Denmark bans new installations of fossil-fired heating

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Although Denmark announced its ban on installations of new fossil fuel heating systems last year, it was not widely available in English until now. The Danes’ renewable goals (100% renewable by 2050) far exceed those of Germany (80% renewable by 2050). Apparently, the oil crisis in the 1970′s caused Denmark to begin aggressive build-out of district heating systems and of a natural gas network to use the newly abundant supply from the North Sea.

Now the North Sea gas is expected to run out in a decade, requiring the Danes to rely on Russian supplies. In response, they are accelerating district heating and sourcing the heat from renewable supplies. They have banned oil and natural gas heating systems in new buildings and in 2016 installation of oil-fired heating systems will be banned in existing buildings if gas or district heating is available.

Denmark shows a level of commitment to addressing climate change and energy security far beyond most countries.

via Denmark partly bans fossil-fired heaters – 100% renewable – Renewables International.

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Will EVs Save the Electric Companies?

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The major utilities in Australia think they might. As I have discussed, U.S. utilities need to start now (Disruption On All Sides – What Is A Utility To Do?) to save their businesses, protecting what they can while building the base for a new  business. The longer they wait, the closer they will be drastic economic losses and fewer options to save themselves.

Utilities in Germany and the rest of Europe are already there, having lost two-thirds of their market value since 2008 (Reuters: Renewables turn utilities into dinosaurs of the energy world). The utilities in Australia are now there as well, complicated by the fact that many of them are actually state enterprises.

The European utilities were first; their executives can be forgiven for not seeing the future. The Australian executives much less so. The U.S. utility executives will have no excuse.

EVs of some sort must be part of the answer to offset the loss of electricity sales. Utilities must understand they now have a competitor with an exact substitute at the point of use, so their price and customer relations matter. They have  customers, not ratepayers.

Giles Parkinson sums up the situation nicely:

The more utilities appear to declare war on their customers, and seek to make solar unattractive by increases in fixed charges, and raising tariffs, and regulatory barriers, the more battery storage and distributed energy seems appealing. The more utilities feel they are competing against their customers, the quicker they will become estranged.

The only reasonable option seems to be to encourage people to consume more. Mandating them to turn on more air conditioning, or re-install wasteful appliances, obviously won’t work. Time to think of something new.

That option could be electric vehicles.

via Electricity suppliers look to EVs to save their business models : Renew Economy.

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Recent Warming Is ‘Amazing And Atypical’

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Temperature change over past 11,300 years (in blue, via Science, 2013) plus projected warming this century on humanity’s current emissions path (in red, via recent literature).

New Science Study Confirms ‘Hockey Stick’: The Rate Of Warming Since 1900 Is 50 Times Greater Than The Rate Of Cooling In Previous 5000 Years

Temperature change over past 11,300 years (in blue, via Science, 2013) plus projected warming this century on humanity’s current emissions path (in red, via recent literature).

If you believe the science and look at the picture, there is really not much else to say. The author of the article, Joe Romm, concludes:

[W]e have decided to change the setting on the thermostat from “Very Stable, Don’t Adjust” to “Hell and High Water.” It is the single most self-destructive act humanity has ever undertaken, but there is still time to aggressively slash emissions and aim for a setting of “Dangerous, But Probably Not Fatal.”

While I have been unhopeful and resigned about climate change in the past, I recently have renewed hope. Renewables increasing cost-effectiveness, non-fossil businesses responses to risk from climate change, coalescing of belief in climate change across the political spectrum, and real world results implying scientists may have underestimated the rapidity of change all make me think we have reason to hope. It could result in a combination of acceptance we have to do something, business drive to do something, and available alternatives to somewhat mitigate lifestyle changes.

A stable climate enabled the development of modern civilization, global agriculture, and a world that could sustain a vast population. Now, the most comprehensive “Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years” ever done reveals just how stable the climate has been — and just how destabilizing manmade carbon pollution has been and will continue to be unless we dramatically reverse emissions trends.

Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) and Harvard University published their findings today in the journal Science. Their funder, the National Science Foundation, explains in a news release:

With data from 73 ice and sediment core monitoring sites around the world, scientists have reconstructed Earth’s temperature history back to the end of the last Ice Age.

The analysis reveals that the planet today is warmer than it’s been during 70 to 80 percent of the last 11,300 years.

… during the last 5,000 years, the Earth on average cooled about 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit–until the last 100 years, when it warmed about 1.3 degrees F.

In short, thanks primarily to carbon pollution, the temperature is changing 50 times faster than it did during the time modern civilization and agriculture developed, a time when humans figured out where the climate conditions — and rivers and sea levels — were most suited for living and farming. We are headed for 7 to 11°F warming this century on our current emissions path — increasing the rate of change 5-fold yet again.

via Bombshell: Recent Warming Is ‘Amazing And Atypical’ And Poised To Destroy Stable Climate That Enabled Civilization | ThinkProgress.

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Europe: EON Closing 3-Year-Old Natural Gas Power Plant

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EON SE’s Irsching-5 in Bavaria, Germany.

Almost new fossil plants shutting down. 30% of fossil capacity uneconomic because of wind and solar. This is Europe, and the uneconomic fossil plants are new, efficient natural gas plants. Natural gas is expensive, so the plants are uneconomic. Coal plants, even dirty lignite (brown) coal plants, are economic because coal prices have fallen as have CO2 emission credits (i.e., it’s cheap to pollute).

In the U. S. we will be facing something similar. In our case, natural gas is cheap and increased pollution restrictions make operating and retrofitting coal plants more expensive. We will also shut down a lot of excess fossil capacity, but it will be coal.

If we replace the old depreciated plants with new, electricity prices will increase. This will make renewable and distributed generation more cost-effective and will help start us down the path Germany has already trod. See Nuclear Industry Withers in U.S. as Wind Pummels Prices.

Three years ago, Germany’s largest utility spent 400 million euros ($523 million) building a natural gas-fired power station. Later this month, the company may close the plant because it’s losing so much money.

EON SE’s Irsching-5 in Bavaria last year operated less than 25 percent of the time as slumping power prices made burning natural gas unprofitable by record margins. As Europe’s weak economy holds back electricity demand, cheaper coal, requirements to buy renewable energy and the collapsing cost of carbon permits are undercutting gas-fired plants.

The pattern is repeated throughout Europe as utilities including France’s GDF Suez SA and Centrica Plc mothball gas plants. The impact is both environmental and commercial. Switching to coal increases emissions, while it lowers profit for gas plants, which generate almost a quarter of European power, and shrinks the market for suppliers led by OAO Gazprom. (GAZP)

“Gas-fired plants are stopped three days out of four,” Gerard Mestrallet, chief executive officer of GDF Suez, France’s former gas monopoly, said at a briefing on Feb. 28. “The thermal industry is in crisis. There is overcapacity.”

The difference between the cost of fuel and the price paid for the power generated reached a record low today. The so- called spark spread for the month ahead fell to as low as minus 18.35 euros a megawatt-hour ($23.87). Gas plants are also unprofitable in France, the Netherlands, Spain and the Czech Republic, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In the U.K., they’re barely breaking even.

At the same time, spark spreads for coal plants are profitable in every European market tracked by Bloomberg as prices for the fuel drop.

via Europe Gas Carnage Shown by EON Closing 3-Year-Old Plant – Bloomberg.

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Nuclear Industry Withers in U.S. as Wind Pummels Prices – Bloomberg

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Wind-generated electricity supplied about 3.4 percent of U.S. demand in 2012 and the share is projected to jump to 4.2 percent in 2014, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Photographer: Konrad Fiedler/Bloomberg

[T]he U.S. wind-energy industry went on a $25 billion growth binge in 2012, racing to qualify for a federal tax credit that was set to expire at year’s end.

The surge added a record 13,124 megawatts of wind turbines to the nation’s power grid, up 28 percent from 2011. The new wind farms increased financial pressure on traditional generators such as Dominion Resources (D) Inc. and Exelon Corp. in their operating regions. That’s because wind energy undercut power prices already driven to 10-year-lows by an abundance of natural gas.

We continue to go down the path already trod by others, in this case Germany. While in alternative energy circles Germany may be better known for solar power, they were also the driving force behind wind power development. The problems Bloomberg talks about here, negative prices in some off-peak hours, shutting down of coal and nuclear plants, is exactly what has happened, and is happening, in Germany.

I am a little befuddled when this appears as a surprise to some in the industry; the handwriting is on the wall, written not only in Germany, but Australia and Hawaii, too. People all over the world like renewable power and, generally, dislike utilities. When told the utilities are losing money, their reaction is “Good!” People won’t feel the effects for awhile, and when and if they do, the utilities will not have a reservoir of goodwill to fall back on; instead, they will be blamed for the problems.

What is next as we follow Germany down the renewables path?

The Stoxx Euro 600 Utilities index, with its January 1, 2008, level rebased to 100, now trades at 46, compared with 81 for the all-industry Stoxx Europe 600. The eurozone-only utilities index is at 35 and has lost 312 billion euros ($407 billion) in market cap. Reuters: Renewables turn utilities into dinosaurs of the energy world

Look for electric energy conglomerates to lose up to two-thirds of their value, on average, over the next 5 years. Distribution companies can thrive, but only if they take steps now to correct their prices and their relationships with customers.

via Nuclear Industry Withers in U.S. as Wind Pummels Prices – Bloomberg.

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The Future of Electricity Markets

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Excellent article on the future of electricity markets. The authors look at the impacts of adding zero variable cost electricity to the wholesale markets. They rightly conclude that it will drive down prices and render investments in new generation uneconomic. This would happen for renewables, too, except for the special price subsidies they receive from feed-in tariffs, required renewable energy credits, and tax investment incentives.

Subsidies always distort and corrupt and lead to intense lobbying by those with a lot to lose (nuclear, coal). But the price structure is unsustainable; see German Rooftop Solar Juggernaut Is Unstoppable (http://exasconsulting.com/blog/german-rooftop-solar-juggernaut-is-unstoppable/).

The types of disruptions they see are an indication of the true economic costs that customers wore as a result of a regulatory regime that guaranteed cost recovery. In obvious retrospect, competitive market PPAs were priced far too low given non-captive customers and changing technology. Simply put, uncertainty is more expensive than we usually believe.

While people generally do not like change and disruption, I think that is where we are headed with our electric system. It will become more unreliable as we lack generation to meet demand when adequate renewables are not available; prices will increase dramatically in these periods. (This is already happening in Australia where some 5 minute periods have prices over $13,000/MWh AUD.) But, these changes will reflect the costs of providing these services and will provide opportunities for companies to provide solutions, and the higher prices can make new technologies more cost-effective.

If the governments step in to subsidize prices, either through direct ownership or investment guarantees, the likely ultimate result will still be higher prices. The more the government manipulates the market, the less economic-driven it becomes and the more types of producers lobby for subsidies (see U.K. gas and nuclear generators). We probably would have been better off with the simplest intervention, a very high carbon tax and letting the market sort it out. Since this is almost impossible to enact, however, we have gone down the hole of special subsidies.

See on www.renewableenergyworld.com

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Energy Innovation: Changes Proposed to Encourage Solar Energy Distributed Resources

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Responding to a petition filed by the Solar Energy Industries Association last year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at its January meeting issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, soliciting comments on changes to its rules governing…

Douglas Short‘s insight:

At the same time that some utilities are fighting the rooftop solar battle, now FERC is opening up a new front.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is getting on-board with distributed generation, which means the utilities must, too. Current rules for small generators segregate systems by size (<=10 kW, >10kW to 2 MW, and >2MW to 20 MW) and have increasingly stringent rules for interconnection. FERC is looking to streamline rules for generators under 5 MW, which would cover the vast majority of solar facilities (though not the vast majority of solar MW).

See on theenergycollective.com

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Values drop for Massachusetts solar power certificates

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See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

The push to add more solar power to the electrical mix in Massachusetts has been so successful that one of the key financial incentives from the state – bond-like certificates earned by generating energy with solar panels – has taken a hit in the…

Douglas Short‘s insight:

Good analysis in layman’s terms that explains what you need to know about the SREC market in MA, and compares to similar results in NJ and PA. The volatility of the SRECs, and the financial gyrations sometimes necessary for tax credits, helps make installing solar harder than in needs to be. A straight-forward feed-in tariff (FiT) produces the most results at the lowest cost.

See on www.bostonglobe.com

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The Greenest Office Building In The World Is About To Open In Seattle

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See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

Seattle’s Bullitt Center is being heralded as the greenest, most energy-efficient commercial office building in the world. It’s not that the six-story, 50,000-square-foot building is utilizing never-before-seen technology.

 

Douglas Short‘s insight:

Seattle’s Bullitt Center shows what can be done with existing technologies and willpower. One of the best parts is that the efforts undertaken for this building have made is to much easier for other buildings to do the same thing. For example, a company from Germany that makes super-efficient windows licensed its technology to a West Coast manufacturer for the project, and now has significant additional business on the West Coast.

See on www.fastcoexist.com

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International power giants prepare for an energy revolution

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See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

In an exclusive presentation to RenewEconomy, Loic Douillet and Philippe Paelinck from French energy giant Alstom detail their views on the global energy market, its sheer scale, and the direction …

Douglas Short‘s insight:

An informative interview by a noted energy industry reporter from Australia, Giles Parkinson. Insight into how an international generator supplier sees the world is valuable. The graphs from Alstom are especially informative in this regard.

See on reneweconomy.com.au

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Green-power, low-energy users get brunt of utility rate increase

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See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

The sting of the We Energies rate increase that just went into effect will hurt most for those who use less energy and those who buy green power.

Douglas Short‘s insight:

Several things happened in this rate case decision, least important of them was the increase in costs for optional green power. (All they did was remove the subsidy that made the green power option cheaper than the cost.)

The more important items are:
* The customer charge was increased significantly (20%; they had asked for 60%), causing energy efficiency to be less attractive economically and increasing rates more for low energy users than high energy users.
* They eliminated their support for solar for non-profits (equivalent of tax credits).
* They eliminated their residential air conditioner shut off program.
* They invested $1B in wind generation.
* Public feedback and comments against the changes are very significant.

We Energies’ explanations were accurate, but not very satisfying. They are clearly taking positions that benefit their business of selling kWh and thwart various competitive pressures. The public relations is killing them, though, and as soon as people have any type of viable alternative, they will take it. It may be a decade, but We Energies is setting itself up for failure.

See on www.jsonline.com

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More PV installations on Oahu this year than in past decade combined

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See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

But, according to Marco Mangelsdorf, president of Big Island-based ProVision Solar Inc., more than 15,000 permits will have been issued by the end of this year for net energy metering systems on Oahu alone.

Douglas Short‘s insight:

The closer solar gets to parity with grid electricity, the more rapidly it gets installed. It may not be continuously exponential growth, but it is so fast and so large once it starts that it overwhelms the ability of established businesses (read: utilities) to respond.

See on www.bizjournals.com

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Get Ready! FERC Spotlights Three Major Challenges for Utilities

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See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

The bad news – there are big, big challenges looming for the electric utility industry. The good news – agencies and regulators are increasingly aware of these painful truths and, therefore, increasingly willing to discuss solutions.

 

Douglas Short‘s insight:

When we have a regulator, even one as smart as Jon Wellinghoff, FERC Chairman, so clear on the disruption facing utilities, you know the challenges are very real. It makes you wonder if the executives running the utilities are equally concerned, and figuring out how to address the issues, or whether they are just hunkering down trying to do more of what they already know how to do, which will not work.

Wellinghoff lists three big challenges:

* Falling load growth – “Most utilities make money by selling electrons. If they won’t be selling more electrons each year, they will have to figure out other ways to recover their fixed costs and finance operations and upgrades.”

* The Internet of everything – Everything is communicating, “As a result, utilities are being forced to bring more IT skills and personnel to the OT (operational technology) side of the house.”

* Distributed generation – “Wellinghoff told the story of vaunted venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, who recently stated he now only invests in “drop-in” power systems – that is, generation technology that can be installed on the customer side of the meter. (Examples include solar PV, co-generation and micro-turbines.) Wellinghoff also said that over the last six months, 41% of all new generation was from renewables, much of that distributed.”

 

See on energy.aol.com

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‘Solar sisters’ spreading light in Africa

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See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

Solar Sister is a network of women who sell solar lighting to communities that don’t have access to electricity.

“It makes me feel proud to see that I’m bringing an income to my family,” she says. “Because if I can support my family, I feel good — other than seeking helplessly and looking for everything to be sponsored.”

Douglas Short‘s insight:

With this approach, women are empowered because they do so much of the work and make the buying decisions. If they decide to buy solar lights instead of more kerosene, they can. It is only a matter of time until they start selling solar panels for more general electricity use. As the founder of Solar Sisters says, without electricity and light, you cannot escape subsistence living.

See on edition.cnn.com

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Solar Power Off the Grid: Energy Access for World’s Poor by Carl Pope: Yale Environment 360

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See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

More than a billion people worldwide lack access to electricity.

 

Douglas Short‘s insight:

Compelling article. Contrasts the failure of the “shared sacrifice” approach to getting response to climate change from grid-connected countries with the “make life better” approach for off-grid countries. The poorest nations will lead the way because they can best afford new technology of solar panels and LED lights. This is because they already spend huge portions of their income on energy (kerosene, diesel) that does not meet their needs very well. Modern technologies let them get much more for less money. In the process, not only will the environment become cleaner, but they will help drive prices down and show the rest of the world how it can be done.

See on e360.yale.edu

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