What’s up with ocean energy?

My Clean Break column this week is more or less a snapshot of what’s going on with ocean-energy development in Canada, with particular emphasis on wave and tidal projects. While you don’t hear much about these renewable energy systems, at least relative to wind and solar projects, it’s a good bet that there will be rising interest in ocean energy projects over the coming years. There are dozens of projects underway in Canada and the United States, and a recent decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to streamline the process for getting pilot project licenses — that is, from five years to as little as six months — indicates that regulators are finally seeing the potential of this technology and want to reduce barriers to its implementation. Canada is the third-most active developer of ocean-energy technologies, and has the potential to use tidal and wave power to produce up to a quarter of its electricity. As some of these pilot projects get going, it will be interesting to see if ocean energy technologies jump on the same growth curve as we’ve seen for wind and solar — not just in Canada but around the globe. Some of the Canadian companies in this space include Finavera Renewables, Blue Energy Canada, Clean Current Power and New Energy Corp.

What’s up with ocean energy?

My Clean Break column this week is more or less a snapshot of what’s going on with ocean-energy development in Canada, with particular emphasis on wave and tidal projects. While you don’t hear much about these renewable energy systems, at least relative to wind and solar projects, it’s a good bet that there will be rising interest in ocean energy projects over the coming years. There are dozens of projects underway in Canada and the United States, and a recent decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to streamline the process for getting pilot project licenses — that is, from five years to as little as six months — indicates that regulators are finally seeing the potential of this technology and want to reduce barriers to its implementation. Canada is the third-most active developer of ocean-energy technologies, and has the potential to use tidal and wave power to produce up to a quarter of its electricity. As some of these pilot projects get going, it will be interesting to see if ocean energy technologies jump on the same growth curve as we’ve seen for wind and solar — not just in Canada but around the globe. Some of the Canadian companies in this space include Finavera Renewables, Blue Energy Canada, Clean Current Power and New Energy Corp.

Time-of-use pricing works: pilot project

The Ontario Energy Board released results last week of a time-of-use pilot project in Ottawa involving 375 households equipment with smart meters. The results, based on an analysis of electricity use between Aug. 1, 2006 and Feb. 28, 2007, found that average reduction in electricity demand among two-thirds of participants was 20 per cent during “high demand or critical peak hours” in the summer. And on average, participants on time-of-use pricing plans (i.e. they paid more during periods of peak demand) reduced their overall electricity consumption by 6 per cent compared to a similar-sized group of Hydro Ottawa customers who weren’t in a time-of-use price program. The project also found that those who had to pay the highest price per kilowatt hour during peak time (as much at 30 cents per kilowatt-hour) were more likely to shift their electricity use to off-peak times. IBM and consulting firm eMeter conducted the pilot study, which the energy board will use to help craft future time-of-use prices as smart meters are deployed across Ontario. Oakville Hydro, Veridian, Newmarket Hydro and Hydro One are also conducting their own pilot studies.

As an aside, a recent study out of the University of Toronto suggests that households in the city be charged on a pay-per-use and time-of-use basis as a way to raise funds to upgrade the city’s deteriorating sewer and water infrastructure. This, of course, would require smart meters similar to the ones being introduced for electricity. This raises a big issue. If we’re going to consider smart meters for water, then should we reconsider our strategy for electricity and look at installing a single technology infrastructure that can monitor water, natural gas and electricity use in households? Should we be going down a path where we end up, needlessly, having three separate smart meter systems supporting three separate time-of-use programs? I think it’s an issue that needs to be discussed now before we head down each of these paths.

A better way to grow/harvest algae?

An Ottawa-based company called Menova Inc. has teamed up with a Calgary-based natural-gas exploration firm called Trident to develop a CO2-capture system based on algae. Now, this whole CO2-to-algae-to-oil approach isn’t new, and has been discussed several times on this blog, but Menova and Trident believe they’ve come up with a model that suits the changing seasons of Canada (i.e. growing algae in the dead of winter). They’ve also figured out how to reduce the amount of land needed to cultivate the algae.

What’s the secret ingredient? Solar… but you’ll have to read my Clean Break column today to find out what makes their approach so different and potentially more economical.