Thursday, February 19, 2015

Information on renewables, ETS, markets and emissions

Some challenging reading if you're looking to lock yourself down until the deep freeze subsides:

Energy Policies of IEA Countries 2014Review European Union Executive Summary
...the EU carbon market did not stimulate investment in the decarbonisation of the power generation or other sectors and only contributed to a small extent to meeting GHG targets. In 2012, the power sector remained the largest emitter (38%) when comparing total EU CO2 emissions per sector.
image from IEA via @BSharpEnergy
Instead, national support policies and subsidies for energy efficiency and renewable energies have been driving decarbonisation. The IEA World Energy Outlook 2014 estimated the total value of subsidies to renewable energy in the European Union of around USD 70 billion or EUR 52 billion in 2013, which equals 57% of the global subsidies to renewable energy, with solar PV accounting for over USD 30 billion or EUR 22 billion, followed by wind with over USD 15 billion or EUR 11 billion. The support schemes had a strong impact on the wholesale electricity market, pushing down prices and reducing operating hours for conventional thermal plants. Together with changes in the relative international commodity prices, power generation moved towards coal, away from natural gas, amid changing economics of power plant dispatch.
The European Union saw a revival of coal use in power generation, at a time of cheap international coal prices and high EU natural gas prices, while gas-fired power plants are being mothballed in several countries. Since 2008, prices for natural gas increased, while coal and carbon prices turned out lower than expected. The growth of solar PV was much quicker than expected. Taken together, this has led to falling wholesale electricity prices, lower utilisation and low revenues from thermal plants, notably gas-fired power plants. At the same time, increasing deployment of supported renewable technologies continues to push up electricity retail prices, as support is charged to end users through green surcharges or taxes. As the examples illustrate, there has been a lack of integration of climate and energy policies at EU level and between EU and national energy policy decisions, which could not address the interplay and trade-offs between different targets and policy measures.
So programs to boost renewables were more effective than a cap-and-trade scheme but emissions weren't reduced anyway.

This is exactly the kind of talk why I suggest reading work from Lion Hirth - much of which can be accessed free at
This paragraph concludes Integration Costs Revisited An Economic Framework for Wind and Solar Variability, by Lion Hirth, Falko Uekerdt, Ottmar Edenhoffer:
In thermal systems with high VRE shares, the utilization effect amounts to more than half of all integration costs. Maybe this is the most important finding of this study: the largest integration cost component is the reduction of utilization of the capital embodied in the power system. Most previous integration cost studies have not touched upon this effect. VRE-rich power systems require flexible thermal plants, but even more so they require plants that are low in capital costs.
All of which reminds me of two other articles:

  1. from Ontario by Donald Jones written 4 1/2 years ago, IESO – Will Ontario’s wind turbine power plants reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
  2. from Boston Consultancy Germany’s Energiewende: The End of Power Market Liberalization?
The first details the challenges of integrating wind in a grid that was dominated by nuclear and, to a lesser extent hydro. Ontario's plans for nuclear capacity have dropped from 14000 to 10000 megawatts since 2007. In 2014 it hit its highest ever nuclear output and, I suspect, the lowest emissions from the electricity sector it will see for decades to come.
The second shows where forcing supply that devalues market forces is likely to push electricity systems.

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