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Topic Title: Engineering Electricity Market Reform
Topic Summary: What role should engineers play in electricity and other energy market reforms?
Created On: 23 July 2012 03:22 PM
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 02 October 2012 10:09 AM
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jarathoon

Posts: 1032
Joined: 05 September 2004

westonpa,

I agree a PID algorithm or indeed any form of government doesn't have any real chance of imposing high rates of taxation on people who are rich enough to move to a different country with much lower taxes.

My PID algorithm analogy was just a bit of fun, but perhaps helps show how economists can get nobel prizes for observations, biases and panaceas that are incomplete and lacking proper classification, even within the context of a simple engineering control system analogy.

James Arathoon


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James Arathoon
 08 October 2012 12:36 PM
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jarathoon

Posts: 1032
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DECC seems to want Britain's electricity supply infrastructure to run solely in the interests of large state sponsored corporations (many majority owned by foreign states) which in turn would like ordinary members of the UK public to pay over the odds for new investment without proper competivitve open tender, have all their future risk of failure and incompetence underwritten for them and provided with guaranteed profits for more than 30 or 40 years hence.

I believe it is unsustainable to expect that this country can continue along a political path that is in direct opposition to the interests of ordinary members of all the main political parties (Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, UKIP and Green), the public and a vibrant (non-monopolistic) competitive free market capitalist system.

The Times has yesterday reported that EDF is demanding emergency legislation to force all UK citizens (subjects) to collectively underwrite all its new nuclear construction risks and provide cast-iron guarantees on the level of its future profits for over a generation.

DECC-EDF now understands that the type of electricity market reform it wants is something that simply cannot be delivered by legitimate and honestly argued political means, so they have now begun a last ditch fight on the back of conveniently well timed Ofgem scare stories about the lights going out in 2015.

DECC's proposed solution to the "lights going out", will be emergency legislation to wave through the first batch of new nuclear stations at an unknown and thus unlimited future cost to the public, under the cover of a barage of lies and misinformation from establishment figures and interested parties.

This will be DECC-EDF's "emergency" solution to the notional 2015 energy-crunch problem, even though the new nuclear stations won't come on line until 2022-2030 at the earliest.

The political fight over the future of our electricity supply system (as well as the future of the capitalist system as a whole) is now (full) on.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 08 October 2012 01:30 PM
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Ipayyoursalary

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Here's a link to the letter behind the latest publicity stunt:

Letter

They're calling for the UK to ban the use of natural gas beyond 2030. ie. They're attempting to strangle the shale gas industry at birth. To strangle the industry that has halved US domestic energy bills and seen massive drops in US CO2 production ( since gas powerstations produces half the CO2/KWh of coal stations ).

The letter is signed by various subsidy farming corporations and groups. No suprise there. This lot would rather see UK pensioners freeze to death than have a penny cut from their subsidies. It's also been signed by a bunch of big corporations keen to green-wash their businesses and see CO2 taxes and regulations put their competitors out of business. So if/when the lights go out in 2015, we'll know who to blame.
 08 October 2012 04:22 PM
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jarathoon

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Read the letter it contains the paragraph

"The Committee on Climate Change has advised the Government that extensive use of unabated gas-fired capacity in 2030 and beyond is incompatible with meeting legislated carbon budgets."

Added abated gas-fired capacity requires the following questions answered in regards to the future development of CCS:

1. Will the technologies under investigation work cost effectively and will they be reliable?
2. What are the expected CO2 capture plant equipment lifetimes expected to be 10, 20 30 or 40 years?
3. Why is so much government subsidy required to get projects underway, when so many people seem to think this is such a promising technology?
4. What will the overall operating and maintenance costs be?
5. Will energy stations shutdown if CCS equipment fails? What will be the cost penalties of continuing to generate without capturing the CO2?
6. What sort of pipe line CO2 transportation infrastructure will we be needed? Will there have to be a cost trade-off between pipeline costs and electricity transmission costs?
7. How will injection of CO2 into existing oil/gas fields work, assuming it does work? If it does work at what point does the CO2 turn from an asset to extract more oil to a liability when the CO2 just starts displacing contaminated water that needs purification without supplying much oil?
8. What will the overall reductions in energy generation efficiency be, when the whole C02 capture and sequestration chain and including plant lifetime and maintenance costs (and any added electricity distribution costs) are added into the equation?
9. What will be the arrangement for oil companies return bill payers and government money if things go wrong, and CO2 escapes from the oil/gas field?

At the moment CCS is in the same technological ball park as fusion power or a debate as to whether or not a fairy story might become real.

Government can't make targets and detailed plans for technologies that are still mainly in research stage. Research is cheap(ish) and always seems promising, technological development of practical and robust solutions solution is expensive, hard and progress is always much slower than expected.

Don't forget coal-fired powerstations are one of the most reliable industrial inventions ever (forgetting Arthur Scargill's success in shutting them down, being the exception that proves the rule). Adding CCS might make them into the most unreliable power generation system ever invented.

Everyone accepts that we will need some flexible gas stations to handle peak and reserve power generation requirements on a grid with ever greater amounts of renewable power. Whether this has significant impact on our carbon budget depends on how many of them that we need and the percentage of the time we need them to run.

Neither of this is clear yet because DECC has not done sufficient work on researching how electricity demand reduction and demand response might be used in future to help stabilise the grid system. For example DECC has not asked consumers if they would put up with rationed electricity supply for short periods of time, if that meant that their overall bill for the rest of the year was reduced.

Why should we all have to pay for a platinum rated service with large amounts of back-up reserve if ever growing numbers of cash-strapped people start struggling to pay for the service and end up on pre-pay meters which cut out all the time anyway. These poorer consumers are then paying premium-platinum rates for an intermittant service that they can barely afford to use, instead of a much cheaper sometimes rationed (demand responding) service which has been designed to work that way from the start of the reforms.

Consumers should be in intelligent conversation with government and energy suppliers over the service level that they are willing to pay for. Ofgem should give us its warnings about future power cuts within the context that we are free to rethink how we use and charge for electricity, and not just panic at slightest thought of having to occasionally constrain our electricity demand.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 08 October 2012 07:39 PM
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Ipayyoursalary

Posts: 265
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Another unanswered question for your list: For how many more years must global temperatures remain static before they admit the whole thing was just a bogus excuse to tax and scam the public?

Graph of global temperature since 1995
Graph of CO2 over the same period
 08 October 2012 09:04 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: Ipayyoursalary
Another unanswered question for your list: For how many more years must global temperatures remain static before they admit the whole thing was just a bogus excuse to tax and scam the public?

When turkeys vote for Xmas.

Regards.
 09 October 2012 01:34 AM
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jarathoon

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I think that there remain a range of opinions on the issue of global warming and its cause(s). I tend to believe that the earth is warming slowly, but I don't think the evidence (for the speed of warming) is sufficient to enact authoritarian hobsons-choice policy frameworks that end up alienating more people than they attract. I think that the attempt to push social change by brow beating people using a series of arbitary targets without sufficient reference to what is practically possible within the realm of existing engineering knowledge is plain silly and completely counter-productive.

I believe that moving to a low carbon economy (with much better insulated homes and more efficient use of energy) can be justified, independently of the global warming argument, because it will help set upper limits to our energy bills, even if the flow of fossil fuels suddenly becomes insufficient to meet our collective energy needs.

Unfortunately it is impossible to ever know which is the best possible moment to move to a more low carbon/more energy efficient lifestyle. It is entirely possible that everyone remains scepical and delays the decision until fossil fuel prices soar, as demand suddenly exceeds supply for some unpredictable future reason, and everyone is then stuck with either paying more for their fuel or (for the less wealthy) facing sudden hardship by going without.

If everyone is a sceptic and avoids lifestyle changes no matter how strong the arguments made for them, then society may then be vunerable to sudden and simultaneous hardship for all.

The same problem can arise for different reasons if everyone is forced or enticed into believing in some new doctrine that requires everyone to think about a problem and its solution from a particular and singular point of view. If this doctine is later shown to be incomplete and inaccurate in certain respects then all the believers my end up in collective disillusionment and dispair. This is very destabilising for society if it occurs.

Luckily for the human race we now have liberal democracies where a mixture of sceptics and believers are allowed to freely coexist in endless argument, and a number of independent strategies can be advanced and persued simultaneously. This is healthy as no one can in truth predict the future with 100% accuracy and in many circumstances insurance policies can prove very useful.

As it turns out, I just wanted to point out the possibility that hubris can arise through unrelenting scepticism just as easily as it can arise through unquestioning belief.

James Arathoon


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James Arathoon
 09 October 2012 10:30 AM
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acsinuk

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We need a practical solution to be able to generate sustainable power at the minimum economic cost without pollution. We have wind, tidal, wave and solar energy available.
Wind energy good but unreliable. Tidal must be tried asap. Wave is unreliable and needs developing, solar is unreliable and not available at nights or for long in the winter plus it is expensive.
In my opinion tidal is the answer for the UK as high tides on the west coast are about 3 to 6 hours ahead of those on the east coast which means the tidal energy is available 24/7 no problem!!
All we need is the political resolve to push for barraging of the larger coastal inlets using tidal hydro generation during mid tides. The estuaries could be open for an hour at high and low tide, which is the only time for shipping anyway because of dangerous currents. As an added bonus to local people is it may be possible to install a road bridge as well!!
CliveS
 09 October 2012 01:18 PM
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ectophile

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Originally posted by: acsinuk

In my opinion tidal is the answer for the UK as high tides on the west coast are about 3 to 6 hours ahead of those on the east coast which means the tidal energy is available 24/7 no problem!!

CliveS


Are you sure about that? It looked wrong to me, so I checked some on-line tide tables, and the difference seems to be nearer 2 hours (between the North East and South West coasts of England).

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S P Barker BSc PhD MIET
 09 October 2012 03:13 PM
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jarathoon

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I agree wave power is not promising as sooner or later the power of the waves will grind the kit to sand; mostly sooner.

Tidal seems much more promising, as the technology is engineered to avoid the problem of the full-on destructive power of the waves, and any rocks and other debris they carry.

Using country-to-country power inter-connectors we can perhaps sign power deals to trade tidal energy to help fill in our gaps and as well as their gaps. Predictable 24/7 generation through an electricity trading arrangement to minimise electricity storage infrastructure.

Moving back to CCS, I am not sure why politicians would rather invest £1 billion of public money in CCS, rather than in tidal or thorium development.

I think the oil companies have a vision of the future in their mind which constrains us to never being able to do without fossil fuels in electricity generation, and that's why we need to spend billions of pounds inventing a carbon abatement process (CCS) with an overall system energy efficiency not much better than a Newcomen engine; making the energy generation process even more subject to price volatility in fossil fuel prices than before.

As with Newcomen engines the abated energy generation process may be best suited for running the water pump and other equipment in the coal mine. Coal transport costs will at least be minimised.

What rational private sector company would take the risk of putting that into its business plan, without copious amounts of government subsidy being poured in to offset the inevitable losses?

I was planning to go to the IET CCS event in December (that is why I generated all the silly questions above). However I can no longer afford to pay the price demanded.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 11 October 2012 04:36 PM
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acsinuk

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Hi SP
I just googled high tide and Southend was 9 and Devonport was 3 which looks like a 6 hour difference. No doubt there are lots inbetween.
Am looking at the tidal scheme in La Rance near St Malo and see that they appear to be using reversible Kaplans. The older systems used water wheels which I would have thought would have been more efficient as they can operate on a flow head of less that 1 metre if breast fed, which causes less disruption to the normal tidal flow up the estuary.
CliveS
 12 October 2012 12:05 AM
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ectophile

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You must be looking at different tables to me.

TideTimes gives the high tides for today (12/10/2012) as:
Southend-on-Sea 09:26 and 22:00
Plymouth (Devonport) 09:51 and 22:22

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S P Barker BSc PhD MIET
 12 October 2012 10:37 AM
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jarathoon

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Report in E&T Mag

"Energy Secretary says he wants to fund two CCS projects" with £1 billion

http://eandt.theiet.org/news/2012/oct/energy-ccs.cfm

CCS is likely to be a wonderful waste of money, and its use will be limited by the number of places that CO2 can be stuffed into the ground without escaping. It can only ever be an unsustainable stop gap technology.

If we start of with two 1 GW coal fired plants. Lets add CCS at a 33% power cost (which includes rather optimistically all the power costs of the full carbon capture, CO2 transport and sequestration chain)

So now we have two power stations giving 0.66 GW to the grid. We are now short of 0.66 GW so we have to build a new coal fired plant to compensate for this loss.

Therefore 3 times 0.66 GW = 2 GW (excellent back were we started)

However because we have to add more generating capcity to cover that lost to CCS, the overall cost of CCS is amplified.

So for the sake of argument if a coal fired power station costs £1 billion and the CCS system costs £1 billion. In my above example the total cost of capital is not doubled, it is trippled, because we have to add additional generating capacity to the grid, to compensate that lost by adding CCS.

The economics of CCS is unlikely to work, even if the process it self can be made to work.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 12 October 2012 12:06 PM
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jarathoon

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If the definition of an engineer is "someone who can build for a dime what any idiot can build for a dollar", then it is quite obvious that engineers have not been valued in the nuclear industry in this country for a long time now.

In this vein I publically called the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) a "bunch of idiots" at the Thorium Talk in Chelmsford this Wednesday, partly because having colluded in what seems like some elaborate conspiracy to waste ever increasing amounts on reprocessing uranium nuclear fuel into plutonium at Sellafield, we now know that we will have to pay an even higher price to reprocess it once again, for storage in a depository or for burning in a fast neutron reactor of some new design perhaps (they cannot take credit for all this mess on their own of course, but one has to start somewhere).

The NNL in their latest report, now recommends that there is no business case for exploring Thorium as a nuclear fuel at the moment

http://www.guardian.co.uk/envi...clear-fuel-overstated

It is wonderful how an organisation can remain so deeply wedded to its own record of incompetence, inspite of the realities of the world changing dramatically all around them.

Don't they realise how much nuclear energy using existing technologies now costs (even with massive insurance subsidies and waste cost caps); small improvements in how the Nuclear industry operates could result in savings of tens of billions (if not hundreds of billions of pounds) over the course of the 30 year CfD's that DECC is so desperate to sign.

Why not investigate the properties of a Alvin Weinbergs molten salt Thorium reactor for £3 billion; it at least has the potential to help contain and reduce some of the mistakes of the past, which is much more than can be said for other research directions.

Vast amounts of money have been channelled into uranium fuelled reactors (including fast-breeder reactors), along with very costly uranium fuel reprocessing facilities over the years, however virtually no money has gone into the development of the Thorium molten salt reactor. Why?

Most of the radioactive waste from a Thorium molten salt reactor will only be radioactive for 300 years or so, surely this is enough of a potential benefit on its own to be worth investigating further now?

The permanent secretary resigned at DECC for personal reasons after supervising years of wasted effort on the disaster that was the draft energy bill. Now the next step is tfor the leadership of the NNL to start considering their positions; if the people there cannot reajust to tthis post-Fukushima world, where nuclear energy generation costs will now be between 2 and 4 times greater than envisaged just 3 or 4 years ago, then they should move on quickly and find another job.

We can't have an engineering revolution in this country, if we continue rely on idiots to decide how our dollars are spent.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 12 October 2012 01:32 PM
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jarathoon

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UK tidal power potential estimated at 153GW by crown estates

http://www.guardian.co.uk/envi...k-tidal-power-estimate

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James Arathoon
 14 October 2012 02:24 AM
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Ipayyoursalary

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They care so much for the environment they want to dam every estuary and ring the coast with steel. Nice. No mention of costs I see, but who cares? They can just add it onto the energy bills of pensioners and poor families like they do with wind subsidies. Of course I'm sure the Crown Estate is completely unbiased on this issue. Afterall they only receive £36 million pa from the offshore wind farm scam.

Edited: 14 October 2012 at 02:43 AM by Ipayyoursalary
 15 October 2012 03:26 PM
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jarathoon

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Interesting story from Energy and Environmental Management Website

"Electricity companies test demand response to reward customers"

http://www.eaem.co.uk/news/ele...onse-reward-customers

"Along with EDF and EnerNOC, Flexitricity, announced last week that it is working with UK Power Networks on a series of demand response trials, called Low Carbon London (LCL), with big businesses in the capital, beginning with the ExCeL conference centre."

The question is: Can companies and consumers needing losts of electricity cost effectively reduce their bills by allowing their UPS's and other back-up generator assets or even electronically controlled storage and immersion heaters to provide a range of short timescale demand response grid services?

If there are enough of these types of assets perhaps they could even be worked in synchronised waves to provide longer duration demand response services.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 15 October 2012 05:58 PM
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acsinuk

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James
These private companies can restrict their load on the grid around peak by generating electricity themselves. The problem is they will use carbon based fuels, probably inefficiently and not in most cases from renewables.
To start tidal generation now; why not choose sites where the estuary is already bridged. In other words barrage the estuary underneath the bridge. There will be little change to peoples views and if the inlet is fast flowing then a worthwhile investment once the tidal technology is proven. Its worth a try surely?
CliveS
 15 October 2012 11:20 PM
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jarathoon

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CliveS,

The article was talking about techniques for providing a stable grid without running existing and new fossil fuel plants constantly at part load (with low thermodynamic efficiency) to provide the reserve generating capacity.

Obviously the grid should not proritise fossil fuel assets like diesel generators as the first line of any distributed demand management system.

I agree using diesel generators is only viable as part of the demand response system, if their use results in cheaper electricity and less carbon emissions relative to having extra gas power stations running inefficiently 24 hours a day, just in case the call to generate arrives.

It may well be that this sort of thing doesn't work out to be cost effective however cleverly the demand response assets are managed; but worth thinking about and investigating further nevertheless, if only to rule it out as a viable option.

Tidal energy generation is a separate issue and definitely worth a try. However I'd be very very suprised if existing estuary bridges could be used as the basis for building a barrage as you suggest, as they are generally such flimsy structures.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
 17 October 2012 05:18 PM
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jarathoon

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No wonder the National Nuclear Laboratories (NNL) don't think the business case for Thorium research has been made, they have recently started using a £250 million state of the art research facility built by the NDA in the middle of nowhere (Sellafield), dedicated to not doing Thorium research. The NNL have now begun the process of making secretly negociated deals to try and encourage university researchers from Manchester and Liverpool Universities away from the two the main centres of intellectual and cultural life in the northwest, in order that they use it.

http://www.nnl.co.uk/news-medi...-uk-universities.aspx

As usual Professor Andrew Sherry of the Dalton Institute in the thick of all this nonsense.

The reason that made Windscale an ideal place to build plutonium stockpiles for nuclear weapons (or now just because they can), the sheer remoteness of the place, is now conveniently forgotten as more and more nuclear research and development work is gradually enticed up to Sellafield, in order that costs can soar and research efforts slow, so they become ever more inefficient and wasteful; the traditional and accepted pastime at Sellafield.

James Arathoon

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James Arathoon
IET » Energy » Engineering Electricity Market Reform

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