Enbala Blog

This Missing Piece of the Energy Puzzle

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Mar 27, 2019 8:25:11 AM

There is no doubt that we are facing real problems with climate, fossil fuels and carbon emissions, but as we look to solve these problems, I think that we need to look carefully at the underlying facts, rather than focusing (as some do) on the short-term elimination of fossil fuel.

  1. The biggest sources of emissions in the US are the generation of electricity from coal and transportation-related emissions (60% of which is for personal transportation). These two sources are responsible for more than 2/3 of total emissions.  Canada is only slightly better, in that its electric system generates almost 60% of total energy with hydro, and nuclear is a large contributor to clean electricity as well.  Canada’s petroleum industry ranks second, behind transportation.
  2. Electricity provides less than 20% of total energy, and the remainder is almost all fossil fuel. The average person gets fuel in three forms: electricity, natural gas and transportation fuel (gasoline or diesel fuel).  Any major reduction in the direct delivery of fossil fuel will be expected to be replaced with electricity, and that may be a big challenge, given the fact that the electric grid at present delivers only about 20% of the total energy.
  3. Many people seem to think that if they can convert their current electricity use to solar energy, the problem will be solved. They tend to forget, however, about heating and transportation fuel. In most cases, the fossil fuel energy is far larger than the electrical energy delivered.
  4. I keep hearing that the problem is someone else’s fault – blame India, China, the oil industry or the government. We all need to look in the mirror – and recognize who the big users are.  The fact is that North Americans are among the largest users of energy per capita in the world.  As “Pogo” would have said, “We have seen the enemy, and it is us!”

There are two areas to look at: the supply of energy and the use of energy.

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Topics: renewable firming, demand management, wind energy, clean energy, energy curtailment, energy consumption management, energy conservation, climate change

Changing to Clean Energy

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Mar 19, 2018 12:48:34 PM

Introduction

Science has told us that we must reduce carbon emissions if climate change is to be kept below acceptable limits. The transition has led us in many new directions. Most politicians outside the US believe that our energy supply must be based entirely on renewable energy. This alone creates a large issue, in that the electric grid supplies less than 20% of total energy needs. The proposal to replace all fossil fuel with renewable capacity would require a potentially large increase in grid capacity. Ironically, many politicians typically include nuclear generation among the sources to be eliminated. The one bit of good news is that the efficiency of electrical devices is often better than fossil fuel, and the existing grid operation using a generation following load approach results in a system that can deliver more energy.

The results to date have been frustrating, both in costs and performance, and there are many serious problems that may make a complete conversion very difficult. These challenges include a lack of grid and generation capacity to handle the added electrical load, as well as the operation of the existing grid with extensive distributed devices. 

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Topics: Solar energy, renewable energy, wind energy, DERMs, clean energy, virtual power plant, Distibuted energy resources, carbon neutral energy

A Better Way

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Oct 26, 2017 9:03:00 AM

I read Milton Caplan's post entitled "An Inconvenient Reality: Nuclear Power is Needed to Achieve Climate Goals." I can certainly support much of the article, but it seems to miss one very key point and that is the need.

Science has told us that we need to reduce carbon emissions. The trouble starts when the political masters translated that to mean that we need to fully get rid of fossil fuels and switch entirely to renewables – and while at it, we need to get rid of nuclear as well. I wonder where that latter part came from? Nuclear is clean. Why was it lumped in with fossil fuel? Much of the opposition was based on past fears. The movie Pandora’s Promise shows how many of the opponents have, after a careful look, reversed their views..

 

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Topics: Solar energy, wind energy, distributed energy, energy balance, Nuclear energy,

Energy Policies Aimed at 100% Renewables are Well Intended… But Perhaps Misguided…

By Enbala on Feb 17, 2017 9:48:51 AM

Cities around the world, including 22 cities in the United States and a growing number in Canada have pledged to go 100% renewable. It’s a noble, collaborative effort to be the cleanest, most environmentally sustainable cities on the planet, with an ultimate and cumulative end goal of each city doing its part to reduce worldwide carbon emissions.

Many cities that have made the pledge don’t yet have a route to an all-renewables, carbon-free destination. Some don’t have ownership of their electricity providers and thus have little or no influence over power fuel sources. Others depend today on energy sources that are based almost entirely on fossil fuel, making the renewables transition particularly difficult.  Still others are dealing with high permitting costs for popular renewable options like rooftop solar, as well with other regulatory obstacles. Technologically, anyone switching to a renewables-based grid must, by default, deal with the intermittency and reliability issues imposed by wind and solar. Even hydro electric energy is generally limited by the amount of water flowing in rivers, a quantity that can vary significantly over time.

A broader question, however, is why a fully renewable grid is more desirable than any other combination of zero-carbon energy sources. And what the overall effort and cost would be to decarbonize via that pathway alone.

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Topics: distributed energy resources, Solar energy, renewable energy, wind energy, clean energy, distributed energy, CHP, carbon emissions, combined heat and power

Renewable curtailment: one symptom of grid troubles

By Enbala on Apr 29, 2016 11:08:54 AM

This past March, Chinese energy regulators put the brakes on further deployment of wind-energy projects in Mongolia during 2016. Why? Call it too much of a good thing. China, now the world leader in solar and wind installations, doesn’t have the transmission infrastructure necessary to transport electricity from the windswept Mongolian steppes to the power-hungry cities that need it.

During 2015, China installed some 33 gigawatts of wind turbines, which was more than half of new wind installations worldwide. But, in the same year, government statistics show “33.9 billion kilowatt-hours of wind-powered electricity was wasted … equivalent to the electricity consumed by 3 million American households a year,” according to an article published by InsideClimate News. ”That was about 15 percent of China's total wind power generation, up from 8 percent a year earlier.”

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Topics: Solar energy, grid optimization, wind energy, DERMs, grid balance

Renewable Firming with Demand Side Resources? It Can Be Done!

By Enbala on Jan 21, 2016 10:28:48 AM

 

Anyone who thinks distributed energy resources (DERs) can’t be used for time-sensitive applications like renewable firming should have a look at this article about how New Brunswick Power was able to do just that. The NB Power project was the first time load management provided renewable firming for a Canadian utility. Serving some 394,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers, NB Power is targeting 40 percent renewable generation by 2020. Firming for these variable energy resources must be in place quickly, and the project described in the article shows how the utility proved that demand-side resources could do the job.

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Topics: distributed energy resources, demand side management, renewable firming, frequency regulation, wind energy

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