Cal on January 17th, 2018

According to the International Energy Agency, the petrochemical industry will represent the largest global demand for additional crude oil consumption through 2040.

The US Energy Information Administration predicts natural gas will generate 33.1% of US electricity this year, up from 31.7% in 2017 and will rise to 34.3% in 2019. At the same time, coal-fired generation will fall to 29.6% this year, down from 31.7% in 2017, and fall further to 28.1% in 2019.

The US electric power industry has installed about 700 megawatts of utility-scale batteries on the nation’s electric grid. These batteries made up about 0.06% of US utility-scale generating capacity.  As demonstrated in the state of Colorado, electricity utilities are now putting out request for proposals that involve and energy source (coal, natural gas, wind, solar) and storage and are receiving surprising low electricity + storage bids. For example, power company Xcel Energy received seven wind and solar plus battery storage bids for a total of 4,048 megawatt-hours at a median bid of $30.60. The energy storage projects ranged from 4 to 10 hours in duration.

The South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries is investing $11 million over the next three years to commercially produce hydrogen. The agency intends to make use of a microbe called NA1, which will act as a catalyst to produce hydrogen from carbon monoxide and seawater. The demonstration facility will be capable of producing some 480 tons of hydrogen fuel every year which will be used to power fuel cell vehicles in the country.

A study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found the average annual cost to drive a gasoline-powered vehicle last year was $1,117. The average annual cost to drive a typical battery-electric vehicle, by contrast, was $485 last year.

Reuters finds that global automakers have announced plans to invest at least $90 billion on electric vehicles. Investments in electrified vehicles announced to date include at least $19 billion by automakers in the United States, $21 billion in China and $52 billion in Germany. In a series of announcements, the world’s largest automakers are about to introduce dozens of new battery electric and hybrid gasoline-electric models over the next five years. AutoNation Inc, the largest US auto retailing chain. expects by 2030 EVs could account for 15-20% of new vehicle sales in the US.  Most of those investments will be in China, where the government has enacted escalating electric-vehicle quotas starting in 2019.

A study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance finds that most electric cars in the US are leased. Leasing covers nearly 80% of battery electric vehicles and 55% of plug-in hybrids. To the authors of the study this signals that many consumers are expecting big performance improvements over the next three years and are not yet committed to buying an EV. EVs presently comprise less than 1% of all passenger vehicles on the road in the US.

The Canadian province of Ontario is offering to cover 80% of the cost of installing electric vehicle charging stations for companies and commercial building owners as the province tries to expand its charging infrastructure. The program will cover most of the capital costs of installing Level 2 charging stations, which take between four and eight hours to fully charge an electric vehicle. Employers and commercial building owners could qualify for up to $7,500 per charging space. Currently there are more than 1,300 public chargers operating in the country’s largest province.

With the rise of all-electric, hydrogen and autonomous vehicles, Motoring fears cars will become homogeneous blobs.







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Cal on January 17th, 2018

Cal on January 15th, 2018

Ford Motor Co. announced it intends to have 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its model lineup by 2022. 16 will be fully electric and the rest will be plug-in hybrids. To achieve this goal the automaker is spending $11 billion to develop dedicated electric vehicle architectures. The business plan is to move away from sedans and internal combustion engines to develop more trucks and electric and hybrid cars. GM said last year it would add 20 new battery electric and fuel cell vehicles to its global lineup by 2023. Volkswagen said in November it would spend $40 billion on electric cars, autonomous driving and new mobility services by the end of 2022. China, India, France and the United Kingdom all have announced plans to phase out vehicles powered by combustion engines and fossil fuels between 2030 and 2040.

Kia Motors said it will introduce 16 new advanced powertrain vehicles by 2025, including a range of new hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles, as well as an all-new hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle in 2020. The South Korean automaker also plans to commercialize Level 4 autonomous driving technology, with autonomous vehicle testing due to commence in 2021.  Kia aims to commercialize Level 4 autonomous vehicles in smart cities from 2021 with a new Smart City pilot project. The company wants to make every single model a connected car by 2030.

A survey of 1000 auto executives around the globe by research firm KPMG found a majority think that battery electric cars will fail.  More than three-quarters of these executives think that fuel cell hydrogen vehicles will be the future. Looking at the survey, some auto commentators suggest that all the recent investments in electric vehicles that we are seeing from major automakers are just to comply to regulations until hydrogen vehicles start to make business sense. Gary Silberg, Automotive Sector leader at KPMG LLP said:

“There is no question that automakers are adapting to stricter vehicle efficiency standards around the world, and electrification is a big part of that equation even as manufacturers continue to squeeze miles per gallon out of internal combustion engines. What’s unclear is the value proposition for consumers, especially on vehicles outside of the high-end, premium market. Given the multi-billion dollar investments required, the complex global regulatory environment and rapid technological disruption, there will be clear winners and losers in this EV game.”

Hyundai VP Kisang Lee said hydrogen remains the most viable automobile fuel source for the future due to its long range, zero emissions and fast refueling times. He noted: “We are making pure electric vehicles, but we are prepared for hydrogen to be the next future. Around 2030 the system cost of hydrogen can be more comfortable for pure electric vehicles.” Hyundai expects its hydrogen sales to reach 10,000 globally by 2030, when improved economies of scale and greater recharging infrastructure will help drive down prices. Lee sees hydrogen and electric coexisting:

“In the long term these two technologies can be co-existing. In situations that require big distances, hydrogen can be a big benefit, but in a city where distances are less than 100 kilometers, EVs are very beneficial.”

The Swedish Nordic Hydrogen Corridor project announced will establish eight new hydrogen filling stations for automobiles by 2020. In addition the project will provide financing for 100 hydrogen cars and a central electrolysis production plant. Currently there four hydrogen stations open in Sweden today with two new ones planned to open in Umeå and Stockholm. With the proposed new stations, this will bring the network to 14 stations by 2020.

Nissan has sold its 300,000th Nissan LEAF globally since the model first went on sale in 2010. The battery-electric LEAF is the world’s first mass-produced and best-selling electric car.

Registrations of electric and plug-in hybrid cars in the UK last year reached 46,522 units, up 27% from 2016. Approximately 1/3 of the registrations were pure electric vehicles. Geographically, the city of London (9,274) and Eastern England (8,685) registered the most EVs.

According to Clean Energy Canada, only 0.6 of passenger vehicles in Canada are fully electric.  Reasons for the low uptake include that fact the country is vast and cold in winter and electric vehicles lose range in freezing temperatures, partly because efficiency drops and partly because additional power is needed to heat the car.

Tesla had 1,021 operational Superchargers in China at the end of 2017 and intends to add 1000 more this year when it begins to expand to western and central China and Inner Mongolia.

The Ceylon Electricity Board will be be installing 6 electric vehicle charging stations in the city of Colombo as it begins to develop the country’s fast charging infrastructure.  The stations will have charging times ranging between 15-25 minutes, depending on the capacity of the vehicle. The project is part of the Sri Lankan government’s decision to install more than 100 EV charging stations in the nation by 2020.







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Cal on January 15th, 2018

Cal on January 14th, 2018

Cal on January 13th, 2018


This question has puzzled human minds going back to the ancient Greeks over 2000 years ago. Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe?  Or are we alone? In 1950, the physicist Enrico Fermi asked the question: “If the Universe is so large and so old, where is everybody?” This has become known as the Fermi Paradox.

Yet after all these centuries of wondering and after decades of using SETI* to listen for signals from other civilizations emanating from the deep cosmos, we only know two fundamental facts:  we have no concrete evidence that intelligent aliens have ever visited our planet or have ever tried to contact us; and, second, we have no evidence that there is any life outside Earth, intelligent or not.

Now astrophysicist Ethan Siegel picks up where Fermi left off with Are Aliens Plentiful, But We’re Just Missing Them?

Siegel discusses how we are and can use energy to contact (or at least look for) intelligent life elsewhere.

For 6 decades SETI has been using radio and other telescopes to listen for or identify electromagnetic signals, which include any form of light of any wavelength that would indicate the presence of intelligent life.

But Siegel reminds us we have other alternatives as well. As of last year we detected the first gravitational waves in the Universe coming from black holes and colliding neutron stars. So if intelligent beings are sending signals by gravitational waves, we are developing the ability to create sophisticated equipment to receive those signals.

Another possible vehicle to identify intelligent life is searching for neutrino signals especially if they are created by non-stellar fusion. Fusion power emits a very specific neutrino (or antineutrino) signature as a by-product, which indicates it is not a natural process of stars. As Siegel says, “so long as they’re making power, we can find them.”

Of course all of us will continue looking for space probes, either robotic, computerized, free-floating or inhabited, which has made its way towards Earth. Yet, for all our “UFO sightings” and conspiracy theories, we have no evidence any such probe has ever found its way to our part of the galaxy.

Siegel sends us out to look for aliens on a positive note: “Perhaps someday — perhaps even someday soon — the Universe may have the most pleasant surprise of all in store for us: the news that we aren’t alone, after all.”


* Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence


As an aside, there are some who believe that we are alone in the Universe, that life itself is very difficult to create, and intelligent life almost an impossibility.  For those views see The Great Filter Might Be What’s Preventing Aliens from Reaching Us and Where are all the Aliens?

Cal on January 12th, 2018

Cal on January 11th, 2018

Amid the strife, turmoil and corruption in Venezuela, its oil production has sunk to a 28 years low, to levels not seen since 1989. This in a world of increasing oil demand. Torbjorn Kjus, oil market analyst with Norway’s DNB Bank, said:

“The Venezuelan economy could collapse at any moment. We could envisage scenarios spanning from outright civil war to a state coup, to a general strike or even just one more year of strangulating slow death for the economy. Neither of these outcomes bodes well for Venezuelan oil production.”

Energy consultant, Wood Mackenzie, projects coal-fired electric power plants will continue to dominate the energy markets of emerging economies in Asia despite tighter regulations limiting their use. Electricity demand in Southeast Asia is expected to grow at about 4.6% yearly. In response, some $250 billion worth of investments in coal-fired power over planned over the next decade. The countries affected include Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, and smaller South Asian and Central Asian nations.

Finland is looking at phasing out the use of coal in electricity production by 2025. To achieve this goal, the government is considering introducing tax incentives that would encourage greater use of natural gas and biofuels over coal.

By 2019 Australia could be the world’s largest exporter of natural gas, as large projects are completed.  Australia is likely to overtake Qatar as the biggest gas exporter, before the US takes over this position in the mid-2020’s. This will result from the completion if four liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects – Gorgon, Wheatstone, Ichthys and Prelude.  Australia’s LNG export volumes are forecast to reach 77 million tonnes in 2018–19, up from 52 million tonnes in 2016–17. The International Energy Agency says five natural gas projects to begin construction in the US by 2019 will make it the world’s largest gas exporter by 2025. 

Energy Digital comments on the future of geothermal energy.

Norway is installing automatic dimmers on street lamps to save energy. The “intelligent lighting” technology was installed along an 8 kilometer stretch of highway near Oslo and automatically dims street lights when they are not in use.  Approaching cars, bicycles and pedestrians trigger radar sensors attached to the 220 lamp posts, causing the LED lamps to suddenly illuminate to 100% brightness. When the roadway is empty, the lights dim to about 20% brightness. The energy-saving lights are expected to cut 2,100 kilowatt-hours of usage per week and pay for themselves over 5 years.

The city of Fayetteville, Arkansas announced it was the 54th city in the US to run 100% on renewable energy by 2030.  This means municipal owned buildings. The city’s plan goals include:

  • 100% local government clean energy by 2030;
  • 50% community-wide clean energy by 2030;
  • 100% community-wide clean energy by 2050

Following Fayetteville, the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan announced similar goals. The local government wants to operate on 100% renewable energy by 2035 or sooner. The city expects to meet the 2035 goal through a combination of energy efficiency, renewable energy (solar, wind) and optimal business practices.

Wind turbines supplied 44% of Denmark’s electric power demand last year, according to the Danish Energy Association. Wind farms  generated 14.7 terrawatt-hours of electricity in the past 12 months, setting a new production record (beating 42% in 2015). This figure is expected to reach 50% by 2020, when renewables as a whole are slated to supply 80% of the country’s overall electricity consumption. Presently, the Nordic country’s installed onshore and offshore wind power capacity stands at 5.3 gigawatts.

The US Energy Information Administration said about half of new electric generation capacity in the US last year came from renewable sources. Some 25 gigawatts of new electricity was added to the grid last year. Coal-fired power decreased 2% last year as several  plants closed. Coal is expected to decline another 1% this year and 4% in 2019.

Brazil’s wind power output increased by 19% in 2017 according to the Power Trading Chamber. Wind produced 7.6% of the South American country’s total electricity. Hydropower produced most of the country’s power, or about 72% of total electricity generation. Solar adds another 3%.

In 2017, renewable energy contributed to 13% of Indonesia’s total national electricity supply. This was mostly from hydropower (7%) and geothermal (5%) plants.

The North Sea Wind Power Hub, an artificial island in the North Sea set to begin operation in 2027, could supply renewable energy to 80 million people in Europe. The hub will send electricity via long-distance cables to six European countries.  Thousands of wind turbines will be placed around the island, with short alternating-current (AC) links to the island.  Converters will change wind-generated electricity from alternating current to direct current which would be transmitted over cables to the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Norway, Germany and Denmark. Dutch power grid operator TenneT claims the island will be billions of euros cheaper than conventional windfarms and international power cables. TenneT thinks the project could handle windfarms with a capacity of 30 gigawatts, more than twice today’s total installed offshore wind power across the whole of Europe. Rob van der Hage, who manages TenneT’s offshore wind grid development program, said:

“It’s crucial for the wind industry to continue with the cost reduction path. The big challenge we are facing towards 2030 and 2050 is onshore wind is hampered by local opposition and nearshore is nearly full. It’s logical we are looking at areas further offshore.”

The Ashalim Solar Thermal Power Station, located in Israel’s Negev desert, will have the tallest solar tower in the world. The generator in the concentrated solar power plant will sit on top of the central tower, at 787 feet, Construction is currently underway and the project is expected to be completed in early 2018. When operational, it will able to supply solar energy to 120,000 homes. Electric power from the project will be sold to government utility Israeli Electric Corporation under a long-term power purchase agreement.





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