Blowout week 106

We kick off with “Climate Change” and the recent UK floods. Below the fold: Saudi Arabia considers privatizing Aramco, earthquakes in Oklahoma, a natural gas leak in California, TransCanada sues Obama over Keystone, North Sea oil & gas production up, EU investigates Drax subsidy payments, Ed Davey knighted, military intervention to forestall ISIS in Libya, uranium outlook brightens, Greenland wants out of the Paris Agreement, more battery storage in UK, more renewables in Scotland, the 2015 El Niño ties for strongest on record and the new geologic epoch – the Anthropocene.

Abergeldie Castle near Balmoral teeters on the brink. (Image credit Press & Journal)

Financial Times:  Climate change strongly linked to UK flooding

December’s record flow rates in northern England’s rivers — and similar records being broken in the east of Scotland this week — emphasise the exceptional nature of the winter rainfall and flooding, say scientists at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the leading flood research body in the UK. In December, Britain’s wettest month since Met Office records began in 1910, rain fell so heavily over such a wide area that serious flooding was inevitable, said Professor Alan Jenkins, CEH deputy director.

In other words, any precautionary measures could not have stopped it — though mitigation schemes could help in some places. Some have blamed upland landowners and farmers for exacerbating the impact of the rainfall through deforestation, as well as draining peat bogs and other natural reservoirs that could hold back or soak up floodwaters. But Prof Jenkins does not accept that view. “There is very little scientific evidence that the recent extreme flooding is worse due to the impacts of the management of the uplands.” As for the real cause, he said: “We are absolutely convinced that there is weighty scientific evidence that the recent extreme rainfall has been impacted by climate change.”

Bloomberg:  Saudis consider selling stake in Aramco

The world biggest crude exporter is considering selling a stake in its state-owned company, which controls more than a tenth of the global oil market. A potential initial public offering is under review for Saudi Arabian Oil Co., also known as Aramco, Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s deputy crown prince, said in an interview with The Economist. A decision will probably be taken in the next few months, he said, without giving further details. Aramco could rival Apple Inc. as the world’s biggest listed company. It is solely responsible for tapping the world’s second-largest crude reserves, with production double that of its nearest rival. The company is one of the key players in balancing the oil market and its investment decisions have the potential to move crude prices and affect economies around the world.

Reuters:  Saudi-Iran split dashes chance of OPEC deal to curb oil glut

The collapse in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran after the Saudi execution of a Shi’ite cleric puts an end to speculation that OPEC could somehow agree production curbs to lift the price of oil anytime soon. The determination by the world’s biggest exporter Saudi Arabia to defend its market share despite a global glut has helped drive oil prices to their lowest in 11 years. Meanwhile, the lifting of sanctions on Iran in line with a nuclear agreement is expected to provide the biggest increase in supply of 2016. The world is now producing 1.5 million barrels a day more than it is consuming, and Iran is promising to add another million bpd to supply over the next 12 months. If there was still any suggestion that the two rivals might somehow overcome their animosity to agree to manage supply this year, it was buried on Monday when Riyadh called off diplomatic ties with Tehran over Iran’s response to the execution of Saudi Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. Several OPEC delegates told Reuters they now saw no chance of any improvement in relations between OPEC members, which have been already very low over the past months.

Express:  Europe, US mobilize to stop IS takeover of Libyan oil

The jihadi group has sought to expand its influence in the lawless north African state in a bid to seize control of Libya’s highly lucrative oil fields. The British deployment of half a dozen elite SAS soldiers will form part of a 6,000-strong army of Americans and Europeans, led by the Italian army. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon confirmed last month that as many as 1,000 soldiers were being readied for deployment to Libya to deal with the proliferation of ISIS – also known as Daesh – since the toppling of Gaddafi in 2011. A major coalition offensive is planned for the coming months, with military chiefs hoping it could finally yield a breakthrough on the depraved terror organisation. A senior military source told the Daily Mirror: “This Coalition will provide a wide range of resources from surveillance, to strike operations against Islamic State who have made significant progress in Libya.”

Telegraph:  North Sea oil and gas production reverses 15 years of decline

A 15-year trend of falling oil and gas production in North Sea has been reversed, according to the UK energy industry trade body. Oil & Gas UK (OGUK), which represents more than 500 companies working in the offshore industry, said output from the UK Continental Shelf in 2015 rose between 7pc and 8pc compared with the previous year. The North Sea produced 545m barrels of oil and gas in 2014, according to OGUK figures, implying that up to 590m barrels were extracted last year. Government data for production from the North Sea for the first 10 months of last year showed liquid output rose 10.6pc and gas was 6.1pc higher. “Output in November and December tends historically to be more stable,” said Deirdre Michie, chief executive of OGUK. “Even so, we now expect year-end production for the full year of 2015 to be higher than last year.” The increase was helped by new facilities coming on stream, such as Taqa’s 10,000-barrel-a-day Cladhan field off Shetland.

BBC:  ‘No crisis’ in North Sea oil jobs, MSP claims

An Aberdeenshire MSP has attracted criticism after claiming there “is no crisis” in North Sea oil employment. Dennis Robertson made the comment during a Holyrood debate, where he said the North Sea workforce was “booming”. Oil and Gas UK has estimated that 65,000 jobs have been lost during the current downturn in the industry. Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said Mr Robertson’s constituents would find his claims “astonishing”. Mr Robertson made an intervention after Ms Dugdale referred to a “crisis” in employment in the North Sea oil and gas sector. The SNP MSP said: “There is no crisis. We have just actually extracted more oil than ever before in the North Sea. We have the most skilled workforce in the North Sea and it is booming.”

Express:  SNP urged to act on oil price crisis

SNP ministers have been urged to “stop sticking their heads in the sand” over the North Sea oil crisis as prices dropped to a 12-year low. Thousands of jobs have been lost in Aberdeen since the slump began in July 2014 with prices far below the $110 per barrel on which the SNP based its case for independence. Nicola Sturgeon’s administration has turned its fire on Chancellor George Osborne for failing to look at further tax cuts for the oil and gas sector. But opposition MSPs urged the Scottish Government to do more amid warnings the price is likely to fall even further triggering more job losses across the country. Aberdeen-based Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said: “Even after this slump began, Nicola Sturgeon was attempting to reassure people that the price could return to $100 a barrel long before now. He added: “With an estimated 65,000 jobs lost and Oil and Gas UK warning of more to come the SNP can no longer stick their heads in the sand about the oil jobs crisis. We need a long-term plan to deal with the effect of the falling oil price on jobs not just in the North-east but right across Scotland in the supply chain.”

TransCanada:  TransCanada sues Obama Administration over Keystone Pipeline

TransCanada Corporation announced today it has filed a Notice of Intent to initiate a claim under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in response to the U.S. Administration’s decision to deny a Presidential Permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline on the basis that the denial was arbitrary and unjustified. TransCanada’s legal actions challenge the foundation of the U.S. Administration’s decision to deny a Presidential border crossing permit for the project. In its decision, the U.S. State Department acknowledged the denial was not based on the merits of the project. Rather, it was a symbolic gesture based on speculation about the perceptions of the international community regarding the Administration’s leadership on climate change and the President’s assertion of unprecedented, independent powers. Through the NAFTA claim, TransCanada will be seeking to recover more than US$15 billion in costs and damages that it has suffered as a result of the U.S. Administration’s breach of its NAFTA obligations. TransCanada also has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Federal Court in Houston, Texas, asserting that the President’s decision to deny construction of Keystone XL exceeded his power under the U.S. Constitution.

Economic Times India:  India to re-open commercial coal mining to private firms

India is getting ready to open up commercial coal mining to private companies for the first time in four decades, with the aim of shifting the world’s third-biggest coal importer towards energy self-sufficiency. Coal Secretary Anil Swarup said on Friday the government has identified mines it plans to auction, and is now finalising other terms such as eligibility criteria for companies to take part and whether and how to set up revenue sharing. He said a plan should be ready in the 2-3 months, setting a clear timeline on a plan that has previously only been vaguely marked out. India has an ambitious plan to double its coal production to 1.5 billion tonnes a year by 2020, as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push to bring power to 300 million people who live without electricity, and give a boost to manufacturing.

Forbes:  Improved outlook for uranium

Uranium prices are recovering and the outlook for the uranium market has brightened for several reasons: Japan restarted nuclear reactors at the Sendai power plant a few months ago, and about 40 of Japan’s 54 nuclear plants will likely be restarted.- China’s current and planned construction of nuclear power plants is a good indicator of future uranium demand. Mainland China has 26 nuclear power reactors in operation and 25 under construction, according to the World Nuclear Association, with almost 100 more planned by 2030. India is also in the midst of a major expansion of nuclear-power generation. The country’s installed capacity is now at 5.7 GW, but that is set to grow to 10 GW in just the next four years, which puts pressure on global uranium demand. In the United States, about 90% of our existing reactors will soon be relicensed for another 20 years, many for another 40 years, keeping the United States the biggest producer of nuclear power for at least ten more years until China completes their 100 new units.

USA Today:  Oklahoma hit with 70 quakes in a week

A swarm of more than 70 small earthquakes has rattled Oklahoma in the past week, raising concerns that the state’s quake problem is getting worse. Oklahoma in 2014 had at least 5,415 earthquakes; 585 of them were magnitude-3 or greater. In comparison, the state had just 109 magnitude-3 quakes in 2013, according to the Oklahoma Geologic Survey. Statistics for 2015 are still being compiled. A state report last year noted a connection between hydraulic fracturing and some earthquake “swarms,” and state officials say there’s a potential risk to the public due to the increase in quakes. Experts say the quakes are likely being caused by injection wells, which are particularly deep wells into which drilling byproducts and wastewater are injected, rather than wells drilled to extract oil or gas. “The OGS considers it very likely that the majority of recent earthquakes, particularly those in central and north-central Oklahoma, are triggered by the injection of produced water in disposal wells,” the agency said.

CBS News:  California takes action on massive natural-gas leak

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency over a massive natural-gas leak that has been spewing methane and other gases into a Los Angeles neighborhood for months, sickening residents and forcing thousands to evacuate. The well, owned by Southern California Gas Co., has been gushing up to 1,200 tons of climate-changing methane daily, along with other gases, since it was first reported in October. It will be months before workers can stem the leak, experts say. The gas leak is “one of the most devastating environmental disasters in the history of California,” Los Angeles Councilman Mitchell Englander said Wednesday. The massive leak amounts to about a quarter of the state’s total output of methane, one of the most potent gases in climate change. The site is one of the country’s largest underground natural-gas storage facilities and can hold enough natural gas to fuel Southern California for a month.

Heartland Institute:  Greenland Wants Out of Paris Climate Accord

Even before the ink dried on the UN climate agreement developed in Paris, Greenland is angling to opt out of its commitments under the accord due to its impacts on the territory’s energy sector. “We still have the option of making a territorial opt-out to COP21,” Kim Kielsen, the prime minister of Greenland, said during a visit to Copenhagen in mid-December. Greenland, a self-governing territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, is geographically roughly the size of Mexico while the population is smaller than the Cayman Islands’ making Greenland the least densely populated country in the world. With its population so widely dispersed, the commonest mode of transportation for locals is light planes which emit a great deal of carbon dioxide during their operation. Keilsen says the signatories to the Paris agreement should take account of Greenland’s unique transportation when considering its decision to relax its emission standards. In addition Greenland has unique issues related to heating due to its extended winter conditions. Greenland’s natural cloudiness and extended periods of low light conditions mean solar power cannot make a significant contribution to Greenland’s power supply and wind power’s effectiveness is largely limited to Southern Greenland where the wind blows fairly regularly.

The Actuary:  EU policies pushing up electricity costs

Interventions in the market over the past 10 years have led to “much higher costs of reducing carbon emissions, greater chances of the lights going out, higher prices and less competition”. The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) said attempts by the EU to promote competition and liberalisation had “only been a partial success at best” and bias towards renewable energy further reduced competition in power markets. Philip Booth, academic and research director at the IEA, said: “Until 10 years ago, the UK led the way in reforming the electricity industry. Markets were deregulated, competition was promoted and industry was privatised, leading to both consumer costs and greenhouse gas emissions falling.” However the think tank argued that a major U-turn began in the UK around 10 years ago, reducing competition and freedom. Steps included limiting the number of offers and tariffs available to consumers, the introduction of measures directing electricity generating companies towards particular technologies, and long-term agreements to fix prices in markets. The report argued this U-turn caused “significant” supply-and-demand imbalances. The report proposes the UK to return to, and the EU to develop, a “fully liberalised and competitive” market, both at the wholesale and retail level.

Reuters:  Is Sweden’s ‘green miracle’ a model for the rest of the world?

In the wake of the Paris Climate Agreement, many countries will be looking to curb their emissions while continuing to grow their economies. Sweden is often held up as a role model in this regard having increased GDP by almost 60% over the past 25 years while cutting carbon by a fifth. But the country’s “green miracle” is now under threat. Despite its enviable safety track record, and the fact that it provides 40% of the country’s electricity, nuclear power is now on the defensive in Sweden. The government wants to replace it, in the long term, with what they say are greener sources. However some experts say that nuclear has been the critical factor in the country’s ability to grow the economy while cutting carbon. “In the start of the 1970s we started putting nuclear power plants online, and what we saw was that the economy kept growing but the emissions started falling very rapidly,” said Dr Staffan Qvist from Uppsala University, who researches nuclear issues. He says that Sweden’s coalition government, which includes the Green Party, is sacrificing nuclear energy for political expediency. The government says that it’s not just nuclear power that has helped Sweden break the link between economic growth and carbon consumption. Finance minister Magdalena Andersson believes politicians should get some of the credit.

Guardian:  WA’s rooftop solar so popular power privatisation not an option, says expert

Western Australia would not be able to privatise its electricity assets “even if they gave it to them for nothing” because the popularity of rooftop solar panels has made state-owned power stations unprofitable, a renewable energy expert has said. Prof Philip Jennings, an emeritus professor in energy and physics at Murdoch University, said the uptake of solar was a looming problem for the Barnett government, which has indicated it may consider privatising some or all of its energy assets after the 2017 state election. Jennings said WA’s electricity network was 66% over capacity, thanks in part to an unexpected increase in rooftop solar. “Effectively we have built another very large power station on the rooftops of Perth, and that is what has thrown the government’s calculations out because they didn’t factor it into their calculations when they decided to go in and bring [coal-fired power stations] Muja A and B back online,” Jennings told Guardian Australia. The power stations, which Jennings described as “not particularly clean and not particularly efficient”, were tipped to be among the state assets up for sale in a bid by the treasurer, Mike Nahan, to curb WA’s credit rating. But Jennings said unless the state’s energy profile changed, investors were unlikely to be interested in Muja or any other assets.

Timera Energy:  The UK’s dual capacity markets

There is an acute and increasing capacity shortage in the UK power market caused by the retire-ment of older gas and coal plants. This is being driven by ongoing weakness in thermal generation margins, due in part to increasing volumes of renewable output. In response to security of supply concerns, the UK government introduced a capacity market in 2014. The aim of this intervention was to provide a reliable stream of income to support the flexible thermal capacity required to backup intermittent renewable output. But so far the capacity market has had the opposite effect. Low capacity prices have contributed to the closure of existing thermal plants. At the same time the capacity market has incentivised delivery of very little in the way of new capacity. So the UK’s system reserve margin, rather than stabilising, continues to fall. Security of supply is instead being maintained by a stop gap secondary ‘market’ for capacity known as Supplemental Balancing Reserve (SBR). SBR was designed as a temporary measure for the system operator to acquire emergency reserve while the government implemented a real capacity market. But SBR is increasingly becoming the real UK capacity market, by default rather than design.

BusinessGreen:  Rudd promises new push to meet carbon targets

Amber Rudd has acknowledged the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will have to introduce new measures during this parliament to ensure the UK meets legally binding emissions and renewables targets. Speaking during energy and climate change questions in the House of Commons this morning, Rudd said she did “accept this government needs to put in place more policies to meet our carbon budgets”. Rudd’s comments follow previous suggestions that the government will come forward with a new plan for meeting the fourth carbon budget before the end of this year, fuelling hopes that a series of new policies to support clean technologies will be required. Separately, Rudd insisted the government does “not rule out carbon capture and storage in the future”, despite the cancellation of the £1bn demonstration funding competition and the Prime Minister’s recent suggestion the technology was working. Rudd said the government was continuing to support early stage CCS R&D and would consider deploying the technology in the future.

Mail:  £175m diesel power subsidies ‘will mean bills increase’

A Government decision to award £175 million in public subsidies to support diesel power will mean family energy bills go up, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has admitted. The Government is paying out the cash as part of its capacity market scheme which provides payments to power plants so they are on stand-by to start generating if needed to ensure the lights stay on. But the shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy today demanded to know what the impact on bills will be. The Energy Secretary replied: “The capacity market is specifically designed to ensure that their energy security is not negotiable. Energy security is something that this Government takes very seriously and because of the lack of investment in energy infrastructure over the past decades we have needed to make sure the capacity market is in place to ensure that we don’t have any problem at all with energy security. Diesel will form a part of the future but only in very small amounts. The addition of the capacity market to people’s bill will be a matter of a few pounds.” Ms Rudd went on to say that the capacity market is needed “because of Labour’s woeful under-investment in infrastructure under their government”.

PV Magazine:  UK: solar outshines hydro, drives down coal in 2015

Solar PV electricity generation has surpassed hydro in the UK for the first time in 2015. EnAppSys has revealed the impressive result in a report this week in which it concluded that renewables growth in Britain is causing, “the continued fall in power supply from coal-fired power stations.” Solar PV pumped 7.1TWh of electricity into Britain’s electricity grids in 2015, surpassing hydro (6.84TWh) for the first time. Wind electricity production also grew sharply, to 32.4TWh, along with biomass, with 19TWh. Renewables across all sources accounted for 65.4TWh, or 21%, of total electricity supply in the UK in 2015, only a fraction behind nuclear power at 21.1%. The solar PV result surprising, because if you look at the DECC [Department of Energy and Climate Change] forecasts for solar output, it wasn’t expected to hit these levels until 2020 to 2030 at least,” EnAppSys’ Rob Lalor, an energy analyst and one of the report authors told pv magazine, “We’ve seen a lot more solar earlier than expected.”

Global Construction Review:  Renewable now provides 38% of Scotland’s electricity

The Scottish government has announced that more than a third of gross electricity consumption in the country came from renewable sources in 2014. Renewables now make up 38% of total output, compared with 33% for nuclear and 28% for fossil fuels. At the end of 2015, there was 7.5GW of renewable capacity in the country, an increase of 4.6% over the year. Scottish renewables made up 29% of the total UK renewable output in 2014. Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s energy minister, said: “Today’s figures show that Scotland’s renewables sector is stronger than ever and our early adoption of clean, green energy technology and infrastructure was the right thing to do. It is fantastic news that renewables are now Scotland’s biggest electricity generator, and that nearly half of gross electricity consumption comes from renewables. Despite damaging policy changes from the UK government, we will continue to harness Scotland’s renewables potential, both in generation and infrastructure.”

Edie:  Scotland urged to exploit ‘virtual power plants’ through demand response

WWF Scotland, Scottish Renewables and the Scottish Greens have all told edie of the need for the nation’s political parties to commit to a comprehensive national strategy to help homes and businesses reduce and manage their demand for electricity. Universities, banks, supermarkets and datacentres could act as ‘virtual power plants’, voluntarily lowering their demand for electricity and therefore avoiding the need to turn on conventional power stations, the organisations claim. “It’s far cheaper to reduce our electricity demand than it is to build new power stations that are only used for short periods of time,” said WWF Scotland’s climate and policy officer Gina Hanrahan. “If we want to cut consumer bills and lower climate emissions then demand reduction must be a central part of any future energy strategy.“Scotland’s political parties need to commit to a national strategy to help consumers and businesses cut their demand for electricity by at least 1% a year to 2030.”

Guardian:  EDF considers selling €3bn stake in UK nuclear business to help fund Hinkley

EDF is considering the sale of a €3bn (£2.2bn) stake in its British nuclear business in a bid to raise cash for new Hinkley Point reactors. Possible buyers would be state-owned Chinese companies, who are already committed partners on the £18bn Somerset project. EDF could unveil details of a sell-off plan on 16 February, when it is scheduled to release annual financial figures and is expected to give a final investment decision on building Britain’s first new reactors for 20 years. The French daily, Les Echos, reported on Thursday that EDF may reduce its stake in the eight existing nuclear reactors it owns from 80% to 51% by bringing in a new investor as part of a wider €6bn disposal programme. Industry sources told the Guardian that the possible sell off was only one of a number of different options that were under consideration as the group looked at financing Hinkley Point C and other projects. They said it was still likely EDF would give the go ahead to Hinkley next month even though it did not have all the financing in place. The project is estimated to cost £18bn, according to EDF, though the European Union has warned it could go as high as £24bn.

Telegraph:  European Commission investigates Drax payments

Drax’s hopes of securing lucrative subsidies for its biomass conservion have suffered a setback after the European Commission launched a full state aid investigation over concerns the payments may be too generous. The Yorkshire- based power plant is in the process of switching from burning coal to biomass, and was awarded a £1.7bn Government subsidy contract in April 2014 for the third of its six units – subject to state aid approval. The contract would see Drax paid a fixed price of £105 for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of biomass-fired power the unit generated until 2027 – well over double the current market price. Drax shares fell 5pc on Tuesday after the European Commission said it was concerned that the rate of return from the subsidies “could be higher than the parties estimate and could lead to overcompensation”. It was also concerned that the “considerable” volume of wood pellets the unit would burn each year – about 2.4 million tonnes, mostly imported from United States and South America – would be so great as to “significantly distort competition in the biomass market”.

Telegraph:  Britain to share more electricity with France and Ireland

A City financier supporting a proposed power cable between Iceland and Britain is launching a new venture to build several more links to electricity sources across Europe. Edmund Truell has set up Global Interconnection Group to explore projects similar to the 600-mile Icelink cable that would provide the ability to trade more electricity between the UK and the Channel Islands, Ireland and France, in the hope of easing the threat of shortages as fossil fuel power stations are retired. Mr Truell, a well-connected Conservative party donor, said the new cable to Ireland would take advantage of surplus wind power in the country, while the line from Southampton to the Channel Islands and France could link to a proposed, but delayed, nuclear reactor planned by EDF in Flamanville, just 30 miles off the coast of Guernsey. “These are two-way flows that give much better energy security, and it’s typically much cheaper power than UK wind,” he said. “It would use a connection that was planned for an Isle of Wight wind farm that was scuppered on planning grounds.”

PV Magazine:  RES announces £1 million UK energy storage project

U.K. headquartered RES has signed an EPC contract with Western Power Distribution (WPD), the electricity distributor for the Midlands, the South West and South Wales, to build and support a 300kVA/640kWh battery energy storage system (BESS). The project is said to be worth £1 million and is expected to demonstrate nine different applications of energy storage on the U.K.’s grid. The aim is to evaluate the technical and commercial feasibility of battery energy storage combined within distributed generation (DG) installations. The system, to be supplied by China’s BYD, will be installed alongside British Solar Renewables (BSR’s) 1.5MW solar PV park at Copley Wood near Butleigh, and will be connected to WPD’s South West 11kV network.

BusinessGreen:  UK’s largest battery energy storage array comes online

The energy storage technology firm AES confirmed its Kilroot Advancion Energy Storage Array in Northern Ireland was now commercially available for Harmonised Ancillary Services provision, offering 10MW of energy storage capacity to the grid. The project is the first step in a plan to develop a 100MW storage array adjacent to Kilroot Power Station, which according to independent estimates could provide £8.5m of grid system savings and 123,000 tonnes of carbon emission reductions a year by displacing back-up fossil fuel plants and enabling fuller integration of existing renewables projects. The new 10MW array will now be officially opened next month and will be assessed by the government-backed Innovate UK Energy Catalyst as part of a project to analyse the effectiveness of grid-scale energy storage systems. The company said the array, which features over 53,000 batteries, “provides a dependable, smart and cost-competitive means to support a reliable, low carbon electricity system for the Northern Ireland economy”. It added that the facility is a fully commercial project that creates no additional costs for consumers.

Solar Power Portal:  Renewables proponents rewarded in New Year’s Honours list

Former energy and climate change secretary and current chairman of community energy group Mongoose Ed Davey was awarded the title of Knight Batchelor for his political and public ser-vice. Nina Skorupska, chief executive at the Renewable Energy Association, was awarded a CBE for her services to renewables and equality in the energy industry. Community Energy England chairman Philip Wolfe was awarded an MBE for his services to renewable energy and the energy sector in general. Afsheen Rashid, founding director and chief operating officer at Repowering London, was also awarded an MBE for her work in establishing renewable energy projects in deprived London communities.

Weather: Current El Niño Ties 1997-1998 as Strongest on Record, Says NOAA

The current El Niño has tied the strongest previous El Niño on record, but appears to have peaked according to data just released this week by NOAA. Sea-surface water temperatures in the equatorial central and eastern Pacific Ocean over the latest three-month period from October through December 2015 were 2.3 degrees Celsius above average, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. That departure from average, commonly referred to as the sea-surface temperature (SST) anomaly, ties the peak anomaly measured during the 1997-1998 El Niño, the strong-est El Niño on record since record keeping began in 1950, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Huffington Post:  2015 Was Second Hottest Year On Record In U.S.

The average temperature in 2015 was 54.4 degrees Fahrenheit (12.4 degrees Celsius), compared with 55.3 F (12.9 C) in 2012, the warmest year recorded since the government started keeping records in 1895, NOAA said. Much warmer than average annual temperatures were recorded across the West, including Washington state and Oregon, as well as in the Southeast, including Florida. It was also the third wettest year on record, with Oklahoma and Texas setting records for precipitation. There were 10 extreme climate and weather events in 2015 including storms, floods and a wildfire that each caused more than $1 billion in damages, NOAA said. These events resulted in the deaths of 155 people.

News Australia: But only the fifth hottest in Australia

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM)’s annual climate statement, released this morning, said a combination of El Niño and climate change led 2015 to be one of Australia’s hottest years on record and will almost certainly be the globe’s warmest ever. The BoM’s acting assistant director for climate information services, Dr Scott Power, said the last 12 months were the country’s fifth hottest since records began.“The national mean temperature was 0.83°C above average, with a number of notable heatwaves during the year and record-breaking temperatures from October to December.” Nationally, Australian temperatures have warmed approximately 1°C since 1950, consistent with global climate trends, according to the BoM.

Washington Post:  Scientists say humans have now brought on an entirely new geologic epoch

A group of 24 geoscientists on Thursday released a bracing assessment, suggesting that humans have altered the Earth so extensively that the consequences will be detectable in current and future geological records. They therefore suggest that we should consider the Earth to have moved into a new geologic epoch, the “Anthropocene,” sometime circa 1945-1964. The current era (at least under present definitions), known as the Holocene, began about 11,700 years ago, and was marked by warming and large sea level rise coming out of a major cool period, the Younger Dryas. However, the researchers suggest, changes ranging from growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to infusions of plastics into marine sediments suggest that we’ve now left the Holocene decisively behind — and that the proof is already being laid down in polar ice cores, deep ocean sediments, and future rocks themselves. “In a way it’s a thought experiment,” said Naomi Oreskes, a geologically trained Harvard historian of science and one of the study’s authors. “We’re imagining what a future geologist will see when he or she looks at the rock record. But it’s not that difficult a thought experiment to do, because so many of these signals are already present.”

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10 Responses to Blowout week 106

  1. Graeme No.3 says:

    Re Australia fifth hottest year on record: Bear in mind that the records are limited to what the BOM provides, after “homogenisation”. Records for the years previous to the formation of the BoM are considered ‘undesirable’ especially as several States show very hot weather in the 1890’s.

    • The Australian records have been so heavily spindled, folded and mutilated that it’s difficult to know where 2015 sits in the “hottest year” list. But in all probability it wasn’t as hot as BoM says it was.

  2. climanrecon says:

    Link for the first item, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology giving us its opinion on Climate Change and floods:

    I find it strange that no mention was made of dredging, but what should we expect from chemists and ecologists.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Absolutely no doubt about the climate impact on the heavy rainfall and the frequency of the rainfall.

      It all makes sense apart from this. NE Scotland rivers are not dredged and have boulder beds. We will have a couple of posts on this later in the week. Roger will show that Scottish rainfall was a record but only just. Flooding in Ballater seems due to old and crumbling flood defences being swept away.

      • Willem Post says:

        There is nothing new under the sun.
        It is people who place their artifacts in odd places, and then complain about having them flooded, or swept away, or inundated.
        And because there are more and more artifacts, the problem grows proportional to gross world product, which is at least 400 times greater than in 1800.

  3. garethbeer says:

    Good ‘radio’ interview of Piers Corbyn (big brother to Jeremy).
    Covers quite a few things off from the real reason they got him on ‘our’ bbc with Andrew Neil to what drives climate, weather…

  4. Willem Post says:

    “UK’s largest battery energy storage array comes online”

    Here is a write-up regarding utility-scale battery systems to replace peaking plants.

    Utilities aim to reduce purchases of on-peak energy from the grid during peak demands. One way is by having access to utility-owned and customer-owned batteries, instead of starting up diesel-generators and gas-turbine generators.

    Batteries systems can meet peak demands with lower emissions than gas-fired, gas-turbine generators, a.k.a. “peakers”, by charging during low-demand periods, and discharging during peak demand periods, which displaces the need to burn incremental natural gas in a peaker.

    Battery systems can perform regulating, and wind and solar energy balancing services, when not in peaking mode. These services are much less stressful, as they use a smaller range of the system capacity, as above noted.

    The levelized cost of energy of 150 – 200 MW gas turbine peaking plants is about 17 – 20 c/kWh; it varies with the cost of capital, operating hours/y, fixed and variable O&M, efficiency and gas prices/million Btu. If the average on-peak wholesale energy price over the next 30 years were less than 17 – 20 c/kWh, the peaking plant would be operated at a loss.

    The capital cost of a 150 MW gas turbine peaking plant is about $150 million.
    Annual payments, amortizing at 5%/y over 30 y………………………..$9,760,000
    Annual fixed + variable O&M………………………………………………….$2,650,000
    Annual gas cost, at 0.35 efficiency and $5/million Btu……………….$5,305,000*
    Miscellaneous, i.e., taxes, insurance, etc…………………………………$1,000,000
    Total annual cost………………………………………………………………..$18,715,000
    LCOE………………………………………………………………………………….17.2 c/kWh

    * The current price of gas is less than $2/million Btu.

    The LCOE of battery systems is dependent on difference of wholesale on- and off-peak rates, c/kWh, the life, year, and degradation of the batteries, %/y, and the range of charge/discharge, %. As a minimum, the rate difference must be large enough to offset the “round-trip” losses of charging, discharging and AC to DC and DC to AC conversion, which may be up to 25% of the off-peak energy fed into the battery system. .

    TESLA markets 100-kWh Powerpack units, at $25,000 each, or $250/kWh. TESLA offers a 10-y warrantee regarding manufacturing defects, not regarding performance. When battery replacement is due, prices/kWh likely would be less.

    A 150 MW gas turbine peaking plant would generate 300 MWh in 2 hours. Assuming 79% of the battery capacity is available, and the charging, discharging, and AC to DC conversion loss is 25%, then 300 MWh/0.75 = 400 MWh needs to be charged into the battery to recover 300 MWh.

    The battery capacity would need to be = 400/0.79 = 506 MWh.
    The battery capacity with 10% degradation after 10 years would need to be 506/0.9 = 562 MWh
    The battery capital cost would be = 562 x 1000 x 250 = $140.6 million
    The battery SYSTEM capital cost would be about $200 million, or $356/kWh.
    LCOE = annual cost/energy provided = 18.2 million/(108799 x 1000) = 16.7 c/kWh, over 10 years.

    Annual payments, amortizing the rest of the battery system at 5%/y over 30 y, would be 3.9 million/y: excluding fixed and variable O&M, and miscellaneous costs.
    LCOE = 3.9 million/(108799 x 1000) = 3.5 c/kWh over 30 years.

    Total LCOE = 16.7 + 3.5 = 20.3 c/kWh over the first ten years; it would be less the next 10 years, etc., as the cost of replacement batteries would decrease.

    Assuming future battery costs decrease, and only $80 million is required to replace them at 10 years, and another $80 million at 20 years, total investment would be 200 + 80 + 80 = $360 million compared with $150 million for the gas turbine peaking plant.

    The LCOE of the battery system, operating life of 10 to at most 15 years versus about 30 years for gas turbine peakers, would need to become significant less than 17 c/kWh to cause utilities to replace older gas turbine peakers (which likely are already paid for) with new battery systems, unless it is mandated by law.

  5. This article would certainly have appeared in Blowout if I’d come across it in time:

    The prospect of cheaper, petroleum-free power has lured the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) to quintuple utility-scale solar capacity over the past year, building two 12-megawatt photovoltaic arrays. When the second plant comes online this summer, peak solar output on Kauai will approach 80 percent of power generation on some days. That puts Kauai on the leading edge of solar power penetration, and KIUC has bruises to show for it. Power fluctuations from a first large plant installed in 2012 have already largely burned out the big batteries installed to keep solar from destabilizing the island’s grid. Kauai’s difficulty is most acute when clouds drift over a solar plant. That can slash a plant’s power output by 70 to 80 percent in less than a minute. If the plant is providing a substantial share of the grid’s power, that rapid power loss can cause the frequency of the grid’s alternating current to drop well below 60 hertz, damaging customer equipment or even causing a blackout. Kauai’s first energy storage system, at the six-megawatt photovoltaic plant at Port Allen on Kauai’s west side, was designed to mitigate such “frequency droops” by releasing stored power when output crashed. But when the plant went live in December 2012, Rockwell and his engineers quickly discovered that, as Rockwell puts it, the battery is “just not what it was cracked up to be.” Now KIUC is taking a second try with batteries and hoping energy storage technology has progressed sufficiently to keep the same problems from recurring. The new system, installed beside the solar farm nearing completion on Kauai’s northeast shore, is one of the first commercial installations of grid-scale lithium-ion batteries manufactured by the French battery giant SA.

  6. Doug Smith says:

    Today we are told that wind power in Scotland has met 97% of household electricity needs in 2015 ( Is this really correct? Or have statistics been massaged?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      The statistic is possibly correct though quoted in a way intended to deceive. Two things need to be taken into account. 1) Households use only a fraction of national electricity – schools, hospitals, government buildings, commerce and industry use the rest. 2) An amount of electricity equivalent to 97% of household needs may well have been produced but not at the time households need it. Some of to will have been curtailed (i.e. wasted but still paid for by us), and at other times when the wind didn’t blow we will have used nuclear.

      Simply put, this is Green propaganda, and you are right to question it.

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