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Ireland’s energy crisis

Ireland’s energy crisis thumbnail


Energy is not one of Ireland’s strengths: we import almost 90 per cent of our power, we’ve made little progress in renewables, and we’re at the mercy of an unstable global market. Where will Ireland get its energy in years to come?

Besides worries about climate change and security of supply, Ireland faces a capacity issue.

A nuclear reactor is unlikely ever to dominate the landscape of Carnsore, Co Wexford. In Co Leitrim not a single rock has been fracked – and none might ever be. Yet nuclear power and hydraulic fracturing are already in Ireland.

And although a large part of the population doesn’t want these two controversial power sources anywhere on the island, our purchase of their product is why energy is cheaper now than it has been for almost a decade.

Ireland imports electricity derived from nuclear power from the UK through the East West Interconnector, an underground and submarine power cable that runs between north Wales and Rush, Co Dublin, connecting Ireland and Britain’s electricity grids. In time we will tap into cheap nuclear power from France and elsewhere through new interconnectors.

Shale oil and gas derived from the fracking process have had an indirect but significant effect too. As the former minister for energy Pat Rabbitte puts it, “The shale-gas revolution has transformed the US, which is now heading towards self-sufficiency.”

The emergence of shale oil and gas has led to a dramatic fall in global prices, currently reflected in cheaper petrol in filling stations. The corollary has been less demand for US coal, and its price has also dropped on international markets.

The presence, even in a secondary way, of nuclear and shale in the Irish energy mix shows how complex and shifting this sector has become in a generation.

The simplicity and certainty of the energy supply in the first six decades of the State (with a hiatus during the second World War) are no more. Oil and coal were plentiful then. German engineers from Siemens-Schuckert came over in the 1930s to build a hydroelectric power station on the River Shannon at Ardnacrusha, in Co Clare. Later came the turf-burning power stations.

In the postwar years the Electricity Supply Board, arguably the country’s most impressive semi-State company, pursued an ambitious rural-electrification scheme. Only in 1977 was the last pocket of the country, the Black Valley, in the shadow of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, in Co Kerry, connected.

Peak water

Turlough Hill, built four decades ago, is a reservoir on top of a mountain in Co Wicklow. At night, when there is spare capacity in the system, water is pumped to the top of the hill; then, at peak demand, it is released to generate more electricity.

But a series of oil crises, climate-change concerns, geopolitical tensions and wars have raised unsettling questions about the global energy picture, especially in the age of “peak oil”, the point at which the world reaches the maximum rate of oil extraction; after this that rate can only decline.

The questions that every country faces are particularly acute in Ireland because of our living on an island, being relatively isolated, and lacking indigenous energy sources.

Despite hyperbole about “unlimited untapped resources” off our coast, there have been only four gas finds, all of them relatively modest. The geology isn’t overly encouraging, either, according to experts.

Hydropower provides a measly 0.5 per cent of our energy. Other renewables, principally wind, provide just over 6 per cent.

We have moved on from 1990, when we were 98 per cent dependent on imported fossil fuel. But in 2013 the State was still importing nearly 90 per cent of its energy requirements, one of the highest rates in Europe. The UK, by contrast, imports only around a third of the energy it uses.

The mix has changed, with substantially less coal and peat – the last of the turf-burning stations are being phased out – and far more natural gas. Gas has much lower emissions but is still a fossil fuel. Demand fell by 18 per cent in recent years, because of the recession, which helped Ireland meet its Kyoto targets for emissions reductions.

Close to overload

Besides worries about climate change and security of supply, Ireland also faces an issue of capacity. There were moments in the past decade when the system was close to overload, especially as the economy roared in 2005.

Extra gas-powered generating stations in Tynagh, Co Galway, and Aughinish, Co Limerick, addressed that at the time. But a robust recovery might just repeat that experience, Rabbitte says, especially if alternatives have not progressed sufficiently.

The first concerted effort to tackle fossil-fuel dependency came when the Green Party entered coalition, in 2007, but the picture is still not pretty. “We are so dependent on fossil fuel that we are the most exposed of EU countries,” says Eamon Ryan, the Green Party leader and former energy minister. “It’s about 90 per cent; it was 95 per cent. We are not exactly in the comfort zone.”

Dr Rory Monaghan, director of energy-systems engineering at NUI Galway, agrees. He points, as an example, to poor energy-efficiency standards for houses during the boom. He also points to bad planning, which meant no district heating systems – these supply heat and hot water to all houses – or homes built close to public transport. “That horse has bolted,” he says.

Monaghan says that we are much more oil-dependent than average and that the natural-gas backbone to Ireland’s electricity generation is slightly unusual. “If you asked what is the big issue in energy [in Ireland] I would say that medium-term security of supply is the biggest. We do not have our eye on the ball yet,” he says. “We are exclusively tied to the UK on that front. Their North Sea reserves are running out. The centre of gravity of our imports will move further and further east. Fifteen or 20 years are the timelines we need to look at.

“If they are unchecked,” Monaghan warns, “it will put us into the position of Ukraine and Poland, which are reliant on an unreliable energy partner in Russia.”

Any conflict or dispute involving Russia or a big producer in the Middle East could have serious consequences for Ireland. A senior source at the Department of Energy notes that recent geopolitical conflicts in oil-producing countries have had a minimal effect on supplies. But the calm now will not prevent a future storm. If a crisis occurs in one of these states, Ireland has a 90-day stockpile for essential services but, beyond that, might find itself in trouble and scrounging for alternative sources. “There is a very real imperative that we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels,” says Minister for Energy Alex White.

That imperative is a stark one. The climate-change legislation being debated in the Oireachtas sets a target of a zero-carbon society by 2050. “That is no small shift,” says Eamon Ryan. “It requires a new industrial revolution that takes fossil fuels out over the next 35 years.”

The Government’s official policy direction will be announced in its White Paper on Energy, to be published in the autumn. White and the head of his department’s energy division, Ken Spratt, need to find complex solutions to equally intricate problems.

EU targets

Our EU targets require Ireland to generate 40 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. It’s halfway there, principally through wind. The renewable target for heat is 12 per cent and for transport 10 per cent. (Both are also halfway there, the latter mainly through biofuels.)

But even if all electricity came from renewables it would still comprise only 20 per cent of all our needs. (Transport uses most of our energy.)

Myriad initiatives have been announced; one thing they have in common is that they are costly. Relying on wind, for example, means big changes to the grid. A lot of the energy from renewables would come from the western fringes, where the national grid has been weakest, necessitating an investment of €3 billion to upgrade. (Against that, imported fuels cost more than €6 billion a year.)

That process has not been without problems. The required pylon networks have met fierce local opposition and are subject to an ongoing review by a panel. A new north-south interconnector, which Rabbitte says is vital for security of supply, is also involved in an adjudicative process.

Wind as an electricity source grew from zero in 1990 to 20 per cent by 2013. It is variable – there’s not much of it around a calm summer’s day – and poses challenges with storage. Ireland has two other potential renewable sources, ocean and wave, but each is a generation from being proven.

Experts agree that there is some potential with exploration, but Rory Monaghan says the prospects are not encouraging. The Corrib field will supply 60 per cent of gas needs for about five years and will have a lifetime of 15 years. There are no adjacent discoveries so far.

Former ministers Rabbitte and Ryan, and current minister White, don’t hold out hope either. “Anyone who thinks there is an oil or gas bonanza out there is living a deluded fantasy,” says Ryan.

Fracking studied

Fracking is the subject of a scientific study, by the Environmental Protection Agency, that won’t be completed until 2016. And although White has included discussion of nuclear in the process for the White Paper, it’s generally seen as a nonstarter for Ireland.

The Programme for Government set a target of a million homes retrofitted with energy-efficiency measures, including solar panels and better insulation. There have also been pilots for smart systems that would allow households to contribute small amounts of energy that they had produced but didn’t need – from a domestic wind turbine, for example – to the grid. But they are costly, and the gains have been modest. (And there is no hope of a million homes being reached.)

Transport is another worry area. Today’s cars are more energy efficient and burn less fuel. But the Government’s big project was to have 20,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2020. So far there are 479.

As the Irish Times Motoring Editor, Michael McAleer, observes, range anxiety – to do with the number of kilometres a car can travel when fully charged – is a big issue, and sales will not go up until that is addressed. “Irish buyers are conservative,” McAleer says, “particularly when making investments involving tens of thousands of their hard-earned euros.”

The transcountry interconnectors play a small but significant part, with imported (mainly nuclear) energy from Britain comprising 1.5 per cent of the Irish energy mix in 2013. There are roles as well for biofuels, solar power and biomass, but they are what Monaghan describes as pieces of a larger jigsaw.

As jigsaws go it is complicated. The one thing that everybody agrees on is that, for reasons of both climate change and security of supply, we have to wean ourselves off our addiction to fossil fuels.

irish times

28 Comments on "Ireland’s energy crisis"

  1. Plantagenet on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 10:45 am 

    I was in Ireland about 8 months ago—a truly delightful and very friendly country. And the beer is great too.

    Ireland has abundant wind resources on the west coast. The development of smaller modular nuclear plants in the future will allow small, local power plants to installed as needed. They do indeed have shales that can be fracked, and there is a chance of some modest offshore oil and gas.

    If all else fails, Ireland can import NG from the US as the export facilities are completed by US exporters.

  2. Rebel on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 11:58 am 

    Sorry Mr Plantagenet.
    Thank you for the compliment about our friendly country but I must present a few facts to correct your position.
    This country has been opposed to Nuclear power for Decades. A most definite non runner in this country even though we are content to import nuclear generated electricity through the interconnectors with UK.
    There is a moratorium on fracking such that they will not even allow a fracking test site.
    We have neglible oil in deep hostile atlantic waters that will never be economical to exploit.
    We have two small gas fields, one is almost depleted and the second that has taken 20 years approx to develop and still has not produced to date.
    At best they could supply 2/3% maybe of present requirements.
    Wind supplies approx 3% to electricity grid but the standby fossil generators we keep running to offset the flucuating supply throw the viability of further wind into question.
    The discussion on the security of supply is nonsense as the whole alternative energy discussion is a load of hot air given our FF addiction.
    We are a country of strident “not in my backyard” advocates and have no “dirty” industries per say. We have plenty of clean industries like medical devices, computer peripheries, Pharma and financial services and call centres.
    We import 90% of our energy needs and sitting on the edge of Europe on the very end of Gas and Oil pipelines are massively exposed to the imminent energy depletion nexus.
    We have little or no facilities to import NG as you suggest from US.

    When the SHTF in the very near future we are critically exposed from an energy perspective.
    We have a couple of small advantages when this happens. A relatively small population on an Island with plenty water and great agricultural land. When the great die off occurs we have a greater chance of riding out the decades of destitution than anyone on mainland Europe.
    Hopefully they will be too busy to think of floating across the pond to bother us.
    I have moved with my family from the city to a remote part of rural Ireland and have begun prepping as far as is practical and without presenting myself as a total “nutter” to my new neighbours.
    I am in no doubt about the impending collapse which is going to overwhelm people. I feel sorry for my teenage children because they will have an exceptionally hard life. Like most “soft” western tennagers thier biggest concerns are access to WIFI or issues with music downloads.
    It is an appalling vista that vast swathes of people are being educated in a BAU scenario. For a seemingly educated and clever person who is well versed in the impending collapse you need to step down from your “oil glut” soapbox and stop stirring the shit on on this website.

  3. Davy on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 12:11 pm 

    Rebel, thanks for your comment. I say this because in a way you are my neighbor and your situation is my situation. I have experienced your experiences and I know your efforts. I may appear a nutter here but locally I am quite normal. If the doom comes out with my local neighbors I frame it as a joke that Obama is destroying our economy and I need to be prepared. I am in a Republican belt so there is no argument. HA. Of course Obama has no more influence than the Pope. These are BAU issues far above politics. Anyway, Rebel, you made a good point about rural Ireland having a survivable future. This is why I often mention here location and relocation. Don’t weaken Rebel and give-er-hell! Good luck!

  4. ghung on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 12:46 pm 

    Rebel: ” I feel sorry for my teenage children because they will have an exceptionally hard life.”

    Not so sure that’s a bad thing. If they can rise to the task, they may discover that a hard life is a life well lived; a real life as opposed to an energy subsidised shadow of a life.

    Being off-grid, we heat with solar and wood (primarily; we have propane backup which I abhor using). The recent very cold, somewhat snowy spell spurred me out into the woods to bring in some of my favorite firewood; black locust. With wind chills well below zero (F), it was a chore to get in what I wanted (note that I have alternatives; other types of wood in the shed, propane, even generator/electric heat if needed). After hours of cold, cutting, splitting and stacking, I had a nice big rick of locust ready for the stove, a tired/cold/sore body, and a sense of well-being few other tasks provide; part of a life well-lived. The same goes for harvesting crops, harvesting energy locally, collecting water from the spring, baking bread…. I could go on. If kids today could discover the hard-won joys of providing for their own needs, beyond buying those things with cash/credit, they’ll have a much better life than what BAU industrial society offers, IMO.

    We evolved to struggle. Eliminating those struggles from our everyday lives has driven us insane, collectively. Some bozo was on this board the other day criticising the lifestyles of the preppers here while explaining to us that life has no meaning. ‘Meaning’ isn’t an entitlement or found in an electronic device. It comes from hard work, struggle and a sense of accomplishment. Sitting by the fire on this cold, snowy winter day, adding another chunk of that locust to the stove, means something, to me at least. My bread dough is rising next to the stove, and I’m going to bake my wife the chocolate cake she’s been craving, from scratch of course, and I’ll make chilli tonight from the ground venison we put up last fall. Now if the PTB would let me distil my own whiskey…..

    Maybe I’ll learn to brew a nice stout instead.

  5. Rib on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 12:49 pm 

    This article like most articles on Renewable energy in this country is totalty Biased. Despite it taking on average 10 years to get planning and grid conection for wind turbines for December 14 gone we are at 42% capacity factor and 28,9% overall with only one small pumped storage/ (Which BTW was build by the ESB the last time they were promoting Nuclear)
    ESB (state Electricity Supply Board are quietly pushing the need for Nuclear as their pet project despite the terible finances
    It costs an Friend 7 years in planning and 15,000 Euro to connect a 500Kw Hydro system to national grid same connection fee in UK is £175
    Sprit Of Ireland pubished a preposal
    to build Sea water pumped storage& Wind similar to Okinawa at Less than the price of Nuclear. But it got trashed by the powers that be.
    Corrib Gas field is due to come on line at the end of the month and provide about 60% of national demand. Despite buing delayed 5 years by a small numeber of Fanatics,but at least it will scare gas companys of Fracking.
    Build the Wind/ Storage and use gas as peaking fuel . But we still will have a liquid fuel, Transport issue

  6. Apneaman on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 12:50 pm 

    Hey Rebel, once the SHTF and there is only fuel available for the very wealthy, is there still peat available in Ireland for cooking and heating for the common person?

  7. Rib on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 1:02 pm 

    Just where did you get winds stats from
    “Wind supplies approx 3% to electricity grid”
    July 2014 was 11% thats the lowest I can find for any given month. It was 19% for the year.

  8. ghung on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 1:03 pm 

    Apneaman – If I lived in Ireland, knowing what’s ahead, and if I had a few acres, I would plant for coppicing. Some background:

    A review of past and current research on short rotation coppice in Ireland

  9. Declan on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 1:14 pm 

    This is a very important issue. Unfortunately, this article leaves out an awful lot of very important points in this debate. In fact it is very predictable.

    We have different options within Nuclear. Thorium fuelled nuclear is a safe option. But it is never discussed.

    Therefore it would be a good idea to think about Thorioum powered fuel.

    Also consideration should be given to the manner in which housing and economic development creates increased motor fuel consumption. This is something that needs to be radically rethought.

    And lastly public transport in the East region needs to be re-evaluated. Especially concerning the DART-U. The DART-U would reduce the amount of commuter fuel consumption, and the main region for energy usage.

    Eirgrid have a set of rules with regard to the provision of surplus electricity on the grid, that positively discourages local community groups from setting up their own energy provision.

    This is the height of absurdity, and deserves serious critique.

    Unfortunately the ESB unions have far too much power, to allow an open discussion on energy in Ireland.

  10. dolanbaker on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 1:27 pm 

    Apneaman, turf is widely used in most rural areas for heating & cooking and it is also industrially “cut” for producing electricity and Briquettes for people who who don’t have access to their own turf. The bog cutting can be seen from space,-7.8206633,36672m/data=!3m1!1e3 the brown areas are active turf cutting sites. If everyone in the country reverted to turf, ti would be gone an a decade!

    As for coppicing I do actually have one acre of willow that I cut one quarter a year to supplement the turf.

  11. ghung on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 1:33 pm 

    dolanbaker: “As for coppicing I do actually have one acre of willow that I cut one quarter a year to supplement the turf.”

    Interesting. Questions:

    What do you burn the wood and turf in?

    How many acres of willow do you estimate it would take to meet your needs?

  12. Rib on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 1:52 pm 

    Lets see the options for Ireland for grid power
    1/ 2~4 Billion for Pumped storage technology that works and that would displace a few hundred sheep
    2/ EPR nuclear 10 billion and rising + waste storage + risk premuim + Pumped storage for peaking + decommisioning
    3/Thorium reactor that nobody has built apart from one in the USA which was shut early and is causing massive decommisioning problems.

    I dont see any happenng as we are to busy proping up Euro Banks.When Pfizer.Intel,etc pull out we to use an Irish phrase ” Won’t have a pot to piss in “

  13. dolanbaker on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 1:52 pm 

    I have a homebuilt wood/turf boiler, basically it is a steel firebox with a water jacket and air blower, it provides all the hot water and heating for the house. I have only just got started so can’t give an accurate answer, but best guess would be about six acres to have 100% willow fuel for heating & hot water.

    This year is the first harvest and I will not start using it until this autumn.

  14. Nigel on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 1:57 pm 

    Rebel your article touches on the relationship between Britain and Ireland. I’d just like to point out, despite what many believe across the pond, that relationship is one of profound friendship and mutual support.

  15. Apneaman on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 1:59 pm 

    Thanks ghung & dolanbaker, very interesting.

  16. Rebel on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 3:00 pm 

    Nigel; your article touches on the relationship between Britain and Ireland. —– that relationship is one of profound friendship and mutual support.

    I Couldn’t agree with you more. My wife is English, quite happily living here in Ireland. She supervises a superb vegatable plot here that supplies a large proportion of our family needs.

  17. Rebel on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 3:15 pm 

    I won’t get in a debate about levels or options for alternative energy sources for this or any other country.
    I believe that any discussion in that regard is a distraction from the fundemental Peak Oil Scenario. The precarious position we are in with regard to FF that Wind, pumped storage or Thorium are all pie in the sky. There is no mitigation from the inevitable collapse and how many wind turbines we install is mere semantics at this stage.
    Our little country needs Oil to supply 47% and Gas to suppy a further 27% of its total energy requirements at present.
    This takes no account of the embedded energy in any imported technology we utilise eg turbines, motor vehicles.
    Given that we have negligible quantities of either the discussion around a Thorium Nuclear plant is in effect a denial of the present reality.

    There is no soft landing or effective plan to wean ourselves off OIL. The ship is about to sink so stop trying to rearrange the deckchairs.

  18. Rib on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 3:50 pm 

    I am fully aware of the situtation we are In and the consequences, there is no soft landing and am not looking for a debate. Quoting inacurate facts just feeds in to the denial camp.
    People dont want to know I gave up trying to explain to people. Its same as the property boom it cant happen here. Good luck to you if you can convince people
    BTW Albert Bartlett’s exponential video should be compulsory viewing for all

  19. ghung on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 4:33 pm 

    Rebel: “There is no soft landing or effective plan to wean ourselves off OIL. The ship is about to sink so stop trying to rearrange the deckchairs.”

    That just depends on who “ourselves” refers to. There’s no way to save the Titanic or many of the people aboard. Forget about deck chairs and start building your lifeboat, or go down with the ship. They’re still serving drinks, and the band is still playing on the promenade deck.

  20. Rib on Sat, 21st Feb 2015 4:46 pm 

    Re Air blower on your fire is it mains powered just intrested as I have been gathering up parts to build Peltier heat driven fan as experiment. ?

  21. dolanbaker on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 4:24 am 

    I used a reclaimed car demister fan unit and run it from a power supply that is activated via a thermostat attached to the flue. I expect that a Peltier heat pump instead of the power supply & thermostat would work just fine (I just didn’t have one).

  22. rockman on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 7:24 pm 

    R&R – A very basic question if you please: how much of your fossil fuel consumption goes to motor vehicles? My guess is a very small % compared to the car centric US. If correct then it would seem like an electricity generating alt would be your primary goal. Again just a guess but doesn’t your west coast have very significant wind resources? I understand your existing grid and regs might be a hurdle but so it was for Texas.

    But our politicians (who also govern the state that produces more oil then any other) addressed those issues successfully. That included a major upgrade to the grid since much of our wind generation isn’t located very close to the major consumption areas. As a result if Texas were considered as a separate country (which many here do…LOL) we would be about tied with Germany for #2 behind China.

    Maybe y’all can nudge your politicians into thinking about your situation constructively if wind really is a viable option.

  23. TemplarMyst on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 8:11 pm 

    Along Rock’s line, further improvements to the overall Isles grids might facilitate some wind from Scotland, which seems to have quite a bit of it and not a lot of places for it to go when they’ve got their fill.

    I don’t know what the grid plans are, so not sure it that’s even vaguely in the cards in terms of the interconnects.

    Being a nuclear guy myself I’m not sure any renewable config will work, but a massively interconnected Europe grid seems to be a key element of any serious renewable attempt at scale.

    If the SHTF in the very near term time frame Rebel seems to be implying, this is all moot, of course.

  24. rockman on Sun, 22nd Feb 2015 10:22 pm 

    T – The grid upgrade was critical to our expanding wind capacity. But not cheap…$7 billion if I recall correctly. The expansion also required some municipalities to vote for some higher initial rates to supplement the initial build out. But now some are getting some of the lowest e- rates in the country.

    IOW the expansion pretty much required an all-in commitment by the consumers and politicians. But it’s was a chicken/egg situation: in recent years the economic growth of Texas alone almost matched the other 49 states combined. But without expanding power it wouldn’t have happened. OTOH without that growth there would not have been the motivation to support alts.

    We also got an extra bonus last winter when the severe cold snap knocked out some NG fueled power plants and wind provided 35% of the total state demand. The associated high winds aided to process. We’ve even gotten a tiny economic boost by a few EU companies moving their operations to south Texas because of our cheaper and more dependable power. It would take years but imagine the growth potential if Ireland had the cheapest and most dependable power sources in the EU. It won’t be cheap but consider where the country might be in 20+ years.

  25. GregT on Mon, 23rd Feb 2015 1:03 am 

    It is stated that wind turbines have a lifespan of between 20-25 years. Much the same lifespan as many other electrical gadgets. There are however studies that disagree with this estimate:

    “A study of almost 3,000 turbines in Britain – the largest of its kind – sheds doubt on manufacturers claims that they generate clean energy for up to 25 years, which is used by the Government to calculate subsidies.”

    “Professor Gordon Hughes, an economist at Edinburgh University and former energy advisor to the World Bank, predicts in the coming decade far more investment will be needed to replace older and ineffective turbines – which is likely to be passed on in higher household electricity bills.”

    “He said the performance of the UK’s wind turbines over the past 11 years had ‘deteriorated markedly’ and that ‘the subsidy regime is extremely generous if investment in new wind farms is profitable despite the decline in performance due to age and over time.’”

    While I support alternate energy infrastructure, and fully understand it’s importance as a bridge energy source to a much lower energy future, I have to ask Rock; What has Texas planned in the ways of future water resource management, and food production?

    They both seem a tad bit more important than hair-dryers and air-conditioning.

  26. Davy on Mon, 23rd Feb 2015 5:41 am 

    Greg, it is obvious to anyone with an understanding of large infrastructure of any kind the maintenance cost of large and complex is huge. Giant wind farms especially offshore are going to be problematic. I imagine large solar farms whether thermal or photoelectric fare better but not much. These large complex edifices to the BAUtopian fantasy of technology are dated in a BAU descent.

    I have preached over and over our future needs an AltE component as a BAU bridge. We need to get from here to a post BAU reality. We need BAU to transition out of BAU. I feel low cost, low tech, low complexity, robust reliability, and end user dispersed AltE is the key. Let’s concentrate on the lights and small appliances. Forget the friggen washers, dryers, and A/C’s let be concerned about the basics. If every home in the country would have its lights covered with AltE then the other BAUtopian appliances could be covered by the grid. These other luxuries are dated anyway as is a large centralized grid. The grid will go unstable with brown and blackouts. This is inevitable in a complex global world in descent.

    We are going to have to use a salvage of BAU and the old ways to do a hybrid transition. Our world is now Anthropocene much of our built out infrastructure and our food production has been BAU adapted. This BAU environment will be what we have to survive on for a generation of descent until we achieve a 1BIL or less population. It will take a generation to transition to pre BAU world. I am for any and all AltE even if it is this grand BAUtopian design the bankster like. I am for it because the alternative is a new dome stadium for a football team or a new highway to nowhere.

    We can salvage these large AltE edifices. They can be cannibalized. A farm of 50 turbines can be reduced to 10 eventually through cannibalization. I am still concerned for how these large sources of power will work with an unstable grid. They could become stranded power sources. I am sure resourceful humans will find a way to use that power. Personally I think a society with changed lifestyles and attitudes is needed for the hybrid of FF, AltE and the pre BAU ways.

    We can live seasonally and closer to the weather without A/C. We can’t do this and expect to run BAU. People’s lives will revert to an efficiency that is not BAU efficiency. It will be a natural efficiency of utilization of natural energy. It will be lifestyles and attitudes that move with the seasons and weather. It will be animal and human power. When it is dark life will slow. When conditions are right significant work will be performed.

    Power and food on demand will be over. That simple act all of you will practice this morning will be a thing of the past. That act is switching a light on. That is unless you have a small AltE. Even this small scale AltE days are probably numbered.

    Many here love to mention the mad max-a-thon coming. This will likely not happen everywhere. Those with power and small armies will have stability and prosper relatively. Those mad max-a-thon areas will perish. The hybridation of BAU will happen along with resource salvage. A hybrid living of new and old is in the cards. AltE has a future big and small. Domed stadium will be our Easter Island statues. AltE of all type will be our Roman aqueduct many of which could be switched on today.

  27. rockman on Mon, 23rd Feb 2015 6:48 am 

    “…have to ask Rock; What has Texas planned in the ways of future water resource management, and food production?”

    Texas has always had to deal with water resource limitations and will continue to do so. Fortunately the state politicians have amended the law and now allow some of our huge “rainy day” fund (collected from oil/NG production taxes) be used to mitigate our recent drier than usual conditions. But there are already plans being developed to use our future electricity resource for desalinization. And not the water from the GOM but from reservoirs which contain brackish water…a volume many times greater then all the fresh water ever drawn from our shallow aquifers. That’s just one of the motivations derived from the expectation of a 35% increase in electricity demand in the state over the next 20 years or so. Dealing with the future won’t be easy for anyone. But it will be easier for those states that have the financial resources and will to make adjustments. Thanks to fossil fuels (including a century’s worth of coal) and growing alt capacity Texas will fair better then probably any other state IMHO.

  28. Rib on Tue, 24th Feb 2015 2:54 pm 

    Hi Rockman
    Didn’t see you reply/Question
    Re Oil usage for transport figures are hard to come by but it would be suprisingly high due to an obsession with building motorway freeways as you call them and bad planing.Total lack of rail electrification and general under investment in public transport. Quite a lot is used for home heating ~700,000 households. Ireland has the highest wind potential in Europe and plenty unihabited area in the west but but poor Grid accesss and Grid operator is not willing to foot the bill and neither are the wind farm operators.Reluctance to use HVDC lite (yet they use it on Interconector to UK) So wind farms end up getting built to near people, not good. NIMBY are a huge problem everybody wants clean & green, wifi and latest gadgets so long as they cant see Pylons and power stations or gas infastructure. Google CORRIB GAS for example. Grid operator is still a state monopoly with 70’s attitude. ie No net metering for domestic Wind/solar/Hydro, high conection fees. They are getting good at load balancing wind though with wind supplying over50% at times withno grid instability.

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