Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Dylan and the law and electricity and carbon pricing - in Ontario

Today Ontario is announcing its carbon pricing scheme.
Newspapers are writing on it.
Natural gas utilities have some relevant numbers on it.

Also, there is a new report out on electricity in Ontario from Energy Probe and the Consumer Policy Institute, and another from the C.D. Howe Institute.

I want to note the error being broadcast about Ontario protecting electricity consumers from price exempts in effectively exempting the sector from paying for CO2 emissions, and I want to write on less specific issues with Ontario's electricity sector culture.

Two days ago the New York Times wrote on the Supreme Court and Bob Dylan, featuring in the article:
“‘When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.’ Bob Dylan, Like a Rolling Stone, on Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia Records 1965).”
 The quote was introduced on the topic of "standing" - but it's relevant to Ontario's low emissions electricity sector too. Here's how Union Gas presented the impact of a $100/tonne carbon price:

Ontario's electricity sector doesn't emit much CO2, so there would be little lost in charging for what there is.

$42/year at $100/tonne said Union Gas - in 2025. Many Ontarians, using electricity for heat, will see increases of more than $42 in February 2016 over February 2015.

Keeping in mind $100/tonne would cost $42/year, and that's a dreamy /tCO2e figure given all current price schemes world-wide, here's how the Globe and Mail's Shawn McCarthy reported on news the electricity sector would be excluded:
The electricity sector will also be covered, though its allowances will be free and it will not face a declining cap in recognition of the huge costs to consumers from previous emissions-reduction policies.   -see addendum at bottom for clarification/correction
Not to imply Mr. McCarthy is responsible for misleading people, he's just sucked in on the disinformation campaign of Ontario's Premier. From Global news:
[Premier Kathleen Wynne] revealed economic impacts Wednesday, a day before her government introduces its budget, which is expected to include more details about carbon pricing.
However, revenue from the cap-and-trade auction set for next year will be used to “protect” consumers from an electricity rate hike and could even lead to rates going down, Wynne said.
All total nonsense, but the issues seem too confusing for the broad public.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Toronto is a nuclear city - and a media centre

While the Toronto Star was beating up on the National Post, and vice versa, the Globe and Mail's Marcus Gee wrote Like it or not, Toronto is a nuclear city. Gee's column is that rare write in Toronto that gets facts right.

Such as:
Wind, solar and bioenergy still account for just 9 per cent of Ontario’s electricity output despite the provincial government’s bungled, vastly expensive effort to promote them.
I hope all read Like it or not, Toronto is a nuclear city, but the rest of this column is going to be about media in Toronto's steady production of poorly researched material - just using the 9 % figure.

To start... here's a graphic from a segment of The Agenda with Steve Paikin interviewing newcomer head of Ontario Power Generation Jeffrey Lyash:

I happened to enjoy this interview, but I've been critical of Steve Paikin in the recent past and the graphic shows why. The graphic says, "Source: Ontario Energy Report, July-September 2015" - but that wouldn't be notable on the television during the program. The website does currently show prominently, on its home page, these percentages for 2015's third quarter "Transmission Grid-Connected Generation Output" - which is only a subset of "Ontario's Electricity Supply", and only for the quarter of the year when industrial wind turbines are least productive. If The Agenda's researchers went a step further, to the full supply report linked to following the percentages., they's have found the source table for the full year's data (2015), where wind was 5.8% of the annual "Transmission Grid-Connected Generation Output" subset, and solar and biofuel another 0.5%.

That one step further is how far the Toronto Star's assembled team went in January while assembling Q & A for Ontario’s hydro system.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Too much, or not too much

Too much, or not too much, that is a question for electricity system operators leading to other question

2 stories on electricity generation capacity, both from February 11th:
NY faces power shortage, but not enough to save FitzPatrick nuclear plant
SCRIBA, N.Y. – New York power grid operators say there will be a 325-megawatt shortage of generating capacity after theFitzPatrick nuclear plant and seven other major power plants close. But the report offers no grounds for state regulators to require FitzPatrick to stay open.
Instead, the New York Independent System Operator announced it will solicit proposals for projects to fill the anticipated 325-megawatt gap. Solutions could include new power plants, transmission upgrades or demand reduction programs. The new capacity needs to be in place by 2019, the NYISO said in a report released today.
SO-NE Capacity Auction Secures Sufficient Power System Resources, At a Lower Price, for Grid Reliability in 2019-2020:
Holyoke, MA—February 11, 2016—New England’s annual capacity auction concluded Monday with sufficient resources to meet demand in 2019-2020, at a lower price, and with more than 1,400 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity that will help replace recently retired and retiring generators. The auction is run by ISO New England Inc. to procure the resources that will be needed to meet projected demand three years in the future.
... “Developers were drawn to the New England marketplace because the price of capacity supports construction of new resources,” continued van Welie. “It’s important to have a capacity market that places an appropriate value on the product to maintain an adequate supply. This auction procured the resources needed to keep the lights on in New England at a price lower than last year’s auction and, in fact, lower than the estimated cost of building a new power plant. More than 850 megawatts of new generating capacity cleared in the Greater Boston, Southeast Massachusetts and Rhode Island zone where the resources are needed most.”
1,450 MW of imports from New York and Canada
•The auction closed for resources within New England after four rounds of competitive bidding at $7.03/kWmonth, at the point on the demand curve where there were still sufficient resources to meet demand. The clearing price will be paid to all resources in both capacity zones in the region. [Clarification] Imports from Quebec over Phase II and Highgate also cleared at $7.03/kW-month.
• The auction continued for a fifth round for 181 MW of New Brunswick imports, which will receive $4.00/kWmonth. New York imports totaling 1,044 MW, which cleared in the fourth round, will receive a price of $6.26/kW-month.
sooo... 72% of the “1,450 MW of imports from New York and Canada” were bid in from New York, at a price I believe is about 1/2 the non-fuel cost of a simple cycle gas generation plant - and is clearly less than other capacity resources bid into the New England market - yet New York state is looking around for resources for the same period.

How is Ontario not in this game?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The imperceptible impact of carbon pricing

The editorial board of the New York Times has declared Proof That a Price on Carbon Works:
Lawmakers who oppose taking action to lower greenhouse gas emissions by putting a price on carbon often argue that doing so would hurt businesses and consumers. But the energy policies adopted by some American states and Canadian provinces demonstrate that those arguments are simply unfounded.
Around the world, nearly 40 nations, including the 28-member European Union, and many smaller jurisdictions are engaged in some form of carbon pricing. In this hemisphere, British Columbia, Quebec, California and nine Northeastern states have raised the cost of burning fossil fuels without damaging the economy. Alberta, Canada’s biggest oil and gas producer, and Ontario have said they will adopt similar policies.
...British Columbia, which is home to 4.7 million people, has placed the highest price on emissions in North America, taxing a ton of carbon emitted at 30 Canadian dollars, or about $21. By comparison, emission permits in California and Quebec are trading at about $13 a ton. And permits sold for $7.50 a ton in a December auction in the Northeastern trading system known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. That system covers emissions from power plants in nine states that include Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts.
These actions deserve applause. But their real value may lie in providing a template for the rest of the world.
The New York Times editorial board is, with one exception, citing actions that have not taken place yet as evidence contrary arguments "are simply unfounded." Is there a topic outside of global warming/greenhouse gas emissions that inspires such intellectual laziness? [1]

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Cuomo's trouble-standards

“Getting the facts and understanding them are critically important to serving the public interest...False hysteria is not.” - Rob Astorino

The widely reported big news in the U.S.A. yesterday, as the Supreme Court decided to put the Clean Power Plan on hold until it decides on the legalities (reports from Reuters and AP).
I don't think that's particularly big news because I'm neither a fan of the plan nor confident it will survive the political regime change coming before implementation dates hit.

A couple of things I do find interesting are motivations to clean the electricity generating sector, and anti-nuclear hysteria.

While Cuomo was "deeply concerned" about the leak at Indian Point, he seemed more concerned about untoward panic among residents at Hoosick Falls, despite the fact that the water in Hoosick Falls has been poisoned, and the water near Indian Point is safe to consume.

It already has been verified that the water in Hoosick Falls exceeds federal pollution standards, by at least four or five times what the Environmental Protection Agency has said is safe for humans to consume. What’s more, the toxic chemical PFOA is definitely in the water of Hoosick Falls and the people there have likely been drinking it for years, possibly generations. PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, has been linked to unusual cancers and other life-threatening conditions, and medical professionals in town have documented high rates of cancers. 
The state waited months to take significant action in Hoosick Falls, and assured residents as recently as December that the water was safe to drink. The state Department of Health, along with the village’s elected leaders, have been widely criticized by residents as well as some lawmakers, who are now considering holding legislative hearings on the state's actions in Hoosick Falls.

And though the radioactivity levels in the water near Indian Point spiked upwards in recent weeks, it is still 1,000 times below federal limits. The wells that tested positive for elevated levels of radium (in one case it was a 65,000 percent increase) are designed for monitoring and not human consumption. The tritium, a naturally occuring radioactive isotope, found in the water at Indian Point will likely never reach a source of drinking water.
Read Scott Waldman's full report at POLITICO New York.

The report includes news New York Governor Cuomo the 2nd has already approved one fossil fueled generator to replace and Indian Point nuclear and a second one is moving through planning.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Sierra Club cuddles up to coal

Some people never learn.

How does one of the country’s biggest environmental groups decide to partner with one of the country's biggest coal-burning utilities?
That isn't the question people familiar with the Sierra Club's history would ask. From a Time report
...between 2007 and 2010 the Sierra Club accepted over $25 million in donations from the gas industry, mostly from Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy—one of the biggest gas drilling companies in the U.S. and a firm heavily involved in fracking—to help fund the Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.
How do they decide to partner up?

Money, I presume.

not professional

"20 years of schoolin' and they put you on the day shift" - Bob Dylan

Perhaps the ability to tolerate decades of formal education is the only thing a professional title indicates.

Recent stories that caught my attention include the heaving of the Nipigon River Bridge, the disinterest in recognizing management failures at Toronto Hydro, the intimidating behavior of the Attorney General of Vermont, the disinterest in the parameters of responsibility of Ontario's new Environmental Commissioner, and just because that annoyed me I'll add one more instance of lazy green economics.

I first commented on the split in the new Nipigon River Bridge on Facebook when it occurred. If you're not familiar with it, a very snazzy bridge was built on the one road across Canada, but it now appears it wasn't built for a Canadian winter. In one news story we made the farcical part of South Parks "follow the only road" song the lyric indicating the road is "to code". I wrote on the bridge again this past weekend, inspired by a letter to an editor that seemed to be written by an engineer, but not signed as a professional engineer.

Broken Bridge: Caring isn’t competence
image from the CBC’s clear ascetics and a heavy weighting of environmental issues were significant contributors to the choice of a bridge design not tried in a similar environment in the past.
I think it’s equally clear that the concerns should be on the design, engineering standards and certification bodies, at least as equally as materials.
I find it particularly unsettling that Michael Hogan’s letter to the editor isn’t signed by Dr. Hogan (as it could be), with the professional engineer designation. It’s disconcerting if the letter writer is not an engineer, but it’s more disconcerting if engineers do not have a professional concern about engineers’ role in the failure of the only road allowing cross-country travel.

A professional engineer advised me part of becoming an engineer is swearing not to bad-mouth other engineers, which explains why the excellent letter to the editor wasn't signed, but could also explains why the search seems to be on for a scapegoat, more than a cause.

I understand the desire of the engineering body to handle things internally, but I think they need to figure out a better communication strategy - perhaps one including the announcement of a review.