Category Archives: Political commentary

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 , , , , , , | 107 Comments

The State of the Blog and Sponsorship Appeal 2016

It is that time of year again when I unfortunately must pass round the begging bowl and ask readers to dig deep and make donations to keep me and the blog afloat. The donate button is to the right. It is simple to use via PayPal. In November the blog had over 50,000 unique visitors. At the end of this post their are links to all 129 posts for the year to date. Continue reading

Posted in Political commentary, Site news | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

The Glenmuckloch Pumped Storage Hydro Scheme

Scotland is to get a new pumped storage hydro scheme, not in the Highlands but in the Scottish Borders. With a capacity of 400 MW and an estimated 1.7 GWh of storage this plant can make a meaningful 4 hour contribution to peak generation every day. But wooly arguments made about smoothing intermittent renewables makes it unclear if this commendable strategy is the intended use. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , | 92 Comments

Playing the Trump Card: a Tale of Golf, Wind Turbines and Political Expediency

To say that US President elect Donald Trump is a controversial character would be an understatement. Not so widely known, he is also 50% Scottish, his mother Mary Anne Macleod being born in Stornaway on the Island of Lewis on May … Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 61 Comments

Blackout

Last week I gave a talk at The Scottish Oil Club in Edinburgh that was well received. The slide deck can be down loaded here. Since then we have been on high blackout alert since the UK weather has turned cold, wet and snowy with little wind at times. And there are 20 nuclear power stations closed in France creating an import shortage. This post summarises my talk using 14 out of 36 slides. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , | 83 Comments

Death and Climate Change

According to various studies and numerous web postings climate change is already causing hundreds of thousands of deaths and will cause millions more in the future, dominantly in poor countries. In this post we take a brief look at how these estimates were arrived at and whether they have any firm observational or statistical backup. Continue reading

Posted in Climate change, Political commentary | Tagged , , | 40 Comments

Does carbon capture & storage have a future in the UK?

A UK Parliamentary Advisory Group (PAG) recently published a report in which it claimed that carbon capture and storage was “critical” if the UK is to meet its CO2 emissions targets. The PAG is correct in so far as something needs to be done, but whether CCS is it is open to question. Accordingly, this post addresses the subject of whether CCS offers potential for emissions reductions on the necessary scale in the UK and concludes, as others have concluded before, that it doesn’t. Continue reading

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

Emissions reductions and world energy demand growth

A major obstacle to cutting global CO2 emissions is growth in world energy demand. In this post I examine world energy growth projections from a number of different sources and compare them with the growth trends that will be necessary to meet emissions reductions goals. It goes without saying that there is an enormous gulf between the two. This leaves the world with a stark choice – cut fossil fuel consumption by 80% by 2050 or suffer the consequences of global warming, whatever they may be. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , | 110 Comments

UK Wind Constraint Payments

Electricity generation from wind power has grown dramatically in the UK in recent years (Figure 2) and so has the challenge to balance the grid, especially when it is very windy. One of the balancing tactics deployed by National Grid is to pay wind farms to switch off when it is windy. This cost, borne by the consumer, is called a constraint payment. In 2015, UK consumers forked out £90 million to pay subsidy driven wind farms to switch off.

The amount of UK wind that is constrained is growing with the level of penetration. At 10% wind penetration, 6% of the wind power available is constrained. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , | 78 Comments

The Holy Grail of Battery Storage

A recent Telegraph article claims that storage battery technology is now advancing so fast that “we may never again need to build 20th Century power plants in this country, let alone a nuclear white elephant such as Hinkley Point” and that the “Holy Grail of energy policy” – a storage battery cost of $100/kWh – will be reached in “relatively short order”. This brief post shines the cold light of reality on these claims by calculating battery storage costs based on the storage requirements for specific cases estimated in previous Energy Matters posts. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , | 120 Comments

The Hinkley Point C Pantomime

The board of EDF, the French State controlled owner of UK and French power stations and vendor of the new Gen 3 EPR (European Pressurised Water Reactor) voted narrowly to approve the Hinkley C reactor project on Thursday (by 10 votes to 7). Contracts were supposed to be signed today (Friday). But then in an unexpected move the UK Government has called the project in for re-evaluation. Clearly, they did not expect the French to proceed. What on Earth is going on? Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , | 116 Comments

Climate science and the UK Climate Change Act

The Climate Change Act of 2008 is, supposedly, underpinned by the findings of climate science, and riding herd on these findings is the Climate Change Committee (CCC), which reviews the state of climate science whenever a new carbon budget is published to see whether any significant changes have occurred. Here we briefly review the CCC’s latest assessment, which accompanies the fifth carbon budget. We find that few if any of the CCC’s conclusions are backed up by hard evidence and that some of them are the opposite of the truth. Yet they still underpin the Climate Change Act, which continues to govern the UK’s long-term energy policy. Continue reading

Posted in Climate change, Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , | 32 Comments

Can the UK meet the fifth carbon budget?

The UK’s fifth carbon budget calls for a 57% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to 1990 levels by 2028-2032. This post evaluates whether this goal is achievable and concludes that at best it will be difficult to meet. It also reviews the reasons behind the UK’s apparent success in reducing its GHG emissions (down by 36% in 2014 relative to 1990) and concludes that this reduction is largely a result of market forces and that renewable energy has played only a minor part. The post also highlights the fact that only about a quarter of UK GHG emissions come from the electricity sector, meaning that success can be achieved only by reducing emissions from the other energy-consuming sectors, which is a much tougher proposition. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , | 40 Comments

Brexit and The Simple Solution

With a very high turnout of 72% the Brits took the Brexit vote very seriously and exercised their democratic right to speak on this issue while they still had it. Shame on all those politicians and commentators who do not respect our courage to speak out. Any hint of retribution smacks of dictatorship. Continue reading

Posted in Political commentary | Tagged | 114 Comments

Did Portugal run for four days on renewables alone?

Recently there has been much rejoicing in the green media that the entire country of Portugal succeeded in powering itself with 100% renewables for four straight days from May 7 through May 10, 2016. Here we look into the question of whether this is true (it is) and second the question of what caused it (the weather). Over the period in question Portugal was able to make maximum use of its hydro and wind capacity because of unusually heavy rains (inset) and strong winds, a combination of renewables-favorable weather conditions that has been described as “fantastic”, although the tourism industry may take a different view. Continue reading

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

The Energy Return of Solar PV – a response from Ferroni and Hopkirk

Last week’s post on The Energy return of Solar PV caused quite a stir. Yesterday I received a response to some of the comments from Ferroccio Ferroni and Robert Hopkirk answering some of the queries raised by readers. There response is given below the fold. But first I have a few comments to add.

Let’s kick off with the unshakeable enthusiasm for renewables of every flavour from the Scottish National Party. Member of the Scottish Parliament Callum McCaig:

I think Scotland is very much leading the way…. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 65 Comments

Net metering and the death of US rooftop solar

“Net metering” allows anyone with a solar installation to sell surplus solar power to the grid when the sun is shining and to purchase power back from the grid when it isn’t. Net metering has been described as the lifeblood of solar in America, and it’s probably true to state that without it there would be few, if any domestic rooftop solar installations anywhere in the country. However, the program is now coming under attack, with Hawaii and Nevada recently rolling back net metering benefits and with a number of other states also considering changes. What happens if enough states impose similar rollbacks, or maybe do away with net metering altogether? This post reviews this question and concludes that domestic solar in the US will slowly wither and die. Continue reading

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

Drought, El Niño, Blackouts and Venezuela

It’s fashionable these days to blame everything that goes wrong with anything on human interference with the climate, and we had yet another example last week when President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela fingered drought, El Niño and global warming as the reasons Venezuela’s lights keep going out. In this post I show that his Excellency has not a leg to stand on when he makes these claims, but that because no one ever looks at the data everyone believes him. Continue reading

Posted in Climate change, Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , | 35 Comments

Is large-scale energy storage dead?

Many countries have committed to filling large percentages of their future electricity demand with intermittent renewable energy, and to do so they will need long-term energy storage in the terawatt-hours range. But the modules they are now installing store only megawatt-hours of energy. Why are they doing this? This post concludes that they are either conveniently ignoring the long-term energy storage problem or are unaware of its magnitude and the near-impossibility of solving it. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , | 124 Comments

EU to Introduce Two New Time Zones

Earlier today Mr Donald Trunk, EU Commissioner for Social Adjustments, launched an initiative that will see two new time zones introduced before the end of 2017. Mr Trunk explained that spreading electricity demand more evenly across the continent will help integrate the new electricity market and reduce peak demand. What better way to achieve integration than to divide the continent into 5 time zones? Continue reading

Posted in Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , | 30 Comments