Google Will Hit 100% Renewable Energy by Year-end

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from JBSNews.com

Google will hit 100% renewable energy milestone in 2017

The Google plex in Mountain View, CA
The Googleplex in Mountain View, California.

It was back in 2007 when Google first announced their intention to pursue a 100% renewable energy program, and since then the firm has driven with steely-eyed determination towards its clean energy targets.

It’s especially gratifying to understand this when you consider Google’s global operations use as much electricity as the entire city of San Francisco. Some 2.6 GigaWatts of electrical demand are required by Google Inc. worldwide — all of it produced by wind and solar.

Google also has plenty of experimental renewable energy projects on the go, including a promising ocean wave energy programme that is light-years ahead of similar projects — and their version of this hopeful technology seems to be an economically viable method of collecting clean energy from the ocean — which it does without harming the local sea life. Which makes ocean wave energy much more valuable than tidal energy which mounts huge propellers on the seafloor.

The company continues to dramatically increase the level of energy efficiency in it’s office buildings and data centres concomitant with it’s decade-long drive towards 100% renewable energy.

Google Environmental Report 2017 - renewable energy by the numbers
Google Environmental Report 2017 – renewable energy by the numbers. Click image to enlarge.

Not only has it pioneered the way that corporations incorporate renewable energy into their operations, it has changed the entire utility industry model with novel Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) terms.

Alphabet (Google’s parent company) has helped millions of energy consumers to become aware of their personal carbon footprint and lower their energy bills by 18% on average via the Nest Thermostat which has saved more than (as of December 31, 2016) some 10 billion kWh combined — enough energy to power all of San Francisco for more than 21 months.

Google has recently created Earth Outreach, a realtime planetary dashboard to predict and analyze solutions for farmers, to help us understand geological events as they occur, to enhance political borders and study biological boundaries from space, and so much more. This amazing resource hasn’t begun to reach it’s full potential.

Like email a generation ago, which people thought of as a simple form of text communication to be used by academics and speechwriters — yet look at what has happened to email since the first message was sent via the ‘information superhighway’. Kinda takes you back in time, doesn’t it? Anyway, Earth Outreach will follow a similar growth curve to the explosive growth of email, and in a few years Google Moon Outreach and Google Mars Outreach will become the biggest thing in the world since, well, email.

Whatever you’re doing right now isn’t as important as reading Google’s brilliant and viewer-friendly report, click here to read some truly inspiring news.

Merit Order Ranking favours Renewable Energy

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from JBS News

What is Merit Order ranking?

Merit Order is a ranking system used by electric utilities to choose the most cost-effective electricity to add to the grid at any given moment.

Thanks to the magic of computerization, microprocessors make thousands of decisions per day based on parameters set by the utility company to help the utility to make the highest profits — based on ‘the spread’ — the difference between what they pay energy producers (the wholesale price) and the price they charge their customers (the retail price).

Most utility companies have Merit Order ranking control rooms similar to this one where decisions are made about which power producer will contribute to the grid. Microprocessors make the instant decisions while humans are present to oversee operations and plan ahead.
Most utility companies have Merit Order ranking control rooms similar to this one where decisions are made about which power producer will contribute to the grid. Microprocessors make the instant decisions while humans are present to oversee operations and plan ahead.

The cheapest electricity on a per kilowatt per hours basis (kW/h) is always solar and wind power which has a merit order ranking of 0 (Merit Order 0) which makes wind and solar the automatic default for utility companies that take every bit of it they can get — and only then do they add power to the grid from the number 1 ranked energy source (Merit Order 1) which in the United States, is coal.

Coal would still be the default energy producer as it was for decades, but because coal has a fuel cost attached to it while solar and wind power don’t, coal ranks lower on the merit order ranking scale. Other electricity generators hold different positions on the merit order ranking scale, with natural gas ‘peaking power plants’ the absolute last choice for utility companies because the per kW/h cost of electricity generated by natural gas gas peaking power plants is so high compared to other energy producers.

The German Merit Order ranking system offers an easy explanation

In the German example, electricity rates are determined hourly and customers are charged the corresponding hourly rate.

For our purposes to explain merit order ranking, this works well. In Germany electricity rates drop by up to 40% during the hours in which solar or wind are active, and this is what Merit Order ranking is all about; Using the cheapest available electricity FIRST — and then filling the gaps with more expensive electrical power generators after all the solar and wind capacity is brought online.

Solar and wind electricity in Germany are rated at Merit Order 0 making them the default for utility companies as they meet their daily demand.

Once all of the available solar and wind capacity is online, only then are, (1) nuclear, (2) coal, and (3) natural gas, ramped up to meet the daily German demand curve.

NOTE: In the U.S. the normal Merit Order rankings are; default (0) for solar and wind, (1) coal, (2) nuclear, (3) hydropower, and (4) natural gas, although this order can change in some parts of the United States, depending which types of energy are produced in a given region.

Still using the German example; The Fraunhofer Institute found – as far back as 2007 – that as a result of the Merit Order ranking system – solar power had reduced the price of electricity on the EPEX exchange by 10 percent on the average, with reductions peaking at up to 40 percent in the early afternoon when the most solar power is generated.

Here’s how the Merit Order works

All available sources of electrical generation are ranked by their marginal costs, from cheapest to most expensive, with the cheapest having the most merit.

The marginal cost is the cost of producing one additional unit of electricity. Electricity sources with a higher fuel cost have a higher marginal cost. If one unit of fuel costs $X, 2 units will cost $X times 2. This ranking is called the order of merit of each source, or the Merit Order.

Using Merit Order to decide means the source with the lowest marginal cost must be used first when there is a need to add more power to the grid – like during sunny afternoon peak hours.

Using the lowest marginal costs first was designed so that cheaper fuels were used first to save consumers money. In the German market, this was nuclear, then coal, then natural gas.

But 2 hours of sunshine cost no more than 1 of sunshine: therefore it has a lower marginal cost than coal – or any source with any fuel cost whatsoever.

So, under the Merit Order ranking of relative marginal costs, devised before there was this much fuel-free energy available on the grid, solar always has the lowest marginal cost during these peaks because two units of solar is no more expensive than one. — Susan Kraemer

It’s as simple as this; With no fuel costs, solar and wind cost less.

Although solar and wind are expensive to construct initially (but not as expensive as large nuclear power plants, large coal power plants, or large hydro-electric dams) there is no fuel price to pay, no weather-related price spikes, fuel transportation costs, fuel supply disruptions, or lack of rainfall to factor into the final electricity price.

As solar panel and wind turbine prices continue to drop thereby encouraging more solar and wind installations, we’ll hear more about Merit Order ranking.

Only solar, wind, hydro-electric and nuclear power have a predictable kW/h price every day of the year. Coal, home heating fuel and natural gas, do not. And that’s everything to energy producers and their customers, the utility companies.

Although energy companies and utilities were slower than consumers to embrace renewable energy, some are now seeing benefit for their business model and henceforth, things will change.

Buckle up, because big changes are coming to the existing utility business model, changes that will benefit energy producers, energy consumers and the environment.


Related Article:

Why can’t we have a level energy subsidy playing field?

by John Brian Shannon |  Reposted from JBS News

All I’m asking for is that renewable energy gets the same subsidies as fossil fuels or nuclear energy. Is that so unreasonable?

You can determine the subsidy costing by any method you choose using a per unit of energy formula — per Barrel of Oil equivalent (BOe) or per kW/h, or any other unit of energy formula you want.

North America’s energy security (similar could be said for Europe, Asia and Australia) is better served by LETTING THE MARKET CHOOSE what’s best for the continent and that can only happen when all energy producers play on the same subsidy playing field. (The cream will rise to the top)

Renewable Energy adds to national security, while Conventional Energy leaves industrialized nations vulnerable

North America’s (for example) biggest national security vulnerability (aside from bio-warfare) comes from literally hundreds of thousands of miles of electrical transmission corridors (pylons and power lines) and pipelines that crisscross the continent.

Every Pentagon General, along with every military rank down to Corporal knows it would be boringly easy for even the most inept enemy of the United States and Canada (both national grids are interconnected) to destroy the North American grid with as little as three well-placed air-to-ground missiles, or alternatively, three truck bombs. Those interconnect sites are unbelievably unprotected.

If that were to happen in mid-winter, millions of North Americans would die, and that’s indisputable.

That it hasn’t happened, proves to me that North America doesn’t have any ‘real’ enemies or it would have occurred a long time ago. (Yes, the U.S. and Canada are ‘irritated’ at some countries and some countries are ‘irritated’ at us — but by virtue of the fact that *they haven’t hit us where we’re most vulnerable* proves they aren’t real enemies, they’re only ‘irritants’)

Centralized Power vs. Decentralized Power

Conventional grid adherents are living in a previous century — a central grid WAS the best thing for North America in the 20th-century — but those days are long gone!

Fossil fuel supporters should stop helping our enemies, which they do by supporting a conventional national grid that even the U.S. military 3X over couldn’t protect!

Decentralized power is the ONLY choice for an energy-secure America!

Make better investment returns on Renewable Energy by leveling the subsidy playing field

I understand that many people are heavily invested in fossil fuels and nuclear power — and I don’t blame them, they were safe and secure investments for decades, but such industries now run counter to the national interest — good investment returns aside!

And yes, the ONLY reason you have those high returns is that those industries are heavily-subsidized by U.S. and Canadian taxpayers; Oil & Gas get $80 billion per year in the U.S. and about $10 billion annually in Canada, nuclear a bit less — but nobody really knows for sure, not even the governments — because it’s all mashed together with nuclear fuel production, long-term ‘spent fuel’ storage, nuclear warhead production and nuclear warhead disposal. (I suspect a similar situation in Europe)

Normal citizens can’t see this because those white elephants are obscured by mountains of cash!

Efficient investment vs. Inefficient investment

Energy companies have become like the Big 3 during the 1960’s and 1970’s, big, powerful, lazy, and wholly unwilling to adapt to changing market conditions.

Remember when 95% of cars registered in the U.S.A. were domestic built and sold? Well, due to the laziness of the Big 3, nowadays less than 35% of new car registrations are North American makes, and more than half of the parts are supplied by Asia or Mexico!

You call that progress???

It’s killing North America!

Renewable Energy creates more jobs than Conventional Energy (even using fossil fuel industry stats!)

Millions of people unemployed in North America because the 1% wanted higher investment returns on their energy stocks! UN-AMERICAN in the extreme!

Energy companies and their investors MUST become patriotic by becoming ‘fleet of foot’ and able to adapt to the already changed national security paradigm — and become ‘ENERGY COMPANIES’ instead of (only) Oil & Gas or (only) nuclear or (only) coal companies.

Profit is a great thing! Energy companies should make plenty of profit because energy is an ultra-important factor in the 21st-century. However, uneven energy subsidies are not a great thing.

Putting a square peg in a square hole, not a square peg in a round hole

When we train soldiers, we don’t try to put a square peg in a round hole — we choose those people based on their merit.

(The best snipers become our snipers, the best tank captains become our tank captains, and the best fighter pilots don’t peel potatoes aboard our warships!) Rather obvious when you think about it, isn’t it?

By the same token, if electricity companies were to embrace ALL energy (they don’t do that now because some energy is highly subsidized and some isn’t) they could then have the option to put a round peg in a round hole and a square peg in a square hole. As it should be!

I must add that gas-fired power generation is increasingly important towards meeting demand — moreso as renewable energy comes on stream. Natural gas burns one million times cleaner than brown coal (lignite) and up to ten-thousand times cleaner than the best black coal (anthracite) and gas power plants can be just as local to demand centres as required — quite unlike hydro-power dams and coal-fired power plants, and even nuclear power plants which usually aren’t welcome near city centres.

READ: Full cost accounting for the life-cycle of coal (Harvard Medicine)

Again, by setting an even subsidy playing field, THE MARKET will choose which kind of power to use in what location — and don’t worry — your precious investment returns will be just as high as they are now. Maybe higher!

As for U.S. jobs, solar produces more jobs than all other producers put together — and rising exponentially!

Renewable energy vs. 'green bullets'
More workers in solar than in all fossil fuel power generation combined (U.S.A.) — Statista

Summary

By setting a level subsidy playing field, the cream will rise to the top, and the market will choose which peg to put in which demand hole — nothing could be more efficient!

And in that case, renewable energy will win hands down!

National security will become greatly enhanced as industrialized nations will no longer be dangling from a thread via the hundreds of thousands of miles of pylons and power lines that will no longer be required, as renewable energy is local energy, while conventional energy must carry electricity many thousands of miles.

Stop choosing profits over national security!

Stop arguing against national security, stop arguing against a free market, and stop arguing that you can’t make the same or better profits via renewable energy. It’s intellectually dishonest.

And for those who want to send me ‘green bullets’ — bring it!


Related Articles:

  • Trump’s Quixotic Energy Policy (Project Syndicate)
  • On the economics of wind and solar power (The Beam)
  • Mr Trump: Tear down those energy subsidies! (kleef.asia)
  • Energy Darwinism: The Case for a Level Playing Field (JBS News)

This Week in Brexit: Expat rights

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from LetterToBritain.com

Now that Brexit issues of substance have percolated up into the mainstream everyone has stopped talking about the Tories getting their electoral wings clipped and we can now move on to far more important matters! And just in time folks, it was getting a bit much.

The Queen looked positively radiant reading aloud the document that will change European history on both sides of the English Channel.

Some comments were made about her EU-bleu hat which had five golden embellishments reminiscent of the gold stars on the EU flag. If so, it’s the Queen’s prerogative what to wear and if she wanted to send a polite message to the European Union via her choice of attire, why not?

If you asked 20 people what that message might have been, you’d probably get 20 different answers. Note to conspiracy theorists; Knock yourselves out!

You must be dying to know what my read of the Queen’s outfit is: After all, you ARE reading this blog, aren’t you?

I think the Queen knows there are hurt feelings in Brussels and that others in the EU are sad to see Britain leave. And it could be that as she read the speech written to begin the process to take the UK out of the EU, she wanted to politely emote, ‘We are leaving your Union, but we respect you and want to keep good relations with you.’

How could it be other than that? What else would you expect from the reigning Monarch of the United Kingdom? Of course, continental Europe will still need the UK… and the United Kingdom will still need the EU.

Trade, a common European defence, social causes, families, etc. are so interlinked between Britons and the people across the Channel that good relations must be preserved, sparing no effort.


EU Membership is no guarantee of a booming economy

Over 175 nations in the world are not members of the EU, nor do they have trade agreements with the EU.

Some nations, even those in close proximity to the EU declined to join the Union. And some, like Norway, Switzerland and others simply worked out different arrangements with the EU.

Greenland applied for EU membership, then withdrew its application once Greenlanders were consulted via referendum. Yet, Norway, Switzerland and Greenland have continued along just fine without EU membership, as have other European and non-European states.

The UK will get along fine without EU membership

Yes, some things will be better for Britons. Yes, there will be a period of adjustment after Brexit. And minor economic disruptions could occur here and there, at various waypoints along the Brexit timetable.

But what negotiators on both sides must remember is that, ‘What’s good for the UK, is good for the EU.’

Large EU companies like BMW and Mercedes don’t want a recession in the UK! It’s one of their best markets. Large British companies like BP (British Petroleum) want continental Europe to thrive, else how can it remain profitable?

Arguably, small business is even more dependent upon thriving economies on both sides of the English Channel.

Which is why Brexit must be made to work!

If the EU ‘stabs’ the UK, it will be the EU that bleeds! The reverse is also true!

Hurt feelings aside, let’s hope that negotiators on both sides are dedicated to ensuring they aren’t the cause of their own ‘bleeding’ and that they continually work towards a better agreement — one that works for Britons and EU citizens alike.

RECIPROCITY should be the watchword every day until Brexit negotiations are concluded. And thenceforth, all relations between the two sides should be guided by that ultra-important word in perpetuity.

UK and EU -- RECIPROCITY definition by Cambridge University Press

What all this is leading up to is the present discussion surrounding expat privileges in both jurisdictions — succinctly covered by Laura Kuenssberg, Political editor at the BBC, here.

But we can’t have one ruleset for UK citizens who live, work, attend university, or are retired in EU nations… and a different ruleset for EU citizens who live, work, attend university, or are retired in the United Kingdom.


SSTWB: Simple Solutions Tend to Work Best

So with that in mind let’s declare that from January 1st 2018, any EU citizen who moves to (or already lives in) the United Kingdom for any reason (work, school, retirement, or to live as one of the idle rich) must register with the UK government and pay an annual £100 fee per each family member (in the case of EU citizens that move to the UK) and for those Britons who move to the EU for any reason (work, school, retirement, or to live as one of the idle rich) must register with the government of that jurisdiction and pay an annual €100 fee per each family member.

Once they have registered and paid, it thereby proves their status and good intentions to the jurisdiction in which they intend to live (or already live) and they should have the ability to join the NHS (in the case of EU citizens living in the UK) and pay the same NHS contributions as Britons do.

Of course, those contributions are scaled to income so EU citizens would need to provide a copy of their income tax form to the UK government when paying their annual £100 per family member expat tax in order to qualify for the subsidized NHS rate appropriate to their income level.

And all of it should be easily done every year — either online or in a government agent’s office. And it should be a simplified form so that the entire process takes less than 5 minutes. Keep it simple!

  • Name
  • Address
  • Work or University address
  • Income tax ID number
  • Pay £100 per family member here via credit card

UK citizens that live, work, or retire in the European Union should receive corresponding privileges — the only difference being the value of the currency — the €100 annual fee per expat vs. the £100 annual fee per expat.


Issues of Law and (worryingly) Issues of Precedent arise

Some (very unreasonable) EU people suggest that EU laws should apply in Britain! (Yes, some people have actually said that aloud)

Do I have to say it? It is the very definition of Bureaucracy Run Amok!

And further, they’ve stated that EU citizens living in Britain should be bound by EU laws, and any court proceedings that involve EU citizens living in Britain would need to be conducted in an EU-court located somewhere in Britain. Facepalm!

It’s one of the most absurd things I’ve heard, and people who suggest such things need years of psychological treatment (You need to be deprogrammed Comrade Bureaucrat, as you’re no longer in the Collective!) and remains true EVEN IF they support having British courts in the European Union to adjudicate Britons who break UK laws while in the EU.

Stop the insanity!

FACT: The Colonial Era is over. FACT: The United Kingdom was never a colony of the European Union. FACT: The United Kingdom really is leaving the European Union!

Trying to pull such stunts shows how buried in the sand, are some heads in the EU, even at this late Brexit date.

There is only one way it will work

EU citizens must obey the laws and be bound by British courts whenever they are in Britain — and the reverse is just as true — Britons living in the European Union must obey the laws and be bound by EU courts whenever they are in the EU. Full stop! No other choices available!

Although I’d certainly support a reciprocal incarceration agreement, whereby once sentenced, a UK citizen (for example) could apply to serve out his/her prison time in a United Kingdom prison instead of in the EU where he or she broke EU laws.

EU citizens who break the law in the United Kingdom should likewise be offered the opportunity to serve out their prison term in the EU.

And all of it should be simplified and standardized, so that any such prisoner requests could be completed within 48 hours. People in prison have families too — and why exactly should they be punished?


IN SUMMARY

Once we ditch the crazy people from the negotiations, mutual interests should prevail and allow the economies of Europe, a common European defence, commerce, industry, and family ties to remain unaffected, and in some ways improved. Above all else, overall improvement in the multifaceted relationship between the UK and the EU should be the goal for negotiators.

Electrovaya’s New Battery Technology Adds Thermal Stability

Originally posted at JBSNews by John Brian Shannon

Electrovaya’s new battery technology increases the ability of Li-Ion batteries to withstand the higher temperatures of today’s powerful batteries

Electrovaya and it’s new German acquisition own the patent on a new battery technology that will make all Lithium-Ion batteries better and safer by increasing the ability of Li-Ion batteries to withstand the higher temperatures of today’s more powerful and energy dense batteries.

Thermal stability is everything when it comes to creating batteries that are more powerful and more densely packed — as in the large battery packs found in electric vehicles, for one example.

Electrovaya’s fully embedded ceramic material withstands significantly more heat than conventional materials used to electrically isolate battery components and are lighter, safer and cheaper than present-day industry standards.

The Lithium-Ion battery business — already a global industry, will be a $70 billion business within 10-years and it looks like Electrovaya intends to dramatically improve the performance and safety of all Li-Ion batteries, as excess heat and how to contain it, has always been the nemesis of the battery industry. Not to mention incrementally lowering the weight of each Li-Ion cell — an important factor in large batteries such as those found in electric vehicles.

Note that the TESLA P100 battery (which is actually a 100kW battery pack consisting of 8,256 individual rechargeable Lithium-Ion cells in the Panasonic 18650 format, for a total output of 102.4kW) weighs well over 1,200 pounds. A weight savings of 10% (for example) adds up to lower total battery pack weight and longer range for such vehicles.

Watch the CBC video by Reg Sherren on the little company that promises to be a game-changer in the surging battery technology market.

Electrovaya charging ahead with clean energy

“The Ontario company is poised to be a global player in the growing lithium-ion battery market, and it already has its sights on Europe’s industrial powerhouse.” — CBC