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Earthquake a reminder of Japan’s continuing nuclear danger

“I think we expect more of such readjusting plate movements and that has been reasonably predicted, and many volcanic activity and earthquakes have been rampant over the last five years,” said Mr. Kurokawa, an adjunct professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies. “So why are we continuing to restart nuclear plants?”

New Quake Tests Resilience, and Faith, in Japan’s Nuclear Plants, NYT,  NOV. 22, 2016 TOKYO — There was no avoiding fearful memories of the Japanese nuclear disaster of 2011 on Tuesday morning after  a powerful earthquake off the coast of Fukushima caused a cooling system in a nuclear plant to stop, leaving more than 2,500 spent uranium fuel rods at risk of overheating………

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November 23, 2016 Posted by | Japan, safety | Leave a comment

The absurdity of continuing nuclear power, with waste disposal unsolved

“The costs associated with rehabilitating WIPP – the only underground nuclear waste repository in the country – have ballooned since 2014.”

whatever method proves the most advantageous in the US, site selection will be an essential and hard-to-navigate obstacle to overcome if the country is ever going to face up to a nuclear waste backlog that is getting longer every year.

text-cat-question

 

Why doesn’t anyone ever suggest just stopping making the stuff?

 

strandedWaste storage: America’s nuclear hot potato  A 2014 leak at a nuclear waste repository in New Mexico has raised far-reaching questions about long-term storage in the US. On top of the political and economic fallout from the incident, it has reignited the debate about finding a permanent storage site for commercial nuclear waste, a problem that looks no closer to a solution than it did 30 years ago. Power Technology by Chris Lo, 21 Nov 16, 

In February 2014, an incident occurred at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico when a 55-gallon drum containing radioactive waste popped its lid, contaminating 3,000ft of underground tunnels at the facility before rising through the exhaust shaft to escape in small quantities into the surrounding desert. The culprit, it was later discovered, was cat litter. The litter was used by the Los Alamos National Laboratory to seal a drum before sending it on to WIPP for storage. The organic absorbent – with which concerns had previously been raised – reacted violently with the nitrates in the waste and caused the leak.

While the US Department of Energy (DOE) was quick to downplay the immediate risks the leak posed to plant workers and nearby communities, the long-term ramifications of the incident – both in terms of direct consequences and wider implications – have added salt to the open wound that is America’s ongoing nuclear waste storage issue.

The plant, which has been used as a long-term storage site for transuranic radioactive waste from US nuclear weapons research and production since 1999, is not scheduled to resume full operations until 2021. The political and economic fallout from the incident could last much longer, with significant knock-on effects for the nation’s fleet of commercial nuclear plants.

WIPP leak: the political and economic fallout

The costs associated with rehabilitating WIPP – the only underground nuclear waste repository in the country – have ballooned since 2014, with delays and complications bringing the total cost of the clean-up to a potential minimum of $2bn, according to analysis published by the Los Angeles Times in August. This puts it on par, in terms of cost, with the clean-up after the infamous partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in 1979.

On top of the approximately $640m cost of the clean-up itself, the expense of potentially extending the facility’s operation for an additional seven years to make up for the prolonged closure could add $1.4bn to the bill.

Further costs include a $74m settlement paid by the federal government to the state of New Mexico for the leak and a truck fire that occurred just days before, as well as the added expense of continuing to store and maintain nuclear research waste at temporary sites such as the Hanford Site in Washington state, which is waiting to ship 24,000 drums of waste to WIPP. The delays caused by the leak also exacerbate already fractious relations between nuclear storage states and the federal government over the need to move waste from temporary processing facilities.

“The costs associated with rehabilitating WIPP – the only underground nuclear waste repository in the country – have ballooned since 2014.” “Safe and successful clean-up of the nuclear waste stored at Hanford is of utmost priority for the people of Washington state and the Pacific Northwest,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee in March 2014, just a month after the WIPP incident. “The federal government has a moral and legal obligation to oversee the successful cleanup of the waste that remains. Fifty-six million gallons of hazardous and radioactive waste continue to be held in Hanford’s storage tanks – now decades beyond their intended use.”

Politically, the loss of the New Mexico site would be damaging to the US government’s commitment to dispose of plutonium, about which it has signed mutual agreements with Russia. This is yet another reason why the DOE seems unwilling to consider abandoning WIPP, despite the huge cost and complex technical issues associated with its repair.

“The facility was never designed to operate in a contaminated state,” said the Southwest Research and Information Center’s director of nuclear waste safety Don Hancock in an interview with the LA Times in August. “It was supposed to open clean and stay clean, but now it will have to operate dirty. Nobody at the Energy Department wants to consider the potential that it isn’t fixable.”

Commercial waste storage: if not WIPP, then where?

Perhaps of most concern to the operators of commercial nuclear power plants is the loss of WIPP as a potential permanent storage site for nuclear waste from the civil energy industry. The facility and its use of salt formations to seal waste has been mooted as a potential frontrunner model to permanently store non-defence, uranium-based nuclear waste from power plants.

The prospect of expanding WIPP to host commercial as well as defence-related waste had been mooted, but this seems highly unlikely given the incident and the plant’s now-compromised situation. This is a problem for the US civil nuclear fleet, which has by now accumulated around 75,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel, at a rate of approximately 2,200 tonnes a year.

The vast majority of this high-level radioactive waste is currently being stored on an interim basis at temporary facilities, usually at the sites of the operating or decommissioned power stations themselves. These sites, which store spent fuel in pools to cool for five years before being transferred to dry casks, are not intended for long-term storage, and their continued use represents both a leak risk and an enormous cost to plant operators, who spend millions to process and maintain waste, and to the government, which is liable for part of these storage costs as a result of industry lawsuits related to its failure to take possession of spent fuel by the required date of 1998. DOE figures put the amount paid in damages to the nuclear energy industry thus far at $4.5bn, with an estimated $22.6bn in future liabilities. As such, the need for a permanent storage site for commercial nuclear waste is acute.

Case in point: WIPP was originally suggested as a replacement for another long-term nuclear storage option that has been on the table in the US since as far back as 1987, when the Nuclear Waste Storage Act of 1982 was amended by Congress to make it the only site under consideration as a permanent solution. That site is Yucca Mountain in Nevada, the development of which is a decades-long saga that has left the US no closer to solving its waste dilemma.    ……

It seems unlikely that Yucca Mountain will go ahead as a permanent storage site after decades of stalwart opposition. The DOE is now considering various technologies and sites after promising in 2015 to develop a new “consent-based” approach to finding a new site. Storage methods such as deep boreholes, salt beds, underground salt domes, and granite and shale repositories are on the table and, in many cases, in active development in Europe and elsewhere. But whatever method proves the most advantageous in the US, site selection will be an essential and hard-to-navigate obstacle to overcome if the country is ever going to face up to a nuclear waste backlog that is getting longer every year. http://www.power-technology.com/features/featurewaste-storage-americas-nuclear-hot-potato-5673043/

November 23, 2016 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

New York State moves towards closing dilapidated Indian Point nuclear station

‘Most dilapidated’ US nuclear power plant to close?, DW, 22 Nov 16  New York state has taken a pivotal step toward shutting down what critics have called the US’ “most dilapidated and dangerous nuclear power plant.” The renewal of one of the permits for Indian Point looks unlikely. The New York Court of Appeal’s latest decision on the Indian Point nuclear facility concerned an application to renew one of the permits required by Entergy to continue operating two pressurized water reactors at the plant. The reactors in question were put into operation in 1974 and 1976 respectively.

NY Governor Cuomo thinks Indian Point is too dangerous to operate. He's right. But why are upstate reactors any different?

Contrary to a lower court’s ruling, the Court of Appeal said the request must be submitted to the State Department of New York State, which looked likely to reject it.

“The Department of State already concluded that the Indian Point relicensing application is inconsistent with New York’s long-standing Coastal Management Program requirements and will continue to use this program to protect New York’s coastline, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

Good riddance?

“Indian Point is antiquated and does not belong on the Hudson River in close proximity to New York City where it poses a threat not only to the coastal resources and uses of the river, but also to millions of New Yorkers living and working in the surrounding community,” Cuomo added.

The Court of Appeal’s decision was also hailed by the Waterkeeper Alliance. “Indian Point is the oldest, most dilapidated, mismanaged and dangerous nuclear power plant in America,” it said in a statement on Ecowatch.com’s website……http://www.dw.com/en/most-dilapidated-us-nuclear-power-plant-to-close/a-36474986

November 23, 2016 Posted by | safety, USA | 1 Comment

Savannah River Site could be stuck with stranded nuclear wastes from Canadian research reactor

stranded“We are concerned that DOE is planning to bring more HEU-related waste to SRS over the coming years, with no plan for their removal from South Carolina and without the public being properly informed about these waste-imports and long-term storage and disposition plans,”


Shipments of nuclear material to Savannah River Site could continue http://www.aikenstandard.com/news/shipments-of-nuclear-material-to-savannah-river-site-could-continue/article_52996fce-adc7-11e6-853a-3b61beb03e76.html 
By Thomas Gardiner  tgardiner@aikenstandard.com Nov 18, 2016 

Spent fuel from a research reactor at the University of Alberta in Canada could soon be en route to South Carolina’s Savannah River Site.

According to documentation provided by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, shipping casks for the transfer are being reviewed and a planned shipping route has been approved.

radiation-truckThe exact route through the U.S. begins at the Sweet Grass, Montana, border crossing, and ends near Aiken County at the Savannah River Site. According to Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesperson Roger Hannah, actual routes are not publicized because of security concerns. However, the journey from Sweet Grass to Aiken County is close to 2,300 miles along major U.S. highways, depending on which cities the route goes through.

The spent fuel is U.S.-origin, highly-enriched uranium. It was used for research in a reactor called a “safe low-power kritical experiment,” or SLOWPOKE reactor. In the documents related to the shipping cask review, the SLOWPOKE reactor core is also included in the review.

The Department of Energy has shipped SLOWPOKE reactor cores in the past, with one now residing at Savannah River Site’s L-Basin.

Tom Clements, director of SRS Watch, said in a release, “In September 2015, a SLOWPOKE core was shipped from Jamaica to SRS, where it is now stored with no long-term disposition plans.”

The new material also would be destined for L-Basin. However, with the scrapped Yucca Mountain project and the backlogged waste isolation pilot plant, or WIPP, it is unclear what pathway exists to get the material back out of South Carolina. In multiple conversations about nuclear material coming into the Palmetto State, Gov. Nikki Haley has repeatedly said she refuses to let South Carolina becoming a nuclear dumping ground.

“We believe it is prudent to halt to shipment of HEU-bearing waste to SRS until such time as a plan is presented for removal of such waste from the site,” Clements said.

“We are concerned that DOE is planning to bring more HEU-related waste to SRS over the coming years, with no plan for their removal from South Carolina and without the public being properly informed about these waste-imports and long-term storage and disposition plans,” he said.

According to NRC documents, cask approval could come in March 2017. If that approval is issued, the material could hit the road in 2018. That timeline matches up with presentation given to the Citizens Advisory Board early this year, that showed shipments from Alberta, Canada, expected in 2018.

The route was approved Nov. 9 and won’t expire until Dec. 31, 2021.

November 23, 2016 Posted by | Canada, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Alarm among scientists at ‘Extraordinarily hot’ Arctic temperatures

‘Extraordinarily hot’ Arctic temperatures alarm scientists Danish and US researchers say warmer air and sea surface could lead to record lows of sea ice at north pole next year, Guardian, , 22 Nov 16 The Arctic is experiencing extraordinarily hot sea surface and air temperatures, which are stopping ice forming and could lead to record lows of sea ice at the north pole next year, according to scientists.

map-arctic-warm

Danish and US researchers monitoring satellites and Arctic weather stations are surprised and alarmed by air temperatures peaking at what they say is an unheard-of 20C higher than normal for the time of year. In addition, sea temperatures averaging nearly 4C higher than usual in October and November.

“It’s been about 20C warmer than normal over most of the Arctic Ocean, along with cold anomalies of about the same magnitude over north-central Asia. This is unprecedented for November,” said research professor Jennifer Francis of Rutgers university.

Temperatures have been only a few degrees above freezing when -25C should be expected, according to Francis. “These temperatures are literally off the charts for where they should be at this time of year. It is pretty shocking. The Arctic has been breaking records all year. It is exciting but also scary,” she said…….https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/22/extraordinarily-hot-arctic-temperatures-alarm-scientists

 

November 23, 2016 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Economic realities in South Africa: indefinite delay to nuclear power plans

scrutiny-on-costsflag-S.AfricaGovernment delays nuclear plant plans as economy stagnates, Mail and Guardian, 22 Nov 2016 Mike CohenPaul Vecchiatto  South Africa delayed plans to build new nuclear power plants over concern about their cost and the waning demand for additional electricity as economic growth stalls.

Under a new timeline, the first nuclear power is expected to come on stream in 2037, with a total 20 385 megawatts of nuclear energy added to the national grid by 2050, according to the “base case” scenario outlined in a presentation about the department of energy’s updated Integrated Resources Plan. The proposal, released in Cape Town on Tuesday, also estimates as additional 37 400 MW of power from wind, 17 600 MW from solar plants, 35 292 MW from gas and 15 000 MW from coal by 2050.

  The government previously said it wanted to generate 9 600 MW of energy from as many as eight reactors that should begin operating from 2023 and be completed by 2029. Price estimates had ranged from $37-billion to $100-billion. Although President Jacob Zuma has championed the nuclear programme, the treasury has cautioned that the country may be unable to afford new reactors at a time when the economy is barely growing and the budget deficit needs to be curbed to fend off a junk credit rating.

“Gas and renewables [will] form the biggest chunk of installed capacity by 2050,” the department of energy said in the presentation. “There is significant reduction in installed capacity from coal……..

Power cuts
The energy plan will be refined in March next year and then submitted to Cabinet for final sign-off.

Eskom, the state-owned utility, has said it could use the more than R150-billion it will accumulate in reserves within 10 years to build new reactors. The utility operates Africa’s only nuclear power plant — the 1 800 MW Koeberg facility near Cape Town, which began operating in 1984.

Rosatom, Areva SA, EDF SA, Toshiba’s Westinghouse Electric unit, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Corp and Korea Electric Power Corp previously expressed interest in building new reactors in South Africa…..http://mg.co.za/article/2016-11-22-sa-delays-nuclear-plant-plan-as-economy-stagnates

November 23, 2016 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Vietnam’s legislature endorses scrapping of nuclear power plans

text-Noflag-vietnamVietnam Formally Scraps Plans for First Nuclear Power Plants http://www.voanews.com/a/vietnam-scraps-plans-for-nuclear-power-plants/3607042.html , 22 Nov 16 HANOI — Vietnam’s legislature on Tuesday endorsed the government’s decision to scrap plans to build the country’s first two nuclear power plants.

A statement from the government announcing the endorsement said cheaper renewable energy and power imports were available and that investment should be made in more urgent infrastructure needs.

The National Assembly in 2009 approved plans to build two nuclear power plants with combined capacity of 4,000 megawatts. Construction contracts had been awarded to companies from Russia and Japan.

Construction was initially scheduled to start in 2014 but was delayed several times.

State media have reported that the nuclear power plants were not economically viable because of cheaper sources of power and that the costs of the plants had doubled to $18 billion.

November 23, 2016 Posted by | politics, Vietnam | Leave a comment

Nuclear propagandist James Conca shows the industry how to peddle its lies

From Media To Nuclear Power, Messaging Trumps Reality, Forbes, James Conca ,  22 Nov 16

“……the nuclear industry, along with most others, must get with the program and learn to define itself first, control the message, and disrupt the nonsense espoused by its detractors (HuffPost). It must tell its story in terms of job creation and lucrative careers, in terms of lights and heating and electricity and what that means to modern societies, or to eradicating poverty. It must speak in terms of innovation, inventions and technology creation. Above all, the industry must wrest control of the green message by taking on its very leadership since nuclear produces twice as much clean energy as all other clean energy sources combined.

climate-change-lie

And it must do this on social media. Sites like Northwest Clean EnergyNuke Power TalkAtomic Insights, the World Nuclear Association, the Nuclear Energy InstituteMothers for Nuclear, and Nuclear Street, among others, are excellent sources of good, readily-available, easy-to-understand information on nuclear power along with most other forms of power. But they have difficulty reaching millions of people. Anti-nuclear activists are more numerous and their messaging doesn’t even have to be correct. They reach millions of people.

More than ever before, Americans need to know what is real, and what is in their best interest. In the cacophony of messaging in the present world, it is more and more difficult to get the truth to the public. Or to have them recognize it…..”

November 23, 2016 Posted by | spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

Exelon pushes bills in Illinois General Assembly to subsidise and save its nuclear power stations

taxpayer-bailout-exelonInside Exelon’s last-minute push to save its nukes and remake the Illinois power sector
The Illinois legislature has a week to decide on a far-reaching energy reform bill that includes something for everyone to hate,
Utility Dive,  @TopFloorPower, 22 Nov 16    fate of two nuclear plants in Illinois is coming down to the wire.

A bill introduced into the Illinois General Assembly this week would provide subsidies Exelon says are necessary to keep its Clinton and Quad City nuclear plants online.

When the legislature failed to pass a previous version of the bill, Exelon said it would close the 1,069-MW Clinton station on June 1, 2017, and the 1,871-MW Quad Cities plant in Cordova on June 1, 2018. At the time, Exelon said the plants had lost a combined $800 million over the past seven years.

Exelon faces a Dec. 1 deadline for notifying the Midcontinent ISO about whether or not it will close Clinton next year.

There is a lot riding on the bill. According to Exelon’s accounting, closing the nuclear facilities would result in the loss of $1.2 billion in economic activity annually.

 But the bill, an amendment to SB 2814, goes beyond the fate of two nuclear plants. It is loaded with provisions that touch upon almost every aspect of the state power sector, from funding for utility based energy efficiency measures, community solar programs and microgrids to changes in rate structure such as the imposition of demand charges and the elimination of retail net metering for solar power. The bill also includes a last minute addition of capacity payment add-ons for coal-fired plants in the south of the state.

orking through the complexities of any one of those provisions would be enough of a challenge, but lawmakers are working under a tight deadline.

The bill was taken up in the General Assembly’s veto session, which has a short lifespan of less than a week. The final day of the session is Dec. 1, but it could roll over into a lame duck session that could extend to Jan. 11, 2017.

Exelon, of course, is also facing the Dec. 1 deadline for giving notice to MISO regarding the closure of the Clinton nuclear plant.

The lawmakers’ work could be eased somewhat by the fact that many of the provisions cover familiar ground. The Future Energy Jobs Bill, as it’s called, traces its history back to three bills that were eventually rolled into one. All three failed, but then failed bills were reworked into a single piece of legislation. But that bill, too, failed to make it through the assembly.

That bill was also reworked and revived for the current session and now includes $1 billion in funding for low-income program, a doubling of energy efficiency programs to produce $4 billion in energy savings, fixes for the state’s stalled renewable portfolio standard program, and funding of up to $220 million a year for renewable resources.

The bill was also recast at the last minute after Donald Trump won the presidential election to highlight its job saving or creating aspects. Prior to the election, the bill had assumed that the Clean Power Plan, the environmental regulations that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants and that is stalled by court challenges, would be put in place and provide an economic rationale for zero emission generation. But Trump has promised to dismantle those regulations.

The Future Energy Jobs Bill made it through the House Energy Committee Wednesday night, but many of the lawmakers who voted to move the bill cast a “yea” vote with the expectation that there would be substantial changes before the bill comes to the floor of the assembly.

The legislature is now faced with a single massive (446 pages) bill laden with provisions – what legislators call a “Christmas tree”– that has something for everyone. It also has something for everyone to dislike. The bill attracted vociferous criticism from a variety of constituents as soon as it landed.

“This is going to be the largest rate hike in U.S. history,” Dave Lundy, head of the BEST Coalition, a business group opposed to the bill, said at a press conference shortly after the bill was introduced.

Lundy argues that the capacity represented by the nuclear plants is not needed. Electricity demand is down 3% in the state, and Illinois generates 41% more power than it consumes, meaning that much of that output is exported out of state……..

Eric Robertson, general counsel of Illinois Industrial Energy Consumers, told the House committee his group opposes the legislation because the FRAP would increase commercial and industrial electric rates by $125 million a year.

SolarCity also opposes the legislation, not necessarily because of the FRAP, but because it would impose demand charges on retail customers and eliminate retail net metering in the state. Elimination of net metering would do away with a revenue stream that provide much of the incentive for rooftop solar, and demand charges would make electricity bills unpredictable, Elizabeth Pearlman, regulatory counsel and director of policy at SolarCity, told the committee.

“If you can’t do the math at the kitchen table, we can’t sell you solar,” she said. She called the bill’s proposed imposition of demand charges on customers’ bills, a “radical” and “unprecedented” change, one that is usually effected by regulatory commissions, not legislatures.

Both Shannon Fulton, president of the Illinois Solar Energy Association, and Amy Heart with The Alliance for Solar Choice cited the dual effect of the demand charge and net metering changes and said they also oppose passage of the bill.

With all the controversy, it seems clear that the Future Energy Jobs bill is still a work in progress and, if it does come to a vote, it will be on a revised version of the legislation.

In the committee meeting, Rita said there are “issues we have to work through,” and pledged that a revised bill would come “back through this committee.” http://www.utilitydive.com/news/inside-exelons-last-minute-push-to-save-its-nukes-and-remake-the-illinois/430692/

November 23, 2016 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Obama government pushes a slate of clean energy initiatives

Obama solarIn last minute dash, Obama administration pushes global clean energy initiatives http://www.utilitydive.com/news/in-last-minute-dash-obama-administration-pushes-global-clean-energy-initia/430430/    

  • The Obama administration has announced a broad range of global clean energy initiatives and investments, including financing in India and El Salvador, off-grid grants in Africa and a new report on the market for access to efficient appliances.
  • The slate of announcements includes committing $125 million in financing for renewable energy projects through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
  • The funding is a small drop compared to the $11 billion the United States has invested from 2010-2015 alone in international clean energy finance, according to the Department of Energy.
 Dive Insight:

While President-elect Trump’s looming presidency has worried many over the future of the clean energy technology, the Obama administration is not slowing down on global decarbonization goals.

The White House continues its progressive moves on energy efficiency, global clean energy and decarbonization, last week issuing a lengthy overview of new initiatives. Among them:

  • A partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of State and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to identify “a pipeline of clean energy entrepreneurs in developing countries.”
  • Providing $4 million in awards to eight household solar firms under the Power Africa Scaling Off Grid Grand Challenge, totaling a $36 million investment to empower entrepreneurs and investors in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Announcing more than $11 million raised for the deployment of efficient off-grid technologies globally through the Efficiency for Access Coalition;
  • Launching a partnership to bring more efficient appliances tor rural Indian villages; and
  • And supporting the first Solar Decathlon competition in Africa.
  • The USAID-State partnership with the National Laboratories aims to expand the geographic reach of the next annual Industry Growth Forum in April 2017. “This is one of the nation’s premier clean energy investment event to connect early stage companies with capital,” the White House said.So far, companies participating in the NREL Growth Forum have raised over $5 billion in financing.

    Last week, the White House also released a report detailing the status of global markets for off-grid energy and the U.S. government’s role in developing those markets. In the past decade, the market has “grown exponentially” to give millions access to basic energy services.

    According to the report, worldwide there are over 20 million households powered by solar home systems, and another 6 million are connected to renewables-based mini-grids or small wind turbines.

November 23, 2016 Posted by | politics, renewable, USA | Leave a comment

Florida’s Amendment 1 would have undermined rooftop solar, but voters were not fooled

Solar PV capacity in Australia lags that of less sunny nations such as the UK and South Korea.Florida’s Amendment 1 defeat shows why solar won’t be stopped, Trump or no Trump, http://www.utilitydive.com/news/floridas-amendment-1-defeat-shows-why-solar-wont-be-stopped-trump-or-no/430373/14 Nov 16,  David Pomerantz, executive director of the Energy and Policy Institute, wants utilities to ‘co-thrive’ with DERs. 

Americans who are concerned about climate change are shell-shocked over the election of Donald Trump, who has claimed climate change was a hoax created by China and promised to end federal support for clean energyneuter the EPA, and kill the Paris agreement.

If Trump follows through on these threats, it will cause irreversible damage. But an election result buried by the chaos of Tuesday night offers a thin silver lining to the dark clouds gathering on the climate horizon: the surprise defeat of a deceptive ballot initiative in Florida called “Amendment 1.”

 Florida’s investor-owned electric utilities – Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light (FPL), Gulf Power and Tampa Electric – spent $20 million pushing Amendment 1 and branding it as “pro-solar,” when in fact it would have undermined customer-owned solar power in Florida. Amendment 1’s passage would have paved the way for the utilities to add fees to solar customers’ bills and to cut net metering payments for the extra power they produce. They could have killed the nascent rooftop solar industry in Florida, which already lags behind far smaller states like Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Amendment 1’s defeat offers a road map for how to keep the clean energy economy growing under a Trump presidency: turn to the states. During the George W. Bush years, wind and solar power grew rapidly, despite federal hostility, thanks to supportive policies in both red and blue states. That’s not surprising, as Americans across the political spectrum, then and now, overwhelmingly support clean energy. A President Trump can’t block that progress, but another obstacle can: electric utilities.

Utilities profit when they build more power plants and transmission lines, which they can only do if people buy more electricity. Distributed solar threatens that outdated business model by offering people the choice of making their own power, so utilities have waged war on rooftop solar, and Amendment 1 revealed their battle plan:

Instead, they advocate for “smart solar” and “solar done right” – code for large solar farms that utilities own, not customers. But it’s a ruse; Duke Energy told Florida regulators that it planned to generate a mere 2.2% of its power from solar energy in 2025, and FPL reports that it will be 1% solar in that year. Duke and FPL are instead investing heavily in gas, as are many other utilities.

Florida voters proved that they wouldn’t be fooled. The utilities’ “pro-solar” message crumbled after the Energy and Policy Institute and the Center for Media and Democracy released an audio recordingconfirming Amendment 1 was a “political jiu-jitsu” campaign designed to trick pro-solar voters. Once the truth was out, support cratered.

Second, utilities try to divide environmentalists from low-income advocates and communities of color, using front groups to argue that rooftop solar is only for the rich, who “shift the costs” to poor people. It’s more deception: a host of studies have shown that the benefits that rooftop solar customers provide to the wider grid outweigh the costs.

Low-income communities and communities of color are refusing to be pawns in the utilities’ game. Black and Latino leaders spoke out against Amendment 1, noting that they want policies that result in more solar for their communities, not less. The NAACP nationally has been a forceful advocate for rooftop solar power, and polls show that communities of color support clean energy at the highest rates of all Americans.

Last, utilities use their financial might to buy political power. In addition to the $20 million that Florida’s utilities spent backing Amendment 1, they spent another $9.3 million on campaign contributions to legislators this cycle. Utilities’ influence peddling will never go away, but the pro-solar movement is learning to counter it via grassroots organizing, as it did effectively in Florida.

If other utilities follow their Florida brethren’s game plan, they too will unite their opponents into broad movements against them, and politically sensitive regulators will take notice. FPL’s war on solar power is already having this effect. Regulators in Hawaii, rightfully skeptical of FPL’s record of blocking solar in Florida, rejected its parent company NextEra’s bid to buy Hawaii’s electric utility. In Texas, where NextEra wants to buy Oncor, regulators are expressing their own concerns.

Nevadans – many still outraged at NV Energy’s hostility toward rooftop solar in the net metering battle there – voted Tuesday to strip the utility of its monopoly status.

These results should send a loud alarm to utilities and their investors that every attack they launch at rooftop solar will boomerang to erode their customers’ trust and weaken their standing with regulators.

There is only one way out of the jam for utilities: they have to adapt their business models and find ways to co-thrive with distributed resources. Some are trying to do that, albeit at the behest of regulators, but most seem intent on wasting time fighting a war they are destined to lose. Customers are demanding solar, the market forces behind solar cannot be stopped, and a Trump presidency will not change those facts.

November 23, 2016 Posted by | decentralised, politics, USA | Leave a comment

America’s energy industries – what to expect from President Trump

All bets are off: 4 takeaways on what President Trump means for the power sector
The paradigm of decarbonization that’s guided utility sector investments for the past decade is now up in the air,
Utility Dive, @GavinBade, 9 Nov 16,   “…… In the coming weeks, much effort will be spent trying to decipher who Trump will appoint and how his team will handle the specifics of energy policy. But given that President Trump will likely come into office with a GOP-controlled Congress and a vacancy to fill on the Supreme Court, there are some broad conclusions for the power sector that we can already draw.

1. The Clean Power Plan — and other air regulations — are in danger
One of the most immediate impacts of Donald Trump’s election is that the Clean Power Plan now appears much more likely to be struck down.

The CPP is the EPA’s first set of federal carbon regulations and seeks to cut CO2 emissions from the power sector 32% by 2032. Though the utility industry is largely on board with the plan, a group of conservative states and fossil fuel interests challenged the rules, saying they constitute an overreach of EPA’s authority.

Those arguments came to a head in September, when the D.C. Circuit Court held an en banc hearing on the regulations. Due to the composition of the court — six Democratic appointees and four from Republicans — legal experts largely expect the rules to be upheld there.

But the Supreme Court could be a different story. No matter who prevails at the D.C. Circuit, the high court is expected to take up the Clean Power Plan next year. The justices have already shown interest in the case, placing an unprecedented judicial hold on compliance until court challenges are concluded.

After Justice Antonin Scalia’s death earlier this year, the Supreme Court has a vacancy, and Republican senators have refused to confirm President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.

If the Supreme Court were to hear the Clean Power Plan case with one seat vacant, energy lawyers told Utility Dive that a 4-4 split would be plausible, which would uphold the D.C. Circuit decision. But if Trump puts another conservative on the court — as he has promised — it could potentially give CPP opponents the five skeptical judges they would need to overturn the Clean Power Plan.

Given that Trump will come into office with a GOP-controlled Senate, that judicial outcome is now much more likely. But even if the Supreme Court upholds the plan, a Trump administration and Republican Congress could still scuttle it by defunding the agency or simply halting implementation work.

And while the Clean Power Plan is the highest-profile EPA air pollution rule at risk in a new Trump presidency, it is not the only one. Fossil fuel interests still bristle at rules like the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which regulates harmful coal power pollution, and the EPA’s new source pollution rules, which govern emissions from new power plants.

Trump has indicated that he wants to overhaul the EPA. With him in the White House, the future of any clean air or water regulation remains uncertain.

2. Renewable energy subsidies could be on the chopping block

EPA regulations are a relatively easy way for Donald Trump to weaken President Obama’s clean energy legacy, since many of them are facing current court challenges or could simply not be enforced.

Renewable energy subsidies would take more of an effort to revoke. At the end of last year, Congress reached a deal to extend supports for wind and solar energy into the early 2020s, with subsidy levels decreasing over time. That tax credit extension is fueling a boom in deployment, with renewables expected to add the vast majority of generating capacity for the remainder of the decade.

That could change quickly. Though Trump hasn’t laid out a policy position on renewable subsidies, wind and solar have been the target of frequent ridicule from the president elect. In one speech designated for energy policy, Trump lambasted solar energy as “very expensive” and accused wind turbines of “killing all the eagles.”

Because the renewable energy supports are already in place, revoking them would take a legislative effort. That’s a heavier lift than in the past, since many Republican officials have renewable energy facilities or manufacturing in their states, boosting support for the industry among conservative lawmakers.

But there’s also appetite in some circles to get rid of renewable energy subsidies altogether. Some fossil fuel and nuclear generators complainthat the production tax credit for wind lets these facilities to bid into the market at lower prices, pushing down electricity prices and preventing their baseload plants from competing.

If Trump’s energy team will listen to clean energy opponents remains to be seen. The president elect has also said he is “for” renewable energy on many occasions, even while criticizing it in the next breath. But whether he opts for a full-frontal attack on wind and solar subsidies or will simply turn his attention to boosting fossil fuels, the future for renewables in a Trump administration does not look as bright as it would under a Clinton administration.

3. Fossil fuels will likely get a boost………If Donald Trump has sent mixed messages about renewables, no one can mistake his support for fossil fuels……

4. The paradigm of decarbonization may shatter….. http://www.utilitydive.com/news/all-bets-are-off-4-takeaways-on-what-president-trump-means-for-the-power-s/430071/

November 23, 2016 Posted by | ENERGY, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Obama administration set to strengthen Iran Nuclear Deal

diplomacy-not-bombsObama Seeks to Fortify Iran Nuclear Deal New steps weighed include licenses for more American businesses and lifting additional U.S. sanctions, WSJ,  By CAROL E. LEE in Lima, Peru, and JAY SOLOMON in Washington Nov. 20, 2016

The Obama administration is considering new measures in its final months in office to strengthen the landmark nuclear agreement with Iran, senior U.S. officials said, with President-elect Donald Trump’s first appointments foreshadowing an increasingly rocky road for the controversial deal.

Action under consideration to buttress the pact includes steps to provide licenses for more American businesses to enter the Iranian market and the lifting of additional U.S. sanctions.

The effort to shore up the agreement was under way before the election and is not aimed at boxing in Mr. Trump, who opposes the deal, the officials said. Officials also acknowledged the proposals are unlikely to make the nuclear agreement more difficult to undo.

Mr. Trump’s first two picks for his national security team—retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn as national security adviser and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) as Central Intelligence Agency director—are hard-liners on Iran who have voiced opposition to the nuclear deal…..

Administration officials said they haven’t yet begun conversations on the Iran deal with the officials Mr. Trump has deployed across the government to facilitate his transition into office. They also are unsure whether those Trump officials are the ones they need to persuade.

The picture they plan to articulate for Mr. Trump’s team is stark: If the agreement falls apart, and the U.S. is blamed for its collapse, Iran would resume its nuclear program more aggressively. In that case, the U.S. risks alienating Europe, as well as China and Russia, and limiting its ability to use sanctions again to contain Iran. Military action against Tehran’s nuclear facilities, these officials argue, could be the only alternative…….http://www.wsj.com/articles/obama-seeks-to-fortify-iran-nuclear-deal-1479692853

November 23, 2016 Posted by | Iran, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Seaweed causes shutdown of nuclear reactor

Torness nuclear reactor shut down over seaweed concern http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-38070241  A reactor at the Torness Nuclear Power Station in East Lothian has been shut down because of seaweed.

Reactor one was shut down just before 09:00 when the seaweed began to threaten a cooling water inlet at the power plant near Dunbar.

DF Energy said there was never any risk to safety at the facility but added the shut down was “unusual.”

The reactor is not expected to resume production on Tuesday.

November 23, 2016 Posted by | general | 1 Comment

Stark choices face communities in drought afflicted Africa

Electricity Minister Luis Motta looks at the massive Guri Dam, virtually dry because of the drought. Reuters photo.Battle of the Desert (I): To Fight or to Flee? http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/battle-of-the-desert-i-to-fight-or-to-flee/ 

“After the rains failed for a few years, some neighbours claimed our trees were drawing too much water from the ground. We cut them down. Our harvests fell. My mother closed her stall at the local market. That is when my father and I moved from the midlands to the Ruvu Mferejini river valley.”

Maria, whose dramatic story has been told by the United Nations organization leading in combating desertification, goes on to say: “My brother quit school to help the family. He went to find work but he does not earn enough. My mother stayed in Bangalala so that my daughter could go to school because there are no schools in the valley.”

“But where we moved to, my crop also failed last year. That is why early this year I moved yet again, but I left my father behind. I hope to farm here much longer, as I am sure the people I left behind with my father will have to move too. But when will this moving end? I cannot afford it anymore.”

This is not an isolated case–Maria is in the same situation that women in Darfur, Mali, Chad or Afghanistan were in before local conflicts over water or land turned into civil wars, sexual violence or genocide, reports the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“Nor is this situation unique to sub-Saharan Africa where half a billion inhabitants are rural, a majority lives off the land and desertification is a constant threat to their livelihoods,” it alerts in its report Desertification, the Invisible Frontline.

“As the effects of climate change undermine livelihoods, inter-ethnic clashes are breaking out within and across states and fragile states are turning to militarisation to control the situation.” UNCCD

According to the Bonn-based UNCCD, more than 1.5 billion people in the world depend on degrading land, and 74 per cent of them, like Maria, are poor.

Desertification is a silent, invisible crisis that is destabilising communities on a global scale, says this international legal framework for tackling desertification, land degradation and drought, 169 of its 194 Parties have declared they are affected by desertification.

The consequences are dire. “As the effects of climate change undermine livelihoods, inter-ethnic clashes are breaking out within and across states and fragile states are turning to militarisation to control the situation.”

The effects of desertification are increasingly felt globally as victims turn into refugees, internally displaced people and forced migrants or they turn to radicalisation, extremism or resource-driven wars for survival, UNCCD continues.

“If we are to restore peace, security and international stability in a context where changing weather events are threatening the livelihoods of more and more people, survival options are declining and state capacities are overburdened, then more should be done to combat desertification, reverse land degradation and mitigate the effects of drought.’

Otherwise, many small-scale farmers and poor, land-dependent communities face two choices: fight or flight.

UP to 30% of World’s Land Affected by Desertification

For its part, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that desertification currently affects approximately twenty-five to thirty per cent of the world’s land surface area. About 1,2 billion people in at least 100 states are at risk.

Over 42 billion dollars in lost productivity or human support occurs each year on account of it. According to UNEP, the global rate of desertification is increasing, although the local rates vary by region.

“Africa, with around sixty-six per cent of its land either desert or drylands, is particularly affected by desertification. Already, a number of large-scale famines have occurred in the Sahelian region, resulting in migration of people towards more hospitable lands.”

Desertification occurs mainly through over-cropping, over-grazing, improper irrigation practices, and deforestation. These activities arise from poor land management, which, in turn, stems from the socio-economic conditions in which the farmers live.

Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, gives specific figures.

“Globally, only 7.8 billion hectares of land are suitable for food production. About 2 billion hectares are already degraded, and of these 500 million hectares have been totally abandoned. These lands could be restored to fertility for future use.”

With 99.7 per cent of our food calories coming from the land –Barbut underlines– land degradation is a threat to our food security. But its effects are especially harsh for the poorest people who rely directly on the land for survival – food, employment and water. When their lands cannot produce any more, they have little choice but to migrate or fight over what little is left.

“Unless we change our approach, when drought comes and the rains fail, the future of the 400 million African farmers who rely on rain fed subsistence agriculture, for example, is put in jeopardy,” Barbut wroteon IPS.

Rain-fed agriculture accounts for more than 95 per cent of farmed land in sub-Saharan Africa. And water scarcity alone could cost some regions 6 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product, she added.

“Unless we change our approach, people are going to be increasingly forced to decide whether to ride out a drought disaster and then rebuild. Or simply leave.”

According to Barbut, “It is a form of madness that we force our people to make these difficult choices.”

Food Insecurity Triggering Riots

In 2008, food insecurity triggered riots in over 30 countries, ccording to the UNCCD. But it is rural communities like those of Bangalala, who depend on rainfed agriculture that contribute to global food security.

The livelihoods of over 2 billion people worldwide depend on 500 million small-scale farmers. Drylands, which make up nearly 34 per cent of the land mass and are a major source of food security especially for the poor, are being degraded day-by-day, it adds.

“Desertification does not always lead to conflict. But it is an amplifier of displacement, forced migration, radicalisation, extremism and violence.”

The US National Security Strategy refers to climate change as a key global challenge that will lead to conflicts over refugees and resources, suffering from drought and famine, catastrophic natural disasters, and the degradation of land across the globe, it reminds.

Therefore, “investing in practical solutions that transform lives and reduce the vulnerability of communities like Maria’s would be cheaper and work better than investing in walls, wars and relief.”

November 23, 2016 Posted by | AFRICA, climate change | Leave a comment