Blowout Week 148

This week’s Blowout focuses on change – in particular  “sea change”, which is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as a “profound or notable transformation”.  Because of declining investment the world’s clean energy industry may now be in the process of having one – direction downwards:


Bloomberg: Setbacks for clean energy – or are times a-changin’?

It is clear that a number of key markets are seeing real slowdowns in demand for renewable energy equipment.

A reduction of $7.4 billion in the global total resulted from U.S. investment falling 19 percent in the first three quarters of 2016; a reduction of $0.8 billion came about through Indian investment falling by 11 percent; a cut of $5.7 billion resulted from a 73 percent fall in commitments in the Americas excluding the U.S. and Brazil; a $5.5 billion dent came from a 54 percent fall in investment in the Middle East and Africa; a $14.7 billion negative impact came from Japan’s 60 percent drop; and a massive $32.2 billion reduction resulted from China’s 40 percent fall in investment. Developing economies, specifically Latin America excluding Brazil, and the Middle East and Africa, saw sizeable reductions in investment in 1Q-3Q 2016 despite the fact that many investors see them as promising “new” markets for wind and solar. The biggest investment downturn, by some distance, is happening in China. A boom in Chinese PV installations saw some 22 gigawatts installed in the first half of this year (much of it financed in 2015), but after a change in the feed-in tariff, second-half installations in that country are likely to slow to just 6 gigawatts. The investment data for the first nine months of 2016 are probably exaggerating the sharpness of the slowdown – but nevertheless, if China is no longer going to be the engine of growth in global investment, that alone signals a major sea-change for the clean energy industry.

We continue with more stories on the SA blackout, falling oil output in Libya, Nigeria and Venezuela, EU gives pipeline go-ahead, Warren Buffett on wind subsidies, French nuclear woes and UK energy prices, Fukushima reclamation costs up, the end of nuclear in the US and of coal in UK, Australian coal mines reopening, Sweden and Spain to go 100% renewable, DONG considers selling oil & gas assets, renewables and “Big Data”,  the Heathrow third runway, Brexit lowers the UK’s renewables-favorable ranking, few in UK support fracking, new life for the incandescent light bulb and how climate change causes cold winters, an increase in child marriage and more politicians being voted out of office.

Adelaide Now: Industry blames State Government for SA blackout

South Australia’s biggest industry has little faith in the local power supply, pointing the finger at the State Government for the recent power blackout. More than half of respondents to a Property Council SA survey blamed the State Government for the September 28 outage and just 27 per cent said SA had a reliable power source. A small number of the 63 participants — representing 20 per cent of the SA membership — said they had lost in excess of $100,000 because of the event, although the majority were impacted by less than $25,000. Two-thirds suffered a high or medium hit to productivity. “SA became the butt of national jokes — jokes that all inferred we weren’t operating as a first-class, 21st century state,” SA Property Council executive director Daniel Gannon said. “(But) this is an issue about reliability, credibility and confidence. It’s not about politics, it’s about learning from what happened and ensuring we are better prepared for the future.” A major concern was that the state’s reputation as a place to conduct business had been “trashed”. Almost three-quarters said the event would have an adverse effect on investment in the state. “It made national and international news and made our great state look like a backwater township,” one member said.

RenewEconomy: The myth of renewables threatening grid stability

Germany’s power grid outage averaged 12.7 minutes last year, 41% less than in 2006, even though renewables have grown to account for as much as a third of power generation in the country, according to data released by the federal regulator last week. This put to rest concerns about intermittent sources of power threatening grid stability. The country is weaning itself away from nuclear power and embracing renewables generation, providing a working model of transformation of the energy sector for many other countries. In contrast, the 28 September black-out following a storm in South Australia was blamed on the high penetration of renewable energy by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. He said some state governments have set renewable energy targets “that are extremely aggressive, extremely unrealistic, and have paid little or no attention to energy security.” The storm should be treated as “a real wake-up call,” he added. A report released last week by the Australian Energy Market Operator, however, found that “five transmission line faults, resulting in six voltage disturbances on the network” – which caused an expected reduction of 445MW of wind generation as the turbines entered fault-mode – led to the outage. The operator was not aware of the wind farms’ fault-mode settings, and did not plan for it. There were also three fossil-fuelled generators that failed.

UPI: Attacks on Nigerian oil and gas installations continue

The group calling itself the Niger Delta Avengers said its fighters on Tuesday took out an oil export pipeline in Nigeria operated by Chevron. The NNPC boss in response called on police to enhance its protective actions around such facilities, saying his company was ready with whatever assistance it could provide. Police, he added, are working on “a number of strategies” to protect infrastructure in some of the hard-to-reach parts of the oil-rich Niger Delta. The Nigerian petroleum company said it lost out on hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil due to unrest and banditry during the first five months of the year. The militant group, which surfaced early this year, is fighting for a greater share of the oil wealth from Nigeria, which is a member of the Organization of Exporting Countries. The group has been in various stages of peace talks with the government since the summer. Total crude oil production last month was around 1.52 million barrels per day, according to secondary sources, which was about 7 percent higher than the previous month, though still about 20 percent less than it was last year. A budget, meanwhile, from the government in Abuja is based on production of around 2.2 million bpd.

Wall Street Journal: Venezuelan Oil Is Largely Staying in Ground or Going Up in Smoke

PUNTA DE MATA—This fading oil town has an eerie glow at night, illuminated by dozens of oil wells burning off precious oil and gas for lack of functioning equipment to process it. Every month, Punta de Mata’s smoke columns grow higher, a staggering waste at a time when Venezuela, the holder of the world’s largest oil reserves, desperately needs cash from every barrel to import scarce food and medicine. The wells are, quite literally, burning money. Making matters worse, for every barrel of light crude burned off at Punta de Mata’s wells, Venezuela needs to spend dollars importing a barrel of diluent to mix with the very heavy oil produced in the country’s south. The decrepit state of aging fields like Punta de Mata, which provide the bulk of Venezuela’s revenues, is a crucial reason why the country’s oil output is falling faster than that of any other major oil producer bar insurgency-riven Nigeria. Venezuelan crude production shrank 11% to 2.3 million barrels a day in a year to September, according to government figures, and the consulting firm Medley & Associates expects the fall to accelerate in the next 12 months. Barring a spike in oil prices, falling production will plunge Venezuela ever deeper into economic crisis.

Proshare: Libya’s Economic Outlook Weak amid Still-High Political Instability

Political rivalry and weak, fragmented security structures have caused Libya’s oil output – accounting for as much as 97.2% of exports and 93.4% of state revenues in 2014, according to the IMF – to decline to a fraction of those levels recorded before the 2011 revolution. Coupled with the H214 drop in global oil prices, this has brought the Libyan economy into a state of crisis. Reserves accumulated under former President Muammar Qadhafi are dwindling, as authorities struggle to finance the country’s huge fiscal deficit – estimated at a record-high 43.2% in 2015. Sustained economic recovery depends on the Government of National Accord (GNA)’s ability to increase oil production and exports – which in turn relies on the body’s ability to strengthen political stability by negotiating a peace agreement with rival authorities in Tobruk. We believe some form of a deal is likely to materialise within a year, though we note that risks of it breaking down will remain high in the medium term, due to the extremely fragmented and fluid nature of the Libyan conflict. We maintain our view that even with a peace deal in place, the Libyan economy will need another decade to reach its 2012 levels in nominal terms.

RT: EU ratifies increased Gazprom use of Opal pipeline

Brussels has given the green light to Russia’s Gazprom to pump more gas through the Opal pipeline, reports the Wall Street Journal. Opal is an important connection to Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline to Germany and the Czech Republic. EU competition rules currently limit Gazprom’s use of the Opal pipeline to half the line’s capacity. The pipeline stretches about 470 kilometers from the German Baltic Sea coast to Brandov on the Czech-German border. Having access to the full capacity of Opal is necessary for Russia’s Nord Stream-2 pipeline that intends to double the volume of the existing Nord Stream pipeline. The new pipeline will be able to deliver up to 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year to Germany via the Baltic Sea bypassing Ukraine. The deal may be regarded as Russia and the EU mending their business ties despite sanctions, analysts say. According to the media, under the agreement approved on Tuesday, Gazprom retains its 50 percent exclusive capacity, but will have to give up 10 to 20 percent of the remaining capacity to competitors. The remaining 30 to 40 percent will be available for auction, and Gazprom will be able to participate. “It is a little bit of a concession to the Russians, but it’s not a Christmas gift,” said the WSJ source.

Intellinews: Poland threatens legal action over EU deals with Gazprom

Polish state-controlled gas utility PGNiG claimed on October 26 that it is ready to sue the European Commission and Germany’s energy regulator for their soft approach to Russian gas giant Gazprom. Poland and other CEE member states that rely on Russian gas have long claimed Gazprom abuses its dominant position in the region to push prices higher, insist on restrictive contracts, and exert political pressure. An EU anti-trust case launched in 2011 offered hope that the Russian company would be brought into line. However, it is reported that a settlement is on the way that will see little action from Brussels. The Polish company is also angered a decision from the German energy regulator Bundesnetzagentur that will offer more capacity on the Opal pipeline, the link to the offshore Nord Stream carrying Russian gas directly to Germany. Bundesnetzagentur has opened up to 80% of Opal pipeline capacity to Gazprom or its proxies. That will allow the Russian company to send 28bn cm of gas annually through Nord Stream, whereas previously the export volume was capped at 17.5bn cm. “If no other entity purchases the remaining 20% of the pipeline’s capacity during auctions, Gazprom will be allowed to use that capacity for its own needs,” the PGNiG statement complains. The Polish company says the moves on both the anti-trust case and Opal constitute a breach of EU laws, and a threat to energy security. “These decisions pose a real threat to the stability of gas supplies to Central and Eastern Europe,” PGNiG warned.

Greenbiz: How the oil and gas industry can help save the world

What if oil and gas were the key to solving climate change? The basic idea is quite simple: If we shift the primary end use of oil and gas from combustion to building materials, there is no need for hydrocarbons to remain locked beneath the earth’s surface in order to address climate change. It’s a story of two imperatives. The first is well understood: To stay within the limits of planetary warming that the overwhelming scientific consensus views as tolerable, we cannot continue to power the economy with combustion. The International Energy Agency and Carbon Tracker Initiative already have identified a planetary “carbon budget,” estimating we can burn only about one-fifth of the untapped oil and gas currently on the books of publicly traded companies and state-owned enterprises. There is a second less-discussed imperative: net zero construction. Transportation, electricity and industry account for only 60 percent of carbon emissions — far from the zero target of 2050 agreed to during last year’s Paris climate summit. The question is, can we actually build with oil and gas? Absolutely, and we’re not starting from zero. Oil and gas already are the primary feedstocks for the polymers industry. The real question is, can we rapidly change the ratio of how petroleum is used, from mostly combustion to mostly materials?

Financial Times: French nuclear outages threaten higher UK power bills

Deepening problems in France’s nuclear power sector are threatening to increase energy bills for UK consumers this winter because of a squeeze on the supply of imported electricity. Safety concerns over the resilience of certain components have led to the shutdown of several French reactors, cutting the amount of French electricity available for export across the English channel. Britain has relied on imports for more than 7 per cent of its electricity so far this year, most of it through subsea interconnectors with the French and Dutch power grids. France’s problems have already caused power price spikes in continental Europe as the country has had to increase its own imports of electricity from Germany and other neighbours to fill its supply gap. But analysts say there will also be repercussions for Britain. In recent weeks, imports have fallen to the extent that on 14 days so far in October, the UK has exported more electricity than it has taken in. Until this month, Britain had not been a net exporter for more than two days a month since 2014, according to data from PA Consulting. The change of balance threatens to increase the strain on Britain’s power network at a time when it is already under pressure from the closure of coal-fired plants as part of efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Bloomberg: End of Nuclear in US?

Nuclear power will come to an end in the U.S. if the industry doesn’t get more government support, according to Carlyle Group LP, one of the world’s largest investment firms. The nation’s nuclear reactors need more subsidies to keep running, such as a federal carbon tax that’ll reward them for their zero-emissions power, Bob Mancini, co-head of Carlyle Group’s power unit, said at a conference in New York. Carlyle, which has $176 billion in assets under management across funds, invests in natural gas- and coal-fired power plants and renewable energy projects. Its outlook comes as nuclear power generators including Exelon Corp. and Entergy Corp. make plans to shut reactors across the country. Low power prices, fueled by an abundance of natural gas from shale drilling and weakening demand, have squeezed their profits just as their operating costs rise amid mounting regulation. We will see the end of the nuclear industry in the next coming decades” without legislation, incentives or other support to keep reactors open or encourage new builds, Mancini said at S&P Global Platts’s Financing U.S. Power Conference on Tuesday.

Financial Times: Britain hopes to showcase nuclear skills at Hinkley Point

British companies are looking to the construction of Hinkley Point C in Somerset, the country’s first nuclear plant for a generation, to help re-establish its expertise in atomic energy. More than 20 years have elapsed since the UK last built a nuclear reactor but, with an energy shortage looming, the government finally gave the go-ahead to the £18bn power station last month. At least five more are planned. Although it will be funded by France’s state-controlled utility, EDF, and its partner China General Nuclear Power, 64 per cent of the construction value has been promised to UK businesses. With about 500 nuclear reactors either planned or proposed worldwide, it is also hoped that Hinkley will help showcase British nuclear skills. In the years since its last reactor, Sizewell B, was commissioned in 1995, Britain’s ability to provide certain specialised equipment, parts and services for nuclear power has hollowed out. “It’s not possible [for British companies] to do absolutely everything as we don’t have the industrial capability,” said Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association. “But it is possible with this and further projects to help build up that capability and supply chain expertise both for the UK programme and export. That in a sense is the real prize.”

Nuclear Street: Fukushima cleanup costs soar

The Japanese government released a study Tuesday that said the costs of decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi generating station was likely to reach as high as $24 billion, an estimate that is $5 billion higher than that of TEPCO, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which owns the devastated plant. The cost of cleanup to date has reached $770 million, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry study found. TEPCO spokesman Shinichi Nakakuki provided the company’s response to the study, noting that “it is difficult to calculate the entire cost for the decommissioning.” But a member of the panel that conducted the study Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters at a news conference that the panel was studying options for TEPCO to raise the necessary funds in a manner that would not unduly involve the public. “The panel is considering ways in which TEPCO can secure funds while avoiding an increase in public burden. It is still discussing the issue,” he said.

Mining: Australian mines are reopening thanks to the rally in coal prices

An ongoing rally in the price of Australia’s key exports, mainly coal and iron ore, is prompting miners to restart projects and resume operations at mines that were shut only a few months ago, when both commodities were trading close to 10 years-lows. Last week, prices for coking coal — the steelmaking kind — reached $230 a tonne, up from $75 a tonne just a few months ago. And thermal coal, used in power generation, has doubled to more than $100 a tonne last week, up 27% just since the start of October. Miner and commodities trader Glencore has reopened its Collinsville mine in Australia’s Queensland state because of higher demand for the product in Southeast Asia and favourable prices. At least seven other coal mines are expected to resume operations before the end of the year — four in Queensland and three in New South Wales. These include Collinsville and Isaac Plains, which Vale and Sumitomo sold last year to Stanmore Coal for only $1. But the potential multibillion-dollar windfall could be short-lived, economists have warned. NAB’s chief economist, Alan Ostler, believes that global production peaked in 2014, which together with action on setting a carbon price after the Paris climate accord will continue to suppress demand, inevitably affecting prices. Liberum analyst Ben Davis agrees. He said in a report last week that thermal coal may start a downward trend soon as Chinese policymakers decided to temporarily reverse limits on thermal-coal production until December.

Sky News: Decision on new open cast mine could spell end of coal in UK

Campaigners are fighting to stop Banks Mining from removing three million tonnes of coal from a greenfield site at Druridge Bay on the North East coast. The Government stepped in and ordered a public inquiry after the scheme was unanimously approved by Northumberland Council in July. A final decision will be taken by ministers next year in what campaign group Friends of the Earth claims is a test of the Government’s commitment to environmental issues. The organisation’s spokesman Guy Shrubsole told Sky News: “It’s very welcome that for the first time ever the Government has called in a coal mine on climate change grounds. And this means there’s going to be a public inquiry next year which could set up conditions for the end of coal in the UK.” He added: “It’s certainly the case that the Government needs to get on with phasing out coal power stations as it’s already committed to doing. We understand it’s going to be launching a consultation on this soon but it’s also the case that if you’re going to stop burning the coal there’s no need to dig it up as well.”

The Hill: Iowa wind farm generates more tax credits than electricity

After reaching a settlement with some of its biggest customers this summer, the Warren Buffett-owned utility company MidAmerican Energy may soon build a massive new wind farm in Iowa. The thing is, electricity is far from the only thing it will generate. Known as “Wind XI,” the proposed 2,000 megawatt wind farm—Iowa’s largest ever—has the potential to produce a lot of electricity, but even more tax credits. In total, Wind XI could generate up to $1.8 billion in tax credits for its backers over the next decade. The winners? Warren Buffett; MidAmerican Energy’s other investors; and Facebook, Microsoft, and Google—MidAmerican’s biggest customers, who will receive tax benefits of their own for using wind energy. The losers? Taxpayers and other ratepayers footing the bill. Unfortunately, this is part of an ongoing trend in wind energy across the country. It’s not the demand for more electricity that’s driving construction, but rather the government’s preferential tax treatment and counterintuitive energy mandates. Warren Buffett has admitted as much. In 2014 he explained: “I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate [. . .] We get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

Utility Dive: New transmission can unlock 10 times more renewables for the Eastern U.S.

The Eastern Interconnection (EI), the world’s biggest power system, delivers electricity to 270 million customers. By 2026, system operators will be able to maintain power reliability with more than ten times the current amount of wind and solar on the system today, according to the recently-released Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study (ERGIS). That forecast takes into account only existing technologies, but that doesn’t mean the capability will be automatic. Increasing on today’s 40 GW of wind and solar in the EI region will only make sense if there’s adequate transmission to deliver the electricity to offtakers, the study found. But developing that dramatic increase of today’s estimated 35 GW to 40 GW of wind and solar resources will only make sense if there is adequate transmission to deliver the output to EI region off-takers. Whether that will happen remains up in the air, experts told Utility Dive. “The resource is not the issue. It is the delivery system that is the issue,” said Wind on the Wires (WOW) Executive Director Beth Soholt, who has spent over 15 years working for new transmission throughout the Midwest. Veteran transmission authority Roger Rosenqvist, now a vice president at ABB, agrees the lack of new wires is a real barrier. “With the necessary renewables so remote from load centers, I doubt there is any way to integrate 30% renewables into the Eastern Interconnection without some expansion of existing transmission,” he said. “The problem is how to pay for it.”

Independent: Sweden on target to run entirely on renewable energy by 2040

Sweden is on target to run entirely on renewable energy within the next 25 years, a regulatory official has said. Last year, 57 per cent of Sweden’s power came from renewables such as hydropower and wind sources, with the remainder coming from nuclear power. The country now plans to tap into its “large potential” for onshore wind power, in order to make the country completely fossil-free by 2040 – a goal set by Sweden’s prime minister at the UN General Assembly last year. “We are not densely populated, we have a lot of good places to put land-based large-scale wind and there is large potential for that in Sweden,” Anne Vadasz Nilsson, Director General of the Swedish Energy Markets Inspectorate told Reuters on Monday. Sweden has steadily increased its output of wind power and as it becomes more cost efficent, wind energy is set to replace nuclear energy in the country’s power system. “Nuclear is quite an expensive energy source due to safety regulations and funding for long-term nuclear waste management among other things,” said Ms Vadasz Nilsson. “Renewables, meaning large-scale wind in Sweden, on the other hand, are cheaper and cheaper to commission and to run. This together with low wholesale prices will make it less likely that new nuclear power plants will replace the remaining ones when they are phased out due to old age.”

Independent: Spain to run on 100 per cent renewables “for one moment”

The director of one of Spain’s top power companies has predicted the country will eventually become 100 per cent reliant on renewable energy. Acciona boss Miguel Ezpeleta said there is currently enough wind energy being generated to power 29m Spanish homes every day. He told Australian news channel, ABC News: “The important thing is to predict and forecast what is going to happen. I think people are going to tell me we’re crazy but I’m pretty sure we’ll arrive at 100 per cent for one moment for sure.” The drive for clean energy is part of a move by the country, which has no oil or natural gas deposits, to become energy independent. The European Union has set a target for Spain to fulfill 20 per cent of all its energy needs with renewable energy by 2020 – it is currently at 17.4 per cent.

Guardian: Dong Energy considers sale of oil and gas assets to focus on windfarms

The biggest windfarm operator in the UK is considering selling its oil and gas business, four decades after it was set up to manage Denmark’s North Sea oilfields. Dong Energy, which is majority owned by the Danish government, said it had appointed JP Morgan to perform a strategy review that could result in the sale of the oil and gas business. Offloading oil assets would result in the company, whose initials stand for Danish Oil and Natural Gas, focus on wind power instead, completing its transformation from fossil fuels to renewables. Dong did not say whether selling its oil and gas operations would result in a change of name and added that it had yet to decide on the division’s future. The company floated on the Copenhagen stock exchange this year, saying it would use the flow of cash from oil sales to fund ongoing investment in renewable energy projects. But on Wednesday, Dong said it might now look to raise funds more quickly by selling the division. Dong has stakes in windfarms that can produce more than 2.2GW in total, equivalent to about 4% of the UK’s predicted peak demand of 52.7GW during cold weather. It has plans to add a further 1.5GW of wind power capacity, including the Hornsea 1 project 55 miles off the coast of Grimsby, which would be the world’s largest offshore windfarm.

Power Engineering International: French government may jettison carbon tax plan

A plan announced by French environment minister Segolene Royal in May to introduce a carbon floor of EUR30 ($30), is set to be shelved. Les Echos reports that the carbon tax is set to be left out of the draft 2016 budget update. Les Echos quoted a source as saying that the measure is too complicated to put in place and might be unconstitutional. The newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying that EDF, who possess a low carbon portfolio, were in favour of the tax but gas utility Engie is dissenting, claiming it would make its gas-fired power plants less competitive than similar plants in neighbouring countries. “In the current context, it is difficult, due to concerns about employment, legal difficulties and security of supply,” the source said, adding that the government is due to receive a report about the carbon tax in coming days and will decide on it mid-November. Meanwhile Royal asked has written to EDF to ensure the country will have sufficient power supply through the winter after several nuclear reactors were halted for safety tests, Le Parisien newspaper said on Friday. “I ask you to use all means at your disposal to contribute to the security of the supply this winter and in the coming years,” Royal said in the letter sent to EDF Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy and dated Oct. 10.

Economist: Wind and solar advance against coal

The International Energy Agency (IEA) this week reported that in 2015 for the first time renewable energy passed coal as the world’s biggest source of power-generating capacity. Based on existing policies, it forecasts that from 2015-21, 825GW of new renewable capacity will be added globally, 13% more than it projected just last year. Unlike coal, which burns around the clock, renewables are intermittent. But the IEA expects the share of renewables in total power generation to rise to almost 28% from 21%. Government policies to curb global warming and reduce air pollution are the driving force behind the clean-energy revolution, as well as falling prices of solar panels and wind turbines. The IEA expects America to eclipse the EU to become the second-biggest market for renewables (after China) in the next few years, thanks to an extension of federal tax credits to wind and solar producers. Because electricity demand in rich countries is falling, renewables are driving out other sources of electricity. But in developing countries, they are still not being built fast enough to keep up with demand.

Deutsche Welle: “Big data” is about to transform renewable energy

The EU currently has the largest installed and connected wind and solar capacity in the world, according to the European Environment Agency. But China surpassed the EU in 2013, as did the US did a few years later. Europe has the largest amount of installed renewable plants now – but in a few years time, it probably won’t anymore. But there is one way that European businesses can get back on the renewables fast track without relying on policy support – and without even relying on deployment of new equipment. Big data has been a buzzword in the tech world for some years – but business leaders say it’s not mere hype. Big data refers to new methods of processing vast existing troves of digital information, previously unseen and unused, in a way that maximizes efficiency. Pieter Jan Jordaens, head of business and innovation at the Belgium-based offshore wind research organization OWI-Lab, is working with utilities to add sensors to wind turbines in the North Sea. They started the project off by adding sensors to wind turbines. Jordaens notes that not all wind sites are the same. Some locations can wear out the turbines quicker than others because of harsher power surges, greater wake effects or sporadic surges in power. Using big data, the company can recreate the conditions experienced by the turbine – creating a replay of certain events to learn how the turbine responds to them. Through an analysis of the history, they can predict the future and make sure the turbine is operating at the maximum efficiency, squeezing out every last drop of potential from the existing equipment.

Guardian: UK public support for fracking falls to lowest level yet

Public support for fracking has fallen to new lows, a government survey has revealed. Just 17% of people backed the process of extracting shale gas, compared with a third who opposed it, and just under half (48%) who had no opinion, the latest figures from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) show. It is the lowest level of support for fracking since the public attitudes tracker started asking about shale gas, and comes amid increased awareness of the process, with about four-fifths (79%) of those quizzed claiming to know something about it. Support for renewables remained high, the survey showed, with almost eight in 10 (79%) backing the clean technologies, and just one in 25 (4%) opposed. Only 1% strongly opposed renewables. The survey of 2,080 UK households found that 71% of people backed onshore wind – the highest level since the tracker began – while 75% were in favour of offshore wind, and 82% backed solar. The poll, conducted shortly after the government finally gave the go-ahead to a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, Somerset, also saw support for nuclear energy fall to 33%, from 36% three months earlier and 38% in the spring.

Euractiv: European Parliament’s backing of fracking outrages critics

Although the EU’s gas demand is at a 20-year-low, the bloc’s falling production volume, as reported by the European Commission back in February, has led to fears of a gas shortage. The Commission has been clear that more imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) are vital, despite more power being generated by wind and solar power. The executive’s main objective is more gas imports from third countries, but also building cross-border gas storage using the Connecting Europe Facility and structural funds. According to analysis by the European Policy Centre, the EU’s existing LNG terminals can only cope with 195 million cubic metres per year, which is between 40% and 50% of the EU’s annual demand. Critics are not convinced by these arguments. The fact that the European Parliament adopted the EU’s LNG strategy and gas storage by a majority just a few days before the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate was not well received. The production, delivery and use of LNG causes methane leakage, which is more damaging to the environment than CO2. The Parliament’s decision also welcomed more fracked gas from the United States. The related report by the energy committee said that a single energy market with fully integrated LNG and gas storage is essential to a crisis-proof Energy Union.

Independent: Heathrow third runway poses ‘serious obstacle’ to fight against climate change

Allowing Heathrow to expand will create “a serious obstacle” to meeting the UK’s commitments on climate change and reducing air pollution, a leading scientist has warned. Environmental groups expressed dismay at the Government’s decision to give a third runway at the airport the go-ahead – and Greenpeace vowed to challenge it in the courts. Activists also signalled they would launch a campaign of direct action by locking themselves together on a mock runway outside the Westminster Parliament. The Government said it believed a new runway at Heathrow could be created while still meeting the UK’s “obligations” to cut carbon emissions. But an analysis of official figures by the Carbon Brief website found that the rising demand for flights could mean aviation could emit up to two-thirds of the maximum amount of greenhouse gases that the whole of the UK can produce by 2050 if it is to stick to its commitments on climate change. This would mean drastic cuts in emissions produced by other sources, particularly from power stations, transport and heating systems. Professor Joanna Haigh, co-director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, said she thought the Government had made a mistake. “Expansion at Heathrow, or any other airport, will create a serious obstacle to the UK meeting its greenhouse gas and air quality targets,” she said.

Herald Scotland: Conservationists warn of environment threat posed by Brexit

There will be a huge drive within the UK Government to rip up laws which protect nature, prevent pollution and set standards for a clean environment following Brexit, a leading Scottish conservationist is warning. The Scottish Parliament will today debate the potential impact of Brexit on the environment and climate change. Dr Richard Dixon Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland said MSPs had to be vigilant: “The UK is currently supposed to contribute to meeting European climate, energy efficiency and renewable energy targets. After Brexit we will need to agree new climate targets with the United Nations. Scotland’s targets are already significantly more ambitious that the current overall UK targets but any agreement with the UN may be on the basis of those weaker UK targets, reducing the drive for a low-carbon economy. After Brexit, there will be no compulsion on the UK to set any targets for energy saving or green energy, which are both essential for meeting Scotland’s ambitious climate targets. The current UK Government’s energy priorities are nuclear power and fracking, and they have already reduced support for renewable energy. There is a real danger that Scotland will toughen up its own climate target, to play its fair part in delivering the UN Paris Agreement, only to be held back by UK energy market rules rigged to support nuclear power.”

Independent: Brexit sees UK drop to new low in global renewable energy league table

The UK has fallen to its lowest position on an international league table of the best countries to invest in renewable energy following Brexit and Theresa May’s decision to scrap the Energy and Climate Change Department. Analysts EY, part of financial giant Ernst & Young Global, put Britain, normally a regular in the top 10, in 14th place on the Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index, just behind Morocco. The UK energy industry has complained that numerous and sudden changes in Government policy are putting off potential investors in any kind of electricity generation, threatening what could be a “golden age” of cheap and green power. In a report, EY said: “Uncertainty caused by Brexit, the closure of the Department of Energy & Climate Change and the approval of [nuclear power plant] Hinkley Point C all dealt a sizeable blow to the UK renewables sector. The league table was led by the US, followed by China in second, then India, Chile and Germany. However EY suggested a Republican victory in next month’s US election could change that.

Herald Scotland: Profits plunge at Scottish Power Renewables amid lighter winds

Scottish Power has suffered a near 30 per cent fall in profits at its key renewables arm after changes in weather conditions posed challenges. The Glasgow-based giant said Scottish Power Renewables made £156.9m underlying profits in the first nine months of 2016, down £62.8m, 28.6 per cent, from £219.7m in the same period last year. Scottish Power, which is owned by Spain’s Iberdrola, said the fall in profits was largely driven by the 26 per cent reduction in total first half output from assets such as windfarms. The division regained some ground in the latest three months, when output increased by 5.9 per cent annually. The update underlines how big an impact variations in weather conditions can have on wind power businesses.

Independent: Incandescent light bulbs set for comeback

The problem with older light bulbs, which have not changed in their basic design since the days of Thomas Edison more than a century ago, is that they generate light by heating a thin filament of wire to very high temperatures. This unfortunately means that about 95 per cent of the electrical energy used to power a light bulb is converted into heat and only 5 per cent into visible light, making it one of the most inefficient methods of lighting up a room. However, a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have devised a way of capturing the infrared heat released when the tungsten filament of an incandescent bulb is heated to about 2,700C, and converting this waste energy into visible light. The researchers built a secondary structure around the incandescent filament which reflected the infrared light given off by the heated wire back to the filament where it is re-absorbed and then re-emitted as visible light. Because the secondary “filters” are not in direct physical contact with the hot filaments they are not destroyed by the high temperatures. The scientists have called the technology “light recycling” because it takes the useless wavelengths of infrared light, which nobody can see, and converts them to visible light. The efficiency of conventional incandescent lights is between 2 and 3 percent, while that of fluorescents is currently between 7 and 13 percent, and that of compact LEDs between 5 and 15 percent, the MIT scientists said. In contrast, the prototype device has so far reached about 6.6 per cent efficiency, which is a threefold improvement on existing incandescent light bulbs, but with further design improvements it should be possible to reach 40 per cent efficiency, they said.

Los Angeles Times: Species may be listed as threatened based on climate change projections, court says

Federal authorities may list a species as “threatened” based on climate models that show habitat loss in the coming decades, an appeals court decided Monday. The state of Alaska, oil company groups and Alaskan natives had challenged a decision by the federal government to list a sea ice seal subspecies as threatened and deserving of protection. The challengers maintained the subspecies’ population was currently healthy and the climate projections were speculative. A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. The panel decided unanimously that the National Marine Fisheries Services reasonably determined that loss of Arctic sea ice over shallow waters would “almost certainly” threaten the survival of a Pacific bearded seal subspecies by the end of the century. “The service need not wait until a species’ habitat is destroyed to determine that habitat loss may facilitate extinction,” Judge Richard A. Paez, a Clinton appointee, wrote for the court. A lawyer for an environmental group that sought the listing said the 9th Circuit decision was particularly significant because it allowed for protection of a species based on models of conditions at the end of the century. “This legal victory is likely to have major implications for many other climate-threatened species,” said Kristen Monsell, a staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, which sought the listing.

NPR: Antarctica’s Ice Sheets Are Melting Faster — And From Beneath

Antarctica’s ice has been melting, most likely because of a warming climate. Now, newly published research shows the rate of melting appears to be accelerating. Antarctica is bigger than the U.S. and Mexico combined, and it’s covered in deep ice — more than a mile deep in some places. Most of the ice sits on bedrock, but it slowly flows off the continent’s edges. Along the western edge, giant glaciers creep down toward the sea. Where they meet the ocean, they form ice shelves. Although the shelves float, they’re still connected to the mainland. The point at which the ice shelf is no longer supported by bedrock is called the “grounding line.” A team from JPL has been studying that grounding line in several places along the edge of the West Antarctic ice sheet. They used radar to look beneath the ice. In particular, overflights have targeted ice shelves along the West Antarctic ice sheet known as the Amundsen Sea Embayment. They’ve found that the ice is melting faster than they’ve ever seen. The researchers believe the cause is warm water circulating beneath the ice shelf. The melting was most pronounced from 2002 to 2009. (The influx of warmer water to the region stalled recently, and the rate of melting seems to have slowed somewhat.)

Mail: Climate change is to blame for extreme winters in the US and UK, researchers claim

An indirect effect of climate change may be causing intensely cold winters in the UK and US, a study suggests. Warming in the Arctic is thought to be influencing the jet stream, a high-altitude corridor of fast-moving air, leading to severe cold snaps. It may have been responsible for record snowfall in New York during the winter of 2014/15, and unusually cold winters in the UK in 2009/10 and 2010/11. Previous studies have shown that when the jet stream follows a ‘wavy’ irregular path there are more cold weather fronts plunging south from the Arctic into mid-latitudes, bringing freezing conditions that persist for weeks at a time. When the jet stream flows strongly and steadily from west to east, winter weather in the UK and other countries in the temperate belt between the tropics and the Arctic is milder. Lead researcher Professor Edward Hanna, from the University of Sheffield, said: ‘We’ve always had years with wavy and not so wavy jet stream winds, but in the last one to two decades the warming Arctic could well have been amplifying the effects of the wavy patterns. This may have contributed to some recent extreme cold winter spells along the eastern seaboard of the United States, in eastern Asia, and at times over the UK.’

Glamour: Climate change to increase child marriage…..

1.) Bangladesh has been ravaged by flooding and cyclones in recent years.
2.) Some 30 percent of girls in Bangladesh get married before they turn 15, meaning it has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. What could those two things possibly have in common? They’re both the product of climate change. It might seem crazy, but it’s true: Around the world, climate change disproportionately affects people living in poverty, especially poor women and girls. In Bangladesh, for example, big shifts in weather patterns have caused cyclones, flooding, and droughts, forcing families that spent generations farming the countryside to pick up and leave. To survive, they’re are forced to relocate to cities to look for work, and families often resort to marrying off their young daughters so they have fewer mouths to feed.

UC San Diego: …. and to cause politicians to lose office more frequently

The electoral fate of standing politicians depends heavily upon voters’ well-being. Might climate change by amplifying threats to human well-being cause standing democratic politicians and parties to lose office more frequently? Here I conduct the first-ever investigation of the relationship between temperature, electoral returns, and future climate change. Using data from over 1.5 billion votes in over 4,800 electoral contests held in 19 countries between 1925 and 2011, coupled with meteorological data, I show that annual temperatures above 16C-21C (60F-70F) markedly decrease officeholders’ vote share. I combine these empirical estimates with an ensemble of climate models to project the impact of climate change on the fate of future officeholders. Forecasts indicate that by 2099 climate change may reduce average standing party vote share by over five percentage points in nations with already weak democratic institutions, causing incumbent parties and their politicians to lose office with increasing frequency. These findings indicate that exogenously driven democratic turnover may be the most regular and pervasive potential impact of climate change on political systems.

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20 Responses to Blowout Week 148

  1. Joe Public says:

    RenewEconomy: The myth of renewables threatening grid stability

    Germany’s power grid outage averaged 12.7 minutes last year, 41% less than in 2006, even though renewables have grown to account for as much as a third of power generation in the country, according to data released by the federal regulator last week. This put to rest concerns about intermittent sources of power threatening grid stability.

    Disingenuous for RenewEconomy to omit mention the fact Germany has already had to recognise special & expensive measures need be taken to avoid the problems SA experienced:

    The German Energy Storage RD&D Initiative
    IEA Expert Group on Energy R&D and Priority Setting (EGRD) 22/23 October 2014, BMWi Berlin, Germany

    Joint RD&D Initiative “Energy Storage Technologies” (
    • Call for proposals in 2011: 402 proposals, 925 Mio. € funding requested
    • Coordinated approach by 3 ministries; one-stop-shop for applicants
    • Objectives of the initiative:
    • Develop medium-term and long-term solutions to cope with the increasing electricity feed-in from volatile renewable energy sources
    • Address short fluctuations as well as long-term variations


    German utility WEMAG, in partnership with storage software leader Younicos, began the construction on a project that will nearly triple the storage capacity of Schwerin battery park.

    “Especially with regard to the expansion of renewable energies and the future shutdown of old power plants, it is necessary to invest in technologies to ensure the quality of supply and grid stability.”

  2. Joe Public says:

    The Hill: Iowa wind farm generates more tax credits than electricity

    Paul Homewood showed that UK’s wind farms are capable of generating 2x as much revenue from generating ROCs & constraint payments as from generating electricity:

    His point being picked up a week later by Christopher Booker in the Torygraph:

  3. A C Osborn says:

    Here is one that you missed, from Tallblokes Talkshop.

    This engine has tested at 100% more efficient than current engines, but pundits are saying it will have trouble being introduced due to the interest and exapnsion of All Electric cars.
    This Engine would cost about $100 to produce and double current fuel economy and decrease CO2. The world would be absolutley mad not to jump at it if this is true.

  4. Ducdorlean says:

    Lol … Who’s responsible in SA ? .. let’s do a poll, and the ‘majority’ will decide who is ..

    How come we have fallen so Low ?

  5. Alistair Buckoke says:

    In seeking to tie down some of the loose ends in your ‘Holy Grail of Battery Storage’ post (Aug 18), I’ve had another look at the Gigha example and produced my own analysis as below. The upshot seems a long way from your $100 /KWh holy grail. I wonder if you would comment on what I have set out.

    Grid-Scale Batteries: A Case in Point

    Power supplies on the island of Gigha have been a recent focus (Blowout Week 142 September 17 Herald Scotland article, Post of August 18, 2016, Roger Andrews, and ensuing commentary). This tiny island off the west coast of Scotland has four wind turbines which are connected to the mainland grid via an ageing cable, which seems not to be able to cope with the large voltage fluctations produced by the turbines, hence the need to improve the quality of the supply. RedT, the company who have been contracted to supply and install a grid-scale battery on the island, have stated that the nameplate capacity of the turbines is 1.1 MW, the capacity of their battery is 1.68 MWh, and the funding for the project is £3.6 million. Their website text establishes that the turbine nameplate capacity is nearer 1.0 MW, and that the battery is able to maintain power supplies for 12 hours, into the grid connection.

    The capacity of the Vanadium Redox flow battery would be able to deliver 1.68 MW for one hour, or 140 KW for 12 hours. If the island was not connected to the grid then loss of wind power would presumably mean phoning around to tell people to turn off their storage heaters and immersion heaters, and not use their electric kettles, assuming no other back-up supply was available. And all for the princely sum of £3.6 million.

    The battery technology is relatively new and this is a pilot project, so some significant extra costs will be expected. The website is light on what the funding is intended to cover, but it is reasonable to assume it will include administration and research costs, costs connected with land purchase or leasing and associated access agreements, associated legal costs, grid connection, a repair and maintenance contract for a defined period (2.5 years?) and decommissioning costs. These are all in addition to manufacture, transportation, installation and commissioning of the batteries, housed in no fewer than eight 20ft shipping containers (and not one as in the Herald Scotland article). Presumably also, the funding does not include the installation of the fourth wind turbine. There is no indication in the website text that it does. Undoubtedly, a larger scale project using established technology would be able to dilute some of the costs, but many would still apply, scaled-up to the level of the project. RedT are at pains to point out that low cost delivery is an important aim.

    If one opted for a hypothetical conservative figure of £2.8 million to fund the project under established conditions and assuming some economies of scale, then this works out at £1666 /KWh. If one assumed that costs could be halved under even more economic circumstances (£1.8 million total), the provision cost would still be over £1000 /KWh (£1071). Further still, cost reductions to 25% of the project figure would yield £536 /KWh.

    Current estimates for the Coire Glas pumped-storage scheme are an £800 million pricetag for 30 GWh. This project is considered to be an expensive way of delivering 1 GW of power for just 30 hours, but the provision cost works out at £26.66 /KWh.

    Beyond the micro-scale confines of Gigha, a need for grid-scale battery packages which might typically provide 1 GW for 15 days is easily conceivable, contributing to dealing with the eventualities of winter-time anticyclones, summer calms or recharging periods. Using the arithmetic for the Gigha scheme and the derived need for 360,000,000 KWh (1GW x 360 hours), the conservative estimate of £1000/KWh yields a price tag of £360 billion, the equivalent of a little over 17 Hinckley Points (@£21 bn each).

    Everything hinges on the holy grail price. The UK Government funded scheme on Gigha seems not in this category at all. Doubtless there may be other costs met by the funding, but there is not much to suggest this on the website. I have checked my figures, but can’t as yet find any mistakes.

    • Alistair: I haven’t checked your sums but it’s hard to see how £1,666/kWh can be right. The Tesla 10kWh wall unit costs $3,500 – say $5,000 with installation – which works out to only $350/kWh. And as you rightly point out Coire Glas comes in at only £27/kWh. We might, however, get close to your estimate if we had enough data to cost the hydro generation at El Hierro, which is another small island renewables system that isn’t working very well. You might be interested in looking at some of the posts on this project, which are linked to in the “El Hierro Portal” just above the Blowout Week 148 heading.

      • Alistair Buckoke says:

        £2800000 divided by 1680 KWh gives £1666.66 per KWh. This is using figures published by a company, so are subject to the Companies Act. So either there is something in the funding which is not accounted for in the text, or, since it is directly government funded, the costs have been seriously racked up. Or deliberately racked up by the funding agency? Again, if so, this would be potentially subject to public scrutiny so would be less likely. Or would it, given the relatively small sums? The 25% figure of £536 is getting closer to the Tesla wall figure.

        On balance, it looks like someone thinking that the grid battery idea is too expensive anyway, but at the same time making sure that it looks that way. The Coire Glas figure has to be a significant underestimate.

  6. JerryC says:

    The Venezuela story is incredibly sad. These utopian idealists always leave disaster upon disaster in their wake, but it’s always someone else’s fault.

  7. John F. Hultquist says:

    About the only uplifting item in all these things is Warren Buffett’s honesty.

  8. Greg Kaan says:

    Does anyone here find this report about looming blackouts for France at all credible? It seems like a large leap from not being able to export to Britain as discussed in the Financial Times article.

    • gweberbv says:


      the electricity demand in France is highly dependent on the heating demand, i. e. outdoor temperatures. On very cold days some problems might occur.
      On the other hand we can see that Japan somehow manages to survive with nearly all NPP shut down. If that is possible for an island (more precisely: group of islands), France that has several interconnectors should be able to compensate for the loss of some of its NPP.

      • Greg Kaan says:

        I think the point Craig Morris was making was that France has very little base load capacity other than it’s nuclear fleet. Japan, OTH has a large number of coal and gas plants precisely because it is a set of islands.

        I wonder if the ASN will allow more of the French NP plants to restart in the next month.

        Japan is interesting since their fuel imports for thermal generation must form a substantial portion of their total imports hence the reactor restarts and new builds that are planned and underway.

    • Stuart Brown says:

      Peak demand yesterday was at 19:00 – imports 4449MW, exports 4824MW. In fact France appears to have been a conduit from Belgium and Germany to Spain, Switzerland and the UK (Merci, mes amis) all day long, with imports and exports roughly equal.

      Of course, it’s not that cold yet, but tests on some of the reactors are completed already. Anyone know when they will restart?

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