Friday, May 30, 2014

Liberals knew MaRS bailout would raise questions

this doesn't seem to be news as much as a timely inevitability

Scott Stinson has written an article a long-time reader of this blog may have been awaiting for a couple of years: Parker Gallant wrote on Infrastructure Ontario and MaRS over 2-years ago (right after the province had written off $200 million).

Scott Stinson: Documents show Liberals knew all along that $317M MaRS bailout would raise questions
Should questions arise about the revelation that the taxpayers of Ontario were buying a beautiful new, 20-storey building at College and University that was intended to a be cornerstone of the province’s “innovation agenda,” the documents say respondents should stick to the following key messages:
“The government is committed to ensuring that its real estate portfolio is managed in a responsible manner that realizes value for taxpayer dollars.”
And: “The buyout presents an opportunity for Ontario to address a range of priorities with respect to the building’s future ownership and use.”

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Grid-connected Electric Buses Could Displace Diesels

I'm skeptical about this - but it would be great if electric school buses were more affordable that diesel ones.
Aplus is fixed routes - but I'm not sure the battery life/vehicle range wouldn't be impacted by the cold of winter to an extent that changed the value proposition significantly.
Big increases in demand also happen during the morning hours most buses would be on the road. It's a positive that the charging would be mostly overnight, and there might be a contribution to the early evening peak demand, but .. I'm skeptical.

Image from source article
Electric school buses could provide the same services and, in some ways, are better suited for the task than consumer-owned plug-in cars. Because electric buses are only used for short periods of time, their batteries are typically available for many hours of the day, which makes them more valuable to the local grid operator that would purchase frequency regulation services. Also, fleet owners are more likely to invest in the inverter and control hardware to create two-way connection to the grid. The shorter range of an electric bus compared to a diesel bus is not going to be a problem for most urban and suburban school districts, said Firestone. Regenerative braking from frequent stops can aid battery range as well.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


The controversial Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) has posted a translsation of an article from Germany's DIE Welt.
The article could, and I think should, have noted Germany has controlled a decline in solar panel growth with a regression scheme added to its solar feed-in tariff (FIT) a couple of years ago.  Solar growth is now in the desired range (significantly down from its peak);t the real test for more permanent jobs comes when the FIT is eliminated altogether.

...researchers do not expect that the production of high quality green energy systems will still lead to a job boom in Germany. For this year and the next they expect a further decline in employment instead. Thereafter, low-tech sectors such as “operation and maintenance” as well as the supply of biomass fuels are expected to „stabilise the employment effect”.
„A few years ago the renewable sector was the job miracle in Germany, now nothing is left of all of that,” said the deputy leader of the Greens in the Bundestag, Oliver Krischer.
The report by the Federal Government explicitly estimates only the „gross employment“ created primarily by green subsidies. The same subsidies, however, have led to rising costs and job losses in many other areas, such as heavy industry and commerce as well as conventional power plant operators. For a net analysis, the number of jobs that have been prevented or destroyed as a result would have to be deducted from the gross number of green jobs.
Official figures for the net effect of renewables on employment in Germany were originally supposed to be presented in July, according to the Federal Economics Ministry. However, the presentation has now been delayed until the autumn.
read the full GWPF translation of the Die Welt article

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why the Best Path to a Low-Carbon Future is Not Wind or Solar Power

An absolutely terrific Brookings Institute blog post by Charles Frank.
Frank looks at generation technologies to replace coal, apparently by valuing both capacity costs, and energy generation costs. Readers of my work will know why I have high regard for Frank's - a separate accounting of capacity costs was something I used in my work communicating on Ontario's Long-term energy planning.

Why the Best Path to a Low-Carbon Future is Not Wind or Solar Power | Brookings
5. What does this paper have for policymakers interested in reducing carbon dioxide emissions at a reasonable cost?
First, renewable incentives that are biased in favor of wind and solar and biased against large-scale hydro, nuclear and gas combined cycle are a very expensive and inefficient way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Second, renewable incentives in the absence of a suitably high carbon dioxide price are even less effective...
Third, renewable incentives should be based not on output of renewable energy but on the reduction in CO2 emissions by renewable energy. They are not the same thing.
Fourth, a carbon price is far more effective in reducing carbon emissions precisely...
Fifth, the benefits of a natural gas combined cycle plant are not dependent on the natural gas fracking revolution in the United States...
Sixth, even though the electricity sector accounts for only 40 percent of worldwide carbon emissions, cleaner electricity can reduce CO2 emissions in other sectors, for example by reducing the carbon footprint of electric vehicles and home heating.
Finally, the electricity sector offers one of the simplest and most cost effective ways of reducing carbon dioxide emissions...
Read the entire article at Brookings

My original content blog entry communicating specifically on the need for a more complex costing of generation options is The Real High Price of Low-Value Electricity

The Brookings post material is derived from a paper by Charles R. Frank, Jr., THE NET BENEFITS OF LOW AND NO-CARBON ELECTRICITY TECHNOLOGIES (.pdf)

2 wish list items:

  • hopefully the full paper (which I've not yet read) notes hydro is site specific - a lot of jurisdictions have no hydro option and the price varies widely in others.
  • it may be useful to see the assumed price on carbon that would make each technology competitive with natural gas - in addition to Frank's methodology of showing the varioius prices assuming certain carbon prices.

Monday, May 26, 2014

What's wrong with energy conservation?

On the same day the Wall Street Journal was reporting on  a US court throwing out a conservation program, Ross McKitrick was writing an explanation of what's wrong with conservation policies.

What's wrong with energy conservation? | Ross McKitrick
A correspondent on Twitter has asked me to explain what is wrong with conservation policies, namely, if output stays the same but we use less energy, what’s the problem?

The answer has to do with the fact that firms don’t just use energy, they also use capital, labour and materials. If we enact policy to force down the firm’s use of one input, it can lead to waste in the use of the other inputs.

This is best illustrated with a numerical example...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

US Court throws out Energy Saving Rule

Appeals Court Throws Out Energy Saving Rule Ruling is a Blow to Electricity Conservation Efforts | WSJ (subscription)
A federal appeals court dealt a blow to electricity-conservation efforts on Friday when it struck down a rule allowing big energy consumers to reap special payments in exchange for cutting their power use.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals nullified a 2011 order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that promoted paying businesses to reduce electricity consumption during heavy times of demand. The court ruled that as a federal regulator FERC had gone too far, encroaching in retail electricity markets that are under the exclusive jurisdiction of states.

Idea: Wirelessly Charging racecars

I was reminded, by some typical Memorial Day Weekend events today, of some interesting projects charging vehicles.
Ontario's demand hit a record low, for the month of May, this morning - at the time Ontario was curtailing about 2500MW of supply and exporting, at no charge, another 2700MW.
This is race weekend in a couple of places: the Indianapolis 500 and F1's Monaco.

Formula E is coming about an induction-powered racetrack too?

In South Korea, Wireless Charging Powers Electric Buses | Wired (summer 2013)
The city of Gumi, South Korea has debuted a wirelessly charged electric bus, becoming yet another municipality to embrace induction charging. Where we’re going, we don’t need cords…
The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) developed the Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV) platform, which is already in use on trams at the Seoul Grand Park amusement park and shuttle buses on the school campus. Now, the passenger route between the Gumi train station and the In-dong district is now plied by two induction-powered buses.
...the buses will be able to use batteries about a third the size of what you’d find in an electric car ...because of public transit’s fixed routes, engineers can ensure that buses get a proper charge every trip without a need to stop and recharge

Friday, May 23, 2014

Local Manufacturer’s $62,000 Monthly Hydro Bill Is... $10,000 too high

An article in a local Cambridge publication displayed, upon closer inspection, more than just a rant about electricity costs.

The company's bill reveals they were billed $10,199.31 more for December's electricity consumption than they would have if the global adjustment charge was based on December's final class B rate, instead of the 1st estimate it is based on.

Local Manufacturer’s $62,000 Monthly Hydro Bill Is Off The Charts Says MPP Rob Leone Cambridge Ontario Cambridge & Area News News on Cambridge Now!:

view as .pdf
Bill and Brenda Mechar, owners of Integrated Packaging Films (IPF) are stunned by their monthly hydro bill. Their January energy usage was $12,050.37. However, by the time they paid the debt retirement charges, regulatory charges, Global Adjustment charges and delivery charges, IPF's bill had ballooned to (are you ready for this?)$62,653.34.
In fact, from the excess charges IPF pays over and above their actual usage, they could hire a new employee every month throughout the year

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Money for Nothing: Bad conservation programs

Severin Borenstein on a pricing scheme he refers to as "Peak-Time Rebates" (PTR)

Borenstein notes the programs are popular - and poor. Ontario's Class A Global Adjustment program - a.k.a. the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI) - may be considered a cousin to the PTR programs in the United States.

If PTRs are so bad, why are they so popular? Because they hide the cost. Rather than a higher price on the hottest days of the year — reflecting the truly higher cost of providing electricity on those days – PTR pays out for conservation (real or imaginary) on those hot days and raises the price a bit on all other days to cover the cost. Thus, customers who consume a higher share of their electricity on non-peak days (e.g., those who use less, or no, air conditioning) subsidize heavy peak-time users who manage to be slightly less heavy users on a specific peak day.

Some defenders of PTR say it is the way to transition to time-varying electricity pricing. I’m very skeptical. Once a customer gets used to being paid for reducing consumption on peak days, it is very difficult to change to a system that just charges higher prices on those days. There may be a utility that has managed to move from fully-implemented PTR to time-varying pricing, but I’m not aware of any example.

Nextera/FPL: Nuclear at home, wind where subsidized

Nextera is one name, Florida Power and Light (FPL) another - same folks.

They are in the news a number of times today - none of which will be news to followers of my blogging.

At home, they are pursuing new nuclear.
Power line issue puts governor, Cabinet, in political quandary | Tampa Bay Times:
"TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Cabinet face what may be the most controversial and politically delicate decision of their term Tuesday, when they will decide whether to give Florida Power & Light permission to build two new nuclear power generators and 88 miles of new transmission lines in South Florida."
The proposed high-voltage lines, which would be hoisted on towers which could rise as high as 150 feet, have generated opposition in the cities in Miami-Dade County through which the lines would traverse — a region of the state that Gov. Rick Scott has deemed crucial to his re-election bid.
While cities have questioned the need for the power plants, their main objection has been on where to locate the 230-kilovolt lines on 80- to 100-foot poles.
Continue reading at the Tampa Bay Times

Nextera is voracious in it's pursuit of subsidies.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Vattenfall Latest to Ditch Carbon Capture and Storage Research

Vattenfall Ditches Carbon Capture and Storage Research - IEEE Spectrum:
Vattenfall, one of Europe’s largest energy producers, announced this week that it will discontinue its research and development activities in carbon capture and storage (CCS) for coal-fired power plants.
The move comes as Vattenfall looks to shore up costs as profits fall considerably for European power producers. Vattenfall said in a statement that research will continue in smart grid, wind, hydro, coal, and nuclear.
"Tough market conditions are expected to continue for another few years, and we are restructuring our research and development operations as it is becoming increasingly important to have the right knowledge at the right time to meet the ever-changing needs of business," Karl Bergman, head of R&D Nordic for Vattenfall, said in a statement.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Energy Prices, the Climate and the Nuclear Bubble

The IAEA should withdraw support for ALARA (and for LNT, Linear No-Threshold, the scientifically unsupported argument that accompanies it). Released from the nuclear Zeitgeist of the Cold War, our children and grandchildren should receive explanatory education for their future, firmly based on trust and science, not blame and fear.  -Wade Allison, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford

Energy Prices, the Climate and the Nuclear Bubble (pdf)

Those who would attack nuclear in the name of the environment use inverted arguments –nuclear waste is very small, captured, solid, does not spread and causes no casualties. Compare this to human waste or fossil emissions, discharged into the environment with acknowledged death tolls measured in millions. In the 1950s worldwide public fears of radiation were fanned by threats of WMD – this lead to ALARA. This policy, sanctioned by the United Nations, attempts to appease public fear by recommending farcically low radiation levels – today in Japan you would have to eat 5 tonnes of “contaminated” food in 3 months to get as much radiation as a single CT scan, itself 100 times lower than a life-giving radiotherapy treatment.

Comparison of monthly doses shown as areas 

Dark circle, treatment to cancer tumour (40,000mSv);

Light circle, recoverable dose to healthy tissue (20,000mSv); 

Small circle, conservative and safe (100mSv a month); 

Tiny dot, safety recommended by ALARA (0.08mSv a month or 1mSv a year)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Exelon's Crane signals nuclear power sale with Pepco deal - or not

Exelon's Crane signals nuclear power sale with Pepco deal - Joe Cahill Business Blog - Crain's Chicago Business:
A hardened cold warrior thawed U.S. relations with China. A pain-feeling Democrat ended welfare as we knew it.
And a nuclear engineer just set the stage for Exelon Corp. to exit the nuclear power business.
CEO Christopher Crane's agreement this week to acquire Washington's Pepco Holdings Inc. for $6.8 billion would shift Exelon's center of gravity decisively toward regulated utility operations, and away from the fleet of nuclear power plants that has been the centerpiece of company strategy for the better part of two decades under Mr. Crane and predecessor John Rowe. If the Pepco acquisition proceeds as planned, Exelon would get well over half its profit from utility ratepayers in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland and the District of Columbia. A far smaller share will come from nuclear operations that once generated as much as two-thirds of corporate earnings.
The deal speaks volumes about Mr. Crane's view of the nuclear business he oversaw...
The entire Joe Cahill article can be read at Crain's Chicago Business

Iberdrola Renewables' Spanish profit down 91%

Despite record production, net profit from wind business in Spain fell 91% and Ebitda by 63% as a result of new regulatory decision  - Iberdola Press Release
Iberdrola Renewables' Spanish profit down 91% | Windpower Monthly:

SPAIN: Iberdrola has blamed a 91% decrease in Q1 net profits for its Spanish renewables operation on government regulation.
Last year, the cash-strapped Spanish government ended existing feed-in tariffs for renewables and replaced them with a 7.5% remuneration on profits.
Iberdrola said wind projects were worse affected by the changes rather than other renewable technologies such as solar.
full article at Windpower Monthly

While Iberdola lead the news release of its first quarter report with the lament on wind subsidy changes, that didn't even warrant a mention in a Bloomberg article on the company's earnings - nor are Spain's policy changes particularly apparent in the stock chart.

Perhaps Spain's government has had some success in rolling back the expensive contracts that lead to its enormous tariff deficit.