Blowout Week 121

Finally we have news to report on OPEC – and it turns out to be no news at all. The much-anticipated meeting in Doha, which was attended by Russia and other non-OPEC producers and which was expected to lead to an agreement to freeze production at January 2016 levels, ended without agreement because Saudi Arabia refused to consider a production freeze unless Iran did too. So, back to square one.

Washington Post:  Doha oil meeting ends without a deal

Hopes on the part of investors, oil companies and oil exporting nations for a negotiated “freeze” in global output melted away on Sunday after 16 major petroleum producers meeting in Doha, Qatar failed to reach an agreement, possibly setting the stage for further weakness in crude oil prices.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, refused to go along with the plan — which would have capped production at January levels for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries as well as non-OPEC producers such as Russia. News agency reports said that in talks that lasted ten hours longer than scheduled, the kingdom would not limit its own output if Iran did not do the same. But Iran, which did not even attend the Doha meeting, has said it is determined to crank up production now that a deal to limit its nuclear program has resulted in a lifting of international economic sanctions. “The ongoing geopolitical tension with Iran is clearly a key consideration in Saudi Arabia’s oil policy, preventing it from joining in even a vague agreement to freeze oil production at already inflated levels, and knowing that an oil price drop is likely as a result,” said Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.

We continue with more on OPEC and oil, Russia and Norway struggle to preserve gas market share, China’s floating nuclear plants, Poland’s new wind law, Germany tells Begium to shut down nuclear plants, electronics from coal, 100% renewables for Australia and for Europe too via the MENA supergrid, there is no Obama “war on coal”, SNP wants 50% renewables by 2020, UK shale oil ready to boom, Hinkley delayed yet again, objections to Drax subsidies, the Times says the wrong things about climate change and Subsidy Sam – the answer to Tommy Turbine.

Wall Street Journal:  OPEC May Discuss Oil Freeze at June Meeting

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries could revive talk of freezing oil production along with nonmembers at its next meeting in June, said top oil officials on Thursday. A production freeze was an idea that had helped send prices rallying more than 50% from 12-year lows last winter. But after the 13-nation producer group ultimately failed to strike a production deal with Russia in Qatar over the weekend, investors didn’t react much to the news that freeze talks could soon be renewed. Oil prices were up slightly Thursday after OPEC Secretary General Abdallah Salem el-Badri said imposing limits on oil producers could be on the table again. But prices then fell as much as 2% in afternoon trading in London. Some investors said they were looking to numbers like falling U.S. production or the rising dollars as their guideposts on oil, not OPEC statements.

DigitalLook:  IEA warns of large drop in non-OPEC oil production in 2016

Addressing Japan’s International Finance and Economic Assessment Council, International Energy Agency chief Fatih Barol warned that oil supplies from outside of OPEC would fall by 700,000 barrels per day in 2016 – the largest fall since 1992. Investment in upstream activities fell by 24% in 2015 and was set for another 18% drop in 2016, the largest back-to-back decline since the 1980’s, he said. However, US light tight oil output was expected to recover, with the country being expected to contribute the most to growth in non-OPEC supplies from 2016 to 2021. That would come as global demand for oil was set to continue growing by an average of 1.2m barrels per day between 2016 and 2021, crossing the symbolic 100m b/d threshold in 2019 or 2020, according to the IEA. “With the fall in non-OPEC production we are seeing, we can expect the market to come back to balance in 2017. From 2018 onwards there will be stock draws, leading to a gradual increase in price levels,” Birol said in prepared remarks for a speech to be delivered to the council.

BBC:   North Sea tax receipts slump to £35m

Tax receipts from offshore oil and gas slumped to just £35m in the last financial year, according to figures from HM Revenue and Customs. The figure is the lowest recorded since the early days of North Sea production. Corporation tax from offshore drilling raised £538m but that was offset by rebates on Petroleum Revenue Tax, totalling £503m. The latest figure compares with £2bn of tax revenue in the 2014-15 financial year. Four years ago, the Treasury raised £11bn from the two sources of tax on offshore production profits. Much of last year’s fall reflects lower profits from oil and gas, after the oil price slumped, as well as tax deductions for a high level of investment. The Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast negative tax returns for the next few years.

Business Insider:  Oil rig count falls to new 6-year low

The US oil rig count fell by 8 to 343 this week, according to driller Baker Hughes. That was the fifth straight weekly drop. The tally of gas rigs fell by one to 88, taking the total down 9 to 431, a new low. Last week, we saw the combined tally fall to a new low of 440. The oil rig count fell by 3, while the gas rig count was unchanged at 89.

Wall Street Journal:  What Oil Glut? Outages Put Supply, Demand Close to Balance

Oil-producing governments across the world are scrambling to address petroleum outages that have taken nearly 2 million barrels a day off the market and sent crude prices rallying. The outages have been caused by an oil-worker strike in Kuwait, alleged pipeline sabotage in Nigeria and payment disputes in Iraqi Kurdistan. The missing oil supply—about 1.85 million barrels a day—has essentially brought the oil market’s supplies back into balance with demand, if only temporarily, and raised questions about big producers’ ability to quickly ramp up during supply outages. The situation offers a glimpse of what the oil market would look like if the current glut were to end after nearly two years of weighing on prices. “This is definitely the famous canary in the coal mine telling us something about the state of the oil market. It is telling us that the oil market is more in balance than widely assumed,” said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB, a leading Nordic corporate bank.

Bloomberg:  Russia and Norway using Saudi strategy in Europe’s gas market

Russia and Norway have been dominant suppliers to the region since the first pipelines were laid more than four decades ago. Together they provide more than half the region’s natural gas, according to lobby group Eurogas. Gazprom, the world’s biggest producer, has an incentive to maintain market share and maximize revenue in dollars after the ruble plunged, Norway, Europe’s second-biggest supplier, is playing catch-up. Troll, the nation’s biggest field, got a permit to produce 10 percent more gas in the year from Oct. 1. The country also plans to boost capacity at the Kaarstoe and Kvitebjoern facilities. While Russia has said sales to Europe will probably reach a record this year, Norway expects a level similar to last year’s record. “They are trying to defend market shares because they see — like everybody else — that failure to do so is going to allow more LNG — not just U.S. LNG but any LNG — to displace their pipeline supplies,” Jonathan Stern, chairman of the gas research program at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, said.

New York Times:  China to Develop Floating Nuclear Power Plants

All the radar systems, lighthouses, barracks, ports and airfields that China has set up on its newly built island chain in the South China Sea require tremendous amounts of electricity, which is hard to come by in a place hundreds of miles from the country’s power grid. Beijing may have come up with a solution: floating nuclear power plants. A state-owned company, China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, is planning to build a fleet of the vessels to provide electricity to remote locations including offshore oil platforms and the contentious man-made islands, the state-run newspaper Global Times reported on Friday. The paper quoted an executive at the company, Liu Zhengguo, as saying that “demand is pretty strong” for the floating power stations, which would be built by one of its subsidiaries. In January, Xu Dazhe, the director of the China Atomic Energy Authority, told reporters in Beijing that China was planning to develop offshore floating nuclear energy plants, saying they “must undergo a rigorous, scientific evaluation,” but also linking these to China’s desire to become a “maritime power.”

EUobserver:  Shut your nuclear plants, Germany tells Belgium

Germany has asked Belgium to close two of its nuclear power stations over safety concerns, in the latest sign of EU states getting involved in their neighbours’ nuclear policies. The German federal environment minister Barbara Hendricks said on Wednesday (20 April) that reactors in Doel and Tihange should be closed after a report by the German Reactor Safety Commission said their safety was not guaranteed. “I consider it right that the plants are temporarily taken offline at least until further investigations have been completed. I have asked the Belgian government to take this step,” Hendricks said. She said that there were “no concrete indications that the reactor pressure vessels will not resist the strain”, but that it was however “not possible to be sure they would resist every possible strain”. In a statement on Wednesday, Belgium’s Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) replied that their conclusions regarding the two reactors’ safety “remain unchanged, despite what minister Hendricks says”.

International Business Times:  Germany: Safety checks at 2 nuclear power plants were faked

Workers at two nuclear plants in Germany faked safety checks on radioactivity measuring equipment, German media reported this week. Workers of energy giants EnBW and RWE in Germany reportedly failed to conduct routine safety checks at two nuclear power stations, but passed off fake readings, according to Deutsche Welle (DW), which cited regional public broadcaster SWR. EnBW said in a statement this week that the fake readings had occurred in December and that “the same employee had apparently faked seven further routine checks on similar installations. Legal options against the worker are being examined.” The company’s nuclear power station in Philippsburg, Baden-Württemberg, which was meant to be restarted next month, has now been ordered shut by the state’s environment ministry, DW reported. RWE also reported a similar case with regard to its closed nuclear power station in Biblis, Hesse, where radioactivity levels continue to be monitored. “This is highly unsettling and unacceptable,” Baden-Württemberg Environment Minister Franz Untersteller reportedly said.

The Hill:  There is no Obama ‘war on coal’

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is dismissing Obama administration critics who have accused the president of waging a “war on coal” through his environmental policies. In an interview with the Lexington Herald Leader on Thursday, Moniz said the Obama administration has worked to develop policies to help the coal industry even while it pursues a lower-carbon energy sector in the future. “Make no bones about it — we start with the assertion, the commitment, that we are talking about a progressively lower carbon future,” Moniz told the paper. “But we have not abandoned coal as part of that future.” Moniz pointed to Obama’s support for research into carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which would remove carbon from power plant emissions. Obama proposed $6.5 billion for carbon capture technology in his 2017 budget request. “We wouldn’t have put $6 billion into CCS” if the administration was waging a war on coal, Moniz said.

Discovery:  Could We Turn Coal Into Electronics?

MIT researchers are looking at other ways to utilize coal’s molecular complexity and harness it to make a new generation of electronic devices — including some that could become part of the switch to renewable energy. In an article in the journal Nano Letters, the MIT scientists describe how various types of coal could be used to create thin films with adjustable electrical properties. Eventually, according to the scientists, coal could be used to fashion solar panels, batteries, or various types of electronic devices. For the first time, the paper characterizes in detail the chemical, electrical, and optical properties of thin films of four different kinds of coal: anthracite, lignite, and two bituminous types. Some naturally occurring coal varieties have a range of electrical conductivity that spans seven orders of magnitude, making them suitable for a wide range of electronic uses — and without the extensive purification and refining that silica, a standard raw material in electronics manufacturing, requires. For that reason, coal might provide a cheaper alternative.

Science Magazine:  US Senate to study “albedo modification”

Budgetmakers in the U.S. Senate want the Department of Energy (DOE) to study the possibility of making Earth reflect more sunlight into space to fight global warming. Earth’s reflectivity is known as its albedo, and the request to study “albedo modification” comes in the details of a proposed spending bill passed by the Senate appropriations committee to fund DOE, the Army Corps of Engineers, and related agencies for fiscal year 2017, which begins 1 October. The bill does not specify how much money should be spent on the research. The call for further research comes in a bill that would provide $5.4 billion for DOE’s Office of Science next year. It also builds on the recommendations of a February 2015 report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) entitled Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth. That report warned explicitly that albedo modification shouldn’t be deployed now because the risks and benefits were far too uncertain. Still, the committee urged further research to find out what those risks and benefits might be.

Quartz:  San Francisco will require new buildings to install solar panels

On April 19, the city’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to become the first major US metropolitan area requiring that new buildings install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on their roofs. California already mandates that new buildings with 10 floors or less designate at least 15% of their rooftop area (pdf, p8) as being ready for solar panel installation. The city of San Francisco now requires that builders actually install solar panels in these areas (at a minimum) starting in 2017. Larger buildings are exempt for now. The Better Roofs Ordinance, introduced by supervisor Scott Wiener, is expected to add 50,000 solar panels and avert 26.3 million tons of carbon dioxide annually—equivalent to emissions from 5,000 cars driven for a year—just based on construction already in the pipeline, according to the bill’s supporters.

Power Engineering International:  New law threatens survival of Polish wind power industry

A new bill submitted to Poland’s parliament threatens the very survival of the wind energy industry in the country. The bill will make it illegal to build wind turbines within 2km of other buildings or forests — a measure campaigners said would rule out 99 per cent of land — and quadruple the rate of tax payable on existing turbines — making most unprofitable. Another clause in the bill would give authorities the power to shut down each turbine for weeks at a time during monthly inspections, said industry figures. Violations would result in hefty fines or two years’ imprisonment. The threatened legislation would represent a complete reversal of the progress made by the industry in Poland last year when it saw the largest amount of installed wind turbine capacity in the EU after Germany, taking total industry investment to €8bn. Turbines, including those owned by EDF, RWE and Eon, produce about 13 per cent of the country’s electricity.

Renewecconomy:  Australia saves money by going 100% renewable

A new report from the Institute for Sustainable Futures in Sydney says a rapid transition to a 100 per cent renewable energy system can save Australia money – with avoided fuel costs to quickly offset the extra capital expenditure of building wind, solar and other renewable energy installations. “The transition to a 100 per cent renewable energy system by 2050 is both technically possible and economically viable in the long term,” the report says. And by 100 per cent renewable, it means all energy use, including transport and heating. The report canvasses two renewable energy scenarios, one based on a high level of renewable energy in the electricity grid, but with transport largely reliant on fossil fuels. The second is the Advanced Renewables scenario, which canvasses a totally renewable electricity system by 2030 and a fully renewable energy system by 2050.

Cleantechnica:  MENA To Europe Supergrid Could Facilitate Near-100% Renewable Energy

A megalithic ‘Supergrid’ connecting Northern Africa with Europe could help both regions reach near-100% renewable energy share. This is the primary conclusion from a new report published by Fraunhofer ISE, which was worked on by five separate Fraunhofer institutes, each using their individual expertise to examine the idea of a Supergrid which would connect the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region with Europe. The report, which developed several Supergrid scenarios, evaluating their potential as well as the necessary technologies and policies, found that decarbonization of the electricity systems in the EU and MENA by focusing on renewable energies “is possible and economically practicable.” If this near-100% expansion of renewable energy in North Africa were to benefit Europe, however, a transition to “a meshed superimposed HVDC grid with bipolar VSC technology which allows the transmission of fluctuating power from renewable power plants over long distances” would be necessary.

Edie:   EU dropped climate policies after BP threat of oil industry ‘exodus’

The EU abandoned or weakened key proposals for new environmental protections after receiving a letter from a top BP executive which warned of an exodus of the oil industry from Europe if the proposals went ahead. In the 10-page letter, the company predicted in 2013 that a mass industry flight would result if laws to regulate tar sands, cut power plant pollution and accelerate the uptake of renewable energy were passed, because of the extra costs and red tape they allegedly entailed. The measures “threaten to drive energy-intensive industries, such as refining and petrochemicals, to relocate outside the EU with a correspondingly detrimental impact on security of supply, jobs [and] growth,” said the letter, which was obtained by the Guardian under access to documents laws. BP’s warning of a fossil fuel pull-out from Europe was repeated three times in the letter, most stridently over plans to mandate new pollution cuts and clean technologies, under the industrial emissions directive. A BP spokesman said that the letter was intended to “highlight the risk of ‘carbon leakage’, where EU policy to reduce carbon emissions may result in industry relocating outside the EU, rather than achieving any actual reduction in emissions. Avoiding this perverse outcome is of critical importance to climate policy.” In his reply to BP, Oettinger said that his department was finalising an energy prices report and “your thoughts are very valuable in this context”.

Deutsche Welle:  RWE endures a bruising shareholders’ meeting

RWE, Germany’s second-largest energy company, had to answer to the anger of protesters and stockholders alike during its annual general meeting on Wednesday. Environmental activists from Greenpeace and Fossil Free stormed the stage at the start of the meeting. “Your time is over,” they chanted, in response to the company’s continued generation of coal power. “I don’t have a problem with such protests,” said RWE chief executive Peter Terium once police and security officers removed the demonstrators. “I also have children who are of an age when they are interested in protesting.” But Terium too came to cause a stir, warning politicians that the turmoil facing conventional energy companies could have devastating effects. “We can’t afford further massive losses in our power station business in the long run,” he said. He raised the prospect of a future without any conventional power generation to back up renewable energy of rather shallow, and sometimes variable capacity. “That’s a horror scenario, and not just for the whole energy industry, but for Germany and for Europe as a whole,” he said.

GWPF:  British Shale Oil May Be Ready To Boom

U.K. Oil & Gas Investments commissioned Ernst & Young to examine the future potential of oil production from the Weald shale basin. “Assuming it can be extracted from a development site at the volumes projected by U.K. Oil & Gas, has the potential to generate significant economic value to the U.K. economy,” the report read. Oil & Gas U.K., the industry’s lobbying group, said the North Sea oil sector is in for a long period of decline, with less than $1.4 billion in new spending expected in 2016. Inland shale, meanwhile, has the potential to add between $10 billion and $74.6 billion to the British economy in gross value, the commissioned report said. Operators are working to assess the potential in the shale area by testing the Horse Hill-1 oil discovery. Preliminary estimates made by the company last year put the entire Horse Hill reserve total as high as 100 billion barrels of oil. If its full potential is reached, the future production from the area could provide as much as a quarter of the nation’s total oil demand over its lifespan, based on 2014 demand levels.

Guardian:  Yet more delays at Hinkley

The Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, at the heart of government energy plans, has been hit by fresh delays in another blow to confidence surrounding an already troubled project. EDF, the French energy company promoting the £18bn reactor scheme, admitted there would be no final investment decision at least till the summer. The latest setback comes less than a week after the French economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, told the BBC that the project would be given the go-ahead in the “coming week or month”. EDF was itself aiming to be able to give the green light at the company’s annual general meeting on 12 May but has bowed to pressure from employees to consult an internal union-management council. The company said in a statement after a board meeting: “The board has decided to undertake a formal, non-binding consultation process with the comité central d’enterprise. This is [a] well understood statutory process of 60 days and the company will work with the CCE to define the detailed steps to reach a conclusion this summer.”

Guardian:  Protesters criticise Drax over use of subsidies for coal and wood power

Drax faced protests during its annual general meeting in London over its use of public subsidies to support its massive coal and wood-burning power station. Banners were unfurled by campaigners seeking to “axe Drax” outside its AGM in the capital on Wednesday, as well as at the Drax power station site near Selby, North Yorkshire. Duncan Law, from the Biofuelwatch campaign group, said: “DECC [the Department of Energy and Climate Change] are calling biomass burning in power stations like Drax a ‘transition technology’, and a closer look at Drax’s strongly suggests that the power station’s lifespan is indeed limited. But the impacts of the logging in the US, which is feeding Drax today, will be long-lasting, if not permanent. Precious wetland forests, once they have been cut down, may never recover.” Protesters claim Drax is receiving more than £1m a day of renewable energy subsidies for burning wood, ultimately paid for by bill payers.

Guardian:  Times’s climate change coverage ‘distorted’ and ‘poor quality’

The Times newspaper has been criticised for “poor quality” and “distorted coverage” of global warming by a group including some of the UK’s most eminent scientists, the chair of the government’s official advisers on climate change and a former chair of oil giant Shell. The group says the Times’s coverage: “appears designed systematically to undermine the credibility of climate science and the institutions that carry it out, and the validity of programmes aimed at reducing emissions. Climate science has proven remarkably robust to repeated scrutiny, and multiple lines of evidence indicate that climate change and ocean acidification pose serious and increasing risks for the future,” the group says. “There is abundant evidence also that decarbonised energy systems can provide energy security at reasonable cost if they are properly planned.” The group say they find two aspects of the Times’s coverage “particularly concerning”. “The first is that neither the quality bar that broadsheet newspapers regularly apply to scientific evidence, nor the simple concept of balance, appear to exist in all of your paper’s reporting on climate change. The second concern is that many of the sub-standard news stories and opinion pieces appear to concern, in some way, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).”

Scotsman:  SNP to raise bar on carbon emissions with 50% cut by 2020

Nicola Sturgeon will this week attempt to boost the SNP’s green credentials by announcing one of the world’s most ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions. Scotland on Sunday can reveal that a commitment to raise Scotland’s 2020 climate target from the current 42 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions to more than 50 per cent will be put at the heart of the SNP manifesto. The announcement will be made by Sturgeon on Wednesday at an event, which will see 1,400 invited guests attend the launch of the SNP’s election prospectus. The new target will be contained in a Climate Change Bill, which will be put before Holyrood if, as expected, the SNP returns to government on 5 May.

ChannelBiz:  Power outages see big jump in UK

The latest Blackout Tracker report, from power management company Eaton, says there were 640 outages in 2015, a marked increase on the 537 incidents recorded in 2014. The report also found that a total of 2,564,827 people were affected by the outages, which lasted for an average of 50 minutes. The statistics in the Blackout Tracker highlight the problem of unreliable electricity supply at a time when the UK’s ageing energy infrastructure is coming under increasing pressure. A report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers  warns that as many older coal-fired power stations are shut down, the UK is facing a 40-55 percent electricity supply gap – resulting in the likelihood of more frequent power outages.

ABC:  More than 170 world leaders sign Paris climate deal

A total of 175 countries have signed the Paris climate agreement at the United Nations in New York City, a record for a one-day signing of an international accord, the UN says. French President Francois Hollande and Canada’s Justin Trudeau joined US Secretary of State John Kerry for the record turnout that has boosted hopes of quick action on combating global warming. “This is a moment in history,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “Today you are signing a new covenant with the future.” While the United States, China and India — the world’s top green-house gas emitters — were not represented by their highest officials, some 60 heads of state and government were set to be among the signatories. The Paris Agreement will come into force as soon as 55 countries responsible for 55 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases have ratified the accord. The target date for the agreement to begin is 2020, but momentum is building to ensure the accord enters into force much earlier.

Guardian:  US weather ‘preferable’ for most thanks to climate change

A large majority of Americans have enjoyed more pleasant weather due to global warming over the past 40 years, research has found, but there is set to be an unpleasant sting in the tail as temperatures escalate further this century. Vast areas of the contiguous US have warmed considerably during winters without becoming unbearably hot during the summers, making the climate generally more agreeable to the public. A new study has found that 80% of the American population lives in areas where the weather has become more “preferable” since 1974. According to the analysis by Duke University and New York University, 99% of Americans live in places where the average January temperature has increased, with just 60% in locations where the July temperature has risen. Rainfall and humidity changes have also, largely, changed by a favorable degree for many Americans. This shift to more temperate conditions means that “virtually all Americans are now experiencing the much milder winters that they typically prefer, and these mild winters have not been offset by markedly more uncomfortable summers or other negative changes,” the paper found.

Wind Watch:  Subsidy Sam set to knock wind out of Tommy’s sails

Tommy the Turbine has a fictional rival to liven up the debate about windfarms. A leading High-land objector has created “Subsidy Sam” to challenge a character used by the industry. Sam highlights the massive public subsidies used to finance the technology. Beauly-based Lyndsey Ward, who today publishes her story online, claims youngsters have been “indoctrinated” by a host of school activities including visits to windfarms. “Tommy the Turbine” is already online and been used in schools in Ireland. She said: “What’s been happening is similar to what fast food and fizzy drink makers did previously – sponsoring school sports equipment and leaving us with an obesity epidemic. The wind industry goes into schools in Scotland and never is the other side of the story told. Youngsters are being brainwashed into thinking we’d be doomed without wind farms. It’s a cynical ploy to keep the subsidies flowing into the next generation.”

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42 Responses to Blowout Week 121

  1. Peter Lang says:

    Australia saves money by going 100% renewable

    We’ve seen this rubbish repeated so many times it’s just boring. But what it does do is discredit the integrity of the research institutions involved.

    Martin Nicholson and I reviewed and critiqued an earlier study, this one by ‘Beyond Zero Emissions’ which is an organisation run out of Melbourne University. Mark Jacobson was involved too.

    [Our] Conclusions:

    We have reviewed the ― “Zero Carbon Australia – Stationary Energy Plan” by Beyond Zero Emissions. We have evaluated and revised the assumptions and cost estimates. We conclude:

     The ZCA2020 Stationary Energy Plan has significantly underestimated the cost and
    timescale required to implement such a plan.

     Our revised cost estimate is nearly five times higher than the estimate in the Plan:
    $1,709 billion compared to $370 billion. The cost estimates are highly uncertain
    with a range of $855 billion to $4,191 billion for our estimate.

     The wholesale electricity costs would increase nearly 10 times above current costs to
    $500/MWh, not the $120/MWh claimed in the Plan.

     The total electricity demand in 2020 is expected to be 44% higher than proposed: 449
    TWh compared to the 325 TWh presented in the Plan.

     The Plan has inadequate reserve capacity margin to ensure network reliability remains
    at current levels. The total installed capacity needs to be increased by 65% above the
    proposed capacity in the Plan to 160 GW compared to the 97 GW used in the Plan.

     The Plan’s implementation timeline is unrealistic. We doubt any solar thermal plants,
    of the size and availability proposed in the plan, will be on line before 2020. We
    expect only demonstration plants will be built until there is confidence that they can
    be economically viable.

     The Plan relies on many unsupported assumptions, which we believe are invalid; two
    of the most important are:
    1. A quote in the Executive Summary ―The Plan relies only on existing, proven,
    commercially available and costed technologies.‖
    2. Solar thermal power stations with the performance characteristics and availability
    of baseload power stations exist now or will in the near future.

    Our critique is here (pdf)
    Comments and discussion are here:

    • Peter Lang says:

      Clarification: Mark Jacobson was involved in the BZE study, not in the critique by Martin Nicholson and me.

  2. Peter Lang says:

    Here’s two more Australian studies of 100% renewable electricity for Australia:

    Elliston, Diesendorf and MacGill, 2011, ‘Simulations of Scenarios with 100% Renewable Electricity in the Australian National Electricity Market

    My Critique of this paper is:
    100% renewable Electricity for Australia – The Costs
    pdf version (with appendiceis and footnotes in the text) is here:

    In 2010, Australia elected a hung parliament. Labor formed an alliance with the Greens to form a government. Part of the agreement was that the government would direct the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to conduct a study to determine if it would be feasible to run the Australian Electricity market with 100% renewable electricity generation. The terms of references were such as to get the result they wanted to hear. They got the answer that it would be feasible. The cost estimate contains masses of caveats. Some of the caveats are stated here but there’s much more buried in the text and in the reports from the supporting studies. For example, CSIROs’ study into biomass gives the theoretical biomass potential but excludes any analysis of logistics. It’s a complete joke.

      • Greg Kaan says:

        My favorite caveat from the AEMO report is the following statement about the projected costs

        The transition path from the current power system to the modelled 100 per cent renewable power systems is not considered. The hypothetical capital costs assume building all the new generation and transmission infrastructure at the estimated 2030 or 2050 costs. This means that the full advantage of anticipated technology cost reductions and performance improvements are included.

    • Greg Kaan says:

      The credibility of this study can be judged by the commissioning bodies – GetUp! and Solar Citizens – and the lead author – Sven Teske who was the Renewable Energy Director of GreenPeace before joining the Institute for Sustainable Futures, Sydney. Large portions of the report appear to be simply transcribed from GreenPeace’s 2015 Energy [R]evolution report that Teske also lead authored.

      The disclaimer that energy storage (aside from the 3x overbuild for CSP plants) and grid upgrades were beyond the scope of the report makes a complete mockery of the statement that the proposals are fully costed (quite aside from the baseless assumptions like a 40 year lifespan for coal power plants being conservative),

      The renewables lobbies appear to becoming rather desperate with all these fantasy studies, reports and proposals that they are releasing of late

      • Peter Lang says:

        Greg Kaan,

        Excellent points. Thank you. I wasn’t aware of all that background.

        gee it’s hard for the world to make progress with the “progressives’ blocking progress at every turn.

        • Graeme No.3 says:

          Peter Lang:
          Was this the one where they were going to turn the whole of the WA wheat area into hay production to feed an anaerobic pyrolysis unit to make “biofuel”? Said biofuel to supply 20% of generation to cover other shortfalls.

          An idea dreamt up by someone reading about it and thinking “that looks good”. Ignoring reality, like toxic and corrosive result with rather lower thermal energy potential than they expected.

          • Peter Lang says:

            Graeme No.3,

            You’ve got it (well close). Mark Diesendorf has been claiming since the early 1990’s that biofuel can supply a large proportion of the NEM’s electricity supply (i.e Eastern Australia’s electricity grid). The BZE analysis, (link and conclusions form or critique are in the first comment here) was dependent on biomass from stubble from grain crops to power the solar thermal power stations when the sun don’t shine for more than a day. The wheat stubble would be collected from the grain fields and taken to the solar power stations (located in the deserts) by electric trains (no fossil fuels allowed).

            The EDM study (I critiqued it here required biofuel as back up for renewable energy. 13% of electricity would be generated by biofuels.

            The Grattan Institute estimated how much biofuel could be produced from all Australia’s grain crops. To supply the 13% would require twice the area of Australia’s annual grain crop. However, a large part of Australia’s grain is grown in Western Australia. So, the biofuel produced in Western Australia had to be transported to Eastern Australia to feed the Eastern Australian electricity grid.

            But the logistics are much worse than that. I asked mark Diesendorf these questions (he never answered):

          • Peter Lang says:

            [Repost to fix formatting – Euan, could you please delete my previous version of this comment, and this sentence]

            My questions to Dr Diesendorf:

            “Dr Diesendorf,

            I have a few questions for you regarding ‘gas turbines running on biofuels’. I don’t have access to your 2007 book, and nor do most of those following this thread, so I am not sure what your concept is. Firstly, let me provide some background to my questions.
            Grattan Institute (2012) (p 8-9) states:

            ”For a 30 megawatt power plant at a 70% capacity factor the land area would be around 240,000 hectares and involve nearly 500 average sized wheat farms.”

            For 24 GW of power plants operating at an average of 13% capacity factor (assumed by EDM-2011), the land area would be around 35 million hectares and involve nearly 75,000 average sized wheat farms. Australia’s annual grain crop is about 20 million hectares The 20 million hectare figure includes Western Australia’s grain crops. Therefore, EDM’s assumptions for gas turbines running on biofuels sourced from grain crops would require twice Australia’s annual grain crop area – and that is in average years!

            I’d expect we should assume double or quadruple the 35 million hectares figure to get us through long droughts and seasons of failed crops. We can also add the cost of storage to provide reliable fuel supply through years of below average biofuel production. And we should add the cost of transport facilities used to move biomass from one location to another for seasons when the crops succeed in one region but fail in another. We’d need roads, trucks, railway lines and rolling stock, which must have sufficient capacity for the worst conditions but would be used rarely. The capital costs and the O&M costs must be included in the cost of the biofuel.

            The costs just keep on increasing the more we think about the concept of gas turbines running on biofuels.

            Since I don’t have access to your 2007 book, I wonder if you could please answer the following questions about your proposed ‘gas turbines running on biofuels’ system:

            1. Would the generators be located near the demand centres or near the source of the biomass fuel?

            2. If the generators are to be located near the demand centres:

            a. Where would the biomass to biofuels processing plants be located; i.e. near the biomass source or near the generators?

            b. Where would the fuel storage be located, near the biomass source or near the generators?

            c. How would the fuel be transported to the gas turbine generating plants?

            d. How much overbuild of biofuel production and storage capacity would be required to ensure reliable supply for extended periods of drought and to cover for regions that have crop failures?

            e. How would the biomass or biofuels would be transported from Western Australia to the eastern states’ electricity generators? How would this be done?

            f. What would be the delivered cost of fuel from a system that can reliably deliver biofuels to the gas turbines through long periods of drought and crop failures?

            3. If the generators are to be located near the biomass source (i.e. in the grain growing areas:

            a. What is the optimum sized generator unit you envisage?

            b. How will the biomass be collected and transported to the biofuel processing plant? What are the logistics and the costs?

            c. How much biomass storage and how much biofuel storage would be required at each generator unit

            d. How much overbuild of biomass and biofuel production and storage capacity would be required to ensure reliable supply throughout extended periods of drought and to cover for regions that have crop failures?

            e. How would you propose to transport biomass between generating plants during periods when one region has crop failures and they need the biomass to be shipped in from other regions to keep the plant running?

            f. How would the biomass or biofuels be transported from Western Australia to the eastern states’ electricity generators?

            g. Or would you envisage transmitting electricity rather than transporting biofuels? If so, would you envisage the transmission lines have the capacity to transmit the maximum power that can be generated from all the generators in Western Australia at times when they have ample fuel but the Eastern states do not?
            h. If you envisage transmission lines, how would the biofuel production and generating plants that are idle in the eastern states be paid for; i.e. where does their revenue come from?

            i. What would be the delivered cost of fuel from a system that can sustainably deliver biofuels to the gas turbines through long periods of drought and crop failures?

            I recognise that many assumptions and details in these questions could be easily dismissed. However, could you please look beyond that and explain your concept and importantly what would be the cost ($/GJ) of a 100% reliable supply of the biofuels delivered to the generating units (to meet their highly variable demand for fuel).”

            posted 6 March 2012 at 4:48 PM by Peter Lang

          • Greg Kaan says:

            Graeme No 3, from comments I have seen on other sites, I believe you live in Adelaide. If I am correct, perhaps you could attend the ‘In Conversation with Dr Mark Diesendorf’ being held by the Conservation Council SA on the 16 of June at 111 Franklin St Adelaide at 6pm. Hopefully, he will have a Q&A session after his “100% renewable electricity for South Australia” presentation.

            Tickets are free according to the link below

            Personally, I would love to attend and ask Dr Diesendorf the questions that Peter Lang has posed (plus others that are bound to be obvious from flaws and/or omissions in “his newest report showing that South Australia could produce 100% of its electricity from renewable sources”) but I doubt I can make it from Victoria

          • gweberbv says:


            I suggest you should check your numbers on electrcity production from biomass.
            Germany produces roughly 30 TWh per year from biogas. For this roughly 1,400,000 hectars of farmland are used. Thus, from 240,000 hectars (at a capacity factor of 70%) a power plant of 740 MW can be supplied.
            If I assume that Australian farmers are roughly as productive as German ones, your number is off by more than a factor 20.

          • Graeme No.3 says:

            Greg Kaan:
            I live in the Adelaide Hills, a bit out of the city and I goes less and less into it. (Road closures, bus and bike lanes etc. with the aim of “a carbon neutral city’. I don’t think that I would be allowed more than 1 question, it is at the Friends of the Earth after all, so I see no real point, but will see how things are closer to the time.

          • Peter Lang says:


            The numbers are not off. Read the references. If you want to ask questions, go ahead, but don’t bother with your unfounded assumptions and baseless assertions.

          • Peter Lang says:


            I’d suggest you read the references and understand the issue before posting your uninformed comments. Why did you compare Germany with Australia? Why didn’t you compare biofuel electricity generation in the Sahara instead?

          • gweberbv says:


            I now checked production data for wheat and maize Germany vs. Australia:
            – Wheat -> 7.5 tons/ha (Germany) to 2 tons/ha (Western Australia)
            – Maize -> 9 tons/ha (Ger) to 5 tons/ha (Australia)

            Souces for Australia:

            For electricity production, using gas vom maize silage seems to be best practise. So, I have to revise my statement. Your number is only off by factor 10, taking into account the lower yield in Australia compared to Germany.

          • Peter Lang says:


            I am not interested in chasing you down rabbit burrows of your making. You clearly haven’t read the references I provided and haven’t understood the most basic parts of the analysis. Read the Grattan report and my analysis, then tell me exactly what the error is you think you’ve found. Don’t waste your time with baseless assertions.

            I accept I may have made a significant error that no one else has found. However you lost credibility with me long ago, so unless you can point out the error, I am not interested in looking into what you are doing and finding the explanation for the differences.

          • Auss says:

            a) your link is broken: this one should work:
            b) Main difference could be the use of pyrolysis for straw in the concept in Australia versus use of whole plant or waste parts outside straw in germany.
            Pyrolysis is not the only way to use straw. It has the benefit to use straw for mobile application, but it looses a good part of the energy within the straw.
            c) you restrict yourself to grain stubbles, which is just one among several sources the hrattan Institute report sees for biomass. The other sources you ignore easily explain the difference between 20mi hectares in use in Australia today, and the 33000 hectar you calculate using only this one source of biomass, while there are several others available too.

          • gweberbv says:


            I already had a look at the Grattan report. Probably more recently than you, otherwise you mgiht have noticed that your link to the report is wrong. The correct URL is:

            But with regard to the claim that 240,000 hectars are necessary to feed a 30 MW biomass plant the text of the study does not help anything. Because these guys simply take this number from another paper. And I am not going to waste my time for researching where this paper got the number from.

            Existing(!) large-scale electricity production from biomass in Germany and other places shows that you roughly need 0.3 to 1.5 ha to feed 1 kW of installed capacitiy (with CF near 100%).

          • Peter Lang says:


            And I am not going to waste my time for researching where this paper got the number from.

            You can’t be bothered doing the research yourself and have not shown any error. From what youve’ve said so far I have the impression you haven’t understood and haven’t the faintest clue what you are talking about. You are just making wild assertions.

            I am not going to waste my time finding the reason for your order of magnitude error. Work it out yourself.

            Nuff said!

          • Peter Lang says:

            The first sentence was intended to be a quote from gweberbv’s comment I responded to:

            And I am not going to waste my time for researching where this paper got the number from.

          • Peter Lang says:


            Sorry, I’ve just seen your comment. I missed it earlier.

            There is a great deal to this if we dig into it. However, My critique was of the paper by Ellison, Diesendorf and MacGill. I am critiquing just that paper. Did you read their paper and my critique? That is the place to begin. We can’t go wandering off debating all the types of bio fuel options – let’s just focus on what they proposed, the Grattan Institute estimate of the amount of biomass to be produced from stubble from the annual grain crop.

            Yes, there are other types of biofuels but these provide different fuels for different types of power stations. The requirement for this study was for reliable fuel supply for backup power stations with very low capacity factor and used rarely.

            By far the most critical constraint is the logistics. How can you incentivise farmers to have their equipment and crops available to use when they may not be called on to supply once in 10 or 15 years? How do you store sufficient biomass fuel at the fuel production station or sufficient biofuel at the power stations to last through decade long droughts, floods, crop failures for various reasons, etc.? How do you ensure a reliable supply of fuel to every power station for the life of the power station? What’s the cost of the rail infrastructure required? What’s the cost to maintain it given most of it will be rarely used.

            The cost of the logistics is enormous. Biofuel can make a small contribution but cannot be relied on to supply a significant proportion of electricity in Australia.

            Please read the critique for a start.

          • Greg Kaan says:


            The following article suggests that you are correct about German biomass productivity per unit area as it states that

            a biogas plant with a capacity of one megawatt “requires 20,000-25,000 tonnes [of maize] a year, accounting for 450-500 hectares of land”


            However, it also points out very real problems growing that amount of maize (810,000 hectares in Germany).

            Assuming that our silage yield is one third of that in Germany (weighted largely towards wheat given our harvest sizes), we would “only” need an additional 3.5 million hectares of silage farms. But consider that our best land is already being utilised efficiently – our farmers are competitive, internationally. Additional farmland will require farming in marginal areas where yields will almost certainly be much lower than current. Add in the irrigation limits that would be faced and the land requirements could easily be far more than a simple linear projection . Whether it is 10 times more, I don’t know but I would be confident that it would be at least double.

            And all of Peter Lang’s other issues would still have to be addressed. Land usage is only one part of the picture.

          • Peter Lang says:

            Greg Kaan,

            The proposal has never been to use turn all the Australian wheat crop into biofuel instead of selling it for food. The proposal is to use some of the stubble left after the grain is stripped. But not all the stubble can be used to make biofuel. I realised from Gunner’s first comment he hadn’t a clue what he’s talking about, and hadn’t attempted to understand before making his assertions..

          • Greg Kaan says:

            Sorry, the above should have read:

            The following article suggests that you are correct about German biomass productivity per unit area as it states that

            a biogas plant with a capacity of one megawatt “requires 20,000-25,000 tonnes [of maize] a year, accounting for 450-500 hectares of land”


            However, it also points out very real problems growing that amount of maize (810,000 hectares in Germany).

            Assuming that our silage yield is one third of that in Germany (weighted largely towards wheat given our harvest sizes), we would “only” need an additional 3.5 million hectares of silage farms. But consider that our best land is already being utilised efficiently – our farmers are competitive, internationally. Additional farmland will require farming in marginal areas where yields will almost certainly be much lower than current. Add in the irrigation limits that would be faced and the land requirements could easily be far more than a simple linear projection . Whether it is 10 times more, I don’t know but I would be confident that it would be at least double.

            And all of Peter Lang’s other issues would still have to be addressed. Land usage is only one part of the picture.

          • gweberbv says:


            the farm land for energy crops production is obviously in competition to food production and other purposes, I agree. But if you devote between 5% and 10% of arable land to the energy sector, this will not lead to starvation. (Maybe in a few decades we will have some optimized algae or whatever that can grow in a tank, needing only horse poop and sunlight – but this is nothing one can rely on today.)

            Be that as it may, one should aim to discuss on the basis of correct numbers. When discussion potential one should not fight over a factor 2. But a factor 10?

          • Peter Lang says:


            The factor of 10 error is yours. You keep making wild assertions, making up strawman arguments and knocking them down. But as you admit, you haven’t attempted to understand the basis of the estimates. You haven’t tried to find the reason for your factor of 10 error.

          • Greg Kaan says:

            Peter Lang, I am assuming that with the 1.4 million hectares used in Germany for biogas feedstock, only the silage is used for this purpose, not the crop and that the grain is sold as food. Gunter, can you confirm that this is the case?

            Then again, Gunter, you talk of 5-10% of arable land being devoted to the energy sector. Do you propose that the crop for this land be also used for biofuels?

            According to the World Bank, 6% of our 769 million hectares is arable so 10% of that is about 4.5 million hectares – almost double the WA wheat farming area. For some perspective, farming this additional area would require require over 9,500 average farms (with associated fertlilzer, machinery, power and labour requirements) and expanded transport and power infrastructure to cover this.

          • Peter Lang says:

            Greg Kaan,

            The analysis has to be based on the average annual area of grain crop, not the arable area. Crops are rotated, so only part of the grain cropping area is sown to crop each year and not all of that is stripped.

            Forget Germany, it is totally irrelevant to this analysis. The data for Australia is available and published. I’d strongly urge Gunter to read the analyses more carefully and thoroughly understand them before making any more comments.

          • Auss says:

            you assume some subotimal things and then generate questions based on thesese assumptions.
            I could not read from the grattan report that they only use grain strubbles, it is just one source explained deeper. The whole energy seems to me to rely on all kinds of biomass.
            The basic idea of pyrolysis is to avoid the logistic problems. The equipment is owned not by a farmer but by either a power generation company or a pyrolysis company. So they get material from a lot of farmers, and so the farmers can change crop every year. The idea is to make the transport of sthe strubble short, and the transport of pyrolysis output, which is as it seems 15 times smaller, long. It can be stored like e.g. oil or coal at the power station.
            As far as I understand the system, the pyrolysis result can be separated in the poweder- cola like – part (which could be pressed into solid parts too) and the oil part. both of which can be stored conventionally. Or was the question how to store bigger amounts of crude oil or coal for a longer time? The rail or ship transport also does not differ significant from the transport of oil or coal to a usual power station. it’s just about 20% more tons per TWh which need to be transported on the long leg.
            The target is a standardised small pyrolyses system, being placed in a reasonable distance to the farms, and then a longer transport of the concentrated pyrolysis result to the place of use like the transport of oil and coal today.
            For the other roughly half of energy they want to collect from biomass, the other sources and systems of use would have to be looked into. For the grain strubble the key question is: how cheap and simple can the local pyrolysis unit become.

          • Peter Lang says:


            I could not read from the grattan report that they only use grain stubbles, it is just one source explained deeper. The whole energy seems to me to rely on all kinds of biomass.

            You really need to read the EDM paper, the background, my critique. There is no point discussing the critiques until those who want to debate have understood the analysis. the Grattan report is one source I used, not the whole study.

            Sorry, I didn’t read any more of your comment. I am unlikely to spend any time responding to these sorts of comments if the commenters have clearly not bothered to understand the EDM analysis, my critique and are just throwing up their opinions.

          • gweberbv says:


            the 30 MW plant with CF 70% needing 240,000 ha results in a yield of 800 kWh per ha. This equals 8 liters of diesel. Or, when you assume that to get 1 kWh of electrcitiy you have tu burn roughly 3 kWh of diesel, we have 24 liters of diesel.

            Typically, between 20 and 50 liters of diesel are necessary per years (again: numbers from Germany) for working on 1 ha! Even if the biomass in this study is assumed to be harvested as a byproduct, it is likely that when taking into account the energy necessary for processing, transport and building/maintenence of the machinery you will probably end up with the finding that it is better to simply burn the diesel in a power plant. Already this would be the show stopper, not the need of farm land.

            But again: Assuming biomass production with an efficiency of more than 10 times less than what is routinely achieved in other parts of the world does not make sense to me.

          • Peter Lang says:


            the 30 MW plant with CF 70% …

            Totally irrelevant to the requirements. Why don’t you make an attempt to understand before commenting?

        • @ gweberbv

          You also need to account for biofuel production with regard to your hectars I think.

          • gweberbv says:


            Maize is not used for fuel production as far as I know. Rape is used for that (another 800.000 ha for Germany).
            So, at least in Germany it is easy to separate energy crops for fuel and electricity production.

        • gweberbv says:


          the ‘energy maize’ is a derivative of forage maize. It is optimized for maximum biomass production to feed animals, not for usage of the corn to entertain human beings. Thus, all of the maize goes into the biosgas plant. And what remains after that goes back to the field as a fertilizer.

    • Clive Hoskin says:

      Not only that Peter,but where are they going to get enough “Bird Mincers”to make up for these shortfalls in “Renewables”Another thought bubble from the Greens.

    • Graeme No.3 says:

      Solar panels will generate at night once the subsidies are higher than the cost to do so.
      As for the paper it is interesting but far from ready for production. It might be more convincing if it included an actual result for efficiency of conversion.

  3. Adam Gallon says:

    No deal at Doha, as Saudi Arabia (Sunni) is merrily trying to bankrupt their hated Iranian (Shi’a) rivals.

  4. Willem Post says:


    (6.6) 740 MW biomass plants would be required to produce 30 TWh/y, at CF = 0.75, from 1,400,000 hectare.

    German total energy production is about 600 TWh/y

    Although 34% of the total area of Germany is devoted to crop production, production falls far short of satisfying industrial and consumer demand, i.e., Germany imports food.

    Agriculture accounted for only 1% of GDP in 2002.

    The total amount of arable land in 1999 was 11,797,000 hectares.

    • gweberbv says:


      I am not proposing to provide a big portion of electricity production from biomass. At least not in Germany. But one should use the right numbers (or at least reasonable numbers).

Comments are closed.