Blowout Week 147

This week we return to the South Australian blackout. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) second update on the cause of the state-wide blackout is now out, and it leaves no doubt that SA’s wind farms at least contributed. Opinions as to what the implications are, however, vary:

Reneweconomy: Storm of controversy erupts over AEMO blackout report

In its second update, AEMO has pointed the finger at settings on certain wind farms and fossil fuel generators in the events immediately before and after the state-wide outage last month.

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How much more electricity do we need to go to 100% electric vehicles?

As reported in Blowout week 146 the EU is drafting legislation to mandate the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in new homes while Germany and the Netherlands are considering legislation requiring that all cars and light vehicles sold after 2025 or 2030 must be 100% electric. None of this legislation has as yet been approved, but if it is how much extra electricity will be needed to power the millions of EVs involved, and how much will it cost? I’ve seen no numbers on this, so in this post I present some, starting with Germany, the Netherlands and the EU and adding a few more countries – and the world – as we go. Because of the uncertainties in the data and assumptions used the numbers should be considered as ball-park estimates only.

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Primary Energy in The European Union and USA Compared

A couple of weeks ago I had a post on USA Energy Independence Day. This post takes a look at the EU energy statistics and compares them with the USA.

The EU has a larger population and smaller land area than the USA resulting in a population density 3.6 times that of the USA. European citizens therefore have less land available to service the energy needs of its citizens. This combined with different approaches to energy policy has led to the EU now importing 55% of it energy needs while the USA imports only 10%. The USA is well on its way to energy independence. This could have foreign policy and defence implications where the UK and USA has divergent priorities to Europe.

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Blowout Week 146

This week’s Blowout focuses on electric vehicles. The Netherlands and Germany are presently considering legislation that will ban sales of fossil-fuel-fired cars and light vehicles after 2025 or 2030, and a draft EU directive mandates an electric charging point in every new home in Europe starting in 2019. “This kind of market stimulus is not just positive, it is mandatory if we want to see a massive rollout of electric vehicles in the near future,” said a Renault executive:

Guardian: EU wants an electric car charging point in every new home in Europe

Every new or refurbished house in Europe will need to be equipped with an electric vehicle recharging point, under a draft EU directive expected to come into effect by 2019. In a further boost to prospects for the electric car market in Europe, the regulations due to be published before the end of the year state that by 2023, 10% of parking spaces in new buildings in the EU zone will also need recharging facilities.

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A more detailed look at the California grid data

In the June “Renewable California” post I presented a brief analysis of California’s progress towards its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 based on annual generation data. Hourly grid data for the period between April 20, 2010 and March 9, 2016 are now available, and this post reviews them to see what they add. The conclusion is basically the same as before – that despite all the legislation that California has passed in an attempt to stimulate the growth of renewables the state has not progressed at all. The percentage of renewables in California’s energy mix is still about the same as it was in 2010 and the percentage of low-carbon generation in the mix has decreased slightly. The California “Duck Curve” also remains a matter of concern.

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Aerodynamic Lift – something for nothing?

Readers may have noticed that I have been largely absent from these pages for a few weeks. That is because I’ve been doing a consulting job for KiteGen assisting with a presentation to be made to the CleanTech investor summit in Rotterdam in November (see disclaimer at end). In the course of doing this work certain things came to light that explains the power generated by kites, flight reliability and the move away from fabric to composite materials. I kick off with an amazing movie of a kite powered trimaran / hydrofoil (below the fold).

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Blowout Week 145

This week’s Blowout returns to the convoluted machinations of OPEC, whose recent decision to think about cutting production by up to 700,000 barrels/day has breathed new life into the US shale industry. The law of unintended consequences in action:

Oil Price:  OPEC Deal Triggers Hedging Race In U.S. Shale

Shale oil drillers in the U.S. are hedging their portfolio at breakneck speeds, using the rise in prices to actively hedge their production for 2017, according to banks and consultants, reports Bloomberg. Unfortunately, this may not augur well for OPEC.

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USA Energy Independence Day

It has been 3 years since I last looked at US energy statistics and a recent conversation has prompted me to revisit the topic. Is the USA close to energy independence? The answer is surprisingly yes! In 2007 the USA imported 708 Mtoe (million tonnes oil equivalent) of energy, mainly crude oil. In 2015, that had fallen to 234 Mtoe. The rate of decline is 59.25 Mtoe per annum and if the trend continues the USA will be energy independent in 4 years. It is to be anticipated that the oil price crash will impact oil production in 2016 and 2017 but I wouldn’t bet against the US becoming energy independent in the early years of the next decade.

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El Hierro September 2016 performance update

During September the hybrid wind-hydro Gorona del Viento (GdV) plant achieved 58.2% renewables generation, comparable to the 55.6% achieved in August and far higher than the 19.9% achieved in September 2015. This was largely a result of the fact that the wind didn’t die early in the month as it did in September 2015. Total renewables generation since full operations began at GdV on June 27, 2015 is now 40.1%, up from 38.7% at the end of August. Data on GdV plant layout, operation and capacities are given in the September 2015 review. Previous posts on GdV are accessible through the El Hierro portal.

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Blowout Week 144

This week’s Blowout features a blackout, specifically the long-anticipated outage that plunged South Australia into darkness last week. But it was caused by strong winds that took down transmission lines, not by too much wind power on the grid. Or was it?

Stuff:  Storm knocks out power to entire state of South Australia

Much of South Australia is still without power after the entire state was knocked off the grid by an extreme weather system that severed much of its power supply.

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Does carbon capture & storage have a future in the UK?

As noted in Blowout Week 142 a UK Parliamentary Advisory Group (PAG) recently published a report in which it claimed that carbon capture and storage was “critical” if the UK is to meet its CO2 emissions targets. The PAG is correct in so far as something needs to be done, but whether CCS is it is open to question. Accordingly, this post addresses the subject of whether CCS offers potential for emissions reductions on the necessary scale in the UK and concludes, as others have concluded before, that it doesn’t.

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Imagining Fusion Power

Guest post by Robert L. Hirsch, Ph.D. Senior Energy Advisor, Management Information Services, Inc.

Imagine you’re an electric utility executive with a strong background in a range of electric power generation technologies. As such, you understand the strengths and weaknesses of the various options, and you have some “scars” from dealing with the challenges associated with nuclear power. Like many in your industry, you hope for a new electric generation technology that will make life better for your company and your customers. Hope springs eternal!

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Blowout Week 143

This week’s Blowout features the UK government’s plan to install 53 million smart meters in UK households and businesses by 2020. The government believes that this will lead to a net saving of £17bn, but others remain unconvinced and are calling for an urgent review of the plan:

Energy Live News:  Business group urges UK government to review smart meter programme

A UK business group has called on the government for an “urgent review” of its £11 billion smart meter programme. The Institute of Directors (IoD) believe the scheme is expensive as the technology is “unnecessarily complex”.

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Emissions reductions and world energy demand growth

A major obstacle to cutting global CO2 emissions is growth in world energy demand. In this post I examine world energy growth projections from a number of different sources and compare them with the growth trends that will be necessary to meet emissions reductions goals. It goes without saying that there is an enormous gulf between the two. This leaves the world with a stark choice – cut fossil fuel consumption by 80% by 2050 or suffer the consequences of global warming, whatever they may be.

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Atmospheric carbon dioxide – a tale of two timescales

Guest Post by David Ellard

Executive Summary

One of the most controversial topics in understanding the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the question of timescales – the effect of the build-up depends not only on the amounts being released by human(-related) activities but also on how long the gas stays in the atmosphere.

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Blowout Week 142

Usually I have to think for a bit before selecting a lead article for Blowout. But this week the lead article pretty much selects itself – and there are no prizes for guessing what it is:

Mail:   Hinkley Point nuclear power plant FINALLY gets green light

Theresa May has finally given the go-ahead for the controversial Hinkley Point nuclear power plant despite fears over Chinese control and huge long-term costs. The government announced its approval for the £18billion project after securing tweaks to the agreement. There will also be ‘significant new safeguards’ on future foreign investment in nuclear power.

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Solar PV capacity factors in the US – the EIA data

A post I wrote a little over two years ago concluded that solar PV capacity factors in the US ranged between 13% and 19% with an average of around 16%. Recently, however, the US Energy Information Agency published a table showing an average capacity factor of around 28% for utility-sized PV plants in the US in 2015. This post looks into the reasons for this large difference and also addresses the question of whether the EIA estimates can be used to predict future US solar PV output.
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The Age and Future Size of the Global Nuclear Fleet

This is the last in my mini-series on global nuclear power. There are 441 reactors operational world wide today with an average age of 29.3 years. The current fleet is ageing. The oldest reactors in service today are 47 years old. By assuming that reactors will close aged 50 and by making simple assumptions about the commissioning of reactors under construction and those planned I estimate that come 2036 the fleet will comprise 424 units. The number is slightly down on today but the increase in mean power rating suggests that installed capacity will increase by about 25%.

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Blowout Week 141

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization claims that global warming is having negative impacts on world food production, and since 2016 is widely expected to be the hottest year yet we would expect to see at least some evidence of this in 2016 crop yields. This week’s Blowout therefore takes pleasure in featuring the world’s bumper 2016 wheat harvest, which was largely a result of “benign weather” in most of the major wheat-producing countries:

Financial Times:  Wheat price falls to lowest level in a decade

The price of wheat has crashed to the lowest level in a decade as huge harvests pile up in big growers from Russia to the US, cutting the cost of staple foods around the world. Extensive planting and benign weather have forced analysts to repeatedly raise crop outlooks.

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Electricity and energy in the G20

While governments fixate on cutting emissions from the electricity sector, the larger problem of cutting emissions from the non-electricity sector is generally ignored. In this post I present data from the G20 countries, which between them consume 80% of the world’s energy, summarizing the present situation. The results show that the G20 countries obtain only 41.5% of their total energy from electricity and the remaining 58.5% dominantly from oil, coal and gas consumed in the non-electric sector (transportation, industrial processes, heating etc). So even if they eventually succeed in obtaining all their electricity from low-carbon sources they would still be getting more than half their energy from high-carbon sources if no progress is made in decarbonizing their non-electric sectors.

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