Saturday, January 23, 2016

Eagles Win: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Gives Up Fight for 30-Year Take Permits

“The eagle-killing rule was a bad idea from the day it was proposed”

In Victory for Eagles, USFWS Gives Up Fight for 30-Year Take Permits:
Graphic from Ontario Wind Resistance page
Eagles just scored a big victory in the courts. This week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped an appeal it was pursuing in support of 30-year “take” permits that allow wind farms and other industries to disturb and kill Bald and Golden Eagles, as long as they take steps to protect the raptors. The appeal was part of a legal battle over the agency’s 2013 move to extend the length of these take permits’ validity by 25 years. 
The 2013 rule extended five-year take permits, administered under 2009’s Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, to a maximum length of 30 years with periodic check-ins. But in 2015 a federal judge sent the rule back to the drawing board, saying that the agency had not assessed the possible environmental impacts of extending the permit length as required by law. 
The government initially appealed this court decision, but now has dropped its appeal. While USFWS did not provide a reason why they were dropping the appeal, the extended permit period has been met with substantial criticism. When it was first introduced, the proposal was criticized for allowing companies to self-report deaths and giving too much leeway to harm birds.
Read the entire article at 

Somewhat related, I saw many accolades for a wonderful graphic developed at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Are electric cars and residential solar seriously green?

Some necessary cynicism about many things "green"

Ross McKitrick: The electric car is dead, executed by Al Gore and his environmental allies
As reported by Bloomberg news on Jan. 7, even as U.S. auto sales hit a record high in 2015, demand for electric vehicles fell by 17 per cent. Automakers are already taking losses on these vehicles, which they are forced to sell to comply with misguided government mandates. Despite the implicit subsidy, consumers can do the math and prefer the savings, convenience and reliability of ordinary gasoline-powered cars. 
So who engineered this calamity? I suggest (only a little tongue-in-cheek) that it was none other than Al Gore, along with his allies in the environmental movement. In the aftermath of Gore’s 2006 global warming doom-flick An Inconvenient Truth, and his massively-funded worldwide policy advocacy, governments around the world embraced renewables, especially wind and solar energy. Everywhere this has been tried, the result has been soaring electricity prices. You won’t get people into electric cars if they can’t afford to plug them in.
Read Ross McKitrick's entire column at the Financial Post.

Citing this cynicism is necessary as I live in Ontario: I've abandoned heating and cooking with electricity because it became far too punitive financially, and because there seems to be no foresight with electric vehicle proponents - specifically in terms of paying for the roads required for any vehicle to have utility.

From Georgia, U.S.A.,EV sales in Georgia plummet after tax credit repealed

Monday, January 18, 2016

A pure market's pricing problem

This story from Australia in interesting as it presents the challenge of a renewables heavy jurisdiction attempting to run a pure market - which necessitates generators that run infrequently recovering costs through very high rates when they do.

SA government in energy market crisis talks with industry, suppliers
The South Australian government is considering intervening in the National Electricity Market after its commitment to renewable energy has generated sharp spikes in power prices that threaten its economic development strategy.
South Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis called a crisis meeting of energy users and suppliers today to deal with sharp rises and falls in wholesale electricity prices that threaten the redevelopment of a Port Pirie lead and zinc smelter to make metals for solar panels and mobile phones, even with a $291 million government subsidy.
The volatility in wholesale prices – caused mostly by the state's reliance on wind power and the ability of coal and gas power stations to charge high prices when the wind drops – is creating havoc for industry in the state, which is one of the country's most economically depressed.
South Australia has endured several episodes of sharply rising electricity prices, and prices for ancillary or grid-stabilising services, since July, with prices soaring above $2000/MWh and at times hitting the $13,800/MWh market limit.
Read more: 

Most jurisdictions find ways to get industry preferential pricing. One that does, via it's EEG mechanism, is Germany. While Germany's Energiewende is often reported as a world leader in growing renewables, the reality could be it's leading in something entirely different:

Bloomberg reports:
...clean energy investment in Germany dropped to its lowest level in a decade with USD 10.6 bn invested.
German reduction in small-scale PV FiT has led to lower rooftop solar build out
“The slump was mainly driven by a drop in small-scale solar investment and utility-scale wind investment,” comments BNEF Associate, Luke Mills.
“Reduction in the small-scale solar feed-in tariff (FiT) has led to lower rooftop solar build out. This, along with decreasing equipment prices, has impacted the total amount invested.”
“For wind, the current wind FiT does not work well with the current space constraints in Germany as projects in less windy areas are not adequately supported. Repowering has become an important role in the German market, but it has not taken off quite the way everyone had hoped due to planning regulations and restrictions.”
That report might not be entirely correct on repowering. AGEB shows Germany's wind output up a spectacular 50% in 2015, the highest  annual increase since 2002. However, solar showed its slowest growth since AGEB starting reporting on it. Overall the Bloomberg tracking of Germany's annual investment is likely a good indicator that some economic analysis has continued following the German Council of Energy Experts flagging the excessive costs in their 2011 annual report.

In case I missed it, one report worth reading from recent months was J.P. Morgan's A Brave New World: Deep De-Carbonization of Electricity Grids.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Nuclear Ontario: Government approves Darlington refurbishment

“This morning when the sun rose, it brought with it a very good day. A good day for the residents of Clarington, for Pickering, a good day for the residents of Durham. As a matter of fact, a good day for all of Ontario with this announcement”
The quote is from Clarington Mayor Adrian Foster, of the host community for the Darlington nuclear generating station (NGS). 10,500

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) had already laid out many of the cost aspects in its financial reporting, and the big surprise on the day was probably re the other OPG nuclear generating station.

Ontario is moving forward with nuclear refurbishment at Darlington Generating Station, securing 3,500 megawatts of affordable, reliable, and emission free power.
Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is on track to begin refurbishment of the first unit at Darlington in October 2016. To best protect Ontario ratepayers and ensure OPG delivers refurbishment on-time and on-budget, the government has established off-ramps that require OPG to obtain government approval prior to proceeding with each of the remaining unit refurbishments. The budget for the project is $12.8 billion, about $1.2 billion less than originally projected by OPG, and all four units are scheduled for completion by 2026. 
The Province has also approved OPG's plan to pursue continued operation of the Pickering Generating Station beyond 2020 up to 2024
The average cost of power from Darlington nuclear units post-refurbishment is estimated to range between $72/MWh and $81 MWh, or 7 and 8 cents per kilowatt hour.
The Pickering NGS news took me a little by surprise. OPG's news release added detail:
OPG will work with the Ministry of Energy, the Independent Electricity System Operator and the [Ontario Energy Board] to pursue continued operation of the Pickering Station to 2024. All six units would operate until 2022; two units would then shut down and four units would operate to 2024. Extending Pickering’s operation would ensure a reliable, clean source of base load electricity during the Darlington and initial Bruce refurbishments.
The Bruce NGS refurbishment was announced a little over a month ago.
Bruce and Darlington NGS have a combined capacity of ~10,500 megawatts, and complete refurbishments of both locations would allow nuclear to remain the dominant form of generation in the province for another 4 decades.