More wind generation less power

April 11, 2014

If renewable energy good is more better?

What if more renewable generation results in less power?

Household fridges and freezers will need to be automatically switched off at times when Britain’s electricity demand is high, in order to keep the lights on as Britain becomes more reliant on wind energy, experts say.

The current electricity grid will struggle to cope with the number of wind farms expected to be built by the early 2020s because the power they produce is so intermittent, according to a report from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

A radical overhaul of the way the electricity system is managed – including a “smart grid” that can control household appliances to reduce demand when power supply is inadequate – will be needed, it finds.

Britain will also need to build more power import and export cables to the continent to help manage variable wind power output, and develop storage technologies to keep surplus power for times when there is a shortfall.

The measures will be necessary to avert blackouts under a vast expansion of wind power – unless Britain instead builds an expensive new fleet of reliable power stations to be fired up as backup when the wind doesn’t blow, it found. . .

Most of New Zealand’s renewable energy comes from hydro generation.

That is at risk from low precipitation but it is generally easier to monitor it and manage its consequences than it is to predict and manage shortages of wind.

For all that people say they support renewable generation, I wonder how many would continue to do so if it meant a less reliable supply and higher prices?

 


UN warns biofuels do more harm than good

April 4, 2014

The United Nations has admitted that growing crops to make “green” biofuel harms the environment and drives up food prices.

A leaked draft of a UN report condemns the widespread use of biofuels made from crops as a replacement for petrol and diesel. It says that biofuels, rather than combating the effects of global warming, could make them worse.

The draft report represents a dramatic about-turn for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Its previous assessment on climate change, in 2007, was widely condemned by environmentalists for giving the green light to large-scale biofuel production. The latest report instead puts pressure on world leaders to scrap policies promoting the use of biofuel for transport.

The summary for policymakers states: “Increasing bioenergy crop cultivation poses risks to ecosystems and biodiversity.”

Biofuels were once billed as the green alternative to fossil fuels, but environmental campaigners have voiced concern about them for some time.

They note that growing biofuel crops on a large scale requires either the conversion of agricultural land used for food crops or the destruction of forests to free up land, possibly offsetting any reduction in carbon emissions from the use of biofuels.

Other concerns include increased stress on water supplies and rising corn prices as a result of increased demand for the crop, which is fermented to produce biofuel. . .

Growing plants especially to make biofuels is an example of a supposedly environmentally   friendly practice which isn’t, and it makes food more expensive too.

Z Energy’s plans to make biofuel from beef tallow might stack up better.

Z Energy has announced plans for a $21 million biodiesel plant that will produce fuel from inedible tallow feedstock.

The listed company said the investment would be made over the 2015 financial year and would produce 20 million litres of sustainable biodiesel a year.

It would be manufactured from inedible tallow feedstock, essentially beef fat, and satisfy New Zealand and European fuel specifications.

The plant would be built in Auckland. . .

Tallow is used for making candles and soap not food.

 

 

 


Let there be light

March 29, 2014

Tonight some people will be celebrating Earth Hour by turning off their lights.

Some won’t because they don’t have lights to start with.

Others could but won’t.

Among the latter group is Ross McKitrick, Professor of Economics at the University of Guelph.

In 2009 I was asked by a journalist for my thoughts on the importance of Earth Hour.

Here is my response.

I abhor Earth Hour. Abundant, cheap electricity has been the greatest source of human liberation in the 20th century. Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity.

Giving women the freedom to work outside the home depended on the availability of electrical appliances that free up time from domestic chores.

Getting children out of menial labour and into schools depended on the same thing, as well as the ability to provide safe indoor lighting for reading.

Development and provision of modern health care without electricity is absolutely
impossible. The expansion of our food supply, and the promotion of hygiene and nutrition, depended on being able to irrigate fields, cook and refrigerate foods, and have a steady indoor supply of hot water. Many of the world’s poor suffer brutal environmental conditions in their own homes because of the necessity of cooking over indoor fires that burn twigs and dung. This causes local deforestation and the proliferation of smoke- and parasite-related lung diseases.

Anyone who wants to see local conditions improve in the third world should realize the importance of access to cheap electricity from fossil-fuel based power generating
stations. After all, that’s how the west developed.

The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. I cannot do that, instead I
celebrate it and all that it has provided for humanity. Earth Hour celebrates ignorance,
poverty and backwardness. By repudiating the greatest engine of liberation it becomes an hour devoted to anti-humanism. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity.

People who see virtue in doing without electricity should shut off their fridge, stove, microwave, computer, water heater, lights, TV and all other appliances for a month, not an hour. And pop down to the cardiac unit at the hospital and shut the power off
there too.

I don’t want to go back to nature. Travel to a zone hit by earthquakes, floods and hurricanes to see what it’s like to go back to nature. For humans, living in “nature” meant a short life span marked by violence, disease and ignorance. People who work for the end of poverty and relief from disease are fighting against nature . I hope they leave their lights on.

Here in Ontario, through the use of pollution control technology and advanced engineering, our air quality has dramatically improved since the 1960s, despite the expansion of industry and the power supply.

If, after all this, we are going to take the view that the remaining air emissions outweigh all the benefits of electricity, and that we ought to be shamed into sitting in darkness for an hour, like naughty children who have been caught doing something bad, then we are setting up unspoiled nature as an absolute, transcendent ideal that obliterates all other ethical and humane obligations.

No thanks. I like visiting nature but I don’t want to live there, and I refuse to accept the idea that civilization with all its tradeoffs is something to be ashamed of.

Let there be light and heat and all the other benefits electricity brings us and let those who wish to make change a reality find a more positive and useful way to do it.

Celebrating Human Achievement Hour could be a good way to start.

Hat tip: Carpe Diem

 

 


Rural round-up

February 19, 2014

Working group set to improve dairy traceability:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye today announced a working group set up to improve dairy traceability.

“The independent Government Inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) Contamination Incident highlighted the importance of effective systems for dairy traceability,” Mr Guy says.

“The Inquiry recommended lifting the dairy sector’s ability to trace products and ingredients through a working group focusing on regulatory and worldwide best practices.”

“Improving the traceability of dairy products will further protect the public in the event of a suspected food safety issue,” Ms Kaye says. . .

Bob Ingham delivers golden egg in final year of NZ poultry production – Suze Metherell:

(BusinessDesk) – Bob Ingham, former owner of Australia’s biggest poultry producer Inghams Enterprises, achieved a record profit from his New Zealand operations in 2013, the final year before private equity firm TPG acquired the Australasian business.

Inghams Enterprises (NZ) lifted net profit by 19 percent to $27.2 million in the 12 months ended June 30, according to the annual report filed with the Companies Office. Revenue rose 5 percent to $336 million.

The Australian parent company was family owned for 94 years when sole shareholder Bob Ingham, grandson of the original founder, sold to TPG for A$880 million in June last year. The Ingham family retained bloodstock assets and some properties including the family farm. . .

Esquires may source milk from NZ:

Cooks Global Food is looking to start sourcing its supply of milk from New Zealand for its Esquire coffee houses around the world.

Cooks, which is listed on the NZX’s alternative market, has signed a master franchisee agreement in Oman and Qatar which will mean at least 16 new Esquires Coffee Houses opening.

The new deal means it has commitments for more than 80 coffee stores in the Middle East. . .

Defending champion returns:

Defending Tasman champion, Reuben Carter, is the first Grand Finalist to be named for the 2014 ANZ Young Farmer Contest.

The thirty year old agronomist took first place at the Tasman Regional Final in Murchison at the A&P Show over the weekend, Saturday 15 February.

Mr Carter had a dominant performance leading for most of the day and took out both the Silver Fern Farms Agri-Sports and Ravensdown Agri-Skills Challenges giving him solid platform going into the evening show. . .

Young Farmers heading south:

The ANZ Young Farmer Contest heads south for the second Regional Final in Otago/Southland, Saturday 22 February in Alexandra.

It will be a full on day with practical events at Pioneer Park where competitors will be tested on a variety of hands-on, physical and theoretical challenges – all with an agricultural and farming focus.

The day’s events will be followed by the entertaining evening show and quiz round at the Alexandra Community Centre where a cool head and quick wits are vital. Tickets for the evening show can be purchased at ANZ Tarbert Street, Alexandra. . .

Biogas generation systems for rural Samoa:

The Samoan government says it is developing bio-gas generation systems which will use green waste to provide power in rural areas around the country.

It has received 300,000 US dollars from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme, or SPREP, to do so.

The assistant CEO for energy at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Sala Sagato Tuifiso, says biogas generation systems are more cost effective than other renewable energy sources. . .


How green is your policy?

February 17, 2014

If you want to be green you should recycle, right?

Not necessarily.

Recycling does reduce the amount of waste going to landfills. But that is only one measure of environmental impact.

If recycling uses more energy and/or causes more pollution dumping could be the greener option.

Alternative forms of energy might look greener but as Andrei and Gravedodger pointed out yesterday appearances can be not just deceptive but dirty.

They were commenting on the Green Party policy to provide cheap loans for the installation of solar panels.

When we altered our house 12 years ago we looked into installing solar panels but were advised it would cost too much for too little power.

We investigated solar panels again before undertaking further  alterations a couple of years ago and were told the technology still wasn’t good enough to be worth it this far south.

There might be a better ratio between the cost and benefits further north but that still doesn’t counter the criticism about the environmental cost of making and disposing of solar panels and batteries.

Then there’s the Green’s mistaken assertion that there are no government subsidies involved.

The Green Party’s belief in their ability to make money magically appear seems to have no limits says Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges.

“The Greens’ solar power policy creates low interest loans that make expensive solar power suddenly a cheaper option for kiwi families, with ‘apparently’ no government subsidy involved.

“I have news for the Greens — if it’s a lower interest rate than normal, it must involve a government subsidy. And if it makes the cost of solar power cheaper for families than existing power options it also must involve a subsidy.

“Everyone wants something cheaper but someone has to pay. Solar is about three times more expensive than grid-scale generation from wind, hydro or geothermal power stations. If solar power was to be made more affordable other taxpayers and power users would have to pay for it.

“There is certainly a place for solar in New Zealand, but given the abundance of lower cost renewable alternatives, it can’t be a priority to subsidise solar power or change the rules to suit a specific technology.

“We’ve seen that with expensive solar subsidies in other parts of the world, including Germany and Spain. The irony is that New Zealand already generates 75 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources and the percentage is moving higher without any need for government subsidies.

“No matter how you dress it up the Greens’ grab bag of power ideas, which also includes nationalising power purchasing and a more expensive ETS, will heap higher prices on Kiwi households.

“If the Greens are serious about their policies, they need to front up and explain who pays for all of this, or whether they would roll out Russell Norman’s printing press again.”

David Cunliffe made a mess of his party’s big baby bribe announcement by saying one thing and meaning another.

Norman’s assertion that there are no government subsidies involved is not just misleading, it’s wrong.

If the environmental impact of the materials, manufacture and disposal of everything involved in solar energy is taken into account the claim that this policy is clean and green is also wrong.

 

 

 

 


LabGreen power play threatens renewable energy

February 14, 2014

There’s another flaw in the LabourGreen power play  – it would threaten investment in renewable energy:

Labour and the Greens have jointly proposed scrapping the wholesale energy market in favour of a single state-operated buyer of electricity, called NZ Power, claiming the move would save hundreds of millions of dollars on consumer power bills.

Today Mark Binns, chief executive of Meridian Energy, told the commerce select committee that while a lack of detail meant it was hard to properly analyse the plan, Meridian believed it would favour thermal generation over renewable plants such as wind farms.

“Our view is it would potentially impact on renewables because it would make thermals, particularly gas plants – which are easier to consent and easier to put in place quickly – more viable in that environment,” Binns told MPs..

“If you have a central buyer, the Crown has the responsibility for deciding the next wind farm or other power that is required, and wind farms take between five and 10 years to consent.

“Why would we keep investing in developing renewable options, given the uncertainty around central buyer?

“The reality is it’s much easier for someone like Todd Energy to basically get a piece of land with gas to the front door, and strap on a jet engine to a lump of concrete and generate electricity.” . . .

Questions over the economic credibility of Labour and Green policies aren’t new but there’s more than a little irony in this very serious question over the environmental impact their power play would have.


LabGreen power plan would be worse

February 11, 2014

The LabourGreen power plan would be worse for consumers than the current system.

The electricity market in New Zealand is extremely competitive, with consumers able to switch retailers to gain lower prices, and more consumers using metering and home energy management systems to save more. But the electricity proposals of the Labour and Greens parties would be less able than the current market to meet consumer needs.

These are among the key findings of an analysis of the electricity market commissioned by BusinessNZ and undertaken by Sapere Research Group.

BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly says it is valuable to get rigorous analysis on a sector that is complex and sometimes poorly understood.

“The electricity market was established in 1996 and has operated under changing rules since then. The research makes it clear that under the current 2010 rules, the electricity market is developing towards a highly competitive, well-functioning market.

“The electricity market’s greatest problem has been a lack of transparency around prices. Energy companies have not explained price changes clearly enough, and this has led to doubts about whether prices have been unnecessarily high in the past. BusinessNZ is recommending that energy companies ensure that the reasons for future price changes are meticulously itemised. We also recommend investigating whether we should have rules for information disclosure around price setting.

“The Sapere research also notes that a segment of the market may be experiencing energy hardship in having to spend too great a proportion of their income on house heating. BusinessNZ recommends investigating options for policies within the market and the social welfare system to help alleviate this,” Mr O’Reilly said.

Sapere found the electricity market is achieving positive outcomes against five key criteria:
1. Secure supply of electricity
2. Efficient operation and market transactions
3. Efficient investment in assets
4. Social requirements
5. Environmental requirements

Sapere also analysed NZ Power proposals (Labour and Greens policies) against the same criteria. Sapere concluded that these policies would be less able than the current market to meet the five criteria, and would not resolve transparency or energy hardship problems. . .

The Labour Green power plan would make the electricity supply less secure, lead to less efficiency in operation and market transactions, less efficiency in investment, poorer social requirements and poorer environmental requirements.

Rather than fixing any problems, real or perceived, it would exacerbate them and the people who would be most disadvantaged by the added costs and poorer efficiency would be those least able to afford them.

That isn’t unusual when ideology comes before practical considerations.

Key findings of the report are:

• Outcomes under all of the public policy goals are for the most part positive but there are some areas where more effort should be applied
• Security of supply has improved under the market, and investment in generation, transmission, and distribution assets is keeping ahead of demand without government subsidy or direction
• Retail electricity price increases have not been transparent enough
• There appears to be insufficient action to address energy hardship experienced by some consumers who live in houses that are too cold and damp
• The NZ Power proposal would be less able than the current market to deliver against the five goals, and would not resolve transparency or energy hardship problems

BusinessNZ recommendations:
• Retain current electricity market framework as superior to the alternatives across a range of desirable policy objectives

• Aggressively pursue net-benefit positive improvements to the efficiency of the current market arrangements by improving price transparency:
i. Investigate rules for information disclosure around price setting
ii. Fast-track Electricity Authority and MBIE workstreams on price transparency

• Confirm the nature and size of the issue of energy hardship, acknowledging that efforts by the electricity market will benefit those affected only marginally

• Implement options to aid those experiencing energy hardship, in a systematic, whole of-government way (including the appointment of a lead agency), such as:
i. Requiring landlords who receive state money to make their houses available for social housing to submit their houses to a ‘warrant of fitness’
ii. Replacing the poorly targeted Low Fixed User Charge with a better initiative
iii. Reviewing initiatives in health and welfare that can help address energy hardship

The full report is here.


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