Thursday, 16 November 2017

New Report: The Costs of Wind Energy in Ireland

The new report by Wind Aware Ireland is now available to read online :

https://neilvandokkum.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/he-cost-of-wind.pdf

Total annual costs due to wind have been calculated at € 1.2 billion. I would say this is an under estimation. Other costs such as ancillary costs and maintenance costs for conventional generation are missing from this report. Ancillary costs are now over € 70 million per year. Some of those are required without wind, others like synchronous compensation are a direct consequence of wind energy. 

I have to agree with economist Colm McCarthy when he says "It should not have been left to this voluntary group to raise these vital policy questions. "

Monday, 13 November 2017

Event Announcement: The Costs of Wind Energy in Ireland

Wind Aware Ireland will be launching their new report “The Costs of Wind Energy in Ireland” in Buswells’ Hotel, Dublin at 11.15 on Wednesday (15th November). This report may precipitate the latest scandal in public spending.
The report shows that the Irish State and consumer are spending approximately €1.2 billion per year on wind energy and no one has done the sums to justify this spend.
The Irish Academy of Engineering found that focusing mainly on wind to reduce emissions would create the highest technical risk, would generate the lowest amount of reliable electricity and had lowest public acceptability compared to using biomass or carbon capture and storage. They said “A detailed analysis needs to be carried out of the costs and socio-economic implications of reducing emissions”.
Economist Colm McCarthy noted “It is time for Government to acknowledge that Ireland has enough wind farms, that they cost too much in subsidies and that promising routes to cut emissions lie elsewhere.”
All legally mandated checks and balances for wind energy have been bypassed; no costs benefit analysis, no strategic environmental assessment and no regulatory impact analysis has ever been undertaken to justify this spend.
This sheer lack of accountability and the capture of policy by wind developers should be grounds for a national scandal.
Paula Byrne (PRO)
Phone:  057 86 27048
Mobile: 086 8241523

Friday, 10 November 2017

The New Renewable Electricity Support Scheme

The consultation for the forthcoming Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) ends today. Here is my submission :


A Floating Feed in Premium (FIP) which reduces over time to nil as the generators borrowings are paid down should be the primary financial support mechanism for the main RESS. This makes a lot of sense with regard to Irish wind energy which is now a mature technology, where there are no fuel costs and where Irish wind farms have access to the best wind resources in Europe.


I believe that LCOE is not a good measure for comparing different sources of generation.  As is well known, the system effects of uncontrollable variable renewables are not adequately addressed by LCOE, since adding uncontrollable variable renewables to a system increases overall costs (new grid and operating procedures, suboptimal operation of the conventional fleet and new fast acting plant required as back up), all of which tends to reduce system productivity thus increasing costs. LCOE doesn’t capture this, so a Total System Cost analysis is required to discover what the probable effect would be on the consumer. This does not appear to have been carried out.


I therefore do not agree with the statement that “the least-cost RES-e mix would consist of mostly onshore wind”.


Indeed, the system costs will rise exponentially with the higher levels of wind proposed in RESS as conventional plant will be forced to run at far below their optimal efficiency*.  


This means that the viability gaps of various renewable technologies are not comparable as stated in the RESS report. Some technologies incur less system costs (like biomass which can use the existing grid), some incur more.


In an analysis carried out by Irish Energy Blog, it was found that even without including the additional grid investment required for wind and other system costs, we have to spend € 1.00 on wind energy to replace 40 cents worth of fossil fuels. This does not represent value for money to the consumer nor is it a cost effective way of reducing fossil fuel imports.  I would support instead investing in energy efficiency and in particular Passive Housing as a more cost effective way of reducing emissions.


Best wind location in Europe


“Ireland has one of the best onshore wind locations in Europe. Purely from a technical perspective, ignoring all other considerations, the unrestricted technical potential for onshore wind would be more than sufficient to meet Ireland’s energy needs”.


I fail to understand why, if the above statement is true, Irish onshore wind requires a high support scheme. Surely if Ireland has one of the best onshore wind locations in Europe, then a lower support scheme would be required than other European countries as the resource is greater.


In Germany, onshore wind receives € 4.66cent – 8.38cent per kWh (according to duration of payment) (§ 46 EEG 2017) minus €0.40 cent per kWh (§ 53 no. 2 EEG 2017) compared with    € 6.72 cent per kWh (5.1 and 5.2 REFIT 2) in Ireland.  The support scheme in Germany reduces over time which makes sense as the wind farms loans are paid down over the same period. A similar “reducing” scheme should now be adopted by Ireland given that Irish onshore wind is a mature technology and has access to the best wind resources in Europe.  This would provide best value for money to the consumer. The support scheme should eventually reduce to nil after a fixed period of say 10 years.


This would ensure that our society is not locked into high energy costs for many years to come.


*Increased costs of combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) running inefficiently to provide back up for when the wind does not blow were estimated to rise by €175 million per annum according to a 2014 Single Electricity Market report.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Flexible capacity to exceed 25GW in the UK by 2030

In the UK, flexible capacity from batteries, peaking plants and demand-side response is set to reach more than 25GW by 2030. That is over half of demand. And the reason is because of renewables :
The firm says the rise of intermittent renewables - which undermine the profitability of large baseload generators but still require backup power - will push annual revenues from flexibility to nearly £3 billion by the end of the next decade.

This is important because this capacity will not be as efficient as baseload generators such as combined cycle gas turbine generators. They will need to respond quicker and as a result they will have higher emissions.  So when the wind is not blowing, the grid operators will have to resort to these fast acting plant or reducing demand. It still remains to be seen how batteries will operate in practice on such a large scale. 

The same is happening here in Ireland. Capacity of demand side response units, usually diesel generators, are now at 260MW.

Full article here:

http://utilityweek.co.uk/news/flexible-capacity-to-exceed-25gw-by-2030/1316312#.Wf3-RWi0PIV

Monday, 30 October 2017

Storm Ophelia


On Monday 16th October, Storm Ophelia raged through Ireland. With lots of reliable wind energy around for a change, one might have expected high levels of wind power. 



As the above graph shows, up to 2,915MW of wind energy was forecast but only 745MW or 25% of available wind power was actually used. This is because there is a cut off point at which wind turbines can no longer safely operate. 

Monday, 16 October 2017

Data Centres Vs Steel Plants - A Comparison

SUMMARY

•  Steel plants use 60% of the energy demand of a data centre but provide 26 times as many jobs

• Port Talbot steel plant in Wales provides 28.5 jobs for every megawatt of demand compared to 1.5 at the data centre at Athenry 

• Approval for planning permission of any industrial project should require a high jobs to energy demand ratio of at least say six or seven. 


Last week, Apple received approval for their data centre in Athenry, County Galway to great fanfare in the media. I can only find one article (in the Independent) which dealt with facts (Revealed: Data centres to swallow 75pc of growth in Irish power demand). The article gives a good overview of the problems that lie ahead. 

I am not in favor of opposing something for the sake of opposing it. I'm in favor of discussing all the available facts and basing decisions on those. What we have now in Ireland is approving something for the sake of approving it which is just as bad as the other extreme.  I fail to understand how a country which prides itself on it's higher education credentials does not discuss the facts in relation to new projects such as data centres. 


David Hughes wrote previously on the Athenry data centre (The Cloud Bytes Back) :

To give an example Apple are seeking permission for a 240MW data centre in Athenry Co. Galway, which will create up to 215 jobs. The electricity consumption of this data centre will be the same as 420,000 Irish homes. This is ¼ of all Irish homes or every single house in Dublin City, Dun Laoghaire, Fingal and South County Dublin combined. Basically, the electricity needs of 1 Million people.
It seems the jobs figure has been revised downwards to 150 full time jobs according to the above Independent article.  So that's about 1.5 jobs for every megawatt of demand.  

Let's compare that to another high energy industrial user - steel plants in the UK. Port Talbot steel plant in Wales was due to shut down in the near future but the employees fought hard and the plant remains open for the time being. It employs nearly 4,000 people.


Port Talbot steelworks’ current demand for energy is about 140 Megawatts (MW), about half of which is internally generated. That works out at 28.5 jobs for every megawatt of demand.


A steel plant therefore generates about eighteen times more jobs per megawatt of demand than a data centre. Even if those jobs were cut in half by new technology, steel would still provide more jobs by a factor of nine.


Based on figures for Port Talbot then, steel plants use 60% of the energy demand of a data centre but provide 26 times as many jobs
The Government is keen to promote Ireland as being a location where it can meet the needs of the IT sector by providing certainty around planning and power supply
Interestingly, the government is not trying to promote Ireland as a location for steel plants which would create many times more jobs. 

The impact on energy demand, fossil fuel imports, emissions, electricity prices and 2020 targets will be enormous from data centres. As a consequence, it will be harder to attract other high energy industrial users that could provide many more jobs.  There needs to be a good payback for Ireland Inc. to compensate. Of course, they need to built somewhere to provide the demand for internet services.  But Ireland should not allow so many to be built here. We simply cannot afford it. 


Approval for planning permission of any industrial project should require a high jobs to energy demand ratio of at least say six or seven. 


    

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Electricity Retailers Increase Prices

Most electricity retailers are increasing their prices this month and the blame is been put on wholesale prices. However, gas prices are no higher than 2005 levels. 



Figure 1: Gas prices since 2000


I have been keeping track of my own electricity bills since 2012. I wanted to see if the reduction in wholesale prices and gas prices have been passed on to the consumer. The result can be seen in Figure 2.


Figure 2 shows little correlation between gas prices and unit price of electricity

The result is clear. The large fall in gas prices has not been matched by a similar fall in the unit price of electricity.   There has been a reduction in gas prices of about 50%. The reduction in the unit price of electricity has been about 7%. If we compare the energy payments or the annual market value of the electricity wholesale market with the gas prices we do see a better correlation (Figure 3).



Figure 3 shows good correlation between Annual Energy Payments (in orange) and Gas Prices(in red)

This means that when the gas prices are low, generators receive lower prices from the market. But these savings in wholesale prices are not passed on to the consumer in any meaningful way.

The hidden force in these graphs is wind energy. It has increased every year since 2012 now making up about 23% of the electricity mix. While we are constantly told that wind energy reduces the wholesale price of electricity, there is no evidence in the actual data.   With this increase in wind energy, there has been a parallel increase in system costs - grid and transmission infrastructure, back up costs, new interconnectors, and high wind penetration feasibility programmes (known as DS3). 

All these costs make up the unit price of electricity. After that, the PSO Levy gets added on, another component that only ever increases (an increase has also been announced this month).

The Energy Regulator seems to be toothless in the face of an electricity sector with out of control costs, government interference and regulation. His name is now redundant, and increasingly appears more like something out of Orwell's novel 1984 where Government Departments like the Ministry for Truth do the opposite of their name.