Welcome to a 5-minute journey through energy spaces. Make yourself comfortable – today we will talk on the following.
1. European clocks run slow again. The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), which brings together system operators from 26 European countries, stated that digital clocks across Europe that used mains frequency to keep time had fallen behind by 1 minute. The reason for this was a drop in frequency on the Europe’s transmission network. It is worth reminding that such a slowdown already occurred at the beginning of this year, when a shortage of electricity in Kosovo, which the Serbian grid operator EMS could not compensate for, has slowed European clocks by as much as six minutes. Now, the situation is the same, and ENTSO-E once again warned Serbia to resolve its disputes with Kosovo. Moreover, ENTSO-E members fear that the rising air temperature may increase the demand for electricity on the continent, and thus frequency deviation will only deepen. “Drops of frequency happen and solidarity mechanisms exist but the Kosovo-Serbia issue is new,” ENTSO-E spokeswoman Claire Camus said in an emailed response to questions from Reuters, calling it a political issue that demanded a political solution. “ENTSO-E can look at possibilities to suspend EMS’ membership,” she said. It should also be recalled that in March, in order to minimise the impact of such a deviation on consumers, European TSO agreed to introduce a special compensation scheme, which is still operating. The situation is also complicated by the fact that Serbia does not recognise Kosovo, and therefore refuses to seek a compromise solution to the problem the whole continent is experiencing.
2. Vattenfall to invest USD 2.3 billion in the development of Swedish grids. Swedish state-owned utility Vattenfall plans to invest 20 billion crowns (equivalent to 2.3 billion US dollars) over the next five years in order to rebuild and expand its electricity supply network. Vattenfall, one of Sweden’s largest grid firms, serves a large part of the country’s regional and local lines, delivering electricity to nearly 900,000 customers. In addition, the company is engaged in electricity generation. Many of the company’s networks are outdated; some lines were built 70 years ago. Moreover, old grids in several areas of Sweden do not withstand modern stresses that make it impossible to meet the country’s needs in electricity. “We have too many outages and we need to reduce them for our customers. We will spend this money to modernise the grid and enable increased electrification,” Vattenfall’s distribution market director Eva Vitell commented on the issue. The company planned to invest about USD 457 million in 2018. In addition, the country’s transmission system operator Svenska Kraftnat stated that in the following decade it planned to modernise about 400 km of power transmission lines in the southwestern part of Sweden.
3. A tiny device that can convert heat into electricity. American scientists developed a tiny device based on silicon that can generate electricity from waste heat. The device is made of ordinary materials such as aluminium, silicon and glass, combined in a very unusual way. The size of the invention is about 1/8 inches. The design’s surface is covered with a layer of aluminium approximately 20 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Between the aluminium tops and the silicon bottom is a very thin layer of silicon dioxide (about 20 silicon atoms thick or 16,000 times thinner than a human hair). The device operates based on the principles that infrared radiation captured by silicon dioxide creates very fast electrical oscillations – about 50 trillion times per second. It asymmetrically pushes electrons between aluminium and silicon. This process, called rectification, generates net DC electrical current. “We have developed a new method for essentially recovering energy from waste heat,” said Paul Davids, a physicist from Sandia National Laboratories in the US. “Car engines produce a lot of heat and that heat is just waste, right? So imagine if you could convert that engine heat into electrical power for a hybrid car,” the inventor noted. The device has wide prospects for further development taking into account the amount of heat consumed in the world.
4. India to reduce emissions from old power plants in line with new national standards. The Environment Ministry stated that starting from the following year, India planned to reduce emissions from all its old power plants in line with the new national standards by 2022. Union Environment Secretary C.K. Mishra also noted that the oldest power plants in the country might be closed down. For example, the Badarpur plant in Delhi remains closed and will be operated only in the event of an extremely critical situation in the power grid. “There are development imperatives, and India is one of the fastest growing economies, so as growth takes place, emissions levels are bound to rise. So, the story of India and the narrative is that of responsible growth,” said Mr Mishra. It is noteworthy that the state-run National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) is already performing modernisation works on the re-equipment of its outdated facilities. Reconstruction of each object takes about 18 months. In addition, the country conducts large-scale works on the conversion of older thermal power plants into gas ones, which are more environmentally friendly. Meeting the requirements of 2015 Paris Agreement 2015 undoubtedly one of the key priorities of India’s national energy policy, reflected in real actions.
5. Ban on the sale of gasoline and diesel cars. The UK has already decided to ban the sale of new cars and vans with internal combustion engines by 2040, but some officials are calling for this ban to come into effect earlier in order to tackle the problem of poor air quality on many roads and highways. Thus, this week, Ben van Beurden, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, declared support for the idea of accelerating the implementation of the ban. He added that nations in Africa and Asia would definitely move more slowly in the transition to electric transport, while Britain in turn should move faster. “The world will work at different speeds,” he said. It is noteworthy that carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector in the UK have declined substantially due to increased electricity production from renewable sources, and today the transport sector is the largest source of carbon problems in the country. The government estimates the economy’s losses from affecting the health of the British at the level of more than USD 3 billion annually.