These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as a roundtable. Again, I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.
This edition is completely about implementation issues and is largely based on a number of links drawn to my attention by John D, for which gratitude and thanks. I’ve restricted the offering to six items to make it more digestible.
1. The battery storage system that could close down coal power
A German company is developing relatively large scale battery storage (up to 10MW-sized battery parks) which could “stabilise the grid faster, cheaper and with greater precision that conventional generation.”
It says that these systems can substitute 10 times the capacity from conventional generation – coal, nuclear and gas – and at a fraction of the cost. According to Younicos spokesman Philip Hiersemenzel, each battery park can be installed at around € 15 million, which means that for an investment of €3 billion, conventional generation in Germany’s 80GW would no longer be needed – at least for frequency and stability purposes.
The company doesn’t think much of smart grids. Hiersemenzel:
“I don’t have a problem with smart grids, I just don’t see their business case. I don’t think we will use electric vehicles, smart phones or washing machines to stabilize the grid.”
2. Looming gas crisis in NSW
The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) expects that NSW will face a potential gas supply shortfall during the 2018 winter peak period. Others, including Energy Minister Ian Macfarlane, think shortages might occur as soon as 2016.
The problem, it seems, is that Santos is planning redirect Moomba gas to Queensland to meet LNG export contracts, leaving the pipeline into NSW under-utilised.
At the same time Eastern states gas demand is falling away due to less use in power generation. Gas use won’t return to 2012 levels until close to 2030. In this graph orange represents households and commercial businesses, yellow is heavy industry and blue is power generation.
3. Is fracking good for your health?
In short the answer is no.
It finds that unconventional gas should not be endorsed from an environmental and human health perspective and describes the current case against further expansion of the industry as overwhelming.
“Environmentally, gas compares poorly to alternatives such as wind and solar. It’s even possible that unconventional gas offers limited climate benefits over coal.”
4. Solar at 2c per kWh will happen, sometime, somewhere
The real challenge in solar, according to Eicke Weber, head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Freiburg, Germany, is manufacturing at scale.
For the last two years, solar manufacturing capacity has far exceeded demand, leading to cut-throat pricing that undercut manufacturing costs, causing huge losses and many to be forced out of business.
That balance is now being redressed, as rationalisation takes hold and demand soars in Japan, US, China and some emerging economies. Manufacturing costs are still coming down.
The Germans have done quite well selling some €60 billion worth of equipment to the Chinese manufacturing industry, but the Chinese government is now mandating that 80 per cent of that equipment be supplied locally. In response Weber is advocating an ambitious plan to build a pan-European manufacturing capacity along the same lines as the Airbus consortium.
Even so the industry will struggle to supply mainstream demand.
“If, in 2050, when solar electricity might cost us 2c-3c/kWh, when it is the least expensive way of electricity, it would need total installed capacity of 10,000GW of solar PV to meet just 10 per cent of the world’s demand. Today we have just 100GW.”
5. German energy policy takes shape
As the major parties move at glacial speed to a grand coalition in Germany after the September election they actually do concrete planning to align policies. So a 168 page document has been produced on “Energiewende”, the transition away from nuclear and into an electricity grid dominated by renewables. On targets:
The document confirms that nuclear will be phased out by 2022 at the latest, and introduces new “renewable energy corridors” that call for renewable penetration to be lifted to 40-45 per cent by 2025, and to 55-60 per cent in 2035.
This expands and upgrades the current targets, which are for 35 per cent by 2020, and 50 per cent by 2030. The long-term target remains 80 per cent by 2050.
They’ve also looked at the industry structure and contemplated a ‘virtual baseload’ concept. This would involve major renewables facilities paying conventional power stations to provide reserve capacity to overcome intermittency. The suggestion is, however, that this would slow the introduction of renewables and hence won’t happen.
I would have thought it a necessary feature.
6. Meanwhile back here in Oz
Giles Parkinson has reported on a “Facts on Electricity Prices” document produced by the Department of Resources and Energy. It seems the Renewable Energy Target is in the cross-hairs for what Parkinson suggests are ideological reasons. Last year the Climate Change Authority found that neutering the RET would have very little impact on prices, so hence forth only those who give the
right convenient answers will be asked for advice.
Parkinson says that in short we’ve supersized the grid when we didn’t need to. I’m actually not sure about that. I keep being told that although demand has reduced in SEQ the reduction has come off the shoulder period. During the peak period in the late afternoon/early evening demand continues to increase, although overall it’s down.