Friday, February 28, 2014

The Power of Transformation is not in new IEA report

The International Energy Agency has released a new report titled: The Power of Transformation: Wind, Sun and the Economics of Flexible Power Systems.  I've read opinions/overviews of it at the German Energy Blog and at the Financial Post.
After scanning the Executive Summary of the IEA report, the only surprise was how vacant of new ideas it is.
From the summary:
A co-ordinated transformation of the entire system reduces additional costs. A different scenario of the test system considers a more transformative approach. The installed power plant mix is reoptimised in the presence of 45% VRE and additional flexibility options are deployed (Transformed case). Compared to the Legacy case, the power plant mix shows a structural shift:
  • a strong decrease in the number of power plants that are designed to operate around the clock and that cannot change their output dynamically (referred to as baseload technologies)
  • an increase in the number of flexible power plants that are designed for part-time operation (referred to as mid-merit and peaking generation).
In addition, a better strategy for managing grid infrastructure is assumed. In this case, total system costs increase only by USD 11/MWh. This is two-thirds less than in the Legacy scenario. At a share of 30% of VRE in power generation, the increase in total system costs stands at USD 6/MWh.
This adds nothing to the thinking on energy.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

MP Gallant champions Nuclear Ontario in House

Nuclear energy, and Ontario's Green Energy Act experiment, topics in Canada's House of Commons

Mrs. Cheryl Gallant (MP Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, Conservative Party of Canada):
...The environmental movement, particularly the more mature individuals in the movement, are recognizing that a green future needs nuclear power.
Those of us who believe that nuclear energy has a critical role to play to ameliorate the effects of global climate change were encouraged by a recent open letter to environmentalists, signed by such people as Dr. Ken Caldeira, senior scientist, department of global ecology, Carnegie Institution; and Dr. James Hansen, climate scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
These and other like-minded individuals are urging those individuals who are truly concerned about the environment to support the development of safer nuclear energy systems, such as Canada's success story, the CANDU system.
To quote their open letter to environmentalists:
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. [...] 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.
I have no doubt that the same radical environmentalists who recommended forcing rural Ontario to accept industrial wind turbines and the out-of-control electricity rates that are bankrupting Ontario hydro customers were the same individuals who convinced the Ontario Liberal Party to turn its back on the Canadian nuclear success story.

GDF books 15 billion euro charge as price slump sticks

While subsidy schemes for renewables are reported doing little, if anything, to spur innovation, they are having an impact on the finances of traditional generation facilities.

GDF books 15 billion euro charge as price slump sticks - Yahoo Singapore Finance:
PARIS (Reuters) - GDF Suez (PAR:GSZ) took a 15 billion euro (12 billion pounds) write-down in its 2013 results mainly for gas storage and gas power plants whose value was hit by a price slump...
"This (write-down) decision reflects the group's conviction that this situation is serious and long-lasting," GDF Chief Executive Gerard Mestrallet said on a conference call...
"The deterioration of the situation in thermal power generation in Europe is durable and profound," Mestrallet said...

EFI Report: German Government Advisors Recommend to Discontinue EEG

Lots of chatter surrounding a report from Germany calling for the end of their renewables surcharge policy; as usual the German Energy Blog informs on the nature of the report

While the government is in the process of revising the Renewable Energy Sources Act(EEG), the Commission of Experts on Research and Innovation (Expertenkommission Forschung und Innovation – EFI), recommends to abolish the EEG. Neither was it a cost-efficient climate protection tool, nor did it have a positive effect on innovation, the experts concluded in their 2014 report, presented to Chancellor Merkel today.
The EFI expert commission has been appointed by the federal government to provide scientific policy advice. A key objective of the commission is to point out strengths and weaknesses of the German innovation system and to develop proposals for national research and innovation policy. Its latest and very critical report contributes to the controversial EEG reform debate.
The increase of renewable energy sources in the gross electricity production from 7% in 2000, the year the EEG entered into force, to about 23% had resulted in high costs. EEG feed-in tariff payments rose from EUR 883 million in 2000 to EUR 23 billion in 2013...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ontario Nuclear | Strong Together

Bruce Power has a new initiative which appears to be using their work in Ontario as marketing of Ontario's nuclear industry globally.  My recollection is the province's other nuclear generator, Ontario Power Generation (OPG), has also been organizing to pursue international nuclear opportunities.

Ontario Nuclear | Strong Together:
Ontario is a province of strong communities, world-class health care and some of the best colleges and universities in the world. We are also globally recognized as having a robust auto industry, being rich in natural resources, and featuring a high-tech economy and a financial services sector of international importance.
Ontario has many advantages we can build on, but what’s often not recognized is our strong, respected, highly innovative and globally renowned nuclear industry.
Ontario’s nuclear industry generates affordable, carbon-free electricity every day, drives innovation, creates jobs, builds our knowledge economy and sustains one of the most sought after supply chain capabilities.
That’s our nuclear advantage.
Good luck to Bruce Power with the website, but ....

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Nukes-Greenhouse Connection in New York

Kennedy Maize has a Power blog entry that notes a number of issues of interest to me, and this blog; nuclear, New York power, politics (famous offspring), and alleged carbon trading.

The Nukes-Greenhouse Connection in New York | POWER Magazine:
Here’s an interesting conundrum, posed by UBS utility analyst Julien Dumoulin-Smith in a recent report sent to his clients: If anti-nuclear and economic forces succeed in closing several nuclear plants in the New York in the near term, it could cripple the state’s plans for reducing greenhouse gas emission and devastate the regional cap-and-trade program, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI (pronounced like the first name of Baseball Hall of Fame New York Yankee Reggie Jackson).
Environmental activists have been pushing for more than a decade to close Entergy’s Indian Point plant on the Hudson River some 35 miles north of New York City. Many who follow these issues, including an anonymous source of mine with very close ties to Entergy, predict that the New Orleans-based utility generator and New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year will agree to a deal to shut the plant.
Closing Indian Point – increasingly likely – will increase the state’s carbon emissions by around 26%...
Continue reading at POWER Magazine

Monday, February 24, 2014

Peak-to-Average Electric Demand Ratio Rising

Conservation spending is usually justified by claimed avoidance of building new generating capacity - but increased differences between average and peak use make the "capacity value" proposition difficult to believe.
Maybe it's easier to reduce unnecessary consumption (ie. phantom usage) than it is to eliminate the heating and cooling needs that drive demand peaks - and conservation programs should then be valued at "off-peak" market pricing (withour capacity value).

Electricity Monthly Update: New England Peak-to-Average Electric Demand Ratio Rising | EIA:
Image from source article
Across the U.S., but most pronounced in New England, the ratio of annual peak-hour electric demand to average hourly demand has been rising over the last 20 years. In New England, the peak-to-average demand ratio has increased from 1.52 in 1993 to 1.78 in 2012 (see footnote for trend methodology). In other words, the highest peak-hour electric demand for the year in 1993 was 52% above the hourly average level while in 2012 peak-hour demand had risen to 78% above the hourly average level.
This translates into decreasing average utilization levels for generators in New England and other regions. Electric systems maintain sufficient capacity to meet expected peak loads plus a reserve margin. As the peak-to-average ratio rises, generators called on to meet peak-hour demand are running fewer hours and/or at lower output levels the rest of the year. Since energy payments are generator's primary source of revenue in Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) systems such as ISO New England, this trend in hourly demand is likely cutting into generator profits and increasing the importance of capacity market payments to generators.
The entire article, at the U.S. Energy Information Administration website, includes graphs for 8 otehr markets.

Quebec report calls for stop on electricity projects, carbon trade ....

Today's big news in Canada's electricity/environmental sector is being reported, thus far, only in French (which I can speak as well as lets me...)

Halte aux projects, dit un rapport - after the title, using google's translate:
Quebec must review in depth the development strategy of Hydro-Québec and curb hydropower projects, but also wind, which are losing billions of dollars to the state. It is concluded that the report produced by the Commission on energy issues at the request of the Quebec government, which The Gazette obtained a copy.
The paper emphasizes that Hydro-Québec should definitely revise its methods taking into account the new North American energy context. For a decade, the demand for electricity Quebec peaked or declined. And it sells much cheaper today than it was ten years, particularly due to the exploitation of shale gas in the United States.
However, during this time, the corporation has increased its production capacity, the Commission points out, so that Quebec is taken with large surpluses. These can be passed on export markets, at a loss. " The cost of energy from new generation facilities placed in service from 2008 between 6 ¢ / kWh and 12 ¢ / kWh. This is reflected by an annual subsidy to power generators that will reach 1.2 billion in 2017, at the expense of electricity consumers and taxpayers. " This annual bill should even go to 1.4 billion in 2020 then 2 billion in 2025.
The entire article is posted at Le Devoir, as is (we discovered via twitter) the entire report: Rapport de la Commission sur les enjeux énergétiques du Québec. MAÎTRISER NOTRE AVENIR ÉNERGÉTIQUE (translates to "Report of the Commission on energy issues in Quebec. MANAGING OUR ENERGY FUTURE").

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hansen, the Red Star, and a bad bad law

My reading this morning included an idiotic Torstar editorial and a challenging 15-page opinion piece by James E. Hansen which, again, provides a lot of great information for those studying energy and emissions.

From a summary of Hansen's Renewable Energy, Nuclear Power and Galileo: Do Scientists Have a Duty to Expose Popular Misconceptions? 
I suggest that the public support People with free time can volunteer to organize a new chapter. Citizens Climate Lobby is growing rapidly and exists now in most states in the U.S. and several other countries. Their objective is to persuade legislators to support fee-and-dividend, i.e., a rising carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies and distributed 100% to the public, equal amounts to all legal residents.
Fee-and-dividend follows conservative principles. It allows the market to choose among alternative energies and energy efficiency, leaves choices to individuals, and provides no money to increase the size of government. Thus it yields a basis for compromise between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives accept the reality of climate change, but liberals cannot use climate change as an excuse to collect more taxes and increase control over people’s lives.
I also recommend that the public stop providing funds to antinuke environmental groups.  Send a letter saying why you are withdrawing your support. Their position is based partly on fear of losing support from anti-nuke donors, and they are not likely to listen to anything other than financial pressure. If they are allowed to continue to spread misinformation about nuclear power, it is unlikely that we can stop expanded hydro-fracking, continued destructive coal mining, and irreversible climate change. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Harmonic Destruction: How Greens Justify Bioenergy’s Assault on Nature

Will Boisvert's Green Energy Bust in Germany may have been the best thing written on the German energy project last year.
This new article, on biomass, may be better; it's an extraordinary look at a subject that has received far too little attention.

The Breakthrough Institute - Harmonic Destruction
In Germany, the hidden "renewable" has been
growing far quicker than wind
Look at the brochures of just about any environmental organization and what you will see are images of an energy system that appears to lie weightlessly on the land. Solar panels gleam atop suburban homes. Wind turbines sprout from fields where cows graze contentedly. It is a high-tech, bucolic vision that suggests a future in which humankind might finally live in harmony with nature, rather than waging ceaseless war with it.
But there are other images to consider as well. Trees clear-cut, chipped, and fed into boilers. Once diverse forests turned into monocrop plantations. Wild places sent under the plow. And melting ice caps from global warming. This is the underside of renewable bioenergy — biomass, biofuels, and biogases – one that is decidedly at odds with the ethos of pristine eco-friendliness described in the brochures.
On the face of it, bioenergy would seem to embody the ecological vision: an energy source rooted in the soil, attuned to the seasons, and governed by life’s cycling rhythms of growth, decay, and reuse. But today, that expression of the ecological vision is destroying nature in order to save it. From the production forests of Germany to the rainforests of Southeast Asia to the American Midwest, we are using millions of square miles of land for crops to feed our cars and power plants that could be used to feed people or become wilderness.

Cold water poured on Hydro in Manitoba - not by me

A micro and macro view of energy pricing today.
In Manitoba, concern about the economics of large hydroelectric projects as American consultants figure gas will hold down pricing forever.

Cold water poured on Hydro - Winnipeg Free Press:
A bid by the Selinger government and Manitoba Hydro to build two new dams and associated transmission lines faces an uphill battle when a special Public Utilities Board hearing on the plan starts March 3.
Two independent reports prepared for the PUB's Needs For and Alternatives To (NFAT) hearing paint a dim picture of the government's expectations of northern hydro development and Hydro's own research. The two studies, requested by the PUB in advance of the NFAT hearing, were done by La Capra Associates Inc. of Boston and Potomac Economics of Fairfax, Va. Both reports, with confidential information on Hydro's pricing for export power sales redacted, are posted on the PUB website.
Collectively, the reports call into question the wisdom of spending billions in upfront capital costs on the Keeyask and Conawapa generating stations and accompanying transmission lines when one or both could be put on hold indefinitely in favour of building less costly combustion turbine plants that burn natural gas to produce electricity.
A couple of years ago I was writing about "The Coming Glut of Energy" - a famous article from the height of the 1970's oil crisis.
I think the same principles likely call for a coming shortage of energy - at cheap gas prices exploration stops.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

News round-up: Stake wielding in Ontario

Today Ontario "Independent Electricity System Operator" (IESO) is holding a Stakeholder Summit, and perhaps that's why I find these two items worthy of comment.

The summary of last year's Summit included this summary of a comment by Judy Kirk (of Kirk & Co.) responding to a question from a "stakeholder": "by virtue of having a committee, insiders and outsiders are created. The insiders have the benefit of being able to develop depth, but they can also risk being co-opted."

The day's first item is about Europe's continued movement to integrating electricity markets.

Six European Power Exchanges agree on setting up European Cross-border Solution for Intraday Trading | German Energy Blog:
The six European power exchanges APX, Belpex, EPEX SPOT, Nord Pool Spot and OMIE confirmed the signing of a cooperation agreement for a common European cross border intraday solution. In addition, an early start agreement was signed with Deutsche Börse AG for the delivery of a technical system.
...The objective is to develop and set up a robust, efficient and reliable Intraday solution for all European power markets and their members.... The common technical system will be based on continuous cross-border trading where intraday adjustments to trades concluded in the day-ahead market can be made.
...Intraday trading plays an important complementary role in creating an efficient power market, as a variety of European counterparts trade, with variations in production and consumption close to delivery hour. In particular the fluctuations in renewable power generation in the course of the day have led to an increasing importance of intraday trading; in addition to that, intraday markets have partially been able to substitute demand for reserve and balancing power.
Very important stuff.
Ontario's imports and exports are scheduled by hour while the market within Ontario operates at 5 minute intervals.  The Ontario Energy Board's Market Surveillance Panel has been noting the room for improvement in market integration for years, but there is only minimal movement towards improvement.
Perhaps incumbent stakeholders have more of a provincial interest in avoiding integration than an interest in a broader, healthier market.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Subsidies that drove Renewables' reign in Spain cannot be sustained

I'll believe it when it's done (not when it's put forward for consultation), but clearly Spain continues to try to unwind from it's painful power position.

Spain plans end to all pre-2004 subsidies | Windpower Monthly:

SPAIN: The Spanish government said it plans to end all price subsidies for wind capacity online before end-2004, while slashing remuneration for younger capacity.

The full 1,700-page regulation, a summary of its long-awaited renewables regulation, was sent to regulator CNMC for a 20-day consultation period. It has not yet been made public.

The summary alone, nonetheless, discloses an act of institutional "retroactive looting", Spanish wind association AEE told Windpower Monthly.

Investors behind all of Spain's 22.6GW of online wind capacity were drawn by the state's promise of maintaining feed-in tariffs for 20 years.
Conitnue reading at Windpower Monthly:

I particularly enjoy the comment beginning: "What a shame that you people use a pro wind farm site for your anti nimby discussions."

Friday, February 7, 2014

Calls for conservation in California and Texas - another Capacity Value lesson

If you see the world through "worried about over-reliance on methane (natural gas) and unimpressed by unreliable wind generation" coloured glasses ... this is, again, your week

Already drought-stricken, California's stores of natural gas are also running low leading to calls for residents to voluntarily cut their electricity use.

LOS ANGELES — Water isn't the only resource running short in California. The drought-stricken state is also low on natural gas.
With a move that usually comes in the height of summer when temperatures are soaring and air conditioners blasting, Californians were urged to voluntarily cut their electricity use after frigid weather across the U.S. and Canada caused a shortage of natural gas at Southern California power plants.
The so-called Flex Alert, in which residents are asked to turn off unneeded lights, avoid using large appliances or equipment, and turn off electrically powered heaters, was allowed to expire at 10 p.m. Thursday

Emergency energy aid runs low: time-of-need, time-of-use, etc.

After dumping snow, sleet, and freezing rain on Midwestern states Tuesday, the latest winter storm is bringing another blast of cold to the Eastern Seaboard. The recent string of winter storms has sapped the home energy assistance funds used to aid low-income households with utility payments.
State agencies and nonprofits from Vermont to Iowa are struggling to keep up with a rising need for energy assistance as yet another winter storm rumbles across the United States.
...This year's early string of winter storms has sapped the home energy assistance funds used to aid low-income households with utility payments during peak heating or cooling periods. State and local officials are supplementing federal aid with emergency dollars of their own and calling on President Obama to increase funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the nation's primary source of home heating and cooling assistance.
By no means is this an issue confined to the states described in the full Christian Science Monitor article.

NUCLEAR: Spate of reactor closures threatens U.S. climate goals

NUCLEAR: Spate of reactor closures threatens U.S. climate goals -- DOE -- Wednesday, February 5, 2014 --

The Obama administration is concerned that a recent and growing spate of premature U.S. reactor closures could threaten the country's aggressive climate goals, a top Energy Department official said today.

Pete Lyons, DOE's assistant secretary for nuclear energy, told attendees at a Platts nuclear energy conference in Washington, D.C., today that his agency is reviewing how plant closures -- four in recent months -- are affecting the United States' ability to lower carbon dioxide emissions.

"This is a trend we are clearly very, very concerned about," Lyons said.
DOE is reviewing one scenario under which a third of the country's approximately 100 reactors would be shuttered.
read the article at

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

EU Parliament Resolution on Smart Grids/Meters: Ontario's App contests unveils contestants

A couple of EU stories today - one is likely silliness on targets initiated by a generally mocking reaction to the targets set, or not, a couple of weeks ago.

The other is on smart grids/meters.

EU Parliament Adopts Resolution on Local and Regional Consequences of Smart Grids Calling for High Standard of Data Protection | German Energy Blog
  • “…. emphasises the need for high standards for smart meters in terms of data protection and data privacy, and for enabling citizens to decide upon and control the data which is given to the network operators beyond the absolute minimum of data that is necessary for the provision of energy; …”
  • “… calls on Member States to enforce data protection rules while maintaining and developing synergies throughout telecommunications and energy networks and to uphold the rights of individuals in this area; emphasises that in terms of data collection for intelligent energy systems, standards should be developed to ensure that only relevant data is transmitted in order to guarantee the security of electricity supply, to ensure that no data are passed on to third parties, to ensure that customers have the right to inspect and delete the data collected if they are no longer required for the purposes for which they were collected or otherwise processed, and to ensure that citizens retain ownership of their data and have control with respect to the parties to whom they grant access to these data;”
seems reasonable.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Nuclear vs. renewables: Divided they fall

Interesting because of where it appears...

Nuclear vs. renewables: Divided they fall | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:
...advocates for nuclear and renewables are ... competing with each other for government favors and bickering over the question of what should replace fossil fuels, at times framing the debate as an either-or choice. Although both sides acknowledge the magnitude of the climate crisis, they stubbornly refuse to grow up and face the facts: Even with huge expansions of both nuclear and renewables, keeping global warming below a dangerous level will be a tough order.

It must be entertaining for fossil-fuel lobbyists to watch from the sidelines as their puny adversaries sling rocks at each other. But for climate campaigners, being divided and conquered is the worst possible game plan. If they don’t all learn to get along, and soon, it’s game over for climate policy.
The full article can be read at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists - note there's still an apocolypse, it's just not from nuclear power.

There are renewables that are compatible with baseload at certain penetration levels (solar) or for certain tasks (heating), and there are those that are "displacement" sources that have only the value of the fuel they displace (wind in Ontario) - which makes them useless the majority of the time in low/no emissions baseload systems (hydro/nuclear in Ontario)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Parker Gallant - and I - on the Ontario government and the debt retirement charge

Parker Gallant and I unintentionally wrote on the same topic this weekend.
The explanation for the coincidence is that great minds think alike 

Wind Concerns Ontario Blog: Parker Gallant on the Ontario government and the debt retirement charge:
Taxing Ratepayers:  The Energy Minister giveth some but taketh away more

Ontario's Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli was recently quoted in the Toronto Sun as saying, “When the OCEB (Ontario Clean Energy Benefit) comes off the [hydro] bill, residential customers don't face additional costs.”

The news article actually began with this:  “The provincial government is trying to rejig hydro bills to ensure that customers aren’t hit with a sharp increase when the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit is phased out, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli says.” There was more:  “The plan was to also eliminate the debt retirement charge on hydro bills at the same time, he said Wednesday.”  Chiarelli also apparently said:  “It was scheduled to come off at the time the Clean Energy Benefit was coming off, and they would balance each other out more or less.” He added, “The financial projections turned out not to be as precise as they were anticipated.”

The debt retirement charge or DRC has been around for over a decade; it was meant to pay off the “residual stranded debt” of $7.8 billion, not the full stranded debt—earnings and payments in lieu of taxes (PILT), were estimated to be sufficient to retire the remaining $11.8 billion.  But now, the government through its continued interference in the energy sector, has in fact caused those “financial projections” referred to by the Minister to bevery imprecise
Read the rest of Parker Gallant on the Ontario government and the debt retirement charge

My article coincidentally written and posted during the same period is Debt and indecency in Wynne's Ontario