HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » kristopher » Journal
Page: 1 2 Next »


Profile Information

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

Journal Archives

Some interesting information on energy in the news

‘Post 2020, There May Never Be Another Peaker Built in the US’
Energy storage just got a big vote of confidence from one of the world’s largest utilities.

by Eric Wesoff
September 30, 2015

NextEra Energy wants to be "the largest, most profitable clean energy provider in the United States," according to Jim Robo, CEO of the utility giant, at an analyst conference at Wolfe Research in New York on Tuesday. (Here's a link to audio from the event.)

But Robo also said, "We're starting to make very good progress in our energy storage business," noting that energy storage is one of "three growth platforms" at NextEra.

When a player like NextEra Energy, a Fortune 200 firm with utility revenues of $17 billion and 44,900 megawatts of generating capacity, starts to tout energy storage, the utility industry and the renewables industry take notice. “Battery storage is the holy grail of the renewables business,” said the CEO, adding, “If we can deliver firm power to renewable customers at a cost-effective rate, you’ll see renewables explode even faster than they already are.”

...Robo said that he and his team expect energy storage prices to experience a similar cost plunge to that of solar costs over the last seven years. If that happens, energy storage will be competitive with gas peaker plants.

Robo said, "Post-2020, there may never be another peaker built in the United States -- very likely you'll be just building energy storage instead."

"It is a great time to be in the renewables business," said Robo...

Microgrids With 50 Percent Solar Do Not Need Storage
ABB says it is expanding the upper limit of storage integrated into microgrid projects.

by Jason Deign September 30, 2015

ABB has raised the upper limit for microgrid renewable-energy penetration without storage. Research by the company suggests up to 50 percent intermittent generation could be admitted to microgrids without needing storage, provided that automation systems are in place to keep the grid stable.

Traditionally, the upper limit for renewable energy penetration in microgrids without storage has been around 40 percent of total load.

ABB looked at a range of microgrid scenarios, including low-penetration setups where renewable energy covered up to 30 percent of peak load, medium penetration at 50 percent, and high penetration at 100 percent....

Also see: Price of Solar Energy in the United States Has Fallen to 5˘/kWh on Average

Analyst: Tighter emissions goals won’t save N.Y. nuclear industry

Analyst: Tighter emissions goals won’t save N.Y. nuclear industry

By SCOTT WALDMAN 5:41 p.m. | Sep. 25, 2015 4 follow this reporter
ALBANY — Market analysts are warning investors about New York’s nuclear plant operators as two such facilities face possible closure.

Exelon plans to close the R.E. Ginna nuclear facility in Western New York, and Entergy said earlier this month it may close the James A. FitzPatrick nuclear facility outside Syracuse. Other nuclear facilities in New York are also at risk of closure.

New York’s nuclear plants have been beset by competition from cheap natural gas and rising infrastructure costs, part of a national trend that has challenged the industry. A series of proposed pipelines into New York will further hurt it by increasing the state's supply of natural gas, according to an analysis released Thursday by UBS analyst Julien Dumoulin-Smith.


The loss of the Ginna plant alone could drive the state’s air emissions up 7 percent, that earlier analysis found. Losing another plant, or possibly two, will make it harder to meet tough new federal pollution standards. However, to offset the loss of New York’s nuclear facilities, the state could place increasing emphasis on growing the renewable industry.

“If retirements move forward as contemplated, we see a real corresponding uplift to the renewable industry as this becomes the growing source of 'plugging' for any further holes in meeting prospective carbon targets,” he wrote.


Mainstreaming the nuclear exit

Extended excerpt used with permission

Mainstreaming the nuclear exit
Michael Mariotte
September 28, 2015

It’s no great revelation to say that the mainstream media, fractured though it may be these days, holds great power. It’s not direct power; the media can’t make actual decisions. Rather, the media grabs a theme–a meme if you want–and holds on to it, and repeats it, and provides slight twists to it so it can be repeated again, until it becomes accepted wisdom. While the media, especially the mainstream media, is often behind the curve, behind reality, once it catches up and snares and spreads that meme, it doesn’t take long for it to establish itself. And once a concept becomes accepted wisdom, then the actual decisions tend to follow in unison. As a group, politicians rarely stray far from accepted wisdom.

For many years, from the 1950s through the 70s, the accepted wisdom was that nuclear power was safe, advanced, and a great asset to society. Then reality crashed the party with Three Mile Island and the nation’s most trusted person Walter Cronkite’s terrifying (although incorrect) statement that radiation was coming through the walls of the containment building, and the accepted wisdom began to turn away from nuclear power; Chernobyl was too distant in both distance and political structure to end the industry entirely, but it was icing on the cake. And thus nuclear power began a period of decline that reached a nadir in 2000 when there was not a single reactor under construction anywhere in the western world.

But then, the media–which loves a man bites dog story–glommed onto the idea pitched by nuclear PR flacks and backed by a couple dozen (in retrospect, mostly bogus) construction application licenses, that a nuclear “renaissance” was in full swing. Once again, nuclear was not only acceptable, it was a preferred energy source, free of carbon emissions. That notion–and forced payment from ratepayers by Public Service Commissions more supportive of industry than those same ratepayers–was enough to get the construction cranes set up at Vogtle and Summer at least. Limited reactor construction also resumed in Europe, and China joined the pack too.

Reality showed its cruel face again, however, as costs for those reactors spiraled upward and construction schedules indicated that for each month of construction, the utilities gained nothing–they were still the same amount of months away from completion. Adding to the crush of the “renaissance” was Fukushima, which brought the legitimate fears of the nuclear age to a new generation.

While the “renaissance” fizzled, at least the industry could take comfort in the fact that it could continue to rely on, and make money from, its large number of paid-off reactors. Except as those reactors aged and as they confronted new costs from required Fukushima-related upgrades (although those have been extremely modest, especially in the U.S.), their operating and maintenance costs increased. Even more importantly, the costs of competing electricity generation sources plummeted at the same time. The result was an ever-increasing number of existing reactors are either now losing money or on the verge of doing so.

And the mainstream media has finally picked up on that reality: that it’s not just that nuclear reactors have safety issues and radioactive waste problems and the like but that nuclear power can no longer compete with the alternatives. Moreover, the changes in energy costs that cause that reality are not only making nuclear power obsolete, they are making the entire utility system and its reliance on baseload power obsolete. And the more that reality is repeated and becomes accepted wisdom, the more real decisions reflect that.

Thus, you get the EPA’s Clean Power Plan dropping its intent to prop up existing reactors. The EPA’s Gina McCarthy may still be giving lip service to the nuclear industry, but where it counted the EPA did what clean energy advocates wanted, not the nuclear industry.

That’s one example of a real decision.

So was the Washington DC Public Service Commission’s scuttling of the proposed Exelon takeover of Pepco. Behind that decision was sincere concern both about Exelon’s reliance on a failing fleet of nuclear reactors and its hostility to renewables. Exelon is now trying to sweeten the deal but what it doesn’t seem to understand is that its roadblock is Exelon itself–perhaps the epitome of the utility of the past.

Over the past week, there have been a plethora of articles picking up the same theme: alternatives to nuclear are cheaper than existing reactors, and that means big changes ahead for the entire utility industry....

This article, along with the supporting linked articles, are well worth your time. - k

Revelations of long held knowledge on climate change put Exxon in legal jeopardy

ExxonMobil Faces Heightened Risk of Climate Litigation, Its Critics Say
Advocates explore holding the company accountable after new evidence shows it's long understood that global warming threatened its business and the planet.

By Bob Simison, InsideClimate News Sep 30, 2015

The evidence, much of it drawn from internal Exxon documents, shows Exxon understood that climate change posed catastrophic risks to people if nothing was done to control pollution from fossil fuels. It was also aware of material risks to the company if the use of fossil fuels had to be limited.

The new documentation of Exxon's internal study of climate science would influence the tactics in future litigation, said several people active in the long-running strategizing among the company's most determined antagonists.

Pressure could come from the U.S. Justice Department, state attorneys general, private plaintiffs in the U.S. or abroad, or shareholders, legal authorities said. While no legal pathway is assured, and Exxon would surely mount a powerful defense, at the very least the litigation might lead the company to reveal new details of Exxon’s actions, or force it to be more forthcoming in its public statements.

Whitehouse, for one, has outlined the case for a Justice Department probe of whether Exxon violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO. The advocacy group Climate Hawks has mounted an online petition drive to urge Attorney General Loretta Lynch to open such an investigation. Prosecution under that law, which was used against the tobacco industry in the 1990s, would require evidence of a conspiracy.

Another frequently mentioned option is for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of New York to invoke the state's powerful stock-fraud statute, the Martin Act, as the state has done in recent years to force other fossil fuel companies to disclose more about the financial risks they face from climate change.

A third possible approach is ...

For those who haven't heard the backstory:

Exxon knew of climate change in 1981, email says – but it funded deniers for 27 more years
A newly unearthed missive from Lenny Bernstein, a climate expert with the oil firm for 30 years, shows concerns over high presence of carbon dioxide in enormous gas field in south-east Asia factored into decision not to tap it


29 miners killed in 2010; Massey CEO heads to trial for lying and conspiracy

Once he was considered untouchable, but next week former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is scheduled to go on trial on conspiracy to violate mine safety standards and conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials charges. Blankenship denies the charges.

Those charges stem from an investigation that followed the Upper Big Branch Disaster that killed 29 men in 2010. It’s a trial that folks in the coalfields never thought would happen.

In this episode, we take a look back at how we got here and talk about the significance of this case. You can also hear part of a special investigative series of reports about outlaw coal mining companies, that keep operating despite injuries, violations and millions of dollars in fines....


The politics of coal in West (by God) Virginia.

Before last year’s elections, before he was indicted, one year before he would go to trial, West Virginia Democrats warned that Don Blankenship was trying to buy the state.

“Why are out-of-state billionaires trying to buy West Virginia?” one flier from the state party blared, next to pictures of Blankenship and the Koch brothers. “Only you can stop them.”

For Blankenship, at least, there’s no proof that allegation was true, and as a political strategy, it certainly didn’t work.

There is no record of Blankenship making any political donations in West Virginia in 2014, and Republicans made unprecedented gains — winning the statehouse for the first time in eight decades and winning every available congressional seat.

But those gains were engineered, in part, by Blankenship’s longtime personal aides and political operatives, who continue to hold outsize influence in state Republican politics....

Here is a timeline of major events in the Upper Big Branch disaster:
—April 5, 2010: A massive explosion ripped through the underground corridors at the Upper Big Branch mine, killing 29 men in the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in 40 years.

—April 25, 2010: In a eulogy, a somber President Barack Obama told the families of the workers that the nation would honor their memories by improving safety in the mines.

—May 14, 2010: Federal prosecutors announce criminal investigation.

—Dec. 3, 2010: Don Blankenship, CEO of Upper Big Branch owner Massey Energy, announces his retirement.

—Jan. 29, 2011: Massey Energy agrees to be taken over by Alpha Natural Resources in a $7.1 billion deal.

—Sept. 22, 2011: Former Massey employee Thomas Harrah is sentenced to 10 months in prison for faking a foreman's license and lying to federal authorities.

—Dec. 6, 2011: In the biggest settlement ever reached in a U.S. mining disaster, Alpha Natural Resources agrees to pay $210 million to compensate grieving families, bankroll cutting-edge safety improvements and pay for years of violations by Massey Energy. Under the deal with federal prosecutors, Alpha is not criminally charged.

—Feb. 29, 2012: Former mine security chief Hughie Elbert Stover is sentenced to three years for lying to investigators and ordering a subordinate to destroy security-related documents.

—Jan. 17, 2013: Former Upper Big Branch superintendent Gary May is sentenced to one year and nine months in prison on charges he defrauded the government through his actions at the mine, including disabling a methane gas monitor and falsifying records.

—Sept. 10, 2013: Former Massey executive David Hughart is sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for conspiring in an illegal scheme to warn miners and other subsidiaries of surprise safety inspections. Hughart implicated Blankenship in the conspiracy during his plea hearing.

—Nov. 13, 2014: Federal prosecutors announce an indictment against Blankenship.

—Oct. 1: Blankenship's trial is scheduled to begin.


US Nuclear Regulator Opposes European Moves to Tighten Nuclear Safety Post-Fukushima

NRC Opposes European Moves to Tighten Nuclear Safety Post-Fukushima

By Peter Fairley
Posted 14 Apr 2015 | 16:00 GMT

Opening an RPV at TEPCO's Fukushima Daini power station, Fukushima Daiichi's shuttered sister plant
Nuclear power plants’ reactor pressure vessels (RPVs)—the massive steel jars that hold a nuclear plant’s fissioning fuel—face incessant abuse from their radioactive contents. And they must be built with extra toughness to withstand pressure and temperature swings in the event of a loss-of-cooling accident like the one that occurred at Fukushima in 2011. As the triple meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi showed, the next layer of defense against a nuclear release—the so-called containment vessels—can not be counted on to actually contain molten nuclear fuel that breaches the RPV.

Nuclear safety authorities have recently discovered weaknesses in several RPVs, and their contrasting responses suggest that the ultimate lessons from Fukushima are still sinking into international nuclear power culture—especially in the United States, where the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is resisting calls to mandate tougher inspection of RPVs.

Broadly speaking, European regulators have ordered operators to do more to improve safety post-Fukushima than the NRC has. France, for example, is mandating four times as much investment than the U.S. in upgrades such as reinforced bunkers, back-up power, and emergency cooling systems, according to industry estimates cited by Bloomberg Business nuclear safety correspondent Jonathan Tirone.

In February, U.S. diplomats worked to defeat a European initiative to strengthen the Convention on Nuclear Safety, created after the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown. The Europeans wanted the currently voluntary treaty to set mandatory safety standards—a proposal that the United States apparently judged too threatening for U.S. nuclear operators struggling to compete amidst a glut of cheap power generated from natural gas. “The U.S. ...worried that the proposal would have required shutting down their plants,” according to Mark Hibbs, senior associate in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Response to the RPV quagmires is a microcosm of the apparent divergence in U.S. and European nuclear safety postures....

The 800 Ways Taxpayer Money Supports Fossil Fuel Industries

The 800 Ways Taxpayer Money Supports Fossil Fuel Industries
If the world seeks to lower carbon emissions, why is support for fossil fuels so strong?

September 21, 2015
By Reed Landberg, Bloomberg

As world leaders converge on New York for a United Nations gathering that’s expected to have a strong emphasis on climate change, the OECD is pointing out 800 ways rich industrial nations support fossil fuels with taxpayer money, along with a handful of countries that are catching up quickly.

The measures were worth $167 billion last year for the oil, natural gas and coal industries, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based institution that advises 34 industrial nations. While that number has fallen from almost $200 billion in 2012, it easily exceeds the value of subsidies for renewables such as wind and solar.

The findings released Monday are designed to stimulate debate on what constitutes fair support for energy technologies. World leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are attempting to ratchet up ambitions for a global deal reducing greenhouse gas pollution. The UN-organized negotiations are expected to yield an international agreement in Paris in December. The OECD report suggests policy makers burrow into their own tax and spending measures for a solution.

“We’re totally schizophrenic,” Angel Gurria, the OECD’s secretary-general, said at a press conference in Paris on Monday. “We’re trying to reduce emissions, and we subsidize the consumption of fossil fuels. These policies are not obsolete, they’re dangerous legacies of a bygone era when pollution was viewed as a tolerable side effect of economic growth. They should be erased from the books.”

The report covered OECD member nations plus six developing economies outside the group -- Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa. It ...

An update on state-level clean energy news from around the country

Greentech Media publishes a number of digital newsletters and they've just started a sort of round-up feature. It's worth a visit if you follow the world of energy. Right now the hot topic is the various ways entrenched energy industries are finding to obstruct the growth of solar. I've included a link to a separate article where VP Biden addresses that concern.


Biden Calls Out Special-Interest Groups for Stifling Solar Market Growth

Anyone standing in the way of solar market growth will be left standing on the wrong side of history, said Vice President Joe Biden in an impassioned speech on Wednesday at Solar Power International.

“We want to give every American a choice, an energy choice on what they want to use, no matter who they are or where they live,” said Biden. “This isn’t a government mandate; it’s the market working.”

As demand for solar has increased, “Some of the most deep-pocketed special interests that have lobbied for years for fossil fuels have announced, ‘Let’s stop it, let's take away consumer choice, let’s stifle the market,’” Biden said later. “Isn’t it amazing?”

Since President Obama took office, the number of homes with rooftop solar has grown from around 66,000 to 734,000. In the second quarter of 2015, the U.S. solar industry surpassed 20 gigawatts of total operational PV capacity, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. And as deployments have increased, the number of solar jobs has grown while costs have dropped, falling by 50 percent since 2010.

“This is not because of us, but I hope we helped,” said Biden...


Price of proposed S. African nuclear program being kept secret

In almost every sense nuclear power encourages nondemocratic actions by governments that embrace it.

Business Day denied nuclear cost reports

THREE reports by top international consultancies which explore the cost of building 9,600MW of nuclear power in SA have been classified as secret and will not be made available to the public, the Department of Energy has said.

The reports were commissioned in the past year by the department from KPMG, Ingerop and Deloitte to provide information on nuclear-procurement models, the cost of nuclear plants and financing models.

...In a reply received this week, deputy director-general of the department Zizamele Mbambo said "the records contain information to be used in the procurement process. The disclosure of such information will compromise the negotiations or prejudice the commercial competition as far as third parties are concerned".

These were the same grounds used to maintain the secrecy of the intergovernmental agreements on nuclear co-operation. But when the agreements were tabled in Parliament in June, they contained no proprietary or commercial information. The letter also states that the documents are classified. Mr Mbambo has said the department’s studies show that the nuclear build "is affordable" without giving details.

Business Day editor Songezo Zibi said the application was made as "we have reason to believe that the cost studies the department does not want the public to see until it is too late in the process, show that 9,600MW of nuclear will be unaffordable"...

Rachel Maddow: China to announce aggressive cap & trade policy tomorrow.

First announced by NYT and confirmed by MSNBC.

"In climate news this is as big as it can get"
Rachel Maddow
Go to Page: 1 2 Next »