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On Energy Bill: UK Energy Sector Feels Like It Is Waiting for Godot

They are tackling heating and transport. 

July 29, 2013    View Comment    

On Energy Bill: UK Energy Sector Feels Like It Is Waiting for Godot

Nuclear and coal capacity set to close? Advantages of smart grid? Grid unable to handle decentralised generation?

July 29, 2013    View Comment    

On Energy Bill: UK Energy Sector Feels Like It Is Waiting for Godot

That's why demand reduction is important. Unfortunately doing nothing isn't an option; there's been dithering for too long.

July 29, 2013    View Comment    

On Demand Side Response: Revolution in British Energy Policy

 You are absolutely right. The graph was there just to illustrate the principle. It's actually from an American source. In this respect, I thought it might be better for American audience. I am grateful for your comments.

July 2, 2013    View Comment    

On Demand Side Response: Revolution in British Energy Policy

Good point.

July 1, 2013    View Comment    

On EU: 100 Percent Renewable Energy Is Here

This is turning into a very interesting discussion and I am grateful for all the comments which are given me pause for thought. Unfortunately I am pressed for time and can respond to all of the points made and will be away next week, however I will do my best.

The comments about the number of deaths ascribed to coal burning compared to those from nuclear power stations I fully take on board. In Europe, much of the concern about health hazards from burning coal in industry is addressed by the Large Combustion Plant Directive. This means the imminent closure of many polluting power stations, unless they take steps to mitigate their emissions using flue gas desulphurisation. Therefore several coal burning power stations in the UK and many others throughout the European Union will be closing in 2015, including Ironbridge, Kingsnorth and Grain.

Some commentators mention energy storage and baseline requirements. One technology that has not been mentioned is solar thermal. Whereas solar PV has reached grid parity in many Sunbelt regions including Italy and Spain, concentrated solar thermal power has yet to do so, but shows great promise. Plants using both of these technologies can be erected in one fifth to one quarter of the time it takes to build and commission a nuclear power station of compatible size.  I appreciate that there are many problems. A report by  the Carbon Trust for the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change found that there are critical barriers to deployment of CSP in industrial applications, namely the low awareness, lack of confidence, and unattractive payback periods. An intervention focussed on demonstration of plants would directly address these critical barriers, they said. A major advantage is that heat can be stored for up to 8 hours after sundown and used to generate electricity from molten salt.

I wish that some commentators had at least read the reports I link to and can critically appraise them, instead of arguing a priori.

One commentator here both criticises nuclear sceptics for needing education in the benefits of nuclear, while simultaneously criticising renewables enthusiast's on the basis of what has happened in the '90s and '00s (Amory Lovins etc), while the period of recent history has seen, for example costs fall dramatically especially in the area of PV and offshore wind, whereas a 40 MW wave power installation, the largest in the world is now being deployed off the coast of Scotland.

I quite agree that none of this makes most countries '100% renewables-ready'. But the scenarios I link to or not about today or next year, but a transition up to the year 2030 or 2050 according to the report.

On timescales, in Britain at least, suppose Horizon is going to build, as it expects, two nuclear power stations on Anglesey. The time from this announcement until their commissioning is not expected to be sooner than 12 years.

Meanwhile, the Technology Strategy Board, backed by the Department for Business Industry and Skills is funding research and the development into energy storage and smart grids so that it becomes a market-ready service, and offshore wind is undergoing major developments, and the European Grid is to be modernised and expanded as I mentioned in a different response.

Many other scenarios anticipate a pan-European, cross-Mediterranean SuperSmart Grid with an overlaid HVDC Super Grid. in PricewaterhouseCoopers's 2050 vision, the development of a pan-European, cross-Mediterranean SuperSmart Grid would enable electricity production at the best sites for each technology, regardless of national or regional borders and distance  to the central European load centres. This both increases the efficiency of the system and reduces the intermittency problems. 

This would enable the development of a highly diverse mix of European renewable generation capacities at the most suitable renewable sites. It would combine both centralised generation through large, single units such as large CSP plants, offshore wind farms or large biomass power plants, and decentralised generation with smallscale units such as roof-mounted PV, smaller onshore wind farms and biogas power plants. 

Due to differences in geography and population density, the power mix, although very diverse at a European level, would still be skewed towards single sources in a national or regional perspective. Regional SuperSmart Grid clusters would have developed to maximise the efficient use of local resources. The share of wind would be high in the windy North Sea region, the share of solar power high in the sunny south of Europe, whereas the Baltic Sea region and eastern Europe would be rich in both wind and biomass. 

This scenario does raise concerns about the sustainability biomass, however. Short rotation coppice on non-arable land is preferred.

The mountainous regions in Scandinavia and the Alps would provide hydro generation and storage resources. A general tendency would be that the peripheral regions, including North Africa, supply the central European regions with a share of their electricity supply. All clusters would be strongly interconnected via the HVDC transmission grid. The North African 2050 power system would mainly be based on onshore wind power and solar (including CSP plants with storage and PV), with significant differences depending on resource availability. 

In some countries, especially on the western and eastern coasts, wind power would be dominant, whereas the majority of power generation in the central desert regions would be CSP. Because of the high overall share of CSP, electricity for both local consumption and for export would be completely dispatchable throughout the year36, using CSP plants with storage, in conjunction with other renewables as appropriate. 

North African exports to Europe would come from all countries in the region, but exports from Egypt would be limited by the large growth of its domestic electricity demand. In total, we assume that the North African countries would produce 60% more electricity than they consume in 2050 and that there would not be any interruptions in electricity trade between North Africa and Europe due to political conflicts. Intermittent sources such as PV would also be widely used in a decentralised manner to support off grid and small scale local demand. 

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that €500bn will be invested in transmission and distribution networks by 2030. We may also need an additional investment of approximately €180bn by 2030 in ICT alone to deliver Smart Grids. 

But what are the first priorities for investment? And do we have enough understanding of the opportunities and challenges to ensure that investments made today will deliver the Smart Grid vision? According to one study, Smart Grid solutions could contribute more than 2Gt of CO2e savings annually by 2020, mainly through enabling renewable power and optimising the power generation and transmission and distribution network. Smart Grid demonstration projects today are testing the full potential of the savings, which could be accelerated if a range of new services are developed.

To drive investment, political certainty is required. That is why we need political agreements to curb emissions, decarbonise agency supplies, and not in a way that, as in the shale gas explosion in the US, merely allows the export of cheap coal and emissions elsewhere in the world.

June 14, 2013    View Comment    

On EU: 100 Percent Renewable Energy Is Here

 I have not cheered dirty Germany. I fully accept that Germany's emissions have gone up recently. They are on their own journey.

Neither have I dismissed nuclear energy. I merely pointed out that China is not a democracy and the USA is, and that the European pressurised water reactor is not the great hope EDF once touted it to be.

Perhaps the new design which Horizon looks like it's going to build in Anglesey will be. But we have to wait two or three years for the generic design to be accepted by the Office for Nuclear Regulation. With nuclear power, safety must be paramount, and it takes a long time to build a nuclear power station, whereas many renewable energy plants can be built in a much shorter timescale. And the question of what to do with nuclear waste has still not been solved. Nevertheless, that it is better to build nuclear power stations now in order to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

Yet public opinion, like it or not, has been against nuclear power for many years in the USA and it is, unfortunately, a democracy, unlike China which does not respect human rights. Perhaps you would rather the USA was more like China.

As for thorium, I sincerely hope that it works, but it doesn't yet.

I don't know why you insist on positioning me in places where I have not declared a position merely to knock me down. Perhaps you just need a straw dog to aim at to make yourself feel right. Well, it's not me.

June 13, 2013    View Comment    

On EU: 100 Percent Renewable Energy Is Here

It's interesting that you resort to insults rather than actually discussing the content of the reports On possible future scenarios that I link to my article. If the quality of debate on the Internet is poor, then I don't think I'm contributing to it. Rather, its comments like this that lower the tone of what could be informative debate.

It's not me who has called anybody stupid. People in the past, who designed the National Grid and national infrastructure, did what they have done with the best of intentions. But our knowledge of unforeseen and unintended impacts has improved. We are undergoing a massive shift of our industrial base towards greater sustainability, and it's not all going to happen overnight, and the supply chains and the details, and the regulations, and the enforcement, all of that is on a learning curve.

And there's a lot of money to be made.

June 13, 2013    View Comment    

On EU: 100 Percent Renewable Energy Is Here

 I'd rather congratulated on putting up windmills and PV. The 2.5 gigawatts or so of PV on roofs and in fields appears to be having an observable effect on the need for daytime electricity production, according to analysis by Chris Goodall in this item:

He concludes that: "it’s a reasonable hypothesis that summer daytime electricity production on sunny days is being depressed by up to 2 GW –  5-6% of total demand."

June 13, 2013    View Comment    

On EU: 100 Percent Renewable Energy Is Here

Well, you know the United States has already implemented such a law. Perhaps you have heard of the American Energy Manufacturing Technical Corrections Act, which was passed at the end of 2012, a modification of the Enabling Energy Savings Innovations Act. This promises to produce a boom in the energy efficiency sector.

The U.S. market for energy efficiency and services topped $5.1 billion in 2011, according to Pike Research, and is now expected to reach $16 billion in sales by 2020.

Then there is legislation called <a href=””>FERC Order 745</a>, or ‘Demand Response Compensation in Organized Wholesale Energy Markets’ to give it its full title (FERC is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission).

Since its implementation in March 2011, it has stimulated a lot of hard work. The ruling states that grid operators will have to play the full market price, otherwise known as the locational marginal price, for demand response resources in real time and day-ahead markets. In short, it means there's money in negawatts.

Although there are only a couple of states where it has so far been implemented, energy reduction has increased by over 800% in a year for one grid operator, PJM. Participants in their economic demand response scheme are making millions of dollars. As people learn how to play the market, there is potential for a whole lot more profit.

Innovation is about seeing 10 to 20 years ahead, and in that time frame we can see that the smart grid will be implemented and there will be many more electric vehicles on the road. These can effectively become decentralised power stations. Aggregated together they will provide a significant reserve.

Part of the future lies in finding ways to support ancillary markets, such as spin and non-spinning reserves and building micro-grids so that electric vehicles can participate in these markets.

Instead of tears, I see people making millions of dollars.


June 13, 2013    View Comment    

On EU: 100 Percent Renewable Energy Is Here

France's EPR is way over budget and over schedule. France has a good coastline for marine and wind.  It also has reasonable solar resources. As a largely agricultural nation it has much to benefit from investment in anaerobic digestion, for CHP and grid connected biogas. Countries will produce different mixes of electricity sources depending on their renewable resources. In every case demand reduction would be an inherent part of this mix. In a column like this you can't argue for every specific location, and it's easy for you commenters to appear to pick holes because accurate answers require much analysis and can be responed to here. However, in my original column I link to several different scenarios for how Britain could become 100% renewable. Others are alluded to. Every country in Europe would produce and is producing its own scenarios. There are scenarios for the United States.

The point  about renewables is that they are very location specific on a small scale, but on a large-scale they can be shared. The whole of Europe is in the process of opening up its energy market and will create a transcontinental interconnected smart grid, which will include high voltage lines that, all being well, will even connect to North Africa as well as to many offshore wind farms. In the late '20s you will see more and more large solar electric plants in the deserts of North Africa. Much of this electricity is expected to be exported to Europe and benefit the African economy.

June 13, 2013    View Comment    

On EU: 100 Percent Renewable Energy Is Here

Your comment makes no sense.

June 13, 2013    View Comment