Tuesday 22 March 2016

Brexit and the North South Interconnector

With recent Brexit polls in the UK showing the Leave side just ahead, I wonder what this will mean for the North South Interconnector project. Should UK leave the EU, then Northern Ireland will be free to decide how they deal with their generation capacity shortage themselves. Currently, EU Regulations are forcing restrictions on fossil fuel plant in Northern Ireland and diverting investment to unreliable renewables. Once outside the EU, NI could free themselves from these restrictions and simply build whatever conventional generation capacity is required to fill their capacity shortage.

Under these circumstances, the € 286 million interconnector project would be lying idle most of the time. If anything, Ireland would be importing the cheaper electricity from NI, not the other way around as is the current intention.

The justifications for this project are seriously undermined in the event of Brexit.

Thursday 17 March 2016

New Report on Biomass

BW Energy have published a new report on the attractiveness of biomass for Ireland as a means of achieving our 2020 targets rather than continuing with expensive and unreliable wind energy. The report can be accessed here :

Unlocking Ireland’s biomass potential –converting Moneypoint coal fired power station to sustainable biomass.

There are many interesting points made and two which really stuck out at me :

• Ireland has the best growing climate for forestry in Europe with substantial scope to expand due to low forest cover. With around 730,000 hectares under forest, Ireland is one of the least forested countries in the European Union (11% cover compared to an average of 18%) despite its climatic conditions being the best for biomass production. Indeed, according to the Paterson Climatic Index Ireland scores 10 ha/m3 annual biomass production potential whilst Finland, where 18% of energy is produced by biomass , rates only 3.8ha/m3 .

• According to the SEAI in 2011, 0.5 million m3 of forestry thinnings – a key potential source of sustainable biomass - was left uncollected on the Irish forest floor.

I've written about the advantages of biomass over wind energy here before - it provides dispatchable power, can be stored, not as weather dependent as wind, displacement of coal rather than gas etc. One thing the report doesnt really address is the increased use of oil as a result of harvesting the biomass but wind energy also increases dependence on oil. Indeed, Eirgrid have recently stated that capacity of demand side units, a fancy name for industrial diesel generators,  have reached 230MW and is set to increase further (this after ESB closed down most of it's oil generating power stations!).

Installing more wind energy will certainly increase reliance on fast acting generators like diesel and open gas cycle turbines. Given that the agricultural industry is dependent on oil anyway, transferring 8% of total land to biomass production, probably won't change total oil dependence in the agricultural sector overall (and possibly there will be scope for some biofuels when biomass industry is up and running).

Biomass has been tried before in Ireland. In the late 70s, we signed an international agreement to run biomass trials for energy conversion :

Grants were given by the then EEC, and ESB and Bord Na Mona became interested in developing it. Crops grew quite well in good soil conditions but the planting of bogs became a complete failure. Biomass was ultimately abandoned in 1985. Des O'Malley's (Fianna Fail) nuclear plans were scuppered by Fine Gael in the early 80's who favoured coal power instead. Moneypoint power station very nearly ended up been powered by much cleaner and lower emitting nuclear energy but ended up coal fired in the end. 

There is now a possibility of making amends for this and converting Moneypoint to biomass if BW Energy's plan turn out robust enough (I can't see too much wrong with it). The following article describes how the biomass trials failed in the late 70s / early 80s and argues that it was in fact a missed opportunity rather than a failure in biomass as a technology. Are we to miss that opportunity once again because of adherence to lesser technologies ?

Biomass Energy Crops - What Went Wrong (Irish Times, 1986 - click to expand)

Sunday 13 March 2016

Sunfish in Ireland : Evidence Of Climate Change ?

Climate change is a cultural phenomenon which whips all types of people into an hysteria. Single generational anecdotes are taken as yet more signs of ominous changes in the climate - "I've lived here for 30/40/50/60 years and never seen anything like it" type stories relate to such a small timescale that they can give but little or no insight into long term fluctuations in our climate. Then, there is also the problem of eyewitness testimony which often cannot be relied on for recent events, let alone events of 40 or 50 years ago. The most famous example of this is the Selective Attention Test. But these stories sell papers and most scientists are eager to endorse them.

The National Geographic describe sunfish or mola as :

Mola are found in temperate and tropical oceans around the world. They are frequently seen basking in the sun near the surface and are often mistaken for sharks when their huge dorsal fins emerge above the water. Their teeth are fused into a beak-like structure, and they are unable to fully close their relatively small mouths.

According to the Irish Examiner, "Ocean sunfish are uncommon but certainly not unknown in our waters, where the winter average is 10C on the south coast, and 7C on the north. However, it may be 16C along southwest coasts in August. Some scientists hold that warming seas seduce them north from tropical waters". 

Every few years, an anecdote about sightings of sunfish and the connection with climate change pops up in the Irish media :

‘Irish Times’ anglers gain rare sighting of a school of sunfish (2014)

In 40 years fishing in the waters off Cobh, Co Cork, local skipper Donal Geary has never witnessed 
such a spectacle as 5 sunfish swimming within six metres of his boat.
CLIMATE change was much in evidence last weekend as five sunfish (yes five) came within six metres 
of our boat while fishing out from Cobh in Co Cork. Donal Geary, skipper of John Boy, said: 
“In all of my 40 years of fishing these waters I have never seen such a spectacle.”

In 2007, sunfish were been tagged around Ireland and were thought to "represent a good biological indicator of climate change" :

"This research has very important implications for Ireland as a whole as sunfish may represent a good biological indicator of climatic change; that is, if sunfish sightings increase dramatically it may be a clear sign that our waters are warming and our climate is changing," said Dr Doyle.

And again from 2014, Michael Viney attributes "a recent surge in sightings" to climate change  :

Climate change and the drift of jellyfish may explain a recent surge in sightings of nature’s biggest bony fish

We can see from Valentia, one of the most reliable temperature records in Ireland and Europe, that there was an increase in temperatures since the late 1980s. But there was also a similar warming during the 1890s : 

The following newspaper article comes from 1899 and describes "strange visitors" to the shores of Ireland due to the hot weather :

In 1898, plans were underway to widen the Grand Canal to allow steamers export Irish food and produce to Dublin and England in faster time.  The Seas around Ireland were described as teeming with fish at the time - mackerel and herring would not come as a surprise - but the papers at the time also include references to the Western coast teeming with our tropical friend - the sunfish :

The late 1940s was also a warm period. Again we get references from that time to the proliferation of sunfish on the western coast of Ireland  :

The truth is that sunfish have been common in the waters around the West Coast of Ireland for at least the last 100 years and most likely much longer than that. The West Coast of Ireland benefits enormously from the North Atlantic Drift which brings warm currents from the Gulf Stream. It is this current which brings the sunfish to our waters, not climate change. 

Climate alarmists have long warned that climate change will turn off this current due to more rainfall and Arctic ice melting. Thus, climate change should lead to colder, pre North Atlantic Drift, Irish seas. Therefore, if climate change is actually occurring, the numbers of sunfish along the Irish Coast should be decreasing, not increasing.

Once again, climate alarmists want to have their cake and eat it. Anything goes when under the banner of climate change - warmer, colder, rising, falling, increases, decreases etc. If Arctic Ice is melting, then surely Irish seas should be getting colder ? The proliferation of sunfish along the coasts of Ireland is due to natural processes and variations. Should we see them disappearing, then we might get worried.

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Wind Energy Provides Just 3.5% of Electricity on Coldest Day of the Winter

  • The National Smart Metering Programme aims to fundamentally transform the range of consumer services, technologies and options on offer, with more sophisticated services for consumers who choose dynamic tariffs along with smart home technologies. For example, at times of very high wind generation, domestic hot water or heating systems will be incentivised to switch on and then turn down when wind generation drops - White Paper on Energy

According to Met Eireann, February 24th was the coldest day of the 2015/16 winter :

Demand for electricity was at its highest as people came in from work at 6pm :

Wind energy was providing just 3.5% of peak demand (209MW / 5,891MW). 

Smart Meters will soon be switching off hot water and heating in your home on very cold days like this one. Voters in their thousands are voting for their own funeral. The Irish media glorify the green cause. The future is cold and bleak and "green".

Thursday 3 March 2016

A Trillion Here, A Trillion There

Ireland has a lot of problems at the moment, none more urgent than the homelessness, hospital and police crises. While the government will claim that lack of resources is the root cause of these problems, will they have a problem in finding money when it comes to the Green cause which has taken root in Europe and America ?

This article from Standpoint Magazine explains the amounts involved :
Between now and 2020, the Green Climate Fund is supposed to transfer at least $100 billion a year in support of developing nations’ decarbonisation efforts. Before COP21 opened, the GCF had received pledges of $70 million (0.07 per cent of the total). Undaunted, Christiana Figueres, the Costa Rican Marxist academic who is nominally in charge of COP21, now suggests that the developed world should transfer $1 trillion a year. To adapt the late Senator Everett Dirksen: “A trillion here, a trillion there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.”
Funny enough, I don't remember voting on this.

Unfortunately, I cant find it online, but there was a nice graph produced by RTE from their Election 2016 exit poll. It showed a list of issues which concerned voters but the issue of climate change was nowhere to be seen on that list.

While it is true that Ireland has pledged very little so far (about € 2 million and another € 34m in climate related foreign aid), pressure is now on the government to ramp up its "climate finance":
We propose the establishment of a Climate Justice Fund which would be financed from relevant revenue streams such as the Carbon Tax and from ETS auctioning and use this money to meet Ireland’s international climate finance obligations. The establishment of a Climate Justice Fund would serve to ensure Ireland meets its fair share of obligations to provide climate finance without diverting funds from Overseas Development Aid (ODA). It would also allow Ireland to continue to set an example by prioritising adaptation in its climate finance contributions.

Ireland pledged € 175million at the COP21 agreement for 2016-2020. Most likely the carbon tax will be hiked upwards by the new government to pay for it. So poor people in Ireland, who will be pushed further into fuel poverty, will be sending money over to poor people elsewhere, if it ever reaches them.

Climate economics just doesn't add up.