Friday, December 28, 2012

Rules have Renewables Suppliers Scrambling in US, but not in Ontario

A juxtaposition between events ending 2012 in the US, and those in Ontario.
Wasn't the Korean Consortium supposed to have 4 plants running in Ontairo by now as part of it's sweatheart deal with the government?
While 3 of those plants exist (with less than anticipated employment), the fourth remains a promise - promised again in July 2012, with, most recently, London politician and maligned Minister of Energy Bentley noting in November that the plans are still "on track."
Shunted aside to a forgotten area of a forgotten depot  - but on track.

All over the country, developers are in a sprint to get new wind farms up and running before Tuesday, when the federal wind production tax credit will disappear like Cinderella’s ball gown. After that, the nation’s wind-farm building will be at a virtual standstill.
The stakes of meeting the deadline are enormous. Wind turbines that are connected to the grid and in commercial service before midnight on New Year’s Eve are entitled to a 2.2 cent tax credit for each kilowatt-hour they generate in their first 10 years, which comes out to about $1 million for a big turbine. As it stands now, those that enter service on Jan. 1 or later are out of luck.
The deadline is a bit like the April 15 one for filing income taxes, but “there are no extensions here,” said Paul Copleman, a spokesman for Iberdrola. 
The entire article can be read at

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Progress, Duke want to slash payments for green energy

Utilities arguing for lower payments for 'green' energy in North Carolina are including the argument that new peaker supply is cheap to build.
I criticized a Conference Board of Canada report massively inflating expected investment in the electricity sector partially because of some ridiculous assumptions on life expectancy of new plants.
I'm familiar with the argument that additial peaking supply is not nearly as expensive as the "negawatt" industry pretends.  On the other hand ... some groups are starting to warn pipeline capacity is insufficient to provide existing heating fuels and increased electricity generation in some regions of the US (particularly the northeast).  
Anywhere the natural gas resource is available, particularly on existing generation sites, peaking capacity is likely far cheaper to build than generally claimed.

Progress, Duke want to slash payments for green energy - Business -
The utilities’ requests for lower rates are based on two factors. One factor – historically low natural gas prices – is indisputable. The other factor is anything but: Progress and Duke say that building power plants is becoming cheaper because modern plants are more efficient and last longer.
Those claims will be scrutinized by experts hired by renewables producers and by the staff of the N.C. Public Staff, the state’s consumer advocacy agency.
“They’re not actually using the cost of a power plant they’re building,” said Gisele Rankin, a senior lawyer at the Public Staff. “They’re using a hypothetical one that a consultant came up with.”
The entire article may be read at

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

FPL brings online cheap nuclear in Florida - expensive wind in Ontario

Florida Power and Light now has more nuclear production, due to uprating projects in it's ome market, which is expected to cost it's customers there less than 5 cents/kWh.

St. Lucie nuclear power extended to another 150,000 homes »
ST. LUCIE COUNTY — Florida Power & Light Co. is producing more power that will light more homes and help the utility giant keep fuel costs down, after completing upgrades at its South Hutchinson Island power plant, officials said.
The extra capacity will add about 150,000 homes to the 500,000 homes currently served by the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant throughout South Florida and along Florida's east coast. Each unit's capacity was increased by about 163 megawatts, or 17 percent, from its original 839 megawatts, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The base rate, which pays for daily operating costs, was $43.26 in 2012. It will rise in January to $47.02, but customers' fuel charges — the cost of the fuel used to produce electricity — will drop by more than $4, resulting in a net savings.
FPL has the lowest power bills in Florida and expects that to continue, spokesman Doug Andrews said. The typical bill for 1,000 kilowatt hours was $94.62 in 2012 and will drop to $94.25 from January to May 2013, a savings of 37 cents.

Monday, December 24, 2012

German Utilities Pay Power Users as Warm, Windy Christmas Looms

Spot market negative prices are a frequent occurrance, but Germany's renewables thing, coupled with warm windy weather on a holiday, have sent the day ahead market into negative pricing - which Bloomberg sites as being the first time since it's tracking began that day ahead pricing has been negative.

German Utilities Pay Power Users as Warm, Windy Christmas Looms - Bloomberg:
Wind output in Germany is predicted to rise to about 15 gigawatts tomorrow, Meteologica SA, a Madrid-based weather forecaster, said on its website. That compares with an average level of 5 gigawatts, according to data from Leipzig, Germany- based European Energy Exchange AG on Bloomberg.
Hourly Prices
The maximum temperature in Frankfurt tomorrow will be 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) versus a five-year average of 3 degrees, CustomWeather Inc. data show. The nation can expect “exceptionally mild weather,” according to a forecast by Deutscher Wetterdienst.
Continue Reading at Bloomberg:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

'Clean coal' capture plant opened in Queensland

A small-scale CC(S is pending) project in Australia has been completed, with funding from the Japanese goverment.

'Clean coal' capture plant opened in Queensland - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation):
Image from source article
The coal industry says it has made a giant step forward with the opening of Australia's first 'clean coal' carbon capture plant.
The $200 million Callide Oxyfuel project, launched on the weekend, will trap greenhouse gas generated by CS Energy's Callide A coal-fired power station in Biloela, central Queensland.
The project, which is backed by the Japanese government, is designed to test the viability of clean coal technology under Australian conditions.
Project director Chris Spero says the plant uses an oxyfuel combustion process, which burns coal with pure oxygen for less waste; then traps and stores the greenhouse gases rather than releasing them into the atmosphere.
"This project is designed to catch over 85 per cent of the CO2, of the flue gases being treated," he told AM.

The rural power plant generates 30 megawatts, only enough to power about 30,000 homes, but it will test of the viability of retrofitting existing power stations with the technology.
Continue reading at ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sasol Betting Big on Gas-to-Liquid Plant in U.S.

With regional prices for natural gas far below levels expected by the historical linkage to crude pricing, the gas-to-liquids technology is intriguing.
The New York Times provides an article with prospective new plants in the United States, but also with warnings that the technology may not be nearly as promising as it's promoters suggest.

Sasol Betting Big on Gas-to-Liquid Plant in U.S. -

...the record for converting gas to liquids is spotty.

The newest and largest plant in operation, Royal Dutch Shell’s giant Pearl plant, also in Qatar, cost the leviathan sum of $19 billion, more than three times its original projected cost, and has been plagued with unexpected maintenance problems. BP and ConocoPhillips built and briefly operated demonstration plants in Alaska and Oklahoma, but stopped short of full development of the technology. Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips announced plans to build giant plants in Qatar, but backed out, putting their capital instead into terminals to export liquefied natural gas.
“The reason you see so few G.T.L. plants is the economics are challenged at best,” said William M. Colton, Exxon Mobil’s vice president of corporate strategic planning. “We do not see it being a relevant source of fuels over the next 20 years.”
Many analysts and industry insiders say the technology makes sense only when oil and gas supplies and prices are far out of balance, as they are today in Qatar and the United States. When oil and gas come into alignment, gas-to-liquids ventures will become white elephants, these skeptics say. Environmentalists also say that the huge energy inputs required to transform natural gas into diesel or other fuels negate any greenhouse gas benefits.

Why 2012 was the best year ever

Why 2012 was the best year ever » The Spectator:
It may not feel like it, but 2012 has been the greatest year in the history of the world. That sounds like an extravagant claim, but it is borne out by evidence. Never has there been less hunger, less disease or more prosperity. The West remains in the economic doldrums, but most developing countries are charging ahead, and people are being lifted out of poverty at the fastest rate ever recorded. The death toll inflicted by war and natural disasters is also mercifully low. We are living in a golden age.
To listen to politicians is to be given the opposite impression — of a dangerous, cruel world where things are bad and getting worse. This, in a way, is the politicians’ job: to highlight problems and to try their best to offer solutions. But the great advances of mankind come about not from statesmen, but from ordinary people. Governments across the world appear stuck in what Michael Lind, on page 30, describes as an era of ‘turboparalysis’ — all motion, no progress. But outside government, progress has been nothing short of spectacular.
Continue Reading at The Spectator:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

US Groups opposing Oil Sands exploitation now have Domestic Natural Gas to Target

A lot of news related to natural gas in the past week, including the UK's blesssing of hydraulic fracturing exploration (fracking), and an S&P downgrade of British Columbia, of carbon tax fame, based significantly on that government's declining revenue from coal and natural gas industries.
Opponents of infrastructure to enable exporting can draw on oil sands opposition, which has served to make oil cheaper in North America than elsewhere, although the discrepancy is much smaller than it is for natural gas.  This is likely to serve as another reason for those wishing to profit from the reindustrialization of North America based on plentiful gas feedstocks to fiance sorta green groups in opposition of exporting.

The Oil Drum's Drumbeat on Friday opened with citing an argument for taxing natural gas,  With a natural gas tax, everyone can benefit argues that allowing exports of liquified natural gas (LNG) would drive up the domestic price - much better to just slap on a tax to drive up the domestic price. (disregarding the fact that higher prices to suppliers are incentive to create more product, and higher prices to consumers an incentive to consume less product - ie. the trade should grow American industry, and the tax should shrink it).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

UK OK on fracking: Germany grids for grids

Today the UK government moved to allow fracking (Hydraulic fracturing) with the hopes of plentiful supply being recovered.
A brief exchange of pros and cons is at the Guardian with statements from Mark Lynas (for) and Greenpeace's David Santillo (against).  The article seems unfair as Lynas knows particulars and Santillo knows no particulars but demands more be known - but perhaps Lynas simply has a much stronger position to argue.
Other 'environmentalist' wanted to change the channel to a claim of lower costs for renewables, and another Guardian article appeared, Gas 'will add more to energy bills than renewables' – government advisers.  The original story was quite wrong, using figures for a scenario where a £500/tCO2 existed, in 2050, to report on what would happen 'by the end of the decade'. 
The tweets that exploded from the ENGO twitterverse are being quickly deleted now.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

CanWEA puts on a happy face as it downgrades forecast

The Canadian Wind Energy Association has blown it's way into Ontario newspapers this week.

While they've managed to get many of their talking points in (ie. wind is cheaper than most new generation options ... ignoring you also need another new generaton option to accompany wind) the forecast figures reported in the Star are not only significantly lower than prior forecast, they are signifcantly lower than the total contracted capacity not yet constructed.

Wind power set to compete on cost, advocate says -
Ontario currently has just over 2,000 megawatts of installed wind power capacity, churned out by about 1,100 turbines.
Another 2,500 megawatts of wind projects is in the pipeline for installaton by 2016, Hornung said.
The Ontario government's Feed-in Tariff (FIT) review, earlier this year, reported; "Ontario on track to procure 10,700 MW of non-hydro renewable energy generation by 2015" - I had the impression approximately 8000MW of that would be wind.
The Ontario Power Authority's latest progress report noted 3835.2 MW of contracted supply under development, so CanWEA's words reported in the Star appear to support the rumours of high attrition rates in the FIT program, and also probably lowered expectations from the Korean Consortium.

High Energy Use Families Face UK Government Intervention

I wrote on smart metering in Ontario yesterday, suggesting utilities, and governments, should stay on their side of the meter.
Today I was sent a link to this article, suggesting "behaviour change interventions..." in the U.K.  
Consumers should argue to keep the utility on their side of the meter; nobody needs your internal usage data by appliance.

A 127-page report released at the same time, from consultants Rand Europe, highlights global initiatives aimed at cutting energy use.
One example saw a community of around 300 households in San Marcos, California compile their own energy-use league table which led to the high-energy users reducing consumption.
Rand highlight measures which adopt “intervention” strategies which target “high energy-use households” and “team-based approaches which use peer support (and pressure) as a way to encourage changes in behaviour”.
Rand concludes: “It would seem that the key to maximising returns could be to better target the programmes at groups that have scope for making the greatest savings.
“Although evidence is limited, it suggests that one of these target groups should be those that currently have the highest levels of energy usage.“This is an area where there may be a window of opportunity for aligning behaviour change interventions with programmes seeking to encourage investment in energy-saving infrastructure improvements.”
High Energy Use Families Face UK Government Intervention

Monday, December 10, 2012

Investment in nuclear energy is good for FPL customers - a regulator's template for Ontario

Recently S&P downgraded Ontario Power Generation, partly because of it's negative percption of OPG's "capital expenditure in a regulatory context, which provides limited cash flow relief during construction for multiyear projects..."
The article cited here provides insight into an alternate 'regulatory context' - in Florida.

Michael Waldron: Investment in nuclear energy is good for FPL customers - South Florida
Over the past several years, Florida's nuclear cost recovery statute has allowed FPL to upgrade our existing nuclear plants and add over 500 new megawatts of clean, cost-effective power-generation to our fleet. To put this in perspective, this is about the same amount of electricity generated by a medium-sized nuclear power plant without having to build one.
...the reality is continued investment in nuclear power is good for FPL customers, for the environment and for our state. To this end, FPL isn't just talking about protecting consumers from higher energy costs and preserving our environment for future generations, we are continuing to take action to do so today and for generations to come.
The entire letter, from the Director of Nuclear Communication of FPL, is at the South Florida

Renewable energy increase will require use of more fossil fuels

The LA Times has an informative article on the need for increased capacity reserves due to increased requirements for production from intermittent generators.

Renewable energy increase will require use of more fossil fuels -
Germany brags of renewable output, but...
The Delta Energy Center, a power plant about an hour outside San Francisco, was roaring at nearly full bore one day last month, its four gas and steam turbines churning out 880 megawatts of electricity to the California grid.
On the horizon, across an industrial shipping channel on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, scores of wind turbines stood dead still. The air was too calm to turn their blades — or many others across the state that day. Wind provided just 33 megawatts of power statewide in the midafternoon, less than 1% of the potential from wind farms capable of producing 4,000 megawatts of electricity.
As is true on many days in California when multibillion-dollar investments in wind and solar energy plants are thwarted by the weather, the void was filled by gas-fired plants like the Delta Energy Center.
One of the hidden costs of solar and wind power — and a problem the state is not yet prepared to meet — is that wind and solar energy must be backed up by other sources, typically gas-fired generators. 
Continue Reading at the LA Times ... and ignore the 'typically gas-fired generators' part as Europe's heavier penetration of renewables is coincident with a resurgence in coal-fired generation there.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

EON Loses as RWE’s Coal Plants Win Germany’s Green Shift

Bloomberg reports on outcomes of Germany's Energiewende, but it's diagnosis leaves something to be desired.

Slide 7, Power Markets of the Future
Other generators do not compete with "renewables" as the latter are guaranteed space on the grid whenever it is possible.
The feed-in tariff (FIT) procurement method spikes supply (thus dropping price) with intermittent renewables, and the subsequent output of renewables acts to essentially lower demand for traditional suppliers.

In Germany smaller consumers pay for the FIT contracts, while large industry is exempt.

EON Loses as RWE’s Coal Plants Win Germany’s Green Shift: Energy - Bloomberg
Germany’s largest power generator is emerging as the biggest loser in the country’s shift to renewable energy.
EON SE, the worst-performing stock in Germany’s benchmark DAX index (DAX) for the first year since the company was formed in 2000, has ripped up earnings forecasts as a surfeit of electricity from wind turbines and solar panels makes its fleet of gas-fired plants unprofitable. In contrast, RWE AG (RWE) has gained 16 percent because EON’s closest rival has more cheap-to-run coal stations better able to compete with renewables.

Ford hybrids don't live up to MPG hype - maybe

Ford hybrids don't live up to MPG hype - Consumer Reports - Dec. 6, 2012:
The EPA estimates that both the Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid get 47 miles per gallon in both city and highway driving. In Consumer Reports testing, the Fusion Hybrid got 35 mpg in city driving and 41 on the highway. That works out to 8 mpg less than EPA estimates in combined city and highway driving. The C-Max hybrid, meanwhile, got 35 mpg in city driving and 38 on the highway in the Consumer Reports test. That's 10 mpg less than EPA estimates in combined driving.
"This is the biggest discrepancy of any current model," said Jake Fisher, head of auto testing at Consumer Reports.
But this probably isn't the important story - it seems that driving style impacts fuel consumption most in the vehicles that can be most efficient, as the story at CNN goes on to imply.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Canned by the CAN-CAN: Scoring Canada's Climate Change and Energy Policies

A couple of reports are out that score performance in climate and/or energy policies.

The Climate Change Performance Performance Index 2013 scores Canada right near the bottom - in the 58th out of 61 places.  The Climate Action network(CAN) Canada (CAN) site announced "Canada ranked as worst performer in the developed world on climate change."

The top 3 spots were left empty because none of the f&^*'n countries deserve a medal.

Elsewhere, the World Energy council organization released "Policies for the future:  2011 Assessment of country energy and climate policies."  Canada was in 5th position, behind Switzerland, Sweden, France and Germany.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ontario Prepares to Launch it's next illegal energy program

Two stories leading to a future one.
Ontario's Minister of Energy is ratcheting up the excitement over an electricity pricing incentive to lure new industry.

Bentley announces new industrial power incentive

A new province-wide industrial electrical incentive will be launched in January, according to Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley...
Bentley said at the outset larger industries will be invited to take advantage of the program, which will provide electricity at a discounted price. The program will eventually be made available to smaller firms.
Although details of the program were sketchy, Bentley said it will offer two-thirds off the regular price of electricity to companies willing to start up a second or third shift to create jobs.
Bentley said Ontario has a good supply of electricity...
The entire article can be read at The Chatham Daily News.  The background is that continued contracting of supply, particularly intermittent renewable supply, continues to drive up total cost while driving down the market, HOEP, rate; which has lead to the current situation where 2/3rd's of the commodity charge in Ontario is for the 'global adjustment' charge which recovers the full cost of contracts from ratepayers, and a charge now being manipulated to drive down price for industry.

...meanwhile in the land that dictated Ontario's Feed-in Tariff Policies, Germany, the pricing scheme is under threat from European trade watchdogs, because the EEG (the mechanism through which the cost of contracts is recovered from ratepayers) is now heavily gamed to exclude more and more industry - taking it from being tolerated to being increasingly seen as a subsidy.