Regenerative Energy a better product

Very recently, in conversation it became obvious, that apart from hard line protagonists, on both side of the political divide they agree that climate change is happening. The disagreement is whether is it anthropogenic and how exact any remedial action might be in saving the planet. In common with all is that reliance on fossil fuels will remain to dominate our need for comfort. The degrees of the need for comfort and the energy needs to supply it will be lowered or raised by how we control our demand.

But, you know it might be possible that innovators are coming up with better product – a more affordable alternative that provides the same service. More affordable, not just in terms of price but also cost of resources.

If you have followed CO2Land org you will notice there is a strong emphasis on regenerative energy and innovation. You might also notice a practical stance on comments on the campaigns for emissions trading systems (ETS). It had never been denied that ETS has a role for helping switch from coal to natural gas right now and to some extent renewables. It is also advocated that the Mandatory Renewable Energy Targets (MRET) in Australia has encouraged uptake of renewable energy. But carbon allowances themselves have not been observed as being able to produce a better product.

Regenerative energy might be a better product and while renewables have made inroads and are already on the right path in the electricity sector. If you don’t think so take a look around you and you will see wind power is quickly moving to be a mature technology, and the cost of solar having plummeted in the past few years, and China is about to flood us with even cheaper solar products. Another reason to consider regenerative as a better product choice is efficiency as waste can be stored in what you might describe as a battery waiting for peak demand periods before being used. Our comforts for heating, transport, mobility, communications and peak energy use can be provided without the need for compromise.

CO2Land org is optimistic that this transition can succeed mainly because people will view it all as an improvement in their lives. The down side is there will be business as usual type resistance to the term ‘unburnable carbon’. Meaning if we remove the increasing demand trend for finding new fossil resources – such as shale oil and gas – and instead stretch out the fossil reserves by lowering current demand, and hence allow us to leave this carbon in the ground we will be accused of hurting jobs and shareholder returns.  What would be even more interesting is how BAU types could reinforce the constant negative when we can continue to feel comfortable.

Motivation for the post comes from:

http://www.renewablesinternational.net/keeping-carbon-in-the-ground-requires-a-better-alternative/150/537/73336/

 

Keeping carbon in the ground requires a better alternative

Thoughts on the new IPCC report

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Energy Utilities changing Models – A Battery of Choice

As one would normally do, chat about renewables and impacts on the utilities business model while relaxing with friends. It was a case of too much uncertainty over how the consumer would be treated because of change. Central to the discussion was that a provider to the electrical distribution system could threaten the current regulatory and centralized generation models of ‘essential services’.

What does this mean?  The business as usual model is failing where supply centric economics demanded you build additional load capacity and transport the capacity to the place of need. This model also meant the assets, including the customer, was owned by the utility. If you think of it this way, Governments tend to discourage demand side solutions. Demand Management was tended to be more of a series of incentive programs for utilities to duplicate infrastructure to transport to the demand source.

So, what happened to change the balance? The obvious: Technologies improved, carbon became issues for society and clean energy and renewables were being shown as a better way to address the logistics of meeting demand where it was needed. As a result some of the conventional infrastructure was at risk of being a stranded asset and the need to build conventional infrastructure required incentives from Government to reduce the financial risk. For example, the Demand Side Incentive scheme (DIS) formulated at about 2004 is dramatically underspent but is comforting for utilities in being a facility to reduce the financial risk.

If we note the changes in the needs of society as a driver for change: Governments and their policies encouraged that traditional public ownership be phased out to pass the needs to private investment. Government was happy for this ‘fix’ as they see it as the asset is sold for a value and ongoing regulated charges and fees and taxes are being paid to treasury, and that is a public benefit. The perfect storm in Australia is this action is also one of the drivers for electricity tariff increases in Australia. Recently the state of Queensland announced a 21% increase to its general tariff.  A source, CO2Land identifies as SF said: “Therefore those consumers with solar PV are subsidising those consumers that don’t have solar PV”.

From that last statement we can assume government policy (Federal and State) is very much the catalyst that resulted in the model change. Whether the change was necessary was more of a political move in this instance. It followed that technology and innovation evolved and the model change was inevitable. If you follow the beliefs of the 5th Column existing, this was done by infiltration of the policy areas by a particular group. It follows, in contemporary Australia, Government policy is more reactive than before, and since the 1970’s the rule of law was modeled as to be reactive to the needs of the dominate influence. Below is an explanation of this view as posted by CO@Land.org on 3 April 2013. Where:

Co2Land org now asks: If we consider the four primary schools of thought in general jurisprudence :

  •   Natural law is the idea that there are rational objective limits to the power of legislative rulers.
  •  Legal positivism, by contrast to natural law, holds that there is no necessary connection between law and morality and that the force of law comes from some basic social facts although positivists differ on what those facts are.
  •  Legal realism is a third theory of jurisprudence which argues that the real world practice of law is what determines what law is; the law has the force that it does because of what legislators, judges, and executives do with it. Similar approaches have been developed in many different ways in sociology of law.
  • Critical legal studies is a younger theory of jurisprudence that has developed since the 1970s which is primarily a negative thesis that the law is largely contradictory and can be best analyzed as an expression of the policy goals of the dominant social group.

If you think of the debate of tariff increases. Then you should consider it may have been ‘an expression of the policy goals of the dominant social group’, as critical to that issue. We should then think about the set of claims that the “Renewable Energy Targets” (RET’s) had undesirable consequences, and how governments (Federal and State) now realise that the larger than expected number of early adopters who signed up for the long term contracts are now having a negative impact on state & federal budgets, and this is one of the dominate drivers for electricity tariff increases in Australia. For those needing an introduction to the scheme, the RET’s are a federal government initiative commencing during year 2001, and from those bills and legislation various states and territories introduced those targets as various incentive schemes for customers to invest in solar PV with generous feed in tariffs. This incentive had the effect of distorting the demand supply balance, and the popularity embarrassed and alarmed treasury. If we use SF as the source again; “Queensland Govt initially offered 44cents per kWh this has now been reduced to 8cents. That said the response from the customer was rapid with Australia now having 2500MW of solar PV with and average capacity of 3.5kW.”

CO2Land org chose to give an example of Queensland for convenience, as this states geography and population patterns influence the custom that those consumers with a service, are asked to provide subsidies to those that do not.  In the case of electricity you could argue the subsidy required is determined by the length of the extension cords needed. You might understand why that state found it Initially appealing that solar PV was a localized delivery point. However, managing the asset is a different matter.

We are seeing similar issues being evident from around the world – business as usual is failing as the utility model. The danger is stranded assets and less control being possible. A story titled The Clean, Simple Solar and Storage Solution to US Utility Business Model Woes .

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/blog/post/2013/07/the-clean-simple-solar-and-storage-solution-to-us-utility-business-model-woes?cmpid=SolarNL-Thursday-July4-2013&goback=%2Egde_67258_member_256399748

Tells of an interview with former United States Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu on utility business models.  While the gist of what he said wasn’t new to me, the clean and elegant way he laid out what he sees as the future of utilities and solar power is worth sharing.

Similar to how in the past telephone companies – he specifically named AT&T – used to own the entire telephone system from the overhead telephone lines up to and including the phone in your house, Chu feels that utilities ought to own solar panels and energy storage systems that they put on their customers’ roofs and in their garages. He said if utilities could outfit homeowners with solar panels and a 5-kW battery system, they could continue selling that customer power just as they do now. The utility would own the system, maintain the system and the customer would have no out-of-pocket expenses for it other than continuing to buy power at the same rate or at perhaps an even lower rate.

 In the three-minute interview, Chu didn’t explain another huge reason that utilities should consider this option: distributed generation used in this way counteracts the need to build additional generation as the load capacity needs increase.  And lastly and most important, the utility gets to keep its customer.

Utilities should probably get clear on their approach soon. When it’s just a quarter or a half of one percent of a utility’s customers that have their own PV and are selling their solar power to the grid at the retail rate, the utility doesn’t care. But energy storage and PV panel costs are dropping, and once that percentage of utility customers’  that are zeroing out their bill goes to 5, 10 or 15 percent then “it’s a big deal” said Chu.

Chu said he told utilities that PV and energy storage is going to come and they should “form a new business model” NOW so that what today is a potential revenue loss, could become an area of growth for them in the future.  Plus, he said this model would eventually lead to a more stable grid for us all. “

CO2Land org is finding it difficult to solely blame the RET Scheme as the problem. The evidence is the splitting of the RET’s scheme into a ‘small scale’ offering for predominately solar PV is the problem. It is appropriate to say any change to the utility models would and did have a cause and effect disruption on the industry, and cause and effect type of disruption suggests any intervention will introduce more shocks in the industry, and we can expect that ideologies will continue to influence the Governments policy advisors who are without a full understanding the implications. It also follows that a large dependence on small scale or residential solar PV services implies a need for significant workforce skills shifts to cater for the growth and scope of the model change for utilities to take control of the assets at a domestic level to be to be effective. That is a significant cost driver, and it is reasonable to ask why should the utility be the provider of choice for these services where it would serve to drive up prices?

In defence of RET’s large scale systems, it follows that large systems do not directly affect the utilities mechanism to preserve the current regulatory model, but they shift the balance so that the model needs to be reviewed of the purpose and objectives in the delivery of the product. It follows that centralised generation models are what utilities do very well, and large scale transportation and distribution are well established capabilities of the industry. Expanding that capability to large commercial rooftops and installations might be a good idea. However, it too is not without the need for change. Albeit less dramatic than small scale.

CO2Land org is not proposing we should concentrate on picking winners for the model change.  However, ‘the battery concept’ leads to deeper thinking. The demand initiative needs to be expanded and a battery concept is not just a means of storage of an electron! It can mean tools and equipment that is readily available to balance the total load needs, and not just peak demand requirements. We know solar’s great weakness is peak availability profile and traditional batteries concepts take up rare earth minerals to manufacture. Are they already defunct? A far more sensible battery concept is something that can utilise what we have already consumed and discarded to be returned to there natural elements while producing energy and balancing the supply needs.  If you prefer think of it as a provider it can be an insurance tool for a supply imbalance, So can what they do be a source of energy rationing and balancing that fits neatly into the traditional delivery mechanism.

One such battery concept is the waste to energy gasifiers and their products including pyrolysis retorts. These can easily be written into the current infrastructure and be part of any new regulatory mix – even provide a result for policy without implications – it is not creating anything new – just making something old new again!

For the future, CO2Land org can see a lot more independent renewable sources becoming the norm, and utilities will be using energy exchanges to sell power to customers. This differs from ownership of customers in that bidding could be managed power purchasing agreement with give and take provisions in the price. What regulators will have to deal with is that nationwide and globally installing microgrids for Businesses and Communities will need to fit into economic as well as technical delivery models. A real power of choice if you prefer to think that way.

Sun, Wind and Fire – renewable positioning in a policy trilemma

Sun, wind and Fire is not a story of the Gods – except you could draw a conclusion there is a battle for policy supremacy as a renewable energy source. There is a very rapid growth in renewable energy deployment in recent times, driven by rapidly increasing costs of fossil fuel stocks, and the movement to a low carbon energy system and improvements in the renewable technologies and materials. Are there problems? Yes, the elephants in the room are obvious but largely ignored. Some examples: Solar requires rare earth materials for the products, as does voltage batteries storage systems, and wind needs magnets produced in such a way that land contamination is a major drawback. Ironically, fire can be a battery of capacity and availability and utilise only common earth materials and most importantly make use of waste – and there is more – even revert waste to original elements and products.  Of course the bigger elephant for Solar and Wind is when it comes time for decommissioning. Why is this so, the analogy could be asbestos and who is paying for the removal programs – you.   Few if any governments want that issue known as it would require a future funds program as an assurance when only the positives of the now conditions are ‘sold’ as policy.

If you did not know, renewable energy technologies differ greatly from one another, and a range of issues has arisen that are common to most. This could be taken back to the problem that these tend to be dealt with on a renewable energy industry level forum basis rather than accepting that the problems are technology by technology issues in their battles for policy gods acceptance. Rarely, do you see the fora of the renewable industry admitting to issues to include large deployment growth rates, intermittency with respect to electricity production requirements, distributed rather than centralised deployment and scheduling of loads, the relatively immature supply chains & support networks, the quality issues of the production points, the land use changes for the provision and production of the materials needed, and the need to update regulatory frameworks & institutional inertia outside of our current frameworks.

On that later point, A report prepared for the Consumer Action Law Centre by Allan Asher, Foundation for Effective Markets & Governance November 2012 on http://femag.anu.edu..org.au/ , reads as: “The title of the report—”A policy trilemma: creating an affordable, secure and sustainable energy market”. “Identifies the central challenge facing the energy market—the need for it to deliver affordable, secure and sustainable energy services. The report draws on international developments, particularly from Europe and the United Kingdom, where there has been acknowledgment that, in energy markets, the goals of efficiency and competition have not necessarily ‘trickled down’ to satisfy the needs of consumers in these three key areas. Throughout, the report makes a number of recommendations to inform a policy and regulatory framework that has a more rigorous focus on the interests of consumers. Following publication of this report, Consumer Action will engage politicians, policy makers, regulators, and representatives of industry and consumers on reform measures that will best serve the long-term interests of consumers”.

Co2Land org notes that the messages of the ‘trilemma’ is the view of innovation needs to be incorporated into the ‘system’ where technical and commercial innovation encouragement through: Incentives, responsibility passed on to third parties for their delivery, and building on low carbon funding models. The point is also made that a capacity mechanism or system be incorporated for incentives through both generation and demand management as one of the key elements of the energy market reform (EMR) package.

Fire, has extraordinary abilities to be all that is needed, and as it only requires either common materials or waste to be reformed and it has the capacity to act as a bridging technology it is increasingly likely policy will need to take stock of the realities of the ‘sustainable’ attributes. In terms of the energy market fire products can be assembled as a “package” that compliments a range of utilities and could be deemed part of strategic infrastructure. With advances in ‘smart grid’ systems this is more likely as before the requirement of a high level of automation and remote management on the system was a detractor. Now it is a positive.

This idea is particularly attractive for biomass plants, as the advances and the idea would be to differentiate biomass plants from normal generators and that they can be regarded as “load following batteries” as integral parts of the grid infrastructure, rather than a separate input to it.

Why not call your local member of parliament or future hopeful to discuss innovative restructuring. Think of the idea of how a fixed return on biomass power plants is a true renewable and how other network upgrades can be addressed to accentuate ‘sustainable’, and the capacity requirements of balancing the system infrastructure.

Falling Short – F.I.T. in renewable power

A desire to improve the competitiveness of Renewable Energy in Australia’s power mix is problematic and it is not necessarily technical limitations that hamper the project or is it financial limitations despite bank risk concerns. Especially if the later is supported by the Government bringing forward $160 million in Clean Technology Investment Program (CTIP) funding to 2014-15 to increase manufacturing investment and boost productivity and competitiveness – The budgets key message that CTIP program demand is strong and growing, and there is no change to the funding commitment.  It also is possible the coalition could maintain the $1 billion commitment to the investment programs, albeit it may be called something else for branding purposes.

Co2Land org argues it is not sufficient to be experience in, or have an understanding of the challenges in the design or deployment of renewable energy solutions. That is referring to only the infrastructure, energy output, utility area of responsibility, power capability, transmission and distribution capacity, or even storage technology as the solution set.

The more dangerous issue is the means that an uncooperative energy utility can muster a political wedge and creates sufficient doubt of the effectiveness of the program that will lead to a fall-out with the community. Recently in Australia Co2Land org has been given information that a bitter war is engaged between parties over such a Queensland power line duplication proposal and it all seems so unnecessary. As an observation there is room for both sides to move on this one. However, the agenda may be more complex and looking further afield Canada has some lessons we could learn from over the growth of renewables and why utilities might be so sensitive to the growth of such. It could be our problems in Australia are similar to the following as the Pike Research report that says energy is becoming increasingly democratized and the role of utilities is changing, from producing power and supply markets to purchasing it from distributed sources. We also know in Queensland the State Government has a large ownership stake in generation and supply – albeit they are not alone from the other states and it all gets down to variation of the model as opposed to opposition of the models of operation. Regardless each has ample opportunity to hamper success of ‘buy local’ feed-in into the grid system as the rules stand.

Looking further to the problems of Canada and the utopian belief that all would embrace the new world, it is reported by www.energymanagertoday.com, on 21 May 2013:

“Ontario has fallen short of its goal of creating 50,000 jobs and 5 gigawatts of renewable energy power with its ‘buy local’ feed-in tariff program, despite gathering early momentum by generating 31,000 jobs and turning one in 7 farmers into energy producers, says a report by the Institute of Local Self-Reliance.

Hydro One, the province’s largest utility, has been a major roadblock to progress says ILSR report author John Farrell, since it set a limit of sourcing just 7 percent of its energy from distributed renewable sources, compared with 15 percent for most US utilities. In US states where the cost of power is high, like Hawaii and California, utilities have upped the limits even further, at 25 and 50 percent respectively.

Farrell says Hydro One did not prepare to accommodate the boom in distributed power from the FIT program and missed deadlines to link up to new sources of power. As a result, despite overwhelming demand for FIT and contracts being signed for most of the 5 gigawatts, only 10 percent of the projects are producing electricity now.

Because of the demand for FIT, Ontario will actually be able to shut down all its coal-fired plants next year, and meet most of its 2030 renewable energy goals 12 years early – but its notable success has come at a price, since unprepared utilities were not able to bring the contracted energy on line.

The slow development led to political backlash that nearly toppled the ruling Liberal Party in the 2011 elections. It did lose its majority, which Farrell says jeopardized support for FIT. The Great Recession also stymied progress.

Since then, Ontario has reviewed the FIT program and revised its rules last year, doubling its focus on local ownership and participation. Farrell believes the move, which he says should have been adopted two years ago, will reduce political angst and local opposition and increase return on investments.

Farrell suggests that the Ontario Power Authority needs to streamline its process for developing renewable power with existing contracts and push utilities to get better at determining grid capacity. It should also review whether utility-scale mega projects make sense, given the difficulties in getting it to market. With these changes, “the FIT program may still live up to much of its early promise” he says.”

Sometimes you have ask – why do we ignore the obvious in Power Play? I answer is it is the nature of things to only see our side as a team play, and there is no I in team. ‘I’ referring to the society as a collective, and it has no advantage to be a collective outcome.

 

Danger in oversimplifying energy savings – built environment

When organizing energy procurement opportunities you can experience frustration with the need to use simplified language in order to tell your client how they will make the cost savings. The danger in presenting over simplified information is the data might be clearly shown the distortion of savings that may occur. However, the simplified information package cannot illustrate the effects when small but significant changes to operations, occupancy rates of building, seasonal variations, how government policy changes will impact on the cost equation.  What comes to mind immediately is the Carbon Price in government policy, and the opposition in Australia stating they will retrench that price – it then becomes important to consider how different energy retailers might treat it in the energy agreement – something very few thought about until recent times.

And, it appears universal that the common mistake in the information delivery is the over simplified explanations that can be interpreted as all actions the client takes is a linear function in terms of costs. When in reality the issue is the bigger the contract in terms of dollars the greater the impacts of what you do to affect energy used will affect your price paid for the total energy consumed.

Then we find we are not alone: It is common to make mistakes, and it all comes down to oversimplifying the estimates when presenting the cost savings.

When researching the phenomena it was found Lindsay Audin wrote  “Common Mistakes Made By Energy Managers” recently and we share much of his thoughts. So similar in fact, it is also what Co2Land org has been discussing with Ecoprofit Management (www.ecoprofitmanagement.com.au ). What we need to exercise care in is the data has a message, and to paraphrase into simplified information may miss very important part of that message:

1.    Beware of using averaged electricity rates. Customers in a tranche other than domestic tariffs will be rated for electricity charges for both how much electricity is used in terms of kilowatt-hours (kWh) and for how fast electricity is used in terms of kilowatts (kW) – The  “peak demand charge” and the variance of how fast you use electricity can be as much as 50% of a total bill change.

Note a) The danger in using averaged electricity rates as a simplify in estimating dollar savings from energy upgrades, is it is likely you might calculate an average electricity rate by dividing the total cost of electricity in a month by the kWh used in the same time period – therefore the rate includes the cost of peak demand in it.

Note b) Some upgrades to equipment may fail to reduce peak kW demand – examples are using motion sensors to control lighting needs and such measures will save kWh, but may fail to reduce peak kW demand because of changes to occupancy rates and timing of production loads changing to operational needs to be met. It also follows that controlled lighting might also only happen when the peak of energy use has already passed. In the case of motion sensors for lighting if they don’t cut peak demand, they won’t reduce the kW charge of the bill.

Note c) “This same problem arises with photovoltaic (PV) panels that generate power. A system rated (for example) at 100 kW will, at some point, provide that level of capacity – but not necessarily at a building’s peak time. Full PV output occurs when the sun is highest (between noon and 1 PM), unless the panels are mounted on a motorized platform that follows the sun. Commercial buildings usually peak between 3 and 5 PM, at which point PV output may have dropped considerably.” – Audin.

Note d) “Under a power purchasing agreement (PPA), a PV vendor owns the system and sells the output to the host customer at a small discount off the average utility price, typically for 15-20 years. Once again, that averaged price assumes all the PV power is being provided during the building’s peak. Studies have found that is often not the case. Depending on how much of one’s bill is for peak kW, the true value of the kWh from PV may be significantly lower than the vendor’s price.” – Audin.

Note e) It is then obvious that an averaged electric price overestimates dollar savings, and in all likelihood and unless there is data to prove otherwise, only savings based on the kWh can be assumed as a simple measure.

2.    Beware HVAC savings might not result from a lighting upgrade. Do not assume a watt for watt drop in cooling or assume a heating constant to replace the lamping output. It will not be a proportional saving of kWh in a linear fashion.

Note f) “Reducing lighting kWh cuts fixture heat output, but – for several reasons – that may not always translate into a proportional air conditioning (A/C) savings. For example, chillers run for only a portion of the year, while lighting is on most of the year. When lighting wattage is reduced in a room served by a constant volume air system containing electric reheat coils, a drop in cooling load may be made up – watt for watt – by an increase in reheat output. Not only will there be no cooling savings but even the kWh savings from the lighting upgrade may be negated.” – Audin.

Note g) “A 100% outside air system (e.g., serving a lab) may remove a significant portion of fixture ballast heat in its exhaust air instead of returning it to the cooling coil, thus mitigating some of the assumed A/C savings. If any of the upgraded light fixtures are outdoors or in uncooled spaces (e.g., stairwells, bathrooms, basements, mechanical rooms), their reduced heat output will never be seen by the A/C system. If, on the other hand, that reduced heat output necessitates an increase in winter heating through electric resistance baseboards, the net winter electric savings from the lighting upgrade may also be minimal.” – Audin.

3.    In Co2Land org’s mind the greater mistake is assuming maintenance savings will occur.  Repeated again and again are claims that new equipment will need less maintenance. It may be true, but in all likelihood it will have a cause and effect that might not be adequately assessed.  Consider this scenario: A new boiler is fitted with inverter technology and will require less maintenance. Staff will be cut because of this, or retrained, or reassigned elsewhere. But when maintenance is required of a harmonic distortion occurred the building’s maintenance budget will blow out and little or no actual measurable savings from new equipment will be reported. Admittedly it will most likely be in the preceding budget periods that this affect will show itself.

Note h) Research you case studies thoroughly, and do not assume marketing is telling the truth, the whole truth.

Our underlying message is to exercise caution when you try to explain with too little detail, and do not assume the other party is wanting you to explain all as a simplified explanation.  It might even pay to ask – can you make the time to understand all the implications?

Fit for Purpose – assumptions in MSW and WtE

End to end solution for treating Metropolitan Sewage and Waste (MSW) is a hot topic, and very much in the fore of forums for 2013. So enthusiastic are the players it is very difficult to differentiate the fact from the ideals. Look and you will see a lot of justification and more than adequate presentation of the material. What is more difficult is to get a clear indication of the capability and improvements over current practices.

The culprit may be assumptions, and they are widely used under management scenarios. If we define assumptions as a statement that is assumed to be true and from which a conclusion can be drawn. It might even be that as we rely more on big data an omission from the assumption can lead us to ignore the obvious. Take this example statement – Our machine can undercut all other in terms of power costs. Then if we find published a number of a competitors, but necessarily the same technology, we can quote that number and assume ours as similar or superior. Yet, as was said it is not the same technology.

Recently a post was read and it said in the US, under US Average Levelized Cost for Plants in the Annual Energy Outlook 2009 and 2010 and 2011, a typical generator running on Biomass has net requirement for a price of 11 c kWh to break even. Then came an assumption from the author that as these tables have no values for Advanced Plasma Conversion it is assumed a value of  $0.044/kwh is the value that you add for comparison. The difficulty is the published number for biomass is taken from experience and certain modeling under a list of data sources. The advanced plasma conversion unit was then part of a hypothetical assessment according to mathematical values that commence with an assumption, and will be correct until proven wrong. The fatal flaw in this is that facts are with the biomass and its testing included load scenarios and importantly it has a generator (that thing that produces electromotive force – electricity) attached. What is obscure is whether the Advanced Plasma Conversion unit is connected to a generator, or whether it needs one. For an investor this is a matter of concern, and for a professional in the industry it says embarrassing!

Another major issue is the maturity of the solutions put forward for you to make a project decision.  At program level you can take liberties and shuffle as you need to, at a project level on time and on budget can be you nemesis if you make the wrong assumptions – as said earlier – assumptions are a management scenario. CO2Land org assumes four scenarios are possible for waste handling solutions. It can be put forward to consider: Business as Usual, Gasification, and Pyrolysis, Plasma conversion.

  1. Business as usual (BAU) is an option fast running out, and in areas of rapid urbanization and rapid growing economies the time has already arrived that it cannot continue, not just because of the carbon issues but because it is an economic cost. This does not discount the importance of carbon, but indicated that developing countries needs the resource recovery as much as it is in need to develop.
  2. Gasification is an effective incineration tool, and innovations are proving to be effective in optimizing syngas recovery and returning additional products from the process for agriculture and raw material recovery.
  3. Pyrolysis is also an incineration tool, albeit at higher temperatures with the added benefit of being able to produce syncrude and chars to order. The process needs to be well managed to avoid the possibility of producing dioxins.
  4. Plasma conversion has been around for some years and has chequed history as an incineration method. Two particular issues have dogged the traditional designs. High and constant power requirement, and not being able to control temperature and ionizing across the plasma bed. Considerable claims are being made of advances in the technology. Confidence is continuing to grow on the refinement of the equipment and a number of sites across the world are being implemented.

The Cost benefit of each scenario indicates:

  • Point one is clear – the high cost of resource recovery weighs heavily when the budget is restricted for an authority and they would promote BAU until an incentive was put forward.
  • Point two and three are relevant and in more recent times the marrying of the two according to need is seeing this technology develop into a useful cost effective solution and should be the method of choice in most instances for the next 7 to 8 years.  By this it is meant it is the best technology to implement for most scenarios now and into the future in that time frame and it useful life for many more.  It also has an advantage of being complimentary to most commercial activities, and the ability to be scalable as required.  The strong point potential is to return a number of waste materials, especially plastics to virgin materials.
  • Point four will be the technology of the future; it has the potential (ideal) and the hopeful expect an almost unending product potential from this technology. The next generation is expected to be approved and producible in around 5 years. The scale of the projects required to cover the capital costs is the biggest limiting factor for future projects.

In more detail is this information the current Waste to Energy scenario suggests the difficulty is with the techno-commercial format. That comparing apples with apples may not be possible. An example is given by 
William G. Acker (http://www.ackerandassociates.com) where he looked for Advanced Plasma Conversion tables in the U.S. Annual Energy Outlook 2009 and 2010 and 2011. In these tables there are no values for Advanced Plasma Conversion. So he then said he must assume that what was claimed by another company representative was a value added to the values. He himself then assessed the closest estimate to which the technology is closest to be the figure for Biomass. This is not his definitive position, all he asks is someone to provide a value to share that is more accurate. However, in the mean time we make the assumption it must be correct until refuted

Then CO2Land org decides to ask a question in a forum on Waste to Energy (WtE): “Excuse the confusion, a lot of justification and adequate presentation of the material is provided. What is not clear is the capability from the production of an energy source to the actual electromagnetic force. In other words: what are the source, type and cost of the generator machine? Or, is your Plasma machine also a generator of electrical power in its own right without the need for other equipment?  The response: Good question!  The discussion then centres on whether matters were assumed or simply relayed on what was actually said on the capacity and nothing more.  Being that capability was not addressed is not the domain of the engineers for not giving you correct info, or how confidential agreement might stop you providing information. It may well be a simple case of the enquirers having no idea on what to ask. They do not ask because it was not obvious or lost in techno-commercial format of the communications.

In the quest for comparing apples to apples, and ignoring that baseline quotes may be flawed. To compare the possible in WtE from our view (to which we will assume you will be at odd. Information supplied illustrated:

A hearth gasifier with a reciprocating low Btu engine and conventional generator can be leased in Australia with an operating cost of 8.2cents per kilowatt-hours, with a 25,000 hours maintenance requirement. These costs are worked assuming a 1MW net unit and economies of scale suggest lower costs for larger units. If I combine the capability of the unit with a pyrolysis retort and produce syncrude and biochar, the offset pricing suggest a decrease in generation capacity will result, but the operating costs will settle at around 5 cents a kWh. The number will vary according to the feedstock quality.

Very recently an indicative quote that asked for capacity to handle MSW with1750 kcal as feedstock and input 300 tonnes per day for using advanced plasma conversion. What would be the project cost? The answer came back in the order of  $6.5m plus the cost of shredder activity and generator sets required – that is the cost to add capability is not in the cost mix.  The difficulty now is the assumption that must be made in the numbers.

In another example of a project where the project is not only proposed, is financed (and currently on hold to commence), is again supplied by William G Acker, of the MSW Plasma Gasification Facility for St. Lucie, Florida. This facility would use 686 ton per day of MSW and would produce 22 MW Gross and 18 MW Net of electricity. The installed cost came to $190,000,000. Amortized the project over 30 years with the Levelized Capital Cost alone (no maintenance cost, no labor cost etc.) comes to $0.0922 per kWh. If we add labor and maintenance costs the total may be ‘assumed’ to be around $0.14 per kWh. Then we must consider the money made for taking the waste off the hands of communities, or business that are paying to, landfill it we then could subtract around $0.03 per kWh from the operating cost resulting in $0.11 per kWh.

This results in CO2Land org asking: Will the actual plasma price to generate electricity please stand!  So we know without assumption forming the core costing criteria a project cost is capable of producing electricity for approximately 11 Cents per kWh, and the example hearth gasifier somewhere from 4.4 to 11 cents per kWh. Albeit other examples might swing wildly towards higher costs depending on the operating and technology vintage.  That said there is no doubt that given time and R&D plasma conversion in whatever form will be the way forward. In other examples plasma systems are doing OK for the job required, but academia and those in the industry say it is some way off being perfected and as efficient as it should be.

If we go back to the influence of assumptions the problem for the industry is that laboratory results and mathematical equations don’t often become reality, as not everything is scalable. In the mean time it is “danger danger, Will Robertson” as borrowed from ‘lost in space’ which was entertaining series a little while back. We also need to be fully aware of the smoke and mirrors approach that do a wonderful job with customers who are not normally that knowledgeable.

Another factor of our times is that despite each supplier wanting to win each job, they are fighting for funds within an economy where funds requiring $50M or more are highly competitive. In these instances those projects where the technology is still to be proven it will take second place to those known to do the job.

Evidence of uncertainty in the accuracy of a useful lifecycle may lead you to consider that you might want to lease the plant, it could be a lower risk in these times. The more popular in these circumstances are suggested as those that offer an operational lease rather than a financial risk.

We trust that has covered off on the choices – if you feel too much assumption is made or if you know better – please show yourself!

encouraged to submit an EOI – but!

We have spoken with our contact, and we are encouraged to submit an EOI for the CRE Grants program. Given that everybody else is submitting EOI’s for Wind and Solar systems, we may be in with a good chance.  This is a response sent in after it was posted Closing 21 Feb – excluded, on February 13, 2013 by co2land

In fact three relevant responses came in and each had a story that you might be interested in:

Renewed Carbon – Have a BioHub design. They have a set of engineering firms in Newcastle ready to: Design the plant, Build the plant, Run the plant for 12 months, Take all the start-up risks, Sell the operating plant to the eventual owner.

All they need is about $12m !!!

They are working towards a pre-feasibility study to establish whether they are just dreaming (They believe such a study will a green-light the project). But the study will cost several hundred grand!

It is matter of hurdles (one at a time) and a simple process of: let’s get the money for the Pre-Feasibility Study and work from there.

Part of the reason for their enthusiasm is they are aware of working Pyrolysis plants in several places in Europe, as such they are confident the ‘Commercially Available’ constraint in the EOI closing 21 Feb 2013 should not be a problem.

With that said, I wonder if many are aware of the more sophisticated Veolia WASP project at Woodlawn, via Tarago in NSW. This project has been held up in NSW Planning approvals for some time now and as we have spoken to the engineers at the plant – it is a source of great frustration.

Then a more detailed retort from Peter and Kerry Davies of Real Power Systems (who have built their gasifier and Pyrolysis retort machine in Australia and demonstrated its commercial application in Australia) lament the issues they have had since showcasing the capabilities on the grounds of Parliament House in 2009). In this response they are responding not only the Closing 21 Feb story they are also referring to happenings in the prickly exchange between www.newmatilda.com  and City of Sydney Tri-generation project, and the general stonewalling they have encountered with their offering in the quest for a commercial outcome.  In direct quote:

“Thanks for the link, we just read through the three associated articles:

The attacks are coming from the green’s associates and heavily rely on BZE, a Melbourne University academics club who want Oz to go solar thermal immediately and trust that in doing so costs will fall and engineering problems overcome. This involves putting several thousand square km’s of solar arrays down in adjoining rural areas…

The core arguments against the renewable component of the plan centre on biogas, which is produced using anaerobic digestion and therefor predominately methane (85% CH4). We would consider these arguments to be largely valid although they don’t go far enough, the cost of efficient closed cycle anaerobic digesters is millions of $ per MWe of capacity and are prone to significant operational problems. In the EU it has been found engines running on biogas have difficulty meeting emission guidelines as some fuel is not burnt (escaped methane) and running excess oxygen to correct this then results in NoX emissions rather than CH4, there is a lot of work being done to overcome this limitation.

These arguments though are not valid at all for gasification whose output is “producer gas”  which has <1% methane and the fuel gas component is CO & H2, much cleaner in combustion and not subject to “methane leaks”. Gasification also is far more flexible in its feed stocks which can readily include waste paper with plastics contamination, and is easily topped up with solid fuels produced from plantations, crop residues or RDF pellets.

NoX  is easily managed in a properly engineered system running on producer gas since its formation is temperature and free oxygen dependent. Modern “lean burn” engine technologies combined with rapid exhaust cooling (via cogen) readily address the emission concerns. Direct combustion systems are more difficult, the critics seem to be confusing the two.

Trigen should be eminently suitable for Sydney so long as it genuinely includes absorption chiller technology for the building climate control required in warmer months. We don’t believe waste heat and inversion layers should necessarily be an issue so long as the trigen plant is not using fossil fuels or high methane biogas. Indeed with some lateral thinking and applied engineering the waste heat from higher rise buildings could be used through thermal siphoning to alleviate air pollution at street level.

We are aware of some very clever “Urban food production” systems that can produce very high outputs from small areas using aquaponics (fish and hydroponics). The rooftops of many high rise buildings would be eminently suited with proper planning to include these which then turns the total system into a “Quad generation”, utilising CO2 from the engine exhausts in the greenhouse above and providing local restaurants with fresh fish and vegetables grown in their own inner city building or precinct! Such innovations are we believe relevant now and can only become increasingly important for the future of sustainable cities.

Heightened ambient noise is an engineering/$ issue. A couple of years ago we responded to a request for tender for a cogen plant at a public swimming pool. The EPA imposed a noise limit of 32 decibels (it turned out there were dwellings within 20m of the installation site…). To put this in perspective such a noise limit can be exceeded by the act of sitting down in a country library and opening a hardcover book… We found a solution with pre-cast acoustic chambers from a Sydney supplier which added about $80,000 to project cost (yes you can also cast in situ). You could rev a Harley at full throttle inside one and not exceed the 32DB limit outside. To give you some idea of what this means in practice the fan running on the RPS system demonstrated at Bungendore for REDay generates 55DB.

Finally Origin/Cogent might consider the following: The RPS plant being commissioned at Sutton at the moment just took delivery of 80m3 of sawdust for further client trials. This plant when operational in the next week or so will consist of:

Gasifier – clean fuel gas and high temperature treated biochar output.

This char output can be used for water filtering and odor control amongst other external applications before going off to be added to compost for final recycling & CO2 sequestration.

Integrated pyrolysis retort – operates off a portion of the gasifier output so as to be more consistent, controllable and able to handle high/variable feed stock moisture contents, capable of sustained temperatures >650oC. Outputs biochar or torrefied biomass depending on temperature/residence time profile selected so effectively could replicate any typical biochar specification required or alternately pre-condition solid fuels for the gasifier.

Also can provide process heat for a range of purposes.

Electricity generator (20kWe) – Dual fuel diesel & producer gas from the gasifier . Typical diesel displacement when the gasifier is running would be 85% (reduction in normal diesel use). Later we will trial recycling a portion of this final exhaust back through the gasifier to re-crack some carbon dioxide (CO2+heat= 2CO) further reducing nett emissions.

We are also currently refurbishing a 50kWe straight gas industrial genset to add later in order to achieve 100% organic power.

Briquette press – for hot briquetting product directly out of the pyrolysis retort. (This is part of RPS’s R&D looking at subsequent material handling/transport/application strategies).

This briquette press is a proprietary design that we own the rights to and is able to be locally fabricated by any competent engineering shop so is not a high cost imported item.

So it is really a combination proof of concept/commercial plant that goes beyond just a functional bioenergy/char retort design and looks more at a whole of system farm scale factory with core components equally at home in the basement of a building in order to give flexible outputs that maximise benefits. This plant is readily brought up to the scale some companies have received offers of multi-million dollar public grants to build…but still haven’t been able to do so.

All of which has been done not only in the absence of government grants or sucking in market venture capital but also in spite of direct obstruction and commercial bastardry by vested interests. What might be described as “Success against Uncommon Odds”.

If the City of Sydney/Origin/Cogent trifecta are genuine they need to stop playing around the edges and get serious with some sort of supportive funding delivered through a credible pilot plant trial to publicly validate what we already know, instead of waiting for people like ourselves with real solutions to solve their problems for them entirely at our own expense.

Best Regards,
Peter & Kerry”

Then from George Paulos, where is writes of his IMPLETERRA new Plasma Gasification System:

“Thanks for connecting with me.

And as you have already pointed out: YES I love my work !

Hopefully we can be of fruitful service to one another.

I would like to move some things in Down Under with you.

For example: Our new Plasma can extract precious metals from ore.

This is currently being tested in our lab in the US.

Thus all these hazardous chemical for extraction get needless AND

of course the overall calculation for the mining company gets CHEAPER In this sense its a win-win for all parties involved: We and our environment and the company and the economy ! And also: These Plasma devices cannot be sold, only leased based on Power Purchase Agreements. Thus no investment necessary ! “

On reflection of what George has said, and repeated by Real Power Systems: The way grants programs are administrated may be what is wrong with the industry, in this it is meant: Why do you need $XXk grant to write a pre-feasibility study and then go to a prospectus costing $XXXXXXK in order to persuade $XXm from investors given that the askers apparently already know the outcome of a larger feasibility study, or learnt from past mistakes…. Would it not be more sensible to do as the UK Government do – have a department and a fund set –up that is open to all, rather than a select few. The caveat is if you can prove the need, that sufficient testing is done and you can show it could work, and the ability to be an entrepreneur – be a doer not just a talker. You will be asked how much do you need and so on. No nonsense approach that makes the bankable process much more streamlined.

CO2Land org thank each for their encouragement. Clearly these are also worthy of encouragement because they each solve real problems to what we have now, WHAT TO DO to turn waste to energy and take the pressure off virgin materials being required every time!

 

 

COAG Powers – playing ball EPBC, Energy Market Reform

A business’s focus should not just be on project management, which is a reactive stance, but ’project mastery’ – this includes not allowing stakeholders to tug it in a multitude of directions, making it impossible to set clear goals and deliver the goods on time – finding the balance between sticking to the original plan and remaining flexible – avoiding ‘score creep’ (where the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled) – and keeping to the path. Says The Harvard Business Review as sent out by Caring for our Country’s Garry Reynolds.

Linking how this could affect the effectiveness of the intention of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) intentions (Meeting – Communiqué Canberra, 7 December 2012) from its 34th meeting in Canberra [As a note COAG has for 20 years been meeting to discuss Business and politics]. You could wonder it COAG can deliver despite it continues to reiterate its commitment to focus its attention on policy reforms of national significance, and to keep its agenda as streamlined as possible.

If we focus on COAG Environment and Energy Reforms:

Posted on December 7, 2012 by co2landEPBC Powers – COAG passing the ball?” where we raised an analogy over federalism and enterprise models and “If you translate that to Federal and State and Territory government workings, you might see the possibility of a run away train through select enterprise if the influence is replaced by vested interest other than the good of society, or our long term future”, and then recently COAG, on Environmental Regulation Reform, “re-affirmed its commitment to broad environmental regulation reform that enhances efficiency and increases certainty for business, while maintaining high environmental standards”. It follows that the Commonwealth will progress its legislative reforms in response to “the Hawke review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to further streamline and strengthen environmental regulation”.

As we previously said COAG wants to articulate ‘standards’ that the Commonwealth has proposed and that State and Territory processes would need to meet these standards as ‘accredited’ arrangements. COAG writes it “represent an important milestone in COAG’s reform agenda” and “Jurisdictions have made consistent efforts to improve regulatory arrangements, including increased use of strategic tools and commitment to early engagement with proponents.  COAG welcomed the release of the Commonwealth’s Statement of Environmental and Assurance Outcomes and draft Framework of Standards for Accreditation”.

The issue may be in the following: “As a further step to improving processes relating to environmental regulation, COAG agreed that all jurisdictions will direct their regulatory and referral agencies to eliminate duplication and to avoid sequential assessments and delayed approval processes and also to utilise common information requirements for both assessments and approvals”. The operative being co-operation and avoiding ‘score creep’ as states and territories are known to seek.

Energy Market Reform, in 1996 we saw the introduction of the National Energy Market (NEM) and its strong appeal was for urgent and concrete action to reduce the price of energy through ‘contestability’. In 2012, “ COAG noted the strong call by business for urgent and concrete action on energy market reform to help moderate the impact of high electricity prices on consumers and business, particularly the need for greater access to more flexible pricing”.   While the concepts differ in that contestability was the original answer to lower energy rices, in particular Electricity prices, what COAG has now endorsed is a more comprehensive package of energy market reforms for jurisdictions in the National Electricity Market than in 1996. In this instance ‘reliability standards’ are to be addressed additional to rules and price.

Set up for the job of the reforms are, “the Standing Council on Energy and Resources (SCER), with advice from the Business Advisory Forum (BAF) Taskforce.  In addition to agreeing to the recommendations from SCER and the BAF Taskforce, COAG agreed in principle to adopt the new best-practice framework for reliability standards (to be developed by the Australian Energy Market Commission and which give primacy to affordability for consumers at agreed levels of reliability and take account of regional considerations) and to transfer responsibility for applying the framework to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), with a final decision by the end of 2013”.

It is additional funding from the Commonwealth that is being made available to enable the AER to review “its resources, independence and operational arrangements”.

COAG secretariat acknowledges the full implementation of the reform agenda (to be taken forward by Energy Ministers), “will take sustained commitment over time”, and the oversighting progress needs to be vigilant.  Further details on the reform package are available at www.coag.gov.au.

It should also be noted the domestic gas market is not forgotten and “COAG requested SCER to provide advice to its next meeting on challenges facing domestic gas markets”.

A bit more from Caring for Our Country co-ordinator, Garry Reynolds:

The International Energy Agency is projecting a glut of energy as the US becomes the largest producer of oil and an exporter of gas – CO2 emissions will continue to grow, but energy efficiency could help buy us time in addressing climate change and save money. Source: Climate Spectator 13 Nov 12.

Global demand for fossil fuels, especially coal, is forecast to grow strongly – yet carbon emissions will have to peak soon if the worst of climate change is to be avoided – coal met 45% of the growth in global energy demand between 2001-11 – roughly triple the contribution from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Source SMH 17 Nov 12.

Australia is betting big on the expansion of coal as the world’s 4th largest producer (6% of the world’s coal production) – committed projects to expand coal capacity total $9.8 billion for ports and $16.7 billion for mines – the Government is hoping that the long term development of carbon capture and storage will mitigate the greenhouse effects of the expansion.  Source SMH 17 Nov 12.

Because of the variability of wind and solar power, every 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy production capacity needs 600 megawatts of coal or gas power as a backup. Source SMH 17 Nov 12.

The US glut of cheap natural gas is leading major coalminers to look to the construction of new ports on the US West Coast to massively increase exports to Asia. Source New Scientist 13 Oct 12.

Hydro Tasmania is the largest generator of clean energy in Australia. Source Planet Ark 24 Oct 12.

Australia’s 20 per cent Renewable Energy Target has delivered $18.5 billion in investment, with the potential for $18.7 billion more if the policy is retained in its current form according to the Clean Energy Council – it is cutting emissions and paying for itself. Source  REneweconomy 25Oct 12.

And, the best for last : ‘Innovation is obvious in hindsight and radical in foresight’ Hargraves Institute 23 Oct 12.

Bioenergy policy – case for clarification

Two important statements: Coal is not a sustainable option for energy production. Energy production ‘product substitution’ could result in the use of higher carbon alternatives. Do we need to educate policy makers on what this means?

During 2011, a company called Carbon Innovation had high hopes that bioenergy projects would form part of its sustainability platform. The platform built on biomass for energy production and biochar products. It was a noble cause and the indicators were it could be a success. Like so many innovators, the fight became not about the quality of product, but of policy, and waiting for the strategy to be formed and implemented. All this takes time. Time is money and for a business case to be proven it needs to be bankable.  To be bankable requires metrics and measure of product approval.

In the debate of climate change verses global warming it should be clear-cut: The former is trends and the later is shorter-term rises. But somehow, deniers fixated on the later, media adopted the term as a de facto for sensationalism and controversy. The result what was a genuine cause becomes ‘issue’.

Let me put Carbon Innovation’s cause to you first: Forrest floor waste has many negative consequences and the bioenergy potential was a focus towards truly sustainable inputs.  Sufficiency reports advises any further investigation into waste products for energy use, such as wood waste from forestry was a sensible alternative to coal burning, and a very good global warming mitigation.

Representation to ABARE questioned if there was an accurate accounting system. Whether the systems were capable of raising awareness of carbon debt and material substitution, or whether it merely found a ‘lumping in ‘ approach easier. The argument being it is a lazy way and the approach fails to be robust and in all likelihood would lead to a challenge of the effectiveness of genuine environmental benefits. It should be clarified what was asked was for waste to be used as the fuel, not the deliberate destruction of a carbon sink.

Carbon Innovation Pty Ltd is now in the process of a ‘Strike-Off Action In Progress’ with ASIC – as a volunteer action by the management.

The CO2Land org notices a number of stories now circulating on Biomass for energy production and finds some interesting foes for the concept. Albeit it might be again the problem of ‘lumping in’ and things being taken as a ‘broad brush’ statement and failing to see the wood for the trees – not original but illustrated the problems very well.

While Carbon Innovation was trying for a favourable policy position in Australia, to offer a carbon neutral renewable resource, the UK government supports this shift through subsidies on biomass to combat climate change. However, some environmentalists label these subsidies ‘climate fraud’. Background stories:

Bioenergy policy

“The UK Bioenergy Strategy published earlier this year, aims to support sustainable bioenergy in order to reduce emissions. With this goal in mind, the UK plans to continue subsidising the use of wood for large-scale power generation. The strategy makes it clear that the use of wood, in comparison to coal, will result in emission reductions. As a result, several British power companies are actively following this directive”.

Dirtier than coal?

“A new report challenges the assumption that biomass is carbon neutral. ‘Dirtier than coal?‘, a combined effort between RSPB, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, goes so far as to say that replacing coal by burning whole trees would increase emissions by 49% over the next 40 years. The report identifies two key critiques of the assumption that wood is a carbon-neutral energy source.

1. Wood is inefficient

Stuart Housden, Director at RSPB Scotland, explains that the aim of government biomass subsidies is to shift towards lower carbon intensive inputs. Housden argues that replacing coal with wood will not have this outcome.

“When trees are burnt in power stations, CO2 comes out of the chimney, just like it does when you burn coal. The difference is that wood is less energy-dense and is wetter than coal, so it takes a lot more energy to harvest, transport, process and finally burn it…

Transport emissions are likely to rise as the UK will be forced to import wood in order to meet rising demand. On a local scale, as demand and price rises, industries using wood may be pushed into using cheaper options. This ‘product substitution’ could result in the use of higher carbon alternatives.

2. Carbon debt

Advocates of biomass argue that losses in carbon storage from harvesting of wood is compensated by regrowth. This leads to the second ‘accounting error’ of the bioenergy strategy. It fails to recognise the time lag between initialising regrowth and mature, carbon sequestering ecosystems. This issue of ‘carbon debt’ is one of the most serious criticisms of biomass for energy production. Housden goes on to point out that,

(It can take decades, if not centuries for the trees to recapture that carbon, leaving us with more emissions in the atmosphere now – when we least need it).”

 To put into a summary:

They are correct in these main areas:

  • There is the need for an accurate accounting system that avoids ‘lumping in’ one size fits all
  • Accounting systems should factor an awareness of carbon debt and material substitution
  • Bioenergy should refocus towards truly sustainable inputs
  • Further investigation into waste products for energy use, such as wood waste from forestry would be a very sensible strategy
  • There must be continued discussion over biomass as a renewable resource, and the classification of carbon neutral
  • Carbon neutral must be clarified in a policy context, as should other loose terms such as sustainable, real, even carbon (see footnote).

Many groups and governments agree coal is not a sustainable option for energy production. What is not clear is the question of the assumptions that surround policy regarding biomass as a product substitution. However, CO2Land org cannot support claims of ‘climate fraud’ by some environmentalists saying Governments practice it. We claim it is more akin to ignorance and under resourcing of responsible units, and that need to be addressed to get effective actions from government.

Footnote: Carbon – the word confused in CFIPosted on August 2, 2012 by co2land .

Off the tracks

Is the dream of renewable energy already over? To judge from what was said recently one might be forgiven for thinking so.

Almost every speech at the high-level talks of the importance of fossil fuels for energy supply is underlined. And not just by industry representatives, but also by the responsible ministers. The Environment Minister even said: was “against discrimination of fossil fuels”.

Those are just words, but the actions speak even louder. Fact is the use of coal increased substantially last year. Ironically, the additional coal used in the power stations could have been exported, while the export could be counted bringing down our energy-related CO2 emissions to a level not seen before. No wonder some people say our economy is where the real climate change is taking place.

However, it would be premature to write off the governments ambitious energy plan at this stage. We did manage over the past few years to increase renewable energy production to an unprecedented level. This is not an unimportant achievement.

The real question is whether we can build on this success by turning the renewable energy revolution from a subsidy-drain into an engine of technological and economic development. As energy observers note it is a gamble: “No other country can tap such technical expertise from industry or such bottom-up activism from municipalities, companies and citizens’ cooperatives in support of the low-carbon industry.

To prevent the renewable energy industry from becoming permanently sidetracked will require a massive effort and a much greater degree of faith (and coordination) than the current government is displaying. The industry has entered into a precarious, if not chaotic, phase. You can read her assessment of the current energy mood in Berlin by clicking here.

CO2Land apologize for the excitement, but we are not alone!