Blowout Week 157 – New Year’s Edition

This New Year’s week we feature an important aspect of Europe’s energy supply that often gets ignored. Despite its thorny relations with the EU, Russia continues to supply rapidly increasing amounts of natural gas to Europe. One has to wonder at what point Europe will draw the line and begin to seek alternative and more secure sources of supply. Or maybe Gazprom is in fact Europe’s most secure source , as the Russians claim ….

Vestnik Kavkaza: EU’s gas dependence on Russia hits new record

The share of Gazprom’s gas in the balance of non-CIS countries receiving Russian gas in 2016 reached 33.5%, after (reaching) 31% in 2015.

Gazprom Export’s December corporate bulletin Blue Fuel notes a steady increase in the company’s share of gas on European market, it has already reached approximately 1/3. According to the Interfax news agency, in 2016 Gazprom will supply to non-CIS countries about 179 billion cubic meters of gas (in the past year, the volume was 159.4 billion cubic meters). At the same time, the European market grew by 4-5%, Gazprom’s gas supply to it increased by 13%. The deputy director of energy policy of the Institute of Energy and Finances, Alexey Belogoriev noted that the EU had to increase the purchase of gas from Russia, despite the desire to be less dependent on Gazprom, due to the sharp growth in demand for gas. The choice in favor of large purchases from Russia is explained by the stability of Gazprom as a supplier, despite Europe’s political problems with Moscow. “Over the past 15 years they have not managed to find alternative suppliers of pipeline gas. Supplies of Azerbaijani gas by the TANAP and TAP pipelines will not exceed 11 billion cubic meters by 2025, and it is not much for the European market. Expectations for the North African, Nigerian gas though Algeria were not fulfilled due to resource constraints in the region, and the war in Libya. In fact, the Russian gas competes only with LNG,” Alexey Belogoriev noticed.

Image credit: Energy Market Price

We follow with the usual potpourri of stories: Russians hack a Vermont utility; Toshiba’s nuclear business in trouble; nuclear power in Iran, Switzerland and South Africa; uranium in the US and Spain; Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage; coal in China and India; the Energiewende and the “Trump Effect”; Hawaii accelerates drive for 100% renewables; renewables records fall in Europe; Drax secures its future; post-Brexit investment surge in UK; Scotland’s renewable targets; electric vehicle costs; Swansea Bay tidal project adrift; climate change and Arctic warmth; more blackouts in South Australia and climate skeptics hoping to come in from the cold.

Washington Post: Russians hack a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security

A code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected within the system of a Vermont utility, according to U.S. officials. While the Russians did not actively use the code to disrupt operations, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a security matter, the discovery underscores the vulnerabilities of the nation’s electrical grid. And it raises fears in the U.S. government that Russian government hackers are actively trying to penetrate the grid to carry out potential attacks. Burlington Electric said in a statement that the company detected a malware code used in the Grizzly Steppe operation in a laptop that was not connected to the organization’s grid systems. The firm said it took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alert federal authorities. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said he was briefed on the attempts to penetrate the electric grid by Vermont State Police onFriday evening. “This is beyond hackers having electronic joy rides — this is now about trying to access utilities to potentially manipulate the grid and shut it down in the middle of winter,” Leahy said in a statement. “That is a direct threat to Vermont and we do not take it lightly.”

Wall Street Journal: Toshiba Shares Plunge Further Over Problems at Nuclear-Power Subsidiary

Toshiba Corp. seemed poised to profit from a global nuclear power revival when it paid $5.4 billion to win a bidding war for Westinghouse Electric Co. in 2006. Today, that bet threatens to sink the venerable Japanese conglomerate, as cost overruns and missed deadlines on nuclear reactor projects around the world have forced it to warn investors that it may soon have to report billions of dollars in losses. Toshiba lost a fifth of its market value Wednesday and its stock fell an additional 17% Thursday in Tokyo as panicked investors rushed to sell shares. Currently, 54 reactors are under construction in 13 nations, and 33 are badly delayed, according to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, an independent annual assessment. To lower construction costs and speed erection times, Westinghouse and its competitors came up with cookie-cutter plant designs in which major sections would be built as modules in factories and then hauled to plant sites for final assembly. Gone was the customization that added expense. But the strategy appears to have backfired. “Supply-chain issues just moved from the plant sites to the factories. It didn’t solve the basic issue of quality control,” said Mycle Schneider, a nuclear expert based in Paris.

Azernews: Iran eyes 12 GW of nuclear power generation by 2025

Iran plans to increase its power generation capacity to 100 gigawatts (GW) by 2025, of which 12 percent would be nuclear power, Behrooz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said. “We have a [1-GW Bushehr] nuclear power plant and an agreement on construction of the second nuclear power plant has been sealed [with Russia],” he told IRNA. Iran plans to increase the number of nuclear power plants to 12. According to the latest weekly report released by Energy Ministry, Iran’s nominal power generation capacity stands at 75.916 GW – up by 1.8 GW since the beginning of the current fiscal year on March 21. During the nine months of the current fiscal year, Iran generated 226 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity.

The Wire: Swiss Voters Divided Over Costly Environmental Policy Choices

In November 2016, Swiss citizens voted quite narrowly (55% to 45%) against closing down the country’s nuclear power plants. This means that the country’s five nuclear power plants can continue operating as long as the nuclear safety authority considers them safe. No new nuclear power plants will be built. Domestic electricity production in Switzerland is exclusively based on hydropower (60%) and nuclear energy (40%). One key reason for the No vote was concern that giving up nuclear power would quickly result in more imports of fossil fuels or nuclear energy produced in other countries to fill the gap. The costs of abandoning nuclear energy would be considerable for the power supplier Axpo, which estimated a loss of US$4.1 billion while the loss of competitor Alpiq Holding AG would be US$2.5 billion. Swiss energy policy mandates that the 40% nuclear share in national electricity production should eventually be replaced with renewables, rather than with imports or domestic production of “dirty” electricity. But how to achieve this remains contested. The November 2016 vote thus means that the Swiss have kicked the can down the road for a later decision.

Citizen S. Africa: ‘Hypocritical’ Eskom ‘forcing’ nuclear power on South Africa

While Europe spends mega euros on technology to generate “green energy”, here government seems bent on spending mega rands on nuclear technology, and taxpayers’ monies on court cases to defend it. South Africa’s energy guru, Chris Yelland – writing for biznews.com – slammed Eskom’s attempts to “force” nuclear power on South Africa, adding to the voice of public opinion that Eskom has not played open cards and appears to want nuclear power for the wrong reasons. “Eskom’s preferred scenario artificially constrains cheaper solar PV and wind capacity, uses unrealistically high and inconsistent technology prices for solar PV and wind and an unrealistically low and inconsistent LCOE for nuclear power, and applies more stringent carbon emission constraints, thus forcing the IRP model to fit 25GW of nuclear power into the mix,” Yelland wrote. “Yet at the same time, Eskom continues to proceed with its massive coal-fired new-build programme, and plans to extend the life of its environmentally noncompliant coal fleet. The hypocrisy of pushing for stringent carbon emission constraints to facilitate its nuclear ambitions on the one hand, while maintaining high-emission coal power and constraining low-emission renewable energy, seems lost on Eskom,” noted Yelland.

Eurasia Review: Over 90% of US uranium comes from foreign suppliers

While many people think about “oil” when discussing energy independence, our greatest foreign energy dependence issues are likely in the nuclear sector. Trump, Tillerson, and Perry have stated that they generally support nuclear energy. However, they need to understand just how dependent on foreign uranium our nuclear sector really is – truly a national security issue. It is a well-known fact that nuclear power accounts for 20% of U.S. electrical generation (and 63% of our emission-free electricity). However, as the CEO of the 2nd largest uranium producer in the US, I see risks in being far more dependent on foreign uranium than we have ever been on foreign oil. Consider this: in 2015 U.S. nuclear utilities purchased 56.5 million pounds of uranium, of which 3.4 million pounds were produced in the US. Yes – you are reading this correctly – well over 90% of the uranium used to fuel our fleet of nuclear power plants comes from foreign suppliers. Indeed, almost 21 million pounds (about 37%) of the uranium used in U.S. reactors in 2015 came from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan – up from 16.5 million pounds in 2012 (about 29%). And, the problem is only getting worse – US uranium production averaged over 4.6 million pounds per year for 2012 – 2014. However, it decreased almost 20% between 2014 and 2015. And through three quarters in 2016, U.S. uranium production has dropped another 20%. The highly-strategic U.S. nuclear fuel sector is struggling with foreign competition from nations that may not have our best interests at heart. Therefore, declaring our nation energy independent – when we are so dependent on foreign uranium – is flawed.

Telegraph: Uranium supply in Spain set to boost EU’s energy security

About a quarter of EU power comes from nuclear, and that is expected to continue; Euratom wants 100 new stations commissioned by 2050 but these will be mostly replacing old plants that are coming offline. Yet the EU has little indigenous uranium fuel supply – just 3pc of demand, coming from small mines in the Czech Republic and Romania, as well as some recovered as a byproduct from other metal extraction. Kazakhstan, by far the biggest supplier, has more than 41pc of the global market. That is more than the next three – Canada (16pc), Australia (9pc) and Niger (7pc) – combined. Yet new and diverse supplies are going to be needed now that the future demands of the industry are becoming clearer, as exemplified by the UK’s commitment in September to a new reactor at Hinkley Point. Non-EU markets such as China’s new fleet of 60 reactors will be coming online just as many forward contracts end. Uranium supplies in Western Europe are thus becoming more interesting, as they will be geopolitically secure and have modern infrastructure to hand. The Salamanca mine is situated in a historic uranium mining region and as a result local people are well aware of the socioeconomic benefits of having an operating mine in the region – and are hugely supportive of the project. The Zona 7 deposit, which was discovered in 2015, transformed the economics of the project; the uranium is easily accessible, just a few metres beneath the surface, and of outstanding quality. The area also benefits from extensive EU-funded modern infrastructure and is located just a few hours’ drive west of Madrid, making it easily accessible. When the Salamanca mine comes online in 2018, it will be economically viable on the world market and also fit very well into the Euratom model for sustainability, competitiveness and diversity.

Washington Times: Reid’s retirement may revive Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage plan

The retirement of Sen. Harry Reid may give new life to a project he’s made a career out of opposing. For years, the Senate minority leader and Nevada Democrat has been the most vocal opponent of a plan to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, a remote site less than 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Analysts say Mr. Reid’s staunch political opposition to the proposal partly led to the Obama administration to pull the plug on Yucca Mountain in 2011. But the incoming Trump administration reportedly wants to give the site another look, and they’ll no longer have to deal with the politically powerful Mr. Reid, who has served in the Senate since 1987 and been his party’s leader in the chamber since 2005. Even diehard opponents of the Yucca Mountain proposal concede that the debate around the facility had become almost entirely about Mr. Reid and his heavy-handed opposition, creating a narrative that he was the sole reason the project never came to fruition. “The great irony here is that because Sen. Reid has been so successful in using his knowledge of the Senate rules, procedures, and powers to hobble the Department of Energy’s program, there are lots of people who have come to the reasonable conclusion that the problem with Yucca Mountain is Harry Reid,” said Robert Halstead, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects.

South China Morning Post: State-owned Sichuan Coal defaults on bond for second time

A state-owned Chinese coal firm has missed a repayment on a bond for the second time this year, amid increasing concerns that defaults may surge as trillions of yuan in onshore bonds mature next year. Sichuan Coal Industry Group, owned by the government of the south-western Sichuan province, failed to repay the principal and interest on 1 billion yuan in three-year private placement notes (PPN) with a 7.5 per cent coupon due on December 25. The company’s previous default, six months ago, was only resolved with government intervention. Sichuan Coal is not the only company facing huge challenges. A total of 5.5 trillion yuan in bonds will come due in 2017, which is 1.8 trillion yuan more than matured in 2016, leading to the possibility of a sharp rise in bond default cases next year. Bond defaults, which never happened in China before 2014 because of an implicit government guarantee, is quickly becoming the new norm. So far, the mainland has seen 89 defaults on bonds, involving 52 bond issuers and worth a total value of 50.69 billion yuan. Of these, 61 cases happened this year alone, according to data from Wind Information.

ETF News: China Is Set To Dominate The Global Coal Market In 2017

Even as coal declines in Europe and America, the shift to the East is accelerating. Coal is the preferred option to increase power generation in growing economics that face electricity shortages. Solid consumption and growth is expected for India, Vietnam, and Indonesia, although China will continue to be the largest coal consumer by far over the period. Coal production and trade has been traditionally believed to be less affected by geopolitical issues due to easy logistics and widely distributed reserves. As coal consumption shifts to Asia, however, IEA has raised the possibility that coal production, demand, trade, technology, and finance might disappear from Europe and America and become increasingly concentrated in Asia. IEA believes this might make coal consumption more controversial, complicating negotiations on mitigation of C02 emissions. Despite increasing restrictions from many European and North American banks and institutions on coal financing, the agency reports investments in coal power generation have been stable over the past few years.

Forbes: Five Lessons From China’s Renewable Energy “Success”

Lesson 1: China plans on meeting 27 percent of its electricity output through renewable energy by 2020. This is possible because China defines its ‘renewable’ power mix as including hydro and nuclear power in addition to wind and solar power. Lesson 2: China’s Goal of 80 Percent Renewables by 2050 Is Highly Unlikely. Lin Boqiang, representing the Center of China Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, points out that China is highly unlikely to meet its stated goal. It is easy for today’s politicians to take credit for grandiose goals they know they personally will never have to meet. Lesson 3: Wind and Solar Growth Remains Marginal. China generates only 3 percent of its electricity from wind power and less than 2/10 of 1 percent of its power from solar power. If wind and solar power increase from 2 percent to 3 percent of China’s electricity mix, then it is factually accurate to say China increased its wind and solar power by 50 percent. But going from a total of 2 percent wind and solar power to 3 percent wind and solar power still leaves wind and solar power a marginal player in China’s electricity mix. Lesson 4: China’s Marginal Growth in Wind and Solar Power is Not Sustainable. Much of the growth occurred because China manufactured wind and solar equipment for export to other nations. When the United States and Western Europe cut back on expensive renewable energy programs, China was stuck with excess product. Lesson 5: Rising Living Standards Require Affordable Energy Sources. China will add low- and zero-emissions power only to the extent they facilitate rising living standards. This is why China still generates more than 70 percent of its electricity from coal, and why hydro and nuclear power account for the vast majority of new zero-emissions power production.

Bloomberg: The Next Big Climate-Change Battle Starts in India

The easiest way to get richer is to industrialize and dig up a bunch of coal and burn it — and India is endowed with a very large coal deposits. According to the BNEF report, Indian emissions are set to soar: In order to prevent dangerous climate change, India will need to industrialize differently from the way Europe, the U.S. and East Asia did. It will have to skip most of the coal stage and go right to solar. The falling cost of solar will help with that, obviously, but India’s unusually abundant, cheap coal resources mean it will be late to the renewable party unless the government takes action. Although the Narendra Modi administration has made big promises on cutting carbon emissions, many question the government’s ability and will to follow through, especially given the country’s traditional reluctance to address the issue. That reluctance was understandable. It’s manifestly unfair for India to hobble its growth when most other nations got rich by burning fossil fuels with abandon. That will create popular pressure for the government to do less than it should. The simple solution would seem to be for rich countries to pay India and other fast-developing nations to skip coal and go straight to solar. However, with European economies in the dumps and the U.S. now headed by the Trump administration, such a grand bargain seems unlikely.

Power Magazine: U.S. Coal Fleet Continues Contractions Despite Looming Changes in Policy

Despite hope from the election of Donald Trump and a potential shift toward more coal-friendly energy policies, coal plant owners across the country continued the trend toward shutdowns and reduced operations that have marked the past few years. On December 19, NRG Energy announced that it had completed 2,780 MW of coal-to-gas conversions at four plants in its fleet. The 11 units in Louisiana, Illinois, and Pennsylvania made the change in order to remain competitive and reduce their environmental impact, the company said. On December 21, Florida Power & Light (FPL) formally announced plans to retire the 250-MW Cedar Bay Generating Plant in Jacksonville. FPL said the deal will save its customers $70 million. FPL is also in the process of completing a similar deal for the 330-MW Indiantown Power Plant, which it also plans to buy and shut down, thus saving its customers another $129 million. Finally, Great River Energy (GRE), owner of the Coal Creek Station in North Dakota said on Dec. 20 that it is transitioning the plant to cycling operation in order to stay competitive in the MISO market. The plant has been working hard to stay ahead of shifts in the regulatory and economic markets, and GRE ultimately decided that a move from baseload to flexible operations offered the best chance to stay economic.

Mother Jones: How the “Trump Effect” Could Undermine Germany’s Clean Energy Revolution

By 2050, Germany aims to get 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources and to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 95 percent. It currently derives about one-fifth of its power from wind and solar (and one-third from total renewables), compared to just 5 percent in the United States. Even though this dramatic energy transition—known as the Energiewende—has contributed to higher household electricity costs, 90 percent of Germans say they support it. For years, Germany’s mainstream political parties have supported clean energy, too. But that broad consensus could soon face a significant test. Unlike many of its neighbors, Germany hasn’t had a far-right party represented in its parliament since the Second World War. But that’s almost certain to change next year, when national elections could make the Alternative for Germany party (known by its German acronym, AfD) the second- or third-strongest faction in the government, if polling trends continue. The party, which began as a euro-skeptic movement, has built its success on stringent opposition to immigration and admission of refugees—and on inflammatory rhetoric that echoes the campaign of Donald Trump. The AfD also opposes Germany’s clean energy policies. It’s calling for an end to the law behind the Energiewende and even questions the existence of human-induced climate change, stating on its website, “Scientific research on the long-term development of the climate because of man-made CO2 emissions is fraught with uncertainty.” Now, in an effort to slow the AfD’s rapid rise, the country’s mainstream parties could be poised for a step back in the fight against global warming.

The Local Sweden: Sweden just broke its wind power record by half a million kWh

Almost 5.7 million kWh of wind power was generated between 6am and 7am on Tuesday as ‘Storm Urd’ swept across southern Sweden, a spokesperson for energy provider Bixia told The Local. That broke the old record, set in December last year, for how much wind power is produced in a single hour by a whopping half million kWh. “The extremely windy weather in the past few days meant that wind power produced almost as much as six nuclear power plants. Never before has Swedish wind power produced that much,” said Anders Engqvist, head of risk management for Bixia, in a statement released on Tuesday. Storm Urd hit southern Sweden on Monday evening and only began to subside on Tuesday morning, with hurricane-force winds measured in some places along the west coast according to weather agency SMHI. In the past three days wind energy has generated 26 percent of Sweden’s total energy consumption, said Bixia, which is likely to push down electricity prices in the Nordic country as 2016 draws to an end.

Cleantechnica: How Low Can Solar & Wind Go?

For the second year in a row, wind and solar accounted for roughly two-thirds of new U.S. generating capacity, while natural gas and nuclear made up most of the rest. That’s because right now, in much of the United States, wind and solar are the cheapest form of power available, according to a new report from investment bank Lazard. Analysts found that new solar and wind installations are cheaper than a new coal-fired power installation just about everywhere — even without subsidies. Since just last year, the cost of utility-scale solar has dropped 10 percent, and the cost of residential solar dropped a whopping 26 percent — and that is coming after years of price declines. The cost of offshore wind declined by 22 percent since last year, though it still remains more expensive than onshore wind. The Lazard report is just the latest chapter in the success story of renewable energy. Since 2009, the cost of solar has been cut nearly in half. The cost of wind has fallen by two-thirds. The precipitous drop in price is reminiscent of shrinking costs for personal computers. Wind and, particularly solar, have yet to level off. New technologies and cheaper materials will continue to drive down costs in the years ahead.

Electrek: Hawaiian electricity utilities predict 100% renewables 5 years early – and 48% in just 4 years

About a year and a half ago, the island state of Hawaii proclaimed a goal of getting to 100% renewable electricity by 2045 – the first US State to make such a proclamation. In the past week, the Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) delivered plans showing a progression to 100% renewable electricity before 2040. In a maximum projected model – 100% was possible by 2030 when considering the excess energy generation of residential solar customers. The plan suggests that electricity rates will rise through the mid-2020s due to upgrade requirements, before they fall as the benefit of no fuel electricity pays itself off. Sometime in late 2017, HECO believes they will meet the 2020 goal of 30% renewables – and sets an agressive goal to maximize installations before the Federal Solar ITC phases out. Bravo Hawaii.

Hybrid Cars: Biofuels to reduce EU vehicle emissions

A new package of laws and regulations drafted by the European Commission aims to reduce the use of fossil fuels by promoting biofuels within all European Union 28 member states. The “Clean Energy for All Europeans” plan attempts to reduce emissions in both the transportation and energy sectors by transitioning to clean energy through energy efficiency, increased use of renewable energy for electricity generation and the use of biofuels for transportation. “Transport still depends nearly entirely on fossil fuels,” the EC noted in a memo released before the proposed legislation was presented. “Oil supplies about 94 percent of all energy used to power European cars, trucks, ships and planes.” The plan calls for EU member states to generate at least 27 percent of electricity from renewable sources, and devlop transportation fuels that produce at least 70 percent fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than fossil-fuel alternatives, Wards Auto reported. The EC proposal to use advanced alternative fuels is essentially biofuels not made from crops used for food to prevent large-scale production from upsetting the food supply.

Australian: More power outages in South Australia, job cuts blamed

About 580 SA Power Networks powerline workers, half the company’s employees, have been working around the clock to fix lines damaged by Wednesday’s storm, which cut power to one fifth, or 155,000, of the network’s customers. The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union’s SA electricity supply ¬industry organiser, Ben Jewell, said delays could be placed squarely on SA Power Networks’ move to ¬reduce its field workforce 5 per cent this year, with all 28 workers who took voluntary redundancies aged 45 or older and very experienced. Mr Jewell warned in July that the loss of experienced workers would exacerbate blackouts. SA Power Networks’ expenses from this week’s storms are estimated to be in the tens of millions through compensation payments to customers and overtime of at least $66 an hour paid to 600 linesman who have cancelled leave to work 16-hour days to ¬restore the network. South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis, whose home was not affected by the blackout, said customers who had suffered more than 48 hours without power deserved more than the $605 in compensation offered by the Hong Kong-majority owned network operator.

Guardian: Christmas Day 2016 sets new UK record for renewable energy use

Christmas Day was the greenest on record for energy generation, according to the power group Drax. The company said more than 40% of the electricity generated on the day came from renewable sources, the highest ever. It compared with 25% on Christmas Day in 2015, and 12% in 2012. Andy Koss, chief executive of Drax Power, said: “These Christmas figures show that the UK energy system really is changing. Renewables are increasingly vital to the UK’s energy mix as we decarbonise and move away from coal.” Figures produced by Electric Insights and commissioned by Drax showed that three-quarters of renewable energy produced on Christmas Day came from wind turbines. Koss said the company provided 20% of the UK’s renewable power in the first half of 2016. “It’s important to have the right mix of energy generation to ensure we are decarbonising, whilst also keeping the lights on and the costs down,” he said.

Investors Chronicle: Drax’s renewable future more certain

Some of the regulatory uncertainty around investing in the UK’s largest energy generator Drax has been removed, after the European Commission approved state aid funding for the conversion of its third biomass unit. This was an important step for Drax away from coal generation, which the UK government has pledged to make obsolete by 2025. It had been running as a co-fired unit under the renewables obligations framework, which will close to new generating capacity in March next year following the introduction of the contracts for difference (CFD) regime. The EC has approved UK plans to support the conversion via CFDs, which would pay the power generator a premium on top of the market price for the electricity generated. The unit will receive this support until 2027 and should generate around 3.6 terawatt hours of energy a year. The EC had investigated whether this would lead to “overcompensation and undue distortions of competition” in the biomass market.

Energy Live News: Scots lead UK with 42% of energy from renewables

Scotland is leading the UK’s green revolution, with 42% of its energy in 2015 coming from renewables. This proportion of clean energy is an all-time record and is around double that of the other UK nations. In Wales, environmentally unfriendly coal made up the largest part of the energy mix at 33%. Scotland had enough capacity in 2015 from wind, solar, hydro, tidal and other renewables to produce 59.4% of the country’s requirements, up from 49.7% in 2014. This is another record figure for renewable generation in the country. Jenny Hogan, Director of Policy at Scottish Renewables, said: “The latest figures underline the disproportionate contribution that Scotland is making to the UK’s efforts to clean up our energy system. We know that to fight climate change we must reduce the amount of carbon emitted by our energy sector, and renewables are doing just that. However, future progress is hugely uncertain, with large scale onshore wind, solar and hydro power all locked out of government schemes to support investment in new electricity generation capacity.” Scotland notably beat its emissions target for 2020 in 2014.

BBC: Campaigners call for new renewable energy targets for Scotland

Conservationists and the green energy industry are demanding the Scottish government sets a new target to ensure half the country’s power comes from renewables by 2030. WWF Scotland and trade body Scottish Renewables made the call following what they believe has been a “landmark” year for Scottish renewable energy. Scotland is “blazing a trail for pollution-free power”, they said. WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “2016 was without doubt a landmark year for renewables in Scotland, with several world firsts achieved, new records set, and amazing innovation shown. With almost three-fifths of our electricity needs now being met from renewable sources, Scotland is truly blazing a trail globally for pollution-free power. However, following the ratification of the Paris climate agreement, we can and should go much further. Analysis has shown that a 50% renewables target for all our energy needs by 2030 is not only needed, but that it is achievable. Ministers should now make this a Scottish government target and bring in the policies needed in its forthcoming energy strategy.” A spokesman added that the government’s long-term vision for the future of energy in Scotland would be published in the new year.

Commonspace: Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland launch a celtic union of renewable energy

A new renewable collaborative network has been formed by Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland to develop research in the area of ocean energy and ocean technology. The formation of the new Ocean Power Innovation Network (Opin) has been led by the three state organisations of the three nations involved, Scottish Enterprise (SE), the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and Invest Northern Ireland (INI). The network’s mission is to advance innovation by learning from experts in other industries, to push the boundaries of what’s possible in ocean energy and progress innovative ocean projects in a coordinated way. It will focus on collaborative initiatives, knowledge sharing, applied learning and creative thinking in ocean energy technology development. Jan Reid, senior manager at marine energy and low carbon technologies at Scottish Enterprise, said: “Our oceans provide a natural resource for renewable energy and although there have been many achievements and world firsts to date, the future of the industry will be shaped in the coming decade. This initiative allows Scotland and Ireland to come together to build a strong value chain for marine energy, in addition to existing collaborations, and encourages companies to share and learn from well-established industries to accelerate their development towards future sustainable success.”

Mail: The UK has already secured £16billion of extra foreign investment since EU exit vote in ‘clear vote of confidence in Brexit Britain’

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox hailed the splurge in foreign spending as ‘a clear vote of confidence’ in post-Brexit Britain. Major international firms such as Google and Apple have pledged to create thousands of new jobs in the UK. Mr Fox said the foreign investment since Brexit – worth an estimated £16.3billion – will boost Britain’s property development, infrastructure and renewable energy sectors. He said the investment showed foreign firms were confident of ‘our strong economy post-Brexit’. And with billions of further investment expected to be announced in the coming months, the Government is set to reach or exceed its target of £983billion in foreign direct investment already achieved between 2015 and 2016.

Telegraph: Tidal power plan drifts into 2018 as Government support wavers

Developers of a proposed world-first tidal energy lagoon in Swansea Bay have been forced to delay their construction schedule until 2018 at the earliest as the Government wavers over whether to subsidise the project. The project, devised by entrepreneur Mark Shorrock, was originally slated to start construction in spring 2015 but has been repeatedly delayed as political enthusiasm waned. In recent weeks, Tidal Lagoon Power has quietly updated its website to delete a reference to aiming to start construction work on site in 2017, amid little sign that the Government is close to green-lighting the £1.3bn development. The company confirmed spring 2018 was now the earliest possible start date as it expected to take 12 months from getting the go-ahead from Government to starting construction, which will then take four years. Mr Shorrock wants ministers to agree to an unprecedented 90-year consumer-funded subsidy contract, with a starting price even higher than that controversially agreed for the Hinkley Point nuclear plant, as well as a significant taxpayer-funded loan. Jesse Norman, an energy minister, told MPs earlier this month that the proposal “would be a very significant deviation from current Government policy. It would not be impossible, but it would require careful consideration,” he said.

Greentechmedia: UK Capacity Auction Heralds a Big Opportunity for Storage

Battery storage, which claimed a sizable portion of the U.K. electricity capacity market this December, could be in for another serving soon. Energy storage projects took just over 6 percent of a total 52.43 gigawatts of capacity awarded in the U.K.’s 2016 T-4 auction, which is designed to keep the lights on across the country over the winter of 2020-2021. Of the 3.2 gigawatts of storage, around 500 megawatts of capacity went to new-build battery projects.The result saw developers being awarded a clearing price of £22.50 ($27.65 U.S.) per kilowatt per year and bodes well for storage in future auctions, including two due to be held in early 2017 to backfill the capacity needed up until 2020. According to the U.K.’s Electricity Market Reform Capacity Market Operational Plan, another auction is scheduled in January for 53.8 gigawatts of capacity that would need to be available for delivery in the winter of 2017 to 2018. Given the timescales involved, it is most likely existing generation assets will fill this early capacity or “T-1” auction. But with Tesla proving it can build megawatt-scale battery projects, such as Aliso Canyon in the U.S., within months rather than years, maybe there is an opportunity for storage developers to get in on the action, too.

Sun: Electric cars can cost more to run than diesel vehicles, report finds

Rules will be introduced next year to make costs for charging electric cars more “consistent and transparent” after a report found that charging prices are too high, costing up to £7.50 for a half-hour – which works out at roughly the same price of owning a diesel car. The changes mean that drivers could access public charge points and common standards for pricing between suppliers could be introduced to stop potential customers being turned off by sky-high costs. Currently, about 90 per cent of charging for electric cars takes place at home – but a better roadside charging system is needed for motorists who want to drive long distances. There are more than 11,000 public charge points in Britain – including free, pay-as-you go and subscription charge points, which require registration and a monthly fee.

Treehugger: Plug-and-play radiator integrates a battery to help lower electric bills

A French startup is approaching home energy storage from a bit different of an angle, and instead of merely functioning as a home battery, its product doubles as a radiator that is said to be able to help reduce heating costs by as much as 50%. The radiator from Lancey Energy Storage integrates a lithium battery and can allow users to charge it during times of cheaper electricity, and then use that electricity when grid prices are higher, no additional wiring is necessary to install it, and it can cost up to 75% less than installing a gas heater. And since heating can account for a significant percentage of home energy use this represents a great opportunity for both homeowners and rental property owners alike to reduce both their costs and their environmental impact. The Lancey heater, which is said to cost about €1000 when available next year, is a ‘smart’ device controllable via smartphone, but it can also be considered as a part of a distributed energy storage system, which can help both residents and landlords save money, and potentially reduce the use of ‘peaker plants’ by utilities. The radiator is said to include a range of smart technologies, such as its infrared heating system and sensors for detecting open windows or occupants in the room, as well as a ‘learning algorithm’ and the ability for users to monitor their overall electric consumption.

Washington Post: 2016’s super warm Arctic winter ‘extremely unlikely’ without climate change

The area of the Arctic Ocean covered by sea ice is currently far smaller than it was in 2012 at this time of year. And while 2012 holds the all-time record for lowest ice extent in September, 2016 has been beating it since mid-October: The current extent of Arctic ice sea is also far smaller than it was at the same time in 2010, which previously held the record for lowest Arctic sea ice extent in late December, according to records from the National Snow and Ice Data Center that date to 1979. Clearly this is abnormal. But how abnormal? The answer is that what has happened this year in the Arctic, and particularly the high Arctic, appears to be not only out of the norm for a stable climate — like the one on Earth before the era of fossil fuels — but also for what you might expect from our supercharged, artificially warmed climate. Such is the upshot of a recently published “detection and attribution” analysis of November’s and December’s Arctic warmth by a group of scientists who are not waiting around for the peer review process — they are increasingly releasing these documents in near real time. And they find that “it is extremely unlikely that this event would occur in the absence of human-induced climate change.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources purges climate change from web page

The state Department of Natural Resources recently scrubbed language from an agency web page on the Great Lakes that said humans and greenhouse gases are the main cause of climate change. The DNR now says the subject is a matter of scientific debate. The department made the changes on Dec. 21, striking out whole sentences attributing global warming to human activities and rising levels of carbon dioxide. It’s the most recent example of the DNR removing information related to climate change. More broadly, the changes reflect how the administration of Republican Gov. Scott Walker has de-emphasized the subject since he took office in 2011. In the latest changes, the DNR says of climate change, “as it has done throughout the centuries, the earth is going through a change. The reasons for this change at this particular time in the earth’s long history are being debated and researched by academic entities outside the Department of Natural Resources.”

GWPF: In the world of climate science, the skeptics are coming in from the cold

Researchers who see global warming as something less than a planet-ending calamity believe the incoming Trump administration may allow their views to be developed and heard. This didn’t happen under the Obama administration, which denied that a debate even existed. Now, some scientists say, a more inclusive approach – and the billions of federal dollars that might support it – could be in the offing. “Here’s to hoping the Age of Trump will herald the demise of climate change dogma, and acceptance of a broader range of perspectives in climate science and our policy options,” Georgia Tech scientist Judith Curry wrote this month at her popular Climate Etc. blog. William Happer, professor emeritus of physics at Princeton University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, is similarly optimistic. “I think we’re making progress,” Happer said. “I see reassuring signs.” Despite harsh criticism of their contrarian views, a few scientists like Happer and Curry have pointed to evidence that global warming is less pronounced than predicted. They have also argued that this slighter warming would bring positive developments along with problems. For the first time in years, skeptics believe they can find a path out of the wilderness into which they’ve been cast by the “scientific consensus.” As much as they desire a more open-minded reception by their colleagues, they are hoping even more that the spigot of government research funding – which dwarfs all other sources – will trickle their way.

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20 Responses to Blowout Week 157 – New Year’s Edition

  1. robertok06 says:

    “said Mycle Schneider, a nuclear expert based in Paris”

    Mycle who???.. pliiiz!… Mycle Schneider is a known anti-nuclear pasdaran/troll, who’s made a personal career/fortune working as “independent expert” for GreenPiss and other anti-nuclear organizations/sects who ask him to write what they want to read.
    His opinion on nuclear is not worth a dime… just ignore him.

  2. robertok06 says:

    @euan

    … happy 2017 to you and all other readers… even my beloved friend Guenter!… 🙂 … sorry for not having done that in my previous post… I’m already celebrating new year with a nice bottle of italian white from Racaro, Collio region… a delicious malvasia.

    On the other hand, since I’m at it…

    ““The extremely windy weather in the past few days meant that wind power produced almost as much as six nuclear power plants.”

    … how sillier/more stupid statement one can write?… what happened in the 23 hours past that magical hour of glory for wind power? 🙂

    Cheers to everybody!… (poor Roger will have to wait 6 hours longer to celebrate????)

  3. Phil Jones says:

    The plight of the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon proposal is even worse than the Telegraph article discloses. They not only need financial support from the Govt, the strike price bit of which would be recharged to consumers via their bills, they also need:

    – to discharge dozens of complex and contentious pre-construction Requirements of the development consent that they obtained in 2015;

    – a Marine Licence from Natural Resources Wales (NRW), who recently said that they didn’t accept the developer’s predictions of fisheries impacts and indicated that they were going to proceed on the basis that impacts would be several times higher, which creates difficulties with the EU Water Framework Directive;

    – etc.

    NRW have said that no decision is likely before October 2017, which pushes any start date even further back than 2018.

    Thankfully the project’s going nowhere fast. Happy New Year..!

  4. Happy new year to all
    and especially the not much reading but very knowledgable Roberto.. smile
    (please Roberto read this article posted in the blowout again..
    and explain how the Salamanca uranium mine in Spain might eventually
    make Euratom’s dream Uranium supply in Spain set to boost EU’s energy security..(for 18 years)
    make reality by 2050?)

    http://www.eurasiareview.com/30122016-why-trumps-appointments-of-tillerson-and-perry-may-fuel-uranium-and-nuclear-sectors-oped/

    • robertok06 says:

      Hello Michael:

      I’ve already read that, on World Nuclear News, a couple of days ago… but thanks anyway for thinking about me.
      I personally don’t value energy independence OF URANIUM as being important, as the amount of uranium needed to power the ever decreasing EU nuclear fleet is minimal, as you well know… since U is the highest energy density fuel.

      I’d be more worried about the fact that the penetration of russian gas within EU has increased during 2016… not to mention the fact that “peak renewables” is already underway in the EU…

      As you know the (pardon my french…) moronic view that you have that the only way out of this impasse is… going back to medieval ages consumption levels is not part of my beliefs… I leave to you to show me/us the way first, then maybe I’ll follow later, if I like what I see.

      Cheers, and take it easy… uranium is going to be around mankind for billions of years…

      http://www.nature.com/nchem/journal/v6/n3/abs/nchem.1856.html

      … it’s just a matter of willing to do so, to leave paranoidal fobias based on ideology and fake science aside.

      R.

      • yes I think you believe that your nuclear power plants can
        even be operated from the uranium in the cooling water..

        but seriously, did you find out how much uranium natural equivalent
        is required per 1 GWe existing nuclear power plant and year?

        and how long can your reactors in France run with the supposed
        mine in Spain if it functions according to stated plan?

        • robertok06 says:

          @michael “the end of uranium is here, let’s go back to the stone age” dittmar

          Michael, I certainly do not need your help on to get additional knowledge in the nuclear field, don’t worry… 🙂

          Who cares about the new uranium development in Spain?…. 1700 tons/year is not much, for sure… but since there is plenty of uranium from other countries, Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia, Niger, etc… I sleep very well, believe me.
          There are uranium mine development projects which have been recently put on hold because there is too much uranium at too low of a price… as you’ve predicted few years ago, right Michael?
          Ahahahah….

          On the other hand, how’s that swiss nuclear doing? I’ve hear that ANOTHER referendum (or whatever you call that) has put down the green dream of stopping it in advance of the scheduled time… you’ll have to wait a bit longer for your moronic stone age kind of living to become a reality, my friend.

          In the meantime, why don’t you quit your experiment at CERN (1.3 TWh/year of electricity consumption, the vast majority from French nuclear, more than the consumption of the entire Canton de Geneve!… isn’t that terrible?) and put your skills on a less energy-demanding experiment?… you know like in “talk the talk, and walk the walk”.
          Yeah!… dream on, Roberto…

          Cheers.

          • ah yes Roberto

            I think that if you would read my paper(s)
            you could easily find that your presumed
            assumption about my paper are wrong.
            But for this you need to educate yourself a little bit.
            (I wrote that 1% decline per year fits..
            compare my prediction so far (2010 –> 2015 and soon
            2016 uranium mining and demand) with any other.

            if you write

            “Who cares about the new uranium development in Spain?…. 1700 tons/year is not much, for sure…”

            you missed the reasoning given (in the articles) for developing new uranium mines in the USA
            and in Spain.

            and if you think that indeed that Europe and the USA
            (and Japan and South Korea) have indeed exhausted
            their uranium .. well you are on my view already
            (a good start for 2017!)

            “ but since there is plenty of uranium from other countries, Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia, Niger, etc…”

            So lets compare my prediction with the
            one from the WNA and the IAEA from 2010.. smile

            that is good ..
            “ I sleep very well, believe me.”
            but perhaps from time to time take time to educate
            yourself and others a little with facts..
            at least to demonstrate that my numbers are wrong
            (shoot the message not the messenger!)
            smile

            For the 1.3 TWh/year (and 1 billion Euro taxpayer money) we require at CERN ..indeed a large number ..
            but careful your well payed job tax-free and highly subsidised job job depends on this as well.

            My job is not payed by CERN and without the
            half theoretical physics community enjoying
            to spend so much on research
            what would you do?

            Anyway we agree at least that without
            badly regulated nuclear power overproduction
            CERN would never have come to what it is today.

  5. Alex says:

    Ref Christmas Day was the greenest on record for energy generation, according to the power group Drax.

    Based on grid watch data, average demand and power in December were as follows:
    http://prntscr.com/dqctdy

    So Christmas day was the highest wind production in the month. Unfortunately, it was also the lowest demand.

    • robertok06 says:

      Hey!… Why in your graph the horizontal axis is not straight?… Italie wiggles a bit…
      No.. wait, my bad… it’s not the axis, it is the PV production… 🙂

    • climanrecon says:

      Christmas day is the only day of winter in GB when the demand (albeit very low) peaks around noon rather than around 5 pm, hence the only winter day when solar contributes to peak demand.

  6. robertok06 says:

    @michael dittmar

    Michael, I thought I had already told you this.
    The day you came at CERN for the presentation of the new book of Ugo Bardi, and instead you had transformed it into the (for you) usual anti-nuclear rant… and when I raised my hand and objected to the BS you had spewed about the French nuclear system and you replied something like “look at a couple of winters ago, when German PV came to the rescue of the French, during the cold spell”… well… at that point, when I heard a reknown researcher from one of the most respected universities utter such plain nonsense I realised that nothing you say or write is worth my attention.

    By default everything you say is wrong, then if by chance you say something that turns out to be correct on nuclear then it is the typical case of the broken watch which indicates twice a day the correct time, nothing more nothing less.

    Coming to some parts of your message worth commenting:

    “For the 1.3 TWh/year (and 1 billion Euro taxpayer money) we require at CERN ..indeed a large number .. but careful your well payed job tax-free and highly subsidised job job depends on this as well.”

    1) I don’t see why Michael Dittmar behaving as he preaches and leaving CERN would change almost nothing to CERN… you are just one of the almost 10 thousand registered users, my friend.

    2) I doubt that your salary at ETH Zurich is sooooo low to envy a tax-free salary in Geneva… but if your financial situation is so dire send me your IBAN/SWITF number/code and I’ll wire you a small sum, to help you out, OK? 🙂

    3) Well paid OK… but “well subsidised” in which sense? Explain.

    “My job is not payed by CERN and without the half theoretical physics community enjoying
    to spend so much on research what would you do?”

    I would go and work elsewhere, it’s not a problem at all, Michael!
    I’ve been at CERN only 5 out of 29 years in the field of accelerators, the remainder I’ve spent it at 6 other labs… and could have accepted at least a 1/2 dozen more offers… no problem.
    If it was for the money I’d have stayed in the US, or become a lawyer, or I’d come to Geneva 29 years ago.

    I know very well that you are just a user, and not an employee of CERN… no need to remind me that.

    “Anyway we agree at least that without badly regulated nuclear power overproduction CERN would never have come to what it is today.”

    Good! If only there would be many more things that are so “badly” regulated and work like CERN, with its spectacular results!

    “Badly”regulated!… still the BS about the load-following capabilities of the French fleet? You don’t get it, do you? And then you’d want me to take you seriously?

    P.S.: I’ve seen on your profile page on Researchgate your little photo…. why do you have the LHC tunnel in the background… as you’ve nothing to do wit it?

    P.S.2: “A prosperous way down”??… It’s philosophy, not physics or technology… pliiiiz!!!!… as teaching material??? Poor students…

    P.S.3: A small reminder:

    1) http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/File:Electricity_Statistics_2013-2015_(in_GWh)_update.png

    2) https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_1_1

    The first one shows to you how more than 800 TWh of clean, emission-free (and I’m not talking about emissions of toxic CO2 here) electricity, affordable and dependable 24h/24 365d/y, has allowed about 600 million Europeans to enjoy a lot less pollution and health issues;

    The second one does the same for ~ 330 million US citizens… I’ll leave the north american canadian cousins out for brevity. 🙂

    Enjoy the reading my friend.

    • thanks for the links Roberto,
      good that you start to become fact based now.

      as I can see.. nuclear produced electric energy went down 2.2% in europe EU28
      2013/2015 (and fractional less than it used to be .. you need to campaign more!
      I am just telling students about all(!) the available informations, including this site,
      and how to form their own view and how to contribute ..
      (by the way .. in German only but the Suisse TV had a show yesterday ..
      full day doc.. about the blackout.. coming ..
      http://www.srf.ch/kultur/wissen/thementag-blackout-wenn-der-strom-drei-tage-lang-weg-ist

      by the way if you like to see monthly OECD data up to September 2016 so far

      http://www.iea.org/media/statistics/surveys/electricity/mes.pdf

      (nuclear makes only 18% in the OECD countries 24% in Europe..
      and decreasing.. Roberto please do more before my lights go off
      but I doubt that it is within yours or my capability to influence
      .. smile)

      so please vote wisely to keep freedom of speech alive (even if you do not like alternative views than yours) !

      thanks
      michael

      • robertok06 says:

        @michael dittmar

        Thanks for the links… I’ll look at them.

        Concerning…

        “so please vote wisely to keep freedom of speech alive (even if you do not like alternative views than yours) !”

        … what I don’t like is alternative views based on popular galore, urban legends, ideology-driven models which go against known physical laws, and mis-interpretation of the data (your case).

        Cheers, and talk to you soon, I’m sure.

        R.

      • robertok06 says:

        @m Dittmar

        “full day doc.. about the blackout.. coming ..
        http://www.srf.ch/kultur/wissen/thementag-blackout-wenn-der-strom-drei-tage-lang-weg-ist

        Of course… the black out coming because there are many like you who’ve been preaching for the closure of nuclear plants in advance… or the swiss population who has rejected many times the installation of wind farms… even one court recently has blocked such a project.
        You preach for energy restraint while the fellow swiss population is buying bigger and bigger cars, and using a very modicum of restraint in electricity consumption, certanly not enough to make up for the 40% (or whatever it is) that nuclear makes up now, and will go to zero in the next 2 decades or so.
        Your line of thought is to blame, Michael, not mine. Just look at the recent REAL blackout in South Australia, caused by intermittent wind power, after the baseload coal power stations have been shut down by “vox populi” ably pushed by green spin mantra.

        Cheers.

      • robertok06 says:

        @michael dittmar

        “by the way if you like to see monthly OECD data up to September 2016 so far

        http://www.iea.org/media/statistics/surveys/electricity/mes.pdf

        (nuclear makes only 18% in the OECD countries 24% in Europe..
        and decreasing..”

        Well… it is more than twoce the amount of the intermittent “only possible” alternatives, wind, PV et al… so I’d say it is very good.

        It is those like you who are pushing things in this direction, are you proud of it, Michael?

        • neither me nor you are doing anything besides theorising and talking about observations and at least me trying to understand reality and subsequent trends.

          just in case for the numbers:

          nuclear in Western Europe had a much higher fraction in the past.. close to 30%
          and decreasing ..(and even not money making anymore..)

          Are you worried about the co2 problem?
          and the growing dependence on owl and gas imports
          (a finite resource … and very finite in Western Europe)?

          so, you need to put your money into China
          (and help them make nuclear a success perhaps..)

          michael
          ps.. as I told you already in the past
          I am aware of the intermittent problem with solar and wind
          and always talk about it

  7. Russ Finley says:

    CleanTecnica followed up the “How Low Can Solar & Wind Go?” article with one called “Low Costs of Solar Power & Wind Power Crush Coal, Crush Nuclear, & Beat Natural Gas” and both used nonsensical energy maps.

    http://www.biodiversivist.com/2017/01/cleantechnicadoes-solar-and-wind-really.html#disqus_thread

  8. Leo Smith says:

    S Africa

    The need here is to create more electricity generation capacity to satisfy consumer expectations.

    Pleasing green environmentalists is only an issue if that is linked to development aid.

    Which is why coal and nuclear are booth actively being pursued, but the green credentials of nuclear are played up.

    And the winner will be whoever pays the most bribes to the ANC government.

    “Corruption is a Western Concept”.

    This, is Africa….

    (written in Cape Town, today).

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