Sunday, December 04, 2005

Climate protection and energy supply in Germany 1990-2020

A report by DPG reviews15 years of climate policy in Germany (1990-2005) and looks 15 years ahead (2005-2020). Germany's emissions are only 3-4% of global emissions, and hence Germany's climate policy only makes sense in a context of setting a leadership example on the international scene, while developing a next export sector for business.
Germany already has failed to meet its much publicised 2005 target of 25% reduction compared to 1990, and is set on a course to miss its 2020 target of 40% reduction. A key factor is the nuclear phaseout, which will lead to 112 million tonne additional emissions. The report pleads for keeping the nuclear park open, and for solar thermal power plats in South Germany.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Post-2012 Climate Policy - the Pew report

In a 47th vision on Kyoto Post-2012 (after the '45 visions' review by University of Amsterdam and the recent 3E report), the Pew Center on Global Climate Change argues for a flexible, multilateral framework that engages major actors. It calls for an aspirational long-term goal, with differentiated targets & trading to drive short-term action. The report also sees a role for technology cooperation.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

31 Years after the First Energy Crisis - the Need for an Energy Strategy

Since the first oil shock 31 years ago, has the world moved towards a more sustainable energy system? Or has a proliferation of energy policies, regulations, enthusiasms and philosophies resulted in a hive of activity, with little progress? Does Europe lack an energy strategy?

This paper defines 11 dimensions for a national or regional energy policy, and 13 technologies to realise these objectives. It further explores the link between energy technologies and policy objectives, according to a matrix.

The table demonstrates that there is no such thing like a perfect energy source, though energy efficiency and non-intermittent renewables come pretty close to this ideal.

The table equally demonstrates that sufficient options are available to achieve almost any strategic objective. Pursuing a wide portfolio of options appears a wise choice to ensure economically efficient and stable energy prices.

A secure, clean, safe and healthy energy supply is no longer a technology development challenge, but largely a matter of investment in infrastructure and deployment of modern solutions on a massive scale. Developed countries can afford almost any energy system, but cost of energy and competitiveness become major attention areas.

Download article

Saturday, November 26, 2005

How precious is a cubic meter of gas?

A cubic meter of gas means:
  • Heating a home for 1 hour on a cold day
  • Wash your hands 50 times
  • Clean the dishes 6 times
  • 3 showers
  • 6 hot meals
  • 1 bath
[Source: Milieuzorg op School, nr 5, Mei 2005]

Friday, November 25, 2005

How precious is a kWh?

A kWh of electricity means:
  • 1200 electric shaves (> 3 years)
  • Slice 100 breads
  • Drying your hair 15 times
  • 4 TV evenings
  • Listening to 15 CD's
  • Using a (small) refrigerator for 24 hours
  • 20 microwave meals
  • Drill 250 holes
  • 4 evenings of light with 60 W incandescent lamps
  • 20 evening of light with 11 W compact fluorescent light
[Source: Milieuzorg op School, nr 5, Mei 2005]

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Does a liberalised market produce clean electricity?

In this discussion paper by CE Delft, the current and expect impact of liberalising the electricity market is described, based on input from an expert group. The themes are clean electricity, reliability of the system and its cost. The paper concludes:
  • Environmental performance: the current impact of liberalisation is negative, and expect to remain negative on the longer run
  • Reliability: the current impact is neutral, but in the long run, it is expected to be negative
  • Cost: the current impact is a slight positive, but expected to turn negative in the longer run
The paper continued with a suggestion of a number of policy options to ensure a clean and reliable electricity suply for the future:
  • For a clean electricity system:
    • Minimum quota for renewable electricity for both producers and suppliers
    • Energy efficiency obligations for suppliers
    • Promotion of combined heat & power
    • Agreements for the construction of energy-efficient power plants
    • Reduce emission allowances (NOx, SO2, CO2)
    • Efficient electrical appliances
  • For a reliable electricity system:
    • Minimum reliability standards
    • Obligations for reserve capacity
    • Organise a market for network capacity
    • Promotion of combined heat & power
    • Insurance against blackout
View report (in Dutch, I'm afraid)

Refresh course - harmonics

LPQI is pleased to offer a webcourse on harmonics in 3 sessions.

Session 1 - basics

Harmonic currents arise from the use of non-linear loads, comprising in the first place electronic devices which did not exist until some 20 years ago. These load the power systems of buildings in a  different way than the traditional ohmic, inductive and capacitive loads do. This has 10 effects altogether, 6 of which may occur on any system and  another 4 which are typical of TN-C and TN-C-S wiring systems only. This
first presentation describes these 10 detrimental effects and gives some suggestions for remedial measures.

Session 2 - standards

The second presentation of this series will describe that the present attempts at solving these new impacts with  standards have largely failed. You will learn why the majority of those  standards are not really

Session 3 - case studies

The final presentation will give some practical examples, highlight some special and uncommon power quality impacts and a  few uncommon niche applications to solve PQ problems.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Towards a post-2012 climate change regime

A report commissioned by DG Environment proposes a post-2012 regime that includes developing countries as well as major annex I emitters that have currently not ratified Kyoto. It proposes a 3-stage approach:
  • Countries with emissions larger than 9 tCO2e/capita, i.e. 2/3 of current annex I, excluding countries with less than 4000$/capita GDP would engage in 15-30% absolute reductions by 2020 compared to 1990.
  • Countries with 5-9 tCO2e/capita emissions would stabilise their emissions per capita between 2010 and 2020. A dual target could be considered where countries would be allowed to sell below a certain emission threshold, and needed to buy above another.
  • Countries with less than 5 tCO2e/capita or less than 4000 $/capita GDP would not have binding targets, but sectoral targets and technology assistance could curb emission growth.
The proposal is complement with a scheme for LULUCF, an adaptation fund and technology assistance.

Post-2012 Climate Policy - Assessing the Options

A new report by Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, ECN and Wageningen University contributes a review of 45 publications on climate policy post-2012, and provides an excellent framework to interpret and understand such proposals.

Uncertainty reigns

The report defines 4 broad policy objectives that climate policy should deliver, or contribute to, and assesses how each of the 45 proposals is likely to meet these. It shows that it is uncertain for the majority of proposals to deliver a safe climate, growth and competitiveness or energy security.

Policy dilemma's

The authors define 5 dilemma's confronting policy makers:
  1. Carrots or sticks: incentives or constraints?
  2. Front door or back door: should climate policy or other policies deliver climate change mitigation?
  3. Markets or regulation: use market-based policy instruments and to what extent?
  4. Team player or John Wayne: multilateral or unilateral action?
  5. Adapt or mitigate

From 'or' to 'and'

Above 5 dilemma's are not 'or' choices. The authors plead for mechanisms to combine above 5 apparent dichotomies.

It is a sobering thought that none of the 45 proposals adequately addresses the 4 above policy objectives. Maybe it is time to stop treating climate policy as a special case, and to start integrating it more firmly within economic, social and environmental policies.

View report

Thursday, November 17, 2005

'Factor 6' Solution: the condensing boilers

The average efficiency of non-condensing gas boilers running in the EU is about 70% where condensing boilers can achieve 95% efficiency (based on higher heating value). Taking the view that the heat output from the boiler is an energy service provided to the building, the energy consumption of the boiler is its energy loss, which in this case reduces from 30% to 5%. Condensing boilers are a standard solution in the Netherlands (almost 100% market share), and growing fast in Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria and Belgium, where the share is currently around 30-40%. In other countries, such as UK and Italy, the use of condensing boilers is much lower (source MAMPAEY).

Hot & Cool: heat pumps in Sweden

Over the past 3 years, the number of heat pumps sold in Sweden has almost doubled. Outside district heating areas, heat pumps have become the standard solution for private homes. Every second heat pump in Europe - not including air-to-air systems, is installed in Sweden. In 2004, almost 70,000 new heat pumps have been installed. Often, the system selected is a ground-source heat pump. Typical depth of the bore hole is 100-150 m.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

'Factor 4' Solution: from diesel to electric trains

Diesel trains consume 460 kJ/ and emit 35 g/ For electric trains, these figures become 230 and 9.3 respectively. The use of electric trains improves CO2 emissions by a factor 4, and energy consumption by a factor 2. Another illustration of the booster effect on carbon saving through the use of electricity.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

31 Years after the first Energy Crisis - the relation between energy policy and technology

The country imagines who its future competitors are most likely to be. And looming large on that horizon is China. China is short on energy . . .Russia only has energy . . .
Most countries don't have energy strategies. There is plenty of energy policies, plenty of energy regulations. There are even energy philosophies and enthusiasms. But energy strategies are in short supply.
P Ellis, Boston Consulting Group, BBC If . . . the lights go out, March 2004

Since the first oil shock 31 years ago, has the world moved towards a more sustainable energy system? Or has a proliferation of energy policies, regulations, enthusiasms and philosophies resulted in a hive of activity, with little progress? Does Europe lack an energy strategy?

This paper defines 11 dimensions for a national or regional energy policy, and 13 technologies to realise these objectives. It further explores the link between energy technologies and policy objectives, according to the following matrix:

(Click table to enlarge)

The table demonstrates that there is no such thing like a perfect energy source, though energy efficiency and non-intermittent renewables come pretty close to this ideal.

The table equally demonstrates that sufficient options are available to achieve almost any strategic objective. Pursuing a wide portfolio of options appears a wise choice to ensure economically efficient and stable energy prices.

A secure, clean, safe and healthy energy supply is no longer a technology development challenge, but largely a matter of investment in infrastructure and deployment of modern solutions on a massive scale. Developed countries can afford almost any energy system, but cost of energy and competitiveness become major attention areas.

View paper

Saturday, November 12, 2005

'Factor 4' Solution: from air to rail travel

CO2 emissions per for air travel are 186 g to  travel from Hamburg to Munich (source - p41). Making the journey by rail reduces this to 43 g CO2 per Replacing air travel by high speed rail over medium distances reduces CO2 emissions by a factor 4. Energy consumption reduces by a factor 3, from 7.8 to 2.5 l/

Thursday, November 10, 2005

'Factor 5' Solutions: Super-refrigerators

In Factor Four - Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use, one of the solutions mentioned are super-refrigerators. In the 70's, the average refrigerator consumed 3.36 kWh/yr per liter volume, but refrigerators nowadays achieve much better performance (for example, see Certified Environmental Product Declaration ER 8117B achieving 1.15). Despite this improvement of a factor 3, there is potential to achieve 0.26, almost 5 times better.
For examples of potential super-refrigerators: Sun Frost

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Polluter pays, or polluter gets paid?

'Polluter pays' is a basic principle in environmental policy, but this seems not what's happening in the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). There are increasing evidence that utilities pass through to their customers the value of the carbon certificates that they have received free of charge, increasing electricity prices by up to 10 euro/MWh. According to the German Association of the chemical industry, this creates windfall profits of more than 5 billion euro per year for the German power sector.
The fact that power generators are apparently capable of passing through this charge in a market that is 100% liberalised was a surprise to many. The question therefore can be asked whether the electricity market operates as expected, and whether users can choose their supplier.
With this transfer of wealth between market actors taking place, there is little evidence so far of real investment in CO2 reduction taking place. This is a missed opportunity, since the European Climate Change Programme has identified back in 2001 over 700 million tonnes of potential reduction of CO2 emissions at a cost of less than 20 euro/tonne. Directing 5 billion euro per year towards such investments would have a significant impact on EU emissions: at least 6% reduction.
A recent report from ECN uses empirical and statistical analyses to estimate pass-through rates, and finds in 4 countries (Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands) that carbon certificates have been charged to customers over the period January - July 2005. The report mentions as well that 10 billion emission allowances of 1 tonne CO2 will be allocated for the period 2008-2012, representing a value of more than 200 billion euro at today's trading price. It is therefore time to make changes and to start harnessing the power of carbon markets for moving towards a sustainable energy system.

Web event - Passive House: concept, applications, market

In this web event on December 20, Erwin Mlecnik, Coordinator of the Belgian Passive House Platform will introduce the Passive House concept and its application for new dwellings, renovation and in office buildings. The market for Passive Houses is set for rapid growth. A market overview will be given in a European context. 

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Carbon Trading & Energy Efficiency

In this web event today, Tudor Constantinescu from the Energy Charter Secretariat gives an overview of carbon trading mechanisms and their link to energy efficiency. Mostly, carbon trading facilitates supply-side efficiency projects. Demand-side efficiency projects find it hard to compete, and there are few success stories. Bundling mechanisms for small-scale projects should be explored as an avenue.

Electricity System of the Future - The Transition of the Grid

In this web event today, Peter Vaessen from KEMA gavean overview of new technology becoming available, which in combination with demographic change and increasing environmental conscience are initiating a period of unprecented change in the electricity system. A crucial point becomes the interchange layer between T&D, where the system might evolve to a 'camel' (strong HV & LV, weak MV) or 'dromedary' (strong MV, weaker HV & LV) model. Finally, the presenter calls for the development of tools and greater experimentation in the organisation and regulation of markets.
Related papers:

Ireland joins the Passive House league of nations

Passive houses are getting common technology in Germany, and have been successfully introduced in Austria, Belgium, France, Scandinavia and Switzerland. Now Ireland joins this league of nations with the opening of the first passive house near Wicklow. The passive house was 10% more expensive to construct, but reduces heating energy consumption by a factor 10.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

'Factor 8' Solutions: high efficiency fluorescent lighting

The most wide-spread lamp type (incandescent) is also the most inefficient one. It is more like a heating convector that just happens to produce some light. Per watt input power, incandescent lamps produce typically about 10 lumens. Cf below graph, fluorescent lamps do a factor 8 better, while technologies exist today to achieve more than factor 10.

Going the other extreme, a candle just produces 1 lumen/watt, and is even 10 times less efficient than an incandescent lamp.

Figure: light efficiency for various technologies (source: European Ballast Group)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

About this blog

This Blog covers sustainable energy in terms of (1) security of supply, (2) having the infrastructure available to convert & distribute energy, (3) quality of supply (stability, power quality), (4) environmental performance, including safety and (5) economic efficiency. The Blog is an initiative of the Leonardo ENERGY Programme, an outreach and advocacy platform of European Copper Institute now involving over 120 partners.
The Blog aims to live up to the following manifesto:
  1. The truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. We welcome diversity of opinion, clarifying advantages as well as disadvantages of options.
  2. Uncensored: past entries will only edited for spelling mistakes, not content. However, abrasive entries or comments will be removed.
  3. Erring is human: when we do, we'll post a correction entry, and add a comment to the original entry.
  4. Qualified information: we aim for information from qualified sources, free from ideology or commercial interests (maybe we aim for too much).
  5. Authoritive: information used by Leonardo ENERGY is appropriately processed through the LE network. Therefore, there will always be a delay between energy news, and its appearance on the SE Blog. For hot energy news, see for example sustainablog.
  6. Full access: as much as possible, posts will be based on information that is directly accessible. Occasionally, we'll refer to information from scientific databases that is copyright protected, but accessible through libraries. We'll never use confidential information that is not accessible in the public domain, and hence not verifiable.
  7. Frequency of posts will be determined by Leonardo ENERGY's processing capacity (typically 15-20 new posts per month).
  8. Changes to this manifesto will be posted as comments to this entry.

'Factor 3' Solution: the heat pump

Electrically-driven heat pumps for heating buildings typically supply 100 kWh of heat with just 20-40 kWh of electricity. Heating buildings causes 30% of global CO2 emissions. More wide-scale use of heat pumps could save 1200 million tonne of CO2 emissions annually, i.e. about 6% of global emissions, or 30% of the EU's emissions. According to an UIE report on electric technologies, it is one of the largest savings that a single technology can offer.
View report

Other Factor X solutions:

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

'Factor 4' Solutions: the amorphous iron transformer

Transformers are an essential part of our electricity system. Depending on their size and loading, the efficiency of distribution transformers varies between 95 to more than 99%. On average, around 2% of electricity generated is lost in transformers. Around the world, over 300 TWh of electricity is lost in this way. With amorphous iron transformers, this loss can be reduced by a factor 4. For Europe, this means 22 TWh of electricity saved, equivalent to 11 million tonne of greenhouse gas emissions. So far, only a few 100 of these transformers have been installed in Europe, on a total transformer population of 4 million units.
Other 'Factor X' Solutions

Monday, October 31, 2005

Non-technical losses in power systems

Non-technical losses (NTL) in electricity distribution include mainly electricity theft, but also losses due to poor equipment maintenance, calculation errors and accounting mistakes. In this thesis, the issue of NTL is defined and its extent assessed in Thailand, USA and Eastern Europe. Measures taken by utilities against NTL are described.

View report

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

'True' cost of energy

Four years ago, the EU-funded EXTERNE project presented the results of a large study proving that the cost of producing electricity from coal and oil would be double what it was if the 'external' costs, such as environmental damage, were to be included.
Health impacts are a major focus, in addition to environment. Polluting power plants in the EU-25 cause health impacts, including morbidity, with a cost equivalent to tens of billions of euro every year.
Building on the results of the EXTERNE project, a new project 'NEEDS' will apply the EXTERNE method to policy making and options for the future energy system in Europe.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Carbon reduction potentials

The Climate Group has issued for the 2nd time its report 'Carbon Down - Profits Up' demonstrating the carbon reduction potential of corporations, cities and regions. Total 74 companies, 34 cities and 16 regions have actually reduced emissions by up to 50%, set targets up to 80%. Some are close to carbon neutrality on specific energy-using sectors.
Energy efficiency invariable shows up in the measures taken by actors to reduce carbon emissions. 43 out of 74 companies have reported total $11.6 Billion energy cost savings resulting from their carbon reduction programme. Amounts invested are rarely reported.
View report

Saturday, October 22, 2005

'Factor 4' Solutions: the passive house

Passive Houses consume less than 15 kWh/m2.year final energy for their heating requirements, compared to a typical use of 100-150 kWh/m2.year for standard homes, i.e. a reduction of minimum 85%. In Europe, about 6-7000 Passive Houses have been constructed so far, primarily in Austria, Belgium, Germany and Scandinavia. The concept is spreading to other countries such as e.g. Denmark, France and The Netherlands. Passive Houses strive as well for economy in their other energy uses, such as electricity and hot water production, targeting a 50% reduction, and setting a criteria for maximum 50 kWh/m2.year total final energy use.

GVEP & REEEP join forces

The Global Village Energy Partnership (GVEP) and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) have signed a formal agreement to commit themselves to cooperating in order to promote clean energy systems, while leveraging each organisation’s delivery infrastructure.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Costs & benefits from 1.5 decade of electricity liberalisation

Referring to Leonardo ENERGY's discussion paper on this subject, prepared by AERE, a web event took place today to present the findings of the paper. Participants reacted that, although the paper does not present major new facts, it puts together a growing body of evidence that pictures a quite different story on liberalisation than is usually reported. View the presentation slides from the web event.

The transition of the electricity grid

Nobody can predict the future but one thing is for sure: "the power system is changing" and its rate of change increases. This change is driven by regulatory frameworks, policies to increase the amount of renewables and the availability of small-scale technologies combined with advanced information and control capabilities. Power systems are in a transition finding a new equilibrium between costs, performance and risk and the question asked is: "what will be the mix of old and new technologies shaping the grid of the future?". The inevitable introduction of local generation and storage on numerous places in the power distribution network poses the important questions: "who is responsible for the availability and reliability?" and "how is the transition of the grid managed?". Overcoming thresholds and prevention of the reach of a deadlock is of the utmost importance, considering our society's still growing dependence on electrically powered devices.

View article

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

DG in future grids: will energy islands become a reality?

In modern distribution grids, DG (distributed generation) technologies emergy. The most far going implementation are 'energy islands' with a high degree of autonomy from the central grid. At present, it is uncertain whether such more or less independent energy islands are a good idea from a technical and economic viewpoint. It is worthwhile to observe experiments for such microgrids around the world, in order to determine how we are going to use them in the electricity grid of the future.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Green Paper on Energy Efficiency

Supporting EECA's discussion series on the green paper, materials such as presentations, discussion transcripts and background materials available from the website.

How much energy?

According to the World Energy Assessment, the world consumes about 400 Exajoules/year of primary energy (1 EJ = 10E18 J = 24 Mtoe = 0.96 Quad = 278 TWh), or about 60 GJ per capita per year. But energy use is by far not spread equally. North Americans consume 350 GJ, Europeans 150, and Africa only 40 GJ. Russia/CIS consumers 150 GJ, i.e. the same amount as Europe, but produces much less units of GDP, and hence welfare, per unit of energy consumed.
Europe could save 30% of its primary energy use, establishing a benchmark of 100 GJ/capita for a fully industrialised society. For a future world population of 9 billion people, this means a need to plan for an energy system of 900 EJ/year/capita. With 'technological leapfrogging', developing countries could avoid some of the mistakes made by Europe, settling the figure to for example 800 EJ, or slightly below 100 GJ per world citizen.
Not managing this growth properly, may result in a much more energy-vorous system. At 350 GJ per capita, a world of 9 billion would consume over 3000 EJ, requiring for example 33,000 nuclear power plants, 150 million wind turbines, 4 million square km of solar arrays, or any combination thereof.
Another issue is that we an increasing share of renewables and decentralised generation, and with the new energy technologies that can be expected in the future, we may need a new system for energy accounting. The current system is largely based on fossil fuel accounting, and does not properly address modern energy forms, which have been of marginal importance until recently.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The complexity of energy efficiency

A recent report by Hans Nilsson (4-Fact) and Ylva Blume (Borgco) discusses the complex nature of energy efficiency (EE). Although it is the 'quickest, largest and cheapest potential' to contribute to Europe's energy policy objectives, it is also the most complex potential. This derives from the fact that EE is not a tradable good, but a characteristic embedded, and hidden in our energy systems.
There is no 'silver bullet' solution to this paradox. The report calls for initiatives that make EE 'available and attractive', laying the groundwork for policy packages that go beyond mere incentives.
Certificates and commitments for energy efficiency have the potential to strengthen the distribution of efficiency, for example through ESCO's.

Transcript of Commissioner Piebalg's speech to the Amsterdam Sustainable Energy Forum

Commissioner Piebalg closed the first Amsterdam Forum considering it an important meeting as it is the first structured consultation where Member States, European Parliament and stakeholders are gathered.
He referred to the Green Paper that sets out an ambitious goal and starts from the assumption that by 2020 we can save 20% of our current energy consumption in the European Union, in a cost-effective way. Energy efficiency improvements will continue in the future to make a major contribution to alleviating Europe's security of supply problem and to improving competitiveness ...

Friday, October 14, 2005

White book on electric heating

GIFAM, a French association of 60 manufacturers of home appliances has issued a white book on electric heating applications in the home, outlining some of the advantages of modern electric heating systems:
  • no emissions at the point of use (in addition - for France - low emissions in production)
  • 100% efficient at the point of use: electricity as an energy carrier can be fully converted to heat
  • safety: electricity has an impressive safety track record
  • simplicity, maintenance-free: electric heating systems have a long lifetime and do not need annual maintenance
  • ease of use, comfortable, clean
  • easy to control, flexible: electrons can be used to control electrons. Heat can be controlled to be issued exactly at the point where needed, in the quantity needed.


Obviously, there is no worse method than electric heating for poorly insulated dwellings in a cold climate using a carbon-intensive electricity system. However, this situation applies only to a small fraction of dwellings in Europe. Apart from this, a few other observations can be made:
  • Electric heating and insulation go hand in hand. Dwellings are usually built with a fixed budget, without margin for the owner. The cost reduction of the heating system can be invested in good insulation, and ventilation.
  • (Electric) heat can be stored with 95% efficiency, compared to 50% for hydrogen, and 70-85% for batteries. In this way, electric heat can assist deep penetration of intermittent renewables.
  • Electric heating allows to serve all energy services in a dwelling with a single energ carrier.
  • Modern power stations can convert up to 60% of the primary energy content of fossil fuel into electricity.
Finally, dwellings are becoming more compact, with smaller family units, in increasingly urban environments. To heat a well insulated, totaly enclosed compact dwelling, there is no better method than electricity. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that low-temperature electric heating is the fastest growing application of electricity in the US.
View white book (in French)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

World Fire Statistics 2005

Establishing gradually a tradition, the Geneva Assocation just published its 2005 issue of its World Fire Statistics series, documenting fire losses, fire deaths and costs of fire prevention. Fire, including its prevention, protection and repression costs developed economies about 1% of GDP, but these costs vary widely between countries. Also, there does not seem to be a pattern of evidence supporting that high investment in fire protection leads to fewer fire losses and death.
Although this is probably one of the best data collection initiative in its field around the world, the statistical database is still very poor, and insufficient to guide programme effort to reduce fire deaths and financial losses from fire.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

White, green and black certificates: three interacting sustainable energy instruments

This paper presents three different types of certificates ('white' for energy savings, 'green' for renewable electricity, and 'black' for greenhouse gas reductions in the European Emission Trading Scheme). The current limited experiences with these instruments already allow to define some of the success factors for these new instruments. A synthesis of their current application presents how much energy is saved today due to these certificates, and how much green electricity is produced. A discussion on the methods for setting the targets, measuring the impacts on the market and the interaction between these different instruments concludes this paper, followed by a reminder of the proposal to create an international agency on global stewardship for climate change issues.
View article

Monday, October 10, 2005

Webcast - uncommon & unexpected metering errors

In today's electrical environments, where power quality has become a major issue, it is often said that measuring and monitoring become increasingly important. While this is certainly true, it also brings about plenty of opportunities to receive wrong or irrelevant results and to miss the relevant ones on account of using inadequate equipment, of insufficient knowledge about the working principles of the equipment one is using, of metering at the wrong place or time or of misinterpreting the results obtained. In this one-hour webcast, a number of examples from practiceare highlighted and recommendations given how not to get trapped in these partly typical, partly unusual pitfalls.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Is renewable energy a misnomer?

Since energy cannot be created or destroyed, it's impossible to have an energy source, let alone a 'renewable energy source'. In this article, Eike Roth from Energie Fakten shares his energy philosophy.
See also from the same author a reference article on thermal power plant efficiency:

Friday, October 07, 2005

First carbon CDM credits imminent

Three Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects have submitted "requests for issuance" of carbon credits – meaning that the first such Kyoto Protocol carbon credits could be issued within weeks. The Rio Blanco and La Esperanza small hydro projects will have respectively created 7,304 and 2,210 Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) – each representing one tonne of carbon dioxide. The Rajasthan biomass plant is applying for 48,230 CERs, which will be created by 20 October unless a review is triggered.

Security of supply is not a single variable

When renewable activists talk about wind energy's contribution to Security of Supply, electrical engineers don't know what they're talking about. The background is that Security of Supply has many facets, and means very different things to different people. A Eurelectric report contributes to the understanding of the issue, breaking it down in following variables:
  • Long-term
    • Access to primary fuels
    • System adequacy (Generation adequacy + Network adequacy)
    • Market adequacy
  • Short-term: Operation Security
Wind power, for example, improves 'access to primary fuels', but performs less on other aspects. Gas-fired power stations, on the other hand, do not improve security of fuel supply, but supports well the other aspects of supply security.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The experience with energy efficiency in IEA countries

Is energy efficiency as good as it sounds? Proponents of energy efficiency policies sometimes face difficult questions. For example, if more efficient heating, refrigeration or lighting appliances reduce the energy bills, do consumers tend to use them more, thus eroding the energy savings? Or are the energy planners basing their calculations on flawed assumptions, or on unrealistic discount rates? Do energy efficiency drives sometimes trigger perverse effects? These and many other searching questions are addressed and answered in a recent IEA Information Paper, The Experience with Energy Efficiency Policies and Programmes in IEA Countries: Learning from the Critics. The authors take a positive view and indicate lessons to be learned from past experience.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

60% carbon reduction scenario's

Taking the 21 step chart to 60%, through further lifestyle measures, homes in 2050 will all be 'zero energy'. Consumption, food and personal transport would have changed beyond recognition. The major remaining environmental impacts will be food consumption and non-residential buildings.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

21 steps to reduce carbon emissions by 50%

This 21 steps chart by ZedFactory demonstrates, in a UK setting, the challenge of a 50% reduction in carbon emissions. Starting from a 11.9 tonne greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) per capita per year, it reduces emissions gradually to 5.4 t/yr.
The scheme starts with a number of basic measures on buildings, urban planning and transport, followed by a major push for renewable electricity and heat. Finally, to achieve 50%, more drastic measures address embodied energy in products & food, as well as recycling and waste reduction. Following measures come out as the top 5 impacts:
  1. Advanced building shells of 16.2 kWh/m2.year (-0.5 tonne)
  2. Renewable electricity (-0.5 tonne)
  3. Recycling (-0.45 tonne)
  4. Reduced consumption of manufactured goods (-0.45 tonne)
  5. Energy efficient workspaces (-0.4 tonne)
The chart shows the challenge of a 50% GHG reduction, improving homes to the passive standard, changing urban form, the way we live and work, as well as food habits and consumption patterns. The good news is, that according to DTI's Energy White Paper, all this can be achieved at a cost of 6 months of GDP growth by 2050.

Friday, September 30, 2005

What can be Expected from Combined Cycle (Steam and Gas) Power Stations?

In the middle of the 1990’s, very efficient (over 38%) gas turbines with high power output entered the market. Their exhaust gases had a high temperature and could be used to produce steam in a subsequent vaporizer.

Simultaneously, natural gas prices were continuously dropping since the beginning of the 1990’s and had moved close to hard coal prices. Finally, for economical and competitive reasons, big gas turbine manufacturers offered attractive prices.

As a result, it became possible to construct so-called steam-and-gas or combined cycle(CC) power stations with high ratings at low investment costs and operate them with low power generation costs.

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Sustainable, efficient electricity service for one billion people

In the June issue of the 'Energy for Sustainable Development' Journal, a 50 GWe electrification scheme is proposed to provide efficient electricity to a billion people. The scheme would provide a 0.025 kW service per person (0.15 kW per family), providing power for basic energy services such as lighting, refrigeration and infotainment (TV).
Such a scheme would require to be financed 100 B$ over 20 years, to ensure the use of efficient over lowest-first-cost technology. The overall investment would be 4 times higher, and raised by local capital and tariff payment.\sustainableelectricity.pdf

Monday, September 26, 2005

Liberalization and the Performance of the Electricity System

Liberalization has improved the administrative efficiency of the electricity system, but what has been its impact on technical performance? Energy efficiency of the distribution system, its technical quality of supply and environmental performance are issues which where largely conspicuous in their absence in the debate, but maybe it is time to address them now. A discussion paper from Leonardo ENERGY.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

What can be expected from combined-cycle power stations?

This article, by SEAL in partnership with Energie-Fakten gives an overview of the potential conversion efficiency that can be expected from combined-cycle (Steam & Gas) power stations.
If we consider the electricity production system of the future:
  • Renewable electricity, primarily wind and solar PV, with a primary energy equivalent of 1 kWh per kWhe generated - according to an IEA convention
  • Combined cycle power stations with 55-60% efficiency, i.e. up to 1.8 kWh primary energy per unit of generation
  • Coal-fired power stations with 40-45% efficiency, i.e. up to 2.5 kWh primary energy equivalent.
  • Nuclear power plants with 30% efficiency
A system based on the first 3 technologies with the most modern power stations would have an overall primary energy equivalent of 1.7, i.e. requiring 1.7 kWh of primary energy to produce a unit of electricity.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Ecodesign Glossary

Glossary on the most important ecodesign terminology. Learn to talk like an environmental expert in 23 terms.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Direct-Current Voltage (DC) in Households

As new technologies are developed in the area of DC voltage, durable local energy sources and storage systems, it becomes technologically possible and energy efficient to provide a portion of the electricity required in homes and offices in the form of direct current. In spite of the higher costs associated with such a 'double' system (direct and alternating current), it is a serious option. Due to the increasing dependence on electricity and our increased need for comfort, sustainability and simplicity, a DC voltage installation offers value for money. Certainly considering the growth of the aging population that places extra focus on the reliability, safety and usability of the electricity supply system.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Electrical System as a Tandem Bicycle

The system that delivers electricity to private citizens and companies across the country is highly complex. While electricity is an omnipresent and crucial part of our everyday economy, understanding this system and all its associated phenomena is not easy, sometimes even for trained electrical engineers. In such a case, a good analogy often helps to form a better idea of how things work. We have chosen to compare the electrical system with a tandem bicycle to explain a few of its aspects.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Monday, September 05, 2005

Building telecare in England

Telecare offers the promise of enabling thousands of older people to live independently, in control and with dignity for longer. This document provides local authorities and their partners with guidance in developing telecare services for their communities. It sets out the purpose of the Preventative Technology Grant and sets out expectations for the use of the grant.
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Friday, September 02, 2005

High efficiency transformers proven to save 30 tonne CO2 per year

Leonardo ENERGY has worked together with Polish and Czech utilities to equip 15 substations with high efficiency transformers. Each station has power monitoring equipment to measure energy savings, and these savings are converted into emission reductions using national average factors.
Detail results show that these 15 substations, with total rating of 5440 kVA, save on average 30 MWh electricity per year, equivalent to 32 tonne CO2 emissions. Over their economic lifetime of 25 years, these transformers are expected to avoid 814 tonne of CO2 emissions. And given Europe's population of 4 million transformers, the project has the potential to be replicated many times.
On the website 'Supertrafo', daily measurements per substation are being published, showing energy saved and emissions reduced.
Supertrafo website

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Webcast - functional earthing of electronic devices

The growing diffusion of electronic devices imposes new requirements for earthing systems, which are a key element in electrical installations safety requirements. Usually, electronic devices require a connection to earth for safety reasons (protective earthing) and also for functional reasons (functional earthing).
These different requirements result in electromagnetic compatibility problems. The simultaneous need of a connection to earth for both safety and functional reasons, exposes electronic devices to disturbances otherwise not present. It also results in safety hazards due to the steady leakage currens they generate.
These considerations also apply to earthing systems where there isn’t any electronic device connected, but where equipments have similar features, such as:
  • high leakage currents;
  • high frequency leakage currents;
  • steady leakage currents;
  • low resilience.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Carbon trading & energy efficiency

Energy efficiency projects are often the most cost-effective options to increase overall economic efficiency, to save energy and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And while the synergies between energy efficiency and environmental policies are not sufficiently exploited, the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol in early 2005 created new momentum on this issue through its potential to improve the economics of energy efficiency projects. Additional revenues from the sale of carbon credits generated by energy efficiency projects can improve their rate of return, thus making the projects more attractive to investors. In turn, energy efficiency projects play a key role in the Kyoto flexible mechanisms – Joint Implementation (JI) and Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM). A PEEREA report based on the experience of both developed and transition economies and of international and private financial institutions, looks into all these aspects with the objective to highlight the ways in which energy efficiency can better be integrated into the climate change debate.

Register for this web event >>

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Road to Hell ...

Buildings represent 40% of energy use, and 70% of building energy is consumed in dwellings. Due to its relatively moderate climate, UK has a tradition of poor insulation practice for dwellings, while at the same time an ambition to be a leader on climate change mitigation.
Despite all this, the UK housing minister has dropped plans for improve efficiency for older homes, and postponed tougher regulations on new houses.
Read Guardian story >>

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Public Opinion on Nuclear Energy

In their book on the future of civil nuclear energy, Gromston & Beck devote a chapter on public opinion regarding nuclear energy, demonstrating that pro & anti-nuclear activists have more in common than they first might think.
A UK survey shows that a large part of population is actually undecided, and debate is essentially perpetuated by 2 polarised camps. This result is not dissimilar from similar research undertaken for example in US and Finland.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Eco-design for electricity-using equipment

A major part of the environmental impact of energy-using equipment is caused by its lifetime energy consumption. Increasing the efficiency of equipment reduces energy consumption, but requires the use of more (active) material. The purpose of this toolbox is to make an environmental balance between materials options and energy consumption in electrical equipment, using a life-cycle analysis approach.
The presentation will cover an introduction to the eco-design methodology, the toolbox for motors, transformers and power cables and its 2 main uses for providing environmental information to users, or comparing design alternatives.
Participate >>

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Climate Restorative

Individuals and business can reduce emissions causing climate change in a variety of ways:
  • Reduce own emissions, e.g. by purchasing efficient equipment or a different mode of travel
  • Reducing other's emissions, e.g. by sponsoring/promoting efficient equipment, renewable technology or developing a new energy technology
  • Offsetting remaining emissions through purchasing carbon or green power certificates (it largely depends on the design & strength of the legislative framework for green power or carbon trading whether this really reduces emissions or just increases costs).
Using above mechanisms, one can achieve 'climate neutrality', i.e. to have no net emissions from activities. For an organisation that provide certification for businesses in this area, visit the Climate Neutral Network.
One step beyond is to go 'Climate Restorative', a term recently coined in the climate context, but not yet used frequently. For example, at a recent education conference in North Carolina, Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) were distributed freely, as well as sold at wholesale price to offset emissions resulting from the conference. Travel of participants added 18 tons of CO2 to the atmosphere, but each CFL distribution saves approximately 250 kg CO2 over its lifetime. In this case, the CFL distribution more than offset emissions, making the conference 'climate restorative' (see >> - page 2)

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Nuclear Fusion tutorial

After almost a decade of debate, finally the decision has been made to construct the next generation of ITER in Cadarache, France. The project will cost between 10 and 13 billion $, and is  funded by Japan, the United States, South Korea, Russia, China, and the European Union.
While the time for a commercial reactor is far ahead, when successful, 1 kg of deuterium in a fusion reactor provides the same energy output as a 1 MW wind turbine (a 100 ton construction) over 20 years. With 5 tons of deuterium, all electricity needs for a city of 1 million could be met for 20 years.
A short but good tutorial on the subject can be found on Utilipoint >>

Friday, July 29, 2005

Climate Pact

A new Pact on Climate Change was announced yesterday to complement the Kyoto Protocol. The pact developed behind the scenes over the past year involves US, Australia (2 economies who have refused to sign the Kyoto protocol because it would damage their economies) and major emitters such as China, India, Japan and South Korea. China and India have signed previously the Kyoto Protocol, but do not have any binding obligations under it. The Pact calls for voluntary measures and emphasizes strategic technology development.
View story >>

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Variability of Renewables

In this new report bmost recent experience with managing intermittent renewables in today’s electricity grids is described in Variability of Wind Power and Other Renewables – Management Options and Strategies. This study identifies the promising technology options, as well as the regulatory, grid management and site planning approaches for addressing intermittency. It points to solutions-oriented approaches to the challenges, drawing on the experience of several countries. Key cost variables and optimum market options are outlined.
Download report >>

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Energy Technology Bottlenecks

Indicators are needed to monitor the status of research and technological development, related research and industrial evolution and to define realistic targets or objectives. They are useful tools for policy drivers, decision-makers, programme managers, potential investors, bankers, end-users, etc. The preliminary set of indicators presented here, based on the present state of the art, characterise the major bottlenecks to be overcome or the main challenges to be addressed in energy research.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Offshore Wind

This new report from IEA checklists current issues in the emerging offshore wind industry. Destined for policy makers and business players, it highlights know-how gained in recent commercial projects and identifies the most important challenges facing the industry today. Case-study insight is provided on regulatory and policy practices. Areas for offshore-specific R&D are pinpointed.
Download >>

Monday, July 25, 2005

Windsor Hydro

Windsor Castle received full planning permission to build a hydro-power station on the Thames River. The 200 kW station would cost 1 million pound, and provide a 3rd of Windsor Castle's electricity needs.
Running 8,000 hours per year, this station would save 800 tonnes of CO2 emissions (European baseline), or 16,000 tonnes over a 20 year lifetime, or a cost of more than 60 GBP/tonne CO2 saved (not including maintenance and operating costs).
At a tariff of 6 pence, the station saves 96,000 GBP per year, i.e. pays itself back in 10.4 years.
Read the story >>

Microgeneration in UK

As part of its Low Carbon Buildings Programme, UK Department of Trade and Industry is holding a consultation for developing a strategy on the promotion of microgeneration in Britain.
Microgeneration means producing heat and/or electricity near to the point of use. Microgeneration technologies are heat pumps, fuel cells, micro-CHP, micro-hydro, micro-wind, bio-energy and solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies.
More information >>

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Climate neutrality

In a speech 'Sustainability - what more should companies do?', delivered June 16 at the Conference Board's Business & Sustainability Conference, Randall. M. Overbey, President, Alcoa Primary Metals Development presented Alcoa's sustainability model.
A new element in this Global Sustainability Model is the principle where emissions in metal production are offset against reduced emissions resulting from the increased use of Al in the transport sector. This effect makes Al-production climate neutral by 2017.
For more information >>

Friday, July 22, 2005

Ecological footprinting

With a population of 6 billion, earth has about 2 hectares of land available per person. For a population of 9 billion, this figure will be reduced to less than 1.5.
Ecological footprinting converts a person's current impacts through nourishment, shelter, transport and the acquisition of goods & services to a single indicator, i.e. ecological footprint.
Best Foot Forward offers a simple tool for calculating personal ecological footprint, and annual carbon dioxide emissions. It is worrying that even doing many of the right things, such as reducing percentage of diet based on meat, reducing car use, buying an ultra-efficient car, investing in an efficient home and reducing/recycling waste, we're still using up 1.7 planets. And we would still be producing 6.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year, i.e. about 45% less than current emissions, whereas France & UK, a.o. aim for a 60-80% reduction of emissions.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

IEEA Newsletter

The European Commission's Intelligent Energy Executive Agency (IEEA) launches its quarterly newsletter with news on projects in the Intelligent Energy - Europe programme >>

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

5000 km on a litre fuel

A new record was set last month, when ETZ Zurich's PAC-Car II achieved 5385 km on a litre of fuel >>
This is 7 times less energy compared to what would be required for riding a bike over the same distance, although looking at some of the pictures, the bicycle may be the more comfortable vehicle.

G8 outcome on climate

Among the many media stories, it's difficult to find the real outcome of the G8 summit on Climite Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development. So here it is >>
For more information >>

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Why thermal power plants have a relatively low efficiency

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Thermal power plants are the backbone of our electricity system. They convert heat energy into mechanical work, and work into electricity. Their efficiency is typically between 30 and 50%. This means that only half or even less of the heat energy generated in the plant is available as electricity - the remaining heat is dissipated to the environment. As a result, these power plants are judged inefficient and to be replaced as soon as possible by ’better ones’.

But this conclusion is a bit rash. Upon closer examination, one can see that the numerical value for efficiency is based on a combination of the laws of physics with definitions made by man. Special attention should be given to 2 issues: First, according to physics, only a fraction of the energy necessary to produce electricity can be converted into electricity. This fraction depends on the type of the power plant. Secondly, the remaining rest of the energy, that fraction that cannot be converted into electricity, is treated differently in efficiency calculations for different types of power plants. Sometimes, it is taken into
account in the calculation, and sometimes it isn’t. This is mostly due to historic reasons - frequently, the method for determining efficiency was defined to make calculations easy. This simplifies labour with a specific plant, but makes comparisons between different types of power stations difficult. For thermal power stations, this arbitrary agreement is particularly relevant. Their relatively low efficiency is mainly a consequence of the definitions used, and based on these definitions, it is governed by the laws of physics.

Based on these different definitions, it is impossible to determine by that single value which is ’better’: a hydro power station with 85% efficiency, a coal-fired thermal power plant with 45% efficiency, or a solar power plant with 15% efficiency. Which power plant is ’better’ depends on how it fulfills its role to produce reliable, cheap and environmentally sustainable power in the best way. This could very well be a plant with a relatively low efficiency.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

How did the efficiency of coal-fired power stations evolve, and what can be expected in the future?

Generation of electricity using coal started at the end of the 19th century. The first power stations had an efficiency of around 1%, and needed 12.3 kg of coal for the generation of 1 kWh. This meant 37 kg CO2 emissions per kWh.

With increasing experience, in combination with research and development, these low efficiency levels improved rapidly. Increased technical experience with coal processing and combustion technology enabled a steady increase in the steam parameters 'pressure' and 'temperature', resulting in higher efficiency. In the years 1910, efficiency had already increased to 5%, reaching 20% by 1920. In the fifty's, power plants achieved 30% efficiency, but the average efficiency of all operating power plants was still a modest 17%. In the next stage, the use of cooling towers for the removal of heat that could no longer be converted to electricity became a requirement, in addition to the removal of SOx and NOx from exhaust gasses, resulting in a reduction of efficiency, since these facilities use energy. However, continuous development resulted around the mid 80's in an average efficiency of 38% for all power stations, and best values of 43%. In the second half of the nineties, a Danish power plant set a world record at 47%.

Power stations based on brown coal are a few % less efficient than stations using hard coal, because of the different nature of the fuel. Nevertheless, RWE's brown coal optimised power station 'BoA' that started operation in 2002, reached 45.3% efficiency, the highest value ever achieved by a brown coal power station.

The average efficiency of all coal power stations in the world is around 31%. Hence, there is an enormous potential to reduce coal consumption and CO2 emissions. For the next 20 years, the EU-15 needs an additional 100,000 MW new capacity and replacement of 200,000 MW existing capacity. Hence, a significant development in coal generation technology is taking place. In the next 10 years, efficiencies up to 55% can be expected. This means 223 g coal equivalent (CE) per kWh2.

Current and future efficiencies for coal-fired power stations, using comparable terms of reference, are in the upper ranges of all electricity generation technologies.

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