Friday, May 9, 2014

Energy Saving - The Haney Group Conservation Awareness

Overall energy usage in the city grew at a slower pace than the average economic growth in the 10 years to 2013, new data shows.

And from 2012 to last year, consumption of electricity alone fell 1.1 per cent.

One green group welcomed the official figures as a sign that the city was getting serious about saving energy. The statistics reflected public awareness of reducing energy consumption, Edwin Lau Che-fung, head of advocacy and education at Friends of the Earth, said.

"The slight drop is in a positive direction," he said. "It reflects a power-smart attitude among consumers and businesses."

The city recorded an overall energy balance last year of 300,284 terajoules, down from 322,938 terajoules in 2008, the Census and Statistics Department said in its annual report.

During that period, imports of electricity from the mainland decreased 5.2 per cent.

The energy balance is the sum of energy input - mostly imports of coal, oil and electricity - minus output, when these resources get transformed into energy.

Electricity generation made up the bulk of the balance, while the rest came from gas.

Commercial users remained the top guzzler of electricity last year, consuming 66 per cent of energy used. Households came second, despite falling three percentage points to 26 per cent. Industrial users consumed 7.3 per cent of electricity.

Overall energy usage rose 2.5 per cent from 2003 to 2013. Over the same period real GDP grew at an average of 4.5 per cent a year.

Environment officials have floated a pair of options on the future of Hong Kong's energy mix. One proposal involves drawing a third of the city's electricity from the mainland power grid.

Under fuel-mix proposals for 2023, mainland company China Southern Power Grid may export up to 15 billion kilowatt-hours a year to Hong Kong - an option that Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing claims can help the city outperform its targets of cutting carbon emissions.

Higher electricity bills are in store no matter which option is chosen, Wong has warned.

Lau, a former member of the government's advisory council on the environment, said tougher energy and carbon reduction targets should be imposed on the city's two power suppliers.

"The government should also explain more about the two fuel-mix options," he said. "We need to know how much more electricity prices will go up and why.”

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Energy Saving - The Haney Group New Ideas in Lighting

Ever since government regulations began phasing out the traditional light bulb in 2012, the once-simple visit to the lighting aisle has become an exercise in navigating a dizzying array of choices and terminologies, especially for new kinds of compact fluorescents and LEDs.

Now, those choices are about to become even more complicated. Two start-up companies are poised to begin selling bulbs that use entirely different technologies — one borrowed from heavy industry and the other from old-fashioned televisions — but meet the new energy standards.

Whether they can capture customers who remain stubbornly wedded to incandescent light is anybody's guess. But that both have come this far is an indication of how unsettled the consumer lighting market remains, despite years of promotion for the new energy-saving options.

"It's going to be a really long putt to try to replace the incandescent," said Mark Rea, director of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. "People hate change of any kind. We make light sources today that are better than incandescent by any metric at delivering the benefits you're expecting from lighting. But it's different."

Indeed, incandescent bulbs — whether leftover store inventory of standard lights or halogen models that meet the new regulations, which went fully into effect in January — outsell other types by far at big-box stores like Home Depot and Lowe's, lighting executives there say. In the last quarter of 2013, according to statistics from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, incandescent bulbs accounted for 65 percent of shipments from manufacturers, with the remainder consisting of mainly compact fluorescents.

Even as government officials, manufacturers and retailers focus their efforts on improving and marketing LED technology, researchers and entrepreneurs have been pursuing others, convinced that none of the options on the market offer consumers a close enough match to the familiar light quality at a low enough price. LED bulbs, for example, offer light quality that many experts say is equal to or better than the traditional incandescent bulbs, but their price — often $10 a bulb or less after starting out several years ago at about twice that — has scared off consumers. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why Solar Power Is Booming but Will Never Replace Coal

In recent years, solar power has shown tremendous growth. Last year alone, the solar industry hit a new record in terms of installed solar capacity. The data shows the impact which according  to the Energy Information Administration reached 3.5 million megawatthours of electricity produced by solar photovoltaic panels in 2012. In 2013, that figure more than doubled to 8.3 million Mwh. And to think that ten years ago, the U.S. generated only 6,000 Mwh from solar PV cells. Solar is gradually closing in on price parity with other energy sources such as coal — with full-cycle, unsubsidized costs of almost 13 cents per kilowatthour against 12 cents for more modern coal plants.

So, is the solar revolution finally arrived? Not really. Even after ten years of rampant growth, solar energy still hardly makes an impact in the U.S. energy field. In truth, solar only equals the amount of electricity that the nation produces by burning natural gas derived from landfills. And it is merely a little more significant than the 7.3 million Mwh we get from combusting human waste filtered out of municipal sewer structures.

Ultimately, when you collate all the sources of energy used up in this nation, captured solar energy adds up to significantly less than 1 quadrillion Btu out of an yearly total of 96.5 quadrillion.

The largest sources are the traditional standbys. Oil still stands above the rest at 36 quadrillion Btu, natural gas at 26 quads and nuclear at 8. Hydropower and biomass follow from behind at 2.6 and 2.7 quads. Wind is only 1.5 quads. And coal — the great carbon-emitting monster of the global energy sources —contributes 19 quads. That is about 8 times all the country’s wind and solar generation put together.

This is very vital important to remember in light of pending efforts by the EPA to institute draconian fresh regulations governing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning power facilities. Coal emits about 1.7 billion metric tons annually of carbon dioxide out of the 5.3 billion ton yearly total.

The assumption, by policy makers such as President Obama, is that the nation can reduce carbon emissions by shutting down coal plants, while making up for the lost electricity by using more natural gas and putting up more solar and wind plants. In truth, natural gas has replaced much of the coal output. In 2013, coal production from U.S. mines went down to 995.8 million short tons. The last time it went that low was in the late 1980s. Coal production reached its height in 2008 at 1.17 billion short tons.

The president is instituting significant measures to control heat-trapping pollution from coal-fired power plants and to increase renewable energy production on state-owned facilities, making use of his executive powers to resolve climate change issues and avoiding the partisan debacles in Congress.

The shortfall in demand has gravely affected America’s largest coal-mining firms. In the past five years, shares in Peabody Energy BTU +1.5% went down 36%, Arch Coal down 67% and Alpha Natural Resources ANR -1.67% off 78%. In contrast, shares in Solar City SCTY - 4.48%, up 400% in only 18 months.

However, coal is not dead. Certainly not close to it. “Even when the president is against coal, it is like you stand against City Hall. But the truth will conquer,” says Andrew Redinger, managing director at KeyBanc Capital Markets, which has performed investment banking work for coal firms and for solar developers. “I see coal recovering soon. The best thing for coal will be when we begin exporting natural gas.”

This winter proved that “announcing the death of coal is premature,” says Bob Yu, analyst at Bentek, a division of Platts. “Winter showed that natural gas is utilized for heating. Coal use was significantly up this winter because of natural gas purchases by retail buyers.”

Consider what occurred last winter during the chilling grip of the polar vortex. In January, shortfalls of natural gas in the Northeast led to price spikes above $100 per mmBTU in some markets. Electricity spot prices in the Mid-Atlantic region peaked as much as $2,000 per megawatthour for a short period. Natural gas experienced high demand for residential furnaces that electric utilities could not even get what they required for their power facilities. Some had to turn to back-up emergency generators that use much more expensive petroleum. So much for that so-called glut of shale gas.

Natural gas prices have already increased three-fold within two years. And coal-to-gas shift has already reversed. From making up 40% of the national electricity mix in the first quarter of 2013, coal’s share grew to 41.4% in the first quarter of 2014. Natural gas was down from 25.6% of total power production a year ago to 23.8% in the first quarter of 2014.

This will dampen what has been a slow shift away from coal. Power firms have been closing down old coal-burning facilities ahead of more stringent emissions regulations, with 4.7 gigawatts of coal capacity shut down in 2013, following the 10.3 GW in 2012. Another 60 GW of additional closures will occur by 2020. Analyst Yu says, “that may appear like a lot, but not in connection to the entire power mix.” The plants being shut down are many years old, not yet outfitted with the pricey “scrubbing” technology that can decrease harmful emissions by 90%, even when burning low-quality, sulfur-carrying coal.

At large electric facilities in the Midwest, where coal still supplies over 70% of fuel, the costs of converting coal into power are so low that we will see negligible shift over to natural gas — especially with prices of gas tripling in two years. In fact, the issue is whether or not shale gas drillers will have the capacity to fill up depleted gas storage ahead of the coming winter. We should be alright. After all, predictions say more than ample natural gas supplies are available as far as can be foreseen. Once pipeline obstacles are cleared out, there should be enough gas for everyone wherever it is needed.

So, what would it require for America to replace every coal-fired power facility (totalling to 19 quads of energy annually) with solar and natural gas? Let us consider it. Assuming a natural gas turbine construction bonanza, coupled with a rise in gas power plants’ operations to full capacity, we could significantly enhance power generation from gas by 50% in five years, supplying about 13 quads. To make up the rest of coal’s share with solar would require increasing the amount of electricity we get from solar about six times to about 50,000 megawatthours annually. Attaining that would mean 20% compound yearly growth in solar installations for a decade. Or almost 9% CAGR for 20 years.

This is feasible, on the short term. Electricity production from solar PV generation almost tripled from 2009 to 2010. It grew more than twice in 2011. And more than three times in 2012. Achieving such a growth rate is not difficult when you are small; but the bigger the base the harder it gets. Wind power is a fine example — it managed to increase 19% last year from a much larger base, to 168 million Mwh. But remember: Both wind and solar energy have to overcome the obstacle of geography — developers build systems in the most windy and sunny areas first. The worse the location, the more panels or windmills you require to attain the same amount of electricity. That is the reason why it is less important how many megawatts of solar capacity is built and more important how much actual electricity that is produced by those solar panels.

For all the discussions on “grid parity”, the simple truth is that even mixed with far more power generation from natural gas, renewable sources will need many decades to replace coal completely. And the irony will be that as the coal demand decreases, it will become less and less expensive, making it even more attractive for the coal-burning power facilities that endure through the coming storm. The direct cost of producing electricity from coal is 2.5 cents per Kwh.

It is encouraging to see that even some noted veteran environmentalists have proven themselves to be realistic when it comes to coal. Armond Cohen, executive director of the Clean Air Task Force, has concentrated for three decades on minimizing the environmental impact of the global energy system. Yet in an article published late last year, he claimed that “coal is not going away.”

Coal will be crucial to economic modernization in the developing world, where most energy supply will be installed in the next three decades. Coal will also have an important residual role in much of the OECD. Coal is not going away. We need to start using it without emitting considerable amounts of carbon dioxide, and quickly. If we don’t, the risk to global climate is great, and possibly irreversible. It’s that simple. People who think otherwise, and simply hope for the death of coal, are not admitting the facts. (…)

Let me be direct and clear: Except for the environmental challenges, this expansion of coal-fired power boom is a desirable development; dependable energy is a correlate of economic growth and human development. But let me be equally clear: The carbon produced by this expansion is unacceptable and puts us on a dire collision path with our global climate.

Coal has become enormously cleaner over the past generation. And novel and better ways will be discovered to derive energy from coal without producing dangerous by-products and burdening the environment. It is scalable and dependable in ways that renewable energy sources simply are not. Hence, unless we are willing to put up with blackouts that freeze grandma during winter and melt her in summer, coal will stay as a faithful source of U.S. power generation for many years to come.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Origami-like lightbulb worlds Energy Saving-The Haney Group

How many engineers does it take to change a light bulb? Three, it turns out. The founders of Hong Kong-based Nanoleaf – former engineering undergrads Gimmy Chu, Christian Yan and Tom Rodinger – are on a mission to reinvent the humble invention that has remain unchanged for over a century.

The result is both unexpected and beautiful. Nanoleaf’s LED bulb is a geeky origami project – its body is made of folded silicon instead of glass. According to the company, this design makes it extremely energy efficient.

“Being a scientist, Tom has an engineering perspective,” says Yan. “Why use an extra material like glass? Why not mold the circuit board in a shape of a light bulb?”

With every component designed from scratch, the bulb brings 87 percent energy savings compared to the existing LED variety. It produces 133 lumens-per-watts, almost double the efficiency of Philips’ 22-watt bulb. The design has another positive spin-off: more efficiency means less heat, making Nanoleaf’s bulb one of the coolest around. Literally.

At US$35 each, it isn’t too far beyond other LED bulbs, so the pricing isn’t prohibitive considering the long-term cost savings.

There’s a trade-off though. A more efficient light bulb has a lower color rendering index, which means it brings out less of a surrounding’s natural colors, making the environment less attractive. This has implications for the retail and food sector, as well as for discerning homeowners.

This is another engineering problem that the Nanoleaf team wants to solve. It will also introduce warmer-colored lighting, which homeowners tend to prefer, for the next iteration of the bulb.

The startup’s goal is to push the product into as many people’s hands as possible, which was why they decided to enter fundraising mode.