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”.

Continue reading

Posted in Blowout | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , | 83 Comments

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Climate change | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 55 Comments

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Blowout | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 46 Comments

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.
Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , | 39 Comments

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%.

Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged | 66 Comments

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Blowout | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , | 103 Comments

UK Wind Constraint Payments

Electricity generation from wind power has grown dramatically in the UK in recent years (Figure 2) and so has the challenge to balance the grid, especially when it is very windy. One of the balancing tactics deployed by National Grid is to pay wind farms to switch off when it is windy. This cost, borne by the consumer, is called a constraint payment. In 2015, UK consumers forked out £90 million to pay subsidy driven wind farms to switch off.

The amount of UK wind that is constrained is growing with the level of penetration. At 10% wind penetration, 6% of the wind power available is constrained (Figure 9).

Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , | 78 Comments

Blowout Week 140

This week’s Blowout focuses on the “formal commitment” of Presidents Xi of China and Obama of the U.S. to the Paris Climate Accord. Xi may be in a position to commit China but it’s questionable whether Obama has the ability to commit the U.S. without congressional approval. The last time the U.S. signed a major climate accord (Kyoto in 1997) it was promptly and unanimously repudiated by the U.S. Senate:

New York Times:  Obama and Xi Formally Commit U.S. and China to Paris Climate Accord

President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China formally committed the world’s two largest economies to the Paris climate agreement here on Saturday, cementing their partnership on climate change and offering a rare display of harmony in a relationship that has become increasingly discordant.

Continue reading

Posted in Blowout | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

El Hierro August 2016 performance update


During August the hybrid wind-hydro Gorona del Viento (GdV) plant achieved 55.6% renewables generation, higher than the 47.9% achieved in August 2015 but lower than the 65.9% achieved in July. The decrease relative to July was a caused by wind lulls and the increase relative to 2015 was a result of two periods of 100% renewables generation totalling 79 hours. Total renewables generation since full operations began at GdV in June 2015 is now 38.7%, up from 37.8% at the beginning of the month. Data on GdV plant layout, operation and capacities are given in the September update. Previous posts on GdV are accessible through the El Hierro Portal.

Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , | 70 Comments

Oil Production Vital Statistics August 2016

World total liquids bounced by a further 790,000 bpd in July partly on the back of continued recovery in Canada. Total liquids now stand at 97.01 Mbpd, down a meagre 70,000 bpd since July 2015.

The oil price staged a modest cyclical rally in August to close at $48.5 (Brent) on August 19th. Robust production from OPEC and Russia combined with large inventories hanging over the market makes me inclined to agree with Art Berman who speculates that prices will remain range bound between $38 and $52 in the near term.

Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blowout Week 139

This week we return to the shaky state of UK energy security, with Barclays projecting that an investment of £215bn by 2030, which presently is nowhere to be seen, will be needed to decarbonize the electricity sector while keeping the lights on.

 

Utility Week: UK needs to invest £215bn in energy by 2030

The UK will need to invest an “eye-watering” £215 billion in its energy system by 2030 in order to replace aging assets and decarbonise, analysis by Barclays Research has found. “With electricity security of supply already on a knife edge, the UK faces the obsolescence of approximately 40 per cent of its current combined cycle gas turbine fleet by around 2020 and approximately 70 per cent of all reliable generation capacity by 2030,” the report said.

Continue reading

Posted in Blowout | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 99 Comments

US Shale Oil Production Laid Bare

Enno Peters maintains a web site called Visualizing US Shale Oil Production. This is a wonderful resource for all those interested to understand the history and dynamic of US shale oil. This post is in two parts. It begins with a series of screen captures of Enno’s charts displaying production from the whole USA, the Permian, Eagle Ford, N Dakota (Bakken), Montana and Marcellus plays. Enno’s charts are interactive and readers are encouraged to visit his site to play.

Enno kindly sent me the data that underlies the charts and the second part of this post are a series of my own charts that interogates production, well numbers and decline rates. The legacy production, i.e. the underlying production without new additions, is declining at a rate of 38% per annum.
Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | 27 Comments

An update on the Energiewende

Germany is still pursuing its goal of shutting down its nuclear plants but refuses to shut down its lignite plants. It is slashing renewable energy subsidies and replacing them with an auction/quota system. Public opposition is delaying the construction of the power lines that are needed to distribute Germany’s renewables generation efficiently. Renewables investment has fallen to levels insufficient to build enough new capacity to meet Germany’s 2020 emissions reduction target. There is  no evidence that renewables are having a detectable impact on Germany’s emissions, which have not decreased since 2009 despite a doubling of renewables penetration in the electricity sector. It now seems certain that Germany will miss its 2020 emissions reduction target, quite possibly by a wide margin. In short, the Energiewende is starting to unravel.

Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , | 150 Comments

Blowout Week 138

This week’s Blowout features the arrival within the next few weeks of the first of many shiploads of US fracked shale gas scheduled to be delivered to Scotland, which fracking supporters hope will “undermine arguments against fracking for shale gas in Scotland’s central belt”. The SHALE GAS FOR PROGRESS painted on the ships’ sides alone (inset) will be like a red rag to a bull to the anti-frackers, so prepare for protests:

GWPF:  Arrival Of US Shale Gas Raises Pressure On Scottish Nationalists

Industry insiders have confirmed that the first of a fleet of “Dragon-class” ships, each capable of transporting huge quantities of the shale gas ethane, will dock within the next seven weeks.

Continue reading

Posted in Blowout | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

The Holy Grail of Battery Storage

A recent Telegraph article claims that storage battery technology is now advancing so fast that “we may never again need to build 20th Century power plants in this country, let alone a nuclear white elephant such as Hinkley Point” and that the “Holy Grail of energy policy” that will make this solution economically feasible – a storage battery cost of $100/kWh – will be reached in “relatively short order”. This brief post shines the cold light of reality on these claims by calculating battery storage costs based on the storage requirements for specific cases estimated in previous Energy Matters posts. It is found that installing enough battery storage to convert intermittent wind/solar generation into long-term baseload generation increases total capital costs generally by factors of three or more for wind and by factors of ten or more for solar, even at $100/kWh. Clearly the Holy Grail of energy policy is still a long way off.

Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , | 119 Comments

How smart is a smart grid?

A smart grid is a computerized management system designed to distribute the power available to the grid in an efficient manner relative to demand while maintaining grid stability. It does not generate any power except in so far as it saves some energy that would be wasted with a less efficient system. Because of limited storage capacity a smart grid is also capable of maximizing energy use over only short periods; it will not solve the intermittency problem over longer ones. Consequently there will be extended periods over which the smart grid will have little or no renewable energy to deliver. Installation is also likely to be costly, and there are questions as to whether current designs based on computer simulations will work in practice.

Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , | 138 Comments

Blowout Week 137

This week we return to Hinkley Point, where yet another potentially deal-breaking complication has arisen as a result of the US filing suit against the China General Nuclear Power Company – a 33.5% stakeholder in Hinkley – for nuclear espionage. China has warned that retaliatory measures may be taken if the UK now dumps Hinkley. So what happens next?

The Diplomat:   UK-China Ties Put to the Test Over Hinkley Point Espionage Allegation

When Theresa May succeeded David Cameron as prime minister of the United Kingdom, China didn’t think that business as usual between the two countries would change overnight.

Continue reading

Posted in Blowout | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 59 Comments

What is the Real Cost of Oil?

Asking what it costs to produce a barrel of oil is rather like asking how long is a piece of string? The answer can be anything you want between $1 and $500. But of course the cost of producing oil in an ideal world should be well below the price of oil, leaving room for taxes and profits. The global oil market sets the price and producers need to adjust and adapt their strategies to maintain costs below prevailing prices from time to time. That is the theory at least.

With Brent trading at about $45 a cost analysis presented by Art Berman suggests that all Middle East OPEC and US shale producers are continuing to trade at a loss (see chart below the fold). Why then are there signs that the frackers are going back to work?

Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 38 Comments