Archive for the ‘Electricity’ Category

More on Energy Consumption

July 20, 2019

In my previous post was this plot showing relative penetration of renewable energy of all types (including geo-thermal, bio-fuel, and bio-waste) in world economies in 2018.

Fig. 1: Renewable energy as a percentage of total energy consumption

Renewable cons %

Many European countries have relatively large renewables penetration. (New Zealand’s position is due to geo-thermal energy providing up to 17% of its electricity.)  Australia at 5% is ahead of several very large economies, including China, the USA, and India.

However, Figure 2 shows absolute figures for renewable energy.  (All comparisons are in million tonnes of oil equivalent, taken from the 2019 BP Statistical Review of World Energy).

Fig. 2: Actual renewable energy consumption

Renewable cons MTOE

China is by far the largest consumer at about 20 times Australia’s consumption- and almost equalling Australia’s total energy consumption with renewables alone.

But China’s renewable consumption is dwarfed by fossil fuels.  China leads the world in fossil fuel consumption.

Fig. 3: Fossil fuel energy consumption

Fossil cons MTOE

Australia is a minnow.  China consumes 21 times as much fossil fuel as Australia- and New Zealand is far smaller.

Figure 4 shows each country’s fossil fuel consumption as a percentage of its total.

Fig. 4: Fossil fuel energy as a percentage of total energy consumption

Fossil cons %

A long list of countries obtain more than 95% of their total energy needs from fossil fuels.  Australia is in a group (including India) with fossil fuel accounting for 90 to 95% of energy needs.  I have made lists of countries in Figure 4 with 80 to 90%, 70 to 80%, and 60 to 70%.  France, Finland, and some former Soviet states use more than 50% fossil fuel.  Only three countries- Switzerland (47.5%), Sweden (32.6%), and Norway (31.9%)- have fossil fuel consumption less than 50%.  In all but these three, fossil fuels rule.

I now turn to nuclear energy.

Fig. 5: Nuclear energy as a percentage of total energy consumption

Nuclear cons %jpg

France leads the world with emission-free nuclear power at 38.5%, followed by Sweden at 29%.  Ukraine and Switzerland are above 20%.  China and India are well down the list.  Australia, despite enormous uranium reserves, is not in the nuclear club.

Fig. 6: Nuclear energy consumption

Nuclear cons MTOE

In absolute consumption, the USA is way in front, with twice as much consumption as its nearest rival, France.

The other major emission-free energy source is hydroelectricity.  Countries with high mountains and large rivers (and little opposition from environmentalists) can make good use of hydroelectricity.

Fig. 7: Hydro electric energy consumption

Hydro cons MTOE

China consumes nearly three times as much as Brazil or Canada.  Australia has very little potential for more than the small amount we now consume.

Fig. 8: Hydro electric energy consumption as a percentage of total energy

Hydro cons %

Norway gets 67.8% of its total consumption from hydro energy.  Switzerland and Sweden both have above 27% from hydro.

Generally speaking, large countries, even those blessed with hydro and nuclear resources, use more fossil fuels for transport.  Very small countries (Singapore, Hong Kong) have no room for nuclear, hydro or renewable facilities and so must rely on fossil fuels and imported electricity.  Countries with abundant oil and gas reserves naturally use more fossil fuels.

Finally, electricity generation.

Figure 9 shows the percentage of total electricity generation by each fuel type, ordered from least to most fossil fuel use.

Fig. 9: Electricity generation by fuel type

Electricity by fuel %

Note that fossil fuels dominate.  Brazil is the only major country where electricity generated by renewables exceeds that by fossil fuels, and then only because hydroelectricity provides 66% of all generation.  Hydro and nuclear generation are the real and proven alternatives to fossil fuels.  Only the UK and Germany have more than 30% renewable electricity, still less than fossil fuels.  As electricity generation accounts for 43.4% of energy consumption globally, and considering Figure 1, it is obvious that renewable electricity is only a small part of the energy mix.

Currently only nuclear and hydro are viable emission-free alternatives.  Solar panels and windmills cannot hope to replace fossil fuels for electricity generation, let alone for the wider economy.  It is time governments showed some leadership and acknowledged this truth.

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One Example of Domestic Electricity Costs

October 25, 2018

During a clean up I found a package of old electricity bills, going back to 2006.  I entered the data into Excel to see what has happened to our costs over the last 13 years.

We live in regional Queensland where the sole provider is Ergon Energy.  Ergon provides on each bill a handy comparison chart showing our electricity usage is very similar to that of other households like ours.  In 2012 we moved to Rockhampton, which is hotter and drier than Mackay, and the house has a different energy use pattern, but electricity prices are the same in both areas.

While our usage has actually declined by about 5.8 kWhrs per quarter over 13 years as we have become more careful, our annual electricity bill has increased by 138%.  We are being good global citizens, so why are we being punished?  The reasons are as shown in the following figures.

Figure 1:  Nett cost per kWhr of electricity

Nett price

The average annual price of electricity delivered (free of other charges) has increased by about 129%.  This was achieved mainly by a series of ever larger increases on an annual basis to 2014 (113% over 8 years), followed by a drop of about 16% over two years, then another increase of 22% over three years.

However the total cost of electricity supply (all charges divided by kWhrs consumed) has increased by 170%.

Figure 2:  Cost of electricity plus other charges per kWhr

Total price

Note the quarterly costs are very close to the trend line, with larger variation from about 2014.  How can this be achieved?  By increasing daily service fees and quarterly metre reading charges.

Figure 3:  Daily service fees and quarterly metre reading charges

Other costs

The average annual costs of these other charges has increased by 544%!

The unintended consequence is that if we use more electricity, the average price per kWhr decreases.  This is actually a disincentive to decrease carbon dioxide emissions, and an incentive to consume more electricity, and in effect, consumers who use less electricity are subsidising those who use more.

So what is driving these steep increases?

According to the Queensland Times on 20 February 2018,

“Energy Queensland – Energex and Ergon – returned a profit of $881 million in 2017, a decrease of $61 million, due to increased borrowings and transmission charges.”

However, “Queensland’s government-owned energy corporations posted a massive $1.9 billion profit last year.

That was a 45 per cent increase on the $1.3 billion in profits recorded in 2016.”

This was mainly from the power generating corporations CS Energy and Stanwell selling to the National Energy Market.

This embarrassment of riches has led the Queensland government to return $50 each to consumers this year, with another $50 next year- taking with one hand and giving back with the other.  This is very little help to business, industry, and agriculture.

So our retail supplier Ergon buys electricity from the wholesalers on the National Energy Market, with our local generator Stanwell selling to this market at the highest price they can get.  Ergon has to return dividends to the state government.  Their only way to ease the squeeze is to increase the return from consumers.

What is happening in capital cities and other states?  How do others compare?  I have no idea.

I will be interested to see whether the Federal government’s promise of lower power prices really eventuates.