Saturday 28 February 2015

Putting the brakes on

Wind turbine braking system
Example of brakes on a wind turbine

As I write on a very windy night in Ireland, we are curtailing 220MW of wind to keep non-synchronous generation under 50% of total demand (at times it reaches 51%).

But the remarkable thing is that we are still importing 150MW from England. Imported electricity is a form of non-synchronous generation, just as with wind. So in effect, it is competing with wind to get in on the grid in the restricted non-sync slot. So surely we should be allowing that additional 150MW wind in and exporting the surplus to the UK. But instead we are importing coal and nuclear power, when we could use up all our wind, and paying wind farms to shut down.

So we need to get the message. UK does not want our wind energy during the day and at peak times. They are generating enough of their own - 5.5GW at the moment and have no intention of ramping down their CCGT gas plants any further to allow Irish wind in. If they ramp them down any further, they will most likely use up more fuel and create more emissions than if they were running at full load (it results in inefficiencies like driving your car in first gear).

We cannot sell our excess wind to England whenever we want, only when they want, which is during the night when demand is low and they can pay us a low price.

The trouble is that Eirgrid and the authorities now know this so why are there still plans for exporting wind energy after 2020 ?

Friday 27 February 2015

Cadburys job losses - Our government is sleepwalking into another unemployment disaster

This week saw 100 new jobs in Ireland from Apple but over 200 job losses as Cadburys moved some of its manufacturing plant out of the country.

As can be seen on this chart, Poland is ranked 24th and Ireland the 5th for the highest electricity prices for industrial users in Europe :

There is an interesting discussion here on the Polish energy policy :

Garcia called “illogical” the fact that companies will have to pay more for energy just because it is ecological. He argued that this would limit the investment potential of the sector, pose a threat in terms of competitiveness and lead to moving production outside the EU.  
“To grow, you need energy – in this case the cheapest energy possible. Energy prices in the EU are expected to grow and this is a threat,” he said.

Poland set a renewable target of 19% for electricity compared to Ireland's 40%. As can be seen here Poland is not expected to even meet these targets :

Their government did not transpose the EU Renewable Energy Directive into national law. The European Commission were not happy and in March 2013 proposed a daily penalty of €133,000, around €48m a year. By December 2014, this proposed fine was reduced to € 61,000 a day, about €22 million a year. I can find no date for a judgement that will actually impose the fine. There are no subsidies for renewable generation and no multi-billion Euro investment to upgrade its already adequate grid infrastructure.  We are told by Keep On Track that the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk expresses the argument that energy generated from [renewable] sources is the most expensive one and contributes to growing energy prices for end users, deteriorates the landscape and adversely affects the functioning of the electricity system. Contrast this position with that of Irish politicians who tell us idiotically that renewable generation will bring down the price of electricity.

So where are Cadbury planning on moving their manufacturing plant to - well, you guessed it - Poland. England has seen two Cadbury plants close a few years ago and move to Poland so it shouldn't have come as big surprise that Irish plants were next :

But on Tuesday it said earlier plans by Cadbury to close the plant and move production to Poland were too advanced - Cadbury plant, Somerdale,  BBC News 2010 

But days after the takeover was completed the firm controversially announced that it would close the plant and move production to Poland - Cadbury plant, Keynsham, BBC News 2011

The plant in Coolock, Dublin opened in 1964, the Somerdale plant in England opened in 1935. 

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said about the Irish closures :
“Unfortunately, due to a cost base which is significantly out of line with competitor countries, it appears likely that the company will proceed,” he said in a statement today.

Of course, the costs of energy is just one cost but it is quite a significant one for a manufacturing firm, whereas it would be less for say a financial services firm.

So we can see a trend here. The EU monster is getting angry and beginning to growl. The Polish government stands up to it, while the Irish government grovels at the monster's feet, while warning its own people about fines for disobeying Big Brother. The net result is that Poland gains 200 jobs, while 200 hard working Irish people are now forced to seek handouts at the Social Welfare office. 

This trend can only continue - 10 closures like the plant in Coolock equates to a minimum of social welfare payments of € 20 million per year, roughly equal to the fines threatened by the EU on Poland for failing to implement the EU's energy policy. Then there is the tax take, council rates and the contribution to local economies to take into account. Who are the smart people here, who are the ones who have the best grasp of maths and economics ?

Meanwhile Richard Bruton is flapping around like a headless chicken blaming a cost base which his government are responsible for. But we know the energy policy will not change, so expect more flapping and unfortunately more job losses to come.

Apple data centre a great boost for Galway but please spare us the Green Propaganda

There is much to be said in favour of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community - Oscar Wilde

Apple's new data centre in Galway will bring 100 long term jobs, according to Minister Richard Bruton, jobs that are very much welcome to this region of the country. Much was made by the usual suspects about how the centre was going to be powered by 100% renewables. But the reality was far less romantic :

Apple has promised that it will use renewable energy, but local residents have been told that this does not involve construction of a wind farm – rather the company will purchase power from a renewable energy provider. 

Of course, there is no such thing as a renewable energy provider, all electricity providers provide electricity from the same grid with the same fuel mix and a frequency set by synchronous fossil fuel power. So that was took some amount of PR, Spin and double-speak to get from the data centre will use the same grid power as everyone else to the data centre will be powered from 100% renewables. 

As the local councillor said “This is a very significant investment, and the only by-product will be a lot of hot air.” - Well, quite.

Data centres consume quite a bit of power but we are told that Ireland’s high electricity costs – 30 per cent more now than in 2010, which is well above the European average – will be offset by the temperate location, which presumably will assist in the cooling of the servers and units. I cant find any data but I would imagine that a conventional manufacturing plant would use more electricity, but I would be interested in opinions on this.

Both Apple and the Green movement / Wind industry are very much dependent on China for the mining of rare earths. There is not a whole pile of information available on this as one would expect from a Communist regime, but I would suggest a couple of articles which reveal some of the hypocrisy involved in Western movements :

In China, the true cost of Britain's clean, green wind power experiment: Pollution on a disastrous scale - The Daily Mail

Rare-earth mining in China comes at a heavy cost for local villages - The Guardian

Of course, most manufacturing and high tech industries involve some degree of environmental impact and it would be unfair to single out one or two but the reason I bring this subject up here is because the movements and industries which espouse green principles and credentials in reality share just the same reliance on raw materials and fossilfuel energy as any other.  

For example, most people in Ireland believe that nuclear power is bad because of the waste by-products but likewise, most believe that wind power is clean because there are no by-products. The facts are that both sources of power result in waste by-products - the only difference is with wind, the by-product lies in a lake thousands of miles away on another continent, out of sight and out of mind. 

As someone long ago once said, ignorance is bliss.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Meeting with Department of Energy

Today I had a meeting with the Department of Energy on the energy policy. Many of the arguments made on this blog were put forward including the Energy Bubble graph and the warnings from industry and Representative Bodies.  Some points that came up was that a Cost Benefit Analysis of a plan or programme was not actually required by law, which is not my understanding of the environmental legislation. The other thing I gathered is that the focus will be mainly on CO2 and fuel savings in the electricity sector rather than in other sectors such as airlines, transport, heating etc.

A new plan is been drawn up for 2030 targets and will be open to submissions from the public. So it looks like the current policy will be with us for many years to come....

High Court Case to halt NREAP

In other news, Pat Sword's legal challenge to halt Ireland's Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) re-commences next Tuesday at the Four Courts. The case centers on the lack of compliance with the Aarhus Convention and SEA Directives. The State will be arguing that this is mostly historic at this stage.

Saturday 21 February 2015

Energy Untruths : The 6 Billion Euro Question

Imagine if a newspaper printed the following :

If we invest enough money in our rugby pitches we will improve our soccer team

This claim is obviously and self-evidently false. However, the equivalent of this claim in energy terms was made in today's Irish Times :

A lot of the energy from renewables would come from the western fringes, where the national grid has been weakest, necessitating an investment of €3 billion to upgrade. (Against that, imported fuels cost more than €6 billion a year.)

This is suggesting that the investment in the grid upgrade is worthwhile because it will help reduce our fuel imports bill. But, according to the SEAI, 75% of our fuel bill comes from oil which makes up less than 1% of the fuel used in electricity generation. So that means that about € 4.5 billion of the € 6 billion fuel import bill has nothing whatsoever got to do with electricity generation.

So the €3 billion grid upgrade can only impact on circa € 1.5 billion of fuel imports, not €6 billion as suggested by the Irish Times.  

Fuel Import Bill has risen

So what are we doing installing all these wind farms and interconnectors ? Well, part of the reason is to reduce our dependency on fuel imports :

Reducing our dependency on fossil fuel imports, ensuring investment in the networks and delivering investor certainty through predictable responsive regulatory and policy frameworks are key drivers for energy policy. In line with both EU and international energy policy direction, the development of renewable energy and sustained ambition in energy efficiency are cornerstones of this Government’s energy policy objectives - Previous Energy Minister, Pat Rabbitte 2012.

But what has actually happened ? Well, believe it or not, our fuel bill has actually risen from circa € 6 billion in 2011 to € 6.7 billion in 2013 :

But in the same period we installed almost 300MW of additional wind energy at a cost of around
€ 600 million (€2m per MW) or 0.6 of a billion euros. Just ask yourself - is this bang for your buck ?

To put the fuel bill in perspective, €6.7 billion is equal to the annual fuel bill for German airline, Lufthansa. Yet nobody is arguing that airline's should be reducing their fuel bills . Indeed, according to the Irish Times article, Air transport makes up about 15-16% of our fuel bill, slightly more than our reliance on fuel for private cars. Do you hear calls for airlines to begin making radical changes to cope with future uncertainties and "peak oil" ? 

As Peter Hitchens, the English journalist said recently - if a principle given to support a policy is not applied universally, then there must be another reason behind a policy - or something to that effect. This is reminiscent of the quote by JP Morgan :

A man always has two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and the real reason. - J. P. Morgan 

While we are on the subject of airlines and "peak oil", what are the oil reserves like at the moment ? Well, according to the International Energy Statistics, we are at a new high :

Graph taken from

So what is the real reason for the current energy policy ? - well take a look at your 
electricity bill.

Do the Maths !

In the same Irish Times article above, Dick Ahlstrom, made the following claim :

The highest energy peak yet to occur on our national grid topped out at just over five billion watts of electricity (5GW). A single lake covering, say, two square kilometres had the potential to produce 100GW of electricity, more than we would use over 20 years.

Francis Clauson has contacted me to explain the simple maths error made here :

5GWhrs is what is required to meet 1 hour of peak demand, not 5GW. So correct maths is :

100GWhrs / 5GWhrs = 20GWhrs

i.e. The lake referred to above will provide enough power for 20 hours, NOT 20 years !!!!

Monday 16 February 2015

South Africa - the inconvenient facts that you don't hear about

Mainstream Renewables invest hundreds of millions but blackouts are now mainstream in South Africa

A consortium led by Mainstream was awarded the contracts for the three wind farms by the Department of Energy in South Africa in October 2013. The farms, in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, are expected to begin construction this month.Barry Lynch, Mainstream's managing director for onshore procurement, construction and operations, said mainstream has been awarded more megawatts than any other developer under the South African Government's renewable energy procurement programme.

South Africa are investing $10 billion in procuring 3,900MW of renewable capacity. Mainstream Renewables are part of a consortium behind around 600MW of wind and solar projects, including the biggest wind farm in Africa - Jeffreys Bay at 138MW.

Jeffreys Bay, the largest wind farm in Africa, but it couldn't prevent blackouts

We are told by the company's website :

Mainstream’s role in South Africa is also to help grow a new sustainable industry. Together we can create decent jobs, stimulate rural development and bring about real skills transfer. This will ultimately result in the development of sustainable communities and businesses with long term value that will benefit all South Africans.

So is there a renewable transition in South Africa which is what we are led to believe ?

Well, South Africa is very reliant on coal for its energy needs :

Total primary energy consumption in South Africa, 2012

 According to the US Energy Agency, about 90% of its electricity comes from coal power stations. As of 2013, there was around 200MW of solar. Since then, 638MW of renewable power has been added including 240MW of wind built by Mainstream. Peak demand was around 44,000MW and installed capacity was at 45,700MW in 2013 - a very narrow margin. With the new renewable projects, total capacity now stands at around 46,340MW. But peak demand seems to have risen in the interim. The country has faced energy problems before :

In 2008, some coal mines had to halt operations because of power blackouts. In November 2013, Eskom requested that its largest industrial customers cut their consumption by 10% during peak demand times to avoid unexpected blackouts or load-shedding (scheduled power cuts). 

So has the 840MW of solar and wind built since 2012 helped S.Africa create a stable electricity supply ? Well the latest news from the country is not good :
(Link to Bloomberg Article) -- South African President Jacob Zuma said his priority is to solve the energy crisis in the country that’s curbing output at mines and factories and stifling economic growth, including adding more nuclear power by 2023.We will pursue gas, petroleum, nuclear, hydropower and other sources as part of the energy mix,” Zuma, 72, said in his annual state-of-the-nation speech in Parliament in Cape Town on Thursday. “The country is currently experiencing serious energy constraints which are an impediment to economic growth and is a major inconvenience to everyone in the country.”Zuma’s speech follows nine consecutive days of rolling blackouts implemented as demand for power outstripped supply. State utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., which provides 95 percent of the nation’s electricity, has warned of almost-daily blackouts until the end of April.The power crisis has soured investor appetite for South Africa’s currency and debt. The rand reached a 13-year low against the dollar on Wednesday and foreigners dumped 6.9 billion rand ($590 million) of the nation’s bonds since Feb. 3, the first day of blackouts. The outages have curbed mining production and forced businesses to shut doors at peak times, crimping growth in Africa’s most-industrialized economy.The government is seeking to build a 9,600 megawatt nuclear-energy program, with the first power from the source in eight years, Zuma said. South Africa has signed agreements and carried out vendor workshops with the U.S., South Korea, Russia, France and China, he said.

The President is now realising the unreliable and non-dispatchable nature of renewable generation and the costs of not investing in dispatchable and reliable forms - like gas, hydro and nuclear (although Concentrated solar thermal power plants may be somewhat more reliable). One can imagine the impact this is having on ordinary people in the country going about their daily lives. As for industry and economic growth, these are completely incompatible with the "green" vision of restricted electricity consumption and restricted conventional (reliable / dispatchable) forms of electricity generation. This then has a further knock on effect on ordinary people in the form of job losses.

It seems that the South African media (ESI Africa) had the bit of savvy to figure out the problem with renewables even before the re-occurrence of the blackouts :

Renewable IPPs not a big contributor to South Africa’s peak demand - while the number of renewable energy IPPs that are connected to the grid continues to grow and contribute to meeting the country’s energy demands, the contribution over peak is currently not substantial.

ESI Africa magazine is described as the leading provider of information relating to the African electricity and energy industry, delivering news to the continent and beyond and represents a broad spectrum of African energy organisations - including sustainable energy companies. 

So what are the qualified engineers there saying ?

GIBB is described as a leading multi-disciplinary engineering consulting firm based in South Africa with 67% Black ownership. One of the projects they were involved in was the construction of quality houses in Kwadukuza, a region of S.Africa. 

Their General manager, Paul Fitzsimons (a good Irish name), was quoted in the magazine last Friday as saying (full article here - can you imagine the opinion of an equivalent engineer in Ireland being valued like this in the Irish media, like the opinions of ex-Green ministers with no engineering qualifications often are ? ):

“Power and energy supply worldwide is an extremely complex business and to simply hold up one nation’s apparent solution [UK] as a one size fits all solution for South Africa is a gross oversimplification of the facts and indicates a lack of understanding of the problems these countries also face,” 
“While we would all like a world with less pollution and fewer carbon emissions, wind and solar generation cannot realistically supply base load generation.” 
“Germany is a good example of this, where instead of reducing its carbon footprint, it actually increased due to its dependence on coal fired stations when wind and solar generation was not sufficient to completely fill the void left by an exodus of nuclear power”, Fitzsimons continued.
So the South African government (despite what other faults they may have) and qualified experts in the field of energy are getting "real" about the future of electricity generation and are realising that the weather does not owe us a 21st Century standard of living. S.Africa is the country where green ideology is meeting the harsh reality of the laws of physics and the outcome is not pleasant if you live there.  

How ironic that those who are most worried about the effects of "climate change" on the African people are silent when an over investment in "green technology" to curb this perceived threat leads to blackouts, unemployment and economic devastation.

Lessons we can all learn here in Ireland.

Sunday 15 February 2015

The future of power generation in Northern Ireland - Part 1

Kilroot Coal Power Station's output will be restricted from 2016

Northern Ireland is facing a generating capacity shortage in the all too near future. How did this happen and what are the implications ?


 There are essentially four thermal plants in Northern Ireland.

  • Coolkeeragh power station a modern Combined Cycle Gas Turbine plant in Derry owned by ESB entered into service in June 2005 and is 400 MW.
  • Ballylumford B which dates to 1974 and is 540 MW. This was very similar to Ringsend with it's two large chimneys in that it was designed originally for heavy fuel oil and later converted to natural gas, it does not meet the nitrogen oxide emission limits set in the EU's Large Combustion Plant Directive and was 'opted out'. There is also an open cycle gas turbine of 112 MW dating from 1976 and used for peaking operations. fired by fuel oil at this site. There is a derogation in the EU legislation for such turbines used for 'emergency use', i.e. less than 500 hours per year. These are owned by AES.
  • Ballylumford C, which is 600 MW and commenced operations in 2003. It includes two Combined Cycle Gas Turbines (CCGT) with combined efficiency of 48 percent running on natural gas and the ability to burn distillate as back-up fuel. Also owned by AES.
  • Kilroot is coal fired with 520 MW and dates to 1981. It has sea water desulphurisation but in the absence of DeNOx technology, won't meet the nitrogen oxide (NOx) limits originally set in the Large Combustion Plant Directive of 2001/80/EC and applicable from 1st January 2015. There are also two small peaker distillate fired open cycle gas turbines of 84 MW in total installed in 2009. Also owned by AES.
It was originally envisaged that when Ballylumford C was built that the Ballylumford B plant would be shut down, but it was kept in use as a back-up, as in that time the electricity demand had increased. If one of the other three power stations failed, it had to step in. N.Ireland's own electricity statistics show:

  • All Time Maximum Peak Demand: 1,777 MW on 22nd December 2010
  • Installed Dispatchable Capacity: 2,342 MW. As at 30th November 2014 - This figure excludes import capacity of Moyle. (Import = 450 MW Nov-Mar & 410 MW Apr-Oct. Export = 295 MW Sep-Apr & 287 MW May-Aug).

The EU's Large Combustion Plant Directive has been superseded by the 2010/75/EC Directive in Industrial Emissions (IED). From January 2016 older plants can enter into what is called a Transitional National Plan (TNP), which is based around an allowable level of emissions, which progressively gets reduced over a period of five or so years. Ireland now has a TNP in place and agreed with the EU, see below, but the UK's TNP hasn't been agreed, it seems to have been rejected at least once if not twice.

The power company AES's presentation of September 2013 to the N.I Committee is extremely interesting  :

AES's assets must comply with the EU's large combustion plant directive (LCPD) until the end of 2015 and its successor, the industrial emissions directive (IED), from 1st January 2016.  Several options are available to AES in order to comply with the more stringent emission limits under IED, including limited hours of operation up to 2023; operating under a transitional national plan (TNP), which would allow restricted operation until 2020; or investing to make the plants fully compliant with IED emission limits from 1st January 2016. Our current view is that Kilroot will opt into the TNP.  Assuming no further significant capital investments under the TNP option, the capacity factor of the Kilroot main units will be limited to approximately 45% from 2016 to 2020, with a further reduction in operations to 1,500 hours per annum from June 2020.  Ballylumford C station is currently compliant with IED emissions requirements while firing on gas, but investment will be required in one of the units, unit 10, to enable running on backup fuel, which is distillate.  Ballylumford B station was opted out of the LCPD in 2007 by the previous owner, Premier Power Ltd, and is scheduled to cease operations on 31st December 2015.

What we do know is that Ballylumford B will be shut down on the 21st January 2016. Even if they enter into a derogation on Kilroot with the Transitional National Plan (TNP), they can only operate it at best 45% of the time, which is quite generous, based on the fact that on the past decade it was run 80 to 85% of the time. By 2020 they can only run it for 1,500 hours per year out of the 8,760 hours in a year, namely 17% of the time. However, that 45% is somewhat optimistic, as it is based on a form of emissions trading. It requires for additional emission credits to become available when other companies in the TNP elsewhere in the UK make improvements to their power stations (no longer likely). Also each year there are less and less emission credits available as free issue. On this basis in theory there might be credits that Kilroot could buy, but on the other hand each year there are less and less credits in the TNP. As AES explained to the N. Ireland Committee :

Essentially, we can run the plant up to the point at which we run out of those emissions.  When we run out, we have to shut down the plant until the next year, when we get a new allocation.  The intent of the TNP is to allow the sustained performance of the units and meet the energy needs of the market but still allow some investment.
If you are dispatched strongly throughout the year and hit your capacity factor limit in September, you are not available for the rest of that year.  You have gone through your bubble, so you cannot emit. 

The new Industrial Emissions Directive is very specific in that if you 'opted out' in 2007 under the then Large Combustion Plant Directive, you must close your plant by 31st December 2015. So it is inexplicable why the N. Ireland authorities are writing new emission limit values for Ballylumford B post that date and the Committee discussing possible upgrades to it, as by EU law the operators are forbidden to operate beyond 31st December 2015. It smacks of complete desperation going on.

So in summary there are clearly times of the year post 1st January 2016 when the dispatchable generation capacity in N. Ireland could be down to:

Dispatchable Plant      2,342 MW


Ballylumford B           ( 540 MW )

Kilroot                        ( 520 MW )

Total                        = 1,282 MW

This compares really bad with their peak load of 1,777 MW. It is also well known that they are having operational trouble with the Moyle interconnector, 

  • These issues are compounded by a fault on the Moyle interconnector which has reduced its transfer capacity to 250 MW. Efforts by Mutual Energy to complete interim repairs to the cable proved to be unsuccessful in restoring the Moyle to full capacity. A  project to install new undersea low voltage cables is being progressed and expected to be operational by 2017. 
While there is a surplus of dispatchable capacity in the Republic, there is currently only 400 MW of transfer capacity between the Republic and N.Ireland and this will not alter until the North South Interconnector is built. 

So N. Ireland at best can import 650 MW and legally generate 1,282 MW, which only just exceeds their peak load by 150MW, leaving very little spare for reserve. So what happens if a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine either at Derry or Ballylumford trips??

However, Eirgrid in their 2013 -2022 Capacity Statement report state :

Northern Ireland
  • In the base case scenario the Northern Ireland Generation Security Standard is met until 2020.
  • Thereafter, Northern Ireland will be in deficit. With the additional North-South tie line in place, these deficits are avoided.
  • Northern Ireland is at risk of deficits from 2016 onwards in the event of a prolonged outage of a large generation plant or of the Moyle Interconnector.
  • No new generation is expected to connect out to 2022 other than renewables.
  • 510 MW of conventional plant in Ballylumford will close by 2016. From 2021, the output from 476 MW of plant at Kilroot is projected to be severely restricted because of limited running hours due to the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED). The effect of this is that the Northern Ireland Generation Security Standard is not met in 2021 and 2022.
  • The Moyle Interconnector has been modelled at an import capacity of 250 MW due to uncertainty as to when the current ongoing fault on one cable will be repaired.

But the restrictions on Kilroot kick in from 1st January 2016, as the company stated and they are major ones, which is now acknowledged in the December 2014 draft SONI report above. You can see also how up front the owners are in their presentation to the N. Ireland committee as to what the situation is :

Mr Miller: There are two routes of remuneration.  Let us just say that, if we get comfortable with our expectations of what the market would deliver post-2016, we would bear the risk of that investment, as it currently stands.  If we struggle based on the investment required to make that into a measurable investment metric — in other words, that we will recover our investment over a certain period — we could be forced down the route of asking for some sort of surety through a capacity contract, as we outlined in our opening statement, to ensure that we will get our investment back.

This is the core of the issue, it has absolutely nothing to do with opposition to the North South Interconnector, but everything to do with a dysfunctional renewable policy and an ideologically driven elite, who are out of control. N. Ireland operated perfectly as an essentially independent electricity network for many decades, with a reliable and affordable electricity supply. It is no longer worth the while of electricity generation companies to participate in investing further with conventional reliable generation in that market, as that market place has been destroyed by a set of decision makers ignorant of power generation. This is clear. So too is it clear what the purpose of the North South Interconnector is:
  • The additional grid Transfer capacity provided by this North South 400 kV interconnection project is essential to allow access to a larger market for the new renewable generation, particularly for Northern Ireland wind generation in times of high wind conditions and low local demand. This project therefore indirectly allows the connection of 600 MW in Northern Ireland, i.e. the equivalent of the additional grid transfer capacity initially provided by the link.
So this is the "real" reason behind the North South interconnector - facilitation of wind. But this wind programme has not been legally assessed and therefore it is invalid to approve the interconnector without first assessing all that interconnected wind energy as part of the combined project. An issue which hasn't been completed to date. See the below for more on this:
And will all this wind energy contribute to the adequacy of electricity supply ? Well, not much is the answer. Because of its intermittency, its value in conventional generation terms, i.e. it's capacity credit, is only 20% at present and will decrease as more wind is added. As Eirgrid explain :

Installed Wind Capacity In Northern Ireland is expected to increase to over 637MW during the Winter months, with a corresponding capacity credit of 130MW.

So is N. Ireland going to experience power outages post 2016 ? -  the answer is most likely yes and the reason for it is an obsession with renewables to the detriment of conventional reliable plant and cheap electricity. As the public realise this, there is going to be a hell of a backlash.

Monday 9 February 2015

€20 billion committed to under Ireland's Renewable Energy Action Plan

What follows is an analysis by Pat Swords, an environmental engineer, on the costs committed by the Irish government in their Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP). The bailout of Anglo Irish Bank ended up costing the Irish people around € 29 billion, so the costs committed under NREAP, mainly for windmills and pylons, will come to at least two thirds of that of the infamous bank. The wind industry and other interested parties require vast long term subsidies to make these huge capital investments viable and the Irish people have been signed up to pay up for generations once again. At the end of this programme, when the subsidies finally come to an end, we will have no choice but to setup a NAMA for windmills, as Colm McCarthy the economist pointed out, adding more billions to the cost. 

There are also many costs to society that can't be so easily valued - for example the loss of jobs as big industry moves out. Consider this letter to the Energy Regulator from Kerry Group, for example, who are trying to fight in a very tight competitive international market with domestic policy dragging them down in a whirlpool of electricity levies, charges and subsidies while their competitors benefit from cheap fuel prices (and by the way - no, fossil fuels do not receive the equivalent of REFIT). 

And what cost to put on tourism and bloodstock jobs ?

The costs committed to in Ireland's Renewable Plan 

by Pat Swords BE CEng FIChemE CEnv MIEMA

Ireland's Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) was prepared in 2010 without any proper assessment of costs and impacts.  For instance if we take Table 10 on page 138, it gives us the bottom line, i.e. 4,094 MW of onshore wind and 555 MW of offshore:

Link to Ireland's Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP)

If for Ireland at €2 million per MW onshore (workings provided below) and at least €3 million per MW offshore, that is as near as be dammed €10 billion. Then we have the East West Interconnector at €0.6 billion, with more and even longer interconnectors to come to the UK and France - see page 79 of the NREAP -  so we can conservatively lob in another €3 billion for interconnectors. 

We also have Grid 25 at some €4 billion and potentially rising:
Not only is there over 800 km of high voltage in Grid 25, but as the All Island Grid Study demonstrated, there is an additional 5,000 km of medium voltage grid connections required to connect all these wind farms to the high voltage grid - see here and here.

So clearly there is already a billion euros gone to ESB for the medium voltage networks, in addition to Grid 25 which is Eirgird and the high voltage network.

So we are now well in excess of €18 billion for turbines, interconnectors, high voltage grids and medium voltage grids.

Then there is the roll out of smart meters, which are on page 77 of the NREAP. So we can throw in another billion or two there.

If we look at (former Green Party leader) John Gormley's Carbon budget:

  • The target is underpinned by analysis conducted in the recent All Island Grid Study which found that a 40% penetration is technically feasible, subject to upgrading our electricity grid and ensuring the development of flexible generating plant on the electricity system. 

So we have to mothball our current base load CCGTs at 55% efficiency to replace them with open cycle fast response gas turbines which are only 35% efficient. So given that a CCGT costs £0.9 million per MW installed (see page 16 below) and an open cycle plant (OCGT) about £0.6 million per MW installed (see page 26), and we are going to require at least 1,000 MW of fast response power to balance the grid fluctuations, there is going to be no change out of another € billion.

So all in all over €20 billion plus was committed in capital investment alone. To that you have to add the operating costs, profit for the wind investors, costs of inefficient operation of the grid and for what?

If you go to the bottom of the DCENR's REFIT page there is a link to Part III Supplementary Information.

Part III.10
Supplementary Information Sheet on environmental protection aid
Annual savings per 100 MWs installed
Tonnes of oxide

Carbon Dioxide
0.19  ml.

So this was what was claimed back in 2007 as the justification for all this so called 'environmental protection'. In other words for each 1,000 MWs of installed capacity, 1.9 million tonnes of CO2 savings.

If we go to the latest NREAP progress report to the EU, see below, we can see that the Irish NREAP progress report dated February 2014 claims 1,763 MW of wind energy by 2012 and 2,738,072 tonnes of CO2 savings. If we look at Table 1 b, then wind was responsible for (4,247 / 5,659 ) or 75% of the renewable electricity, therefore 2.05 million tonnes of CO2 savings. 

So this is 2.05 / 1.763 = 1.17 million tonnes of CO2 savings per 1,000 MW of installed capacity.

However, we do know this claimed for saving is untrue, as the calculation method is false, in that it does not allow for all the inefficiencies induced on the grid. See page 29 of the NREAP progress report:

  • The limitations and caveats associated with this methodology include that it ignores any plant used to meet the associated reserve requirements of renewables. These open cycle plants will typically have lower efficiency and generate increased CO2 and NOx emissions compared with CCGT and these emissions should be incorporated into the analysis. The purpose of presenting a simplified analysis here is to provide initial insights into the amount of fossil fuels that are displaced by renewables and the amount of emissions thereby avoided.

As they have been 'stung' by criticism of fraudulent claims, the SEAI produced yet another one of their reports. This time where they claim their modelling allows for inefficiencies on the grid, such that for 2012, wind saved 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 - link to new SEAI report

So now we are at 1.5 / 1.763 = 0.85 million tonnes per 1,000 MW of installed wind capacity, which is less than half of what they claimed for when REFIT was initiated back in 2007 to fund the building of this infrastructure in this place. Furthermore, it has to be said that the report above is highly suspect, in that the modelling in it concluded that more ramping up and down of gas plants occurred, when there was no wind on the grid, yet it is well known that power plant operators are complaining that they are now ramping their plants more to compensate for wind energy input (see example here). Indeed, the whole grid is being redesigned, not with the goal of fuel efficient generation, but instead to prioritise fast response, as the documentation from the Irish grid regulator below shows (plant with fast response do not use fuel as efficiently as slower operating ones). So the SEAI paper above is not truthful:

  • The management of variability and uncertainty is critical to a power system with high levels of wind penetration. Detailed analysis by the TSOs has shown that portfolios that are capacity adequate are unlikely to be adequate in terms of ramping over all the necessary timeframes to efficiently and effectively manage the variable renewable sources and changes in interconnector flows while maintaining system security - from All Island Project report

Not surprisingly, the ESB and other generators are against all of this:

So what are we actually doing, spending billions and billions, wrecking all of our grid and financial viability of our electricity services and all we can claim, using a dodgy computer model is that we have saved 1.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is nothing given that Ireland's own CO2 emissions are 58 million tonnes and global emissions are 35 billion tonnes per year.

So we saved 0.004% of global emissions, if we look at the UK Met office official data for global temperatures, with the vertical bars for uncertainty, then since we started all of this renewable gig in the EU in 1998, global temperatures have gone nowhere.


Are we mad, as we are certainly behaving that way?


Workings for cost of onshore wind in Ireland

  • The cost of onshore wind has been assessed internationally by a report completed for the German renewable industry, the main detail of which in relation to total investment costs (GIK -Gesamtinvestionkosten), can be found in the Table below:

Sunday 8 February 2015

Whats In Your Electricity Bill - Part 4: The costs of the UK Interconnector

The Valve Room of the Eirgrid East-West Interconnector in Batterstown, Co.Meath.

The East West Interconnector went operational from April 2013 and allowed Ireland to import electricity that could be produced for less in the UK, with around 40% coming from (relatively) cheap coal generation. It's claimed that this lowered electricity prices here by 9% but I have yet to see that passed on in my own bill. It cost € 600 million to build with € 300 million coming from an ECB loan and € 100 million provided by an EU grant. Investments by Eirgrid and commercial banks made up the rest. So about € 500 million must be recovered from electricity bills.

In a utopian world, we could export all our wonderful wind at a high price to UK but what has happened in reality is that we only export small amounts occasionally at night for a very low price. Of course, it is grid power that we export, not wind power per se. There is a provision in the grid code to allow export of power to the UK at  -€100 MWh - that's right at a negative price, whereby the Irish consumer subsidizes the UK consumer to take our excess energy. A lot of energy commentators make the mistake that electricity grids operate like any other export market but in reality supply must be managed so that it exactly matches demand and supply must be forecast days ahead. If you've suddenly got too much supply, then you have to constrain this extra supply off. If a surge of wind power occurs in Ireland at the same time as the UK as often happens , then you are going to have to pay the UK consumer to take your wind power as the UK grid will need to constrain off their gas plants at expense to them. The Danes sometimes have to pay up to € 200 MWh so that neighbouring Nordic countries will take their excess wind power, which at the moment amounts to approx 50% of total wind power produced in Denmark.

But there was also another unintended consequence of the interconnector known as Make Whole Payments.

Make Whole Payments (MWP)

This payment is designed to make up any shortfall in costs for generators incurred during scheduled production not recovered through Energy payments. It appears that these costs were relatively small up until 2013. But we can see from the below chart that the costs have risen exponentially since April 2013, when the East West Interconnector came into operation :

Source: SEM-O document on Make Whole Payments - Modification Proposal Form, 14th November 2014

During 2011 and 2012, the average monthly MWP was € 14,000. This has now increased to over
€ 800,000 per month. Figures available from SEMO show that the MWP total for the year 2014 (January to December 2014) was circa € 4.7 million. The vast majority of this increase was attributable to interconnectors - Moyle and EWIC (in blue below):

Source: SEM-O document on Make Whole Payments - Modification Proposal Form, 14th November 2014

It seems this is due to costs arising out of trading between the two markets in Britain and Ireland. This cost is paid by suppliers (i.e. Electric Ireland, Energia etc) to the relevant generators and ultimately passed on to consumers.  It's about time these costs are passed on to the wind energy sector who are pushing these expensive "solutions to our problems"

Saturday 7 February 2015

BREITBART: Renewable Energy Infrastructure Costs More Than Greek and Irish Bailouts Combined

More on the Story first published a few days ago on this blog :


ADB backs India's solar power ambitions

Astonishing figures show that the total cost of renewable energy infrastructure in Europe to the end of 2012 came to over €600 billion, excluding additional fees for grid connections and upgrades.

And this enormous sum is one and a half times the cost of twice bailing out the Greek economy, which came to €320 billion and the Irish economy with a €70 billion loan, the Irish Energy Blog has calculated.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Cost of Renewables Infrastructure in Europe equal to 1.5 times the cost of Greek and Irish bailouts combined

The total cost of onshore and offshore wind and solar PV in Europe by the end of 2012 comes to over € 600 billion, not including grid connections and upgrades (workings provided below).

To put this in persepective, the cost of the two Greek bailouts came to € 320 Billion and the Irish bailout came to € 70 billion. So the cost of these investments in renewable projects came to one and half times the cost of the Irish and Greek bailouts combined. So what could we have got for all this money ?

  •  Debt relief to Greece and Ireland with alot of change left over for useful projects

And by not spending this money at all we could have got lower energy bills - the € 600 Billion must be paid back to shareholders by ordinary people and industry, so we could have got lower energy bills by not spending this money in the first place. And as a result, more jobs as costs for energy intensive industries would be less now thereby increasing our competitiveness.

Perhaps even more incredibly, after spending these incredible sums, Europe is still as dependent on Russian gas and Saudi oil as it ever was. No conventional power plant has been shutdown anywhere in Europe and replaced by any of this wind or solar PV. This amounts to the greatest ever investment in non - dispatchable plant in Europe's history. Non dispatchable plant will always increase overall costs in an electricity system - if anyone has any evidence to the contrary I would like to see it. As a result, there has been a lot less investment in dispatchable generation than required with extraordinary consequences down the road, unless of course, you live as a hermit.

It was for these reasons that the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO) were forced to conclude in their recent Winter Outlook Report that :

Similar to the peak demand analysis, it provides an indication which countries require exports to manage inflexible generation. Indeed, this involved an analysis of their ability to export this energy to neighbouring regions that are not in a similar situation. The reason for this analysis pertains to the fact that a number of TSOs expressed that they are experiencing growing problems for system operation (mainly) due to the increase of variable generation on the system (wind and solar) and the lack of more flexible generation means.

and in a report issued in January this year :

In view of the rapid and significant development of dispersed generation [mainly PV] in recent years, the primary reserves of TSOs used to balance their systems will no longer suffice. As a consequence, TSOs in case of an incident will have no other option than to initiate major defence plans.

A number of EU countries were identified as facing long term issues with their security of supply (i.e. ability to provide reliable electricity) including Belgium, Finland, Germany and the UK :


Compared to previous winter, these closures are - in terms of capacity - still more than compensated for by new renewable production units. However, the infeed of these renewable units is less stable and less guaranteed compared to classical production units, yielding a negative effect on global generation adequacy.

Due to the announced closing of different CCGTs and Doel 1 and the lack of new generation capacity, the Belgian parliament already enacted a new law in March 2014, introducing the concept of strategic reserves for the Belgian system. These additional reserves are constituted of generation units and demand response contracts amounting up to 840 MW in total for coming winter. The strategic reserves are taken out of the market, and can only be used when Belgium experiences risks of shortage to cover the Belgian load. This capacity is included in the Elia contribution to the ENTSO-E Winter Outlook under the "Load Reduction" category.


As in the previous winters, Finland is a deficit area in peak demand hours. Demand is highly dependent on outside temperatures and most critical period is from week one to nine. The deficit is expected to be met with import from neighboring areas.
No specific problem should occur in the minimum demand hours because the installed wind and solar power capacity is relatively low in Finland.


To cover the anticipated very high redispatch demand as for the last winter, the German TSOs determined the need of an additional reserve generation capacity of about 3,1 GW for the winter 2014/2015. Almost the complete capacity has already been contracted. In order to contract these required reserves a new German regulation allows to prevent the switch-off of system-relevant units, which are instead transferred into a TSO-controlled reserve. They are still included in the data table. 

Additionally 0,8 GW of reserves have been contracted in Austria for the coming winters.
A further benefit for generation adequacy is provided by the new regulations for contractual load reductions.


Under severe weather conditions (defined as 1 in 20 cold temperatures for GB), forecast demand including reserve would still be met, but full interconnector exports to the continent and Ireland would not be possible in all weeks of the year. In the unlikely event that the amount of generation does not meet the amount of demand for a period of time, National Grid, as GB TSO, would need to take mitigating actions to avoid any loss of load. These actions include the use of two New Balancing Services: Demand Side Balancing Reserve (DSBR) and Supplemental Balancing Reserve (SBR), which provide the option of additional capacity if necessary.


Workings - Thanks to Pat Swords:

From the 2013 Edition of the State of Renewable Energies in Europe [link]:

  • 106,757 MW of total wind energy in EU 28 by end of 2012
  • 5,022 MW of offshore wind energy installed by end of 2012
  • 68,906 MW of installed photovoltaic cells by end of 2012

  • Cost of solar PV[link]:
  • Assume an average of $7.5 per W, €6.25 per W. €6.25 million per MW.
  • Total: (68,906 x 6.25) + (101,735 x 1.7) + (5,022 x 3.5) = €621,189 million.

So the total is  in excess of €600 billion, to which grid connections and upgrades have not been added.