Monday, January 31, 2011

Ontario Powers Ahead: Draft Rules Posted for CHP & CESOP

As mentioned in a previous post, the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) announced its intention to move forward with two exciting initiatives:
  1. individually negotiated Combined Heat and Power (CHP) projects greater than 20 MW in capacity; and
  2. Clean Energy Standard Offer Programs (CESOP) for:
    • up to 150 MW of new CHP using natural gas-fired electricity generating facilities of 20 MW or less, under the Combined Heat and Power Standard Offer Program (CHPSOP), limited to cost-effective projects located in areas of the province where they can be accommodated in the local distribution system and where there are local benefits; and
    • up to 50 MW during the launch period of new energy recovery facilities under the Energy Recovery Standard Offer Program (ERSOP) to support efficient generation of electricity from recovery of otherwise wasted energy sources, such as unutilized by-products that can be used as fuels. The ERSOP Program's objective is to facilitate increased development of energy recovery facilities up to a maximum capacity of 20 MW.
The OPA's draft program rules and contract were posted here today. The process for stakeholder engagement and to finalize development of the CHPSOP and ERSOP is as follows:
  1. draft program documents to be posted on the OPA website for stakeholder review;
  2. consultations to be held with stakeholders;
  3. defined period for written comments from stakeholders to be submitted to the OPA;
  4. defined period for OPA review of submissions;
  5. final program documents to be posted on the OPA website; and
  6. program launch.
 Activity  Date
Posting of draft program rules and contract  January 31, 2011

Stakeholder Consultations
  • Stakeholder question and comment period
  • Stakeholder sessions
January 31, 2011 – March 11, 2011 Formal stakeholder sessions to be held in late February – early March. Specific dates for these sessions will be announced in early February.
OPA review of stakeholder comments and submissions & posting of final program documents  March - April
 Program launch  Q2 2011

CHP Trailblazer

At least one enterprising partnership has already positioned itself to take advantage of the new regulatory framework. Guelph Hydro Inc. has signed an agreement in principle with Dalkia Canada to develop three CHP/District Energy projects representing 28 MW of clean local power generation. They are meant to move the City of Guelph closer towards achieving the objectives of its revamped Community Energy Initiative.

CHP Benefits

CHP is the simultaneous generation of usable heat and power (usually electricity) in a single process using proven and reliable technology. Otherwise excess heat is harnessed and distributed to buildings as hot water or steam via underground district heating pipes. During the summer, the use of absorption chillers allows cool water to be fed through the pipes to increase cooling capacity.

Ryaverket, CHP plant in Borås, Sweden (Photo: Ulf Nilsson)
When electricity is generated at large, centralized power stations, a considerable amount of the primary energy in fuel is simply wasted as heat exhausted into the atmosphere. Use of the heat produced during electricity generation in a CHP system allows them to achieve overall efficiencies in excess of 80% at the point of use. The efficiency of a conventional coal-fired power station, which discards a significant amount of heat to atmosphere, is typically about 38% at the power station. Efficiency at the point of use is further reduced because of losses that occur during transmission and distribution.

The high level of efficiency also provides important environmental benefits. For every unit of energy (heat or electricity) produced by a CHP plant from its input fuel, the levels of carbon dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and sulphur dioxide emitted are less than half of those associated with a conventional coal-fired power station.

Sunny Days,
~Rob

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    Guest Post: Neil Fairhead and Turn Signals

    From among all the sound and fury of the present day, history can sometimes help us to identify key moments and actions that demonstrate how the direction of the world is truly changing. I refer to these moments as “Turn Signals”. In the history of energy over the last several centuries, three such signals stand out and I believe a fourth has just occurred. All have one thing in common: they are associated with the leading naval force of their era.

    HMS Victory (Source:  BritishBattles.com)
    During the 18th century, the British Royal Navy was almost in a continuous state of conflict and was pushed to build more and bigger ships. These ships needed timber, in enormous amounts. HMS Victory alone required six thousand trees, the vast majority being mature oak. They needed iron as well, for anchors, pulleys, chains, nails, barrel hoops and not least for their guns, but iron needed charcoal further requiring the use of trees. Turn Signal 1 was the deforestation of England. This drove up the cost of charcoal, limited iron production in England and led to a strategic dependence on imports, which was highlighted when war cut supplies. Ironmakers began to find ways of using another available fuel source - coal and its product coke. The fossil fuel era began - symbolized by the construction of the first iron bridge in the summer of 1779. It crossed over the Severn River near the aptly named Coalbrookdale, where the iron had been made using coal. Is it a coincidence that HMS Victory was launched just fourteen years earlier in 1765?

    At the beginning of the 20th century, the British Royal Navy was still the leading military force when it took the decision to convert its fuel source from coal to oil for its latest battleships. Turn Signal 2 came when Winston Churchill, the civilian head of the Navy, ensured the purchase of a controlling interest in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in 1913. The Age of Oil had begun.

    By the middle of the century the mantle of the leading military force had passed to the USA whose Navy needed global capabilities. Turn Signal 3 came on August 3, 1958 when USS Nautilus, en route from Hawaii to Europe, passed over the North Pole while submerged under the ice. Powered by a single reactor this trip heralded the arrival of nuclear fission as a viable power source.

    So what? Why care about these events? Because the military is in the risk business. Because failure costs them dearly so change is done very carefully and only when really necessary. Because they have the resources and the skills to change the game.

    Photo: U.S. Navy, Public domain.
    And because on Monday, December 13, 2010, Chris Tindal (Director of Operational Energy, U.S. Navy) called for the provision to the US Navy of 336 million gallons of drop-in advanced biofuels annually by 2020. “By 2020, our target is fifty percent of energy from alternative sources, and we have a mandate to reduce petroleum use 50 percent by 2015.” He also noted that these fuels have already been tested in river boats and at Mach 1.2 in an F18 fighter dubbed, of course, the “Green Hornet”. Turn Signal 4 just flashed on before our eyes.

    After a year in which doubt and despondency about the need for alternative sources of energy had appeared to creep into the climate change debate perhaps the signal to noise ratio is improving after all.

    After studying Chemical Engineering, Neil enjoyed a variety of experiences, working in 4 countries on 3 continents including computing, marketing and environmental activities for both private and public organizations. A lover of history, Neil remains convinced of the truth of Winston Churchill's comment "the further back you look the further forward you can see". To learn more about Neil, you can visit his LinkedIn profile:  http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/neil-fairhead/1/a36/9b2

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    Wakulat|Law Contributes to Launch of "Vertical Review"

    Over the past few months I have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Tara Kabatoff, the sparkplug behind the newest resource for connecting earth-friendly people, products, services and organizations. Vertical Review went live this week with the simple philosophy of taking care of our world so that it continues to take care of us. Vertical Review believes that change has to come from the everyday, not just the extraordinary. It can be challenging to live a sustainable lifestyle but Vertical allows the readers in its ecosystem to start with the little things and build up some progress towards the right direction.

    I have the privilege of contributing to a little corner of the site under a section entitled Law for the Planet. I hope to use this platform to engage in dialogue with people experiencing everyday questions about laws that enable or hinder sustainable living or would be helpful but may not even exist yet! Ideas, suggestions and questions are encouraged and welcome. My first article is a backgrounder on Feed-in Tariffs published with the modest goal of hopefully increasing the renewable energy literacy of curious North Americans. Do not hold back the critical feedback!

    I would like to take a moment to express my appreciation to Tara for including me in the Vertical family and I wish her success in easing us into the transition towards a sustainable lifestyle.

    ~ Rob

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Cancun - 3 Questions & Answers

    The following guest blog is a cross-post from Zizzo Allan Climate Law. Co-founder Travis Allan made the rather enviable early Winter trek to Cancun to gain a personal, real-time perspective on the event as it unfolded. This summary of Cancun follows my earlier post - COP16: Dispatches from the Front Lines - which provided a mid-conference update on the negotiations.
    These are some answers to the most common questions we’ve received after Cancun.

    1. What do the decisions mean?

    Cancun ended with a series of decisions that should help developing countries reduce their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to a changing climate, solidify the role of Carbon Capture and Storage, clarify rules around forestry and international reporting and create a new framework for technology transfer to developing countries. Negotiators did not create a new treaty to replace or extend Kyoto, but they did put in place some stepping stones that will increase the chances of that happening next year in Durban, South Africa.

    Funding for Developing Countries – The Parties decided to create a “Green Climate Fund” that will oversee a  “significant’ share of new funding from developed countries to developing countries. The decision creating the Green Climate Fund also recognized that developed countries have committed to a goal of making 100 billion US dollars per year available to developing countries by 2020. The Green Climate Fund is expected to manage a portion of the 100 billion USD commitment.

    Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) – After much wrangling, it was decided that CCS (which usually involves storing carbon below the ground instead of letting it release into the atmosphere) is eligible as a project activity under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) subject to a number of issues being resolved. The CDM covers the most well-known carbon offset credits, which are allowed into the European Emissions Trading System and governed by the UN. Even though Canada is not eligible to host CDM projects, this decision is still relevant since the Federal and some provincial governments have invested and continue to invest significant resources into CCS technology and research. This could also be relevant because CDM methodologies are often used as a template for voluntary carbon credit protocols (assuming a CDM CCS methodology is developed and Canada still doesn’t have an applicable GHG emissions cap). 

    Forestry – The Negotiations agreed that “Parties should collectively aim to slow, halt and reverse forest cover and carbon loss, according to national circumstances…” The parties also made progress the longstanding question of how to measure a country’s carbon stored in forests. Forestry accounting will now generally be done at a national level, but negotiators agreed that sub-national reference levels could be used as a temporary measure (based on national circumstances). This is a step forward for REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) because it provides important guidance to countries getting ready to put a number of their forest carbon, but the decision didn’t answer important questions such as whether countries can use financial mechanisms (such as carbon offset credits) to incent REDD activities. 

    Monitoring, Reporting and Verification One of the biggest sticking points in negotiations between developed and developing countries is transparency. Developing countries often complain that developed countries are secretive about their aid commitments, while developed countries are worried that developing countries either can’t, or won’t properly report their GHG emissions information. In Cancun, both sides made commitments on these fronts, a big stepping-stone in advance of Durban (see also the World Resources Institute analysis under “Transparency and Reporting” here). 

    Technology Transfer – Developing countries and many international climate commentators believe that developed countries are obligated to share technology that will help developing countries reduce their GHG emissions and also adapt to a changing climate. The negotiators agreed to establish a technology mechanism that includes a Technology Executive Committee and a Climate Technology Centre and Network.

    While the technology mechanism is a big step, it isn’t yet clear how these bodies will function in the UN system and a lot of technology issues were left undecided. In particular, negotiators didn’t address intellectual property, which is the most contentious technology issue. 

    Kyoto (and post Kyoto) Cancun didn’t create a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol (KP) and it didn’t set up binding targets for the period after the KP’s first commitment period, which ends in 2012. It did, however restore trust and come to decisions that will hopefully set the stage for success in Durban.

    Some of the important decisions reached around the Kyoto Protocol include taking note of the commitments for additional reductions made by Annex 1 (developed) countries in the lead up to Copenhagen and confirming that emissions trading mechanisms will continue to be available to Annex 1 countries (as an aside, the Cancun decisions also took note of developing country pledges leading up to Cancun). 

    2. Does the UN still have a role to play in climate regulation?

    Many commentators have argued that the success of Cancun has kept the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (the UNFCCC – the UN body that coordinates the UN system’s approach to climate change) relevant.

    Claire Demerse, the Pembina Institute’s Associate Director of Climate Change concluded “Although the result is very far from perfect, the Cancun talks took real steps forward — and along the way, showed that the inclusive UN process for climate negotiations can work, despite the vast differences between the countries that took part.”

    Before Cancun, Jennifer Morgan at the World Resources Institute wrote “If Cancun does not bring progress, much of the energy around an international agreement will likely move from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to other fora.” The WRI team concluded after Cancun was over that this pressure was a key factor in the success of the negotiations.

    One of the most interesting last-minute developments was the decision by Mexican Foreign Secretary and Conference President Patricia Espinosa to approve the agreements over the objections of Bolivia. She noted that while decisions are made by consensus, this doesn’t “mean that one country has the right to veto” decisions supported by everyone else. 

    3. How did Mexico do as host?

    The short answer is that Mexico did a great job. Mexican government representatives were roundly applauded for being committed to transparency and for finding consensus on some difficult issues. CTV notes that “Espinoza garnered praise from delegates and media alike for managing the egos of countries such as Japan and Russia, who resisted calls to agree to further emissions cuts after targets agreed to under the Kyoto Protocol expire in 2012. Zoë Caron Climate Policy & Advocacy Specialist at WWF-Canada’s writes “This year’s president of the conference, Patricia Espinosa, however, focused first and foremost on rebuilding an effective and transparent international process. And she succeeded.”

    While they were extremely clean and efficiently run, it was unfortunate that the conference facilities spilt up civil society events from the negotiations. Negotiations, held in a hotel called the Moon Palace, were a 15-20 minute bus ride from the main hall (Cancun Messe) where NGOs and UN agencies had their side events. Side events are presentations and Q&A sessions held by interested groups to updated conference delegates, including negotiators, on key issues around climate. Separating the facilities might have increased security and led to more room, but it also made it very hard to attend side events and negotiations on the same day, and likely resulted in a decrease in the number of negotiators and national leaders attending side events.

    Turning to the conference as a whole, however, the Mexican hosts and the UNFCCC worked extremely hard to create an open and productive atmosphere to make progress on an international response to climate change. With the building blocks noted above and others, such as

    Thanks Travis!
    ~Rob 

    Canadian Lawyer Magazine Cites Wakulat|Law Concerns Regarding Solar Access

    In its latest issue (January 2011), Canadian Lawyer Magazine helps to shine some light at the black hole that is currently the Province of Ontario's solar access regulatory framework. Paul Brent, the article's writer, cited my research on this topic to point out there continues to be some confusion at which level of government this issue may be addressed. Brent writes "While Wakulat says it would be logical for right-to-solar issues to be handled at the local level by municipalities, Ontario's Green Energy and Green Economy Act has, in fact, taken away much of the planning authority from local governments." This essentially puts the onus on the provincial government to ensure solar investments aren't rendered an expensive set of roofing shingles.

    Brent also undertook some very helpful additional research in order to illuminate a case that made its way to the Ontario Municipal Board and included a "right to light" as one of the many issues facing a developer's application to amend a zoning bylaw. While the article is not available online, I have reprinted a copy below:

    Canadian Lawyer - Solar Access

    One caveat is that since originally discussing the issue with Brent, I can confirm that solar access is now being raised as a potential issue at the development stage of some projects. While I have not yet heard of a project being abandoned because of this concern, industry participants are taking the issue seriously where potential neighbouring development could increase system shading.

    For anyone interested in a succinct but very helpful overview of the loss of municipal authority under the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, I highly recommend this article by Paul Manning of Manning Environmental Law and Joanna Vince. It's entitled Municipalities and the Green Energy Act Update: Benefits, Burdens and Loss of Power.  It appears in the January 2010 issue of Municipal World.

    Sunny Days,
    ~Rob
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