Green Gone

UK chancellor George Osborne made his Autumn spending statement on Wednesday 25th November. To a large extent he chose to kick the economic can down the road once more. But the published documentation has this most interesting section on Energy Policy [1]:

1.201 The government will prioritise energy security, whilst making reforms to meet our climate goals at lower cost. The government is doubling spend on energy innovation, to boost energy security and bring down the costs of decarbonisation.
1.202 As part of this, the Spending Review and Autumn Statement invests at least £250 million over the next 5 years in an ambitious nuclear research and development programme that will revive the UK’s nuclear expertise and position the UK as a global leader in innovative nuclear technologies. This will include a competition to identify the best value small modular reactor design for the UK. This will pave the way towards building one of the world’s first small modular reactors in the UK in the 2020s. Detailed plans for the competition will be brought forward early next year.

There’s more so read on….

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Red Eléctrica de España

  • Spanish electricity data with hourly resolution is presented for the months of September and October. Two months that were marked by periodically wind free conditions in northern Europe.
  • Spain has 22.9 GW installed wind capacity. This produced a maximum 14,552 MW and minimum 301 MW in the period, load varying from 1.3 to 63%. A colossal dynamic range of 48.
  • Wind in Spain is balanced mainly by varying coal output with a little help from gas and a tiny amount of help from hydro. Imports and exports are not used at all in the gross balancing exercise.
  • Hydro is used to balance solar and to follow diurnal demand.
  • The Green fantasy of using grid interconnectivity and hydro to balance variable wind is not being put into practice in Spain.

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Drought, Climate, War, Terrorism, and Syria

It’s routinely claimed that climate-change-induced drought in Syria was a major factor in triggering the Syrian civil war, the Syrian refugee crisis and the rise of ISIS. But are these claims supported by the data? This post investigates this question.

We begin with this quote from a Climate and Security article, which claims that the recent drought in Syria was the worst in Syria’s long history and is not alone in doing so:

From 2006-2011, up to 60% of Syria’s land experienced, in the terms of one expert, “the worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago” …… This has led to a massive exodus of farmers, herders and agriculturally-dependent rural families from the countryside to the cities. Last January, it was reported that crop failures ….. just in the farming villages around the city of Aleppo, had led 200,000 rural villagers to leave for the cities.

Now look at Figure 1, which shows the GHCNv2 annual rainfall record for Aleppo (data from KNMI Climate Explorer). Average annual rainfall during the 2006-2011 period was only 9% lower than average annual rainfall over the preceding 55 years. The driest year during the period (2011) was only the seventh driest on record and 2006-2011 was only the 13th driest six-year period on record. Clearly the crop failures in the farming villages around Aleppo – which undoubtedly occurred – weren’t caused by a drought of Biblical proportions. In fact there doesn’t seem to have been a drought at Aleppo at all:

Figure 1: GHCN v2 monthly rainfall  record, Aleppo. The graphic is as it appears on  Climate Explorer except for the added shading

But Aleppo is a single data point in a large country. What happened elsewhere?

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Electricity and the Wealth of Nations

In his recent Energy in Africa post Euan Mearns made this statement:

One hypothesis I want to examine is that electricity is fundamental to GDP and GDP growth. Without it, individuals cannot create wealth. I was therefore expecting to see that electricity consumption should be correlated with GDP and growth.

There’s no doubt that electricity is fundamental to GDP growth and that wealth in our modern society cannot be created without it, but a key question is; which comes first? Does the electricity create the wealth, or does the wealth create the electricity, or is the linkage between the two so close that it’s impossible to say? This will be the second question this post addresses.

The first will be the question of the correlation between GDP growth and electricity consumption that Euan was expecting to see but which was not visible in the small sample of African countries he reviewed. But again there’s little doubt that such a relationship exists, and a larger sample should reveal it. Accordingly this post expands the sample size to 168 countries in order to determine how strong the relationship is and how it varies from place to place.

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Blowout Week 99

In this week’s blowout we feature the “new direction” in UK energy policy:

Reuters:  Key excerpts from Amber Rudd’s speech

Energy security has to be the number one priority. But no responsible government should take a risk on climate change either. Because it’s one of the greatest long-term threats to our economic security. So the challenge we face is how we make sure that energy remains as the backbone of our economy, while we transform to a low carbon system. How do we achieve an energy system that is secure; affordable; and clean?

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OPEC Can’t Win

As the oil price war unfolds it becomes easier to understand the outcome. There is ongoing speculation about the motives of the main players. Is it a battle between OPEC and US shale? Or a battle by the USA and Saudi Arabia  against Russia and Iran? I lean quite strongly towards a market driven version of the former and believe that OPEC (i.e. Saudi Arabia) cannot win against the USA. Low oil prices are a major benefit to the US economy and US citizens, a disaster for OPEC and Saudi Arabia. Figure 1 shows how halving oil prices slashes export revenues for the exporting countries while halving the cost of oil imports to the USA.

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A Big Lull

This post follows on from Wind Blowing Nowhere Again and the sequel A Big Gale. In Blowing Nowhere I presented wind data for Denmark, the UK and Germany for September and October 2015 which was a period marked by calm conditions across much of Northern Europe. I have since acquired wind data for France and Sweden  and this post adds these data to see if extending the geographic range makes any difference to smoothing the wind data.

I also present a chart that normalises the data from the 5 countries to a 10GW capacity per country datum. This downgrades the status of Germany and upgrades the status of Sweden and Denmark that have much smaller wind parks. The UK and France are little changed. This makes little difference to the interpretation with 4 significant lulls where the wind dropped close to zero across the whole of northern Europe. No matter how many turbines are installed or how many inter connectors are built, Europe will always be dependent upon 100% backup from fossil fuels on a regular basis.

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Kiribati, sea level rise, and poverty

According to reports the Pacific island nation of Kiribati is heading for a watery grave, courtesy of rising sea levels caused by man-made climate change:

Guardian:  In March the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published the volume on adaptation of its fifth assessment report, confirming in starker terms forecasts first outlined by scientists in 1990. Within a few decades, small islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans risk being extensively or even completely submerged.

And the burial ceremony is already under way:

Huffington Post:  At the end of February the scenes in the South Pacific atoll island nation of Kiribati were dramatic and frightening. Waves crashed across the lagoon side of South Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati, swamping everything in their path. For the locals, there was nowhere to go as the waves left a trail of destruction, flooding the hospital in Betio, destroying food crops and fouling the already severely limited freshwater lens.

It sounds as if Kiribati is doomed, and a part of it may well be. But if so it will be because of too little water, not too much.

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Blowout Week 98

This week’s blowout features Bjorn Lomborg’s scathing analysis of the world’s plans to combat global warming ……

Lomborg:  Paris climate promises will reduce temperatures by just 0.05°C in 2100

Governments have publicly outlined their post-2020 climate commitments in the build-up to the December’s meeting.
• The climate impact of all Paris INDC promises is minuscule: if we measure the impact of every nation fulfilling every promise by 2030, the total temperature reduction will be 0.048°C (0.086°F) by 2100.
• Even if we assume that these promises would be extended for another 70 years, there is still little impact: if every nation fulfils every promise by 2030, and continues to fulfil these promises faithfully until the end of the century, and there is no ‘CO₂ leakage’ to non-committed nations, the entirety of the Paris promises will reduce temperature rises by just 0.17°C (0.306°F) by 2100.
• US climate policies, in the most optimistic circumstances, fully achieved and adhered to throughout the century, will reduce global temperatures by 0.031°C (0.057°F) by 2100.
• EU climate policies, in the most optimistic circumstances, fully achieved and adhered to throughout the century, will reduce global temperatures by 0.053°C (0.096°F) by 2100.
• China climate policies, in the most optimistic circumstances, fully achieved and adhered to throughout the century, will reduce global temperatures by 0.048°C (0.086°F) by 2100.
• The rest of the world’s climate policies, in the most optimistic circumstances, fully achieved and adhered to throughout the century, will reduce global temperatures by 0.036°C (0.064°F) by 2100.

….. which has not been universally well received:

Read on to learn about Bjorn Lomborg debunked, OPEC’s drop in oil production, the oil inventory glut, Amber Rudd’s problems, UK policy deterring investors, the Swansea Bay tidal project on hold, Poland to mine less coal, Germany in danger of missing its Energiewende targets, CO2 emissions from the Ivanpah solar plant, curtailment payments to Scottish wind farms, security concerns at the Paris Climate Conference and the US legalizes asteroid mining.
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Sea level rise and the “urban sinking” effect

Most of us are familiar with the “urban warming” effect that can cause temperature stations in and around urban areas to measure warming gradients that aren’t representative of the surrounding areas. Here I present evidence for the existence of an “urban sinking” effect that can cause tide gauge records in and around urban and other populated areas to give similarly non-representative results.

I begin with a plot of three tide gauge records on the east coast of the Malaysian Peninsula, none of them in or close to urban areas. The data aren’t as complete as I would like but I feel confident enough to use them to estimate an average for this particular stretch of coastline (black line):

Figure 1: Three tide gauge records from Malaysia-Thailand (Ko Lak, Ko Sichang, Cendering). Black line shows the average.

Now I superimpose the tide gauge record for Bangkok (Fort Phrachula Chomklao), a couple of hundred kilometers north of Ko Lak at the head of the Gulf of Thailand:

Figure 2: Figure 1 data with Bangkok (Fort Phrachula Chomklao) tide gauge record superimposed in green.


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A Big Gale

With the UK Met Office starting to name storms it is refreshing to see that there is at least one person who works there that has a sense of humour. Wind blowing nowhere is now giving way to the winter storm season beginning with Storm Abigail that is tracking to the W and N. We have had a few blows and squalls here in Aberdeen.

As I write, metered + embedded wind as recorded by Clive Best is churning out 9.1 GW or 23% of UK demand. And as demand drops and the wind rises through the night, no doubt this percentage will rise. A triumph of electrical and social engineering. “King” coal is the big loser.

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Energy in Africa: Electricity S of Sahara

The UN has suggested that Africa, the poorest continent on Earth, should skip over an industrial revolution built on fossil fuels (FF) and move directly to renewable sources [1]. This has prompted me to take a look at energy in Africa and this occasional series begins with electricity production and consumption in 7 selected countries from S of the Sahara.

One hypothesis I want to examine is that electricity is fundamental to GDP and GDP growth. Without it, individuals cannot create wealth. I was therefore expecting to see that electricity consumption should be correlated with GDP and growth. Per capita GDP and electricity for the 7 selected countries are shown in Figure 1 for 2012. R^2 = 0.81 suggests my hunch was correct but as we shall see the detailed situation is far more complex.

Below the fold is a summary of electricity supply, GDP and population for each of the seven countries since 1980, the year EIA statistics began.

Figure 1 R^2 = 0.81 suggests that GDP and electricity consumption are closely correlated. But take away S Africa and R^2 drops to 0.000. The picture is far more complex. Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and S Africa are in line. But Mozambique has the second highest per capita electricity but second lowest per capita GDP. Oil and gas have made Nigeria and Angola comparatively wealthy. That wealth has been created using relatively little metered electricity (offshore platforms will generate their own) and the wealth in the form of electricity has not trickled down to the population.

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How much have sea levels really risen?

Two recent papers refocus attention on how much we really know about the causes of sea level rise and how accurately we can measure it. The most recent, Twentieth century increase in snowfall in coastal West Antarctica by Thomas et al. reports large increases in the rate of snow accumulation over the last 100 years on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet – which is said to be on the point of collapse – but provides no specifics on ice sheet volumes. But the earlier paper, Mass gains of the Antarctic ice sheet exceed losses by Zwally et al., does. The press release that accompanies it contains the following statement:

The good news is that Antarctica is not currently contributing to sea level rise, but is taking 0.23 millimeters per year away,” Zwally said. “But this is also bad news. If the 0.27 millimeters per year of sea level rise attributed to Antarctica in the IPCC report is not really coming from Antarctica, there must be some other contribution to sea level rise that is not accounted for.”

There must be some other contribution to sea level rise that is not accounted for”. No there doesn’t. It could simply mean that sea level rise has been overestimated.
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Blowout week 97

We begin this week’s Blowout with good news from BP:

Telegraph:  The Earth is not running out of oil and gas

The world is no longer at risk of running out of oil or gas, with existing technology capable of unlocking so much that global reserves would almost double by 2050 despite booming consumption, BP has said. When taking into account all accessible forms of energy, including nuclear, wind and solar, there are enough resources to meet 20 times what the world will need over that period, David Eyton, BP Group head of technology said. “Energy resources are plentiful. Concerns over running out of oil and gas have disappeared,” Mr Eyton said at the launch of BP’s inaugural Technology Outlook. With new exploration and technology, the resources could leap to a staggering 7.5 trillion boe, Mr Eyton said. “We are probably nearing the point where potential from additional recovery from discovered reservoir exceeds the potential for exploration.”

A focus on the United States below the fold, beginning with Obama’s not-unexpected rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline and moving on to the parlous state of the US nuclear industry. Then the usual mix, including rifts in OPEC, Canada to get serious about cutting emissions, blackouts in Adelaide (but not in the UK), the Exxon global warming investigation, China’s coal consumption revised upwards, Icelink under way, the Galloper wind farm resurrected, Antarctica gaining ice, the coming magnetic pole reversal, floating wind turbines, the solar power tower, how whisky can help neutralize radioactive waste and how global warming will cause less sex and fewer babies.

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Wind Blowing Nowhere – Again

A central tenet of wind power advocates is that the wind is always blowing somewhere and thus on a regional scale intermittency becomes smoothed out. This is one of these half truths. If one is to have turbines at all, it is of course sensible to have them geographically dispersed as this most certainly helps to smooth out highs and lows in the wind. But it is not the day to day vagaries of the wind that matters but the extremes of wind blowing everywhere at once and worse still, wind blowing nowhere. It is when the wind is blowing nowhere that back up is needed and the physical low points reached defines the amount of backup that is required.

This is a theme we have covered often on Energy Matters. In January this year Roger Andrews had a post called Wind Blowing Nowhere that summarised a year of wind data for seven European countries and showed categorically that geographic dispersion does not smooth wind significantly on a pan-European scale. Hubert Flocard has shown similar. And yet the myth of wind being smoothed by geographic range just refuses to die.

Last week I had a post called Flat Calm Across the UK focussing on the spell of what seems to be uncommonly calm weather across the UK and Northern Europe. In this post I add wind data for Denmark and Germany for the months of September and October. On 19th October, for several hours, the combined output of 55 GW of wind turbines was less than 1.5 GW, that is below 3% average load. It was effectively flat calm across the whole of Northern Europe, not just on this occasion but on several other occasions in this two month period.

Figure 1 Atlantic pressure chart from the BBC / Met office for 4th November 2015. This has been a fairly typical configuration for several weeks with high pressure over Europe, the North Sea and the UK resulting in regional calm conditions. Weather fronts move through which are clearly visible from the wind generation data, but then the high re-establishes and calm conditions return. Atlantic depressions have been tracking to the north of the UK on a deeply meandering jet stream.

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El Hierro Renewable Energy Project – October 2015 Performance Review

The Gorona del Viento (GdV) renewable energy plant on the Canary Island of El Hierro is a flagship project designed ultimately to provide the island with 100% renewable electricity and to consign its diesel generators to history. GdV comprises a wind park with 11.5 MW capacity and a pumped hydro storage plant with 11.3MW capacity, installed at a total cost of €84 million. Since operations began in June of this year the plant has not performed up to expectations. This is the second in a series of operational updates.


According to grid data published by the Red Eléctrica de España (REE) power sent to the El Hierro grid from the GdV wind-pumped hydro plant and Endesa’s Llanos Blancos diesel plant during October 2015 was as follows:

  • Diesel: 3,225 MWh (86%)
  • Wind:      414 MWh  (11%)
  • Hydro:      90 MWh  ( 2%)
  • Total:   3,730 MWh

Renewable energy from GdV made a minimal contribution to El Hierro’s electricity demand during the month dominantly because of a lack of wind. Wind speeds on El Hierro began to decrease in late August and low wind conditions persisted through most of September and all of October. For 40% of the time during October (300 out of 744 hours based on 10-minute grid data) the wind speed was too low to turn the turbine blades and zero wind output was recorded.

El Hierro grid statistics since GdV startup on June 27, 2015 are summarized in Table 1. In 127 days of operation renewable energy from GdV has supplied 34% of El Hierro’s grid demand, contrasting with the 65% predicted by a 2012 engineering study and with the 100% anticipated by some media reports.

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Oil Production Vital Statistics October 2015

The “big news” this month is that the banks granted over leveraged, loss making shale oil drillers a stay of execution by continuing to provide credit lines. Consequently, there was no major move in US oil drilling or production though both are trending down. Elsewhere, the story is one of production plateaus and stabilisation of rig counts. The modest production rises and falls detailed below are simply noise on these production baselines.

Against this backdrop of no news, the oil price traded sideways in October. OPEC countries, Russia and International Oil Companies are all losing billions and look set to continue doing so throughout 2016 as over-supply now looks set to continue until early 2017. The situation is one of stalemate as opposed to checkmate.

  • World total liquids production down 80,000 bpd to 96.56 Mbpd.
  • OPEC production down 90,000 bpd to 31.72 Mbpd (C+C)
  • N America production down 220,000 bpd to 19.46 Mbpd.
  • Russia and FSU up 60,000 bpd to 13.94 Mbpd
  • Europe up 140,000 bpd to 3.30 Mbpd (compared with August 2014)
  • Asia down 30,000 bpd to 7.91 Mbpd.
  • Middle East rig count is stable. The international oil rig count has stopped falling. The US oil rig count has turned down again.

Figure 1 The oil price has had a quiet month trending sideways with Brent either side of $50. The head and shoulders chart pattern observed last month has not yet been completed.  To complete the pattern the oil price needs to test the recent lows ($38.22 for WTI and $41.59 for Brent, both on August 24th). Market stalemate has not yet been broken.

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Blowout week 96

Previous Blowout articles have highlighted the nuclear power deals Russia is making with other countries. This week’s Blowout features an article that puts the full scope of these deals together. If the world ever does decide to “go nuclear” Russia will be in the box seat:

Global Risk Insights:  Russia is creating a global nuclear power empire

Russia’s under-the-radar ambition to become the global provider of nuclear power appears poised to be successful and — as was also the case in Ukraine — largely unchallenged by the few major players capable of insisting a different course. The strategy has thus far been relatively straightforward. Russia’s nuclear energy program dates back to the advent of nuclear power, and Russia’s state-owned nuclear vendor — Rosatom — is the only company in nuclear capable of offering the “industry’s entire range of products and services.” Over the past five years, Rosatom has quietly cornered the market in nuclear energy, systematically seeking out agreements and contracts with roughly 30 nations interested in the installation of nuclear power plants. Countries that have signed on to Rosatom nuclear agreements span across all regions of the world, and include strategically significant players such as Argentina, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. As of 2014, 29 Russian reactors are planned for construction abroad, and Rosatom predicts that the number will grow to around 80 within a “few years.” While other countries such as the United States and France have the nuclear know-how required to export nuclear technologies abroad, no entity outside of Russia has aggressively sought to capitalize on international demand for nuclear energy. The Russian dominance of global nuclear energy that has followed holds important geopolitical connotations in the medium-term and beyond.

Following up below the fold is an example of why the Russians have little to fear from western competition. The usual mix after that, including US shale oil gets a stay of execution, coal-to-liquids in Botswana, CSP in Morocco, wind in the Irish Sea, CO2 emissions to keep rising, dismal earnings from oil majors, Turkey sues Gazprom, China to build offshore nukes, German coal plants now “facilities of last resort”, UK electricity rates now the highest in Europe, another advance in battery technology, the ozone hole as big as ever, the 26-million-year mass extinction cycle and the US Department of Energy’s Halloween costumes.

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IceLink Under Study

The Independent just published an article about the Iceland-UK IceLink interconnector under the headline “David Cameron is poised to launch an ambitious project that could see Britain harnessing the power of Iceland’s volcanoes within the next 10 years.” The Independent is jumping the gun a bit because Cameron isn’t poised yet. All that’s actually happened is that a UK-Iceland Energy Task Force “has been set up to examine the feasibility of the scheme and told to report back in six months”. But still this is as good a time as any to take a brief look at the £4 billion Icelink project:

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The UK’s Fifth Carbon Budget – Without the Green Crap

The Committee on Climate Change, under the chairmanship of Lord Deben, recently released its report entitled Power sector scenarios for the fifth carbon budget. As summarized in this Bloomberg article the report’s basic conclusions are:

  • The U.K. can cut three quarters of the carbon emissions it’s producing from making electricity without driving up bills too much by deploying more clean-energy technologies.
  • Investments that are planned in the power industry in the next five years already are sufficient to reduce the so-called carbon intensity of electricity to 200-250 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour, from 450 grams today.
  • Emissions below 100 grams are “an appropriate aim for 2030”.

The CCC report provides three scenarios under which this ~75% reduction in electricity sector emissions can be achieved by 2030 plus four other “alternative” scenarios that either exceed it or fall short. It’s impossible to review these scenarios in detail (the CCC report is 111 pages long and comes accompanied by another 68-page report entitled The Scientific and International Context for the Fifth Carbon Budget) so here I adopt a simplified approach that hopefully sheds some light on what these scenarios actually boil down to.

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