Thursday, October 21, 2010

Getting serious about energy planning

There is an interesting note in today's Swedish Local (a fluffy news site by Nordic standards but much more serious than your typical USA newspaper.)  It is an announcement that a Swedish-state-owned energy company named Vattenfall is going to invest in a large offshore electrical generating system.

Vattenfall's Lillgrund wind farm
With 48 turbines, Lillgrund is the third biggest wind power farm in the world.
Generating electricity in salt air is a maintenance problem I wouldn't
wish on my worst enemy.  We'll see if the Swedes / Germans make it work.
These folks have a lot of experience with the sea.
Vattenfall invests in North Sea wind farm
Published: 21 Oct 10 14:36 CET
Swedish energy group Vattenfall said on Thursday it would invest about one billion euros ($1.4 billion) along with Germany's Stadtwerke Munchen (SWM) in a 80-turbine offshore wind farm in the North Sea.
Vattenfall said building of the site, some 70 kilometres off the German island of Sylt, near Denmark, would start in 2012 and be completed in 2014. 
The farm is set to have a capacity of 288 megawatts, enough to supply power to 500,000 households, making it one of the main offshore projects in the world.
The "Dan Tysk" joint venture will be held at 51 percent by state-owned Vattenfall, and at 49 percent by SWM. 
In September, the Swedish company inaugurated what is currently the world's largest offshore wind farm off the English coast.
Vattenfall, which has been widely criticised in Sweden for running heavily polluting coal plants, especially in Poland, said last month it would implement a new strategy aiming to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The company is Europe's fifth largest electricity producer and its largest supplier of urban heating.  (My note: More commonly called District Heating or even cogeneration in USA, this method for improving energy efficiency is extremely underutilized in North America.)  
The idea of any state-owned energy company sounds preposterous to the ear of a USA citizen.  And the question naturally arises as to whether such an organization would be any more enlightened than say privately owned, Duke Energy.  Like almost anything that intrudes on the subject of energy, Vattenfall has a history that has some environmental ugliness attached.  Let's start with their mix of power sources.
Vattenfall generates Electricity by hydropower (24%), nuclear power (28%), fossil fuel (47%) and smaller proportions of wind power (1%), biofuel and waste.[5]
Main areas of operations are electricity, heat and transmission. Vattenfall supplies energy to 4.8 million customers in the Nordic countries and northern Europe. How the power and heat is generated is based on the particular conditions in each country. Conditions vary due to differences in natural resources and history. In Sweden and Finland, conditions allow Vattenfall to rely mainly on hydro and nuclear power. The available sources in Germany and Poland are mainly based on fossil fuels.
Vattenfalls wind power generating increased by 117% during 2007, with the Lillgrund wind farm off the coast of Malmö, Sweden, being taken into operation, with 48 turbines and a total installed capacity of 110 MW and a generation output equivalent to the electricity consumption of 60,000 Swedish homes. Most of Vattenfall's wind power plants are in Denmark and Sweden, including the worlds largest offshore wind farm at Horns Rev off the Danish coast of Esbjerg, which is 60%-owned by Vattenfall. Vattenfall also operates one of the biggest wind farms in Poland. In 2008, a number of wind power acquisitions were made in the UK[6], Thanet[7] and Kentish flats .
Hydrolectric power produces essentially no carbon dioxide or other harmful emissions. It now supplies about 715.00 megawatts or 19% of world electricity[8]. Vattenfall, in Swedish translates to Waterfall, has 92 water power stations in Sweden and 10 in Finland. Three Vattenfall hydropower stations in Sweden have managed to fulfill the tight criteria set by Finnish EKOenergy ecolabel and Swedish Bra Miljövalecolabel.[9]
Biomass. Vattenfall has some 30 biomass-fired heat and combined heat and power (CHP) Plants and is one of the worlds largest buyer and users of biomass.
Nuclear power relies on Nuclear fuel which is used for approximately five years in a power plant before it is replaced. Uranium is extremely rich in energy; one kilo of uranium equals the energy in 90 tonnes of coal. Vattenfall currently operates four Nuclear power plants, two in Germany (Brunsbuttel Nuclear Power Plant and Krummel Nuclear Power Plant, both located near Hamburg) and two in Sweden (Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant and Ringhals Nuclear Power Plant).
Coal is the most widely used energy source for electricity production in the world. Vattenfall operates coal fired plants in Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark.
That folks, is diversity!  Whatever one thinks about Vattenfall's nukes or its brown coal power stations in Poland, this is obviously a company that thinks long and hard about how energy can be supplied over the long term.  And unlike the energy companies most of us know and loathe, Vattenfall actually seems to respond to public criticism.
Vattenfall's 100-year plan for a low carbon emitting society
Vattenfall has proposed a framework leading to a low carbon emitting society. The most pressing need is to create a credible, stable and predictable long-term global framework defining how reductions will be achieved. To address this challenge, Vattenfall has outlined a global adaptive burden-sharing model for a low carbon emitting society.
The model is built on the following principles:
  • All countries should participate - participation is a part of being a member of the global community.
  • Emission allowances are allocated to each country in relation to its share of global GDP.
  • Emission caps should be binding.
  • No poor country shall be denied its right to economic development - no extra cost burden on the poorest.
  • No rich country shall have to go through disruptive change.
  • Richer countries pull a larger weight (emission caps do not embrace countries until they have reached a certain economic level; poorer countries with caps get higher allocations compared to richer countries).
  • There shall be a level playing field. The proposed framework shall not change relative competitiveness.
  • The system shall be robust. As new knowledge is accumulated parameters may change, but not the principles underlying the system.
Is Vattenfall perfect?  Hardly.  But are they a company that is evolving?  Yes Indeed!  At real economics, the willingness to grow and evolve is by FAR the most important quality a person or company can have.  And as such, Vattenfall is exactly the sort of company I had in mind when I coined the term elegant technology.

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