This week we feature Tesla and its new energy storage battery. Is it a game changer, or just another battery?
Tesla announced Thursday that it is repackaging the lithium ion batteries it now uses in its electric cars to sell them as electricity-storage devices for homes, businesses and utilities. The battery packs are meant to absorb electricity when it is cheap and plentiful—during a sunny afternoon for a house with rooftop solar panels, for example—and release the power when electricity is expensive or scarce. So far the market for electricity storage remains small, though growing quickly; last year about $128 million worth of such batteries were installed around the country, mostly at utilities, according to GTM Research, which tracks the renewable energy industry. Just 1% of the capacity was installed at homes. Tesla plans to change all that. At an event to formally announce the battery products, Elon Musk, the company’s chief executive, said it is “trying to change the fundamental energy infrastructure of the world.”
The Ecologist: Tesla’s battery just killed fossil and nuclear power
Tesla Energy’s new mains power battery has just transformed the energy market – giving a huge boost to small scale renewable energy and killing off both fossil fuelled and nuclear power in the process. The announcement of its two domestic-scale lithium batteries, rated at 7kWh and 10kWh of energy storage was widely trailed. But what no one expected was the price – which came in at a half to a quarter of market expectations: “Tesla’s selling price to installers is $3,500 for 10kWh and $3,000 for 7kWh. (Price excludes inverter and installation.) And according to energy analyst Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Energy Education, that equates to a life-cycle cost of about $0,02 per kWh stored and released, or a little over 1p in UK money. And that is transformational. With grid power prices typically 14p / kWh in the UK, or $0.12 in the US, it’s just a fraction of the cost of buying power in – for the first making it economic for small scale generators to ‘save and re-use’ their power surpluses.
More below the fold, including a predicted oil price rebound, OPEC’s civil war in Yemen, Luxembourg and Austria to file suit against Hinkley, the EOn/Uniper spinoff, German miners march, the Church of England puts coal in the sin bin, a solar powered aircraft that flies when the wind isn’t blowing, Richard Muller on the need for temperature adjustments and how climate change triggered the Nepal earthquake.
Oil Price: Key Signals That Oil Prices Are On The Up
PIRA Energy Group, an energy research firm, is convinced that the oil markets have turned a corner. “PIRA believes that vast majority of the bearish news is already out and that the price lows for global crude oil markers are in,” the company wrote in its weekly energy recap. PIRA predicts that the oil stock build will peak in May and then start to decline somewhere between June and August. U.S. oil production is already showing signs of decline, demand is picking up, and even a flood of Saudi oil has been swallowed by markets. Oil prices have risen by nearly 30 percent since March, and have appeared to stabilize for the time being (WTI in the mid-$50s and Brent in the mid-$60s). “The magic of price is working to tighten oil markets and higher oil prices are in the offing,” PIRA concluded.
Economic Times India: US shale firms revive hedging as oil rebounds,
US oil producers are rushing to take advantage of the rebound in oil markets by locking in prices for next year and beyond, safeguarding future supplies and possibly paving the way for a rebound in production. The flurry of hedging activity in the past month will help sustain producers’ revenues even if oil markets tumble again, which is bad news for OPEC nations, such as Saudi Arabia, that are counting on low prices to stunt the rapid rise of US shale and other competitors. Oil drillers are racing to buy protection for 2016 and 2017 in the form of three-way collars and other options, according to four market sources familiar with the money flows. In some cases, that means guaranteeing a price of no less than $45 a barrel while capping potential revenues at $70. US crude futures traded just below $60 a barrel on Thursday.
Russia will meet with OPEC on June 2-3 to discuss production adjustments in order to arrest falling oil prices, Energy Minister Alexander Novak said in Moscow. The meeting will be held before the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries gathers in Vienna on June 5 to discuss the global market. According to Russian officials, the country is on course to lose $180 billion this year from slump in oil prices. Russia is the world’s biggest energy exporter but its tribulations have been compounded by Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict. Excess oil in the market coupled with the global economy slowdown has sent crude prices crashing into almost half their level of 10 months ago. “Oil price has fallen from $100 to about $50 per barrel. This would result in a decrease in Russian export revenues of $180 billion a year,” Maxim Oreshkin, an official at the Russian finance ministry, has said.
Energy and Capital: OPEC Civil War Erupts in Yemen
Make no mistake about it: What we’re witnessing in Yemen today is nothing more than a proxy war between two of OPEC’s biggest members. The Saudis are accusing Iran of arming and training the Houthis, while Iran fires right back, arguing that the Saudi air strikes are a much more egregious case of intervention. The Ayatollah went so far as to even suggest the Saudi-led air strikes were on par with a major crime, even genocide. But is this more than another round of Sunni vs. Shia? Even though Yemen isn’t counted among the world’s largest oil-producing countries, Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbor is much more important for global supply stability than you might first think.
The ghosts of Lenin and Mao might well be smirking. Communist and authoritarian nations are moving to take global leadership in, and profit from, the commercial use of nuclear power, a technology made possible by the market-driven economies of the West. New research and development could enable abundant, affordable, low-carbon energy as well as further beneficial products for industry and medicine. Yet outdated and burdensome regulations and restrictions have stifled nuclear innovation in the U.S. and other Western nations, and are pushing these opportunities to China and Russia. China is joining Russia to build five new reactors in Iran—regardless of what becomes of the current negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program. Beijing and Moscow are also marketing nuclear technology and infrastructure to other Mideast and Asian nations. China and Russia have a clear commercial and strategic purpose in advancing nuclear technology abroad, technology that the West seems loath to exploit. If the world is serious about shifting to low-carbon energy, nuclear energy is the most direct path. Nuclear power is the densest (in watts per square meter of land) and safest (in deaths per joule) form of energy known to man. Yet the expansion of nuclear power and other commercial applications of nuclear reactions have stalled in the West since the 1980s.
Energy Live News: Turkey constructs its first nuclear plant.
The Russian-designed Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant in Mersin on the Mediterranean coast is the first of three nuclear plants the country plans to build. Turkey hopes the $22 billion (£14.3bn) project will boost its economy and reduce its dependence on fossil fuel imports. Construction on the first 1,200MW reactor has begun. Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız was reported as saying: “[Economic] development cannot take place in a country without nuclear energy. If the Akkuyu plant had been built a decade ago, Turkey would have saved $14 billion (£9bn) in natural gas purchases and nuclear power would today cover 28% of the country’s electricity demand.” The project is expected to create around 10,000 jobs and be completed by the end of the decade.
Luxemberger Wort: Luxembourg and Austria plan legal action against Hinkley Point
Luxembourg and Austria are planning legal action against European Commission subsidies for the construction of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in the UK. As of April 29, Luxembourg and Austria have two months to file a complaint and present it in front of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. Financing an “unprofitable and unsafe energy source” with public funds is not the purpose of a consistent energy policy, said Luxembourg Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg in parliament. Additionally, Greenpeace has also expressed its objection to the EC’s decision, arguing that it is not compatible with EU regulations concerning state aid.
World Nuclear News: EOn to spin off nuclear assets to Uniper
The German Energiewende has forced the early shutdown of some nuclear units, curtailed the operating lives of others, and put commercial pressure on fossil generation by preferentially subsidising renewable sources. Formerly one of Europe’s strongest utilites, EOn has responded by splitting in two: a renewable and customer-focused company will continue with the name EOn, while a much larger company called Uniper will continue with coal, oil, gas and nuclear generation and engineering as well as energy trading. In the face of renewable subsidies, EOn and other German utilities have struggled to profit from operating even brand-new fossil power plants. The German Association of Wind and Water said that the economic viability of more than half of Germany’s planned power plants was called into question by government policies. Last weekend saw big demonstrations on both sides of the debate – a human chain to ‘end coal’ and a march by fossil fuel workers calling for a ‘just energy transition’.
A proposed levy on Germany’s oldest, most polluting coal-fired power plants has caused opponents to take to the streets. Reuters reported on Saturday that thousands of coal miners and workers in coal-fired plants marched in Berlin. The government wants to impose penalties on the plants in order to cut coal-sector emissions by a further 22 million tonnes by 2020. But opponents say it puts 100,000 jobs at risk and will damage the coal industry. In Berlin, a crowd estimated by police at 13,500 marched from the economy ministry to the chancellery holding placards that read, “Hands off our brown coal”, and “We oppose the social blackout in our region”.Meanwhile, 6,000 environmental campaigners formed a human chain over 7 kilometers long at an open cast mine owned by RWE in Garzweiler, western Germany to protest against environmental damage caused by brown coal. MINING.com reported last fall that Germany is likely to miss its 2022 climate targets and greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, as the country’s use of coal continues to increase.
Financial Times: Church of England blacklists coal and tar sands investments
The Church announced on Thursday that it would sell £12m of its holdings in thermal coal and tar sands companies, two of the most polluting fossil fuels. “Climate change is the most pressing moral issue in our world,” said the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev Nick Holtam, lead bishop on the environment. The move comes nearly three years after the appointment of Justin Welby, a former senior executive at the now defunct Enterprise Oil company, as Archbishop of Canterbury. The Church, which has an investment portfolio worth more than £9bn, will no longer put its money into any company that gets more than 10 per cent of its revenues from extracting coal burnt for energy or oil from tar sands.
BusinessGreen: UK smashes low-carbon power record in 2014
Low-carbon electricity supplied a record 38.3 per cent of power in 2014, despite a number of nuclear power outages in the second half of the year, new government figures have suggested today. Provisional data released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) revealed major growth in renewable energy generation from wind, solar, biomass and hydro helped make up for a shortfall in coal and nuclear generation. Coal accounted for less than one third of the UK’s power supply for the first time, after a number of plants came offline or switched to biomass. Nuclear generation fell by 9.7 per cent, due to a number of plant outages in the second half of the year. Overall power supply dropped last year, helping the share of low-carbon power to increase from 34.6 per cent in 2013 to 38.3 per cent last year. Gas’ share of the power mix similarly rose from 26.6 per cent to 30.2 per cent over the same period. Total generation during the year fell 6.7 per cent as demand fell, further fuelling hopes that energy efficiency measures are continuing to reduce the energy intensity of the economy.
Solar Power Portal: UKIP dismisses solar and pledges to abolish DECC
The UK Independence Party has outlined plans to withdraw all subsidies for solar PV in its election manifesto, deeming the technology too expensive. The party’s manifesto includes an energy plan for the UK which it claims would offer increased energy security, focusing on coal, nuclear and gas as the primary sources of electricity. UKIP said it “supports and will invest in renewables”, but only when they can deliver electricity at competitive prices and considers hydro to be the “only major technology that meets this test”. The party said it would withdraw all subsidies for both solar PV and wind, stating wind power in particular to be “hopelessly inefficient” and dropping subsidies would “ensure a level playing field for coal”. UKIP also said it would repeal the Climate Change Act claiming it to have done “untold damage” to cost competitiveness, estimating its cost to the UK to be £720 billion between 2010 and 2050. UKIP also saved ire for the Department for Energy and Climate Change, which it has pledged to abolish on the basis that its duties could be carried out by other existing governmental departments.
Solar Power Portal: Conservatives omit solar from 2015 manifesto
The Conservative Party has omitted solar from its 2015 election manifesto and pledged to stop support for other renewable energies, prompting criticism from industry and environmental groups. Conservative leader David Cameron launched his party’s manifesto today and outlined its energy strategy for the next parliamentary term. However, unlike Labour and the Green Party, the Conservatives have not expressed commitments to solar or renewable energies in general, instead outlining support of fracking and nuclear power. The party also detailed plans to axe public funding of onshore wind farms and tighten planning controls, claiming them to be “unable by themselves to provide the firm capacity that a stable energy system requires” and lack public support. The manifesto does include pledges to provide start-up funding for promising renewable technologies and research, but qualifies this by stating that significant support will only be granted to technologies that “clearly represent value for money”.
California will develop North America’s most stringent greenhouse gas–reduction standards over the next 15 years under an executive order signed on Wednesday by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. Mr. Brown ordered that, by 2030, greenhouse-gas emissions be 40% below 1990 levels. The targets align the nation’s largest state with standards set by the European Union last October and come ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year. The new order comes as Mr. Brown has aimed to make climate change a signature issue of his administration, while also dealing with an extreme drought.
Daily Mail: Winds hamper solar flight
Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are having to wait to continue their groundbreaking flight. They are attempting to fly around the world powered only by the sun with their Solar Impulse 2 plane. However the plane has been grounded in China’s southwestern city of Chongqing for two and a half weeks. The plane needs optimal conditions and cannot fly if wind speeds are above four knots (4.4mph or 7km/h)
The sun is almost completely blank. The main driver of all weather and climate, the entity which occupies 99.86% of all of the mass in our solar system, the great ball of fire in the sky has gone quiet again during what is likely to be the weakest sunspot cycle in more than a century. Not since cycle 14 peaked in February 1906 has there been a solar cycle with fewer sunspots. We are currently more than six years into Solar Cycle 24 and the current nearly blank sun may signal the end of the solar maximum phase. Solar cycle 24 began after an unusually deep solar minimum that lasted from 2007 to 2009 which included more spotless days on the sun compared to any minimum in almost a century.
The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), Lord Lawson’s UK-based climate skeptic lobby group, has announced it is launching an inquiry into the integrity of global surface temperature records. Of particular interest, the group says, is whether “adjustments” to the raw data to account for gaps and inconsistencies have increased the warming trend over the industrial period. Carbon Brief has spoken to Prof Richard Muller, physicist and self-professed skeptical scientist, who carried out a very similar inquiry a few years ago as part of the Berkeley Earth surface temperature ( BEST) project, based in California. Muller tells Carbon Brief:”From a scientific point of view, it would be irresponsible not to adjust … it would be considered poor science to avoid such corrections … [and] they do not affect the substantial results.”
A new study says 75% of extreme hot days and 18% of days with heavy rainfall worldwide can be explained by the warming we’ve seen over the industrial period. In a future world with 2C warming above pre-industrial levels, almost all extreme hot days and 40% of heavy rainfall days will be down to rising temperatures, say the authors. The new study, published today in Nature Climate Change, is the first to estimate how climate change has favoured some types of extreme event right across the globe. And the message for policymakers is “striking”, says Prof Peter Stott, who leads the Met Office’s climate attribution team but who wasn’t involved in the study.
The untold – and terrifying – story behind the earthquake that devastated Nepal last Saturday morning begins with something that sounds quite benign. It’s the ebb and flow of rainwater in the great river deltas of India and Bangladesh, and the pressure that puts on the grinding plates that make up the surface of the planet. Recently discovered, that causal factor is seen by a growing body of scientists as further proof that climate change can affect the underlying structure of the Earth. Because of this understanding, a series of life-threatening “extreme geological events” – earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis – is predicted by a group of eminent geologists and geophysicists including University College London’s Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of Geophysical and Climate Hazards. “Climate change may play a critical role in triggering certain faults in certain places where they could kill a hell of a lot of people,” says Professor McGuire. Some of his colleagues suspect the process may already have started.
Harvard Politics: For Young Voters, Climate Change Takes a Back Seat
Some seem to think we are living in a world where climate change is widely acknowledged as an irrefutable fact. New data from the Harvard Public Opinion Project tell a very different story. Only 55 percent of survey participants agreed with the statement, “Global warming is a proven fact and is mostly caused by emissions from cars and industrial facilities such as power plants.” Twenty percent held the belief that “Global warming is a proven fact, and is mostly caused by natural changes that have nothing to do with emissions from cars,” and the remaining 23 percent who answered the question believe that “Global warming is a theory that has not been proven yet.” Even more surprising, these numbers are the same across the board for participants between 18 and 29 years old, with 51-56 percent agreeing that global warming is a fact and is caused by fuel emissions across age groups. In fact, the age group that least agreed with the first statement was that of 18 to 20-year-olds. Consequently, young Americans are often unsupportive of government measures to prevent climate change that might harm the economy. Less than a third of those surveyed agreed with the statement, “Government should do more to curb climate change, even at the expense of economic growth,” and only 12 percent strongly agreed with it.