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Energy, Environment and Policy
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  • 12/05/15--07:41: Blowout Week 101
  • The focus this week is on OPEC and the lack of action there until at least June and on COP21 talks in Paris. Astronauts on the Space Station have warned of dire consequences of climate change and deforestation visible from space while the EU approves a £1 billion subsidy to convert Lynemouth coal power station to burn wood pellets imported from North America. Continue reading

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  • 01/30/16--12:10: Blowout week 109
  • Back to the harsh realities this week. The UK is going to freeze in the dark after all. Then we continue with OPEC’s call for production cuts, Petrobras slashes reserves, help for the North Sea, Japan restarts another reactor, Elon Musk on clean energy in China, solar and wind victorious in Germany, rooftop solar wars in the US, more delays at Hinkley, the EC delves deeper into Drax, a 50MW wind turbine, the Zika virus, how global warming has brought seedless table grapes to UK, conspiracy theory and the Atomic Clock stays at three minutes to midnight. Continue reading

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  • 08/13/16--14:56: Blowout Week 137
  • This week we return to Hinkley Point, where yet another potentially deal-breaking complication has arisen as a result of the US filing suit against the China General Nuclear Power Company – a 33.5% stakeholder in Hinkley – for nuclear espionage. China has warned that retaliatory measures may be taken if the UK now dumps Hinkley. So what happens next? Continue reading

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  • 03/11/17--11:15: Blowout Week 167
  • We kick off with Elon Musk's offer to rescue S Australia from blackouts and follow with stories that include the requisite dose of OPEC vs. the US shale producers, US needs Canada’s resources, Shell sells Canadian oil sands interests, problems with the UK’s Rough gas storage, Australia’s coming natural gas shortage, Ukraine to export nuclear power to the EU, a new robot for Fukushima, Uniper posts a big loss, solar saves the day in SA, Tesla to sell electricity in Hawaii, Scotland’s floating wind farm, Ireland’s renewable energy predicament, Dogger Bank artificial island to provide power to 80 million Europeans, the first new UK hydro storage project for 30 years, the biomass industry fights back, no good news for renewables in UK budget, the G20 backs away from Paris, Baltic ice gets thicker and what really caused the Permo-Triassic mass extinction. Continue reading

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  • 07/08/17--09:36: Blowout Week 184
  • Elon Musk, making good on his promise to solve South Australia’s energy woes, has signed a contract with the South Australia government to install the world’s largest (100MW/129MWh) battery bank next to a 309MW wind farm, and as noted in the follow-up articles Tesla will forfeit $50 million (or more) if it isn’t up and running in 100 days. Stay tuned on this one. Below Mr. Musk we have the usual mix of stories, including Trump pitches US LNG to Europe; US nuclear plants hacked; Hinkley already over budget; France to ban gasoline and diesel cars; Google to buy Norwegian wind; the death of solar and wind in the EU; the Great Barrier Reef off the danger list; the London solar panel fire; Scotland’s whisky-powered car and a study claiming that climate models are right and it’s the historic temperature record that’s misleading us. Continue reading

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  • 07/10/17--01:25: Electrocuted
  • Electric cars are very much in the news. The Tesla bubble looks like it may just have burst with static instead of exponentially rising sales, France has declared it will phase out diesel and petrol cars by 2040 and Volvo is to convert its whole model range to all electric or hybrid electric by 2019. The World is now gripped by ultra left wing Green politics driven by production quotas set by the policies of The United Nations and Green NGOs. The USA has awoken to this reality and plans to walk away while France just voted for it. Expensive policies with neglible benefits for the public at large that require subsidies instead of paying taxes can only end in economic tears. Continue reading

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  • 07/15/17--09:38: Blowout Week 185
  • This weeks Blowout kicks off with a number of stories iterating through the options of nuclear power, clean coal and batteries. Also in the mix is a big new oil find in Mexico; the growth of LNG; fracking in London; … Continue reading

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  • 07/22/17--10:05: Blowout Week 186
  • The irrepressible Elon Musk is at it again. Having just got South Australia back on track he has now turned his attention to the U.S., which he claims can ultimately be 100% powered by a solar panel array covering only 100 square miles (red dot in inset) – plus a mere square mile of Li-ion batteries. Read all about it in the lead story. Stories to follow include OPEC’s production cuts unraveling; the US may halt Venezuelan oil imports; melted fuel found at Fukushima; China takes the lead in nuclear fusion; Asia’s coal boom, California counties sue oil majors over sea level rise; Japanese solar firms going bankrupt; Hawaii gets the 100% renewable go-ahead; a new 2.3GW CCGT plant planned in UK; tourists in Scotland shun wind turbines and the wind really is always blowing somewhere in Europe. Continue reading

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  • 09/30/17--09:38: Blowout Week 196
  • The big news in the Energy Patch this week is the Kurdish independence vote, which threatens to disrupt the global oil market and could lead to civil war in Iraq. We follow up with the usual dose of stories from around the world: surging global demand for diesel; the Aramco IPO; US loans billions to two nuclear plants; Australian coal plants running out of coal; Tesla sends storage batteries to Puerto Rico; Denmark wants more solar; California mulls ban on fossil-fuel vehicles; Canada's expanding farmland; the utility death spiral; no more wood-burning in London; batteries at Burbo Bank; the Barrier Reef stages an unexpected recovery; evaporation engines replace nuclear power and how global warming could damage your car’s suspension. Continue reading

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  • 10/07/17--10:17: Blowout Week 197
  • Which is the world’s largest energy company? Exxon? Shell? Neither; they come ninth and twenty-third. The winner? Russia’s Gazprom. Read all about it in this week’s feature story. Follow-up stories include Russia and Saudi Arabia jointly developing new oil projects; Libya to ramp up production; IAEA’s nuclear projections; Australian businesses fear energy price shocks; Elon Musk to solve Puerto Rico’s energy problems; DONG changes its name (and about time too); new rules for US grids, UK government rethinks Hinkley financing; Scotland bans fracking; would Putin drive a Tesla; radioactive wild boar in Sweden and how climate change caused the Yosemite rockfalls. Continue reading

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    With seasonal variations in output of only around 30% Puerto Rico is at an ideal latitude for solar power, and despite generally low capacity factors (caused by cloudiness) it can be argued that if solar doesn’t work there it won’t work anywhere. And as the results of this post show 100% solar generation can in fact be made to work in Puerto Rico – but only by installing enormously costly amounts of battery storage. The island could be repowered with gas for a small fraction of the cost. Continue reading

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  • 11/11/17--11:01: Blowout Week 202
  • This week’s Blowout features Germany, where the Greens have dropped their demands for a fossil-fuel phaseout as a condition of entering a coalition government and the coal-fired Energiewende is set to continue. Next up a couple more Germany stories, followed by OPEC; shale oil; nuclear in the US, Japan and France; coal in Ukraine and Australia; the China/Alaska LNG deal; Trump not invited to COP23; Norsk Hydro buys wind energy; Tesla’s big battery; Flinders Island goes renewable; a proposed UK solar farm brings out the NIMBYs; a downed wind turbine in Antarctica and a solar-powered hurricane-resistant floating electric house boat. Continue reading

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    The utopian ambition for variable renewable energy is to convert it into uniform firm capacity using energy storage. Here we present an analysis of actual UK wind and solar generation for the whole of 2016 at 30 minute resolution and calculate the grid-scale storage requirement. In order to deliver 4.6 GW uniform and firm RE supply throughout the year, from 26 GW of installed capacity, requires 1.8 TWh of storage. We show that this is both thermodynamically and economically implausible to implement with current technology. Continue reading

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  • 01/13/18--03:46: Blowout Week 211
  • This week we return to the Big South Australian Battery (BSAB), the alleged success of which – the “Tesla effect” – is spawning a raft of similar projects elsewhere in the country. Coming after we have Frydenberg on Snowy River; the usual dose of OPEC; Russia sells gas to the US; less gas to come from Groningen; California to close Diablo Canyon; coal in Finland, Poland, Bulgaria and Japan, hydro in Colombia; Germany’s Energiewende problems; renewables in Denmark and Colorado; less gas capacity planned for UK; Ineos to challenge Scotland’s fracking ban; a contingency plan needed for cold winter nights when the wind doesn’t blow; Trump reconsiders Paris and how climate change makes turtles female. Continue reading

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  • 02/10/18--03:18: Blowout Week 215
  • This week’s lead story highlights the perils of basing policy decisions on speculative computer models. It seems that the ozone layer isn’t healing as predicted after all, so the dangers of man-made CFC radiation are still with us. And if radiation doesn’t do the job other computer models now tell us that melting permafrost threatens us with death from mercury poisoning. And if neither happens the forthcoming magnetic pole reversal spells the demise of civilization as we know it. Lots more energy and climate-related stories in this bumper Blowout, too numerous to synthesize, but read on and enjoy anyway. They're not all bad. Continue reading

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  • 02/17/18--04:21: Blowout Week 216
  • Britain’s free market approach to green energy is not going to save humanity from climate change, claims Labour’s Jeremy Corbin in this week’s feature story. So let’s nationalize the UK energy industry. Stories to follow include OPEC vs. shale; Venezuela’s collapse; Gazprom and Europe’s gas; nuclear in India, Taiwan, France and the Middle East; carbon capture & storage in the US and Norway; Bitcoin mining in Iceland; a Puerto Rico school goes solar; Elon Musk to shake up the Oz grid; CCGTs lose out to batteries and interconnectors in US and UK capacity auctions, blockchain grid balancing in Germany; Lord Deben questions Swansea Bay; the coming mini-ice age and the solution to climate change – more women. Continue reading

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  • 02/24/18--13:49: Blowout Week 217
  • This week's lead article features the "imminent end of cheap finance" - does this mean disaster for the renewable energy sector? We follow up with our usual mix of stories from around the world - OPEC; oil in California; Europe's gas supplies and the "Beast from the East"; India needs 300 more nuclear reactors; Trump wants to sell off BPA; South Australia ramps up its renewable target; CCS in South Dakota; Elon Musk's virtual power plant; a new offer on Swansea Tidal; Jacobson withdraws his defamation lawsuit; solar-powered rail for the UK and how CO2 dissolves Scottish starfish. Continue reading