Blowout week 110

This week’s lead story features job cuts – but not in oil and gas. Australia has decided that since the science of climate change is now settled it doesn’t need as many climate scientists:

Sydney Morning Herald:  Climate science to be gutted as CSIRO swings jobs axe

Fears that some of Australia’s most important climate research institutions will be gutted under a Turnbull government have been realised with deep job cuts for scientists. The cuts were flagged in November, just a week before the Paris climate summit began, with key divisions told to prepare lists of job cuts or to find new ways to raise revenue. “Climate will be all gone, basically,” one senior scientist said before the announcement. In the email sent out to staff on Thursday morning, CSIRO’s chief executive Larry Marshall indicated that, since climate change had been established, further work in the area would be a reduced priority. “CSIRO pioneered climate research,” Dr Marshall said. “Our climate models are among the best in the world and our measurements honed those models to prove global climate change,” he said. “That question has been answered, and the new question is what do we do about it, and how can we find solutions for the climate we will be living with?”

Stories below the fold include the trials and tribulations of Saudi Arabia and OPEC, US O&G company ratings cut, Obama proposes $10/bbl tax on US O&G companies, Spain presses EC to save its coal industry, UK and German emissions fall, Hinkley financing concerns spread to Wylfa, Fiddler’s Ferry closure, the world’s largest wind farm, energy storage finally poised for a breakthrough, the warmest January on record in the lower troposphere, a solar/wind powered street light that sends out disaster warnings, charges your cell phone and kills mosquitos all at the same time and how climate change causes depressed dogs.

Telegraph:  Saudis told to embrace austerity as debt defaults loom

Saudi Arabia faces years of tough austerity as the worst oil price crash in the modern history forces the kingdom to make radical cuts to government largesse, the International Monetary Fund has warned. The world’s largest producer of crude oil will need to “transform” its economy away from oil revenues, which make up more than 80pc of the government’s wealth, according to Masood Ahmed, head of the Middle East department at the IMF. He urged the kingdom to reform its generous system of oil subsidies and introduce a host of new taxes, including consumption levies such as VAT. During the world’s last major oil price crash in 1986, 17 out of 25 of the developing world’s major oil producers defaulted on their debts, according to research from Oxford Economics. Debt mountains in producer nations ballooned by 40pc of GDP on average.

Telegraph:  Saudi Arabia may go broke before the US oil industry buckles

The Saudis took a huge gamble last November when they stopped supporting prices and opted instead to flood the market and drive out rivals, boosting their own output to 10.6m barrels a day (b/d) into the teeth of the downturn. If the aim was to choke the US shale industry, the Saudis have misjudged badly, just as they misjudged the growing shale threat at every stage for eight years. “It is becoming apparent that non-OPEC producers are not as responsive to low oil prices as had been thought, at least in the short-run,” said the Saudi central bank in its latest stability report. “The main impact has been to cut back on developmental drilling of new oil wells, rather than slowing the flow of oil from existing wells. This requires more patience,” it said. One Saudi expert was blunter. “The policy hasn’t worked and it will never work,” he said.

Telegraph:  Oil slowdown to trigger ‘supply crisis’ by 2020

Investment in new oil and gas projects plunged 20pc in 2015 and energy companies pull back even further this year, experts at UBS said. The delay between investment and production in the energy sector means this is “likely to hit the market around the end of the decade”, the analysts added. The 75pc collapse in oil prices since summer 2014 has slashed profits at oil firms, which have been forced to axe jobs and postpone putting money into new projects. In addition to pre-serving cashflow, UBS said companies could be delaying investment decisions in order to take advantage of the deflationary environment to rework projects to reduce costs and improve efficiencies. Projects approved between 2010-2014, when oil traded at $100 a barrel, will add to the global glut in the near future, but the current investment climate will take its toll on supply beyond 2018. UBS said: “There already looks to be a 4m barrel per day production ‘hole’ appearing, which we believe will be difficult to offset.”

Telegraph: Oil market spiral threatens to prick global debt bubble

The global oil industry is caught in a self-feeding downward spiral as falling prices cause producers to boost output even further in a scramble to service $3 trillion of dollar debt, the world’s top watchdog has warned. The Bank for International Settlements fears that a perverse dynamic is at work where energy companies in Brazil, Russia, China and parts of the US shale belt are increasing production in defiance of normal market logic, leading to a bad “feedback-loop” that is sucking the whole sector into a destructive vortex.“Lower prices have not removed excess capacity from the market, but instead may have exacerbated it. Production has been ramped up, rather than curtailed,” said Jaime Caruana, the general manager of the Swiss-based club for central bankers. The findings raise serious questions about the strategy of Saudi Arabia and the core Opec states as they flood the global crude market to knock out rivals in a cut-throat battle for export share. The process of attrition may take far longer and do more damage than originally supposed.

Oil Price:  Six OPEC Members, Plus Russia, Now Open to Emergency Meeting

Oil prices have whipsawed back and forth over the past two weeks, largely due to the rise and fall of expectations that OPEC might call an emergency meeting. Comments from several Russian oil executives and government officials sent oil prices surging at the end of January. Then prices retraced their gains when officials from OPEC dismissed the stories as just rumors. Nothing had changed, OPEC officials argued, even though some people in Russia were hinting at a meeting. But the rumors persist. The latest fuel to the rumor fire is the fact that now six OPEC member states have said that they would be willing to attend an emergency meeting if one was called, the highest total yet. The list includes Iraq, Algeria, Nigeria, Ecuador, Iran, and of course Venezuela. Russia and Oman, two non-OPEC members, would also be willing to attend. “The idea is to not just hold a meeting, but for all the countries to attend with the intention of reaching agreements,” Venezuela’s oil minister Eulogio Del Pino said in the statement.

Reuters:  U.S. oil, gas industry sheds 100,000 jobs in slump

The number of people employed in oil and gas extraction and support activities across the United States has fallen by around 100,000 since October 2014. Between October 2014 and November 2015, the number of people on the payroll of oil and gas extraction firms and support services fell by almost 87,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
But once data on job losses in December and January becomes available, the total reduction is likely to be around 100,000, or 16 percent of employment at its peak. Total employment in oil and gas production and services fell from almost 538,000 in October 2014 to 451,000 in November 2015 and is likely to have slipped under 440,000 in January.

Financial Times:  Standard & Poor’s cuts ratings of US oil and gas groups

Three leading shale oil and gas producers, Continental Resources, Southwestern Energy and privately held Hunt Oil, were downgraded from investment grade to “junk” status. Exxon, the largest US oil group and one of only three companies in the country with an AAA status, was put on watch for a possible downgrade of the rating. Ratings for Chevron as well as EOG Resources, Apache and Devon Energy, three large independent oil and gas producers, were cut but remained investment grade. Ratings for Hess, Marathon Oil and Murphy Oil, three other leading independent US exploration and production companies, were cut to BBB-, also still investment grade but just one notch above junk. ConocoPhillips, the largest US exploration and production company, was also put on watch for a possible downgrade within 90 days. Occidental Petroleum, EQT, Cimarex Energy and Pioneer Natural Resources were affirmed at investment grade ratings.

White House:  Obama proposes “a new $10/bbl fee on oil paid by oil companies”

We need a sustainable funding solution that takes into account the integrated, interdependent nature of our transportation system. Travelers choose between walking, biking, driving, flying, and taking the train; and companies choose between trucks, barges, airplanes and rail lines. So to meet our needs in the future, we have to make significant investments across all modes of transportation. And our transportation system is heavily dependent on oil. That is why we are proposing to fund these investments through a new $10 per barrel fee on oil paid by oil companies, which would be gradually phased in over five years. The fee raises the funding necessary to make these new investments, while also providing for the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund to ensure we maintain the infrastructure we have. By placing a fee on oil, the President’s plan creates a clear incentive for private sector innovation to reduce our reliance on oil and at the same time invests in clean energy technologies that will power our future.

China Daily:  China stops approving new coal mines

China won’t approve any new coal mines before the end of 2019, the State Council said on Friday, as authorities work to slash overcapacity in the industry. The country will shut down 500 million tons of capacity and consolidate another 500 million tons into the hands of fewer but more efficient mine operators in the next three to five years, according to a guideline issued by the council. It said the government will continue to encourage mergers and acquisitions to make companies more competitive, and that the sector will be opened wider to private capital. The state council wants every coal producer’s output to be no less than three million tons per year.Massive coal production powered China’s economic advance in the past few decades, but shrink-ing domestic demand amid the economic slowdown has made much of this capacity redundant.In the past five years, China eliminated about 560 million tons of coal production capacity and closed 7,250 coal mines.

Platts:  Spain presses European Commission to aid its coal industry

Spain’s government has held meetings with the European Commission with a view to propping up its coal industry which is suffering accelerated closures due to low international prices, the country’s industry ministry said Friday. Industry minister Jose Manuel Soria met with the EU’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager last week to ensure that a plan of “ordered closures” through to 2018 is maintained. In the meeting, Spain proposed a temporary mechanism covering the period to 2018 which could guarantee the ongoing use of domestic coal, the ministry said, without elaborating. The ministry said that the Spanish case had been well received and that the two sides would look for a solution that was compatible with European regulations. Soria argued that, given Spain’s isolated nature, security of supply is relatively vulnerable and requires domestic supply. A potential solution would be to find a legal way for Spain to compensate the burning of domestic coal up to 2018, the ministry said. Spanish unions have said that as many as 2,000 jobs are dependent on a solution.

RT:  German city to sue ‘hazardous’ Belgian nuclear power plant

The German city of Aachen has decided to sue the operators of Belgium’s Tihange nuclear power plant over fears that the restart of the aging facility, which was initially taken offline over safety, poses a nuclear threat to the region. The unanimous decision by the city committee to first bring the suit to Belgian courts, before possibly suing Tihange operator, Electrabel, in EU court in Brussels, comes after the CDU, SPD, FDP and Greens fractions agreed that the power plant poses an environmental threat. The lawsuit seeks “decommissioning Tihange 2” which lies only 71 kilometers (44 miles) West of Aachen. The city argues that Electrabel is in breach of the European law after the operator allegedly failed to fix cracks in the protective concrete. The faulty reactor was taken offline in March 2014 due to cracks in the concrete blocks, but was returned to service in March 2015 without the necessary repairs.

ICIS:  German power market takes over as largest net electricity exporter

Germany took over from France as the main net exporter in January as German supply margins improved while France’s deteriorated. German outbound flows increased 2.5% to 8.3GW/hour, marking the first time in nine months that the country’s exports were significantly higher than France’s. Strong wind generation and relatively mild weather boosted supply margins. All of the monthly increases in exports were confined to Germany’s eastern borders – a pattern that has now been observed for three consecutive months. Exports to Poland were particularly strong with freezing temperatures boosting demand while supply disruptions were caused by the cold weather conditions triggering cooling issues at Poland’s main power plants, forcing them into unplanned outages. Similarly the Czech Republic was suffering from prolonged outages to 1GW of nuclear capacity and Austria was faced with interconnector restrictions along its border with Hungary. This led to an uptick in German flows to Austria and Czech Republic where net exports were flat month on month.While Germany’s net exports increased, France’s receded by 23% to 6.2GW/hour. Weak hydroelectricity stocks, erratic wind output and colder temperatures increased the strain on the French grid. Elsewhere high hydropower in Spain has reduced the need for French imports.

Cleantechnica:  German Greenhouse Gas Emissions Fell 4.6% In 2014, New Data Shows

Official figures released by Germany’s Federal Environment Agency show that the country’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 4.6 percent in 2014 to the equivalent of 901.9 million metric tons of CO2 in an apparent return to the long-term trend following an uptick in 2013. The greatest reductions were achieved in electricity generation, where emissions fell by the equivalent of 20.9 million tons of CO2 despite continued growth in electricity exports. 20.8 million tons of reductions have been attributed to the relatively mild weather in 2014, with German households burning less oil and gas for heating. Perhaps most disappointing, however, is the 2.2 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions from transport. Despite Germany’s remarkable prowess in car production – dodgy emissions software aside – the country is struggling to recreate the momentum it has achieved in renewable electricity in the introduction of electric cars. Officially, the government aims to have 1 million electric vehicles registered by 2020 – a target that is looking increasingly utopian with just 19,000 pure EVs currently registered in the country.

Holyrood:  UK greenhouse gas emissions fall almost eight per cent in 2014,

Statistics from the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) show greenhouse gas emissions fell by 7.7 per cent in 2014, with carbon dioxide emissions falling 8.9 per cent. DECC said the largest decreases came from the energy supply sector, where emissions fell by 13.6 percent due to a decrease in the use of coal for electricity generation, and in the residential sector, where emissions fell by 17.0 percent due to falling demand for gas used in heating. The energy produced 31 per cent of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions, transport accounted for 23 per cent and the business sector made up 17 per cent. Carbon dioxide accounted for 82 percent of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2014.

This Is Money:  Hinkley Point lurches into another crisis after project director quits

Hinkley Point, in Somerset, has been beset with delays and cost overruns since 2010. EDF agreed a subsidy deal over Hinkley Point in 2013 and currently has a 66.5 per cent stake in the project, after Chinese utility CGN took a 33.5 per cent stake in the project. But EDF has £28bn net debt and needs to find an estimated £41bn to extend the lifespan of 58 French nuclear plants. The company is said to be pressuring the French government, which owns 85 per cent of EDF, to take some of its stake in Hinkley Point. And this week it emerged that the power station could be further put off, as five French union members on EDF’s 18-seat board came out in opposition of the project. The CGT union, CFE-CGC management union and the more radical FO union all stand to vote it down until EDF has strengthened its balance sheet and started up its other projects elsewhere. But the opponents would not be able to scupper the plans unless a total of nine board members vote to delay them.

Walesonline:  Hinkley raises “very serious concerns” over Wylfa financing

A question mark over a planned £14bn nuclear power station in Anglesey have been raised after the company behind the project said issues over the Hinkley Point nuclear project has thrown up “very serious concerns” about its investment in the UK. Chairman of Hitachi, whose subsidiary Horizon is behind the Wylfa Newydd nuclear project, Hiroaki Nakanishi, told the Sunday Telegraph said the setback being experienced by French conglomerate EDF for its planned nuclear power at Hinkley in Somerset, raised questions about how future plants, including Wylfa, are funded. Last week the board of EDF delayed a final decision on its £18bn project, raising concerns whether the indebted group, despite Chinese investment backing, can make the project stack up, despite a strike price subsidy agreement from the UK Government. Horizon is still is discussions with the Department and Climate Change on a strike price for Wylfa Newydd, which is expected to start generating electricity by the mid 2020s.

Telegraph:  Three of four Fiddler’s Ferry units to close

SSE has announced plans to shut most of its Fiddler’s Ferry coal-fired power plant in April, wiping 1.5 gigawatts of power capacity from the UK grid and worsening the looming energy crisis next winter. The energy giant said it intended to shut three out of four units at the loss-making Cheshire power station, reneging on a Government subsidy contract to keep them running until 2018-19 and putting 213 jobs at risk. The move, which the Telegraph revealed SSE was considering last week, was condemned as “extremely disappointing” by the Government, which sought to reassure households the lights would stay on. “We will continue to work alongside National Grid and Ofgem to take whatever additional steps are necessary to protect our energy supply,” a spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said.

Guardian:  Major UK coal power plant closure ‘will not lead to blackouts’

The UK government and the electricity regulator moved on Thursday to reassure consumers that they will not face blackouts as the result of the closure of most of a major coal power plant. Operator SSE said the closure of three out of four generation units at the 2GW Fiddler’s Ferry near Manchester, which has made financial losses for two years, was likely to take place on 1 April.  The Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “There will be no impact on this winter and action has already been taken to secure extra capacity for next winter. We will continue to work alongside National Grid and Ofgem to take whatever additional steps are necessary to protect our energy supply. SSE’s intention to break their contract is extremely disappointing and they will have to pay a significant penalty.” Ofgem said: “The planned closure of Fiddler’s Ferry power station will have no impact on security of energy supply for the current winter. We are confident that electricity supplies will be secure next winter but there is no room for complacency.”

Science Alert:  The world’s biggest wind farm will soon be built off the UK coast

In recent years, wind power has taken second billing to solar technology in its contribution to the world’s energy supply, but the industry has been given a huge boost this week: Danish firm, Dong Energy, has announced plans to build the largest wind farm yet, located off the north-east coast of the UK in the North Sea. Turbines standing 190 metres tall (623 feet) – higher than the iconic Gherkin building in the centre of London – will eventually provide enough power for a million homes, once the project is up and running in 2020. Set to be located some 75 miles (121 km) off the coast of Yorkshire, it will be the first offshore wind farm to exceed 1 gigawatts in capacity and will be capable of producing 1.2 GW of power at its upper limit. “It is ground-breaking and innovative, powering more homes than any offshore wind farm currently in operation,” said Dong Energy UK country chairman, Brent Cheshire. “To have the world’s biggest ever offshore wind farm located off the Yorkshire coast is hugely significant, and highlights the vital role offshore wind will play in the UK’s need for new low-carbon energy.”

Telegraph:  World’s biggest offshore wind farm to add £4.2 billion to energy bills

The world’s biggest offshore wind farm is to be built 75 miles off the coast of Grimsby, at an estimated cost to energy bill-payers of at least £4.2 billion. The giant Hornsea Project One wind farm will consist of 174 turbines, each 623ft tall – higher than the Gherkin building in London – and will span an area more than five times the size of Hull. First electricity from the project is expected to be generated in 2019 and the wind farm should be fully operational by 2020. The wind farm was handed a subsidy contract by former energy secretary Ed Davey in 2014 that will see it paid four times the current market price of power for every unit of electricity it generates for 15 years. The National Audit Office was highly critical of the way in which the contracts were awarded without competition, concluding ministers had paid too much as a result. It estimated that the Hornsea One project would require a total of £4.2 billion in subsidies, an average of about £280 million per year. Consumers will be on the hook to pay subsidies to make up the difference between the market price of power – currently about £35 per megawatt-hour – and a guaranteed price, of £140/MWh. These will be funded by households and businesses through green levies on their energy bills.

Guardian:  Swansea Bay tidal energy scheme ‘must go ahead’, say Lib Dems

It would be “utter madness” for the government to withdraw its support at this late stage from a £1bn revolutionary tidal energy scheme at Swansea Bay, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron will tell his party’s spring conference in Cardiff on Saturday. The planned project, awaiting a funding decision from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, would provide hundreds of jobs and much-needed low carbon power for over a century, he argues.Farron spoke out amid mounting speculation that ministers are growing cold on the tidal lagoon project, which was included in the Conservative manifesto but has been delayed by tortuous negotiations on subsidies. “The Swansea Bay tidal lagoon must go ahead. It will provide hundreds of jobs and supply energy for 120 years – over three times as long as a nuclear plant,” argued Farron. “It would be utter madness for the government to pull further investment from the renewable sector which generates economic growth and jobs. We have been a world leader in this field and maintaining that status is now in jeopardy. The tidal lagoon is a litmus test for the government. Do you care about this agenda? Or was it all for show?” he asks. The speech comes after David Cameron told a committee of MPs recently that his enthusiasm for the scheme had been “reduced” by concerns over the high subsidies needed to make the project commercial.

Bloomberg:  Brexit May Lose U.K. Billions in Funding for Climate, Renewables

The U.K. risks losing out on billions of pounds of investment in renewable energy projects such as wind farms and grid upgrades if it quits the European Union and ditches its stake in the European Investment Bank. Britain is the biggest recipient of the EIB’s Climate Awareness Bond Project, taking 24 percent of the 7.2 billion euros ($7.9 billion) invested by the Luxembourg-based development bank in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects around the world since 2007, according to the EIB. It is unclear if the U.K. would still get EIB funding if it left the EU, said Peter Munro, head of investor relations for the bank. It’s a “devilishly complicated” issue and would depend on whether the U.K. wanted to remain a stakeholder and whether other member states would allow that, he said.

Independent:  Britain as unconcerned about climate change as Saudi Arabia.

In a survey of 17 countries, the people of Britain has ranked 15th in its concern over climate change. The UK, US and Saudi Arabia are the three countries least concerned among the group surveyed by YouGov. Only 10.8% of Britons ranked climate change as their most important issue. Hong Kong is the most concerned, with 20 per cent of those surveyed choosing the issue ahead of eight others. The Scandinavians countries are also among the more concerned. They – and the Chinese, the French, the Germans, the Indonesians and the people of the UAE, among others – all care more than the British.

Holyrood: Scottish Government launches climate change campaign

Climate change minister Dr Aileen McLeod will tell Scots that “saving the world isn’t just for the movies”, in a new campaign urging people to do more to tackle climate change. The campaign, launching on TV and radio today, will seek to raise awareness of environmentally friendly behaviour. The campaign follows criticism from opposition parties and environmental groups, after it was revealed the Scottish Government plans to reduce spending on climate change mitigation by nearly ten per cent in the draft 2016/17 budget. The Committee on Climate Change also raised concerns with Scottish Government officials over the planned cut.

Guardian:  What is holding back the growth of solar power?

Yan Qin, a senior modelling analyst at Thompson Reuters Point Carbon, told the Guardian a few dips still lie ahead for the solar industry. The main is grid infrastructure, which was built to carry fairly consistent levels of generation and will struggle to cope with the variability of solar and wind energy. National grids are adapting, but the infrastructure investments are huge and the work slow. In Europe, a plan to build a massive solar farm in the Sahara desert that would provide 15% of Europe’s power by 2050, collapsed because the costs involved in transmission of solar power have not fallen as fast as the costs to build panels. Gielen said this variability was a limit to growth. “You have a very strong seasonality in solar production. That is a problem at higher latitudes. If you would connect all the countries around the world then always somewhere the sun would shine and problem solved. But we are still quite far from that situation,” he said.

Guardian:  From liquid air to supercapacitors, energy storage is finally poised for a breakthrough

“It doesn’t always rain when you need water, so we have reservoirs – but we don’t have the same system for electricity,” says Jill Cainey, director of the UK’s Electricity Storage Network. But that may change in 2016, with industry figures predicting a breakthrough year for a technology not only seen as vital to the large-scale rollout of renewable energy, but also offering the prospect of lowering customers’ energy bills. Big batteries, whose costs are plunging, are leading the way. But a host of other technologies, from existing schemes like splitting water to create hydrogen, compressing air in underground caverns, flywheels and heated gravel pits, to longer term bets like supercapacitors and superconducting magnets, are also jostling for position.

Reporting Climate science:  UAH reports warmest January in satellite record:

As widely anticipated, global temperatures in January set a record for the month, eclipsing January 1998 as the warmest January in the satellite temperature dataset, according to Dr. John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. In a sense, that could mean 2016 is in a “race” to see if it will pass 1998 as the warmest year on rec-ord. In addition to a major El Niño Pacific Ocean warming event, 2016 has 17 years of warming to raise the base temperature from which the El Niño begins. While the global temperature in January was a record setter, in the tropics January 2016 fell significantly (more than 0.25 C) short of the 1998 record. It could mean less energy is available to be transferred from the ocean into the atmosphere. It could mean the heat transfer might peak later this year than in previous El Niño years or might already be near its peak. What we know is that under the best of circumstances the climate system is complex and difficult to forecast. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming months.

Christian Science Monitor:  Why planting trees to combat global warming may not work

A new study published Thursday in the journal Science, shows that an expansion of forests to-wards dark green conifers in Europe has stoked global warming. The findings challenge the widespread view that planting more trees helps human efforts to slow the Earth’s rising temperatures. Apparently, not all trees have the same mitigating effect. “Two and a half centuries of forest management in Europe have not cooled the climate,” a team of scientists led by France’s Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement wrote. While the area of Europe’s forests has expanded by 10 percent since 1750, the continent’s summer temperatures have increased 0.12 degree Celsius (0.2 Fahrenheit). The scientists say that’s largely because many nations have planted conifers such as pines and spruces whose dark color traps the sun’s heat. Lighter-colored broad-leafed trees, such as oak or birch, reflect more sunlight. But fast-growing conifers, which are used for everything from building materials to pulp, have long outpaced them.

IBN:  Solar and wind powered streetlights kill mosquitoes charge phones and send disaster warnings

Researchers at the University of Malaya who have designed the streetlight aim to replace all conventional streetlights with this eco-friendly and smart streetlight in the region. The streetlight includes a box that attracts mosquitoes by trying to smell like a human by combining UV light and titanium dioxide and little CO2, which is as irresistible as human breath. As soon as the insect flies closer to investigate, a fan sucks it in and kills it, Fastcoexist reports. During floods, the streetlight can measure the height of the floodwater and also send reports and warnings via an antenna atop it. The streetlight has all the electronics at its top and the bottom is waterproof, which makes it possible to work even in flood situations. In case of a power cut in the area, residents could also plug in their smartphone or rechargeable batteries to stay connected. Eight such streetlights have been already installed at the University of Malaya campus in a pilot project and the researchers are all geared up to commercialise it.

Independent:  Global warming might be causing dogs to become depressed

A boredom epidemic is sweeping through Britain’s dog population – and global warming could be to blame. Leading pet behaviourists told The Independent that the number of depressed and unsettled dogs they have seen in recent months is unprecedented. And they suggested that the spate of wet winters could be at the root of the problem, as owners cut down on the daily walks that are crucial to keeping dogs’ spirits up. “I’ve been working with dogs for more than 20 years and I can’t remember a time when they’ve been this bored. I tend to see boredom in bursts but I’m seeing it chronically this winter,” said Carolyn Menteith, a dog behaviourist who was named Britain’s Instructor of the Year in 2015. “They are just really, really, bored. People are quite happy to get their dogs out in frosty, hard weather but not when it’s muddy and horrible.” “But we have over 200 breeds of dog in this country and an awful lot of them – especially family dogs like Labradors, retrievers and spaniels – were bred to do a job. So they are hardwired to work and need a lot of exercise.” The lack of physical exercise – and mental stimulation that comes with it – is having noticeable consequences on the nation’s nine million dogs, she added. Ms Menteith spends much of her time outside walking dogs and has noticed a significant change in the weather in the past five years or so – as cold, crisp winters gradually give way to “constant wet dreariness”. She – like many scientists and meteorologists – puts this down to climate change and expects to see more bored dogs in the future as global warming unleashes increasingly frequent and intense bouts of winter rainfall.

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32 Responses to Blowout week 110

  1. A C Osborn says:

    To compare Electricity storage to water storage is disingenuous at the least.
    Water “collection” in a Reservoir takes no energy and retrieving also takes no energy (other than normal pumping) so their are no substantial losses, whereas electricity has losses at every stage.

    I quite like the Maylayan Street lights though, Solar (or wind) used where it should be, totally local.
    A great idea for sunny places.
    We have solar powered “Speed Monitors” and they quite often fail to work properly after a cloudy days, so you need sunshine, so I wonder how the “wind” part of their Light works, as it is not obvious?

  2. robertok06 says:


    on the RT piece on Germans taking the belgians to court over the “faulty” reactors…

    “The faulty reactor was taken offline in March 2014 due to cracks in the concrete blocks, but was returned to service in March 2015 without the necessary repairs.”

    … this is wrong, the cracks (which appear as such only after the material has been mechanically ground and etched with acids) have been detected not on the concrete blocks (which would be an almost negligible problem) but on the reactor pressure vessel head.
    Electrabel has kept the reactor down for months and months, while at the same time the Belgian nuclear safety agency has been performing several independent tests (several means thousands) on the mechanical toughness of same metal parts with similar defects (hypothesised as being the well-known hidrogen flakes)… and a panel of internationally-appointed experts has cleared Electrabel to re-start the reactor, clamining the defects are not going to impair the structural resistance of the affected parts.
    It should be noticed that this reactor has been operating for almost 30 years, at a capacity factor in excess of 80%, if I remember correctly.

    The greens in Europe can only resort to legal measures based on fake/no existent “potential” problems to stop reactors… while at the same time underlining the “wonderful” progress of the Energiewende and its ancillary chain of deaths linked to the burning of coal and lignite in record amounts.

    More stupid than sad as a political/ideological choice, I may add.

  3. Douglas brodie says:

    The dreamers over at the Guardian are happy that yet another coal power station is going to close down, proclaiming that the lights are not going to go out. I’m sure they don’t realise that if we do manage to keep the lights on it will only be thanks to our new fleet of dirty diesel backup generators. The dysfunctional state of our electricity system and the problems with wind power are described in my recent Open letter to Mr Pete Wishart, MP.

    • Douglas Brodie says:
    • gweberbv says:

      According to OFGEM, UK will have additional interconnector capacities to the continent of roughly 7 GW by 2022. Maybe, there will be some delays – so, let’s say by 2015. From the point of view of utilities still this is more or less ‘tomorrow’.
      From this time on, it makes sense to think about a long-term backup option. That can be shared with the neighbouring grids. If in the meantime UK relies on diesel generators as the last line of defense, this is merely an aesthetic problem. Top priority seems to me not too waste too much money for backup capacity now, which might turn out to be a misfits when interconnector capacity is increased by roughly a factor 3.

      • Douglas Brodie says:

        I suspect these EU-backed interconnectors are primarily political, designed to tie us in to “ever closer union”, never mind whether or not they actually work (if they actually come about). How can we be sure that they would provide the backup we need when we really need it, e.g. when the entire UK and our Irish and near European neighbours are all becalmed, as happens not infrequently in cold midwinter, especially after Germany and maybe even France have run down their own nuclear fleets? Why should we go down this route rather than providing a secure domestic supply of our own?

        • gweberbv says:


          how is the probability for Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium and France to face problems providing domestic demand exactly at the same time as UK? Quite low, I suppose. And as soon as at least one of your neighbours has some spare capacity left, you are better off with having the interconnector than without having it,

          But more important is the business as usual case: Renewables are pressed into the market. The new 1 GW offshore windfarm mentioned above will rughly cover 1% of UK electricity production. 1% more that is taken away from conventional power plants. In this situation it makes a lot of economic sense to pool the remaining (and necessary) conventional capacity throughout Europe.

          • how is the probability for Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium and France to face problems providing domestic demand exactly at the same time as UK? Quite low, I suppose.

            Norway of course won’t have a problem, but for a Europe that depends on wind and solar for more than a small amount of its electricity the chances that Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and France and most of the rest of Europe will face a domestic demand shortfall on cold, windless winter evenings are close to 100%. And no amount of interconnector capacity does any good when no one has energy to spare.

          • gweberbv says:


            for a power shortage it is not enough that one has unfavourable weather conditions. In addition, something unexpected has to happen so that available backup capacity is also reduced below the necessary minimum. For example an unplanned outage of a big power plant or of an important power line. Or a major mismatch between predicted renewables production and reality. I consider it very unlikely that such things happen in several countries/regions on the same day. Take also into account that Danmark, France and Germany for their part have a lot of interconnector capacity to other countries that might be able to lend a helping hand.

            Or do you think, grid management throughout Europe was taken ober by a bunch of maniacs, who are ignoring the necessity of backup capacity?

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Or do you think, grid management throughout Europe was taken over by a bunch of maniacs, who are ignoring the necessity of backup capacity?

            In the UK that is exactly what has happened. Grid management is not on the agenda. The only things on the agenda are reducing CO2 emissions at whatever cost and lining the pockets of RE developers.

          • robertok06 says:

            ” 1% more that is taken away from conventional power plants. ”

            No. As the penetration of ANY intermittent source increases, its capacity factor decreases. A 1% energy production during the year from an intermittent source does not replace 1% of energy generated by baseload dispatchable sources.

            That’s already now, at low intermittent REN penetration, a fact, so please let’s make any conclusions based on known facts and not on fiction.


      • Ok. Lets take it that there is no wind and solar across large areas of Europe (common).

        What that means is the inter-connectors will be running on fossil fueled juice assuming there is any to spare.

        Is that what we want; have even more dirty sources of energy?

        • gweberbv says:

          To my knowledge the spare capacity in Europe is in general a mixture of gas and (hard) coal plants. What interconnectors do is to allow countries/regions to pool their backup capacity. Thus, reducing its under-utilization and making it cheaper (because the necessary amount of spare capacitiy is slightly reduced).

          • Lars says:

            gweberbv, there`s nothing wrong about being an optimist 🙂 Actually I wish I had more of your optimism but seeing the facts unfolding I simply cannot see that the positive features outweigh the negative ones in the years ahead. I tend to agree with Roger that interconnectors will not help much on many occasions, although as you will see below they did give some help on certain occassions.

            Recently it was very interesting following how the Nordic grid coped in the recent cold spell in the first half of January which inflicted not just remote and sparsely populated areas, but all the bigger population areas. This was an unusual cold spell in that it didn`t spread to large parts of continental Europe and the British isles.

            I can tell you that the combined Nordic and Baltic area didn`t have much juice to send to continental Europe if it had been in demand, in fact nothing. Here are some occurrences during this period which I noted:

            -As expected Norway coped best and set both new daily and weekly production and consumption records. We had surplus to send to Sweden and Denmark and had one week with a very robust average production of about 25 GW. The difference between max production and consumption was about 2,4 GW but didn`t happen on exactly the same times.

            – Norway could potentially have exported more to Sweden but high demand in the capital area diminished available grid capacity.

            – Norway did not export much to the Netherlands during this period, either because of internal grid constraints, a price too high for the Dutch or a combination.

            – Sweden on several occasions had to start up two old oil fired blocks in the southern town of Karlshamn in addition to voluntary demand reductions among some large industrial consumers.

            – Swedish nuclear was running well with about 8,2 GW, which, deemed by performances over the last few years perhaps might be considered a strike of luck. One big reactor failure like for instance the volatile Oskarshamn 3 (1,4 GW) would propably have left the Swedes in big trouble.

            – One nuclear reactor test was postponed at the request of Svenska Kraftnät (TSO).

            -Swedish wind power was also doing relatively well, and the Swedish TSO`s assumption that they would have at least 600 MW available during the coldest day of the year held true with a good margin.

            – The Swedish TSO stated on their web page after the first really challenging day that “cold weather reduces the safety margins”. This statement was removed the next day.

            – Germany was able to send some power to Sweden via the Baltic cable.

            – Poland had nothing to spare.

            – During the peak hours the flow from Sweden to southern Finland was reversed. Latvia and Lithuania was able to send some spare power from their pumped hydro via Estonia to Finland and Sweden. Highly unusual.

            – Both the Swedes and Finns imported all spare power they could grab their hands on. The Russians sent up to 1,4 GW to Finland also during the day, again highly unusual.

            – Both the Finns and Swedes likely had more power if necessary, but chose to import when available both as safeguard against power failures and maybe because of a better price too.

            – the Danes did well and had available fossil power for export to Sweden in addition to covering their own demand.

            – All in all the Nordic area became a net importer during this two week long cold spell.

            Within 2020 two or three Swedish nuclear reactors with about 2-2,5 GW will have closed down. If they Finns are lucky they have their 1,6 GW Olkiluoto 3 up and running, but their largest coal power station (0,6 GW) at Meri-Pori is now set to close. The Danish small regional CHPs and some central CHPs are in grave danger of extinction by that time. This is of course rather similar to what is happening elsewhere in Europe.
            Maybe we simply will have to accept managed, rolling blackouts in Europe in the years ahead?

          • robertok06 says:


            “Actually I wish I had more of your optimism ”

            That’s not following optimism, it is following the mantra.

            Mantras do not need to obey any physical,social, moral, economical, or other kind of law… you simply repeat it over and over again and by hearing your own voice, or reading your own words, you come to believe it is true and correct.

          • robertok06 says:


            Interesting analysis with data and news, thanks!

            I’d just like to link this article…


            … dealing with Sweden’s nuclear power.

            An interesting thing is that…

            “However, the Swedish grid operator can only guarantee power from wind sources at a capacity factor of 6% because of its large fluctuations,…”

            … and…

            “The situation is even worse given Sweden’s weather. The peak power demand for winter in Sweden is 28,200 MW, easily provided by its existing energy mix, especially since nuclear works even better in extreme cold (Swedish National Grid, 2014). Under freezing winter conditions, wind output can be minuscule because very cold weather and high winds require turbines to be shut down to avoid damage. And since all of Europe peaks at the same time, Sweden’s ability to import power during extreme weather is essentially zero.”


          • Lars says:

            Roberto, thanks, very interesting article you provided there. When reality sets in I suppose they will change their minds again like in the past. Just like the Belgians have done.

            Actually the Swedish TSO changed their mind about wind availability from 6% to more than 10% of installed capacity (I don`t have the exact number) and calculated the Swedish grid would benefit from at least 600 MW during the coldest day of the year, it would be about 10% capacity factor I suppose.

            The article in Forbes said: “The peak power demand for winter in Sweden is 28,200 MW, easily provided by its existing energy mix”

            This sounds like a gross exaggeration to me, at least they were nowhere near 28000 MW production during the recent cold spell.

          • gweberbv says:


            thank you for the detailed information. But the points you are making are just underpinning the usefulness of interconnectors! The nordic countries got power from their neighbours in time when it was needed. Without those interconnectors one either has to reduce demand or one has to keep more backup capacity.

            In 3 to 5 years from now, Norway will have two new interconnectors (1.4 GW each) to UK (NSN) and Germany (NordLink). Assuming that Norway is able to transport this power further to its neighbours, the same situation as happened in Januarythis year will be less critical in the future (keeping all other parameters unchanged).
            But UK has also a capacity problem and won’t be able to provide an additional GW for Norway? Well, in addition to already existing 2 GW interconnector to France and 1 GW to The Netherlands another 5.5 GW of interconnector capacity is going to be built to France, Belgium and Denmark (and another 500 MW to Ireland). Now France is also going to extend the interconnectors to Spain. And Spain is planning an interconnector to Morocco.

            Of course the nordic countries will never get a significant amount of power from the Maghreb region, nor vice versa. But it may well be the case for the last missing 500 MW or so (not directly, but Morocco delievers to Spain which is now able to deliever to France which is now able to deliever to Belgium, which is now able …). And this allows Europe to reduce its overall backup capacity by some GW (still each region needs to cover near 100%, but maybe not 110%).

  4. garethbeer says:

    In war, the first thing you attack is its power supply, secondly it’s food supply, then to destroy a ‘culture’ its ability to reproduce…

  5. JerryC says:

    Re: “That is why we are proposing to fund these investments through a new $10 per barrel fee on oil paid by oil companies”

    This tax has zero chance of becoming reality, as the Republican House of Representatives would never pass such a bill, and apparently O doesn’t care enough about it to blow off the constitution and issue an Executive Order. That said, I wonder what the hypothetical effects would be, since the tax, as I understand it, would only apply to domestic US production and imported oil would be unaffected. Any thoughts from the resident oil industry analysts?

  6. Note again that CleanTechnica does not provide links to sources …because they don’t want readers putting things into perspective. A best fit line through the last six years of their chart would be flat. And it’s looking like 2015 will see another increase in emissions:

    “Meanwhile, first estimates for 2015 report an increase in emissions of 1.3 percent.”

    • gweberbv says:


      2009 is a bad starting date because of the economy crisis that temporarly reduced energy usage.

      Nevertheless it seems unlikely that the 2020 goal will be reached. In particular when one takes into account the recent increase in population.

  7. John Kunka says:

    Poor doggies. I think there are a lot of bored and depressed people out there also for the same reason.

  8. Euan Mearns says:

    She – like many scientists and meteorologists – puts this down to climate change and expects to see more bored dogs in the future as global warming unleashes increasingly frequent and intense bouts of winter rainfall.

    I thought this was down to the El Nino? First of all snow was a thing of the past. And then it was global warming will cause more snow. Now it looks like snow is a thing of the past again. Unless of course you live in the Middle East, China or Washington DC where global warming causes more snow, sometimes and sometimes not.

  9. Lars says:

    “The nordic countries got power from their neighbours in time when it was needed. Without those interconnectors one either has to reduce demand or one has to keep more backup capacity.”

    Gweberbv, yes those interconnectors were valuable then, I don`t dispute that (I assume we are talking mainly about DC interconnectors between different synchronous areas here).

    My first main point and concern however was to show that the Nordic countries combined actually had no power surplus during this cold period. If this cold spell had extended to e.g larger parts of Germany would we be able to get power from you? And if it had spread to most of continental Europe?
    I think it is a bit ironic that most of the helping hand came from Russia first and foremost, secondly Belarus (through Latvia and Lithuania). Those are two countries that virtually have no non-dispatchable power at all.

    My second main point was that the future looks more uncertain particularly regarding Swedish nuclear. Closing 2 or 3 reactors will certainly reduce our ability to handle situations like these in the Nordic synchronous area.

    • hfrik says:

      Well the engineer solution to this is very simple: add some GW of turbines to your existing dams. (Hydropower.)
      There are always two problems: having enough GW in the short run and having enough TWh in the long run. In such cold situations or if you want to help out other countries and earn a good money when doing so, So far Norway has storage which allow to produce 20 GW for 4000h on the stored water alone and operate the country as a island. Norway could as well produce 50 GW but for day or a week only, for exceptional weather situations, and import the power again when there is surplus power in other countries (and very cheap then) Or produce wind power, since there is abundant wind energy in Norway – someone calculated sometimes that Norway could produce more TWh in Wind power than whole Europe needs in electricity. Same for north Sweden. And wind power production is not correlated with wind power in the south of north sea (germany, france netherlands) or further south. Which increases likelihood that you can selll excess power at premium prices, or buy power at low prices. And no, two areas which are not correlated do not guarantee that there is never low power in both areas. But e.g. if in one area power is low in 20% of time, it is low in two areas just 4% of time, and in 3 areas just 0,8% of time. Time which needs to be bridged by storage or other production becomes always smaller the bigger the connected areas are, which makes backup cheap. So more turbine at existing Hydro dams would do the trick, more wind power would improve trade balance of Norway again – sell electricity instead of oil and gas, it will not run out.

      • Lars says:

        This has been discussed a lot here previously at Energy Matters hfrik. But it is not that simple from an financial point of view. Let`s take Sweden. They have 33 TWh of reservoir storage, second largest in Europe. If they want to close down some of their reactors and substitute it with more wind, you are correct they could install more effect in their existing reservoirs to store wind power and release it when it`s not blowing. But even if we neglect the possible harmful ecological damages from that, the biggest problem is that the utilitities don`t make that much money as they used to because power wholesale prices are too low most of the time. And the single biggest reason for that is probably the wind turbines themselves creating an overcapacity a lot of the time.
        I cannot imagine any Nordic utility wanting to invest billions of Euros in new large scale capacity in the present financial environment.

        • hfrik says:

          This is a principle problem of energy only markets. The ecological effects are most likely small if situation is similar to Switzerland, they checked the difference between the water which runs of the turbine to the maximum usual flow of water usually happening in the river due to weather condition, so the amount of water to which the river and it’s environment is used, and there was a factor 10 or more in between, so there they could increase turbine capacity tenfold before they have to consider side-effects.
          anyhow at some time you need to invest some money to build new capacity, it’s no use to wait due to low power prices till the power plants are so worn out that they fall into peaces, and you get expensive blackouts. So giving some incentive to install more turbine capacity in time could be a very good investment. Problem is existing market rules do not work with conventional power when it comes to peaker plants and cold reserves, and it is getting worse with the presence of renewable capacity with variable costs of zero. So it will be necessary to define the effects you want to have from the market for the society, and then define the market rules so the market will provide the result in a optimized way. One part of it will most likely be to have flexible electricity prices so there is a demand response on market prices. But it might be necessary to provide some market support to get new capacity built -for turbines, inter-connectors, and maybe wind power.

        • gweberbv says:


          the current financial environment is actually very favourable for investments that enjoy some backup from governments. To get interconnectors build, UK uses a floor and cap scheme which guarantees a certain minimum profit but is also ready to charge the operator when the power line turns out to be very profitable. This motivates the operator to run the interconnector in a economical reasonable way, while at the same time shielding the investors from making losses and the public from paying very high prices which could happen if it turns out the the interconnector is crucial and that the operator basicly could ask for any price.

          I can imagine that a scheme like that would enable significant investments into the generation capacity of already existing hydro plants.

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