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Toshiba’s business mistake in making nuclear power a centrepiece of its future

fearToshiba hit by nuclear plant delays , THE AUSTRALIAN, BRIAN SPEGELE, The Wall Street Journal. January 2, 2017   Toshiba’s ambitions to make nuclear power a centrepiece of its future have instead led to an accounting scandal and billions of dollars in potential losses.

For clues to what happened, the reactor being built by its Westinghouse Electric division in a seaside town south of Shanghai offers an illuminating Exhibit A.

The Sanmen reactor was meant to be the showcase of a new technology that Westinghouse hopes will revolutionise the nuclear industry by making power plants safer, less labour-intensive and quicker to build.

Instead, the first so-called AP1000 reactor has been bedevilled by delays. In one instance, a critical component in its cooling system failed, slowing work by more than two years. Meanwhile, Westinghouse struggled for years to complete its design work for the AP1000, adding to delays and angering its Chinese state-owned customer. The reactor is now at least three years behind schedule.

Westinghouse said it aimed to load enriched uranium fuel in the reactor early next year, pushing back its previous year-end goal.

The troubles in Sanmen mirror those at nuclear projects around the world — including four by Westinghouse in the US — that led to this week’s announcement by Toshiba that it is looking at billions of dollars in potential losses, triggering a massive sell-off by investors……….

State Nuclear Power Technology assistant president Zhang Fubao said the company was committed to working with Westinghouse.

Mr Benjamin said proving that the AP1000 works was vital to the company’s future. “The eyes of the world and the eyes of the industry are watching,” he said.

January 2, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, Japan | Leave a comment

Shut down all Japan’s nuclear reactors – call from former PM Koizumi

Ex-leader of Japan Turns nuclear foe, calls for shutdown of all 54 Japanese nuclear reactors December 31, 2016 News Santa Fe By Motoko Rich The New York Times TOKYO — William Zeller, a petty officer second class in the U.S. Navy, was one of hundreds of sailors who rushed to provide assistance to Japan after a giant earthquake and tsunami set off a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011. Not long after returning home, he began to feel sick.

Today, he has nerve damage and abnormal bone growths, and blames exposure to radiation during the humanitarian operation conducted by crew members of the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan. Neither his doctors nor the U.S. government has endorsed his claim or those of about 400 other sailors who attribute ailments including leukemia and thyroid disease to Fukushima and are suing Tokyo Electric, the operator of the plant.

 But one prominent figure is supporting the U.S. sailors: Junichiro Koizumi, former prime minister of Japan.

Koizumi, 74, visited a group of the sailors, including Zeller, in San Diego in May, breaking down in tears at a news conference. Over the past several months, he has barnstormed Japan to raise money to help defray some of their medical costs.

The unusual campaign is just the latest example of Koizumi’s transformation in retirement into Japan’s most outspoken opponent of nuclear power. Though he supported nuclear power when he served as prime minister from 2001-06, he is now dead set against it and calling for the permanent shutdown of all 54 of Japan’s nuclear reactors, which were taken offline after the Fukushima disaster.

“I want to work hard toward my goal that there will be zero nuclear power generation,” Koizumi said in an interview in a Tokyo conference room………

Some recent signs suggest the movement has gone local. In October, Ryuichi Yoneyama was elected governor in Niigata, the prefecture in central Japan that is home to the world’s largest nuclear plant, after campaigning on a promise to fight efforts by Tokyo Electric to restart reactors there.

Like Koizumi, he is an example of how the anti-nuclear movement has blurred political allegiances in Japan. Before running for governor, Yoneyama had run as a Liberal Democratic candidate for parliament.

Koizumi, a conservative and former leader of the Liberal Democrats, may have led the way.

“Originally, the nuclear issue was a point of dispute between conservatives and liberals,” said Yuichi Kaido, a lawyer and leading anti-nuclear activist. “But after Mr. Koizumi showed up and said he opposed nuclear power, other conservatives realized they could be against nuclear power.” ……..

January 2, 2017 Posted by | Japan, politics | Leave a comment

Cheap renewable energy, drop in electricity consumption, – trouble for Exelon and others

Electricity Prices in the U.S. Are Capping Their Worst Year Ever

  • Cheap natural gas and renewables have lowered fuel costs
  • Consumers, business using less electricity also a factor

Electricity prices from Boston to Dallas sank to their lowest levels ever in 2016, presenting new challenges for generators more than a decade after the industry was deregulated.

Power prices plunged this year as cheap natural gas cut fuel costs, and wind and solar alternatives came online. Consumers also used less electricity for the second straight year, despite a summer heat wave, amid an industrial slowdown and growing awareness among households and businesses of ways to boost energy efficiency, according to government estimates.

Deregulation targeted lower electricity costs by opening up competition among generators. The recent stress from sliding prices is forcing some companies to seek the protection afforded by regulation. FirstEnergy Corp. plans to become a fully regulated utility within two years and American Electric Power Co. may follow. At the same time, Exelon Corp. won subsidies to keep New York and Illinois nuclear plants running with consumers covering the costs.

“Low demand, low prices, subsidized or increased renewable generation and gas-fired generation, all of those are challenges the merchant power sector has been experiencing and will likely experience going forward,” said Paul Patterson, an analyst with Glenrock Associates LLC, in an interview Friday.

The average around-the-clock spot price at PJM’s Western hub, which includes Washington and is the most actively traded U.S. power location, tumbled 19 percent this year to $28.78 a megawatt-hour, the least in grid data going back to 2005.  New York City, Boston and Dallas area power prices are similarly trading at record lows this year.

January 2, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Solar energy after dark – initiative in Arizona

text-relevantNew Arizona Policy Would Mandate Solar After Dark, Clean Technica  December 30th, 2016 by  A way to incentivize the use of clean energy like solar after dark — instead of gas peakers — to cover peak loads has been proposed in a white paper commissioned by Arizona’s Residential Utility Consumer Office, through a revision of state Renewable Energy Standards (RES).

Co-author Lon Huber, a Director with Strategen Consulting, was tasked with inventing a solution to the duck curve.

Huber told Utility Dive this week that his proposed Clean Peak Standard (CPS) should push developers to cover the need for generation at specific — peak — times.

“It adds more renewables, but it adds renewables when the system most needs capacity so it uses renewables to deal with system cost drivers and saves ratepayers money when electricity prices are highest.”

Under a Clean Peak Standard, during an identified peak demand period, a solar contract would have to deliver a percentage of its generation between certain — peak — hours.

A 25% CPS for example would mean that 25% of MWh generated during the identified peak demand period would have to be from “qualifying clean peak resources.” Currently, coal or gas peaker plants provide that peak generation.

So How Would Solar After Dark Work?

While so-called “spilled solar” at midday is already a concern, there are slim pickings so far in covering the evening peak with solar generation: battery storage or thermal solar.

The only solar projects capable of dispatching solar on demand at any time day or night, due to their thermal solar energy storage in the US are Crescent Dunes in Nevada and Solana in Arizona.

It is in Arizona, where the largest US dispatchable solar after dark project is sited, that this proposal is being considered. Solana is a thermal solar plant with the most energy storage in the US after pumped hydro — 1,680 MWh daily.

Arizona, along with Nevada, has been at the forefront of the battles over net-metering between utilities and rooftop solar, that hinges on too much solar by day, increasing the duck curve after dark.

Just this week the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) approved a drastic drop in net metering rates to shadow average utility-scale solar rates. Since utility-scale solar wholesale prices are much lower than rooftop prices, due to efficiencies of scale, that is a huge blow to rooftop in the state.

The decision “balances the economic benefits of grid-scale solar — which provides clean power to all of our customers at far less cost — with the desire of some customers to install solar on their rooftops,” said Arizona Public Service (APS) in a written statement.

Peak Loads are After Dark Now

Arizona is far from the only state trying to work out an arrangement that is fair to both utilities and those who invest in their own rooftop solar. …….

Finally, Utilities Would Value Dispatchable solar

Currently, utilities are incentivized to procure the cheapest solar. But a CPS would also offer utilities a better way to value dispatchable solar that can generate solar power after the sun goes down.

A thermal solar project like Crescent Dunes in Nevada can generate solar at any time of day or night, from stored solar energy in tanks of molten salts.

This Clean Solar Peak policy valuing stored clean energy is one foreseen by Nancy LaPlaca, who was Policy Advisor to former Commissioner Paul Newman at the ACC when it approved the solar storage contract between APS and Solana in 2013.

“We are underestimating the value of storage, as well as grid security,” she said to me at the time. “If the grid goes down in Phoenix on a very hot day, we will see the value of local storage that doesn’t depend on a long transmission line.”

January 2, 2017 Posted by | renewable | Leave a comment

USA getting serious about developing wave energy

text-relevantUS Doubles Down On Wave Energy, $40 Mil For New Test Bed, Clean Technica December 31st, 2016 by  It looks like the US is about to get much, much more serious about developing its vast wave energy potential. Researchers have been working at several relatively modest sites in Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest, and now the Energy Department has announced funding for a new, $40 million utility scale test site in the waters of the continental US, off the coast of Oregon.

Why Wave Energy?

The new wave energy test site will be built and operated under the auspices of Oregon State University’s Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center.

In a press release announcing the plan to invest up to $40 million in the nation’s first utility scale wave energy test site, the Energy Department noted that more than half of the population of the US lives within 50 miles of a coastline.

All things being equal, coastal populations are expected to grow, but getting zero emission energy to coastal regions is becoming more complex and difficult. Aging coastal nuclear power plants will most likely not be replaced, and population density limits the potential for utility scale wind farms and solar arrays on land.

Another limitation for land-based renewable energy in coastal areas is the need for new long distance transmission lines. Plans have been in place for years to bring wind power from the wind rich midwest to points east, but the new lines have had to battle against fossil fuel interests as well as local stakeholders.

One solution is to tap the waters of the US coastlines.

That’s beginning to happen in the wind energy sector on the east coast, where the relatively shallow waters of the Continental Shelf are amenable to offshore wind turbine technology.

The nation’s first offshore wind farm just went online off the coast of Rhode Island, and the Obama Administration has mapped out an ambitious plan to harvest wind energy all along the eastern seaboard. It looks like New York State’s Long Island is next in line for development.

The west coast is a different kettle of fish. The Continental Shelf drops off quickly, and the waters are too deep for conventional offshore wind turbines to be set on the ocean floor.

As a solution, the Energy Department has been pumping some significant dollars into R&D to commercialize floating wind turbines.

With the new investment of $40 million the agency appears to be broadening its focus to accelerate wave energy development, too.

The payoff could be huge, so to speak: Recent studies estimate that America’s technically recoverable wave energy resource ranges between approximately 900–1,230 terawatt hours (TWh) per year…For context, approximately 90,000 homes can be powered by 1 TWh per year. This means that even if only a few percent of the potential is recovered, millions of homes could be powered by wave energy as the technology progresses.

The New Wave Energy Test Facility

The new facility will be called the Pacific Marine Energy Center South Energy Test Site. Along with federal dollars, unspecified non-federal funding will go into the construction………

A Wave Energy Explainer………

January 2, 2017 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment