Thursday, 27 September 2018

Will Cows Save the Planet?

Soil contains a very large amount of carbon. A small increase in the weight of carbon as a percentage of soil weight would absorb all the excess carbon we have put into the atmosphere over the last two hundred years. How do we do it? Some people think we can do it by mimicking the grazing of wild animals, sometimes known as mob grazing. Farmers in Southern Africa and USA have been doing it for many years, and report a rapid increase in grass coverage of previously near desert land.
So - keep eating beef grown on farms using extensive grazing techniques - such as Quickes Farm in Newton St Cyres farmed by my wife Mary Quicke!
We will still of course need to dramatically reduce carbon inputs into the air from electricity generation - so all my other blogs still apply.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Low Carbon Technologies set to make Peak Demand Worse!

According to BEIS (which includes what was DECC) without demand side response (DSR) we will increase peak domestic electricity demand from  24 to 31 GW, an increase of 7GW or 29% by 2030.
Note that the trough is the same, so the curve shape has got worse.
I note they are only allocating a peak of 1GW to electric vehicles, which at 3kW per vehicle is only 330,000 vehicles, or 1% of the present vehicle population.
Most of the peak increase will come, they say, from heat pumps. Storage of heat is relatively easy and cheap, all you need is a larger hot water tank. These are common in biomass heating systems.
How do we publicise the vital necessity for domestic load shifting, awareness of which needs to accelerate now to meet future demands?
At the moment it's just word of mouth, so keep on telling people about it!

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Is the Heat Wave over?


Here's a heat wave worth looking at!
Air conditioning uses over 30% of the peak electricity on a hot day in California - and by time-shifting the cooling using stored ice, in some buildings the peak can be completely ironed out.
What's more, the air conditioning capacity needed is reduced, as it's working for longer to produce the same amount of cooling.
As air conditioning becomes more prevalent in UK and Europe, this is becoming an increasingly relevant way to avoid peaks in summer.
Conversely, in winter, if we are to use electricity for heating, it will become worthwhile to store hot water or even steam to reduce peak consumption.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Could Solar PV Power the World?

This map from data supplied by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and interpreted by Land Art Generator shows the area required to provide all the electricity needed in the world from solar PV.

One flaw- they suggest that Europe could be supplied from the Sahara desert - but as we know, peak consumption in Europe occurs after dark, and the sun has set even in the sunny Sahara at that time.

All is not lost however - the deserts of USA are still sunny at peak times of European consumption, so all we need is a link from the USA to Europe - see my blog on an Arctic Circle supergrid.

If you don't like the idea of linking the world up like this, then you and the rest of us are going to have to shift a whole lot of consumption out of the after dark peak. Have you told your friends yet?
When I suggest this, people often say storage is the answer - which at the moment is much more costly than nuclear.

So I say  Reassess, Reduce, Reschedule!

Monday, 25 June 2018

It's Hot in Arizona!


Salt River Project, or SRP as it is now more commonly known, is an innovative electricity supplier in Arizona USA. They have a wide range of demand-related tariffs, including a time-of-use tariff which has at its most extreme, a factor of three difference between peak and off-peak costs per kWh in July and August.
This highlights the value and in this case the relative ease of substantial time-shifting of air-conditioning. Environmentally conscious Arizonans have a number of options:
  • Build houses with high thermal mass as well as high insulation, so that cooling can be done outside of peak times, and advantage can be taken of the large differences between day and night temperatures in desert areas.
  • Use storage aircon to build up ice as a store of coolness before peak times.
  • Start cooling the house well before peak times and tolerate some increase in temperature during the peak.
  • Use PV to generate electricity for cooling 
Coincidentally, Arizona is where PV can best be generated to meet UK's winter peak, as their solar midday occurs during our evening peak. So the PV they use during their summer could supply our electricity in winter.

If you want to avoid the cost of a Northern hemisphere supergrid to allow this, then shift your time of use and get others to do the same!


Monday, 21 May 2018

Centrica - British Gas - and Combined Heat and Power



Centrica (British Gas to most of us) is going on the offensive with CHP.
It makes sense:

  • Their business is selling gas
  • The most efficient way to use gas is to produce both heat and electricity
  • New gas-fired power stations are decreasingly attractive to them because of the lower load factors in the present energy mix
Do we want gas CHP? It still produces carbon. But how else are we to heat our homes?
Heat is the biggest challenge to reducing carbon in UK - perhaps the best is the enemy of the good, and we should embrace CHP at least for the moment.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The Web we Weave




Bridget Woodman of Exeter Energy Policy Group and Laura Sandys of Challenging Ideas put forward the spider chart above to demonstrate how the electricity industry is (dis)organised.

What if consumers could operate in a transparent and market-oriented model?  Would we see more rational buying decisions throughout the system?

Or could we even see the time when the electricity system operated with no burden on the taxpayer, appropriate levels of reliability and at progressively lower levels of carbon output that put our current performance to shame? Would the "trilemma" become an obsolete concept?

There are those who think so.

 I hope they are right!

For the time being, keep time shifting away from the peak!

Modest Peak Consumption decline mirrored by Capacity decline - can we do more?



After an inexorable rise over most of the 20th Century, peak electricity demand in UK peaked in around 2002 at just over 60GW, plateaued until 2011, and since then has at last started to fall. This year it will be around 50GW, back to where it was in 1977.
But as my wife's uncle used to say, let's not get too euphoric.
Peak demand is still around 10GW above average demand, with an opportunity cost of £80 billion at current firm low carbon capacity costs.
Deindustrialisation and more efficient appliances have been the main drivers for peak reduction so far, with some help from industrial triad charges avoidance, but not domestic demand response.

Domestic demand response, not more wind or solar, are the best bet for reducing this peak winter demand further.

It will also reduce the need for  some of  the 30 or so new nuclear power stations we will otherwise require to supply the electric cars that will replace our petrol and diesel ones.


Monday, 5 February 2018

Is Small Nuclear Beautiful?

Some say that the reason nuclear is so expensive is that we have gone way beyond the optimum size for cost, and we should be aiming at much smaller reactors - say 50 MW.
These can be built, transported and housed in much cheaper ways, using existing technologies.
If you still don't like or trust nuclear, then what other solution do you you have than to substantially reduce peak demand? There is no technology on the horizon in UK that is cheaper, more reliable and less carbon intensive than simply shifting demand away from the peak- intermittent renewables are irrelevant in this context, because the cost and carbon footprint of the necessary storage is worse than nuclear I assert...

so GET SHIFTING!!

Monday, 29 January 2018

BEIS Capacity Projections - are they Serious about how Little Firm Supply we Need?



Oh dear, even worse than a graph - a table!
What does it tell us?
BEIS, the Government department in UK responsible for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, projects how much electricity capacity they think we will need over the next 20 years.
Where do we start to dissect this and make sense of it?
First, there is a 30% increase over the period in total capacity, from 110 to 142GW.
But this includes renewables, which are almost all intermittent, and can not be relied upon to produce electricity at peak times.
So the peak firm supply capacity, without allowing for any downtime for power station maintenance or breakdown during the winter months,, is much less.
In fact , it goes from 70GW at the moment to 74GW in 2035.
42% (31GW) of this firm capacity is storage and interconnectors, i.e. electricity from abroad, arriving by undersea cables.
So we will have only 43GW of firm generation capacity in this country, considerably less than our current peak demand of around 50GW.
Fine you may say, we are getting more efficient in our use of electricity, and we are - at least some of the readers of this blog! - shifting when we use electricity away from peak times.
But we also have an intention to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2040- and each new electric car requires about 3kW of additional capacity - that's 90 GW for 30 million vehicles.
Should electric vehicles be allowed to charge at all outside trough demand times, say midnight to 6am?
 They are at the moment...

Thursday, 25 January 2018

December UK Electricity Production by Fuel Type including renewables


December's UK electricity production graph makes interesting reading:

  • Peak demand was 50.6 GW, reflecting the gradual decline in peak demand over the last ten years or so
  • Wind (green) made a useful albeit sporadic contribution
  • Solar PV (yellow) was negligible, and nonexistent at peak times.
  • There were several high-peak-demand days with almost no contribution from wind
  • Gas (light brown) is now taking virtually all of the strain of meeting fluctuating demand as coal is phased out
  • Average demand at 36.5 GW is 14GW below peak demand giving an opportunity cost of not having domestic demand response of  £110 billion at present non-carbon firm supply capacity cost (i.e. nuclear). That's £70 million a week that could go towards the NHS for 30 years.
So - if you don't want carbon and you don't want nuclear, you had better start getting a few of your friends to flatten their demand!
The good new is that 10% of consumers are already aware of this as an issue, including PV owners, those on economy 7, and a few hundred thousand geeks like you and me. So we are well and truly on the adoption curve - but with a long way to go -so get time-shifting.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Would you Pay your Supplier for Greater Reliability?


Centrica, who own and operate gas-fired power stations in UK, are now offering a "resilience" service at addional cost.
The implication of this is a two-class service; a less reliable one that you get from just paying your normal bill, and a more reliable one that you get by paying their "resilience" fee.
There are many possible causes for power failure, and not all of them are under the control of the generating companies or the suppliers (Centrica is in both of these categories).
Is there a subtext or hidden mesage here? Centrica have been warning for some time that the strain on existing gas-fired power stations is growing, as they are required to cope with ever larger swings in demand.
Unless we as consumers are aware of this and take appropriate demand response action, we will be faced increasingly with costs of this sort.
So keep spreading the word - chop the peak , fill the trough!

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Into the Forest!


Last night I watched "Into the Forest", a Canadian film set in the near future, which hypothesises a lengthy (over a year) power outage covering much or possibly all of North America.
Such an event is not as far-fetched as it might at first appear. Major outages covering large areas are well known if not frequent events. They are however extremely rare so far in UK. Planned outages in the three day week of 1974 is the nearest most of us have come to experiencing life with no electricity.
The two heroines in the film end up burning their house down to create the impression that they have died in the fire, to avoid unwelcome attention from roving predatory gangs or individuals. They go to live in a hollow tree with their new-born baby.
Such a situation is undesirable to put it mildly.
Hiow do we avoid it?
One way is to reduce the strain on our electricity supply system, by reducing peak demand.

So keep shifting your big loads into the trough!

Happy New Year.