UK Electricity Part 3: Wind and Solar

Guest post by Alex Terrell and Andy Dawson:

Part 1 of the series on 2050 electricity demand provided a “high electrification” scenario where the average electricity demand was approximately 72GW, but peak demand on exceptionally cold days could reach 121GW.

Part 2 described how this demand could be fulfilled with a nuclear supply model. In Part 3 we have used the same demand model to show how this could be substantially fulfilled with wind and solar power; though relying on significant amounts of storage to match supply and demand, and gas (or biofuel) capacity to operate when storage is insufficient. A number of different scenarios are explored, with the preferred scenario laid out below, adjacent to the nuclear scenario for comparison.

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Blackout: the sequel

Reactor 1 (600 MW) of the Torness nuclear power station in Scotland tripped at 09:00 on 22nd November whilst reactor 2 was on half load for refuelling. Since then Scotland has been dependent on electricity imports from England for every hour of every day peaking at 2552 MW at 20:00 on 23 Nov as the mercury plunged towards -5˚C. At that point, Scotland was dependent on England for half of its electricity. In the past, Scotland was always 100% reliant on home-grown power.
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Blowout Week 152

Once more unto to the Donald, dear friends. This week we feature president-elect Trump’s call for Nigel Farage to be UK ambassador in Washington and the reactions to this unprecedented breach of diplomatic protocol, not all of which were negative. You just can’t make this stuff up. (Image credit Daily Mail):

New York Times:  Trump wants Farage as ambassador to US

Once again, President-elect Donald J. Trump seems to have gone out of his way to embarrass the British government. In a Monday night Twitter post, just as the British government was reaching out to Mr. Trump to reaffirm the “special relationship” with the United States that Britons prize, he suggested the appointment of Nigel Farage, the interim leader of Britain’s populist, anti-immigrant U.K. Independence Party, as ambassador to the United States.

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The European Blackout Risk

At 2000 hours Central European Time on February 8, 2012 combined electricity demand in the UK, France and Germany peaked at a high of 231GW during a winter cold snap. This caused no serious problems at the time, but the UK, France and Germany could have a combined total of as little as 210GW of capacity on-line this winter, and if another 231GW demand peak coincides with 210GW of available capacity the alternatives will be either large-scale “demand side” management (i.e. paying lots of industries and businesses to shut down) or blackouts.
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The Aramco IPO and the Black Art of Estimating Oil Reserves

Saudi Arabia has announced that 5% of state owned Aramco is to be put up for sale perhaps as early as 2018. As part of the process, the country’s oil reserves will be subject to audit by western consultants, presumably to OECD standards. Given that Saudi Arabia has not adjusted oil reserves for production since 1980 there is a widely held view that the official figure of 267 billion barrels is a gross overstatement of reality. The audit will be interesting to say the least, especially since  Iraq, Iran, Kuwait and UAE are all guilty of the same malpractice. Deducting the 156 billion barrels produced since 1936 leaves 110 billion bbls remaining. Only time will tell where reality lies.

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Blowout Week 151

We’re going to be hearing a lot about president-elect Trump in coming weeks, so in this week’s Blowout we break off Trump coverage to feature a story that hasn’t received much media attention but which has implications that in the long term are perhaps just as important – the USGS’s estimate of 20 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically-recoverable oil in the Midland Basin. If this much oil remains to be found in an area as intensively-explored as Texas, how much might there be in areas that have yet to feel the tread of the roughneck’s boot?

USGS:   USGS Estimates 20 Billion Barrels of Oil in Texas’ Wolfcamp Shale Formation

The Wolfcamp shale in the Midland Basin portion of Texas’ Permian Basin province contains an estimated mean of 20 billion barrels of oil, 16 trillion cubic feet of associated natural gas, and 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas liquids, according to an assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey.

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France’s nuclear “crisis” and UK energy security

France’s electricity generation since June has been running 5-10GW below normal because of nuclear plants being shut down for inspection. France has made up this shortfall by reducing electricity exports – generation from oil, coal, gas, hydro and renewables has stayed about the same. Exports to UK have decreased to the point where overall the UK now exports more power to France than it imports. The exports, however , occur dominantly during periods of low UK demand. The UK still imports up to 2GW of power from France during peak  periods, although it’s unlikely that it would be able to do so should there be a protracted cold spell in Europe this winter.

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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 10th 1912. This makes him, after Andy Murray, one of Scotland’s most famous sons alive today.

His Scottish ancestry and love of golf brought Trump to NE Scotland in 2006 where he bought the greater part of the Menie Estate just N of Aberdeen with plans to build a links golf course on the great sand dunes of this beautiful area.

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Blowout Week 150

This week’s Blowout is inevitably dominated by the unexpected election of Donald Trump to the US presidency. To the supporters of climate change action and a global shift to renewable energy this is an absolute worst-case scenario. To climate change skeptics and energy realists it represents light at the end of the tunnel. Here we summarize early reactions, setting the scene with Trump’s official policy statement:

Website of President-elect Donald J. Trump:  Trump’s “energy independence” policy

America will unleash an energy revolution that will transform us into a net energy exporter, leading to the creation of millions of new jobs, while protecting the country’s most valuable resources – our clean air, clean water, and natural habitats.

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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.

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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 (see inset). 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. The conclusions are, well, interesting. Continue reading

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Oil Production Vital Statistics October 2016

It is becoming increasingly difficult to make sense of the global production figures in light of events and IEA revisions. The July 2016 global total liquids figure has been subject to a large upwards revision to 97.45 Mbpd, leaving it just 10,000 bpd short of the all time record set in November 2015 (see chart). The figure recorded in August for July was 97.01 Mbpd, so it has been revised up by 440,000 bpd over the last 3 months.
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Blowout Week 149

The big news this week comes from Europe, where the European Commission is seriously considering canceling after 2020 the grid dispatch priority that renewable energy has up to now enjoyed. If implemented, as it seems it will be, this change could have a major impact on future renewables growth in Europe and on the EU’s ability to meet its emissions targets:

Guardian:  Renewables could lose European power grid priority, documents reveal

Windfarms and solar power could soon lose the privilege of getting priority over other energy sources on European electricity grids, leaked documents show.

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The BN-800 Fast Reactor – a Milestone on a Long Road

Guest post by Russian commenter Syndroma who was trained in IT and now works in his family business. The BN-800 was commissioned this week.

The Past 

The Russian fast neutron reactor program was started in the early days of the nuclear age. Scientists back then realised that thermal neutron reactors are no more than a stopgap solution. Yes, they’re simple, but ugly from the scientific point of view. They’re inefficient, burning no more than 1% of natural uranium, and they leave a lot of highly radioactive long-term waste, which can’t be dealt with meaningfully without fast reactors. Scientists, being a bit idealistic, couldn’t believe someone would want to deal with thermal reactors in the long term. Continue reading

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El Hierro October 2016 performance update

During October the hybrid wind-hydro Gorona del Viento (GdV) plant achieved 19.8% renewables generation, higher than the 13.5% achieved in September 2015 but barely a third of the 58.2% achieved in August 2016. The cause was an abrupt mid-month degeneration in wind conditions (renewables generation averaged 32.4% in the first half of October but only 7.7% in the second, and for a total of 199 hours during the month GdV generated no electricity at all). Percent renewables generation since full operations began at GdV in June 2015 now stands at 38.8%, down from 40.1% at the beginning of the month. This represents only 8.9% of El Hierro’s total energy demand if we accept that electricity supplies only 23% of El Hierro’s total energy. 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

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UK Electricity 2050 Part 2: A High Nuclear Model

Guest post by Energy Matters’ commentators Alex Terrell and Andy Dawson. In part 2 of their trilogy, Alex and Andy examine how the UK 2050 electricity demand may be met by a nuclear dominated supply model. It requires 85 GW of nuclear capacity in the UK. The model is founded on existing technology and existing UK nuclear sites. But as the decades pass goes on to include new UK nuclear sites previously occupied by coal fired power stations and clusters of small modular reactors (SMRS) that have yet to be built, licensed and tested. It concludes by introducing the concept of nuclear islands built in very shallow water off the English coast.

UK Electricity 2050 Part 1: a demand model

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Blowout Week 148

This week’s Blowout focuses on change – in particular  “sea change”, which is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as a “profound or notable transformation”.  Because of declining investment the world’s clean energy industry may now be in the process of having one – direction downwards:


Bloomberg: Setbacks for clean energy – or are times a-changin’?

It is clear that a number of key markets are seeing real slowdowns in demand for renewable energy equipment.

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LCOE and the Cost of Synthetic Jet Fuel

Mankind has set itself the challenge to decarbonise its energy system. While progress is being made in the quest for CO2 neutral electricity it is proving more challenging to develop CO2 neutral liquid fuel. The liquid fuel challenge may be addressed in two ways. The first is to simply do away with it all together and to opt for electrification of transport. But that option is not available to air travel leading to the challenge of manufacturing a CO2 neutral jet fuel at a reasonable cost.

[Image from US Navy research test flying a model P-51 Mustang powered by fuel made from seawater derivatives. Image from Smithsonian.]

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UK Electricity 2050 Part 1: a demand model

Guest post by Energy Matters’ commentators Alex Terrell and Andy Dawson. Alex Terrell is a business consultant in the area of Vehicle Telematics. He has also consulted in Energy and Manufacturing, and has a degree in Engineering. Andy Dawson is an energy sector systems consultant and former nuclear engineer.

This lengthy post is in three parts and aims to provide greater sophistication to a UK 2050 electricity model than can be achieved using the DECC 2050 calculator. Part 1 (below) presents the demand model. Parts 2 and 3 (to follow) will look at how demand may be met by a high nuclear option and from a renewables option.

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Blowout Week 147

This week we return to the South Australian blackout. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) second update on the cause of the state-wide blackout is now out, and it leaves no doubt that SA’s wind farms at least contributed. Opinions as to what the implications are, however, vary:

Reneweconomy: Storm of controversy erupts over AEMO blackout report

In its second update, AEMO has pointed the finger at settings on certain wind farms and fossil fuel generators in the events immediately before and after the state-wide outage last month.

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