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:

The amount of intermittent generation connected to the grid is expected to increase significantly over the next couple of decades. This, alongside significant changes to the generation portfolio, is likely to have significant impact on the role and operation of all generation plant. There is likely to be an increased demand for ancillary services such as reserve, response and inertia whilst traditional providers retire from the market place. The project examined the entire market for ancillary services including the need to maintain firm capacity to provide security.
The following graphic, from the report, shows different scenarios for Great Britain to get to 40% low carbon generation. ZCF is "zero carbon firm", which is likely nuclear (which I'll refer to it as) but could be gas with carbon capture in the report, and presumably hydro elsewhere. CCGT is combined cycle gas turbine.

The graphic essentially shows 16 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear would bring emissions down to the same level as 98 GW coming from the combination of wind and solar - and the wind and solar route would also mean an additional 16 GW of gas. 
Essentially, all the wind and solar added simply reduce the efficiency of the entire generating fleet.

The lowest emission options (50 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour generated) are:
  • 170 GW of renewables (wind and solar) and 30 GW of 48 hour storage (pending invention), or
  • 36 GW of nuclear and 6 GW of 24 hours storage.

The report didn't comment on transmission and distribution issues, so I don't know that they accounted for the line losses expected to be much higher if curtailment is to be minimized.

On a negative note, I have little faith in the monetary calculations of the report -but it's certainly worth a read.
One more note before moving on. The slide deck from the writers of this report (the Energy Research Project) grabbed my attention with this answer to "Could UK Have it's Own EnergieWende?"
The same as Germany’s– no – GB & German systems and objectives are chalk and cheese
I hear it's an old saying, but I've only read it twice - the previous time in a great article I suspect was written by the astute Bruce Sharp in 2011. I'm not accusing anybody of anything of course, just say'n...Wind and Nuclear Power: As Different as Chalk and Cheese

The Ontario Energy Board was on my radar a week ago as it released a 2015 Natural Gas Market Review. Two points I'll quote here:

  • the ‘Base Case’ average annual Dawn price is still forecast to rise over the next few years, but more slowly than previously expected, to $3.72/MMBtu in 2021...
  • Gas-fired electric power generation will be a key factor determining the rate of increase in overall Ontario gas consumption beyond 2020.
Zero carbon electricity will have a big financial penalty with natural gas at those prices, particularly the intermittent wind and solar kind, which only have a value when they displace this cheap gas.

The Ontario Energy Board ended the week announcing the May rates for Regulated Price Plans.
Higher as usual - actually almost exactly as much higher, on an annual basis, as has been the average for the past 8 years (9.2%). I wrote on the OEB's late-week releases in Ontario Regulator ups electricity rates for May.

On social media, the links I referenced that garnered the most attention were those rallying opposition to Premier Wynne's industrial wind actions - both because of the disrespect the Premier demonstrated for local residents in the latest contracting, and because people think her support is being bought.

"We are tired of playing by the faulty rules.
We are tired of seeing laws abused, ignored and changed at the whim of the government.
We are tired of losing our municipal democratic rights.
We are tired of losing rights to the use of and the pleasure of our own property.
We are tired of seeing our personal and community economies lost.
We are tired of being pawns, feeling we are in a feudal system or USSR."
In Politics and Money, from the fine independent local paper in that county:
 When she was running for her party’s leadership four years ago, Kathleen Wynne was the only candidate, of the seven running for the job, who understood the issues at stake at Ostrander Point. Four candidates flat-out refused to answer my questions, three offered prepared generic statements about how renewable energy was critical to Ontario’s future. Kathleen Wynne called me back.
She knew there were real concerns about the im...pact of industrial wind turbines and the health and well-being of those living nearby. She knew the issues raised by conservation groups about the threat these machines posed to the natural life in and around Ostrander Point. She said municipal leaders needed to play a greater role in the development of renewable energy in their communities.
She knew.

It isn’t hypocrisy, however, tripping up Kathleen Wynne before us now. It is old-fashioned corruption doing that."
My Facebook post with the most reach this week was a link to Bloomberg's Subpoenaed Into Silence on Global Warming - demonstrating the broad feeling that the established are abusing their position, and legal process.

I did my part to rouse the rabble with bad wiring: renewables in Ontario - and I've got some things on the go intended to further incite disdain for Wynne's wind policies - and her enablers (in IESO lost: LRP too bad)
And solar, which is such a well hidden cost in the province I wrote on it again in The hidden continuity in Ontario Electricity Demand.

I noted a BBC article on wind and birds: Wind farm construction 'cuts golden plover numbers by 80%', which should be connected to industrial wind turbines in Ontario, but is unlikely to be due to the corporate and political culture.

George Monbiot wrote something and tweeted, ""I think it's the best article I've written." That alone makes  Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems.

If you didn't catch David MacKay's communications during his life, I'll end this post with video embedded in Mark Lynas' wonderful column.

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