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Futurist, Writer and Researcher, now retired, former freelance writer for new technology ventures. Former President & CEO of Len Rosen Marketing Inc., a marketing consulting firm focused on...

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  • Dec 22, 2021
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On December 15, 2021, the city of New York adopted a climate-change policy that will not approve future construction project plans where fossil fuels would be used for heating, electricity and cooking. This new policy will be enforced for all new construction except for hospitals and commercial kitchens starting in 2027. Why the ban? The city calculated that 40% of its carbon and greenhouse gas  (GHG) emissions come from heating and hot water demand throughout the city. What makes New York City's announcement unique is that it is the first cold-climate city to adopt such a ban and that is also the largest city in the United States. 

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 22, 2021

I'm curious what the timeline will be before the next city does the same thing. Will they look to NYC to be the test pilots, or will they use the fact that it was passed as license to do so themselves? 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 22, 2021

"On December 15, 2021, the city of New York adopted a climate-change policy that will not approve future construction project plans where fossil fuels would be used for heating, electricity and cooking."

No future construction will be approved "where fossil fuels would be used for electricity"?

I'll admit, I was skeptical. With natural gas replacing virtually all of Indian Point's carbon-free electricity on the NYISO grid, it appears that grid is now off-limits, that NYC has "gone rogue" and is now generating all of its electricity with solar panels and wind turbines.

And biomass! I can hardly wait until New Yorkers break out their chainsaws and head to Central Park to acquire a fresh store of it. After it dries, they'll have fuel to cook dinner when their turbines stand idle and their solar panels are covered by snow.

Imagine the dystopian hellscape that will ensue when the park has been reduced to dry stumps, when residents of "the city that never sleeps" turn on each other...even more violently than they do now!

 

Peter Farley's picture
Peter Farley on Dec 28, 2021

There is no indication in this story that New York would close down the remaining nuclear plants so hydro, nuclear and biomass would still supply some 40-45% of New York's electricity. It is true that on still cold nights gas might supply 60% of the energy but the combination of offshore wind and new onshore wind and solar can easily supply 200+ TWh per year in New York State. Hydro and biomass another 40 TWh, with nuclear remaining at another 40 TWh . Combined that is almost 50% more than current demand so that on most days gas use would be very close to zero and over a year gas would supply less than half the electricity that it does now. 

One would imagine that the construction would also have much better thermal properties than current building stock and that thermal storage would be a key element of the system either in the building fabric itself or with tanks of hot water/ice slurry or other PCMs. European buildings typically use 30-60% less energy per square metre than US buildings so bringing the two together will significantly reduce the increase in electrical demand.

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 28, 2021

"...but the combination of offshore wind and new onshore wind and solar can easily supply 200+ TWh per year in New York State."

"200+ TWh per year" of intermittent energy is a useless metric. NYISO, like every other grid in the world, needs reliable baseload power. None of your "renewable" sources can provide it.

Peter Farley's picture
Peter Farley on Dec 29, 2021

You mean like the reliable baseload power in nuclear powered France that is forcing up power prices all over Europe because almost 1/3rd of it is offline and France is importing when its customers expected it to be exporting. or the reliable nuclear fleet in Switzerland where all five units were offline together for a couple of weeks in 2015

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 29, 2021

"almost 1/3rd [of France's nuclear capacity] of it is offline..."

Do you have a link from a reputable source for that claim?

In general, nuclear plants are taken offline in the winter for planned maintenance / refueling for the simple reason they aren't needed - by France. Reliability allows operators of France's grid to plan ahead, so plants can take individual units offline when they aren't needed.

Unlike solar and wind power, nuclear power isn't intermittent, i.e., "occurring at irregular intervals; not continuous or steady."

If France's neighbors discover the wind has stopped blowing one night, and they can't turn their lights on - tough luck. Maybe they should have had the foresight to build nuclear plants 30 years ago?

Peter Farley's picture
Peter Farley on Jan 4, 2022

I would like to thank you Bob for getting me to check my facts and look up the French Rte site where you will find that France imported power almost continuously for the first 3 weeks of December. Significant exports only resumed courtesy of high winds late in the month.

Peak power demand in France occurs in winter so why would they voluntarily take power plants offline then. Typical summer peaks are around 59 GW whereas winter peaks approach 90 GW pdf_BE201_EN-1.pdf (rte-france.com)

On 20 December imports reached 12,378 MW, on 21 December in the morning peak 12,198 MW 17% of demand. On the 22nd Imports reached 12,750 MW. at 09:30 and again at 18:30 12,086 MW (Source RTe the French grid operator).

Sometimes it would be better for you to check your assumptions before spouting off.

Re French Nuclear outages  Europe Energy Crisis: France Faces Power Cuts in Case of a Cold Snap, Grid Says - Bloomberg

France's EDF takes more nuclear reactors offline after faults found | Reuters

In summary all your claimed facts are wrong 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 4, 2022

Again, Peter, you sink your own ship. From your link:

"More than a quarter of Electricite de France SA’s 56 atomic reactors are currently halted because the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the utility’s maintenance program."

If you want to blame the coronavirus pandemic on nuclear power that is, of course, your prerogative. As the Nuclear Renaissance proceeds, that kind of logic was anticipated from renewables advocates.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Dec 30, 2021

Exorbitant energy prices in Europe are the direct result of over reliance on natural gas from Russia, with erratic renewable resources unable to meet demands caused by very cold winter conditions.
The Russians are restricting gas supplies because they are trying to force Europe to look away while Russia attempts to re-gain control over their former satellite countries that fled from the USSR.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Dec 27, 2021

Just another example of a profoundly unwarranted and profoundly stupid decision on the part of democratic politicians needlessly driving up energy costs for the poor and middle class. These folks are generally economically unable to flee the tyranny of the Democratic Party and move to states where freedom reigns.

Ultimately, New York will reap the economic disaster caused by the actions of foolish politicians.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Dec 27, 2021

Adding insult to injury, New York has vast amounts of natural gas that the Democratic Party will not allow to be tapped. Stupid is as stupid does.

Peter Farley's picture
Peter Farley on Dec 28, 2021

Recently the fastest growing state in Australia is the perennial laggard South Australia with 70% of electricity now coming from wind and solar. Its wholesale power prices are about 60% cheaper than the most Fossil Fuel dependent state Queensland. Unlike New York which has abundant hydro SA has no hydro, no nuclear and relies on relatively expensive gas and imports to balance renewables. However recently exports of excess wind and solar have balanced imports of out of state fossil fuel power and its grid has proved the most reliable in the country. The state is seeing increased investment in its mining and metals industry due to cheap energy and its steel industry, on its knees a few years ago is producing record volumes and profits. 

In summary your comment is "just another example of a profoundly unwarranted and profoundly stupid" understanding of the modern energy system works

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Dec 28, 2021

So South Australia is basically the "Iowa" of Australia.

In the US, Iowa's tiny generation fleet has enough wind-power to "offset" 69% of local load.  But they are part of the MISO regional grid (serving Iowa, Minnesota, and the Great Lakes region), which is only 11% wind powered (lbnl-2021 report).  No doubt there are small towns in the US with "a few hundred percent windpower offset", by that measure; which is not very meaningful.

 

Similarly, South Australia averages under 2 GW of power, mostly from variable renewables, and sells into the dirty (predominantly coal-fired) National Grid, with 31 GW average production.  Australian electricity is substantially dirtier than that of MISO because of the higher coal contribution (55% vs 29%).  I still haven't found any good renewable success stories where variable renewables are used without a majority fossil fuel grid to smooth them out (unlike the clean energy successes via nuclear+hydro power in France, Sweden, and Switzerland).

 

And overall energy usage in post-child South Australia (SA) is still highly fossil fuel dominant; FYI the big renewable in Tasmania is hydro  (source):

Australia is a fossil fuel exporting country.  There is no way that they are or will soon become a clean energy leader.

 

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 28, 2021

"Its [South Australia's] wholesale power prices are about 60% cheaper than the most Fossil Fuel dependent state Queensland."

Peter, disproving this pro-renewables nonsense, once vaguely challenging, has become mundane. But somebody's gotta do it.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 28, 2021

These data show average bill and not rates-- I'd be curious if there are readily findable rate comparisons to take out any influence of average consumption or program-specific influences to the bill (e.g., flat rate vs. tiered rates)

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 28, 2021

Matt, of 187 countries Australia comes in at #13 for most expensive residential electricity. You'll notice Germany, with its Energiewende, is #1 - followed by other renewables stalwarts Denmark, Belgium, and the UK, as well as several island countries, where electricity has always been expensive.

Australia does have the dubious distinction of having cheaper electricity than Rwanda - but its per-capita carbon emissions are 168 times higher. How does that happen, with all of that cheap wind and solar?

 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 28, 2021

Important points to investigate for sure, but that's moving even further away from the original claim that Peter made regarding the electric rates in different parts of Australia and how penetration of different energy sources may play into that. I was just highlighting that your original graph provided an interesting data point, but not one that can be taken to completely refute Peter's point unless it had further context. 

Cheers!

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 29, 2021

Further context? Here you go:

Peter disingenuously cites the cost of wholesale prices - but when we add
• the cost of solar panels, wind turbines, their installation, and their maintenance

• the cost of land on which to install them
• the cost of ancillary generation necessary to stabilize grid voltage and frequency
• the cost of backup power from gas generators in spinning reserve, including the cost of natural gas

we find SA retail electricity is 60% more expensive than that in Queensland! It's a product generated by and for elite snobs, who feel the meager contribution of their wind and solar farms can erase the stain of the coal money that bought them (Australia is the second largest exporter of coal in the world).

Can we put this one to bed, Matt?

Peter Farley's picture
Peter Farley on Dec 29, 2021

Bob we are talking about the cost of generation published every 5 minutes by AEMO, the system operator. https://www.aemo.com.au/energy-systems/electricity/national-electricity-market-nem/data-nem/data-dashboard-nem#nem-dispatch-overview

The cost includes the gas backup, batteries etc. and the land for renewables operation and depreciation on the power plants. Queensland has the most modern coal fleet in the country. Most of their power plants have captive mines with little rail transport and yet load shedding due to generation shortfall has been 2700 MW x hrs in the last 4 years SA zero

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 30, 2021

Peter, at your link, at this moment, demand is outstripping supply by 163 MW in SA. There aren't enough renewables to meet demand, driving up the price to astronomical $337.80/Mwh, or 34¢/kWh - and that's the wholesale price. Evidently you don't understand what you're seeing here, because you're proving my point.

Peter Farley's picture
Peter Farley on Jan 4, 2022

Bob 

Australia, like Texas operates a Power Only market with 5-minute settlement so the price is volatile. If a load, transmission, or generator is lost there are large price spikes up to a maximum of $15,600 or down to minus $1,000. This provides sufficient incentive for fast start generators and batteries to stay in the market, even if they have annual utilisation of 1~3%. It does not provide windfall profits and technological stultification that capacity markets cause. Unlike Texas, Australia has stringent generator reliability standards which must be met before a generator is allowed to connect to the grid. It also has causer pays system so that if you bid power into the market and do not provide it during a price spike you pay for the replacement energy at whatever the spot price is. That is why lost time per customer in Australia is about 1/3rd the typical US experience. 

 

Therefore, on the link I referred you to you can get instantaneous, daily history for the last 24 hours and forecast for the next 36 or average prices by day, month, or fiscal year, July 1 to June 30 under different tabs. 

Just as you posted a price unfavorable to SA the clip below shows SA customers being paid to take power.

Thus, to make sense of the data you need to look at the monthly or annual average price rather than instantaneous price under the first tab.

Here you see that SA is indeed much cheaper than Queensland. 

I am sorry you find the modern world so hard to understand, but the reality is that SA wholesale power prices have fallen rapidly since renewables replaced gas as the major contributor to the electricity market. SA in the mainland Australian market has the lowest cost and highest reliability. Similarly, Germany now has the highest reliability and lowest cost of the major European markets. 

I wish Germany had lengthened its nuclear phaseout, but it hasn't yet this year renewables will still provide about 50% of the electricity supply and in the short term it may even become a net electricity importer but over the next few years its renewable share will increase while power prices will fall further, no matter how much you rail against it.  It is off to a good start with wind alone providing 56% of demand for the first 3 days, exporting more than it has imported even though nuclear output has halved and solar was negligible

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 4, 2022

"Just as you posted a price unfavorable to SA the clip below shows SA customers being paid to take power."

Peter, you have it exactly backwards - again. Negative prices do not mean SA is being paid for energy, they indicate means SA must pay other states to take its power - wind and solar are overloading the grid:

"So-called negative electricity prices usually show up in wholesale power markets, when a big electricity user like a factory or a water treatment plant is paid to consume more power. Having too much power on the line could lead to damaged equipment or even blackouts."

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/22/business/negative-electricity-rates.html

And again - you're quoting AEMO wholesale prices. They do not take into effect the costs of integration and backup power. Which consumers are paying the highest prices?

Electricity prices per kilowatthour by state

You are trying very hard not to see the obvious: wind and solar are intermittent, expensive, unpredictable sources of energy. Designer electricity for the rich, at the expense of everyone else - and the environment.

 

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Dec 28, 2021

In terms of decarbonization strategies, shifting end-use energy equipment away from fossil fuel is certainly a much better approach than supply-side strategies that cause artificial fuel shortages and drive up cost for locked-in consumers (e.g. bans on new drilling).

 

However, we should never ban one carrier of energy without giving people a good set of choices for what to use instead.  The electric-only option is a terrible idea, in-spite of electricity's versatility.  As we decarbonize our electric grids, it is inevitable that during summer and especially winter demand peaks (w/ minimal solar), electricity prices will also peak, as will emissions of CO2 and pollution from increased fossil fuel contribution.  Home electric resistance heaters produce very high electricity consumption, and air-source heat pumps are very noisy and in-efficient on cold days.  All electric heating types add to grid stress at the worst time (max demand), and because fossil fuel generators are dispatched onto the grid after clean energy, we can think of the added load from electric heaters on the coldest days as being essentially 100% fossil fuel powered.

 

We should be replacing fossil fuel heating in northern cities with district heat networks, using (extremely safe) hot water as the energy carrier.  Heat networks can use any primary heat sources, including the cheapest of all: waste heat from industrial processes and thermal electricity generation; they can also employ low-cost insulated storage tanks or covered ponds and utilize off-peak electricity via industrial sized water-source heat pumps.

 

Locations that are pro-nuclear are having a much easier time moving away from fossil fuel heating. Here and here are Chinese examples, a Russian example, and a Finnish example. 

As noted here, district heat networks powered by nuclear waste-heat are also being pitched for the UK.  And their heat demand is quite substantial compared to electrical demand.

UK Thermal and Electrical energy demand, 2010

Peter Farley's picture
Peter Farley on Dec 28, 2021

That is a really interesting graph, and in dense city environments district heating probably makes sense. However there are not many places in the UK where nuclear plants or other heavy industries are close enough to high density built up areas where district heating would be economical from that source. But high efficiency heat pumps and low temperature geothermal heat are much more economical in larger installations so small district heating loops of 50-5,000 buildings could probably be connected to a neighborhood heating plant which might even be in the basement of an existing building. 

Of course the UK should get serious about tightening building efficiency standards further for new builds and winterising existing building stock.

An interesting fact is that overall gas use in the UK has fallen by 27% between 2010 and 2020 so there is already significant progress being made. Now that coal has fallen to less than 2% of generation the further expansion of renewables in the UK will mostly come at the expense of gas.   

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Dec 28, 2021

Yes, deployment of small scale heat networks are "easier" in isolation.  But to fix the whole system, high overall market penetration is needed.  And small systems are trivial to connect into larger networks (same for electricity).

Heat transport benefits from economies of scale the same as electricity.  At multi-GW scale, electricity is easy to transport for a few hundred miles.  Similarly, at GW scale, heat can be economically transported for many dozens of miles (it takes the same pipe diameters, a few feet, that supply municipal water anyway).  But transport will be less of a concern with the new smaller reactors, like the 470 MW unit that Rolls Royce is designing.

 

And regarding the graph: can you believe that delusional advocates have succeeded in getting the UK to deploy enough solar panels to provide 4% of their electricity?  With the low summer grid demand, that basically locks in an equivalent amount of fossil fuel in winter, when the solar production drops substantially. This greatly undermines any claims that electric heat can be clean in the UK.

Peter Farley's picture
Peter Farley on Dec 29, 2021

Your second point ignores wind which is stronger in winter, so solar in summer compensates for weaker winds for other electricity uses. The UK is one of the few countries where nuclear might be cheaper than renewables and storage, because it has very high areal energy use limiting solar application, almost no hydro and two week periods of low wind so it needs far more storage than say the US or China which have much more hydro. However the UK can also exchange wind with hydro from Norway and also build a lot more thermal storage which is about 1/3rd the cost of batteries.

You will be waiting a long time before a RR reactor is connected to a district heating network. It will be at least 2035 before a reactor could reliably be connected and even then it would have to have a 900MW gas boiler for backup during refueling etc.

District heating is far more expensive to install than water, Firstly there are two pipes not one, secondly leaks are much more costly so the quality of the pipe laying is higher, third the pipes have to be insulated fourth peak flows are higher. finally the water networks are built before the houses and roads not afterwards which the district heating systems would be  

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Dec 30, 2021

District heating is only viable in the core of densely populated cities. The underground piping (for steam/hot water) distribution system is very expensive and not a realistic option for US cities and towns that cover large land areas.

The most cost-effective residential heating approach in the US lies with high-efficiency gas furnaces. 

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