Monthly Archives: September 2016

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

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. Continue reading

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Imagining Fusion Power

Guest post by Robert L. Hirsch, Ph.D. 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! Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , | 42 Comments

Blowout Week 143

In this week’s blowout we revisit the issue of £billion dumb meters, weak oil prices, Libya ramping oil production a lot, Donald Trump wooing the oil industry, Australia’s stranded coal reserves, wind frenzy in China, US wave power takes off, blackouts in Puerto Rico, the Nordlink inter-connector, Holland to close coal fired power generation, Tesla to power Europe. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , | 110 Comments

Atmospheric carbon dioxide – a tale of two timescales

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.

In fact much of the controversy/confusion stems from the fact that there are two relevant timescales, one which determines how the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere equilibrates with other reservoirs (notably physical exchange with the oceans, and biological exchange via photosynthesis and respiration), and another which determines the exchange of carbon atoms. Continue reading

Posted in Climate change | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 61 Comments

Blowout Week 142

In this week’s bumper blowout: Hinkley Point C finally gets green light; KEPCO close to investing in new nuclear at Moorside; the oil at Gatwick Airport keeps on gushing; oil price tumbles as OPEC and IEA see oil glut continuing; Dutch gas (crucial to Europe) is in decline; Gazprom to increase gas exports to Europe; environmentalists oppose new gas pipeline to Europe; venture capital funds abandon clean energy; renewables losing ground in Japan; decarbonising transport in Europe is fanciful; solar panel glut in China; 40% of Ireland’s wind power curtailed; UK must add CCS to save consumers billions; UK electricity prices surge; first large scale tidal power deployed in Scotland; Stuart Paton on fracking, nuclear power and Scottish energy policy. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , | 40 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

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Blowout Week 141

In this week’s Blowout: Bumper wheat harvest in hottest year; OPEC output falls sharply in August; Apache Corporation makes billion barrel find; Caspian Sea set to add 200,000 bpd; Hurricane Energy finds more oil West of Shetland; US rigs up 7; Rosatom to build 16 nukes in Saudi; Iran begins work on second nuke; UK government may take a stake in Hinkley and renegotiate deal; Corbyn to ban fracking; coal prices surge; global coal consumption rising; 100% renewables in Costa Rica; one new turbine a day in Scotland; US may outlaw biomass in power sector; renewable heat strategy failing in UK; Spain replaces old solar modules; global warming causes profanity. Continue reading

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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. 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. 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: Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , | 80 Comments