Wednesday, May 06, 2020

'Blown away': Safe climate niche closing fast, with billions at risk

Once again we have Green/Left loons ignoring half the story.  Where I live in sub-tropical Brisbane a summer temperature of 29 degrees is merely comfortable.  34 degrees is more typical of a summer's day.  And in the tropics proper even higher temperatures are common.  And yet life goes on there as normal.  The authors clearly have no idea of the range of normal human adaptability.  They should get out more

As much as one-third of the world's population will be exposed to Sahara Desert-like heat within half a century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at the pace of recent years.

Scientists from China, the US and Europe found that the narrow climate niche that has supported human society would shift more over the next 50 years than it had in the preceding 6000 years.

As many as 3.5 billion people will be exposed to "near-unliveable" temperatures averaging 29 degrees through the year by 2070. Less than 1 per cent of the Earth's surface now endures such heat.

That heat compares with the narrow 11- to 15-degree range that has supported civilisation over the past six millennia, according to research published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Absent climate mitigation or migration, a substantial part of humanity will be exposed to mean annual temperatures warmer than nearly anywhere today," the paper said.

The research extended current population and greenhouse gas emissions trends into the future, and excluded impacts from the coronavirus pandemic on both.

The researchers also considered possible rainfall changed. "The global pattern of population distribution seems less constrained by precipitation - while there is also an optimum around 1000 mm [of rainfall a year ] - so we focused on temperature," Dr Xu said. "Changes of precipitation regime would definitely have impacts, but such impacts together those of temperature change would be more complex to foresee."

Compared with pre-industrial-era conditions, temperatures globally will be about 3 degrees hotter by 2070. But as land warms faster than the oceans, the rise for people on average will be about 7.5 degrees, the paper found.


Jesse Jackson Stands up for Natural Gas Development in Struggling Community

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is bucking many of the environmentalists who believe natural gas production perpetuates a world in which climate change is disproportionately hurting black communities.

Jackson is prodding local, state, and federal officials in Illinois to okay the construction of a $8.2 million, 30-mile natural-gas pipeline built for a community, Axios noted in a report Monday addressing the reverend’s contrarian position.

The Pembroke, Illinois, pipeline would shuttle natural gas into an area of the state that suffers from high energy prices, according to Jackson.

“When we move to another form of energy, that’s fine by me, I support that,” Jackson told Axios in February as the issue began heating up. “But in the meantime, you cannot put the black farmers on hold until that day comes.”

Pembroke residents have a median income of $28,922 and rely on a combination of propane, wood stoves, and space heaters for heat during Illinois winters, media reports show.

Residents of the town want to know why other parts of Illinois have access to gas but they must rely on wood and propane.

“Everyone else has (gas service),” Levi, a 52-year-old construction worker and resident, told the Chicago Tribune in December 2019 as Jackson promoted the pipeline. “I’m unclear why it’s so hard for us to get it.”

Another resident–Cathy Vanderdyz, a city clerk in the area–told Axios that she pays between $500 and $800 to heat her home over a two-month period. Jackson got involved due in part to a request from Mark Hodge, mayor of Hopkins Park, a town in the area.

The mayor told Axios that businesses refuse to come to the area because local energy prices are too high.

“It’s not on my radar at this point, not to say in the future it would not be,” Hodges said of climate change. “My main concern is cutting our energy costs out here.” Customers have to pay for some of the cost of delivering such pipeline access under current regulations.

Pembroke residents must pay $3.2 million of the estimated total $8.2 million pipeline extension, according to Nicor Gas, the company behind the project. Each household would have to pay more than $8,000 upfront for access, Axios notes. Illinois’s state Legislature is considering a bill designating Pembroke as a “designated hardship area,” which would allow Nicor Gas to pay the entire cost.

Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, and National Urban League President Marc Morial have said in the past that they oppose an abrupt move away from fracking, a technique producers use to extract natural gas from shale. They said the technique for producing natural gas helps black people who struggle with high energy prices.

Morial, Jackson, and Sharpton’s comments came after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People warned its local chapters in 2019 that oil companies are supposedly trying to manipulate them into supporting their products.

Nearly 1 in 5 households are forced to go without food to pay their energy bill, the Energy Information Administration noted in a 2018 report.


Wind and solar add zero value to the grid

Why is wind power and solar power, not making significant gains in providing a substantial amount of renewable electricity? The US has utilized, in its energy mix, about eight percent of wind and two percent solar for more than a decade. The reason it is not growing requires an understanding of the fundamental elements, of an electrical grid.

The grid is the electrical industry’s term for all of the hardware and software needed to convert fuel into electricity. The electricity is distributed by wires, transformers, sub-stations, etc. to all of us. The system must ensure our safety from malfunctions, security to customers, and safety for the community.

For a simple example, let’s assume we are a local electric utility in Smallville, USA. It’s a town with a population of 50,000 and another 25,000 people in the surrounding farms, along with small factories, professional offices, shops, a hospital, bakeries, etc. Everyone in the area needs reliable and affordable electricity. Over the years, Smallville set up a modern grid to assure a 99.98 percent reliability. In order to guarantee that reliable availability, the community’s grid must have at least a 75 percent excess capability above the everyday norm. Twenty-five percent of the excess must be in the “spinning reserve mode,” another 25 percent must be in the “peaking mode,” and 25 percent in the “back-up mode.” Let’s examine each of these portions of the necessary reserves.

Spinning Reserve. If some malfunction happens at any time and shuts down a generating plant, a back-up plant needs to kick-in and pick up 100 percent of the lost power in seconds. If it’s a few seconds too late, the electrical demand will overwhelm the grid, causing a “brown-out,” or worse, a “blackout.” It’s as if all the customers of a bank show up at the same time, demanding to take out all their money immediately. It’s a disaster.

The only way to ensure that this blackout doesn’t happen is to have a back-up fossil fuel power plant already running at about 90-95 percent of rated power. It burns fuel but creates no electricity. They will burn almost the same amount of fuel as they would if there was no solar or wind plants connected to the grid because solar and wind can not serve as backup power. The backup power must be 100% reliable. All existing solar and wind power must have fossil fuel back up, while solar and wind power can not be used to back up fossil fuel power as a result of its unreliability. (The wind may not blow adequately and the sun may not shine). As a result, electric utilities are wasting capital, fuel, and operating costs thinking wind and solar can contribute a significant portion of their available energy. It just increases the cost of community power.

Peak mode: This is the extra electrical power that’s needed twice a day, typically for two to three hours each. First is the morning peak demand, from six to nine AM to cook breakfast, get ready to go to school and work. The other high demand period is usually from about five to seven PM. That’s when the extra power is needed to cook dinner, fire up the AC or central heat, etc.  But solar plants can’t fill either of these peak demands. That’s because solar produces electricity near mid-day when it’s needed the least. Wind turbines might be put to work a few hours in the morning or evenings. In all cases, however they still need the spinning reserve fossil-fuel back-up plant running at about 90 percent of rated power, 100 percent of the time.

Back-up Reserve: These power plants are like a spare tire in the trunk of a car; they sit there until called to duty. But unlike the spinning reserve, these reserves don’t need to be up and on-line in seconds. So, they only operate when they are started, typically for scheduled maintenance on other plants. Depending on the type of plant, it may take several hours or more for them to come online, and then they may run for days, weeks, or a year non-stop.  Having a power plant just sitting there, doing nothing most of the time is very expensive, but is a valuable insurance policy against failure.

Let’s examine the real-life experience of Germany that made the bold decision to go all-in on being green. It is now the number one producer of wind and solar electrical power in the world on a per capita basis. In 2004 Germany launched an aggressive plan to replace many of their coal and nuclear plants with wind and solar. By 2018 Germany had an installed electrical base of about 210 gigawatts. Of that, 28 percent was wind power, 26 percent solar, and the remaining 46 percent was their remaining fossil fuel and nuclear power plants along with a little hydro. At least that is the nameplate rating of the power capability of these solar and wind installations when operating under the best conditions. However, the real production is startlingly different.

While these solar and wind plants could theoretically produce 46 percent of Germany’s needs, in actuality, they only produce about 12 percent of Germany’s total electrical output. Who knew that one of the world’s most prosperous and industrialized nations could not figure out how to produce enough electricity to meet the needs of its own people and industry from wind and solar power?

To relieve this national shortage, Germany has been importing vast amounts of electrical power, mostly from France, and are paying exorbitant rates for it.  The average cost of electricity in Germany is now almost three times the cost in the United States.

Germany is now launching a major program to rebuild dozens of fossil-fueled power plants. They have also signed a contract with Russia to build a natural gas pipeline from Siberia to fuel their electrical demand and to back up its unreliable wind and solar plants.Wind and solar add zero value to the grid

Sweden has a funny but sad story that needs to be told. They launched a vast wind program a decade ago, which is proving to be a problem in their challenging environment. In their northern latitudes, solar was out of the question. Wind also has some issues. This photo is from a recent article in the online service, “”  Here we see a picture of a Swedish helicopter trying to de-ice a wind turbine like an airport tanker truck de-ices an airplane’s wings and fuselage . Only the windmill is about four to five times bigger than a Boeing 747’s. A helicopter can only carry 10-20 percent of what a truck can. So, by the time they’ve finished one or two-blades, they need to start all over again.  Now imagine a wind farm with hundreds of these turbines.  This picture is worth thousands of words and a few giggles. But it’s not funny for Sweden.


The coronavirus can’t stop the windpower blowhards, let alone economic reality

For Australian energy, 2020 started precariously.  The bushfires showed the vulnerability of the nation to its subsidy-induced reliance on renewable energy.   

Average prices in January reached near-record levels.  In addition, the market manager was forced to intervene spending over four times as much as normal — $310 million — buying services and compensating suppliers in order to stabilise the system. 

In February, low demand, an influx of renewable energy, and high supplies of hydro brought about a halving of the previous month’s prices.  These conditions continued in March when they were reinforced by a forced cessation of demand and ample gas supplies caused by the COVID-19 crisis. 

And in April prices fell to $35 per MWh.  Such levels were last seen five years ago, before wind/solar subsidies caused closures of two major coal power stations, resulting in a two-and-a-half-fold increase in prices and, due to the higher share of intermittent electricity, a permanent lift in unreliability.   

Forward markets indicate that prices that were previously forecast at $75 per MWh are now at around $55 per MWh, a level that will be maintained through 2021.  This trend could continue in later years if, as is constantly threatened, one of the big three aluminium smelters were to close, thereby reducing national electricity demand by five per cent. 

Long term, the low prices cannot be maintained with the current wind/solar-rich generation, even if there is an-ongoing de-industrialisation. Wind and solar costs are difficult to estimate since the contracts are confidential and the headline price contains various contingencies.  CSIRO estimated the cost of wind at around $50 per MWh and Bloomberg New Energy Finance at $40-74.  Lazards put the cheapest wind at $52.  On some estimates, large scale solar is cheaper. China, which in the March quarter of 2020 announced approved more new coal capacity than in the whole of 2019, is clearly unimpressed with such estimates.   

One reason for this may be that intermittent renewables also need a firming contract which presently costs $40 per MWh but which Snowy Hydro says will fall to $25-30.  Add to this, wind (but not solar) earns a discount on the average spot price because of its lesser availability during high price events (when typically, there is little wind).  According to the Energy Council, wind on average received in 2018/19 24 per cent less per MWh than the average spot price in South Australia (in NSW it was only five per cent less). 

A further cost is that seen in January this year when the market manager had to buy, and charge to wind farms, frequency control services (FCAS) and require backoffs, with wind farms also choosing to back off to avoid high FCAS charges. 

Thus, if the spot price is $55 per MWh, a wind farm capable of a variable production cost of $50 per MWh would need $90 per MWh because of its earnings being discounted by, say 20 per cent, or $10 per MWh; a hedge cost at, say, $30 per MWh

In addition, it would have other costs caused by the lack of system strength and FCAS charges. 

Offsetting these penalties, wind and solar receive the renewable subsidy, which last year averaged $31.5 per MWh (about $457,000 per turbine). Forward prices have this declining to around $20 per MWh.  Long term it has to fall to zero which means a wind/solar dominated system would deliver electricity with support to offset wind/solars’ intrinsic unreliability at best at $80 per MWh.   

Wind and, to a lesser degree, large scale solar is now a mature technology and is likely to see cost reductions not dissimilar from those of nuclear of fossil plant. 

In Australia a system dominated by coal plant, supplemented by fast start hydro and gas, can provide a highly reliable electricity supply system at around $55 per MWh.  China and other developing countries would probably not be able to match this as they lack the low cost and conveniently located coal we have on the East coast.  Even so, they will have nuclear/fossil fuelled electricity at far less than the $80 we can hope for from our present policy settings. The energy intensive industries are therefore likely to migrate away from Australia and other industries will see costs higher than they need, an outcome of which is a lower exchange rate and lower living standards.   

The market manager, AEMO, has released a plan that indicates the network could accommodate up to 60 per cent “instantaneous penetration of wind and solar and could be adapted to accommodate 75 per cent.  AEMO does not specify what the costs of this would be.   

Meanwhile, renewable energy lobbyist Martijn Wilder, who the Commonwealth has appointed to head up hand-outs to renewables through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, finds their appointee is calling for more monies to be directed into renewables as a result of coronavirus.  His views are supported by the head of the Business Council who opined, “Every dollar we invest in energy, should be a dollar towards a lower carbon economy”. 

Maybe we just want to be poorer than we need to be.



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