Posts Tagged energy

For A Million BTU: Monday 4 June 2012 |

Update: Check out this graph from Seth Godin’s blog: it compares fatalities in the nuclear and coal industries. (Thanks to Mike Rogers for the link).

A week ago, I posted about Japanese shut-down nuclear reactors and how this had resulted in a big jump in purchases of natural gas and coal.

I had believed that the costs of importing coal and natural gas were higher than the costs of running the nuclear power plants, and that this was an unsustainable policy in the long run.

However, today, I was alerted to the falling prices of LNG and coal:

For A Million BTU: Monday 4 June 2012 |


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Big Japan trade deficits? So? We don’t need no stinking nuclear plants!

Asian trade deficits seem to be talk of the markets at the moment, with China and Japan both reporting notable trade deficits in recent days. Chris Martenson wrote a piece published in the Analysis section of this website yesterday, noting that Japan is now recording record trade deficits as a result largely of a surge in energy import costs.

Before the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the country relied on nuclear power for 30% of electricity production. But by the end of this month, that figure will stand at 0%. Resource-poor Japan is having to spend enormous amounts on importing oil and natural gas.

The fact that China and Japan are now both running trade deficits has troubling implications as far as heavily-indebted western countries are concerned. After all, if large Asian countries are no longer running large trade surpluses, then there will be less demand from them for western bonds, which will compound the already tricky financial situation that Europe and the US face.

However, mercantilism remains the dominant trading preference as far as both of these countries are concerned, so we shouldn’t expect the authorities there to sit back and watch these deficits increase. CNN reports that officials at the People’s Bank of China are already hinting at halting the yuan’s appreciation, while Japanese efforts to weaken the yen in recent years have been persistent – though unsuccessful on a relative basis

So in one form or another, China and Japan will both look to weaken – or at the very least in China’s case, suppress – their currencies. Whether or not they succeed on a relative basis is tricky to predict, given that they’re squaring off against the heavyweight money printers of Europe and America. But one thing is pretty much certain: the yen and the yuan will weaken against gold, and gold will continue to benefit from these competitive devaluations.

via Asian trade deficits: prelude to more money printing?

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2012/02/15 05:06 – Toshiba, Others Bringing Small Generators To Market

Three cheers for the entrepreneurs (and for supply and demand in a free market)! But how do they do it without government support? (Jus’ kidding 🙂

Sinfonia Technology Co. (6507) plans to release this spring a small energy generation system that combines solar, wind and water power, in addition to having lead batteries capable of storing about 10kwh. With a price tag estimated at 40 million yen, the product will be marketed as an emergency power supply for domestic and overseas regions that are not connected to power grids, such as isolated islands.

Hitachi High-Technologies Corp. (8036) has developed a small machine that uses solar power to operate a water purification system and diverts excess energy to storage batteries. It has already begun selling the product, mainly in Indonesia.

The electricity shortage in Japan caused by the March disaster has boosted demand for in-house power generators. Demand is projected to grow further with the July launch of a program requiring utilities to purchase at fixed prices all electricity generated by renewable energy projects.

via 2012/02/15 05:06 – Toshiba, Others Bringing Small Generators To Market.

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Japan Trade Deficit Due To Special Factors, Including Quake

Tepco said earlier it will raise electricity rates for corporate customers by around 17% on average beginning in April, its first hike in more than three decades, to address soaring fuel costs following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

The rate increase will be used to help the embattled utility cover the cost of buying more fossil fuels, as many of its nuclear plants remain offline following last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The minister [of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy Motohisa Furukawa, graduate of prestigious Tokyo University’s Law Faculty] also said the government aims to propose several ideas about a future energy plan by spring. “For the long term, we would think about alternative energy like solar, but in the near term, I think it will be natural gas,” he said. “We have to think about how we will rely less on nuclear power.”

via 2012/02/12 17:18 – Furukawa: Japan Trade Deficit Due To Special Factors, Including Quake.

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Effizienzhaus plus: German electric vehicle house | Lenz Blog

Prof. Lenz blogs indefatigably on the subject of solar energy production and other alternatives or emerging energy technologies. It’s all fascinating stuff, the stuff of dreams. Here’s just one recent extract.

I learned that “inductive charging” means having your electric vehicle charge automatically, eliminating the need to mess around with cables. You just park it at the appropriate spot and the energy is beamed to the vehicle wireless. That comes at a cost of less than 10%, since the project claims over 90% efficiency for the process.

I have just read all pages on that website and think this is an excellent project. They have built a model house that produces much more energy than it consumes. That makes it possible to power an electric vehicle as well as an electric bicycle from the balance. The idea is to get rid of the 70 percent of energy consumption that comes from housing and transport.

via Effizienzhaus plus: German electric vehicle house | Lenz Blog.

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UPDATE 3-Japan power firms’ LNG use at record | Reuters

Some facts and figures on Japan’s energy use since March ’11: 15% more LNG, 12% less power (mouse-tip to AtomicRod).

TOKYO, Sept 13 (Reuters) – Japan’s 10 regional power firms used a record 4.81 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas in August to help offset a record low nuclear utilisation rate in the wake of Fukushima.

LNG use was up 15.4 percent from the same month a year earlier, power industry data showed. While using 7.1 percent less coal than a year earlier, the 10 firms used more fuel and crude oil last month despite the sixth straight month of year-on-year decline in their power production after the March earthquake and tsunami.

Only 11 of the country’s 54 nuclear reactors are operating

via UPDATE 3-Japan power firms’ LNG use at record | Reuters.

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Fuel Cell System Keeps On Going In Blackouts

This looks interesting. More interesting would be a fuel-cell power pack that renders the household (or whatever the unit is) completely independent from the grid, power blackout or no. Also a cheaper price. The present price is about the same as roofing your house with solar panels.

Power generated by home fuel cell systems is normally combined with electricity from the grid. Fuel cell systems run on such fuels as city gas and liquefied petroleum gas but still use utility-supplied electric power to start up. Since the systems are integrated with the larger grid, they automatically shut down in outages so as to prevent electricity from flowing back.

JX Nippon Oil & Energy will sell a combination of a fuel cell system and a storage battery system from as early as next summer. The firm has conducted demonstrations and confirmed that the storage battery system continues to provide power when the grid goes dead.

The 6kwh storage battery system consists of 90 lithium ion batteries normally used in personal computers and costs about 1 million yen. The set will likely cost a total of 2.6 million yen to 2.7 million yen.

via 2011/09/08 03:30 – Fuel Cell System Keeps On Going In Blackouts.

And related news:

Kansai Electric Power Co. (9503) on Wednesday began the full operation of its 10,000kw solar power plant in the city of Sakai.

via Kansai Elec’s Huge Solar Farm Springs Into Service

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2011/09/02 02:00 – Tepco, Tohoku Elec To Revive Idle Fossil-Fuel Plants

Tepco and Tohoku Power companies are re-starting idled coal-fired power stations in Fukushima prefecture. There is no mention in this article of the costs or the possible effects on price. Nuclear is cheaper than coal, after all.

TOKYO Nikkei–Tokyo Electric Power Co. 9501, known as Tepco, and Tohoku Electric Power Co. 9506 plan to restart offline fossil-fuel power generators and boost their combined output capacity by 1.25 million kilowatts by the end of the year. Their jointly owned coal-fired power plant in Soma, Fukushima prefecture, has two generators, both of which have remained offline since the March 11 disaster.

… By next summer, the full 2 million kilowatts of capacity is expected to return …

At the two utilities’ jointly owned fossil-fuel plant in Nakoso, Fukushima Prefecture, one 250,000kw coal-fired generator is slated to resume operations by the end of the year after having remained idle due to the impact of the March calamity. And a oil-fired unit that has been suspended since before March will likely start generating power again next summer, adding 175,000kw.

… the government has ordered large-scale customers of Tepco and Tohoku Electric to reduce maximum power usage 15% this summer from a year earlier. By returning idled generators to service and seeking voluntary reductions in power usage, the two utilities are hoping to avoid implementing mandatory usage cuts this winter.

via 2011/09/02 02:00 – Tepco, Tohoku Elec To Revive Idle Fossil-Fuel Plants.

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Govt to allow industry to power up : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE (The Daily Yomiuri)

There are, and have been, many political philosophers who have said that government intervention leads to ever-increasing intervention and eventually to tyranny. Others have pointed to the “pretence of knowledge”, the impossibility of anyone or any group of people, having enough information to be able to make the right decisions about resource allocation, in other words, managing the economy.

Still others have pointed to the “unintended consequences” of much political action. Herbert Spencer was one such: his ironic wit, combined with well supported facts, led the reader inevitably to the conclusion that the unintended consequences of much well-intended legislation were in fact only unforeseen because politicians were such ignorant twits who had failed to study even the recent history of legislation and government intervention.

What is described below sounds wonderful and a perfect example of government benevolence in action: the initial restriction, the reduced demand due to a vigorous energy-saving campaign that targeted Japanese people’s sense of solidarity, and the resulting surplus of power supply.

While this particular series of actions seems to have borne fruit, there remains the matter of the principle of government intervention in private business and the use of force or threats to enforce its intervention.

So that now a headline like the above, where the government permits industry to do this or that, does not cause any raised eyebrows.

The government on Tuesday announced it will move forward the lifting of its mandatory curb on electricity consumption for large-lot electricity users that has been in place since July 1.

The removal of the restriction will be brought forward from Sept. 22 to Friday in areas devastated by the March 11 disaster, and those in Niigata and Fukushima prefectures that were hit with torrential rain in late July.

These areas are covered by Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Tohoku Electric Power Co.

via Govt to allow industry to power up : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE (The Daily Yomiuri).

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Japan’s Necessary Nuclear Future | The Diplomat

The Diplomat tackles the thorny issue of Japan’s energy needs and how they can be met.

The people’s outrage at the nuclear industry is understandable. However, while this is hardly a time that lends itself to thoughtful reflection, that is precisely what is in order.

Before the earthquake, Japan produced a third of its electricity from nuclear power. The shutdown of six nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, and a further three at Chubu Electric’s Hamaoka plant at the request of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, removes from the grid over 8GW of electrical capacity, or roughly half of what is required by the city of Tokyo. Taking all of Japan’s nuclear power plants off line would result in almost 50GW of lost electrical capacity, nearly equivalent to that of Australia.

via Japan’s Necessary Nuclear Future | The Diplomat.

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