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Renew your energy: December 2012 Archives

Christmas games

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If you are bored over the up-coming seasonal break, here are some energy related entertainments.

Power Grid is one of the best of the new wave of in-a-box multiplayer board games- a medium that has made an odd resurgence despite the massive advance and visual power of electronic/web-linked arcade games. Developed initially in Germany, you play meeting the grid power needs of cites in selected regions across the world, choosing from the full range of supply technologies, and then upgrading them, while having to constantly supply them with fuel, unless you choose renewable energy inputs! You can buy it for around £25 from Amazon

Board games need at least two players. But for the individual, here are some web based entertainments and resources.

With the recent floods in the UK and storms in the USA, the issue of sea level rise has moved up the agenda. There are some useful applets that display the new land contour maps for each region in the world, given different assumptions about sea level rises due to climate change:

Pretty grim . But for light contrarian relief:

And a correction

A bit more lively, if you want to watch energy supply systems in action, take a look at:

Live UK grid frequency balancing:

The complete UK grid system- monitor it direct via this data down load:

Watch PV solar inputs over (day) time in Germany:

There are also some fascinating dynamics charts showing daily power supply patterns in Germany over the past year at:

And if you want to try your hand at building a UK 2050 energy scenario see:

This is a much simplified version of DECCs full '2050 Pathways' model, which you can also tinker with by choosing different supply and demand levels. It includes access to web tool and an Excel calculator. Be warned it is quite complex!

You can store and share your results on the system and see some previous efforts:

If you are really intrepid (or obsessed!), you might like to try to use it to explore the details of the UK's new Electricity Market Reforms, which emerged at the end of November, to see how they match up to your favoured scenario.

A key issue is how the Contracts for a Difference (CfD) system will work. For example, will it support all the new low carbon energy supply options (renewables, CCS and nuclear) equally? The proposed new state owned 'counterpary' company will be in charge, and has to operate within the new overall Levy Control Framework, which sets a ceiling for the cost (which will be passed on to consumers) rising to £7.6m for 2020/21. In terms of which projects prosper, what matters is the level at which the CfD 'strike prices' are set- it's not going to be an open market, at least not for some while.

In its Electricity Market Reform: Policy Overview , DECC says that 'The CfD will be largely standardised across technologies. This provides a stable basis for investment, simplifies the process for allocating CfDs, and makes it easier to compare costs of different technologies. The standardisation of CfDs will also support the move to technology-neutral auctions in the longer term'. Note the phrase 'longer term'.

DECC adds 'However, initially there will be a degree of variation in CfDs for some technologies. First, there will be different generic CfD designs for low-carbon generation that is intermittent and baseload, reflecting the different ways that these plant operate. In addition, there may be some variation for some projects or technology types to recognise the different risk profiles of some projects or technologies.'

So maybe nuclear might be offered a better deal. A £100/MWh strike price? Or more? And less for wind? But DECC adds 'Any variations agreed will have to represent value for money and be consistent with state aid rules.

Then again, it may be that there won't be any new nuclear or CCS projects ready in time for CfD contracts by 2020, in which case the programme may initially focus on renewables. Adjust your scenarios accordingly! Although you will also have to factor in that there will be a long delay, until 2016, before carbon targets are set. So unabated (non CCS) gas plants may boom. In addition, there's the new Capacity Market auction system which may open up in 2014, ready for 2018/19, for backup and storage capacity- you may need some of that , as well as demand side measures. Plenty to play with. But we won't know which technologies the various scheme will back (except that those with CfD support will not be eligible of the Capacity Market contracts), so for now you are on your own! See

I hope some of the above entertain you! After the break, I'll be back with more hard info, including a report on my efforts at a 2050 scenario, using DECCs software, for the Pugwash UK group.

You may also be interested to know that from January, the long running renewable energy journal, Renew, which I edit, is shifting from a membership subscription delivery basis to free web delivery on-line via

As a parting shot, I couldn't resist relaying this joke, recycled by European Energy Review: "did anyone calculate how much it will cost to dismantle the nuclear power stations in Germany and build them back up again in the UK?"

Some of the old German plants were Boiling Water Reactors, earlier versions of the ABWRs Hitachi are now planning to build in the UK, but perhaps more accurately the joke reference could be changed to Japan, since they have two ABWRs, currently closed and likely to stay that way.

Seasons greetings!