The UK National Grid warns of possible brownouts. When? Within ten days:
British households are facing the prospect of ‘brown-outs’ this autumn – a reduction in electricity supply that could lead to appliances not working. The National Grid is warning that it may have to reduce the power supplied to homes to prevent total black-outs. The first brown-out could come within ten days, leaving TV and computer screens blank and kettles struggling to boil water. A report from the energy network operator yesterday warned that Britain faced the greatest danger of power shortages in almost a decade. It said there is an ‘increased likelihood’ there will be ‘insufficient supply available in the market to meet demand’. This is because older power stations that were closed to meet EU emissions targets have not been replaced, leaving the country more dependent on unreliable wind farms and power imported from nations such as France and the Netherlands via undersea cables. The National Grid may have to impose emergency measures to keep the lights on, including reducing the power to homes – known as voltage reduction – and paying factories to shut down mid-afternoon. The National Grid’s report says the week beginning October 26 could pose the first test of supplies because several power are plants due to be offline for maintenance – just when the clocks go back and herald longer, darker evenings.
Figure 4 of the National Grid report indeed projects a potential generation shortfall during the week of October 26 even with the UK wind fleet operating at 22% of “equivalent firm capacity” and 500MW of imports:
The usual mix below the fold, including Indonesia rejoins OPEC, the Saudi-Russia oil war in Poland, US cancels Arctic oil leasing, US shale gas rescues a UK chemicals plant, security fears over China/Hinkley deal, Swedish nukes to shut down, El Niño and mudslides in California, another UK solar firm in liquidation, problems for the Trafford gas plant and the Swansea Bay tidal project, Europe’s disastrous love affair with diesel, another wind-pumped hydro project in the Canary Islands and the silent Liam F1 rooftop wind turbine.
Natural Gas Intelligence: Indonesia to Rejoin OPEC in December
After a seven year absence, Indonesia will reportedly rejoin the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in December. According to reports, OPEC has notified Indonesia that it plans to accept the country’s request to reactivate its membership in the cartel at OPEC’s next meeting, which is scheduled for Dec. 4 in Vienna, Austria. OPEC said Indonesia asked in September to rejoin the cartel. At the time, the cartel said it had circulated Indonesia’s request to the other 12 nations in the bloc, and it added that “considering the feedback, the Indonesian [energy minister]…will now be invited to attend the next regular meeting…This will include the formalities of reactivating Indonesia’s membership of the organization.” According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Indonesia produced 911,000 b/d of petroleum and other liquids and 2.5 Tcf of natural gas in 2014. The country is the world’s 22nd-largest producer of oil. Indonesia first joined the cartel in 1962 but suspended its membership effective Jan. 1, 2009 after increased domestic demand and lower production turned it into a net importer of oil.
Venezuelan Oil Minister Eulogio del Pino said on Tuesday that eight non-OPEC countries have been invited to an Oct. 21 oil meeting: Azerbaijan, Brazil, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Norway, Mexico, Oman and Russia. The technical meeting of oil experts from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC countries will be held in Vienna, he told Reuters. “The confirmations are coming in gradually and I’m personally calling ministers to ensure that the delegation is of the adequate level of authority,” del Pino said. In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Venezuela’s long-time oil minister and current United Nations ambassador, Rafael Ramirez, said the proposal would reapply the old mechanism of progressive production cuts to control prices, with a “first floor” of $70 per barrel and a later target of $100 per barrel. Venezuela’s proposal will be discussed at the meeting this month, Kuwait’s oil minister said on Tuesday. “There is no decision. It will be discussed, and (based on) the outcome, we will decide whether to agree or disagree,” Ali al-Omair told reporters. He did not elaborate.
Bloomberg: Saudi Arabia’s Oil War With Russia
Saudi Arabia is starting to attack on Russia’s traditional stomping ground by supplying lower-priced crude oil to Poland. European traders and refiners confirm that Saudi Arabia has been offering its oil at significant discounts, making it more attractive than Russian crude. And, even though most eastern European refineries are now technologically dependent on the Russian crude mix, Russia’s oilmen are right to be worried. In the 1970s, Saudi Arabia sent half of its oil to Europe, but then the Soviet Union built export pipelines from its abundant West Siberian oil fields, and the Saudis switched to Asian markets, where demand was growing and better prices could be had. The Saudi share of the European crude market kept dropping; in 2009, it reached a nadir of 5.9 percent. Russia’s share peaked at 34.8 percent in 2011. In recent years, Saudi Arabia slowly increased its presence, reaching a 8.6 percent share in 2013, but it had never tried its luck in Poland. Like most of central and eastern Europe, Poland has long been a client of Russian oil companies. Last year, about three-quarters of its fuel imports came from Russia, with the rest from Kazakhstan and European countries. Poland, however, is at the center of efforts to reduce the European Union’s dependence on Russian energy.
Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman has agreed to buy E.ON’s oil and gas assets in the Norwegian North Sea for $1.6 billion after his attempt to get a foothold in the British North Sea was blocked by the government. Fridman’s LetterOne fund acquired the British fields as part of its takeover of RWE’s DEA oil and gas business in March, but was forced to sell them again as the West tightened sanctions against Moscow over its role in Ukraine. LetterOne agreed last week to sell DEA’s British oil and gas assets to Swiss chemicals company Ineos, though Britain told him he was still welcome to invest in the country. After Wednesday’s announcement that LetterOne had bought E.ON’s Norwegian oil and gas assets, Norway’s oil minister said he welcomed international investment and the application for approval of the deal would be handled “the usual way”. Both statements will be viewed with relief by wealthy Russians, who have been watching Fridman’s struggle to invest in Britain with great anxiety. Although the reassurances given to Fridman do not signal any major improvement in relations between the West and Moscow, they showed that Russian investments have not been banned entirely.
Wall Street Journal: U.S. Cancels Arctic Oil and Gas Lease Sales
Citing low oil prices and lack of company interest, the Obama administration moved Friday to prevent oil and natural-gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean. The Interior Department announced Friday it was canceling a pair of offshore oil and natural-gas lease sales it had scheduled to hold next year and in 2017, and said it was denying requests from two oil companies— Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Statoil ASA—to retain drilling rights set to expire soon. The moves come a few weeks after Royal Dutch Shell said it was quitting its $7 billion Arctic campaign. Shell said in late September its exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s Northwest coast this summer showed only traces of oil and natural gas. “In light of Shell’s announcement, the amount of acreage already under lease and current market conditions, it does not make sense to prepare for lease sales in the Arctic in the next year and a half,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Friday in a statement. No energy company is drilling in the U.S. portion of the Arctic Ocean. The steps taken by the Obama administration Friday mean there won’t be any for at least several years, unless a new president quickly reverses policy and oil prices rebound.
New York Times: Oil and gas company statement on climate change
Ten of the world’s big oil companies, mainly from Europe, jointly acknowledged on Friday that their industry must help address global climate change and said that they agreed with the United Nations’ goals of limiting global warming. The public declaration by a group called the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative was an effort to convince an increasingly skeptical world that energy companies, whose fossil fuels are a big source of greenhouse gases, are serious about delivering cleaner energy and combating climate change. But the impact of that statement might be limited. None of the biggest American oil companies signed the declaration or were part of the group. The companies that were involved — including BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Saudi Aramco and Total — made no specific commitments toward helping to meet the climate challenge. Instead, they indicated they would await government regulations to chart the way forward.
Chicago Tribune: Europe’s love affair with diesel cars has been a disaster
Europe’s longtime promotion of diesel vehicles as a “green” transportation option has been a complete and total disaster to date — for reasons that go well beyond the Volkswagen scandal. Ever since the 1990s, European governments have been encouraging drivers to buy diesel cars as an alternative to traditional gasoline-powered vehicles. The rationale was simple: Diesel engines use fuel more efficiently, so the switch was supposed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and help stave off global warming. Thanks to tax breaks and other incentives, diesel cars now make up one-third of Europe’s fleet: The main drawback of diesel cars is that they emit higher levels of other harmful air pollutants like particulates and nitrogen oxides. And those ended up being far harder to clean up than experts initially expected. We now know that Europe’s regulators have failed spectacularly to control diesel pollution, relying on weak rules and flimsy testing procedures. Lots and lots of automakers — not just Volkswagen — have been manufacturing diesel cars that emit far more gunk than they’re supposed to. And that’s not even the worst part. It’s now looking like Europe’s diesel push didn’t actually do much to help global warming, as one 2013 study by Michel Cames and Eckard Helmers found. The CO2 benefits from switching to diesel cars were overrated and offset by the extra soot the engines produced. On top of that, Europe’s entrenched diesel industry has impeded progress on hybrid and electric car technologies that might have provided far deeper emissions cuts. The whole episode is a sobering case study in how well-intentioned green industrial policy can go horribly wrong.
China Daily: China poised to speed up nuclear power investment
The development of nuclear power in China is set to gain momentum in the next five years as the country prepares to inject hundreds of billions of yuan into building nuclear plants. More than 100 nuclear power plants will be put into operation by 2020, with a nationwide capacity tripling that of 2014 to reach 58 million kilowatts, the China Times reported, citing a draft for the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20). According to the document, the government is expected to invest about 500 billion yuan ($78.8 billion) to build six to eight new plants annually during the period. ” Liang Haiming, an economic commentator, said the development of nuclear power would attract investment of more than a trillion yuan in the next five years, as an estimated 20,000 yuan is needed per kW. Chinese nuclear energy authorities have recently concluded research into 31 nuclear power generation facilities in some inland regions, indicating the controversial resumption of new plants’ operation in the near future. The country suspended its nuclear power projects in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011. In the meantime, Chinese companies have been stepping up efforts to go global with their top-notch nuclear power technologies in recent years.
Chancellor George Osborne has already announced a £2bn government guarantee to secure Chinese funding for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, to be jointly built with French energy giant EDF at an estimated cost of £24.5bn. The final go-ahead for the deal could be announced next week – paving the way for a second new reactor to built by the Chinese and French consortium at Sizewell, in Suffolk. If an agreement is reached, work could then start on the first Chinese-designed and built nuclear reactor in Europe, at Bradwell, in Essex, where a previous British-built reactor is in the process of being decommissioned. Security sources have told The Times the scheme poses a threat to national security – and a senior Tory MP has called for an inquiry. But No 10 said it would not sign the deal if it thought security was a risk. Caroline Baylon, a cyber security specialist at the Chatham House think tank, says Chinese investment is a “good thing” for the UK but “when it comes to very sensitive sectors of the economy we have to be very, very careful”. China is “well known for cyber-espionage” and, in common with other advanced nations, is already seeking out such vulnerabilities to allow it to hide potentially malicious software that could be activated later, says Ms Baylon, who recently co-authored a report on cyber-security at civil nuclear facilities.
Power Magazine: E.ON to shutter Oskarshamn nuclear units 1 and 2
OKG, owner and operator of the three-unit Oskarshamn nuclear power plant on Sweden’s east coast, announced on Oct. 14 that it would permanently shut down Units 1 and 2 at the facility, while continuing to operate the larger and newer Unit 3. OKG’s majority owner E.ON is driving the decision. The German-based company has been struggling with difficult global energy markets. Last December, it announced that it would embark on a new corporate strategy focused on renewables, distribution networks, and customer solutions, while combining its power generation, global energy trading, and exploration and production businesses into a new, independent company. The 473-MW Oskarshamn 1—Sweden’s first commercial nuclear power unit—was commissioned in 1972, while the 638-MW Unit 2 began operation in 1974. Unit 3 (1,400 MW) entered commercial operation in 1985. OKG said the decision to close the Oskarshamn units was made “in the light of the continuously low electricity rates together with the nuclear capacity tax on nuclear power which has been recently raised as well, and additional requirements on extensive investments.”
Nuclear Street: Vattenfall To Shutter Ringhals Nuclear Units 1 And 2
Vattenfall, which owns 70.4 percent of the 1,746 MW Ringhals facility on the Varo Peninsula in southwest Sweden, said it would close Units 1 and 2 at the plant. Unit 2 will close first, sometime in 2019, while Unit 1 will close by 2020, the Ringhals board of directors said. German utility giant E.ON holds the minority share of the four-unit plant. Ringhals Units 3 and 4 are expected to continue operations as long as their licenses allow – another 60 years. Vattenfall cited the cost of fuel and expected maintenance expenditures for closing the two units. Prior to the announcements this week, Sweden’s 10 operating reactors produced about 41 percent of the electricity generated in the country, while about 50 percent comes from hydro.
Telegraph: Trafford gas plant in doubt
The Government’s plans to keep the lights on have suffered a fresh setback after it emerged the only new large gas power station due to be built in coming years is now in doubt. Energy firm Carlton Power was awarded a subsidy contract by the Department of Energy and Climate Change last year to build a new 1.9 gigawatt plant at Trafford in Greater Manchester – big enough to supply power to 2.2 million homes. The £800 million plant was due to start generating in October 2018, but Carlton Power told the Telegraph it could no longer meet that date – and had so far failed to secure financial backers for the project to go ahead at all. Mike Benson, Carlton Power’s business development director, said securing investment had proved “more difficult than we would have hoped” due to a combination of long-term policy decisions that had skewed the market, and uncertainty caused by recent cuts to wind and solar subsidies. The Trafford plant had been supposed to begin construction this summer after getting a subsidy contract through the Government’s ‘capacity market’.
Energy companies face tougher penalties if they fail to build promised power plants, under new rules designed to ensure the Government’s scheme to keep the lights on actually works. The new rules for the ‘capacity market’ were unveiled after The Telegraph revealed that the only big new gas plant secured through the scheme so far, the 1.9GW Trafford plant, was delayed and in doubt after struggling to secure financing. Ministers said the changes were designed to “tighten up our assurance that new build projects that receive agreements actually deliver on time”. The capacity market is a central plank of the Government’s energy strategy and involves offering companies annual retainer-style payments to guarantee their power plants will be available when needed from 2018. The level of subsidy is decided through a ‘reverse auction’, designed to ensure the required number of power plants is secured at the lowest cost. Experts suggested “weak” penalties for failing to deliver meant Carlton Power, developers of the Trafford plant, may have taken a gamble on signing a contract to build it by October 2018, in return for what may turn out to have been an unviably low level of subsidy. The company faces a penalty of £5m per 1GW capacity and losing its contract if it fails to take a final investment decision on the promised plant by next summer – 18 months after securing the contract.
Agreement on the subsidy for the £1bn Swansea tidal lagoon project is “desperately needed”, the Welsh Economy Minister has said. Edwina Hart said without “certainty” on subsidy it was difficult for the project to attract investment. The UK government said it was too early for the strike price to be agreed as it was carrying out checks on the project. The firm behind the scheme has told BBC it would be “catastrophic” if the delayed project collapsed over funding. Addressing AMs at a business committee meeting in Swansea, Mrs Hart said: “The tidal lagoon project, if they can’t get certainty on strike price it’s going to be very difficult for investment. We haven’t got clarity on the UK government’s energy policies which makes it very difficult for the sector and we can’t afford to have that. I know the strike price is absolutely mouth-watering compared to nuclear at Hinkley but we have to do something about it.”
Drill or Drop: Cuadrilla reports Friends of the Earth over fracking leaflet
Cuadrilla Resources has confirmed it has reported a fracking leaflet produced by Friends of the Earth to the Advertising Standards Authority, saying it was misleading and scaremongering. The company says it has also reported FoE to the Charity Commission. Friends of the Earth said the health and environmental impacts of fracking was well-documented and the public were right to be concerned about it. The leaflet aimed to raise money to campaign against fracking. It said: “Help protect your community from Chemicals that could cause cancer. Air pollution and higher asthma risk. Water contamination. Plummeting house prices and bigger insurance bills.” Cuadrilla’s Chief Executive, Francis Egan, said in a statement: “It is irresponsible and shameful that a charity such as Friends of the Earth should use misleading and scaremongering statements to encourage members to part with their hard earned money. Friends of the Earth must know perfectly well that the UK Environment Agency would never permit the use of a ‘toxic cocktail of chemicals’ in UK fracking fluid and Cuadrilla has no intention of doing so. Furthermore there is no credible scientific evidence that the non-hazardous chemicals proposed for use in Cuadrilla’s UK fracking fluid having caused cancer or any other human disease.”
Guardian: Southern Solar to announce liquidation
One of Britain’s leading solar entrepreneurs is set to announce that his business has gone into liquidation, in the third high-profile casualty for the sector this month. Howard Johns, the former chairman of the Solar Trade Association and a government adviser on renewable energy, is expected to blame the collapse of Southern Solar on the government for failing to support the industry properly. Earlier this month the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) denied that proposed cuts of 87% in solar subsidy levels have tipped solar companies into crisis. The company founded by Johns has played a major role installing solar power systems for schools, local authorities and businesses. Its failure will add to the pressure on Amber Rudd, the energy and climate change secretary, to find a way of averting a growing crisis in the sector. Speculation about the future of Southern Solar soured an already troubled atmosphere at the Solar UK trade show in Birmingham this week. One delegate at the show, Jonathan Selwyn, managing director of another leading solar company, Lark Energy, said the industry was steeled for more business failures. “We are all pretty angry. Every company I know is thinking about redundancies. More companies will go bust if the government does not change track. This just puts more people on benefits. It really does not add up as a sensible government policy.”
Negotiators have several terms for the way they plan to enforce any deal reached at global climate talks in Paris this December. “Peer pressure” and “cooperation” are a couple. What you won’t hear mentioned is the word “sanctions”. Or “punishment”. For all their efforts to get 200 governments to commit to the toughest possible cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, climate negotiators have all but given up on creating a way to penalise those who fall short. The overwhelming view of member states, says Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, is that any agreement “has to be much more collaborative than punitive” – if it is to happen at all. “Even if you do have a punitive system, that doesn’t guarantee that it is going to be imposed or would lead to any better action,” Figueres said. To critics, the absence of a legal stick to enforce compliance is a deep – if not fatal – flaw in the Paris process, especially after all countries agreed in 2011 that an agreement would have some form of “legal force”. They warn that a deal already built upon sometimes vague promises from member states could end up as a toothless addition to the stack of more than 500 global and regional environmental treaties, while the rise in global temperatures mounts inexorably past a U.N. ceiling of 2 degrees Celsius, with the prospect of ever more floods, droughts and heatwaves.
Every night, France’s chief weatherman has told the nation how much wind, sun or rain they can expect the following day. Now Philippe Verdier, a household name for his nightly forecasts on France 2, has been taken off air after a more controversial announcement – criticising the world’s top climate change experts. Mr Verdier claims in the book Climat Investigation that leading climatologists and political leaders have “taken the world hostage” with misleading data. In a promotional video, Mr Verdier said: “Every night I address five million French people to talk to you about the wind, the clouds and the sun. And yet there is something important, very important that I haven’t been able to tell you, because it’s neither the time nor the place to do so.” He added: “We are hostage to a planetary scandal over climate change – a war machine whose aim is to keep us in fear.” His outspoken views led France 2 to take him off the air starting this Monday. “I received a letter telling me not to come. I’m in shock,” he told RTL radio. “This is a direct extension of what I say in my book, namely that any contrary views must be eliminated.” The book has been released at a particularly sensitive moment as Paris is due to host a crucial UN climate change conference in December.
The new leader of the world’s most authoritative climate science body has declared it’s time researchers shifted away from tracking the impacts of climate change – and focused instead on finding solutions. In his first interview since taking charge of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Hoesung Lee announced a major change in direction for the organisation’s exhaustive science reports. “We have been doing a fantastic job in identifying the problem of climate change. At the same time we have been somewhat slow in identifying the solutions aspects,” Lee told the Guardian. “I believe the next cycle of the IPCC should be more focused on opportunities and solutions.” He said the change in approach was needed to spur governments and business to do more to cut the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. “The actions on the part of policy makers to tackle climate change will be much more energised on the basis of opportunities and solutions … I believe that will be the next phase.”
Los Angeles Times: California mudslides and chaos offer a preview of what El Niño could bring
The storm that slammed into the high desert and mountains of Southern California this week was one for the record books. Intense rain sent massive mudflows onto highways, picking up cars and pushing them into one another. Hundreds of vehicles were trapped in mud up to 20 feet deep; in some cases, motorists were stranded overnight. October storms are nothing new in the high desert. But experts say the intensity of the deluge is just the latest byproduct of the record temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. The storm was not related to El Niño, the warm weather pattern that experts say is expected to produce heavy rain in California this winter. But John Dumas, a weather service meteorologist, said these storms offer a preview of what’s to come. The last major El Niño to hit California, in the late 1990s, caused deadly flooding, mudslides and other problems. Across Southern California, officials are racing to clear debris basins and make other preparations so that the region’s flood-control systems can combat the expected El Niño downpours.
Gran Canaria Info: Wind Energy And Giant Water Battery To Generate 60% Of Gran Canaria’s Power
Gran Canaria’s plan to use its reservoirs as a giant battery to store wind energy is expected to generate 60% of the island’s electricity needs within five years. The plan is to use the giant Chira and Soria reservoirs in the southern highlands as a huge battery to store up electrical energy generated by the island’s wind turbines, which currently only generate power at times of peak demand and when the wind is blowing. By running the wind turbines whenever there is enough wind and using the electricity to pump water from Soria reservoir up to the higher altitude Chira reservoir, the energy can be stored and later released by allowing water to flow back down to Soria via a hydroelectrical power plant. Spanish electrical infrastructure firm Red Electrica will start to build the hydro plant between the two reservoirs in 2016 and expects the system, which has a €300 million budget, to be fully operational within five years.
Small wind turbines scaled to the right size for residential and urban areas have so far lived in the shadows of their larger wind-farm-sized counterparts. The power output has been too low for a reasonable return on investment through energy savings and the noise they produce is louder than most homeowners can deal with. A Dutch renewable energy start-up called The Archimedes is working to solve both of those problems in a new class of small-scale wind turbine — one that is almost silent and is far more efficient at converting wind into energy. The company states that the Liam F1 turbine could generate 1,500 kWh of energy per year at wind speeds of 5m/s, enough to cover half of an average household’s energy use. When used in combination with rooftop solar panels, a house could run off grid. The Liam’s blades are shaped like a Nautilus shell. The design allows it to point into the wind to capture the most amount of energy, while also producing very little sound. The inventor of the turbine Marinus Mieremet says that the power output is 80 percent of the theoretical maximum energy that could be harnessed from the wind. “Generally speaking, there is a difference in pressure in front and behind of the rotor blades of a windmill. However, this is not the case with the Liam F1. The difference in pressure is created by the spatial figure in the spiral blade. This results in a much better performance. Even when the wind is blowing at an angle of 60 degrees into the rotor, it will start to spin. We do not require expensive software: because of its conical shape, the wind turbine yaws itself automatically into the optimal wind direction. Just like a wind vane. And because the wind turbine encounters minimal resistance, he is virtually silent,” said Mieremet.