Saturday, November 30, 2013

Quebec's Major Power consumers say "Non" to Needless Wind Costs

Excuse my French, but ...Quebec's major power consumers aren't just taking the renewables crap being shoveled at them - and the rest of the province's ratepayers.

Those that understand French should probably avoid the google translation quotes below and go directly to Les grands clients disent non à l'éolien | La Presse

Here's the greatest hits from the Google translation:
Industrial electricity consumers have decided to challenge the decision of Marois government to continue to purchase wind energy, although Quebec does not need this energy.
A motion to dismiss was filed yesterday, the Régie de l'énergie by the Quebec Association of Industrial electricity consumers (AQCIE) to counter the most recent tender for 450 megawatts of wind energy.
This tender, which aims to support the wind industry in the East-du-Québec must be declared "invalid, unenforceable and ineffective," the petition says, because he did not seek to satisfy electricity needs.
Consumers do not have to pay more for their electricity because the government wants to help industry... 
"...We are not against economic development. If the government wants to help a sector, he does, but it does not make paying the bill by electricity consumers.  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

High level reports on Bulk Power Systems Coping with Changing Supply

There are two new reports that may be of interest to those following the energy sector, and particularly operators of bulk power systems (BPS) coping with the stresses on that sector from the changing supply composition.

"Key Findings" overview from the IEA:

Positive movement towards new CANDU reactors in Romania

Romania hopes to buy 2 Candu reactors, with China's help - Business - CBC News:
Candu Energy Inc. says it has a letter of intent to develop two new nuclear plants in Romania on the site of two Candu reactors built in 1996 and 2007.
Candu Energy, a unit of SNC Lavalin, signed the agreement with Romania’s Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica (SNN)  and China General Nuclear Power Group...
Continue reading at CBC News

Background - Romania
"Romania currently has two Candu 6 reactors, which provide about 20 per cent of electricity for the country of 20 million people.
CNG engineers are to visit Canada to study the project further. China has had Candu reactors for about 10 years."  (CBC)
Background - CANDU and China

Celebrating 10 years of CANDU Technology in China |

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Kenya Postpones Renewable Energy Drive to Reduce Power Costs

If the message you take from this story is that Kenya missed the grid parity memo, you probably don't have a population where 4 out of 5 people live without grid power.

Kenya suspended issuing new licenses for wind farms and solar plants until 2017 as it prioritizes development of cheaper fuel-based sources to help cut electricity prices, Energy Secretary Davis Chirchir said.
The East African government plans to add at least 5,500 megawatts of power supply in the 40 months from September, more than quadrupling output from current installed capacity of about 1,700 megawatts mainly from rain-fed hydropower plants.
About 80 percent of that additional output will be tapped from facilities powered by coal, liquefied natural gas, and geothermal...

Monday, November 25, 2013

New Study Finds U.S. Has Greatly Underestimated Methane Emissions

Overall, according to the new study, total methane emissions in the United States appear to be 1.5 times and 1.7 times higher than the amounts previously estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) and the international Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) [link], respectively.
It seems the desire for methane to be a clean replacement for coal keeps running up against the emissions issue.

New Study Finds U.S. Has Greatly Underestimated Methane Emissions -
A comprehensive new study of atmospheric levels of methane, an important greenhouse gas released by leaky oil and gas operations and livestock, has found much higher levels over the United States than those estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency and an international greenhouse gas monitoring effort. The paper, “Anthropogenic emissions of methane in the United States,” is being published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study, combining ground and aerial sampling of the gas with computer modeling, is the most comprehensive “top down” look so far at methane levels over the United States, providing a vital check on “bottom up” approaches, which have tallied estimates for releases from a host of sources — ranging from livestock operations to gas wells.
The research seems to support previous findings of Robert Howarth, and Andrew Revkin's column includes this comment from Howarth [I've added emphasis]:

German wind power hits turbulence

My previous post noted some of the grief Germany's electricity sector activities have caused its neighbours; the Financial Times now shows some of the concerns it's brought Germans.

German wind power hits turbulence -
Before Germany’s big shift to renewable energy, electricity for industry was produced where it was needed; near the manufacturing heartlands of the Ruhr and greater Stuttgart.
But now that nuclear reactors are being switched off, and renewables are taking priority over energy generated from fossil fuels, the country’s energy is being generated a long way from its heavy industry.

From wind farms mainly in the north, more than 4,500km of additional extra-high-voltage lines will snake across the country by the end of this decade, to supply the areas of highest demand.
Germany’s lengthy planning process and lack of co-ordination between the federal states has snarled up the line building programme. Of the 1,900km designated by law as priority projects, less than 300km is built.
Lex Hartman, a member of the management board at Tennet, Germany’s biggest high-voltage grid operator, says that in some cases it has taken up to a decade to secure a licence to build power lines.
Plans for the Rheinland to build a giant converter station at Osterath, near Düsseldorf, have provoked an outcry from residents who fear exposure to noise, traffic and electromagnetic radiation. Under Germany’s energy plans, Osterath will be a vital junction in an “electricity autobahn” linking north and south. Tennet is hosting hundreds of meetings to win over the public. “I think that building infrastructural projects such as grids is only possible with the agreement of the people...”

Czech electricity grid company ready to block German wind power

oops ... first posted this as fresh news, but it's 2 years old.
Poland builds electronic wall to keep out German renewables is one example of a recent article indicating it's still topical.  From that article:
The move to install equipment knows as phase-shifters on transmission links between Poland and Germany is designed to give the Polish grid operator the power to block excess renewables output from Germany entering the Polish grid. As in Germany, a large amount of renewable energy causes wholesale prices to come down, and profits to fall.
OK, that's the context ... now back to my original post and a far more factual, and informative, overview of the issue:
There are increasingly frequent references to the Czech Republic and Poland blocking Germany's "renewables."
The following article does a fairly good job of explaining the issue, which is low-quality, intermittent, power from Germany's north destined for consumption in Germany's south, and Austria, finding a route through Poland and the Czech Republic.

Czech electricity grid company ready to block German wind power | Czech Position:
The Czech Republic is facing the growing prospect of being forced to block disruptive and volatile flows of German wind-produced electricity through its power network in what would be a powerful signal to Berlin to sort out its internal energy market.
Large amounts of wind-produced electricity from northern Germany are now being shipped through the Czech Republic to German customers in the south of the country — and onwards towards Austria — because of the insufficiencies of the north-south German electricity grid.
The ČEPS manager was blunt in his message that Germany should get to grips with its power market problems and, if necessary, curb the output of wind power plants in the north of the country or limit the distance that electricity is being shipped across the country and into neighboring Austria.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lessons: tough times for European utilities

"With environmental levies for renewables subsidies rising in line with the ongoing build-out, consumers will be hit with both higher prices and a decline in reliability."

Nothing new to readers of this blog, but Platts' Barrel Blog attacks the subject of variable renewable energy sources impacting markets with vigor

Energy Economist: tough times for European utilities may have a lesson for the US « The Barrel Blog:
There has been talk in the United States of the utility “death spiral,” a process in which environmentally-targeted subsidy support enables consumers to disengage, partially if not wholly, from the electricity grid through demand-side management and distributed generation. Utilities, required to invest to incorporate renewables into a centralized system, are left in an unsustainable situation of higher embedded costs and fewer customers.

Spent Fuel and Political Waste

 Recent stories I neglected to get posted promptly:

  1. the courts cut off the flow of money from nuclear power companies until the Obama administration gets its act together on a repository
  2. the NRC suddenly resumes a review of the Yucca Mountain License application
So long as the federal government has no viable alternative to Yucca Mountain as a repository for nuclear waste, nuclear power ratepayers should not be charged an annual fee to cover the cost of that disposal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled on Tuesday.
Finding for petitioners that include the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and industry group the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the court ruled in its seven-page decision that because the Energy Secretary is “apparently unable” to conduct a legally adequate fee assessment, the Department of Energy (DOE) should call on Congress to change the fee to zero “until such a time as either the Secretary chooses to comply with the [Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA)] as it is currently written, or until Congress enacts an alternative waste management plan.”
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Monday directed agency staff to complete the long-delayed safety evaluation report (SER) for the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) license application to build the Yucca Mountain permanent waste repository.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wind Records Continue to be Set in Ontario - gutting market prices

I blogged on wind records Wednesday, and by the end of the day the hourly output record I noted, from the industrial wind turbines (IWT's) connected to the IESO grid, was broken 5 times.

Yesterday, these IWT's produced ~37,685MWh - a new daily record, despite a likelihood production was curtailed at times.

The average IWT production for the first 14 days of the month is ~1,015 MW.
In the peak demand month of July, the average was 312MW.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

German Council of Economic Experts Calls for Freeze of Renewables Energy Sources Act

The latest Annual Report from the German Council of Economic Experts, a.k.a. the 'five wise men' of the German economy,'  calls for "a freeze of the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) while developing a conclusive policy."

German Council of Economic Experts Calls for Moratorium of Renewables Law and Search for Consistent Energy Policy Approach « German Energy Blog:
“Apart from the necessary grid expansion and restructuring, the main national (energy) issues are reducing the costs of renewable growth and creating an electricity market framework so that conventional (back-up) capacities can be maintained and extended and renewable growth takes place without state subsidies. The climate policy aims of the energy policy shift are unlikely to be achieved at the national level, anyway. Solely for grid expansion and restructuring important measures have been taken since the summer of 2011 (concerning the law on the Federal Requirement Plan for Transmission Networks, please see here) that remove barriers and accelerate grid expansion. In all other (energy-related) areas disappointingly little to nothing has happened. This is completely unacceptable for in industrialised country like Germany: The costs for subsidising renewables have more tripled since 2010 and are among the highest subsidies in Germany.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Rate design wars are the sound of utilities taking residential PV seriously

"Imagine walking into your supermarket with a bag of zucchini"

So begins an article by Severin Borenstein on the challenges of integrating residential solar PV output in California's context - with lessons applicable to many other jurisdictions.

Rate design wars are the sound of utilities taking residential PV seriously | Energy Economics Exchange:
...real panic in the industry has set in this year as the net-of-subsidy cost of PV has dropped below even the average retail price. Even if increasing-block pricing were eliminated and the big IOUs sold all residential power for their average price of about $0.17/kWh, solar PV could beat that for many customers. According to a recent report from Lawrence Berkeley Lab (and confirmed by other industry studies and media reports), the full cost of a typical residential system has fallen below $6/watt and may be below $5/watt by now, which corresponds to $0.25-$0.30/kWh. The 30% federal tax credit and what’s left of the California Solar Initiative subsidies cuts that by about a third. A less well-known tax effect – accelerated depreciation for leased systems – transfers another 15%-20% of the cost from the end-user to the federal government. The net cost to the consumer can now be $0.15/kWh or less.
This is why we are hearing more often the phrase “death spiral” from the utilities. If many customers act on the attractive economics of PV at home, the utility sells less energy and earns less above marginal cost to cover those costs of past sunk mistakes and ongoing fixed costs. To make up the revenue, they would have to raise rates, which makes the economics of PV even better.

"Smart Grid" or "Strong Grid"?

Tom Adams recommended an article from Power magazine on a topic that's been around for some time - concentrating on making the U.S. electrical grid resilient.

Today Adams identifies a NY Times presentation of a video on the 2003 blackout, and lessons still being learned from the event; the PJM market is currently hosting a Grid 20/20: Focus on Resilience forum.
Resiliency is a hot topic.

"Smart Grid" or "Strong Grid"? Words Matter | POWER Magazine:
The Obama administration recently changed its nomenclature on a topic of much interest to readers of this publication and those in the power industry. The administration has said it prefers to talk about its policies advancing a “resilient grid” as opposed to its previous emphasis on developing a “smart grid.” The new policy thrust, for whatever it’s worth, is “grid hardening.”
To my mind, this is an entirely worthwhile and welcome development. I’ve long argued that the pursuit of a smart grid—an interactive system that allows utilities and (presumably) customers—to allow conversations between and among utility power providers and our homes is not a direction I want the industry to go. It raises security, privacy, and reliability concerns in my mind.
Without getting into the weeds on these issues, my preference has been for a “strong” grid that provides greater assurance that power flows without interruptions. I don’t care if my toaster can talk to my utility to find the least-cost (or more profitable) way to brown my bread. I care if I can’t toast my whole-wheat bread in the morning because the system is down.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Germany: Cheaper when free energy isn't

Some recent articles on Germany compiled from an Ontario perspective - because of subsidies that pay renewable energy sources (RES) by output, there is a rather bizarre relationship that makes consumer pricing lower the less productive the RES is.
Perhaps a structure where it's beneficial to have efficient technologies would be better.

Germany plans steep wind cuts -Recharge News:
Germany’s incoming government is likely to steeply cut support for wind power and lower its target for offshore deployment – to the dismay of renewable energy groups.
Environment minister Peter Altmaier, and Hannelore Kraft, the Social Democrats’ (SPD) representative in energy coalition talks, over the weekend unexpectedly announced an agreement on the rough outline of the still-to-be-formed new coalition government’s renewable policy.
The expansion of onshore wind power in the future should be limited to “good locations” – meaning windy areas in northern Germany – according to the agreement.... 
There's a number of issues here, some of which related directly to Ontario: limiting installations to "good locations" could be seen as partially a rejection of the idea of geographic smoothing - it seems more of a rejection of the idea that very week renewable resources make sense close to loads.
A recent German Energy blog article showed the EEG deficit decreasing in recent months - good news for holding down the renewables surcharge/ bad news for production from renewables.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

One Religion is Enough / Suzuki...ism

Some recent articles of interest; the first treating an "environmental" movement as a religion, and the last providing a vision for a pending Apocalypse.

John Howard: One Religion is Enough | Climate Etc.:
“I chose the…title largely in reaction to the sanctimonious tone employed by so many of those who advocate substantial and and costly responses to what they see as irrefutable evidence that the world’s climate faces catastrophe…To them the cause has become a substitute religion.” – John Howard
This begins an interesting post at Climate Etc. - one where Australia's former PM John Howard tackles a religion he first describes.
Suzuki positions himself with totems
image from Toronto Star

Conversely, Carol Goar's "Hard time to be an environmentalist", in the Toronto Star, figures environmentalist are being persecuted by big bad Stephen Harper (Canada's current Prime Minister):
...they may not have paid enough attention to communicating with Canadians. In their desire to stand together, they may have given legitimacy to zealots such as Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conversation Society.

But none of these factors is enough to account for a five percentage point drop in public trust.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

EU Commission on subsidies and capacity markets/Increasing grid utilization in U.S.

An important story out of Europe today, for the future of subsidies (structure), and capacity markets.
From the U.S., a related blog entry: related as it talks about market arrangements to increase efficiency/grid utilization.

The EU Commission has today released its Communication “Delivering the internal electricity market and making the most of public intervention”, together with a set of Staff Working Documents on important aspects of the Communication. The package shall give guidance to Member States on state interventions aimed at preventing market distortions and providing secure and affordable energy. The documents cover in particular generation adequacy, the design of renewables support schemes, the use of and model agreements for renewable energy cooperation mechanisms, and demand side flexibility mechanisms. 
Based on best practices the Commission proposes the following:
  • ...Feed in tariffs should be replaced by feed in premiums or other support instruments which give incentives to producers to respond to market developments.

Monday, November 4, 2013

New coal-fired generators becoming operational in Germany

Today we have the annual "first coal-fired" plant in Germany article from Bloomberg
I'll explain how that can be.

Merkel Facing Power Dilemma as Coal Plants Open: Energy Markets - Bloomberg:
Germany, Europe’s biggest power market, is poised to open its first new coal-fired plants in eight years, just as prices slump because of a glut of electricity.
GDF Suez SA, Trianel GmbH and Steag GmbH will bring three new plants online by December, enough to supply more than 4.4 million homes. The nation is already producing so much electricity that exports will surpass last year’s record in 2013, according to the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Muenster, Germany. Power prices may slide 12 percent by 2016, according to UBS AG in Zurich.
Graphic from "Mixed Messages from German Utilities' Planned capacity additions
If you continue reading this article you'll encounter some interesting facts and impacts on market pricing, but it won't spell out how Bloomberg is reporting on the " first new coal-fired plants in eight years" when on August 20, 2012, they reported:
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government says RWE AG (RWE)’s new power plant that can supply 3.4 million homes aids her plan to exit nuclear energy and switch to cleaner forms of generation. It’s fired with coal.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Centrica to pull plug on £2bn offshore wind farm plan

What message will those that criticized the nuclear strike price take from this?

 "Centrica is preparing to abandon a £2bn offshore wind farm project because subsidies offered by the government are too low."

Centrica to pull plug on £2bn offshore wind farm plan - Telegraph:
Its probable abandonment of Race Bank would, however, be its third high-profile withdrawal from planned UK investments on the grounds that subsidies footed by consumers were too low.
In February, it abandoned its 20pc stake in EDF’s planned Hinkley Point nuclear plant, writing off £231m, after complaining the returns were not attractive given the timescale and high cost. EDF last month agreed a subsidy deal for the project that analysts say could yield £1bn a year in pre-tax profits.
In September, Centrica wrote off £240m for planned gas storage facilities, which it had argued should be subsidised to avoid price spikes when supplies ran low.
Michael Fallon, the Energy Minister, rejected the claim, telling The Telegraph at the time: “I am not prepared to see fuel bills rise further just to give Centrica additional subsidy.”
Centrica to pull plug on £2bn offshore wind farm plan - Telegraph

'To Those Influencing Environmental Policy But Opposed to Nuclear Power'

"We ask you and your organization to demonstrate its real concern about risks from climate damage by calling for the development and deployment of advanced nuclear energy."

Andrew Revkin has built a great Dot Earth post around a letter from prominent scientists (Kenneth Caldeira, Kerry Emanuel, James Hanen and Tom Wigley), "pressing the case for environmental groups to embrace the need for a new generation of nuclear power plants."

'To Those Influencing Environmental Policy But Opposed to Nuclear Power' -
Quantitative analyses show that the risks associated with the expanded use of nuclear energy are orders of magnitude smaller than the risks associated with fossil fuels. No energy system is without downsides. We ask only that energy system decisions be based on facts, and not on emotions and biases that do not apply to 21st century nuclear technology.
While there will be no single technological silver bullet, the time has come for those who take the threat of global warming seriously to embrace the development and deployment of safer nuclear power systems as one among several technologies that will be essential to any credible effort to develop an energy system that does not rely on using the atmosphere as a waste dump.
Continue reading at - good prep work for Pandora's Promise playing on CNN - Nov. 7