Friday, 19 May 2017

Does Wind Energy Provide A Good Return on Investment for the Consumer ?

by Owen Martin

When we spend money to have our electricity generated by wind, how much are we saving on not having to import fossil fuels ? One might expect that € 1.00 spent on wind is € 1.00 less that has to be spent on fossil fuels. 

In 2015, wind energy received € 426 million in energy payments. Energy payments are what generators receive daily in the electricity market and are normally set by the price of gas. On top of this, wind receives a subsidy from the PSO Levy. For 2015, this amounted to about     € 85 million. Wind also receives 7% of its revenue in capacity payments so about € 35 million and 5% of wind energy has to be shut down for security reasons for which they receive about € 20 million in curtailment payments.  

 That's a total of € 566 million in direct payments to wind generators. 

According to the SEAI, wind energy displaced € 233 million in fossil fuels for 2015. That means that we have to spend € 1.00 on wind energy to replace 40 cents worth of fossil fuels. If we include the increased grid and system costs to accommodate all this wind, then of course the savings are even less than that. 

It's not the best value for money for the consumer but for greens value for money is not a priority and for the wind companies of course it provides a great return to shareholders.


1) SEMO total energy payments for 2015 equals € 1.8bn

Wind provided 23% of electricity according to SEAI, this means wind received € 426 in energy payments.

2)  PSO Levy for 2015 :

Assumed that wind made up 90% of PSO payments to renewables.

3)  "Capacity payments accounted for between 7% (for wind) and 30% (for peaking plants) of generators’ revenue in 2013".

426m + 85m = 511 / 93% = 549m  * 7% = 38m

4)  "In Ireland, the dispatch-down energy from wind resources was 348 GWh: this is equivalent to 5.1% of the total available wind energy".

Based on what wind received in energy payments ( €426m / 6823GW = € 62.40 MW/hr) they received roughly € 21m in curtailment payments ( 348GW * €62.40)

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Trump's Intel Leak to Russians - Fake News ?

If President Trump leaked classified information to the Russians then that Intel must be something that was not already in the public domain. Otherwise, if it was, then it's a fake news story.

The intelligence related to an ISIS terror plot to hide bombs on laptops on board airplanes. This plot was reported by the media back in March :

According to another news outlet at the time, the source of the Intel was the US raid in Yemen :
CNN, citing an unnamed US official, said the ban on electronics on certain airlines is related to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and that some information came from a recent US special forces raid in Yemen. Reuters could not immediately confirm the CNN report, but Reuters has reported the group has planned several foiled bombing attempts on Western-bound airlines.

The raid in Yemen happened in February and was much publicized in the media at the time :
The US special forces members targeted the compound of a suspected senior AQAP leader in the mountainous Yakla region of Bayda province - the focal point of recent US drone strikes in Yemen.
So both the ISIS plot and the exact location in Yemen where the Intel originated was in the public domain by the end of March. Trump gave the Russians information that they could have found with a quick google search.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Trump - Russian Narrative Fails Basic Logic Test

“It is very easy: If you can put Russia in the equation you win your argument,” - George Epurescu, Romanian Anti Fracking Group

In 2014, many media outlets such as the New York Times, The Guardian, and Financial Times were reporting that Russia may have been financing anti fracking protest groups around Europe. Their source was the then head of NATO, Anders Rasmussen. According to Wikileaks, even Hillary Clinton was privately worried about Russian influence in anti fracking movements in the US. Bloomberg recently reported that since US overtook Russia in gas production, the Russian TV Network, RT has :

"regularly published articles and aired segments that appear to oppose fracking, the fossil-fuel extraction technique that has made the U.S. an energy superpower again. One "exclusive" interview about the extraction technique features the opening question: "There are a lot of studies that say fracking is dangerous, so why do you think some countries and companies think it’s worth the risk?" 

This tends to support the initial claims made in 2014 by the head of NATO. There is of course a clear motive for Russia to get involved in anti fracking movements and to provide a platform for anti fracking propaganda on RT - to keep gas prices high and reduce competition. 

The logical next step then is for Russia to have backed an anti fracking party in America like the Greens or indeed a candidate like Bernie Sanders but certainly not someone like Donald Trump who is a strong advocate for US gas, coal and oil. Russia exports about $8 billion in petroleum products to the US each year. Even if the claims in 2014 about Russian influence in anti fracking movements are false, there is still no clear motive as to why Russia would back Trump. 

As George Epurescu says, "Russia" is now an argument and a counter argument to almost everything. You can dispense with the inconvenient need for basic logic and reason to support your arguments and just claim "Russia" which elicits the necessary emotional response required to make it look like you actually have an argument. 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Irish Nationalist Political Party declare sovereignty as "backward-looking idea"

One of the most remarkable political speeches in my lifetime was made this week in Ireland's Parliament. Yet the Irish media were entirely silent on it's significance. 

The two major political parties in Ireland, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, split in 1922 because Fianna Fail considered the Treaty that Ireland made with Britain didn't go far enough in terms of granting sovereignty back to Ireland. In 1921, the President of Ireland and future leader of Fianna Fail until 1959, Eamonn De Valera, made the following speech :

PRESIDENT DE VALERA: We definitely understood when we used the word plenipotentiaries. One of the Deputies of South Dublin asked me about the word and I said we understood it means they have full power to negotiate and to take responsibility for negotiating and signing. The word really meant the power of negotiating. They had their own responsibility for negotiating and signing. There is no treaty in recent times that is not brought to the main assembly for ratification or rejection. The plenipotentiaries have full power to negotiate and sign, they have not full powers to sign for the nation. I hold ratification is absolutely impossible for this Assembly. This Assembly cannot ratify a Treaty which takes away from the Irish people the sovereignty of the Irish people.

Almost one hundred years later, the current leader of Fianna Fail, Michael Martin, made the following speech :

Let there be no doubt about where Ireland stands. We want nothing to do with a backward-looking idea of sovereignty.

He went on to say, presumably aiming for some kind of statesman like ideal :
"We remain absolutely committed to the ideals of the European Union."We see the union for what it is - the most successful international organisation in world history."The union is flawed, but its successes are undeniable."
It is hard to think of any EU successes that relate to Ireland. It was the EU who forced Ireland to pay billions of euros to unsecured bondholders. The EU might be successful for some, for corporatism and Statists and for Germany who benefit from the cheap currency, but for small nations like Ireland we are easily nudged aside. That's why Iceland has remained outside of the EU. Hoping that Ireland will somehow be treated nicely by the EU in the Brexit negotiations is not backed up by past experience.

It was Ireland's sovereign status which allowed De Valera maintain Irish neutrality throughout World War II, a success which helped make Fianna Fail the most popular party for generations afterwards. Now that they want to discard sovereignty (or outsource it to Brussels), Ireland can no longer remain neutral under Fianna Fail.   You can't have neutrality without sovereignty. 

Although I doubt it was the original intention, Fianna Fail have in effect, fought for Irish sovereignty, not for the right of the Irish people to have sovereignty but for the right to throw it away to someone else.  

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Emissions Rise at Ireland's Power Stations Despite €6 Billion Investment in Wind Energy

One of the things consistently pointed out on this blog is that no matter how much wind energy you deploy, you can never shutdown a single power station. Those who advocate for more wind are slowly realizing this as more facts come out. 

Last year (2016), electricity demand in Ireland rose by about 2.3%.  An additional 600MW of wind was added to the system but the capacity factor (a measure of the annual output from wind farms) fell from 33% to 27%. Also during 2016 the limit on the amount of wind allowed into the system at any one time (non synchronous penetration) was raised from 50% to 55% and then at the end of the year to 60%. 

According to reports by the EPA, emissions and fuel consumption increased in eight out of the eleven power stations for which records were available for 2016. 

Six of these power stations were operated by gas, the other three by oil. Poolbeg (gas), Tarbert (oil) and North Wall (gas) power stations had the largest rises in emissions. Aghada (gas) and Tarbert (oil) power stations had the highest emissions since 2011, while Rhode power station (oil) had the highest since 2007.

Power station
Emissions Increase 2016 Vs 2015
Highest Emissions Since
Fuel Type
Huntstown 2
North Wall
Great Island
Commissioned in 2015
Light Fuel Oil
Heavy Fuel Oil / Light Fuel Oil
Light Fuel Oil

Note the three oil run power stations at the bottom all had the highest emissions for many years.

Factors that lead to these increases were :

• The interconnector to the UK was out for four months at the end of 2016. This would partly explain the increases in Dublin power stations such as Poolbeg and North Wall.

• Electricity demand increasing by 2.3%. With new data centres on the way, demand will soon increase by much more than that. 

• Capacity Factor of wind dropping from 33% to 27%. It's an unfortunate fact that no matter how many wind farms there are, if there is no wind, you get no energy. Storage wont fix this problem either as the original energy source is still intermittent wind energy that can remain flat for months on end during periods of high pressure.

• The low price of oil and gas. 

• The low capacity credit of wind energy. Ireland now has 3,000MW of wind, but all these wind turbines cannot replace a single power station. All the power stations must remain on standby. An additional 600MW of wind was added in 2016, roughly a 25% increase on 2015. The only solution for this is nuclear. A nuclear power station can fully replace an existing power station and hence achieves much greater and much more consistent fuel and emissions savings in the long run than wind ever can.

How ironic that Ireland is now dependent on oil again for it's electricity needs after spending close to €6 billion on wind technology and another billion or two on grid upgrades to accommodate this wind. If this is not an indictment of the wind program, then I don't know what is.

Sources :

1) EPA Environmental Reports

2) Eirgrid Renewable Energy Curtailment Report 2016

3) Cost of wind is estimated to be €2 million per MW installed.  

Friday, 14 April 2017

Ireland will fail to meet Greenhouse Gas Targets - EPA

by Owen Martin

The EPA have announced that Ireland will miss it's EU Greenhouse Gas emission targets for 2020 because of a growing economy and increases in agriculture and transport activities. The media are warning of EU fines.

Firstly, the EU is in no position to enforce fines for failing to meet emissions or renewable targets. The UNECE Aarhus Compliance Committee have repeatedly issued rulings stating that the EU are in breach of the Aarhus Convention in relation to Ireland's renewable energy plans. So unless Ireland decides to simply lie down in the face of bullying European Union bureaucrats, there will be no fines. 

Secondly, consecutive EU policies have resulted in increased greenhouse gas emissions. By allowing beef imports from countries like Brazil into the EU, shipping and transport emissions will have increased. As Marine Le Pen has pointed out, if you want sustainable agriculture, then grow your own crops and invest in your own farms. The last thing that should be done is to ship beef into your country from 5,000 miles away. 

Another EU policy is that member states should accept millions of refugees. This will increase demand on food, electricity, housing and other resources increasing emissions. 

EU energy policies have increased electricity prices and driven energy intensive industries outside of the EU effectively outsourcing emissions elsewhere on the (same) planet. 

To whom do these policies benefit ? To whom would a fine against Ireland benefit ? It is exactly because of the contradictions inherent in EU policy right now that it is becoming ever more unpopular.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Freak Out! - How "Science" Caused Mass Hysteria in the Past

 “To capture the public imagination . . . we have to . . . make simplified dramatic statements, and little mention of any doubts one might have. . . . Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective and being honest.” - Stephen H. Schneider, 1989, in an interview in Discover.

To people who believe in climate change, science is something truly unique in human history - infallible and incorruptible. The reality is that science has got things wrong in the past or perhaps a more accurate statement is that doubts in scientific theories have been suppressed
producing a false or incomplete picture to an unsuspecting public. The people doing the suppressing of selective information are not usually scientists but eco-loons, politicians and the media. Most scientists will likely agree that doubt is a good thing.

The more physicists discover about distant galaxies (e.g. accelerating away from us) the more they find out that current physics models, as good as they are, are incomplete. They have no choice but to invent new theories such as dark matter to fit new information. The doubts remain and are acknowledged by physicists. The media and other propagandists have found no reason yet for reporting that as a result of accelerating galaxies and dark matter our planet is in grave danger.

The mass hysteria that accompanied the Acid Rain theory in the 1980s is a good example of where suppression of scientific doubts lead to rash and costly policy changes.

Acid Rain Mass Hysteria by Pat Swords

While one should not generalise, one also has to acknowledge that there are cultures in organisations and countries, which strongly influence behaviour.

Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you've got. • Peter Drucker - Austrian-born American management consultant, educator, and author 

For instance, Irish people have a near pathological obsession with being seen ‘to be nice’ and wanting to be liked, such that when something goes wrong, they are often unable to challenge and confront it; often for fear ‘that they might upset somebody’. The former US Ambassador to Ireland, Jean Kennedy Smith put her finger on it, with her famous statement about the ‘Irish lacking a proper sense of outrage’. On the other hand if one takes the Israeli culture, which is brash and somewhat confrontational, when Irish people come up against such behaviour, it ends up ‘freaking out’ many of them. Germans on the other hand have always suffered from a collective ‘Angst’, in which doom and dread is predominant. They just can't help being gloomy. Instead of sitting back and accepting simply that what will be, will be, not to mention getting on and enjoying it, they agonise. As a result there is a collective fear of the unknown. Mad cow disease, swine fever, bird flu, nuclear plants, global warming - who on the planet is most alarmed? That’s an easy question to answer isn’t it? Neither do Germans learn well from history; they started one world war with devastating results and did the same again by starting another world war less than twenty one years later.  
• Die Geschichte wiederholt sich – history repeats itself
Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it. Edmund Burke - Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher

Understanding history and culture is very important; it does and will influence us. 
'Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.' • Machiavelli

The late 1970s and 1980s in Germany was characterised by growing public concern over damage to forests, the so called ‘Waldsterben’ or dying forests, a circumstance which was referred to as ‘acid rain’ in the English speaking world. In hindsight we can learn a lot from this issue, such as is documented by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). The hype and ‘frightening scenarios’ got out of hand, it was the central ‘dogma’ in Germany that an unprecedented decline in all tree species in central European forests was occurring, as a result of a complex disease of forest ecosystems triggered by air pollution. However, the results of a decade of research are not compatible with the central dogma of the Waldsterben concept. As the FAO concluded in relation to this research, it “rather confirmed the occurrence of non-synchronous fluctuations of forest conditions and recurrent episodes of clarified as well as unsettled species specific declines”. In other words impacts related to natural variations and plant diseases. 

As to the main lesson to be learnt: 
• Waldsterben may be understood as a problem of awareness: forest conditions that were believed to be "normal" in earlier times suddenly became a symbol of the growing fear of the destructive potential of human activities on the environment. However, holistic concepts such as the Waldsterben hypothesis are of little help in solving problems. Rather they raise emotions and lead to premature conclusions. To gain a real understanding of the multitude of decline phenomena in our forests, we must continue to analyse symptom by symptom, species by species and site by site, according to the classical principles of phytopathology and forest science in general. 

You could substitute the ‘weather’ for ‘forests’ in the above and it would become very much ‘up to date’. However, the political fall-out from the above was that draconian legislation was introduced in West-Germany in 1983, which meant that 70 large coal fired power stations were in a short period of time retrofitted with emissions controls for sulphur dioxide, amounting to some 14.3 billion DM in investment (€1 = 1.96 DM). However, this was rushed, equipment suppliers were overloaded, etc. such that it was later the opinion of one analyst, that if this investment had been done later, as was the case in other Member States, it could have been done a third cheaper. While the political impetrative for completing it, namely the ‘Waldsterben’ was false, fortunately it did lead to a benefit in terms of human health, which is why such pollution control is now essentially standard for new coal plants globally. 

Many people think that Germany is very rational. As a German speaker and as somebody who has worked there regularly, there is no doubt that individually their technical people are highly rational, but collectively the country is anything but, in particular when ‘Angst’ gets a grip. There is also the undisputable fact that ‘Made in Germany’ is a big brand and there is a cultural tendency in Germany to be ‘technology forcing’, such that it is foreseen that their industry will then become the resulting ‘technology providers’ elsewhere. They also use this ‘perceived benefit’ to regularly dismiss the ‘inconvenient truths’ associated with some of the policies they have adopted. 

This is important, Germany is not only the economic driver of the EU, but has been also driving EU policies, particularly in the area of environment and energy. If these are being driven by ‘Angst’ and not what is rationally evaluated as beneficial for the EU-28 as a whole, then ‘Houston we have a problem’. 

Currently, these problems are increasingly glaring. The German ‘Angst’ over nuclear energy and the resulting mad rush into renewables (Energiewende) was justified that Germany would be the manufacturing power house for wind turbines and solar panels, for which there would be a huge market place, as other countries followed suit. It didn’t happen that way, cheap Chinese solar panels and turbines flooded the highly subsidised German market, while on a global basis the demand for such technology collapsed. Other countries did not follow the German ‘Energiewende’ – expectations that ‘they think like us’, when clearly they don’t and never had, is a very dangerous premise, but often repeated as people do not learn from the past and different cultures. 

Ireland is of course in the back seat of EU energy policy, but if you are in a motor car speeding along with the doors shut, you really should understand the behaviour of the driver and as to where he or she is taking you.