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Member since: Fri Dec 19, 2003, 02:20 AM
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The Road to 2020 - "Energiewende" part 1 & "States on a New Course" part 2

The Road to 2020 (Part I) — Energiewende

Political Fallout
In the summer of 2011, the conservative federal government of Germany passed a law that will phase out nuclear power in Germany by 2022, and they proclaimed the so-called “Energiewende.” This announcement was made with a lot of pathos and was accompanied by even more talk about the historic nature of this brave decision and the gigantic task that lies ahead.

Despite the fact that this certainly did sound very nice, the close observer of German energy politics knew that the amount of pathos was a means to overshadow the fact that the very same government was hell-bent on a nuclear renaissance a short time ago.

Only a few months before the Fukushima meltdown, during the fall of 2010, the government under the leadership of chancellor Angela Merkel celebrated its biggest (and only) political “accomplishment” to that date. The center-right coalition government extended the operating time of nuclear reactors in Germany until the middle of the century. Its push to re-establish nuclear power as a centerpiece of the German energy policy was an event more than a decade in the making, a rather dogmatic goal that was pursued despite massive public dissent and opinion leveled against the move. Not only did it violate the 2000 nuclear phase out plan, formulated as a bilateral state treaty between the government and the energy corporations, it also endangered the expansion of renewable energy sources throughout Germany.

Reports and complaints that the extension of the lifespan of nuclear reactors would seriously harm the interests of regional utilities and all the other economic parties that were heavily investing in renewable energy sources and decentralized structures were ignored and accepted as collateral damage by the federal government. With the second decade of the 21st century dawning, everything seemed to be set for legal disputes, massive protests (200,000+ people), and a year of highly politicized energy debates.
But as we know today, Fukushima changed everything and ...

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/18T9R)

The Road to 2020 — States on a New Course
A New Focal Point
In the first part of this “Road to 2020″ series of posts, I looked at how the pro-nuclear & renewable-sceptical center-right federal government of Germany made a 180° turnaround in terms of energy policy back in 2011. While this was good news, it’s of course very questionable if all the politicans of the government coalition had a complete change of heart over night. What is certain though is that the debate about the future of the energy supply seems to be finally over. All political parties in Germany are now officially supporting the end of nuclear power and a complete transition to a 100% renewable energy system. A goal that has overwhelming public support.

While the question of “renewables vs nuclear” is finally settled in Germany, this victory for renewables only means that the “frontlines” have moved. The new conflicts, debates, and political struggles have a different focal point. The sides of this new phase of the struggle for a fast “Energiewende” are split between proponents of “centralization” and “de-centralization” of renewables energy generation.

Until now, the “Renewable Energy Sources Act” enabled all sorts of people and businesses to invest and become an active part of the solution to the energy crisis of the 21st century. The system they’ve been building is growing rather naturally to utilize the potential of renewable energy sources in an efficient distributed way, close to the consumers themselves and utilizing synergy effects like combined heat and power generation. It’s a system with more than 1 million independent energy producers at this point and it is increasingly focused on values like regional energy autonomy, democratic participation, self-determination, and economic common sense under the banner of “local value creation“. This spirit is being supported by the current political framework which was designed to empower people to invest in renewables and become active participants.

The successes of this framework are obvious — rapid growth of renewables, a growing awareness of energy efficency’s value, macroeconomic benefits, and overwhelming public support despite the microeconomic downside of slightly higher electric bills. While tweaks & improvements of the legal framework are of course necessary at times, the continuation of the current “spirit” is paramount to ensure further fast, efficient, and cost-effective development toward a 100% renewable energy system.

Berlin Taps the Brakes
Unfortunately, it has become more and more obvious that the current federal government based in Berlin wants to change the political framework of the “Renewable Energy Sources Act” to favour centralized renewable energy projects...

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/191An)

Rural Africa Looks Beyond the Grid

Let's put another nuclear myth to rest - nuclear cannot improve the lives of the world's poorest, but renewable are poised to make a huge impact.

Rural Africa Looks Beyond the Grid
Economic growth, plunging PV prices and an improving business ecosystem could spark the long-awaited takeoff of off-grid renewables in sub-Saharan Africa.

By Piers Evans, Production Editor, Renewable Energy World magazine
April 12, 2012
...Other commentators are sceptical about the ability of renewables to make headway in Africa, given their limited impact in jurisdictions that extend generous official support. For sub-Saharan Africa, a study by the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) in 2007 found that renewables only undercut conventional generation for off-grid applications of less than 5 kW.

Yet arguments for off-grid renewables clearly gain force in sparsely populated regions where the alternatives are so costly in terms of cash, the environment and even time — with women walking 5-10 km a day with loads of up to 30 kg of firewood in some parts of Tanzania, according to UNIDO.

Extending grids to tackle these issues often looks wildly unfeasible. Construction costs can surge, in sparsely populated regions such as Mali, up to US$19,070/km, according to World Bank figures. Difficult terrain often presents a further obstacle to reaching remote populations — which, in any case, may lack the demand to justify the investment.

Camco, a global developer of clean energy projects, sees its recent contract to develop solar home systems in Tanzania as a sign of the sector’s imminent takeoff. ‘We are at a step-change in Africa in terms of the renewables sector,’ says president Yariv Cohen. ‘The main issues that were limiting development of renewable generation there have been greatly removed. It’s an easier environment to do business in. Demand is soaring. The ecosystem is growing. The government is favourable to it.’

Renewables vs Diesel...


Gamesa Launches New Wind Turbine Designed For Low-Wind Sites

Gamesa Launches New Wind Turbine Designed For Low-Wind Sites
by NAW Staff on Thursday 12 April 2012

Gamesa has launched a new wind turbine: the G114-2.0 MW Class IIIA, which the company says is designed especially for low-wind sites.

The 2 MW G114 turbine features a 114-meter-diameter rotor with a swept area of 10,207 square meters. According to the company, these dimensions lead to a 38% increase in swept area and a 20% increase in annual energy output compared with the G97-2.0 MW turbine.

The new blade, which spans 55.5 meters, also enables maximum energy production with reduced noise output levels, according to Gamesa. The machine offers a range of tower-height options (from 93 meters to 140 meters or higher, depending on the target location)....


AWEA Reveals Wind Industry's Numbers For 2011
by NAW Staff on Thursday 12 April 2012

In 2011, 6.816 GW of wind power capacity was installed in the U.S., representing a 31% increase over 2010, according to the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) 2011 Market Report.

With these additions, the U.S. now has a total installed wind energy capacity of 46.916 GW, with more than 8.3 GW currently under construction.

California led in new capacity added in 2011, with 921 MW, followed by Illinois (693 MW), Iowa (647 MW), Minnesota (542 MW) and Oklahoma (525 MW). The five states with the highest percentage increases in added capacity in 2011 over 2010 were Ohio (+929 %), Vermont (+625%), Massachusetts (+152%), Michigan (+130%) and Idaho (+75%).

The top 10 states for U.S. wind jobs were as follows:
1. Iowa: 6,000-7,000
2. Texas: 6,000-7,000
3. Illinois: 6,000-7,000
4. Ohio: 5,000-6,000
5. Colorado: 4,000-5,000
6. California: 4,000-5,000
7. Michigan: 4,000-5,000
8. Pennsylvania: 3,000-4,000
9. Florida: 2,000-3,000
10. Oregon: 2,000-3,000

The top states for wind generation as a percentage of their portfolio were as follows:
1. South Dakota: 22.3%
2. Iowa: 18.8%
3. North Dakota: 14.7%
4. Minnesota: 12.7%
5. Wyoming: 10.1%
6. Colorado: 9.2%
7. Kansas: 8.3%
8. Oregon: 8.2%
9. Idaho: 8.2%
10. Oklahoma: 7.1%
11. Texas: 6.9% (8.5% on ERCOT)
12. New Mexico: 5.4%
13. Washington: 5.3%

AWEA CEO Denise Bode stresses...


As Reactors Age, the Money to Close Them Lags

As Reactors Age, the Money to Close Them Lags
Published: March 20, 2012

WASHINGTON — The operators of 20 of the nation’s aging nuclear reactors, including some whose licenses expire soon, have not saved nearly enough money for prompt and proper dismantling. If it turns out that they must close, the owners intend to let them sit like industrial relics for 20 to 60 years or even longer while interest accrues in the reactors’ retirement accounts.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission, via Associated Press
A rusted valve in a containment spraying system at the closed Indian Point 1 reactor in New York, which was shut in 1974. The valve was photographed in 2006.

Decommissioning a reactor is a painstaking and expensive process that involves taking down huge structures and transporting the radioactive materials to the few sites around the country that can bury them. The cost is projected at $400 million to $1 billion per reactor, which in some cases is more than what it cost to build the plants in the 1960s and ’70s.

Mothballing the plants makes hundreds of acres of prime industrial land unavailable for decades and leaves open the possibility that radioactive contamination in the structures could spread. While the radioactivity levels decline over time, many communities worry about safe oversight.

Bills that once seemed far into the future may be coming due. The license for Vermont Yankee in Vernon, Vt., at 40 the nation’s oldest reactor, expires on Wednesday, for example. And while the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted its owner, Entergy, a new 20-year permit, the State of Vermont is trying to close the plant.

In New York ...


Why (baseload) generators are terrified of solar

Why generators are terrified of solar
By Giles Parkinson on 26 March 2012

Here is a pair of graphs that demonstrate most vividly the merit order effect and the impact that solar is having on electricity prices in Germany; and why utilities there and elsewhere are desperate to try to reign in the growth of solar PV in Europe. It may also explain why Australian generators are fighting so hard against the extension of feed-in tariffs in this country.

The first graph illustrates what a typical day on the electricity market in Germany looked like in March four years ago; the second illustrates what is happening now, with 25GW of solar PV installed across the country. Essentially, it means that solar PV is not just licking the cream off the profits of the fossil fuel generators – as happens in Australia with a more modest rollout of PV – it is in fact eating their entire cake.

Both graphs were published last week on the website Renewables International, and were sourced from EPEX, the European power price exchange. The first graph, from 2008, shows peaking power prices rising to around €60/MWh and staying there for most of the day, with some visible peaks around noon and the early evening – the size of which would depend on the temperature and the usage.

The second graph shows a brief leap to €65/MWh around 9am, before the impact of solar PV takes hold – erasing the midday peak entirely and leaving only a smaller one in the evening. The huge bite out of day-prices is also a bite out of fossil fuel generators’ earnings and profits. Note that the average peak price in the second graph is barely higher than the baseload price.

Deutsche Bank solar analyst Vishal Shah noted in a report last month that EPEX data was showing solar PV was cutting peak electricity prices by up to 40 per cent ...


The "merit-order effect"
Electricity produced under a FIT law can help to reduce the average cost of electricity by affecting the wholesale price. Because renewable electricity must be purchased before other sources, the size of the remaining demand to be purchased on the spot market is reduced. Under the "merit order" principle, plants with the lowest costs are used first to meet demand, with more costly plants being brought on line later if needed. The most expensive conventional power plants are therefore no longer needed to meet demand. If the FIT tariff (or price) is lower than the price from the most expensive conventional plants, then the average cost of electricity decreases, and this is called the ‘merit-order effect’. This decrease was estimated to be about € 5 billion in Germany in 2006.


Energy Policy Volume 36, Issue 8, August 2008, Pages 3086–3094
The merit-order effect: A detailed analysis of the price effect of renewable electricity generation on spot market prices in Germany

Frank Sensfußa, , , Mario Ragwitza, Massimo Genoeseb, 1,
a Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, Breslauer Str. 48, 76139 Karlsruhe, Germany
b Institute for Industrial Production, Universität Karlsruhe (TH), Hertzstr. 16, 76187 Karlsruhe, Germany
Received 18 January 2008. Accepted 25 March 2008.

The German feed-in support of electricity generation from renewable energy sources has led to high growth rates of the supported technologies. Critics state that the costs for consumers are too high. An important aspect to be considered in the discussion is the price effect created by renewable electricity generation. This paper seeks to analyse the impact of privileged renewable electricity generation on the electricity market in Germany. The central aspect to be analysed is the impact of renewable electricity generation on spot market prices. The results generated by an agent-based simulation platform indicate that the financial volume of the price reduction is considerable. In the short run, this gives rise to a distributional effect which creates savings for the demand side by reducing generator profits. In the case of the year 2006, the volume of the merit-order effect exceeds the volume of the net support payments for renewable electricity generation which have to be paid by consumers.


German greenhouse gas emissions off 2.1 pct in 2011

German greenhouse gas emissions off 2.1 pct in 2011

(Reuters) - Germany's emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) were 2.1 percent down year-on-year in 2011 at 916.7 million tonnes, as the impact of more renewable energy kicked in and mild weather cut heating fuels use, data from government agency Umweltbundesamt (UBA) showed on Thursday.

The emissions of six gases - widely blamed for global warming - were down by 26.5 percent from the reference year 1990, exceeding a target for Germany to lower emissions by 21 percent under the Kyoto climate protocol in that period.

"The emissions reduction owed much to the benefit of relatively mild weather. But the growing share of renewable power and lower power exports also led to the decrease in emissions," said UBA president Jochen Flasbarth in a statement.

UBA, which cited preliminary estimates, also said the result showed that Germany's Kyoto targets could be met despite economic growth and an accelerated exit from virtually emissions-free nuclear power.

It said that in its view, European targets overall needed to be tightened ...


Nuclear industry dreams dashed by current economic reality

Nuclear industry dreams dashed by current economic reality
It was the financing model and rates of return that prompted German nuclear giants RWC and E.ON to pull out of UK energy plans

Martin Cohen
guardian.co.uk, Monday 2 April 2012 05.58 EDT

Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant was built just above sea-level, with cliffs bulldozed – a risky plan forced by economic necessity. Photograph: Kyodo/Reuters

The news that nuclear giants RWE and E.ON are dropping plans to build any new UK reactors has sent a toxic cloud not only over Wales, but over the nuclear industry itself.

Of course, everyone knows nowadays, post-Chernobyl, post-Fukushima, that nuclear power plants are not really safe. Even if there are a few noisy die-hards, arguing that the resulting radiation is harmless, and that "hardly anyone" dies as a direct consequence of atomic meltdown, that old canard just won't wash any more.

Other nuclear myths, though, have lingered on. Atomic energy, unveiled by Her Majesty with grand aplomb at Calder Hall half a century ago, still has a hi-tech glamour, an aura of somehow being "the future". The reality that atomic plants are basically steam engines staffed by thousands of casual workers who would otherwise be picking strawberries or digging up roads somehow never impinges. Perhaps one of the most shocking images post-Fukushima, was of unskilled workers hosing sea water on to the smouldering wreckage. Not here the calm, fatherly figures in their white lab-coats in front of consoles worthy of the Starship Enterprise.

But there are solid, practical reasons why nuclear power relies on casual staff using dustpans and brushes to sweep up radioactive dust, or hoses to cool down spent fuel. Best of which is that it's cheaper. An enlightening fact about Fukushima, where the tsunami swept over the safety wall, was that at this point on the coast, the land is well above the level of any waves, tsunami or otherwise. It required considerable ingenuity to bulldoze the cliffs down to sea-level to construct a plant that was then potentially at risk. However, the plant operators knew that nuclear electricity is not actually "too cheap to meter", whatever Eisenhower may have said, and the additional cost of pumping seawater up to the top of the cliffs would have eaten into their bottom line. Hence, the small, if ever so slightly risky, strategy of situating the complex at sea-level.

So the torpedo that has just been launched at the majestic British nuclear ship ...


Emails between George Monbiot and Theo Simon on nuclear power

Emails between George Monbiot and Theo Simon on nuclear power
The full exchange of emails between George Monbiot and Theo Simon on nuclear power


Exelon CEO: (nuclear) "is on the backs of the ratepayers, not the backs of the shareholders"

State Help Needed for New Nuclear Units, Exelon Chief Says
By Brian Wingfield - Apr 11, 2012 4:58 PM ET

U.S. utilities will need government help to build nuclear reactors as other forms of electric power become less expensive, a top executive of Exelon Corp. (EXC), the nation’s largest commercial producer of atomic energy, said.

State support may include letting companies recover costs from customers during construction, providing loan guarantees or agreeing to buy power from the plant, Mayo Shattuck III, executive chairman of Chicago-based Exelon, said today at a conference in Washington.

Building reactors may require “the sovereign support of that state, which really means it’s on the backs of the ratepayers, not the backs of the shareholders,” Shattuck said at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on March 30 awarded Scana Corp. (SCG) a permit to build two reactors at a plant near Columbia, South Carolina, and on Feb. 9 approved Southern Co. (SO)’s plan for two units at its Vogtle plant near Augusta, Georgia. Southern expects its project to cost $14 billion. Scana will cover 55 percent of the estimated $10.2 billion for the South Carolina reactors. The plants, being financed partly by customers, may be among the last in the U.S. this decade...


Vogtle Nuclear Construction Faces “Additional Delay” Based on Miscalculations in Foundation Concrete

Press release from NCWarn intended for free distribution

Vogtle Nuclear Construction Faces “Additional Delay” Based on Miscalculations in Foundation Concrete

Southern Company presses NRC for expedited license amendment to avoid further slippage at Vogtle, construction of “nuclear island” not yet underway

Durham, NC – Less than two months after receiving a nuclear construction license for new reactors at its Vogtle site in eastern Georgia, Southern Company is already requesting a license amendment to allow changes to the foundation on which the reactor building would be built. A request which the company aimed to file by last Friday seeks to relax standards for the concrete foundation due to Southern’s miscalculation of soil compaction, and the company is pressing regulators for swift approval to avoid what it calls “an additional delay in the construction of the nuclear island basemat structure and subsequent construction activities …”.

In a letter to the NRC dated March 30, 2012, Southern Company admits that construction of the reactor base has not yet begun and that construction will begin in mid-June – if NRC quickly approves the licensing change. It had been thought that pouring of so-called “nuclear concrete” would begin immediately on issuance of the construction license in February, but the letter confirms the long delay.

Friday’s expected License Amendment Request (LAR) is not yet available to the public, but Southern Company’s preliminary notice* about the forthcoming amendment request describes how recent surveys determined that a level foundation for three “nuclear island” buildings cannot be obtained unless the previously allowed one-inch variation in the “mudmat” substrate is increased to four inches. The nuclear island foundation supports the weight of the buildings and equipment and is vital in protecting the plant against earthquakes and other loads.

Southern told NRC that the increased tolerance should not impact earlier analyses or require additional testing, and it warned that the unforeseen need for the foundation change could cause serious delays to numerous parts of the project. But public interest groups pointed out today that foundational concrete is central to the entire project, and that any relaxing of requirements could have serious safety and cost implications.

“Southern Company clearly miscalculated soil compaction in the holes excavated for both reactors at the Vogtle site, which could be an omen about the path forward,” said Jim Warren of NC WARN today. “The NRC simply cannot skip any steps in reviewing this fundamental safety issue just to accommodate the construction schedule, and a public hearing on the design change is warranted.”


Additionally, Southern Company has already identified 32 License Amendment Requests it will seek by 2014. The list of LARs** contains little mention of impacts on construction schedule or cost. Nor is it clear how the list of proposed changes might impact a federal lawsuit that is seeking to stop construction at Vogtle.

NC WARN and the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability believe that the changes being sought via the LARs could add millions to cost overruns already documented at Vogtle and lead to other construction delays.

The public interest groups noted today that each LAR proceeding normally takes up to one year or longer, and that one or more of the nine nonprofits contesting the Vogtle project might choose to intervene in any of the 32 license amendments being sought. Regardless of interventions, the NRC’s ability to handle so many license amendment reviews is in question.

Also, it is not clear whether Georgia utility law allows Southern to continue construction without the NRC’s full approval of LARs – while pre-charging ratepayers for the plant. And the problems could further complicate a pending and highly controversial $8.3 federal taxpayer loan guarantee.

Tom Clements of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability said today, “The foundation problem raises questions about quality control and highlight concern about slippages in the construction schedule. The foundation problem and the long list of scheduled license amendments show that other changes and unexpected hurdles are ahead for the Vogtle project.”

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