This week we return to the South Australian blackout. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) second update on the cause of the state-wide blackout is now out, and it leaves no doubt that SA’s wind farms at least contributed. Opinions as to what the implications are, however, vary:
Reneweconomy: Storm of controversy erupts over AEMO blackout report
In its second update, AEMO has pointed the finger at settings on certain wind farms and fossil fuel generators in the events immediately before and after the state-wide outage last month.
The report dismisses suggestions that it was the intermittent nature of wind energy that was the cause of the blackout. But it also underlines the failure of the market operator to make any preparations for the storm that it could obviously see spreading across the state.
The AEMO makes clear that it was major voltage disturbances – six in 80 seconds – caused by the collapse of three major transmission lines that led to the blackout. But – not for the first time – AEMO’s press release and executive summary differs in emphasis to the detailed report, and focuses on the role of the so-called “self protect mechanisms” in wind farms rather than the major voltage collapse that followed the collapse of the transmission lines. AEMO’s emphasis has horrified many in the wind industry, who suggest that the market operator is deliberately allowing wind to be blamed even though its report highlights a collapse of voltage that could have been the main cause of the outage. They also point to basic errors in its report, and its failure to take any preventative action as the storms approached.“What we see in this report is a concerted effort to focus solely on the wind farms as if the system is perfect and the market perfect,” said one wind farm operator. “I think we are now at war with the system operator.”
We follow up with more stories on the SA blackout, plus Saudi Arabia’s $17.5 billion bond sale, Iran puts up 50 oil & gas projects for lease, the USA’s first nuclear plant in 20 years goes on line, nuclear woes in France, the EU/Canada trade deal falls apart, the world’s largest solar PV farm to be built in Turkey, Vattenfall sues Germany, environmentalists sue Norway, the EPA comes under fire in US courts, UK MPs want more battery storage, UK energy bills to increase, emissions from biofuels, scientists accidentally turn CO2 into ethanol and an apartment block which is a model of sustainable luxury.
The latest report into the South Australia blackout by the Australian Energy Market Operator has blown away two of the biggest myths about wind energy that its critics were using as reasons for the state-wide outage. Within hours of the lights going out in South Australia, mainstream media, state and federal Coalition parties, and anti-wind interests in business and politics were blaming the “intermittency” of wind energy and its inability to generate power when the wind blew too hard. “The most well known characteristic of wind power, variation of output with wind strength (often termed ‘intermittency’), was not a material factor in the events of 28 September 2016,” AEMO notes in its report. “This updated report from AEMO confirms that the intermittent nature of wind energy had nothing to do with the September blackout in South Australia,” energy minister Tom Koutsantonis said in a statement.“There are a number of political opportunists that now owe South Australians an apology for using this event to pursue their anti-renewables agenda.” It is, however, important to note that the role of 18 wind farms in the state – and its capacity of 1,500MW which accounts for around 40 per cent of total demand – was not exonerated by AEMO. AEMO points the finger at the loss of 445MW of wind generation after six voltage disturbances and five system faults (after the loss of three major transmission lines) as the straw that broke the camel’s back for the interconnector, causing it to separate from South Australia and for the state to go “system black.”
Australian Financial Review: Wind farm failure during SA storm worse than thought
The failure of wind farms in South Australia to deal with network faults on the state’s electricity network during last month’s destructive storms was greater than first thought, according to the latest update from the Australian Energy Market Operator. But AEMO is also critical of two gas-fired power stations that failed to kick into to re-energise the electricity network when SA was cut off from the rest of the NEM and plunged into darkness on the afternoon of September 28. An initial report from AEMO earlier this month found that six wind farms disconnected 315 megawatts from the grid once the storm hit after three long-distance transmission lines were blown over by strong winds. But an update into the investigation released on Wednesday found nine of the 13 wind farms online at the time did not “ride through” – or continue normal operations – after the six voltage disturbances, resulting in a loss of 445 megawatts of generation – 130 megawatts more than originally thought. This put increased pressure on the Heywood Interconnector with Victoria to deal with the shortfall in electricity supply in South Australia, which eventually “tripped” to protect the rest of the NEM, plunging SA into a “system black”. “Preliminary discussions with wind farm operators suggest this inability to ride through all disturbances was due to ‘voltage ride-through’ settings set to disconnect or reduce turbine output when between three to six disturbances are detected within a defined time period,” the report found. “Thermal generators remained connected up until the SA system disconnected from the remainder of the National Electricity Market.” The latest findings is expected to provide further ammunition to critics of renewable energy who argue wind and solar do not provide the same energy security as synchronous generation like coal-fired or gas-fired generation.
Wall Street Journal: Saudi Arabia Launches $17.5 Billion Bond Sale
Saudi Arabia launched the sale of $17.5 billion of debt on Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the deal, in what would be the largest emerging-market bond issue. It is the kingdom’s first international bond sale, a bid to support a sweeping effort to keep its economy afloat as oil income dwindles. The sale is the latest example of a Persian Gulf state turning to international markets to offset declining oil revenues. Other oil exporters from the Gulf region such as Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Abu Dhabi earlier this year raised $20 billion in total through international bond issues. The issue would exceed Argentina’s $16.5 billion debt sale earlier this year as the biggest from an emerging-market economy. Orders amounted to around $67 billion, one investor familiar with the deal said. The bonds are expected to be priced and allocated later Wednesday. The large order book suggests there is demand for the deal far beyond the traditional emerging-market investor universe, said Aaron Grehan, deputy head of emerging-market debt at Aviva Investors, adding that he has placed orders for all three tranches. The fresh funds will help Saudi Arabia narrow its budget deficit, which stood at a record $98 billion last year, and ease pressure on a domestic economy that has borne the brunt of a reduction in government spending. Since oil prices started to fall from their mid-2014 highs, Saudi Arabia has been burning through its foreign reserves, raised debt through domestic issues, and secured a $10 billion loan from international banks earlier this year. Saudi Arabia derives about three quarters of its revenues from the export of oil.
OPEC’s struggle with the first step of its new production deal — agreeing on how much its members are pumping — deepened as Iran became the third nation to openly question the organization’s data. Output estimates compiled by OPEC’s Vienna-based secretariat are “not acceptable,” Ali Kardor, managing director of National Iranian Oil Co., said Monday in Tehran. Iran is pumping 3.89 million barrels a day, Kardor said, or about 300,000 a day more than OPEC estimated the country produced last month. Iraq and Venezuela have already criticized the data, which OPEC compiles from “secondary sources” such as news agencies. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries aims to finalize an accord to cut production, the group’s first reduction in eight years, when members convene in Vienna at the end of next month. Yet as nations squabble over how much they’re producing, it will be increasingly difficult to agree on how much each should cut. The first signs of discord emerged within hours of OPEC’s agreement in Algiers on Sept. 28, when Iraq rejected the group’s assessment of its output. The country has invited media organizations that track Iraqi output for a briefing in Baghdad next week. On Oct. 11, Venezuelan Oil Minister Eulogio del Pino said his country disputed OPEC’s figures as the data exclude a type of heavy oil produced in the Orinoco belt.
Many nations are willing to join OPEC in cutting production to secure a continued improvement in oil prices, said Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy and Industry Khalid Al-Falih. The minister didn’t name any countries in his speech at the Oil & Money conference in London Wednesday, saying only that negotiations will continue until the scheduled Nov. 30 meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna. So far, only Russia has said it’s considering an output freeze or a reduction, while other non-OPEC producers that cooperated with past supply curbs, including Mexico and Norway, said they won’t cut. “We are going to work with our colleagues and the decision I think will be fair and equitable to all countries,” Al-Falih said in an interview after his speech. Saudi Arabia will not decide alone how much production it should cut because “this is a collective decision that we have to make.” Al-Falih painted an upbeat picture, telling a packed audience that included the chief executive officers of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Total SA that the oil market is “clearly rebalancing,” bringing the industry to the end of a “considerable downturn.” U.S. crude inventories are declining and supply and demand are coming back into line, he said.
On Sunday, Iran’s Oil Ministry officially invited international E&Ps to start pre-qualifying for bidding. And by Thursday officials said they are negotiating with 16 international oil and gas firms. That’s a lot of interest, coming together very quickly. And another announcement this week from Iran’s government makes it clear why this bid round is turning into such a major event. Up until now, the view had been vague on exactly what fields might be offered as part of this licensing round. Officials had mentioned that the South Azadegan field would likely be the first project to be tendered out — given this field is a priority in terms of size (with output projected at up to 600,000 barrels per day). But Iran’s government this week clarified that Azadegan won’t be the only field on offer. In fact, the Oil Ministry said that a full 50 projects will be available for bids — consisting of 29 oil fields, and 21 natural gas fields. That’s a huge slate of projects to choose from, in one of the most high-upside spots on Earth (Iranian officials also said this week many of the offered projects are economic at $40 oil). Watch for the identities of the 16 pre-qualified firms to be released, and for final results of the bid — with submissions required by November 19, and final awards expected on December 7. Here’s to opening the vault.
The number of jobs in the UK’s oil and gas sector has dropped more than 25 percent over the last two years. It brings into sharp relief the real and absolute need for hands to shake on a deal in Vienna on November 30. The information comes from the annual economic report from Oil and Gas UK. It estimates that after two years of severe cuts, 120,000 jobs no longer exist – made up from 84,000 jobs in 2015 and 40,000 this year. Spending across the UK Continental Shelf fell from $34.49 billion in 2014 to $28.14bn in 2015. It’s expected the 2016 sums will add up to around $24.64 billion. With only half a dozen wells being sunk this year in the UK comes a warning of further deterioration in prospects if exploration does not increase. In 2014, £4.3bn was budgeted to open up five new fields; this year it is a measly £100 million for one field. A positive note comes in the form of a realisation that what analysts had feared – large numbers of businesses failing – has not transpired, and is, it says, “a tribute to the companies that have responded to the downturn by differentiating their value offerings and diversifying both into new geographies and new products and services.” As a result of efficiencies in the industry, the cost of extracting a barrel of oil has fallen 45 percent, to an estimated $16. The bonus of what’s believed to be another year of increased production – up 5.7 percent since 2015 – which built on last year’s increase, the first in 15 years, is brought crashing down by this warning. The BBC reported that “For every barrel newly found, four are being extracted from existing fields.” Oil and Gas UK is right – this is unsustainable.
U.S. oil refiners, beset by the weakest profit margins in six years, have been laying off workers, revamping operations and ratcheting up pressure on regulators and lawmakers to tweak the renewable fuel program, whose costs have ballooned. The top 10 U.S. independent refiners look set to take a record hit on renewable fuel credits this year. They spent $1.1 billion on the credits in the first half of the year, just short of a record $1.3 billion in all of 2013. Refiners without operations dedicated to selling blended fuels to consumers, must purchase credits to prove compliance with U.S. clean-fuel mandates. These “merchant refiners” are required to blend biofuels like ethanol with gasoline or other petroleum products, or else meet those obligations by purchasing paper “credits” called Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) in an opaque market. Meeting these standards once cost just pennies a gallon. But costs have risen in recent years and become a pressure point for independent refiners and fuel importers. Ethanol RINs are “a much higher cost than they used to be. Add to that this low-margin environment, any which way a refiner can save costs, they are going to be doing it,” said Timothy Cheung, vice president at ClearView Energy Partners in Washington.
Bloomberg: France Burns Coal Like It’s 1984
France produced the most power from fossil fuels for September in 32 years to help meet demand as nuclear generation dropped. Output from coal and gas plants more than doubled as Paris-based Electricite de France SA was forced to keep reactors offline for inspections. French month-ahead power prices have risen to near the highest since 2009. “The availability of French nuclear continues to alarm market participants,” said Bruno Brunetti, managing director of global power at Pira Energy Group in New York. “With the lack of French exports supporting thermal generation, we have revised upward forecasts of coal-fired dispatching by roughly 5 terawatt-hours through 2017 in western Europe.” EDF’s reactors produced 26.6 terawatt-hours of electricity in September, the least since August 1998, prompting “heavy use” of stations burning coal and gas in a trend that has been increasing since April, according to a report by French grid operator Reseau de transport d’electricite. Thermal power generation was 4,132 gigawatt-hours, or 11 percent of the total. France has seven fewer reactors available than at the same time last year after EDF announced it needed more time to carry out inspections to rule out potential anomalies on steam generators at 18 of its 58 units ordered by the nation’s nuclear regulator. EDF cut its nuclear output targets for the year on Sept. 21 after the safety checks were taking longer than expected. Six reactors are due to return this week.
The Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) has asked nuclear power utility EDF to carry out additional inspections at Fessenheim 1,Tricastin 2 and 4, Gravelines 4 and Civaux 1 reactors, according to a press release. The performance of these inspections will require shutdown of the reactors concerned,” ASN added. The watchdog wants to check “certain channel heads of the steam generators on five of its reactors, in which the steel is affected by a high carbon concentration.” According to ASN’s analysis, “certain channel heads of the steam generators … contain a significant carbon concentration zone which could lead to lower than expected mechanical properties.” The watchdog said that it doesn’t want to wait “for the scheduled refueling outage of these reactors” and thus demands safety checks “within three months.” According to the Local, this abnormality could lead to failures in mechanical properties and even to leaks or explosions. The five reactors under scrutiny are among 18 at which ASN found abnormalities in June. Of the 18 reactors ASN says that six could be restarted after inspection. Seven others (Bugey 4, Civaux 2, Dampierre 3, Gravelines 2, Saint-Laurent-des-Eaux B1 and Tricastin 1 and 3) are being inspected and awaiting reboot.
All remaining units for district heating at the Avedøreværket power plant, which is located 10 km south of Copenhagen, will be completely converted to firing wood pellets. The power plant consists of two units: Avedøre 1 and Avedøre 2. Together they have a generation capacity of 825 MW. Dong Energy will now upgrade the entire Avedøreværket power plant to biomass fuel by 2016, making it possible to increasingly use wood pellets instead of coal and gas. Dong stressed in a press release that only biomass from sustainable forestry will be fired at Avedøreværket. For this purpose, the company has designed a system of certificates and audits together with international partners. The wood for Avedøre comes from by-products of industrial timber processing as well as sustainable forest management, and 60% of it comes from the Baltic States. The second largest supplier is Portugal with 22%, followed by Russia in third place with 11%. Even when the processing and transportation of the wood pellets is taken into consideration, emissions are still reduced by approximately 90% compared to the coal and gas that was used previously, according to Dong Energy. During the past nine years, the company has been able to reduce the use of coal by 65%. CO2 emissions have been reduced by 41% since 2006.
Southern Co.’s $6.9 billion “clean coal” power plant in Mississippi produced electricity for the first time. The Kemper station used synthetic natural gas, converted from Mississippi lignite coal, to produce its first batch of power, Southern’s Mississippi Power utility said in a statement Wednesday. The generation brings Southern a step closer to placing the plant into full commercial operations after years of delays and cost overruns. Once in service, it’ll be the first large-scale power plant in the U.S. to gasify coal and capture carbon before it’s released into the atmosphere. The U.S. Department of Energy provided $245 million in a grants for the project, which the coal industry had been banking on as a potential way toward developing cleaner-burning technologies as pollution limits take hold. “After decades of research and years of hard work at the site, we are thrilled that the Kemper County energy facility, the world’s most advanced coal plant, has generated electricity using syngas,” Southern Chief Executive Officer Thomas Fanning said in the statement. The utility’s now estimating an in-service date by Nov. 30.
Green fuels made from soy beans cause four times more climate-warming emissions than standard diesel or petrol, according to a European report into biofuels. The report for the European Commission, released under Freedom of Information rules, looked into the “indirect emissions” from biofuels caused by land use change. The worse example is soy beans in America. Because the land that used to grow soy beans for animal feed is now being used for biofuels, it means that more soy beans must be grown in the rainforests of Brazil to make up for the loss in the domestic market. Soybeans grown in America therefore have an indirect carbon footprint of 340kg of CO2 per gigajoule, compared to just 85kg for conventional diesel or gasoline. Biodiesel from European rapeseed has an indirect carbon footprint of 150kg of CO2 per gigajoule, while bioethanol from European sugar beet is calculated at 100kg – both much higher than conventional diesel because of indirect use of land in other countries to replace the food crops that are no longer grown in Europe. By contrast, imports of bioethanol from Latin American sugar cane and palm oil from southeast Asia have relatively low indirect emissions at 82kg and 73kg per gigajoule respectively. But these biofuels have high direct emissions because although no land for food is being displaced, rainforest it being cut down to grow the crops in the first place. The European Commission insisted that biofuels is a complex issue and further studies need to be done.
Politico: Portugal a “dead market” for renewables
Lisbon agreed in 2012 to roll back generous investment perks to the renewables industry as part of a broad bailout plan to cut spending and keep the country out of bankruptcy. Portugal’s then-burgeoning renewable sector took a hit. Now it risks facing penalties as other EU countries race to meet their binding targets for adding renewable energy by 2020. Portugal is now a dead market for an industry eager to piggyback on the EU’s targets to boost renewable energy generation. “They are killing the business,” António Sá da Costa, managing director of the Portuguese renewable energy association APREN, said of the austerity measures. “Portugal, sooner or later, will come to a stall.” Hydro, wind, solar and other renewables produced an average 52 percent of Portugal’s electricity as of 2015, which is just 8 percentage points shy of the country’s target of 60 percent by 2020. Renewables also accounted for 25 percent of Portugal’s total energy use (including transport, heating and cooling) — the goal is 31 percent. Despite its strong start, the changed incentives mean Portugal may fall short of its 2020 targets, warned Sá da Costa. “Maybe, on this track, we can reach a 54-55 percent share of renewable electricity by 2020,” he said.
Environmental Progress: DOE task force calls for temporary subsidy to save nuclear plants
A Department of Energy (DOE) Task Force has just backed a key demand made over the last eight months by climate scientists and environmentalists organized by Environmental Progress: that the federal government end policy discrimination against nuclear power that is causing our clean energy crisis. Writes the DOE advisory board: ”[E]lectricity markets must recognize the value of carbon-free electricity generation based on the social cost of carbon emissions avoided, either by assessing a carbon-emission charge on electricity generation or, alternatively, by extending a production payment on carbon-free electricity generation of about $0.027 per kilowatt-electric-hour (kWe-hr) ($213 million for a 1,000 MWe reactor operating at 90% capacity factor) for a period of time.” In calling for a price on carbon or the temporary support for nuclear, the DOE task force is acknowledging that energy production tax credits are not the ideal, long-term solution, but should be given temporarily to save America’s largest source of clean power. The federal government has subsidized wind energy production at a similar level for 23 years.
Roughly 650,000 homes in Tennessee will be powered by the first nuclear power generator to enter into commercial operation in the United States in 20 years, according to a new report by The Hill. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar 2 reactor will produce 1,150 megawatts of power, the company’s announcement on Wednesday said. The Nuclear Energy Institute counts Watts Bar 2, which formally connected to Tennessee’s power grid in June, as the 100th nuclear power reactor to operate in the United States. Before Wednesday, the company said the reactor, which will be the federally owned corporation’s sixth nuclear facility, had slowly been ramping up production. The reactor has taken decades to bring into operation due to changing governmental regulations. In 1973, TVA began building Watts Bar 2, but the project had to be put on hold in 1985. The company restarted construction in 2007 and completed the process last year after spending $4.7 billion on the project. The facility is the first to be approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after Japan’s Fukushima disaster prompted the passage of new codes of operation. The Energy Information Administration expects four more nuclear reactors to begin generating power across the United States over the next four years.
A proposal to decommission Switzerland’s nuclear power plants by 2029 has the backing of a majority of citizens, according to a survey conducted seven weeks ahead of a nationwide vote. Despite this, pollsters believe the initiative is likely to be defeated on November 27. “The political left, women and citizens in the French-speaking part of the country are in favour,” said Claude Longchamp of the leading GfS Bern research and polling institute. “Nevertheless, in a normal scenario, the initiative is set to fail,” he concludes. “The current level of support will most likely slump, unless there is a massive turnout.” However, up to now pollsters have not found any indication that participation will rise above an average of 45% of registered voters. Over the years Swiss voters have been asked numerous times to decide on nuclear power issues, both at national and cantonal level. Of the six nationwide votes since 1979, one ended in victory for anti-nuclear campaigners who were calling for a moratorium on the construction of new plants, while three others resulted in relatively close defeats. These were influenced by serious incidents involving nuclear reactors in Harrisburg, in the United States, and Chernobyl in the Ukraine. However, the last two ballot box decisions on nuclear power in Switzerland saw overwhelming majorities in favour of nuclear power in 2003.
Cleantechnica: Vattenfall suing Germany over nuclear plant closures
According to World Nuclear News, the Swedish utility Vattenfall is suing Germany at the Washington-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes concerning the closure of the Brunsbüttel and Krümmel nuclear power plants. The suit follows the German government’s decision to withdraw from nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi accident. WNN has reported the utility spokesman Magnus Kryssare declined to confirm German media reports that the Swedish company is seeking €4.7 billion ($6 billion) in damages. Following the Fukushima accident in March 2011, the government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the withdrawal of the operating licenses of eight German nuclear power plants, which included Vattenfall’s Brunsbüttel and Krümmel units. “We believe that we can show those countries who decide to abandon nuclear power — or not to start using it — how it is possible to achieve growth, creating jobs and economic prosperity while shifting the energy supply toward renewable energies,” said Merkel, a prominent researcher in quantum chemistry before entering politics. In the meantime, Sweden’s newly formed coalition government has said it wants this energy powerhouse to quit its expansion of nuclear power in the country. Even facing widespread opposition to nuclear energy, the Vattenfall website states, “Nuclear power plays a vital role in many European countries due to its security of supply and low CO2 emissions.”
A lawsuit has been filed against the Norwegian government over a decision to open up the Barents Sea for oil exploration which campaigners say violates the country’s constitution and threatens the Paris climate agreement. The case is being brought by an alliance including Greenpeace, indigenous activists, youth groups, and the former director of Nasa’s Goddard institute for space studies, James Hansen. Norway is seen internationally as a green role model by many for its pledge of climate neutrality by 2030, its reliance on hydropower and ambitious plans for electric cars. But Conservative prime minister, Erna Solberg, could now be forced to appear before an Oslo city court on charges of violating Article 112 of the country’s constitution, which guarantees every citizen’s right to a healthy, diverse and productive environment. Truls Gulowsen, the director of Greenpeace Norway, said: “Signing an international climate agreement while throwing open the door to Arctic oil drilling is a dangerous act of hypocrisy. By allowing oil companies to drill in the Arctic, Norway risks undermining global efforts to address climate change.” The case hinges on licences handed out to 13 oil companies – including Statoil, Chevron and Aker BP – allowing oil exploration in the Barents Sea, the most northerly point yet prospected. Several exploratory wells are planned to open in 2017, and these could help wreck the Paris climate agreement’s ambition of holding global warming to 1.5C, the plaintiffs say. In a letter to the prime minister seen by the Guardian, Hansen compares Norway’s behaviour to that of a “climate rogue state”. “I will not mince words, Mrs Solberg,” he says. “Your government’s actions are utterly at odds with the scientific consensus that underpins the Paris agreement. Norway appears hell-bent on sabotaging the treaty before it has even come into effect.”
The Environmental Protection Agency is overstepping its Clean Air Act authority to discourage construction of new coal-fired power plants in favor of cleaner generation sources the agencies prefers, opponents of carbon dioxide limits on new power plants said. Mirroring arguments made against the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, states and utilities opposed to comparable standards for new power plants said the rule is illegal because the EPA has exceeded what is allowable under the Clean Air Act by requiring carbon capture technology at new coal-fired units. “If EPA can require emission reductions based on a system that does not exist at commercial scale anywhere in the world, it has the power to deter the construction of new coal-fired plants in favor of EPA’s preferred energy sources,” several states, led by West Virginia said in a brief filed Oct. 14 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The EPA’s new source performance standards for new and modified power plants (RIN:2060-AQ91) effectively require new coal-fired units to install some form of carbon capture to comply. Opponents of the rule say the technology has not yet been commercially demonstrated and the EPA’s reliance on carbon capture projects subsidized by the federal government violates the Energy Policy Act, which bars the agency from relying on those units to determine that the technology has been adequately demonstrated. The new power plant standards, along with the Clean Power Plan, which regulates carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, are central to President Barack Obama’s domestic efforts to address climate change. The new source performance standards are being challenged by several states as well as utilities and industry groups.
The Environmental Protection Agency has not properly complied with a federal code that requires the agency to account for job impacts in the coal industry and other sectors as it crafts air pollution regulations, a federal judge ruled Monday. Judge John Preston Bailey of the District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia agreed with coal mining company Murray Energy’s argument that the EPA must more thoroughly track job losses as a result of its regulations. EPA had argued that authority was “discretionary” and that existing efforts were sufficient. “In this case, the plaintiffs have alleged that the actions of the EPA have had a coercive effect on the power generating industry, essentially forcing them to discontinue the use of coal,” Bailey wrote. “This Court finds these allegations sufficient to show that the injuries claimed by the plaintiffs are fairly traceable to the earlier actions of the EPA.” Coal and fossil fuel groups welcomed the ruling, but the Hill notes it may be largely symbolic, as any analysis of job impacts may not yield policy changes at the EPA. The court gave the agency 14 days to file a plan to track employment effects in the coal sector.
Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak has announced that the tender for the 1,000 megawatt-photovoltaic solar power plant, which will be established in Konya’s Karapınar district, will be held in December. Poised to be the largest of its kind in the world, the solar power plant will pave the way for a new period in Turkey’s use of renewable energy resources. The United States, China and many European countries aspire to compete in the tender, which will attract $1.3 billion worth of investment to Konya. The solar power plant, which will be constructed on a nearly 2,000-hectare area, will produce 1.7 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, which is enough to be used in 600,000 houses. Successful bidding companies will have to establish a solar power plant that is capable of producing at least 500,000 megawatts of energy a year. The power plant will be able to export energy in the upcoming years. The project stipulates using domestic technology, research and development (R&D) studies and employing 80 percent domestic engineers.
A world-leading project that will combine solar PV, wind energy and battery storage, and which could ultimately be one of the biggest power stations in Queensland, has received financial support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. ARENA announced on Friday that the Kennedy Energy Park will receive $18 million in “recoupable” grants to help fund the $120 million first stage of the project. That first stage will comprise 19.2 MW of solar PV, 21.6 MW of wind and 2 MW/4 MWh of battery storage. But over time, the project may expand to 600 MW of solar PV and 600 MW of wind energy, and more battery storage, and provide the equivalent of “baseload” power to north Queensland, enough to meet one fifth of Australia’s renewable energy target. It would also account for a sizeable piece of the new wind and solar projects required to meet the Queensland government’s own 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030. ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht described the project as “trailblazing” because of its ability to provide to dispatch reliable, affordable power and round-the-clock renewable energy. “Kennedy Energy Park will be the first time a combined large-scale solar, wind and battery installation has connected to Australia’s national electricity market,” Mr Frischknecht said. “Wind will generate power throughout the day and night, while solar ramps up during peak demand times when the sun is shining. Battery storage will smooth out power delivery from both sources, dispatching it when it’s needed most and increasing overall reliability.”
The three presidential debates are officially over, and not one question was asked of the two major party presidential candidates about climate change. This is the second presidential cycle in which the presidential candidates weren’t asked about climate change at the debates — the events with the highest viewership during the entire presidential campaign. Climate activists and groups that push for policies to stop the negative effects of climate change are frustrated. They say the lack of questions on the issue shows the debate moderators are not in touch with the American people, for whom climate change is a growing concern. “It’s really a missed opportunity,” Seth Stein, national press secretary for the League of Conservation Voters, a group that lobbies for environmental reform, said. “Climate change is an issue that’s becoming increasingly important to Americans. And especially when it come to the debates, this is an issue that’s especially important to key groups of voters, including millennials and swing voters.”
Institute for Energy Research: What would Hillary Clinton’s 500 million solar panel plan cost?
One of the keys to Hillary Clinton’s energy agenda is to install more than 500 million solar panels by 2020 if she is elected. The United States currently has 22.9 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Clinton’s plan is to expand that to 140 GW by 2020. To put that in perspective, EIA projects that even if the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan is upheld by the courts, the U.S. is only on pace to have 57 GW of solar capacity by 2020. To achieve Clinton’s goal would require an additional 83 GW of installed solar capacity beyond EIA’s projection. What would Clinton’s plan cost to go from 22.9 GW of installed solar capacity today to 140 GW in installed capacity in 2020? EIA estimates that new photovoltaic solar costs $2,480 per kilowatt (KW). Therefore each new GW of solar costs $2.48 billion. As noted above, Clinton’s goal calls for an additional 83 GW of installed solar capacity by 2020 and each GW costs $2.48 billion. This means that her plans cost $205.8 billion above the current projections including the costs of the Clean Power Plan. According to EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) 2016, an additional 122 GWs of additional electrical generating capacity will be added by 2020 to replace 89 gigawatts of premature retirements due to the CPP and to satisfy new demand in the generating and end-use sectors. However, electric utilities already have plans to add natural gas and renewable capacity totaling 51 gigawatts. Thus, if Hillary Clinton’s plan is executed, the nation will be paying for additional capacity that is not needed just to reach a spurious goal.
A trade deal between the EU and Canada is on the brink of collapse because a Belgian region with a population of just 3.6 million opposes it. An emotional Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland left the talks in Brussels, saying the EU was “not capable” of signing a trade agreement. Belgium, the only country blocking accord, needed consent from the regional parliament of Wallonia. The wide-ranging deal, seven years in the making, was to be signed next week. Speaking outside the seat of the Walloon government, Ms Freeland told reporters: “It seems evident for me and for Canada that the European Union is not now capable of having an international accord even with a country that has values as European as Canada.” She added: “Canada is disappointed, but I think it is impossible.” It was unclear whether the EU would keep negotiating with Wallonia in coming days to solve the impasse. The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or Ceta, was expected to boost bilateral trade, but Wallonia sees the accord as a threat to farmers and welfare standards. The region has a strong socialist tradition. Its fears echo those of anti-globalisation activists, who say Ceta and deals like it give too much power to multinationals – power even to intimidate governments.
Household energy bills in four years’ time will be £17 higher annually than planned because of the number of windfarms and solar panels installed in recent years, according to the government’s spending watchdog. The amount of money levied on bills each year to pay for renewable energy subsidies is capped under a system called the levy control framework, to limit costs for consumers and businesses. The cap was set at £7.1bn for 2020/21, but government officials warned last year it was on track to hit £9.1bn because so much green energy was being deployed. The National Audit Office revised this down on Tuesday to £8.7bn, or £110 of what is forecast be a £991 average annual household bill by 2020, up £17 on what it would have been if the cap was met. But energy department officials were quick to point out that the new forecast is within the 20% of ‘headroom’ that is allowed over the cap. The NAO said the framework had failed to provide value for money because the expected overshoot meant there was now little money to support further new renewables up to 2020. Spending more later would have been more cost-effective because the price of building green energy is coming down, the watchdog said. Sir Amyas Morse, auditor general of the NAO, said: “The levy control framework has helped make some of the impacts of renewable energy policies on consumers clearer. But government’s forecasting, allocation of the budget and approach to dealing with uncertainty has been poor, and so has not supported value for money.”
Large-scale batteries to store energy and devices that switch themselves off are likely to be key technologies for keeping the UK’s lights on while shutting down old coal and nuclear plants, an influential committee of MPs has said. The threat of blackouts has receded for this winter after scares earlier in the year, National Grid said on Friday, citing a reprieve for Yorkshire’s Eggborough coal-fired power station, as well as greater flexibility from companies with big energy requirements. But the respite will be brief unless further action is taken, warned parliament’s energy and climate change select committee. The MPs recommend investment in two major areas: on the supply side, energy storage; and on the demand side, efficiency technologies that smooth out peaks in usage, for instance by switching devices off and on and running them at lower power at times. Angus MacNeil, chair of the committee, said: “The government must get a move on and encourage the energy market to embrace smart technological solutions like energy storage and demand-side response. There is an incredible opportunity for the UK to become a world leader in these disruptive technologies, yet our current energy security subsidies favour dirty diesel generation over smart new clean tech solutions.”
In a fortuitous turn of events, researchers in Tennessee have turned carbon dioxide into ethanol in what they’re calling a “new twist to waste-to-fuel technology”. Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory developed an electrochemical process that uses tiny spikes of carbon and copper to turn CO2 into the fuel. In particular, the team used a catalyst made of carbon, copper and nitrogen and applied voltage to trigger a complicated chemical reaction that essentially reverses the combustion process. With the help of this catalyst, the solution of carbon dioxide dissolved in water and turned into ethanol. Typically, this type of electrochemical reaction results in a mix of several different products in small amounts. “We discovered somewhat by accident that this material worked,” said ORNL’s Adam Rondinone, lead author of the team’s study published in ChemistrySelect. “We were trying to study the first step of a proposed reaction when we realised that the catalyst was doing the entire reaction on its own. We’re taking carbon dioxide, a waste product of combustion, and we’re pushing that combustion reaction backwards with very high selectivity to a useful fuel. Ethanol was a surprise – it’s extremely difficult to go straight from carbon dioxide to ethanol with a single catalyst.” The catalyst is unique and effective because of its nanoscale structure, which contains copper nanoparticles embedded on carbon spikes. This approach meant that the researchers didn’t need to use expensive or rare metals, such as platinum, which typically push costs up and make the process less economically viable.
Luxury living, affordability and sustainability rarely go together, but a new UK development shows that they can. The Beacon will, it’s claimed, be the world’s most sustainable residential tower, with residents still able to enjoy high-end specs and annual savings of up to £11,000 (US$13,500). The tower, developed by Lumiere Developments, will be located on a 0.5-ac (0.2-ha) brownfield site adjacent to greenbelt land in Hemel Hempstead, from where it’s possible to get into the center of London in under half an hour by train. It is part of the town’s regeneration scheme and will see 272 apartments spread over 17 levels. Lumiere says enough heat and power will be generated on-site to almost run the building entirely. Ground source heat pumps will be used to extract heat from the building’s basement, while air source heat pumps will do so from its atrium. The heat will be used to provide hot water to the building’s residences. Electricity, meanwhile, will be produced using 860 kW of solar panels integrated into the balconies around each apartment. Additional power is generated by two wind turbines and surplus energy generated during the day will be stored on-site for use in the evening. As a result of the on-site generation capabilities, Lumiere is offering “Free Energy For Life” to residents, with heating and electricity done away with. The firm says that while it may be necessary for the building to draw power from the grid occasionally, the amount will be “negligible,” based on its modelling.
The model of sustainable luxury