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Fabien Roques Discusses Flexible Power Supply

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Technological advances are allowing Europe to transform its power systems. What’s important now is to keep supply and demand balanced. Fabien Roques, Senior Vice President of Compass Lexicon and POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe Advisory Board member discusses how flexibility is more important than ever. Read what he has to say below.

As Aesop’s fable of the oak and the reed begins, there is a storm coming. The tall and mighty oak proudly boasts that only he will be strong enough to survive the oncoming winds and that the humble reed in his shadow will surely perish for being too weak. The reed remains quiet, but come the morning the oak has broken in two while the reed remains standing.

The moral of this story? Flexibility is vital. And today’s energy industry should take note.

The sector is undergoing a profound transformation and to weather the turbulent changes of a switch to renewables, power generators will need to bend like the apocryphal reed. As the stubborn oak discovered to its cost – resistance is futile.

What’s driving this? In a word, renewables. After years of discussion we’re finally moving into a new power paradigm, with renewable generation and active consumers – the so-called pro-summers – at its core – and at quite some speed.

Of course no paradigm shift is without its challenges, and the energy transition is no exception. While renewable power and active consumer participation bring many benefits – such as access to clean and sustainable energy – it has its drawbacks too.

As we all know, renewable sources only provide power intermittently, so in order to accommodate them into an old system designed for centralised fossil fuel generation we need to provide greater balance.

But how?

As with any issue of supply and demand, the problem should be tackled at both ends. It’s not enough for governments to tinker around the edges of supply and expect it to have the desired effect without also working to bring demand back into line.

We need to treat the issue like a dance, with supply and demand moving in harmony – not a never-ending game of catch up.

On the supply side, flexible forms of fossil fuel generation will become increasingly valuable. Instead of big plants that take time to ramp up and down, let’s consider open cycle gas turbines (OCGT) or advanced combined cycle gas turbines (CCGTs). And smaller scale microgeneration, such reciprocal engines, heat pumps, or community generation support that fills in gaps at a local level.

But the real action lies on the demand side.

First, demand response measures can ensure we make the most of the electricity we’re producing. By putting the power quite literally in the hands of customers, we can flatten out spikes in demand through financial incentives. By allowing consumers to buy electricity at a cheaper rate off-peak everybody wins. It reduces the pressure on power to perform while also putting a little extra money back into customers’ pockets. We’ve got the tools to allow us to do this at the industrial users end – we now need to give it to the smaller household consumer of energy too, through tools like smart meters and smart regulation, tariffs and incentives.

And of course we have storage – which has the potential to provide control by allowing us to use all the energy we produce, rather than wasting the excess when demand is low only to be caught short when we really need it. If storage becomes a genuinely mass technology, the implications for the electricity industry will be huge. A marriage between storage and renewables could fundamentally change the economics of electricity – putting an end to the need to plug those gaps.

Yet while we’re still unsure which technologies and business models will win out, governments and regulators will be crucial to ensuring that at least some do.

And this is the crux of the issue. The power market can flex, but this ability isn’t innate as it is to the reed. The sector is more like a skyscraper. It’s a hugely impressive feat of human engineering, which serves a great number of customers but is strong and sturdy – and flexibility can only be enabled with a modern structural framework.

The state of said regulation and market design varies greatly across the continent, with different countries having put in place different market arrangements. In a study called Toward the Electricity Target Model 2.0, we mapped the key differences across Europe as well as the reforms required to establish a sound regulatory and market framework going forward.

The disparity of capacity mechanisms is highlighted as one of the key issues. Countries such as the UK, France, Poland, Italy, Ireland and Greece have implemented or are implementing a capacity market, while others such as Germany or Belgium have chosen rely on an energy only approach combined with a strategic reserve of plants to ensure security of supply.

Another area of disparity is the opening of the whole European market to demand response operators as well as storage operators. This is currently possible in some countries such as the UK and France but not yet possible in others such as Spain and Italy.

Better integration of renewables is also needed across the continent. This is underway in most countries for large scale installations, through mechanism reforms and the introduction of balance responsibility.

This structure across the continent is essential. Governments and regulators need to provide a robust framework that both levels the playing field between power producers, demand response and storage providers, and incentivises the market to deliver flexibility at the lowest possible cost for customers through a blend of supply and demand side approaches.

Of course this isn’t to say that customers shouldn’t pay for flexibility – they are, of course, its ultimate beneficiaries. But it is the responsibility of governments to look out for European citizens’ interests by helping us to keep the lights on as cost-effectively and sustainably as possible. And this requires smart regulation and a fresh look at market design.

But it doesn’t have to stop there. Europe is ready to develop an international framework too. Most of the regulatory and market design issues are still dealt with at the national level, and there would be large benefits in having a more coordinated approach.

Europe working together to ensure a flexible system that works for all? Now that’s a powerful prospect. One which learns lessons from the fates of the oak and reed, realising that to weather the winds of change the sector will need to accommodate renewable generation within a flexible approach.

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2017 Was the Most Expensive Year Ever for U.S. Natural Disaster Damage

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Natural Disaster Damage
Shutterstock / By Droidworker | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/droidworker

Devastating natural disasters dominated last year’s headlines and made many wonder how the affected areas could ever recover. According to data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the storms and other weather events that caused the destruction were extremely costly.

Specifically, the natural disasters recorded last year caused so much damage that the associated losses made 2017 the most expensive year on record in the 38-year history of keeping such data. The following are several reasons that 2017 made headlines for this notorious distinction.

Over a Dozen Events With Losses Totalling More Than $1 Billion Each

The NOAA reports that in total, the recorded losses equaled $306 billion, which is $90 billion more than the amount associated with 2005, the previous record holder. One of the primary reasons the dollar amount climbed so high last year is that 16 individual events cost more than $1 billion each.

Global Warming Contributed to Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey, one of two Category-4 hurricanes that made landfall in 2017, was a particularly expensive natural disaster. Nearly 800,000 people needed assistance after the storm. Hurricane Harvey alone cost $125 billion, with some estimates even higher than that. So far, the only hurricane more expensive than Harvey was Katrina.

Before Hurricane Harvey hit, scientists speculated climate change could make it worse. They discussed how rising ocean temperatures make hurricanes more intense, and warmer atmospheres have higher amounts of water vapor, causing larger rainfall totals.

Since then, a new study published in “Environmental Research Letters” confirmed climate change was indeed a factor that gave Hurricane Harvey more power. It found environmental conditions associated with global warming made the storm more severe and increase the likelihood of similar events.

That same study also compared today’s storms with ones from 1900. It found that compared to those earlier weather phenomena, Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall was 15 percent more intense and three times as likely to happen now versus in 1900.

Warming oceans are one of the contributing factors. Specifically, the ocean’s surface temperature associated with the region where Hurricane Harvey quickly transformed from a tropical storm into a Category 4 hurricane has become about 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer over the past few decades.

Michael Mann, a climatologist from Penn State University, believes that due to a relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, there was about 3-5 percent more moisture in the air, which caused more rain. To complicate matters even more, global warming made sea levels rise by more than 6 inches in the Houston area over the past few decades. Mann also believes global warming caused the stationery summer weather patterns that made Hurricane Harvey stop moving and saturate the area with rain. Mann clarifies although global warming didn’t cause Hurricane Harvey as a whole, it exacerbated several factors of the storm.

Also, statistics collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1901-2015 found the precipitation levels in the contiguous 48 states had gone up by 0.17 inches per decade. The EPA notes the increase is expected because rainfall totals tend to go up as the Earth’s surface temperatures rise and additional evaporation occurs.

The EPA’s measurements about surface temperature indicate for the same timespan mentioned above for precipitation, the temperatures have gotten 0.14 Fahrenheit hotter per decade. Also, although the global surface temperature went up by 0.15 Fahrenheit during the same period, the temperature rise has been faster in the United States compared to the rest of the world since the 1970s.

Severe Storms Cause a Loss of Productivity

Many people don’t immediately think of one important factor when discussing the aftermath of natural disasters: the adverse impact on productivity. Businesses and members of the workforce in Houston, Miami and other cities hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suffered losses that may total between $150-200 billion when both damage and sacrificed productivity are accounted for, according to estimates from Moody’s Analytics.

Some workers who decide to leave their homes before storms arrive delay returning after the immediate danger has passed. As a result of their absences, a labor-force shortage may occur. News sources posted stories highlighting that the Houston area might not have enough construction workers to handle necessary rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey.

It’s not hard to imagine the impact heavy storms could have on business operations. However, companies that offer goods to help people prepare for hurricanes and similar disasters often find the market wants what they provide. While watching the paths of current storms, people tend to recall storms that took place years ago and see them as reminders to get prepared for what could happen.

Longer and More Disastrous Wildfires Require More Resources to Fight

The wildfires that ripped through millions of acres in the western region of the United States this year also made substantial contributions to the 2017 disaster-related expenses. The U.S. Forest Service, which is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reported 2017 as its costliest year ever and saw total expenditures exceeding $2 billion.

The agency anticipates the costs will grow, especially when they take past data into account. In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service spent 16 percent of its annual budget for wildfire-fighting costs, but in 2015, the amount ballooned to 52 percent. The sheer number of wildfires last year didn’t help matters either. Between January 1 and November 24 last year, 54,858 fires broke out.

2017: Among the Three Hottest Years Recorded

People cause the majority of wildfires, but climate change acts as another notable contributor. In addition to affecting hurricane intensity, rising temperatures help fires spread and make them harder to extinguish.

Data collected by the National Interagency Fire Center and published by the EPA highlighted a correlation between the largest wildfires and the warmest years on record. The extent of damage caused by wildfires has gotten worse since the 1980s, but became particularly severe starting in 2000 during a period characterized by some of the warmest years the U.S. ever recorded.

Things haven’t changed for the better, either. In mid-December of 2017, the World Meteorological Organization released a statement announcing the year would likely end as one of the three warmest years ever recorded. A notable finding since the group looks at global land and ocean temperature, not just statistics associated with the United States.

Not all the most financially impactful weather events in 2017 were hurricanes and wildfires. Some of the other issues that cost over $1 billion included a hailstorm in Colorado, tornados in several regions of the U.S. and substantial flooding throughout Missouri and Arkansas.

Although numerous factors gave these natural disasters momentum, scientists know climate change was a defining force — a reality that should worry just about everyone.

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Environment

How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018

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eco-responsible
Shutterstock / By KENG MERRY Paper Art | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/kengmerrymikeymelody

Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.

Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:

1. Energy – produce it, save it

If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.

It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.

While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.

energy efficient

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By My Life Graphic

Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!

2. Don’t be just another tourist

Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.

3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly

eco-friendly

Shutterstock / By Khakimullin Aleksandr

We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t  mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.

To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.

It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.

4. Know thy recycling

People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.

People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.

5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool

Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.

All in all

The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.

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