Blowout Week 132

This week we resume our normal reporting with Brexit relegated for the moment to a few articles at the end. The week’s lead article features some pithy comments on the Scottish government’s misguided policies on nuclear power that could equally well be applied to a number of other countries:

Scotsman:  Nuclear power opposition based on slogans and fear

In 2007, Alex Salmond rejected any new nuclear Scottish power stations. Policies based on fear, rather than facts, may feel good, but they increase the overall risk by not educating the public. Successful democracy requires people understand the decisions they make; otherwise it becomes a loose cannon, with decisions based on slogans.

Accidents, when amplified by the media, induce fear far beyond realistic risk. At Fukushima none died from radiation exposure. At Chernobyl only 46 died as a result of radiation damage, an accident caused by faulty safety design and irresponsible neglect of safety procedures. In Hamburg in 2011, 54 died from eating organic beansprouts and 3,500 experienced kidney damage. This supposedly safe produce was contaminated with E.coli from clearly untreated manure; but which then is safer? What did subsequently kill thousands resulting from Chernobyl and Fukushima was the psychological trauma of enforced, and in most cases unnecessary, evacuation of local population by government edict and without explanation. Evacuation implied serious danger, ignorance of actual radiation risks led to depression, alcoholism and suicide. Good safety is a matter of distinguishing clearly those situations that are safe from those that are dangerous. Both Soviet and Japanese governments through inadequate understanding of radiation risks failed their people.

We continue with the usual mix of stories with the spotlight on nuclear energy, following up with problems with wind power and coal in China, the disgraced Kemper clean coal project, Germany votes to slow down renewables expansion, the costs of Obama’s Clean Power Plan, battery power for Los Angeles, California’s “duck curve” lands sooner than expected, renewable expansion in South Korea and lack thereof in Australia, National Grid’s grid balancing problems, UK solar power hits record high, tide power in the Pentland Firth, and in a reversal of recent trends, a new coal mine to open in Northumbria.

Washington Post:   Clean energy is at a critical turning point, and wind and solar may not be enough

Last week at the North American Leaders’ Summit featuring President Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, the three nations announced a goal of generating 50 percent of North America’s electricity from “clean” sources by 2025. It’s a laudable goal, but it naturally raises a question — how exactly, in the United States, do we get there? A closer look at what the White House and its counterparts actually mean by this proposal shows that for the United States the goal relies on far more than an ongoing boom in wind and solar. It rests substantially on hydropower and energy efficiency gains and also includes under the definition of “clean energy” two technologies that are less than popular in the environmental movement — nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage. Wind and solar are growing in the United States (and elsewhere), and a doubling of their U.S. generating capacity (or even greater growth than that) by 2025 isn’t hard to imagine. That’s a very good thing — but even a doubling of wind and solar likely wouldn’t be enough to get the United States to 50 percent clean electricity by 2025. The trouble is that in 2015, these sources contributed a little more than 5 percent of all U.S. electricity. They are starting from a relatively low level of penetration, albeit with high growth rates. For just this reason, nuclear’s inclusion in the North American plan is a mathematical necessity.

Deutsche Welle: Eon loses court battle for nuclear phase-out damages

A regional court in Hanover has ruled against a claim for damages by German utility Eon. It sued the government over its abrupt decision to phase out nuclear energy and to shut down two of Eon’s old power plants. The energy supplier demanded 382 million euros ($426 million) in damages from the German federal government as well as the German state governments of Lower Saxony and Bavaria for having to shut down two of its nuclear power plants in 2011. The judge in the case justified the decision to throw out the lawsuit in saying that Eon could have immediately filed a suit to appeal the closures, but instead chose to let the opportunity pass. Eight of Germany’s 17 functioning nuclear plants were shut down in the immediate aftermath of Fukushima, and the rest were slated to go offline by 2022 according to a government timeline. Five years later, it’s gradually becoming clear how much this hasty exit could cost. Feeling dis-possessed by the move, major utilities have filed a raft of lawsuits claiming damage payments from the government amounting to around 20 billion euros ($22.3 billion).

Guardian:  Estimated cost of Hinkley Point C nuclear plant rises to £37bn

The total lifetime cost of the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant could be as high as £37bn, according to an assessment published by the UK government. The figure was described as shocking by critics of the scheme, who said it showed just how volatile and uncertain the project had become, given that the same energy department’s estimate 12 months earlier had been £14bn. The latest prediction comes amid increasing speculation about the future of the controversial project in Somerset, whose existence has been put in further doubt by post-Brexit financial jitters. Officials at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) on Thursday confirmed the £37bn figure, but said it was provisional, set in September 2015, when wholesale power prices were low, and would not affect bill payers. “Hinkley will generate enough low-carbon electricity to power six million homes and around £10 [a year] from [each] consumer’s bill will pay for it once it is up and running. We have set the strike price to protect bill payers if energy costs go up or down, so the cost of the project to consumers will not change,” a DECC spokesperson said. “Today’s report from the IPA (Infrastructure and Projects Authority) does not suggest that the lifetime costs of Hinkley have increased. It is a snapshot of the position at the end of September 2015.”

Nuclear Street:  British Unions Call For Prompt Green Light On Hinkley Point

Four powerful labor unions in Britain are calling the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant construction project the first major “litmus test” for the country in the wake of its landmark vote last week for the country to quit its membership in the European Union. The GMB, Unite, Ucatt and Prospect unions have written to EDF Energy Chief Executive Officer Vincent de Rivaz, calling the up-coming decision on financing for the $24 billion project “vital” to Britain’s energy needs that would, if the project is given the green light, send a signal that the so-called Brexit vote would not derail the country’s economy. “Nuclear new build is already behind the curve. We cannot afford further delay and it is vital for EDF to make a final investment decision now,” the unions wrote. The unions stressed that Britain needs the new generation capacity, which is currently on a waning path with the scheduled closures of older coal burning plants and the aging of its nuclear power fleet.

NextBigFuture:  Uranium Seawater Extraction Makes Nuclear Power Completely Renewable

America, Japan and China are racing to be the first nation to make nuclear energy completely renewable. The hurdle is making it economic to extract uranium from seawater, because the amount of uranium in seawater is truly inexhaustible. And it seems America is in the lead. New technological breakthroughs from DOE’s Pacific Northwest (PNNL) and Oak Ridge (ORNL) national laboratories have made removing uranium from seawater within economic reach and the only question is – when will the source of uranium for our nuclear power plants change from mined ore to seawater extraction? Nuclear fuel made with uranium extracted from seawater makes nuclear power completely renewable. It’s not just that the 4 billion tons of uranium in seawater now would fuel a thousand 1,000-MW nuclear power plants for a 100,000 years. It’s that uranium extracted from seawater is replenished continuously, so nuclear becomes as endless as solar, hydro and wind. Advances by PNNL and ORNL have reduced the cost by a factor of four in just five years. But it’s still over $200/lb of U3O8, twice as much as it needs to be to replace mining uranium ore. Over the last twenty years, uranium spot prices have varied between $10 and $120/lb of U3O8. So as the cost of extracting U from seawater falls to below $100/lb, it will become a commercially viable alternative to mining new uranium ore. But even at $200/lb of U3O8, it doesn’t add more than a small fraction of a cent per kWh to the cost of nuclear power.

World Nuclear News:  Magnox completes Bradwell decontamination

Bradwell has become the first Magnox site to empty and decontaminate all of its underground waste storage vaults ready for the care and maintenance phase, Magnox Sites has announced. Decommissioning of Bradwell’s two 125 MWe Magnox reactors has been under way since the plant shut down in 2002 after 40 years of service. All fuel was removed from the site by 2005, and the turbine hall demolished in 2011.The recovered waste has (now) been monitored and characterised, which has “provided the clearest picture yet” of the total volume of waste that will need to be managed at Bradwell, according to the statement. Some is being treated in a specially designed dissolution plant, while other types of waste are being conditioned and then packaged ready for interim storage until a national geological disposal facility is available. With the vaults empty, a total area of 972 square metres has now been decontaminated to a level where it can be left for care and maintenance. In addition, three vessels, each weighing seven tonnes, have been removed and size-reduced while more than 60 waste vault covers have also been decontaminated, Magnox Sites said. The area will now be covered for the care and maintenance phase before being completely removed as part of final site clearance in the future.

Renewable Energy World:  China’s Idled Wind Farms Portend Trouble in Renewables

The nation’s clean-energy investment binge has made it the world leader in wind, accounting for about one in every three turbines currently installed, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. In turn, Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co., which makes the machines, has pushed past its western rivals such as Vestas Wind Systems A/S and General Electric Co. Yet even with double the wind capacity, China still produces less electricity from turbines when compared with the U.S. That’s because it’s installing lower-quality machines using less reliable breezes and doing so more quickly than the distribution grid can take in the flows. Findings published earlier this year in the journal Nature Energy by a group of researchers from places such as Tsinghua University in Beijing and Harvard University in the U.S. showed that the quality of wind flow explained part of the difference in electricity output between the U.S. and China. The researchers point to a myriad of other reasons for the shortcomings of turbines in China, ranging from lower turbine quality, grid connection problems and the failure of grid operators to transmit wind power to users because they prefer other types of energy sources such as coal. “Improvements in both technology choices and the policy environment are critical in addressing these challenges,” the authors of the report concluded.

Reuters:  China government-run steel, coal firms to cut 10 percent of capacity in two years

China’s central-government run steel and coal firms will cut capacity by around 10 percent in the coming two years, and by 15 percent by 2020, as part of their efforts to tackle gluts in the sectors, the state asset regulator said on Friday. The State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) held a meeting with the 25 coal and steel firms under its jurisdiction at the end of June, it said. The SASAC-run firms include China’s biggest coal producer, the Shenhua Group, as well as the Baoshan Iron and Steel Group (Baosteel) and the Wu-han Iron and Steel Group, which have recently announced plans to restructure. China aims to cut 100-150 million tonnes of annual steel production capacity and 500 million tonnes of coal production capacity in the next three to five years, amid waning domestic demand and a long de-cline in prices.

New York Times:  Piles of Dirty Secrets Behind a Model ‘Clean Coal’ Project

The fortress of steel and concrete towering above the pine forest here is a first-of-its-kind power plant that was supposed to prove that “clean coal” was not an oxymoron — that it was possible to produce electricity from coal in a way that emits far less pollution, and to turn a profit while doing so. The plant was not only a central piece of the Obama administration’s climate plan, it was also supposed to be a model for future power plants to help slow the dangerous effects of global warming. The project was hailed as a way to bring thousands of jobs to Mississippi, the nation’s poorest state, and to extend a lifeline to the dying coal industry. The sense of hope is fading fast, however. The Kemper coal plant is more than two years behind schedule and more than $4 billion over its initial budget, $2.4 billion, and it is still not operational. The plant and its owner, Southern Company, are the focus of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, and ratepayers, alleging fraud, are suing the company. Members of Congress have described the project as more boondoggle than boon. The mismanagement is particularly egregious, they say, given the urgent need to rein in the largest source of dangerous emissions around the world: coal plants. A review by The New York Times of thousands of pages of public records, previously undisclosed internal documents and emails, and 200 hours of secretly though legally recorded conversations among more than a dozen colleagues at the plant offers a detailed look at what went wrong and why.

New Hampshire Business Review:  The renewable energy future emerges

A global renewable energy transformation is underway. The proposed merger between Tesla and Solar City outlines the shape of things to come. The integration of solar panels with battery storage and electric vehicles is the paradigm for both ecological global economic growth, and reaching the goals of the Paris climate accord. An integrated renewable energy company will combine electric vehicles, battery storage, and solar electric panels, all with rapidly expanding market share and plunging prices. Globally, investment in cheap and carbon-free solar energy is already rapidly supplanting fossil fuels. Whether or not Tesla’s corporate reorganization proceeds, this is the model for a global renewable energy company with a comprehensive and compatible product line. Elon Musk of Tesla understands that the combination of increasingly cheaper solar panels with rapidly developing and affordable battery storage makes 100 percent renewable energy systems achievable globally. Mega battery and photovoltaic factories, being constructed by Tesla and others, like Faraday Future in the United States, and in India, China, Ghana, mean that global industrial productive might is being rapidly deployed for a renewable energy transformation.

Wall Street Journal:  Germany Puts Brake on Renewable Energy Expansion

German lawmakers on Friday voted to limit the expansion of renewable power, in response to to concerns that the country’s efforts to promote green energy has resulted in too much too soon. A new law will require generators of renewable energy to submit bids on a restricted number of projects as of 2017, replacing a system that allowed an unlimited number of projects to go forward at guaranteed prices, called feed-in tariffs. Under the new system, prices will be proposed by bidders. The move puts a brake on Germany’s aggressive drive to shift to renewables from conventional and nuclear energy, which gained speed after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011. The quick rise of renewables has resulted in a power glut that drastically cut wholesale electricity prices and hit conventional generators hard, since renewables are given priority on Germany’s power grids. The new capacity limits are aimed at slowing the tide of renewable energy flooding the market, giving the expansion of grid infrastructure time to catch up. “It’s a paradigm shift; whoever makes the best offer will be awarded the project,” Michael Fuchs, a lawmaker in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party said ahead of the vote.

Hydroworld:  North American leaders sign historic renewable energy agreement

The heads of state from Canada, Mexico and the United States announced a historic partnership last week that seeks to see 50% of all North American energy come from clean generation — including hydroelectric power — by 2025. Meeting during a one-day summit in Ottawa, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Barack Obama, and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said the landmark agreement was in large part spurred by the Paris Accord, which was, when signed in December, hailed by Obama as a “turning point for the world.” “North America has the capacity, resources and the moral imperative to show strong leadership building on the Paris Agreement and promoting its early entry into force,” the leaders said in a joint statement. “We recognize that our highly integrated economies and energy systems afford a tremendous opportunity to harness growth in our continuing transition to a clean energy economy. Our actions to align climate and energy policies will protect human health and help level the playing field for our businesses, households and workers.”

The Hill:  States are right to worry about clean power plan costs

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court issued a stay on President Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” (CPP.) That was good news for the 29 states now on record as formally opposing the president’s plan to vastly transform the nation’s power grid. But those states now appear doubly justified in opposing the effort, thanks to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) recent study on the CPP’s projected costs. For starters, the EIA says the plan will mean “significantly higher” prices for residential and commercial electricity. They attribute this to “higher transmission and distribution costs” coming at a time when electricity consumption will also grow slightly (in 2015-2040.) Interestingly, the EIA projects that these higher electricity prices will actually reduce demand 2% by 2030. Why? Because “compliance actions and higher prices” will force cash-strapped consumers to adopt their own austerity measures. A key part of the CPP is the dismantling of coal-fired power in the U.S. Coal power plants currently anchor America’s base-load electricity generation, so it’s understandable that their elimination would drive up prices. But is such a move justified? What’s instructive is EIA data on Germany, where residential retail electric prices have risen, and are expected to keep rising, due to higher taxes and fees for renewable power. Overall, Germany’s foray into green energy has driven the average residential electricity price to 35 cents/kWh, almost three times the U.S. average of 13 cents/kWh.

Scientific American:  World’s Largest Storage Battery To Power Los Angeles

By 2021, electricity use in the west Los Angeles area may be in for a climate change-fighting evolution. For many years, the tradition has been that on midsummer afternoons, engineers will turn on what they call a “peaker,” a natural gas-burning power plant In Long Beach. It is needed to help the area’s other power plants meet the day’s peak electricity consumption. Thus, as air conditioners max out and people arriving home from work turn on their televisions and other appliances, the juice will be there. Five years from now, if current plans work out, the “peaker” will be gone, replaced by the world’s largest storage battery, capable of holding and delivering over 100 megawatts of power an hour for four hours. The customary afternoon peak will still be there, but the battery will be able to handle it without the need for more fossil fuels. It will have spent the morning charging up with cheap solar power that might have otherwise been wasted. Early the next morning, the battery will be ready for a second peak that happens when people want hot water and, again, turn on their appliances. It has spent the night sucking up cheap power, most of it from wind turbines.

RenewEconomy:  California’s duck curve arrives earlier than expected  

As early as 2013, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) was predicting that with so much new solar generation expected by 2020, the mid-day hours on sunny days would be inundated with a flood of solar power, displacing thermal generation. CAISO was originally most concerned about the sunny spring days when California’s demand tends to be low due to cool temperatures while solar generation could be high. The grid operator was also concerned about the late afternoon ramping required to make up for the loss of solar generation as sun sets with peak demand following in early evening hours. That was before the state lawmakers passed a bill to raise California’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) from 33% by 2020 to 50% by 2030, promptly signed by Governor Jerry Brown, who is as green as you can get despite his brown name. As it turns out, CAISO was spot on in predicting the deepening belly of the duck but under-estimated the speed of solar uptake by at least 4 years. The data from March-April of 2016 confirms that the belly of the duck is getting fatter much earlier than originally estimated. In a Blog titled “The Duck Has Landed” posted on 2 May 2016, Meredith Fowlie of University of California at Berkeley examined the hourly data for the period March 28 to April 3 for 2013-2016 and as illustrated in the graph below, the 2016 belly is far more pronounced that in prior years and already on par with what CAISO had projected for 2020.

International Business Times:   South Korea To Invest $36 Billion In Renewable Energy By 2020

South Korea’s government unveiled a plan Tuesday to invest about 42 trillion won ($36.6 billion) in developing renewable energy industries, such as solar and wind power and eco-friendly power plants, by 2020. Under the plan, new renewable power stations will be built to produce 13 million kilowatts of electricity annually — equivalent to that of 26 coal plants in the country — according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, the Yonhap News Agency reported. Minister Joo Hyung-hwan said at a meeting of the future energy strategy committee that some 33 trillion won will be spent on the development of renewable energy resources in the next five years, with 4.5 trillion won to be invested in energy storage systems and another 2 trillion won in eco-friendly power plants, reports said. The government raised the required ratio of renewable energy generation to 5.0 percent by 2018 and 7.0 percent by 2020, expecting the new energy sectors to create about 30,000 jobs by 2020. The ministry said individuals would also be permitted to sell the electricity produced from their own solar panels, while large commercial buildings could be equipped with 1,000 kW solar power generators to save on their utility bills. Currently, the Korea Electric Power Corp. is the only eligible player to buy and distribute electricity in the country.

Guardian:  Bank lending to Australian renewables projects tumbles

Australia’s big four banks’ lending for Australian renewable energy projects has tumbled in the first half of 2016, despite all of them spruiking their continuing support for the sector. Based on public announcements from the banks and their customers, the activist group Market Forces has found only two financing deals were closed this year in the Australian renewables sector. The National Australia Bank lent money to a windfarm in South Australia and both NAB and Westpac helped finance one in New South Wales. Although more financing could be revealed in the second half of the year, the figures seem to show the banks have slowed their flow of money to the renewables sector in Australia. “This is what you see when you have years of stagnation and cutting into renewable energy policy,” said Julien Vincent from Market Forces.

BBC:   UK expected to miss 2020 renewables targets

The UK is almost certain to miss its EU 2020 targets for renewable energy, the National Grid has said. The firm has produced UK future energy scenarios covering four different approaches in policy. Even in the most environmentally-minded scenario, the UK is projected to fail in its target of producing 15% of total energy from renewables. The government no longer claims the 2020 target will be hit but a spokesman said the UK was making good progress. The National Grid also says the UK will not achieve its own independently set long-term CO2 reduction plans unless tougher policies are imposed very soon. The Climate Change Act mandates emissions cuts of 80% by 2050. The government spokesman said the UK was still committed to the act, and last week ministers announced a world-leading interim step towards that goal. But its advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, pointed to a huge mismatch between ministers’ aspirations and their policies.

Telegraph:  Balancing demand ‘could cost National Grid £2bn’

The costs of managing the UK’s electricity supplies could double to £2bn a year within five years due to the growth of renewable technologies, a senior National Grid official has forecast. The company already spends just over £1bn a year on “balancing services” to ensure power supply and demand are matched, that the grid is not overloaded, and that supplies are at the correct voltage and frequency across the network. The cash is primarily paid to power generators to increase or decrease their output at short notice, and it ultimately passed on to consumers through their energy bills. The biggest element of balancing services is spent on minute-by-minute adjustments to keep supply and demand balanced and at the correct frequency and voltage across the UK’s transmission network, by paying generators to increase or decrease the pow-er they are putting on to the Grid. The second biggest element is spent on ‘constraints’, or paying generators to turn down their output in order to deal with effective ‘bottlenecks’ in certain parts of the network where there is insufficient cabling capacity to transmit the power being produced. Balancing the system is becoming trickier for National Grid as Britain builds more intermittent renewable generation like solar and wind farms.

Utility Week:  ‘Question mark remains’ over the future of gas: National Grid

The company has released the latest iteration of its annual Future Energy Scenarios report, which examines four different potential pathways for Britain’s energy system between now and 2040: ‘Gone Green’, ‘Consumer Power’, ‘Slow Progression’ and ‘No Progression’. From its current level of around 900TWh, annual demand for gas in 2040 is predicted to fall to as low as 600TWh in one scenario (Slow Progression) but remain more than 800TWh in another (No Progression). The forecast for annual domestic demand – currently around 325TWh – varies from just 150TWh (Gone Green) to 300TWh (No Progression). Speaking at the launch of the report, director of the UK Energy Research Centre Jim Watson said the extent to which CCS is developed will be one of the main factors in determining the role of gas in the future. Without it gas-fired generation will be “squeezed out of the system due to carbon constraints”. However there is a large disparity in the volumes which are predicted to be produced via the hydraulic fracturing of shale. The ‘Gone Green’ scenario envisages no shale gas being produced whatsoever due to public opinion, whereas the ‘Consumer Power’ scenario sees 32 billion cubic metres a year being produced – around a third of the country’s total supplies.

Yahoo Finance:  Banks Group to open UK surface coal mine

Banks Group plans to open a surface coal mine in Britain in 2018, it said after securing permission for the project this week, hoping to fill a gap in domestic supply left by the closure of the country’s last deep-cast coal mine last year. The site, at Highthorn in Northumberland, is expected to produce 3 million tonnes of coal over the six- to seven-year life of the mine. “Now we have secured planning permission (for Highthorn) we will move to the next stage, to-wards making a final investment decision and expect to begin operation in 2018,” Barney Pilgrim, projects director at British development firm Banks, said in an interview with Reuters. Pilgrim said there is enough domestic demand for the new site to be viable, and that it could help to meet demand from coal-fired power stations ahead of their expected closure in 2025. “There is still demand in the UK for coal from both the power and industrial sectors, and in terms of security of supply it is better that this demand is met through indigenous production,” he said.

Engineering & Technology:   Solar power use hits record high in UK

Analysis by MyGridGB for the Solar Trade Association (STA) shows that solar power hit a new peak, meeting 23.9 per cent of total energy demand in the early afternoon on 5 June 2016. The solar industry estimates the country now has almost 12GW of solar panels, on homes, offices, warehouses, schools and other buildings and in solar farms – enough to power the equivalent of 3.8 million homes. An estimated 800,000 homes have solar photovoltaic panels, which produce electricity from the sun, and 200,000 use solar thermal units to provide hot water, which means the UK has a million solar homes, the STA said. The sector has been hit by major cuts to subsidies for solar panels, which have seen installation rates slowing substantially. The industry is marking its third annual ‘solar independence day’, with the STA pushing to raise maintenance standards for the technology. It is also highlighting how solar can protect home-owners and businesses from volatile energy prices by reducing both domestic bills and the need for energy imports. Paul Barwell, chief executive of the STA, said: “The UK has successfully deployed almost 12GW of solar across the UK, providing nearly 25 per cent during peak generation. This is what the country and the world needs to decarbonise the energy sector at the lowest price to the consumer.”

Breakingenergy:  UK Tidal Wave Project Will Propel Renewables To New Levels

Harnessing tidal power for clean energy has recently taken a huge step forward in the UK, the world’s leading region for development of this important new renewable resource. The MeyGen Tidal Array Project is fast moving toward the final construction of its demonstration phase, which will be the first time that underwater turbines sited together in a full-scale array have been tested. Situated in the Pentland Firth in Scotland, this ground-breaking test project is supported by £10 million funding from the UK’s Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). It is expected to significantly advance the technology and knowledge of the marine energy sector, as well as provide clean power for up to 175,000 homes in Scotland when expanded and completed. Marine energy is in its infancy, and tidal power, in particular, is at a very early stage of development. Richard Boud, Black & Veatch’s Renewable Energy Business Development Manager for Eu-rope, said, “The way the renewable energy sector has been learning is by completing projects, and to date there is hardly anyone that has delivered more than one tidal energy project. The MeyGen project is high risk, but the potential benefits it can deliver are huge. This is a brand new energy resource that is not yet being used.”

Bloomberg:  Why Brexit May Be Good News for World’s First Tidal Lagoons

Plans for the world’s first tidal lagoons off the coast of South Wales could be bolstered by Britain’s exit from the European Union, according to the developer pledging thousands of new jobs if the project is built. “Brexit doesn’t do any harm,” said Mark Shorrock, head of Gloucester-based Tidal Lagoon Power Ltd. “There’s a bunch of Brexiteers that said, ‘You’re in the front rank of projects that we want to see happen.”’ Tidal Lagoon Power plans to build a rock wall 11.5 kilometers long, enclosing an area in Swansea Bay where 16 turbines will generate 320 megawatts of power from the ebb and flow of ocean tides. The 1.3 billion-pound ($1.7 billion) project is currently under review by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which may take a decision as early as November on whether to provide subsidies. Similar projects have been done before in the form of barrages run across a river or body of water, forcing the current to flow past hydroelectric turbines. Tidal barrages have been built in La Rance in northern France and Sihwa Lake in South Korea. The lagoons don’t fully obstruct the flow of water and has less of an impact on the environment. It’s also cheaper to build, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Financial Times:  Brexit doubt weighs on green energy groups

The financial uncertainty triggered by the UK’s vote to leave the EU has sent shudders through virtually every industry, but Europe’s renewable energy sector faces even greater insecurity. The successful Leave campaign was led by several political figures opposed to tackling climate change by replacing fossil fuel power stations with wind farms and other sources of renewable energy. None of the contenders to replace David Cameron as prime minister are vigorous renewable energy advocates and one, Michael Gove, was once accused of trying to downgrade climate change in the national schools curriculum. With the UK political landscape in a historic state of disarray, it is unclear how the future government will behave. But the Leave victory raises questions about whether years of cross-party consensus on the need to combat global warming may fray. The UK could follow the path of Norway, which is not an EU member but has agreed to be bound by the bloc’s climate targets. But no one can be certain. Still, legal experts say there could be some benefit for the industry from a Brexit, if it waters down costly EU rules protecting birds and other wildlife.

Christian Science Monitor:  Europe climate policy in doubt after Brexit vote

From oil prices and economic growth rates to the value of the British pound, a host of indicators turned more volatile on June 24 as a small majority of Britain’s citizens voted in a nationwide referendum to leave the European Union. But one of the most confounding questions to come out of the vote could be on the front of climate change. Specifically, the questions are how Britain and continental Europe will separate their climate and energy policies ¬– and whether those policies will stay on track toward carbon-reduction goals agreed half a year ago, as countries of the European Union banded together to negotiate a major international climate treaty. “EU ratification of the Paris Climate treaty may be delayed by Brexit,” says Maria Castellina, senior media officer at the environmental non-profit Friends of the Earth-UK. “With the UK leaving the EU, our contribution to meeting the targets will no longer be included, and how that effort will be shared out amongst the other countries will take time to work out.” In just a few weeks, the European Commission was expected to present its plan for how all 28-member states would work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Now the presentation will probably be put on hold while it’s determined whether Britain will continue to work toward that common target.

UK Parliament:   Leaving the EU: implications for UK climate policy

The Energy and Climate Change Committee is launching an inquiry exploring the implications for UK climate policy of leaving the European Union. The UK’s climate-change agenda has been driven by a mixture of national and international policies. Nationally, the Climate Change Act 2008 sets the UK decarbonisation agenda up to 2050. On the international stage, the UK currently negotiates as part of the EU bloc. The EU 2030 target—the EU’s proposed contribution at the recent COP21 climate change conference in Paris—was agreed by Member States in October 2014. The UK’s participation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which requires companies to purchase permits to emit greenhouse gases, will now be subject to negotiation. Withdrawal from the EU raises questions as to the UK’s position with respect to existing EU pledges and policies, and its future interaction with the EU bloc to fight climate change. Through this inquiry, the Committee aims to understand the implications of the UK’s departure from the EU on the UK’s climate-change commitments and ambitions, and determine which climate policy areas will need to be addressed during the UK’s exit negotiations. It seeks guidance on an appropriate timeline for these developments. The Committee invites responses addressing some, or all, of the following questions in no more than 3,000 words:

This entry was posted in Blowout and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Blowout Week 132

  1. Joe Public says:

    “Why Brexit May Be Good News for World’s First Tidal Lagoons”

    Just a reminder:

    Tidal generates nothing 4x a day; and Swansea’s proposers admit at best it will generate just “14 hours of reliable generation every day”

    • Euan Mearns says:

      “14 hours of reliable generation every day”

      Yes, but sometimes at midnight, sometimes at 02:00 and sometimes at 04:00. And when you get lucky, sometimes at 18:00.

      • Roger Andrews says:

        With the semidiurnal tides that occur in UK you can in fact flatten daily tide power surges into something resembling baseload generation by siting plants where the tides are three hours apart. But developers have no incentive to do this because they get paid by the kWh regardless of when the power is delivered.

        But there’s nothing to be done about the spring-neap tide cycle, which causes daily output to vary by a factor of maybe ten every two weeks. Planetary motions, unlike coal, can’t be legislated out of existence.

    • @ Joe

      I used to be willing to give the project the benefit of the doubt. But then I went to a British Academy event where Mark Shorrock made comments regarding base load and prices. You can see his bit from the 49 minute mark below. My willingness in the project turn a turn for the worse after those comments.

  2. Euan Mearns says:

    Roger, that lead article is a great find, and well written and perceptive by The Scotsman. I’m still trying to make sense of Project Fear run by the remain campaign. I’m not sure we were given any facts on the benefits of remain. Of course, maybe there were none.

    Its not hard to find other examples where fear is the main weapon deployed by advocates and willingly spread and amplified by the media.

    • Joe Public says:

      Prof Wade Allison, Emeritus Professor of Physics and Fellow of Oxford’s Keble College has an excellent study that contrasts the cultural rejection of nuclear energy with the evidence, at all but the highest levels, for the harmless, and even beneficial, interaction of radiation with life.

      “Nuclear is for Life. A Cultural Revolution.”

    • Roger Andrews says:

      Euan: I guess it’s occurred to you that the underlying problem here is democracy, which allows – even encourages – people to vote on issues they know nothing about.

      What’s the solution?

      Is there one?

      • Euan Mearns says:

        I’m not sure that democracy itself is at the heart of this problem but freedom to say whatever one wants. We do have advertising laws and standards that specify levels of accuracy in what is claimed. Two weeks on and I’m still really none the wiser about how the EU works, what it does for us and whether we may or may not be better off outside.

        I don’t know how much of the information provided by the Brexit camp was accurate. And I don’t know why the remain camp provided so little information on the tangible benefits of membership – beyond access to the single market.

        It is clear that on an issue as complex as this, the public cannot have an informed opinion, and I don’t believe the vote should ever have been called. But given the outcome I can make an equal argument that the vote was essential to crystalise public opinion on an issue where that was at odds with parliament.

        But we certainly have too much democracy with 4 layers of government and a Scottish desire for independence from the UK with dependency on Europe instead. Even many Nats are speaking out against that.

        • I found both the main Remain and Leave campaigns utterly repellent. The Leave Alliance were great however. They presented a good, positive case for Brexit, with a realistic exit plan.

          See Flexcit. You may find the document interesting. While the country has now decided to Leave it doesn’t mean Flexcit is irrelevant. An exit plan is now more important than ever, especially when most politicians don’t seem to have the first clue about the EU.

          It’s even got a chapter on energy you may find interesting!

          • A C Osborn says:

            Why was this not displayed and promoted on every single show, debate & bus etc?
            Were the Tory Brexit Politicians really for Brexit at all?

          • OpenSourceElectricity says:

            Well if you look inside this document, and then look at real world, you immediately see it is a “cloud castle” – vapourware.

            First it assumes you have “Stages” and at any stage you could opt in or out of every single rule of europe where ever you find it suitable for UK.
            Which is nonsense. You opt out of the EU and then start negotiating if and which status you get outside EU DEfauls status is the status of E.G Australia – so WTO, UN, and that’s about all.
            You may get the status of Norway – but as apackage, no opt in or out. If you will be offered the status of swizerland I am not sure, but you would not want this package, it would make you a part of the Schengen area, what you didn’t want to have so far.
            Be aware that in many aspects Swizerland is more part of EU than UK before brexit, just without any representation in Bruxelles.
            That you will not be offered significant better options than other stats is not a act of hostility, but just the fact that britains are not citicens first class while citicens of other states are just citicens second class.

            This document reminds me a lot of the “Concepts” of those people which were against to project Stuttgart 21 who also offered a lot of things which were physically impossible, but did sound good on paper.

          • A C Osborn says:

            I wonder why no one mentions the Pakistan and South Korea Trade Agreements, which are not Swiss and not Norway or Iceland, no Schengen.
            The Pakistan Deal also has some parts with Free Trade and some parts not.
            So the EU has been flexible in the past, any attempt to prevent the UK getting similar deals if they wanted them would be seen as “punishing” the UK.
            Especially in view of Pakistan’s Civil Rights and Human Rights conflicts.

        • A C Osborn says:

          Euan, we heard lots of talk about “Single Market Plans”, like the Swiss one, the Norway one etc, all of which had Some kind of cost and Free movement built in.
          Don’t you find it strange that nobody mentioned the Pakistan & South Korea Free Trade plans?
          Not all trade is free with Pakistan, but the majority is.

          • The Single Market is so much more than your typical FTA. It is all about regulatory convergence and mutual recognition of standards/inspection/testing. 28 countries following a single set of rules – the acquis. The degree of harmonisation is so much greater than say the Canadian deal. FTAs also take many years. Article 50 only gives us two years unless we unanimously agree to extend it.

            The beauty of the single market/EEA Option is that the technical measures are already in place. We are in the single market. Remaining in it while we leave simply de-risks the process.

            I can’t see us leaving the single market, at least not any time soon. It is a sensible transition step to leaving the EU while we unpick 40+ years of integration.

        • @ Euan

          The EU is far too top heavy, incurs a lot of waste and as far as I am concern, has threatened Irish sovereignty at several times (though I being Irish will be biased in that view).

          “And I don’t know why the remain camp provided so little information on the tangible benefits of membership – beyond access to the single market.”

          I am not sure the remain side knew what they were either. Every so often I have to deal with engineering standards and sometimes I have the option to look at the older British standards or indeed the internal standards for British steel. In most cases, I have found the EN standards to be superior but also more conservative but not overly so (e.g. increased layers of protection in their recommendations and a specific example from my work would be BS EN 746).

          But then again this is
          1. Not surprising as you sudden have large engineering pools of expertise between DB, Italy, France and the UK etc combining their standards
          2. Who would get to this level except those required?

          • OpenSourceElectricity says:

            This applies to a lot of topics. Usually the EU is a huge benefit where only one place is neccesary to have the knowledge, and where the EU was able to acquire responsibility for this topic or where the collaboration of the member states led to a cooperation to let all of the people employed for this topic work together like one entity.
            In this topic the EU is much more efficient, being able to deliver the results with a given headcount of staff to a far lagrer number of people within the EU than it would be possible for a single member state.
            This does not work in areas where the single members costantly mess up cooperation with EU and other member states. In my experience, the mess blamed on EU usually comes from chaos produced by 27 member stattes.

  3. Euan Mearns says:

    The story about the Pentland Firth tidal demonstration project caught my eye. It looks like 4 * 1.5 MW with £40 million in public support. And a capacity factor of what?

    • Joe Public says:

      ” (the) project (will) provide clean power for up to 175,000 homes in Scotland when expanded and completed.”

      Am I alone in noticing that puff-pieces for renewables projects in Scotland tend to boast they’ll provide power for up to x-thousand homes in Scotland, whereas puff-pieces for renewables projects elsewhere in the UK boast they’ll simply provide power for x-thousand homes?

    • burnsider says:

      I went to an exhibition in Thurso when the project was first mooted and asked that very question. The answer I got was – wait for it – 25% on average, with significant variation between spring and neap tides

  4. Jim Brough says:

    A quarter of a century ago I retired from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology and for 13 years became a guide for tours of the large establishment.
    A frequent question was ” why don’t we use solar and wind instead of nuclear ? ”

    The fact remains that despite huge “investment” in solar, wind, wave and other renewable technology their contribution to our electricity supply is minor and the cost of electricity has increased.
    Hydro-electricity is the major contributor to “green” electricity but same green people campaign for no more dams.
    When did it become legitimate to quantify a project in terms of the electricity used per household or home ? Forgets all the other uses of electricity. I’d love a solar expert to explain how he or she would run the New South Wales Sydney rail network which serves a population of just under 5 million.
    NSW is a lot sunnier than my home town of Glasgow and Scotland has a population of about 5.2M so I wish the SNP luck in their solar initiative.

  5. robertok06 says:

    “The total lifetime cost of the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant could be as high as £37bn, according to an assessment published by the UK government. ”

    LIFETIME costs? 37 billion pounds?
    Is this news? ????
    I really don’t get it.

    The lifetime electricity production of two 1620 MWe EPRs over 60 years is 1500 billion kWh… so 37 billion pounds divided by 1500 gives 0.0247 pounds/kWh.
    Anyone else is willing to calculate the LIFETIME costs of any other electricity generating technology comparable to nuclear? (i.e. baseload, 24h/24, 365dd/y)?


  6. PhilH says:

    Supplying 175,000 homes with (I’m guesstimating) 3500 kWh/y is about 600 GWh/y, which averages to about 70 MW. Clearly this is not referring to just the four 1.5 MW turbines.

    If it’s referring to the 86 MW Phase 1, what would be an expected capacity factor of about 80%.

    Most likely it’s referring to the eventual complete project’s nameplate capacity of 400 MW, giving an expected capacity factor of 15-20%. This makes sense, as I’d expect the average output to be the product of halfway between low and max from the neap-spring cycle and halfway between zero and max from the daily cycle, ie a bit over 25%.

    Of course the bulk of the £40M is for the R&D aspects of the project, rather than the electricity generation aspects – can someone provide some similar examples from the early days of nuclear?

    PS. Am I the only pedant to object to the headline from people who should know better, as the project has nothing to do with waves, let alone tidal waves (tsunamis)?

  7. Greg Kaan says:

    The Scientific American article is an interesting read for all the wrong reasons.

    The 100 MW battery is still in design stage and is projected to be deployed in 5 years time – no mention at all about how the actual storage capacity (18000 Nissan Leaf sized batteries implies 432 MWh).

    The statement attributed to a Department of Energy “power sector analyst”, Guenter Conzelmann, that

    more renewable energy will be beneficial and politically unstoppable

    shows the politicization of that entity.

    The final portion about the Laurel Mountain battery bank needed to stabilise the output from the accompanying 98 MW wind farm (plus some general frequency regulation) fails to mention the very small amount of storage that was deployed (32 MW / 8 MWh) and that the battery vendor, A123, went bankrupt and had to be bailed out by a Chinese corporation Wanxiang.

    At least it acknowledges that the Californian situation is dire, now, and blackouts are likely in the next few years.

  8. Hubert Flocard has sent me the results of a report in which he has teased out the February 2014 generation from the 250MW La Rance tidal plant in Brittany from the French grid data. Here it is plotted up:

    Hubert notes that because of water management constraints La Rance generates only two peaks a day instead of four, that the ~20MW minimum generation level represents output from a hydro plant somewhere else and that the ~230MW maximum output is all the plant is capable of delivering.

    By no stretch of the imagination does this qualify as baseload generation.

  9. Mr Tydfil says:

    For some reason there is no option for me to ‘reply’ to OpenSourceElectricity, so I shall post it here.

    Flexcit does live in the real world. It is why it dismisses the Swiss (bilateral) option that you consider may be on offer. The EU will not want another complex Swiss-style arrangement. Such an arrangement would take many years. Also, upon invoking Article 50 one has two years to negotiate their withdrawal unless by unanimous decision to extend it. Such an extension might result in other countries trying to extract unfavourable concessions from us. It would be sensible to try hammer out something within two years. The WTO Option is also unworkable as explained in Flexcit.

    An ‘off-the-shelf’ EEA solution however, the Norway Option as you put it, is far more likely what we are going to see, and it is the exit option that Flexcit proposes (but there are fall backs if this was to fall through). Remaining in the EEA is the only way to ensure a smooth transition out of the EU. We are already in the single market. We are party to the EEA Agreement. Much of the technical measures are already in place. It is the easiest way out. And the easiest way out is desirable for both parties.

    I agree that we will not be offered ‘significantly better options’. The Norway Option is not ideal but it serves as a launch pad for the UK to become an independent, self-governing nation again.

    Regarding the stages, the point is that Brexit is an incredibly complex task. It is not an event but a process. Flexcit does not claim we will “opt in or out of every single rule of Europe” a la carte. It recognises that continued participation in the single market is vital. Yes, we follow all EU law with EEA relevance, this is the only way out that minimises economic uncertainty and disruption.

    The stages involve the UK repatriating the entire body of EU law and then going about unpicking it over many years. Independent domestic policies such as fisheries and agriculture are going to have to be redesigned.

    This is the only way the UK is going to be able to extract itself. It’s going to be tough and it will take a very long time!

    • A C Osborn says:

      Sorry, but I have to disagree with your statement “the easiest way out is desirable for both parties.”
      The best way for the UK may not be the easiest way, but it should still be the best way.
      ie a UK deal.
      If they can do special deals for the likes of South Korea & Pakistan why can’t they do a special one for the UK.

      • I don’t think a bespoke trade deal is going to happen. Pakistan and Korea have not been part of political union and integration for 40+ years. It’s going to be tricky unpicking it all, but safeguarding participation in the single market gives us a nice departure lounge where we can unpick it.

      • Alistair Buckoke says:

        The EU leadership tries to portray everything in black and white terms, but I think we do know that in reality it is much more like shades of grey. Everything depends on what cards the parties to negotiation hold, but we can be pretty sure that the EU leaders will play. The UK is a big market for European goods and services, and vice versa. There are designs on the UK finance sector but one doubts that will in any way be dissolved overnight. The continuing remarkable FT 100 rally shows that investors and brokers do have confidence in the underlying strength of the UK economy, including the financial sector. The pound is also up a bit now as well, helped probably by the quick turnaround in getting a new PM. There are also things like the special relationship with the US, which is already now clearly in play, particularly with the snub to Airbus and the courting of Boeing. The aerospace industry is an important UK strength. Then there is the Nato role, and UK experience and strength in military and security matters.

        To me, it looks as though the UK is heading for more of an entrepôt role, along the lines of Singapore, Honk Kong formerly, Dubai and so forth. I don’t think the US will have any problem with that. Obviously, continuing membership of the single market is vital, but not at any price. The EU leaders must already know that they are going to have to make concessions on migration because if they don’t they will lose access to everything the UK has to offer.

        The UK has made a tough decision and has had the resolve to do it. Nota bene the rest of the EU. If it can take tough decisions it can look after itself economically. I don’t think the UK deal has to follow any precedents.

        • I’ll agree it’s not black and white. The single market is a lot more flexible than it looks.

          For instance, while fisheries and agriculture are not part of the EEA agreement, there are provisions for the the UK to negotiate a country specific protocol. There’s no reason why we can’t negotiate continued tariff free trade on fisheries and agricultural products as currently enjoyed.

          An EFTA/EEA relationship should be looked at as an interim solution. Once we find ourselves in an amicable position outside the EU the next stage begins.

          You point out that migration as it currently stands is untenable to many. In the short term I think changing FoM is undeliverable. But were we to secure EFTA/EEA status, then the EEA agreement provides through Articles 112-3 the ability to negotiate FoM. For all those claims of FoM being non-negotiable, it has been negotiated. The precedent has been set. Lichtenstein has indefinitely replaced FoM with a quota system.

    • OpenSourceElectricity says:

      Well the first part of the document is OK, analysing the WTO option, ansd showing the options of “Norway” and maybe Swiss – but the latter also as “shrinwrapped package”, so 1:1 as swiss has it today, wiithout any devoiation, which would participation in the Schengen treaty.
      Unbundeling would endager UK to fall out of the 2 years limit, and I guess some nations will not agree to a prolongation. It would also cause some nationsto start a referendum if britons should get a “extra saussage” again. Likely outcome would be “No”. Which could result again in the WTO outcome.
      Second part of the paper develops a lot of cloud castles, and assumptions what could be done, which drift away from reality a lot.
      I recently read a analysis obout energy politics by a UK engineering company published the recent day (No I still don’t remember URLs but only texts 🙁 ) which came to the conclusion, that all reasonable Options UK has in this area are about the same which it has within EU, and that the claimed alternative options which are claimed to be not possible within EU often are possible within EU, but economical or technical unreasonable. OR so queer that they would violate other international treaties and agreements, too.
      If I look at our neighbours some km south the main things they can do outside EU is
      – subsidising agriculture much higher, resulting in costs in shops beeing extraordinary much higher than here too, so people travel hundrets of kilometers each weekend to buy things behind the border.
      – being allowed to subsidise public transport without the need to tender the operation of public transpoert in whole europe (so they go not tender at all), so they keep operating the states businesses at a cost, but with reliable service. Acceptable since in swizerland population decides directly about such projects, so they decide how much the state should take out of their pockets to spend on public services. Unlikely to fit to the mentality in UK.
      This are the obvious deviations I see, maybe there are some more small ones which are invislible for usual people.
      Beside this most important for swizerland is , as it seems, the feeling /knowledge that “if we would want we could do stupid things which are not wllowed within EU” – which in the end they never do because these things are stupid, and people in swizerland rarely do stupid things after thinking some time about it.
      But they love neutrality, so it took more than them 25 years to come to the point that it is possible to accept that swizerland is located on the earth without violation neutrality (towards who? Maybe citicens of Alpha Centauri?) and so becoming a mmber in UN is possible without violationg neutrality.

Comments are closed.