Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Exporting more U.S. Coal can lower global emissions?

Is America ready to focus on Canada's main dirty energy export to the rest of the world?

Will coal exports abroad offset hard-won carbon reductions at home? | Energy Institute at HAAS
...Stanford economist and Energy Institute affiliate Frank Wolak puts forward a different view. Frank and co-authors have been analyzing the likely emissions impacts of expanding U.S. coal exports to Asia using an economic model of global coal markets. This research is finding that increasing domestic coal exports to China could reduce GHG emissions. The basic argument is as follows. Because China has very little natural gas-fired generation and highly inelastic demand for coal, U.S. exports of coal to China will substitute for other coal. Selling U.S. coal to China could raise coal prices in the U.S. and Europe (a major importer of U.S. coal). In both of these regions there is flexible natural gas fired capacity capable of substituting for coal in the production of electricity. This fuel switching would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Ahhhh ... what?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sun, wind and drain: the Economist looks at electricity generation values

An article in the Economist is bringing a lot of attention to the values of various energy generation sources when carbon emission reductions are valued.
Nuclear shines.
The article doesn't cover new ground, but it's a nice refresher that may bring facts to a broader audience.

Free exchange: Sun, wind and drain | The Economist:
To determine the overall cost or benefit, though, the cost of the fossil-fuel plants that have to be kept hanging around for the times when solar and wind plants stand idle must also be factored in. Mr Frank calls these “avoided capacity costs”—costs that would not have been incurred had the green-energy plants not been built. Thus a 1MW wind farm running at about 25% of capacity can replace only about 0.23MW of a coal plant running at 90% of capacity. Solar farms run at only about 15% of capacity, so they can replace even less. Seven solar plants or four wind farms would thus be needed to produce the same amount of electricity over time as a similar-sized coal-fired plant. And all that extra solar and wind capacity is expensive. 
Image from Sun, wind and drain
A levelised playing field 
If all the costs and benefits are totted up using Mr Frank’s calculation, solar power is by far the most expensive way of reducing carbon emissions. It costs $189,000 to replace 1MW per year of power from coal. Wind is the next most expensive. Hydropower provides a modest net benefit. But the most cost-effective zero-emission technology is nuclear power. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The new CANDU attitude, and agreements

Some positive news for the CANadian Deuterium Uranium reactor (CANDU), and some hope for better news through new marketing to develop new markets.

China signs Candu deals with Romania and Argentina | World Nuclear News:
Two Chinese nuclear utilities have signed agreements that would see them cooperate in the construction and financing of new Candu units at Romania's Cernavoda plant and at Argentina's Atucha plant.
China Nuclear Power Engineering Co (CNPEC) has signed a "binding and exclusive" cooperation agreement with Candu Energy Inc for the construction of two more reactors at the Cernavoda nuclear power plant in Romania.
The agreement, signed in Vancouver yesterday, follows a letter of intent signed by CNPEC's parent company China General Nuclear (CGN) and Romanian national nuclear company Nuclearelectrica last November for investment in and development of Cernavoda units 3 and 4.
Cernavoda is home to two operating Candu 6 pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) supplied by Candu Energy's predecessor, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL), and built by a Canadian-Italian consortium of AECL and Ansaldo. Unit 1 started up in 1996, but work was suspended on a further four units in 1991. Unit 2 was subsequently completed and has been in operation since 2007. The two reactors currently generated almost 20% of Romania's electricity. continue reading at WNN
The story is a good one for the CANDU reactor and a very well earned reward for the excellent performance of Romania's existing reactors at Cernavoda. While the CANDUs located outside of Canada have strong records in both build-times, and adherence to budgets, the excellent performance is particularly apparent in Romania where only CANDU reactors are in service, and where the anti-nuclear World Nuclear Report indicates some of the world's best load factors are achieved.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Power providers ask regulators to scale back energy-efficiency deals.Toronto spurs on wasteful spending...

A recent article out of Florida reminded me I hadn't called out the Toronto Star on the ignorance of a June 18th editorial.

Power providers ask Florida regulators to scale back energy-efficiency deals:
TALLAHASSEE – Florida’s biggest electric providers are asking state regulators this week to let them scale back energy-efficiency programs — such as rebates for installing solar panels and power-saving appliances — that they say have become expensive and benefit few customers.
But conservationists argue that dramatically reducing energy-efficiency programs will only result in higher monthly bills for customers as the utilities eventually will need to build more natural-gas and nuclear power plants.
On Monday, Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric Co., Gulf Power Co. and JEA in Jacksonville began presenting testimony to the Florida Public Service Commission that they should be allowed to roll back energy-efficiency goals, as demand for the conservation programs has declined.
“We think it’s in the best interest of our 1.7 million customers to reduce that energy conservation goal and let us look at programs that could benefit the whole entire customer base,” Duke spokesman Sterling Ivey said. “It could be a community solar offering versus a rebate to an individual to put a solar panel on a roof, perhaps we can build a community solar array that all our customers pay into it and all would benefit.”
The entire article could be of interest to people well beyond Florida’s borders as the issues are being experienced in many jurisdictions.
The mixing of solar panel incentives in with conservation jargon is reasonable, but probably should have been explained (see Why Aren’t We Talking About Net Energy Metering for LEDs?)

From my Ontario, and petty, perspective, it’s notable that the request to shield ratepayers from the unnecessary spending comes from the company that is essentially Nextera, which currently has ~260MW of wind capacity coming online in Ontario at contracted prices they would have vehemently opposed in their home market.

Biomass report adds to debates on subsidies and emission reduction benefits

The Financial Times ran an article earlier this week on a new report prepared for the U.K.'s Department of Energy and Climate Change: Life Cycle Impacts of Biomass Electricity in 2020

Burning wood to generate electricity can produce as many of the carbon dioxide emissions responsible for climate change as a coal-fired power station, an energy department study seen by the Financial Times has found.
But the report also shows that under certain conditions it is possible to burn some types of wood waste in a way that produces fewer emissions than either a coal or gas power plant.The report, co-authored by Professor David MacKay,the department’s chief scientific adviser, will add to the debate over the subsidies paid to power stations such as Yorkshire’s Drax...The report shows there is a huge difference in emissions produced depending on the type of wood used and its source.
The entire article can be read at FT.com

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Get Ready for the New England Power Shortage

...during the first four months of last winter, New England spent $5.1 billion on electricity. In the whole of 2012, it had spent only $5.2 billion.

If you only read one energy article this week, it should probably be this one, by William Tucker.

Get Ready for the New England Power Shortage | The American Spectator:
In 1980, under the first administration of Governor Jerry Brown, California decided it wasn’t going to build any more power plants but would follow Amory Lovins’ “soft path,” opting instead for conservation and renewable energy. By 2000, with the new digital economy sucking up electricity, a drought in the Pacific Northwest cut hydropower output and the state found itself facing the Great California Electrical Shortage."
You know what happened next. For weeks the Golden State struggled to find enough electricity to power its traffic lights. Brownouts and blackouts cascaded across the state while businesses fired up smoke-belching diesel generators to keep the lights on. Governor Gray Davis finally got booted out of office but the state didn’t rescue itself until it threw up 12,000 megawatts of new natural gas plants.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Anti" Kennedy's big times

Robert Kennedy Jr. has been influential, directly and indirectly, in a number of stories lately

Directly in the Washington Post's Robert Kennedy Jr.’s belief in autism-vaccine connection, and its political peril:
Sen. Barbara Mikulski listened impassively as Robert Kennedy Jr. made his case. He had to talk over the din in the marbled hallway just outside the Senate chambers, where he was huddled with Mikulski, two of her aides and three allies of his who had come to Washington for this April meeting.
Kennedy, a longtime environmental activist and an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council [NRDC], had thought Mikulski would be receptive to an issue that has consumed him for a decade, even as friends and associates have told him repeatedly that it’s a lost cause. But she grew visibly impatient the longer he talked. 
...As the meeting broke up, Mikulski’s brusque disposition toward Kennedy softened. “We miss your uncle here every day,” she said, referring to Sen. Edward Kennedy...
Keith Kloor's entire article is worth a read (he has also written a related Deliberating Over Kennedy’s Thimerosal Book)

The WP article does mention that this Kennedy, along with his work for NRDC, "sits on the boards of several green tech companies and is heavily involved in solar and wind power construction projects."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

the next Polar Vortex might not be so nice

Judah Rose has an article which provides a nice summary of issues causing concerns about adequate electricity supply in winter.

Waiting for the Next Polar Vortex | Fortnightly
...the disturbances of the Polar Vortex might become the new normal in coming winters.
What the Polar Vortex brought to light is that we have had a distorted view of system capacity due to market rules and regulatory assumptions from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that have failed to properly value (or consider) reliability. In spite of several FERC decisions since the Polar Vortex to correct these problems, five on-going trends belie assumptions that the grid has sufficient capacity to meet winter peak demands without emergency actions. These trends belie the ability of grid operators to respond to severe winter weather events and thereby raise overall market risks and price volatility:
  • Coal Plants. Continuing retirements...
  • Natural Gas Delivery. Most gas-fired power plants in deregulated markets lack long-term firm gas supplies...
  • Back-up Fuel Requirements. Not defined, even for gas-fueled power plants receiving capacity payments...
  • Demand Response. Overly optimistic expectations for winter capacity contributions from interruptible load programs, and 
  • Renewables. Overly optimistic expectations for winter capacity contributions from renewable generation.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Busy dying: aged new NIMBY's and poor kids

...the people who are most vocal in their protests are ones who just want to be left in peace for the last 10 to 20 years of their lives."

I'm connecting these stories: from Germany Spiegel on NIMBYism as the entitlement of the aged, and from the U.K., the Financial Times on "the fastest growing type of inequality over the past five years has been between the young and the old."

Angry Germans: 'Big Projects Face Growing Resistance' - SPIEGEL ONLINE:  
Granmothers opposing electricity: from The Toronto Star:
Residents rally against Mississauga Power Plant
...Wherever ambitious construction ventures loom on the horizon in Germany -- from the cities to the countryside, from the coastlines in the north to the Black Forest in the south -- opponents are taking to the streets.

More often than not, the demonstrators are protesting against projects that stand for change: extensions to airports, railways, new wind farms or power lines. Not even new subways or sports stadiums are exempt.
"Infrastructure developments have always been society's flagship projects, a symbol of progress," says Torsten Albig, governor of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein. But as the public's enthusiasm for constant innovation has lessened, so has the appeal of these sorts of projects, and, as a result, they now inevitably come accompanied by picketers.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Raising Radiation Limit Will Save Lives and Dollars

The challenging topic of radiation impacts is being addressed by a growing number of people.
It's nice to see Jerry Cutler cited in an article on the promise of a saner approach, in the United States, to setting limits.

The EPA is raising the radiation threat level by a factor of 350. That may sound unbelievable but it is assuredly a good thing: The previous limits were far lower than science justified and caused hundreds of billions of dollars of economic loss to America and the world.
...After the catastrophic meltdown at the Japanese nuclear power plant in 2011, some 130,000 people were forcibly removed from their homes in accordance with strict radiation standards. This resulted in the unnecessary and unfortunate deaths of some 1600 elderly and ill persons. Yet no residents died—or even became ill—from the radiation. Even so, Japan closed down48 nuclear plants and Germany announced it would close all of its plants. The cost to their citizenry in higher electricity prices—and higher carbon emissions—is staggering.
...the EPA is making changes that acknowledge the shortcomings of ultra-low radiation limits. The EPA has now asked for public comment on changing its standards for nuclear power plants. The deadline was June 4.

New England faces major spike in cost of energy

"The problemIt begins and ends with natural gas."
Region faces major spike in cost of energy | SeacoastOnline.com:

According to ISO-New England spokesperson Lacey Girard, the shift to natural gas in recent years throughout the region has been meteoric. With the advent of new fracking technology, eastern natural gas reserves — such as the Marcellus Shale Field in New York and Pennsylvania — are being increasingly tapped, she said.
As a result, natural gas is becoming more plentiful and cheap. For this reason, more and more New Englanders are tapping natural gas to heat their homes and natural gas power plants in the region are working to meet electricity demands.
To illustrate the point, she said, natural gas power plants produced 46 percent of the region's power in 2013, up from 15 percent in 2000. At the same time, power from oil-fired plants dropped from 22 percent in 2000 to 1 percent last year, and power from coal went from 18 percent to 6 percent.
The problem arises during the worst of the cold days of winter — particularly a winter like 2013-14. The natural gas pipeline coming into New England is insufficient to meet the growing demand for both heating and electricity. According to Girard, heating customers have first priority because gas utilities contract ahead of time for what they will need.
Natural gas electricity generators will purchase any "spare capacity" from these utilities when they need more power. But there comes a point, as there was on many days last winter, when there's just no more gas to be had for power plants, she said.
The entire article may be read at SeacoastOnline.com

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The epic hypocrisy of Tom Steyer: NY Times edition

This story is likely to get significant play as it's in the NY Times, but a blog did the work exposing where the story was, so I've referenced the NY Times article through that blog

The epic hypocrisy of Tom Steyer: NY Times edition | Power Line:
This past April, with the help of a knowledgeable reader, we took a deep dive into the fossil fuel investments of Democratic money man and environmental poseur Tom Steyer in “The epic hypocrisy of Tom Steyer.” Introducing our reader’s report, John wrote regarding Steyer: “Today, he is a bitter opponent of fossil fuels, especially coal. That fits with his current economic interests: banning coal-fired power plants will boost the value of his solar projects. But it was not always thus. In fact, Steyer owes his fortune in large part to the fact that he has been one of the world’s largest financers of coal projects. Tom Steyer was for coal before he was against it.”
You read it here first, and in something like a definitive form (taking account of Steyer’s current financial interests), but we now welcome Michael Barbaro and Coral Davenport reporting in the New York Times: “Aims of donor are shadowed by past in coal.” Barbaro and Davenport may induce serious cognitive dissonance among alert Times readers with this, at the top of page A1 today:
Mr. Steyer, a billionaire former hedge fund manager, emerged this election season as the green-minded answer to Charles G. and David H. Koch, the patrons of conservative Republican politics, after vowing that he would sell off his investments in companies that generate fossil fuels like coal.
But an examination of those investments shows that even after his highly public divestment, the coal-related projects his firm bankrolled will generate tens of millions of tons of carbon pollution for years, if not decades, to come.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Memo to Anti-Coal Warriors: Make Nuclear Peace

As close to a must-read for pro-nuclear environmentalists as anything I've seen

William Tucker: Memo to Anti-Coal Warriors: Make Nuclear Peace - WSJ:

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a 645-page ruling whose basic aim is to cut coal plants out of the mix in producing the nation's electricity. States will supposedly be given a choice, but the only real way to meet the agency's demands for carbon-dioxide reductions will be to cut back on coal. All this will be a devastating blow to the Midwestern economy, driving up energy prices for everyone, while having only the slightest impact on global warming. 
There is a great irony to this. In the early 1970s, coal was being phased out as the nation's principal source of electricity. The initial concerns about air pollution had focused on coal, and environmental groups such as the Sierra Club were campaigning to lift the 20-year-old ban on imported oil so we could replace coal with low-sulfur oil from Libya and Indonesia. 
All this came to a halt with the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74...
Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal: