Blowout week 154

This week we kick off with the controversial appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the US Environment Protection Agency. Else where in the news non-OPEC exporters agree to cut production by 500,000 bpd; Glencore and Qatar buys a stake in Rosneft; Shell moves into Iran; National Grid sells a majority stake in the UK gas transmission system and 9 Yak herders are killed by an avalanche in Tibet to join the lengthening list of those killed by climate change.

Image: Leonardo DiCaprio failed to persuade Donald Trump to appoint Al Gore to lead the EPA 😉 Roger should be back next week.

The Guardian:  Donald Trump picks climate change sceptic Scott Pruitt to lead EPA

Scott Pruitt, attorney general of Oklahoma and a sceptic of climate science, has been chosen by Donald Trump as the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the US Environmental Protection Agency is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “He is a climate science denier who, as attorney general for the state of Oklahoma, regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA regulations. Nothing less than our children’s health is at stake.

NY Times:  Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Climate Change Denialist, to Lead E.P.A.

President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, signaling Mr. Trump’s determination to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to counter climate change — and much of the E.P.A. itself.

Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies, actions that fit with the president-elect’s comments during the campaign. Mr. Trump has criticized the established science of human-caused global warming as a hoax, vowed to “cancel” the Paris accord committing nearly every nation to taking action to fight climate change, and attacked Mr. Obama’s signature global warming policy, the Clean Power Plan, as a “war on coal.”

The FT:  Non-Opec producers agree to cut oil output

Opec has won the backing of countries outside of the oil cartel to join supply cuts for the first time since 2001, overcoming the final major obstacle for a global agreement to curb output.

Russia, the biggest oil exporter outside of the group, alongside other countries such as Mexico, Oman and Azerbaijan on Saturday agreed to reduce their production by more than 500,000 barrels a day. Exact numbers are still being finalised by ministers.

Any agreement in Vienna is designed to speed the end of the worst oil downturn in a generation by mopping up excess supplies and boost prices, providing some relief to resource-rich nations whose economies have taken a big hit.

The Telegraph:  Glencore and Qatar help plug Russia’s budget hole with investment in Rosneft

The Kremlin has sold a stake in its biggest oil company Rosneft to the London-listed commodities firm Glencore and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, as part of Russia’s attempts to stabilise its economy.

Rosneft, like its government owners, has been laid low by tumbling oil prices and international tensions in recent years and is worth a fraction of its former value.

Glencore and the Qatar Investment Authority have taken a 19.5pc stake in the firm for €10.5bn (£8.9bn). Rosneft was worth $80bn when it floated a minority stake in 2006.”

The BBC:  Glencore and Qatar buy $11.3bn stake in Russia’s largest oil company

The Kremlin has announced that commodities trader Glencore and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund are together buying a 19.5% stake in Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil company.

“It is the largest privatisation deal, the largest sale and acquisition in the global oil and gas sector in 2016,” President Vladimir Putin said.

The surprise move sees Glencore and Qatar paying $11.3bn for the stake in Rosneft, where BP already owns 19.75%.

Moscow will keep the controlling stake.

Bloomberg:  Shell Returns to Iran With Deal to Assess Oil and Gas Fields

Royal Dutch Shell Plc signed an agreement to assess three of Iran’s largest oil and gas fields as OPEC’s third-biggest producer looks to boost output with the help of international companies.

Shell signed a memorandum of understanding to evaluate the Azadegan and Yadavaran oil fields near the Iraqi border, and the Kish gas deposit in the Persian Gulf, Gholam-Reza Manouchehri, deputy director of the National Iranian Oil Co., said at a signing ceremony in Tehran on Wednesday.

“We’re happy to resume working in Iran,” Hans Nijkamp, Shell’s vice president for Iran, said at the ceremony. “We are hoping to have a fruitful cooperation with NIOC on these fields.”

Reuters:  Shell, Iran agree on future oil and gas development

Royal Dutch Shell signed a provisional agreement on Wednesday to develop Iranian oil and gas fields, an Iranian official said, the first deal by the world’s second biggest listed oil firm in Iran since sanctions were lifted.

The Anglo-Dutch company confirmed it had signed a memorandum of understanding with National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) on Wednesday “to further explore areas of potential cooperation”, declining to give further details.

Analysts said the agreement underscored major oil companies’ willingness to keep doing business with Iran despite the risk that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump could scrap the nuclear deal that ended the sanctions earlier this year.

The BBC:  German nuclear firms ‘can claim compensation over shutdown’

German energy suppliers can claim compensation over the country’s phasing out of nuclear power by 2022, a court has ruled.

Judges did not agree with power plant operators that the shutdown, ordered after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, was an “expropriation” of their assets.

But they ruled the government should agree a deal to compensate the firms.

The phasing out of nuclear power is a flagship policy of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.

The Guardian:  Diesel farms make fresh bids to supply National Grid back-up power

The owner of Britain’s energy network is gearing up to buy more power from suppliers to ensure the country’s lights stay on, with polluting diesel generators among the providers vying for contracts.

The National Grid needs back-up electricity sources that kick in when, for instance, demand is high but the weather is not breezy enough to power wind farms. It secures this back-up power through the annual capacity market auction that begins on Tuesday and will see controversial “diesel farms” taking part.

Utility Week:  Policy spillovers ‘muddy the waters’ around capacity market

Spillovers from other policies “muddy the waters” around the capacity market, adding to uncertainty and undermining investment, management consultancy firm Baringa Partners has warned.

Government policy must be much better integrated if the mechanism is to achieve its aims of securing Britain’s electricity supply.

“Right now, there is a limit to what the capacity auction can achieve,” said Baringa energy retail and networks partner Phil Grant. “Regulation, incentives and subsidies flowing from other policy frameworks muddy the waters, creating risk and undermining investment opportunities.”

Mercom Capital:  Mercom Forecasts 76 GW in Global Solar Installations in 2016, a 48% YoY Increase Over 2015

Mercom Capital Group, llc, a global clean energy communications and consulting firm, forecasts global solar installations to reach 76 GW in 2016. Solar installations to hit 70 GW in 2017.

“Global solar demand will overshoot most forecasts made earlier this year due to an unprecedented level of activity in China,” said Raj Prabhu, CEO and Co-Founder of Mercom Capital Group. “Record installations in China followed by a slowdown resulted in an oversupply situation, which led to a module price crash. Low module prices are helping demand recovery going into 2017.”

The BBC:  Cryogenic storage offers hope for renewable energy

The world’s largest cold energy storage plant is being commissioned at a site near Manchester.

The cryogenic energy facility stores power from renewables or off-peak generation by chilling air into liquid form.

When the liquid air warms up it expands and can drive a turbine to make electricity.

The 5MW plant near Manchester can power up to 5,000 homes for around three hours.

The BBC:  National Grid sells majority stake in gas pipe network

National Grid has agreed to sell a majority stake in its gas pipe network to a group of investors.

The UK’s power network operator said it would sell a 61% stake in the distribution business in a deal that values the division at about £13.8bn.

The consortium of investors is led by Australian asset managers Macquarie, with backing from Qatari and Chinese state investors.

National Grid will return £4bn to shareholders after the deal.

The auction for the gas network has been running for at least a year and saw the Macquarie consortium fight off a raft of competitors, including a team led by Chinese investors.

IEEE Spectrum:  Germany’s Aggressive Switch to Renewables Will Save €149 Billion

The switch to renewables in Germany is saving money and creating jobs, according to a new economic analysis by the international consulting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC). The report finds that the German government’s 2015-2020 climate action plan and energy efficiency measures will save about 149 billion euros.

Research that appeared last month in Earth Systems Science Data suggested that global carbon dioxide emissions will be growing slowly, thanks in part to reduction moves by China and the United States. Several research projects have that a downturn in the use of fossil fuels in the United States that would come from switches to renewable energy could save U.S. consumers money, but coal’s not dead yet. President-Elect Donald Trump insisted during the campaign season that supporting the U.S. coal industry will help the economy and create jobs. Meanwhile, India plans to double coal production by 2020.

The BBC:  Western Isles ‘betrayed’ by wind farm subsidy delay

Political leaders in the Western Isles have accused the UK government of a “betrayal” over plans to curb subsidies for new wind farms.

Two major schemes, which already have planning consent, are expected to result in a £1bn investment in Lewis.

But last month the developments were frozen out of the latest round of subsidies for renewable energy.

The UK government said it was committed to renewable energy with £13bn invested in UK projects last year.
Wind projects in Orkney and Shetland have also been put on hold.

The IB Times:  Aging US Power Grid Blacks Out More Than Any Other Developed Nation

The United States endures more blackouts than any other developed nation as the number of U.S. power outages lasting more than an hour have increased steadily for the past decade, according to federal databases at the Department of Energy (DOE) and the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC).

According to federal data, the U.S. electric grid loses power 285 percent more often than in 1984, when the data collection effort on blackouts began. That’s costing American businesses as much as $150 billion per year, the DOE reported, with weather-related disruptions costing the most per event.

Ohio State University:  Researchers: Climate change likely caused deadly 2016 avalanche in Tibet

COLUMBUS, Ohio—With a deadly avalanche, it appears climate change may now be affecting a once stable region of the Tibetan Plateau.

That’s the conclusion of an international team of researchers who have published an analysis of the July 2016 disaster in the Dec. 9 issue of the Journal of Glaciology.

On July 17, more than 70 million tons of ice broke off from the Aru glacier in the mountains of western Tibet and tumbled into a valley below, taking the lives of nine nomadic yak herders living there.

The most important fact about the avalanche, said Thompson, is that it lasted only four or five minutes (according to witnesses), yet it managed to bury 3.7 square miles of the valley floor in that time. He said something—likely meltwater at the base of the glacier—must have lubricated the ice to speed its flow down the mountain.

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34 Responses to Blowout week 154

  1. Alex says:

    The German nuclear compensation claim is interesting. The claims amount to between €10 and 0 billion, which actually seems quite low given the amount of capacity that is being shut down.

    It raises a question of when is compensation due if businesses lose out due to political moves by Government.

    As it is, it’s a heft bill to attribute to the Energiewende.

    • Barbara Schneider says:

      Actually the utilities are just discussing dropping the lawsuits and giving some billions to the government to buy themselves free of all future obligations.
      The early shutdown is just a lifeline. Now there is something to bargain which would have not been there if the phase out would have followed the original plan.
      Utilities never wanted nuclear in Germany. The government wanted nuclear. Problem is that it always was expensive and uncompetitive with coal in Germany.
      It’s not clear why Germany even tried nuclear power. Just makes no sense at all.
      The domestic industry was always weak and exports where neglectable.

      • robertok06 says:

        “It’s not clear why Germany even tried nuclear power. Just makes no sense at all.”
        It is not clear only to those who are ideologically blinded… like you seem to be (just look at the moronic logo you’ve chosen… the famous shining sun of Germany right?… ahahaha… and compare it to the DATA in the link here below):

        Does a bell ring in your head Barbara?… or ideology as really taken all of your gray matter? Yes? No?

        How about KILLING tens of people for each TWh of electricity generated via the “less expensive” coal and lignite power stations?… you know, those things that people like you prefer over clean nuclear, those things on which the intermittent wind and photovoltaics rely on when there’s no wind and no sun?

        What a pathetic, baseless, ideology-driven comment you’ve made… shame on you.

        • Javier says:

          Now we could discuss contamination from burning coal as we know it is a very serious problem and what is happening in China.

          But CO2?

          It is a harmless gas that has a huge set of beneficial properties. It enhances plant growth, ecosystem productivity, and protects from cooling. And the cold is known to cause hundreds of thousands of deaths every year.

          The dangers and harm from CO2 are all hypothetical and not supported by the evidence.

          Frankly the more CO2 we produce the better we will be. Perhaps we should consider burning limestone to accelerate the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.

          • Hugh Sharman says:

            @Javier, we are already “burning” limestone when we make cement. 10% of emitted CO2 globally comes from making cement!

          • robertok06 says:

            Helo Javier:

            you are obviously right, CO2 per se does not kill anybody, and so far its increased concentration has brought a net benefit to mankind… there’s plenty of literature on that.
            I was simply using the arguments of the anti-nuclear people like Barbara, that’s it… for them the poisonous CO2 is the source of all evil.
            Clearly the emissions which kill people by the hundred of thousands every year (just normal operation, leaving accidents out) are those related to other than CO2, like fine particulate, heavy metals, arsenic, NOx, SO2, ozone precursors, etc… which are all linked to the non-nuclear baseload alternative, like all fossil fuels (with different degrees, of course).


      • Alex says:

        Agreed – German energy policy has been dictated by the needs of coal for too long. The utilities would have been quite happy to go 100% coal and not worry about nuclear – so just as well the politicians disagreed. Hopefully, one day, Germany will get over coal.

        Nevertheless, once the plants are up and running, closing them just loses everyone money, so it makes sense for the energy companies to be reimbursed.

        The Government will also have to top up the decomissioning fund as they’ve found out that 25 years of payments are not the same as 50 years.

      • Leo Smith says:

        Golly. Where on earth did you drege up that load of blatherskite?

  2. Davey says:

    Results for this years capacity market price of £22.5  KW per year gives no significant new capacity though secures existing power station.

    500MW of new batteries reported by Guardian
    Leighton Buzzard  battery coat £19 million for 10MWh.

    Also 2 new reciprocating gas engines which I’m  told can operate at a lower load  capacity than CCGT

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Are you able to explain to me and everyone else what the £22.50 / MW / year means.

      • Hugh Sharman says:


        £22.5/kW (not MW) per year is paid to the successful Capacity Market Unit (CMU) for being available when called upon by National Grid to be available for the full amount of capacity contracted. So (for example) a 500 MW CCGT will get £11.25 million during the mentioned year, irrespective of energy sales.

        Even if never called upon by National Grid to be available, it still receives that money, which is included in the “energy transmission” fraction of the consumers’ obligation to pay.

        It is curious to see lithium battery storage (average full battery discharge time 15 – 30 minutes) apparently receiving the same capacity fee as a conventional power station capable of running for weeks on end.

        The energy market will remain volatile, as long as highly subsidized, non-despatchable generators (wind, PV etc) also have priority on the grid if available. No investor in his/her right mind will invest in fixed plant that cannot compete for much of the year in the volatile energy market resulting from such market distortion.

        • Alex says:

          Basically, in the future, capacity and generation will be priced separately. In an efficient market – and the generation market is fairly close to that in this regard – that should push down the KWh price of fossil fuel power stations.

          I haven’t seen the rules for capacity duration, but I assume it’s like the STOR market, whereby you have to be able to provide the capacity for a period of 4 hours, and you will get a days notice.

          So a battery unit could receive a call to provide 1MW between 5pm and 9pm tomorrow. They will then have to decide when to charge up – probably over night.

          • GeoffM says:

            “They will then have to decide when to charge up”

            A problem here: a document from the Leighton Buzzard website admits that at times when they wanted to charge up they weren’t able to do so. They don’t explain why.

            Lack of available energy?
            Congestion on the local grid?

          • Hugh Sharman says:

            @ Alex
            100% of the “successful” batteries in this contract are lithium ion based and can offer at best 30 minutes of output at their rated capacity when new.

            If they try to keep them busy with arbitrage activity, they will also wear out very rapidly and the residual storage after (say) 5 years will be more like 15 minutes!

          • Alex says:

            @Hugh: You wouldn’t want to charge and discharge Li-ion in 30 minutes. Not efficient.

            Four hours is a good charge time. Li ion is cost justified on charging up overnight (Economy 7 if you do it domestically) and using it or exporting it during the day, and getting a capacity payment.

          • Leo Smith says:

            When we used to use em for model planes we aimed to cram the electrons back in in half an hour. They did get a bit warm. but not as warm as discharging them totally in 3 minutes made em 😉

            efficiency was only slightly affected by faster charging

        • Euan Mearns says:

          52.4 GW contracted at £22.5 per kW = £1.179 billion per annum paid to generators for simply existing. Is that right?

          • Davey says:

            Yes the government pays a 1 billion pounds to ensure capacity of 52 GW otherwise thermal power stations would simply close as they are paid per MWh at wholesale prices and operate below designed capacity.

            Wind power produces a whopping 38 TWh per year so imagine renewables have  taken a massive chunk out of power stations profitably 

            This is not enough to ensure new build CCGT and a capacity double payment of 40 kW per year or strike price of £72 per MWh. So capacity payments have failed to deliver what they are intended for delivering new generation capacity. Greens claim we don’t need new generation capacity and we should rely on DSR and storage.

            Power stations are also paid for flexibility or powering up and down.  Load balancing costs national grid £1 billion rising to 2 billion.

            500MW and 1.5GW of Demand Side Response  are included in capacity auction

            But remember renewables getting cheaper


          • A C Osborn says:

            Euan, this makes clear the real cost of going green.


            It looks like the MSM is finally beginning to take notice of the government’s madness.

  3. Rod says:

    Now that the penetration of wind generation in the UK energy mix is now so high that “dirty diesel “backup may be required to keep the lights on if the wind fails, should not the renewable energy suppliers have “produce or pay penalties” if they don’t meet contractual minimums.

  4. It doesn't add up... says:

    I have been trying to find out more about this project:

    Perhaps they don’t really know themselves

    Energy Reservoirs has yet to appoint a supplier and is currently attracting quotes from a number of potential partners, the majority of which are offering lithium-ion batteries.


    Price expressed some concern over the continuing lack of clarity regarding the regulations governing the Capacity Market, which remain consistently vague. They do not outline the requirements of winning projects in how to meet the possible demands of a ‘Capacity Market event’ in which providers must supply energy at times of system stress.

    Price warned that there is no clarity over how contract winners are intending to use their batteries to meet these requirements, which could potentially last several hours.


  5. Dave Ward says:

    It’s been a long time since I was anywhere near a science lab, but how do you liquefy AIR? It’s composed of many gasses, principally nitrogen and oxygen, and they liquefy or vaporise back to a gas at different temperatures.

    • robertok06 says:

      You cool it down, and then it gets liquid.
      To do that you use electricity, which is only partially regenerated back when the liquid is re-heated and gets back to gaseous form, to make turbines spin.
      The overall efficiency is low, since losses are high… but if one “incentivizes” it enough there will certainly be someone who’s willing to give it a try.

      On efficiency:
      “AC to AC round trip efficiency – Discharging energy/charging energy. For a stand-alone unit at suitable scale (see below) efficiencies in excess of 60% are possible. Efficiencies >70% can be achieved with the right combination of host site offering waste cold and/or heat.”

      … found here:


      • gweberbv says:

        Could work very well in the likes of Dubai. Dirt cheap PV to liquify the air, while the emerging heat is dumped into the sea. And after sunset, one can discharge to produce electricity plus using the cooling power for AC. But the latter would require district cooling systems. Does such a thing exist?

      • GeoffM says:

        Highview Power Storage are claiming round trip efficiency of 100% in one of their Liquid Air Energy Storage systems……..

    • Hugh Sharman says:

      @Dave Ward, they first separate the oxygen from the nitrogen in an air separator unit (ASU) and use pure liquid nitrogen in the storage cycle. So if you already are working with an existing ASU to get oxygen costs tumble and efficiency rises.

  6. climanrecon says:

    I fear for the future of Australia as a major developed economy, it appears that a religious cult has control of the government, and is seeking advice on how to solve the “trilemma”:

    1. The extraction of large amounts of bill-payers money for a myriad of useless developments
    2. Making the bill-payers eager to produce this money
    3. Suppression of all dissenting voices

    This cult believes that solar and wind generatORS can replace coal generatORS, and that something called “The Transition” CANNOT BE REVERSED, these are direct quotes from this recent document:

    My medication has allowed me only to read the first few pages.

    • Greg Kaan says:

      The document isn’t that bad when circumstances allow you to read it in its entirety.It states the goal is to reduce CO2 emissions intensity (implicitly assuming the CAGW threat) but then asks multitudes of questions as to how this can be achieved without compromising security of supply and the only answer they can provide is greatly increased gas powered generation.

      The statement on page 23 about the AEMO finding the least worst case of an emission scheme indicates a recognition that the Large Renewable Energy Target has damaged the security of the supply by looking at future options and finding

      an emissions intensity scheme had the least impact on system security whereas the extended LRET had the most impact. This is because the extended LRET was expected to create the highest share of non synchronous generation with a resulting loss in system inertia, if not otherwise compensated for.

      Additionally page 35 states the effect of subsidies in distorting the markets

      Thermal generation is being dispatched less as a result of declining demand and competition from other generators, particularly wind and solar PV, which have short-run marginal costs close to zero (wind and sunshine are free). As a result, wind and solar supress wholesale prices when they are producing. They rely on subsidies under the Renewable Energy Target through the sale of large-scale generation certificates to make up their fixed costs

      Another statement on page 42 that will displease the likes of Giles Parkinson and the “Melbourne Energy Institute” is that excess generation capacity is a good thing, since these worthies often cite over capacity as a reason why coal plants should be closed.

      increases in residential electricity prices are likely to be driven by an increase in the wholesale price after a long period in which prices were suppressed by a large excess of supply over demand. This change is caused by the retirement of two large coal-fired generators – Northern in South Australia in May 2016, and Hazelwood in Victoria in March 2017.

      The most obvious thing about the report is the lack of answers but that should end up being a good thing as the energy ministers may have to face up to the fact the integrating renewables (without mass conversion to gas fired plants) just isn’t technically possible, no matter what the political/environmental goals are.

      Of most concern is the reference to the recent nonsense “Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap” report issued by Energy Networks Australia (a body representing the electricity and gas distrubutors) and the CSIRO. This report embodies the fantasy of zero emissions electricity by 2050 with large scale PV and battery systems self supplying domestic users and wind supplying industry.

      Also of concern is the cost of having this panel of experts producing a report with essentially nothing that I (and doubtless others) could have produced from online study and basic engineering knowledge.

  7. myrddinseren says:

    The switch to renewables in Germany is saving money and creating jobs, according to a new economic analysis by the international consulting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC).

    Bet this is a doosey of a spreadsheet.

    From Deutsche Welle:

    PWC has projected for the 2020 Climate Program: Taken together, 79 individual measures that the program mandates will, according to PWC’s spreadsheets, drive investments totaling 125 billion euros ($132 billion) in cleantech infrastructure over five years from 2015. By 2020, those measures will generate 274 billion euros in savings, mostly by reducing spending on fossil energy.

    WOW – 274 billion euros in savings in only four years ?!

    Any other views readily searchable ?


    The authors argue that, despite the high initial investments of €125 bn, long-term savings of €274 bn, e.g. through reduced energy consumption, will result in a net economic gain of €149 bn.

    Well – if four years is long-term and the payback is over 100% – this would have to be the greatest investment case since Dutch tulips.

  8. robertok06 says:

    ‘By 2020, those measures will generate 274 billion euros in savings, mostly by reducing spending on fossil energy.’

    Sorry to seem harsh, once more, but this is patently wrong/false/bullshit.
    Coal, lignite and gas generate in DE something like 300 billion kWh per year… between now and 2020 there are 4 years… i.e. 1200 billion kWh.. in order to really save 274 B euros each kWh should cost 274/1200=0.2283 Euros… and this assuming that each and every kWh from fossils is replaced at no cost.
    Get jour math straight.

  9. myrddinseren says:

    Sorry to seem harsh, once more, but this is patently wrong/false/bullshit.

    Get jour ( sic ) math straight.


    I hope you are addressing your comments at the scribblers from places linked like DW and E3G who gormlessly rehash and publish this stuff ? And/or the German government for tossing taxpayer Euros at PwC to craft this patent ‘Yes Minister’ white wash ?

    Regret if my /sarc wasn’t obvious but, for the sake of clarity, I think the whole exercise is total bulls**t.

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