Blowout Week 129

This week’s Blowout focuses on the distressed UK North Sea oil & gas industry, which according to the people who run it has only two years to go before it goes away altogether. A supreme guiding hand is needed, say industry executives. Even the “N” word has been mentioned as an option:

BBC:  Call for urgent changes in UK oil and gas industry

Senior figures in offshore oil and gas have called for more radical and urgent changes to avoid rapid decline. They say there are only two years in which to secure the industry’s future.

A report by PwC includes a proposal for a “super joint venture” between offshore operators. It would share risk as well as return, and secure co-ordination of activities for smaller fields and fragmented assets, as some equipment nears the end of its working life. The report, “A Sea Change”, found that fewer than three in five senior executives interviewed were positive about the industry’s future, while a fifth were pessimistic. Suggestions in the report were that infrastructure, including the pipeline network, could be handed over to a third party company to ensure co-operation, or it could be nationalised. They suggested in the PwC report that the industry needed a dominant leading figure. This person may have to come from a different sector, to shake up inefficient, older-thinking of the existing regime. You know something’s really badly wrong with North Sea oil and gas, when the people who control it are calling for their own overthrow.

The usual mix of articles below, including speculators foresee $100 oil, Norway’s oil & gas fields lose $50 billion in value, oil industry to cut $1 trillion in spending, squabbles over US Arctic oil leasing, another blow to Japan’s nuclear renaissance, the first US reactor startup in 20 years, bleak outlook for Australia’s brown coal plants, India cancels 16GW of coal, Brexit’s impact on energy investment, smart meters not needed for an EU grid after all, solar potential in Ireland, the National Grid should be broken up, a new submarine cable to France, Obama’s energy storage initiative, the SunSaluter axial tracking PV system and the Bramble Cay melomys, the first victim of human-induced climate change.

Bloomberg:  Investors Wager on Oil Surge Above $100

Oil investors are buying contracts that will only pay out if crude rises well above $100 a barrel over the next four years — a clear sign some believe today’s bust is sowing the seeds of the next boom. The options deals, which brokers said bear the hallmarks of trades made by hedge funds, appear to be based on the belief that current low prices will generate a supply crunch as oil companies cut billions of dollars in spending on developing fields. “The market faces a supply crunch in the next 24 months,” said Francisco Blanch, head of commodities research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York. “Some hedge funds are betting that oil prices will need to rise sharply to bring demand down again — that’s why they are buying deep out-of-the-money call options.” Over the last month, investors have bought call options — giving the right to buy at a predetermined price and time — for late 2018, 2019 and 2020 at strike prices of $80, $100 and $110 a barrel, according to data from the New York Mercantile Ex-change and the U.S. Depository Trust & Clearing Corp.

Reuters:  OPEC sees oil supply more balanced in second half of year

OPEC has forecast that the world oil market will be more balanced in the second half of the year as outages in Nigeria and Canada help erode a supply glut that has weighed on prices more quickly than expected. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in a monthly report said its production fell by 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) in May led by Nigeria. It maintained forecasts of seasonally higher demand for its crude in the second half of the year and falling supplies outside the group. “The excess supply in the market is likely to ease over the coming quarters,” OPEC said in the report. “Shutdowns in Nigeria and Canada tightened the oil market markedly and brought supply and demand more closely into alignment earlier than many had expected, bolstering prices.” OPEC’s report points to a supply deficit of 160,000 bpd in the second half of 2016 if the group keeps pumping at May’s rate. Excess supply in the first quarter was 2.59 million bpd, OPEC said.

Wall Street Journal:  Value of Norway’s Oil and Gas Fields Drops by $50 Billion

The value of Norway’s state-owned oil and gas fields has dropped by roughly a third in two years, or by more than $50 billion, mainly reflecting tanking oil and gas prices, the country’s government said Monday. A report from oil-data firm Rystad Energy estimated the value of Norway’s direct ownership in oil and gas fields at 810 billion Norwegian kroner ($97.9 billion), down from 1.23 trillion kroner in a similar estimate two years ago, the government said. “As a consequence of a gas-heavy portfolio and high expected gas production [in the next few years], the reduced gas price expectation is the single most important driver of the reduction in portfolio valuation from 2014 to 2016,” said Rystad Energy in the report. The Norwegian government owns stakes in a huge portfolio of oil and gas fields in the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea, including aging giants like the Troll and Oseberg fields, and the Johan Sverdrup field, which is still under development. Last year, Norway’s derived half of its oil and gas revenue from production taxes, 43% from the government’s direct ownership in oil and gas assets, and 7% from dividends paid by Statoil AS A, in which the government has a 67% stake.

The Hill:  The Arctic is essential to US’s oil and gas program

Alaska is the most significant and important resource in creating a safer and more secure nation. How? By unleashing the vast energy resources found in our immense state. Alaska’s energy potential is absolutely staggering. The size of just the oil and gas resources alone is hard even to fathom: a full one-third of the United States’ oil and gas reserves sit off Alaska’s northern coast in a basin that can only be described as an elephant field. Despite this monumental opportunity, this strategic asset is at risk. Why? The Department of the Interior is today closing its public consultation on in its next offshore oil and gas leasing program and there is discussion in Washington D.C. about removing Alaska. It absolutely boggles the mind to think that the United States, which is considered an Arctic nation only because of Alaska, would voluntarily reduce its options for safe and responsible domestic resource development in a state that has been producing oil safely for decades.

Guardian:   Climate scientists urge Obama to rule out more Arctic oil and gas exploration

Nearly 400 international scientists called on Barack Obama to rule out further expansion of oil and gas exploration in Arctic waters under US control. The letter, signed by prominent Arctic, marine and climate specialists – including a former member of Obama’s administration, urges the president to rule out any future hunting for oil in the waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. “No new oil and gas leasing or exploration should be allowed in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in the foreseeable future, including in the next five-year leasing plan,” the scientists write in the letter. In addition to putting the entire Beaufort and Chukchi seas off-limits for the next oil and gas leasing offer, from 2017 to 2022, the letter urged the administration to consult native Alaskan groups on any further Arctic developments. The scientists said in the letter that expanding Arctic marine protection would help counter the effects of climate change.

National:  Oil and gas industry to cut $1 trillion in spending

The oil and gas industry will cut US$1 trillion from planned spending on exploration and development because of the slump in prices, leading to slower growth in production, according to consultant Wood Mackenzie. Worldwide investment in the development of oil and gas resources from 2015 to 2020 will be 22 per cent, or $740 billion, lower than anticipated before prices plunged in 2014, with the deepest cuts in the US, Wood Mackenzie said in a report Wednesday. A further $300bn will be eliminated from exploration spending. Global production this year will be 3 per cent lower than previously forecast, the consultant said. The US has experienced the steepest cuts in spending. Forecast capital investment there is down by half for this year and next, a drop of around $125bn, mainly due to a decline in drilling. The Middle East is the region least affected, with no drop in investment expected in Saudi Arabia – the world’s largest crude exporter – for this year and next. That’s because several countries in the region are spending to maintain their market share, the report said.

UPI:  Rigs returning to service in North Dakota

With a gain of three, the number of rigs actively exploring for or producing oil and natural gas in North Dakota is up 12 percent from last week, data show. Data from North Dakota’s government show 28 rigs in active service as of Monday, up from the 25 reported one week ago. Rig counts serve as a barometer for the health of the oil and gas industry as oil prices in part determine how much companies are investing in exploration and production. Though at times above the $50 mark in recent sessions, last week saw crude oil prices moving lower after a string of data showed weak conditions persisted in the U.S. and European economies. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of crude oil, was around $48.50 per barrel early Monday. The price, however, is still more than 65 percent higher than the low point for the year as the demand pressures start to build up in a market that, until early this year, was characterized by excessive supplies. Last week, oil field services company Baker Hughes reported global markets recorded a net increase in the number of rigs in service. The North American market gained six rigs, or 1.4 percent, from the week ending June 3.

Telegraph:  Faroe Petroleum strikes new North Sea oil and gas reserves

Faroe Petroleum has extended its North Sea assets after discovering low-cost oil and gas reserves off the coast of Norway. The North Sea-focused company will now begin drilling to determine the size of the reserves, which are jointly owned by Faroe and project part-ner Point Resources. “We are very pleased to announce the oil and gas discovery at the Brasse prospect and await the results of the [drilling]. This discovery in one of our core areas builds on Faroe’s already significant position in the Norwegian North Sea via a low cost exploration well,” said Graham Stewart, chief executive of Faroe. The new reserves will help to offset the loss of oil production from Faroe’s Njord field, where it has suspended operations. Faroe is widely expected to expand its assets in the coming months by buying up further North Sea oil and gas fields. Earlier this year, Mr Stewart said the North Sea still offered attractive, low-cost reserves for smaller oil explorers. “People have the impression that the North Sea is on its last legs – ‘It’s so old and decrepit and expensive. It’s just a matter of time before they turn the lights out’. That’s not the case,” he said. “There’s a lot of life left in the North Sea, some of it will be decommissioned but I think there are some green shoots coming out of the downturn. I would not give up on the North Sea.”

Statesman:  Microsoft sets up centre for oil, gas in Dubai

Microsoft has opened its largest centre of excellence for the oil & gas industry in Dubai, to assist organisations in the sector to drive digital transformation, cut costs and optimisation of their operations. The new centre will help companies in the sector take advantage of the latest trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT), advanced analytics, modern productivity and cloud computing using Microsoft technologies like Microsoft Azure and Office 365. It is the largest such centre for Microsoft globally. According to the 2016 Upstream Oil and Gas Digital Trends Survey by Accenture and Microsoft, 80 per cent of upstream oil and gas companies plan to increase spending on digital technologies in order to help them drive leaner, smarter organisations. The International Data Corporation (IDC), predicts that IT spending in oil and gas will in-crease to nearly USD 50 billion in 2016, while spending on connectivity related technologies should increase by 30 per cent.

Wall Street Journal:  Environmental Groups Change Tune on Nuclear Power

U.S. environmentalists are softening their longstanding opposition to nuclear power as their priority shifts to climate change, Amy Harder reports. The change in position is lowering one of the biggest political hurdles facing the nuclear-power industry in the U.S. and comes as several financially struggling reactors are set to shut down. The Sierra Club, the country’s oldest and largest environmental group, sees existing reactors as a bridge to renewable electricity and an alternative source of energy, as the group campaigns to shut down coal and natural gas plants. “Because the historical context is that these groups were opposed to nuclear, their absence on the opposition front is noticed,” said Joe Dominguez, executive vice president at Exelon Corp., the biggest owner of nuclear plants in the U.S.

Vox:  Sweden decides it’s not so easy to give up nuclear power

Nuclear power has been steadily falling out of favor in much of Europe ever since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Italy has closed all its reactors. Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland are in the midst of retiring their fleets. Even France, which gets 77 percent of its electricity from nuclear, has been discussing a partial phaseout. Yet for a continent that prides itself on being a leader on global warming, shutting down a major source of reliable, carbon-free electricity isn’t always so easy. And Sweden is a great case study here. Until recently, Sweden was on track to lose most of its nuclear power capacity — which provides 40 percent of the country’s electricity — in the coming decade, as government policies focused on renewables instead. But last week, the country reversed course. Under a new agreement, Sweden will get rid of a key tax that had disadvantaged nuclear, and the country’s utilities will be permitted to build up to 10 new reactors to replace those scheduled to retire in the years ahead. Officially, Sweden still has a goal of moving to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. But this new policy is, effectively, a backstop. If it turns out to be much harder than expected to power the entire country with wind, hydro, and solar alone — as some experts think it could be — then nuclear power will remain a ready option.

South China Morning Post:   Japanese court upholds ban on restarting reactors at Takahama nuclear plant

A Japanese court kept its ban on operation of two nuclear re-actors at the Takahama power plant in Fukui Prefecture on Friday by rejecting the plant operator’s request to suspend an injunction it had issued over the reactivated reactors. The Otsu District Court’s decision concerns the injunction issued in March over the Nos. 3 and 4 units at the Kansai Electric Power Co. plant that marked a major setback for the government’s push to ramp up nuclear power generation. Local residents had filed for the injunction on safety concerns. In Friday’s decision, the court said it “cannot conclude that [the reactors] are safe, merely because they have met new regulatory standards on nuclear power plants”. New, more stringent safety rules were introduced in 2013 in the wake of the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011. “Kansai Electric should at least explain how the regulations on operation and designs of nuclear power plants were toughened and how it responded to them,” the decision said. The decision, issued under the same presiding judge, Yoshihiko Yamamoto, as the injunction in March, marks the final word on one process regarding the injunction because Kansai Electric cannot take further action on it.

Deutsche Welle:   French power company stalls Fessenheim closure

The fight over the plan to close France’s oldest operational nuclear power station took another turn on Thursday. The operators of the Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant near the German and Swiss borders want a new assessment of the damages they will be awarded before they begin the process of shutting down the reactors. The news came at the same time French nuclear watchdog ASH said one of Fessenheim’s reactors had to be shut down temporarily due to irregularities in a steam generator. Opposition to Fessenheim began even before it was built in the 1970s, but has ramped up in recent years due to a number of minor safety breaches in the past decade. Leading the charge has been anti-nuclear power Germany, particularly the state of Baden-Württemberg, whose border lies a mere 1.5 kilometers (0.93 miles) from the reactors. President Francois Hollande had promised to shut the plant by the end of 2016, but now EDF, France’s majority state-owned electrical company, wants a new appraisal of how much the government should pay it in damages for losses incurred as a result of the shutdown. They say the 100 million euros ($114 million) offered by the government is far too little.

MarketWatch:  Nuclear power ‘far from dead’ as U.S. sees startup of first reactor in 20 years

The U.S. saw a nuclear reactor come online this month for the first time in 20 years, and more are set to follow—proving that nuclear power is alive and well in a post-Fukushima disaster world. The Tennessee Valley Authority connected its Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor to the power grid on June 3. It was the first nuclear power plant in the country to come online since 1996, when the Watts Bar Unit 1 reactor started operations, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a report Tuesday. The new reactor, currently in the testing stage and designed to add 1,150 megawatts of electricity generating capacity to southeastern Tennessee, is also the first to meet the new regulations set by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC, in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that damaged the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant in Japan, the EIA said. The startup is “a wonderful achievement for TVA and the U.S. nuclear industry at large,” Jonathan Hinze, executive vice president of international operations at Ux Consulting Company, told MarketWatch.

BusinessGreen:  University of Cambridge rules out coal and tar sands investments

The University of Cambridge has announced it has no investments in coal or tar sands and has ruled out any future investments in the sector, following months of pressure from students and academics over the institution’s investment strategy for fossil fuels. In a report published this week following a year-long review into its investment policy, Cambridge also announced new plans to pressure its fund managers to factor climate change into investment decisions. Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, the University’s Vice Chancellor, and Nick Cavalla, its Chief Investment Officer, have written to the University’s fund managers urging them to carefully assess carbon intensive assets and incorporate climate risks as a decision factor in fund management. The report also sets out a number of recommendations for Cambridge to begin proactively managing its assets more responsibly – such as engaging in shareholder voting on climate issues, and using other engagement tactics to encourage more sustainable corporate behaviour.

RenewEconomy:   Bleak outlook for Australia’s brown coal plants

The outlook for Australia’s four remaining big brown coal generators looks bleak following the Victorian Labor government’s decision to set a 40 per cent renewable energy target for 2025. At least one may be forced to close by 2020. The influx of another 5,400MW of mostly wind and solar capacity is sure to significantly reduce the amount of brown coal generation needed. But the impact could be even more dramatic because of the inherent inflexibility of the ageing brown coal power stations.These graphs from Dylan McConnell, from the Melbourne Energy Institute, illustrate the problem that brown coal will face. The first is the current state of the market, and the generation patterns of this past week. Brown coal remains supreme, untroubled by the relatively small contributions from wind energy.

The second graph, however, tells a different story. It assumes that Victoria meets its 40 per cent target in 2025, takes a best guess at the mix of wind and solar that gets the state there, and then shows what would have happened if that capacity had been in the system in the past week.

As is clear, the supremacy of brown coal is severely challenged, and on windy days only around half the capacity is required, often much less.

AFR:  AGL Energy warns of blackout risk without ‘orderly’ brown coal plant closure

AGL Energy chief financial officer Brett Redman has issued a stark warning that putting off plans for the “orderly” shutdown of highly-polluting brown coal power plants will put consumers at risk of blackouts amid a market “breakdown”. Mr Redman compared the situation with continuing to drive a fleet of old cars instead of booking times to trade them in for new electric vehicles, so that eventually they failed, leaving passengers stranded on the side of the road. Mr Redman’s words add further weight to calls by AGL chief executive Andy Vesey for a coordinated policy for the exit of brown coal plants, to make room for new renewable energy plants that will help reduce overall emissions from electricity generation. Both executives have signalled AGL may support an industry-funded plant closure scheme, which would ensure the highest-polluting plant is shut down while sharing the costs across the industry. Otherwise, the company that gives in first and closes its plant bears huge costs, while the market benefits of closure flow to its competitors.

Power Engineering International:  India cancels plans for 16 GW of coal power

The Indian Energy Ministry has this week announced plans to cancel four proposed coal-fired power plants with a combined capacity of 16 GW as it looks to reduce its overall carbon footprint from energy. The plans previously called for four ultra-mega coal-fired power plants (UMPP) across Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Odisha, but these are now to be cancelled due to lack of interest from the host states. India is increasingly looking to renewable energy, as well as dampening demand growth by accelerating energy and grid efficiency programs. With the utilization rates of the average coal fired power plant at six year lows of 58 per cent in 2015/16 (down from 75 per cent in 2010), another government goal is to better utilize the existing thermal capacity. For 2016/17, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has set the highest ever capacity addition target for the clean power sector, that being up to 16,660 MW according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). Of this, the solar installs target is set at 12 GW, wind at 4 GW, biomass power at 400 MW, small scale hydro-electricity at 250 MW and waste-to-power at 10 MW.

SeeNews:   Renewable generation falls off in Chile

The share of wind and solar power on Chile’s Central Interconnected System (SIC) in May 2016 came near 4.2%, marking a decline from roughly 5.3% a year ago. A report by system operator CDEC-SIC shows a decline in SIC wind generation last month to 108 GWh from 163.3 GWh in May 2015. Thus wind’s share in total generation fell to 2.4% from 3.7% previously. Solar’s share inched up to 1.8% from 1.6%. Thermal power plants remain Chile’s main source of electricity with a 62.2% share of the gross generation on SIC in May 2016. Hydropower follows with 33.7%. Gross renewable generation, excluding large hydro, was 453.7 GWh or 10% of SIC power for the month. As of May 31, 2016 there were 2,178 MW of renewable energy capacity on the SIC. This includes 819.9 MW of wind and 616.3 MW of solar parks.

Heartland:   Study Shows the High Economic Costs of Renewable Energy

According to the report—titled “What Happens to an Economy When Forced to Use Renewable Energy?—an assortment of policies enacted by European countries to combat climate change have led to soaring electricity costs for residential and commercial customers, leading the authors to recommend the United States reject similar policies. “During 2008–14, [European Union] member countries spent some $106 billion on energy subsidies. Three countries—Germany ($27.2 billion), Spain ($11.1 billion), and the U.K. ($14.3 billion)—accounted for nearly half that sum,” wrote the report’s authors. “Those three countries have also seen the largest increases in residential electricity rates,” said the report, which also says, according to Eurostat, “during 2005–14, residential rates in the [European Union] increased by 63 percent, on average. In Germany, those rates increased by 78 percent; in Spain, they increased by 111 percent; and in the U.K., they rose by 133 percent. By comparison, over the same period, residential rates in the U.S. rose by 32 percent.”

Reuters:  Brexit could set back UK energy investment

After a Brexit vote, all EU laws apply in Britain until two years after London starts the process to leave. Then none would apply but Britain could try to stay part of some frameworks through negotiations, a process that could take years. Uncertainty about the type of relationship Britain would have with the EU after Brexit would make energy investors demand higher returns for the risk of less favourable conditions. Oil and gas majors BP and Shell are among several energy companies that say leaving the EU would affect them and the sector negatively. “I can’t see any upside for the energy sector of the UK coming out of the EU. The risk premium going up will increase the cost of capital,” Ian Simm, chief executive of UK-based Im-pax Asset Management, said. “We have mostly run our power assets down over the past 25 years. Therefore, we do need investors to be confident enough to put their hands in their pockets and commit to the next wave of power plants,” he added.

InsideCI:  UK reaps the benefits of renewable energy, as solar panels beat coal

Anyone arguing that in the UK there is not much sun, should think twice. For the first time ever, the UK’s solar panels generated more electricity than the one produced from coal in May 2016, according to Carbon Brief. Solar generated an estimated 1,336 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity in May, 50 per cent more than the 893GWh output from coal. The finding follows on from Carbon Brief’s earlier analysis showing solar beating coal for the first full day on 9 April 2016, and for the first week from 3 May 2016. Solar generated nearly six per cent of the UK’s electricity needs during May, against less than four per cent for coal. In January, the figures were just 1one per cent for solar and 17 per cent for coal. There has been a huge reduction in coal-fired power generation in the UK since the start of 2016. Nearly a quarter of electricity generation in 2015 was from coal but since then, the power market economics have shifted in favour of gas and several coal plants have opted to close.

Euractiv:  Smart meters ‘not needed’ after all for European power grid

A transition to an intelligent electricity grid in Europe can take place without smart meters, industry players have said, in comments that will embarrass the European Com-mission, which pushed a Europe-wide plan to roll out smart meters years ago. There are other more efficient ways than smart meters to help develop intelligent power grids, said industry delegates at the annual convention of Europe’s electricity association Eurelectric, held in Vilnius last week. These include quicker integration of renewables, the development of energy storage and energy demand response solutions, said the industry representatives. The actual benefits of smart meters were also questioned at the conference, as several member states have done previously. EU member states are required to implement smart meters under the 2009 Third Energy Package wherever it is cost-effective to do so, with the goal to replace 80% of electricity meters with smart meters by 2020. But progress has been sluggish, with few countries having completed their roll-outs and a number of nations – most notably Germany – having so far decided against a nation-wide deployment of smart meters.

Irish Times:   More than 7,000 jobs could come from Irish solar power

The Irish Solar Energy Association is lobbying the Government for supports similar those given to wind and other renewables, which will cost consumers and businesses €181 million this year. On Tuesday, the body said that a report it commissioned from accountants KPMG shows that solar has the potential to create 7,300 jobs in building and operating generating plants. The association added that results from commercial rooftop solar panels installed in the south east over the first two weeks of June indicate that an established industry could meet 7 per cent of Irish electricity demand. Chairman David Maguire said on Tuesday that solar is the only form of renewable energy that does not receive some form of subsidy to aid its development. He explained that the group favours an auction system rather the system of guaranteed prices given to wind farms, which are funded through a levy on electricity bills known as the public service obligation. Using the auction approach, the Single Electricity Market Operator could decide in advance that solar generators should supply a set amount of the country’s total electricity demand. It would then invite the industry to bid for that and award contracts to the cheapest suppliers. “They would have to have land, planning permission and grid connections to qualify, and they would have to pay a deposit to take part,” Mr Magure said.

EnergyDigital:  Scotland exceeds carbon emissions targets six years early

Scotland has exceeded an ambitious carbon reductions target — 42 percent fewer emissions by 2020 — six years early. Newly released Scottish Government figures show that emissions fell almost 46 percent be-tween 1990 and 2014. In contrast, emissions for the whole of the UK fell just 33 percent in the same interval. However, some environmentalists were quick to stress that the loss of heavy industry and warmer winters were major factors in reducing energy use, rather than government policy. Scotland’s Climate Change Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, said: “The reduction in residential emissions in 2014 may have been due to people turning down their heating. This underlines that small individual actions, if repeated on a large scale, can have a big impact in tackling climate change.” Cunningham also confirmed that the government would now set a more rigorous benchmark for 2020 alongside its 80 percent reduction by 2050 target. “This is an especially important time for climate change, in light of the international agreement reached in Paris last December and it is great news that Scotland continues to show ambition and demonstrate the progress that can be made,” she said.

BBC:  National Grid ‘should be broken up’

National Grid, which owns and operates the UK’s gas and electricity networks, faces “conflicts of interest”, said the Energy and Climate Change Committee. Despite its “technical expertise”, it should be broken up, the MPs said. But National Grid said there was “little evidence” that switching to the US system would bring any benefits. The committee said that the change was necessary because more power was being generated by regional networks, making energy flows more complicated.The committee complained of “legislative and regulatory inertia” and said small-scale generators, such as solar power producers, faced problems in connecting to the grid. “The UK needs clean, renewable power, but it won’t be built if it’s too costly or difficult for generators to connect to the electricity grid,” said committee chairman Angus MacNeil. “Distribution networks have been overwhelmed at times by the challenge of integrating small-scale renewables.The Independent System Operator model has worked in the USA. It is time for it to be brought to these shores,” said Mr MacNeil. National Grid, a private company listed on the London Stock Exchange, rejected the committee’s findings.

BBC:   UK to double French energy supplies with new cable

A privately funded project has announced it will build a £1.1bn cross Channel electricity cable which will double the amount of energy the UK presently receives from France. The cable, called an interconnector, will run from Lovedean, near to Portsmouth to the Le Havre area. Developer, Aquind, which is led by Ukrainian businessman Alexander Temerko, is behind the project. The company said the 150-mile cable would come online in 2021. It plans to deliver up to two gigawatts to the National Grid, which has signed a connection agreement with it. The energy it plans to deliver to Britain will supply power to the equivalent of four million homes. The company, which is backed by private investors, is currently in the process of securing a connection agreement with the French. It will be able to transfer electricity both ways, if market conditions are favourable. Lord Callanan, a non-executive director at Aquind, said: “With a growing energy supply gap threatening UK households and businesses, there’s an urgent need for a fast and reliable way to introduce new capacity. The interconnector will significantly ease the pressure on the UK grid and reduce the risk of blackouts.”


UtilityDive:  Obama’s “sweeping initiative” for 1.3GW of energy storage

The Obama Administration yesterday announced a sweeping initiative aimed at growing energy storage, demand management and renewable energy resources, while investigating the best way to integrate those into an increasingly flexible power grid. The White House announced a series of executive actions and 33 state and private sector commitments expected to result in at least 1.3 GW of additional storage procurement or deployment in the next five years. More than a dozen developers and power companies in eight or more states have announced new storage procurement and deployment targets, totaling $130 million in new funding commitments. In total, the White House said new procurement, deployment, and investment commitments “could lead to approximately $1 billion in investments in energy storage.”

Courier:  Forth wave power bid blocked by legal threat

Renewable Devices Marine’s trial of Capricorn in the Firth of Forth went “exceptionally well,” according to entrepreneur Dr David Anderson. He said: “It exceeded all of our expectations, and we proved that small-scale turbines costing as little as £45,000 can power communities across Scotland. That is, if the Crown Estate stops hindering the development of these small commercial turbines.” Dr Anderson said shoreline property owners including Lord Rosebery all helped with river access for the trials. The Crown Estate, the agency that controls the seabed, was not well disposed, he said, and wanted a fee of £79,000. “They tried to block the launch and are threatening to take legal action against us,” he continued. “They claimed they own a tiny bit of land under the end of the pier and are accusing us of going over the boundary by six inches. How can they promote the idea that they help the marine renewable industry in Scotland, while charging fees and blocking progress?”

SunSaluter:   The Sunsaluter single-axis-tracking PV system

The SunSaluter is an ultra low-cost, passive, single-axis solar panel rotator (called a tracker). The SunSaluter boosts energy output by 30% by keeping a solar panel oriented towards the sun throughout the day. With improved efficiency, fewer solar panels are needed, and the overall cost per watt of solar energy is reduced. Conventional solar trackers use complex electronics which make them more than 30 times as expensive and prone to failure. That’s why solar trackers have never made sense for the developing world – until now. The SunSaluter features an adjustable design which allows it to integrate with any solar panel – no special tools needed. The solar panels are mounted on the rotating frame, a weight is suspended from one end, and a special waterclock is suspended from the other. As the water empties and the container gets lighter, the panel slowly rotates. The user can set the rate at which the waterclock empties, which controls the SunSaluter’s rate of rotation. The SunSaluter also contains a water purifier so that each day it produces four liters of clean drinking water.

Washington Post:   Bramble Cay melomys is likely the first mammal claimed by man-made climate change

The first recorded Bramble Cay melomys sightings date back to the 1800s. In 1978, researchers estimated several hundred rodents lived on the island, but the numbers dropped to the double-digits by 1998. Twelve of the rodents were caught in November 2004; in December 2011, scientists looking for them turned up empty-handed. For this report, which used survey methods consisting of nocturnal traps as well as daytime searches, no sign of a melomys was to be found — no critter, paw print or pellet. “The results reported here, from thorough survey, confirm that the Bramble Cay melomys no longer occurs at the only site from which it has ever been reliably reported,” the scientists wrote. It was, in all likelihood, death from lack of resources. In the decade between 2004 and 2014, the amount of leafy plants on Bramble Cay shrunk by 97 percent, the authors say. Without plants providing food and shelter, the scientists believe rodents succumbed to local extinction. And the lack of plants, in turn, was probably caused by a rising sea that swept over the island during storms and high tides — ocean inundation, as the scientists call it.

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30 Responses to Blowout Week 129

  1. Euan Mearns says:

    The Utility Drive story on Obama’s 1.3 GW energy storage drive. Is it the authors at Utility Drive or the energy advisors in the Obama administration that are cretins? The electrical unit of energy storage is GWh. I really don’t know. There is such wholesale abandonment of high school physics in mainstream energy policy I begin to believe that cretins are now in charge.

    • Andy Dawson says:

      I’ll give you got words that should have long since convinced you that that was the case.

      Margaret Beckett


      Ed Miliband

      Former Secretaries of State for Energy…

    • Euan. If you really want to upset yourself click on the link to the White House fact sheet in the article and read how “under (Obama’s) leadership, transformations in how we produce and consume electricity are decreasing carbon pollution, scaling up renewable energy, and generating savings on consumers’ energy bills.”

      The fact sheet does however, contain some MWh numbers, proving that there’s at least someone in government who knows what an hour is. Unfortunately, when you add up all the committed expansions all you get is 660MWh. This I think proves that Obama and his coterie of bright green advisers have absolutely no clue about the scale of the problem.

      • robertok06 says:

        “Unfortunately, when you add up all the committed expansions all you get is 660MWh. ”

        Well, Roger… it will cover 5.2 SECONDS of US electricity consumption… (~4000 TWh/year) don’t be so negative! 🙂

    • pyrrhus says:

      The cretins who are entirely unfamiliar with Physics or thermodynamic are definitely in charge, and the media are even worse, and probably would have failed grade school science in my day.

    • Hugh Sharman says:


      In that case, I am also a “cretin”!

      Electricity storage delivers kW from a store of kWh! In some power applications, it is the kW, delivered (or received) very quickly (<50 milliseconds) that matters. Usually, 15 – 30 minutes of storage delivered from a battery at 50% state of charge (SOC) that matters, for example fast frequency reserves. $/kWe matters in these cases.

      In other applications, long duration electricity storage is more relevant, for example in off-grid PV/wind where this is cheaper than diesel of petrol engines, eg most of Africa and increasingly, off-grid mining operations.

      You get my point, no doubt!

      • Willem Post says:


        Batteries are capable of delivering energy, kWh, at certain rates.

        For that rate to be high, even for a short periods, a certain capacity, kW, is required.

        For long life, many cycles, batteries should not be excessively charged/discharged, i.e., only a fraction of the stored energy should be flowing in and out during each cycle.

      • Hugh: I think we are talking at cross purposes here. The type of storage you (and Obama) are talking about is, as you point out, mainly designed to avoid grid disruptions. The King Island system (click on the sidebar to access) gives you a graphic, real-time example of how such systems work, with flywheels, dynamic resistors, battery storage etc. combined on a millisecond-response basis to keep grid frequency within limits at all times (or at least I think they do). But you don’t of course need many MWh to do this.

        What we are talking about is long-term storage. Where do you store the surplus generation during a windy week for re-use during a windless week a month of two down the road? Where do you store your massive summer solar surplus for re-use in the winter? Well, you don’t. You require TWh of storage, not MWh, and installing TWh of storage is not an option.

        As we’ve discussed before, the only solution if you want high levels of intermittent renewables penetration is to keep enough FF backup to fill in the gaps when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, which is usually a highly inefficient way of doing it. A good example is the study you recently sent me a link to, which as I recollect calculated that Sweden would have to install over 20,000MW of wind capacity backed up by over 8,000MW of FF capacity just to replace the output from its nuclear fleet.

        • Willem Post says:

          I collected some paragraphs from the referenced article about Sweden nuclear plants, and added some numbers.

          Sweden was going to phase out its nuclear plants, but found to replace 8849 MW of operating nuclear capacity, it needed to have 22,000 MW of IWTs (lasting at most 25 years), at about $2 million per MW, or $44 billion, PLUS for peaking, filling-in, and balancing, about 8600 MW of fossil fuel plants (lasting at most about 40 – 50 years) at about $34 billion, PLUS about $6 billion for grid build-outs, for a total of $84 billion, PLUS, as a side “benefit”, significant social unrest, etc.

          Because wind energy is near zero many hours of the year (in New England and Sweden) and wind peak output is wind-dependent, whereas peak demand is people-dependent, fossil back-up plants are needed for peaking, filling-in and balancing. Sweden also has a large hydro plant capacity that could perform that service.

          Instead going the expensive wind and fossil route, Sweden reversed a 30-year-old ban on building new nuclear plants and decided to build 10 new nuclear plants, that will last at least 60 years, to replace aging existing nuclear plants, on the same sites. The EU and US should take note.

          There was also the question of what to do during Sweden’s winter, when electricity demand for space heating soars, and with IWTs often in shut-down mode, due to extreme cold, and solar output near-zero as well. New England should take note.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        The Obama Administration yesterday announced a sweeping initiative aimed at growing energy storage, demand management and renewable energy resources, while investigating the best way to integrate those into an increasingly flexible power grid.

        Hugh, I disagree. A GW is a unit of power and GWh is a unit of storage. 1.3GW of storage means absolutely nothing to me. But I’d agree that storage should be defined by two variables – W that can be delivered and Wh. The two together define the type of storage one has.

        • Willem Post says:


          The energy, from a battery, Wh, is delivered at a voltage, V

          The energy RATE of delivery, Wh/h = W

          What is often overlooked is the energy lost, totaling about 20%, due to:

          – AC to DC, conversion,
          – Storing into the battery,
          – Discharging from the battery,
          – DC to AC conversion

          The conversion losses are especially high when operating at low, less than 20% of rated, i.e., lots of heat losses.

          Long-term storage, say a week or more, has losses on top of the above 4 steps.

          Check the state of charge of a lawnmower battery every two weeks and see the loss.

          Most folks never notice, because the remaining charge is enough to start the mower.

  2. Andy Dawson says:

    I posted this, on the Select Committee report on National Grid, at The Guardian website.

    Grid has three main streams of revenue within it’s regulated business (we’ll come to the non-regulated bit later.

    The first, and largest is “TUoS” charrges – “Transmission Use of System”. Basically, and energy retailer pays a fee per MWh sent over the system (large end users who connect direct to the HV grid also contract for this). There are also weightings for the distance over which the power is transmitted, to discourage remote connections which need more Grid infrastructure The TUoS rate is set by OFGEM, based on a pricing formula that includes significant distortions.

    The regulated TUoS rate is basically worked from two factors. The first is operational costs (and OFGEM manages this by setting an “efficiency frontier” based on UK and international comparisons around a number of factors, the main one of which is the best practice cost to maintain and operate a kilometre of circuits of a given voltage. The second is based on the capital value of the network assets (the “Regulated Asset Value”, or RAV); this is multiplied by a permitted rate of return to give a target level of earnings on the RAV.

    Those are added together, then divided by the total amount of power anticipated to be transmitted in a year to give a rate per MWh.

    As can easily be seen, this incentivises Grid to build infrastructure and not worry unduly about levels of utilisation; the transmission charge from a Scottish windfarm that operates at a 27% capacity factor is charged at the same distance weighted MWh rate as a line that connects a conventional station operating at 80 or 90% capacity factor.

    Worse, since Grid has the sort of reliable revenue profile that lenders like, it’s able to heavily “gear” new construction – that is build it on borrowed money, which levers up the return for equity investors.

    The second element is “Balancing Charges” – these are the charges made when Grid has to intervene to maintain short term supply on the system (note, this isn’t the same as maintaining connected capacity – it’s about calling on the connected capacity to generate when required). Basically, if a Retailer’s customers over- or -under take power from the system against the power put in under contract to that retailer, or a Generator over or undersupplies against its obligations, Grid will intervene. Grid charges the party responsible for the imbalance on a “cost plus” basis over and above the cost of buyng in the power under intervention. Any charges that can’t be allocated are “smeared” over the whole market as a surcharge. Notably, intermittent renewable generators are largely protected from this, but do receive curtailment payments when their output can’t be accommodated.

    That actually means Grid has an interest in there being the maximum levels of intervention on the system, since it makes profit on each one. The least profitable generating source for grid is a highly reliable baseload generator who simply site there churning out the megawatts in a reliable and controllable manner. The most profitable is one who frequently has to be backed up.

    The element of regulated revenue is “Connection Charges”. These are paid by generators for the cost of installing and maintaining the infrastructure that links them to the Grid. They’re also based on a formula which is essentially “cost plus” – but there’s a scale issue. The cost of operating a 500MW connection of a given length aren’t 10X those of a 50MW connection -they’re perhaps 2-3 times as much. And since Grid’s permitted profit is based on a percentage of those costs, they also don’t scale.

    That gives Grid an incentive to prefer multiple small connnections over large ones totalling the same capacity; as an example, if Hinkley C is built as planned, with 2x1600MW connections (totalling 3200MW), Grid’s revenue from that would be £30-40 MILLION less per year than if the same capacity were made up of 10 or so 300MW units.

    In fact, the total effect of those has been to give Grid a strong incentive to back renewables – as they’re typically located further from population centres, and run at lower CFs than connections from conventional stations, Grid gets a larger RAV to deliver a given amount of power; with intermittency on the system, their earnings from balancing charges are higher; and their Connections revenue is higher from having mulitple small renewables units dotted around the country that large concentrations of dispatchable capacity.

    It’s why Grid has largely been a lobbyist for increased renewables penetration – they carry none of the costs, and it strongly benefits their bottom line.

    Then there’s the non-regulated revenue. Grid is strongly involved in schemes to construct interconnectors to other countries – revenue earning schemes. Those will raise less revenue if we have an adequate supply of dispatchable power within the UK.

    So, overall, yes, the MP’s proposal is a good one. It’d remove Grid’s incentive to maximise balancing interventions, and with ISO duties separated out, would allow competition into the network and connections businesses, reducing options to “game” revenue streams like TUoS

    • Willem Post says:


      The grid revenue differences you describe are quite interesting, as I am not so familiar with levels of grid services required by smaller, distributed generators of variable, intermittent energy vs larger, centralized generators of steady energy.

      I wonder to what extent smearing affects each category.

      From the German experience, we know the presence of smaller distributed generators negatively impacts larger centralized generators. What is the dollar value of that impact?

      You describe a condition, the presence of smaller distributed generators, requiring more physical grid and services, likely are insufficiently charged for their extra physical grid and services, due to smearing and due to government subsidies for grid build-outs.

      In Texas, about $7 billion of public funds were used to build transmission systems from the windy Panhandle in west Texas to population centers in east Texas.

      That gift to wind turbine owners is likely augmented by the gift of grid services to deal with the peculiarities of wind energy, but, in the spirit of RE boosting, not charged to wind turbine owners.

      It appears, wind energy is a gift that keeps on taking.

    • stone100 says:

      Is electricity provision perhaps one of those rare cases where the best solution would be to have a country-wide, nationalised monopoly as was the case when we had the Central Electricity Generating Board? I know collective farms and such like are disasters but for electricity provision, some of the best systems historically seem to have followed the nationalised monopoly model. Back when EDF worked well, it was like that. KEPCO in South Korea is almost like that now (51% state owned and responsible for 93% of generation).

      • I’ve always been in favor of the regulated utility approach, under which a utility is given exclusive rights to sell power in a designated area. The utility is regulated by a Public Utility Commission that must approve new construction and price increases, but the utility is guaranteed a return on its investment. This system worked well in the US until Reagan deregulated electricity generation and opened it up to the “free market”. Then we got Enron.

        • Andy Dawson says:

          Which is exactly the model we have in the UK water sector., Roger – I’d not be about to argue that it’s been more effective as a model than the competitive markets approach in electricity (at least, until we started screwing that up with subsidising intermittent generation).

          What’s interesting is that the effect in the US has mainly that regulators have over-constrained investment – particularly in networks (most states have at least some element of “merchant generation”) – and the US’s grid reliability numbers aren’t good. In UK water we’ve seen the opposite effect; the regulatory formula has over-favoured capital investment while driving down operational spending. That’s now acknowledged to have been a long way from optimal, and the sector’s now struggling with a move to a model called “Totex” (and a move to competition in bulk water supply)

  3. Graeme No.3 says:

    Re Bramble Cay melomys: What a beat-up. A species evolving on a sand bar prone to periodic inundation??? Especially by floods coming down the nearby Fly river.

    It wasn’t scientists that wrote that, just a publicity agent.

  4. Gaznotprom says:

    Mr Mearns, ‘cretins’ how complimentary you are!
    Mr Dawson, yep, thought as much NG are paid on complexity, not reliability, reliabilty requires another set of accounts/payments…

  5. wawa says:

    More than 7000 job in solar in Ireland. Very funny. Without sun, without subvention ( Ireland is à very low tax Land) who Will payed?

  6. singletonengineer says:

    I notice that comments are closed on the Tasmanian Bass Straight Interconnector failure, but the situation is still very interesting.'s-strained-and-hostile-partnership/7523836

    More details will no doubt emerge from Monday 20th’s inquiry.

  7. Greg Kaan says:

    The Melbourne Energy Institute

    Not a single electrical engineer amongst the lot of them – a geologist (no offence, Peter Lang), an environmental scientist, a couple of chemical engineers and commerce graducate plus admin staff. At least one of the chemical engineers (Tim Forcey) has worked in industry but the rest are academics.

    Actually, I would pay to see Peter Lang debate Mike Sandiford on the nonsense that comes out of the “Institute”

  8. Greg Kaan says:

    I just thought I’d bring up likely grid failures again.

    The mainstream press are starting to appreciate the seriousness of the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility not being available to supply the LA generators as summer heat increases.

    California regulators and utility executives are staring down a natural-gas shortage in the Los Angeles area that could trigger up to two weeks of electrical blackouts this summer.

    No mention of the effects of solar PV but I can’t see the increasing “duck curve” ramp requirement doing anything but make it harder for the gas generators to keep up with demand.

    We may soon have a “winner” for the first grid collapse in a western, industrialized nation.

    • gweberbv says:


      what you say makes perfect sene. At least if you assume that the PV plants (or the ‘duck curve’) somehow lead to the sponatous creation of additional leaks at the Aliso Canyon storage field.

      If, in contrast, you stick with to the more exotic idea that PV production reduces the need for burning natural gas for electricity production you might end up with a somewhat different conclusion.

      • Greg Kaan says:

        Read about fluid flow momentum in pipelines, then read what I actually wrote as opposed to what you think I wrote, Guenter

  9. Eaun, Roger


    See this website. Looks good from a communication standpoint.

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