The Boom With the Bomb Train Boom

CBC is a funny beast now. Along with their story parroting what the latest Canadian Energy Research Initiative report says, is RBC/tarsands shill Amanda Lang staring at you from the sidebar. Also we learn about “Dollarama’s winning formula” of selling Chinese mass produced garbage to Canadians, a “retail success story”, and again with “Amanda Lang takes you inside the world of business.”

Back to the oil train story. Outpacing oil trains apparently are wheat and coal. Coal shouldn’t even be burned anymore, now that we know how deadly and damaging it is. The report makes no mention of the unsafe DOT-111 cars used to ship petroleum. It doesn’t mention climate change, instead calling it “climate concerns”.

Coal currently is the most commonly moved commodity across Canada, accounting for nearly a quarter of rail traffic in some parts of the country, but that number is likely to fall as coal falls out of use because of climate concerns.

Anyway, oil-by-rain shipments are not “set to boom”, they already have boomed (and exploded too), and will continue to according to the CETI report.

Saskatchewan Needs a Real Change of Destination

Greg is making a good point in his latest column, but I had to throw in a Green campaign slogan into the title in good fun. The bottom line really is that the Sask Party is propping up the dying fossil fuels industry, while calls to divest from it are coming from around the world. There’s no stopping this change (for the better).

While the Saskatchewan Party remains bent on thinking small, any reasonable look at the world around us suggests it’s long past time for a big change in direction. And if if this year’s budget again fails on that front, then we should seriously reconsider who’s choosing our destination.

“study finds that the main barrier to achieving those goals is a matter of politics rather than technology or economic limitations.”

“We have the tools to transition to a clean energy economy; all that’s lacking is the leadership to put them to use.”
Greg is bang on, and I’m not saying so simply because I’ve been saying the same thing for years.

Given that there are about 410,000 households in Saskatchewan, we’d need about 3 Ivanpah style solar power plants to provide electricity to every home in the province. We can do it, and we should.

That’s me last year providing a real-world example of technology we could build in Saskatchewan to give every household renewable energy at a price we can afford. We can probably not afford to fail to build such a new system.


ADDED: Prebble and others show that Saskatchewan must turn to renewable energy to succeed in reforming our economy.

Leave It In The Ground

The world has much more coal, oil and gas in the ground than it can safely burn. That much is physics.

Watch this compelling, factual argument about how to solve the climate crisis. I first became aware of this straightforward idea after watching Do The Math by 350.org run by Bill McKibben. It is MAD lunacy to spend billions of taxpayer dollars exploring for more fossil fuels when the existing known reserves would destroy our climate should it all be burned!

if we and our children are to have a reasonable chance of living stable and secure lives 30 or so years from now, according to one recent study 80% of the known coal reserves will have to stay underground, along with half the gas and a third of the oil reserves.

If only science were enough.

We have to convince people of the dire urgency. They’ve many reasons for doubting it, ranging from conspiracy theories, distrust of scientific knowledge, to short term greed. Also a big factor is the concerted corporate misinformation and doubt campaign waged for decades against us. It’s hard enough to help a single person acting against their own self-interest, but imagine fixing entire societies programmed to consume past real limits?

Governments are giving nearly $100,000,000,000.00 a year to companies searching for more ways to destroy civilization. And far too few newspapers take the threat to our civilization seriously and devote appropriate time explaining what people and politicians (who happen to be people in most cases) need to do about the problem “one distinguished scientist has termed as “incompatible with any reasonable characterisation of an organised, equitable and civilised global community”.”

SaskPower Says Bigger Is Better, Even Losses? #PowerToGrow

As a followup to the Star Phoenix’s article on the hugely expensive, and (public) money losing CCS plant at Estevan, comes word of further cost overruns. The overruns, in the hundreds of millions of dollars, would have been sufficient to buy Regina its Stadium II, outright, fix its pension shortfall, or replace its Waste Water Treatment Plant.

SaskPower has apparently been misleading people by saying we need coal for “baseload” power, when Saskatchewan’s abundant wind source, coupled with Manitoba’s hydro, could safely provide a reliable power supply to homes, schools, etc.

And it appears that viable, cleaner, lower-cost solutions are readily available. According to a recent New York Times article, the cost of utility scale wind energy is now as low at 3.7 cents a kilowatt hour (without subsidies), well under the price for conventional coal, let alone CCS.

Emissions-free wind energy could have generated the same amount of electricity as the coalfired Boundary CCS power plant at a fraction of the cost.

SaskPower argues that wind can’t replace baseload coal because electrical generation from wind is intermittent. But numerous studies have found that installing substantial amounts of variable wind energy does not require additional backup capacity.

All types of power generation require backup, even coal. All utilities, including SaskPower, have substantial backup supply. New wind capacity would rely on the backup provided by existing “idle capacity,” which in the case of SaskPower is about 40 per cent.

Most authorities agree that incorporating at least 25 per cent variable power sources like wind or solar is feasible right now, and many jurisdictions are doing just that.

But SaskPower seems committed to a fading 20th-century paradigm of large-scale generation using fossil fuels. The 21st century paradigm being adopted by progressive utilities involves a shift toward conservation, efficiency and multiple sources of renewable energy, often provided by private industry, and in some cases by thousands of small co-operatives and community investors.

In the 21st century model, the utility becomes more the manager of power supply, demand and transmission. This emerging model – which in some ways resembles the Internet – is more nimble and resilient than a traditional utility.

CCS is an attempt to keep the old model alive.

Premier Wall owes Saskatchewan at least $1,500,000,000 in renewable energy investment after gifting billions of dollars to Cenovus for oil development through CCS. It’s time to stop letting money blow through our fingers, and stop burning coal like we’re from the 19th Century.

SaskPower, How’s That 14 Year Test Going?

Head Office at Night, 1965

Dear SaskPower,

I’m interested in seeing the statistics regarding the electricity generated by the test panels installed on the Saskatchewan Science Centre, in the attached picture, and as mentioned in the below quote from your website a couple years ago.

May 2013 solar panels

Solar research:
In 2000, we installed a photovoltaic array at the Saskatchewan Science Centre for research purposes. Results showed that the cost savings realized from the solar energy system cannot effectively offset the capital costs for installation. As a result, this technology is better suited to niche applications where connection to the grid is uneconomical or when passive solar enhancement is desired. For the purposes of scientific demonstration, this project continues to be in operation.

At present (2012), solar power is not suitable for large-scale generation in Saskatchewan because of its high cost and low capacity factors.

Given technology has advanced somewhat in the ensuing 14 years, what is SaskPower’s present outlook regarding large scale solar on the grid? The New York Times, and Forbes note that large-scale solar generation appears to be a cheaper means to generate power than coal, despite its inability to provide overnight baseload power (barring some designs of solar power towers).
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/11/24/business/energy-environment/solar-and-wind-energy-start-to-win-on-price-vs-conventional-fuels.html?referrer&_r=4

Notable author Chris Turner says that installed PV costs in Alberta have declined more than 90% since 2000, without government support. What is SaskPower doing to capitalize on this fact, since less than 1% of our electricity is presently solar based?

Regina panoramic

Also see SaskPower’s earlier predictions.



Good news in Saskatoon
, unless the Council stops it from happening.

Janson Anderson, director of customer programs for SaskPower, said that, despite lost revenue, the organization supports homeowners powering their houses with alternate energy sources and that about 260 SaskPower customers across the province currently use solar power as part of the company’s net metering program. Despite dropping prices of solar panels in recent years, Anderson said there remain “significant upfront costs” in installing solar systems and so anything cities can do to ease that burden will help more people utilize solar power.

One way to think of this stat is that it takes the equivalent solar power of 50 homes to power ~50 gas cars.

Equipping 50 homes with solar panels is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 260 tonnes a year. the equivalent of getting 51 cars off the roads.

Saskatchewan’s Biggest Net Loss

How did Postmedia manage to let this Hanley column sneak into its pages? Mandryk got his shots in at Cenovus and Wall already too. SaskWind has provided a breath of fresh air to Saskatchewan political analysis also.

I expect Canadians would want to know whether their tax dollars are being used to subsidize the oil industry.

But as SaskPower says, beyond the question of costs, CCS technology provides a major benefit: It allows us to continue to use cheap and plentiful fossil fuels to provide base load power while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon capture
[photo added]

Actually, that’s debatable [link added]. Remember, the net result of the project is increased recovery of oil, which emits greenhouse gases in production and combustion. One analysis, Life Cycle Inventory of CO2 in an Enhance Oil Recovery System published in Environmental Science and Technology, shows that the CCS-EOR cycle remains a substantial source of greenhouse gases.

The IPCC, the UN climate science panel, is quite clear about the need to leave the vast majority of proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground in order to mitigate extreme climate change. So why subsidize the fossil fuel industry?

This is much bigger than the smart meter fiasco.

The public deserves answers.

ADDED (waste):

SaskPower Carbon Capture and Storage Goes Online Late, Over Budget

I must print a “correction” to my piece in April when I reported that the SaskPower CCS plant was on time and online.
The plant went online late last month, two seasons after it was scheduled, to deal with an apparently surprise asbestos attack.

While the final costs are still being calculated, Mr. Watson acknowledged the project is over budget. Last fall, that overage was pegged at $115-million, or 9 per cent.

“The project aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by one million tonnes annually, which amounts to about 90 per cent of the emissions from the plant.”
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