European Energy Markets

ON JUNE 16th something very peculiar happened in Germany’s electricity market. The wholesale price of electricity fell to minus €100 per megawatt hour (MWh). That is, generating companies were having to pay the managers of the grid to take their electricity. It was a bright, breezy Sunday. Demand was low. Between 2pm and 3pm, solar and wind generators produced 28.9 gigawatts (GW) of power, more than half the total. The grid at that time could not cope with more than 45GW without becoming unstable. At the peak, total generation was over 51GW; so prices went negative to encourage cutbacks and protect the grid from overloading.

The trouble is that power plants using nuclear fuel or brown coal are designed to run full blast and cannot easily reduce production, whereas the extra energy from solar and wind power is free. So the burden of adjustment fell on gas-fired and hard-coal power plants, whose output plummeted to only about 10% of capacity.

These events were a microcosm of the changes affecting all places where renewable sources of energy are becoming more important—Europe as a whole and Germany in particular. To environmentalists these changes are a story of triumph. Renewable, low-carbon energy accounts for an ever-greater share of production. It is helping push wholesale electricity prices down, and could one day lead to big reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. For established utilities, though, this is a disaster. Their gas plants are being shouldered aside by renewable-energy sources. They are losing money on electricity generation. They worry that the growth of solar and wind power is destabilising the grid, and may lead to blackouts or brownouts. And they point out that you cannot run a normal business, in which customers pay for services according to how much they consume, if prices go negative. In short, they argue, the growth of renewable energy is undermining established utilities and replacing them with something less reliable and much more expensive.

The Economist Article

Syria, Drought, Agriculture, and Social Distress

Syria faced a devastating drought between 2006 and 2010, affecting its most fertile lands. The four years of drought turned almost 60 percent of the nation into a desert. It was a huge amount of land that could not support cattle trading and herding, Chanda says, killing about 80 percent of cattle by 2009.

The water shortage and drought drove up unemployment, in agriculture. So hundreds of thousands of farmers, Chanda says, went to where they might find work: the cities. He says they were met “almost callously” by the Syrian government.

“People felt that they were being discriminated against and not being helped, perhaps because of the sect they belong to,” Chanda says. “I think this dislocation and the dire condition created the … first spark in Dara’a.”

On top of that, the government began awarding the right to drill wells for water on a sectarian basis. So when the rains dried up, desperate people began digging illegal wells, which also became a political act.

The NPR Report

Climate Change

I continue to publish blogs and articles on climate change because the scientific projections are personally frightening…my grandchildren will experience a much changed climate.

From the recent article:

The scientists also projected the velocity of climate change, defined as the distance per year that species of plants and animals would need to migrate to live in annual temperatures similar to current conditions. Around the world, including much of the United States, species face needing to move toward the poles or higher in the mountains by at least one kilometer per year. Many parts of the world face much larger changes.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-08-climate-faster-million-years.html#jCp

North Carolina Legislates a New Dark Ages

Most debates about climate change have an abstract quality, in part because they tend to be about the whole world and deal with collective action that seems increasingly remote. But go down to the local level, and the climate issue becomes alarmingly concrete. Among the first to feel the impact of climate change will be coastal communities, which will have to put in place practical policies to deal with rising seas, more intense storms, and more frequent floods. Otherwise, a lot of homes, businesses and infrastructure will be damaged or destroyed, and people will die. Just ask the folks in New Orleans gearing up for another hurricane season.

But if you live in North Carolina, whose delicate barrier islands protect extensive lowlands vulnerable to both hurricane storm surges and flooding from heavy rains, think again. The state legislature is in the process of deciding not merely to ignore climate change, but to make it illegal.

The Forbes Article

Environmental Finance

Bunge, the agri-business ‘giant’, recently acquired Climate Change Capital…leading to a change in focus toward ‘impact investing’.

I always end up confused…particularly when they talk of CCC holding $1.4 B in ‘committments’. I know what they mean by committments, but I do not know (and they do not explain) how that translates to Company balance sheet.

Big numbers…impact investing….does this make sense?

The Article

Climate Change

International cooperation on climate change is at a troubling low. Recent climate talks in Bonn seem to have led to little progress. Also according to a recent article:

Paris-based International Energy Agency (IAE) said on Thursday that carbon emissions from fossil fuels reached a record high of 31.6 gigatons in 2011, a 3.2 percent increase from 2010. And despite improving on its energy efficiency, China accounted for the biggest contribution to the global increase, with emissions growing by 720 million tons (9.3 percent).

US emissions have dropped by 1.7 percent as the nation tries to switch gears from coal power to natural gas. However, an exceptionally mild winter may have contributed to much of the drop in emissions seen, the agency reported. Japan’s emissions rose 2.4 percent as it increased the use of fossil fuels in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The planet is on course for a temperature rise of at least 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit, but that could be even higher if pledges are not met by 2020, the IEA report warned.
Source: redOrbit (http://s.tt/1cRP4)

The U.S. government, particularly Congress, appears to be preoccupied by petty power struggles.