Nuclear Energy in Japan

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Many Asian economies have relied on nuclear power since the beginning of commercial use of the technology, and whereas Europe and North America have slowed down in the development of new nuclear power generating capacity, many Asian countries have continued building and developing new nuclear power plants well into the 21st century to keep up with growing power demand.

The events in Fukushima, Japan, in March 2011 have caused the technology to once again be called into question and in 2012, for the first time since the 1970s, Japan was again (briefly) without nuclear power generation. After safety reviews and despite large protests, Japan has started to re-start its nuclear fleet. Once providing over 30% of Japan’s power needs, the shortfall left from taking nuclear offline is significant.

As an island nation with very few natural resources for the production of energy Japan relies heavily on imports for its electricity generation. Nuclear energy has helped Japan’s economy grow and meet the ever-increasing demands for energy. Unfortunately, Japan is also a very seismically active country and frequently deals with earthquakes. Nevertheless, this has not stopped Japan from actively pursuing nuclear technology and the country continues to prioritize its use and development.

Though it has been fully offline since 2011, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant is considered the world’s largest nuclear power plant by capacity. The plant has a total of 7 reactors ranging in size from 1,100 to 1,356 MW. The plant was itself shut down due to an earthquake in 2007 and was not yet fully online at the time of the 2011 disaster. The earliest current projection to restart any of the 7 units at the plant is for early 2019.

Though public opinion has become quite opposed to nuclear power, Japan continues to explore its potential and develop safer, more reliable nuclear technology able to withstand the forces of nature. Many lessons have been learned, and optimism has certainly suffered when it comes to Japan’s nuclear fleet, but it does look like the technology is not yet written off.

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New Initiative Aims to Make 1000 Cities Renewable by 2040

A brand new initiative has recently laid out its ambitious aims to make 1,000 cities around the world give up their dependence on fossil fuels. The hope with this is that these cities will move 100% of their energy consumption over to renewable energy. The projected timeframe for this is to have the change over complete by 2040.

 

Pathway to Paris and Care2 are the organisations behind the aptly named 1,000 Cities Project. The goal is not only to meet, but to exceed what was laid out in the Paris Agreement. Citizens across the globe will be able to put their signature on a petition to encourage their elected officials to join the cause.

 

For every signature each petition gets, an email will be sent to the relevant governing body informing them of the desire of its people for change. Hopefully, the influx of signatures and emails will be persuasive enough for lots of different cities to sign up to the initiative.

 

So far the campaign has been well received and has public support from a number of celebrities and public figures. Recognised names include Olafur Eliasson, Patti Smith, Tony Hawk, Michael Stipe, Talib Kweli, Flea, and Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston. These people have already endorsed the campaign but who knows who else might join this roster in the near future.

 

The CEO and Founder of Care2, Randy Paynter, has expressed his delight in being able to join forces with Pathway to Paris in order to put this initiative into motion. He has referred to the project as an “important global initiative”.

 

He went on to say that by meeting the target that the initiative has set of 1,000 cities would allow individual citizens to fulfill the provisions of the Paris Agreement without having to depend on the current administration. The project will also bypass any climate change deniers who stand in the way of the success of the Paris Agreement.

 

 

 

 

UK Looks for Evidence to Help Improve Framework of Green Deal

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The Green Deal is a government scheme that was set up in the UK in order to encourage and assist with energy efficiency. People would be able to take out loans to help pay for double glazing, boiler upgrades and more. The point of the scheme was to help households reduce their energy bills, saving money for individuals and reducing everyone’s carbon footprint.

The scheme was set up in 2013 but the uptake was a lot lower than expected. In 2015, the government announced that they would no longer be investing in the scheme.

Now, the UK government is investigating ways in which it can reform the framework behind the Green Deal to get it back in the public sphere. It is looking at ways it can be improved to better provide for current and future energy needs.

There are a number of factors that have been flagged up as ‘in need of improvement’ with regards to the framework of the Green Deal. One of the main problems was that the Green Deal only put forth the idea of available finance and did not actually engage with consumer demand. Another issue was the complexity of the scheme. This was seen as a big deterrent, especially as it would take some time for consumers to be able to secure a loan under the Green Deal plan. The word ‘loan’ in itself was also seen as off-putting.

Nevertheless, the UK government still advocates a “pay as you save” (PAYS) scheme. It believes that this offers consumers a valuable opportunity to borrow at minimum cost and to make repayments over an extended period of time. Furthermore, the savings on energy bills will be highly beneficial to many families across the country.

This new investigation into the Green Deal looks at the potential for incorporating a PAYS mechanism for consumers. This would come with a number of other changes such as a simplification of the process and various technological developments.

The decision to look for evidence that will allow this change comes alongside the government’s Clean Growth Strategy. This strategy outlines a number of policies and proposals that the government hopes to implement in order the boost economic growth in the country and to reduce emissions.

Energy efficiency will be a hot topic at the Energy Live Expo, which takes place in London on the 2nd of November.

 

 

The UK Plans to Implement an Energy Price Cap

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Draft legislation has revealed plans by the government to lower the price of energy bills by introducing a price cap.

 

The Gas and Electricity (Tariffs Cap) Bill will potentially make a huge difference for around 12 million households across the country. These households are currently paying an uncapped tariff, which ends up costing far more than the cheapest options available.

 

The bill will give special powers to Ofgem, the energy regulator, to cap tariffs. If the bill goes through, this cap will last at least until 2020, but maybe until 2023 if deemed necessary by the regulator.

 

Theresa May is behind the bill, saying that loyal energy customers deserve better rates. As it stands, many households are overpaying by hundreds of pounds per year. This adds up altogether to be around £1.4 billion per year across the nation.

 

But, this proposed bill is not without dissent. Former Ofgem board member Steve Smith has stated that a price cap could actually increase fees. Indeed, he further argued that the cap directly contradicted advice that was given by the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority).

 

A number of energy companies, including E.On and Scottish Power have decided to get rid of variable tariffs altogether. This is being seen as preferable to a cap.

 

The government has been warned that while the idea of a price cap seems promising, it is important not to expose customers to increased prices as a consequence.

 

Naturally, Ofgem will have to wait until the legislation has been enacted before it can take any steps towards enforcing a price cap. The legislation is currently being looked over and assessed by a group of MPs. This committee will work on the details and try and get a concrete view of how the cap will work and what its effects will be once in play.

The long-term implications for renewable energy

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11.2% of power Generation capacity in 2020 will be intermittent wind and solar power. These power sources are known to have a low capacity factor and an even lower capacity credit. This means that wind and solar are not yet effective at replacing base load fossil fuel or nuclear capacity on a one for one basis in terms of megawatts. For renewable sources such as wind and solar to start to form a sizable percentage of our base load plants, the installed capacity has to outnumber the fossil fuel plants they are replacing. A the same time, fossil fuel, or other high-capacity-factor power plants must be maintained, or built to act as back-up sources of energy to mitigate capacity problems.

In the 2011 IEA report on the cost of generating electricity by different technologies, a base load factor of 84% was used for gas, coal and nuclear plants. Country-specific load factors were applied for renewables because they are largely site-specific but the medians were 24% for wind and 14% for solar. Capacity credits are complex to calculate and are wholly country-specific and can only be calculated by utilities with access to operational data.

However, as wind and solar increase in scale, the effect that individual plants intermittencies have on the grid are mitigated by other plants in the system. Denmark, for example, has one of the worlds largest penetrations of wind energy, and it is able to utilise much of it for base load power production because the farms are spread out geographically and inclement weather in one location does not necessarily mean that another power plant isn’t generating electricity. As such, Denmark has become one of the worlds largest wind-energy exporters.

A 100% reliance on renewable energy will be extremely difficult to achieve, but as more and more countries are developing their renewable energy portfolios to critical mass, the shares of fossil fuel power will continue to decline.

The Top 4 BioMass Power Plants in the World

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Biomass energy is a catch-all term for energy which is generated by burning organic matter (mostly wood). While this technology is still polluting, it is not releasing gasses into the atmosphere which cannot be reabsorbed in a short time span. When you are burning wood, you are releasing the compounds found in the tree, which can be re-grown in a relatively short period of time.

Wood is not the only source of biomass fuel, though it is the most commonly used source. There are many different plant species and sources for the wood that is used to generate biomass power. Not only can trees be used, but other plants can be used such as bamboo, switchgrass, hemp, but even by-products such as oils and saps from the trees and plants.

Because some food crops can also be used as a fuel source, there is a direct competition for resources when it comes to production. Generally, fuel can be sold at higher prices than food, so more land is dedicated to the fuel production rather than food production. Using the waste products of food production as a biofuel is a good compromise and is seen more frequently today.

Other forms of biofuel include methane and ethane which can be produced in landfills from waste, but also as agricultural waste. Even algae have energy producing qualities, and might prove to be a valuable source of biofuels in the future.

Geography and a country’s economy greatly influence the use of biofuels, and in the list below you will see that the largest individual plants, with the exception of one plant, are located in Europe. Europe is a leading region in climate policy and environmentally conscious energy production, and it offers the resources and development to easily deploy these sources.

The Top Capacity BioMass Power Plants in the World:

Alholmens Kraft, Finland

Maasvlakte 3, Netherlands

Połaniec, Poland

Atikokan Generating Station, Canada

Grid

Changing-landscpae_Energy.jpgTo maintain the integrity of the grid, the individual components must work in unison. The grid is designed with some leeway to be able to absorb disruption, though it is thanks to a set of highly technical components and increasing automation that the grid is able to function to the level of reliability and at the scale at which we have become accustomed.

At the consumer level, installing a solar panel, or other means of generating electricity for a single property isn’t disruptive to the grid. It is when these systems become part of a larger whole or penetrate the market sufficiently that the grid will have to be adapted to take this into account. Starting at the household level, the smart meter can form the link between the micro generator and the distribution grid.

As the grid expands, the generation landscape has to be considered and the systems need to be in place for the shift in power generation sources that we are seeing, beyond a household smart meter. DSOs and TSOs are slowly taking the steps to ensure the future proofing of the grids, however, progress is slow. The technology requires significant upfront investment and is very capital intensive. The bulk of many systems operators networks are reaching the end of their useful lifespans and the focus is on renewal. Renewing a grid takes time, and a lack of investment in the early 2000s has left grid operators facing dilemmas of having to maintain reliability with the aging infrastructure while catching up with investments.