Wednesday, December 9, 2015

consumers get a hero: Niagara On-The-Lake Hydro Board challenges Minister of Energy to Debate

Stories of courage in servicing consumers are rare in Ontario's electricity sector.
The following is the entirety of a news release from Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro Inc. (NOTL)

Shrewd observers may realize, at the end, this local distribution company (LDC) delivers power to it's typical customer far more economically than many Ontario LDC's.
It is clear why - perhaps consumers of other LDC's should send this to their LDC and the Ontario Energy Board to ask why NOTL is not one of many organizations publicly challenging the Energy Minister.

December 09, 2015 06:00 ET

NOTL Hydro Board challenges Minister of Energy to Debate

Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro Provides 11 Recommendations on Reducing the Cost of Electricity

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, ON--(Marketwired - December 09, 2015) - The Board of Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro would like to invite and challenge the Minister of Energy to a public debate on the historical, present and future plans on how to get the cost of electricity down and more manageable for the average consumer. Discussions and input from all interested parties are welcome.

The recently released Report of the Ontario Auditor General (AG report) has highlighted significant mismanagement of the electricity industry in Ontario that has substantially increased the cost of electricity to our customers. To reduce the current and future cost of electricity, it is clear that immediate and drastic actions are required.

As a local electricity distribution company, Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro deals directly with the electricity consumer and sees the challenges the high prices are causing. Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro therefore recommends the following immediate actions to assist our customers.
  1. Immediately cancel the FIT and MicroFIT programs and immediately cease signing any new contracts. We cannot afford any more above market costs to be built into future pricing.
  2. Calculate and transfer the present value of the excess pricing in the existing FIT and MicroFIT contracts to the Ontario Electricity Financial Corporation (OEFC) in a manner similar to that done with Ontario Hydro and the Non-Utility Generation contracts at the time of the market opening. This would remove these costs from the current pricing.
  3. Re-instate the Debt Retirement Charge for residential customers. It was never right just to eliminate this for residential and not business customers. This charge will be needed to pay down the above excess pricing cost (Recommendation #2) for years and decades to come. Annual transparent reporting from the OEFC will be required to show how this new debt is being paid down.
  4. Stop all provincial Conservation and Demand Management (CDM) programs. This will save $300 million per year per the AG report. CDM Is not needed in a surplus environment and consumers will undertake their own CDM activities based on market prices.
  5. Review the pricing of exports. While we have no experience in this area other experts have suggested that better prices could be obtained on the excess generation we are forced to export through more pro-active management of this activity.
  6. Eliminate the Meter Data Management and Repository (MDM/R). This is a redundant service whose cost is part of the Wholesale Market Service Rate on the customer bill. Local distribution companies get the needed information elsewhere.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Nuclear Ontario: province contracts Bruce Power through 2064

Bruce Power and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) have entered into an amended, long-term agreement to secure 6,300 megawatts of electricity from the Bruce Power site, through a multi-year investment program.
In 2005, Bruce Power entered into the Bruce Power Refurbishment Implementation Agreement (BPRIA) to enable the restart of Bruce Units 1 and 2, to return the site to its full operating capacity of eight units. The amended agreement entered into today will enable the company to progress with a series of incremental life-extension investments, including refurbishment, to secure a clean, reliable and affordable source of electricity for Ontario families and businesses for decades to come, as outlined in Ontario’s 2013 Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP).
That begins Bruce Power's release on the agreement.
Transcanada Corporation, owner of nearly half of Bruce Power, has also issued an informative news release.

In April I'd written on the pace of the negotiations, and some issues related to refurbishment scheduling. This agreement, it seems to me, recognizes the value of Bruce Power's initiatives in extending the pre-refurbishment life of the reactors.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Better Electricity Reporting includes distributed solar

A big report is out in Ontario today, and a post by the American Energy Information Administration (EIA) deals with one point I'd like to discuss from it.

The Ontario Report is the Annual Report from the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario (the Auditor's report), and the chapter of primary interest to me was Section 3.05: Electricity Power System Planning. I think the report is fine - a few things I could argue about over pints with friends, but it's a very solid report.

I was reminded, by reading it, of astute articles from the people I've come to respect a great deal; some of which I've taking liberally from in my writing. One case in point is a graphic in the Auditor's report and one I'd created for a report by stealing Bruce Sharp's methodology:

The figure on the left is from the Auditor's report; the one on the right from my Better Reporting of Ontario's Electricity Generation. If you're not impressed (I am) maybe you are unaware that on the IESO's website they report solar generation of 0.0185 TWh for 2014, so estimating 1.7 TWh was not bad.
What's interesting is in the Auditor's report the source cited is the IESO!

I've been preaching reporting on distribution connected generation is desperately lacking in Ontario, so I have mixed feelings seeing the IESO has finally provided some figures at least this once.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

ON releasing stored energy

The IESO, officially the operator of Ontario's electricity system, has announced the contracting of nine energy storage projects.
"Storage technology remains one of the most innovative and exciting aspects of our energy policy, particularly because of the incredible potential it presents. It will help strengthen our system and improve service to electricity consumers," said Bob Chiarelli, Minister of Energy. "Our government is proud to see the leadership of these five Ontario companies as they move forward to create good jobs and invest in their local economies."
"The energy storage market is maturing," said Bruce Campbell, President and CEO of the IESO. "Now that we have completed our two-phase procurement process for a total of 50 MW of new energy storage in Ontario, we look forward to having these facilities up and running. These projects will help us better understand how energy storage technologies can support the operation of the grid by providing much needed quick response and operational flexibility."
There is a reason I no longer treat "IESO" as an acronym - there's functionally no "I" and whatever the "ESO" is, it isn't the body's original MO.

The IESO press release does provide a rationale for the contracts:
This latest set of contracts... is focused on the capacity value – the ability to be available to store energy and provide it back when called upon – and the arbitrage value – the ability to store energy during periods of lower prices and inject it back into the electricity system when prices rise – of energy storage.
Bruce Sharp, probably the province's best cost analyst, did some math in a comment on the IESO's Linkedin page:

Monday, November 23, 2015

Inconvenient truths, etc.

...we must not triple-count the energy promised by renewables: they cannot supplant existing fossil fuel use and replace decommissioned nuclear plants and meet the skyrocketing needs of the developing world.

The article I am seeing the most of today is Inconvenient truths for the environmental movement
...traditional greens have been distracted by their signature causes, and in doing so have themselves denied some inconvenient truths.
The first is that, until now, fossil fuels have been good for humanity. The industrial revolution doubled life expectancy in developed countries while multiplying prosperity twentyfold. As industrialization spreads to the developing world, billions of people are rising out of poverty in their turn — affording more food, living longer and healthier lives, becoming better educated, and having fewer babies — thanks to cheap fossil fuels. In poor countries like India, citizens want reliable electricity to power these improvements, and stand ready to vote out any government that fails to deliver it. When American environmentalists tell the world to stop burning fossil fuels, they need to give Indians an alternative that delivers the prosperity they demand and deserve.
That brings us to the second inconvenient truth: Nuclear power is the world’s most abundant and scalable carbon-free energy source. In today’s world, every nuclear plant that is not built is a fossil-fuel plant that does get built, which in most of the world means coal. Yet the use of nuclear power has been stagnant or even contracting. 
...A third truth is that climate change must transcend ideology.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ontario's regulator's playground a dangerous place for ratepayers

The Ontario Energy Board has a significant impact on what Ontario ratepayers are charged for energy. In recent years the cost of electricity has soared while the price of gas has not. Now the government whose intervention has cost Ontarians steeply is similarly threatening to micromanage the gas industry into escalating rates.

2 new stories:
  1. Union Gas Limited Application seeks approval of its proposed Community Expansion Program
  2. The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) released its Regulated Price Plan Roadmap
Let's start with electricity and the the ongoing quest for a holy grail of pricing structures. After a full implementation of smart meters over more than a decade at a cost of billions, the OEB has advanced to the stage of knowing it is structurally impossible for them to introduce a coherent pricing model:

TOU pricing is intended to incent consumers to change their pattern of consumption and enhance electricity system efficiency. The original RPP methodology and objectives outlined in the RPP Manual were designed to support those objectives. However...

Changes to Regulation 95/05 would be required to provide this kind of flexibility to develop options.
Misalignment of the Global Adjustment Recovery 
Changes to the current regulation are needed to address [the] lack of consistency in the approach to recovery of [Global Adjustment] among Class B consumers.
The document basically sets requirements that the OEB feels need to be met to allow it to experiment further on Ontario ratepayers.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Alarm Bells ringing over Ontario Government's move to abandon independent electricity sector regulation and planning

Regulatory issues are not a topic that attract much attention - but they should.

Tom Adams has been a critic of the deteriorating independence, and flippant regard for law, at the Ontario Energy Board. I follow Adams' work so I'm familiar with the concerns, including that there is something particularly unpleasant about the current legislative Bill 112 - and a recent tweet pointed me to a related column that astonished me.

George Vegh I understand to be a respected voice on Ontario Electricity matters and the laws related to them.
Canadian Energy Perpectives is a blog by legal firm McCarthy Tetrault.

This is not a post I'd expect somebody like Vegh to write on a blog that generally reads exactly like you'd expect a legal blog to read:
On October 28, 2015, the Government of Ontario tabled Bill 135, that will, if enacted, effectively remove independent electricity planning and procurement authority from the IESO and transmission approval from the OEB. Both of these types of authority will be transferred to the Minister of Energy. The Minister will produce long-term energy plans that will be binding on the Ontario Energy Board and the IESO, both of whom must issue implementation plans designed to achieve the objectives of the Government’s plan. The Government’s new planning authority is broader than the IESO’s. It includes both bulk system planning (as was in the IESO’s mandate), and also extends to distribution systems. The Government’s existing procurement authority will also be extended as Bill 135 gives the Government additional powers to direct the procurement of energy storage and transmission. The net result of Bill 135 is therefore to ensure that the main energy institutions – the IESO and the OEB – are focused almost exclusively on implementing Government plans and directives. The Government has always been steering the direction of energy policy. It is now rowing as well: it is in direct control of every policy instrument available. From a governance perspective, it could lead one to wonder whether there are any checks and balances left in the system at all.
Bill 135 raises a number of questions for both the agencies and the Government. Some of them are:
  • What is the residual independent authority of the agencies? ...
  • What is the criteria and process by which the Government will develop plans and directives? ...
  • What is the purpose of the new directive powers?...
Read The Bill 135 Governance Model: All Roads Lead to the Government at Canadian Energy Perspectives.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Closing of FitzPatrick nuclear power plant in New York not bad news for everybody

It's always disappointing to hear of people losing their jobs and particularly so for nuclear advocates when the shuttering of another plant is announced - which is the case this morning.

Entergy to close FitzPatrick nuclear plant in Oswego County
SCRIBA, N.Y. – Entergy Corp. plans to shut down its money-losing FitzPatrick nuclear power plant in Oswego County after the reactor runs out of fuel next year.
Entergy officials called a meeting of employees today to announce that the company will not install more enriched uranium fuel rods next September, which would be required to continue operating the facility.
Barring some unexpected intervention by state officials, the 850-megawatt facility will shut down in late 2016 or early 2017 and begin laying off its 615 employees.
continue reading at

I was reviewing some statistics from Canada's National Energy Board the other day, and the shuttering of generators in New England looked to be reflected in the value of exports out of Quebec.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

bullshit emissions targets and carbon pricing

Distinguishing a real solution from a false solution is actually very complicated

There are a couple of superb articles out involving the challenges, and economics, of addressing greenhouse gas emissions.

Some quotes from We Need an Energy Miracle in the Atlantic (an interview with Bill Gates):
  • Distinguishing a real solution from a false solution is actually very complicated.
  • ...everything that’s hard has been saved for post-2030—and even these 2030 commitments aren’t enough. And many of them won’t be achieved.
  • People think energy is more of a private-sector thing than it is.
  • ... there’s no fortune to be made. Even if you have a new energy source that costs the same as today’s and emits no CO2, it will be uncertain compared with what’s tried-and-true and already operating at unbelievable scale and has gotten through all the regulatory problems...
  • We will not deny India coal plants; we will run the scary experiment of heating up the atmosphere and see what happens.
  • The only reason I’m optimistic about this problem is because of innovation. And innovation is a very uncertain process.
Graphic from Nature

The second article is from Nature, written by David J. C. MacKay (writer of the highly regarded Climate Change Without the Hot Air).

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

ON bees and IWTs

Two things from the web - one sort of about bees, and one sort of about the financial benefits of Ontario's industrial wind turbine policies.

The National Post has an article by Mark Brock, Chairman of the Grain Farmers of Ontario, on the implication for his group of the MPP from Toronto Centre having studied up on the threat to bees from neonics by watching one entire TED talk.

Ontario’s neonics nightmare:
Following months of building anger, confusion and uncertainty in rural Ontario, farmers are now getting ready to place their initial seed orders for the 2016 planting season, without knowing what they will be able to plant. This is because of the Wynne government’s decision to side with special interest groups, who have a deeper issue with modern agriculture, by heavily restricting access to a critical crop management tool for corn and soybean farmers. 
Environment Minister Glen Murray has defended a truly unworkable regulation and provided a series of unhelpful and inflammatory comments to the debate, before punting the issue back to Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal, who responds to questions about corn and soybean seeds by discussing the importance of supply management for dairy and poultry products.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A hard look at universal child (and/or parent) care

What we're learning from Quebec is that just as some early education programs can improve on non-cognitive skills, others can do the opposite.

As my children aged my interest in the politics of childcare waned, but there's a couple of terrific articles out due to a U.S. study focused on Quebec's experience with cheap universal child care.
With Canada in the midst of an election campaign which interventionist Ontario Premier Wynne has pushed into, I'll note issues in Iglesias' column are also relevant to universal all-day kindergarten in Ontario.

Quebec gave all parents cheap day care — and their kids were worse off as a result, Matthew Iglesias, VOX:
Programs for young children — whether you call them day care or preschool or even third grade — serve two purposes. On the one hand, they are educational settings that are supposed to help foster the kids' long-term development. On the other hand, they are safe places where parents can put their children so they can go do other things during the day — things like work for a living. In an ideal world, of course, they do both. The best preschool programs have been shown to have significant lifelong benefits for their students, and they're doubtless a huge help to parents too. But a sobering new analysis by Michael Baker, Jonathan Gruber (yes, that Jonathan Gruber), and Kevin Milligan of Quebec's effort to expand access to child care on the cheap is a painful reminder that the two issues can come apart. 
Image from VOX article
The program was designed to increase mothers' labor force participation rate, and it worked. Lots of people used the system, lots of moms went to work, incomes and GDP rose, and the program was quite affordable to the taxpayer. Kids' test scores stayed flat.
But contrasting trends in Quebec kids with kids from other Canadian provinces, the authors find "a significant worsening in self-reported health and in life satisfaction among teens" who grew up exposed to the program* along with a "sharp and contemporaneous increase in criminal behavior among the cohorts exposed to the Quebec program, relative to their peers in other provinces."

Thursday, September 24, 2015

VW's NOx-toberfest/Schadenfraud

I first posted on VW, on my tumblr blog, as soon as I'd read a report - and added to that post a couple of times. Eventually my interest became in how it came to be such a large company figured that programming to a test while allowing actual emissions far higher than advertised was a thing that could be done.

Climate Politics and the Volkswagen Scandal
"...clean diesel" was a government-led initiative, brought to you courtesy of Europe's taxpayers. And, by the way, the policy had proved a massively expensive failure on its own terms even before the VW scandal broke.
It's this scandal that teaches the most important lessons. Beginning in the mid-1990s, mindful of their commitments to cut carbon emissions, Europe's governments embarked on a prolonged drive to convert their car fleets from gasoline to diesel. With generous use of tax preferences, they succeeded.
... the switch to diesel probably didn't cut greenhouse gases. Making diesel cheaper by taxing it at a preferential rate encouraged people to drive more. And emissions of GHGs higher up the fuel-supply chain are worse for diesel than for gasoline. (Increasing demand for diesel drew in more supplies from Russia; producing and moving those supplies caused more emissions.) Treating diesel to lower its sulfur content adds yet another carbon penalty.
At best, the clean-diesel strategy lowered carbon emissions much less than hoped, and at ridiculous cost; at worst, as one study concludes, the policy added to global warming.
image from Seeking Alpha
So VW may have been used to operating with the tacit acknowledgment the game was to pretend to lower emissions.

We've known for years European, and particularly German, air quality wasn't improving - certainly not to the extent nuclear Ontario and it's gasoline propelled cars has experienced: Luftmess: checking up on air and carbon pollution
The section below is primarily from my Tumblr post.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

When Radiation Isn’t the Real Risk

"We’re bad at balancing risks, we humans..."
George Johnson's most recent Raw Data column will be cheered by nuclear power advocates long exasperated by the widespread fear mongering about the health impacts of radiation.
Relatedly, there's sure to be some gnashing of teeth at a "data" column daring to use the "hormesis" term.

When Radiation Isn’t the Real Risk:
This spring, four years after the nuclear accident at Fukushima, a small group of scientists met in Tokyo to evaluate the deadly aftermath. 
image from NY Times article
No one has been killed or sickened by the radiation — a point confirmed last month by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Even among Fukushima workers, the number of additional cancer cases in coming yearsis expected to be so low as to be undetectable, a blip impossible to discern against the statistical background noise. 
But about 1,600 people died from the stress of the evacuation — one that some scientists believe was not justified by the relatively moderate radiation levels at the Japanese nuclear plant.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Quebec Hydro another Pilgrim's problem

A headline caught my attention, and upon investigation, it led exactly where I expected it would - to incumbent power producers protecting their turf.

Canadian hydropower could boost wholesale power costs in New England: study
Wholesale power costs in New England would rise an estimated $777 million/year if the region's electric customers are forced to subsidize the cost of building new transmission lines to import up to 2,400 MW of hydroelectric power from Canada, the New England Power Generators Association said Wednesday.
The study also estimated that the delivered cost of Canadian hydropower would likely be about $97/MWh, or $42/MWh above the average wholesale power price in New England over the past three years. Based on a conservative cost analysis, it said, the likely price of the hydropower contracts would lead to "$777 million in above-market costs that Massachusetts consumers would be paying every year. Such ... exorbitant cost does not appear to be justified, even with the other policy considerations weighed."
If the price is $97/MWh on a market averaging $42, it would be because the power was being imported at higher value period. The question is the extent to which the expense of transmission would improve market efficiency. Because Quebec hydro is the only dispatchable renewable energy source potentially available to New England, that's likely a yes if carbon emissions are considered.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Capacity pricing a rare bright spot for U.S. nuclear as Clean Power Plan and PTC threaten

The topics here are too complex to review in detail outside of a book, but in one blog post I'll try connect some recent articles to demonstrate a recent capacity auction, while positive for reliable generators, is unlikely to halt the impacts of the President's Clean Power Plan (CPP) and currently idled Production Tax Credit (PTC). Combined, the CPP and PTC spell trouble for existing nuclear generators.

Exelon has many nuclear reactors, a number of which are in Illinois. The company recently released financial information which is communicated in Crain's "Exelon's case for how poorly its nukes are doing."
In a bid to build more support for subsidies financed by rate payers, the state's largest power generator provided Crain's with its most detailed look at the financials of the company's six Illinois nuclear stations.
Five of its six Illinois nukes are dual-unit stations with costs that are roughly the same—$33 to $34 per megawatt-hour of electricity produced...
At Exelon's plant in Clinton—a single-unit generator between Peoria and Springfield—costs run higher, at $38 to $39 per megawatt-hour.
That probably sounds cheap to end consumers,- but market prices are far different:
Round-the-clock energy prices right now for 2016 and 2017 are a little over $30.50 per megawatt-hour. That's down from about $33 a year ago for those time frames. Capacity prices are on the rise thanks to auction changes PJM has engineered to increase them.
Crain's is totally out to lunch on why PJM changed capacity rules. They get it exactly wrong elsewhere in the article:

Sloppy Electricity Rate Making, reporting and politics

If you follow the economic challenges of an electricity environment with variable intermittent generation being forced onto the grid, you really must read the latest from Severin Borenstein, The Decline of Sloppy Electricity Rate Making
Something is dying alright, just not the utility. It’s the ability of regulators, utilities, and interest groups to push around revenue collection among customers without the customers pushing back.
Read the bill from carefully - important to understand net metering in California 
  • Try to punish high-consuming households by raising their price many times above cost – as has been done in California for the last 15 years – and they will now install solar to reduce their grid purchases, undermining revenue collection.
  • Try to use “demand charges” that are based on a customer’s peak usage — regardless of whether its peak coincides with system peak — and soon they will be installing batteries to smooth their peak, but in many cases without helping to lower grid costs.
  • Try to raise retail rates for most customers in order to offer discount electricity to low-income households and the high-price customers will turn to all forms of distributed generation instead of subsidizing the poor.
  • Try to stick commercial and industrial customers with more of the utility costs and they will invest in CHP and other onsite technologies.
  • Try to encourage demand shifting to off peak with exaggerated peak-period prices during all summer weekdays and the customer will use batteries to shift not just on the hottest high-demand days, but also on days when there is no benefit to society, though still an arbitrage play for the customer.

While Professor Borenstein lays out the limitations of tricks to shift costs to politically weak user groups (as Ontario has done), a more popular figure was speaking against actions such as changing grid charges to reflect the value of connection to a grid:

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ontario's electricity market gamed: OEB ...and others

The Ontario Energy Board today posted a letter to the head of the IESO (Ontario's electricity system operator) regarding the gaming of one aspect of the IESO's operation.
Dear Mr. Campbell: 
RE: Market Surveillance Panel Investigation Report

The Market Surveillance Panel’s (MSP) Report on an Investigation into Possible Gaming Behaviour Related to Congestion Management Settlement Credit Payments by Abitibi-Consolidated Company of Canada and Bowater Canadian Forest Products Inc. was posted today on the OEB’s website. In its Report, the MSP concludes that the two market participants, through deliberate market conduct, engaged in gaming in relation to Congestion Management Settlement Credit (CMSC) payments at a time when they were operating as dispatchable loads.
I would appreciate if you would advise me in writing within 30 days of: a) the steps that the IESO plans to take in response to the recommendation in the MSP’s Report and the timelines for completion of those steps; and b) whether, in the IESO’s view, any actions or market rule amendments, in addition to those reflected in the MSP’s recommendation, should be taken or initiated.
The particulars of the gaming scheme couldn't be as interesting as the head of the regulator requesting the head of the IESO inform of any possible action on gaming 6 months after the February report was produced - but I glanced through for dollar values anyway.

Bowater’s high bid prices were used to obtain CMSC payments that more than compensated Bowater for operating profit reductions by at least $10.3 million. 
... All customers in the wholesale energy market were disadvantaged by paying additional Uplift charges of $0.12/MWh as a result of Bowater’s behaviours.

...Bowater exploited market defects. In so doing, Bowater received $11.0 million in CMSC payments during the Relevant Period, and there was a corresponding disadvantage or expense to the market. Bowater’s conduct constitutes gaming.
and for Abitibi

Sunday, August 9, 2015

From 140% Wind Power Record to Calm

Several international media reported enthusiastically about the 140% wind power record in Denmark during the night of 10th July. However, the wind dropped already the next day
I've not visited Paul-Frederick Bach's blog for a while. This report (.pdf) can be a great introduction to the analysis there or, as it was for me, a reminder to keep going back.
The happy message that Danish wind power production reached 140% of the electricity demand was distributed by several international media, for instance with these headlines:

The Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR) boosted the success by claiming that wind has covered 140% of Denmark’s energy demand...

On the other hand some people have claimed that the surplus electricity was exported at very low prices, while Denmark had to pay high prices for the import. This note presents facts on production and exchange of electricity in Denmark from 9th to 11th July 2015. The note is based on data, which are published daily by and

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

and you get a solar panel, and you get a solar panel, and you...

Potential Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pledged to install half a billion solar panels if elected President in a video that I think misguided, but I'll leave arguing that for a Cold Air post. [1]
The number of pledged panels, and historical reality of the solar incentives being regressive, made me think the fairest, and most educational, way to distribute hundreds of millions of solar panels would be to give each American a solar panel.
An Oprah distribution - but with PV instead of cars because, ya' know, green.

What would people do with their panel commodity?
My guess is most wouldn't want to become generators, but to sell the equipment.

In Ontario, the IESO recently put out a 2016 Price Review questionnaire asking special interests (a.k.a. stakeholders) question about adjustments to what has been, for consumers, an utterly disastrous Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program. This caught my eye in relation to Hillary's PV dreams and the valuation of panels following an Oprah distribution:
There have been stakeholder requests to increase the FIT DC/AC overbuild ratio beyond 120%. Please provide information about the additional generation which can be achieved by building projects that exceed the 120% limit. How should an increased overbuild limit impact the price? If there were no overbuild limit, what would the ideal overbuild ratio be? What would the percentage increase in generation be for this ratio vs 120%?
It appears power purchase agreements (in this case FIT) have value, but it's not clear that solar panels themselves do. [2]

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Ontario's rank Green

ranting on recent Ontario energy news

Ontario's IESO announced the publication of a document from The Smart Grid Forum this past week. I've been critical of the Forum's past work (April 2012, December 2012 and October 2013) which in hindsight may have been too harsh, because it was better than this new nonsense. Here's the highlights from the IESO news scroll:
  • How should smart grid innovation be funded? 
  • What are the different funding models? 
  • What can be done to ensure that innovation remains customer-focused? 
  • Who should bear the risks? 
  • And what can be done to facilitate the commercialization and adoption of smart grid technologies? 
These are just a few of the questions raised in the latest discussion paper from the Ontario Smart Grid Forum, entitled "Smart grid-related innovation: the emerging debate."
I'll paraphrase: "How can WE extract more money from THEM without an expectation that WE provide value?"

Graphic from most recent Long Term Energy PlanThere are some ugly entities from Ontario's past re-emerging, re-energized. Note between 2011 and 2013 the government claims a reduction of about $3 billion a year from moving away from the nonsense they are now moving back towards.

Monday, June 29, 2015

U.S. Surpeme Court decision goes against EPA mercury rule - inefficiently.

Much attention is being given to a U.S. Supreme court ruling which likely won't mean much - because it avoids attempts at being substanive.

Here's the brief overview from Brad Plumer:
The Supreme Court just threw a wrench into the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to regulate mercury pollution from coal plants — one of the most sweeping environmental policies of President Obama's first term.
In a 5-4 majority opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court ruled that the EPA didn't properly consider costs when crafting its mercury rule, which was finalized back in 2012 and would require coal-fired power plants to spend an estimated $9.6 billion per year cleaning up mercury and other toxic air pollutants.
The mercury rule will remain in effect for now, but the EPA will have to review and reconsider it in the months ahead. A final decision on how to proceed will be left to the DC Circuit Court, which has to follow this guidance from Scalia: "EPA must consider cost—including cost of compliance—before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary. It will be up to the Agency to decide (as always, within the limits of reasonable interpretation) how to account for cost."
Image from the Fraser Institute
Let me be clearer.
The EPA's accounting of benefits came after the regulation was planned and, since the expensive regulation is considered to be about mercury, and mercury abatement isn't seen to have much benefit at all, any cost benefit analysis based on only mercury would kill the regulation.

Britain, Canada to strengthen cooperation on nuclear energy

Some CANDU news that might indicate steps towards "solving the UK's plutonium challenge"

Britain, Canada to strengthen cooperation on nuclear energy | Reuters:
image from Candu Energy
Britain and Canada signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Monday to strengthen ties between the two countries' nuclear energy industries.

The MoU was signed in London by Canada's High Commissioner Gordon Campbell and Lee McDonough, director of the Office of Nuclear Development for the UK Department of Climate Change.

It is aimed at enhancing cooperation on uranium supply; reactor design, construction, operation and decommissioning; alternative and advanced fuel cycle design; research and development and workforce skills.

Canadian reactor maker Candu Energy and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Canada are exploring solutions for the reuse of Britain's civil plutonium and recovered uranium stockpiles in its heavy-water reactors."
Candu Energy is owned by SNC-Lavalin, who made the news recently in leading a consortium announced as the preferred candidate to run another segment surviving AECL, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Energy Policy in the Age of Wishful Thinking

Matthew L. Wald movd from the New York Times to th Nuclear Energy Institute earlier this year - a move I should have paid more attention if this one piece I came across is any indicator.

Energy Policy in the Age of Wishful Thinking | Matthw L. Wald | Nuclear Energy Institute: wind has become a star performer, it’s turned the rest of the grid into Ginger Rogers. You remember Ginger Rogers? She wasn’t the star. Fred Astaire was the star. But Ginger Rogers had to do everything that Fred did, except backwards and in high heels. The rest of the grid has to march forward and backwards as wind leads, compensating for wind’s intermittency. Eventually that’s going to cause problems.

And revolutions cause casualties. Some nuclear plants are a casualty of cheap gas. And wind. So we’ve got low-carbon generation killing off zero-carbon generation. Wind is an odd situation too; we’ve got zero carbon wind driving prices down on the grid, sometimes below zero, and threatening zero-carbon nuclear.

I’m not a scientist, but this is not the way to solve the carbon problem.
Continue reading at th Nuclear Energy Institute:

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Profitability and transit costs

As Ontario is selling off it's profitable electricity company claiming the money is to be "invested" in transit, I thought I'd post a link to a view of transit as a public investment in another North American country.

The graphic is from How Much Money U.S. Transit Systems Lose Per Trip, in 1 Chart - despite the title it's an article more informative than the 1 chart:

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Ontario moves clumsily to exit public power

Writing frequently on Ontario's electricity escapades I feel obliged to put something together on the moves at Hydro One, which today hit a new stage as legislation passes to hide the operations at the company.

Ontario Liberals set to remove Hydro One oversight ahead of sell-off
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is poised to pull the iron curtain over Hydro One, ensuring one of the largest privatizations in the province’s history will unfold in secret.
The Liberals’ omnibus budget bill is expected to pass a final vote in the legislature Wednesday. The legislation, which will allow the government to start selling off the Crown corporation on the stock market later this year, contains a raft of clauses that remove public oversight of the company.
The bill strips the provincial auditor-general, financial accountability officer, ombudsman and several other independent watchdogs of their right to investigate Hydro One and resolve customer complaints. It also bars freedom-of-information requests and shields Hydro One employees’ salaries from the Sunshine List...
Given the movements to hide what's going on, perhaps it's not surprising Ontario's Minister Of Energy chose to respond to one specific article on the sale - by a convicted fraudster -claiming:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Reductio ad absurdum: A call to stop the porn subsidies

One recent story I should post on is on a report on energy subsidies produced for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - a report produced with, I suspect, a political intent I haven't seen noted elsewhere.
First, to the nature of some ridiculous premises in the report prepared for the IMF

It's time to end the federal porn subsidy.
You might be asking, What federal porn subsidy? Fair question. Technically, there isn't a federal porn subsidy. However, if we borrow some of the logic commonly used by politically driven economists, we can redefine the word subsidy to mean whatever we want.
Pornography is enjoyed by many people, but it comes with a very real social cost: it can break up families and perhaps even become an addiction, which are profound losses of productivity. Economists refer to these as negative externalities -- i.e., bad side effects that affect people other than the person making the decision. One way to deal with such decisions is to tax them. This should, in theory, reduce the negative side effects, while simultaneously forcing the decision maker to bear the "true cost" of his actions. Clearly, if anyone should have to pay for this societal cost, it should be porn watchers, in the form of a porn tax. If they don't pay such a tax, they are getting an indirect subsidy.
As it turns out, we don't have a federal porn tax. Thus, we could say that the American government has issued a federal porn subsidy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

2014 a record production year for the world's CANDU reactors

I saw this information posted by Morgan Brown of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories.
Data definitions move around from source to source, with different treatments of unit capacity and output. Brown has a preference for gross output and original gross capacity, which are not the metrics commonly seen by non-technical observers.

The conclusion, based on 2014 performance data for 19 operating CANDUs in Canada, and 12 international units, is a record for production from CANada Deuterium Uranium reactors (CANDU).

Here's how Ontario got down to 7 Mt CO2e in 2014 (see pg 8) from 154 TWh of generation.
2014 CANDU performance 
Only net output data is available from Bruce Power, so it was converted to gross power by an estimated net:gross conversion ration of 94.3%. All data below is gross TWhe, and the capacity factors are based on as-built capacity. 
An earlier graphic from Morgan Brown (data to 2013)
2014 saw an increase in the total output from Canadian power reactors, to the second-highest annual production of 104.6 TWhe, from 18 reactors operating in Ontario and one in New Brunswick. 
The 12 CANDUs at Bruce B, Darlington and Pickering B produced 70.54 TWhe in 2014, equivalent to a capacity factor (based on the original non-derated ratings) of 84.2%, down from the record high of 74.06 TWhe in 2012 (88.2%). These 12 reactors have been in operation together since June 1993, when the last Darlington unit was declared commercial. To Dec 31 2014 they are an average of 27.3 years old (21.5 to 31.6 years in commercial service); Bruce 5 is the top ranked CANDU for total commercial output, at 193.7 TWhe in its 28.7 year life. The total Ont generation was 99.52 TWhe, up from 95.79 TWhe in 2013. This is the highest ever Ontario generation (99.29 TWhe was the previous record, set in 1994).

Thursday, May 21, 2015

sunset on solar?

"Guidance for Q1, coupled with past performance indicates the Company may have entered a death spiral."
I don't want to be an alarmist, but I don't mind being a non-conformist and it's hard not to notice stories on producers of solar panels coming in clumps, so...

Yingli Solar Drops A Bombshell | Seeking Alpha | May 17, 2015:
...given the size of Yingli's debt, the Company is likely to spend all of 2015 in whittling down its debt to more manageable levels. Due to this reason, we find it unlikely that the Company can keep up with its peer group in terms of cost reductions, sales growth or project build out.
Also, more significantly, the Company will be unable to invest in new off-China manufacturing capacity to avoid U.S. tariffs. With JinkoSolar, Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL), and JA Solar (NASDAQ:JASO) set to embark on new tariff-free capacity, we believe that there is a high chance that the Company will be routed from the U.S. market in the second half of the year.
All of these developments look grimmer now in the context of the 20-F filing...
Given, the weak situation that the Company is already in, Yingli, in its current form, seems to have entered a death spiral. The Company may survive for the benefits of debt holders and controlling shareholders, but the most common stockholders and ADS holders will likely be wiped out soon.
In December Forbes showed Yingli as the #2 solar equipment maker in the world.
These things happens in competitive industries, but Yingli's is not the only solar valuation story in the news lately.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The weak in Climate Change Policy:part too provincial

The previous post looked at emissions news from Canada's federal government - but most of my original data work, and writing, is on my province of Ontario which is making all sorts of announcements and rash moves lately.
The commentary around actions related to climate change is often ridiculous -in places not noted for being so.

Mark Jaccard is on the Globe and Mail site misinforming the Premier-elect of Alberta in A note for Rachel Notley: A carbon tax is not political suicide:
The carbon tax would work best if complemented by a second policy that requires the Alberta electricity sector to reduce its emissions by 80 per cent over the next decade, in line with what Ontario achieved from 2004 to 2014. Focused on coal-fired power plants, this regulation would be slightly more stringent (but less complicated) than the one President Barack Obama is implementing in the United States. In one decade, Alberta’s coal-fired power plants would have to retrofit to capture carbon emissions, like Saskatchewan’s Boundary Dam power plant, or shift to wind and other renewables backed by natural gas, as Ontario did. Thanks to the falling costs of wind and natural gas, the effect on electricity prices would be negligible over the decade.
Jaccard should know better, by now.
The star of Ontario's coal phase-out is nuclear.

  • In 2000, according to Ontario generation in Canada's National Inventory (NIR) reporting, the province generated 40.8 terawatt-hour (TWh) with coal (the province's peak coal year); for 2014 the system operator (IESO) had it at 0.1 TWh (40.7 TWh down)
  • Natural gas generation was 10.2 TWh (NIR) and the IESO had it up to 14.8 TWh in 2014 (4.6 TWh up)
  • "Other Renewables" were just 1.22 TWh in 2000 (NIR) - in 2014 (IESO) 7.1 TWh (5.9 TWh up)
  • Nuclear 59.4 in 2000 (NIR), 94.9 TWh in 2014 (35.5 TWh up).

Coal down 40.7, nuclear up 35.5.
This isn't a hard association for an honest man to make.

The weak in Climate Change policy: part 1

With the Canadian government releasing new targets for emissions I feel compelled to write on emissions reductions - or at least on the politics of pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Government of Canada announces 2030 emissions target:
Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced today that Canada plans to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
This is a fair and ambitious target that is in line with other major industrialized countries and reflects our national circumstances, including Canada's position as a world leader in clean electricity generation.   - continue reading
It's an announcement that targets (but doesn't commit to) a level of reduction other countries target (but don't commit to). To put the Canadian target in perspective:
Graphic from Canada's GHG Inventory 1990-2002 Report - the year KP ratified by Parliament
  • Kyoto commitment was 6% below 1990 levels (now reported as 613 mega-tonnes CO2 equivalent - MtCO2e), or ~576 MtCO2e during the period 2008 to 2012.
  • Canada didn't do that, but did withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol (KP) before the end of 2012 - avoiding penalties.
  • Canada's sort-of Copenhagen Accord target (not commitment) in 2009 was 17% below 2005 levels (749 MtCO2e) by 2020 - which would now be about 622 MTCO2e but at the time would have been 607 MTCO2e, the difference being a rise of 2005 emissions between reporting in 2009 and reporting in 2015.
  • 30% below the currently reported 2005 level (the new target for 2030) is 524 MtCO2e.
Seems silly to believe the targets - or the measurements.

But it's not silly to search for the political messaging in targets - and measurements.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Tesla product announcement powers disconnected dreams

I've been reading a lot about last week's product announcement from Tesla's Elon Musk; batteries.
As the week progressed I increasingly felt a dark side to the excitement, related to an issue I've written on discretely in the past, which I'll include here less discretely after citing articles I feel notable following Tesla's announcement.

image from uncrate
from Brad Plumer in Vox, Elon Musk wants to revolutionize our energy system — with batteries:
Most people think of Tesla as a company that builds flashy — and expensive — luxury electric cars.
But now Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, has even bigger plans than vehicles. He wants to make batteries a core part of Tesla's business, with the not-so-modest goal of transforming the world's electricity system.
There's a certain logic to this idea: Tesla is already making batteries for its electric cars. But batteries could potentially have broader applications, too. They could help homes and utilities make better use of solar power, charging up when the sun's out and saving power for when it's needed later. They could help supply electricity to areas far from the grid. They could bolster the grid against outages. And so on.
This isn't a brand-new type of battery. Rather, it's an effort to make home battery systems more widely popular. "The issue with existing batteries is that they suck," Musk said. "They are expensive, unreliable, and bad in every way." Tesla wants to change that by nudging down battery prices — making use of its new $5 billion GigaFactory in Nevada — and integrating them with existing solar-power systems.

It's an audacious plan, and it raises some hard questions: Why would anyone buy these expensive batteries?                 -[emphasis added]
There's a dream of independence coupled with an Apple-like brand promising the future.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Canada eyes more nuclear cooperation with S. Korea

"Korea would be an ideal market in which to use recycled uranium in its Candu fleet..."
The statement is particularly noteworthy as it comes from Ontario MPP Reza Moridi, Ontario's Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, during a just completed trade mission to South Korea.

(Yonhap Interview) Canada eyes more nuclear cooperation with S. Korea: minister:
SEOUL, May 3 (Yonhap) - Canada wants to step up cooperation with South Korea in the nuclear energy industry as a bilateral free trade deal and Seoul's revised nuclear agreement with the United States provide more room for advanced projects, a senior Canadian official said Sunday.
Reza Moridi, head of Ontario's Ministry of Research and Innovation, said South Korea has made "landmark technological achievements" since importing four Candu reactors from Canada four decades ago and is getting ready to team up with Canadian partners to tap into the global market.
Korea has played a strong role in the development of nuclear science and technology. I am encouraging Korea and the Ontario Candu energy sector to work together in terms of new reactors and services, as well as various other nuclear technologies in the world," Moridi said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.
Minister Moridi's focus on the promise of recycled uranium is one I share, although the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries (OCI) official news release following the trade mission describes collaboration flourishing in many areas, with South Korea, China and India.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Selling Hydro One and rate hike threats for Ontario

The government of Ontario recently announced it would try to sell off it's public transmission company, Hydro One. The rumours became fact as a Premier’s Advisory Council on Government Assets released its final report on this topic, which was quickly accepted verbally and is formally now recognized in the Ontario's 2015 Budget.

One of the concerns with the government's plans to sell off part of Hydro One is the impact on rates. I tend to think the pressure on rates will be slightly up, only initially, for Hydro One distribution customers, but actually downward for customers of Ontario's other local distribution companies. That will require some work to explain in a separate post, but I'll note the existing cost concerns with a list as I had been collecting stories on rate impacts prior to the announced plan to sell of 60% of the transmission and distribution assets:

Rates in Ontario are going up, and up.

Onto the debt.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ecomodermism: One new manifesto, one less blog

Earlier this month I read "A Farewell Post" from Keith Kloor regarding his Collide-a-Scape blog. Kloor and Brad Plumer are two writers that I enjoy because they feed biggish concepts succinctly but in a way that is digestible. Events the same week made this section of the farewell post notable:
...there are some ideas (or at least a term–eco-modernism) that germinated at my blog which I elaborated on elsewhere at Discover and atSlate several years ago, and which seems to have now been picked up on.
It's notable because the same week that was written a collective released An Ecomodernist Manifesto.

Reportedly Frank Lloyd Wright's Manifesto for his apprentices
Just by the gravitas of words, manifesto seems the opposite of blog;
The Communist Manifesto was the only other manifesto that came to mind upon seeing this one. Through googling I found many; Lulemon's is currently one of the more popular ones.

I'm inclined to support the Manifesto as it's signed by many people I've read or listened to: Barry Brook (who has written on it at his Brave New Climate blog), Stewart Brand, David Keith, Ted Nordhaus, Roger Pielke, Jr., Michael Shellenberger, and Robert Stone - as well as people I should get better acquainted with including Rachel Pritzker, Joyashree Roy, Christopher Foreman, Ruth Defries and John Asafu-Adjaye. Additionally, I'm "eco", having added a lot of insulation to my home and planted dozens and dozens of trees,and I exist right now, which is surely modern. Ecomodernism sounds like it might be me.

An Ecomodernist Manifesto is quite readable. I'll boil it down to 3 points:
  • people will continue to move to cities
  • affluence requires power and sustainable affluence require power that is "cheap, clean, dense, and abundant"
  • biodiversity, and related wild nature, are desirable and worthy of encouraging

Saturday, April 25, 2015

OEB panel notes gaming opportunities for traders and growing data deficiencies

The Market Surveillance Panel (the Panel) of the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) recently issued it's report for the period from November 2013 to April 2014. Having ripped into the the Panel for what I saw as poor and petty portions of its previous report, I thought I should comment on this one as it is a return to higher quality.

Perhaps the most important section of the new report notes the data deficiencies clouding all analysis on Ontario's electricity sector.
Market Surveillance Panel: April 2015 Monitoring Report on the IESO-Administered Electricity Markets for the period from November 2013 – April 2014
3.1 Data on Embedded Generation, Embedded Consumption, and Behind-the-Meter GenerationSeveral shifts in the electricity industry in Ontario have highlighted to the Panel that data in certain important categories is not readily available. The lack of data has made tracking changes to certain aspects of the market—and assessing outcomes in the market—more difficult. The Panel has identified three main categories of unavailable data that affect the accuracy of metrics that are important to understand several aspects of the industry. These categories are embedded generation, Embedded Class A consumption, and behind-the-meter generation. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Negotiations slow on Bruce Power contracts: issues with Ontario's nuclear refurbishment scheduling

Shawn McCarthy wrote a column on slow-moving negotiations regarding the refurbishment of Ontario's nuclear reactors, primarily those operated by Bruce Power. In the week since it was written it inspired 0 comments - and here I am expanding on the topic!

Ontario news these days is on the sale of Hydro One and budgets and cap-and-trade, all of which I'll likely get to at some point, but most of those stories are simply about sleight of hand to hide debt, and grabbing funding for a favoured constituency from unfavoured ones.

The operation of Ontario's nuclear reactors is, in contrast, not simply a flavour-of-the-day story.

Negotiations delay TransCanada’s Bruce Power nuclear reactor updates | Globe and Mail
Bruce Power and the Ontario government are mired in negotiations for a $15-billion deal to refurbish six nuclear reactors, delaying the planned project past a self-imposed deadline and posing new questions about the province’s future energy mix.
The Liberal government insists it remains committed to refurbishing Ontario’s aging nuclear fleet. However, both sides have signalled they are concerned about potential cost over-runs, and Bruce and its shareholders worry about the province’s schedule, which would require the company to take units off-line before the end of their commercial life.
"TransCanada also wants to squeeze as much cash from the existing reactors as possible before having to invest in upgrading them" is the easy way to keep the article newspaper length, but a closer look might point the interest to OPG's Darlington, and question if they operate their reactors to maximize value as Bruce Power does.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Ontario Energy Board boldly moves to fixed distribution charges

“allocating common costs is like trying to find a black cat in a dark room. [pause] Where there is no cat.”
The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) released, on April 2nd, A New Distribution Rate Design for Residential Electricity Customers (.pdf), along with many documents from the period leading to the publication of the new Board policy.

It's notable beyond Ontario's borders as many jurisdictions are also attempting to cope with changing revenues and similarly looking to change pricing models.

From the OEB:
On April 2, 2015, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) issued a new rate design policy that will change the way local distributors bill their residential customers. Distribution charges, currently a blend of fixed and variable (per kilowatt-hour) rates will be an entirely fixed monthly service charge by 2019. Fair billing, grid innovation and enabling customer uptake of new technologies are among the OEB’s objectives for this change. 
I agree with the change, although not without concerns  - some of which I noted when writing on the initial discussion document. I'll have more to say on the policy document on my Cold Air blog - because the OEB's documents are poor, which is almost certainly requisite for any document produced in Ontario's ridiculous electricity policy environment.

I'll try to keep my comments, and citations, in this short post relevant to a broader audience.

Utilities in many jurisdictions, including Ontario, are dealing with a need to maintain infrastructure while demand levels are dropping, and the problems are particularly acute where solar panels are being rapidly installed within distribution networks (often net metering jurisdictions).

Friday, April 3, 2015

Hydrogen's promise - and avoiding common mistakes about energy

Today, some information on hydrogen and the promise it has to power the future.

But first, the consistently lucid Brad Plumer has a post that leads into the space hydrogen promises to, at least partially, fill.

The most common mistake that news stories make about energy - Vox: "
Repeat it over and over: "electricity" is not the exact same thing as "energy."
Last week, I wrote about a nifty milestone in Costa Rica — the country had gone 75 days without using any fossil fuels to generate electricity. It was intriguing news, and lots of other outlets also covered it.
Except a number of stories featured headlines that were quite wrong, saying that Costa Rica was now running completely on renewable energy:
That's not true, and this subtle error pops up a lot in energy coverage. "Electricity" and "energy" aren't perfectly interchangeable.
Yes, Costa Rica's power plants were all running on renewables (mostly hydro) and delivering clean electricity through transmission lines. But the country still had plenty of cars running on old-fashioned gasoline. There were still airline flights in and out of Costa Rica powered by jet fuel. The country has two large cement plants that were still burning coal in their kilns. It simply wasn't true that, as one outlet put it, Costa Rica had "eschewed fossil fuels completely."
I suggest people read this entire article, and Plumer's other work.

image from Student's Guide to Alternative Fuels
I received an e-mail noting work posted to the site of the "Auto Insurance Centre." I'm not sure I would have opened the link if it had not cited a work of mine that I enjoyed compiling/writing (Exporting more U.S. Coal can lower global emissions?)
I'm glad I did, as it summarizes a number of alternatives for powering transportation; I was particularly interested in the section on hydrogen.

Students Guide to Alternative Fuels

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Germany's electricity market policy this week: A pure energy market with a safety net

There are 2 aspects of German energy policy that are clearly desired:
  1. they wish "renewables" - which for the sake of this post are better called by Rod Adams' term "unreliables"
  2. they don't want to subsidize fossil fuel generating stations
The two desires probably aren't compatible if one defines paying for capacity as a subsidy, which seems to have been the government's position since prior to the last election when then Minister Altmaeir stated"I am against blanket subsidies for fossil energy, which would only increase power prices."

I'll review some recent news of how Germany's attempt to structure a market that could allow sufficient capacity at all, or maybe just most, times

New power market design without capacity mechanism in ministry plans | Clean Energy Wire
The German energy ministry has opted for a reformed energy only market (EOM), in which back-up power stations are financed through sharp peaks in power prices. Utilities insisted that a decision on the market's design - either an energy only market or their preference, a capacity market - was still open, saying they needed to be paid for keeping capacity available in the absence of power from renewable sources.
The government has rejected the idea of financial support for fossil-fuel power plants to back up fluctuating power from renewables, a leaked document agreed by the energy ministry and Angela Merkel's chancellery shows. In the paper seen by the Clean Energy Wire, the government argued it was convinced its plan without a capacity market would "guarantee a high level of supply security at low cost."
Reforming the power market is one of the next big steps in the country’s transition to a low-carbon economy, the so-called Energiewende...
continue reading at Clean Energy Wire.

The article notes that in an Energy Only Market. "Supply for peak demand should be secured by letting investors in back-up power stations make very high profits in times of scarcity." I'll opine this is a theoretical belief (I suspect the odd rolling blackout would be preferred), but it is the theory, and the place it's most pursued is probably Texas, where the maximum market price is being raised towards $10000/megawatt-hour.

Handelsblatt has a subscriber-only article on the topic titled, Gabriel Pulls Plug on Utility Bailout.

So the first storyline is that there will be no capacity market - because paying for capacity would just be propping up old utilities and their fossil fuel generating stations.

The other storyline is that Germany will be putting out calls for capacity

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ontario's outlaw Premier "will will discover that there is no juice to be squeezed from Hydro One"

Tom Adams and Mike Hilson have a column in the Financial Post today which cites one of my works.

Ontario’s Outlaw Premier Plots to plunder Hydro One is the work of mine that is cited in today's column. It's on my Wordpress site, which I'm using increasingly for posts I want to start and finish in the same sitting, perhaps leading to more analysis on my main Cold Air blog. In this instance you may want to read the post as background for the work by Adams and Hilson - theirs is the broader piece I'd hoped to have written on the topic.

Actually, that should be topics.

No windfall in selling off part of Hydro One notes multiple financial issues, including:
Even if the legislation was silent on the disposition of sale of Hydro One assets or if that legislation was repealed, the taxpayers would still be on the hook for all of OEFC’s liabilities.
Today, the book value of Hydro One is included as a financial asset in the government accounts. Any dilution of this interest would decrease the value of the investment. To avoid increasing the Province’s net debt, the proceeds of any sale would have to discharge existing debt. Only any premium over book value could be claimed as a gain, but the prospects for such a premium don’t look promising.
Similar questions arise with respect to Hydro One’s regulatory assets. Former teacher’s pension fund manager Jim Leech in his August report found the pension to be under water but all that is treated as an asset to be recovered in future rate increases. With power demand already retreating in the face of punishing rates, how solid are assumptions about future regulatory decisions to recover costs incurred to date but left for later recovery?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

OPG's strong 2014 results: aka how I made OPG $243 million

OPG's final 2014 results have been released and the net income they are reporting is, if my records are correct, the highest since 1998
[Toronto]: – Ontario Power Generation Inc. (OPG or Company) today reported income of $568 million, before extraordinary gain, for 2014 compared to $135 million for 2013. Net income, after extraordinary gain, for 2014 was $811 million, compared to $135 million in 2013.
Let me tell you about extraordinary items.
but first...

There are new business segments for contracted generation (biomass, hydro and gas partnerships) and eliminated business segments (thermal, or fossil fuels, and non-regulated hydro).

I've flipped through OPG's 2014 MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS and spotted some things of interest to me, relevant to many things I've written.

There's news in OPG's reporting that, I'll just put out there, maybe I should get a nice cheque for.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Big Think's response to anti-nuclear emoters' attack

Self-identified environmentalists went to Madison Avenue and got a slick campaign against nuclear energy.
Today David Ropeik wrote about it.

Naive Anti-Nuclear Videos Demonstrate the Danger of Thinking with Our Hearts, Not Our Brains | Big Think:
Five environmental groups have just released a series of videos attacking nuclear power that demonstrate a disturbing and frightening truth, a truth that has nothing to do with nuclear energy. The videos make depressingly clear that our intellectual ability to think carefully and objectively about the enormous and complex threats we face is hogtied by powerful subconscious instincts that produce perceptions based far more on emotion than reason. The videos are a stark reminder that for all the rational firepower of the human brain, the subjective and instinctive aspects of human cognition pose serious limitations on our ability to figure out how to keep ourselves safe 
The videos were produced in part by more strident, absolutist environmental groups, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and the Sierra Club. These groups all advocate action to combat climate change, of course, including clean energy. But to them, nuclear power remains a technological bogeyman that any true back-to-nature environmentalist is simply expected to oppose. Opposition to nuclear energy remains an established belief of the tribe, to be unquestioningly accepted and supported as a demonstration of one’s loyalty to environmentalist values. Which is why a good many greens will cheer these videos, and uncritically accept what they say as true. 
This instinct, to see the evidence the way our groups do, is ancient and powerful. We have evolved, as social animals, to depend on our tribes, the groups we identify with, for our very health and safety. It feels safe to go with what the group says, rather than think independently and take the risk of disagreeing with the group’s belief. That instinct for tribal loyalty may help us feel safe, but as these videos demonstrate, it can badly warp how we see the facts, and overwhelm our ability to keep an open mind and think about things carefully and objectively.
Read the entire work at Big Think.

This work (Ropeik is at Harvard) is not dissimilar to work I noted yesterday by Dan Kahan (Yale).