As Nuclear steps aside, Renewable Energy steps up to power Europe

As Nuclear steps aside, Renewable Energy steps up to power Europe | 16/08/14
by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

Nuclear reactors are starting to shut down in Europe

It began in earnest in the wake of the Fukushima disaster when Germany inspected its problem-plagued nuclear power plants and decided to take 9 of its nuclear power plants offline in 2011 and the rest offline by 2022.

There is plenty of public support in the country for Germany’s planned nuclear closures, even with the additional fee added to each German electricity bill to pay for nuclear power plant decommissioning, which completes in 2045.

Switzerland likewise has decided to get out of the nuclear power business beginning in 2015 and decommission their nuclear power plants by 2045.

Other European nations are also looking at retiring their nuclear power plants. But the news today is about the UK, Belgium, Germany and Spain.

Heysham_Nuclear_Power_Station UK operated by EDF
Heysham Nuclear Power Station in the UK which is operated by EDF of France. Image courtesy: CleanTechnica.com

In the UK, four (French-operated) EDF reactors built in 1983 have been shut down after one of them was found to have a crack in its centre spine. (EDF stands for Electricity de France which is a French utility responsible for managing many nuclear reactors)

At first only the affected unit was taken offline (in June) but upon further inspection it was determined that the other three were at risk to fail in the coming months. Whether or not these four reactors can be repaired economically — all were scheduled to be decommissioned before 2020.

The shortfall in electrical generation due to these unscheduled nuclear power plant shutdowns has been met by 5 GW of new wind power generation, which has seamlessly stepped in to fill demand.

Additional to that, 5 GW of solar power has been added to the UK grid within the past 5 years. And that’s in cloudy olde England, mates!

In Belgium, 3 out of 5 of their nuclear power plants are offline until December 31, 2014 due to maintenance, sabotage, or terror attacks — depending who you talk to.

Belgium’s Doel 4 reactor experienced a deliberate malfunction last week and workers in the country’s n-plants are henceforth directed to move around inside the plants in pairs.

Also, their Tihange 2 reactor won’t be ready to resume power production until March, 2021. See this continuously-updated list of nuclear power plant shutdowns in Belgium.

Further, the utility has advised citizens that hour-long blackouts will commence in October due to a combination of unexpected n-plant shutdowns and higher demand at that time of year.

Belgian energy company Electrabel said its Doel 4 nuclear reactor would stay offline at least until the end of this year after major damage to its turbine, with the cause confirmed as sabotage.

Doel 4 is the youngest of four reactors at the Doel nuclear plant, 20 km north of Antwerp, Belgium’s second-biggest city.

The country has three more reactors in Tihange, 25 km southwest of the city of Liege.

Doel 1 and 2, which came on line in 1975, are set to close in 2015. Tihange 1, which also started operation in 1975 and was designed to last 30 years, got a 10-year extension till 2015.

The two closed reactors Doel 3 and Tihange 2 were connected to the grid in 1982 and 1983. Doel 4 and Tihange 3, which came on line in 1985, were operating normally until the closure of Doel 4 last week.

The shutdown of Doel 4’s nearly 1 gigawatt (GW) of electricity generating capacity as well as closures of two other reactors (Doel 3 and Tihange 2) for months because of cracks in steel reactor casings adds up to just over 3 GW of Belgian nuclear capacity that is offline, more than half of the total.

In Britain, EDF Energy, owned by France’s EDF, took three of its nuclear reactors offline for inspection on Monday after finding a defect in a reactor of a similar design. – Reuters

In Germany, the nuclear power generation capacity missing since 2011 has been met by a combination of solar, wind, bio, natural gas, and unfortunately some coal. But that sounds worse than it is.

According to the Fraunhofer Institute, renewable energy produced about 81 TWh, or 31% of the nation’s electricity during the first half of 2014. Solar production is up 28%, wind 19% and biomass 7% over last year.

Meanwhile, with the exception of nuclear energy, all conventional sources are producing less. The output from gas powered plants was half of what it had been in 2010 and brown coal powered plants are producing at a similar level to 2010-2012. – CleanTechnica.com

Let’s see what our friends at the Fraunhofer Institute have to say in their comparison of the first half of 2013 vs. the first half of 2014.

German electricity production H1 2013 - H1 2014
Fraunhofer Institute compares energy production between the first half of 2013 and the first half of 2014.

Although unspoken by power company executives operating in Germany, Spain, and some other European countries, the panic felt by traditional power generators is due to the massive changes in ‘their’ market since 2009.

Things move slowly in the utility industry — ten years is seen as a mere eyeblink in time, as the industry changes very little decade over decade. Recent changes must be mind-blowing for European power company executives.

European-union-renewables-chart
European Union renewables by Eurostat — Renewable energy statistics. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons This map displays 2012 results with a total of 20-30% renewable energy for 2012, but in 2013 renewable energy in Portugal registered 58.3% overall. By 2014, Portugal expects that 70% of its energy will come from renewable energy.

It occurs to me that the end of the conventional energy stranglehold on Europe parallels the ending of Star Wars VI.

Help me take this mask off

It’s a mask to hide behind when conventional power producers don’t want the facts aired.

Fossil and nuclear don’t want their Subsidies or Externalities advertised. Global fossil fuel and nuclear subsides topped $600 billion dollars in 2014, while the externality cost of fossil and nuclear may be as high as $2 trillion dollars annually. That’s a lot of hiding, right there.

Fossil fuel and nuclear power power producers don’t want the subsidies they’re paid to be publicly advertised — and they don’t want the renewable energy industry to have subsidies at all

Externalities are simply another form of subsidy to the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries which often take the form of massive public healthcare spending or massive environmental spending to mitigate the gigatonnes of toxic airborne emissions, or to monitor or repair environmental catastrophes such as oil spills.

Spain has ended it’s Feed-in-Tariff subsidy scheme for renewable energy, while keeping conventional power producer subsidies in place.

Not only that, suddenly homeowners aren’t allowed to collect power from the Sun or harvest power from the wind unless it is for their own use. Electricity cannot be collected by Spanish residents and then sold to the grid for example, nor to anyone else.

Spain’s government has taken it yet another step in a bid to keep the conventional energy companies from drowning in their tears. After a meteoric rise in wind and solar capacity, Spain has now taxed renewable energy power producers retroactively to 2012 and ruled that renewable energy will be capped to a 7.5% maximum profit. Renewable energy returns over the 7.5% threshold becomes instant tax revenue for the government. (Quite unlike conventional energy producers in the country which can make any amount of profit they want and continue to keep their subsidies)

While all of this has been going on, Spain and Portugal have quietly lowered their combined CO2 output by 21.3% since 2012 (equal to 61.4 million fewer tonnes of CO2) thanks to renewable energy.

But you’ll die

Not only has European renewable energy now stepped up to fill the multiple voids due to nuclear power plant maintenance and sabotage shutdowns, it has scooped incredible market share from conventional power producers.

In January 2014, 91% of the monthly needed Portuguese electricity consumption was generated by renewable sources, although the real figure stands at 78%, as 14% was exported. – Wikipedia

Unwittingly, the German and Spanish power companies have provided the highest possible compliment to the renewable energy industry, which, if publicized would read something like this;

We can’t compete with renewable energy that has equal amounts of subsidy. Therefore, remove the renewable energy subsidy while we keep ‘our’ traditional subsidies, until we can reorient our business model – otherwise, we perish!

Nothing can stop that now

Ending the European renewable energy Feed-in-Tariff schemes will only temporarily slow solar and wind installations as both have reached price-parity in recent months — and that, against still-subsidized conventional power generators!

Even bigger changes are coming to the European electricity grid over the next few years. Nothing can stop that now.

Tell your sister; You were right about me

Conventional power producers in Europe provided secure and reliable power for decades, it was what has powered the European postwar success story — but having the electricity grid all to themselves for decades meant that Europe’s utilities became set in their ways and although powerful, were not able to adapt quickly enough to a new kind of energy with zero toxicity and lower per unit cost.

Renewable energy, at first unguided and inexperienced, quickly found a role for itself and is now able to stand on its own feet without subsidies. Quite unlike conventional power generators.

Considering the sheer scale of the energy changes underway in Europe, conventional energy has been superceded by a superior kind of energy and with surprisingly little drama.

Related Articles

Spain’s #1 Power Source in 2013? Wind Power!

by Cynthia Shahan.

  • In Spain, power generation from wind farms and hydroelectric plants has spiraled upwards, escalating in the last year.
  • The renewable power sector is a leading cause of Spain’s recent 23.1% drop in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Wind farms moved for the first time front and center in Spain’s energy mix by furnishing the greatest amount of Spain’s annual electricity supply in 2013.

The UK’s Business Green reports:

Red Eléctrica de España (REE) released a preliminary report on the country’s power system late last month, revealing that for “the first time ever, [wind power] contributed most to the annual electricity demand coverage.” According to the figures, wind turbines met 21.1 per cent of electricity demand on the Spanish peninsular, narrowly beating the region’s fleet of nuclear reactors, which provided 21 per cent of power.

In total, wind farms are estimated to have generated 53,926GWh of electricity, up 12 per cent on 2012, while high levels of rainfall meant hydroelectric power output was 16 per cent higher than the historical average, climbing to 32,205GWh.

“Throughout 2013, the all-time highs of wind power production were exceeded,” the REE report stated. “On February 6, wind power recorded a new maximum of instantaneous power with 17,056MW at 3:49 pm (2.5 per cent up on the previous record registered in April 2012), and that same day the all-time maximum for hourly energy was also exceeded reaching 16,918MWh.”

James Murry of Business Green also points out that clean energy from neighboring Portugal progressed in the last year as well, generating over 70% of its power from renewables during the first quarter of the year, driven by a surge in wind and hydro power output.

The report considers that there is continuing challenges heading into 2014. However, Spain is above average with “electricity prices compared to the rest of the EU.”

Kudos to Spain for leading the world in renewable energy despite tough economic times.

Keep an eye on the hottest wind energy news on our wind energy channel or via our wind energy newsletter.

Image Credit: Wind turbines in Spain via Shutterstock

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This article, Wind Power Spain’s #1 Power Source In 2013!, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Renewable Energy. Cynthia Shahan.Cynthia Shahan is an Organic Farmer, Classical Homeopath, Art Teacher, Creative Writer, Anthropologist, Natural Medicine Activist, Journalist, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings who have lit the way for me for decades.

Wind Power Cuts CO2 Emissions Considerably, Even At High Penetration Levels

by Zachary Shahan

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New empirical research out of Spain shows that wind power is very effective at cutting CO2 emissions, even at quite high penetration levels.

This is, of course, what many of us would expect, but some people have had the odd idea (or have at least claimed) that wind power plants require such a large amount of backup power that they are useless in making such cuts. Absurd… as this new research shows. Unfortunately, the myth proposed by the confused or biased commenters that most likely stimulated this research has been spread pretty far and wide. Media agencies with a weird bias against wind power, or simply looking to stir up controversy and counterintuitive claims, have been keen to present the myth noted above. Will this research put an end to that? One can only hope so.

The specific findings of the researchers from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid were as follows:

  • “Every wind MWh introduced in the network allows us to avoid all the CO2 of each displaced thermal MWh at a low penetration.”
  • “When penetration levels are as high as 50%, the wind effect is accumulative and reductions would reach just 80%. However, this reduction is still significant and there are no negative cases…”

The researchers also note that the usefulness of wind turbines can be further improved by developing wind turbine technology and modeling, management of the electricity system, and use of energy storage technologies — all of this is already well known and there is a great deal of research and development going on in these arenas. In other words, wind power’s tremendous CO2-cutting effect is only going to increase in the coming years.

With wind power being the cheapest option for new electricity in many if not most regions of the world, this is of course great news, even if it is (unfortunately) intuitive and will not be covered by much of the media for that reason, including the same media outlets that have repeatedly covered the counterintuitive myth.

Just be sure to bookmark this article for the next time you see a story or comment that betrays the purported intelligence of the human species.

 

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This article, Wind Power Cuts CO2 Emissions Considerably, Even At High Penetration Levels, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

 

About the Author

Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

Barcelona Bike share system “Bicing” – 105,000 people can’t be wrong!

Re-blogged from: sustainaboost

I am amazed! No more being stuck in traffic, no more trying to find a parking spot, no more running after buses, no more time spent on, by tourists and pickpockets crowded metro platforms, no more waiting for the tram or wasting money on expensive taxi fares!

After trying for just a little bit more than a week. I am totally convinced! I love “Bicing” and its great concept of bike sharing here in Barcelona. If I’m alone to see the clever in this? No! Almost 105.000 citizens are using this service and the popularity is growing.

In Barcelona bikes are stolen all the time and you’re recommended to invest the same amount of money on your locks, as you did on your bike in the first place. …but, with Bicing, you’ll need no more worries my friend.

You don’t need to carry your bike up and down the stairs anymore, and no matter where in the city you are, you can almost be sure to have a Bicing station within two or three blocks from you. Where I live, I have six stations within a distance of 300 meters, the closest one is just a block away.

Click on the pic below to see the map showing the locations of all Bicing stations.

Bicing Station by the beach in Barcelona

Bicing Station by the beach in Barcelona

Whenever you want to go somewhere in the city, you just catch a bike from nearest Bicing station. Slip your magnetic card, grab the bike suggested on the display and off you go. You have 30 minutes per ride on your annual subscription included. If you’re holding on to the bike longer than that you need to pay an extra fee.

About 45 euros is the yearly cost, that´s pretty much what I spent before only on Metro cards every month. You can return your bike at any of the 420 stations around, wherever it is convenient for you.

Bicing has 6000 bikes available for its clients and every bike travels an average of more than 550 km per month. That’s pretty impressive.

The photo below is a link to a map of Barcelona with the main bike lanes displayed.

Bike lanes photographed from my balcony

Bike lanes photographed from my balcony

Barcelona is an excellent city for this concept. The weather conditions are great most time of the year. Since the main part of the city is rather flat you don´t need to struggle going uphill all the time. There are also a lot of space, for example if you’re cruising on the beach walk or along the biggest streets and avenues like Diagonal or Gran Via. Usually you just need to go a couple of blocks to find a nice bike lane integrated in the street.

It feels very good to cycle through the city, passing car queues and traffic jams smoothly, and it´s so nice to feel the breeze in your hair while moving around downtown in the sunshine instead of sitting or standing in a really warm bus.

Below you have screenshot of the Bicing smartphone app. It’s really useful, showing you where you can find an available bike or a space to park the one you´re already on. If you click on the pic you will see a listing of the largest bike sharing programs around the world.

Is there bike sharing in your city? If you have experience or thoughts on the concept, please feel free to comment on the blog post! :)

Some of the more than 420 Bicing stations in Barcelona

Some of the more than 420 Bicing stations in Barcelona

Unfortunately Bicing is not available for tourists from outside of Catalonia. I now that in Gothenburg for example you can get a three days pass on the bike sharing there for about €1,20 and that’s a good price. Here the many bike rental shops were strictly against these kind of offers. As a tourist you can find so many alternatives to Bicing, but if you´re living here it´s truly recommended. Personally I think it´s the very best way of getting around here, no doubt.

Sustainaboost just registered on Instagram a week ago. If you like the new photos, feel free to follow us there. Just click on the picture for the link so you can like and comment on all future pictures. Come on now, click! …let’s see if you can click on my nose! ;) Hehe!

Cruising on a mission ;)

Cruising on a mission ;)

Wonderful little movie of a cruise in Barcelona! Looks great don’t you think?!

[Editor’s note: Please visit sustainaboost.com to view the YouTube video showing the “Bicing” bike ride around Barcelona]

Anyway folks, I’m so happy that I started to use Bicing. This city changed a lot in my point of view, and it’s all for the better. If you also want to subscribe on this wonderfully clever bike sharing, that saves you money, improves your health and reduce emissions and noise.

Just click on the Bicing logo below for the official webpage! …and if your family and friends or anyone you know are tired of the traffic situation, just recommend them bike sharing or share this blog post with them, so they can read a little bit about it as well. You can find similar concepts in many cities.

Bike Sharing System of Barcelona

Bike Sharing System of Barcelona

Thank you very much for reading! Have a great day… all boosters out there! Together we’ll make the world better, just keep on smiling! :D

Related Articles on sustainaboost.com:

Top 20 Utility Scale Solar Countries Graph Of The Day

by Giles Parkinson – Special to JBS News

This article originally published on RenewEconomy

The latest update of utility scale solar developments round the world shows that the US has just joined China as the second country to have installed more than 3 GW of “big solar” and will soon be joined by Germany.

But Australia still does not make the big solar top 20 list compiled by Wiki-Solar – although countries such as Ukraine, Portugal, Thailand, the Czech Republic, Peru, Romania and Bulgaria do.

Screen-Shot-2013-09-03-at-8.09.45-AM

[Although there are thousands of small rooftop installations in the country] Australia has only one utility-scale solar installation at present — the Greenough River solar farm in WA — that meets the 10MW qualification for inclusion in the table, although four other projects are due to be built over the next two years. One, the 20MW Royalla project, reached financial close last week and will be the first to obtain bank finance in the country.

Two others are to be built in the ACT under that government’s solar auction program and the other, the 155MW AGL Energy project at Broken Hill and Nyngan, will begin construction next year.

Wiki-Solar says it is thinking of redefining the cut-off for “big solar” to 5MW, given that many projects in Germany and other countries are being built in that range.

If that were to happen,  China, Germany and the USA would still be the only three countries in the 3-4GW range, and India and Spain would rank next with between 1 and 2GW. It would double the number of projects world wide to be included in the table, but would not change Australia’s ranking. It doesn’t have any projects between 1.5MW and 1.0MW either.

This article, Top 20 Utility Scale Solar Countries – Graph Of The Day, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

is the founding editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia’s energy grid with great interest.

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