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Member since: Fri Dec 19, 2003, 02:20 AM
Number of posts: 29,798

Journal Archives

Unfortunately the trend isn't towards transparency

For example:
Japan’s Energy Board Meets After Dropping Anti-Nuclear Members
By Tsuyoshi Inajima - Mar 14, 2013 8:34 PM ET

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has removed most anti-nuclear researchers from a revamped post-Fukushima energy policy advisory board to the government that resumes discussions today.
After a landslide victory in a December election, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the previous administration’s policy to abandon atomic power needs to be reviewed to help revive the world’s third-biggest economy.
Six of eight members that voted for phasing out nuclear power on the board advising the previous government have been dropped from the LDP panel. Another ten members were reappointed, including Akio Mimura, an adviser for Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. (5401), as chairman. He headed an energy advisory board under a previous LDP government that promoted nuclear power.
“Mr. Mimura may have a wonderful personality and good policy ideas, but it’s wrong to let the same man who led discussions on pre-Fukushima energy policy be in charge,” said Tetsunari Iida, the executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies. Iida was one of those dropped from the advisory board.
A request for comment ...


Americans Want More Emphasis on Solar, Wind, Natural Gas

Americans Want More Emphasis on Solar, Wind, Natural Gas
Oil, nuclear, and coal are more popular with Republicans and in the South

by Dennis Jacobe, Chief Economist

PRINCETON, NJ -- No fewer than two in three Americans want the U.S. to put more emphasis on producing domestic energy using solar power (76%), wind (71%), and natural gas (65%). Far fewer want to emphasize the production of oil (46%) and the use of nuclear power (37%). Least favored is coal, with about one in three Americans wanting to prioritize its domestic production.

Democrats' and independents' top choice is solar power, while natural gas places first among Republicans. Republicans and Democrats disagree most on the priority that should be given to oil as a future energy source -- with 71% of Republicans wanting more emphasis placed on it, compared with 29% among Democrats. Republicans are also much more supportive than Democrats of coal (51% vs. 21%) and nuclear power (49% vs. 30%).

Where Americans live makes a difference in their views about which sources of domestic energy they want the U.S. to emphasize more. Those living in the South tend to be more supportive of traditional energy sources such as oil and coal than are those in other regions.

Still, for Americans in every region, including the South, solar power is the top choice, or is tied for the top spot, among the energy sources tested.


The United States has a ...


UK nuclear requires extra fossil back-up generation - and they want renewables to pay for it

Renewable energy providers to help bear cost of new UK nuclear reactors
Experts say decision to share cost of accommodating Hinkley Point reactors among providers amounts to subsidy for nuclear

Damian Carrington guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 27 March 2013 11.01 EDT

The row over subsidies for the UK's new nuclear power stations has deepened after it emerged that the £160m-a-year cost of accommodating the giant reactors on the national electricity grid will be borne by all generators, including renewable energy providers.

The new reactors planned by EDF for Hinkley Point are significantly larger than any existing power stations, meaning the national grid has to pay for extra standby electricity to stop the grid crashing if one of the reactors unexpectedly goes offline. National Grid said its decision to charge all generators for the cost was because "increasing costs on larger users could delay the commissioning of large nuclear plants by a number of years".

The government is sensitive to the charge that its energy policies are contributing to increases in consumer bills. On Wednesday it released an analysis which predicted that bills in 2020 would be £166 lower as a result of climate change policies than they would be if the government did nothing.

But experts said the National Grid's decision to spread the cost of extra standby capacity amounted to a subsidy for the new power stations. "There is no justification for nuclear being exempted from paying the additional costs to the system other than to make nuclear look cheaper than it is relative to other sources of electricity," said Prof Catherine Mitchell, an energy policy expert at the University of Exeter. "It is clear to me that were there a genuine, transparent and comprehensive examination of the costs and benefits to society of nuclear versus renewables, the latter would be of far greater value both in the short and long term."

A spokesman for EDF...



New Book fm National Academy "Transitions to Alternative Vehicles and Fuels"

Book is free to download. When you press "download PDF" just sign in as guest and follow directions.

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Transitions to Alternative Vehicles and Fuels
Committee on Transitions to Alternative Vehicles and Fuels; Board on Energy and Environmental Systems; Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences; National Research Council

For a century, almost all light-duty vehicles (LDVs) have been powered by internal combustion engines (ICEs) operating on petroleum fuels. Energy security concerns over petroleum imports and the effect of greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions on global climate are driving interest in alternatives. This report assesses the potential for reducing petroleum consumption and GHG emissions by 80% across the U.S. LDV fleet by 2050, relative to 2005. It examines the current capability and estimated future performance and costs for each vehicle type and non-petroleum-based fuel technology as options that could significantly contribute to these goals. By analyzing scenarios that combine various fuel and vehicle pathways, the report also identifies barriers to implementation of these technologies and suggests policies to achieve the desired reductions. Several scenarios are promising, but strong, effective, and sustained but adaptive policies such as research and development (R&D), subsidies, energy taxes, or regulations will be necessary to overcome barriers such as cost and consumer choice.

Well laid out thoughts.

We are in complete agreement re paragraphs 1 and 2. I was initially ok with fracking because it hastens the shutdown of coal and by traditional measurements reduces CO2 emissions approximately 60% per watt generated. My view of how our energy system will transition predates fracking, so my general support for natgas as a transitional tool is unrelated to any efforts of the natgas industry to increase their market share. My support for fracking lasted until the evidence of methane leakage at the wellhead firmed up. Fracking isn't necessary for natural gas's transitional roll and the downside of the abundant supply is that it is, as you speculate, slowing investment in cleaner technologies.

Of course industries don't just step out of the way. They've been fighting tooth and nail against the transition to distributed renewable generation but the price points of wind and solar are now at a place where the handwriting is on the wall. Even with all of their power there are limits to how deep into global culture they can reach. Increasing demand for energy by a developing world is intersecting with some pretty well defined economic limits on delivering the power demanded. The technologies are at the point where the fact that an energy source has an ongoing fuel cost affects its viability as a significant part of the larger system.
For example, the most likely potential untapped fuel source to be harnessed would be underwater methane hydrates. There is an enormous supply but recovery is going to cost money and the generating system or ICE machinery to utilize that fuel is going to cost money. Meanwhile, as renewable technologies' manufacturing and installation infrastructure continues to expand, the costs continue to decline. It is getting to the point where it is an economic no brainer to aim for a system built on renewables. The natural gas glut which would occur should an economic way of tapping into methane hydrates were developed would be looking at a market where bulk power is being generated with no fuel costs. The natgas wouldn't be in competition with renewable generation (because it can't), it would be in competition with biomass and storage - both of which are expected to serve only a small fraction of our needs.

Yes, the fact that natgas enables a transition to renewables is being used as a selling point for natural gas. And it is both true and false. Natural gas is helpful, but fracking isn't essential by any means. If I have a criticism of your view here it would be the lack of patience. I understand the urgency of the problem, and I also feel like I'm the engineer on a train trying to stop without enough track ahead of me, but that can only shape our analysis and planning so far. The train weighs W, the brakes create X drag, the train is traveling at Y mph, and there is Z amount of distance to the end point. We are like that engineer. We have a feel for the variables, but we really don't have the time or capability to do a proper and complete analysis. Our instinct screams for the train to stop but us giving voice to that scream or entering a state of hysteria isn't going to make it stop any sooner. In fact, if the urgency is well understood it will probably interfere with efficient response to the crisis to allow panic to rule decision-making.
I'm not saying your writing is hysterical by any measure, but it does reflect a bit of the jumbled analysis that results from the hysteria that is in the atmosphere. There are people taking action to leave fossil fuels in the ground, but it is going to take time no matter how much we want it to happen yesterday.

As for making a long term commitment to shale gas, I don't think you've quite internalized the way the economics of these technologies interact. Shale gas will slow the transition, but only if counties like China and India decide that shale gas is their energy future, and that isn't going to happen. Otherwise it is (IMO) accelerating the change.

You say that I "might" be right about the performance of the gas turbines. Check it out, please; it is a well understood aspect of the issue. While you are at it look at where investment in energy is flowing. Since about 2008 (IIRC) the money is chasing renewables, both in the US and globally.

Have you considered the possibility that the shale gas boom is more hype than real? See if you can find 2 numbers to compare: first the estimated lifetime of an average shale gas well, and second the actual life of the average shale gas well. Then ask yourself what role trolling for investors might be playing in your perception of the nature of the problem.

Thanks for the chat.

Asia’s Accelerating Energy Revolution

Asia’s Accelerating Energy Revolution
Amory B. Lovins
March 26, 2013

Largely unnoticed in the West, Asia’s energy revolution is gathering speed. It’s driven by the same economic and strategic logic that Reinventing Fire showed could profitably shift the United States from fossil-fuel-based and nuclear energy to three-times-more-efficient use and three-fourths renewables by 2050.

Renewable energy now provides one-fifth of the world’s electricity and has added about half of the world’s new generating capacity each year since 2008. Excluding big hydro dams, renewables got $250 billion in private investment in 2011 alone, adding 84 GW, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance and ren21.net. The results were similar in 2012.

While RMI explores how key partners could apply our U.S. synthesis to other countries, including China, revolutionary shifts—strikingly parallel to our approach—are already emerging in the three biggest Asian economies: Japan, China, and India. They add strong reasons to expect the already-underway renewable revolution to scale even further and faster.

Japan Awakens
After world-leading energy efficiency gains in the 1970s, Japan’s energy kaizen stagnated. Japanese industry remains among the most efficient of 11 major industrial nations, but Japan now ranks tenth among them in industrial cogeneration and commercial building efficiency, eighth in truck efficiency, and ties with the U.S. for next-to-last in car efficiency. With such low efficiencies and very high energy prices—far higher for electricity than in a more competitive market structure, while gas prices are historically linked to oil prices—fixing these inefficiencies can be stunningly profitable. For example, retrofitting semiconductor company Rohm’s Japan head office in front of the Kyoto railway station—even without using superwindows as RMI did in the Empire State Building retrofit—saved even more energy (44 percent) with a faster payback (two years).

As the debate triggered by the Fukushima disaster opens up a profound public energy conversation, Japan is ...


"since it burns cleaner"

That is a bonus, it isn't the reason it is considered a transitional technology.

The nature of a natgas turbine enables it to do something that coal or nuclear can't - come on line from a cold start quickly, and ramp up and down across a significant range quickly.

This has important economic implications. As renewables encroach on the market share held by coal and nuclear, they are forced to raise their prices on the service to the remaining market they have. This creates a spiral that puts pressure on them to survive as an economic entity. When you factor in the huge capital investment required for coal and nuclear, the only out they have is to oppose the technology that is closing them down. This resistance is why we are dragging our feet responding to climate change.

With natgas the scenario is different in 2 ways.

First, the initial investment is smaller per MW and the size of the facilities is generally far smaller than coal or nuclear. This means they can either pay their investors off quicker or if they are put out of business by renewables, then the amount written off is much easier for the investor to swallow on a case by case basis.

Second is the value added by their ability to work in tandem with renewables. Natural gas has been a part of the mix for quite a while because it fills an important niche - peaking power. It is some of the most expensive power that a utility will purchase because unlike baseload, the asset must pay for itself running as little sometimes as a couple of hundred hours per year.
With significant renewable penetration, the same sort of situation exists; natgas (like coal and nuclear) will see its market share decline as renewables increase. however, even though it isn't needed very often its operational characteristics complement the renewables and its escalating per hour cost becomes an acceptable business model that does not prompt the owners to fight against technologies that will cause the loss of their investment. It will, however, slow investment in natgas plant expansion.

As far as natural gas freeing up coal to be exported, I can only say that is a completely irrational objection. Yes, coal use is a global problem that requires a solution, but that doesn't negate in any way the fact that we can improve the part of the problem we have control over. It's like saying we shouldn't move away from petroleum to electric cars because our grid currently uses fossil fuels. If we wait until the moment when all aspects of the carbon problem are able to be solved in a single fell swoop, then it is glaringly obvious that the problem will NEVER be solved. I know that isn't what you want.

As far as the coal issue, the White House is currently considering tasking the EPA with drafting regulations that cause all Environmental Impact Assessments for fossil fuel export facilities to consider the wider impact of the product being shipped instead of just the local impact of the actual construction. I don't know if that is going to be the solution to exporting carbon or not, but it is an example of one way the problem might be handled.

Personally, I believe that any country building a strong carbon free infrastructure is making a contribution to solving the problem globally. When we built our present grid infrastructure, we didn't plan for it be the model globally, but it was. That's because it was the best, least cost option not only for us, but for the rest of the world as well. In the same way, as renewable manufacturing proliferates those technologies will come together to create a new global best, least cost option and fossil fuels will go the way of whale oil and water wheels.

Garden State a Solar Eden: New Jersey Hits 1 GW

Garden State a Solar Eden: New Jersey Hits 1 GW
New Jersey becomes the third state to have more than 1 gigawatt of installed solar, joining California and Arizona.


You’ve got hand it to New Jersey. For a non-Sunbelt state, it kicks ass in solar power.

This is something we’ve noted before, but it deserves mention now, because sometime in late February, the state hit the 1-gigawatt mark in total installed solar electric capacity, according to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities [PDF].

The question going forward is if New Jersey will continue to be a leader. Gov. Chris Christie thinks so.

“Reaching the 1 gigawatt of solar capacity milestone is an incredible achievement and represents New Jersey’s continued commitment to renewable energy,” Christie said in the board’s release. “It is clear that New Jersey will remain one of the largest solar energy markets in the United States.”

New Jersey trails California...


China’s Wind Sector Eclipses Growth in Coal

China’s Wind Sector Eclipses Growth in Coal
Meanwhile, calls to cap coal production are growing as citizens deal with worsening pollution.

China’s use of wind to generate electricity grew faster than coal for the first time in 2012, according to just released numbers from the China Electricity Council.

While fossil-fired generation of electricity grew 0.3 percent last year, wind-generated electricity grew 35.5 percent. Solar-generated electricity grew 414 percent and nuclear generation grew 12.6 percent.

However, these numbers hid the scale of the shift because traditional generation has such a huge pre-existing base:

- Fossil-fired generation, which still accounted for 79 percent of China’s electricity generation in 2012, added 12 terawatt-hours for a cumulative total of 3,910.8 terawatt-hours of generation.
- Wind’s 35.5 percent growth meant an addition of 26 terawatt-hours of generation. But it achieved a much smaller cumulative 100.4 terawatt-hours of electricity production. Its growth did, however, put it ahead of nuclear energy’s cumulative 98 terawatt-hours of generation.
- Solar reached a cumulative 3.5 terawatt-hours of electricity production.
- Hydroelectric power had the biggest total growth of generation in China, adding 196 terawatt-hours to reach 864 terawatt-hours of electricity production.

Total power ...


Solar Sales Surge Through Home Depot

Solar Sales Surge Through Home Depot
“This is a story about solar starting to break into the mainstream.”


It was the holy grail of solar. Get solar panels on the shelves of a big-box store like Home Depot where do-it-yourselfers shop for home improvement projects, and the solar industry could tap a whole new class of customers.

Except it didn't really happen that way -- at first.

In 2001, Home Depot started stocking its shelves with panels from AstroPower (a company that eventually became GE Solar after going bankrupt). Then, in 2004, Home Depot partnered with BP Solar to offer solar panels and solar installation through the store's brand. But without a compelling financial offering, the service didn't take off in a big way.

Fast-forward to 2010. As BP was on the verge of pulling out of the solar market, a range of new solar service providers started making big gains. Recognizing the potential for offering a better service rather than just a product on its shelves, Home Depot partnered with SolarCity in West Coast stores. SolarCity declined to talk with Greentech Media about the specifics of their business relationship with Home Depot, but CEO Lyndon Rive has been publicly bullish about the offering.

Soon after, Home Depot expanded solar service offerings to the East Coast by partnering with two other fast-growing providers, Sunrun and Clean Power Finance.

The experience of Roof Diagnostics Solar...

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