all the gas being extracted along with the very valuable oil, so much of the gas is simply burned off.  

Gas Prices Doomed to Stay Low as Producers Pump Faster - Bloomberg:
... the fuel began a slide Oct. 30, falling 9.2 percent percent by Nov. 12 as stockpiles swelled to an all-time high this month, valued at about $15 billion using the current spot price. Gas production in 2013 is expected to match this year’s record level, the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecast this month."
The rebound stalled as Chesapeake, the second-biggest U.S. producer, and rivals added output in areas such as the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. ConocoPhillips and Encana Corp. (ECA) brought back curtailed output. Some producers that struggled when the fuel hit a 10-year low in April are opening new wells, dashing hopes by others that a depressed rig count would boost prices.
“Unfortunately all the players in this game don’t read by the same Bible,” said Peter Howard, chief executive officer of the Canadian Energy Research Institute in Calgary. Producers need to keep gas wells shut and “force the price up,” he said.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

E. ON's Value drops €3bn as it puts it;s earnings targets under review

As Noted in my previous post, investors continue to lose faith in the profitability of traditional European generation companies - because the companies have reduced prospects of being profitable without outperforming renewables in the search for non-market revenues (aka, by some, subsidies).

E.ON upends mid-term targets on lack of business clarity: Recharge News

The huge challenges confronting European utilities were hammered home as E.ON put its mid-term earnings targets under review, citing stiff headwinds for its traditional power-generation business in the absence of capacity mechanisms for back-up plants.

Nearly €3bn ($3.8bn) was erased from E.ON’s market capitalisation as shares fell more than 10% on 13 November on the update.

E.ON, by some accounts the world’s largest non-state energy utility, insists it will meet the updated 2012 forecast it issued in August. However, its guidance for next year no longer seems achievable “considering the substantial economic uncertainties and the structural changes in the energy industry” in Europe, according to chief executive Johannes Teyssen.

Moody's: Wind and solar power will continue to erode thermal generators' credit quality

Moody's cites a 'new paradigm' for European utilities.
What could this "new paradigm be called?

Moody's: Wind and solar power will continue to erode thermal generators' credit quality
London, 06 November 2012 -- Further expected increases in renewable energy will continue to erode the credit quality of European thermal generation companies in the near to medium term, says Moody's Investors Service in a Special Comment published today."
Moody's notes that many European countries are considering the introduction of capacity payments to incentivise thermal generators to remain online. Utilities argue that the intermittent nature of renewables makes these mechanisms essential to address security-of-supply concerns, although politicians will be cautious about burdening the consumer with additional costs. Capacity mechanisms would be credit positive for Moody's rated utilities, although their timing and structure remains uncertain.
European utilities can hope for favourable new policies such as capacity payments but these may be difficult to achieve in the context of affordability. Ultimately, renewable companies, utilities and network operators may be forced into a three-way lobbying battle to secure a share of the total revenue pot. Utilities must therefore adapt to this new paradigm or risk being squeezed out.
The entire research note can be read at Moody's

Monday, November 12, 2012

CANDU Refurbishment Costs Highlighted as Point Lepreau set to return to service

It will be a little while longer before rates are set for the refurbished Point Lepreau nuclear power plant (NPP), but NB Power's president has either lent credibility to my rough estimate ... or he just pulled the figure off of what I wrote last month...

New Brunswick nuclear reactor set to return to service | CTV News:
When the Point Lepreau generating station in New Brunswick was shut down in March 2008, NB Power officials said the refurbishment would span 18 months and cost $1.4 billion.
More than four years and another billion dollars later, the provincial Crown utility company is hoping the repairs will extend the plant's life by 27 years, supplying about one-third of New Brunswick's power needs.
"Point Lepreau will be a valuable asset and a great investment for $2.4 billion," NB Power president Gaetan Thomas said in an interview.
"We are still going to be able to produce clean energy from Point Lepreau -- over 700 megawatts -- for less than nine cents per kilowatt hour and that makes it a very competitive option."

But Norm Rubin of Energy Probe, a Toronto-based energy watchdog group...
Continue Reading at CTV News

Funny how the same old folks are pursued for quotes year after year.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Ontario's IESO Abandons Consumers, and the Market

Ontario's Invalid Electricity System Operator (IESO) had a surprising conclusion to the stakeholder initiative they tagged SE-91.
They ignored everything, abdicated any responsibility they may have had to ratepayers, and pandered to the politicians that have been paying them extremely well during the collapse of market pricing in Ontario; the most recent 12 month period has seen an average HOEP market price drop below $25/MWh while Ontario's residents pay about $80.
The System's Operator 
The appropriateness of the wind and solar floor price values and the need for a separation between those prices and the prices set for flexible nuclear generation. 

At this time the IESO Board is being asked to set ONLY the flexible nuclear floor prices... Other considerations, such as Ontario Power Authority contract negotiation advancement, may also be considered in determining the floor  price values and the separation for wind and solar relative to the flexible nuclear floor. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Nuclear Technology That Even the Nuclear Skeptics Should Like – Or At Least Seriously Consider

A pair of posts noting the attributes, and new uses, of the High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR)

Nuclear Technology That Even the Nuclear Skeptics Should Like – Or At Least Seriously Consider | NGNP Alliance Blog:
A group of far-sighted companies, including AREVA, ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical, Entergy, Graftech International Ltd., Mersen, Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada, SGL Group, Technology Insights, Toyo Tanso Co. Ltd., and Westinghouse are pursuing the development of a true next-generation nuclear technology referred to as the High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR) for the past few years. Without too much technical detail, HTGRs are helium-cooled, graphite-moderated reactors with robust ceramic-coated fuel that operate at temperatures at or above 750 Degrees Celsius (1400 Fahrenheit) where conventional light water reactors operate at temperatures less than half that. In short:
  1. The design is intrinsically safe. It requires neither active or passive systems nor operator interventions to remain safe, thereby allowing co-location near major industrial facilities. 
  1. High temperature output that allow direct substitution for fossil fuel use in industrial process heat applications. 
  1. Much higher efficiency leading to lower energy cost, making it competitive with natural gas in many places of the world today without any price for carbon. 
Because HTGRs have been built and safely operated in the past and because there are current operational demonstrations in Japan and China, we can say with certainty that the HTGR is the only technology on the relatively near-term horizon capable of displacing the use of fossil fuel for electricity AND high temperature process heat while emitting zero carbon. They are not a long term science project.
Read the entire article at the NGNP Alliance Blog:
Steve Aplin has a new post at his Canadian Energy Issues blog that foresees HTGR's combining with coal and water to manufacture the liquid fuels of the future.

The Nanticoke Energy Centre: Ontario’s hub of clean electricity, motor vehicle fuel, and high value chemicals

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Low power prices threatens Norway's green targets, and Quebec's Finances

An article from Reuters, on Norway's struggle to get wind capacity built economically, coincided, today, with an article from L Presse in Quebec with the ongoing purchase of wind capacity despite almost identical depressed market pricing and system overcapacity to the extent Quebec pays a Gas Generator to remain idled.
Quelle surprise, it's TransCanada!

Low power price threatens Norway's green targets | Reuters:

Government support is aimed at increasing the return on investments from electricity sales revenues to make wind power economical, but it can fund only a part of prospective investments.

"Without subsidies, (wholesale) power prices need to be around 600 crowns ($100) per megawatt-hour to make things fly," Andreas Aasheim, an advisor to Norway's wind energy association Norwea said.

But lasting wet weather periods can push power prices down, as was the case this year, reducing the appetite for investment into capital-intensive wind power.

Nordic electricity prices are so low that even with the subsidy, the total income from renewable power generation currently is only around $72.9 a MWh, lower than the cost of producing wind power which is between $90 to $110 per MWh.

As a result, only one tiny 1.6 megawatt (MW) wind power plant with two 0.8 MW capacity turbines has received green certificates in Norway since a joint Norwegian-Swedish subsidy program was launched in January 2012.

Continue Reading at Reuters
Hydro Quebec Struggling with Expensive electricity surplus (en francais)

Michigan Rejects Renewable Energy Amendment; Chicago Accepts Promise of Cheaper Electricity

A couple of energy issues were on ballots in states yesterday.
Two of interest to me were the attempt to set quotas for chosen energy sources in the Constitution of Michigan, and, more obscurely, events involving control of electricity supply in Illinois, and particularly Chicago.

Michigan Proposal 3: Voters reject 25 by 25 renewable energy mandate
LANSING, MI — Voters rejected Proposal 3, opting not to put the renewable energy mandate in the state’s constitution.
Opposition group Clean Affordable Renewable Energy (CARE) for Michigan claimed victory in defeating the proposal that it said would lead to higher electric bills. It made the call at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The measure lost 63 percent to 37 percent with 93 percent of precincts reporting.
Known as the 25 by 25 proposal, it would have amended the constitution to require Michigan utilities to derive at least 25 percent of their annual electric retail sales from clean renewable sources, including wind, solar, biomass and hydropower, by 2025.
Continue Reading at Michigan Live

More interesting is the story on municipal aggregation from Illinois.  This ballot initiatives simply adds intrigue to a story I noted this summer:

Chicagoans vote yes on municipal aggregation, provoking cheers and skepticism

Monday, November 5, 2012

Renewbles, Nuclear, and CCS Groups Lobby together in UK

My twitter feed is abuzz with news from the UK - 3 links to the same news release.
None note the UK alliance differs from a very recent alliance just across the channel, between the oil and gas industry and a handful of renewables firms - prominently including Denmark's Dong energy.

renewableUK: Low-Carbon Industries unite to call for swift progress on Energy Bill
Nuclear Industry Association: Low-Carbon Industries unite to call for swift progress on Energy Bill
The Carbon Capture and Storage Association,: Low-Carbon Industries unite to call for swift progress on Energy Bill (.pdf)
  • CCSA, NIA and RenewableUK unite on joint letter to Energy Secretary
  • Call for Energy Bill to progress as swiftly as possible
  • Call for power sector to be largely decarbonised by 2030
The Carbon Capture and Storage Association, the Nuclear Industry Association and RenewableUK have today issued a joint call to the Secretary of State, Rt Hon Edward Davey MP in support of the Energy Bill and the fostering of a low-carbon electricity generation mix, as well as the need for swift progression to ensure that investment is urgently realised.
The three associations, representing over 1,000 corporate members, made the request in a letter to the Secretary of State today copied to the Chancellor, Prime Minister, Business Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State at the Cabinet Office.
The full letter is available at each of the referenced links

Renewable Energy Integration in Ontario: An Update

  • In the absence of more-flexible nuclear output, surplus baseload generation would cause renewable energy to be dispatched off.
  • With Bruce Power’s apparent 2,400 MW of CSVD flexibility, renewable energy will still have to be dispatched off.
  • At the end of 2015, hourly scenarios exist whereby wind could produce up to 6,500 MW - with none effectively consumed in Ontario but at a cost to Ontario ratepayers of $705,000."
Aegent previously discussed the challenge presented by integrating renewable energy – particularly wind – into Ontario’s electricity grid. The highly variable nature of wind output is an ever-present challenge and while installed wind capacity is on the rise, flexible coal-fired generation is being taken out of service and being replaced by a much less flexible natural gas-fired fleet.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Refurbished CANDUs Progress to Commercial Operation

Bruce Power has completed it's refurbishment work as Unit 2 has now joined Unit 1 in achieving commercial operation.
In New Brunswick, the Point Lepreau refurbishment project is entering the final stretch on the journey to commercial operation as the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is allowing the reactor power to be increased to full capacity.

Bruce Power: Unit 2 achieves commercial operation
TIVERTON, ON – November 1, 2012 – Bruce Power’s groundbreaking Restart Project was officially completed on Oct. 31 with Unit 2 being declared commercially operational just two weeks after the unit first generated electricity.
“The Restart Project has been a monumental achievement for this company, and returns our site to its full operating potential,” said Duncan Hawthorne, Bruce Power’s President and CEO...
The return to commercial operation of Unit 2 comes just over a week after Unit 1, which achieved this milestone on Oct. 22.
 The full media release may be read at the Bruce Power site.

CNSC Gives Point Lepreau Final Green Light.
Today, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) announced its decision to allow New Brunswick Power Nuclear (NBPN) to increase reactor power at the Point Lepreau Generating Station above 35% of its full capacity. This is the last significant regulatory milestone before NBPN brings the reactor to full power and normal operation.
The full news release may be read at the CNSC site 

Retreat! Thunder Bay gas plant project suspended

Well done Minister..
I've noted before this project was not intelligent - converting a plant that operates very infrequently with coal to one that runs infrequently on gas.
The units are sized such that the appropriate conversion would allow co-firing of the units with biomass and coal.

Ontario’s Liberal government has suspended plans for another natural gas-fired power plant — this one in Thunder Bay.
But energy minister Chris Bentley says halting the project could save the province close to $400 million, rather than costing money for cancelation.
That’s because the plant in question, which now burns coal, belongs to government-owned Ontario Power Generation. Unlike the cancellation of power plants in Oakville and Mississauga, there are no private developers to pay off.
The Entire Article Can be Read at the Toronto Star

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Texas PUC Approves Doubled Wholesale Price Cap to Spur Power Plant Construction

The seldom heard market option for securing sufficient generation capacity has led Texas to move from a $3500/MWh market cap starting this year to plans for a $9000 cap.
Even then, the potential for that price is not universally accepted as being sufficient motivation for private suppliers to construct enough capacity to satisfy reserve requirements.
Other options include capacity markets and strategic reserve mechanisms.

Texas PUC Approves Doubled Wholesale Price Cap to Spur Power Plant Construction :: POWER Magazine:
In a bid to encourage construction of new power plants in power-strapped Texas, the state's Public Utility Commission (PUC) last week voted to double the wholesale price cap for electricity prices by the summer of 2015.

The action raises the cap from the current $4,500/MWh to $9,000/MWh by June 2015. Interim increases call for the cap to be raised to $5,000/MWh in the summer of 2013, and to $7,000/MWh by the summer of 2014. This June, the PUC voted to increase the cap from its previously limit of $3,000/MWh to $4,500/MWh.

The vote comes on the heels of a June report from consultants at the Brattle Group that found new investment in the state was impeded by low wholesale power prices due to low natural gas prices. However, the report found that increasing peak wholesale power prices to $9,000/MWh would only raise the region's reserve margin to 10% above peak demand—much less than the 13.75% reserve margin recommended by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The authors recommended instead that either the market design be adjusted or reliability objectives revised. 
Continue Reading at POWER Magazine:

Renewables up, Coal-fired Generation Up, Emissions Up

I support the thesis that coal-fired generation is currently the better match for renewables due to better peaking depth than the cleaner combined-cycle gas turbines that people argue to be a cleaner form of traditional generation.
The economics aren't irrelevant, but investment is going up and emissions are going up for more reasons than coal is cheaper - coal may also better in supply mixes burdened with significant intermittent supply.

Gas Golden Age Darkens in Europe on U.S. Coal: Energy Markets - Bloomberg:
Burning coal has contributed to a 10 percent increase in EU carbon-dioxide output this year through September, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. First-quarter emissions from power generation in the U.S. dropped to the lowest since 1992 because of increased gas usage and a milder-than-normal winter, the EIA said in an Aug. 1 report.
EU emissions are rising even after the region received more than double the investment in clean energy sources that the U.S. got this year, at $61.7 billion versus $27.8 billion, BNEF data show. Since 2004, the difference is $511 billion versus $250.9 billion.
“If you burn gas in a power plant you burn money; if you burn coal, you make money,” Walter Boltz, vice chairman at the Agency for Cooperation of Energy Regulators, said in an Oct. 9 interview in London. “Given our climate goals, that’s the stupidest thing we can do, but commercial realities force companies to do that.”
Read the entire article at Bloomberg:

Are Fossil Fuel Subsidies Really the Problem for Renewables?

With current events dominating the news cycle, and particularly with the scandals in my own province's electricity sector, it's easy to miss the important ongoing works from the best economists in the energy sector.  
I'm a fan of Severin Borenstein, who recently posted a short blog entry explaining how fossil fuel subsidies aren't to blame in renewables failing to be perceived as competitively priced.

Energy Economics Exchange | Research that Informs Business and Public Policy:
I had a great time last Friday at Berkeley’s Annual Energy Symposium put on by the Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative.  Interesting people, interesting talks, and great to catch up with former students who are now working in all parts of the energy industry and government agencies.  I particularly enjoyed the session I got to chair on subsidies/support/incentives (everyone has a different word) for renewable energy.
But a number of times during the day I heard the common wisdom that the subsidies to the fossil fuel industries are a major barrier (some said THE major barrier) to the success of renewable energy.
If only it were that simple.  Unfortunately, the common wisdom isn’t correct.  Subsidies to fossil fuel companies are bad public policy and should be ended, but they have no meaningful impact on the competitive position of renewables.
Continue Reading at the Energy Institute at Haas (at Berkeley) and/or
Read Severin Borenstein's "The Private and Public Economics of Renewable Electricity Generation" paper, referenced in the blog post, at the American Economic Association. (.pdf here)