Sunday, 10 December 2017

PSO Paradoxes

Recently, this blog reported the not very widely known or reported fact that the contribution of wind decreased last year by 6% despite building 20% more wind farms. This was because the capacity factor (actual output / maximum output) dropped to 27% in 2016. Or another way of saying this is that there was less wind blowing last year. 

At the same time, the PSO Levy, which pays wind farms the difference between the subsidized price and wholesale price, increased last year by 20% (some of that going to peat).  This is a bit of a paradox - wind farm installations increased by 20% but total wind output dropped by 6%, yet the subsidy for wind increased by 20%. 

If a farmer cut his herd or crop by 6%, would he receive more subsidies ? 

The answer is that the Energy Regulator estimates the PSO Levy a year in advance. For 2016, the wholesale price dropped much more than was estimated and so the PSO Levy had to increase to compensate for this large drop in market prices (called the R-factor). 

Another paradox is that the PSO is also paid to higher emitting peat generation at the same time as wind generation. So some, if not all, the CO2 savings from wind have been cancelled out by the use of peat generation instead of gas. PSO payments to peat are due to be phased out by 2019.  

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Passing of David Whitehead

by Owen Martin

david whitehead1a

David Whitehead was an occasional contributor and commentator on this blog. It was with much sadness that I heard about his recent passing at the age of 75. Although I never met him, we regularly exchanged emails and his wealth of knowledge on all things climate and energy was breathtaking. He was a qualified geologist and paleontologist and had a career in mining. The Whitehead torpedo was invented by a relative, Robert Whitehead.

His enthusiasm and knowledge will be deeply missed.

A Selection of Writings by David 

Ice core proxy data from Greenland ( GISP2 and NORTHGRIP ) show that, in high northern latitudes (around 75ºN,) for the last eleven thousand years, each and every successive millennium has been cooler than its predecessor. In the minor climate cycles of the last four millennia both the low and high temperatures of successive cycles have tended to a lower temperature than the previous cycle. Based on geological history, the predictable evolution of the earth’s orbit, the precession of the equinox and obliquity of the ecliptic and even ignoring the possible effects of variation in solar radiation and the its effects on the magnetosphere, the geological prognosis is for the present long term cooling trend to continue. This will lead eventually to a return to glacial conditions in what are now cool temperate climate zones in both hemispheres. The geographic extent of warm temperate and tropical climate zones will shrink, the atmosphere will become much dryer and much more dusty than it is now and CO2 concentrations will gradually fall to lower levels. 

The severity, timing and rate of the slow, long term climate change currently under way cannot yet be forecast with any confidence. Nevertheless, Eemian random temperature variation demonstrates that even while the average temperature of succeeding millennia is falling, one to four century scale warming cycles of as much as 3ºC, like the one we are presently enjoying, still occur. In the Eemian record there were several millennia with warming cycles of this magnitude a few centuries long even when the average temperature was falling relentlessly in succeeding millennia.

A few centuries of warming do not constitute a climate change trend of any significance when viewed in the light of the Pleistocene, or even the much shorter Holocene climate record. While we should enjoy and benefit from the current warming cycle we are deluding ourselves if we think that in the long term climate change can be controlled by attempts to regulate atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Holding vast conferences such as COP 21 every few years may be politically and financially rewarding for their participants but their outcome will effect the climate not at all. They are, however, likely to negatively effect the health and economic well being of the rest of the planet’s population.

Published on Irish Energy Blog, 2015.

Sir, – The Irish Times recently (April 17th) published a factual article about geologically recent climate changes and their impacts on the west coast of Ireland as discussed by Michael Williams, professor of geology at NUIG, with Lorna Siggins.
This drew shrill, not to say hysterical responses, from Messrs Price and O’Raifeartaigh (Letters, April 21st), neither of whom appear to be aware that during 11 separate periods in the last million years, since the Mid-Pleistocene (climate) revolution Ireland was buried beneath kilometers of ice, that sea levels were 150 metres lower than now and that these frigid conditions prevailed for nearly 90 per cent of that million years. Only during brief intervals did the ice melt and the sea rise to near its present levels.
If Mr O’Raifeartaigh were to consult the peer-reviewed literature he would find that the turnaround from warming to cooling in every case occurred when carbon dioxide levels, as recorded in the Vostok ice core, were at their peak value. We are utterly blessed to live in one of these short warm periods which only started 9,000 years ago.
Perhaps Price and O’Raifeartaigh are also ignorant of the fact that from 8,000 to 4,000 years ago our climate was 2-3 degrees warmer than now and that a cooling temperature trend has been in place since then.
In the past we have adapted to both warming and cooling and that is still the best, and probably the only strategy that has any chance of success. Trying to control atmospheric carbon dioxide is a strategy that will only succeed in impoverishing us all.
By the bye, the IPCC and the UK Met Office have both stated unequivocally that the recent extreme weather events can not be attributed to “climate change”.
I do agree with Mr Price on one point, and that is the suggestion that The Irish Times engages someone well versed in climatology and paleoclimatology so that your readers might benefit from more fact and less hysteria about the earth’s history of climate change. 
Published in Irish Times, April 2014

Shannon Floods - Climate or Contour ?

Monday, 4 December 2017

Brexit : Can Ireland and UK Negotiate a Bilateral Trade Agreement ?

Last year, the House of Lords recommended Ireland and Britain negotiate a draft bilateral agreement. The Irish Minister for Finance rejected this, stating that UK would have to negotiate with the EU.

But there was a precedent for bilateral Irish / British negotiations on trade. In 2013, both governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the export of wind energy from Ireland to the UK. In effect, a trade agreement. The Greens lost the following election in the UK and the agreement ultimately never proceeded due to lack of political will, not because of any procedural issues. 

It seems when it comes to wind energy, there are no rules or procedures. All that is required is the political will. 

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rise Despite Large Investment in Wind Energy

Want to reduce GHG emissions? Don't put all your eggs in the windfarm basket.

This week the EPA reported that emissions have risen across all main sectors in the Irish economy. It was widely reported on in the Irish media but certain details were either omitted or not focused on. 

In 2016, we had about 2,800MW of wind energy in Ireland, enough electricity generating capacity to meet about 50% of demand on a winter's day like today. If the wind was blowing constantly all the time. As it doesn't, we get about 840MW output on average. But this output varies every day and year. 

An interesting fact can be gleaned from this, although it is not apparent in the EPA report or in media articles (investigative journalists are in short supply, hence the need for blogs like this one). We built about 460MW of new wind farms in 2016. The EPA report states that :
Renewables now account for 25.6% of electricity generated in 2016 (down from 27.3% in 2015).

     So we built more wind farms, costing somewhere in the region of €600-800 million, but the total share of renewables contribution to electricity actually decreased. Yes, I hear you say, but what about demand ? Demand increased by 2.3%. We can infer from Eirgrid's reports that this was an annual increase of about 630,000MW/hr. This converts to an average growth in power demand of about 70 MW.

This means that the 460MW of new wind farms were not able to keep pace with electricity growth of 70MW or just 15% of the new wind capacity. So you can see the folly of adding more wind. New wind farms do not automatically mean more renewable energy or reduced emissions. 

Meanwhile, eco warriors and greens are warning about the dangers of Irish agriculture. Beef exports make up about 25% of total Irish exports. The same people egging on the eradication of our beef production are also (mostly) the same people freaking out about the negative impact of Brexit on the Irish economy. Looks like a serious case of cognitive dissonance to me.

1)  Eirgrid Report on wind energy 2016 -

Saturday, 25 November 2017

China Energy In Numbers - Part 1

This will be a series of short posts which I hope will put the energy revolution in China in perspective.

With Irish media outlets like state broadcaster RTE constantly pushing the narrative that China will be a renewables powerhouse within a couple of decades, I hope this series of posts will act as a counter balance to this type of propaganda.

China’s most recent Five-Year Plan has set a target for an additional 58 GW of nuclear capacity by 2020. 

This capacity will provide enough power equivalent to the average demand of the entire French grid on a typical winter's day.

-US Energy Agency

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Oil and Coal Imports Rise Since Irish National Renewable Energy Action Plan

In 2010, Ireland introduced it's National Renewable Energy Action Plan. One might have expected a reduction in fossil fuel imports since that time but in fact both oil and coal imports have risen. Only gas imports have declined. 


Imports 2016
Imports 2010

Gasoline (petrol)
Jet Kerosene
Gasoil DERV
Total Oil 9,009

Coal bituminous
                     Source: SEAI Energy Data

In the case of oil, most of the increase is due to an increase in motor cars. The increased coal imports are been used in Moneypoint Power Station and are a consequence of the price of coal having dropped since 2010.

What this proves is the madness of Ireland's wind only policy which can only displace gas, the least emitting fossil fuel. If we really are in trouble with the climate, then converting Moneypoint to either gas or nuclear is the only solution in town.  Which of course nobody really wants to look at and that tells you something.

Natural Gas Imports

As for gas imports, these have declined. Some of that is due to the 3,000MW of wind energy. Other equally important factors are the Shell gas reserve off the sea at County Mayo which came into production in 2016 (which in fact accounts for about 80% of the reduction), the new interconnector to the UK which up to recently was providing a net import into Ireland and an increase in peat and coal production. Gas imports have in total declined by 60% or 11% if Shell gas reserve is excluded.

Although there was a reduction in gas used in the residential sector, there was an increase in gas used in the industrial sector. In particular, the metals industry and behind that the foods industry.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

New Report: The Costs of Wind Energy in Ireland

The new report by Wind Aware Ireland is now available to read online :

Total annual costs due to wind have been calculated at € 1.2 billion. I would say this is an under estimation. Other costs such as ancillary costs and maintenance costs for conventional generation are missing from this report. Ancillary costs are now over € 70 million per year. Some of those are required without wind, others like synchronous compensation are a direct consequence of wind energy. 

I have to agree with economist Colm McCarthy when he says "It should not have been left to this voluntary group to raise these vital policy questions. "