Friday, 7 October 2016

In the green north

I just came across a sentence I didn't expect to read in an article about solar power up in Canada's Northwest Territories (come to think of it, an article about solar power at 60 plus degrees north was pretty unexpected in itself) :
There is a regulatory limit to the number of pellet stoves, LED lighting systems, and other clean projects Chilkowich can undertake.

“There is a cap on solar in each community,” she told me, because she can’t put Northwest Territories Power Corporation out of business. The company has to stay just profitable enough so it’s worth it to run the diesel generators all winter. When oil prices are low, the territorial government reinvests the savings in clean energy projects—but not too many.

“Everything’s connected,” Chilkowich said, as she explained the economics to me.
Brian Castner

Of course, solar can be competitive relative to generator fuel that's been hauled with immense difficulty up to remote and hard-to-reach communities, yet still be damned expensive in absolute terms:
While power in Edmonton, a comparatively southern city (population: 900,000), is 5 cents Canadian (about 4 cents USD), a kilowatt-hour of power in the indigenous community of Colville Lake (population: 166) costs up to $2.96 CDN. The first 600 kilowatt-hours of electricity are subsidized for residential customers, costing “only” 28 cents CDN, but businesses and governments make up the difference. The First Nations band in Jean Marie River was paying $1.91 CDN, making a solar array an easier sell.
But it's still pretty impressive. In parts of the globe further south, the potential is far greater:
Last week a milestone was passed when it was revealed that, for the first time, the sun provided more UK electricity from photovoltaic panels than heavily polluting coal-fired plants over a full 24-hour period. Just under 30 gigawatt hours – or 4% of national demand – was met by solar, the latest in a series of records set by the wider renewable energy sector in recent months.
Wrote Terry Macalister in the Guardian, in April 2016. But whenever there's a ray of sunshine threatening to break through the gloom, you can generally rely on Her Majesty's Government to rain on the parade:
But the solar industry argues it is being abandoned at the worst possible moment – just a few years before becoming self-sufficient, and at a time ministers seem prepared to back much more expensive nuclear or offshore wind power projects.

As many as 2,000 solar jobs are estimated to have been lost over the last 12 months and Decc’s own worst case scenarios warn of 18,700 jobs on the line.
To which the government response seems to be "Yeah, whatever, too busy fracking Lancashire."