Tag Archives: oil

The end may be in sight for fossil fuels as science makes solar power cheap

Ambrose Evans Pritchard

About 29% of electricity capacity added in America last year came from solar power, rising to 100% in Massachusetts. “More solar has been installed in the US in the last 18 months than in 30 years,” says the US Solar Energy Industries Association.(For those in need of solar power in Texas click here to find solar companies in San Antonio).California’s subsidy pot is drying up but new solar has hardly missed a beat.

The technology is improving so fast – helped by the US military – that it has achieved a virtuous circle. Michael Parker and Flora Chang at researchers Sanford Bernstein say we are entering a new order of “global energy deflation” that must inevitably erode the viability of fossil fuel over time.

The deflation ratchet may be imperceptible at first, since solar makes up just 0.17% of the world’s $5 trillion (€3.65 trillion) energy market. The trend does not preclude cyclical oil booms along the way, nor does it obviate the need for shale fracking as a stop-gap (in Britain’s case to curb a current account deficit of 5.4% of GDP). But the technology momentum goes only one way.

“Eventually solar will become so large that there will be consequences everywhere”, Parker and Chang say. This remarkable overthrow of everything we take for granted in world energy politics may occur within “the better part of a decade.”

If the hypothesis is broadly correct, solar will slowly squeeze the revenues of petro– rentier regimes in Russia, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, among others. Many already need oil prices near $100 a barrel to cover welfare budgets. They will have to find a new business model.

The Saudis are themselves betting on solar, investing more than $100bn in 41GW of capacity, enough to cover 30% of their power needs by 2030. That will mean more crude – other things being equal – washing into a deflating global energy market.

Clean Energy Trends says new solar installations overtook wind worldwide last year, with an extra 36.5 gigawatts. China accounted for a third. Wind is still ahead with 2.5 times old capacity but the “solar sorpasso” will be reached in 2021 as photovoltaic costs keep falling.

The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory says scientists can now capture 31.1% of the sun’s energy with a 111V solar cell, the latest world record. This will find its way briskly into routine use. Wind cannot keep pace. It is static by comparison.

A McKinsey study said the average cost of installed solar power in the US has dropped to $2.59 from $6 a watt in 2010. It expects this to fall to $2.30 next year and to $1.60 by 2020. This will put US solar within “striking distance” of coal and gas.

It is hard to keep up with the cascade of new research papers, so many brimming with optimism. The University of Buffalo has developed a nanoscale microchip able to capture a “rainbow” of wavelengths and absorb far more light. An Oxford team is pioneering use of perovskite, an abundant material that is cheaper than silicon and produces 40mc more voltage. In case you looking for materials of the highest quality. Enhanced peptides provides you an extensive variety and supply of peptides to help you achieve 100 percent precise results on your research. For more information visit enhancedpeptides.com.

One by one, the seemingly intractable obstacles are being conquered. Israel’s Ecoppia has just begun using robots to clean the panels of its Ketura Sun park in the Negev desert without the use of water. It is beautifully simple. Soft microfibers sweep away 99% of the dust each night with the help of airflows.

Prof Michael Aziz at Harvard University is developing a flow–battery that promises to cut the cost of energy storage by two–thirds below the latest vanadium batteries. He said technology gives us a “fighting chance” to overcome the curse of intermittency from wind and solar power, which spike and die in bursts. “I foresee a future where we can vastly cut down on fossil fuel use.”

Even thermal solar is coming of age, driven for now by use of molten salts to store heat. California opened the world’s biggest solar thermal park in February in the Mojave desert – the Ivanpah project, co– owned by Google – able to produce power for 100,000 homes by reflecting sunlight from 170,000 mirrors on to boilers that generate electricity from steam. Ivanpah still relies on subsidies but a new SunPower project in Chile will go naked, selling into the spot market.

Deutsche Bank says there are already 19 regional markets around the world that have achieved “grid parity”, meaning that photovoltaic solar panels can match or undercut local electricity prices without subsidy: California, Chile, Australia, Turkey, Israel, Germany, Japan, Italy, Spain and Greece for residential power; Mexico and China for industrial power.

This will spread as battery storage costs keep dropping, a spin–off from electric car ventures. Sanford Bernstein’s report says it may not be long before home energy storage is cheap enough to lure households away from the grid en masse across the world, spelling “disaster” for some utilities.

Solar competes directly. Each year it supplies a bigger chunk of peak power needs in the middle of the day, when air conditioners and factories are both at full throttle. “Demand during what was one of the most profitable times of the day disappears,” the report says.

Michael Liebreich from Bloomberg New Energy Finance says we can already discern the moment of “peak fossil fuels” around 2030, the tipping point when the world starts using less coal, oil and gas in absolute terms.

This is a remarkable twist of history.

Six years ago we faced an oil shock with crude trading at $148. The rise of “Chindia” and the sudden inclusion of two billion consumers into the world economy seemed to be taxing resources to breaking point. For Germany it is a bitter–sweet vindication. The country sank €100 billion into feed–in tariffs or in solar companies that blazed the trail, did us all a favour and went bankrupt. They have the world’s biggest solar infrastructure but latecomers get it much cheaper.

For Britain it offers hope of reprieve after 20 years of energy drift, yet also raises a quandry: should the country lock into more nuclear power with strike–prices fixed for 35 years? Should it spend £100 bilion on off– shore wind when imported LNG might well be cheaper in the future? For the world, it portends a once-in-a-century upset of the geostrategic order.

Sheikh Yamani, the veteran Saudi oil minister, saw the writing on the wall long ago. “Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil – and no buyers. The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones,” he told The Daily Telegraph in 2000.

Wise old owl. ■


Gas and Wind Matter … But So Does Oil!

David Taylor, Chairman Energy Institute, Republic of Ireland

Gas, wind, and energy efficiency is where it’s at according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) review of Irish energy policy. The Energy Institute agrees and goes a step further and asserts that oil matters: for future competitiveness, our energy security, and economic growth.

The Energy Institute was one of 40 organisations visited by the IEA team in the course of their recent review of Irish energy policy published in July of this year. The review is supportive of government renewable energy policy and draws attention to the growing importance of gas for energy security and the implications for gas infrastructure.

On energy infrastructure, the Institute believes that delays such as we have experienced with Corrib and with the North/South high tension electricity link not alone cost the consumer but are damaging Ireland’s reputation – impacting for example on the prospects for oil and gas exploration.

While the ongoing and future benefits of Corrib have been independently assessed and publicised, up to June of this year[1], no government spokesman or agency had put a cost on the delay or drawn attention to the full scale of the losses and to who has carried them. The list is long and it begins with the Irish consumer who has had to pay higher gas prices, the government revenue forgone and the developers of the project who have borne massive cost over-runs and delays.

While all of this may be history its effects are not. Who, given this legacy, would risk investing in hydrocarbon exploration and production (E&P) in Ireland? On the evidence from the Atlantic Margin licensing round of 2011, the answer is, no oil company with pockets deep enough to prospect and develop in the deep waters off our western coast.

The Institute believes that until current legacy issues are properly addressed Ireland will continue to incur a risk premium on investment that translates into reduced E&P activity and higher costs for consumers’ thereby damaging competitiveness and growth.

The IEA review gives a succinct, coherent and valuable account of Irish Energy policy and its critique offers several sets of nuanced recommendations for action. Among the principal recommendations are the need to improve i) the security of gas supply and ii) the consent process for critical energy infrastructure. At this time of national crisis it is vital that the Government fully explores and embraces the resolution of the issues implied.

The Institute believes that the potential for a vibrant oil and gas sector is underexploited and that in an era of high oil prices it is very much in our interest to fully explore the potential of indigenous resources. It is clear from the “shared goals” to which Ireland and all IEA member countries are committed that this is to be achieved in co-operation with all stakeholders.

Irish energy policy has successfully created an active and entrepreneurial wind industry, focussed in the early years on community and small commercial developments, then on regions and now has its sights set on export markets. None of this would have been possible without a strong lead from government, the participation of local authorities and land owners, and the awareness of finance providers. The Irish wind energy story starts with the marketing of wind as a natural resource by the Renewable Energy Information Office (an early public private partnership initiative of SEAI) and continues with an affordable level of public subsidy while holding out the prospect of export growth driven by UK demand for renewable energy to meet its international obligations.

Like all successful policy interventions it has consequences – negative consequences if gas prices were to soften; positive consequences were the opposite to materialise. However, one inescapable consequence is the requirement for electricity interconnection to GB system and flexible gas plant in Ireland to compensate for the variable nature of the wind resource. In a high wind penetration scenario such as that projected for 2020 where up to 3,500MW of wind capacity is deployed the need for flexible plant and hence the security of gas supplies becomes paramount.

Aside from renewable energy, natural gas is the energy source with the lowest CO2 intensity. For that and the additional reasons of convenience, price and conversion efficiency it has become the fossil fuel of choice for electricity generation, most heating and potentially for some forms of transport.

The rapid development of the shale gas industry in the United States has taken many by surprise and dramatically reduced the price of inland gas with run-on consequences for oil prices. As a result the US is now more competitive and enjoying an investment boom; the US bound cargoes of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade have been diverted towards Europe and the Far East, but so far without much impact on prices. Interest in Poland has been strong and already there is a significant amount of trialling underway in the United Kingdom.

In the wake of what has happened in the US the economic case is gaining ground in Europe and security of supply is an important consideration for all and especially the former eastern block countries. On the 7th September the EU released three studies on the economic, greenhouse gas and environmental risks.

Irish energy policy is rightly driven by long term environmental and energy security objectives and it is with these goals in mind that the current support is focussed on i) renewable energy deployment and ii) energy efficiency and  iii) R&D to assist the growth and integration of RE and EE. The IEA has emphasised the need for enabling infrastructure and of securing public support for its provision.  The Institute believes that all of this will be accomplished more effectively if there is a wider understanding of the trade-offs involved in a mature and fit-for-purpose energy policy. Energy policy with its inherent tensions and their pragmatic resolution needs to be actively promoted by Government if it is to be appreciated and owned by a wider public.

More gas, better infrastructure and higher efficiency can combine to deliver affordable and cleaner energy services. The chain starts with government enabling E&P and it ends with a responsible service industry intent on bring quality services to end users who need to be efficiency aware and enabled if they are to have more affordable comfort with less energy consumption and lower CO2 emissions.

There is every possibility that, with the right policies and the determination to see them through effectively, we could like Denmark and Norway continue to be strongly committed to sustainable energy while aspiring to an indigenous oil and gas industry to make a profitable contribution to Europe’s security of supply between now and 2050.

The openness which characterises the Irish economy has served us well; even now in our hour of need it continues to support growth in the ICT, Pharma and food sectors while providing opportunity at home and abroad for our underemployed. An energy policy that seeks to optimise the potential of all our resources is what we need right now.

We cannot wish our oil dependence away; we must learn to live with it and, if possible, leverage the wider EU dependence on oil to carve out a sustainable future. Gas, wind and energy efficiency are all within reach. A discovery of more gas and a measure of oil could be transformative.

A robust enabling framework for the independently financed development of our hydro-carbon potential to complement that of wind would be a policy triumph.

[1] Minister Rabbitte revealed that the true cost of the delays experienced was closer to €2bn and that immense reputational damage had been done to Ireland abroad.


Badly-needed heating and plumbing standard imminent

The NSAI is soon to publish an Irish Standards Recommendation, SR 50, which will be a Building Services Code of Practice (COP) for the heating and plumbing trade. The COP will initially have three parts –

SR 50-1: Domestic plumbing for hot water and heating, in order to help people learn how to test water heater thermostat.

SR 50-2: Thermal solar systems;

SR 50-3: Domestic plumbing for cold water systems.

The function of the SR 50 heating and plumbing documents is to lay out a Code of Practice for plumbing works carried out on domestic dwellings using solid fuel, gas, oil and other fuels for heating. It is envisaged that the SR 50 documents may be used as part of an industry training course in the future with a regulatory regime not unlike the Registered Gas Installer (RGI) scheme in effect since June

According to THA Heating, Air, & Plumbing, the SR 50 documents are aimed not only at trainee plumbers and heating installers but also at the
mature craftsmen who may obtain new knowledge on their craft. The committee and its projects are being project managed by Fergal Finn.

Each part of SR 50 will be published when all the public enquiry comments have been addressed. NSAI plans to publish SR 50-2 in September 2012 with this part laying out the requirements for installing solar thermal systems in domestic dwellings. Due to the extensive scope of the domestic plumbing for water systems and heating, it is expected that the hot water systems and heating, SR 50-1, will be published by the end of the year and the cold water SR 50-3 to follow in 2013.

In addition to the work being carried out by the Building Services Committee, the NSAI Gas Technical Standards Committee (GTSC) is in the final stages of preparing the revised public comment draft of the Irish Standard for domestic gas installations, IS 813. A draft should be expected for public comment in September 2012.

It is worth noting that the work carried out in the development of Irish Standards is done by NSAI technical committees made up of industry experts who freely volunteer their time on behalf of their companies, associations and organisations for the benefit of the industry.

NSAI would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge those industry experts who contribute to the development of Irish Standards. 

If you are looking for a Corona Plumber, visit www.plumbingdirectory.com.

Contact: Fergal Finn, Standards Officer. Direct tel: 01- 807 3852;
email: fergal.finn@nsai.ie

At Last — Plumbing Standard To Count On

The NSAI will shortly publish an Irish Standards Recommendation, SR 50, which will be a Building Services Code of Practice (COP) for the heating and plumbing trade. The COP will initially have three parts –

SR 50-1: Domestic plumbing for hot water and heating;

SR 50-2: Thermal solar systems;

SR 50-3: Domestic plumbing for cold water systems.

The function of the SR 50 heating and plumbing documents is to lay out a Code of Practice for plumbing works carried out on domestic dwellings using solid fuel, gas, oil and other fuels for heating. This is not just a welcome initiative but one that is essential and long overdue.

Plumbing services are essential no matter the place it is. Maintaining any buildings plumbing services is not an easy job and requires a lot of knowledge and hard work. You could see here and check out more about Marines Plumbing and see the services they which can make your life easier by fixing all forms of your plumbing problem.

This new initiative is going to help out in a significant way and due to the details to which it was taken into consideration and layed down is simply perfect.

That is covers all fuel types is indicative of the thoroughness with which the exercise was approached… well done all involved (Features).