Blowout Week 134

This week we feature the forthcoming US elections, in particular the Republican and Democratic Platforms on energy and climate change. It’s difficult to conceive of such diametrically opposed positions. If Clinton wins the US will continue with Obama’s pro-renewable policies, but a Trump victory could well put paid to the world’s vision of a renewable energy future. Or could it?

Democratic Convention:   Democratic Platform on Climate Change

Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time.
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Global Nuclear Power Snapshot

The World Nuclear Association (WNA) has an informative website with a mine of data that I’ve wanted to extract for some time. This is a first pass to try and capture some of the headlines which are: deployment of nuclear power has in the past depended upon a combination of three factors 1) the size and level of technology development of any country (the leading producers in 2015 were the USA, France, Russia and China) 2) the desire to acquire nuclear weapons that may be linked to large advanced countries wanting to defend themselves and 3) a shortage of fossil fuels (France, Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia etc. have the greatest penetration of nuclear in power generation). Let’s begin by looking at the 30 countries that have domestic nuclear power capacity (Figure 1).

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Climate science and the UK Climate Change Act

The Climate Change Act of 2008 is, supposedly, underpinned by the findings of climate science, and riding herd on these findings is the Climate Change Committee (CCC), which reviews the state of climate science whenever a new carbon budget is published to see whether any significant changes have occurred. Here we briefly review the CCC’s latest assessment, which accompanies the fifth carbon budget. We find that few if any of the CCC’s conclusions are backed up by hard evidence and that some of them are the opposite of the truth. Yet they still underpin the Climate Change Act, which continues to govern the UK’s long-term energy policy.

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Blowout Week 133


This week’s Blowout features the demise of DECC and its amalgamation into the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Does this signal a sea change in UK government energy policy, or is it business-as-usual under a new banner?

BBC:  Government axes DECC

The government has axed the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) in a major departmental shake-up. The brief will be folded into an expanded Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy under Greg Clark.

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Can the UK meet the fifth carbon budget?

The UK’s fifth carbon budget calls for a 57% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to 1990 levels by 2028-2032. This post evaluates whether this goal is achievable and concludes that at best it will be difficult to meet. It also reviews the reasons behind the UK’s apparent success in reducing its GHG emissions (down by 36% in 2014 relative to 1990) and concludes that this reduction is largely a result of market forces and that renewable energy has played only a minor part. The post also highlights the fact that only about a quarter of UK GHG emissions come from the electricity sector, meaning that the UK’s emissions targets can be met only by making major reductions in emissions from the other energy-consuming sectors, which is a much tougher proposition.

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The Peak Oil Paradox

Back in the mid-noughties the peak oil meme gained significant traction in part due to The Oil Drum blog where I played a prominent role. Sharply rising oil price, OPEC spare capacity falling below 2 Mbpd and the decline of the North Sea were definite signs of scarcity and many believed that peak oil was at hand and the world as we knew it was about to end. Forecasts of oil production crashing in the coming months were ten a penny. And yet between 2008, when the oil price peaked, and 2015, global crude+condensate+NGL (C+C+NGL) production has risen by 8.85 Mbpd to 91.67 Mbpd. That is by over 10%. Peak oilers need to admit they were wrong then. Or were they?

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El Hierro completes a year of full operation

At the end of June the Gorona del Viento (GdV) plant completed its first year of full operation, during which it supplied 34.6% of El Hierro’s electricity demand with renewable electricity at a cost probably exceeding €1.00/kWh and lowered the island’s CO2 emissions by approximately 12,000 tons at a cost of around €1,000/ton. This post summarizes these unexpectedly poor results, discusses the reasons for them and concludes that GdV, which was intended to show the world how fossil fuel generation can readily be replaced with intermittent renewables, can already be classified as a “failed project”. GdV’s performance further suggests that replacing fossil fuels with intermittent renewables elsewhere in the world could be a lot more difficult than the proponents of renewable energy are prepared to admit.

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Blowout Week 132

This week we resume our normal reporting with Brexit relegated for the moment to a few articles at the end. The week’s lead article features some pithy comments on the Scottish government’s misguided policies on nuclear power that could equally well be applied to a number of other countries:

Scotsman:  Nuclear power opposition based on slogans and fear

In 2007, Alex Salmond rejected any new nuclear Scottish power stations. Policies based on fear, rather than facts, may feel good, but they increase the overall risk by not educating the public. Successful democracy requires people understand the decisions they make; otherwise it becomes a loose cannon, with decisions based on slogans.

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Oil Production Vital Statistics June 2016

The big news in May’s production figures is Canada down 620,000 bpd in the wake of the Fort McMurray wild fire, Nigeria down 250,000 bpd in the wake of civil unrest on the Niger Delta and Libya down 80,000 bpd as that country disintegrates in the wake of western intervention in its civil war.

Global total liquids production was down 760,000 bpd in May and while the oil price was perky, getting above $50 in early June, it has not really responded to any of those events.

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High Altitude Wind Power Reviewed

This post reviews the weird and wonderful world of high altitude wind power. It looks into the reasons for wanting to go high, explains tethered flight and explores the main competing technologies of 1) airborne generation (Google Makani) and 2) ground based generation (KiteGen) and compares their strengths and weaknesses.

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Blowout Week 131

Once more the news is dominated by Brexit fallout, and so is this edition of Blowout, starting with protests from a segment of the UK community which seems to have a different perspective on the meaning of the word “democracy”.


CNN:  Thousands say ‘No’ to Brexit in colorful protest

They simply won’t take “Brexit” for an answer.

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Renewable California

California is considered by many to be a world leader in the transition to renewable energy. But how much progress is it really making? This post looks into this question and finds that California has indeed significantly increased the percentage of renewable energy in its in-state generation mix – or at least would have done were it not for the impact of the recent drought on hydro output – but that it has made no progress towards increasing its zero-carbon generation, which because of the shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear plant remains lower than it was in 2002 even when the impact of the drought is factored out. This result underscores the importance of nuclear as a key ingredient in reducing CO2 emissions, a fact which seems to have escaped California’s attention.

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The ERoEI of High Altitude Wind Power

For several weeks I have been researching and writing a review post on high altitude wind power. It has grown into a 6000 word monster that should hopefully fly on Monday. While doing this it has been difficult to find time to write other posts. Hence this is a preview of one section on Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERoEI) which makes a nice post in its own right.
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Brexit and The Simple Solution

An opinion piece: On Thursday 23 June the UK voted to leave The European Union with a majority of 52% . This surprise result has stunned politicians, the UK population and many Europeans. The FOOTSIE ended the day down 3%. The DAX was down 7%. The £ took a bigger hit, down up to 8% that is good for exports and will help fend off deflation.

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Blowout Week 130 – Brexit Special

The news this week is totally dominated by the Brexit vote and so is this edition of Blowout. How will Brexit affect the UK, the EU and the world economies? Will there be a sea change in UK energy and climate policy? How long might it take to complete negotiations for an orderly exit? Will the EU now start to unravel? Will the UK itself start to unravel with a Scottish independence vote? All this and more below:

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Blackout California

The shutdown of the leaking Aliso Canyon underground gas storage facility has caused a loss of about 70bcf of stored gas that Southern California utilities have historically counted on to see them through the hot, high-demand summer months. The California Independent Service Operator (CAISO), which manages the California grid, estimates that as a result all customers should expect to be without power for a total of 14 days this summer. Some 21 million Southern Californians stand to be directly affected.

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Climate change claims its first species – or does it?

This post briefly reviews the demise of the Bramble Cay melomys, a rat-like mammal that is no longer to be found on Bramble Cay, a tiny coral atoll between Australia and Papua-New Guinea and the animal’s only known habitat. The acknowledged cause of the extinction – which appears in this case to be real – was a series of storm surges that inundated Bramble Cay and killed off the vegetation. There is, however, no evidence linking these storm surges to human-induced climate change. The University of Queensland’s claim that the Bramble Cay melomys ….. is the first mammal to go extinct due to human-induced climate change must therefore be considered invalid as well as grossly misleading.

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Blowout Week 129

This week’s Blowout focuses on the distressed UK North Sea oil & gas industry, which according to the people who run it has only two years to go before it goes away altogether. A supreme guiding hand is needed, say industry executives. Even the “N” word has been mentioned as an option:

BBC:  Call for urgent changes in UK oil and gas industry

Senior figures in offshore oil and gas have called for more radical and urgent changes to avoid rapid decline. They say there are only two years in which to secure the industry’s future.

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Solar in Chile

Solar power in 2015 accounted for less than 5% of Chile’s total electricity generation, but because of decreased demand and inadequate grid connections it’s already generating surpluses that have to be curtailed or which result in the power being sold at zero cost . Yet to meet its target of 20% renewable energy from non-hydro sources by 2025 Chile plans to install yet more intermittent solar and wind energy by 2020/21. Development of untapped dispatchable renewables such as hydro – Chile’s cheapest source of renewable energy – and geothermal, both of which Chile has in abundance, is hindered by lack of grid connections and environmental opposition.

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The UK’s Small Modular Reactor Competition

Guest Post by Andy Dawson who is an energy sector systems consultant and former nuclear engineer.

The UK government has launched a competition to select a design of a small modular reactor (SMR) for future deployment in the UK. The idea behind SMRs is that they can be factory built and stamped out like aircraft and transported to location on the back of a truck. With thirty-three companies / designs on the shortlist, this looks like the process could take a while to complete.

In this post, nuclear engineer Andy Dawson provides an overview of SMR technology together with descriptions of the leading contenders.

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