Discussing Energy Economics on the Internet

Sarkozy Invests

Posted in France,Nuclear,Renewables by Cheryl Morgan on the June 28th, 2011

The weirdly political nature of energy industry news coverage was made clear again yesterday in reaction to a speech by President Sarkozy of France. That the French are investing €1bn in nuclear power should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed their energy policy over the years. M. Sarkozy is quoted by The Guardian as saying, “There is no alternative to nuclear energy today.”

Except that there obviously is, because in the same speech M. Sarkozy announced a €1.3bn investment in renewables. Somewhere, I am sure, there will someone reporting with horror that the French are spending more money on renewables than on nuclear, but the vast majority of newspapers appear to have concentrated on the nuclear story.

Comments Off on Sarkozy Invests

Greens Weigh In On Severn

Posted in Renewables,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the May 8th, 2009

As I expected, environmental groups are not happy with the British government’s plans for an 8GW tidal barrage across the Severn Estuary. In theory the government has whittled a long list of 10 tidal power projects down to a short list of 5, and will eventually choose the best project. In practice no one expects them to opt for anything other than the massive 8GW scheme because that’s the one that will deliver the most generating capacity. Unfortunately it may also be the project that causes most environmental damage.

Britain’s environmentalists are not taking this lying down. A coalition formed by the National Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the WWF and the Anglers’ Trust has commissioned a report from the engineering consultancy, W.S. Atkins. That report has now been published, and it casts significant doubt on the process that produced the short list from the long list. In particular Atkins alleges that the government report:

  • Assumed that two-way generation would produce similar or less power to ebb-only generation; and
  • Used 30-year-old calculations that seriously underestimate the potential output of some schemes

The two-way generation issue is particularly important as such schemes are believed to be less environmentally damaging than ebb-only generation. The government short list eliminated the “tidal reef” project based on this technology that was the preferred candidate of the environmental groups.

You have to have a certain amount of sympathy for the government bureaucrats for wanting to avoid a scheme that bills itself as a, “Totally new concept in tidal power generation”. On the other hand, this debate isn’t going to go away, and trying to eliminate a major rival candidate early on was perhaps not a good idea.

More coverage in The Guardian.

Comments Off on Greens Weigh In On Severn

May 2009 EEnergy Informer

Posted in EEnergy Informer,Renewables by Cheryl Morgan on the April 30th, 2009

The May 2009 issue of EEnergy Informer is now available. Here is the contents list:

  • US Poised To Fire On All Cylinders In Copenhagen
  • Does it Make Sense For Oil Rich UAE To Go Nuclear?
  • What To Do About Carbon’s Deeply Unequal Effects
  • No More Free Carbon: EPA Requires Carbon Reporting
  • Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Project: Desert Mirage Or Miracle?
  • How Many Green Jobs Will There Be?
  • Missing Headline: CAISO Goes Nodal And Nothing Happens
  • Wind’s Global Contribution to Grow
  • Global Solar PV Installations Reach 6 GW Milestone in 2008

The article on the Masdar Project is available for free. All other articles currently require a subscription to the paper edition of the magazine. To request a sample copy of EEnergy Informer click here.

Comments Off on May 2009 EEnergy Informer

Piebalgs Speaks

Posted in Europe,Renewables by Cheryl Morgan on the February 11th, 2009

The latest post on EU Energy Policy is by none other than Andris Piebalgs, Europe’s Commissioner for Energy. In it he makes a confident plea for a revolution in energy technology:

It is clear that we are at the beginning of what has correctly been called the “third industrial revolution” – the rapid development of an entirely new energy system. We can expect a massive shift towards a carbon-free electricity system, huge pressure to reduce energy consumption and transport on the basis of renewable electricity. To make this shift in a manner that maintains, and in fact increases the EU’s competitiveness, means that stimulating rapid technological development in these areas has to be a central part of the EU’s energy policy. Indeed, this is at the heart of the question: how can the EU turn the challenges of climate change and energy security into an opportunity?

Read the whole article here.

Comments Off on Piebalgs Speaks

National Grid Pumps Biogas

Posted in Renewables,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the February 2nd, 2009

In the UK news today is a report by Ernst & Young commissioned by National Grid. The report extols the virtues of biogas (gas created by decomposition of landfill waste) as a solution to the country’s energy troubles. Janine Freeman, head of National Grid’s Sustainable Gas Group, said:

Biogas has benefits on so many fronts. It is renewable and could help to meet the target of 15% of all our energy coming from renewable sources by 2020. It provides a solution for what to do with our waste with the decline in landfill capacity and it would help the UK with a secure supply of gas as North Sea sources run down

As a company with a gas distribution business, National Grid is obviously keen to push solutions that use its own networks, but the company does have a point that the infrastructure to support development of biogas use is largely in place.

Environmentalists are, of course, speaking out against the report. Any form of renewable energy that involves making use of landfill waste rather than stopping creating it in the first place always provokes their ire. Also other people in the renewables business are upset at National Grid apparently trying to hijack the agenda.

However, the main issue will remain planning permission. It is extremely difficult to get permission to do any energy-related development in the UK, so any solution that requires a large number of small installations is pretty much doomed to failure. That is why Gordon Brown is much more interested in huge projects such as new nuclear power stations and the Severn Barrage.

Press coverage of the story is available from the Telegraph and the BBC. The full report is available here.

Comments Off on National Grid Pumps Biogas

Severn Short List Published

Posted in Renewables,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the January 27th, 2009

The UK government has published a short list of 5 projects it is considering for extracting energy from the Severn Estuary. Included on the list is the option of a gigantic barrage stretching from Cardiff to Weston-super-Mare. The other projects are for smaller barrages and for tidal lagoons.

The large barrage project is opposed, not only by environmentalists, who fear the destruction of much wetland habitat, but also by the port of Bristol which has plans to develop a deep water container terminal – a project that would be a non-starter if the barrage prevented shipping from traveling into Bristol.

Judging by the local news last night, many people feel that the government has already made up its mind which project to back, and the consultation over the short list is a just sham to keep protesters happy. It is easy to see why. The big barrage will generate massively more energy (up to 8GW) and the tidal lagoon system favored by environmentalists are less proven technology.

Further coverage is available in The Guardian and The Times. A BBC Wales video with graphics showing the sites is available here.

Comments Off on Severn Short List Published

Introducing Irena

Posted in Germany,Renewables by Cheryl Morgan on the January 26th, 2009

At a conference in Bonn today a new international energy association will be founded. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is a German initiative supported by a number of other European countries including Denmark, Spain, France and the Netherlands. According to its web site:

IRENA aims at becoming the main driving force in promoting a rapid transition towards the widespread and sustainable use of renewable energy on a global scale.

Which is all very fine and noble. Many developing countries are keen to participate. Those that have promised to sign up include Vietnam, Paraguay, Mali, Ethiopia and Eritrea. However, major energy consumers such as the USA and China appear to be less keen on the idea (membership fees are means-tested, so larger countries would have a fairly hefty bill). And according to The Guardian the UK is rolling out the usual “if the big boys aren’t playing we won’t either” excuse.

Comments Off on Introducing Irena

A New Use for Gas Pipelines

Posted in Renewables,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the January 6th, 2009

A gas pipeline is a long tube containing material moving at speed. And that means that you can…

…put a turbine in it and generate electricity.

Or at least that’s the latest whizz idea for carbon-free generation in the UK. The Guardian has more on the story. The pilot scheme will be a 20MW unit, but the proponents believe that there is potential for up to 1 GW of generation throughout the UK.

Update: Capacity of pilot system correct – thanks Mike.

Row Breaks Out Over Severn Barrage

Posted in Renewables,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the January 5th, 2009

Today’s Guardian reports on a row that has erupted over the bidding process for the proposed Severn Barrage. The scheme is now very high on the British government’s priority list because it promises a quick fix to the UK’s generation woes (at least 5GW of new renewable generation) and a high profile project that politicians can be photographed in front of and claim as a legacy. But will it be economic? And will it destroy valuable natural habitats and disrupt the local shipping economy? That depends on how it is implemented.

The DECC is currently looking at proposals for the project, but one bidder, Tidal Electric, which claims to have a low-cost, low-impact solution, complains that its bid has been disadvantaged because the consultants hired to run the selection process have changed the specifications of their plan so as to make it much more expensive.

This is, of course, going to be a very big project, so there is a lot of money at stake. Expect more such rows before (if ever) the project gets approval. It is a good time to be a lawyer.

Comments Off on Row Breaks Out Over Severn Barrage

My Fridge Has Brains

Posted in Ancillary services,Renewables,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the December 2nd, 2008

Today’s Guardian reports that in 2009 the UK will be invaded by robots intelligent fridges. Thankfully Doctor Who will not be required to repel the invasion, nor is this anything to do with reminding us when we have run out of ice cream and need to re-stock. It is all part of a plan to save the planet, and it doesn’t even require a smart grid.

The concept behind the trial is called dynamic demand, and it is a plan to save money on ancillary services by reducing the need for frequency balancing services by power stations. A small piece of electronics fitted to baseload devices such as refrigerators allows them to adjust how much power they draw in response to the inputs they are sensing. Details of how the system works can be found at this web site. A particular benefit of the scheme is that it will help combat the rise in ancillary service costs that is expected to result from the introduction of more intermittent supply sources such as wind and solar.

The company providing the technology is called RLtec. Their product was profiled in a recent issue of New Scientist (scan online here). It includes the claim that if all of the UK’s fridges were fitted with this technology it would shave 2 GW off peak demand. More information is available in a report by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR). The Guardian article, which suggests possible savings of 2 million tonnes of CO2 and £222m, is in response to a new report by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), which does not appear to have hit their web site yet.

Comments Off on My Fridge Has Brains
Next Page »