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Sunday
Aug172014

Belgium shows us the way

In the comments to the previous thread, reader Wellers points us to a story from Belgium that looks very much as if it will presage the situation in the UK over the next year or two.

Belgian energy company Electrabel said its Doel 4 nuclear reactor would stay offline at least until the end of this year after major damage to its turbine, with the cause confirmed as sabotage.

Unfortunately, several other Belgian reactors have been shut down for maintenance in recent months due to what may be a generic flaw in the design - this seems to be the same issue that affected  nuclear plant in the UK last week. The loss of Doel 4 therefore means that fully half of the country's nuclear capacity is offline. Doel 4 could be out for months, so guess what is going to happen.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Aug172014

The disastrous revolution

Mike Kelly points me to Spain's Photovoltaic Revolution, a learned tome by Pedro Prieto and Charles Hall that I think you are going to want to look at.

The book covers the development of the Spanish solar PV industry from its boom years after 2006 to the bust in 2008 and is mostly devoted to an analysis of the economics of PV in that country. As the authors point out, the nature of the Spanish grid and the history of its PV industry mean that the data is particularly clean and simple to analyse. In essence, this is where we can truly understand the economic usefulness of PV technology.

The chapter analysing the history of the industry in Spain is laugh-a-minute stuff, a tale of incompetent politicians and civil servants bumbling from one disaster to another and fraudulent investors cheating their way to a slice of public funds. We learn how the Spanish government decreed a feed-in-tariff system that guaranteed six times market rates to PV businesses, before a belated realisation that this was going to lead to astonishing surges of investment. They then put in place a series of only partially successful measures in an attempt to stop the expansion, as the whole farrago quickly became unaffordable and ultimately disastrous. We hear about the diesel generators generating "solar power" at night and that at one point the authorities estimated that half of new solar PV connections to the grid were fraudulent.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Aug162014

Another bind for Bob Bind

...all the projections of climate models are becoming observable facts.

So says Bob Bindschadler, a retired NASA ice sheet specialist. Stop sniggering at the back.

Readers may recall Dr Bindschadler from his 2011 appearance in Horizon, when he got himself into a bit of a pickle over the relative ratios of anthropogenic and natural carbon dioxide emissions.

This new quote, remarkable as it is, comes from a long interview in a publication called Truthout (a title that is vaguely reminiscent of 'Pravda' in my opinion). The whole article is worth a read, covering Dr Bindschadler's knicker-wetting over sea levels in the twenty-third century, his cruise to the Antarctic with James Hansen and Al Gore, and his excitement over changes to glaciers in Antarctica in recent years. In view of his problems during his Horizon appearance I was also amused by this photo caption:

Bindschadler believes one of the things scientists must learn to do better is communicate the information they produce.

Amen.

Friday
Aug152014

Glacier loss of plot

This morning's must-read scientific paper comes from Science, where a team from the University of Insbruck led by Ben Marzeion has been looking at glacier recession. The results seem to have pleased the green fraternity, and a glance at the abstract shows why:

The ongoing global glacier retreat is affecting human societies by causing sea-level rise, changing seasonal water availability, and increasing geohazards. Melting glaciers are an icon of anthropogenic climate change. However, glacier response times are typically decades or longer, which implies that the present-day glacier retreat is a mixed response to past and current natural climate variability and current anthropogenic forcing. Here we show that only 25 ± 35% of the global glacier mass loss during the period from 1851 to 2010 is attributable to anthropogenic causes. Nevertheless, the anthropogenic signal is detectable with high confidence in glacier mass balance observations during 1991 to 2010, and the anthropogenic fraction of global glacier mass loss during that period has increased to 69 ± 24%.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Aug152014

Another blackout up north

A blackout has hit Scotland, plunging 27,000 homes into the dark.

The power loss lasted for several hours before engineers managed to restore supplies.

Energy giant SSE said a transmission fault had been the cause of the power cut.

This is pretty interesting, coming so soon after another blackout took out over 100,000 Scottish homes back in April. Does anyone know if this kind of incident is expected to happen so frequently?

Thursday
Aug142014

Sir Alan Peacock

Sir Alan Peacock, a member of the GWPF Academic Advisory Council passed away last week. The Telegraph's obituary is here. David Henderson has posted an appreciation of his involvement in the climate debate here. GWPF has also reposted a letter he wrote to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2010.

I'm sure the sympathies of all BH readers are with his family.

Thursday
Aug142014

Ripoff tide

I was surprised to hear a couple of people speaking up in favour of wind and tidal power at the Tartan Heart Festival last weekend. I had assumed that everyone had now worked out that they were a long way from being commercially viable. Perhaps this is because of the insistence of some in the renewables sector that power from the oceans could make people lots of money. Our old friends at Bloomberg New Energy Finance were one such company, talking up prospects for the sector and explaining how the arrival of big engineering companies was changing everything.

However something else has been stirring, and that has been the interest of the engineering and industrial majors. In the last three years, Siemens, Rolls-Royce, Andritz and French naval defence company DCNS have bought minority or controlling takes in the tidal device makers Marine Current Turbines, Tidal Generation, Hammerfest Strom and OpenHydro respectively – while ABB and Alstom have done similar with wave energy specialists Aquamarine Power and AWS Ocean Energy.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Aug142014

The plastic bag scam

Some time ago it was announced that a compulsory charge would be introduced on plastic bags at retail shops, the proceeds to be distributed to good causes. At the time I suggested that the likely beneficiaries would be the same green NGOs that had campaigned for the introduction of the charge and lo and behold take a look at this:

For the first time, Tesco customers will be asked to choose the charities and environmental organisations that will benefit from an estimated £1.8 million set to be raised from carrier bag charges in Wales and Scotland.

The organisations on the shortlist for Scotland are Love Food Hate Waste, Keep Scotland Beautiful and Groundwork UK. For Wales, the shortlisted charities are Keep Wales Tidy and Groundwork UK.

Here are Keep Scotland Beautiful's pages on plastic bags. Love Food Hate Waste is a subsidiary of WRAP, the government's pet recycling (i.e. mostly pro-waste) campaign. Groundwork, however, looks clean.

Over the piece, I conclude that I am probably correct. It is a scam.

Thursday
Aug142014

Keeping the sheikh wealthy

As greens try to put a spanner in the works of the shale gas industry in Colorado, the Colorado shale gas industry is fighting back with a series of attack ads. Here's one, pointing out some of the ethical implications of relying on energy from the middle east.

And here's another about the oligarchs.

They're a bit racier than Cuadrilla's offerings, don't you think?

Wednesday
Aug132014

Faster bishop

Squarespace have emailed to say they think they have fixed the speed issues with the site. If you are still having problems, can you let me know in the comments.

Thanks

Wednesday
Aug132014

Spotting policy-based evidencemaking

Oxford economist Simon Wren-Lewis has a blog on the subject of macroeconomics called Mainly Macro. I chanced upon it this morning via my Twitter feed.

His latest post is about policy-based evidencemaking and who you should trust. There's plenty of good stuff in there, but plenty to take issue with too. For example, being an academic, he has an overly high opinion of academics:

I know I’ll get it in the neck for saying this, but if the analysis is done by academics you can be relatively confident that the analysis is of a reasonable quality and not overtly biased. In contrast, work commissioned from, say, an economic consultancy is less trustworthy. This follows from the incentives either group faces.  

In the climate debate at least, this confidence is misplaced.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug122014

Diary dates: Slingalongajulia edition

Julia Slingo is giving a public lecture at the Institute of Physics in London next month on the subject of climate models.

Taking the planet into uncharted territory: What climate models can tell us about the future

Climate change is arguably one of the greatest challenges that human civilisation will face in the 21st century. With the rise in carbon emissions continuing unabated and the evidence for human-induced climate change stacking up, the need to take action to mitigate future climate change grows. So what are these climate models on that so much of our decision-making rests?

Dame Julia’s lecture will examine how fundamental physics has shaped our understanding of the climate system, and how over the course of her career as a climate scientist, this has been encapsulated in climate models.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug122014

Soton scientists lose the plot

Academics are sometimes their own worst enemies aren't they? They so desperately want to be taken seriously but the otherwordliness of some members of the academy is so overwhelming as to make academia look more like a lunatic asylum than somewhere were knowledge is sought.

As an example, take the story carried at WUWT today. A group of academics at the University of Southampton - one of them a former airline pilot - have written a paper calling for a global regulator of air travel to be put in place.

A global regulator with ‘teeth’ needs to be established, but investing such a body with the appropriate level of authority requires securing an international agreement which history would suggest is going to be very difficult. … the ticket price-increases necessary to induce the required reduction in traffic growth-rates place a monetary-value on CO2 emissions of approximately 7–100 times greater than other common valuations. It is clear that, whilst aviation must remain one piece of the transport-jigsaw, environmentally a global regulator with ‘teeth’ is urgently required.”

We could have a "green halfwit of the year" award, if it wasn't for the fact that the team from Southampton have probably just killed off any sense of expectation.

Tuesday
Aug122014

Vehicle movements and energy infrastructure

I was having an exchange of views with Michael Liebreich on Twitter yesterday. He was getting a bit excited about the number of vehicle movements associated with developing a shale gas pad, saying that the public needed to know that they would be on the receiving end of 60 HGV movements per day. We talked about the duration of these 60 movements per day and I pointed out that the AMEC report on shale had come up with a range of 14-51 movements per day, depending on whether water was tankered in or came straight from the mains.

This seems to have prompted a blog post from David McKay, the former chief scientist at DECC, who set out an analysis of vehicle movements for construction of a shale gas pad, a windfarm and a solar array. He came up with a range of 2900-20,000 movements in total for a 10-well pad, as compared to 7000 for an 8-turbine windfarm. I pointed out to him that his figures had nothing to cover access road construction, and so he redid the figures, coming up with a revised estimate of 7800. One could consider adding more to cover removal of soil for the foundations, but since this might be disposed of onsite, it is arguably valid to leave it out.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug122014

Sad news

Anthony is reporting some sad news from the US. I'm sure the thoughts of everyone in the climate debate are with Dr Christy.