Saturday 23 March 2019

Wind Industry Admits Wind Energy Costs Money

But claim only as little as €1 per person

A recent Irish Wind Energy Association report has stated that the total net cost of wind energy to the consumer has been one euro per person per year since 2000. It is an interesting report for a number of reasons, not least, that this is the first time the wind industry in Ireland have admitted that wind energy costs money. 

The total cost calculated was €0.1bn, but this includes savings from not having to pay EU fines of € 0.7bn. Since it now looks like we will miss our targets regardless of how much more Ireland invests in wind (and unlikely in any event that the EU will impose fines on Member States), the actual cost then of wind energy according to the report was €0.8bn , eight times the cost claimed.  

Their calculations were based on wholesale price and capacity payments savings of €2.5bn  on one side and costs of €3.3bn on the other side arising from the PSO Levy, DS3, grid investment and constraint costs. This is the first time that the wind industry have acknowledged that these last three costs are directly related to increased levels of wind. This blog has argued that they should be included as wind related costs for many years now. 

I have shown before that the link between higher levels of wind and lower wholesale prices is tenuous. Wholesale prices are actually rising as investment in wind is at it's peak. The wind industry report used models to calculate their wholesale price savings rather than real data. I can no longer find any real time pricing data on the new SEMO website.  But if it is really the case that wind has led to €2.3bn in wholesale price savings plus €200m in capacity payments savings, then that means that power stations have taken a hit of €2.5bn over the 20 year period, with some additional revenue of €0.5bn from additional constraint payments. So about €2bn in lost revenue, the equivalent of about one whole year of wholesale payments lost to fossil fuel generators.  There is some evidence that has come out in recent days that shows that power stations are now losing money. Last year, ESB were forced to write down the value of two of their power stations. 

Finally, the report admits what I've been writing about for years, that only 10-11% of wind energy can be relied on as equivalent conventional capacity (capacity credit) :

The rate at which wind capacity reduces the capacity requirement is defined by the wind capacity credit, which is around 11% of installed wind capacity.

Under the I-SEM capacity market rules, wind receives a capacity credit of about 10% and OCGTs a capacity credit of about 92%. This means that 1 GW of wind is replaced by 109 MW (= 1 GW * (10% / 92%) of OCGTs.

The Wind Aware Ireland report goes into detail on the various wind related costs (they calculated a cost of € 1.2bn per year). I do not want to rehash all of those points, for those interested you can read the report here. But for further proof that costs across the board are increasing every year as more wind is added, one need look no further than the recent Ancillary Systems Services Report released by Eirgrid. When compared with the same report from three years ago, the costs to maintain back up reserves has more than doubled :

The full IWEA report can be read here.

Saturday 9 March 2019

Emissions will Soar with Net Migration Targets of 30,000 per annum

This type of scenario is addressed by the expert group's high-range population growth scenario, which is based on average net migration of 30,000 people per annum into Ireland, every year to 2040 and beyond.

The housing minister stated last week that net migration into Ireland will be 30,000 per annum.   This will require up to 35,000 houses to be built every year to keep up with demand. 

Even though the number of houses built last year was greater that in any other year this decade, we think a reasonable target is 25,000 this year, 30,000 next year and 35,000 the following year.

It seems to be stating the obvious to say that this will have a knock on effect on emissions for Ireland but neither the media or the government in Ireland have recognized this. 

Net migration of 30,000 per year till 2040 means an additional 600,000 people, the population of Cork, that will enter Ireland. The 2040 plan has very optimistic targets for emissions without any account taken of the main objective of the plan - mass immigration.
an aggregate reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of at least 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors. In parallel, an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production. 

Saturday 2 March 2019

Alternative Renewables - Waste to Energy

Dates : 12th and 13th January, 2019 [Source SEM-O] 
As the renewable energy programme has proceeded in Ireland without any form of supporting analysis, there has never been a proper economic assessment of the cost of reducing carbon emissions, using wind energy or any of the other ten sources of renewable energy listed in Directive 2009/28/EC.

Indeed, of the eleven different sources of renewable energy defined in the 2009 Directive, many are of a diffuse nature and more suited to being applied for heat energy rather than the generation of electricity. An example of this being the use of solar energy for water heating, which is a simple technology approach, such as circulating water through evacuated glass tubes.

Typical well-installed systems provide up to 60% of hot water demand over 12 months [SEAI].

The cost effectiveness of this approach can be determined from the fact that such installations were in use even before grants for their installation became available, as could also be said in relation to biomass (wood based) heating systems and aerothermal and geothermal systems for space heating.

If we consider a Waste to Energy (WtE) plant, the waste is combusted at a minimum temperature of 850 C producing in the boiler high pressure steam for electricity generation and hot water for use in district heating. Some 50% of the waste is of biogenic origin (biomass) and therefore 50% of energy produced is from a renewable source.

If this waste had instead gone to landfill, the biogenic fraction would have rotted and produced methane, which is a global warming gas with a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 28 – 36 over 100 years. In other words it is some 28 to 36 times more potent than carbon dioxide. While the landfill gas collection system would have captured some of this methane for combustion in gas engines, figures show that of the order of 40% is directly released to atmosphere. In a WtE plant, the heat and mass balance shows 810 kWh of electricity produced per tonne of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) combusted with about 0.72 kg biogenic CO2 and 0.53 kg fossil CO2 per kWh of direct emissions.

In the same timeframe that a 2004 report by ESB was stating that utilising a low penetration of wind energy to reduce a tonne of carbon dioxide was €120, it was being reported that the cost to avoid 1 tonne of CO2 with WtE was about €43, whereas the costs to avoid 1 tonne of CO2 with (other) biomass was €80. Indeed, if district heating systems are used in addition to solely electrical outputs, then this WtE CO2 avoidance cost reduces to the range €7 to €20.

It is therefore very difficult to reconcile these values with the claims made by many greens in Ireland, which are provided without any supporting evidence, that wind energy represents Ireland’s “cheapest renewable electricity resource”. But there is also evidence that increasing amounts of wind energy is discriminating against other forms of renewable energy.

The figure at the top of this article shows the relevant capacity factors for wind energy in Ireland and a Waste to Energy plant in Co. Meath over two days in January 2019. This facility treats some 200,000 tonnes of MSW per annum, with an electricity output of 18 MW, which was until recently a continuous output, with over 50% being classified as renewable. Outside of a short annual maintenance period this output is continuous so the WtE developer could in this case justifiably claim that this 18 MW is “enough to power more than 22,000 homes

Yet there was so much wind energy on the grid on the 12th and 13th January that other generators had to be taken off line and kept on hot standby ready to ramp up, when the inevitable happened and the wind dropped. This can be clearly seen in the graph, where the WtE plant had to be taken off the grid for extended periods. However, such a waste to energy plant can’t be simply throttled back, the waste is still arriving and the furnace temperature has to be kept at a minimum of 850 C. Instead the steam generated simply has to be dumped into the plant’s cooling system rather than be used to generate steam. Not only is this a loss of revenue to the WtE operator, but it is reflected in resulting higher costs for waste disposal of those using that facility.

It could be argued that discrimination is occurring, in that renewable energy produced at the WtE plant, in a far more reliable and cost effective manner, now has to be dumped to facilitate ever more wind energy being placed on the grid. Wind energy, which by its highly variable and intermittent nature is deeply flawed for the production of significant amounts of electricity. Indeed, as is shown above, this wind output basically isn’t there when it is needed for days on end and then it floods the grid for a short period with high inputs. This can only be managed by discriminating against other users, including those which are lower cost and more reliable renewable inputs. It is also fair to say that this is what you get, when you allow a ‘wild west’ of wind farm developments, without any analysis, without any assessments or without any of the legally required rules to ensure that authorisation is transparent, proportionate and does not discriminate between individual renewable technologies.