Saturday, January 3, 2015

Power plant O&M: how does the industry stack up on cost?

29 October 2014 Chris Lo

Operations and maintenance costs vary widely between different forms of power generation but form an important part of any power plant's business case. Power Technology ranks average O&M costs in the energy sector to find out which generating facilities are the cheapest to run and maintain.

Whether the energy source is fossil fuel-based, nuclear or renewable, the cost of operation and maintenance (O&M) forms an important part of a power plant's business case, a piece of the investment puzzle along with capital expenditure and fuel costs that must be balanced against life-cycle profitability, output efficiency and availability. These ongoing costs - both fixed and variable - include day-to-day preventative and corrective maintenance, labour costs, asset and site management, maintaining health and safety, and a host of other important tasks.
O&M costs vary widely between different forms of power generation, and the O&M burden often plays a varying role in the basic cost analysis of different power plants - high maintenance costs are often offset by advantages in other areas, and vice versa. Here we present the average O&M costs for six of the most common power generation methods while exploring the reasons for those costs and how they fit into the wider landscape of power plant economics.
The basis for this analysis is data taken from the International Energy Agency's (IEA) World Energy Investment Outlook 2014, which includes raw information on average yearly O&M costs in the power industry, both currently and in the future. The IEA's future cost predictions are based on its so-called New Policies Scenario (NPS), which incorporates countries' announced policy commitments and plans in its projections. Current costs are taken from 2012 data, with projections given for 2020 and 2035. As the IEA's O&M data is split between different countries and regions, we have taken the data for Europe as the default comparison point between power generation methods.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Graphene Could Kill Lithium-Ion Batteries

December 29th, 2014 by 

Don’t break out the widow’s weeds just yet, but it looks like momentum is building for energy storage to move past the lithium-ion phase and get into the more powerful territory of lithium-sulfur technology. In the latest development, a multinational research team has figured out how to overcome a major obstacle in the path of lithium-sulfur energy storage, by using graphene as a “bridge” between different components.
In theory, lithium sulfur (Li-S) batteries possess far greater energy density than the familiar lithium-ion (Li-ion), so breaking the technology out of the lab and into commercial development could have huge clean tech implications for EV battery range and energy storage for solar and wind sources, among other applications.
graphene Li S energy storage
Schematic of 3-D hierarchically structured graphene-sulfur/carbonZIF8-D composite ( by K.Xi/Cambridge

Lithium-Sulfur Energy Storage

Sulfur is super-cheap, which is mainly why researchers are interested in developing energy storage devices incorporating the material.
Sulfur also has some bonus attributes compared to conventional Li-ion battery technology, such as a high tolerance for overcharging, relatively light weight, and low toxicity.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Energy agency predicts $1.6T in renewable investments through 2020 | TheHill

The world will invest $1.6 trillion in renewable energy capacity through 2020, when renewable sources will account for more than a quarter of electricity generation, the International Energy Agency said Thursday.
The overall increase will come despite a slowdown in the growth of investments in solar, wind, hydropower and other energy sources. Spending will average $230 billion a year through 2020, down from $250 billion in 2013, largely due to falling costs of the technology.

The Paris-based IEA predicted in its Thursday report that investments in renewable energy will suffer even more if policies aren’t made clearer to favor them.

“Policy uncertainty remains a key challenge to renewable deployment,” the organization said. “Unanticipated changes to incentive schemes represent a risk that investors cannot manage, and can lead to elevated financing costs and boom-and-bust development patterns.”
As examples of policy problems, the IEA cited China, where there is limited spending on electricity networks and limited financing. In Europe, investors aren’t certain about renewable policies past 2020, or about development of an

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Cost to decommission nuclear power plant subject of meeting - Seaside Courier: North County

The latest price tag to decommission the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station will be the focus of a community meeting scheduled for this evening in Oceanside.

The Community Engagement Panel, which was created to advise plant owners Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and others, will take up an estimate that the two decades-long process could cost $4.4 billion. The new amount, up from previous estimates of around $3.3 billion, was reported earlier this month.

How much of the costs of the shutdown, along with replacement power and other needs, will be borne by the utilities and how much by ratepayers has been the subject of many months of talks between the companies, regulators and consumer watchdogs.
Thursday's meeting at Quantum Learning Network Conference Center at 1938 Avenida del Oro starting at 6 p.m. is open to the public.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

We need to rethink how we support renewable energy

Chris Goodall
11th August 2014

Feed-in tariffs are a great way to kick start renewable technologies, writes Chris Goodall. But they suffer from a law of exponentially diminishing returns. It's time for governments to move to direct R&D funding to achieve the transformational changes the world needs.

The renewable industries are now addicted to their own guaranteed cash streams from government and have growing lobbying power. The genuine innovation that we need is in danger of never happening.
Is it right to drive cost reductions in renewable technologies by use of direct production subsidies that are adding increasing amounts to domestic bills?
Or should we be spending more, much more, on fundamental research and development?
The argument is this. Broadly speaking, we can achieve cost improvements in any technology either by accumulating production experience (usually called 'the learning curve') or by targeting improvements in technology.
It is often difficult to disentangle the two phenomena but I still think the distinction is useful. Put another way, should we trying to cut prices by 'learning by doing' or by 'learning by research'?
Feed-in Tariffs emerged as the popular solution
Governments around the world have backed away from energy research. In the 1970's administrations that had been frightened by the OPEC oil embargo put big sums into R&D, particularly into nuclear but also into wind.

Outside France, that investment largely failed, and failed catastrophically. Energy R&D then plummeted around the world. A decade ago, UK energy research was costing just a few tens of millions a year. (It has gone up somewhat since).

Germany Added A Lot Of Wind And Solar 

Power, And Its Electric Grid Became More Reliable

To hear its critics tell it, Germany’s ambitious push to switch over to renewable energy has delivered an electrical grid that’s capricious, unreliable, and prone to blackouts. But according to data highlighted by ECO Report last week, the reality on the ground couldn’t be further from that caricature.
Specifically, the availability of electricity in Germany was lost only for an average of 15.91 minutes per customer in 2012, according to figures from the Council of European Energy Regulators. That’s far better than the United States, which saw its electricity become unavailable for a whopping 244 minutes per customer in 2008. Germany also did significantly better than the United Kingdom (lost 81.42 minutes per customer in 2008), the Netherlands (lost 33.7 minutes per customer) and France (lost 95.1 minutes per customer). Of all the countries tracked, Japan and Singapore are the only two with grid reliability to match Germany’s.

And the country has actually maintained this record for several years: 2008 was the last year in Germany when the amount of minutes lost per customer breached 16.
ECO Report pointed to a recent article in Bloomberg as an example of the standard story on Germany. The argument goes that by making a big policy push to move the electrical grid onto to renewables like solar and wind — which produce power intermittently, since no one can control when the sun is out or the wind blows — and by making the purely political decision to phase out its nuclear fleet following the Fukushima disaster, Germany has left itself without the kind of reliable baseload power that can only be provided by nuclear reactors or fossil fuels like natural gas and coal.
As Bloomberg points out, Germany’s domestic electricity has become far more dynamic. Twenty of the country’s biggest utilities are now earning fees in the balancing market, an exchange where firms can earn additional profits by pledging to add or cut electricity within seconds to keep the power system stable. That’s double the amount of utilities that were participating in the balancing market just back in September — and the fees provided by the market can pay utilities as much as 400 times what they’d usually earn with wholesale electricity prices.