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
adequate.

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/tonne.km and emit 35 g/tonne.km. 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 passenger.km 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 passenger.km. 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/passenger.km.

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