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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Could Cyprus harness Mountain Energy Reserves in the future?

Since the re-construction of the island's largest power station at Mari, and the implementation of widespread solar and wind energy, producing electrical power has not been a major problem for Cyprus. Gas and oil reserves in the sea south of the island, in an exclusive economic zone known as the Aphrodite field have also boosted the potential of the island to become a future exo-Russia energy source for the European Union.

I would, however, like to raise the following problem - energy storage is much more difficult than energy generation - ion batteries are an expensive method for storing a relatively small amount of electricity. Likewise, it is not very safe to store large amounts of oil and gas in one place (to produce electricity from), as these are a huge fire / explosion risk.

Why would we want to store energy? I argue that energy storage will be a HUGE factor in future energy security concerns worldwide, because -

- With stored energy, you can save it up and then use it at a later date when you really need it.

- With stored energy, you can gather it when it is cheap to produce, and then sell it later when it is expensive for others to buy.

- With SECURE storage energy (what I refer to as SSE), you have found a way to store lots and lots of energy without risk of fire / explosion / pollution, and you can use it whenever you want.

So how do we create SSE or Secure Storage Energy?

A relatively basic concept in energy storage exists in the form of Pumped Storage Hydroelectricity (PSH) - which involves pumping water up to a reservoir at the top of a mountain (preferably at times when electricity for the pumps is cheapest). To make this worthwhile, you would pump literally billions of tons of water over time into that mountain reservoir, and also take advantage of free rainfall to help the job.

Then - well that's the hard bit done! The reservoir now has a huge force contained within it - called gravitational potential energy. Simply release some of the water downhill through siphons - the water drives hydro-electric pumps which create new electricity.

As a mountainous country, Cyprus should consider Secured Storage Energy  as part of its long term energy security plans.

In winter, rainfall and cheap water can be collected by the Government in low-altitude reservoirs, which is then pumped uphill in summer when solar energy input reduces state energy prices.
For security reasons, Cyprus should consider building or modifying two strategic networks of SSE water hydro-electric reservoirs distributed across the Troodos mountains. Since these reservoirs are filled with water, they actually serve two separate storage purposes for the price of one - an energy stockpile and a water stockpile.

In an emergency, Cyprus could potentially generate an independent supply of electricity in the megawatts for several days - a situation that would have been useful during the Evangelos Florakis naval base explosion of July 2011, which knocked out the adjacent power plant.

Alternatively, Cyprus could generate an electricity surplus for export via cable to Israel, Turkey or even Greece - electrical cables placed undersea are far easier to implement than gas pipelines. She would simply store up lots of water in her uphill reservoirs during heavy rain / snow, or when electricity transfer costs are cheap. She would then generate hydro-electric energy when foreign demand for electricity export made the venture most profitable.

The future of Cyprus' energy bonanza is promising but uncertain. Solar power is plentiful to collect, but still expensive to implement. Wind power again is plentiful but involves expensive moving part which wear out. And as for hydrocarbons, we cannot rule out further acts of interference by Turkey in what may or may not turn out to be a pie she has no fingers in. The only thing that can be certain for Cyprus is that she will need the strategic capacity to store energy in the thousands of megawatts in order to guarantee her national security and perhaps, just perhaps, make a new export product for profitable sale overseas. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cyprus Navy - New Warships Deal with Israel (Update)

In an update to our previous article, it appears that the Cyprus Navy will not be pursuing the purchase of two Offshore Patrol Vessels from Israel, despite the suggestion in the media that favourable terms and the option to pay in instalments was offered for the 100 million euro price tag. 

Following the 2013 Financial Crisis in Cyprus, it appears that the deal with Israel has been at least postponed - there is no obvious evidence that the deal has been cancelled outright. It should also be noted that someone in the Cyprus Government has obviously been quite adept at putting out masses of disinformation with regards to this armament purchase. From various media sources we have heard claims that Cyprus was "interested" in FREMM frigates and / or Gowind corvettes - a subtle way of putting out a set of diversionary news releases. 

In any case, we can deem it likely that any future deal to beef up the Cyprus Navy will meet fierce resistance from the usual crowd - namely those who want to see defence spending cut as a means to miraculously solving the nation's chronic debt, with no regard for national security concerns which are very real. 

My assessment of this situation is that the deal will likely go ahead in the future, once the matter is reintroduced to parliament at a later date when political circumstances are more conducive to a purchase. The move by recent Cypriot Governments (Christofias and Anastasiades administrations) has seen a marked and justifiable leaning towards Israel - a strong economic and political powerhouse that is geographically closer than Greece to Cyprus. President Anastasiades will probably be looking to promote Cypriot interests through integration with Israel's powerful military, in the form of increased cooperation, shared intelligence and joint war games. 

It is important to note that the purchase of two OPVs from Israel would not constitute the entirety of a new Cyprus naval force - rather it would lay the foundations for a new dimension to an existing and combat-experienced littoral Naval Force. The addition of heavier vessels with greater endurance and range would create the conditions for better security of Cyprus' coasts and EEZ and would lay the groundwork for new training and combat roles. 

We should also take note of Oman's recent and surprising offer of a heavy patrol gunboat vessel to the Cyprus Government, which is 61.47m in length and has reportedly been tendered as a gift to Cyprus to strengthen relations between the two states. Based upon the data published in the media, I would suggest that the proposed gift involves the Omani naval vessel  Q30 Al Mubrukah, a 785 ton training patrol vessel which is much larger than anything currently operated by Cyprus. Armed only with 1 x 40mm and 2 x 20mm cannon, the Al Mubrukah would be better suited to Cypriot use as a training and logistical support vessel - its age and design would not favour a front-line combat role, despite the fact the Oman Navy have been using it as such since 1997. With suitable upgrade, the vessel could also support seaborne surveillance and Special Forces projection (the former involving UAVs, the latter involving RIB fast intervention craft and helicopter). 

The current requirements for a Cyprus Navy front line combat ship are weighted towards stealth, speed and top-heavy armament. Any OPV acquired from Israel would need a combination of 30km-range air-defence weapons, 30mm close-in weapons system and an anti-ship missile salvo to increase its survivability in a combat environment involving the Turkish Air Force and Navy in any likely scenario involving the Cyprus oil and gas fields. 

Sources

  • Cyprus agrees to buy Israeli vessels costing 100m - published in Cyprus Mail on 19 December 2013
  • Second thoughts about 100m navy boats - published in Cyprus Mail on 25 December 2013
  • Hasikios neither confirms nor denies Omani "gift ship" - published in Cyprus Mail on 5 April 2014 







Saturday, February 15, 2014

Closing Bakeries in Cyprus - A Stale Industry with Over-Baked Regulation


This week the Cyprus Weekly reported that some 100 bakeries in Cyprus were forced to close down over the last six months due to serious financial problems, citing the Cyprus Bakeries Association as saying that longer universal shopping hours and the economic situation had forced these businesses to close.

Apparently opposition party AKEL MP Andreas Fakontis stepped in to say that longer opening hours for all shops has created "unfair competition" while also encouraging abuse of the minimum age and working hours of employees - raised as an opposition argument against the Labour Ministry and its current decree on increased hours for shops.

I almost laughed when I read this article due to the political nonsense raised by this matter, although I feel bad for smallholders who have failed to make their businesses work through the economic disaster in Cyprus since 2013.
I would like to raise the following points -

1. How many bakeries are there in Cyprus, and indeed, how many were there before a whopping ONE HUNDRED of them closed down?

Is this a stupid question, or am I correct in asking? Cyprus has a population of less than a million people, and even during the prime tourism months, it seems unlikely to push well beyond double that during the current crisis. How many bakeries have been set up by enterprising smallholders in such a small island and its tiny market? Do many entrepreneurs have no imagination? Or is this simply a case of anyone setting up their own bakery because they think it is an easy and uncomplicated affair, despite the fact that there are already three bakeries and a supermarket in the immediate area?

2. Universal Increase in Shopping Hours benefits the Economy - and undermines AKELs grassroots supporters - the Trade Associations and Trade Union groups.

The directive issued by the Labour Ministry in July 2013 allows all shops to remain open much longer during both weekdays and weekends. Although I have long argued that over-regulation of the retail market is rife in Cyprus, I find this move to be beneficial. People want to go shopping when it suits them, and not when it suits the market rules. Finally we have seen the Labour Ministry of Cyprus move in favour of consumer interests and away from the old-guard power base of trade associations, who attempt to control their various markets through absurd regulations - like forcing supermarkets not to sell bakery products at certain times of the week so as to favour the independent bakeries during prime shopping periods.

3. Industry Diversification is essential, and the stranglehold of absurd market regulations must be removed

Competition is essential. The best businesses with the best business models, best management, best service and best products must be allowed to thrive, while the weakest and worst business that they are in competition with must be allowed to fail. This is the core principle of free market economy. If someone cannot run a business well enough to make it work, then they are either in the wrong business, or they are incompetent. For too long, Cyprus has rewarded welfare, incompetence and populist trade groups, whilst equally punishing entrepreneurs who, under the right market conditions, would thrive - creating new skilled jobs, new income for the economy, new ideas and innovation, and greater strength for Cyprus to trade with the outside world in the form of exports.

Conclusion

The fact that 100 bakeries have closed down as a result of the longer shopping hours and the economic situation is CONTRARY to what opposition party AKEL would have you believe - a shaking of the tree to remove the rotten apples that cannot compete with more successful businesses. How long did we expect such market conditions to last before the 2013 economic crisis? The Republic of Cyprus failed because of its own stupidity - not because of some absurd notion of Troika conspiracy, the Turkish military occupation or the global credit crunch. The country fell down onto its over-bloated ass because the Cypriot concept of free market is rotten at the very core of the country's ability to make money and keep money. Blaming the welfare state, obsolete communism and the populist politics of Cyprus is simply not sufficient. We must also lay blame at the feet of every person who decides to set up a common business (like a bakery) in an overloaded market with too few consumers and almost no conditions or willingness to diversify.


To put it simply, the bead is baked. But there is either no one to buy it, or you are not allowed to sell it. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Petition for UK Property Buyers affected by Cyprus Property scandal





I would like to inform readers of the current petition taking place on the popular website change.org, which is being utilised to call for a BBC Panorama investigation into the scandalous practices that has been, and are still frequently used in selling off-plan property in the Republic of Cyprus. In many cases, UK citizens wishing to purchase property to order in an off-plan format (i.e. before the property is built) have had their property rights contested by banks, even though they paid in full for their properties, because the developer has defaulted on outstanding bank loans. Additionally, the obsolete and bureaucratic system of issuing title deeds in Cyprus means that many people have gone without having them for more than a decade after applying to receive them. Additionally, a developer can choose to engage in corrupt practices, withholding title deeds for ransom, and forcing the buyer to go to court (a lengthy process in Cyprus, often taking many years and great legal expense). The property industry has also been affected by scams involving developers and property lawyers working together to ensnare prospective buyers, forcing clients to pay far in excess of what they initially owed for the property by confidence-scamming the due legal process after the initial deposit.
It is abundantly clear to me that the property industry in Cyprus is in need of radical overhaul and must be subjected to rigorous administrative regulation, enshrined in law and supported by a streamlined, property-specific claims court circuit with dedicated judges and clerks.

By reforming the property industry in Cyprus, both the Cypriot economy and its stakeholders will benefit, and it is clear that the current system of shoddy and disturbing practices has often treated trustworthy and respectful British clients as scam targets, rather than full and proper stakeholders in Cyprus PLC.
It seems likely that a BBC Panorama investigation will pile pressure on Cyprus to conform with good international standards, as a full media uptake of this story will alert prospective British buyers, as well as their social networks and MEP representatives to take action.

You can visit the petition site at the following link:


I would like to thank Mr Barrie Hardy for alerting me to this story by email.

Previous Article: Cyprus Naval Base Explosion 2011 - New Photos

Tehcnorati claim token: H8BFMAFDGAQR

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cyprus Naval Base Explosion - New Photos of the 2011 Disaster


On 11 July 2011, the Republic of Cyprus suffered a major man-made disaster at the Evangelos Florakis naval base in Zygi, adjacent to a major power station. A consignment of explosive ordinance, held in heavy containers had been confiscated from a ship attempting to smuggling illicit weapons, principally in the form of gun and rocket propellant. Just after sunrise on 11 July 2011, the huge stack of containers (which had been stored improperly in the open air, close to major and vulnerable infrastructure, and in dangerous environmental conditions) was apparently compromised by a small bushfire ignited accidentally close to the storage site. Escaping vapours from the containers ignited, causing a huge primary explosion in the multi-kiloton range, with a number of much smaller secondary ignitions. The main power station at Mari, just a few hundred metres away, was effectively demolished, whilst 13 sailors and firemen were killed. Traffic passing on the nearby Limassol-Nicosia highway was impacted, with windows of vehicles shattered and drivers crashing as the concussion and overpressure wave passed from south to north across the highway. 

The photos you see presented in our YouTube video were taken by G.Vassiliou with an LG mobile phone, a few moments after the explosion, from the village of Pareklisha (alternative spelling: Pareklissia) situated about five miles distant to the north-west of the explosion. A total of six photos were taken, but only three were used in this video due to poor light conditions and shaky photography. The photographer reported that there was a strong odour "similar to burnt fireworks" that permeated the early morning air for up to an hour afterwards. The electricity supply was unavailable in Limassol for some time afterwards, meaning that many people had to use transistor radios or their cellphones to get information. 

The effect of the disaster was enormous to both the morale and the economy of the people of Cyprus - just weeks later, it became clear that the country was heading for financial ruin under the Government of Dimitris Christofias and the ruling Communist Party, AKEL. An urgent Government enquiry headed by Polys Polyviou pointed the majority of blame directly at the incumbent President Christofias, who rejected the findings.