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How can a "Green" tariff work when there's no renewable energy available?

  • 4 February 2018
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I think OVO is largely a good thing - BUT - how can ANY firm claim to be capable of supplying "100% Green Energy" at any given time?

If the wind is not blowing (e.g. when a winter anticyclone is covering the UK) and it is night (when solar panels do NOT work) then the base load electricity must come from conventional grid sources such as coal, gas or fission - or else the lights go out.
(Forget 'stored hydro' - far too short a duration within UK to contribute long enough.)
Or are they claiming we can get 100% via cables from Scandinavia ?

I DO believe that the earth's climate is changing but it may well be as NASA said years ago - 'the principal driver is sunspot activity' about which mankind can do nothing.
The 'Anxiety Industry' has grown massively and exposes us to all sorts of scare stories such as 'Rising sea levels drowning Pacific islands' - when the reality is that tectonic plate activity is altering the sea bed levels.
And 'The Barrier Reef is dying' when in reality it IS dying opposite certain river estuaries - BUT growing on the main ocean side.

BTW Sub-forums do not cover "None of the above" in their choice lists.
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Best answer by Transparent 4 February 2018, 13:08

Good points, @greendoubter. I hope the moderators can ask the Trading Team to explain a bit more about how they purchase the green proportion of energy required to satisfy OVO customers.

I often meet with other members of a local "green" technology group in the South West. There is a wide interpretation of how we perceive ourselves to be green. Some are experts on renewable energy, others promote organically grown products, whilst some are of a green political persuasion.

This mix of concepts makes for some lively debates when we meet up and discuss strategies. So I'm well used to hearing the arguments you put forward. Like you, I tend to want to hear facts.

The science has to be demonstrated to persuade me to take an action which has "green credentials", such as installing solar panels or buying an EV. Those who say "I did coz I can earn a mint from the Feed-In Tariff" don't enthuse me to believe that they have properly assessed the technology!

I believe that OVO's green electricity percentages are calculated over a 24-hour period. After all, you can't inspect electrons on the Nation Grid and decide whether they came from a coal-fired power station or a solar panel. At some times of the day, OVO is therefore buying solar-power which is theoretically being consumed by non-OVO customers. And, as you suggest, there will be other times when OVO customers are using energy from non-green sources. But if you average it out, the advertised fuel-mix percentages can be verified.

Am I correct, Trading Team?

However, I also think you are being too harsh on the amount of green energy produced during the night. Wikipedia lists 109 British hydro-generation stations of over 1MW, of which just four are pumped storage.

On my side of Devon I receive electricity from two hydro-plants (2.6MW & 0.64MW) and a bio-gas plant (3.2MW) which takes all our food waste. All of these operate regardless of sunshine or wind-speed.

I do take your point about pumped-storage. But note that OVO are actively pursuing widespread Li-ion battery storage networks. This forthcoming technology will have an increasingly important part to play in OVO delivering electricity from sustainable sources. This is a key reason why I recently switched suppliers.
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Good points, @greendoubter. I hope the moderators can ask the Trading Team to explain a bit more about how they purchase the green proportion of energy required to satisfy OVO customers.

I often meet with other members of a local "green" technology group in the South West. There is a wide interpretation of how we perceive ourselves to be green. Some are experts on renewable energy, others promote organically grown products, whilst some are of a green political persuasion.

This mix of concepts makes for some lively debates when we meet up and discuss strategies. So I'm well used to hearing the arguments you put forward. Like you, I tend to want to hear facts.

The science has to be demonstrated to persuade me to take an action which has "green credentials", such as installing solar panels or buying an EV. Those who say "I did coz I can earn a mint from the Feed-In Tariff" don't enthuse me to believe that they have properly assessed the technology!

I believe that OVO's green electricity percentages are calculated over a 24-hour period. After all, you can't inspect electrons on the Nation Grid and decide whether they came from a coal-fired power station or a solar panel. At some times of the day, OVO is therefore buying solar-power which is theoretically being consumed by non-OVO customers. And, as you suggest, there will be other times when OVO customers are using energy from non-green sources. But if you average it out, the advertised fuel-mix percentages can be verified.

Am I correct, Trading Team?

However, I also think you are being too harsh on the amount of green energy produced during the night. Wikipedia lists 109 British hydro-generation stations of over 1MW, of which just four are pumped storage.

On my side of Devon I receive electricity from two hydro-plants (2.6MW & 0.64MW) and a bio-gas plant (3.2MW) which takes all our food waste. All of these operate regardless of sunshine or wind-speed.

I do take your point about pumped-storage. But note that OVO are actively pursuing widespread Li-ion battery storage networks. This forthcoming technology will have an increasingly important part to play in OVO delivering electricity from sustainable sources. This is a key reason why I recently switched suppliers.
At last - some cogent comments from someone who examines the science.
Averages are OK ... but the basic question really remains - how can an Energy supplier (not OVO) claim to provide "100% green energy" ??

The taxpayer funded 'gifts' to already wealthy people who buy an electric car (as a second car) for, say, London use - just anger me.
The lobbyists have been at work and to hell with the tapayer.
Battery storage is OK - if it works - but I understand that Lithium extraction produces masses of pollution? - and that experimental large Li-iron battery storage resulted in some serious fires (Hawaii - http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/19173811/hfd-battling-kahuku-wind-farm-blaze) and yet more pollution ? Boeing had aircraft grounded after Li-iron batteries allegedly caught fire ?
You are in a lucky position in Devon as regards generation.

Bio-mass has major issues > how is it 'green' to chop down trees in Canada, transport them using fossil fuel to a factory which turns them into pellets, transport them again to a ship that travels across the Atlantic using fossil fuel and then transport them yet again to their UK destination ? It makes no sense to me.

(And don't let me tell you about the nearby farmer who heats empty sheds using bm because the '... grants are so good' ...)

Touching on Wikipedia - I'm not sure you can rely on anything posted on that site (I have found glaring errors put on by well-meaning persons ...).
"British" must include a fair few Scottish hydro schemes BUT an MSP stated that the English contract for energy from Scotland specifically excludes "renewable energy" - to ensure a supply that can be relied on ...

But, seriously, thank you for taking the trouble to reply.
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Moderators please! @Tim_OVO?
Before this thread grows further, can you please move it where others can find it?
... probably within All about Energy / Green Energy - How green is it?, which seems to be the best fit.

@greendoubter, give me a while to recheck some background to Li-Ion fires before I comment further. We are agreed that the facts are important, and I'm sure there are others who would like to be assured of Li-ion safety before they contemplate having a Home Battery installed!
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OK @greendoubter, I'm back again, having done a bit more research.

I'm limiting my response to the points where you provided clear scientific reasoning. So please excuse me for not commenting further on the mis-use of energy grants in N. Ireland... which I'm guessing is where you live.

Biomass first: Note what I said about the bio-gas plant at Holsworthy in Devon. This has nothing to do with making wood pellets from Canadian-grown lumber. The Devon facility takes food-waste which is collected weekly by our Local Authority alongside the other recyclables. It is a bio-digester, using "fuel" that would otherwise go to landfill.

West Devon has a long heritage of high recycling efficiency which springs from a grass-roots group of concerned people who formed WestDEN 25 years ago. If you want to enjoy such sensible initiatives in your area, you don't have to wait for the politicians. You can do this stuff within the community.

Now Li-ion battery storage. Li-ion technology is a massive advance on the Lead-acid storage which has become the mainstay of those using renewable-energy generation for off-grid sustainability. Both types of battery have high discharge rates, but Li-ion also enjoys far higher charging-rate as well as a greatly-increased energy-capacity (by both volume and mass).

Any battery becomes potentially dangerous as it reaches a state of full charge; but this is clearly a greater problem if fast-charging can be performed.

The usual strategy is to use constant-current charging until the cell-voltage rises to a known set-point, at around 80% capacity. Reaching this voltage triggers the charger electronics to enter a constant-voltage regime, allowing the current to decrease as the battery approaches full-charge. A good overview is available here.

This safe region for rapid-charge is evident in the literature for EV's which usually offer a greatly increased charge-rate for around 80% capacity. The new Nissan Leaf can reach 80% in as little as 40 minutes, depending on the type of charge-point you choose.

As batteries reach this notional "knee" in the fast-charging curve, temperature also increases. So thermal sensors are employed in commercial Li-ion battery stacks to limit the charge current if the temperature rise is too steep.

The closer together the cells are held, the greater becomes the temperature problem. Hot batteries have a lower resistance, which means that there can be a thermal-runaway unless the heat-sensors kick-in. This is what caused the fire in the Boeing Dreamliner which you referred to. The charge-circuitry was subsequently redesigned to fail-safe, which is why they regained approval to fly.

I've looked at the video of the Hawaii Fire you quoted earlier. I find it odd that they chose to house such a massed array of Li-ion battery stacks within a single building. Any thermal run-away in one stack would immediately spread to the adjacent ones. They will undoubtedly have used active air-conditioning in such a hot country, but I would've expected to see the use of a quenching gas to fill the warehouse with Nitrogen or CO2 in order to prevent an actual fire breaking out. The video shows no such tanks in the vicinity.

Compare this with the layout of a new 50MW Li-ion storage facility to be built near Torbay in Devon.

Here you can see a plan with separate "containers" housing the battery stacks, each with a set of five air-conn plants on the roof.


The wide avenues between the containers give plenty of space to isolate a hazard in one area from affecting the whole facility. The connection to the 132kV grid is via a separate compound to the east, and the rainwater runoff is held in retention ponds which are available to firefighters.

A side-view of each container shows the dimensions


which is clearly far more manageable than the layout of the overly-large single warehouse in Hawaii.

You will be unsurprised to know that the XStorage battery being promoted by OVO for use within customer's homes contains its own cooling fans and temperature-controlled charging regime. Considering it's only rated at 4kWh it's actually quite large in two of its dimensions. This suggests to me that the individual Li-ion stacks are more widely spaced than they are in an Electric Vehicle.

In fact, the one puzzle I'm left with is however do the EV Manufacturers manage to cram so much capacity into a sealed steel tray beneath the passenger compartment of their cars! There's no obvious cooling in the videos and photos I've seen online of Li-ion floor-trays being disassembled.

This emerging distributed network of Li-ion grid-connected Storage is a key part of the electricity supply strategy for the UK. No one here is going to be using designs that would risk fire in our homes.

HTH
Correct me if I'm wrong but I think the Hawaii News article said there had been a second (previous) fire in the storage building ? Presumably an "Expert" designed it.

Thanks for info/details on the plans for that building - but what will it cost in cash and pollution to build ?
What is the potential output and the likely life before rebuild/repowering ?

I mentioned biomass nonsense because OVO boldly claim to use 'it' and thereby presumably support 'it' - warts and all.
Your Devon scheme sounds much more 'green'.

I'm very wary only because there have been weasel-words and kidology in the past re windmills [AKA 'turbines'] with "Nameplate capacity" being bandied about even though the achieved output is MUCH lower - and released-to-press descriptions that state usually "... COULD power 4,000 homes." Not "will".
I'm not actually in Northern Ireland although I understand why you might assume that ...
No, it is a mainland Britain farmer heating empty sheds with biomass and happy with the subsidies ...

Could you address the Lithium pollution issue (wasn't it in Canada ?) - because if Li-ion technology is sorted and 'takes-off' then we must surely clean up the production at source ?
Windmills use plenty of rare-earth based magnets - yet there have been reports of mass long-term pollution in the areas that mine and refine rare-earth minerals. We cannot just turn a blind eye to serious pollution 'exported' to other countries and pretend we are being 'green'.

Finally I noticed OVO listed virtually ALL the technologies but the real question is just how much geo-thermal (which I hugely support ... ), wave, tidal, etc. renewable energy is actually presently going (reliably, on a 24 hour basis) into our National Grid.
Significant, large and regular amounts OR b***er all in base-load terms ?
Oh yes, a bit disconcerting to hear National Grid recently saying "We cannot all be charging our electric cars in the evenings because the Grid will not cope."
The whole energy thing is unsettled ATM.
Allegedly - "Smart meters" will give the Government the ability to switch off certain users when electricity is in short supply ?
But do 'they' tell us that when they are pushing them?

I agree this thread is in the wrong place but at the time there seemed no clear provision for a discussion on the truth behind "renewable energy" claims.
My apologies if I was not familiar with the nuances of the OVO site.
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Renewables are not perfect, but neither is coal, gas or oil. I'm not convinced by biofuels as their seems to be too much risk of subsidy farming. That said, increasing use of wind and solar power seems inevitable as that is turning out to be the lowest cost source of energy. The fact that it is also low carbon is a serendipitous benefit.

The "if everyone charged their car in the evening" comment, is a misdirection. First EV owners generally charge overnight when the grid has spare capacity. Second the exact same issue applies to kettles. If everyone turned on an electric kettle in the evening the grid would have to supply more than 30GW of increased demand and it would fail. So the answer to the EV issues is the same as with kettles, it is an unrealistic scenario used by pro fossil fuel based lobbyists acting as scare mongers to wind up the electorate.
I'll rise to the silly bait.
I'm not a"... pro fossil fuel based lobbyist" ... but I am someone who does NOT believe without question all the 'arguments' put forward by the myopic 'green' brigade.
The scenario as regards the Grid not coping with a mass of electric cars being plugged in at the same time was raised by National Grid themselves ... tell THEM they are wrong to have worries. They clearly have serious concerns and, to the best of my knowledge, have not gone down the rather childish route as regards electric kettles.

As regards "... turning out to be the lowest cost source" - maybe - but that is ignoring the gigantic subsidies already paid to overseas companies to have a stab at producing scattered and unreliable electricity in the UK. Reliability is essential for "base load" -or do you have another theory ?

I've researched the pitch black smoke emanating from unreachable 'turbine' fires. Contains deadly carcinogens, mutagens and dioxins that are spread over grazing land and upland water sources yet nobody seems to care ... at the moment.
Likewise the disruption of upland rainwater sequestration is both misunderstood or ignored?
You can research the tragic deaths of unreachable workers killed in 'turbine' fires and discover that very little has changed since these deaths.
Generators on very tall poles are proving unsafe - but hey - it's 'free energy'.
Care to address "Nameplate capacity" which is very often quoted to a gullible public but hardly ever (if ever) achieved ?
Too many snake-oil salesman have been involved in putting out 'stories'.

I DO believe that the earth's climate is changing but it may well be as NASA said years ago - 'the principal driver is sunspot activity' about which mankind can do nothing.


I think NASA's changed its mind from, as you said, "years ago":
https://climate.nasa.gov/causes/

the reality is that tectonic plate activity is altering the sea bed levels.

Maybe at specific locations but not globally. Where's your source for such a statement?
Behind all this is the widely-held notion that climate change [ALL climate change] is "man-made". For example :- "NASA: sea levels rising as a result of human-caused climate change."
I simply do not believe it. SOME climate change is totally natural [and has happened many times before] and there is nowt we can do about it.
I do believe we can and should cut OUR emissions. But not at vast expense on near-useless schemes thought up by money-makers/corrupt politicians and 'pushed' by snake-oil salesmen.
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Older study re sunspots.
I wonder if NASA was persuaded to change it's mind ? Just maybe funding was at stake? Seems quite odd after such a clear conclusion.
I clearly recall NASA scientists producing graphs showing the alignment between sunspot activity and extreme weather events on earth.
Maybe they input incorrect data. Seems unlikely.

Sea-levels.
I was trying to keep it brief but ...

Was specifically referring to strident 'Green' claims that certain Pacific islands were at risk of 'disappearing because of rising sea-levels' :-
https://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/pacific-island-nations-urge-world-leaders-to-act-as-islands-expected-to-sink/news-story/9416ac1726d1f8d02a1ae435924e364f

Then read this ... https://phys.org/news/2018-02-pacific-nation-bigger.html
or this older study ...
https://phys.org/news/2010-06-coral-atolls-sea-level.html#nRlv
For masses of technical info. regarding Plate Tectonics and Climate Change read :-
https://www.geo.umass.edu/climate/papers2/deconto_tectonics&climate.pdf


Solomon Islands were mentioned as 'under threat' in The Guardian but some scientists reckon the Solomon Islands Plate is sinking ...

Greenwash is all around us. Deny it by all means. But it employs a huge number of people and the truth is often hidden.
For example a retired NASA scientist has said the statement "The climate always changes"… "... is ... designed to obfuscate and to confuse people".
I don't think highlighting factual history is obfuscation.

This summation puts it rather well :-
"This will happen whether or not man pumped out CO2 or not. Why? Because it has happened thousands of times in the past. Even within the last 2.5 million years it has happened hundreds of times. We see a repetitious series of sea level rises and drops just over the last few tens of thousands of years. In geological time, it is as regular as the sun rising and setting.
All this global warming fear mongering is rooted in ignorance and the desire to make money. Period. You might as well try to stop the rain. "

Sea levels are complicated. Recent discoveries claim many sea beds are lowering because of the weight and volume of warmed melt water.
Natural processes of erosion WILL remove some low-lying islands.
I wonder if NASA was persuaded to change it's mind ?
Correct. It was persuaded to change its mind because it is a scientific institution and as such must change its stance in the face of evidence that points to a different conclusion.

I simply do not believe it.
It's not about belief, it's about where the evidence points. There's a lot at stake, don't you think, to make this a matter of faith? You may be right but sadly there's a 95% probability you are wrong.
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There is a consequence to be faced in making this decision @greendoubter.

If the majority of the science-community is right and we take actions to reduce global warming, then there is no harm done. You and I will both survive, along with our planet.

But if we follow your belief, and it turns out to be wrong, then everyone else suffers. At that stage there's no point you putting you're hand up and saying "sorry"!
carfuffle > "Correct. It was persuaded to change its mind because it is a scientific institution and as such must change its stance in the face of evidence that points to a different conclusion."

What is your evidence that this is the case?

[As a "scientific institution" it is interesting that they can be 180 degrees wrong ? Who is to say they are NOW correct ?]
We still know very little about the Sun or indeed exactly why the Earth's climate has varied in the past.

Are you also saying you believe, without any question, the quoted NASA chap who stated "... sea levels rising as a result of human-caused climate change." ? I am amazed.

Where do you get that 95% figure from ?
Let me guess - the 'scientists' who want public money to be channelled in their direction. Hardly reliable.

Transparent.
I prefer to follow my belief based on non-monetarily-linked facts rather than, lemming-like, follow the 'believers/accolytes' [who generally don't know all the facts and do not ask questions ...]

"Majority of science community" ... that would be the very same community that wants continuous grants from the public purse ? Again - NOT a recipe for unbiased 'facts' ?

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