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Monday, 9 December 2013

New electric car in development

The American speciality motor manufacturing company, Saleen Automotive, has announced it is involved in the development of a new electric car. Full details will become available to financial and automotive media in early 2014. Steve Saleen, CEO of the company said that although he isn’t prepared to disclose all the details of the project at present he can reveal that it will be unlike anything currently in the marketplace. He went on to add that interested parties should “throw out” preconceived notions and expectations as the new vehicle will be revolutionary in its aesthetics and mechanics. 

“We recognize that electric cars are a trend, not a fad and expect this vehicle category to continue to increase as an automotive option for consumers” said Steve Saleen, CEO, Saleen Automotive Inc. “We intend to enter this market with an offering that is truly innovative and offers the styling and craftsmanship associated with the Saleen Automotive brand. The rapid pace of advancements in electric vehicle technology makes our entry into this market sector timely and should expedite completion of this project.”

Saleen Automotive press release

Electric car chargers arrive in South Dakota

A fully electric car is about as rare in South Dakota as an 85-degree forecast in January, so the installation of an electric car charging station in the Rushmore Mall parking lot has raised a few eyebrows.

Rapid City Journal

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Tangled Knot: UK government wind policy

Stuart Nathan's take on this morning's announcement by the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) concerning changes to renewable energy subsidies.

If you’re confused by the messages around the government’s announcements on renewables funding, you’re in good company.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

EU and China approve pact on solar dumping

European Union countries have approved a deal with China to reduce imports of Chinese solar panels which had previously crashed Europe’s solar manufacturing market – bringing an end to the EU’s biggest trade dispute of its kind.

New Energy World Network

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Venomous rant against renewables by Australian economist

The Australian renewables industry is under no illusion about the extent of the forces lined up against it following the election of a highly conservative Coalition government in Canberra.
The antipathy to renewables in large sections of the Coalition is deep set, as it is among some of the highly influential and ultra-conservative think tanks such as the Institute of Public Affairs, and various industry lobby groups.
But even battle-weary supporters of solar and wind energy – and those firmly in the middle of the road –  were taken aback by an extraordinary tirade against renewable energy delivered in Sydney on Wednesday by Burchell Wilson, a senior economist at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
ACCI is one of the most visible and influential lobby groups in Canberra, and its opposition to climate policy, carbon pricing, and renewables incentives, is well known. Still, no-one was quite ready for the “venomous rant” – as one observor described it – against the renewable energy target that Wilson delivered to the Eastern Australian Energy Outlook Conference.
Wilson’s approach was not atypical of the sort of rhetoric we have come used to hearing from conservative energy ministers – be they state of federal – and the incumbent utilities, who are threatened by the rise of renewables, and their cheerleaders in the conservative think tanks.
The trick for these people is to ignore the benefits of renewables – increased investment, more jobs, lowering emissions, delivering a  faster transition to low carbon economy, solar delivering cheaper alternative to homes and businesses – and instead paint a doomsday scenario.
There was no mention of the massive influence of network costs, or the $1 billion in annual subsidies paid to support the delivery of fossil fuel generation to customers in WA and Queensland. Instead, the focus is on inflated “abatement costs” using out of date technology prices, warnings about rising energy costs, collapsing industries and economies, and all the things that only a “green ideologue” would think were good.
Then you throw in hyperbole – the renewable energy target  was “crazy”, “an ugly baby”, and “bad policy” that could only be justified by an “ideological predeliction towards renewable energy.”
This was a view, Wilson claimed, that was “largely uncontentious”.  There were “no economists I know who is not an ideologue who disagrees with that.”
Given that more than 100 countries now have renewable energy targets of some sort, and that these are recommended as sound policy by such conservative bodies as the International Energy Association, that must mean there are a heck of a lot of ideologically-driven economists out there. Probably the same mob inventing crap about climate change, pushing for carbon pricing and a new world order.
But Wilson is simply calling the kettle black, or green as the case may be. “That was one of the most deceptive, disingenuous and manipulative presentations I have ever seen,” said Andrew Richards, the external affairs manager for renewable energy investor Pacific Hydro. “It was almost comical.”
Jonathan Upson, from Infigen Energy, described it as the “most creative presentation I have seen.”
When challenged by Upson and others on his statements, Wilson, a former regulatory economist with a Victoria-based energy distributor, declared that: “I’m an economist, so costs are my forte.”
And later, he added: “You can have your own opinions about climate change and climate policy, but you can’t have your own facts.”
But apparently you can.
When challenged by Upson about his claim that the RET had been the second biggest contributor to the doubling in retail electricity prices in the last five years, ignoring the impact of network upgrades that accounted for at least half of that, Wilson said: “I was just referring to green schemes. It’s a power point presentation … it’s shorthand.”
When it was pointed out that renewables had contributed to sizeable falls in wholesale prices – a fact recognised by participants, regulators and analysts in energy markets across the world: Wilson replied: “I was here talking about the RET, I’m not sure why you talking about wholesale prices.”
Well, the reason people talk about wholesale prices is that these falls more than offset the costs of the scheme in the first place, and deliver lower wholesale electricity costs to all. This, the so-called merit order effect, was deemed an asset until the generators discovered just how far this undermines the earnings from their incumbent investments. Which is probably why the man from Alinta (the owner of two mothballed coal fired generators) leaped to Wilson’s defence, and why generators in general are seeking to have the RET diluted or removed.
(A graph prepared by the Australian Energy Market Commission which highlights the contribution of network pricing, green schemes and the declining wholesale prices can be found here).
And when RenewEconomy challenged Wilson over his claim that the RET did not displace coal, but displaced gas instead, Wilson said:
“I don’t think I actually said that, did I.”
Er, yes, you did. Everyone heard it and I and the conference organisers have it on tape. And AEMO data states quite clearly that since the introduction of the 20 per cent RET by Labor, with the full support of the conservatives, black coal generation has fallen by 15 per cent, but gas generation has actually increased – along of course, with renewables.
If you doubt what the energy market operator has to say about this, read what Queendsland’s biggest generator Stanwell Corp has to say about the ipact of demand and wholesale prices. You can even see a pretty graph illustrating the changes in generation here.
“I’m talking about the operation of the RET over a specific juncture in time,” Wilson complained, without identifying which particular juncture. “I really don’t understand what the mentality is here with these point scoring exercises.”
Probably just to point out that you cannot bring your own facts to the table.
The tragedy of this is that Wilson’s presentation may have been plain wrong, nasty, manipulative and ideological, but he’s not alone in Canberra. Even middle-of-the-road energy folk found the presentation to be “unprofessional”, but noted that while energy market professionals may see the obvious holes in the argument, some politicians could be easily swayed, and offer up the same nonsense.
As Wilson (rightly) pointed out, there is a vast reserve of anti-renewables passion in the rump of the National Party and the Liberal party backbench open to such rhetoric– which insiders say is being whipped up by new Liberal MP Angus Taylor.
Wilson expressed his hope that these views would overwhelm those of moderates such as Environment Minister Greg Hunt,  and Energy Minister Ian Macfarlane. He hoped that the economic rationalists at the Productivity Commission would have carriage of the next RET review. He will likely be granted his wish, given that the institution that called out the fossil fuel industry on this nonsense, the Climate Change Authority, is to be dismantled and “independent” advice is to be brought “in house”.
Wilson insisted that renewables “are producing a product that no one wants to buy.” This ignores the fact that Australian households and businesses are still spending more than $1 billion a year installing their own rooftop solar systems – even with most subsidies removed. (Hint: this is very cheap abatement). It also ignores the radical change that is engulfing the electricity industry world-wide.
But the more people like Wilson stick their head in the ground, the more they risk the future of the industry they seek to defend. As US energy market analyst Perry Sioshansi told the conference yesterday, the traditional generation model is being over-run by cheaper, greener alternatives. And how bodies such as ACCI can argue that Australia has cheap electricity, when it costs nearly $280/MWh for the consumer even before green schemes are added, is beyond belief.
“I believe that the electric supply industry will soon approach a tipping point where consumers will provide electricity cheaper than industry can deliver,” Siosanshi told the conference. And the industry has been so wrapped up in its own hyperbole and ideological purity that it’s missed the chance to save itself. Siosanshi said it was probably already too late. And this is now a widely supported view in the US, and in Europe.

Republished from REnew Economy

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Is it already too late for traditional utilities?
A leading US energy analyst has warned that the conventional electricity industry is facing a major “thunderstorm” from distributed energy resources, and it may already be too late to save the traditional business model.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph: Purveyors of shoddy climate science

From: Climate Consensus: The 97% - Guardian column

The Guardian's Climate Consensus blog is an important weapon in the battle against climate denialists and a recent piece by blog authors John Abraham and Dana Nuccitelli published on Monday 9th September is a very effective stab at the twaddle regularly published by The Daily Mail and Telegraph

Here is the piece reproduced in full: 

Arctic sea ice delusions strike the Mail on Sunday and Telegraph

Both UK periodicals focus on short-term noise and ignore the rapid long-term Arctic sea ice death spiral

When it comes to climate science reporting, the Mail on Sunday and Telegraph are only reliable in the sense that you can rely on them to usually get the science wrong. This weekend's Arctic sea ice articles from David Rose of the Mail and Hayley Dixon at the Telegraph unfortunately fit that pattern.
Both articles claimed that Arctic sea ice extent grew 60 percent in August 2013 as compared to August 2012. While this factoid may be technically true (though the 60 percent figure appears to be an exaggeration), it's also largely irrelevant. For one thing, the annual Arctic sea ice minimum occurs in September – we're not there yet. And while this year's minimum extent will certainly be higher than last year's, that's not the least bit surprising. As University of Reading climate scientist Ed Hawkins noted last year,
"Around 80% of the ~100 scientists at the Bjerknes [Arctic climate science] conference thought that there would be MORE Arctic sea-ice in 2013, compared to 2012."

Regression toward the Mean

The reason so many climate scientists predicted more ice this year than last is quite simple. There's a principle in statistics known as "regression toward the mean," which is the phenomenon that if an extreme value of a variable is observed, the next measurement will generally be less extreme. In other words, we should not often expect to observe records in consecutive years. 2012 shattered the previous record low sea ice extent; hence 'regression towards the mean' told us that 2013 would likely have a higher minimum extent.
The amount of Arctic sea ice left at the end of the annual melt season is mainly determined by two factors – natural variability (weather patterns and ocean cycles), and human-caused global warming. The Arctic has lost 75 percent of its summer sea ice volume over the past three decades primarily due to human-caused global warming, but in any given year the weather can act to either preserve more or melt more sea ice. Last year the weather helped melt more ice, while this year the weather helped preserve more ice.
Last year I created an animated graphic called the 'Arctic Escalator' that predicted the behavior we're now seeing from the Mail on Sunday and Telegraph. Every year when the weather acts to preserve more ice than the previous year, we can rely on climate contrarians to claim that Arctic sea ice is "rebounding" or "recovering" and there's nothing to worry about. Given the likelihood that 2013 would not break the 2012 record, I anticipated that climate contrarians would claim this year as yet another "recovery" year, exactly as the Mail on Sunday and Telegraph have done.
In short, this year's higher sea ice extent is merely due to the fact that last year's minimum extent was record-shattering, and the weather was not as optimal for sea ice loss this summer. However, the long-term trend is one of rapid Arctic sea ice decline, and research has shown this is mostly due to human-caused global warming.

When Will the Arctic be Ice-Free?

Both Rose and Dixon referenced a 2007 BBC article quoting Professor Wieslaw Maslowski saying that the Arctic could be ice free in the summer of 2013. In a 2011 BBC article, he predicted ice-free Arctic seas by 2016 "plus or minus three years." Other climate scientists believe this prediction is too pessimistic, and expect the first ice-free Arctic summers by 2040.
It's certainly difficult to predict exactly when an ice-free Arctic summer will occur. While climate research has shown that the Arctic sea ice decline is mostly human-caused, there may also be a natural component involved. The remaining sea ice may abruptly vanish, or it may hold on for a few decades longer. What we do know is that given its rapid decline, an ice-free Arctic appears to be not a question of if, but when.

Continuing Global Warming

Both articles also claimed that "some scientists" are predicting that we're headed into a period of global cooling. Both named just one scientist making this claim – Professor Tsonis of the University of Wisconsin, whose research shows that slowed global surface warming is only temporary. In fact, Tsonis' co-author Kyle Swanson wrote,
"What do our results have to do with Global Warming, i.e., the century-scale response to greenhouse gas emissions? VERY LITTLE, contrary to claims that others have made on our behalf."
Both articles also wrongly claimed that global warming has "paused" since 1997. In reality, global surface temperatures have warmed over the past 15 years, albeit more slowly than during the previous 15 years. It is possible to cherry pick a shorter time frame over which global surface temperatures haven't warmed, as I illustrated in my other animated 'Escalator' graphic.
However, the opposite is true of the overall warming of the planet – Earth has accumulated more heat over the past 15 years than during the prior 15 years.
Recent research strongly suggests that the main difference between these two periods comes down to ocean heat absorption. Over the past decade, heat has been transferred more efficiently to the deep oceans, offsetting much of the human-caused warming at the surface. During the previous few decades, the opposite was true, with heat being transferred less efficiently into the oceans, causing more rapid warming at the surface. This is due to ocean cycles, but cycles are cyclical – meaning it's only a matter of time before another warm cycle occurs, causing accelerating surface warming (as Tsonis' research shows).
It would be foolhardy for anyone to predict future global cooling, and those few who are so foolish are unwilling to put their money where their mouth is, as my colleague John Abraham found out when challenging one to a bet, only to find the other party unwilling to stand behind it.

Rose and Dixon Invent an IPCC 'Crisis Meeting'

Both articles also claimed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose Fifth Assessment Report is due out in a few weeks, has been forced "to hold a crisis meeting." This claim made both articles even though Ed Hawkins noted,
"I told David Rose on the phone and by email on Thursday about the IPCC process and lack of 'crisis' meeting."
Unfortunately that didn't stop Rose from inventing this meeting, or Dixon from repeating Rose's fictional reporting in the Telegraph.

Yes, Humans are Driving Global Warming

Finally, both articles quoted climate scientist Judith Curry claiming that the anticipated IPCC statement of 95 percent confidence that humans are the main cause of the current global warming is unjustified. However, Curry has no expertise in global warming attribution, and has a reputation for exaggerating climate uncertainties. In reality, the confident IPCC statement is based on recent global warming attribution research. More on this once the IPCC report is actually published – any current commentaries on the draft report are premature.

Shoddy Climate Reporting

These two articles at the Mail on Sunday and Telegraph continue the unfortunate trend of shoddy climate reporting in the two periodicals, particularly from David Rose. They suffer from cherry picking short-term data while ignoring the long-term human-caused trends, misrepresenting climate research, repeating long-debunked myths, and inventing IPCC meetings despite being told by climate scientists that these claims are pure fiction.
Based on their history of shoddy reporting, the safest course of action when reading a climate article in the Mail on Sunday or Telegraph is to assume they're misrepresentations or falsehoods until you can verify the facts therein for yourself.

Energy & Environment Dates 2012