Category Archives: Energy

Solar and wind replace nuclear?

A small interruption from my 6-years-of-blogging series. This blog documented several meaningless (or even wrong) remarks from our (now former) Flemish Minister of Energy. I was a bit sad when I heard that he chose to be mayor of Ostend in stead of Minister of Energy, but apparently he doesn’t have to be Minister to utter such remarks. On a congress organized by his party (OpenVLD) he made following claim (translated from Dutch):

Today, offshore wind turbines provide 1.2 GW of energy production.

That is not even remotely true. Belgian offshore wind provides much less than that. The 1.2 GW is the capacity. The real production will vary, but will be on average a fraction of that number.

He obviously is confusing capacity with production. Why am I not surprised? Strange however is that the error is still not corrected yet at the time I published this post (now more than a week later). Didn’t they notice it? Or do all the energy experts of that political party stand behind this number?

Then comes the interesting part that leads to the subject of this post (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

“By 2026 we will increase this to 4GW without subsidies. From then on, the offshore wind farms will provide 20% of the total electricity requirement. This is just as much as the total electricity consumption of all Belgian families, “says Bart Tommelein.

This claim reminded me of the new energy pact made by the Flemish Green party, published a few days before the congress. It has a similar claim (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

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Belgian offshore wind produces as much as four nuclear plants

Last Monday, our Prime Minister gave a speech on the occasion of the Belgian Diplomatic Days (Dutch ahead). In his speech, he claimed that a lot has been achieved by the current Government and, as an example, he made the remarkable claim that the Belgian wind farms in the North Sea produce the same as four nuclear power plants! He raised four fingers and said “four” twice, so he apparently wanted to make a point with this specific claim.

Screenshot VRT news of January 28, 2019

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Electric car registrations: a 2% increase of something tiny is still tiny

We have a new Flemish Minister of Energy since two days. As a result of the local elections of October last year, the previous Minister became mayor of his home town Ostend. That is a bit sad, he had the habit of enthusiastically sprouting meaningless claims about energy that were very easily debunked. I wrote several posts about such claims, so I will certainly miss his mindless claims.

The new Minister, Lydia Peeters, took the oath of office the day before yesterday. The first tweet on her twitter account came only a day later and is a retweet of a tweet written by her spokeswoman (translated from Dutch):

Nice increase becomes visible! @Lydiapeeters: “The switch to electric vehicles keeps going on” @BelgaPolitics Read it here:

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Renewables are so cheap (define “cheap”)

Is renewable energy cheap? I often heard this claim in the past, mostly from politicians who want to justify their policies, but also from scientists. I then assumed that not all costs were counted, but had no clue what their specific arguments were.

The claim was also made in the current events lecture “A Sustainable Energy Supply for Belgium” (see previous post), specifically in the second lecture. The claim was that renewables are so cheap that they push fossil-fuel fired power plants out of the market. Odd, because subsidies for for example wind energy still exist in Belgium. If wind energy is really cheaper than fossil-fuel energy, then those subsidies don’t make much sense. Luckily, the speaker (Johan Driesen) took some time to explain his arguments in support of his claim and that made it very clear what he exactly meant by being “cheap”.

This is the part where he explains his reasoning (Dunglish not mine):

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Solar and wind power doing “extremely well” in Belgium (while facing blackouts)

Metaforum, an interdisciplinary think-tank of the University of Leuven, organized a Current Events Lecture on a Sustainable Energy Supply for Belgium last Monday (the video is available here). The incentive for this lecture was the unavailability of the majority of our nuclear power plants and the spectre of an electricity shortage this winter.

The speakers are a very diverse bunch: there are two electrical engineers, one economist and one philosopher. The title suggested that the focus is on sustainable energy sources, so I was especially interested in the lectures presented by the two engineers (first hour of the video).

The first speaker (Dirk Van Hertem) is a professor at the division of electrical energy and computer architectures (Faculty of Engineering Science) and gave a balanced overview of the current Belgian energy situation.

It was different for the second speaker (Johan Driesen), also a professor at the same division. He started with:

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A website actually powered by solar power

Low-tech magazine renewed the design of its website. At such not a world shocking event, but this design reflects the vision of the low-tech magazine and that is where it gets really interesting.

They understood that the internet became a rapidly growing power consumer, power that for a large part is created by using conventional power sources. Therefor they build a low-energy, self-hosted website actually powered solely by … solar power. Not in the way Google is doing (offsetting their power consumption, meaning buying their average power consumption from renewable power providers), but actually powering it by a solar panel.

This is the 50 Wp solar panel that is placed on the balcony of the founder of low-tech magazine, Dirk Dedecker, in Barcelona:

and this is the web server:

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“Energy” or “Electricity”, that is the question

When I was watching the NOS news flash in which the news anchor confused “electricity” with “energy needs” (see previous post), I initially assumed that this probably just was an unfortunate mistake, but when I went back to the tweet and scrolled down, I found this comment (translated from Dutch):

I have a strong suspicion that energy needs and electricity consumption are mixed up once again. Happens all the time.

Happens all the time? That sounds interesting! It could shed a new light on that news flash if the news crew not only produced the mixed up statement, but also are repeating it on a regular basis.

So I fired up a search engine and searched for instances of statements confusing energy needs and electricity consumption. I was very surprised how incredibly easy it was to find examples of such instances where both are mixed up…

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