Discussing Energy Economics on the Internet

GdF Joins SSE/Iberdrola Group

Posted in Nuclear,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the February 4th, 2009

The consortium formed by Scottish & Southern (SSE) and Iberdrola, with the purpose of building new nuclear plants in the UK, has a new member. The BBC reports that Gaz de France (GdF) has joined the group. The article also mentions a rival consortium comprised of RWE and E.ON. It is getting crowded in that market.

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February EEnergy Informer

Posted in Nordic,Nuclear,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the February 3rd, 2009

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

  • Is Exxon’s Carbon Tax Part Of Obama’s Sea Change?
  • Nuclear Eyes On Britain
  • Energy Demand, Like Everything Else, to Slip In 2009
  • Mounting Unpaid Utility Bills Pose New Challenge For Smart Meters
  • Future Of Coal: Rhetoric vs. Reality
  • Can DOE Make A Difference?
  • Sempra Finds The El Dorado In Solar PVs
  • AREVA’s Setbacks In Finland Cause for Nuclear Alarm
  • New Year Letter To Obamas Warns On Factories Of Death

The article on Finland is available for free. All other articles currently require a subscription to the paper edition of the magazine. To subscribe to EEnergy Informer click here.

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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.

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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.

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Iberdrola & SSE Go Nuclear

Posted in Nuclear,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the January 22nd, 2009

It seems like EdF will not have it all its own way in the expected bonanza of nuclear plant production in the UK. According to Energy Business Review, Iberdrola and Scottish & Southern Energy will be setting up a joint venture with a view to building their own nuclear plants.

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Another Hopeful UK Retailer

Posted in Retail,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the January 13th, 2009

Platts reports that a new entrant to the UK’s retail electricity and gas market is offering the lowest duel-fuel deals around, undercutting the “big six” incumbent suppliers.

Well they would have to, wouldn’t they. But will they survive? The UK’s retail energy market has a long history of consolidation by incumbents and failures by new entrants. First:utility will need to have something special to offer if they are to survive in a market where economies of scale are everything. Looking at their web site, it appears that their edge is intended to come from smart metering and encouraging demand management on the part of their clients. Presumably that means that they’ll be able to buy more baseload power and less peaking power than their rivals, hence the lower average charge.

We shall see. I wish them luck, but it is a tough market. Their biggest challenge might be to convince potential customers that they are not going to be out of business this time next year.

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UK Wind Farm Under Attack?

Posted in UK,Wind by Cheryl Morgan on the January 8th, 2009

Something or someone has caused massive damage to a turbine at a wind farm in Lincolnshire. As can be seen from the photo in this Guardian article, one blade is missing altogether, and another is badly bent.

Dale Vince of Ecotricity, the company that owns the wind farm, is baffled. “To make one of these blades fall off, or to bend it, takes a lot,” he said, adding, that is something hit the turbine it was, “probably the size and weight of a cow.” While metal fatigue and similar explanations are being investigated, the idea that is getting most traction in the UK media is that the turbine was hit by a UFO.

This is clearly a big setback for the wind industry. It is bad enough being attacked by environmentalists, but aliens too? Do they know something that we don’t? What I really want to know, however, is what the Lincolnshire police were up to. There’s a clear case of DUI here, and someone needs to catch that UFO driver before he causes any more accidents.

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.

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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.

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