What do I think, What can I do?

Posts tagged ‘efficiency’

Are renewables so expensive? Research about renewable electricity supply system costs

definanzas.com.wp-content.uploads.energias-renovablesThis very recent paper focuses in costs studies of a fully renewable electricity supply system based in part of EEUU states grid. It is very interesting and deserves a more profound reading but the main conclusion is that for 2030 (less than 20 years ahead) it is not only possible to supply 100% electricity in this part of the USA by renewables, it would even be profitable!.

The good news do not end there, another study says that new wind and solar are competitive in the long-term with new natural gas in Texas. And another study, based on Australian data shows wind is cheaper than fossil fuels in Australia, even without carbon tax.

OK, maybe some of those data have been analysed with a positive bias towards renewables (in the first one for example), and it is true that renewables always compete to already paid systems of energy production, so it is a difficult-to-win battle; (it is interesting the debate in England about the feed-in-tarif or similar to new nuclear, newborns have a hard time even with Uranium). Nevertheless, the good news are that renewables are reducing costs clearly, and have been for a long time, while fossil fuels are more fluctuating and nobody is really confident they will not increase in the near future, so the maths continue to be confusing but they are changing.

Of course, all this without considering the enormous costs of climate change effects, sooner or later they will be evident in the balance and then the doubts will simply disappear, the problem is that  by then it may be too late for some and will be more expensive for sure.


Climate Change Snapshots from my Canary Island Holydays (IV)

This summer I was lucky to enjoy some vacation days in the very nice Canary Islands, concretely in Tenerife and La Palma. It was just holidays but Climate Change appeared, subtly in certain occasions I want to share with you again in this post as did in the previous ones.

In this case I share a fact, slightly negative but an opportunity at the same time. We hired a car in Tenerife. Certainly the cost was very competitive and it was with Hertz company. But it contained a disagreeable surprise, the deposit was full of gas and it was directly charged to us. This condition was not clear when we booked the car and supposed a considerable increase in the price for a three-day use of car but in my opinion the worse thing is related to one story the seller explained me at the desk:

As one customer was so committed to “use” all the product bought, that before returning he finished making rounds in the parking lot of the hiring company until depleting the car fuel

This customer was quite extreme, even ridiculous to waste his holiday time this way but he was just following the feelling created in most of us after facing one of those experiences: to waste the fuel because it is paid, because I hava been forced to pay it.

I have nothing in particular against Hertz company, there were very nice otherwise and I was told that this kind of practise is widespread in Tenerife nowadays due to the low earnings of the hiring companies. I even had  a very good surprise in the past with Hertz when the offered me a Prius car (like mine) in sustitution of another smaller one a trip some time ago, showing some commitment with Hybrid cars. But those commitments are of no use if you incite customers to burn gas without sense and add some more Kgrs of CO2 to the atmosphere, this kind of small actions show clearly that our conscience of climate change is still quite theoretical in the best case and that there are many opportunities for improvement of energy efficiency, without doubt the most CO2 saving of any energy source and cases like this, the most profitable one too.

Electricity prices and renewables

Electricity prices are a very important issue for climate change, as the main criticism, the only serious one, towards renewable energy sources is that they are more expensive. This is a really important question much discussed in many occasions. My opinion is: yes they are more expensive at first sight but they are cheaper in the long term considering a global point of view, for example with the new richness index proposed by the UN: IWI (Inclusive Wealth Index).

Certainly, this is something I should learn and write, but in this post I prefer to focus in one example and one interview. The example is spanish situation, going from leadership in renewables to full stop in feed-in-tarif and renewable industry. It seems a bad example but I think that can help to think and learn. The last chapter of this story is the sharp increase expected in electricity prices and blaming the renewables completely about it. I am not going to it thorougtly either, I just want to mention this interview with the regulatory system responsible. He is not pro-renewables in any way and mentions them as one of the causes of the price and this incredible thing called tarif deficit (another interesting pair of words), however he explains too that prices are difficult to understand, that there are many different renewables and that too many fossil fuel power stations have also been built expecting a great economy growth and energy demand, and nowadays both are shrinking.

Blaming renewables is easy and a widespread sport but Germany has made an even greater effort and the situation is very different, so it is not so determinant the global economy health seems also important. Two final thoughts:

1.- If Spain is in a bad situation due to too much power capacity this seems an oportunity for electric mobility, it could help reduce electricity costs.

2.- Maybe more expensive electricity is not so bad, if it happened in all places. Certainly it would help efficiency and would be more realistic.

Story of one dizzy parcel

A pair of weeks ago I bought a parcel from Ljubliana (Slovenia) with tracking number and the possibility of checking the status of the parcel via web. It was a big parcel and everything arrived well and in a reasonable time. Nevertheless, my big surprise was to check the incredible route followed by it.

Following google maps the straight way is 1796 Km, quite long. I understand that shipping company cannot follow the direct way in every parcel, they have to use their intermediate transport centers. But the route of this one challenges any logistics considerations. It was this one: LJUBLJANA – LINZ – BRUSSELS – NUERNBERG- FRANKFURT – MANNHEIM – BRUSSELS – VITORIA – BRUSSELS – VITORIA – BARCELONA – VITORIA- and finally: Bilbao. More than 7100 Km, for times the minimum by road. The two routes are displayed in the figure below. Some aspects are really striking, as the three times it was in Brussels or in Vitoria, it had to get dizzy moving around this way.

Transportation is responsible of more or less a third of the CO2 emissions in most of the world and certainly there is room for improvement, as stated in this case. Because transport is not only ourself moving, it is also the movement of the things we buy and use. This web: sourcemap is a great resource to learn about it, I have to check it more.

Maybe a key point is that the fuel is not as expensive as we consider it or that the minute is considered more expensive or costly than the Km, at least for the moment. One way for improvement is to change this considerations and align cost to climate change effects. In my opinion this will become more widespread and accepted with the time, I hope it is not to late by then.

Parcel sightseeing EU

Two screenshots from Google Maps displaying the direct way recommended by maps and the actual way followed by the parcel.

Earth Hour and Strike balance

Thanks to the wonderful information from Spanish electrical distribution data it is possible to make an evaluation of Earth Hour. At 21:00 29000 MWh were used whereas it was 31500 last saturday and 31400 the previous one a 8% less. It is more than my expectations because I checked the lights around me and I did not notice any change with respect to a normal day. Even ourself started late as we did not notice the hour, after that we enjoyed 45 lovely minutes in candlelight. And I have to confess there was some light outside, so it was not so difficult.

To compare it with another figure, there was a general strike on Thursday, in this case the consumption dropped more or less from 33000 MWh to 27000 MWh in the morning hours, a 18%. The three last figures in the post show the day consumption evolution for those three days, Earth hour (saturday), strike (Thursday) and before strike (Wednesday).  Four basic conclusions:

  1. Classical ways of protest are still stronger than “new” ones, at least in this case and for the moment.
  2. Earth hour had an impact and enough followers to reduce the total consumption by 8% (it was even mentioned in the TV at 22:00, I got quite happy about that).
  3. We have margin and possibilities to reduce energy demand without returning to the caves. The best renewable is the efficiency and the best efficiency is to consume less.
  4. We, Consumers, are more powerful than we think, but we need coordination to show our strength

Earth hour day energy consumption and generation in Spain (source https://demanda.ree.es/demanda.html)

Strike day energy consumption and generation in Spain (source https://demanda.ree.es/demanda.html)

Day before strike energy consumption and generation in Spain (source https://demanda.ree.es/demanda.html)

Smoking and KWhs

Heating lamp in the outside of a bar in winter time

Some weeks ago I took this photo in a cold winter day close to Bilbao. This heaters have become popular since smoking is not allowed in bars and restaurants. It was an unexpected and unnoticed consequence of smoking ban in closed places. I had seen those heater before in central Europe but not close to my home, perhaps they are following the smoking rules throughout the world. Actually, the ban is helpful for those vendors, for gas resellers and maybe for short-term economy (the bars do not agree with this but this is another question), but nobody has complained about the new KWh needed for that, the loose of energy efficiency and the increment of some more CO2 tons. I know it is not a key issue, but had it be another the problem surely it would have been present in some newspapers and discussions, at least to criticize the government forbidding smoking. Surely, we are not too conscious of climate change, energy efficiency and shavings in every day actions nor politics, in the best case the commitment  is too theoretical

And the most funny contradiction is that I was quite happy personally for the smoking ban because being a non-smoker I prefer a smoke free places, but this is not a post about smoking, is more about KWs and CO2.

110 kph for saving energy, money or both?

Last week spanish government is facing severe criticism for proposing a maximum speed reduction from 120 to 110 kph in speedways. The mentioned reason is to save money due to petroleum price increase due to Libian uprising. I am not going to the political issue or discussion and different aspects of the proposal or how it has been explained or decided. This kind of measure is not new (speed limit), and the opposing opinions either.

Souce: Wikipedia. Author KaterBegemot. Speed limits in Europe

What really worries me and at the same time shows some opportunities are two questions:

  1. When energy and/or petroleum become very expensive, someone is forced to save, people, the government, companies,…  If we could reflect some cost of Climate change in nowadays main energy sources cost debates would be completely different.
  2. It is not easy to reduce our power to go fast, to consume what we want, to waste resources. It is unpopular because we do not link this to a greater future improvement. We mainly see our immediate loss. This is applicable to electricity costs, flights costs, and many other things.

But the question could be understood from a different point of view. Maybe we have lived last century from energy resources accumulated during millions of years and our credit is finishing because this expenditure is too much for our climate. So we could recognize it and start changing by ourselves with conscious sacrifice, or let the atmosphere act in our society, economy and so on and be forced to change late, worse prepared and fighting each other.

Because if we want to reduce speed and gas consumption a law nor any government is not really needed.

My journey to Germany

Last week I went to Düsseldorf and Cologne for a business trip. 3 days 4 flights, I know, several CO2 tons thrown to the atmosphere. This time I am not going to write about this, just some light and personal comments as I did in my recent trip to Rome .

As usually not totally white or black, first of all,  a news from Reuters about cuts in solar energy subsidies in Germany. It may seem discouraging as Germany is the biggest solar industry market (with less sun than many), but this news deserves a more detailed study beyond the scope of this post.

One striking photo is the next one, it was cold, not far from 0ºC, and this shop was totally open. Very attractive but very energy consuming and expensive in many senses. It would be very interesting to know our CO2 saving potential just changing this kind of evident things.


Completely open shop in Cologne centre's commertial area at ~0ºC

The second one is just opposite, I was really pleased to see how precise was street lights switchon time and how most of them were not too bright and directed to the floor to avoid inefficient loss in light pollution.

Street lamps

Street lamps switched on just when sunlight went out.

Finally one side effect of smoking ban and love for open spaces: the gas lamps in the terraces. It is growing in my home city in Bilbao too, but I saw it in central Europe before. In my personal opinion this is very similar to the open shop case, many CO2 tons thrown to the atmosphere that could easily be avoided.


Open terrace with gas burner at 0-5 ºC

Another burner at 0-5 ºC, this is more spectacular













Of course, I do not intend to criticize a country that is doing much more than most. This photos could be taken in any western country. But I usually do not take the camera when I walk in Bilbao.


Light Pollution and Climate Change

It can be considered a secondary problem and certainly it is not comparable to many possible consequences of climate change as: floods, draughts, sea raising, … But, in my opinion, it is at the same time a nice and interesting symbol.

It is quite striking to realize that most prominent astronomers from XVI to XVIII centuries worked from cities. Visiting Greenwich Royal Observatory just in the outskirts of London was a real pleasure and a surprise for me.  Whereas nowadays almost everyone living in a city knows how difficult is to see any star in the night sky. In my case, the very frequently cloudy sky is another important factor too. But even for cloudless cities light pollution is a nightmare for many astronomers, and some of them are taking action against it (there are many links , those three are just a small sample: IDA, wonderful maps, Cel Fosc).  Congratulations for all of them.

Italian peninsula light pollution development, Source: http://www.lightpollution.it/

But for the moment as clearly shown in the picture we have lost hte opportunity to see the universe’s beauty. And we, urban cityzens are more than half of human population. This loss can be critizised from many point of views:

  • A phylosophycal one:the loss of perspective of the universe.
  • A scientific one: we can’t see the stars, and many amateurs find it more difficult to make contributions for general knowledge.
  • A stetical one: we are loosing a wonderful spectacle.
  • An historical one: we are getting disconnected with the night sights contemplated by our grandparents.
  • And a climate change one: We are wasting much of the light emmited by our lamps. So, we are throwing millions of tons of CO2 just to disturb astronomers, and sky lovers in general. This is an evident inefficiency and quite an interesting potential gain, we could save CO2 tons and improve this subjetive concept named quality of life.