Wednesday 26 December 2018

Ireland Exporting Fossil Fuel Power

According to Eirgrid's East West Interconnector brochure, one of the benefits of the interconnector to UK is that it "facilitates growth in renewable energy".  What is not often mentioned is that sometimes we in Ireland are actually exporting fossil fuel power through the interconnector. During the recent summer, when there was little or no wind, the interconnector was doing just this most of the time -  exporting fossil fuel electricity generated in Ireland to the UK :
The period of low wind this summer

Because of EU emission rules, the carbon emissions for these exports will be counted in Ireland, the country of origin, which will benefit UK with emission free electricity. 

Saturday 22 December 2018

Increase in Irish Foreign Aid Ignores Real Problems in Africa

The Irish government intends to increase foreign aid even though current spending is massive for a small country like Ireland at  € 742 million per year. Most of the media and politicians do not seem to care that the problems in places like Africa are complex and cannot be solved by yet more foreign money. The Irish government have long held a simple maxim - if there's a problem, throw more money at it (see our health sector), rather than attempting to understand the root causes and build solutions from there. Recently, African leaders have highlighted some of these root causes but only Dublin politician Maureen O'Sullivan dared to raise them in the Irish parliament :

At a recent event in Dublin, the Rwandan ambassador made the point that $63 billion in illicit flows leaves the developing world. That is more than the foreign direct investment and aid going into those developing countries. Policy coherence would mean Ireland taking meaningful steps on tax justice. The Tánaiste may say that we got rid of the single malt, which is positive but it does not go far enough. What was needed was to take the steps the BEPS process has designed to tackle the underlying problem and prevent replacement structures emerging.
The policy incoherence is also seen in trade treaties in the imbalance between what the developed country gains and the minor gains for the developing world. For example, the Ireland-Ghana tax treaty prevents Ghana taxing the capital gains of mines, factories and large businesses owned by Irish companies. No spillover analysis was done prior to the treaty, which allowed for that and other examples of unfairness [link].

The President of Ghana, a country with some of the best farming and mineral resources in the world, recently told Macron that he wanted to move Africa away from being a dependent nation - "beyond aid". For President Akufo-Addo, the loss of Africa's best youth to Europe is something to mourn, not something that should be celebrated and encouraged, which seems to be the attitude of NGOs in Europe.

Why aren't governments listening to African leaders ? Well for a start there are the financial incentives in maintaining the foreign aid industry rather than helping to fix the underlying problemsIrish NGOs receive €5.5 billion per year from the Irish taxpayer.  The tax treaties are benefiting Irish companies operating in Africa. What of cocoa, one of Africa's largest raw material exports ? Europe dominates the worldwide chocolate market. It is Europe's top processed crop export and Europe is also the world's largest producer and exporter of chocolate. While Africa exports the vast majority of cocoa beans to Europe, it's share of global chocolate exports is less than 1%. There is significant room to increase chocolate production in Africa, could the foreign aid money be used to help local entrepreneurs there? Imagine Ireland's economy without the food production industry and we can begin to understand the challenges facing Africa.   

There is a long way to go to make Africa go "beyond aid", but it requires new thinking, rather than the old outdated aid industry, to fix it.

Sunday 16 December 2018

Colombian Mine Hypocrisy

The green movement in Ireland have in recent months drawn attention to human rights abuses in a Colombian coal mine where Ireland imports coal for Moneypoint power station. The matter has been raised in the Irish parliament (The Dail) and there are calls to shutdown Moneypoint before it's planned closure in 2025. As this blog has recently shown, this would lead to increased dependence on gas imports as our significant wind energy infrastructure is incapable of replacing Moneypoint.

While these issues are concerning, one has to ask the question as to why the human rights abuses and environmental damage taking place in China, where rare earths are processed for use in wind turbines and electric cars, is also not being highlighted in the Dail. 

The first picture is of the coal mine in Colombia. The second picture is of a radioactive acid lake in China beside a rare earth processing plant.  

The lake of toxic waste at Baotou, China, which as been dumped by the rare earth processing plants in the background

Saturday 1 December 2018

Replacing Moneypoint Coal Power Station - Real World Example

By Owen Martin

Image result for moneypoint coal fired power station

Moneypoint coal fired power station was built in 1985 and has been operating ever since, making it quite possibly one of the most successful capital projects ever in Ireland. It has three generating units, each with a capacity of 285MW, making it the largest single power station in the country (total output 855MW). All three of the units suffered forced (or unexpected) outages this year. This blog article will look at what happened when the final unit went offline on the 26th September at 11pm. 

Firstly, it is important to point out that Moneypoint is required to be on load (or online) at all times to support the 400kv network from the West to the high demand centre in the East (see graph here).  This means that when Moneypoint is no longer operating, something else must be ready to instantly step in to replace it. 

It is often claimed that renewables can replace Moneypoint. On the 25th September, wind energy was at very high levels at over 2,000MW. But during the 26th, it declined steadily to below 500MW. Prior to the Moneypoint outage, wind began rising again reaching around 700MW at 11pm. So between 70-75% of wind power  had dissipated within twenty four hours. By the 29th, it had fallen to almost zero. Wind energy's intermittency is one of the main reasons why it can never replace a power station. Just when wind energy was needed the most, it was not able to deliver.

There is another more technical reason why wind cannot replace a power station which is explained in more detail here. In short, a certain amount of conventional power stations must be kept running to maintain a stable grid.

We can see in the below graph, that the back up plant that replaced Moneypoint was Tynagh gas powered station (CCGT) in County Galway.

Like any gas powered station, Tynagh can be switched on and off as required i.e dispatchable. An interactive presentation of the gas and steam turbine is available here. Since replacing moneypoint, the plant has itself tripped three times with the latest trip due to "high exhaust temperature". 

Mechanical faults are common to both fossil fuel and renewable plant, the crucial difference is that intermittency only occurs with renewables. The above staggered profile of Tynagh (in red) is very similar to that of another gas plant - Great Island, which you can see in a previous post on this blog. It could be that ramping the generator up and down like this leads to mechanical problems.

A recent report by Dublin City University titled "Is Natural Gas Essential for Ireland's Future Energy Security"  stated :

In contrast, we argue that by far the best way to address both Irish energy security and the pressing need for rapid decarbonisation is to constrain and reduce energy consumption (through efficiency measures and/or absolute reductions in energy services) and to directly exit from the use of all fossil fuels, including natural gas, as quickly as is safely feasible, replacing them by indigenous zero- or (potentially) negative-carbon energy resources to the maximum possible extent.
The recent closure of Moneypoint and it's replacement by Tynagh gas powered station shows that even with large amounts of renewable capacity available (in this case wind), back up gas powered stations are still a necessity for the foreseeable future. 

Saturday 24 November 2018

New Energy Minister Scare-Mongers About Fines

by Pat Swords

Scare mongering about fines seems to be all the fashion these days. However, let's face it, the fact that the renewable programme was so dysfunctional that they couldn't get it to work was really their fault, if they had done an SEA and Regulatory Impact Analysis, as they were legally required, they would have found out before they started that it wasn't going to work. 

However, there is another angle to that, namely Article 4(4) of the Directive:
  • 4.   A Member State whose share of energy from renewable sources fell below the indicative trajectory in the immediately preceding two-year period set out in part B of Annex I, shall submit an amended national renewable energy action plan to the Commission by 30 June of the following year, setting out adequate and proportionate measures to rejoin, within a reasonable timetable, the indicative trajectory in part B of Annex I.
  • The Commission may, if the Member State has not met the indicative trajectory by a limited margin, and taking due account of the current and future measures taken by the Member State, adopt a decision to release the Member State from the obligation to submit an amended national renewable energy action plan.
I was pointing this out in my recent correspondence to UNECE, Ireland has fallen way behind its NREAP trajectory, so has the Netherlands.

The European Environment Agency has just recently updated its webpage with an analysis for each Member State based on 2017 data - click on a country and then scroll the tab until you get to Progress on Renewable Energy:

So Ireland in 2017 was 10.8% (they squeezed a bit more!) but versus 11.9% in NREAP Trajectory. In 2016 it was 9.5% versus 10.7%. Bottom line, they should be doing a new NREAP with proper SEA, etc., as the graph below shows they have been below the target now for several years and not getting any nearer to catching up with it. So where is that legally required new NREAP? There is no point in threatening us the public with fines, when the reason they are in a mess is a failure to properly comply with the law and come up with something, which wasn't so dysfunctional.

The Netherlands are doing even worse than Ireland :

France's situation is deteriorating also :  

Luxembourg hasn't a hope of catching up :

Malta's gap just got huge :

Cyprus is actually going downhill, must have been some dodgy previous reporting there : 

Slovenia is also going downhill :

The sensible Poles just don't seemed to be bothered about this silly renewable programme anymore :

Thursday 15 November 2018

New Gas Plant Suffers Outage

The Waterford power station will be out of action till the end of the year

Great Island combined cycle gas powered station (CCGT) was commissioned in 2015. The power station is one of the most efficient in the country and replaced the older fuel oil plant on the same site in County Waterford.  On 25th October, it suffered a forced outage, and is expected to be offline till the end of December. Since Moneypoint is also offline at the same time, these are testing times for Eirgrid, the system operator. 

The power station has a capacity of 464MW, which leaves a capacity margin of 1,329MW from now until the week before Christmas when it's expected that two of the coal powered units at Moneypoint will be back online.

This will be the lowest capacity margin in recent years (the capacity margin is the proportion by which the total expected available generation exceeds the maximum expected level of electricity demand, at the time at which that demand occurs).  This blog recently reported that only 10% of our 2,000 or so wind turbines can be relied on over the winter period to deliver reliable power and therefore it will be fossil fuels that will be required to keep the lights on. 

It is difficult to say exactly what may have caused the outage. It can be seen in the graph below that the power station was being cycled a lot in recent times which may have added to the wear and tear on the generator's turbines.