Category Archives: Energy

An Independent Evaluation of the El Hierro Wind & Pumped Hydro System

In this post engineer Benjamin Jargstorf brings his hands-on experience with other island renewable energy projects to bear on Gorona del Viento. Benjamin’s conclusions are generally but not always the same as mine, but an independent assessment is always welcome, and we are indebted to Benjamin for providing it. Of particular interest to technical types will be his recommendations for improving GdV’s performance. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments

UK Electricity 2050 Part 4: Nuclear and renewables cost comparisons

Guest post by Energy Matters’ commentator Alex Terrell. Part 4 of the series on designing a renewable or nuclear electricity supply for the UK in 2050, where parts 1 to 3 were co-authored with Andy Dawson. Here costs of the renewable and nuclear options are compared. The forecast based on BEIS’ median 2030 scenarios for renewables (wind+solar) comes in at £143 / MWh and for nuclear at £84 / MWh, for wholesale costs. Both costs will be a lot lower if the respective technologies improve as their advocates hope. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Keeping The Lights On

It’s not very often that Energy Matters gets a mention in the “mainstream media” but last week Roger and I got a mention in UK satirical magazine Private Eye (no 1437). In his column, “Keeping the Lights On”, Old Sparky had commentary on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and says this:

“But painstaking tidal analysis by respected energy industry analysts Euan Mearns and Roger Andrews shows there is no practical combination of lagoons that could even out the bursts of electricity from this airily conjured “fleet”.”

The whole article is reproduced with consent from Private Eye below the fold. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

New Renewable Energy Targets for Scotland

The Scottish Government recently launched a consultation on a revised energy strategy. The existing policy is to produce the equivalent of 100% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The new policy is to produce the equivalent of 50% of all energy consumed from renewable sources by 2030 – in 13 years time. Electricity currently represents 22% of energy consumption and we are now at 59% renewables, suggesting that 13% of all energy currently comes from renewable sources. The new plan calls for renewable output to increase approximately 4 fold. It is also planned that our two nuclear power stations will close in this time frame. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , | 73 Comments

The proposed US carbon tax – a recipe for disaster

A group of Republican elder statesmen have recommended that the US adopt a $40/ton carbon tax as the “most efficient and effective way of reducing CO2 emissions”. This post reviews the potential economic impacts of such a tax on the US energy sector. It concludes that the impacts on the oil and natural gas sectors would be comparatively minor but that the impacts on the coal sector would be severe. Electric utilities with a high percentage of coal in their generation mix could well be driven into bankruptcy. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , | 74 Comments

US GDP, Energy Consumption and CO2 Emissions

A review of the structure of US GDP, imports and exports shows that none of these variables has contributed to the fall in US CO2 emissions post-2008 finance crash. The main contributions to reduced CO2 come from high energy prices and recession (36%), gas substitution for coal (20%) and growth in wind and solar (15%) which more or less corroborates the findings of Roger Andrew’s in his recent post on this topic. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

The causes of the recent decrease in US greenhouse gas emissions

Since their peak in 2007 GHG emissions in the USA have decreased more in absolute terms than in any other country. The results of this review suggest that approximately 40% of this decrease was caused by the replacement of coal with gas in generating plants, 30% by improvements in the efficiency of internal combustion engines and 30% by growth in low-carbon renewables. Another major contributor was the 2008-9 global recession, although its impact can’t reliably be quantified. Had economic growth continued at historic rates between 2007 and the present US GHG emissions would now be substantially higher than they are. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 58 Comments

Oil Production Vital Statistics January 2017

January was the month that OPEC was supposed to reduce production by 1.2 Mbpd and Russia + others were supposed to cut a further 0.6 Mbpd. None of the January production data has been released yet and the only real time indicator we have is the oil price that began the month of January on $55.05 and ended the month on $54.77 (Brent) (Figure 1). The only remarkable thing is how little market response there has been to the feeble OPEC deal. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Oil and Gas Production in N America

This post provides an overview of N American oil and gas production utilising the growing mountain of charts to be found in Global Energy Graphed. These charts show the parlous state of the Mexican oil and gas industry that will be the focus of this post. Oil production is down nearly to the point where Mexico will cease oil exports. Gas production is down and Mexico has already become a serial gas importer. Drilling has virtually come to a halt. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Do the Netherlands’ trains really run on 100% wind power?

This question generated a number of comments in the last Blowout so I thought I would take a quick look at it. I find that the electrified portion of the Dutch railway network (Nederlandse Spoorwegen, or NS) runs on grid electricity that comes dominantly from fossil fuel generation (natural gas and coal). NS claims 100% wind power because it has a contract with various wind farms to produce enough energy to power its rail system, but this is just an accounting transaction. Only a small fraction of the power delivered to its trains actually comes from wind. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , | 54 Comments

Green Mythology: adding different types of renewables smooths output

A favourite assertion of renewables enthusiasts is that intermittent supply can be smoothed by simply adding different types of renewable resource. How often have you heard “If it’s not windy then we can use tidal instead”. I present a simple renewable supply model for the UK that has 20 GW of tidal, 13.6 GW of wind and 8.8 GW of solar for a total of 42.5 GW installed capacity. When everything is on this outputs a maximum of 22.2 GW of power (52.2% load). When everything is off that falls to 0.9 GW (2.1% load). Those contemplating engineering the UK grid along those lines must surely be mad. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , | 59 Comments

Attributing the blame for global warming

Those who believe that man-made greenhouse gases are responsible for global warming are also firm in the conviction that it was caused dominantly by CO2 emissions from the developed countries (inset). However, a little-known analysis from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), concludes that greenhouse gas emissions from the developed countries in fact caused significantly less than half of the global warming through 2000. In this post I briefly review this analysis and its implications. Continue reading

Posted in Climate change, Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , | 51 Comments

Green Mythology: Tidal Base-load Power in the UK

Scientists working at The University of Liverpool and the NERC Proudman Oceanic Laboratory have developed elegant computer simulations of electricity generation from tidal barrage and tidal flow power stations deployed in the Severn Estuary and the East Irish Sea. The models show that no combination of tidal system from this area can produce continuous and uniform base-load generation. Despite this, these workers conclude that it can. Adding pumped storage hydro provides an economical and practical way to smooth out daily fluctuations but cuts peak output by over 50%. Large-scale deployment of tidal stations will modify coastlines that deploying renewable energy is supposed to prevent. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , | 69 Comments

The gulf between the Paris Climate Agreement and energy projections

According to the Paris Climate Agreement a rapid decrease in the world’s consumption of fossil fuels is now mandatory if the Earth is to be saved from climate disaster. Projections of future energy use, however, are unanimous in predicting an increase in the world’s consumption of fossil fuels in coming decades. Either the energy consumption projections are wrong or the Paris goal is unachievable. This post reviews the basic provisions of the Paris Agreement, compares them with six independent estimates of future energy consumption and concludes that while the energy consumption estimates are subject to uncertainty the goals of the Paris Agreement are indeed unachievable. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 71 Comments

Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and Baseload Tidal Generation in the UK

Charles Hendry, former energy secretary, published his long awaited report on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon power station last week coming down in favour of the project. Hendry’s report is comprehensive but has one key omission. It does not ask if tidal lagoons can provide renewable base-load power in the UK as is often claimed. I set out in a positive frame of mind to show that it could, but failed miserably in that attempt. Facts defeated me.

UK tidal lagoons will produce more intermittent electricity than any other form of renewable generation providing four spikes separated by four periods of zero production each day. It is often claimed that the predictability of tides is a virtue. This also means we can predict with certainty that this energy source will be a disaster for the public as well as the environment. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , | 131 Comments

Can Hawaii go 100% Renewable?

Hawaii’s Renewables Portfolio Standard commits it to obtaining 100% of its energy from renewables by 2045, and Hawaii proposes to do this by wholesale replacement of fossil fuel generation with solar. This approach is theoretically possible, but only if there is enough energy storage (approximately 10GWh) to match day-night solar fluctuations of over 3GW to a substantially flat ~800MW load curve and if grid stability can be mantained with dominant solar generation. The Renewables Portfolio Standard also covers only electricity generation, which presently supplies only about a third of Hawaii’s energy needs, so even if it’s met Hawaii will still fall well short of its 100% renewable energy target. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | 50 Comments

Oil Production Vital Statistics December 2016

Global total liquids production hit yet another record high of 98.24 Mbpd in November led by OPEC and Russia! Libya’s drive to restore production is a significant factor with production up 280,000 bpd from recent lows. The US oil rig count has risen for 32 consecutive weeks and US oil production has stopped falling. Production from the North Sea and Asia are in decline as the past low price and drive to restore profitability works through the system. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , | 24 Comments

El Hierro end 2016 performance update

Because of generally low wind strengths the Gorona del Viento (GdV) plant achieved only 28.2% renewables generation in November and December 2016. Percent total renewables generation since full operations began in June 2015 stands at 37.7% at the end of 2016, down slightly from 38.7% at the end of October 2016. Renewables generation for the calendar year 2016 was 41.1%. Minor improvements are apparently being made in wind turbine performance but hydro generation remains negligible overall. Data on GdV plant layout, operation and capacities are given in the September 2015 review. Previous posts on GdV are accessible through the El Hierro portal. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , | 42 Comments

Energy Prices in Europe

A few days ago a link to a UK government report called Quarterly Energy Prices landed in my in box. At the end was a series of interesting charts comparing liquid fuel, natural gas and electricity prices across Europe. This post presents these charts alongside some simple but rather interesting observations. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , | 84 Comments

Oil Price Scenario for 2017

Every year around this time I make an oil price “forecast” for fun and have a bet with a friend. A year ago my BAU scenario for Brent was $37 for December 2016. The current front month is $55.80. My friend wagered on $64 leaving $50.50 as the break-even point. It is time to concede defeat and examine why I did so badly?

To cut to the quick, my wag for December 2017 is $60 but we may see $80 some time during the year. Light tight oil (LTO) production has disturbed the historic price-supply dynamic adding uncertainty to predictions. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments