The International Energy Agency had a graphic that shows how the world uses energy.

From the energy collective we learned that battery storage works for solar but not for wind. See also Stanford News, Stanford scientists calculate the energy required to store wind and solar power on the grid.

The South China Morning Post informed us that Japan is exploring methyl hydrates as a solution to its energy challenges. Methane hydrates are icy constructs of water molecules with the explosive gas methane trapped within and are found deep within the ocean bedrock. If they can be tapped safely and economically, they could be an abundant source of fuel, especially for countries like Japan that have few energy reserves of their own. While methane hydrates have the potential to be a new energy source for humans, Japanese scientists say the commercial production of natural gas from them is still far off.

Further research, in Japan and at labs around the world, will help scientists better understand the environmental impact of hydrate production, including the possible release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the sea or atmosphere. There is also the potential for subsea landforms to become unstable when hydrates are removed….Outside-the-box thinking will be required to come up with ways to extract methane from hydrate reserves.

It appears Russia’s Gazprom may be losing its monopoly on natural gas exports. Russia: Beyond the Headlines reported draft legislation before the Russian parliament calls for the liberalization of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) market and would allow independent producers to sell it abroad. The debate will be over how many producers will be allowed to export and of what type.  The legislation only applies to firms that are more than 50% government-owned.  However, there are private firms keen on getting in the export business as well and this will become a topic for the politicians. Liberalisation in Russia’s natural gas sector is being driven by the natural gas revolution underway in North America.

UPI Energy Resources viewed China as the next big Russian energy customer. Global energy research firm Wood Mackenzie suggests energy trade between Moscow and Beijing will quadruple by 2025. Russia’s Far East and East Siberian regions are rich in crude oil and natural gas and the adjacent landmass of China is a logical place for them to flow.

Russian & India Report said floating nuclear power stations may be the answer to preventing energy crises. A  floating nuclear power plant is an engineless vessel with two reactors onboard. It can be used to generate electric power and heat and also to desalinate seawater. Russia is alone in building these vessels with the first floating plant, the Academic Lomonosov, started in 2009. Construction and operation of such power plants is estimated to be much cheaper than conventional power plants. They are considered as the only viable source of dependable clean energy in Russia’s cold, remote regions.

SolarServer told us the UK expects renewable energy to meet 37% of its electricity demand by 2022. Renewable energy output should more than triple to 123.4 TWh in 2022, from 40.7 TWh in 2012.

Climate Spectator suggested solar and wind could be cost competitive with fossil fuels in the US by 2025. A new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory finds these renewable energy sources could be cost-competitive — without government subsidies — with conventional power sources if new renewable energy development is focused around “highly productive” locations in the Western US.  The study compared the cost of unsubsidized renewable energy generation from the most productive renewable energy resource areas with the cost of electricity from a new natural gas-fired generator built near the customers it serves. The figures for “costs” include transmission and integration costs. The report cautions that future electricity demands will be highly influenced by a variety of factors which are hard to predict far into the future, such as: changes in the price/supply of natural gas; consumer desires; technological change; improvements in energy efficiency; and government policies/regulations. See also IEEE SPECTRUM, Renewable Energy to Be Price Competitive in Western U.S. by 2025.

Europe’s industry is being ravaged by exorbitant electricity costs headlined The Telegraph. The European Union’s industry commissioner, Antonio Tajani, fears “a a systemic industrial massacre” dash for renewables was pushing electricity costs to untenable levels.  As a result, Europe is finding it very difficult to compete with North American industry fueled by cheap shale gas. Mr. Tajani said:

“I am in favour of a green agenda, but we can’t be religious about this. We need a new energy policy. We have to stop pretending, because we can’t sacrifice Europe’s industry for climate goals that are not realistic, and are not being enforced worldwide”

“The loss of competitiveness is frightening,” said Paulo Savona, head of Italy’s Fondo Interbancario. “When people choose whether to invest in Europe or the US, what they think about most is the cost of energy.”

In a related post, Forbes commented that Europe’s electric utilities are united against renewable energy.

McClatchy noted newly available wind power often has no place to go. The post discusses how more and more wind farms are being built in the US but the transmission and grid infrastructure is not there to accommodate their output. The electric transmission grid was built a generation ago for coal, nuclear and hydropower plants without intermittent renewable energy in mind. It makes transmission from wind farms in rural areas in the Midwest and Western US difficult and costly. Hence a lot of the power those new wind farms were expecting to generate isn’t making it to the market. Many blame federal and state regulatory procedures for slowing down new grid infrastructure.  It can take up to 8 years to get new transmission lines approved.

Michael Goggin, a senior analyst at the American Wind Energy Association, says: “A lot of that wind resource is concentrated in the middle of the country, far from where people live…We just can’t tap it, because we haven’t built out the transmission system.”

The Financial Post wrote about Ontario’s electric power disaster. Canada’s largest province, billions of dollars in debt,  has pushed hard for an expensive green energy policy for 5 years now and the result is not pretty. Rising costs, generous market distorting feed-in-tariffs, large subsidies to wind and solar, exports of power to neighbouring New York state at below cost have resulted in Ontario consumers paying twice as much for electricity as those living in New York state. In 2009 both areas generated electricity at a cost of about $60 per megawatt-hour.  Today Ontario;s cost (with its emphasis on wind and solar) has risen to $80 while New York state (with greater use of cheap natural gas) has fallen to $40.

Projections suggest that Ontario residents and businesses will be paying substantially higher electrical bills over the next decade than if the provincial electricity system had instead relied on combined cycle natural gas turbine electricity generation,even when the potential costs of buying greenhouse gas emissions credits are taken into account. As well, Ontario’s Feed-in Tariff program, under which the province has contracted for extensive wind and solar power for some years into the future, will increase generation and transmission costs, further hiking electricity prices.

Rising electricity prices in Germany (caused by its decision to abandon nuclear energy in favour of renewables) were also in the news. Der Spiegel wrote about Germany’s Energy Poverty: How Electricity Became a Luxury Good, The Telegraph informed us German industry is in revolt as its green dream causes electricity costs to spiral, while Time said Germany’s Clean Energy Revolution Hits Speed Bumps and The New York Times commented that Germany’s Effort at Clean Energy Proves Complex. The latter noted:

German families are being hit by rapidly increasing electricity rates, to the point where growing numbers of them can no longer afford to pay the bill. Businesses are more and more worried that their energy costs will put them at a disadvantage to competitors in nations with lower energy costs, and some energy-intensive industries have begun to shun the country because they fear steeper costs ahead.



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