Thursday 29 December 2016

Cash For Ash - How Green Feel Good Polices Damage the Environment

        The remedy is sometimes worse than the disease - Francis Bacon

Josh cartoons

Green polices are mostly ideological and rarely based on any kind of robust analysis. This was never more evident in the Cash for Ash scheme that was setup in Northern Ireland where amazingly, farmers got paid a profit to burn wood pellets. There are reports that farmers with empty sheds could qualify for the handsome subsidies. There are also reports that people are burning the wood pellets right around the clock with windows and doors open to allow the heat out.   The impact on the environment of course is entirely negative. 

A full report on this crazy scheme can be found here in The Irish Times.

Sunday 25 December 2016

Evolution Vs Climate Change

Does science tend to confirm or refute our innate biases ?

by Owen Martin

Darwin's theory of Evolution was not accepted at first mainly because it ran counter to our intuition. People thought that man simply could not have descended from apes because of religious reasons but also because there were no apes evolving into men in the present day. It was generally assumed that humans always existed since the beginning of time. Relative to people's everyday experiences, the theory simply sounded absurd. The theory of Evolution itself helps explain why. We evolved to survive over relatively small timescales - 40 to 80 years - so this made a theory which operated (for the most part) over much longer timescales harder to grasp and harder for our intuition to accept. 

Relativity, as Einstein pointed out, means that we really don't know where we are on the spatial map. If you are watching a train pass by how do you know that it's not you that's moving instead of the train ? What if it costs 1,000 lira to buy a cup of coffee ? Is this expensive or is this cheap ? We have no way of knowing unless we can compare the price relative to something else. It's the same with evolution, we don't see the incremental evolutionary changes because we live for too short a time relative to the timescales it operates over (we cannot see the bigger picture). Perhaps Methuselah who lived for 969 years might have had a better chance. Science helps us see past our natural biases and understand how nature operates over long timescales.

So what has this got to do with climate change ? Well, how do we know what is the correct temperature ? In the 1970's, we thought it was becoming too cold. Today, we think it is becoming too hot. But too hot or too cold relative to what exactly ? What we do know for sure is that we are living in an interglacial period. The timescales over which major climate events occur are over many thousands of years (like evolution). So once again, as humans, we don't notice these changes, each generation simply adapts or dies. However, there are smaller temperature changes and cycles that can occur over a person's lifetime. Take the Atlantic temperature cycle (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation) for example, which has a 30-40 year hot and cold cycle :

This cycle has a nice fit with both observed land and satellite temperatures - see here and here

Humans tend to think that the period they happen to live in is the norm. There are good evolutionary reasons for this. We need to adapt to the present climate to survive. Whatever happened before is irrelevant for survival. Whoever survives reproduces and passes on their survival genes to the next generation.  So if you grew up in the 1970s, you probably think that the climate being a bit on the cooler side is normal. Now that things have warmed up a bit, your intuition tells you there is something wrong - let's call this climate exceptionalism. However, if you knew that the climate got warmer during the 1940s, then cooler, then warmer again, it may not seem all that alarming. If you knew that the Little Ice Age only occurred a few hundred years ago and lasted over many generations, you might become less alarmed. 

So again, science should help us see past our innate biases. On a purely scientific objective basis, we are enormously lucky to have been born either side of a major or minor ice age period. We can't see this without the help of science. Without the aid of science, we would think that this is how the climate has always been and always will be (just like the innate idea that man has always existed). We can adapt so well to the present climate we find ourselves in, that we are not conscious of the possibility of a different climate as it would be surplus to evolutionary requirements. In any event, it's only very recently that man has learned to figure out what the climate of the past looked like by examining ice cores. Thanks to science. 

Despite all this, mainstream science has been unable to see past human's innate bias in the case of climate change.  Instead science has reinforced the unscientific public's natural bias that the climate they presently inhabit is the norm and that any sudden change in this climate (towards hot or cold) is therefore unprecedented and alarming. The media, who are mostly an unscientific bunch, then pick up on this and run with it. Many people ask why would scientists do this ? Perhaps unlike with evolution, they have been unable to overcome their own innate biases, or perhaps they've found that funding dries up when they don't reinforce the public's natural biases. After all, politicians who are successful are the ones who know how to play to the voters biases and it's the politicians who control climate funding and research.  This differs from evolutionary research which is incapable of being politicized. Nobody is ever going to become elected because they could explain so wonderfully the theory of evolution, although you might become elected in religious countries or states if you deny evolution much like if you make the case for climate exceptionalism and the dangers of a changing climate. 

The climate skeptics are then labelled deniers. We are faced with swimming up the intellectual current that is in the main driven by innate human biases.

Image result for darwin cartoonImage result for climate skeptic cartoons

Darwin faced the same biases - how dare he question the obvious fact that humans are exceptional and not part of the animal kingdom (Of course it can be argued that evolution was the mechanism by which God created us but that's a different story not relevant here). Likewise, how dare climate skeptics question the obvious fact that our climate is now exceptional. While older members of the public will tell you that the weather was different back in their day, the scientists have being working hard fitting their models and data into the theory. 

So what can we learn from this ? Innate biases are good for us - most of us have a drive to succeed in life, nobody will willingly put their hand in a fire, incest is innately bad for good biological reasons, likewise hunger is good for us. Innate biases made us succeed where other homo species didn't. But when we try to understand more complex things that science often throws up our innate biases can often work against us (confirmation bias also has a role to play).  Going back to relativity, the world looks flat from our perspective. Indeed humans can flourish and have flourished with the perception that the world is flat. Thinking that the world is not flat won't help you win a battle nor will it allow you to become a better hunter. Our innate bias still tells us the world we experience is flat (most of us would call a sheet of glass or a floor surface flat). Scientists had to overcome this bias when they explained that the world was most likely round. Think of the public bias that Copernicus had to overcome (in fact he was afraid of challenging it) when he came to the conclusion that the Sun was at the centre of the universe. 

If the theory of man made climate change is correct, it would be unusual in that it confirms our innate bias that the climate is naturally constant and any change is therefore man-made and alarming. The history of science, like climate history, tells us that our innate bias about climate exceptionalism today is probably wrong. This doesn't mean it will turn out to be wrong, but the odds are against it as a viable theory.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Cooking the Christmas Turkey with Wind Energy

The following graph shows the Wind Energy profile and Demand for the past month for the island of Ireland :

1)  The black line is the maximum available wind output, i.e. wind capacity. This is about 3,000MW for the island of Ireland.

2) The two circles show periods when wind energy was increasing during periods of decreasing night time demand. This wind energy ends up being shutdown or curtailed.

The graph shows the trouble in relying too much on wind energy during the Christmas season. In short, the turkey is unlikely to get cooked. Maybe there will be a chance if families wait up all night, although chances are there won't be much wind then either. Most days, as you can see, the wind output falls far short of the potential wind energy available. 

I would like to wish all the readers a Very Happy Christmas and hope you get your turkey cooked despite the crazy energy policy !

Sunday 18 December 2016

The Big State

Eamon Ryan, the Green Party leader, thinks the State is not doing enough about climate change and not borrowing enough money from the European Investment bank :

The end game for the Greens and the Left is a bloated state, high taxes and debt enslavement for future generations. The irony is that if the Greens wanted to stop climate change the first thing they would do is call for an end to budget deficits and governments spending beyond it's means. After all, this would meet the definition of sustainability according to the Brundtland Commission :

Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.

Saturday 10 December 2016

Factcheck Energy Minister

Richard Boyd Barrett, one of the most capable politicians in the country, gave Energy Minister Denis Naughten a grilling in the Dail on Tuesday over his energy plans.  Barrett claimed that wind energy gets 80% of the PSO. The Minister disagreed but didnt have the figures to hand.

FACTCHECK : Wind gets about 67% of the PSO, peat gets 29% with the remaining 4% going to other renewables*.  

FACTCHECK : There is a legal process for assessing plans and programmes. It is not up to Deputy Dooley or Naughten to decide what route we should go down. A Cost Benefit Analysis needs to underpin this type of decision making where billions are at stake, not what Deputy Dooley happens to think is a good idea.

FACTCHECK : It is true that the wind energy guidelines are subject to strategic environmental assessment (SEA). However, an SEA is required for all public plans and programmes. The Government's Renewable Energy Plan (NREAP) has never been subject to an SEA. 

FACTCHECK : The 3-4% savings figure from wind is an overall emissions figure that includes other sectors like transport, heating and agriculture. Last year, there was a 4.9% increase in energy use. Transport's share of overall energy use rose from 33% to 42% in 2015.  So the savings made from installing wind farms are being more than wiped out by rises in other sectors. Yet the political and (Fake) News narrative is still all about electricity generation. 

*I have taken out the clawbacks from security of supply (gas) as they distort the PSO figure. Biomas, biogas and hydro made up about 5% of electricity generation in 2015 according to SEAI.   This means that wind received € 286 million from PSO.  

Monday 28 November 2016

Sunday 27 November 2016

PSO Levy Update

By now most people will have received their electricity bills with increases in the PSO Levy to pay for wind energy and other renewables as well as peat. Renewables now makes up most of the levy (77%). 

Thursday 24 November 2016

Trinity College Lecture on Climate Change by Professor Tim Palmer


So tonight there was a presentation in Trinity College by Tim Palmer of Oxford University. First, the good parts - he tried to show both sides of view and addressed some of the claims made by climate "skeptics".  On the bad side, as usual with these events, there was very little time for questions at the end.  Here is just some bullet points and notes I made on the lecture :

•  He gave a counter argument to some of the claims made by Matt Ridley in his October lecture to GWPF. However, no mention of greening i.e the increased plant growth observed around the planet. This to me was Ridley's ace card so I was surprised that he didn't take that on (or maybe not surprised).

•  He explained quite well how using data over short timescales can be misleading. I agree with this however his own temperature graph (from NASA) started in the late 1800s. This is an extremely short time range to be basing any theory on. We didn't have weather stations before 1850 but we know (thanks to geologists) about the Little Ice Age. The Little Ice Age ended around 1850 when CO2 emissions were a tiny fraction of what they are now. We started coming out of the LIA around 1720. This data should be factored in to put climate change in perspective. 

• He explained how the climate system is complex, again I agree, and that it is a chaotic system. When you introduce man made CO2, the system tends to become less chaotic and you end up with warming.  So if you start with this theory, which looks plausible, then you need to fit the facts into this theory. This happens with NASA graphs which are based on adjusted data. You need to take the cooling in the 70s out and you need to reduce the warming in the 40s. You also need to ignore the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (and PDO) which has a well established positive / negative cycle. This question was posed at the end but I cant even remember the answer. Again, these issues need to be addressed but were not considered as the original "greenhouse gas" theory was infallible.

• Palmer explained the clouds issue really well - we don't know whether they lead to cooling or warming.

• No mention was made of solar irradiance. Again, there was a question on this but an all too brief answer.

• If global warming is dangerous to humans today then in a period of natural cooling, global warming would be advantageous to humans (as it would reduce cooling).  Like greening, the upsides were not considered.

• A question was asked at the end asking for evidence that CO2 remains in the atmosphere for 50 years or more. Palmer didn't have any evidence for that claim yet the claim was made as if it were fact. 

Sunday 20 November 2016

The Human Cost of the Energy Transition

An 81 year old Spaniard has died from suffocation after she resorted to using candles due to being unable to afford to pay her electricity bill.  Spain has one of the largest renewable energy sectors in the world. Last year, total investments came to € 5 billion and most recently George Soros was looking to get a piece of the action. At the same time, Spain ranks as having the 4th most expensive electricity in EU,  just behind Ireland. Der Spiegel reports that according to a study 7000 Spaniards died in 2014 due to the effects of energy poverty. These unnecessary deaths come at a time of record low oil and gas prices. 

Yet somehow, the media narrative is that the people questioning the Energy Transition are bad people, while the people who have no problem with sacrificing old people to the green altar are inherently good people. 

Everybody knows that if they used a fraction of the money being spent on renewables and more electricity generation on insulating people's homes, there would be far less deaths. But of course in the EU, lobbyists must get their way.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

CO2 Is Not A Pollutant

Back in 1922, CO2 was not considered a pollutant, but beneficial for crops :

Friday 11 November 2016

The End of the Traditional Media ?

                                            Humans are 90% irrational - Scott Adams

It's been an extraordinary year in politics as event after event proved the "experts" and the media wrong. The above article appeared in an Irish newspaper back in August. The article below about climate change appeared in the same newspaper a week later. Both pieces suffer from a distinct lack of critical analysis and instead focus mostly on emotion and even hysteria. This approach does sell newspapers as Scott Adams says humans are mostly irrational. Once the irrational idea that Trump could not win the election took hold, this then evolved into a mass hysteria where even the bookmakers became hoodwinked. Not alone did they lose big on the Trump victory, they paid out on a Trump defeat before the actual result came in ! Rational and clear analysis becomes almost impossible in such an environment and even intelligent people succumb.

In such environments (mostly created by the media), the media will seek to reinforce how we feel about the issue by saying "Relax" or in the case of the climate "Worry". At this stage, we have moved from being 90% irrational to 100% irrational. All doubt has been removed. Only the sudden shock of reality can make us see sense.

Back in 1968, an English man had the crazy idea about transferring news and information across wires and into TV screens and even on to computers. It turned out to be very prescient.   


The internet means you can get different opinions and analysis and make up your own mind. If you prefer the emotive stuff, you can still find that online. If you prefer critical analysis and debate then you can find that too which before was not as accessible. Articles can be instantly fact-checked and updated to give the most accurate assessment at that time.  

President Elect Trump had a significant online presence, much bigger than that of his opponent. Turns out that was not something to "Relax" about. The old print media is now looking increasingly irrelevant.  We may be seeing it going extinct in the near future. Something they will certainly be "worried" about.

Saturday 5 November 2016

Little Evidence for Wetter Winters

The researchers believe there is plenty of data to show we will also have a much stormier future. “We have seen the trends and they agree with the models,” Dr Murphy says. “All we have to do is look at the extremes – for example, the flooding from last year. It could be anything from 10 per cent to 40 per cent wetter in winter [Irish Times].”

 Scientific theories should always be based on long term evidence and data.  Stating that the flooding was bad last year is not science. In fact, it's the exact opposite of science. Yes, last winter was exceptionally wet. But only three of the past eight winters had above average rainfall i.e 37%. The conventional narrative is that winters are getting progressively wetter but in fact it's the opposite.   Almost two in three winters now in Ireland are drier than the long term average. This can all be checked on Met Eireann website  (although I notice that it's harder to find the archived reports than it used to be). 

So the great delusion goes on. We are all expected to join in and pay up. Dissenters are ostracized.  We have to spend millions to satisfy how some people feel because last winter was a bad winter. Just like 1930 was a bad winter. The difference is in the 1930s the authorities looked at dredging the rivers as the solution :

•    Winters in Ireland 2009-2015

•    Winter 2016

SEA Video

Here is a nice video on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) produced by UNECE. I notice the word "health" comes up a lot. Could this be the reason why the Irish authorities bypassed it ? The adverse health effects of wind farms on humans is well known now. 

There is a recent European Court case ruling out on the SEA which means that an SEA must be done before wind farm guidelines are issued. So perhaps now human health will have to be considered. 

Monday 24 October 2016

Cold Winter Could Spell Disaster for EU's energy policy

There are significant signs that a cold winter is on the way for Northern Europe. The Polar Vortex is notably very weak for this time of the year. This means a weak jetstream, eastern winds and a cold winter. During the previous two winters we had a strong jetstream and strong westerlies, which explains why they were so mild. The Polar Vortex looked very different at this time of the year to what it looks like now i.e. much stronger. While Europe had mild winters, America had cold severe winters :

Coupled with the current weak Polar Vortex is a projected negative Atlantic Oscillation. There were also signs of a cold winter back in August when heavy snow fell in Germany to an extent not seen since 2009.

The problem for Europe in the event of a severe winter is inadequate generation capacity. France will be shutting down five of its nuclear reactors over the coming months.  This creates a big problem because other countries that have invested heavily in renewables are dependent on French imports. 

Comparing the French grid for October 2016 Vs October 2015 shows up a change in imports / exports profile :

You can see that last year, France was exporting large amounts of power whereas this year it is exporting much less and indeed importing half of the time. Belgium has also been having problems with their nuclear fleet recently. Spain which was importing up to 2GW this time last year is now exporting most of the time. Germany are also full time net exporters. This can change if output from renewables declines in these countries.

A cold winter accompanied by high pressure and low winds will put the Energy Union to the ultimate test. 

Sunday 9 October 2016

Valentia Observatory Records Record Rainfall

On October 4th, Valentia Observatory recorded it's highest level of rainfall in a single day since the station opened 150 years ago. There was 105.5mm of rain in 24 hours. The same station also recorded it's wettest September in 10 years and December 2015 was the wettest December on record.  However, May 2016 was a remarkably dry month, well below average.

To get the bigger picture to see what is going on, I've taken a look at mean air temperature records. 

Previous very wet years were 1924, 1930, 1946, 19472002, 2008 and 2009. Is there a trend of floods and heavy rainfall occurring directly after years of warming ?

The past five years were cooler than the warming peak of the 2000's. We will have to see how 2016 plays out. So far, 2016 is over half a degree warmer than 2015 (up to September). This makes 2016 warmer than any of the last five years but still cooler than the 2000s. 

The sea surface temperature maps still show a large body of cool water out in the Atlantic :

Compare with 2006 and 2007 :

A colder Atlantic would normally mean a colder winter in Ireland. 

Monday 3 October 2016

Curtailment Payments to Wind Farms will Increase Over Winter

From Irish Independent

The compensation will be based on the market price per megawatt of power produced, which is currently at around €50. If an operator could not transmit 100MW, they would be entitled to €5,000. "There is no doubt that at some stage over the coming months we will have to curtail," a source said.

The unavailability of the East West interconnector also means that Eirgrid will have to revise their Winter Outlook :

The capacity margin of 3199 shows how much spare capacity we have over and above demand. This can now be reduced to 2699 with the loss of the interconnector. The Danes generally assume that wind has a capacity credit of zero whereas Eirgrid assume a 14% figure for Irish wind. If we get a prolonged period of High Pressure, then the output of wind will be close to zero and will contribute nothing to adequate capacity. So that leaves a capacity margin of 2,266 MW. If the winter takes a sudden cold turn, then that will put added pressure on this margin as demand rises. 

Climate Saint Mary Robinson says "Eat Less Meat"

From Irish Independent

Meanwhile back in the real world, the skies over County Cavan, Ireland yesterday :

If you look closely, you can even spot Saint Robinson's plane on the way to Mayo.

Monday 26 September 2016

Grid Costs Set to Rise to Meet 2020 Targets

Grid costs will cost households and businesses an additional € 354 million next year as part of a large rollout of grid and transmission networks. The Energy Regulator explains :

The five years from 2016 to 2020 will require continued investment in the transmission system and delivering ongoing infrastructure projects. The PR3 period was characterised by the initiation of a large scale infrastructure delivery programme in order to meet 2020 renewable generation targets

So the transition to the green economy doesn't involve dismantling of the existing fossil fuel system. Instead, it means adding capacity and grid infrastructure paid for by you and me. This is fast turning into a gravy train for whoever has the best idea for extracting more money from electricity bills, or in economic terms, a bubble. 

The same is happening elsewhere in Europe. In Germany, grid costs will soon rise by a whopping 45%-80% as network infrastructure struggles to keep up with all the additional capacity :

There is no going back now. We have committed ourselves to a crazy energy policy. No wonder the European Union is no longer as popular as it used to be.

Thursday 22 September 2016

Rise in Ireland's Electricity Generation CO2 Emissions

SEAI have published the latest details on CO2 emissions in Ireland. Electricity generation emissions have risen in 2015 because of a rise in coal consumed in Moneypoint.

The graph is slightly misleading for a couple of reasons. It uses a simplified modelling system that doesn't take full account of increased cycling and ramping from back up generators. Hence the disclaimer on Page 26 :

There are clear limitations in this analysis but it does provide useful indicative results. 

The cycling effects are certainly not small as stated on Page 21 - see here for an analysis

In reality, the cycling effects increase as more wind is added so the CO2 per kWh of electricity may be fairly accurate back in say 2010 but starts getting progressively worse by 2015. 

The other problem is that by the end of 2012, the East West Interconnector was up and running sending Co2 free power to Ireland throughout 2013 and after that. This is because emissions are counted in the country of origin, in this case the UK. No account seems to be taken in the graph above of this. There is no Imports (avoided) in the legend.

Lastly, as stated recently on this blog, use of diesel generators is becoming more common with increased intermittent wind power, and is now at about 230MW capacity. I can't find any reference to them in the SEAI paper so presumably they are not included. 

Monday 12 September 2016

Over 40% of Wind Energy Shutdown Last Night


Last night, over 40% of wind energy produced was shutdown or curtailed during a spell of gale force winds across the island of Ireland. This episode clearly shows the limitations of relying too much on an intermittent source of energy like wind. Billions of euros worth of turbine installations become worthless at both low wind and at high wind.   

Figure 1

The reason for the shutdown of so many wind turbines can be clearly seen in the System Frequency charts before and after the wind shutdown. 

As the gales gathered in strength on Sunday evening, maintaining the frequency of the grid became more difficult :

Figure 2

The zig zag patterns in the Figure 2 show how frequency fluctuated between 49.9 and 50.1 Hz. The dips represent periods of too much wind when system inertia drops (due to lack of conventional generation such as coal or gas). Should frequency drop below 49.7 Hz then a blackout may occur, so Eirgrid rectified this by shutting down some of the wind and allowing more conventional generation into the system. The frequency then rises again to 50Hz. Gas turbines are forced to ramp up and down more often to maintain system stability during such periods thus pushing emissions up and negating some of the benefits of  having all the wind in the first place. 

Figure 3

Figure 3 shows what happened when over 40% of the wind output was shutdown and there was more manageable levels of wind, in this case about 1,500MW. The frequency is very stable and there is little risk of blackouts. This has been normality in the grid for many years. Compare it with Figure 2. This is the future. It will certainly test engineering skills to it's limits. Gas turbines will have to function under greater strain than before. It will cost a lot of money. There can no longer be a guarantee that the electric kettle will boil when you want it to. 

The other option Eirgrid have to maintain a stable frequency in these situations is to cut demand - which is in effect a blackout under another name. The future is renewable. The future is green. I'm at a loss to figure out how this is "progress".