Friday, April 29, 2016

Groundhog day in Ontario

The Globe and Mail was our paper of record this past week.

Adrian Morrow got the news out on a grandiose plan being hatched by the mind, such as it is, of Glenn Murray, the latest wrecking ball unleashed on the province of Ontario by the voters of Toronto Centre.

Morrow's initial article is here; the follow-up here, and some words from me on the two here.

Globe columnist Jeffrey Simpson had an outstanding column, Why a carbon tax is better than cap-and-trade, but it is behind the paywall. In the column Simpson wrote:
[government] keeps and spends it to encourage or subsidize activities that will reduce emissions. Fundamentally, governments that adopt this approach think they can do a better job than the market in driving change.
They prefer a cap-and-trade system among companies, rather than a carbon tax, because the carbon price is hidden, as opposed to being evident at the pump. Of course, consumers will eventually pay as companies pass along the costs of the cap-and-trade system, but consumers won’t find it easy to trace the price increase, which suits politicians.
In the emerging outlines of what the “spend the money” provinces have in mind, the shape of future troubles can be seen. For example, governments of all stripes, when given a large source of new revenue, will inevitably allow partisan considerations to influence how it’s spent. Ministers will listen to entreaties from their caucus, each member of which will want money spent locally. They will also want to spread the spending around geographically.

If the cartoon fits...

Sunday, April 24, 2016

David Keith on cheap solar - and other notable stories of the past week

I suspect this will be the hot energy post of the coming days.
An "only Nixon can go to China" moment could come from Keith's Cheap Solar Power: can now build systems in the world’s sunny locations and get very cheap power.  
What does this mean? 
Implication #1: In sunny places, solar will reshape commodity power markets.
  • Power prices will have a mid-day low. This is already happening in California, where it’s called the “duck curve.” It will soon be the norm in other high-sun demand centers, and the changing power price structure will shake utilities and industrial customers.
  • Wind suddenly looks less interesting. The capacity factors, global build rate, and costs for wind power have been nearly flat for five years.
  • Nuclear and CCS will have a harder time competing. For example, there are nuclear builds in the middle-east (e.g., UAE building Korean reactors), but with cheap solar it will be hard to compete against solar with gas backup.
  • Gas for load following and low-capex peaking looks ever more important. 
Implication #2: There will be opportunities to bring electrical demand to where power is cheap. 
One option is look for products that have very high energy cost and are easily transportable, and build solar farms and production together in high-insolation sites.
Four options are aluminum, ammonia, desalination, and transportation fuels.
Read the entire post at The Keith Group

Not sure northern, nighttime demand peak climates should rejoice over the implication power intensive industry should look for sunnier climates.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Wolfe Island turbines impact property value

In the summer of 2014, area Realtors told the Times that the value of waterfront homes in Cape Vincent slid steeply over the previous five years because of the eyesore of the Wolfe Island Wind Farm
The Watertown daily news has a story that I need to write about, having followed some other events on property values and Wolfe Island wind turbines in the past.
The study’s prediction model was developed by evaluating the impact of the 86-turbine Wolfe Island Wind Farm in Ontario, Canada, on property values in the town of Cape Vincent...
Researchers collected data on the sale of 5,631 residential parcels in Jefferson County from 2009 — when the Wolfe Island wind project became operational — through 2013. That, which served as a baseline, was then compared with 26 residential parcels with a view of turbines that were sold over the same period in Cape Vincent within a five-mile radius of the island. Clarkson students verified that all of those parcels had a view of one or more turbines, said Dr. Martin D. Heintzelman, associate professor of economics and financial studies at Clarkson’s School of Business.
“We compared the 26 transactions to the 5,000 and looked for changes in price across the data,” said Dr. Heintzelman, who led the property value analysis.
The study found that on average, Cape Vincent homes with a view of turbines sold for 15 percent less than homes without a view over the period...
Clear enough.

Now, let's hop in our little Ontario clown boat and sail over to Premier Wynne's Ontario, and the treatment of property values on the very same Wolfe Island.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Loss and legacy: the week that was

Sad news this past week as David MacKay died.
Mark Lynas provided a moving tribute in What David MacKay taught me, and taught us all
David MacKay had more personal and professional integrity than anyone I have ever known – and yet somehow he managed to combine it with a warmth that underlay everything he did. (I was privileged to attend his celebratory Symposium in Cambridge just a month ago – I don’t think I have ever been in a scientific meeting with so much love in the room.) He wore his super-intelligence – people use the word ‘genius’ rarely these days, but I’ve heard it used for David a number of times – lightly, and always interacted with humility and an enduring sense of fun.
David had a strong moral compass and sense of justice – his work was fundamentally driven by a desire to make a difference, and to help solve real problems, even intractably huge problems like climate change. His massive contribution was bring numeracy to a debate obscured by mudslinging and ideologically-motivated rhetoric (both of which I’m as guilty of as anyone). It was characteristic of this desire to see real change that he accepted the immense challenge of taking on the role of Chief Scientific Advisor at the UK government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, rather than staying in the ‘ivory tower’ of Cambridge, after the enormous success of his epochal book Sustainable Energy, without the hot air."
The 2050 Energy Calculator continues to have a home a the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change, where MacKay first developed it, and calculators have been replicated for many countries around the world.

It took me a while to get to Managing Flexibility Whilst Decarbonising the [Great Britain] Electricity System. It's as good a segue into other recent items I can come up with. (page, full report, slide deck). I want to hit a couple of points here that may alienate newcomers to the topic of generation supply mixes and emissions, so best I quote the background provided by the report's writers:

Friday, April 8, 2016

Blogs, solar, beef and social media

I used to blog here frequently.

I'm going to post some content tonight, but first I want to explain the lack of productivity on this blog which will also put this blog in the context of all the web avenues I am now communicating on.

When I started Cold Air Currents it was to post articles of interest that I didn't write. One early example of content was Donald Jones' More wind means more risk to the Ontario Electricity Grid. This proved to be a step on the path to the Donald Jones Articles site. Other prominent examples of posts that I did not write are Parker Gallant articles on the financing of MaRS Discovery District, which seemed out of place but needed a home - 2 years prior to the news entering the popular press.

As I became more knowledgeable on energy and tangentially related issues, I tried to add context to the articles I was citing here. This sometimes made it difficult to choose posting on my original Cold Air content blog, or this site.

Citations, without adding context, I have been actively doing on Twitter for some time, and more frequently on Facebook. For many, social media replaces blogging, but I find the experiences very different. Both Facebook and Twitter are social - which it took me quite some time to figure out.  On Facebook my crowd is probably more the anti-wind tribe, and on Twitter likely a little more pro-nuclear. A lot of what interests me doesn't necessarily fit those crowds, but often I don't have the time, or inclination, to put things in the context my tribes already know.

Which brings me to my latest use of social media - the little used Google Plus. I've started to use it as I first used this blog - to hold articles of interest that may end up on this site once I have time to collect a few related articles and create a context/narrative to present them together. If you followed this blog in the hopes of spotting interesting articles, and not for my insights into them, those are most likely to pop up on Twitter amidst a bunch of banter with others, and on Google Plus relatively uncluttered.

Relatively because I have other blogs, and new platforms.

One blog platform I find halfway between blogging and social media is tumblr - which I find particularly easy to create for from my laptop. It could be me ranting, or it could be one graph I've created I think deserves a quick commentary.

I was advised some time ago, to a person near and dear to me, that I am not funny on my blogs - but assured I am a funny guy. I said that was because I have a mean sense of humour and that would detract from my messaging - the unimpressed response was "yeah, well, you're not funny online." So I created a Wordpress blog to stay familiar with that platform (which is more social than Blogger, and the one I recommend for those entering the online content creation world). It is where I intend to be edgier. Having said that, a lot of my best original work has probably been there, on topics I felt hesitant to bring to the Cold Air site that is now associated with "energy blogging" distinct with a heavy data analysis emphasis.

That's most of what I do. If you care to keep track, I always hope I'll do more with but it now exists and points to all these different vehicles.

On to some of the topics in articles I pasted into Google Plus recently...