Blowout Week 111

This week’s Blowout features the US supreme court’s surprise decision to block Obama’s clean power plan and how it might cause the Paris Climate Accord to unravel:

Guardian:  Supreme court blocks Obama’s climate change plan

The supreme court agreed to block Barack Obama’s clean power plan on Tuesday, raising fears that the centrepiece of his climate change plan could be overturned. The unexpected decision creates instant uncertainty about the future of Obama’s climate plan and the historic global agreement to fight climate change reached in Paris last December. The surprising vote by the justices put a temporary freeze on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules cutting carbon emissions from power plants until the Washington DC circuit court of appeals hears challenges from 29, mainly Republican-led states, and dozens of corporations and industry groups. Arguments are scheduled for 2 June. The 5-4 decision for a stay came as a shock to the EPA and environmental campaign groups, and was widely seen as a sign that opponents of the power plant rules have made a strong argument against the plan.

More below the fold on the unraveling of the Paris Accord plus a message from US shale producers to OPEC, China’s meltdown-proof reactor, wind and solar in the EU, South Australia, Scotland, California and Morocco, the CSIRO layoffs, the Rugely shutdown, Scotland’s dwindling tax revenues, Swansea Bay tidal takes a hit, Friends of the Earth in trouble over anti-fracking campaign, WWF accused of “involvement in violence & abuse”, the waning El Niño, Christians give up fossil fuels for Lent and UK rig workers no longer fit through escape hatches.

New York Times:  Supreme Court’s Blow to Emissions Efforts May Imperil Paris Climate Accord

The Supreme Court’s surprise decision Tuesday to halt the carrying out of President Obama’s climate change regulation could weaken or even imperil the international global warming accord reached with great ceremony in Paris less than two months ago, climate diplomats say. The Paris Agreement, the first accord to commit every country to combat climate change, had as a cornerstone Mr. Obama’s assurance that the United States would enact strong, legally sound policies to significantly cut carbon emissions. The United States is the largest historical greenhouse gas polluter, although its annual emissions have been overtaken by China’s. But in the capitals of India and China, the other two largest polluters, climate change policy experts said the court’s decision threw the United States’ commitment into question, and possibly New Delhi’s and Beijing’s. “If the U.S. Supreme Court actually declares the coal power plant rules stillborn, the chances of nurturing trust between countries would all but vanish,” said Navroz K. Dubash, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. “This could be the proverbial string which causes Paris to unravel.”

Huffington Post:  Supreme Court Places Earth’s Climate on Death Row

The U.S. Supreme Court made a terrible mistake this week, by stopping the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from coal-fired power plants. Because the global climate accord reached in Paris this past December is fragile, the Supreme Court ruling is akin to placing the planet’s climate on death row. To be sure, the court did not block the EPA’s strategy permanently. However, it stopped it dead in its tracks, in order to await the outcomes of legal challenges. That process will most likely take at least a year, thereby preventing the Obama Administration from putting an infrastructure in place that would move the U.S. towards complying with its commitments to the Paris accord. What makes the delay dangerous for the Paris Accord is that it is fragile to begin with. The Accord is built on the principle of mutual reciprocity, known as “we will if you will.” The US and China are the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, and if either one moves from “we will” to “we won’t,” the game is over for the Paris Accord.

Market Watch:  Oil prices rise after more OPEC jawboning

Prices climbed Friday after the United Arab Emirates energy minister said late Thursday that members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries were ready to cooperate on possible production cuts. Venezuela, meanwhile, proposed that OPEC and non-OPEC producers should at least freeze output at the current level. The market is taking the comments from the U.A.E. minister “seriously because the U.A.E. is doing an about face,” said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Price Futures Group. The U.A.E. was “saying a month ago a cut was going to be over their dead body basically,” said Flynn. “Well, maybe hell froze over.” But OPEC has said before that it is willing cooperate on a production cut if other non-OPEC producers such as Russia participate. Given that, some aren’t convinced that an agreement is any closer than it was before.

Seeking Alpha:  US shale producers send a message to OPEC

Bill Thomas, the CEO of EOG Resources made a statement at an oil conference in Houston that his company will not ramp up production as the price of oil approaches $60 per barrel. EOG is the largest and best positioned pure US shale operator. It has large acreage in most prolific oil basins and is a technology leader among US E&P companies. At the same time, EOG has one of the best balance sheets in the business and is not constrained by large capex commitments and dividend payouts. Bill Thomas mentioned that in retrospect it was a mistake to ramp up production last spring when oil prices briefly moved above $60 per barrel, he sees the industry taking a wait-and-see approach this time around. Since EOG can be considered the Saudi Arabia of US shale producers, its words and actions carry significant weight and those words are not aimed at potential investors or fellow producers. He was dropping the idea of holding back on production gains for OPEC to hear.

Washington Times:  Pentagon orders commanders to prioritize climate change in all military actions

The Pentagon is ordering the top brass to incorporate climate change into virtually everything they do, from testing weapons to training troops to war planning to joint exercises with allies. A new directive’s theme: The U.S. Armed Forces must show “resilience” and beat back the threat based on “actionable science.” It says the military will not be able to maintain effectiveness unless the directive is followed. It orders the establishment of a new layer of bureaucracy — a wide array of “climate change boards, councils and working groups” to infuse climate change into “programs, plans and policies.”

RT:  China plans to open first ‘meltdown-free’ nuclear power plant by 2017

China says it is planning to bring a safe nuclear power plant that will not suffer from meltdowns online in November 2017. It would be the world’s first high-temperature, gas-cooled pebble-bed nuclear plant built on an industrial scale. China’s Nuclear Engineering Construction Corporation wants to introduce a high temperature, pebble-bed, gas-cooled nuclear reactor, in the Shandong Province, south of the capital, Beijing. The company is planning to bring twin 105-megawatt reactors online that would be immune to meltdown. It is hoped that the power station will start working by November 2017. The Chinese are using a design developed in Germany, though the nuclear reactor which is being built in Shandong will be the first commercial-scale atomic power plant of its kind to be constructed. “This technology is going to be on the world market within the next five years,” said Zhang Zuoyi, director of the Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology, Technology Review reported. “We are developing these reactors to belong to the world.”

Financial Times:  EDF faces €100bn bill for upgrading ageing nuclear power stations

French utility EDF is facing a €100bn bill for upgrading its ageing nuclear power stations at the same time as a new law could force it to close a third of its reactors, according to the country’s state audit office. The report by the Cour des Comptes comes at a bad time for the world’s largest nuclear power generator as it scrambles to secure financing for a contentious £18bn nuclear project in the UK. Unions and analysts have already raised concerns that EDF might be biting off more than it can chew with the proposed nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The audit office said on Wednesday that the cost of increasing the life expectancy of the 58 nuclear plants in France from their current 40 years would be €100bn during the 2014-2030 period. The audit office also said that a law passed last year to reduce the share of nuclear in French energy production from 75 per cent at the moment to 50 per cent by 2025 could lead to the closure of 17 to 20 EDF reactors. The law was set to “jeopardise planned investments” by EDF and “force it to close a third of its plants,” with possible consequences for jobs, said the report. It suggested that EDF might have to turn to the state for compensation.

Financial Times:  China breezes past EU as top wind power

China has overtaken the EU to become the world’s top region for wind power, thanks to a burst of turbine installations in the past year, a new report has found. China installed nearly half of the 63 gigawatts of wind power added globally in 2015, the Global Wind Energy Council said on Wednesday, and now accounts for about a third of the world’s installed wind power capacity. That is almost twice the figure for the US (17 per cent) and three times that of Germany (10 per cent), the biggest by capacity, according to the council’s data. Beijing expects renewable energy, including wind, solar, nuclear and hydropower, to make up 30 per cent of its total energy mix by 2020. Non-fossil fuel sources will still be dwarfed by coal, with a 60 per cent share. But as Chinese wind and solar installations have soared, so too has curtailment, or the degree to which installed capacity is not used. Part of the reason is the power grid’s continued inability to accommodate fluctuating sources of power, as well as rising overcapacity in power generation from all sources.

Sun Edison:  Scottish Wind Power Off To A Flying Start In 2016

Hot off the back of National Grid figures showing UK wind power blew away all previous annual records in 2015, new data has revealed that last month nearly half of Scotland’s total electricity needs were met by wind power alone. Wind energy powered 100 percent of Scottish households for 22 days in the month of January, according to figures from renewable energy data provider WeatherEnergy, analysed by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Scotland. In January, Scottish homes, businesses and industry consumed 2,354,117 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity, while wind turbines alone provided 1,125,544MWh to the National Grid – roughly equivalent to the power needs of 123% of Scottish households (2.98 million homes). Wind power in Scotland was “off to a flying start” in 2016, said WWF Scotland director Lang Banks. “I have little doubt that 2016 will be another record year for renewables. However, what happens in the longer term will be down to our political leaders. That is why, as we approach the Holyrood elections, we’d like to see each of the political parties commit to ensuring Scotland becomes the EU’s first fully renewable electricity nation by 2030. This is an ambition with real vision that would mean Scotland captures the full benefits of its renewable potential.”

Renewable Energy Focus:  European solar market grows 15% in 2015

In 2015, European countries connected around 8 GW of solar power systems to electrical networks, according to estimates by SolarPower Europe. Demand for solar power systems in European countries increased by around 15% year-on-year, compared to 6.95 GW of new grid-connected solar power capacity in 2014. “It is good to see the European solar power sector again on the growth path in 2015,” says James Watson, CEO of SolarPower Europe. Peaking in 2011, demand for solar power installations in Europe declined for 3 consecutive years. Europe’s solar growth in 2015, however, is primarily based on the strong UK market, demand for solar systems in most other countries stayed flat or declined. Watson added, “Solar needs clear signals from policy makers in Europe to be able to contribute to achieving the climate goals agreed in Paris. With solar being competitive for residential and commercial applications in most European countries today, investors need a secure political framework for generation, self-consumption and storage of solar energy.”

City Lab:  California’s Solar Dominance

When it comes to solar power in the U.S., California’s in a league of its own. The home of Hollywood, Yosemite, and the Golden Gate Bridge also boasts almost half of the nation’s roughly 20,000 megawatts of overall solar capacity, new data from the Energy Information Administration show. Even more striking, in both types of utility-scale solar—photovoltaic and thermal—California operates more capacity than every other state combined. The next runner up is Arizona, at one-fifth of California’s solar might. This is more than a fun fact, because it didn’t happen by accident; the solar supremacy resulted from years of policies carefully designed to nourish the fledgling clean power sector and take it mainstream. California passed a law in 2006 to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. That forced a slew of other policies to make that goal possible, like laws to compensate customers who produced more power from rooftop solar than they consumed and requiring utilities to purchase a certain amount of power from solar plants.

Computer World:  Noor CSP plant starts up

The world’s largest solar power plant, now live in Morocco, will eventually provide 1.1 million people with power and cut carbon emissions by 760,000 tons a year. The $9 billion Noor Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant could eventually start exporting energy to the European market. The Noor Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), paid for with funds approved by The World Bank, is located in the Souss-Massa-Drâa area in Morocco, about 6 miles from Ouarzazate town. It began operation on Thursday. While the World Bank and other development partners provided financial support, the Noor solar plant is a wholly Moroccan project. “With this bold step toward a clean energy future, Morocco is pioneering a greener development and developing a cutting edge solar technology,” Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb, said in a statement. “The returns on this investment will be significant for the country and its people, by enhancing energy security, creating a cleaner environment, and encouraging new industries and job creation.”

Platts:  German wind swings make coal/gas dispatch more volatile

German wind power output reached a new record this week, peaking above 33 GW overnight Tuesday, but dropped to just 1 GW by Friday, with coal and to a lesser extend also gas-fired power plants providing the flexibility needed to keep the system balanced, a Platts analysis of hourly generation profiles shows. However, lower generation costs due to sharply lower coal, gas and carbon prices, weak demand and the return of solar output will limit the potential for spot prices to recover to their “usual” winter peak levels, with day-ahead baseload struggling to rise above Eur30/MWh. Even with wind almost disappearing on Friday, maximum hourly prices barely reached Eur40/MWh after plunging to minus Eur19/MWh earlier this week, data from spot exchange Epex Spot and EEX transparency shows.

Indaily Adelaide:  South Australia’s high electricity prices

On Christmas Day, according to the average price tables published by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), the Regional Reference Price (average spot price) for a megawatt hour of electricity in South Australia was $91.67. The corresponding prices in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland were $37.33, $20.38 and $36.20. The average daily spot price for a megawatt hour of electricity in December 2015 was $62.19 in South Australia, $43.37 in New South Wales, $46.84 in Victoria and $42.08 in Queensland. It is clear that South Australia has the most expensive and most variable power on the eastern states grid. The reason for the high (and extremely variable) price of electricity in South Australia is our very high dependence on solar and wind generation compared with the other states.

Mining Weekly:  Queensland’s January coal exports at record

Queensland coal exports during the month of January reached just over 19-million tonnes, which was a record for the month of January and an 8% improvement on the same period last year. Queensland Resources Council (QRC) CEO Michael Roche said on Friday that the coal ports of Abbot Point, Dalrymple Bay, Hay Point and Gladstone all had their strongest ever January. “The latest export figures for January signify that Queensland regions are also the heavy lifters when it comes to royalty contributions. The Queensland government will receive royalties on those 19-million tonnes, even though one in every three Queensland coal mines is operating at a loss. “It also illustrates that demand from Asia for Queensland’s high energy value, lower-emission coking and thermal coal remains strong.” Roche said that the Queensland coal industry’s ability to maintain this strong export performance was not unlimited, especially for those mines running at a loss. “Some mines remain open only because their high fixed costs (for example rail and port charges) mean that, if they were to close, the losses could be even greater. This higher production allows mines to spread their fixed costs over more tonnes.” He added that if the Queensland government wanted to see this strong export performance and flow of royalties continue, it need-ed to work with industry on a comprehensive plan to deliver some breathing space. “In the absence of such a plan, our fear is that more mines will be forced to close.”

Guardian:  CSIRO climate scientists say climate change “not answered yet”.

A senior CSIRO scientist has lambasted the chief executive, Larry Marshall, after a staff meeting confirming where some of the 350 job cuts announced yesterday would come from. In the email to staff on Thursday, Marshall said that since climate change was proven to be real, CSIRO could shift its focus. “Everybody is laughing at Marshall’s statement,” the scientist told Guardian Australia. “Who is he to declare that climate change is answered? The IPCC says so many problems are not answered yet. And unless you know how the climate is changing, how do you adapt to it?”

ABC:  CSIRO Boss Attacks Climate Lobby: ‘More Like Religion Than Science’

The CSIRO’s chief has told the ABC the backlash from his decision to restructure the organisation has made him feel like an “early climate scientist in the ’70s fighting against the oil lobby” and that there is so much emotion in the debate it almost “sounds more like religion than science”. The redirection of climate science priorities at the CSIRO has drawn international condemnation, with thousands of climate scientists signing an open letter protesting against the changes. But Dr Marshall said he had not been persuaded to reconsider the changes. “For that to happen, someone’s going to have to convince me that measuring and modelling is far more important than mitigation – and at this point you know, none of my leadership believe that,” he said.

Express & Star:  Rugely power station to close

Rugeley Power station will close this summer with the loss of 150 jobs, French owner Engie has revealed in a shock announcement. Government plans to phase out fossil fuel had meant the power station, which has towered over the town for half a century, was on borrowed time. But the speed of the decision from Engie has shocked the local community. David Alcock, chief executive of Engie’s energy infrastructure division in the UK, said: “It is with deep regret that we have had to make this decision at Rugeley. Our priority now is to support the employees and help them through this period. We implemented a number of changes at Rugeley a year ago in order to help maintain operations at the site but a combination of falling prices and the impact of various market changes has now made this unviable.” The company said: “Unfortunately market conditions for UK coal plant have deteriorated rapidly in recent years, as a result of a continued fall in power prices on the back of commodity market decline, and increases in carbon costs. Under such conditions, there is no prospect of the power station recovering its future operating costs.”

Guardian:  Government denies blackout risk as Rugeley coal plant unveils closure plan

The government has issued a fresh denial that the UK is at risk of blackouts after one of the country’s biggest coal power stations announced plans to close. The French company Engie said it would shut its Rugeley power station in the summer, putting 150 jobs in doubt and affecting 190 contractors. The Staffordshire coal power plant is the latest to pull down the shutters due to low power prices and higher carbon costs, as the energy secretary, Amber Rudd, moves to phase out coal by 2025. The closure will fuel fears of a supply crunch because it removes a gigawatt (GW) of energy from the National Grid – enough to power 500,000 homes. The National Grid bought 2.4GW of extra capacity for this winter as part of a scheme under which it pays companies to reduce energy usage or provide more power at short notice. New coal plant closures raise the prospect that the Grid will have to buy even more capacity for the 2016-17 winter to keep the lights on. But the Department of Energy and Climate Change said Britain was not at risk of blackouts.

Telegraph:  Major setback for Swansea Bay tidal

Plans to build a £1bn tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay have suffered a major setback after ministers announced a wide-ranging review into the untested technology. A decision on crucial subsidies for the project will not be taken until after the conclusion of the review, expected in the autumn, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said. Construction of the lagoon, which was mentioned in the Conservative election manifesto, is contingent on its developers securing a subsidy contract from the Government to guarantee their income. Talks have so far failed to reach agreement, with the Prime Minister raising concerns that the costs of the project were too high and developers seeking an unprecedented 90-year deal. The DECC has now announced plans to commission a wide-ranging independent review of the technology’s potential, including “whether tidal lagoons can be cost effective”. The review would “help establish an evidence base to ensure all decisions made regarding tidal lagoon energy are in the best interest of the UK”, it said.

Press & Journal:  Scottish Green Party launch campaign with “extravagant” jobs pledge

The Scottish Greens has launched its campaign for the Holyrood elections with an “extravagant” promise to deliver more than 200,000 renewables jobs. And co-convener Patrick Harvie has made the dismantling of the North Sea oil and gas industry a key election pledge. Mr Harvie said: “We bring fresh, new, bold ideas to parliament. We will work constructively with others who share our aims. Holyrood – and Scotland – needs a diverse politics and progressive champions to hold the Scottish Government to account.” Opposition politicians have branded the policy “daft”, suggesting it would “kill off” jobs rather than create them.

Telegraph:  Scotland “only weeks away” from financial calamity with independence vote

Scotland would be only weeks away from a “financial calamity” if it had voted for independence, David Cameron has said as it emerged oil was last year generating only £7 million per month in tax revenues. An analysis of figures published by the Scottish Government showed a separate Scotland’s geographical share of the North Sea produced only £21 million of tax receipts between July and September last year. This compares with £4.3 billion over the same quarter in 2008 and means that, even using the SNP’s favoured method for measuring wealth per person, Scotland is poorer than the UK as a whole. Professor John McLaren, a senior economist who conducted the analysis, also found Scotland is on course for a record onshore trade deficit thanks to a £750 million decline in exports to the rest of the UK and a £750 million increase in imports from south of the Border.

Guardian:  Ikea quietly stops selling solar panels to UK householders

Ikea has quietly stopped selling solar panels to UK householders after the government signalled a drastic cut in solar subsidies and just two years after a media-friendly national launch. The world’s biggest furniture retailer expanded the solar offering to all its 17 UK stores in 2013-14 following a successful pilot at its Lakeside store in Essex. The company’s UK head of sustainability said at the time: “We know that our customers want to live more sustainably and we hope working with Hanergy [Ikea’s technology partner] to make solar panels affordable and easily available helps them do just that.” But in November last year the company decided not to renew its contract with the Hong Kong-headquartered firm, two months after the government announced a dramatic reduction in solar subsidies.

Washington Post:  What these Christians are giving up for Lent: Fossil fuels

A new initiative in the United Kingdom is not only calling for Christian communities to band together in support of clean energy, but actually helping them get their own electricity that way. The Big Church Switch, which launched Wednesday, aims to inspire both individuals and churches to make the switch to renewable energy sources — and they’re already gaining support from church leaders in the country. The project is a collaborative initiative spearheaded by UK-based international development charities Christian Aid and Tearfund, both of which concern themselves largely with addressing issues related to global poverty. The project’s goal is to convince Christian communities in the UK to register for renewable energy by switching their energy suppliers. The project’s organizers will negotiate with suppliers on behalf of interested individuals or churches and provide quotes on the best deal.

Ecologist:  Large-scale bioenergy must be excluded from the EU’s renewable energy definition

We, the signatories of this declaration, are calling on the European Union (EU) to exclude bioenergy from its next Renewable Energy Directive (RED), and thereby stop direct and indirect subsidies for renewable energy from biofuels and wood-burning. By including bioenergy in renewable energy targets, the EU is promoting direct and indirect subsidies for it, claiming that it is a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. But according to the International Energy Agency, renewable energy is “energy derived from natural processes (e.g. sunlight and wind) that are replenished at a faster rate than they are consumed.” Bioenergy does not meet this definition as there is no guarantee that all biomass that is burned is replenished, and it is never replenished “at a faster rate” than it is consumed. Moreover, large-scale bioenergy is far from sustainable, as it relies on a major expansion of industrial agriculture, of monoculture tree plantations, and of industrial logging. These industrial activities deplete and pollute soils and water, destroy forests, grasslands and wetlands, and destroy the livelihoods of workers, farmers, Indigenous Peoples and other communities, particularly in the global South.

Sun:  Charity watchdog probes Friends of the Earth over campaign against ‘toxic’ fracking

The trustees at one of Britain’s biggest charities are being investigated by regulators over a high profile campaign against “toxic” fracking giants. The Charity Commission has opened a compliance case into Friends of the Earth – after discovering the charity has continued to blast Cuadrilla, a company wanting to drill for gas in Lancashire. Trustees told the Commission the propaganda from one of the biggest fundraisers in the country would stop last summer. But hard-hitting ads have continued to come out – claiming Cuadrilla wants to use “toxic chemicals” and its actions could cause house prices to “plummet”. The Commission is not investigating the ads. But it is understood to be furious at the trustees for appearing to “lose control” and has demanded the board explains why they were misled. The regulator could use new powers granted under the Charities Bill to pile pressure onto the charity. Ultimately it could request trustees are removed.

Survival International:  Accuses WWF of involvement in violence and abuse

Survival International has launched a formal complaint about the activities of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Cameroon. This is the first time a conservation organization has been the subject of a complaint to the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), using a procedure more normally invoked against multinational corporations. The complaint charges WWF with involvement in violent abuse and land theft against Baka “Pygmies” in Cameroon, carried out by anti-poaching squads which it in part funds and equips. Before beginning its work in Cameroon, WWF failed to consider what impact it would have on the Baka. As a result, WWF has contributed to serious human rights violations and broken the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It supports conservation zones on Baka land, to which the Baka are denied access, as well as the anti-poaching squads that have violently abused Baka men and women, and other rainforest tribes, for well over a decade. The international conservation organization has thereby violated both OECD human rights guidelines and its own policy on indigenous peoples, and Survival’s legal team has therefore submitted a formal complaint.

Weather:  Strong El Niño Will Weaken and Could Transition to La Niña This Fall, NOAA Says

Sea-surface water temperatures (SST) in the equatorial east and central Pacific Ocean were still well above average during January, indicating strong El Niño conditions remained in place. Water temperatures appeared to reach their peak in mid-November, but have been cooling slowly the last couple of months, according to fine-resolution weekly SST data from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Citing the latest model guidance, NOAA/CPC said Thursday El Niño, as it typically does, will continue to weaken through the spring, eventually disappearing by late spring or early summer. After transitioning to neutral conditions, it’s possible that sea-surface water temperatures in the equatorial east and central Pacific Ocean could continue to cool to the point that La Niña may emerge in the fall, NOAA said. However, they cautioned that much uncertainty remains, though there is computer model and physical evidence that La Niña conditions could develop.

Express:  Global warming to cause costlier flights to US

AIR passengers face longer costlier flights to the United States as a result of global warming, a British scientist warned yesterday. Climate change is expected to accelerate the high altitude jet stream which blows from west to east, said Reading University atmospheric scientist Paul Wil-liams. This will speed up eastbound flights but slow down westbound flights by much more, he claimed. And flying is expected to become costlier worldwide because the jet stream encircles the globe. Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, Dr Williams said the jet stream will become 15 per cent faster in winter, increasing from an average of 48mph to 55 mph, with similar increases in the other seasons. This will result in transatlantic planes spending an extra 2,000 hours in the air every year, adding about £15million a year to airline fuel costs and increasing the risk of delays.

Scotsman:  UK rig workers taking up more space

New research by Aberdeen-based Robert Gordon University and trade body Oil & Gas UK published today revealed some UK workers are larger than average American males and take up more space than earlier data had suggested. Using portable 3D scanning technology, researchers measured 588 male offshore oil and gas workers and extracted a total of 26 measures, including shoulder width, chest girth, neck girth, and a series of volumetric measurements of the arm, leg and torso. The measurement data has informed the team’s focus on offshore worker’s body dimensions and their ability to pass in a confined space, and through a window frame representing the smallest acceptable exit window size on a helicopter. The frame size selected for the study was 432 x 356 mm and represents the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) minimum acceptable size for an escape window on a helicopter. Dr Stewart said: “It seems that a few very large individuals can escape through this small aperture, and we should perhaps focus on trying to predict why some smaller individuals can’t.”

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41 Responses to Blowout Week 111

  1. Euan Mearns says:

    NOOR CSP in Morocco will be an interesting one to follow. NREL says phase 1, that has just gone operational, will deliver 143 MW and cost €1.04 billion.

    I’m always interested in cost comparisons. €7 billion for 1 GW peak output seems a lot. Its also interesting to see the transmission and maintenance costs.

    • Joe Public says:

      “€7 billion for 1 GW peak output seems a lot.” That depends upon whether it’s your own, or someone else’s money.

      More info on the project here:

    • mark4asp says:

      $7 bn per GWe installed is the cost for the Hinkley EPRs, and a euro is worth more than a dollar. Elsewhere in the world: China, India, South Korea (and France in the 1970s/80s), USA (early 1970s), nuclear plants cost about $2 bn per GWe to build (prices normalized).

      See: Fig 12 of “Historical construction costs of global nuclear power reactors”, Lovering, Yip, Nordhaus, 2016.

      • mark4asp says:

        Amend that, for USA, to “Elsewhere in the world: China, India, South Korea (and France in the 1970s/80s), USA (1960s), nuclear plants cost about $2 bn per GWe to build (prices normalized).”

      • David n says:

        Except new nuclear has a capacity factor of 90%. I don’t think CSP can beat that.

        • robertok06 says:

          Around 30% for the spanish ones… installed in one of the highest insolation areas one could find in Europe… at altitude, where skies are clear most of the times.

          Interestingly, the spanish thermal solar power stations need more water per kWh electric generated that any other technology…to keep the mirrors clean.

    • Willem Post says:


      It is hard to get good capital cost estimates, or production, GWh/y, or subsidies, or energy costs, c/kWh, for Morocco’s NOOR CSP projects, because media folks writing about energy are just using each others numbers, or making them up, or true costs are being fudged. The below numbers were obtained after many hours of Googling.


      In November 2009 Morocco announced it will install 2000 MW of solar capacity by 2020; estimated capital cost $9 billion. The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), a public-private venture, has invited expressions of interest in the design, construction, operation and maintenance, and financing of the first of the five planned solar power stations, the 510-megawatt plant in the southern town of Ouarzazate. The first plant will be commissioned in 2016, and the entire project in 2020. Once completed, the solar project will provide 18% of Morocco’s annual electricity generation. Morocco, the only African country to have a power cable link to Europe, aims to benefit from the 400 b euro ($440 b) expected to come from the ambitious pan-continental Desertec Industrial Initiative.

      Morocco is planning to build the 510 MW (gross turbine output) CSP plant in 3 phases; Noor 1, 160 MW; Noor 2, 200 MW; Noor 3, 150 MW, 7 – 8 h storage. Total project capital cost estimated at about $3.2 billion (about $6.3 million/MW). Financing of about $1.2 billion at near-zero interest from the World Bank, et al., and about $3.0 billion from private sources, which with accelerated depreciation to reduce taxes of investors, reduces the effective cost of capital for the project to less than 2 – 3%, which enables the production to be sold at reduced costs/kWh under 25-y power purchase agreements, PPAs.

      Noor 1, commissioned Feb, 2016; 500,000 single-axis, tracking parabolic mirrors; output 160 MW gross, 143 MW to grid; 3-h molten salt storage; fossil-fired boiler plant for CSP start-up and supplementary energy, as needed; wet cooling with water from a nearby reservoir; Dowtherm A at 293 C into solar field, 393 C out of solar field.

      Noor 2; single-axis, tracking parabolic mirrors; output 200 MW, estimated 180 MW to grid; 7-h molten salt; dry cooling.

      Noor 3; mirrors focused on a tower; output 150 MW, estimated 135 MW to grid; 7 – 8 h molten salt storage; dry cooling. This configuration is included for comparison purposes.

      Noor 4; PV solar systems; output 70 MW. This configuration is included for comparison purposes, because the cost of utility-scale PV systems has declined to enable energy generation at an LCOE of less than 50% of CSP!!

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Thanks Willem, so are you saying CSP was chosen ahead of PV because it is less than twice as expensive?

        • Graeme No.3 says:

          In the NREL link the cost of the output electricity is given as 18.9¢ US per kWh i.e. $189 per MWh or £130 per MWh. So given the crazy contracts being given out in the UK (and ignoring transmission losses) they could compete in (parts of) Europe.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Happy to ignore transmission losses for the time being. But lets not ignore transmission costs. In recent months I think we concluded that transmission costs were about the same as generation costs. So lets double that £260 / MWh. But then maybe transmission costs are proportional to distance?

            Torness nuke is about 100 miles down the road. Morocco is thousands of miles away on a different continent.

          • robertok06 says:

            Graeme: if the “crazy contracts” you are referring to is the CfD stipulated for Hinkley Point, I just want to make sure that you have considered that the 95 pounds/MWh are for the years starting in 2023…. you just wait 7 more years of coal-plant closures, deforestation of part of the continental USA to produce pellets for Drax, more-than-crazy contracts for tide power stations and wave ones as well… and what about the PV installation craze in “sunny” UK?… believe me, EDF UK’s EPRs may be not the best choice around… but after 2023 I bet that the average MWh in the UK will be way more expensive than today’s.

        • Willem post says:

          Such projects have a life of their own independent of market conditions.

          While all the haggling went on for years, a la Brussels, PV solar prices decreased, and CSP turned out to be have lesser CFs, and be more costly/MW than earlier estimates, and Noor 1 was supposed to be on line in Jan 2015, but made it in Feb 2016, which also delayed Noor 2 and Noor 3.

          I was not able to find an LCOE analysis, also not the cost the various financing inputs. All could have been shown on a simple spreadsheet. Several numbers were stated regarding the energy production of each Noor.

          Now that Noor 1 is running there should be some operating data, but nothing seems to be published. Roger, you sleuth, we need you.

          Remember, this is the first of 5 such sites, which will total 2000 MW, estimated to cost $9 billion.

          It looks like Morocco will become the US southwest for Europe, which may invest $400 billion or much more in Morocco!!

          • robertok06 says:

            “Europe, which may invest $400 billion or much more in Morocco!!”

            No way!… Morocco borders basically only with Spain, Algeria or other neighbouring countries in the African continent are negligible as electricity power consumer, and Spain has no reason to import electricity from Morocco… Desertec as a project is dead, originally it should have been built in Algeria and Lybia as well, and Egypt also… I think… now Lybia is gone, as a civilied and dependable country… how long would it take for pro-ISIS combatants/terrorists to destroy the mirror field?… Algeria is on the verge of following, Egypt in full turmoil… Morocco’s kingdom is not far from collapsing, the king is in very bad health conditions, and once he’s gone who knows what will happen there?… I would bet less on this small-scale Deserted than on the French/Finnish EPRs… 🙂


  2. Joe Public says:

    “Global warming to cause costlier flights to US”

    Dr Williams’ studiously avoided that title, using instead “Transatlantic flight times and climate change”


    Aircraft do not fly through a vacuum, but through an atmosphere whose meteorological characteristics are changing because of global warming. …

    We focus on transatlantic flights between London and New York, ….”

    The extra delay ranged between 33 – 93 seconds on a 12-hour round trip.

    Aunty & the Grauniad remained ‘on-message’ by using ‘time’ in their headlines, rather than cost, energy or CO2.

    Could it be because London & New York both have predominantly space-heating loads for environmental comfort, and so global warming would reduce the costs, energy & CO2 of all their citizens.

    Whereas, only a few flyers would delayed for a few seconds.

    • burnsider says:

      FWIW, my son-in-law flew back from New York to Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago and arrived home over an hour early because of a shortened flight time, caused by a fast jet stream. He said that the ground speed of his aircraft was showing up to 750mph, which is nearly supersonic! His outbound flight was slow to about the same extent, with the indicated ground speed going as low as 350mph.

      • burnsider says:

        Just occurred to me that unless there is a wave of planes moving westwards all the time, the effects of the jet stream’s speed should cancel out overall

        • robertok06 says:

          Well… you just have to make the atmosphere “one way”, and all airplanes forced to move eastward… makes the path a bit longer but I would not be surprised if some green lunatic would think it worthwhile… after all let’s not forget that most greens I know firmly believe that the photovoltaic plane which is attempting to circle the earth (Solar Impulse?) could one day become a viable solution… which is simply BS.

          • Grant says:


            Good grief, I had forgotten about the electric flying machine.

            Is it really still going as a project?

            If so ….. why so little mainstream publicity?

            Obviously that is not a serious question …..

          • robertok06 says:

            Yeah… it is still “flying” as a project… around here where I live and work one of the two pilots is on TV, either interviewed or making ads, every other day…. but the Solar Impulse is not flying at all.. it has been grounded in Hawaii after it almost failed to cross (1/2 of) the Pacific inbound from Japan… they realised that the lithium batteries were overheating and almost caught fire.
            In the meantime the 200 people or so necessary as “technical support crew” are enjoying their life on the Hawaiian beaches, I hope…

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Years ago I was one on a flight from Montreal (I think) to London that got into a fast flowing jet stream and arrived about 2 hours early. Instead of getting in at 08:30 it arrived about 06:30. It was fantastic! The two hours we were supposed to wait for our flight to Aberdeen grew to 4 hours.

          • Grant says:

            At least with a 4 hour wait your bags had a chance of catching up with you ….

            Of the handful of transatlantic flights I have taken I think only one was a little late. Most were rather early flying eastwards.

            The late one was a scheduled TWA flight out of Boston which stopped off at Shannon on the way to Heathrow. The reason for the stop off was an American football match in Dublin between a US college and representative team from the US forces in Europe. Or something like that.

            The scheduled flight was supposed to be direct to London but such was the demand for tickets on that day the charter flights for the event has sold out and TWA took up the slack and stopped off on the way. About 60% of the 747 passengers left the plane in Eire. Of course some may not have realised that had not yet got to London … it was very much a party flight for many.

            That was a long time back. I suspect there are more long distance short visit leisure flights taken these days then ever there were then – despite the apparent concerns supposedly addressed by COP21.

  3. gweberbv says:

    It is interesting to contrast the status of backup capacity in UK and on the continent.

    Even with (nearly) zero wind and after sunset prices are extremely low (meaning that there is a lot of unused capacity sitting around) and even at this low prices German net exports amount to nearly 3 GW (while reaching something like 10 GW when there is some wind and solar production available and peaking at 15 GW when there is a lot of renewable generation).

    Do not get me wrong: I do not want to make the point how great Germany (or in more general contitental Europe) is, but I would really like to know what is so different in UK where capacity seems to be dropping like flies.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Gunter, its an interesting observation. But it’s a Saturday evening, demand is low. All the UK coal power stations that are closing opted out of the Large Power Station directive. The UK had loads of nat gas that shaped our past, and we’re still adjusting to the new present. We have legislation by way of 2008 climate change act that imposes state control on the way industry functions (legislation introduced by Marxists that I’m suggesting the Tories should jettison). And we are an island that has never been ruled by a foreign power (that is different to being ruled by a foreign invader like the Romans and the Normans). I think we are also the cradle of democracy and really hate dictatorships like the EU commission and the UN.

      • gweberbv says:


        I was commenting on yesterday (Friday) evening. Today (Saturday) wind generation was already back at about 15 GW in the evening (and demand was 10 GW lower as you rightly pointed out).

        I just had a brief look at this climate change act. Wow! UK government takes carbon emission reduction much more serious than ours.

      • robertok06 says:

        “I think we are also the cradle of democracy and really hate dictatorships like the EU commission and the UN.”

        So, you mean the queen could be voted out of her throne?

        Sorry, couldn’t resist. 🙂

  4. Last Tuesday the US supreme court blocked Obama’s clean energy plan by a 5-4 vote.

    Had the vote been held today the court would have been deadlocked 4-4, or more likely wouldn’t have put the matter to a vote at all. Why? Because justice Antonin Scalia, one of the assenting votes, passed away in his sleep last night.

    And Obama’s clean energy plan would still be on track.

  5. robertok06 says:

    On the RT article about the chinese pebble gas-cooled reactors…

    This… “Current reactors use only fission technology, which means dividing atoms in half while future fusion-fission technology will merge two atoms in one.”

    … is wrong. The fission part still splits/fissions atoms, the fusion part simply generate the copious amount of neutron necessary to perform the mentioned fission.
    The advantage, if there is one, is that the whole thing is sub-critical, and therefore it cannot run away “chernobyl style”… but it is certainly not an easy design.

  6. robertok06 says:

    On the costs of EDF reactors’ life extension:

    “The audit office said on Wednesday that the cost of increasing the life expectancy of the 58 nuclear plants in France from their current 40 years would be €100bn during the 2014-2030 period”

    … and so what? During the mentioned 16 years, the geniuses of the Energiewende will spend in excess of 340 billion Euros, to generate something like 190 TWh/year (I’m including biofuels, which are not exactly “emission-free”)… while the 58 reactors of EDF generate more than 400 TWh/year.

    If the cost between 2014 and 2030 is to be a criterion for choice of a technology vs another one, then EDF should immediately start building more reactors, not the other way around.

    “He/she who refuses to do the math is doomed to talk nonsense”… couldn’t be more true.

    • Chris Hauser says:

      it really irks me that the zealots in charge now are the greenies who will rejoice how high utility prices are curbing demand. demand for jobs, incomes, growth.

      oh brave new world, that such creatures in it.

  7. GeoffM says:

    So people are suggesting that we spend 400 billion on solar in Morocco? Let’s hope that the jihadists don’t take over or it won’t be ancient ruins that they’ll be smashing up.

    It doesn’t matter how much solar or Wind we deploy globally; all the oil and gas will still be extracted and burnt.

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