Welcome to the meteoLCD blog

September 28, 2008

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This blog started 28th September 2008 as a quick communication tool for exchanging information, comments, thoughts, admonitions, compliments etc… related to http://meteo.lcd.lu , the Global Warming Sceptic pages and environmental policy subjects.

TIR Lëtzebuerg 2016, the Rifkin report: conclusion

December 3, 2016

Index:

Part 1: ..ENERGY (1/2)
Part 2. ..ENERGY (2/2)
Part 3: ..MOBILITY
Part 4: ..BUILDINGS
Part 5:  ..FOOD
Part 6:  ..INDUSTRY
Part 7:  ..FINANCE
Part 8:  ..SMART ECONOMY
Part 9:  ..CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Part 10: PROSUMERS & SOCIAL MODEL
Part 11: EXPLORING ECONOMIC BENEFITS
Part 12: My conclusion

___________________________________

Having spent more than two weeks on reading the full report and writing down my comments in 11 parts, time has come for a concise conclusion:

  1. The time spent reading the report is not wasted. It contains many concrete numbers and statistics on Luxembourg and its energy use, and many well written reflections.
    The report suffers greatly from too much repetitions, too much buzzwords “à la mode” streaming down like a tropical rain. 450 pages are far too many; with a better editing a more concise report should have been possible on 200 pages maximum.
  2. The exclusive and mandatory usage of renewable energy (here mostly solar PV and on-shore wind) is an illusion, not feasible as the intermittency asks for ever more complex systems, and the needed electricity storage solutions still do not exist at the magnitude and at the cost needed. The eventual advantage of many small micro-producers is to a large part eaten away by the extraordinary complex smart grid needed to exploit the micro-production. The suggested energy future is devilishly complex, and a complete reversal of the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) paradigm that was so successful for many years.
  3. The future suggested by the TIR report is ambiguous, even contradictory: on one side, the shared and circular economy should foster a myriad of small prosumer driven enterprises, on the other side the practical working of this new economy demands a collection of data at a magnitude that is breathtaking: the IoT finally establishes an all-encompassing web with a total intrusion into all aspects of  life. Actually, the proposed future does not leave privacy as an option anymore.
  4. Will this report be a great help for our politicians?
    I strongly doubt it. Sure, suggestions like better thermal isolation in all buildings or making ICT teaching stronger will be accepted, but they do not represent something new, and they are far from visionary. The excesses of the report makes its acceptance difficult; sure, there will be much lip paying service, but my best guess is that the caravan is moving on.

TIR Lëtzebuerg 2016: the Rifkin report (part 11)

December 3, 2016

Index:

Part 1: ..ENERGY (1/2)
Part 2. ..ENERGY (2/2)
Part 3: ..MOBILITY
Part 4: ..BUILDINGS
Part 5:  ..FOOD
Part 6:  ..INDUSTRY
Part 7:  ..FINANCE
Part 8:  ..SMART ECONOMY
Part 9:  ..CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Part 10: PROSUMERS & SOCIAL MODEL
Part 11: EXPLORING ECONOMIC BENEFITS
Part 12: My conclusion

___________________________________

This comment is on the last chapter of the report, titled “EXPLORING THE POTENTIAL ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF THE TIR. INNOVATION SCENARIOS” (p.420 to 455).

This chapter contains much of what has been written in previous chapters, as the uttermost importance of energy (I agree with!). We are told that in 2016 Luxembourg spends 2 billion € for its combined energy needs, a sum that the adoption of the TIR proposals should lower by 250 million per year (p. 431) during the next period up to 2050. This approx. 10% economy is much less spectacular than the repetition of “zero marginal cost” suggests!

We find again speculations that are simply unbelievable: at page 421 we are told (by the Stanford report) that the avoided health costs effect might be over 3 billion € per year, if a 100% adoption of renewable energy will be implemented. This 3 billion number is pure guess, as the total healthcare costs are about 4.5 billion annually!

Saying that Luxembourg wastes today over 80% of its energy resources (p. 422) also seems largely overblown, as thermodynamic and other physics laws do not permit a 100% efficiency. As an example one could say that adopting solar PV wastes more than 75% of its potential (the max. efficiency being not higher than 25%, and probably much lower in real operation with dust-covered or partly shaded panels).

Luxembourg should by reducing its energy requirements and adopting at least 70% in-country produced renewables switch from a capital-intensive to a labor-intensive economy. As the shift to more ICT is suggested constantly, a figure from Statec (2013, p.427) rises some questions: per million € of added value the energy sector fosters 4 jobs, the ICT 4.9, not a spectacular difference!

This last chapter again makes some calculations on the costs and saving brought by adopting at a large scale solar PV on roofs. In all these scenarios, the uppermost important question of how to guaranty a reliable electricity when it is produced nearly exclusively from heavy intermittent sources is neither asked, nor given a serious answer. Storage solutions that still do not exist at the magnitude and cost needed after more than 100 years of research, seem magically to spring into existence. And the continuous refusal of nuclear energy (a non-intermittent and extremely reliable source) does not help to solve this dilemma.

Starting at page 435, several tables give scenarios on future population and energy use. The first table from Statec (the “reference case” suggests a nearly constant energy need (about 25 TWh) between 2015 and 2050, even with a population going up to over 1 million and a triple GDP. The corresponding TIR scenario with a 100% use of renewable energies in 2050 reduces the energy demand to about 17 TWh, all other parameters being the same. I doubt that a drop in conventional energy use to zero will be possible, and I think that 100% renewables ( PV and on-shore wind) without nuclear will be more of a a wishful and rather naive thinking than a physical/technical possible feature.

(end of part 11)

TIR Lëtzebuerg 2016: the Rifkin report (part 10)

December 2, 2016

Index:

Part 1: ..ENERGY (1/2)
Part 2. ..ENERGY (2/2)
Part 3: ..MOBILITY
Part 4: ..BUILDINGS
Part 5:  ..FOOD
Part 6:  ..INDUSTRY
Part 7:  ..FINANCE
Part 8:  ..SMART ECONOMY
Part 9:  ..CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Part 10: PROSUMERS & SOCIAL MODEL
Part 11: EXPLORING ECONOMIC BENEFITS
Part 12: My conclusion

___________________________________

 

This part 10 comment is on the chapter PROSUMERS & SOCIAL MODEL (p. 383 to 419)

The main subject is that the future economic model will be one of shared economy, where the citizens are happy not to own some good, but to share their own goods and services with others. This sharing will be done not for financial gain, but rather moral satisfaction. Whenever possible, the future prosumers ( = consumers and producers) will assemble into cooperatives. A very big problem will be the level playing field between this type of economy and the still existing “capitalistic” one, so the state must insure strict control and guidelines: for instance every participant in sharing must use a unique web portal (p.416). This inherent loss of freedom is perceptible throughout the chapter, but usually well hidden under well-meaning phrases. This new economy should be 100% electric (p.412); I do not  understand why non-electric energy forms should be banned (solar heating for instance is non-electric).

The chapter contains one sentence that I find excellent: at p. 415 we find that “every citizen should have the right to disconnect”  i.e. he should be allowed to become unreachable. I just wonder how with the myriad of IoT’s gathering data all the time this pious wish should become existent. I see the coming all-invasive state more inclined to forbid that the citizen becomes unreachable and to try its uttermost not to lose control!

At page 404 the ominous Global Warming shows up again (quite unnecessary!), with numerous potential catastrophes in the making.

The chapter has many lines on education and schooling. The classification of “older education” as authority driven repetitive learning is so cliché! Collaborative learning is nothing new, but it seems that some authors still suffer from a post-school trauma. At page 418 it is asked that coding (programming) in school should begin as early as possible. I am sympathetic with this idea, but am not sure that future ICT awareness will need programming skills for everybody.

As the economy changes from the “old” capitalistic model to the new sharing, producing goods will be more and more automated and need less and less workers, but the social economy will become very labor intensive. This could well be the case, but I do not quite understand how we should create more and more micro-entrepreneurs, and produce with less and less people. The cost of the social economy (which might well be desirable) could be extravagant, and must be paid somehow.

To conclude, this chapter has many aspects of well-meaning, generosity, willingness to give etc. that could be found in a religious teaching, or in one of the first communist ideas. I think that open source and non proprietary goods have a great future, but I am skeptic of their potential to become the exclusive feature of the future economy.

(end of part 10)

TIR Lëtzebuerg 2016: the Rifkin report (part 9)

November 30, 2016

Index:

Part 1: ..ENERGY (1/2)
Part 2. ..ENERGY (2/2)
Part 3: ..MOBILITY
Part 4: ..BUILDINGS
Part 5:  ..FOOD
Part 6:  ..INDUSTRY
Part 7:  ..FINANCE
Part 8:  ..SMART ECONOMY
Part 9:  ..CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Part 10: PROSUMERS & SOCIAL MODEL
Part 11: EXPLORING ECONOMIC BENEFITS
Part 12: My conclusion

___________________________________

 

 

In my last comment on the “Smart Economy” chapter I wrote that in my opinion this is the best chapter compared to the preceding ones. This alas can not be said for this chapter on the CIRCULAR ECONOMY, which contains an awful lot of repetitions of items from previous chapters (the authors did not refrain from simple copy-paste when talking about wind-energy potential). It would have been easy to keep to an intelligent discussion on circular economy, a not new concept that surely is interesting and perhaps vitals for Luxembourg’s industrial future. But no, again there are digressions into solar and wind power, the same silly rehashing of the visible catastrophe caused by climate change etc. That Luxembourg has the highest per capita GHG emissions is repeated, without insisting that this number comes from an idiotic calculation convention, and has nothing to do with reality.

9.1. Reverse logistics (p.349)

Reverse logistics is the knowledge of all the material contents (physical material and energy) which are contained in a product. A deep recycling and reuse makes this knowledge important, up to a certain limit. When this chapter asks for a knowledge down to the ppm level, things may become unworkable, and such a fine-grained knowledge probably is an extremely costly and unneeded overkill.

9.2. Product as a service

Many times (for instance at p. 351) the future should be one where individual property will be forbidden: the “prosumer” should buy a service, and not own anymore the product which allows this service. I do not know to what fine-grained structure this will be pursued: should I not have an electrical toothbrush anymore, but become it delivered every morning at my door and recollected late in the evening? There surely are products where buying the service (what finally means lending the product or the person with the product) makes sense, but seeing the future prosumer in a manner similar to the old communist dictators should not be the way to go!

9.3. Wind energy redux.

As said above, this chapter again makes a calculation on the potential of wind energy for Luxembourg and the globe…and it makes a very serious mistake. It is said that 1.96 million wind turbines à 5 MW (plate capacity) could satisfy 1/3 of the actual world energy. This is wrong: the actual total power consumption of the world is about 17 TW (see here); if we assume an extremely generous capacity factor of 30%, these wind-turbines could deliver not more that at most 1/5 of that power (ignoring the extremely important problem of their intermittency).

9.4. Bio-batteries

The theme shows up again in this chapter, for reasons unknown, as these glucose driven experimental batteries belong to the energy chapter (ch.1). Let me just say that SONY has built a bio-battery delivering 50 mW power: we are extremely far away from a commercial viable product (which could well be unattainable during the next 30 years). Suggesting Luxembourgs TIR should concentrate on this exotic development (and neglect other storage options) seems risky!

 

I will resume my poor impression from this chapter: instead on concentrating on the important and interesting  subject of circularity, the authors wandered into the well trotten fields of wind power, potential climate change, limiting the users liberty in owning products, rehashing words and phrases told in numerous preceding places of this report. It is a pity that they probably ignore the German dictum “In der Kürze liegt die Würze”!

TIR Lëtzebuerg 2016: the Rifkin report (part 8)

November 27, 2016

Index:

Part 1: ..ENERGY (1/2)
Part 2. ..ENERGY (2/2)
Part 3: ..MOBILITY
Part 4: ..BUILDINGS
Part 5:  ..FOOD
Part 6:  ..INDUSTRY
Part 7:  ..FINANCE
Part 8:  ..SMART ECONOMY
Part 9:  ..CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Part 10: PROSUMERS & SOCIAL MODEL
Part 11: EXPLORING ECONOMIC BENEFITS
Part 12: My conclusion

___________________________________

 

This part 7 comment covers the chapter SMART ECONOMY (p.321-342)

In my opinion, this is the best chapter of the report until now. It avoids endless talk of solar PV and wind energy, is relatively parsimonious with the usual buzzwords, and presents ideas which often seem reasonable and not too outlandish.

8.1. The new oil

At page 323 we find this sentence: “…the most powerful global flows will be ideas, e-services and digital capital”, and at page 327 “data is the new oil that fuels the economy”. This could well be true, even if the neglect of the importance of manfacturing goods seems extreme, and finally not a good strategy: e-services are a layer that can not function without goods; whenn in the chapter on Industry the 3D printer is shown as the savior, this  printer finally makes goods, even if it depends on ideas and software.

Nevertheless, Google and Amazon (and others) show that data are invaluable and their value will certainly increase in the future.

That the smart economy should bring together communication, energy and mobility seems evident; I less appreciate when a subject “au jour” like driver-less cars is continuously repeated. It could well be that driver-less cars will be introduced more fast than previously thought, and than this aspect of mobility becomes standard and could not offer infinite economic  perspectives.

8.2. Innovation is the key

This self-evidence is repeated many times from p.328 on. And as it is practically standard, the lack of our educational system in fostering new ideas and ICT skills is deplored. There is some reason in this: in our lycées classiques, learning to code and develop algorithms is practically absent from the usual curricula. This was not always the case during the past: in the 1980’s coding and programming was highly considered, even if its teaching was often done in optional courses. The report recommends at page 341 that all schools should teach SCRATCH, a programming environment based on graphical structures, and similar to a simplified LABVIEW. In my opinion such precise recommendations should not be made in this report. Nobody knows if SCRATCH will not fall into oblivion in a couple of years, as has LOGO, a programming language also from MIT which was heralded as THE solution to teach ICT awareness.

That Luxembourgs research centers (LIST, UNI-LU) should collaborate with foreign institutions like Fraunhofer is a valid recommendation, but ignores that this happens since quite a time.

8.3.  5G communication infrastructure

5G communication networks will not only use much higher data streams, but will be built to use virtual networks, cable or wireless, will lower power requirements for intelligent things (IoT) by at least a factor of 10 etc. The recommendation that Luxembourg should as soon as possible take the decisions concerning the frequency attribution, the integration of 5G into satellite communication, etc. is absolutely correct. As we have seen for the development of our satellite industry, the time-window not to forget is very small, and quick decisions (even if some unknowns remain) are essential.

That these future networks need a heavy inbuilt resilience and robustness against cyber-attacks, makes the cause to develop these capacities in Luxembourg very strong. I find it a bit childish when future disruption are always said to come from climate change (p.334). Climate changes slowly, but cyber-attacks are fast. I regret that  in this chapter the ignominious climate change must rise its head!

A super fast network (like it is installed now) will also make E-registration and all ancillary e-administration possible. But proposing that every car entering Luxembourg should be followed during its voyage by our smart Internet, collecting all data on performance, energy use etc. ignores that privacy and data protection could eventually play havoc with such grandiose schemes. It also seems difficult with the other proposed mission: Luxembourg should become a pioneer in Generalized Data Protection Regulation (p. 337)

 

Let me conclude: I find this the most palatable chapter of the report up to page 343. Many suggestions are “du bon sens”, some can be ignored. But compared to the preceding chapters, the working group must be congratulated for avoiding the most extreme suggestions.

TIR Lëtzebuerg 2016: the Rifkin report (part 7)

November 26, 2016

Index:

Part 1: ..ENERGY (1/2)
Part 2. ..ENERGY (2/2)
Part 3: ..MOBILITY
Part 4: ..BUILDINGS
Part 5:  ..FOOD
Part 6:  ..INDUSTRY
Part 7:  ..FINANCE
Part 8:  ..SMART ECONOMY
Part 9:  ..CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Part 10: PROSUMERS & SOCIAL MODEL
Part 11: EXPLORING ECONOMIC BENEFITS
Part 12: My conclusion

___________________________________

 

This comment is on the chapter FINANCE (p.250 – 320). As I am definitively not an expert on financial matters, I will keep this part 7 very short.

There is an over-abundance of the work “sustainable”, one of the most fuzziest concepts ever devised. A yet to be established LSDFP (Luxembourg Sustainable Development Financing Platform) will play a very big role in guiding financing of mostly energy related projects.

At page 270 curiously there is again a digression into solar PV; citing two studies the total roof-top surface of Luxembourg available for PV is 16.3 km2, which should lead to a potential solar energy of 1.35 TWh per year. This number has to be compared with those given in chapter 1 (ENERGY) where we have been told that the total PV electricity potential is 7.9 TWh/year. Does this mean that 7.9-1.35 =6.55 TWh/y should be produced by solar farms ? In my opinion these different estimations and calculations have been made by different group of authors having not much interaction. Every chapter in the TIR report seems to be obliged to calculate some PV potential for Luxembourg, and from chapter to chapter the overall picture does not become clearer, but rather more fuzzy.

This chapter insists on many pages that Luxembourg should adopt and introduce the blockchain as authoritative and tamper-proof ledger, a suggestion I can applaud. This will be (or could be) very disruptive for the banking sector, as acknowledged at page 303. As Luxembourg’s University has a strong cryptographic research group, blockchain introduction could be guided by this group.

 

A last remark on small and big:

The TIR report proposes a Luxembourg with a myriad of very small energy and information harvesting and exchanging structures. But this is not the “small is beautiful” world of E.F. Schumacher, as the inherent intermittency and unsteadiness of these micro-structures demands the creation of ever increasing “super-structures”, as a national data vault, a gigantic blockchain representing all aspects of commerce and finance, a “super-intelligent” grid to manage the micro energy producers etc…. So first Rifkin suggests to destroy the existing big vertical structures, replace them by a nearly infinite number of micro-structures and things (the IoT), and than he sees that this new world will be manageable only by new big centralized entities.

(end of part 7)

 

TIR Lëtzebuerg 2016: the Rifkin report (part 6)

November 25, 2016

Index:

Part 1: ..ENERGY (1/2)
Part 2. ..ENERGY (2/2)
Part 3: ..MOBILITY
Part 4: ..BUILDINGS
Part 5:  ..FOOD
Part 6:  ..INDUSTRY
Part 7:  ..FINANCE
Part 8:  ..SMART ECONOMY
Part 9:  ..CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Part 10: PROSUMERS & SOCIAL MODEL
Part 11: EXPLORING ECONOMIC BENEFITS
Part 12: My conclusion

___________________________________

 

This 6th comment covers the chapter INDUSTRY (p. 201-249).

This chapter, perhaps even more than the preceding ones, gives a strong impression of déjà-vu. If I would resume the contents, it would be like this: Luxembourg’s industry should cover all its available roofs with solar panels, and should embrace 3D printing as the savior of its future.

6.1. 3D printing

This printing techniques is nothing new, but I agree that it will overturn a great chunk of traditional mechanical work: this mostly in the design and prototyping period of new products, and possibly in the replacement business, as making on the fly a replacement part will be cheaper and quicker than keeping an abundant stock. At page 202 there is a rather tedious rehashing of what 3D printing is (an additive technology to be compared with the traditional subtraction of material in lathes). What is absolutely missing is that 3D printing of strong metallic objects is still in its infancy, a very flexible but slow process. Stumping surfaces out of a metallic sheet surely will be for a long time a much faster and probably cheaper procedure. As the FIR report insists constantly that Luxembourg will be a smart green economy, it is refreshing to find a more sober remark in the 3D printing chapter. The authors acknowledge that 3D printing today  is very energy intensive and far from emission free, so that much has to be invented to change these features.

The chapter goes into glowing perspectives about the many, many new jobs that will be created by adopting the IoT for the industry; only at page 235 we find a rather well hidden comment on the de-skilling caused by digitalization: one paper by Bruegel (2014) prognosis a whopping 50% destruction of jobs, a German ZEW report from 2015 puts that percentage at 12%.

6.2. An energy rehash

Page 206 is a good example of déjà-vu, and the rehash on energy that can be found here becomes tedious. There is one sentence that leads to head-scratching and a big smile: “Transforming Luxembourg’s energy regime from fossil fuel and nuclear power to renewable energies is extremely labor intensive and will require thousand of workers…” I am not aware that Luxembourg has any nuclear power station, and most electricity is a mix of German origin with an ever decreasing part of nuclear… I also do not quite understand why renewables should be extremely labor intensive, as they are constantly hailed through the report as energies with near zero marginal costs. Go figure!

6.3. No fear of change

Page 210 enumerates recommendations by the Working Group Industry. These principles are no nonsense and will probably accepted by everyone. I especially applaud the principle “Drive and embrace change…. We must learn not to fear change…” .  Could this courageous endeavor also apply to climate change, a change that in the report always appears as particularly dangerous, insidious and nasty!

6.4. Energy and efficiency.

It is suggested (p.216) that total energy use could be cut in half in 2050. Concerning industry, the suggestion is to recoup waste heat (nothing new here) and, as said at the beginning “to use all available space on roofs and parking lots to produce solar energy”. Storage is mentioned again in passing, without any precision on how such large intermittent solar energy could be stored for the large period of poor sunshine that are a familiar feature of Luxembourg’s weather.

We are told that wind and solar have a small footprint, but the comparison is made with biofuels, whose photosynthesis naturally demands big surfaces. When on other chapters it is suggested that 182 km2 of PV surface is needed, and that farmers should install large solar farms, I do not quite see the logic here.

I made a little inquiry to get real numbers concerning the land use of solar, wind, biofuels (I use ethanol from corn) and nuclear. The numbers (with some supplementary calculations for the biofuels) are from here and here, and correspond to real data of the total USA. The numbers tell how many km2 land surface is needed to produce an energy of 1 TWh during 1 year.

solar:     7.53
wind:      45.6 (area spanned) and 1.37 (area disturbed)
biofuel:  460
nuclear: 1.02 (area spanned); the record at Onofre was 0.017

As Luxembourg has no extremely sunny regions as Arizona or New Mexiko, the number for solar should be noticeably higher. How come that for a country as limited in land surface as is Luxembourg nuclear energy with its minimal footprint is simply ignored?

6.5. Industries IoT

At page 231 it is written that every industrial component, down to individual motor, pump, valve etc. should have its embedded sensor with wireless capability. Now today many of these items have some sort of information feedback, but usually they do not communicate by clearly insecure and vulnerable (both from a physical and a security standpoint) wireless channels. I really question this 100% openness of security relevant items; the suggestion goes counter the idea that security relevant networks should be isolated from the global internet. Rifkin seems naively to expect a future miracle solution that would make all these Internet things immune against tampering and malevolence.

6.6. A global inventory

The INDUSTRY chapter closes by two suggestions I agree with:

  1. all product should be included in a global database
  2. a blockchain should be used to track all (bi-directional) energy transactions

But I am not sure, if existent and future legislation on privacy and data protection will allow to introduce such big tracking software.

(end of part 6)

TIR Lëtzebuerg 2016: the Rifkin report (part 5)

November 22, 2016

Index:

Part 1: ..ENERGY (1/2)
Part 2. ..ENERGY (2/2)
Part 3: ..MOBILITY
Part 4: ..BUILDINGS
Part 5:  ..FOOD
Part 6:  ..INDUSTRY
Part 7:  ..FINANCE
Part 8:  ..SMART ECONOMY
Part 9:  ..CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Part 10: PROSUMERS & SOCIAL MODEL
Part 11: EXPLORING ECONOMIC BENEFITS
Part 12: My conclusion

___________________________________

The chapter (pages 150 -200) dedicated on FOOD and farming can be resumed like this:

Luxembourg farmers should get their income by installing large solar farms (surface about 129 km2 !!!) and many big 5 MW  wind-turbines (319 turbines), and preferentially grow – for the plastics industry. Ancillary they should/could do some organic farming. The question if Luxembourg’s farmer should be able to nourish at least a part of the population seems not relevant!

5.1. Questionable statistics and reports

As embedded energy is directly proportional to GHG emissions in traditional farming, the report gives this astonishing figure:

energy_food_basketHow curious that pre-prepared meals (which contain usually meat) do have a very low percentage of embedded energy, much lower than that of most of their constituents?

Another telling picture is given by comparing the two reports on wind potential made by Stanford/UC Berkeley and Fraunhofer Institut: the first assumes for on-shore Luxembourg wind-turbines in 2050 a capacity factor of 43%, the second (for 2020) one nearly only half of 23%. The real historic data for Luxembourg give a maximum of approx. 18%, and in most countries the capacity factors for on-shore wind-turbines have not increased remarkably. For instance in Denmark, the country with an exceptional good wind landscape and the highest percentage in wind generated electricity, the capacity factor for onshore turbines is practically constant at 23% since 1995 (link). This fact makes the remark on CF’s of 40 to 50% at page at page 170  exceptionally silly!
Conclusion: do not copy research reports without fact checking, do not rely on flashy reports when the differences in their outcome is 100%.

3.2. Microwave plasma ovens to destroy organic refuse

A plasma oven can be used to destroy particular nasty and toxic material, and this is currently done, but remains expensive. The report suggests a variant to destroy organic refuse. A variant is the microwave generated plasma, also not a new technique (see paper by Argonne National Laboratory from 1995 here).

I do not know how close to commercial application this technology is today, but it is not impossible that it will be a standard gasification technique in 2050.

5.3. E-tractors and machinery

It would have been astonishing if the dada of e-mobility would not have been included in farming machinery. The problem is the same as that for transporting goods: batteries are too heavy to be used for big machinery (and when the report writes at page 181 that batteries could represent a useful ballast, I winch: tractors may need sometimes a ballast, but normally they do not!). Using a thermal bio-gas motor to power an on-board electrical generator which delivers current to the other elements of the machinery could be a valid process (comparable to the diesel-electric rail locomotives).

5.4. Urban agriculture.

It is a bit astonishing that this sexy concept is only rather briefly mentioned, but not discussed extensively as other fashions-of-the-day are. In my opinion, urban agriculture in well controlled closed halls with variable and optimized LED lighting could at last produce a major part of the vegetables needed. This activity also is heavily dependent on computer controlled management, so as said above, I really miss a breathtaking chapter on this technology.

5.5. Forests and woods.

This is a very short sub-chapter, containing a gem like “climate disruption is already happening”: writing such a statement without giving concrete examples is utterly non-sense, and in my opinion again diminishes the seriousness of the FIR paper.

 

(end of part 5)

TIR Lëtzebuerg 2016: the Rifkin report (part 4)

November 21, 2016

Index:

Part 1: ..ENERGY (1/2)
Part 2. ..ENERGY (2/2)
Part 3: ..MOBILITY
Part 4: ..BUILDINGS
Part 5:  ..FOOD
Part 6:  ..INDUSTRY
Part 7:  ..FINANCE
Part 8:  ..SMART ECONOMY
Part 9:  ..CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Part 10: PROSUMERS & SOCIAL MODEL
Part 11: EXPLORING ECONOMIC BENEFITS
Part 12: My conclusion

___________________________________

 

This part 4 comments the chapter “BUILDINGS” (page 121-149). This is a much smaller chapter than the preceding ones, and besides the compulsory buzzwords “green, smart, circular….” seems less utopian and more realistic (but maybe I begin to wear off by reading and rereading so many fashionable sentences). A big objection again is the blatant misconception (I should say lie) on climate change. An example of page 138: “Climate change is dramatically transforming the water cycles of the Earth, given rise to unprecedented winter snows, extreme spring floods, dramatic summer droughts and wildfires…” etc. This is pure BS, and none of these changes can be seen in Luxembourg and neighboring countries. Until now, nobody can unambiguously point to a certain climate change (or even extreme weather phenomenon) and conclude that it is the consequence of man’s emission of CO2.

The main subject is retrofitting buildings to make them Near-Zero-Energy-Buildings (NZEB). The report (p.123) goes into ecstasy when enumerating the thousands of new jobs that will be created; a big idiocy is that “1 million $ spent on LED lightning creates about 13 jobs” . In residential buildings LED lightning will normally be installed by the owner (simply replacing bulbs with LED’s) or in some much rarer cases by the usual electrician. I see no possibility for increased future jobs here. As a matter of fact, this transformation is going on since at least 1-2 years, and certainly should not be included as a TIR element, but as a normal evolution.

Mounting small noisy windmills on the buildings does not seem such a bright idea either, as their efficiency and potential are very low. What I find disturbing, is that again solar PV seems to be the single player, and thermal solar more or less ignored; in my opinion integrating thermal solar (roof or façade panels) into existing heating structures is relatively easy and does not need Big Data transportation between different buildings.

Geothermal also seems a petty subject of the authors; I doubt that Luxembourg’s geothermal potential is great (not withstanding the real ugly problems related to its exploitation, like fracking, induced tremoes, subsistence of the ground etc..).

I applaud the authors that they write at page 131 that there should be no obligation to retrofit, but incentives.

Each future building must be smart (whatever that means) and should be capable of storing electricity to help balancing a grid that will be under heavy stress from the intermittent renewable resources. This is easy to say, but difficult to do. Electrical batteries of the required capacity are expensive, have a great demand for not too common elements like lithium, and have a working life that remains short (a few thousand of charging/recharging cycles). So here again one gets the impression that the problem of electricity storage is close to be solved. Nothing could be more wrong!.

An interesting point is that the report stresses the importance of standardization and modularity in the future buildings. This is a good suggestion, as building today is such a complicated activity, still far away from the benefits that an increased standardization of components (walls, windows, …) could deliver. It also suggests that for every building there should exist one unique dataset (database) holding all information of the building, really a good idea. But suggesting that future building should be done like a military construction of temporary housing for refugees (housing that can easily be built, dismantled, moved around and recycled), seems a bit over the top. And as should be expected, the report suggests a big densification in urban and residential construction. Possibly the future 1 million population will signify the end of individual house ownership.

NEZB will rely on extremely good thermal isolation and artificial controlled airflow. It is not sure that the health consequences will be nil. Hectometers of air-ducts could harbor dangerous legionella populations, molds could develop if ventilation is not adequate etc. There are many examples that these are not hypothetical dangerous, but very real ones. I hope Luxembourg’s governments will closely monitor the rise (or absence of it) of respiration diseases in the new NEZB during the coming years.

(end of part 4)

TIR Lëtzebuerg 2016: the Rifkin report (part 3)

November 19, 2016

Index:

Part 1: ..ENERGY (1/2)
Part 2. ..ENERGY (2/2)
Part 3: ..MOBILITY
Part 4: ..BUILDINGS
Part 5:  ..FOOD
Part 6:  ..INDUSTRY
Part 7:  ..FINANCE
Part 8:  ..SMART ECONOMY
Part 9:  ..CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Part 10: PROSUMERS & SOCIAL MODEL
Part 11: EXPLORING ECONOMIC BENEFITS
Part 12: My conclusion

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History:
20Nov 2016, 01:04 UTC: I struggled a bit with the calculation at the end of 3.2.1. ; they should now be definitive.
___________________

In this third part I will comment on the chapter “MOBILITY“, which goes from page 66 to page 120. There is much redundancy in the text, and in my opinion the text could have been shortened to about 1/3. Buzzwords and fashionable expressions of-the-day fly around like angry mosquitoes, but there are also some intelligent (albeit not revolutionary new) suggestions. Before going into more details, the main impression I get from this chapter is that Luxembourg is in dire need of a dictator, who will enforce the swallowing of what are mostly bitter pills. The future Luxembourg’s mobility system will be big brother at the power of 10; individual decisions will be a thing of the past, and an almighty state/administration/organization will dictate all aspects of moving around, naturally all this to save the earth from climate change. The remarks concerning traffic congestion and possible solutions like car sharing/pooling seem much more sound, and more convincing.

3.1. A picture to clarify the situation.

I made the following picture to clarify the overall concepts of the mobility as seen by the TIR:

mobile1_fm

The IoT as given here has three big sub-internets, and the automatic transport internet covers the four sub-systems given in the box. This seems to be a logically sound construct, when one ignores all practical problems of feasibility and public acceptance which are well hidden in this general outline.

3.2. E-mobility (electric cars)

I am not an enemy of electrical cars, for they have, besides the problem of moving out local pollution, some intrinsic advantages: in principle an electrical car is an easy to assemble structure, comparable to a modern PC which is built from a very low number of ready-made sub-components like motherboard, SSD drive, display screen etc. The e-car has no gear-box, can easily recoup some of its kinetic energy through recovery braking, can easily be made as a 4-wheel drive by using wheels with embedded motors etc. But as most of our PC’s today are assembled in low cost countries, the same, albeit to a lesser degree, can apply to the future car industry. Many technical expertise becomes redundant, and the future car builder might well be not much more than an assembler of modules bought around the world. My prognosis is that the e-transport will start a full-blown disintegration of the European car industry, if global trade can operate without any political surveillance and guidance. It is naive to see a future e-transport system as the creator of millions of new jobs. There surely will be some, but globally it would be prudent to expect a loss of jobs, and not an increase.

In the TIR, the main argument for e-cars is decarbonization. Actually writing that they are pollution free is close to a lie: e-cars move the pollution from the streets to the electricity producers. Only if these are capable to deliver the needed energy from carbon-free sources, this close to zero pollution scheme might become real. Again, one can only wonder that nuclear energy, which could without big problems deliver the new electrical energy needed for the e-transport, and this without baroque schemes of  charging prioritization and demand management, is non-existent in the FIR. The many, many times repeated mantra that the marginal cost of the future electrical “fuel” will be zero is ridicule. There will be no zero marginal cost for PV or wind electricity, and surely not electricity produced by biomass or geothermal sources.

3.2.1. How much electricity will be needed for the future 100% electric, battery driven transportation?

Let us start with a blatant incongruity in numbers: at page 30 the report says that total transport in Luxembourg has an energy demand of 6.2 TWh (attention: the comma in the numbers is the delimiter for thousands, so 25,419 GWh means about 25 TWh), which represents 24% of the total energy demand of 25 TWh. At page 70, in the Mobility chapter, we find the sentence that transport energy is 61% of total energy consumption. Both numbers can not be true, as the 61% does not include commuter traffic. So here we have a big understanding problem!

We will retain the 6.2 TWh given at page 30. Now imagine all this electricity should come from local solar and wind producers. Let us assume that all this energy will be delivered by PV, and the electrical efficiency will be three times that of the thermal engines. So only about 6.2/3 = 2.1 TWh should be needed for transportation, seamingly a rather small number. Let us calculate the surface of solar panels giving this annual energy, assuming as in part 1 that we 1100 kWh per m2 and year on a horizontal surface. The number would be slightly greater (about 10 to 20%) if the surface is correctly inclined, but as many factors like dirt, aging etc. reduce the efficiency of solar panels, lets take this number. A PV panel has at most an efficiency of 20%, which corresponds to 220 kWh/m2/year. The needed surface of PV panels is given by the division (2.1*10^12)/(220*10^3) = 10*10^6 m2 or 10 km2. This calculation ignores all the important problems of solar storage and assumes that the stored energy always is adequate for the demand; nevertheless, at a first glance the panel surface seems astonishingly small. If we assume that a normal roof covered with PV panels could have a surface of 60m2, close to 1.7 million roofs would be needed. According to Statec there were about 130000 residential buildings in Luxembourg in 2013. So this 10 km2 area seems not easily attainable by covering roofs with solar panels, but a very big solar farm of 3km*3 km would suffice.

Conclusion: It is not impossible to produce in Luxembourg the amount of electricity needed for transportation by purely renewable resources if 10 km2 solar panels would be used, together with the huge storage to store solar electricity at least for several days.! But one small modular nuclear reactor of 400 MW with a less than 0.1km2 footprint and no supplementary storage would suffice!

3.2.2. Reduction in individual cars

The report clearly says that usage (and acquisition) of individual cars should be slowed down; understandable from a standpoint of solving traffic congestion, this is a big and drastic inroad into individual liberty and choice of moving around. Electric cars should be the only new cars available from 2025 ( in 9 years on!). The automated car (and good delivery by drones) is seen as the solution to many problems. These measures ignore that the situation in the big cities like Esch and Luxembourg are completely different from those in the open country. A worker living in the North and working in Luxembourg will probably be forced to use his car at least to drive to a parking near a bus-stop or train central. There does not exist one solution for all, and the so-called “active moving” (= by foot or bicycle) may be a possibility for a few lucky people whose dwellings are close to their workplace, but not for the majority.

Asking that workplace and residential place should be as close as possible is a pious wish (at page 81 one of the 4 proposed actions is “limiting/revisiting the need for mobility”), whose solution has not been possible in the full last century.

3.2.2. Resilience, recharging the e-cars

The report acknowledges that a lack of sufficient storage (compared to the thermal energy stored in a reservoir) makes e-cars less resilient. It also stresses a problem which is often ignored: as the charging time of an e-car is always much longer than the fill-up time at a conventional pump, many more charging stations must be deployed, with a big increase in land-use.

3.2.3. Transport by trucks: why not hydrogen for all?

The report clearly sees that trucks can not be driven by batteries for the foreseeable future (an exception are small delivery vans, which were electrified more than 100 years ago, as the UK milk van). So with some logic it proposes a hydrogen/fuel-cell technology for these trucks. Now knowing the big problems that batteries have ( about 50 to 90 times less energy per mass-unit compared to gas or diesel), why not adopt for the future the hydrogen solution for all transports? The problems with low refill would not exist, but sure, others would show up, like the problematic venting of H2 from the air in park-houses to avoid spectacular explosions. But at least, instead of two big transformations, only one would be needed. Again, a small nuclear reactor could produce H2 without big problems, as could electrolysis with excess renewable electricity.

3.2.4. Utopia?

At page 96 concerning public policy the following actions are proposed:

  • a reduction of 80-90% of energy consumption
  • a reduction of 100% of GHG emissions
  • a reduction of 80-90% of urban space occupation

These are really extreme numbers; we all know that H2O is a GHG (it is the most important one), so switching to H2/fuelcell cars will increase the emissions of water vapor! An energy reduction of 80-90% also seems way out of every feasibility, and the last point means that no private cars are allowed anymore in urban centers.

I also doubt (as written in page 100) that in 2030 the majority of all cars will be completely (= level 5) autonomous; too many technical and legal problems still exist, and the latter probably will be the most difficult to tackle.

But let us finish this chapter by applauding the report for mentioning something that I continue to insist on: when gasoline and diesel are phased out, and the transport will become mostly electrical, how can the state recoup the immense loss in taxes that are today included in the price at the pump? The TIR suggests at page 115 (as I did many times) that in the future a per-usage tax should be introduced. As the cars of the future are transparent for the authorities in their movements and travel, this could be a not too difficult to introduce policy!

(end of part 3)

(continue to part 4)