Microgrid as a Service (MaaS) and the Blockchain

It is a splendid event to observe when two new technologies combine to create a new marketplace. In recent years as new sources of distributed energy have been entering the electrical grid to provide power they are necessitating a change to the existing large-scale infrastructure model of power supply.

Classic Electric Power Grid Model

Figure 1. Classic electric power grid model with bulk generators transferring power long distances to reach the consumer.  Image courtesy of NetGain Energy Advisors. (1)

The old model utility was large and centralized and tracking transactions was simple as consumers were on one side of the ledger, while the provider as on the other. And whereby currency and energy flowed only in opposite directions between two identified parties, consumer and provider.

In the emerging markets of small-scale independent energy providers, we can see buildings, communities and even individual residences having built capacity to provide intermittently or on demand power at times, and consume or store power from the grid at other times. Solar power is only available during the day, and will require new commercial methods of energy storage.

How-Microgrids-Work

Figure 2. An example Microgrid (2)

In the transition from decentralized utility is the development of the Micro-grid.  The Micro-grid offers many benefits to society, including; (a) use of renewable energy sources that reduce or eliminate the production of GHG’s, (b) increases in energy efficiency of energy transmission due to shortening of transmission distances and infrastructure, (c) improved municipal resilience against disaster and power reductions, and finally, (d) promotion of economic activity that improves universal standard of living.

As buildings and communities evolve they are moving toward renewable energy sources to supplement their energy requirements and reduce operating costs. Even the building codes are getting into the act, requiring buildings be constructed to new energy efficiency standards. Also, we are seeing the development of new technologies and business methods, such as solar powered charging stations for electric vehicles.

The existing electrical grid and utility model has to develop and adapt to these new technologies and means of locally generating power. The future will include the development and incorporation of peer to peer networks and alternative energy supply methods. Consumers may purchase power from multiple sources, and produce power and supply it to other users via the electrical grid.

Micro-grid and the Blockchain

As new energy sources/providers emerge there is added complexity to the network. Consumers of power can also be an energy providers, as well as having different energy sources available. This increased functionality raises the complexity of possible transactions in the network.

Imagine a financial ledger, where each user in the system is no longer constrained to be a consumer, but also a supplier to other users in the system. In order to track both the credits and debits it has been proposed that the exchange of blockchain tokens be utilized to sort out complicated energy transfer transactions in a distributed P2P network.

P2P TRADING

This class of Platform Application gives retailers the ability to empower consumers (or in an unregulated environment, the consumers themselves) to simply trade electricity with one another and receive payment in real-time from an automated and trustless reconciliation and settlement system. There are many other immediate benefits such as being able to select a clean energy source, trade with neighbors, receive more money for excess power, benefit from transparency of all your trades on a blockchain and very low-cost settlement costs all leading to lower power bills and improved returns for investments in distributed renewables. (3)

One blockchain based energy token that has caught my attention is called POWR and is currently in pre-ICO sales of the tokens by the Australian platform Power Ledger. One of the uses of the platform that is being suggested is peer to peer trading.

 “We are absolutely thrilled with the results of the public presale,” says Dr Jemma Green, co-founder and chair of Power Ledger. “Selling out in just over 3 days is a very strong performance in line with global ICO standards, which speaks to the strong levels of interest from consumer and institutional buyers.”

The proceeds from the total pre sale were AU$17 million and the main sale on Friday offers approximately 150 million POWR tokens (subject to final confirmation before the sale opens) in an uncapped sale, meaning that the level of market demand will have set the final token price at the end of the sale. (4)

 

References

  1. The Changing Power Landscape
  2. Siemens – Microgrid Solutions
  3. Power Ledger Applications
  4. PRESS RELEASE Having Closed $17M In Their Presale ICO, Power Ledger Confirm Their Public Sale Will Commence on 8th September 2017
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An Engineering Blockchain Cryptocurrency

The revolutionary aspect of the blockchain is starting serious discussions in the Professional Engineering community. Indications are that there are some fundamental problems in Engineering may be solved by the issuance of a token, in this case called Quant (1) and is currently in the “sand-box” phase of development.

The plan, in part, involves mining Quant to create a public key, or data-base called Engipedia.  There is also a “proof-of-stake” (2) aspect, which forms an engineer’s private key summarizing by algorithm the engineer’s personal data such as education, qualifications, projects, and other contributions or related works.

The Quant token, which is proposed to have inherent smart contract capabilities will be mined by engineers in a variety of ways, most of which are intended to establish an expanding  knowledge base, one such enterprise is called Engipedia. This is a knowledge base which has a formidable upside for democratic technological advancement and dissemination of workable knowledge worldwide.

As a virtual currency, the Quant token may provide a necessary bridge to financing that was previously inaccessible to engineers. Often pools of capital are controlled by vested interests or politically minded parties. Economic opportunities, which previously were unavailable due to lack of funding, may now have a financial vehicle for entrepreneurial Engineers.

The Design is the Contract

Engineering is different than finance and insurance. Finance and Insurance merely need to represent a physical object in a party / counter-party transaction script.  There is no design involved. Engineering represents a physical object – the engineering design and specification IS the smart contract. Then, what happens in construction, operations, maintenance, renovation, and replacement is far too complex to be scripted in a single smart contract. Engineering outcomes involve enormous mass, forces, and real-life consequences. (3)

References:

  1. The Market for QUANT
  2. QUANT Proof of Stake
  3. A Warning to Engineering Firms Concerning Blockchain Technology

Sustainable Smart Cities and Disaster Mitigation – Preparing for the 1000 Year Storm

Hurricanes Cause Massive Damage

In light of recent events, such as the current hurricane season of 2017 which has already struck large sections of Texas with Hurricane Harvey causing massive damage which has been estimated at $180 billion by Texas Governor Greg Abbott (1) there are questions about how we can prepare cities better for disaster. One method considered is in our building codes, which are constantly being upgraded and improved, by constructing buildings to be more resilient and handle harsher conditions.

There is a limit to what a building code can do and enforce. Areas and regions that have seen widespread destruction, will have to be rebuilt.  However, to what standards? The existing building codes will have to be examined for their efficacy in storm-proofing buildings to withstand the effects of high winds and water penetration, some of which has already been performed.

Codes do not prevent external disasters such as from storms, tornadoes, tidal waves (tsunami), earthquakes, forest fire, lightning, landslides, nuclear melt-down and other extreme natural and man-made events. What building codes do is establish minimum standards of construction for various types of buildings and structures. Damage to buildings, vehicles, roads, power systems and other components of a city’s infrastructure are vulnerable to flooding which cannot be addressed in a building code. Other standards are needed to address this problem.

Storm-Proofing Cities

Other issues arise regarding flooding, and how water can be better managed in the future to mitigate water collection and drainage. These may require higher levels of involvement across a community and perhaps beyond municipal constraints, requiring state-wide developments. Breakwaters, sea walls, levees, spill ways and other forms of structures may be added to emergency pumping stations and micro-grid generator/storage facilities as examples of infrastructure improvements that could be utilized.

Bigger decisions may have to be considered as to the level of reconstruction of buildings in vulnerable areas. Sea warming as noted occurring has some scientists pondering if there is a connection between global warming and increased storm volatility as indicated by water temperature rises and tidal records (2). If bigger and more frequent storms are to come, then it must be considered in future building and infrastructure planning.

Regional Infrastructure and Resiliency

Exposed regions as well as larger, regional concerns in areas of maintaining power, roadways, and diverting and draining water are major in the resiliency of a community. When a social network breaks down, there is much lost, and recovery of a region can be adversely affected by loss of property and work.

Many of the lower classes will not have insurance and lose everything. Sick and elderly can be especially exposed, not having means to prepare or escape an oncoming disaster, and many will likely perish unless they can get access to aide or a shelter quickly.

Constructing better sea walls and storm surge barriers may be an effective means to diverting water in the event of a hurricane on densely populated coastal areas. Although considered costly to construct, they are a fraction of the cost of damage that may be caused by a high, forceful storm surge which can obliterate large unprotected populated areas. The Netherlands and England have made major advancements in coastal preparedness for storms.

Storm Surge Barriers

Overall Effectiveness for Reducing Flood Damage

There are only a few storm surge barriers in the United States, although major systems installed abroad demonstrate their efficacy. The Eastern Scheldt barrier in the Netherlands (completed in 1986) and the Thames barrier in the United Kingdom (completed in 1982) have prevented major flooding. Lavery and Donovan (2005) note that the Thames barrier, part of a flood risk reduction system of barriers, floodgates, floodwalls, and embankments, has reliably protected the City of London from North Sea storm surge since its completion.

Four storm surge barriers were constructed by the USACE in New England in the 1960s (Fox Point, Stamford, New Bedford, and Pawcatuck) and a fifth in 1986 in New London, Connecticut. The barriers were designed after a series of severe hurricanes struck New England in 1938, 1944, and 1954 (see Appendix B), which highlighted the vulnerability of the area. The 1938 hurricane damaged or destroyed 200,000 buildings and caused 600 fatalities (Morang, 2007; Pielke et al., 2008).

The 2,880-ft (878-m) Fox Point Barrier (Figure 1-8) stretches across

the Providence River, protecting downtown Providence, Rhode Island. The barrier successfully prevented a 2-ft (0.6-m) surge elevation (in excess of tide elevation) from Hurricane Gloria in 1985 and a 4-ft (1.2-m) surge from Hurricane Bob in 1991 (Morang, 2007) and was also used during Hurricane Sandy. The New Bedford, Massachusetts, Hurricane Barrier consists of a 4,500-ft-long (1372-m) earthen levee with a stone cap to an elevation of 20 ft (6 m), with a 150-ft-wide (46-m) gate for navigation. The barrier was reportedly effective during Hurricane Bob (1991), an unnamed coastal storm in 1997 (Morang, 2007), and Hurricane Sandy. During Hurricane Sandy, the peak total height of water (tide plus storm surge) was 6.8 feet (2.1 m), similar to the levels reached in 1991 and 1997. The Stamford, Connecticut, Hurricane Barrier has experienced six storms producing a surge of 9.0 ft (2.7 m) or higher between its completion (1969) and Hurricane Sandy. During Hurricane Sandy, the barrier experienced a storm surge of 11.1 ft (3.4 m), exceeding that of the 1938 hurricane (USACE, 2012). (3)

The biggest challenge is to build storm surge barriers large enough for future Hurricanes. There is a question that given the magnitude of current and future storms that these constructed barriers may be breached.  Engineers design structures to meet certain standards, and with weather these were the unlikely 1 in 100 year storm events. However, this standard is not good enough as Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana exemplified, as being rated a 1 in 250 year storm event. With climate changes these events may become more frequent.

Much of the damage from Katrina came not from high winds or rain but from storm surge that caused breaches in levees and floodwalls, pouring water into 80 percent of New Orleans. To the south, Katrina flooded all of St. Bernard Parish and the east bank of Plaquemines Parish. Plaquemines Parish flooded again in 2012 with Hurricane Isaac.

Soon after Katrina, Congress directed the Corps of Engineers to build a system that could protect against a storm that has a 1 percent chance of happening each year, a “1-in-100-year” storm.

The standard is less a measure of safety and more a benchmark that allows the city to be covered by the National Flood Insurance Program. Louisiana’s master coastal plan calls for a much stronger 500-year system. The corps says Katrina was a 250-year storm for the New Orleans area.

Since 2005, the Army Corps has revamped the storm protection system’s 350 miles of levees and floodwalls, 73 pumping stations, three canal-closure structures, and four gated outlets. The corps built a much-heralded 26-foot-high, 1.8-mile surge barrier in Lake Borgne, about 12 miles east of the center of the city.

During Katrina, a 15- to 16-foot-high storm surge in Lake Borgne forced its way into the Intracoastal Waterway, putting pressure on the Industrial Canal levees that breached and caused catastrophic flooding in the city’s Lower 9th Ward.

“In New Orleans, we know that no matter how high we build this or how wide we build it, eventually there will be a storm that’s able to overtop it,” New Orleans District Army Corps spokesman Ricky Boyett says, admiring the immense surge barrier from a boat on Lake Borgne. “What we want is this to be a strong structure that will be able to withstand that with limited to no damage from the overtopping.” (4)

500 Year Floods

Hurricane Harvey brought an immense amount of extreme rain, which brought a record 64″ in one storm to the Houston metropolitan region. This is a staggering amount of water, over 5 feet in height, this amount of water could only overwhelm low-lying areas, and depressions in topography. Flash floods can happen during extreme storms, where a drainage system is designed for a 1:100 year flood event, and not for a 1:500 or 1:1000 year flood event. Road ways can easily become rivers as drainage systems back up and surface water has no place to collect.

500-year-floods

Figure 1. 500 year flood events in the USA since 2015 (5)

New standards in development may need to accommodate more stringent standards. Existing municipal drainage systems are not designed to handle extreme rain and other means of drainage systems may have to be developed to divert water away from centers of population. Communities will be built to new standards, where storm water management is given a higher priority to avert flooding.

BN-UX285_HARVEY_M_20170831100012

Figure 2. Floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey (6)

Given the future uncertainty of our climate and weather, we cannot continue to ignore the devastating effects that disasters have on cities and regions. We must ask some difficult questions regarding the intelligence of continuing to build and live in increasingly higher risk regions.

On a personal level every citizen must take some responsibility in their choices of where to live. As for governments they need to decide how best to allocate limited resources in rebuilding and upgrading storm protection systems. It is anticipated that some areas will be abandoned as risks become too high for effective protection from future storm events.

The Oil and Gas Industry

It seems there is an irony involved with the possibility that storms severity is linked to global warming, and that access to vulnerable regions often are in part economically driven by the oil and gas industry.  Hurricane Harvey is the most recent storm which is affecting fuel prices across the USA. Refinery capacity has shrunk due to plant shut-downs.  Shortages in local fuel supplies are occurring, as remaining gasoline stations run dry.

Goldman Sachs estimates that the hurricane has taken 3 million barrels a day — or about 17% — of refining capacity offline, and that’s likely to increase the overall level of crude-oil inventories over the next couple of months. (7)

Oil and gas are particularly vulnerable to exposure to the weather, and it is in their own best interests to provide local protection to the area so that they can continue extracting the resource. However, ancillary industries such as refining may better be served by relocation away from danger areas. Also, supply lines become choked by disaster, and can potentially have consequences beyond the region which was exposed to the disaster.

The Electric Vehicle in the Smart City

Such events can only put upward pressure on the price of fuel, while providing further incentive to move away from the internal combustion engine as means of motive power. Electric vehicles would provide a much better ability to recover quickly from storm events as they are not restricted by access to fuel. Micro-grids in cities provide sectors of available power for which electric emergency response vehicles can move.

By moving reliance away from carbon based fuels to renewable electric sources and energy storage, future development in cities may see the benefits inherent in the electric vehicle. Burning fuels create heat, water and carbon dioxide in the combustion process. They consume our breathable oxygen and pollute the atmosphere. Pipelines, tankers and rail cars can break and spill causing pollution. Exploration causes damage to the environment.

A city that is energy efficient and reliant on renewable sources of energy that benignly interact with the environment can approach self-sustainability and a high degree of resilience against disaster. This combined with designing to much higher standards which keep in mind the current volatility our climate is experiencing, and uses the lessons learned in other areas as indicators of best practices into the future.

 

References

  1. Hurricane Harvey Damages Could Cost up to $180 Billion
  2. Global warming is ‘causing more hurricanes’
  3. “3 Performance of Coastal Risk Reduction Strategies.” National Research Council. 2014. Reducing Coastal Risk on the East and Gulf Coasts. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18811.
  4. Rising Sea Levels May Limit New Orleans Adaptation Efforts
  5. Houston is experiencing its third ‘500-year’ flood in 3 years. How is that possible?
  6. Hurricane Harvey Slams Texas With Devastating Force
  7. GOLDMAN: Harvey’s damage to America’s oil industry could last several months

There Are 9.93 Million More Government Workers Than Manufacturing Workers

STRAIGHT LINE LOGIC

An interesting chart from Anthony B. Sanders at davidstockmanscontracorner.com:

The August jobs report was filled with some interest factoids, like there are now 9.93 million government workers than there are manufacturing workers.

That is a ratio of 1.81 government workers for every manufacturing worker.

Such was not always the case. But a variety of factors such as labor cost differentials, EPA regulations and taxes had led to manufacturing jobs to be sent overseas.

Now a 1.81 government to manufacturing employment ratio is called OVERHEAD. And you wonder why high paying manufacturing jobs are fleeing to other countries?

http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/there-are-9-93-million-more-government-workers-than-manufacturing-workers/

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Energy Efficiency Financing for Existing Buildings in California

Much of our efforts to reduce carbon emissions involves fairly complicated and advanced technologies. Whether it’s solar panels, batteries, flywheels, or fuel cells, these technologies have typically required public support to bring them to scale at a reasonable price, along with significant regulatory or legal reforms to accommodate these new ways of doing old things, […]

To recommend policies to boost this capital market financing for energy retrofits, UC Berkeley and UCLA Law are today releasing a new report “Powering the Savings:How California Can Tap the Energy Efficiency Potential in Existing Commercial Buildings.” The report is the 17th in the two law schools’ Climate Change and Business Research Initiative, generously supported by Bank of America since 2009.

The report describes ways that California could unlock more private investment in energy efficiency retrofits, particularly in commercial buildings.  This financing will flow if there’s a predictable, long-term, measured and verified amount of savings that can be directly traced to energy efficiency measures.  New software and methodologies can now more accurately perform this task.  They establish a building’s energy performance baseline, calibrating for a variety of factors, such as weather, building use, and occupancy changes.  That calibrated or “dynamic” baseline can then form the basis for calculating the energy savings that occur due specifically to efficiency improvements.

But the state currently lacks a uniform, state-sanctioned methodology and technology standard, so utilities are reluctant to base efficiency incentives or programs without regulatory approval to use these new methods.  The report therefore recommends that energy regulators encourage utilities to develop aggressive projects based on these emerging metering technologies that can ultimately inform a standard measurement process and catalyze “pay-for-performance” energy efficiency financing, with utilities able to procure energy efficiency savings just like they were a traditional generation resource. […]

via Solving The Energy Efficiency Puzzle — Legal Planet

DOE’s 3 Year $220M Grid Modernization Plan

With 88 projects from coast to coast, it might be the biggest grid edge R&D effort ever. Here’s how the money is going to be spent.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.greentechmedia.com

“[…] The Grid Modernization Multi-Year Program Plan will bring a consortium of 14 national laboratories together with more than 100 companies, utilities, research organizations, state regulators and regional grid operators. The scope of this work includes integrating renewable energy, energy storage and smart building technologies at the edges of the grid network, at a much greater scale than is done today.

That will require a complicated mix of customer-owned and utility-controlled technology, all of which must be secured against cyberattacks and extreme weather events. And at some point, all of this new technology will need to become part of how utilities, grid operators, regulators, ratepayers and new energy services providers manage the economics of the grid.

DOE has already started releasing funds to 10 “pioneer regional partnerships,” or “early-stage, public-private collaborative projects […]  The projects range from remote microgrids in Alaska and grid resiliency in New Orleans, to renewable energy integration in Vermont and Hawaii, and scaling up to statewide energy regulatory overhauls in California and New York. Others are providing software simulation capabilities to utilities and grid operators around the country, or looking at ways to tie the country’s massive eastern and western grids into a more secure and efficient whole.

Another six “core” projects are working on more central issues, like creating the “fundamental knowledge, metrics and tools we’re going to need to establish the foundation of this effort,” he said (David Danielson).  Those include technology architecture and interoperability, device testing and validation, setting values for different grid services that integrated distributed energy resources (DERs) can provide, and coming up with the right sensor and control strategy to balance costs and complexity.

Finally, the DOE has identified six “cross-cutting” technology areas that it wants to support, Patricia Hoffman, assistant secretary of DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, noted in last week’s conference call. Those include device and integrated system testing, sensing and measurement, system operations and controls, design and planning tools, security and resilience, and institutional support for the utilities, state regulators and regional grid operators that will be the entities that end up deploying this technology at scale.

Much of the work is being driven by the power grid modernization needs laid out in DOE’s Quadrennial Energy Review, which called for $3.5 billion in new spending to modernize and strengthen the country’s power grid, while the Quadrennial Technology Review brought cybersecurity and interoperability concerns to bear.[…]

DOE will hold six regional workshops over the coming months to provide more details, Danielson said. We’ve already seen one come out this week — the $18 million in SunShot grants for six projects testing out ways to bring storage-backed solar power to the grid at a cost of less than 14 cents per kilowatt-hour.

“We can’t look at one attribute of the grid at a time,” he said. “We’re not just looking for a secure grid — we’re looking for an affordable grid, a sustainable grid, a resilient grid.” And one that can foster renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction at the state-by-state and national levels. […]

See on Scoop.itGreen Energy Technologies & Development

Alberta Energy Production And A Renewable Future

Author:  Duane M. Tilden, P.Eng  (January 14th, 2016)

Abstract:  Energy sources and pricing are hot topics world-wide with the Climate Change agenda leading the way.  Last year at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference long-term goal of emissions neutrality was established to be by as soon as 2050.  Alberta currently produces more atmospheric carbon emissions and other pollutants than any other Province in Canada, and in order to meet clean air objectives the energy sectors which consume & mine the natural resources of the Province will have to shift to non-polluting & renewable energy sources and be more efficient in energy utilization.  To achieve these goals new infrastructure will have to be built which will have the likely consequences of raising energy pricing as well as alter consumption rates and patterns.

Transportation

Transportation is a vital link in modern society, and often a personal vehicle is chosen as the main mode of mobility to work, leisure, & social purposes.  Cars and trucks also provide means of work and commerce & are essential to our way of life.  Most of these vehicles are fueled by gasoline, some by diesel, propane, and more recently the electric vehicle (EV) and hybrids.

 

GraphData Gas Price Comparison Canada

Graph #1:  Average Cost Comparison of Gasoline in Major Canadian Cities

In Alberta, using Calgary as a basis for comparison, it is apparent that pricing to consumers for gasoline is below nation-wide market averages when measured Province by Province, as demonstrated in Graph #1 (1). While if you live in Vancouver the cost is considerably higher, due to included carbon taxes and a transit levy among additional charges.  Additional means of moving growing populations efficiently have been seen by the development of LRT mass transit for the rapid movement of citizens to work, school, or social events.

Rapidly moving the large segments of the population in a cost effective manner is important to growth.  Buses are an important link in this mix as are cycling routes, green-ways and parks.  Changes in fuels for trucks, buses and trains by converting from diesel fuel to LNG will also provide for reductions in emissions while providing economic opportunity for utilization of the existing plentiful resource.  While EV’s show promise, the battery technologies for energy storage need further development.

Alberta Electricity Production

Alberta still relies on out-dated coal plants to generate electricity.  According to a CBC article coal provides power to 55% of homes in Alberta, and is the second largest contributor to emissions (2) and GHG’s to the Oil Sands projects.  However, it has been noted that the utility is reluctant to decommission recently constructed coal plants, until they have earned back (or are compensated for) their investment in capital costs.

local-input-wabamun-alberta-march-21-2014-a-giant-drag1

Photo #1:  Highvale coal mine to feed the nearby Sundance power plant (3)  

Photo credit:  John Lucas / Edmonton Journal

There are power purchase agreements in place, which may extend 50 to 60 years from the construction date of the plant (2).  It may be possible that the coal fired power plants could be converted to burn natural gas, which Alberta has in abundance, rather than be decommissioned.  However, this would still require the closure of the coal mines and mining operations currently supplying the existing power plants.  Also, combustion of natural gas will still release GHG’s into the atmosphere, while less than coal, they are not a total elimination of emissions.

Residential Energy Consumption

When comparing monthly residential electrical energy costs across Canada, using data obtained from a survey performed by Manitoba Hydro, we see that Edmonton and Calgary are in the lower middle range of pricing (4).  Variances in all regions will occur based on average home size, building codes and insulation requirements, heating system types and other factors.  Some homes may be heated with electric baseboard which will result in a higher electric bill while other homes may be heated using natural gas as a fuel.  Also household hot water generation can be by electric or gas-fired heater, so consumption of natural gas must be considered with electrical power usage to get a complete picture of energy consumption.

residential_1000kWhresidential_2000kWh

Charts #1 & 2:  Average Monthly Cost For Residential Electricity in Major Canadian Cities For Equivalent Usage in kWh (4)

Inspecting these charts it is proposed that a price increase of 10 to 20% to Alberta electrical energy consumers by a separate tax or fee to pay for a shift in technology would be reasonable when compared to other Canadian Cities.   Additional tariffs on natural gas consumption would also be recommended.  Such an increase would likely have a secondary benefit of creating an incentive for energy efficiency upgrades by home owners such as increased insulation, better windows and heating system upgrades. Such improvements would in turn lead to reduced demand at the source and thus to lower GHG & particulate emissions to the atmosphere.

Climate and the Proposed Energy Code

Energy consumption in populations is normalized in a number of ways, generally defined by habits and patterns.  We observe that in traffic as volumes increase early in the morning as commuters travel to work, and in the opposite direction as they head home in the evening.  Often people will attempt to “beat the traffic”.  This is an admirable goal in energy usage as well, for consumption of electricity will follow other such predictable patterns as people eat meals, shower, and perform other rituals that interface with electrical,  heating,  ventilating, elevators, water supply and disposal systems that form infrastructure and services provided by municipalities and utilities.

As these systems need to be energized and maintained, it is desirable to be able to predict and control the consumption and distribution of resources.  The greater of these is the electrical generation and distribution system.   Also, emerging technological advancements in energy efficiency such as CFL, LCD displays, computers, refrigeration, energy storage and more.  Advancements in co-generation, district energy systems, and other end use distribution of energy which provide economies of scale are also possible as strategies to obtain goals.Heating Degree Days - Lower Western Canada

Map #1:  Partial Map of Heating Degree Days for South-Western Canada (5)

Opportunities will exist for building mechanical system enhancements and upgrades as they may provide energy savings and cost reductions to users often calculated with a minimum nominal payback period of 5 to 7 years (and should be determined in every case).   The HDD map can provide a source of information which is used in energy models to determine predicted building energy costs when calculating payback periods to justify system upgrades or design decisions.  Obtaining and monitoring building energy consumption rates and year over year changes are important resources in determining where systems are running at below optimal rates and require replacement.

In new building construction the National Energy Code for Buildings 2011 (NECB) (6) has been adopted by Alberta (7) for all municipalities.  As there are higher HDD values attributed to Calgary and Edmonton as seen in the HDD Map of Western Canada, a requirement for stringent construction methods and materials to higher standards ensure new buildings meet carbon emissions reduction goals.

026

Photo #2:  Construction of Towers in Calgary with High Window to Wall Ratios 

Photo Credit: Duane Tilden P.Eng

Increased requirements in glass U-values and shading coefficients, maximum window to wall ratios (WWR) to reduce undesirable solar heat gain and heat losses, energy consumption and improve occupant comfort.  Buildings with excessive glazing are difficult to heat and cool, requiring sophisticated mechanical systems to offset poor performance by the building envelope.

Code mandated higher insulation values & better materials; moisture and heat control of the envelope through better design.  Higher efficiency requirements for mechanical systems; (fans & ducts, pumps & pipes, and wires & motors), lighting, controls, and other components of the building and it’s envelope.  Energy modeling should be performed of larger significant buildings to optimize operations in the design phase.  Commissioning of the building is integral to ensuring compliance throughout the project to it’s final phases at substantial completion and occupancy.

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy technologies including solar power and wind generation  have been gaining rapid adoption elsewhere in the world, while in Alberta (8) carbon based fuels currently provide over 80% of electrical power generation.   This has not been for a lack of wind and solar resources in Alberta but to be attributed to the large capital investments in fossil fuel resource extraction.  Other renewable technologies such as bio-mass, hydro, and geothermal may also be employed and should be investigated as alternatives to existing thermo-electric power plants.

Alberta Energy Sources - 2015

Table #1:  Installed Electrical Generating Capacity by Fuel Source in Alberta (8)

Currently, Alberta has the third highest installed wind power capacity in Canada behind Ontario and Quebec.  Wind energy not only represents a means to green the power production, it also will contribute jobs and income to the economy.  As one source of electricity and revenues is removed another source will fill the void.

installed_capacity_e-4

Map #2:  Installed Wind Power Capacity by Province in Canada (9)

While significant inroads have been made in Alberta for wind power which is already established as a major power source for the future, there is unrealized potential for the installation of solar power production.  It has been noted that a photo-voltaic installation in Calgary is 52% more efficient than one installed in Berlin, Germany.  Meanwhile, Germany has 18,000 times more solar power generation capacity than installed in Alberta (10).

alberta-germanytiltweb

Map #4:  Solar Resource Comparison for Alberta & Germany (10)

Alberta has significant solar resources, even during the winter when daylight hours are shorter. Lower temperatures improve PV efficiency, and properly tilted south facing panels optimize light capture, while the flat terrain of the prairies provide unobstructed maximum daylight.  Light reflection by snow on the ground would further enhance light intensity during the colder months.  Thus solar represents a relatively untapped potential source of significant electrical power for Alberta and an unrealized economic opportunity for consumers and industry.

hotspots_13

hotspots_leg

Map #5:  Solar Resource Map for Canada With Hotspots (11)

Energy Efficiency, Smart Grid & Technological Advancements

Renewable energy produces electricity from natural resources without generating carbon and particulate emissions.  Another method of controlling emissions is to reduce the amount of energy consumed by being more efficient with the energy we already produce.   We can achieve this by using higher efficiency equipment, changing consumer patterns of use to non-peak periods, use of Smart Meter’s to monitor consumer usage and to alert homeowners when there is a problem with high consumption which could result in higher bills than normal if the problem remained unreported.

There are other advancements in the electrical grid system which are on the horizon which will enable a utility maximize resources by such means as energy storage, micro-grids, demand response to name a few.  Also, property owners and businesses could be able to grid-tie private solar panel (PV) and storage systems to supplement the utilities electrical system with additional power during the day.

Summary

In order to meet the goal of atmospheric emissions neutrality as agreed to at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference Alberta is posed with making decisions on how electricity is to be produced in the future.  Eliminating coal power plants and replacing them with Renewable Energy power sources such as solar and wind power are proven methods to reducing GHG and particulate emissions as these power sources do not involve combustion and discharge of waste gases formed during the combustion process.  Coal combustion is well documented as a major contributor of GHG’s to the atmosphere.

To make the transition will require capital for financing to build new infrastructure.  Funding of these projects should be raised proportionally charged to users with increased rates.  These rate increases will provide further incentives to reducing energy consumption and thus air emissions.  Jobs will shift and employment will be created in new forms as the old is phased out and replaced with new technology.  These new systems will have to be designed, built and maintained while the workforce will require training in new methods.  There will be many new opportunities for growth and advancement resulting from the implementation of these changes to meet Canada’s International commitments.

References:

  1. http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/fuel-prices/4593
  2. http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/coal-compensation-power-alberta-1.3321467
  3. http://edmontonjournal.com/business/local-business/albertas-commitment-to-phase-out-coal-fired-power-sparks-fears-of-job-losses
  4. https://www.hydro.mb.ca/regulatory_affairs/energy_rates/electricity/utility_rate_comp.shtml
  5. http://ftp2.cits.rncan.gc.ca/pub/geott/atlas/archives/english/5thedition/environment/climate/mcr4033.jpg
  6. http://www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/publications/codes_centre/necb_2011_adaptation_guidelines.html
  7. http://www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/CP_Energy_Codes_Information
  8. http://www.energy.alberta.ca/electricity/682.asp
  9. http://canwea.ca/wind-energy/installed-capacity/
  10. http://www.greenenergyfutures.ca/blog/sunny-days-ahead-solar-alberta
  11. http://pv.nrcan.gc.ca/index.php?lang=e&m=r

 

In Supreme Court, a Battle Over Fracking and Citizens’ Rights

Jessica Ernst’s long fight to challenge legislation putting energy regulator above the law reaches top court.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.thetyee.ca

“[…] After years of legal wrangling, Jessica Ernst and Alberta’s powerful energy regulator finally squared off in the Supreme Court of Canada yesterday.

For almost two hours, all nine justices questioned lawyers from both sides in a case that will determine if legislation can grant government agencies blanket immunity from lawsuits based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

At times the debate was so bogged down in legal jargon and little known cases that it felt as though the participants were holding a conversation in a foreign language. […]

Ernst alleges the Alberta Energy Regulator violated her rights by characterizing her as a “criminal threat” and barring all communication with her.

The claims are part of her multipronged lawsuit related to the regulation of fracking. She says fracking contaminated aquifers near her homestead near Rosebud, about 110 kilometres east of Calgary, and is seeking $33 million in damages. […]

The Supreme Court hearing dealt with Ernst’s allegation that the provincial energy regulator denied her the right to raise her concerns about groundwater contamination. She argues that the legislation shielding the regulator from citizen’s lawsuits should not bar charter claims.

Lawyers for Ernst, the BC Civil Liberties Association and the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights all argued that the Alberta Energy Regulator’s immunity clause undermined the spirit of Canada’s charter, which is designed to protect citizens from government abuses of power.

It is patently unfair to allow a government to violate a citizen’s basic freedoms and then deny them an appropriate remedy in the courts, especially when the charter itself grants that right, they argued. […]

Eight years ago, Ernst sued Alberta Environment, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (which has since become the Alberta Energy Regulator) and Encana, one of Canada’s largest unconventional gas drillers. She claimed her well water had been contaminated by fracking and government agencies had failed to investigate the problems.

But the regulator argued that it couldn’t be sued because it had an immunity clause that protected it from civil action.

After an Alberta Court of Appeal agreed, Ernst’s lawyers appealed the matter to the Supreme Court in 2014.

Initially three provincial governments and the federal government announced their intention to intervene in the case.

“But once they looked at the arguments, they withdrew,” said Murray Klippenstein, another of Ernst’s lawyers, after yesterday’s hearing.

“So there was no government here to support the argument of the [regulator],” added Klippenstein. “It kind of shows in a common sense sort of way how ridiculous the position is.”

The case made legal history, too. “This is the first time the Supreme Court has heard a case about human rights with an environmental context,” noted Lynda Collins, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Environmental Law and Global Studies.

She said the case concerns the right of a citizen to pinpoint environmental wrongs, such as groundwater contamination, without being penalized by a regulatory body.

Whenever a regulator allegedly takes punitive measures against a citizen addressing key environmental issues in the public interest, “you have a serious allegation,” added Collins. […]

The case is being closely watched by Canada’s oil and gas industry. In 2014, Borden Ladner Gervais, Canada’s largest national full-service law firm, included the Ernst case in a top 10 list of important judicial decisions affecting the energy industry.

“The Ernst case has brought into focus the potential for regulator or provincial liability arising out of oil and gas operations…. If Ernst proceeds to trial, it will likely provide more guidance on the scope of the duty of care and the standard of care required by the province and the oil and gas operator to discharge their duties in the context of hydraulic fracturing.”

The fracking industry has been the subject of scores of lawsuits across North America. Landowners have sued over property damage and personal injury related to industry-caused earthquakes, air pollution and the contamination of groundwater.

In one major Texas case, a jury awarded one family $3 million. The verdict found that Aruba Petroleum “intentionally created a private nuisance” though its drilling, fracking and production activities at 21 gas wells near the Parrs’ Wise County home over a three-year period between 2008 and 2011. […]”

See on Scoop.itGreen & Sustainable News

Electric Vehicles Future Threatens OPEC

The oil cartel is living in a time-warp, seemingly unaware that global energy politics have changed forever

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.telegraph.co.uk

“…OPEC says battery costs may fall by 30-50pc over the next quarter century but doubts that this will be enough to make much difference, due to “consumer resistance”.

This is a brave call given that Apple and Google have thrown their vast resources into the race for plug-in vehicles, and Tesla’s Model 3s will be on the market by 2017 for around $35,000.

Ford has just announced that it will invest $4.5bn in electric and hybrid cars, with 13 models for sale by 2020. Volkswagen is to unveil its “completely new concept car” next month, promising a new era of “affordable long-distance electromobility.”

The OPEC report is equally dismissive of Toyota’s decision to bet its future on hydrogen fuel cars, starting with the Mirai as a loss-leader. One should have thought that a decision by the world’s biggest car company to end all production of petrol and diesel cars by 2050 might be a wake-up call.

Goldman Sachs expects ‘grid-connected vehicles’ to capture 22pc of the global market within a decade, with sales of 25m a year, and by then – it says – the auto giants will think twice before investing any more money in the internal combustion engine. Once critical mass is reached, it is not hard to imagine a wholesale shift to electrification in the 2030s.  […]

A team of Cambridge chemists says it has cracked the technology of a lithium-air battery with 90pc efficiency, able to power a car from London to Edinburgh on a single charge. It promises to cut costs by four-fifths, and could be on the road within a decade.

There is now a global race to win the battery prize. The US Department of Energy is funding a project by the universities of Michigan, Stanford, and Chicago, in concert with the Argonne and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories. The Japan Science and Technology Agency has its own project in Osaka. South Korea and China are mobilising their research centres.

A regulatory squeeze is quickly changing the rules of global energy.The Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics counts 800 policies and laws aimed at curbing emissions worldwide.

Goldman Sachs says the model to watch is Norway, where electric vehicles already command 16.3pc of the market. The switch has been driven by tax exemptions, priority use of traffic lanes, and a forest of charging stations.

California is following suit. It has a mandatory 22pc target for ‘grid-connected’ vehicles within ten years. New cars in China will have to meet emission standards of 5 litres per 100km by 2020, even stricter than in Europe. […]

In the meantime, OPEC revenues have crashed from $1.2 trillion in 2012 to nearer $400bn at today’s Brent price of $36.75, with fiscal and regime pain to match.

This policy has eroded global spare capacity to a wafer-thin 1.5m b/d, leaving the world vulnerable to a future shock. It implies a far more volatile market in which prices gyrate wildly, eroding confidence in oil as a reliable source of energy.

The more that this Saudi policy succeeds, the quicker the world will adopt policies to break reliance on its only product. As internal critics in Riyadh keep grumbling, the strategy is suicide.

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are lucky. They have been warned in advance that OPEC faces slow-run off. The cartel has 25 years to prepare for a new order that will require far less oil.

If they have any planning sense, they will manage the market to ensure crude prices of $70 to $80. They will eke out their revenues long enough to control spending and train their people for a post-petrol economy, rather than clinging to 20th Century illusions.

Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, the former Saudi oil minister, warned in aninterview with the Telegraph fifteen years ago that this moment of reckoning was coming and he specifically cited fuel-cell technologies.

“Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil – and no buyers. Oil will be left in the ground. The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones.”

They did not listen to him then, and they are not listening now.”

See on Scoop.itGreen Energy Technologies & Development

E.P.A. Proposal to Regulate GHG Emissions and Fuel Economy for HD Trucks

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to propose rules requiring heavy trucks to increase their fuel economy by up to 40 percent by 2027.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.nytimes.com

>” […] This week, the E.P.A. is expected to propose regulations to cut greenhouse gas emissions from heavy-duty trucks, requiring that their fuel economy increase up to 40 percent by 2027, compared with levels in 2010, according to people briefed on the proposal. A tractor-trailer now averages five to six miles a gallon of diesel. The new regulations would seek to raise that average to as much as nine miles a gallon. A truck’s emissions can vary greatly, depending on how much it is carrying.

The hotly debated rules, which cover almost any truck larger than a standard pickup, are the latest in a stack of sweeping climate change policy measures on which President Obama hopes to build his environmental legacy. Already, his administration has proposed rules to cut emissions from power plants and has imposed significantly higher fuel efficiency standards on passenger vehicles.

The truck proposals could cut millions of tons of carbon dioxide pollution while saving millions of barrels of oil. Trucks now account for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles in the United States, even though they make up only 4 percent of traffic, the E.P.A. says.

But the rules will also impose significant burdens on America’s trucking industry — the beating heart of the nation’s economy, hauling food, raw goods and other freight across the country.

It is expected that the new rules will add $12,000 to $14,000 to the manufacturing cost of a new tractor-trailer, although E.P.A. studies estimate that cost will be recouped after 18 months by fuel savings.

Environmental advocates say that without regulation, the contribution of American trucks to global warming will soar.

“Trucking is set to be a bad actor if we don’t do something now,” Jason Mathers, head of the Green Freight program at the Environmental Defense Fund.

But some in the trucking industry are wary.

“I’ll put it this way: We told them what we can do, but they haven’t told us what they plan to do,” said Tony Greszler, vice president for government relations for Volvo Group North America, one of the largest manufacturers of big trucks. “We have concerns with how this will play out.”

The E.P.A., along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, began its initial phase of big truck fuel economy regulation in 2011, and those efforts have been widely seen within the industry as successful. But meeting the initial standards, like using more efficient tires, was not especially difficult by comparison. […]”

See on Scoop.itGreen & Sustainable News