Showing posts from 2017

Polish Auctions Will Only Occur Under Better Conditions

The combination of the European Commission and the Energy Regulatory Agency in Poland is delaying new RES auctions.

The need to have procedures approved by the EU has been a constant source of friction in Warsaw. This is unlikely to abate until an agreement is reached. Until then, the URE dispute with the Ministry of Energy looks like it will create a wall of confusion over future auctions.

The Polish Government has conceded that RES support is state aid and as such it must be approved by the DG Competition in Brussels. That is a given, but has been handled carelessly from the beginning with PO and now the new government.

When auctions proceed with EU approval, I expect the conditions to be better. In the interim, RES is frozen in Poland.

Hurricanes and Climate Change

I am committed to renewable energy due to its positive environmental effects, but mostly because of its long-term cost-effectiveness and empowerment of people by decentralizing energy production. However, that does not mean that I must buy into the climate change (aka "global warming") theory.  In this period of horrible hurricanes, it is important to keep an objective mind set. Critical data does not support the premise that CO2 levels are a major driver that changes global climate. My previous posts have cited the geophysical data that shows no correlation between CO2 levels and temperature change in the earth's history. Now there is even more evidence that CO2 is a minor driver of temperature that is more than offset by negative feedbacks that overcome its warming effect.

Hurricane Frequency

The data simply do not support any notion that hurricanes are growing in frequency with CO2 levels.
Nor is there any correlation between CO2 levels and the occurrence of  wet and …

Renewable Energy Declining in Poland

Inevitably when the government replaced a system that allowed continuous additions of renewable energy with a new system that only provided for periodic approval of projects on a scheduled delayed by the bureaucratic process, the level of new renewable energy being produced has declined. New auctions will give the winners until after 2020 to build the projects and there is no schedule for the next auction approaching mid-2017.

More changes are in the offing and - while they may likely improve the situation - they will also delay any new start-ups.

"High Voltage" reports  that the system is slowing down down every month. The likelihood of Poland hitting the 2020 mandatory goal for production of renewable energy is now remote.

There are glimmers of hope in the new system for biogas and larger PV projects, but investors have been shell-shocked by the government assault on wind energy and are generally sitting this round out.

Many mistakes have been made by the last two Polish Go…

Energy Storage is Described as a Dream in Poland, but is Rapidly Expanding in the United States

This is really a bit counter-intuitive, since electricity is much cheaper in the United States. But storing excess electricity for subsequent use to meet peak demand periods or down-time in the grid is moving ahead in the United States where there is lower marginal economy for storage than in Poland.

"...21 U.S. states now have 20 megawatts of energy storage projects proposed, in construction or deployed. In fact, 10 U.S. states have pipelines greater than 100 megawatts."  GTM Research, March 2017.

You have to also note that 20 MW of storage is comparable to a 40 MW peaker plant, since the 20 MW capacity occurs ion the tip and bottom of demand. Ironically, energy storage seems likely to increase the profitable of remaining fossil fuel plants which depend on high levels of utilization to be profitable at all. Keeping fossil fuel, especially coal capacity as in Poland, on hand just to meet the very top of peak demand is very inefficient.
In yet another area, we are seeing Polan…

Profitable Niches in Polish Renewable Energy

While the green certificate prices are wiping out anyone who depends on this support mechanism, and the next round of auctions for support under the new system are delayed by European Commission review, there still is emerging clear evidence of successful niche markets in Polish RES.

Biogas will receive 550 PLN/MWhr and will hopefully receive co-generation support under new legislation still to be passed. At this price, biogas from organic wastes from food, poultry and meat processing is profitable. Household food waste may promise to add to the substrates as the EU moves to require separate collections. However, biogas plants (mesophilic) using farm substrates (manure, silage and grain) are not profitable at the same level of support without capex grants. Virtually all of the farm-based plants in Poland started with grant support. Existing biogas plants on farms have moved to "blue certificates" based on a unique obligation of electricity providers to have a certain number …

End of an Era: Coal Investment Drying Up

Now a new report by environmental NGOs is out that shows a huge change in the global energy investment profile. Some key conclusions:
"After a decade of unprecedented expansion, the amount of coal power capacity under development worldwide saw a dramatic drop in 2016, mainly due to shifting policies and economic conditions in China and India, according to a survey by CoalSwarm’s Global Coal Plant Tracker. The drop occurred in all stages of coal plant development, including preconstruction planning, construction starts, and in-progress construction. Key developments include: ■ A 48% drop in pre-construction activity, a 62% drop in construction starts, and a 19% drop in ongoing construction. As of January 2017 the amount of coal power capacity in pre-construction planning was 570 gigawatts (GW), compared to 1,090 GW in January 2016. (A typical coal-fired generating unit is 500 MW, or 0.5 GW, in size, with most power stations having two or more such units.) ■ In China and India, 68 …

Energy Storage and Demand Management Offer a Solution to the Problem Polish Officials Keep Raising: They Just Don't Want to Face it

The constant complaint of all Polish politicians has been that renewable energy is intermittent. Besides the fundamentally fact-challenged premise that this is a problem with Poland's relatively low mix of renewables,*  the best solutions to this problem with a higher portion of renewable energy in the mix (as well as unreliable coal-fired plants like in Poland) is demand management (differential rates that push more users into non-peak periods) and energy storage.

Near the Polish border, a new German project will create a 16 MW energy storage facility to manage the even flow of electricity to the local grid. "W Chemnitz powstanie duży magazyn energii,", March 8, 2017. Nothing like this is even in planning stages in Poland. 

For misplaced political reasons, Polish politicians continue to think that coal is both reliable and cost-effective to produce electricity. They are alone in Europe in this viewpoint. It may not be realistic to switch off the coal plant…

Pushing Electric Cars Will Do Little to Fight Air Pollution in Poland

We have now seen a real PR blitz on "electro-mobility" in Poland. It seems on the surface that the Polish Government finally gets that it has to address air pollution problems. The data on the air in Poland is appalling, maybe they will take it seriously now?

Maybe not. The problem is automotive emissions is old cars. One old "smoker" will easy emit more junk into the air than several hundred new cars. Even in countries, like Canada, will much newer average cars on the road, most of the emissions come from less than 25% of the vehicles. In Poland, with much older autos in common use and with no vehicle emissions inspection program, the older cars will have a much, much greater impact on total emissions.

So enter the electric emissions. Solution? Not really. First, the people buying new electric cars will not be the people driving "smokers."  So it is easy to see how replacing even 20% of the current cars with electric cars would have a very no…

Polish Auction Not Exempt from Typical Problems

The first Polish auction had, of course, major technical problems. But it is worth looking at whether it avoided the classic failures of RES auctions elsewhere (as discussed in numerous posts on this blog). See also Mott, "The European Commission's Mismanagementof State Aid Rules for Renewable Energy" (2015).

First, the problem for small projects is that much of the costs of initial development is actually about the same as for projects fifty or a hundred times as large. The front-end costs must be absorbed by the developer before the auction and before he is assured of getting any support. This typically has killed small projects in auctions. Often there are no bids at all. Poland experienced this in some degree as the bids made for small projects were lower than the allocated volume of RES support offered.

Second, projects are under-bid. The developer puts in a price that is very low and then hopes that the financing will be there and that the costs by the time of cons…

First RES Auction in Poland: Problems and Opportunities

The first RES auction in Poland had problems and bidders could not complete their offers online. But the Ministry has decided to go ahead and award support from those bids that were received. Some issues arise since the bidding was arbitrarily cut-off due to technical problems and because the number of bids seems to be less than the support that was awarded. See European Commission, State Aid Guidelines for environmental Protection, 2014,Sec. 1.3(19)(43). Bidders had to consider state aid density in their bids and count any grants received to avoid a total amount of support that exceeded the EC guidelines. This is a complex calculation, but the results of the auction seem to reflect that it did not constrain bids by very much. Seven biogas plants bid and won with prices from 502-504 PLN/MWhr. The reference price is 550 PLN. PV plants bid and won many more awards in the up to 1 MW general category. Prices for those winning bids are not yet clear from the published information. My take…