On Stable Electric Power: What You Need to Know

electric-power-system

nzrobin commented on my previous post Big Wind Blacklisted   that he had more to add.  So this post provides excerpts from a 7 part series Anthony wrote at kiwithinker on Electric Power System Stability. Excerpts are in italics with my bolds to encourage you to go read the series of posts at kiwithinker.

1. Electrical Grid Stability is achieved by applying engineering concepts of power generation and grids.

Some types of generation provide grid stability, other types undermine it. Grid stability is an essential requirement for a power supply reliability and security. However there is insufficient understanding of what grid stability is and the risk that exists if stability is undermined to the point of collapse. Increasing grid instability will lead to power outages. The stakes are very high.

2.Electric current is generated ‘on demand’. There is no stored electric current in the grid.

The three fundamental parts of a power system are:

its generators, which make the power,
its loads, which use the power, and
its grid, which connects them together.

The electric current delivered when you turn on a switch is generated from the instant you operate the switch. There is no store of electric current in the grid. Only certain generators can provide this instant ‘service’.

So if there is no storage in the grid the amount of electric power being put into the grid has to very closely match that taken out. If not, voltage and frequency will move outside of safe margins, and if the imbalance is not corrected very quickly it will lead to voltage and frequency excursions resulting in damage or outages, or both.

3. A stable power system is one that continuously responds and compensates for power/ frequency disturbances, and completes the required adjustments within an acceptable timeframe to adequately compensate for the power/frequency disturbances.

Voltage is an important performance indicator and it should of course be kept within acceptable tolerances. However voltage excursions tend to be reasonably local events. So while voltage excursions can happen from place to place and they cause damage and disruption, it turns out that voltage alone is not the main ‘system wide’ stability indicator.

The key performance indicator of an acceptably stable power system is its frequency being within a close margin from its target value, typically within 0.5 Hz from either 50 Hz or 60 Hz, and importantly, the rise and fall rate of frequency deviations need to be managed to achieve that narrow window.

An increasing frequency indicates more power is entering the system than is being taken out. Likewise, a reducing frequency indicates more is being taken out than is entering. For a power supply system to be stable it is necessary to control the frequency. Control systems continuously observe the frequency, and the rate of change of the frequency. The systems control generator outputs up or down to restore the frequency to the target window.

Of course energy imbalances of varying size are occurring all the time. Every moment of every day the load is continuously changing, generally following a daily load curve. These changes tend to be gradual and lead to a small rate of change of frequency. Now and then however faults occur. Large power imbalances mean a proportionately faster frequency change occurs, and consequently the response has to be bigger and faster, typically within two or three seconds if stability is to be maintained. If not – in a couple blinks of an eye the power is off – across the whole grid.

If the system can cope with the range of disturbances thrown at it, it is described as ‘stable’. If it cannot cope with the disturbances it is described as ‘unstable’.

4.There are two main types of alternating current machines used for the generation of electricity; synchronous and asynchronous. The difference between them begins with the way the magnetic field of the rotor interacts with the stator. Both types of machine can be used as either a generator or motor.

There are two key differences affecting their contribution to stability.

The kinetic energy of the synchronous machine’s rotor is closely coupled to the power system and therefore available for immediate conversion to power. The rotor kinetic energy of the asynchronous machine is decoupled from the system by virtue of its slip and is therefore not easily available to the system.

Synchronous generators are controllable by governors which monitor system frequency and adjust prime mover input to bring correction to frequency movements. Asynchronous generators are typically used in applications where the energy source is not controllable, eg: wind turbines. These generators cannot respond to frequency movements representing a system energy imbalance. They are instead a cause of energy imbalance.

Short -term stability

The spinning kinetic energy in the rotors of the synchronous machines is measured in megawatt seconds. Synchronous machines provide stability under power system imbalances because the kinetic energy of their rotors (and prime movers) is locked in synchronism with the grid through the magnetic field between the rotor and the stator. The provision of this energy is essential to short duration stability of the power system.

Longer-term stability

Longer term stability is managed by governor controls. These devices monitor system frequency (recall that the rate of system frequency change is proportional to energy imbalance) and automatically adjust machine power output to compensate for the imbalance and restore stability.

5.For a given level of power imbalance the rate of rise and fall of system frequency is directly dependent on synchronously connected angular momentum.

The rotational form of Newton’s second law of motion; Force = Mass * Acceleration describes the power flow between the rotating inertia (rotational kinetic energy) of a synchronous generator and the power system. It applies for the first few seconds after the onset of a disturbance, i.e.: before the governor and prime mover have had opportunity to adjust the input power to the generator.

Pm – Pe = M * dw/dt

Pm is the mechanical power being applied to the rotor by the prime mover. We consider this is a constant for the few seconds that we are considering.

Pe is the electrical power being taken from the machine. This is variable.

M is the angular momentum of the rotor and the directly connected prime mover. We can also consider M a constant, although strictly speaking it isn’t constant because it depends on w. However as w is held within a small window, M does not vary more than a percent or so.

dw/dt is the rate of change of rotor speed, which relates directly to the rate of increasing or reducing frequency.

The machine is in equilibrium when Pm = Pe. This results in dw/dt being 0, which represents the rotor spinning at a constant speed. The frequency is constant.

When electrical load has been lost Pe is less than Pm and the machine will accelerate resulting in increasing frequency. Alternatively when electrical load is added Pe is greater than Pm the machine will slow down resulting in reducing frequency.

Here’s the key point, for a given level of power imbalance the rate of rise and fall of system frequency is directly dependent on synchronously connected angular momentum, M.

It should now be clear how central a role that synchronously connected angular momentum plays in power system stability. It is the factor that determines how much time generator governors and automatic load shedding systems have to respond to the power flow variation and bring correction.

 

6 .Generation Follows Demand. The machine governor acts in the system as a feedback controller. The governor’s purpose is to sense the shaft rotational speed, and the rate of speed increase /decrease, and to adjust machine input via a gate control.

The governor’s job is to continuously monitor the rotational speed w of the shaft and the rate of change of shaft speed dw/dt and to control the gate(s) to the prime mover. In the example below, a hydro turbine, the control applied is to adjust the flow of water into the turbine, and increasing or reducing the mechanical power Pm compensate for the increase or reduction in electrical load, ie: to approach equilibrium.

It should be pointed out that while the control systems aim for equilibrium, true equilibrium is never actually achieved. Disturbances are always happening and they have to compensated for continuously, every second of every minute of every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, year after year.

The discussion has been for a single synchronous generator, whereas of course the grid has hundreds of generators. In order for each governor controlled generator to respond fairly and proportionately to a network power imbalance, governor control is implemented with what is called a ‘droop characteristic’. Without a droop characteristic, governor controlled generators would fight each other each trying to control the frequency to its own setting. A droop characteristic provides a controlled increase in generator output, in inverse proportion to a small drop in frequency.

In New Zealand the normal operational frequency band is 49.8 to 50.2 Hz. An under frequency event is an event where the frequency drops to 49.25 Hz. It is the generators controlled by governors with a droop characteristic that pick up the load increase and thereby maintain stability. If it happens that the event is large and the governor response is insufficient to arrest the falling frequency, under frequency load shedding relays turn off load.

Here is a record of an under frequency event earlier this month, where a power station tripped.

The generator tripped at point A which started the frequency drop. The rate of drop dw/dt is determined by size of the power imbalance divided by the synchronous angular momentum (Pm – Pe)/M. In only 6 seconds the frequency drop was arrested at point B by other governor controlled generators and under frequency load shedding, and in about 6 further seconds additional power is generated, once again under the control of governors, and the frequency was restored to normal at point C. The whole event lasting merely 12 seconds.

So why would we care about a mere 12 second dip in frequency of less than 1 Hz. The reason is that without governor action and under frequency load shedding, a mere 12 second dip would instead be a complete power blackout of the North Island of New Zealand.

Local officials standing outside substation Masterton NZ .

7.An under frequency event on the North Island of New Zealand demonstrates how critical is electrical system stability.

The graph below which is based on 5 minute load data from NZ’s System Operator confirms that load shedding occurred. The North Island load can be seen to drop 300 MW, from 3700 MW at 9.50 to 3400 MW at 9.55. The load restoration phase can also be observed from this graph. From 10.15 through 10.40 the shed load is restored in several steps.

The high resolution data that we’ll be looking at more closely was recorded by a meter with power quality and transient disturbance recording capability. It is situated in Masterton, Wairarapa, about 300 km south of the power station that tripped. The meter is triggered to capture frequency excursions below 49.2 Hz. The graph below shows the captured excursion on June 15th. The graph covers a total period of only one minute. It shows the frequency and Masterton substation’s load. I have highlighted and numbered several parts of the frequency curve to help with the discussion.

The first element we’ll look at is element 1 to 2. The grid has just lost 310 MW generation and the frequency is falling. No governors nor load shedding will have responded yet. The frequency falls 0.192 Hz in 0.651 seconds giving a fall rate df/dt of -0.295 Hz/s. From this df/dt result and knowing the lost generation is 310 MW we can derive the system angular momentum M as 1,052 MWs/Hz from -310 = M * -0.295.

It is interesting (and chilling) to calculate how long it would take for blackout to occur if no corrective action is taken to restore system frequency and power balance. 47 Hz is the point where cascade tripping is expected. Most generators cannot operate safely below 47 Hz, and under frequency protection relays disconnect generators to protect them from damage. This sets 47 Hz as the point at which cascade outage and complete grid blackout is likely. A falling frequency of -0.295 Hz/s would only take 10.2 seconds to drop from 50 to 47 Hz. That’s not very long and obviously automated systems are required to arrest the decline. The two common automatic systems that have been in place for decades are governor controlled generators and various levels of load shedding.

The fall arrest between 4 and 5 has been due to automatic load shedding. New Zealand has a number of customers contracted to disconnect load at 49.2 Hz. From these figures we can estimate a net shed load of 214 MW (114 MW + 100 MW).

From 7 to 8 the frequency is increasing with df/dt of 0.111 Hz/s and the system has a surplus of 117 MW of generation. At point 8 the system reached 50 Hz again, but the system then over shoots a little and governor action works to reduce generation to control the overshoot between 8 and 9.

This analysis shows how system inertia, under frequency load shedding and governor action work together to maintain system stability.

Summary: The key points

  • The system needs to be able to maintain stability second by second, every minute, every hour, every day, year after year. Yet when a major disturbance happens, the time available to respond is only a few seconds.
  • This highlights the essential role of system inertia in providing this precious few seconds. System inertia defines the relationship between power imbalance and frequency fall rate. The less inertia the faster the collapse and the less time we have to respond. Nearly all system inertia is provided by synchronous generators.
  • Control of the input power to the generators by governor action is essential to control frequency and power balance, bringing correction to maintain stability. This requires control of prime mover, typically this is only hydro and thermal stations.
  • When the fall rate is too fast for governor response, automatic load shedding can provide a lump of very helpful correction, which the governors later tidy up by fine tuning the response.

Big Wind Blacklisted

What is wrong with wind farms? Let us count the ways.

Dear Congress, stop subsidizing wind like it’s 1999 and let the tax credit expire is written by Richard McCarty at Daily Torch.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Congress created the production tax credit for wind energy in 1992. In other words, wind turbine owners receive a tax credit for each kilowatt hour of electricity their turbines create, whether the electricity is needed or not. The production tax credit was supposed to have expired in 1999; but, instead, Congress has repeatedly extended it. After nearly three decades of propping up the wind industry, it is past time to let the tax credit expire in 2020.

All Congress needs to do is nothing.

Addressing the issue of wind production tax credits, Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning stated, “Wind energy development is no longer a nascent industry, having grown from 0.7 percent of the grid in 2007 to 6.6 percent in 2018 at 275 billion kWh. The rationale behind the wind production tax credit has always been that it is necessary to attract investors.”

Manning added, “wind energy development has matured to the point where government subsidization of billionaires like Warren Buffett cannot be justified, neither from an energy production standpoint nor a fiscal one. Americans for Limited Government strongly urges Congress to end the Wind Production Tax Credit. The best part is, they only need to do nothing as it expires at the end of the year.”

There are plenty of reasons for ending the tax credit. Here are some of them:

  • Wind energy is unreliable. Wind turbines require winds of six to nine miles per hour to produce electricity; when winds speeds reach approximately 55 miles per hour, turbines shut down to prevent damage to the equipment. Wind turbines also shut down in extremely cold weather.
  • Due to this unreliability, relatively large amounts of backup power capacity must be kept available.
  • Wind energy often requires the construction of costly, new high-voltage transmission lines. This is because some of the best places to generate wind energy are in remote locations far from population centers or offshore.
  • Generating electricity from wind requires much more land than does coal, natural gas, nuclear, or even solar power. According to a 2017 study, generating one megawatt of electricity from coal, natural gas, or nuclear power requires about 12 acres; producing one megawatt of electricity from solar energy requires 43.5 acres; and harnessing wind energy to generate one megawatt of electricity requires 70.6 acres.
  • Wind turbines have a much shorter life span than other energy sources. According to the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the useful life of a wind turbine is 20 years while coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric power plants can remain in service for more than 50 years.
  • Wind power’s inefficiencies lead to higher rates for customers.
  • Higher electricity rates can have a chilling effect on the local economy. Increasing electricity rates for businesses makes them less competitive and can result in job losses or reduced investments in businesses.
  • Increasing rates on poor consumers can have an even more negative impact sometimes forcing them to go without heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer.
  • Wind turbines are a threat to aviators. Wind turbines are a particular concern for crop dusters, who must fly close to the ground to spray crops. Earlier this summer, a crop dusting plane clipped a wind turbine tower and crashed.
  • Wind turbines are deadly for birds and bats, which help control the pest population. Even if bats are not struck by the rotors, some evidence suggests that they may be injured or killed by the sudden drop in air pressure around wind turbines.

Large wind turbines endanger lives, the economy, and the environment. Even after decades of heavy subsidies, the wind industry has failed to solve these problems. For these and other reasons, Congress should finally allow the wind production tax credit to expire.

Richard McCarty is the Director of Research at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.

Update August 16, 2019

nzrobin commented regarding more technical detail about managing grid reliability.  A new post is a synopsis of his series on the subject On Stable Electric Power: What You Need to Know

LA Times Misreports Mexican Energy Realism

 

Emily Green writes at LA Times Alternative energy efforts in Mexico slow as Lopez Obrador prioritizes oil. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The title of the article is not wrong, as we shall see below. But as usual climatists leave out the reality so obvious in the pie chart above. Seeing which energy sources are driving his nation’s prosperity provides the missing context for understanding the priorities of Mexican President Andres Lopez Obrador

The alarmist/activist hand-wringing is in full display:

With its windy valleys and wide swaths of desert, Mexico has some of the best natural terrain to produce wind and solar energy. And, in recent years, the country has attracted alternative energy investors from across the globe.

An aerial view of the Villanueva photovoltaic power plant in the municipality of Viesca, Coahuila state, Mexico. The plant covers an area the size of 40 football fields making it the largest solar plant in the Americas. (Alfredo Estrella / AFP/Getty Images)

But the market has taken a step back under Mexico’s new president, who has made clear his priority is returning Mexico’s oil company to its former dominance.

Since taking office Dec. 1, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has canceled a highly anticipated electricity auction, as well as two major transmission-line projects that would have transported power generated by renewable energy plants around the country. He has also called for more investment in coal, and stood by as his director of Mexico’s electric utility dismissed wind and solar energy as unreliable and expensive.

It’s too soon to forecast the long-term consequences, but business leaders and energy consultants are seeing a trend: a chilling in the country’s up-and-coming renewable energy market.

Further on we get the usual distortions and misdirection: Renewables capacities and low prices are cited ignoring the low actual production and intermittancy mismatch with actual needs.

Energy and oil remain sensitive topics in Mexico, where people still recall the glory days of state-owned oil company Pemex, when it was the country’s economic lifeblood. There’s even a day commemorating Mexico’s 1938 nationalization of its oil and mineral wealth.

In recent years, however, Mexico’s energy market has undergone a transformation and reached out to investors. In 2014, Lopez Obrador’s predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, fully opened up the country’s oil, gas and electricity sector to private investment for the first time in 70 years.

The effects were immediate. In the oil sector, companies such as ExxonMobil and Chevron clamored to explore large deposits that had once been the sole purview of Pemex.

On the electricity side, the reform led to billions of dollars in private investment in Mexico’s power sector, both in renewable energy and traditional sources such as natural gas.

Through a series of auctions, Mexico’s state-owned utility awarded long-term power contracts to private developers. Although the auctions were open to all energy technologies, wind and solar companies won the bulk of the contracts because they offered among the lowest prices in the world. Solar developers won contracts to generate electricity in Mexico at around $20 per megawatt-hour, according to the government. Industry sources said that is about half the going price for coal and gas.

The country’s wind generation capacity jumped from 2,360 megawatts at the end of 2014 to 5,382 megawatts this April, according to the Mexican wind energy association. The numbers were even more stark in solar, which soared from 166 megawatts of capacity in 2014 to 2,900 megawatts in April, according to the Mexican solar energy association.

Virtue Signalling is an Expensive Way to Run an Economy

The electricity auctions were also seen as the main vehicle for Mexico to reach its clean energy commitments made as part of the Paris climate accord to produce 35% of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2024, and 50% by 2050. Under Mexico’s definition, clean energy sources include solar and wind generation, as well as sources that some critics say aren’t environmentally friendly — such as hydroelectric dams, nuclear energy and efficient natural gas plants. Currently, 24% of Mexico’s electricity comes from clean energy sources.

Summary

Note that for true believers, no energy is “clean” except wind and solar. And Mexico is another example of how renewables cannibalize your electrical grid while claiming to be cheaper than FF sources and saving the planet from the plant food gas CO2. Meanwhile those two “zero carbon” sources provide only 2% of the energy consumed, despite the billions invested.

I get the impression that ALO is much smarter than AOC.
See Also

Exaggerating Green Energy Supply

Cutting Through the Fog of Renewable Power Costs

Superhuman Renewables Targets

 

 

 

The End of Wind and Solar Parasites

Norman Rogers writes at American Thinker What It Will Take for the Wind and Solar Industries to Collapse. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The solar electricity industry is dependent on federal government subsidies for building new capacity. The subsidy consists of a 30% tax credit and the use of a tax scheme called tax equity finance. These subsidies are delivered during the first five years.

For wind, there is subsidy during the first five to ten years resulting from tax equity finance. There is also a production subsidy that lasts for the first ten years.

The other subsidy for wind and solar, not often characterized as a subsidy, is state renewable portfolio laws, or quotas, that require that an increasing portion of a state’s electricity come from renewable sources. Those state mandates result in wind and solar electricity being sold via profitable 25-year power purchase contracts. The buyer is generally a utility with good credit. The utilities are forced to offer these terms in order to cause sufficient supply to emerge to satisfy the renewable energy quotas.

The rate of return from a wind or solar investment can be low and credit terms favorable because the investors see the 25-year contract by a creditworthy utility as a guarantee of a low risk of default. If the risk were to be perceived as higher, then a higher rate of return and a higher interest rate on loans would be demanded. That in turn would increase the price of the electricity generated.

The bankruptcy of PG&E, the largest California utility, has created some cracks in the façade. A bankruptcy judge has ruled that cancellation of up to $40 billion in long-term energy contracts is a possibility. These contracts are not essential or needed to preserve the supply of electricity because they are mostly for wind or solar electricity supply that varies with the weather and can’t be counted on. As a consequence, there has to exist and does exist the necessary infrastructure to supply the electricity needs without the wind or solar energy.

Probably the judge will be overruled for political reasons, or the state will step in with a bailout. Utilities have to keep operating, no matter what. Ditching wind and solar contracts would make California politicians look foolish because they have long touted wind and solar as the future of energy.

PG&E is in bankruptcy because California applies strict liability for damages from forest fires started by electric lines, no matter who is really at fault. Almost certainly the government is at fault for not anticipating the danger of massive fires and for not enforcing strict fire prevention and protection. Massive fire damage should be protected by insurance, not by the utility, even if the fire was started by a power line. The fire in question could just as well have been started by lightning or a homeless person. PG&E previously filed bankruptcy in 2001, also a consequence of abuse of the utility by the state government.

By far the most important subsidy is the renewable portfolio laws. Even if the federal subsidies are reduced, the quota for renewable energy will force price increases to keep the renewable energy industry in business, because it has to stay in business to supply energy to meet the quota. Other plausible methods of meeting the quota have been outlawed by the industry’s friends in the state governments. Nuclear and hydro, neither of which generates CO2 emissions, are not allowed. Hydro is not strictly prohibited — only hydro that involves dams and diversions. That is very close to all hydro. Another reason hydro is banned is that environmental groups don’t like dams.

For technical reasons, an electrical grid cannot run on wind or solar much more than 50% of the time. The fleet of backup plants must be online to provide adjustable output to compensate for erratic variations in wind or solar. Output has to be ramped up to meet early-evening peaks. Wind suffers from a cube power law, meaning that if the wind drops by 10%, the electricity drops by 30%. Solar suffers from too much generation in the middle of the day and not enough generation to meet early evening peaks in consumption.

When a “too much generation” situation happens, the wind or solar has to be curtailed. That means that the operators are told to stop delivering electricity. In many cases, they are not paid for the electricity they could have delivered. Some contracts require that they be paid according to a model that figures out how much they could have generated according to the recorded weather conditions. The more wind and solar, the more curtailments as the amount of erratic electricity approaches the allowable limits. Curtailment is an increasing threat, as quotas increase, to the financial health of wind and solar.

There is a movement to include batteries with solar installations to move excessive middle-of-the-day generation to the early evening. This is a palliative to extend the time before solar runs into the curtailment wall. The batteries are extremely expensive and wear out every five years.

Neither wind nor solar is competitive without subsidies. If the subsidies and quotas were taken away, no wind or solar operation outside very special situations would be built. Further, the existing installations would continue only as long as their contracts are honored and they are cash flow–positive. In order to be competitive, without subsidies, wind or solar would have to supply electricity for less than $20 per megawatt-hour, the marginal cost of generating the electricity with gas or coal. Only the marginal cost counts, because the fossil fuel plants have to be there whether or not there is wind or solar. Without the subsidies, quotas, and 25-year contracts, wind or solar would have to get about $100 per megawatt-hour for its electricity. That gap, between $100 and $20, is a wide chasm only bridged by subsidies and mandates.

The cost of using wind and solar for reducing CO2 emissions is very high. The most authoritative and sincere promoters of global warming loudly advocate using nuclear, a source that is not erratic, does not emit CO2 or pollution, and uses the cheapest fuel. One can buy carbon offsets for 10 or 20 times less than the cost of reducing CO2 emissions with wind or solar. A carbon offset is a scheme where the buyer pays the seller to reduce world emissions of CO2. This is done in a variety of ways by the sellers.

The special situations where wind and solar can be competitive are remote locations using imported oil to generate electricity. In those situations, the marginal cost of the electricity may be $200 per megawatt-hour or more. Newfoundland comes to mind — for wind, not solar.

Maintenance costs for solar are low. For wind, maintenance costs are high, and major components, such as propeller blades and gearboxes, may fail, especially as the turbines age. These heavy and awkward objects are located hundreds of feet above ground. There exists a danger that wind farms will fail once the inflation-protected subsidy of $24 per megawatt-hour runs out after ten years. At that point, turbines that need expensive repairs may be abandoned. Wind turbine graveyards from the first wind fad in the 1970s can be seen near Palm Springs, California. Wind farms can’t receive the production subsidy unless they can sell the electricity. That has resulted paying customers to “buy” the electricity.

Tehachapi’s dead turbines.

A significant financial risk is that the global warming narrative may collapse. If belief in the reality of the global warming threat collapses, then the major intellectual support for renewable energy will collapse. It is ironic that the promoters of global warming are campaigning to require companies to take into account the threat of global warming in their financial projections. If the companies do this in an honest manner, they also have to take into account the possibility that the threat will evaporate. My own best guess, after considerable technical study, is that it is near a sure thing that the threat of global warming is imaginary and largely invented by the people who benefit. Adding CO2 to the atmosphere has well understood positive effects for the growth of crops and the greening of deserts.

The conservative investors who make long-term investments in wind or solar may be underestimating the risks involved. For example, an article in Chief Investment Officer magazine stated that CalPERS, the giant California public employees retirement fund, is planning to expand investments in renewable energy, characterized as “stable cash flowing assets.” That article was written before the bankruptcy of PG&E. The article also stated that competition among institutional investors for top yielding investments in the alternative energy space is fierce.

Wind and solar are not competitive and never will be. They have been pumped up into supposedly solid investments by means of ill advised subsidies and mandates. At some point, the governments will wake up to the waste and foolishness involved. At that point, the value of these investments will collapse. It won’t be the first time that investment experts made bad investments because they don’t really understand what is going on.

Footnote:  There is also a report from GWPF on environmental degradation from industrial scale wind and solar:

Superhuman Renewables Targets

Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! It’s Superman.

New York is not the only climate cuckoo’s nest in the United States. Here are four more states promising efforts to install wind and solar power at rates that would exhaust Superman. EIA reports; Four states updated their renewable portfolio standards in the first half of 2019. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

As of the end of 2018, 29 states and the District of Columbia had renewable portfolio standards (RPS), or polices that require electricity suppliers to source a certain portion of their electricity from designated renewable resources or eligible technologies. Four states—New Mexico, Washington, Nevada, and Maryland—and the District of Columbia have updated their RPS since the start of 2019.

States with legally binding RPS collectively accounted for 63% of electricity retail sales in the United States in 2018. In addition to the 29 states with binding RPS policies, 8 states have nonbinding renewable portfolio goals.

New Mexico increased its overall RPS target in March 2019 to 100% of electricity sales from carbon-free generation by 2045, up from the previous target of 20% renewable generation by 2020. The new policy only applies to investor-owned utilities; cooperative electric utilities have until 2050 to reach the 100% carbon-free generation goal. The target has intermittent goals of 50% renewable generation by 2030 and 80% renewable generation by 2040.

In April 2019, the Nevada legislature increased its RPS to 50% of sales from renewable generation by 2030, including a goal of 100% of electricity sales from clean energy by 2050. Later that month, Washington increased its RPS target to 100% of sales from carbon-neutral generation by 2045, an increase from the previous target of 15% of sales from renewable generation by 2020. In addition, the policy mandates a phaseout of coal-fired electricity generation in Washington by 2025. Nevada and Washington became the fourth and fifth states, respectively, to pass legislation for 100% clean electricity, following Hawaii, California, and New Mexico.

In May 2019, Maryland increased its overall RPS target to 50% of electricity sales from renewable generation by 2030, replacing the earlier target of 22.5% by 2024. In addition, the legislation mandates further study of the effects and the possibility of Maryland reaching 100% generation from renewables by 2040.

Cutting Through the Fog of Renewable Power Costs

 

Most every day there are media reports saying solar and wind power plants are now cheaper than coal. Recently UCS expressed outrage that some coal plants remain viable because industrial customers are able to commit purchasing of the reliable coal-fired supply.

Joe Daniel writes at Forbes The Billion-Dollar Coal Bailout Nobody Is Talking About: Self-Committing In Power Markets. A typical companion piece at Forbes claims The Coal Cost Crossover: 74% Of US Coal Plants Now More Expensive Than New Renewables, 86% By 2025.

Having acquired some knowledge of this issue, I wondered how these cost comparisons dealt with the intermittency problem of wind and solar, and the requirement for backup dispatchable power to balance the grid.

EIA has developed a dual assessment of power plants using both Levelized Cost and Levelized Avoided Costs of Electricity power provision. The first metric estimates output costs from building and operating power plants, and the second estimates the value of the electricity to the grid. Source: EIA uses two simplified metrics to show future power plants’ relative economics Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

EIA calculates two measures that, when used together, largely explain the economic competitiveness of electricity generating technologies.

The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) represents the installed capital costs and ongoing operating costs of a power plant, converted to a level stream of payments over the plant’s assumed financial lifetime. Installed capital costs include construction costs, financing costs, tax credits, and other plant-related subsidies or taxes. Ongoing costs include the cost of the generating fuel (for power plants that consume fuel), expected maintenance costs, and other related taxes or subsidies based on the operation of the plant.

The levelized avoided cost of electricity (LACE) represents that power plant’s value to the grid. A generator’s avoided cost reflects the costs that would be incurred to provide the electricity displaced by a new generation project as an estimate of the revenue available to the plant. As with LCOE, these revenues are converted to a level stream of payments over the plant’s assumed financial lifetime.

Power plants are considered economically attractive when their projected LACE (value) exceeds their projected LCOE (cost). Both LCOE and LACE are levelized over the expected electricity generation during the lifetime of the plant, resulting in values presented in dollars per megawatthour. These values range across geography, as resource availability, fuel costs, and other factors often differ by market. LCOE and LACE values also change over time as technology improves, tax credits and other taxes or subsidies expire, and fuel costs change.

The relative difference between LCOE and LACE is a better indicator of economic competitiveness than either metric alone. A comparison of only LCOE across technology types fails to capture the differences in value provided by different types of generators to the grid.

Some power plants can be dispatched, while some—such as those powered by the wind or solar—operate only when resources are available. Some power plants provide electricity during parts of the day or year when power prices are higher, while others may produce electricity during times of relatively low power prices.

Solar PV’s economic competitiveness is relatively high through 2022 as federal tax credits reduce PV’s LCOE. As those tax credits are phased out, technology costs are expected to have declined to the point where solar PV remains economically competitive in most parts of the country. Because solar PV provides electricity during the middle of the day, when electricity prices are relatively high, solar PV’s value to the grid (i.e., LACE) tends to be higher than other technologies.

Onshore wind also sees higher economic competiveness in the earlier part of the projection, prior to the expiration of federal tax credits in 2020. Over time, wind remains competitive in the Plains states, where wind resources are highest. Wind’s LACE is relatively low in most areas, as wind output tends to be highest at times when power prices are low.

To get the coal comparison to renewables, there is a study Benchmark Levelized Cost of Electricity Estimates from National Academies Press. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The EIA Annual Energy Outlook supporting information identifies the methodology and assumptions that affect the reported estimates of LCOE for utility-scale generation technologies. The reported estimates are for the years 2022 and 2040. The focus here is on the 2022 estimates as the benchmark for the “current” costs. The assumptions include choices regarding the effects of learning, capital costs, transmission investment, operating characteristics, and externalities. These choices are both important and appropriate for the benchmark comparison (e.g., learning rates), are important and require some adjustment (e.g., capital costs), or are supplemental to the EIA assumptions (e.g., externality costs).

Note:  For the externality of CO2 emissions, the chart below shows a $15/ton “Social Cost of Carbon.”

EIA separates electricity generation technologies into categories of dispatchable and nondispatchable (EIA, 2015f, p. 6). The former include conventional fossil fuel plants that have a fairly consistent available capacity and can follow dispatch instructions to increase or decrease production. The latter consist of intermittent plants such as wind and solar, which depend on the availability of the wind and sunlight and typically cannot follow dispatch instructions easily or at all. It is generally recognized that the different operating profiles create different values for the technologies (Borenstein, 2012; Joskow, 2011). Empirical estimates for existing technologies show that the value of wind, which blows more at night when prices are low, can be 12 percent below the unweighted average price of electricity; and the value of solar, with the sun tending to shine when prices are higher, can be 16 percent greater than the unweighted average (Schmalensee, 2013).

One procedure utilized for putting nondispatchable technologies on an equivalent basis is to pair them with appropriately scaled dispatchable peaking technologies to produce an output that is like that of a conventional fossil fuel plant (Greenstone and Looney, 2012). Another approach, used by Schmalensee (2013), is to calculate the value of nondispatchable technologies based on spot prices. EIA provides a similar estimate based on its projected simulations, which is known as the levelized avoided cost estimate (LACE).

For purposes of equivalent comparison of the LCOE, the approach here combines these adjustments to provide an estimate of the net difference between the LACEs for the technology and for a conventional combined-cycle natural gas plant. The net differences are added to (e.g., for wind) or subtracted from (e.g., for solar) the other components of the LCOE.

With the above assumptions and adjustments to obtain an approximation of equivalent LCOE, the results appear in Figure B-1 and Table B-1.


FIGURE B-1 Levelized cost of electricity for plants entering service in 2022 (2015 $/MWh).
SOURCE: EIA, 2015f, 2016g. Because Annual Energy Outlook 2016 does not assess conventional coal and IGCC technologies, their values (in 2013 dollars) were sourced from Annual Energy Outlook 2015 and then converted to 2015 dollars using the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ gross domestic product (GDP) implicit price deflator.

It is clear from Figure B-1 that new natural gas plants are the dominant technology. And without accounting for the costs of externalities, new IGCC coal plants are more competitive than even the best of the wind and solar. Onshore wind is the closest to being competitive. But the relative cost estimates shown here are similar to those in Greenstone and Looney (2012). The primary renewable technologies are not cost-competitive, and the differences are significant. This is for entry year 2022. Looking ahead to 2040, with some additional cost reductions for renewables and more substantial increased fuel costs for natural gas, the situation changes for wind but not for solar.

CONCLUSION

Equivalent estimates of the LCOE are available from the supporting analyses of AEO2016. The data without the effect of selective policies indicate that existing technologies for clean energy are not competitive with new natural gas. And without accounting for the costs of externalities, the principal renewable technologies of wind and solar are not cost-competitive with new coal plants.

FIGURE B-2 Electric power generation by fuel (billions of kilowatt hours [kWh]) assuming No Clean Power Plan, 2000-2040. SOURCE: EIA, 2016f, Figure IF3-6.

Footnote: The above analyses do not adequately consider the effect of cheap subsidized solar and wind power driving dispatchable power plants into bankruptcy.  For more on electricity economics see Climateers Tilting at Windmills

Cyber Solutions Can’t Fix the Climate

This post is dedicated to Silicon Valley nouveau rich and their Cyber-Space Cadets now in the streets demanding that adults fix the climate, and fix it now!  Their thinking is fatally flawed by the simplistic transfer of tactics from cyber world to the real physical world.

Mark P. Mills writes at City Journal Want an Energy Revolution?  It won’t come from renewables—which can never supply all the power we need—but from foundational scientific discoveries. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Throughout history, some 60 percent to 90 percent of every nation’s economy has been consumed by food and fuel costs. Hydrocarbons changed the way that humans organize their productive capacity. The coal age, followed by the oil age, and now by the ascendant age of natural gas, has (at least for developed nations) driven the share of GDP devoted to acquiring food and fuel down to around 10 percent. That transformation constitutes one of the great pivots for civilization.

Many analysts claim that yet another such consequential energy revolution is upon us: “clean energy,” in the form of wind turbines, solar arrays, and batteries, they say, is about to become incredibly cheap, making it possible to create a “new energy economy.” Polls show that nearly 80 percent of voters believe that America is “capable of creating a new electricity system.”

We can thank Silicon Valley for popularizing “exponential change” and “disruptive innovations.” The computing and communications revolutions that have transformed many industries have also shaped both expectations and rhetoric about how other technologies evolve. We hear claims, as one Stanford professor put it, that clean tech will follow digital technology in a “10x exponential process which will wipe fossil fuels off the market in about a decade.” Or, as the International Monetary Fund recently summarized, “smartphone substitution seemed no more imminent in the early 2000s than large-scale energy substitution seems today.” The mavens at Singularity University tell us that with clean tech, we’re “on the verge of a new, radically different point in history.” Solar, wind, and batteries are “on a path to disrupt” the old order dominated by fossil fuels.

Never mind that wind and solar—the focus of all “new energy economy” aspirations, including its latest incarnation in the Green New Deal—supply just 2 percent of global energy, despite hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies. After all, it wasn’t long ago that only 2 percent of the world owned a pocket-sized computer. “New energy economy” visionaries believe that a digital-like energy disruption is not just possible, but imminent. One professor predicts that we will see an “Apple of clean energy.”

A similar transformation in how energy is produced or stored isn’t just unlikely: it’s impossible. Drawing an analogy between information production and energy production is a fundamental category error. They entail different laws of physics. Logic engines don’t produce physical action or energy; they manipulate the idea of the numbers one and zero. Silicon logic is rooted in simply knowing and storing the position of a binary switch—on or off.

But the energy needed to move a ton of people, heat a ton of steel or silicon, or grow a ton of food is determined by properties of nature, whose boundaries are set by laws of gravity, inertia, friction, and thermodynamics—not clever software or marketing. Indeed, the differences between the physical and virtual are best illustrated by the fact that, using mathematical magic, one can do things like “compress” information to reduce the energy needed to transport that information. But in the world of humans and objects with mass, comparable “compression” options exist only in Star Trek.

Spending $1 million on wind or solar hardware in order to capture nature’s diffuse wind and sunlight will yield about 50 million kilowatt-hours of electricity over a 30-year period. Meantime, the same money spent on a shale well yields enough natural gas over 30 years to produce 300 million kilowatt-hours. That difference is anchored in the far higher, physics-based energy density of hydrocarbons. Subsidies can’t change that fact.

And then batteries are needed, and widely promoted, as the way to convert wind or solar into useable on-demand power. While the physical chemistry of batteries is indeed nearly magical in storing tiny quantities of energy, it doesn’t scale up efficiently. When it comes to storing energy at country scales, or for cargo ships, cars and aircraft, engineers start with a simple fact: the maximum potential energy contained in hydrocarbon molecules is about 1,500 percent greater, pound for pound, than the maximum theoretical lithium chemistries. That’s why the cost to store a unit of energy in a battery is 200 times more than storing the same amount of energy as natural gas. And why, today, it would take $60 million worth of Tesla batteries—weighing five times as much as the entire aircraft—to hold the same energy as is held in a transatlantic plane’s onboard fuel tanks.

For a practical example of the physics-anchored gap between aspiration and reality, consider Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) recently announced plan to replace an old gas-fired power station with the world’s biggest battery project—promised to be four times bigger than the current number one, a system Tesla installed, to much fanfare, last year in South Australia. The monster FPL battery “farm” will be able to store just two minutes of Florida’s electricity needs. That’s not going to change the world, or even Florida.

Moreover, it takes the energy equivalent of about 100 barrels of oil to manufacture a battery that can store the energy equal to one oil barrel. That means that batteries fabricated in China (most already are) by its predominantly coal-powered grid result in more carbon-dioxide emissions than those batteries, coupled with wind/solar, can eliminate. It’s true that wind turbines, solar cells, and batteries will get better, but so, too, will drilling rigs and combustion engines. The idea that “old” hydrocarbon technologies are about to be displaced wholesale by a digital-like, clean-tech energy revolution is a fantasy.

If we want a disruption to the energy status quo, we will need new, foundational discoveries in the sciences. As Bill Gates has put it, the challenge calls for scientific “miracles.” Any hoped-for technological breakthroughs won’t emerge from subsidizing yesterday’s technologies, including wind and solar. The Internet didn’t emerge from subsidizing the dial-up phone, or the transistor from subsidizing vacuum tubes, or the automobile from subsidizing railroads. If policymakers were serious about the pursuit of the next energy revolution, they’d be talking a lot more about reinvigorating support for basic science.

It bears noting that over the past decade, U.S. production of oil and natural gas has increased by 2,000 percent more than the combined growth of (subsidized) wind and solar. Shale technology has utterly transformed the global energy landscape. After a half-century of hand-wringing about import dependencies, America is now a major exporter. Now that’s a revolution.

See also Energy Changes Society: Transition Stories

Going Dutch: How Not to Cut Emissions

Everyone knows the Dutch are serious and determined people.  Their saying: “God created the earth, but the Dutch created the Netherlands.”  A relative of mine had some run-ins with Dutch neighbors, and his saying about them:  “Wooden shoes, wooden heads, wouldn’t listen.”  Well, now the Dutch have another saying:  “Whatever you do, don’t try to cut carbon emissions the way we did.”

You see, being Dutch they took on the challenge of “fighting climate change,” and are now living to regret their actions.  Karel Beckman writes in Natural Gas World  The Flaws in Dutch Climate Policy Mar 20, 2019.  H/T GWPF  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Why should the wisdom of Dutch climate policy be of concern to anyone besides Dutch taxpayers? At this moment all developed countries are entering a new phase in their climate policies. They are moving beyond broad reduction targets and temperature goals to the nitty-gritty of real climate measures and tough choices. The debate is not anymore about whether to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or even by how much, but how.

From this point on there are still many different roads into the future. The Dutch example is instructive because we are talking about a wealthy, urban, industrialised country – a self-proclaimed climate leader within the European Union. A country moreover that has decided to phase out the use of “unabated” natural gas for the sake of the climate. Yet its climate policies for cutting greenhouse gas emissions are full of flaws.

The Climate Accord, the result of months of negotiations between labour unions, non-governmental organisations, business associations, local authorities and other civil society groups, which will serve as the basis for the Dutch National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) that all EU member states have to submit to the European Commission at the end of this year, contains a large number of more or less concrete proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

PBL and CPB have analysed the effect these proposals are likely to have on emission reductions and at what likely cost. The PBL report and the CPB report are therefore key inputs in the political decision-making process, turning the Climate Accord into law.

What the two reports show – even though their authors don’t say so explicitly and even if the general media did not notice anything amiss – is that Dutch climate policies are full of contradictions, inefficiencies and question-marks that should serve as a warning to energy policy-makers and stakeholders everywhere.

Here are my own seven Troubling Takeaways from the PBL and CPB reports.

1. The cost of climate policies: anyone’s guess

Robert Koelemeijer, researcher at PBL and one of the authors of the new report, says in a telephone interview: “It has proved to be very difficult to distinguish between the costs of the energy system as such, and the additional costs as a result of past climate and energy policies. But it is a question we get more often and one that we do want to take a look at this year.”

Earlier this year, a group of critics – Theo Wolters, Stijn Santen, Hans Keuken, Evert van der Pol and Marcel Crok – published a report, “De kosten van het Energieakkoord” (“The costs of the Energy Accord”), which attempts to calculate the costs of the measures decided on in an earlier piece of climate legislation, called the Energy Accord, in 2013.

Wolters, one of the authors, tells me it is reasonable to assume that this Energy Accord, which was actually adopted by the government and is being implemented, represents the major part of the “reference scenario” that PBL refers to.

According to Wolters et al., the Energy Accord will cost Dutch society over €100bn, measured over a period of 35 years, to which the costs of the Climate Accord must now be added. Their report has been criticised by various experts. Koelemeijer says: “There are some aspects about it that we don’t agree with. We are planning to analyse it in more detail.”

On the other hand, €100bn, over 35 years, does not seem so incredible. Thus, for example, the Dutch General Accounting Office (“Algemene Rekenkamer”), again an official government institution, calculated in April 2015 that the costs of renewable energy subsidies alone could amount to some €80bn by 2030. (You can find the GAO report by following this link, click on the download, see page 15-16. Again, all in Dutch, I’m afraid.)

Renewable energy subsidies are of course only part of the total costs of climate policy – according to the critics roughly half of the total.

2. The poor will pay

More important perhaps is that CPB concludes that lower income groups (especially lower middle income groups) have to pay relatively more as a result of current climate policies than higher income groups. Welfare recipients and pensioners, says CPB, are hit hardest of all.

On average, households will see their income reduced by 1.3% as a result of all climate measures together, notes CPB, ranging from 0.8% for the highest income groups to 1.8% for the lowest income groups. To this should be added another 0.4% income loss on average as a result of climate policies in other EU countries and of companies charging their climate costs to consumers.

3. The built environment: minimal results

One of the most complex and controversial elements in Dutch climate policy is the goal to disconnect all houses and buildings from the gas grid by 2050. Currently 98% of all buildings are connected to the gas grid. . . Of the more than 7mn buildings that will be affected, 1.5mn should be “off gas” by 2030, according to the Climate Accord. As noted above, CPB does not calculate the costs of this gigantic operation. PBL does this however and concludes (on p. 67) that with the measures in the Climate Accord some 250,000 to 1,070,000 buildings could be made “gas-free” (rather than 1.5mn). The net “national costs” of this operation would only be €75mn to €90mn, according to PB.

Theo Wolters, one of the authors of the critical report, notes that according to a 2018 study of the independent think tank EIB (“Economisch Instituut voor de Bouw” – Economic Institute for the Building Sector), the average cost of going off gas will be €32,638/house. This will save on average €623/yr in gas use. That adds up to much higher national costs.

Troubling me much more, the PBL study shows that the measures taken in the built environment do only very little to reduce CO2 emissions. The Climate Accord is split up into five sectors: electricity generation, industry, transport, agriculture and environment. If it is carried out, PBL calculates, total emissions will go down between 31 and 52 megatons (Mt). Of this total, the electricity sector will contribute 18.3-21.0 Mt, industry between 6 and 13.9 Mt, mobility 4.2-8.0 Mt, agriculture 1.8-4.6 Mt and the built environment a paltry 0.8-3.7 Mt.

In other words, the Netherlands is contemplating a complete overhaul of the existing building stock with only a modest effect on its greenhouse gas emissions.

4. Waterbed effects: cutting carbon emissions in one place means they can rise elsewhere, unless the cap comes down.

Wolters and his co-authors, in their critical report, provide a withering analysis of the waterbed effects of Dutch climate policy. They calculate that of 32 Mt of emission reductions which the Netherlands wants to achieve by 2020, 79% fall under the ETS system. The non-ETS part is almost all based on the use of biomass, a questionable method (see below). Just 0.6 Mt of the 32 Mt falls outside of the ETS and is not related to biomass.

Wolters notes that CPB and the University of Groningen have long ago warned about the waterbed effect of the ETS, with the recommendation to “put off building expensive offshore wind parks in the North Sea” as long as their emission reductions would benefit coal power producers in Poland and elsewhere. “The same ton of CO2 that we don’t emit and which costs us on average €88, can be bought by a coal power producer in eastern Europe for €5 to €25”, they write.The ETS carbon price is now much higher but nowhere near €88/mt.

5. Biomass: what is it good for?

This table shows that biomass is the single most expensive measure – yet as PBL itself notes, its effectiveness is surrounded by “many uncertainties”.

By the way, in the Netherlands burning wood in wood stoves and fireplaces also counts as “renewable energy”. The Netherlands has a 14% renewable energy target for 2020, of which almost 1 percentage point will be reached by people using their wood stoves and fireplaces!

6. Jobs: no effect

Renewable energy is often credited for providing jobs – a questionable defence in itself, since “providing jobs” is not the same thing as “contributing to economic growth”. On the contrary, if switching to renewable energy leads to many more people being employed in energy generation, this is a net economic loss to society, not a gain.

But not to worry: CPB concludes (on p. 11) that climate and energy policy in the Netherlands has “transition effects”, but “in the longer term the net effects on employment are marginal”. The renewable energy job machine simply does not exist.

7. In the end: coming up short

After all is said and done, and ignoring waterbed effects, biomass doubts and the like, what is also striking is that the measures in the Climate Accord don’t even deliver the official target of 48.7 Mt of reductions in 2030. PBL concludes (p. 9) that if all the proposed measures are carried out, emissions will be reduced by between 31 Mt and 52 Mt, adding that “the target of 48.7 Mt will most likely not be met”.

Indeed, there are other “uncertainties” which could even result in emission reductions outside of the 31-52 Mt range, notes PBL, for example, unexpected deviations in “economic growth, energy prices, technology developments and developments in other countries.”

Conclusions

The most important one I think is that climate policy – any climate policy – is not a done deal. On the contrary, the real hard choices have only just arrived on our doorstep. There are many questions, such as, what are the most cost-effective and efficient measures. Not only in the Netherlands – other countries will face the same issues.

Two key issues that need to receive a lot more attention are the effects of EU climate policy, which right now are an afterthought in the Netherlands and in other EU member states, whereas they clearly should be a starting point; and the wisdom of using renewable energy targets alongside CO2-targets. Wolters and the other critics of Dutch climate policy observe that the Dutch government initially wisely focused on CO2-targets, but then enthusiastically endorsed a new renewable energy target agreed upon by the EU of 32% in 2030. This, they say, means that CO2-reduction will be achieved “through relatively expensive options”.

The climate policy debate? It has only just started.

The Dutch also invented a word: Poppycock, (ˈpäpēˌkäk/) informal noun meaning nonsense.
Synonyms: nonsense, rubbish, claptrap, balderdash, blather, moonshine, garbage;
Origin: mid 19th century: from Dutch dialect pappekak, from pap ‘soft’ + kak ‘dung.’

Reprinted below is a previous post Green Electrical Shocks providing a Dutch analysis with a dash of humor.

One year ago, a weekly Sunday news program aired in the Netherlands on the titled subject. H/T Climate Scepticism. The video clip is below with English subtitles. For those who prefer reading, I provide the substantial excerpts from the program with my bolds.

How many of you have Green Electricity? I will estimate 69%
And how much nationally? Oh, 69%!
So we are very average, and in a good way, because the climate is very important.

Let me ask: Green electricity comes from . . .?
Yes, electricity produced from windmills and solar panels.
Nearly 2/3 of the Dutch are using it. That’s the image.

Well I have green news and bad news.
The green news: Well done!
The bad news: It is all one big lie.
Time for the Green Electrical Shocks.

Shock #1: The green electricity from your socket is not green.
When I switched to green electricity I was very proud.
I thought, Yes, well done! The climate is getting warmer, but not any more thanks to me.

Well, that turned out to be untrue.
All producers deliver to one communal grid. Green and grey electricity all mix.
The electricity you use is always a mix of various sources.
OK. It actually makes sense not to have separate green and grey cables for every house.
So it means that of all electricity, 69% is produced in a sustainable way. But then:

Shock #2: Green Electricity is mostly fake.
Most of the green electricity we think we use comes from abroad.
You may think: So what. Green is green.

But that electricity doesn’t come from abroad, it stays abroad.
If you have green electricity at home, it may mean nothing more than that your supplier has bought “green electricity certificates”.

In Europe green electricity gets an official certificate,
Instead of selling on the electricity, they sell on those certificates.
Norway, with its hydro power, has a surplus of certificates.
Dutch suppliers buy them on a massive scale, while the electricity stays in Norway.

The idea was: if countries can sell those certificates, they can make money by producing more green electricity.
But the Norwegians don’t produce more green electricity.
But they do sell certificates.

The Dutch suppliers wave with those certificates, and say Look! Our grey electricity is green.
Only one country has produced green electricity: Norway.
But two countries take the credit.
Norway, because they produce green electricity, and the Netherlands because, on paper, we have green electricity. Get it? That’s a nice deal.

More and more countries sell those certificates. Italy is now the top supplier.
We buy fake green electricity from Italy, like some kind of Karma ham.

Now, let’s look again at the green electricity we all think we use.
So the real picture isn’t 69%. If you cancel the certificates, only 21% of electricity is really green.
Nowadays you can even order it separately if you don’t want to be part of that Norway certificates scam.
You may think: 21% green is still quite a lot. But it is time for:

Shock #3: Not all energy is electricity.
If you talk about the climate, you shouldn’t just consider electricity but all energy.
When you look at all energy, like factories, cars, trains, gas fires, then the share of consumer electricity is virtually nothing.
If you include everything in your calculation, it turns out that only 6% of all the energy we use in the Netherlands is green. It is a comedy, but wait:

Trees converted into pellets by means of petroleum powered machinery.

Shock #4: Most green energy doesn’t come from sun or wind, like you might think.
Even the 6%, our last green hope, is fake. According to the CBS we are using more sun and wind energy, but most of the green energy is produced by the burning of biomass.
Ah, more than half of the 6% green energy is biomass.

Ridiculous. What is biomass really? It is organic materials that we encounter every day.
Like the content of a compost heap. How about maize leaves or hay?
The idea behind burning organic materials is that it will grow up again.
So CO2 is released when you burn it, but it will be absorbed again by new trees.

However, there is one problem. The forest grows very slowly and our power plants burn very fast.
This is the fatal flaw in the thinking about biomass. Power plants burn trees too fast, so my solution: slow fire. Disadvantage: it doesn’t exist. So this is our next shock.

Shock#5: Biomass isn’t all that sustainable.
It’s getting worse. There aren’t enough trees in the Netherlands for biomass.
We can’t do it on our own. We don’t have enough wood, so we get it from America.

In the USA forests are cut at a high rate, Trees are shredded and compressed into pellets.
These are shipped to the Netherlands and end up in the ovens of the coal plants.
It’s a disaster for the American forests, according to environmental groups.

So we transport American forests on diesel ships to Europe.
Then throw them in the oven because it officially counts as green energy.
Only because the CO2 released this way doesn’t count for our total emissions.

In reality biomass emits more CO2 than natural gas and coal.
These are laws of nature, no matter what European laws say.
At the bottom line, how much sustainable energy do we really have in the Netherlands?
Well, the only real green energy from windmills, solar panels etc. Is only 2.2%. of all the energy we use.

In Conclusion
So the fact that 2/3 of the audience and of all Dutch people use green electricity means absolutely nothing. It’s only 2.2%, and crazier still, the government says it should be at 14% by 2020.
They promised: to us, to Europe, to planet Earth: 14 instead of 2.2.

Instead of making a serious attempt to save the climate, they are only working on accounting tricks, like buying pieces of paper in Norway and burning American forests.
They are only saving the climate on paper.

Summary Comment

As the stool above shows, the climate change package sits on three premises. The first is the science bit, consisting of an unproven claim that observed warming is caused by humans burning fossil fuels. The second part rests on impact studies from billions of research dollars spent uncovering any and all possible negatives from warming. And the third leg is climate policies showing how governments can “fight climate change.”

It is refreshing to see more and more articles by people reasoning about climate change/global warming and expressing rational positions. Increasingly, analysts are unbundling the package and questioning not only the science, but also pointing out positives from CO2 and warming.  And as the Dutch telecast shows, ineffective government policies are also fair game.

More on flawed climate policies at Reasoning About Climate

Green Energy Blues: Falmouth City Cautionary Tale

 

A wind turbine loomed over the Craggy Ridge neighborhood in West Falmouth.
JONATHAN WIGGS/GLOBE STAFF

The story is by David Abel at Boston Globe January 24, 2019 ‘Green energy blues’ in a town that sought to do something about climate change.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.   H/T Greenie Watch

FALMOUTH — For nearly a decade, the giant blades have loomed over this seaside town, stirring hope and fear in the salty air.

To proponents, the twin wind turbines proved that residents could act on their ideals, producing their own clean energy and relying less on fossil fuels. To critics, they were mechanical monstrosities, blinking eyesores whirring at such a frequency that some neighbors said they became ill.

Nine years after the first was built beside Falmouth’s waste treatment plant, both turbines now stand idle, no longer producing a kilowatt of electricity, totems of good intentions gone awry.

Facing fierce neighborhood opposition and multiple lawsuits, selectmen last week voted to remove the turbines, which had cost the town about $10 million to build, saddling residents with years of debt.

“All that’s left now is that we have an albatross to live with,” said Sam Peterson, the one dissenting vote on the five-person board.

Wind power offers communities a way to reduce their emissions, but the protracted resistance to the turbines offers lessons as communities throughout the region consider similarly controversial renewable energy projects.

It also reflects the challenges, often tacit, in the state’s promises to make substantial reductions in its emissions. Those plans rely on importing hydropower from Canada and major offshore wind farms, and both approaches are being contested by powerful, well-organized interest groups and could be subject to legal challenges.

For Dave Moriarty, who spent much of the past decade fighting the Falmouth turbines, news that the town was finally giving up its efforts to keep them running was a welcome relief. He considers the turbines “overbearing, antiquated dinosaurs” and said they left the town with the “green energy blues.”

The 56-year-old contractor, who lived close to the turbines after they were built, moved across town because they wrought too much stress, he said. He blames town officials for ignoring his and other neighbors’ concerns.

“The town was warned,” he said. “The damage can never be reversed for many of us wind turbine victims. Some of my friends have serious health issues now.”

Neighbors complained that the churning of the turbines and the resulting flickering light and vibrations produced dizziness, nausea, depression, or anxiety — a set of symptoms that critics call “wind turbine syndrome.”

In 2012, with both 1.65-megawatt turbines operating and the opposition becoming increasingly vocal, state environmental officials took the unprecedented action of recommending that one be shut down. They found that turbine, which was fewer than 1,500 feet from the nearest home, had repeatedly exceeded allowable noise levels.

But a panel of independent scientists and doctors convened by the state Department of Environmental Protection found little to no evidence the turbines posed a health risk to neighbors.

The town eventually stopped them from operating at night, and in 2015, a state appeals court judge ruled that the town lacked sufficient permits for one of the turbines and prohibited it from operating. Two years later, a Superior Court judge ruled that both turbines posed a nuisance to neighbors and ordered that they never operate again at their current location.

“The lessons others should learn from our experience is that residents should do their homework in advance of construction,” Moriarty said. “They should ask questions and know what they’re really getting into.”

For Peterson, the only selectman who declined to vote in favor of removing the turbines, the decision ultimately reflects the power of those concerned about any large industrial project close to their homes.

While he said he felt empathy for those whose homes are closest to the turbines, he thinks they exaggerated their complaints. He visited their homes and never heard more than a minor hissing of the moving blades.

“We had the best of intentions, and they bullied those of us who tried to reason with them,” said Peterson, a retired physics teacher who like many of his neighbors hoped to do his share in addressing climate change.

He also noted that the turbines were approved by repeated votes by more than 200 members of Falmouth’s Town Meeting. But he acknowledged that town officials made mistakes, particularly in failing to comply with zoning requirements.

A woman walked along Westmoreland Drive in Falmouth, in the shadow of one of the city’s wind turbines. JONATHAN WIGGS/GLOBE STAFF

In addition to the $10 million that the town’s 30,000 residents spent on building the turbines, they now have to pay as much as $2 million more to remove them.

“It’s a shame,” said Susan Moran, chair of the town’s board of selectmen, who initially supported the turbines but voted to take them down. “This is absolutely a financial blow to the town.

Moran and other town officials acknowledge those losses will take a toll. They’re already considering cutting back on some services, such as curbside trash collection.

While the town received $5 million in state loans for the project — $1.5 million of which has been forgiven — residents are likely to have repay the rest. If the turbines had operated as planned, functioning 24 hours a day, they were projected to earn the town between an estimated $1 million and $2 million a year.

In an effort to recoup some of those costs, selectmen have instructed town officials to consider a variety of options for what to do with the turbines.

Those include possibly converting them into cellphone towers or selling them to another community that might operate them. If they were able to negotiate such a deal with another town, Falmouth might have the rest of their state loans forgiven, as the turbines would be generating renewable energy.

“We’re looking at our options, but either way, there’s certainly going to be a financial impact to Falmouth,” said Julian Suso, to town manager.

California Renewables to Lose PG&E $$$

 

The investigation continues into the origin of the Camp fire, which some say started with a faulty PG&E wire in Pulga, California. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times / TNS)

Sammy Roth of LA Times digs deeper than others into the fallout from PG&E’s wildfire-induced bankrupcy. The article published in The Seattle Times is PG&E bankruptcy could undermine utilities’ efforts against climate change. Excerpts below with my bolds.

Solar and wind developers depend on creditworthy utilities to buy electricity from their projects under long-term contracts, but that calculus changes in a world where a 30-year purchase agreement doesn’t guarantee 30 years of payments.

The Golden State has dramatically reduced planet-warming emissions from the electricity sector, largely by requiring utilities to increase their use of solar and wind power and fund energy-efficiency upgrades for homes and businesses. Lawmakers recently set a target of 100 percent climate-friendly electricity by 2045.

But those government mandates have depended on Pacific Gas & Electric and other utilities being able to invest tens of billions of dollars in clean-energy technologies.

The massive Topaz solar farm in California’s San Luis Obispo County, an electricity supplier to PG&E owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy, also saw its credit rating downgraded to junk status this month, amid fears the San Francisco-based utility won’t be able to pay its bills in full.

In the short term, PG&E might stop signing renewable-energy contracts, although contracting had already slowed in the last few years as customers departed in droves for newly established local energy providers run by city and county governments. In the long term, renewable-energy developers and their lenders may hesitate to do business with PG&E — and, potentially, with other California utilities that could also face significant future wildfire costs.

“If we’re having a couple billion dollars a year of fire damage and insurance losses, quite apart from PG&E, this is going to put the entire state of California at risk,” said V. John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, a Sacramento-based trade group.

Renewable-energy firms were alarmed by the news of PG&E’s impending bankruptcy filing, and it’s not hard to understand why. Solar and wind developers depend on stable, creditworthy utilities to buy electricity from their projects under long-term contracts known as power-purchase agreements. They’re able to get low-cost loans to build their projects because lenders see little to no risk of a utility defaulting on those contracts.

But that calculus changes in a world where a 30-year power-purchase agreement doesn’t guarantee 30 years of payments at the agreed-upon price, said Ben Serrurier, a San Francisco-based policy manager for solar developer Cypress Creek Renewables. There’s concern in the industry that a bankruptcy court judge could order PG&E to reduce its payments to solar- and wind-project owners to help the company pay off other debts.

WIND ENERGY: Wind turbines in the Tehachapi-Mojave Wind Resource Area near the city of Mojave, California. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times / TNS)

“Once you start questioning the sanctity of contracted revenue, you begin to introduce a new risk into renewable-energy project development. So much about project development is about reducing risk so you can reduce your capital cost,” Serrurier said.

It’s not just clean-energy investments that are at risk. In another cruel bit of irony, PG&E’s bankruptcy filing could also make it more difficult for California utilities to raise the capital needed to harden their infrastructure against wildfire, said Travis Kavulla, a former president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners who now serves as director of energy policy at the R Street Institute, a center-right think tank.

“Bankruptcies are tough. It means people may lose their pensions or get them cut. It means people who invested in projects in California, based on what they thought was a pretty airtight business model of a regulated utility, are getting stiffed,” Kavulla said. “It could create longer-running harms where California is viewed as a market to avoid investment in.”

PG&E has lurched from crisis to crisis since 2010, when one of the company’s gas pipelines exploded in a residential neighborhood in San Bruno, killing eight people. The company was ultimately fined $1.6 billion by the state regulators and $3 million by a federal judge. Last month, the California Public Utilities Commission accused PG&E of continuing to commit pipeline-safety violations in the years after the gas pipeline explosion.

More recently, deadly wildfires have made PG&E the target of raucous protests. The utility’s infrastructure was found to have sparked or contributed to more than a dozen fires that collectively killed 22 people in 2017. State investigators have yet to determine if PG&E is also responsible for 2017’s Tubbs fire, which killed an additional 22 people, and the 2018 Camp fire, which killed 86 people and destroyed most of the town of Paradise.

Some critics have called for lawmakers to break up the massive company, which serves 16 million Californians, and replace it with smaller, government-run electric utilities. But it’s not clear how feasible that would be, or whether it would accomplish anything more than transferring PG&E’s huge liabilities to local governments.Renewable-energy developers, meanwhile, see stabilizing PG&E as an urgent priority. After a series of fires devastated Northern California in October 2017, clean-energy trade groups began urging state lawmakers to help PG&E and other utilities cope with the liability that can ensue if their infrastructure sparks a fire.

In a May 2018 letter to legislative leaders last year, representatives of the solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy industries said California must find a way to sustain financially solvent investor-owned utilities. Failure to act, they said, “imperils our markets and progress toward our climate goals.”

Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, described PG&E as a “tremendous asset” for meeting the state’s climate-change targets.

He said the state’s three big investor-owned utilities — which also include Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — are crucial to making the investments needed to meet California’s ambitious climate targets, including the 100 percent clean-energy mandate and a long-term goal of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Those investments are likely to include more solar and wind farms, large-scale batteries and other energy storage technologies, and electric vehicle chargers.

“Utilities have been essential clean-energy partners. We don’t want to have to do without them, and we shouldn’t have to do it without them,” Cavanagh said. “It would be much more difficult without them.”

Cavanagh thinks state legislators should change the law so that PG&E and other utilities aren’t held liable for fires sparked by their infrastructure unless they’re found to be negligent.

California’s new Gov. Gavin Newsom could play a key role in determining how the state responds to PG&E’s bankruptcy. At a news conference Monday, he said the state is “still committed to investing in our climate goals.”

“I do not believe, based on the information that I have, that those goals will be significantly altered in the short term as it relates to existing purchases of renewable energy. We are long-term focused on all of the existing requirements that PG&E has encumbered and embraced,” Newsom said.

The Legislature already gave the investor-owned utilities a measure of relief last year by approving Senate Bill 901, which allows them to charge ratepayers for some of the costs they may incur from the 2017 fires. But it’s unclear whether lawmakers have the appetite for another bill that will inevitably be derided as a utility bailout.

A lot could depend on how the bankruptcy court judge handles the company’s existing solar and wind contracts, with developers watching to see whether the owners of those projects keep getting paid in full.

It’s also possible the effects of PG&E’s bankruptcy may not be as serious as solar and wind developers fear.

Ravi Manghani, director of energy storage at the research and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables, said existing clean-energy contracts “will likely get renegotiated,” with project owners being forced to accept lower payments. But in the long run, he said, California officials “are still committed to the renewable future, and it’s not like the region’s resource and reliability needs disappear with the bankruptcy.”

Another key factor: The investor-owned utilities aren’t the only ones buying clean energy in California.

Most new contracts in recent years have actually been signed by local energy providers known as community choice aggregators, which can be formed by city and county governments whose residents are served by an investor-owned utility. The government-run power agencies decide what kind of electricity to buy for their communities and how much to charge, while investor-owned utilities continue to operate the poles and wires.

There are 19 aggregators operating in California, including Clean Power Alliance, which will begin serving nearly 1 million homes in Los Angeles and Ventura counties in February. The aggregators have signed long-term contracts for more than 2,000 megawatts of renewable energy, according to the California Community Choice Assn.

But the community choice aggregators don’t have the financial wherewithal of the investor-owned utilities, and many of them don’t have credit ratings yet, said Matt Vespa, an attorney at the environmental group Earthjustice. He likes the aggregators but doesn’t think they alone can eliminate planet-warming carbon-dioxide emissions from California’s electric grid.

“When you’re talking about the scale of what we need to do to aggressively decarbonize … they’re not in a position to finance that,” Vespa said.

Summary

California continues to serve as a learning laboratory for misguided and futile climate policies.  This time the lesson (for those with eyes to see) is to demonstrate that renewable energy programs are parasites who feast on the financial lifeblood of their host utilities until the cash is gone.

See Also:  California: World Leading Climate Hypocrite